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Old 01-10-2012, 03:16 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: US Northeast
Posts: 6,784
Default Re: An apparition is stalking America

Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
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.
No, you were not unclear. I just tried to emphasize that both American Exceptionalism (and many other brands of exceptionalism throughout the world and through history), and the idea of a Chosen People in the Bible derive from something more basic, transcultural, that we humans carry with us and manifest in various ways, including creating religious or political (constitution) texts that spell it out.

I think it's the "always" with which I am disagreeing.
Take it out then, it's not essential to what I tried to say.

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.
Yes, I agree with all that.

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).
Sure, that's the good side of exceptionalism. To what extremes these principles take us is what worries many of us who keep in mind the problems intrinsic to excessive power and self-righteousness.

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.
No, it seems like it's a pretty universal phenomenon to various degrees.

The same basic idea of mission taken to extremes is implicit in the crusades, or in jihad.

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.
Sure, it is exactly that kind of exceptionalism based on the idea of a true exception to rules, above the laws that govern other nations, or superior in its power to decide for others, that we are having problems with.

Hopefully your arguments for a just war would be based on a very different set of principles.
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