We simply reject it
Ron Fournier at National Journal has written an extraordinary article, “Republicans Are Wrong About Obama’s American Exceptionalism,” defending Obama’s vision of America as “modern and honest,” as “Reagan-plus.”
We, of course, are neither modern nor honest; indeed, we’re frightened because the country is “becoming browner and more accepting of gays and lesbians”:
That is a scary thought for some people. I get it: Life is changing so quickly and the future is so uncertain that the past is a pacifier—and so politicians cling to the founding myths of the nation. And yet, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and other GOP presidential candidates critical of Obama’s formulation are making a mistake with their retro pitch to a populace that has always looked to the future.
Setting aside his disdain for and condescension at our (bitter?) clinging, Mr. Fournier misses the fact that we don’t ignore our nation’s past nor do we cringe in fear at the thought of a diverse demographic make up or of some scary future (unless it’s the one Obama has planned for us). Indeed, as Americans who believe in American exceptionalism (not Obama’s vision of it), we embrace these things as part of the very fabric of our great nation.
I wrote the following (with revisions) back in 2010, but the basic premise remains just as true today as it was then.
What do you think of when you think of America?
I think of American ingenuity, American resourcefulness. I think of pioneers heading into the unknown, be it to an unknown continent or into the unknown wild west. I think of American inventions from the cotton gin to refrigeration to the Ford assembly line to the telegraph. I think of Americans walking on the moon, building skyscrapers, making discoveries in science and technology that have changed the world. I think of Americans as staunch allies and generous providers of aid, both financial and military, where and when needed. I think of Americans reaching out a helping hand to each other after tragedies like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and I’ve seen first-hand, having lived for some time in the hurricane-buffetted Florida panhandle, that this willingness to help, this eagerness to aid a neighbor or a stranger, is not reserved for only true catastrophe. I think of Americans reaching out with equal empathy when tragedies strike other countries (we are always first to respond to tragedies be they tsunamis or earthquakes, and as we have the most to give, we give the most. Freely. With compassion.).
What has made all of this possible is that we apply our American ingenuity and resourcefulness to all situations. We don’t cringe in fear of change or of an uncertain future; we blaze trails. Where Mr. Fournier and Obama see failure, shame, and regret, we see the changes we have wrought out of and because of our American exceptionalism (not despite it or in creation of it).
When industry needed regulation as revealed in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, we changed it. When people were being exploited in steel mills, we changed it and improved the working conditions in factories across the country. When we have seen injustice, we have moved to correct it. We have abolished slavery, given women the vote, ended segregation, provided opportunity to the poor, created a booming middle class. We have defended freedom, our own and that of others, around the world. We have shared our resources with our allies (and too often with our enemies). We have been a beacon of hope for people the world over.
And we have been able to do all of this because we are a free people. We have a (somewhat) limited government that instead of micro-managing every aspect of our lives has instead historically provided the protections and opportunities that Americans have needed, have been blessed with, to accomplish so very very much. We grew from a rag-tag bunch of misfit rebels into the most powerful nation on earth. And we did it in less than two centuries!
When government steps back and leaves businesses and individuals to flourish, flourish they do. We’ve proven that. It’s fact. When government steps in and oversees, controls, and legislates everything the opposite happens: businesses, people, countries, entire civilizations wither and die. We’ve seen that in country after country in our own lifetimes, and it’s been the truth throughout history. When a people are given hand-outs from the government, they become listless, unmotivated, dependent. Productivity, innovation, even the will to survive decline to an eventual and inevitable stand-still. People shrivel up and die rather than shuffle through life on a meager subsistence that offers no hope, no nothing.
When people are given opportunity and freedom, they bound into action, they become independent, prosperous, and successful. This is truth. This is fact. If people have to work, create, invent, and innovate to survive, thrive, and prosper, they will. We Americans, in my not-so-humble opinion, are blessed to have that certain something, that American spirit, that prevails in all things. We are proud people, yes, but we are also independent people. A people who want opportunity, not hand-outs.
We saw this clearly in the fall-out from the Cornhusker Kickback. In order to secure Senator Ben Nelson’s vote on the (first-step, or “starter home,” of the) government takeover of our healthcare system, Reid granted Nebraska a free-pass on Medicaid, the federal government would pay for all of Nebraska’s Medicaid for all time. “The federal government” doesn’t have an income beyond our taxes (and some frantic borrowing and money printing that are getting us closer and closer to a true economic collapse), so that means that 49 states’ taxpayers would be footing the bill for Nebraska’s Medicaid–healthcare for the poor. Forever. We would be taxed for another state’s services, taxed, of course, without representation because we can’t vote there. This caused an uproar across the nation. We were indignant, not only at the idea of footing the bill for Nebraskans while also paying for the Medicaid in our own states, not only at the idea of taxation without representation, but at the idea that a vote on a fundamentally un-American bill can be bought like that. That the concept of America, what it means to be American, is for sale.
The most important part of this story, though, is that the people of Nebraska themselves rejected it.
Nebraska did America proud by adamantly opposing the Cornhusker Kickback. They didn’t want the hand-out, they didn’t want the “favor” that would make their lives easier (or at least slightly less expensive than the other 49 states). They refused to be bought off, to be taken under the government wing and “nurtured.” They wanted to stand alone. To thrive and survive, to retain their independence and stand, like the proud Americans they are, on their own two feet. The people of Nebraska were furious and they were embarrassed. They booed Ben Nelson out of a pizza parlor, they spoke out against this travesty, and their governor let it be known that Nebraska would not fall, would not hand over their sovereignty, their American spirit. As a result, Nelson was shamed into asking that the kickback be removed from the bill.
Obama, of course, misread the entire thing, and that’s because he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand–deep-down, intuitively know–what it means to be an American. He thinks that republicans caused the reversal, he thinks that it was politics. He doesn’t understand that what he is doing, what he wants, what he is goes against the grain of America, that it grates against the grain of the American spirit, of our most foundational principles and beliefs. He doesn’t get that we aren’t a people who want the government to provide for us, that we are a people who want the government to provide only what it is constitutionally directed to provide: opportunity, protection, and representation of the people.
The people, those in Nebraska, and those across this land reject Obama’s plan to “fundamentally transform” our country, not because we are stupid or afraid, not because it hasn’t been explained correctly, not because we are political pawns bent on saying “no,” but because we understand very well what is being proposed. We understand that it is anti-American, that if flies (even spits) in the face of who we are as a people.
We fly free, we forge paths, we protect and defend. We don’t cower in the shadows awaiting our next hand-out, we don’t slink uninspired and listless through the sewers of life wondering what someone else will do for us. We stand tall, we innovate, we invent, we succeed, we rush to the aid of others because we have not only the wealth and strength to do so but because we are a good and decent people. We are Americans, for God’s sake, Americans.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.