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Old 01-10-2012, 01:32 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 3,921
Default Re: An apparition is stalking America

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
From my perspective, both the Biblical theme (The Chosen People), and American exceptionalism are derived from the same root.
Oh, not sure if I was unclear, but I think so too. I think American history and rhetoric demonstrates that -- the New Jerusalem, City on a Hill, so on. On the other hand, like Florian said, this is not unique to the US, although certain aspects of it are particular.

Quote:
People are born and raised in groups which stand in contrast to other groups with which they compete. The outgroup is always a potential rival or enemy.
I think it's the "always" with which I am disagreeing. I think membership in a range of groups -- one's family, extended family, city, country, so on -- can be used as a building block to get to the expanded ingroup. Feelings of loyalty or love for the one need not mean a sharp distinction, uncaring, or animosity toward those not in the group. I don't identify with any ethnicity, but it seems clear to me that caring about one's ethnicity can be something negative and related to dislike of others and, on the other hand, can just be quite neutral or even positive.

Quote:
There are multiple ways of making sure the ingroup is strong and united. Seeing one's own group as being special or different from others, favored by higher powers (god), or carrying a superior mission is part of the bonding and strengthening.
Despite the origins of exceptionalism, I don't see these things as inherent to it. On the most basic level, I think it's the idea that as Americans we have a mission, a duty, to live up to certain standards, as reflected by the Constitution, the ideals of our founding, what we see as positive about "American-ness," so on. It's why people might feel so upset by the idea of the US torturing people, even though of course other nations have done worse (and why the fact that other nations have done worse seems completely irrelevant and weird to bring up).

I don't at all think only Americans feel this way or have stories to tell about why this is. I think people in other countries often want to live up to their ideas of what their nation is supposed to be also. It's exceptional from the perspective of an American, not that I think Americans are the only ones who make such arguments or experience such feelings.

IMO, exceptionalism gets problematic when we use it in the sense of "the rules don't apply to us, we should be recognized as having certain privileges to act merely by virtue of who we are, and our goals should not be questioned, because we should be recognized as having good intentions. I am sure that I will defend the US acting in the world in ways that Wonderment dislikes, but I don't think I'd use any of these kinds of arguments. I don't like the way in which just war arguments get dismissed without being seriously addressed by arguments of the sort I just listed.
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