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Author Topic: American Exceptionalism  (Read 10497 times)

walkerp

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2008, 01:54:47 pm »
We're pretty free here in Canada.  Pretty good potential for success for newcomers as well, relatively speaking.
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jgants

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2008, 01:58:29 pm »
Quote from: CavScout;240618
It’s just like most things; the biggest guy on the block catches hell for being the biggest guy on the block. Ask Microsoft.


I think there is definitely some truth to that.

I also think we cause an equal amount of trouble with our whole "we don't need anyone's permission to do whatever we want" attitude and the whole "America is the greatest, therefore no one else is worth learning anything from" attitude not to mention the "we're God's chosen country" attitude.
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CavScout

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #17 on: August 27, 2008, 02:03:18 pm »
Quote from: jgants;240633
I think there is definitely some truth to that.

I also think we cause an equal amount of trouble with our whole "we don't need anyone's permission to do whatever we want" attitude and the whole "America is the greatest, therefore no one else is worth learning anything from" attitude not to mention the "we're God's chosen country" attitude.


None of that latter, though, is uniquely American. Perhaps unique in this specific time-frame,  but only because of the balance of power. You don't think, for example, the British Empire, at its height of power, thought of itself as the "greatest" and did whatever it felt was in its national interests?
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NotYourMonkey

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2008, 02:05:12 pm »
Quote from: Haffrung;240549
So to avert the derailing of another thread, I'd like discuss American Exceptionalism.

First, what is American exceptionalism? It's the believe that America embodies some particular human ideals (usually freedom, opportunity, rights of man), and that America is thus not like other countries. Some Americans believe this is actually a religious identity - that America is favoured by God. Others point to the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution as unique documents in human history.


I tend to see it as the "it can't happen here" syndrome.  That the U.S. can do stupid, dangerous, and cruel things and have it be OK because we are America.  It is the worst kind of magical thinking.

Quote from: Haffrung;240549

How many Americans here believe the U.S. is uniquely free, has unique opportunities, etc., and how widespread is the notion among Americans at large?


My SWAG on this is that lots and lots of Americans feel that this is true.  If not most (and I'd think most), at least a big, big minority.

Quote from: Haffrung;240549

Is it true that America is unlike other nations in embodying universal ideals, particularly freedom in speech and politics, and in economic opportunity?


  Yes and no.  We have more freedom of speech than most places, even other Western democracies, for the moment.  We have both more and less political freedom than other western democracies.  We basically have two meaningful choices in any election cycle, and it is expensive as hell to deal in initiatives a lot of the time, and you can't really do that on the Federal level.  Of course, we also don't have a rigid and largely closed party structure that you see in some of the parliamentary democracies.  Unfortunately, I see a lot of the political liberty we do have as vulnerable for a variety of reasons.  On the economic front, I don't know what class mobility is like in Europe at the moment, but I know it is getting more difficult, and more downward here.

Quote from: Haffrung;240549

How does the widely held belief in American exceptionalism among Americans affect America's relations with the rest of the world?


Again, a total SWAG, but I think it pisses people off.  Some European countries have already played the games we have been playing a hundred years ago and more and know how this ends, and we won't listen.

Also, I don't think any claims that we are the good guys are going to resonate real well in most of Central America.  I know if I were Iranian, and was old enough to remember how the Shah ended up in power, the fact that the U.S. calls itself a force for Democracy would piss me off as much as what happened to my country.  Same with Chile, or Nicaragua, or Guatamala, or a shit ton of other countries we have done shitty things to over the course of the last hundred years.
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CavScout

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2008, 02:05:43 pm »
Quote from: walkerp;240631
We're pretty free here in Canada.  Pretty good potential for success for newcomers as well, relatively speaking.


I bet you'd be hard pressed to find countries with the unique mix of freedoms that the US has. Finding coutries that have all of the following is hard:
Freedom of the Press
Freedom of Religion
Right to bear arms.

The combination of those three does make the US somewhat unique.
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James J Skach

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #20 on: August 27, 2008, 02:09:55 pm »
Quote from: jgants;240633
I also think we cause an equal amount of trouble with our whole "we don't need anyone's permission to do whatever we want" attitude

I think the mistake people make is forgetting to add something to the end of that. It should read "we don't need anyone's permission to do whatever we want - if we feel that thing is necessary to protect our self-interests." When you leave that last part off, it makes it sound like a spoiled child - the way in which another nation that doesn't like what the US has chosen to do would like to characterize the US. Unfortunately, the second portion tends to be left off because it makes the US, in those cases, pretty much like other nations in that it acts in its own self interest; takes away some of th bite/sting of the comment.

Quote from: jgants;240633
and the whole "America is the greatest, therefore no one else is worth learning anything from" attitude

This one is not so familiar to me. Is this prevalent in the US?
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CavScout

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #21 on: August 27, 2008, 02:13:47 pm »
Quote from: James J Skach;240649
This one is not so familiar to me. Is this prevalent in the US?


I am sure there is some, just as any other country. But the US certainly hasn't been adverse to taking something from somewhere else and incorporating it and/or improving on it.
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Settembrini

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #22 on: August 27, 2008, 02:31:08 pm »
1) Every country is undebatably unique
2) Every country is undebatably exceptional in some regards.
3) Speaking in Koltarese, America is a 300 pt. build, with 120 pts in flaws
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Haffrung

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« Reply #23 on: August 27, 2008, 02:49:44 pm »
Quote from: CavScout;240556
How is this different than other people’s nationalism? Is “Why do Americans think America is so special? My country does X, Y & Z as well or better than America!”


Three differences:

  • You don't often see non-Americans say their country does X, Y, or Z better than anyone else in the world. They say they do them well, or better than country X (in their experience).


  • The areas where non-Americans regard themselves as superior tend to be pretty limited (and usually concrete). It's the difference between "We have a pretty good work-life balance in Norway" or "We care a lot about preparing good food in Italy" and "There's nowhere else in the world where people can be whatever they want, like they can in America."
  • Non-Americans who compare the qualities of their countries against others usually have some experience or at least knowledge to put those qualities into context. With Americans, it seems the less they actually know about the rest of the world, the stronger they feel that America embodies some universal ideal such as freedom or opportunity.


So you may hear a Canadian say that overall he thinks Canada is a great place to live, because X, Y, and Z are all pretty good in Canada. You won't hear a Canadian say "nobody else in the world is as free as Canadians," or "Canada is the only place in the world where someone who can start with nothing and become the CEO of a fortune 500 company."
 

Ian Absentia

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #24 on: August 27, 2008, 03:02:56 pm »
Quote from: Haffrung;240668
So you may hear a Canadian say that overall he thinks Canada is a great place to live, because X, Y, and Z are all pretty good in Canada. You won't hear a Canadian say "nobody else in the world is as free as Canadians," or "Canada is the only place in the world where someone who can start with nothing and become the CEO of a fortune 500 company."
You know you're about to get maybe a half-dozen responses claiming, "I don't hear that sort of thing here in the US" don't you?

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Spike

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #25 on: August 27, 2008, 03:15:20 pm »
Actually, he's going to get at least one response calling bullshit about no one from other countries claiming their the best.

I love the carefully worded examples.

"We have a pretty good work-life balance...."

When in reality there are plenty of booster of their own nations that would have said, in all fucking honesty

"We have the best work-life balance here in..."

 Its bullshit. Maybe America does go overboard on claiming the best 'big ticket idea's... or maybe we're the loudest and most obnoxious about it. But I call bullshit that we are by any means the only ones.
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Haffrung

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #26 on: August 27, 2008, 03:17:21 pm »
Quote from: CavScout;240644
I bet you'd be hard pressed to find countries with the unique mix of freedoms that the US has. Finding coutries that have all of the following is hard:
Freedom of the Press



Same as other Western Democracies.

Quote


Freedom of Religion



The U.S. may have a slight edge over some European countries, in that cults like the Scientology are granted the status of religion in the U.S., while in some other democracies they are considered, well, cults.

However, I'd say Canada is as free when it comes to religion as the U.S. Or do you know of a religion that is free to practice in the U.S., but suppressed in Canada?

Quote


Right to bear arms.



How important of a freedom that is depends on your culture. In a lot of democracies, it's not very important. But the right to, say, be a bachelor and not have that counted against you in politics may be very important. Or the right to sunbathe nude.

Quote


The combination of those three does make the US somewhat unique.


Only legally, and then it's still debatable. Then there's the whole notion of conformity, and how that shapes freedom and behaviour. Sure, I'd be free run for high office in the U.S. as an atheist. My chances of election are virtually nil, though. So in the U.S., religion places more constraints on my opportunity than in Canada.

I think it was de Tocqueville who said there is nowhere on earth where there's such a gulf between what you're legally allowed to do and the narrow bounds of convention than in the U.S.
 

Haffrung

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #27 on: August 27, 2008, 03:26:14 pm »
Quote from: James J Skach;240649
I think the mistake people make is forgetting to add something to the end of that. It should read "we don't need anyone's permission to do whatever we want - if we feel that thing is necessary to protect our self-interests." When you leave that last part off, it makes it sound like a spoiled child - the way in which another nation that doesn't like what the US has chosen to do would like to characterize the US. Unfortunately, the second portion tends to be left off because it makes the US, in those cases, pretty much like other nations in that it acts in its own self interest; takes away some of th bite/sting of the comment.



Where American exceptionalism comes in is the widespread belief among American that their country does not act in the world stage in its own national interests - that it acts to defend universal human ideals. The citizens of other countries are skeptical of this altruism - not only because they don't feel the U.S. is a selfless actor on the world stage, but because they don't believe any nation is a selfless actor on the world stage.

That's why it makes so many non-Americans cringe when a president of the U.S. speaks of using force to defend freedom around the world, without any reference to American interests, especially when he uses the language and cadence of a preacher speaking to his congregation. It makes America seem at once hypocritical, and dangerously zealous.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2008, 03:35:34 pm by Haffrung »
 

wulfgar

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #28 on: August 27, 2008, 03:31:33 pm »
Quote
The U.S. may have a slight edge over some European countries, in that cults like the Scientology are granted the status of religion in the U.S., while in some other democracies they are considered, well, cults.

However, I'd say Canada is as free when it comes to religion as the U.S. Or do you know of a religion that is free to practice in the U.S., but suppressed in Canada?


Off the top of my head here's a couple examples where Americans are more free in terms of religion then our neighbors to the north and across the ocean:

-In the US someone is free to deliver a religious sermon either in favor of or against controversial issues such as homosexuality.  In Canada someone can be hauled off to jail for preaching that homosexuality is a sin.  

-Most European countries have official state religions.

Quote
How important of a freedom that is depends on your culture. In a lot of democracies, it's not very important. But the right to, say, be a bachelor and not have that counted against you in politics may be very important. Or the right to sunbathe nude.


Sunbathing nude will not protect your property or freedom from those who would take it- either other private citizens or the goverment.  I think the importance of the right to bear arms transcends American culture.  That explains why totalitarian regimes- be they Nazi Germany or Communist China- that arose in very different cultures work so hard to oppress private ownership of firearms.
 

CavScout

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American Exceptionalism
« Reply #29 on: August 27, 2008, 03:31:43 pm »
Quote from: Haffrung;240682
Same as other Western Democracies.


Not quite true. For example, the British Official Secrets Act restrains the press far more than they would be restrained in the US.

Quote from: Haffrung;240682
The U.S. may have a slight edge over some European countries, in that cults like the Scientology are granted the status of religion in the U.S., while in some other democracies they are considered, well, cults.


It’s not exactly freedom of religion if one gets to decide which unusual or out-of-favor religions one thinks should have freedom.

Quote from: Haffrung;240682
However, I'd say Canada is as free when it comes to religion as the U.S. Or do you know of a religion that is free to practice in the U.S., but suppressed in Canada?


I'll remind you my post was about the unique combination of three.

Quote from: Haffrung;240682
]How important of a freedom that is depends on your culture. In a lot of democracies, it's not very important. But the right to, say, be a bachelor and not have that counted against you in politics may be very important. Or the right to sunbathe nude.


I'll remind you my post was about the unique combination of three. It’s not about if you think the right is deserving or not.

Quote from: Haffrung;240682
Only legally, and then it's still debatable. Then there's the whole notion of conformity, and how that shapes freedom and behaviour. Sure, I'd be free run for high office in the U.S. as an atheist. My chances of election are virtually nil, though. So in the U.S., religion places more constraints on my opportunity than in Canada.


Just because you can do something is not reason, alone, to do it.

But again, you tried to tear each of the freedoms apart as individuals when the uniqueness is the combination of them.
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