Thursday, February 3, 2011

American Exceptionalism

Vox Nova posted this blog a few days ago on a prevalent attitude in our country known as American Exceptionalism. It is the same attitude that produced things like Manifest Destiny and imperialism. Taken even further it produces movements like the Ku Klux Klan. It is an incredibly toxic attitude that is largely a by-product of our country's economic success and the Protestant Reformation/Enlightenment period.

I agree with this Vox Nova writer that this attitude is in no way consistent with Catholic beliefs.

American exceptionalism is therefore not only wrong, but it is dangerous. If you are chosen by God, you do not have to play by the rules of other nations. Your wars are always just, and your torture is never torture. You are less inclined toward introspection, or to seek the counsel of others. You have a God-given right to use the resources of the earth without heed to the effect on anybody else.

After all, Catholicism is all about unity – as Henri de Lubac put it, redemption is a work of restoration geared toward “the recovery of lost unity– the recovery of supernatural unity of man with God, but equally of the unity of men among themselves.”

[Side note: I disagree that this kind of exceptionalism is found in republicans only. The author seems to have a special disdain for the exmaples of Repubilcan American Exceptionalism.]

It is not wrong to think that our country is great and to have pride in the freedoms and material benefits we enjoy, but it is dangerous to believe we're better than others because of it. There is a fine line between authentic pride of nation out of thanksgiving to God for making it so, and excessive pride of nation believing that we are somehow better than others and then using it to excuse our actions. Doing so is akin to condemning sinners, casting them off as evil and proclaiming ourselves to be better, when in fact, we are all sinners and it is not our place to condemn, but to forgive and help each other.

Instead of patting ourselves and our ancestors on the back for doing some things right helping to provide us with a free and prosperous society, we should direct our thanks to God and his beneficence. And, out of humility, extend apologies and welcoming arms toward our international enemies and friends. Solidarity should be our true aim, not material or military greatness. For true greatness is not measured in dollars, status, or might, but in the heavenly goods we have built up--virtue, loving relationships, etc.

"God has not created us for the perishable and transitory things of earth, but for things heavenly and everlasting." -- Pope Leo XIII

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