Great American Things #42: American Exceptionalism

From Tom Junod in the December issue of Esquire magazine:

By the very terms of American exceptionalism, the greatest American invention of all time is American exceptionalism. It wouldn’t be exceptional if it weren’t American, and it wouldn’t be American if it weren’t exceptional, but since it’s both, it has to be the greatest by definition.

America is the greatest country in the world because it is America, and Americans are the greatest people in the world because they are Americans. It doesn’t matter what they do as long as they do it, and as long as they do it, it doesn’t matter what they do.

American exceptionalism might not be a religion, but all genuine American religions preach American exceptionalism, so American exceptionalism trumps and subsumes religion by offering its own form of absolution. The Constitution declares us to be a free people, but American exceptionalism declares us to be an innocent people whose sins turn, over time, into rights.

That non-Americans construe us as an overweight empire matters not one whit to American exceptionalism. We have a right to our obesity and a right to build an empire, but more important we have a right to declare ourselves fit and free of imperial intentions. Our wars aren’t wars but rather sacrifices on behalf of those we invade, and our drones are an extension of our inalienable rights. And if we are accused of torture, we can answer that we are not guilty because we are Americans and Americans don’t torture.

Every so often, lists are published showing us where we rank in the world in matters of health care, education, life expectancy, and infant mortality. And if these lists are never quite flattering, they are never quite convincing, either, because if we’re so bad, why does every single human being who doesn’t live here want to live here, huh? We are Americans, so we live by the philosophy of American exceptionalism and the philosophy of American exceptionalism declares that we are blind to what makes us exceptional, and the only ones who really see how exceptional we are are those who live outside of America and want to get in.

Indeed, by the philosophy of American exceptionalism, there are only two kinds of people in the world — Americans and people who want to be Americans. So whether you’re American or non-American, it should be obvious why American exceptionalism is the greatest American invention of all time, but in case you’re neither of those things we’ll come right out and tell you:

Because, by God, it’s true.

Feel free to comment if moved to do so.


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