On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Vienna, Austria, where he explained that talk of American exceptionalism could offend others. “I get always a little uptight when I hear politicians say how exceptional we are,” he reportedly intoned, “not because we’re not exceptional, but because it’s kind of in-your-face and a lot of other people are exceptional, a lot of other places do exceptional things.”
In the words of Syndrome from The Incredibles, “Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super…no one will be.”
Kerry’s words parallel Barack Obama’s own on the topic of American exceptionalism in France in 2009: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
But American exceptionalism is exceptional. No one can really state what the French stand for, or what the Greeks stand for, or nowadays, what the British stand for. American exceptionalism is a different story. American exceptionalism stands for the proposition that liberty from government and property rights, combined with an underlying Judeo-Christian ethos, creates freedom not just at home but the hope for freedom around the globe. American exceptionalism is the philosophy of self-confidence that freed Europe. Twice. That ended slavery at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives. That fought for the freedom of Koreans and Vietnamese and Iraqis.
But American exceptionalism is being undermined, at home and abroad. The Obama administration sees America as exceptional in a negative way: we are the only civilized country on earth that hasn’t bought into a massive gun control regime, the only civilized country that remains largely religious, the only civilized country that retains popular support for Israel, the only civilized country that hasn’t bought wholeheartedly into European-style socialism. On foreign policy, America is exceptional only in that we routinely invade other countries to impose our will, or to seize oil, or whatever the leftist meme of the day dictates.
And so American exceptionalism must be stopped, lest it offend. Because it’s inherently offensive. The same folks who say Americans should avert their eyes if they are offended by pornography in public state that Americans should stop touting America, lest American pride intrude on others’ sensibilities.
It is not “in-your-face” to declare what America is, and what it has been historically. It is deeply offensive to run from our better selves so as not to offend those who don’t believe in our values – our superior values.