Someone wiser than I pointed out the undeniable fact that the United States of America was founded by a group of privileged, slave-owning white men that didn’t want to pay taxes (and didn’t feel women were capable of voting). No wonder the Republican Party keeps pining for the good-old days and the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Of course myths abound in the recollection of these early years: many are indelibly etched in the folklore of the country but way too many are actually skewing the history of the United States.
I think that American Exceptionalism is possibly the most damaging idea that has come along in the history of the nation. Look at it simply: if America is so special, there is no need to look for places where it can be improved. Would an exceptional country have poor, hungry, malnourished, unwell citizens with no future waiting to die early, perhaps in a cardboard box behind the Piggly Wiggly? Of course not! They are not there … and don’t look behind that curtain.
Would an exceptional country be overridden by corruption, cheating, lying, and an unequal application of justice? Of course not!
Would an exceptional country be less concerned about the tremendous increases in the wealth of a few powerful people at the expense of the elderly, the less-fortunate, the needy people that have nothing or the little they can manage on minimal wages? Of course not!
Would an exceptional country allow those that cannot afford medicine and health care to fester in the darkness and die an early death rather than give up a dime of their hard earned money (or somethings their father’s or grandfather’s hard earned money)? Of course not!
Do we need to be reminded that this country is considered the Land of Liberty and not trans-vaginal probes? Perhaps we need to be reminded of those words at the base of this country’s most famous symbol of the promise of liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” — From “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, addressed to those who arrive in America from foreign lands.
There are a couple of other primary texts that represent the United States of America:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Notice that it says, “promote the general welfare,” not increase the coffers of the rich: the Constitution is for all the people of the United States and not just the privileged few.
And finally, there’s that pesky Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
All men are created equal and they all have rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is useful to point out that these are not the only rights: the Declaration of Independence only iterates a few of the rights. Also, to avoid arguments, I prefer to allow that the Founding Fathers were using the term “men” in its broadest sense and that men, women, gays, black, brown, yellow, purple, or blue, and even terrorists from the middle-east are covered.