At a recent family gathering, several of us ventured into no man’s land when someone asked me if I watched the recent GOP Presidential debate. Reluctantly, I gave my opinion. Quickly, because of my opinions, the conversation turned from the debate to American Exceptionalism. Wikipedia defines American Exceptionalism as “...the theory that the United States is inherently different.”
Neoconservatives, war-hawks and win at all cost members of the GOP use this America is Great attitude to justify its establishment of democratic ideals anywhere they see fit. In short, since our country is great, you should be as well. What makes us great? Wealth? That’s up for you to ponder.
Most people that succumb to American Exceptionalism also promotes smaller government. In actuality, government expands as a matter of recourse with this line of thinking. Why? When we think we are better than anyone else, we spend more money on the military to show our might. Further, we buy more things to show other countries that we have more wealth than you, which puts us in more debt. Hopefully, you get the idea.
To me, the lines have blurred over the last half century from one of helping people in the world to one of trying to push our way of life onto others, especially in our foreign policy. Part of our desire is to eradicate evil, of which there is plenty in the world; but, our senseless need to conquer troubles me, especially when we should be conquering other issues on our shores, such as poverty, homelessness, budget deficits, crime and high taxation that stifles innovation and job creation. Defending America and its shores is a different discussion altogether and one we must do if attacked or provoked.
After reading the preceding paragraph, some of you are wondering aloud, “how did Tim get so very liberal? I thought he was a conservative.” Suffice it to say that I don’t consider myself progressive or staunchly conservative. I abhor labels because they seldom allow for thorough problem solving on issues because you become a slave to your label and not to your principles. Both major political parties have allowed their leadership to become ensconced and beholden to their ideologies instead of adhering to sound principles, such as right and wrong.
Our decisions get off track when we as Americans pump up our chests and proclaim to be better than others. This attitude deflects focus on solving problematic issues here on our shores, such as bloated government, regulations, and increasing taxes to name a few.
Principles should rule our approach to tackling the most pressing of issues here on the homeland. Look at it this way. If you are a financially struggling single mom or a family, you will focus your attention on meeting your basic needs rather than spending money on things - that while nice - would not allow for the rent to be paid. In other words, you wouldn't (or shouldn't) buy a new car as a show piece to your friends while at the same time your family is not eating. In this example, the struggling families would attack the core of the issue by getting a second job or cutting expenses -- they attack the core or nucleus of the financial issued they are facing.
On a state and national scale, instead of agreeing to principles of living within our means, we instead puff out our chests and proclaim that Pennsylvania and America are great because my party is in charge. Today's politicians are so mired in their hubris that they fail to attack the core of issues in favor of making themselves look good to their special interests. Proclaiming America is Great makes us feel good. Its intoxicating and people like that feeling. However, after the intoxication wears off, the same core problems exist.
Therefore, in order to change a government's direction so that they will make the tough choices to attack the core of the problems, you must first look in the mirror and change your heart first. Our elected officials come from you and I -the people - so therefore, in order to change the government and the politicians, change yourself first.
Make yourself exceptional instead, rather than the government. Be kind. Live within your means. Don't be boastful. And do not believe that you are better than anyone else.
If we truly want to make America exceptional - start with yourself - because ultimately, America is a reflection of its people.