America: Exceptional or Nothing Special?
The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And overnight, a great and exceptional nation came roaring to life.
Except some don’t like to say America is exceptional, because they don’t believe it. Even many Americans shrink from the idea. Doesn’t “exceptional” mean we are better than anyone else? And isn’t that idea really really arrogant, even offensive, in this day and age when we need to just accept everyone as equal? Actually, exceptional means “rare, unusual, extraordinary,” and even “aberrant.”
We are certainly all of that.
This weekend in Denver Bill Bennett, author, talker on Salem Radio, and one of the most brilliant thinkers around, said this about America’s uniqueness: “If you’re in some horrible, poor, miserable place in the world with a dictator’s boot on your neck and you see a group coming over the hill carrying a flag, you hope and pray it’s the flag of the United States of America.”
Bennett was speaking at the third annual Western Conservative Summit, orchestrated by the Centennial Institute and Colorado Christian University, where about two dozen prominent conservatives talked on the issues of the day. It was an exhilarating run-up to America’s birthday.
Another indicator of a nation’s exceptionalism is what Bennett calls the “gate test: when you raise the gate, do people run in or do they run out?” I think we all know the answer to that. Bennett also noted that if you read the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the language seems familiar, that’s because much of it is cribbed from our Declaration of Independence e and Constitution. Our founding documents, Bennett said, are the most imitated political documents on the face of the earth.
Here are few more ways we could be considered exceptional:
- When we win a war, instead of occupying our enemies’ countries or stealing their wealth, we spend billions of our own money to rebuild their cities and increase prosperity (see Japan and Germany)
- We are the most generous nation on earth, sending our Navy ships for relief when there’s a natural disaster anywhere in the world, and contributing more to the disadvantaged both privately and publicly than any other country
Even Barack Obama in his 2008 Chicago victory speech acknowledged America’s exceptionalism when he said that no other nation on earth could have given someone like him the opportunity to rise so fast and so far.
But today the schools don’t teach much about why our country is extraordinary, they teach the ideology known as multi-culturalism or cultural relativism: all nations are essentially equal in their goodness, decency, and moral integrity. We are not supposed to question this belief, under penalty of being called bigots. We are supposed to believe that a country or a culture that forbids women to drive or vote or get an education or hold a job simply because they are women, is equal in justice and morality to a country where more women than men graduate from college and then are welcomed into any profession they wish. Of course, it is nonsense to equate the two: obviously, one nation, America, has a more just vision of human rights.
That vision of human rights begins with our Declaration of Independence. Our exceptionalism starts there, in the clearly stated reliance on God as the Author of our human rights. This is what makes America unique: “all Men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” America was founded by men who acknowledged that God, not man, has given us the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our freedoms cannot be revoked or abolished by governments of men, because they are eternal, immutable, and divinely bestowed. Our acknowledgement of God as the granter of our potential and our promise is what has made America from the very beginning, not only exceptional, unique, and rare, but also the most prosperous nation on earth.
Let’s all read the Declaration of Independence to our children to commemorate this day. And renew the appeal to God in the last sentence: “with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Let’s pray that it won’t come to that.
Joy Overbeck is an award-winning journalist and author. She blogs here at at her provocative and fun God site , www.godsayshi.org — please visit and comment!