Against exceptionalism

America is not an exceptional nation. Nor is America an exceptional civilization. Human civilization has existed for more than 10,000 years. What is two hundred plus years of national history compared to 10,000 years of human civilization?

Civilization is based on irrigation, agriculture, and sanitation. Every viable civilization on this planet has had those technologies. If you believe in the myth of American exceptionalism, you need to read more history. And sincerely ask yourself: What is so exceptional about America?

The Aztecs had irrigation and urban planning. The Egyptians completed massive public works. And Athens had democracy.

What is so special about America? Why do people’s hearts swell with pride when they see a tattered banner flapping in the wind?

All of the presidential candidates buy into the myth of American exceptionalism. But I never believed that America was exceptional — even after thousands of recitations of compulsory indoctrination — worshipping an ugly and inelegant icon — and I no longer believe in the myth of American greatness. And I do not quite understand the point of “electing” a “president” to the greatest military empire that this world has ever seen. (And I distrust the motives of anyone who would be King.)

If you believe that America is exceptional because it is a liberal democracy, you haven’t been reading the news. As Noam Chomsky never tires of pointing out, America is not a functioning democracy because public opinion does not matter. America is not a liberal democracy: it is an oligarchy: Our political class is made up of the rich and rules for the rich. Is that fact in doubt?

While I do admit that America is better than other nations, especially if you’re a sexual minority, it is past time we abandoned the myth that we live in a country that is exceptional; that we live in a land that is blessed by God. What does it mean for God to bless a nation? Does God bless Algeria? Does God bless Morocco? Does God bless Zimbabwe? Do you actually believe that the Creator of the Cosmos is really concerned with geopolitics? (If you answer yes to that question, I assume you’re still stuck in the narrative of the Old Testament.)

I’m tired of the myth of American exceptionalism. I’m tired of the narrative of nationalism. And I’m tired of the belief that patriotism — the Religion of the State, which is a form of prejudice — is a virtue.

I wish people would abandon these tattered security blankets.

And wake up.


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