Barack Obama, 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, on why the US should bomb Syria:
But when would modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.
Vladimir Putin, New York Times, September 11, 2013:
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
Barack Obama, to the United Nations, September 25, 2013:
Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional – in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all.
What do Americans mean when they claim that the United States is exceptional? President Putin warns that belief in one’s own exceptionalism is dangerous. In Obama’s case, he evidently believes that the United States must act because it is morally superior to all the other nations in the world. Indeed, many Americans, not all, act in such away as to suggest that they believe they are superior to the rest of the world. Most Americans persist in believing that the United States is the greatest country in history. Others, such as Rush Limbaugh, would concede that Americans are not better than other people, but that the principles of liberty and freedom is what makes them exceptional:
American exceptionalism has nothing to do with anything but freedom and liberty. … The vast majority of the people of this world since the beginning of time have never known the kind of liberty and freedom that’s taken for granted every day in this country. Most people have lived in abject fear of their leaders. Most people have lived in abject fear of whoever held power over them. Most people in the world have not had plentiful access to food and clean water. It was a major daily undertaking for most people to come up with just those two basic things.
Well, for me living in Canada, I have to say I don’t stand in fear of the prime minister, the premier of Ontario, or even the mayor of Vaughan (do I even know his name?)–except at tax time. I think my water is clean, and last I checked, I’m eating very well. I should proclaim Canadian exceptionalism. Except, when Americans claim their version of exceptionalism, there is not really room to say that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Western European countries, UK, and whatever other countries claims to have a decent standard of living, are all exceptional. Syndrome said,
“When everyone’s super, no one is!”
So I disagree with Limbaugh. The concepts of freedom and rights are older than the United States. The founding principles of the United States depend on a long tradition of rights in the English-speaking world, having its roots in the Magna Carta. Before that, the Romans, who had clean water and food, had a concept of rule of law and the rights of citizens, though its potentates often abused those rights. In some countries today, the government actually respects the rights of their citizens, at least better than does the current United States federal government.
In history, every nation that ever had an empire believed in its own exceptionalism. Take for example the Romans, the English, and the French. But in such cases, the thing that made these empires great was never their moral superiority but their willingness to use their military might and violence to assert their dominance in the world. To be sure, at times it is necessary to use violence to stop violence. But the victors in such cases should remain humble and light-handed in the wielding of power, lest they fall into the trap of thinking that they can do no wrong. On this point, Putin is right.
Yet I have to say Putin is wrong too, but only in the sense that “exceptional” can mean “deviating from the norm: as a: having above or below average intelligence” (Webster’s Collegiate, 11th ed.). Exceptional can also mean exceptionally bad in some or all respects. And here I would like to enumerate a points on which I can easily affirm the concept of American exceptionalism:
- The United States enjoys the highest obesity rate among 28 major nations. This is due in large part because of the government sponsored carbohydrate bubble.
- The United States has killed thousands of people through unmanned drones; the ratio of innocent to terrorists is perhaps 50 to 1.
- The United States is running the biggest budget deficit and borrows over 40 cents for every dollar it spends. It must borrow more money to be able to claim that it is not a banana republic.
- The United States alone enjoys the ability to print or otherwise create the reserve currency of the world and is able to export inflation to the rest of the world, thus taxing the foreign holders of its currency.
- The United States enjoys the largest trade deficit in the world, as its fiat currency is able, for now, to purchase goods from other countries.
- The United States alone has a system of citizenship-based taxation, threatening its expats with extortionate fines for non-compliance with its filing requirements. The Eritrean 2% expat tax requires the filing of a simple form and is in no wise comparable to the United States’ violation of its expats universal human rights. This means that the United States believes that it is best to rob the wealth of other nations in order to try to stop-gap its own budget deficit, and is currently trying to enforce this extortion through FATCA, a law forcing banks around the world to rat out their alleged US clients to the IRS. The United States has become a beggar nation full of worthless bums.
- The majority of the US homelanders, whether labeling themselves left, right or moderate, seem incapable of seeing what the rest of the world can see. This is the state of believing that you still live in the best country in the world, even though by many measures that country has fallen from its pinnacle. Today, depending on who is doing the measuring, several other countries have better standards of living or more freedom.
This last point, I would support with anecdotal evidence. When I have complained that I’ve had to expatriate, many Americans say something like, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” I again had this experience when I claimed at a right-wing website that the United States was not exceptional, since I had to relinquish my US citizenship in order to protect my family from the biggest threat to its well-being, the IRS. The response of one commenter, Debra Blouin was as follows:
I just want to extend my thanks to you. Not for your well-written post, mind you.
I want to thank you for leaving!
Americans, when confronted with the truth of how far their country has fallen, become defensive and rude. This I find to be indeed exceptional.
Ermmm, the focus of my post was not supposed to be the pros and cons of healthcare, but the topic of decency towards others- which again has to do with exceptionalism.
I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your son and husband.
On the subject of US exceptionalism, I often take shots about Canada’s as a ‘socialist’ state from a few Americans I Facebook with in the US. I was involved in a brief discussion about the US education and health care systems vs the rest of the world’s and had to say that “Canada may have some problems, but insolvency isn’t one of them. Few countries rank higher than Canada in public education and Canadians live longer than Americans. There are lot worse things a country can go broke over than providing a high level of education and decent health care to it’s citizens.”
The person I made this statement to has had a long career as a Navy nurse and has at least once child who’s subsistence is dependant on the taxpayers funding of their military. Her attitude infers that it’s preferable to maintain the unsustainable taxpayer funded capability to blow up the world than to provide healthcare to your citizens. The US has its priorities all wrong.
@Polly, Would anyone mind paying for healthcare and that their doctors and the hospitals made a profit, if healthcare actually healed them? My point number 1 (in the post) is that the United States pays more for healthcare per capita yet has the highest obesity rates–a government induced carb bubble. Is this a paradox? Or is it that the most exceptional people in the world are sick because of healthcare? We in Canada have social healthcare but not very much military equipment with which to defend ourselves, and so we are better off? Why? Because our government won’t stand up to the United States, perhaps because our leaders are too scared to stand up to the most powerful military in the world? Governments are formed for mutual protection, and yet we ask that the government give us healthcare, education, good roads and bridges, and a kitchen sink (in some cases) and insist that the government borrow money to pay for all these things that the electorate wants and demands.
Contrarianism is a character issue. I am contrarian by nature. But in my opinion we need more people who will stand up and say “Enough is enough.” The time has come and is coming. The government bubble is found in every sector it touches, in every country in the world. The government bubble is in healthcare, finance, military and education. It is all coming down and what will be left afterwards? Hopefully, local communities, families, and resourceful individuals.
Sorry about your mom and dad..both terrible diseases.
I believe in preventive care, more on the homeopathic side. Sugar and carbs is killing us.
but true this post is about exceptional-ism. My brother is a perfect example…so rah rah patriotic with anthems and parades.
Americans really think they are best because they are the most armed. which is sad. They adore their military. Education and good health are a quality of life that Canada is better at…but perhaps not in all places. We know we are not perfect.
I read somewhere that Health care in Canada gets better as you go west…with BC is best.
I agree , “enough is enough”.
The modern medical system was founded in 1904 by John D. Rockefeller Sr. to ensure a captive market for what became the pharmaceutical industry. It spread from America to Canada and beyond. It has been suppressing natural treatments for over a century but curiously enough, Rockefeller who lived to be almost 100 used only traditional holistic medicines for his own health. In other words he wouldn’t even take his own medicine. I totally agree with Petros about statins. Enough said, back to discussing the biggest baddest pill of all — FATCA — or is it the most rotten egg ever laid by the U.S. Congress?
Yep, but one last note, this health care conversation led me to Petros blog. All I can say I am now a fan.
Do you mean the other Petros blog brought you here? That’s cool!
Healthcare should not be funded by the government for a profit. Doctors in Germany for example didnt make such a lavish living as doctors in America once did. They made a normal living without the mansions. Maybe that is why the insurance companies took over in America, I don`t know. But you are speaking to a medical doctor so knowing that I have healed people – I cant really answer you in any other way but to say that people died young 200 years ago- so we must be doing something right. What people eat or don`t eat is their own business. If people want to eat carbs they will – even knowing that it is making them sick. The mindset for dieting and eating disorders are a whole other bag of nuts that goes into the realms of psychiatry.
At any rate- I think Canada got it right. Tax monies should be spent on things that benefit the people. It was found that people in Denmark are particularly happy to pay very high taxes- because their healthcare and educational systems are excellent. They are paying taxes for things they know they will benefit from. I think that is a huge difference, even where CBT is concerned.
Otherwise I am not sure where you think that we disagree. I honestly dont even know what you are so insensed about. Maybe it has something to do with personal experiences that I dont know about. But you seem angry with me?
@Polly, nah, I’m not upset with you at all. The first principle, is as you say, taxes should benefit the constituency, not some foreign country to benefit the lazy hoodlums (i.e., homelanders) who vote the foreign politicians into office. Obviously, Canada is not doing the worst job–otherwise, a lot more people other than libertarians like me would be upset with system–except later when it breaks down because of bad government management, which is happening everywhere in the world, in Canada not least of all in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
What I am therefore addressing is the view that government should be the all-benevolent dispenser of utopian society. It is incapable of such, as the medium is the message: i.e., when government takes over health care or education, these things become politicized and as political, they become less effective and captive to the whims and needs of democratically elected officials who through excessive levels of debt will mismanage the finances of the entire country , province or municipality to benefit their voters, eventually bankrupting the entire system and impoverishing everyone. It is happening everywhere at every level. Why do you think we have FATCA, FBAR, and citizen-based taxation? It is because the politicians in the US are desperate to find new sources of revenue and immorally seek these revenues outside the boundaries of their own country through citizenship based taxation and confiscation of wealth through fines and penalties.
@northernstar, glad you like it. Not that I’m seeking popularity, mind you.
Too bad Petros — you got it — popularity that is. And don’t change a contrarian hair on your head. I like that too. And there is something we can all agree on regarding American overreach and exceptionalism — Enough is enough!
@Petros I am upset about it all too. But that doesnt mean I have given up the belief in good government- the uncorrupt, decent and honorable kind. It would be so nice to have good leadership- just as a nice safe peaceful thought. That is really what government and leadership should be. I dont think we have any good roll models anymore for the young to strive to emulate.. Even TV mirrors this with the worst kind of anti-heros at the center of attraction. The Sopranos? Dexter? TV is a mirror of the culture we live in.These are sad times without good morals and people with intergity to lead us.
and another worry is “water for profit”….Canada has a lot of clean drinkable water.