Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is America exceptional?

I was listening to a conservative talk radio host on my way home this evening and as usual, he was complaining about President Obama.  He wasn’t discussing recent policy decisions by the President or even offering reasons why Romney was a better choice in the upcoming election, he was criticizing Obama the man. It seems like a popular thing to do, discredit Obama as a person; he’s called a socialist, a liberal, a “metrosexual Abe Lincoln, even “un-American.”  (Personally, I think it’s telling that rather than trying to refute the substance of his policies, conservatives simply try to discredit the source…) Tonight, the radio host was upset with the President because Mr. Obama supposedly did not believe in “American exceptionalism.” So I began to wonder myself, is America exceptional?

Looking back in America’s history, there are frankly many parts that are anything but exceptional.  I think of the horrific treatment and brutalization of the original inhabitants of this land we call America, that horrors of slavery, the that women have only been able to vote for some 90 years, the terrible discriminatory policies towards African-Americans in the south, the 45million people today struggling with hunger… Do I need to continue?

Is America exceptional? Perhaps the better questions would be, “are we on our way to being exceptional?”  Looking back at our history America has done some very good things, but also some very bad.  And far too often, the leaders of our nation have been more than willing to screw over countries for our own gain.  For a country that often is purported to be a “Christian nation,” such selfish, greedy behavior doesn’t seem very godly to me.

If I had the opportunity to ask President Obama in person if American is on its way to being exceptional, I think he would say yes.  I think he would talk about all the good America has done and all the right political decisions that have been made—but I also think he would point out the enormous income inequality, the millions who still struggle with hunger, the vast amount of people who don’t have access to healthcare, and yes, the bigoted policies towards those of a differing sexual orientation.  So would the President say America is exceptional? I think not, but I do think he would point out that he is working with and on behalf of the American people to make sure we continue on that path towards such a vision.

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