Exceptionalism is a Bad Idea

What if you were stuck at a gathering with a person who asserted: “I am an exceptional human being. I have been given the gift of insight and it is my duty to share it with the less fortunate and set them on the right path”. Wouldn’t you flee for your life and think: “What a pompous ass!”So why should nations or groups be allowed to think of themselves as the chosen ones whose responsibility is to set an example to other nations? In the 19th century “manifest destiny” was the belief that the U.S. was a chosen land that been allotted the entire North American continent by God. The “White man’s burden” was another myth which served as a justification for acquiring colonies and imposing one’s superior culture on them. From there to the doctrine of white supremacy was but one little step.
The Third Reich took this idea to its extreme conclusion, namely that lesser human beings were to be exterminated. Moral labels should be bestowed by other people or nations on those they think worthy of merit, never assumed by any one group or person about themselves. This is arrogant, unseemly, self-serving and presumptuous. It inevitably puts other people’s backs up, irritates and antagonizes them. So the United States should stop thinking of itself as exceptional. It is too easy for others to refute saying: What about the use of napalm, Agent Orange? What about helping Iraq who used gas against Iran? What about helping Pinochet overthrow Allende? etc. etc. A little humility would not be amiss. Nobody is exceptional. Trying to do our best is sufficient.


Facebook Comments


  1. From Irl Cramer…we received a number of responses by email so I am transcribing them here:

    1. I agree with Simone.

    As a related idea, I question that the United States is solely responsible for fixing what goes badly in the world. It reminds me of the statement, “Let’s you and him fight,” I think other nations and other peoples also have responsibility also for what occurs. Concerning Syria, where large-scale death is occurring, whether by poison gas or other weapons, I wonder that Turkey, which has many refugees to feed and house, hasn’t remembered that it is a member of NATO and asked NATO to intervene. NATO isn’t the United Nations, but it is a goodly number of nations.

  2. As long as you try to do your best is right. I sleep well at night knowing I have A beautiful family. I am truly blessed. I provide the best I can for them, teaching them respect for one another, values and manners.
    I let them know they are TRULY LOVED!!

  3. I agree with you. As a teacher, I see this sense of entitlement from so many of my students. It gives them a false sense of self!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *