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9/30 The Myth of American Exceptionalism

Stephen M. Walt breaks apart American exceptionalism by demonstrating that it is not a concept unique to the United States, that it is often based on false idealizations of history, and that it is often not as morally proper as politicians lead the public to believe. After reading the article, it is quite clear that references to exceptionalism made by politicians are made in an attempt to get reelected. Making the American people feel as though they are apart of something bigger than themselves and inspiring nationalism through these statements is an extremely effective tool to increase one’s popularity. The consequence of this type of dialogue is that the American public has an inflated and egotistical view of the United State’s importance and popularity in terms of international affairs. This form of indoctrination creates a dangerous environment where the United State’s government acts globally under the justification of being upon the moral high ground, when in fact it is for less genuine reasons, for example monetary gain. One of Walt’s five myths about American exceptionalism is that the United States uses god being on its side as a way to justify its actions. This is another way that politicians manipulate the group of people they rule over as it increases the perception that the United States can do no wrong.

It is interesting to examine Walt’s comparison of United States exceptionalism to other nations who have employed exceptionalism to commit horrible actions. The true danger of exceptionalism is that the population being influenced are likely unaware of the unrealistic view they have of their countries actions. It seems that no matter what, world superpowers are bound to use exceptionalism to control their populations and said populations are destined to be influenced  by it. This blind view of one’s country, is often responsible for the downfall of said country. While it appears United States has not yet done anything so destructive as groups such as Stalin era Russia or Mao’s Great Leap Forward, the possibility exists that through the existence of exceptionalism we as a public are blind to the destruction of our countries current actions, or that future actions of our leaders may go morally unchecked. The key to not falling victim to an idealistic view of the United States is to learn, as we do in this class, about mistakes the United States has made in the past without viewing them as a singular moment in history, but instead viewing them as apart of a larger interconnected story.

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One Comment

  1. Christopher Wilson Christopher Wilson

    Adding on to your point about the myth that God is on America’s side, I concur with you that politicians use this myth in their arguments to gain public acceptance and approval. In response to Dr. Bezio informing our class of how religious the population in the United States is, I am not surprised by how powerful this myth is. In general, religion is a powerful force that causes communities of people who share the same faith to believe that the God they serve is superior to all other deities and beliefs. Religion is entrenched in mostly everything society interacts with. Many of our thoughts and the way we react to particular stimuli are reflected by the religious roots we’ve been exposed to during our upbringings, such as American exceptionalism, which Christianity probably influenced.

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