Tag Archives: american exceptionalism

July 4th Thoughts from a Patriotic Nerd

Image: head and shoulders of Bald Eagle with head cocked to the left staring into the camera.

Photo credit: American Bird Conservancy http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/botw/bald_eagle.html

  • The US is an amazing country.  I love being an American for the reasons I toss out here and many more.
  • The primary reason the US is an amazing country is that we have written into our constitution and laws  — and our deepest sense of who we are  —  the ability to continue to make this a better country.  The things that make us great scientists, entrepreneurs, innovators, dreamers, and kickstarters make us a great country:  we are constantly trying to figure out better ways to organize and govern ourselves.
  • And along the way, we are completely free to tell one another — and the government — how completely wrongheaded everyone else’s ideas are.
  • Our history is just as full of triumphs, failures, good, evil, brilliance, stupidity, compassionate people, and flaming assholes as you’d expect when a group of humans gets together to try to accomplish something.  The same people who wrote the Declaration owned slaves.  While we were being a beacon to a world of refugees and immigrants, we were discriminating against them in housing and employment.  And our European foreparents — along with the rest of the white First World — did deplorable things to the people who were already in the countries we decided to make our own a couple hundred years ago.
  • But one of the things I love the most is that we can say these things.  We can point out that the Constitution itself was flawed from the start and that we had to fight a war to fix that.  And that we are continuing to try — in fits and starts — to be fairer to all Americans.
  • The statement “America is the greatest country” and other forms of American exceptionalism don’t make any sense to me.  It’s the greatest country for me and evidently for millions of others who both live here and want to live here.  But for us to tell a world full of people that it’s a greater country than their respective countries seems like a fairly incoherent overgeneralization.
  • Same with knee-jerk American denigration.  What are you denigrating?  Our government?  Which part?  The part of the DOJ that’s justifying solitary confinement?   Or the part that’s figuring out how to ensure that we can all vote, marry, shop, and hold  jobs without discrimination?  Republicans?  Democrats?  Us?  Me?
  • Ultimately, as Dr. King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  When I’m disappointed in a Supreme Court decision — as I have been fairly often recently — I remember that it took us 58 years to go from  Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown v. Board of Education but only 17 years to go from Bowers v. Hardwick to Lawrence v. Texas, and just another ten to United States v. Windsor.  For every

Image:  Protesters (a white male adult and possibly light-skinned black child) holding signs that say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "Sin and Shame not Pride" and "You're Going to Hell."

there’s a

A woman dressed as an angel with large wings covered with white sheets standing next to others dressed similarly.

or even more important

Image:  Protesters holding signs reading "Homo Sex is Sin."  They are behind a police line. In the foreground, a white man dressed as Jesus Christ holds a sign saying "I'm not with these guys."  Another counterprotester holds a sign pointing to one of the protesters that says, "Secretly Gay."


Image:  Protester holding a sign that reads "God Hates Fags."  To his right, another protester holds a sign with an arrow pointing to the first guy and the words "Fuck This Guy."


Image:  An older white man wears a t-shirt that reads "You Deserve Hell."  Next to him, a younger white man holds a sign that reads, "You can't choose to like dick but you can choose to be one.  For example" and an arrow pointing to the guy in the You Deserve Hell t-shirt.

showing that Americans and our sense of humor will always prevail.

So Happy Random Patriotic Rambling Day from ThoughtSnax!




America the Beautiful

I don’t usually get choked up over TV ads. (OK, yeah, I do. All it takes is folk music and/or puppies and I’m reaching for the kleenex.) But Coke’s America Is Beautiful Super Bowl ad was just beyond amazing.

It managed to portray – through images of our country, our American brothers and sisters, and the gorgeous voices of nine young girls singing “America the Beautiful” in nine different languages* — what is most beautiful, amazing, and exceptional about America.  I’m not sure my desire to drink a Coke is any greater after seeing the ad, but I’m really glad they made it.

Remember this?

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Send them, she said.  And they sent them.  Us.**  Which was highlighted eloquently by this excellent rebuttal to what turned out to be a conservative backlash against the ad.  That’s right, the part of the political spectrum that spends a lot of energy on American Exceptionalism — a/k/a why America is the Best.Country.Evah!!!1!!! — is angry about an ad that shows how truly exceptional we really are. We’re not exceptional because we have guns – the Somali pirates have guns. We’re not exceptional because we speak English – the Brits have been spreading English with colonialism for centuries, and it’s taught in high schools from Beijing to Kinshasa. We’re not exceptional because we’re white – most of us aren’t, and lots of liberal socialists with universal healthcare in Canada and Scandinavia are white.  We’re exceptional because we are one country formed by people from everywhere else.***

The prize for “I don’t think that word means what you think it means” goes to Glenn Beck who declared that the purpose of the ad was “to divide people.”  Yes, precisely, if by “divide” you mean “unify.”  Seriously,  you have to be addicted to anger to dislike this ad.  Do you think conservatives know that you can, in fact, be a Republican and still like this ad?  It’s OK.  They won’t take away your GOP membership card or your gun or your “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker.  Go ahead — smile.  It’s a beautiful country full of beautiful people being sung about in beautiful voices.  Enjoy it for just a sec, then go back to being angry at  . . . whatever it is you’re always angry at, people getting healthcare or married or whatever.

As always, Jon Stewart has the best response.  I tried to embed the entire clip but failed.  But trust me, you’ll love it, especially — starting around the 4:30 mark — the long lost clip from a 1928 Super Bowl ad,  in which similarly marginalized and excluded Americans sing “America the Beautiful”:

{Image: White man standing on a street in front of the "Little Italy" sign, arms and hands splayed in front as he sings; image of the Italian flag (three horizontal green, white and red stripes) and the word "Italy" in the lower lefthand corner.}

{Image: an older white man sits at a bar with a full glass of dark beer in a Guinness glass; image of the Italian flag (three horizontal green, white and orange stripes) and the word "Ireland" in the lower lefthand corner.}

Gotta watch all the way to the end  — I love this lady!  Belt it out, sister!

{Image: White woman with dark hair and flowered dress with a necklace bearing the Hebrew letter "chai". Her arms are outstretched to the side and her mouth open in song. image of the soviet flag (yellow hammer & sickle against a red background) and the words "Soviet Union" in the lower lefthand corner.}


* You can see each version individually on YouTube along with the girls’ narration:  English; Tagalog; Mandarin; Arabic; Hindi; Hebrew; Spanish; Keres; and Senegalese French.

** Well, most of us.

*** Again, ahem, most of us.