American exceptionalism is an interesting concept that does not yet have a formal definition, yet, there are a few varying conceptions. Within this paper, I will discuss in detail the idea of American exceptionalism. The term itself has been spoken many times in politics, but sometimes the lack of explanation and scrutinization goes not noticed. Furthermore, how my, as well as many others, educational experiences may have strengthened this concept within our society. Within this paper I will also touch on these instances, and how it is now also sparking discussion on Trump’s presidential campaign motto to, “Make America Great Again!” This idea of American exceptionalism
The idea of the exceptionalism of the U.S. has been around for a long time. I have, on the other hand, just recently learned the term “American exceptionalism,” though! So what is it? I feel that the idea has been constructed through strong, prolonged ethnocentrism amongst Americans. In his article, “Reflections on Global Justice and American exceptionalism,” Mark Lagon discusses this in that “the United States judges itself by standards different from those it uses to judge other countries” (Lagon). This example of ethnocentrism is what I believe constructed American Exceptionalism. Although not all Americans believe in the exceptionalism of the U.S., sometimes instances can occur that go unnoticed. Such instances occur when American actions, i.e. advancements, are justified on a basis of the nations economic standing or its protection of citizen’s rights. However, I do not believe this is much for protection. Both socially and politically constructed rumors that circulate the media can, and are found within history textbooks. Nearly all Americans have experienced this at some point, I have throughout my later years of elementary and all of high school.
The schooling system within the U.S. can contribute to American Exceptionalism. Many history textbooks across the United States are written by Americans, for Americans. There are issues with this, as history should not be told from one side it should be told from the “middle” point of view. This way students like myself would get a more truthful and meaningful education, and even if it was written by an American they could be sure that there is no bias in which point of view the history is told. In my early schooling years learning about the first people in America, it was portrayed in a way that made it seem like they were the first to land here, that this was their land. However, the texts and teachers often failed to mention the strong presence of indigenous that had been here before. Another, later instance was in one of my high school world history classes. Every day we would watch Channel-1 a news program meant for students in middle to high school. Overall the news they were broadcasting was decent, but looking back on it now, I feel that many of the world stories seemed very one-sided. This can be expected though, in the exceptional U.S. Some people might wonder why Trump wants to make America great again, and it might be due to the U.S. failing to legitimately live up to “American Exceptionalism,” at least in his eyes.
Current President, Donald Trump, had a lot of power in his election campaign. He gained this power in providing compelling explanations for the disturbance or “loss of the foundational American myth of exceptionalism” as stated by Chris McMillin of Arcadia University London. Furthermore, Trump’s power was then increased through the isolation of oppositions against American exceptionalism that explained its apparent downfall, as well as him offering the strong possibility of overcoming these antagonisms to “Make America Great Again” (McMillin). I do believe this was a brilliant tactic to put at play in an election and the results go to show this, however, providing an illogical problem and false hope to cure this “problem” was a cowardly way to show that he wanted to be the next president.
Overall, American Exceptionalism is not the most accurate assessment of the United States of America, instead, it is just another example of ethnocentrism. Thus, as discussed in an article from Pew Research Center Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes said that “Americans view themselves, their country, and the world in ways that reflect potentially unbridgeable, persistent gaps in opinions on important issues.” I believe they put it into great words, furthermore, this way in which Americans view themselves within the world can strongly impact the way they see themselves in comparison to others, and with the view of the U.S. being, “better than other countries,” Americans might begin to develop a false sense of reality in terms of what nation is actually the best in a given instance, such as our amounts of freedom compared to our amounts of people who are incarcerated. We are not number one in freedom, but rather in incarceration numbers! This is one instance in which American exceptionalism brings about the false reality as mentioned above, yet there are many more.
American exceptionalism can be a confusing concept to grasp at first, but with time the negatives and positives have shown themselves. The idea of someone thinking their country is exceptional is not at all a bad thing. Being patriotic can be considered a good and reasonable thing, along with ethnocentrism. On the other hand, when it gets to a point in which one believes their country to be so exceptional that they also believe that everything good then must come from, or be caused by, that nation. This idea of American exceptionalism is just that, the point at which a feeble-minded person can’t see beyond their own country.