During his European debut, a reporter in Strasbourg, France asked President Obama if he subscribes to the school of “American Exceptionalism” as did his predecessors. Being the first Black president and known as a uniter, the question weighs heavy in irony since America’s self-grandiosity is tied to military aggression and presidential legacies that are littered with unapologetic ethnic and cultural indifference. Although not a common term, African Americans should form long lines like voting to get information whenever the subject of “Exceptionalism” is mentioned.
Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville coined “Exceptionalism” in his 1835 book Democracy in America to describe the notion that America considers itself a superior and trustworthy nation that’s favored by God to play a special political, economic, religious, and military role in the world . . . Therefore, U.S. values and policies are presupposed by Americans as right and best for all nations to follow. Nothing is inherently wrong or unjust with any country espousing “Exceptionalism.” The problem and danger is when such views are pursued or imposed at the human or sovereign expense of others.
America’s brand of “Exceptionalism” took Machiavellian detours along the way for the worst. Yes, it verbally professes “Equality and Justice for All,” but at its core remains a prevailing Manifest Destiny for wealth, resources, and power that’s paved in blood and knows no bounds. Because of this duplicity, “American Exceptionalism” can only stand limited-level scrutiny before depths of contradictions and sensitivities are reached that this establishment prefers not to redress.
But all this is belied by “religious fluff” that cloaks what otherwise is inexcusable historical conduct engaged by both parties. Based on the puritanical overtones associated with its founding history and founding fathers, you would think America is spiritually incapable of human and civil rights violations that legalized enslavement and segregation to contrarily coexist with “democracy” for centuries, with impunity.
Today, the same arrogant nature of “Exceptionalism” allows America to “forgive itself” for the past and become an Evangelical arbiter that places labels of “evil” on nations with comparatively far less guilt. The U.S. government is also quick to holler “war crimes” against other nations, yet conversely doesn’t want U.S. soldiers, officials or mercenaries like Blackwater, subjected to possible prosecution for war crimes at the International Criminal Court – Even though Obama says “America does not torture.”
Politicians popularly say, “God bless America.” But it’s politically unthinkable to ever associate God with “punishment,” as did Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans who then had to apologize after Hurricane Katrina for saying, “God is mad at America . . . and doesn’t approve of Iraq.” “Exceptionalism” was also behind the denunciation of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Black Liberation Theology. (Note how the media bleeps-out the word “damn” where he says “God damn America” in his infamous sermon . . . as though it’s too unbearable to broadcast on airwaves that are already filthied with commercialized vulgarities, violence, and sexual content).
Protestant theologies stem from yearnings within groups to relate and appeal to God to address their specific hardships. The only difference between Black Liberation Theology and any other “Protestant” theology, like Lutheranism or Methodism, is that the “Protest” is directed against flagrances of America as opposed to the Catholic Church or British Crown. So of course, according to “Exceptionalism,” Rev. Wright and Black Liberation Theology must be discredited in the mainstream. This establishment will not sit silent and watch a Black president relate or appeal to God in ways that deem them transgressors. They’ve studied Aristotle well-enough at think tanks and Ivy institutions to know that a government must always give appearances of “uncommon devotion to religion” so that “subjects do less easily move against” it.
All in all, “Exceptionalism” has thrived ever since their formative years when Euro-Americans were considered roving bands of “Rebellious Brits” who defied King George III. Although the Declaration of Independence and Constitution clearly weren’t intended to apply to Black people, the same political elements of “Exceptionalism” that assured our past exclusion are now actively revising history right before our very eyes, by propagating Obama’s presidency as the long-awaited ethnic fulfillment of the founder’s “real” intents of democracy and equality.
Being a great idealist and well-schooled articulator of universal aspirations, Obama admitted America was “imperfect,” but he smoothed-over the question as though “Exceptionalism” only applies to America’s greatness, and as though his predecessors were all as race-neutral as he. Like his predecessors however his job is to defend America; deviances against us included. Even a Black president doesn’t alter the reality that we as Africans have integrated into an already-sovereign European society . . . And because of the hypnotic sways of this thing called “American Exceptionalism” we find ourselves paying tribute to heroes, holidays, and history that otherwise would make no political or logical sense.
This article was culled in part from Ezrah Aharone’s 2009 book, Sovereign Evolution (Chapter 4: “The Cloak of Exceptionalism”). He is also the author of Pawned Sovereignty and a founding member of the Center for Sovereignty Advancement. He can be reached at Ezrah@theCSA.org.
American Exceptionalism is okay amongst Black folks for African Americans in the forums of sports and entertainment, but not in the intellectual arenas. This has always bothered me.
If the "White" world can make a paraplegic that has to type his thoughts out into a talking computer with a stick attached to his chin and his slow talking weed head sidekick into a sex symbol of sorts, why can't we?
We are a community of people who focus on our own exceptionalness, whether it be big butts, the ability to jump high, run fast sing and dance, emotionally motivate a crowd of people to feel good about themselves in comparison to others or be the perfect perpetual victim of abuse and misrepresentation. Why is that? Especially when we have so many living examples of enterprise and intellect that should be the norm.
Why do we allow and encourage our own misrepresentation in media by people who are, were and always will clearly be just out to earn a buck? I would like little more than to make Love Canal or the nuclear bomb testing outside of Las Vegas a Black and White thing, but I can't. And with that I'm forced to confess that no matter how it feels to me, it ain't personal and there is no emotional, ethical or moral appealing to a machine.
We are exceptional as a federation of states as a republic of counties, because the one thing that each of us has is the right to voice what we believe. That does not give the right to act on those beliefs, and many of us will agree that most thoughts and beliefs expressed by people, should not be acted upon.
The fact that so many people in so many parts of the world emulate our behavior and appearance, good, bad and otherwise, says a great deal about our ability to be individually self expressed and the material desires of individuals. In the last one hundred years our most recognized contribution to the betterment of the world has been to raise the salary caps of professional sports to the point that one individual can attend to the needs of some whole communities and effectively bleeding to generate enough sympathy to motivate politicians to change public policy.
I've spent a great deal of my life being an angry Black Man, early on because, Black People told me I was supposed to be angry, but when I stepped away and realized what we have, most of that anger turned inward at my own people. Now I harbor an emotion towards us that's far worse, I feel pity. Because on the global scale we are supposed to be exceptional and from a global perspective there is nothing that prevents us from being exceptional. People suffered, sacrificed and died so that we could build our own standards of exceptionalness.
There's nothing wrong with the President, except he ain't Coleman Young or Kwame Kilpatrick. He ain't the hero we want him to be and he ain't the super articulate ghetto nig that is going to do what we would do if we was in his shoes. There's nothing wrong with America except the Preliterates don't want to learn the elements of being active citizens and the economic power structure is only too greedy and too happy to oblige. There's nothing wrong with Black folks except we're provincial, self centered, arrogant, myopic, intentionally ignorant, nit pickers who won't turn off the television long enough to teach our children to form a coherent sentence, much less provide for the people of our own community. And when we get challenged on it blame it on conditioning. Well if we know we've been conditioned to be a certain way, then why don't we work to break the conditioning?
Why must we beg, plead, lobby, protest, strike, riot, kowtow, genuflect and perform fellatio on network television for others to recognize, acknowledge and broadcast our greatness, when we refuse to publicly do it for ourselves? Is it because it's not valid unless, FOX, CW, CNN, ABC, CBS or NBC does it? The HNIC needs us, our minds, our hope, our individual faith, our collective talents, skills and abilities to fix problems local, domestic and global. Who cares whether or not the Documents were intended for us! The house that most of us live in weren't originally intended for us to dwell in, but none the less we crawled into them like hermit craps anyway and waited for the next bigger better version of the shell to be made available. When we all know, we could've and still can do it for ourselves and we definitely don't want what was built especially for us ever again.
Personally I don't care what the people in DC do, say, feel or much else, if the pastors of our churches aren't going to give up their Mc Mansions and European executive sedans in exchange for the ability to train, the members of their own communities to build, clothe, feed, employ and entertain the members of their own communities.
We're hypocrites on the highest level, simply because we have a genetic history that allows us to say, "I don't want to". What makes us exceptional is we ain't gonna think unless someone forces us, we ain't gonna improve anything, when we can move to someplace someone tells us is better and we ain't gonna work unless someone pays us. No matter how much we have to suffer. Thank God for McDonalds