More than half of the American population believes the best days of this country are behind us. That might be depressing if America’s best days were less than they truly were. As it stands, it’s about as depressing as Bill Gates crying “Poverty!” if his fortune were to dip from 100 billion dollars down to around, say, 75 billion.
It seems to have been generally accepted that the question of “American Exceptionalism” is at least a debatable issue. That, in itself, is outrageous. It’s an overly generous concession by those too polite to jam America’s scrapbook into the faces of those who, for reasons too peevish to ponder, like to pretend America is no different from most other countries and, in many important ways, inferior to many other countries.
I want to apologize for any generosity-of-spirit I may have exhibited over the years to lend argumentative respect to those who insist America is just a “normal” country. I may in the past have pretended they have a point. They have none. I was just being polite.
For openers, try answering these specific questions. What other nation ever amassed more power and abused it less than America? I feel a bit like the chess-master who, after saying, “Checkmate” (“Game over. I win!”) to the beginner, lets his hapless foe keep staring at the chessboard for a few moments to see if he can find a way out. There are other countries that amassed tremendous power – and abused it horribly (Germany, Japan, Soviet Union). And there are countries of little power that behave well.
America was the only nation with the nuclear weapon for four whole years (1945 to 1949). America’s conventional military power was simultaneously awesome. America did not use “The Bomb” for conquest, threats, blackmail or intimidation. We tucked it away and devoted our energies to lifting our former enemies as well as our former allies out of the smoking rubble of World War II, knowing full well other countries, good and evil, would eventually develop the nuclear weapon.
Do we hear any applause for that? Not even a little?
What other country was sneak-attacked in the middle of ongoing negotiations and five days later declared war upon by the worst dictatorship on earth, and after a terrible fight lasting almost four years, annihilated both aggressors? Whereupon, instead of the usual regimen of rape and plunder, America helped reconstruct those enemy nations and convert them over to democracy. Japan is today the most prosperous democracy in Asia, and Germany, ditto for Europe. Did you who deny American exceptionalism miss all this, or do you hate America so much your tongue paralyzes before praise and your hands atrophy before the first clap?
Can you name another country that won two simultaneous wars and wound up with less territory than when it was attacked? There aren’t even any other nominees for this kind of “Academy Award.” After spending so much American blood and treasure to liberate the Philippines, upon victory, America gave the Philippines their independence.
This next American achievement speaks extra-loud today. Can you name another country that ever amassed more wealth and distributed it more fairly? Those who talk of distributing wealth more “fairly” really mean more “evenly” – with no regard to merit, hard work, showing up on time, loyalty, honesty, ambition and hustle. America embraced those concepts and gave the world a middle class, plus economic power so formidable it excites the envy of the overwhelming majority of mankind even in the worst of economic times, like right now. Louder, please! America has amassed more wealth and distributed it more fairly than any other nation in history.
America has traditionally chased fire engines around the world when other countries had floods, earthquakes, dam-breaks, super-storms. How many foreign flags did you see on America’s Gulf Coast after Katrina or in the northeast after Super-storm Sandy? What’s exceptional is: nobody in America ever even asks that question and nobody seems to give a damn. That’s “just what we do”!
Perhaps most impressive of all, can you name another nation that tackled a horrific internal problem of its own, as toxic as race, on its own, without the “help” of foreign invaders or blue-helmeted U.N. forces? Not only is America no longer a racist country; it is a country that bends over double-backwards to avoid the perception of racism. That fact of American life doesn’t explain Obama, only his victories.
My vote for the most exceptional American quote in our most exceptional war was uttered, rather shouted, by OSS operative Fred Howard as Nazi Germany was falling. In a western German town the German army had fled, but the Americans hadn’t occupied yet, agent Howard – more like in a bad crime movie than in a real war – kicked the pistol out of a Gestapo agent’s hand, scooped it up and got the drop on him. The suddenly obsequious Gestapo agent said, “OK, you’ve got me. But please, please don’t harm my family.”
“Don’t harm your family?” railed Howard. “What the hell do you think we are – Nazis?”