American Exceptionalism : Keyli Gonzalez

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“Is America exceptional?” The concept of American exceptionalism has divergent views which are constructed by American and foreign historians, alike. What makes America unique from other countries? What makes us, as Americans, precedent from other people in the world? Through the years, Americans have adapted well to the existence of the radical changes throughout the world. Technology, independence and social equality are some of the diverse concepts the United States have adapted to and developed in order to become a more unified country. Our nation believes that it is exceptional when it comes to other countries worldwide. The term “American exceptionalism” is derived from ideals held by many Americans throughout history. Over the past few years American exceptionalism has gained some ground as Americans struggle to contend with its history of “actions” in this country as the rest of the world. According to Ian Tyrrell the definition of American exceptionalism is something that “refers to the special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation based on democratic ideals and personal liberty.”(iantyrrell.wordpress.com) The concept of American exceptionalism is super dangerous because it implies that America is superior to other countries which comes with Americans thinking America is exceptional, implying that the U.S. behaves better than others do, and the U.S. is responsible for most of the good in the world.

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The first reason why American exceptionalism is a dangerous concept because Americans think they are superior when it comes to other countries when that is not true at all. In Conor Friedersdorf essay “Breaking Bad: America Has Used Walter White Logic since 9/11” he says something that really explains how Americans think “ We see ourselves as exceptional. Often times we behave as if the rules that apply to the rest of the world, rules we want constraining them, don’t and needn’t really apply to us.”( Friedersdorf 605) I don’t understand why Americans would think we are better than anyone when we have so many flaws and we have done horrible things as a country. The only thing we are superior is in the numbers of mass shootings we have a year.

I feel as if saying that America is exceptional is kind of overrated because doesn’t everyone think they’re the best. I don’t know why Obama got so much criticism for saying that American exceptionalism is no different than “British exceptionalism, Greek Exceptionalism, or any other country’s brand of patriotic chest-thumping.”(Walt 609) I agree with him and don’t see why we would be held on a silver platter and think that our type of exceptionalism is any different. Of course every country is going to think they are the best, as they should, but Americans need to get off their high horses and stop acting like we are better than anyone because we are far from that. Every country has something that they excel in whether that is Education, Wealth, or Environmental solutions.

Another reason why American exceptionalism is dangerous because we are implying that we behave better than other nations. America and Americans are very selfish it wasn’t always like that we used to care for one another, nurture liberty and cared about peace but then again we have started many wars and invaded many countries for our selfish benefits. As Walt says in his essay “It began as 13 small colonies clinging to the Eastern Seaboard, but eventually expanded across North America, seizing Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California from Mexico… Along the way eliminated most of the native populations and confined the survivors to impoverished reservations.” (Walt 610) Ever since the very beginning colonists have been very selfish and taking all the land that they want thinking it is theres and eliminating the natives who were here first. How can you say that America is the best and we behave better than other countries when we have done so many things that are bad. In Trump’s campaign he made a slogan out of “Make America Great Again” but was America ever great? With all that Walt says it is pretty hard to argue that America was once great in the first place. In “A Trump Card” from the library database Trump actually says he wants to eliminate using the word American exceptionalism He cites the need to “keep a small government, his passion to make America great again, and his parenting approach of no drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes”(Lord) I never in my life would think that I would agree with Trump on something and I slightly feel like I’m betraying my people for agreeing with anything that he says but he agrees that we need to eliminate the word American exceptionalism.

Another reason why American exceptionalism is bad is because it implies that the U.S. is responsible for most of the good in the world. Everyone always wants credit for doing good for example if you make a cake and people say it tastes good people are going to want to take credit for making it. It amazes me that even though America has done so many horrible things around the world as in genocides, slavery, starting unnecessary wars, and stealing land they still have the audacity to say that all the good in the world is because of them. Yes the United States may have spread some of their ideas to the next man but some countries took those ideas, improved them and made them better the the originals. Walt explains “Americans may be justly proud of their role in creating and defending Israel and in combating global anti-semitism, but its one sided politics have also prolonged Palestinian statelessness and sustained Israel’s brutal occupation.”(Walt 613) Americans say that they are helping spread democracy and freedom and when there is a country that isn’t doing so they like to just start a war with them which isn’t right. What we are doing in Iraq and Palestine isn’t right at all, we are killing innocent citizens including kids just because the two governments have issues with each other. Instead of going and dropping bombs on their citizens we should be fighting government vs government.

America has also done this world bad by producing so many greenhouse gases. Other countries try and do their part to eliminate those harmful greenhouse gasses find new ways to eliminate waste, they recycle, and help our coral reefs but it seems as if Americans just take, take, take, instead of replenishing and making sure that our environment and Earth is taken care of. For example Walt says in his essay “The United States stood on the wrong side of the long struggle against apartheid in South Africa and backed plenty of unsavory dictatorships.”(Walt 612) We only have one earth we can’t just move everyone to another planet. Americans like to think of short term solutions because they think it is fast and efficient but taking the extra time to find long term solutions would benefit everyone in the long run.

In Conclusion, the concept of American exceptionalism is super dangerous because it implies that America is superior to other countries which comes with Americans thinking America is exceptional, implying that the U.S. behaves better than others do, and the U.S. is responsible for most of the good in the world. Americans are quick to take credit for all the good but weak too accept their failures and mistakes. The whole concept of American exceptionalism should be expunged because it is just silly to think that America is superior to every other country. I think if we change the definition and it just means something along the lines of patriotism then it could be allowed but people just assume that they are better than other countries and that is not true.

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American Exceptionalism : Keyli Gonzalez. (2021, Mar 26). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from
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