Indeed, America is exceptional. During the first debate of the current presidential campaign, Donald Trump noted that he had ordered the cancellation of so-called “racial sensitivity” training because activists were using it to “teach people to hate our country… (tell students) that our country is a horrible, racist place.” Trump is right, but the problem goes far beyond a few trainers with a shady agenda.
Jean-François Revel explained that “anti-Americanism is above all a phenomenon of the political media and journalistic and teachers. It is concerning how this revisionist agenda has become one of the most powerful weapons of the radical left, not only in Europe but even within American society itself, and thus risks the death of the nation itself.” Even the very “moderate” Democrats have, for several decades, tried to win over the extremists.
Besides, it is not something new. This wave of anti-American hatred has a very clear starting date: 1980, with the publication of Howard Zinn’s infamous A People’s History of the United States. The cultural ecosystem of the left has turned it into a cult book and brought it into thousands of classrooms, dramatically impacting the national perspective of millions of people, many of whom may not even openly identify with the left but have absorbed that worldview and are ashamed of a country they should be proud of.
Zinn, as a pioneer of today’s mania to “deconstruct” and “resignify,” took the history of the United States, put it in the worst possible light, and turned it into a pamphlet about class struggle. Under the pretext of “telling the story from the bottom,” he told it from the ivory tower of the academic left and sold it with emotional embellishments, first to the cafeteria Marxists in the university towns and then to the general public.
Today, that anti-American vision is everywhere: from history homework assignments in almost any elementary school to the classrooms of Hollywood’s big producers; from The Simpsons episode to music and sports activism; and, of course, it is also one of the great forces behind the violent mobilizations that began by tearing down monuments of Confederate generals and now with the same hostility destroy monuments in honor of George Washington or even the anti-slavery activist Hans Christian Heg.
With their respective nuances, all of these expressions coincide in discarding the leadership of the United States and in repudiating the history of this nation, reducing it to violence, racism, and the discrimination through which the “woke,” the SJWs, will supposedly rescue America and the world to bring us, now, to the utopia of equality… equality controlled by them, of course.
And how does this utopia look? For the more moderate, it may resemble their idealized version of Western Europe; for the more radical, it would be a queer USSR, with everything and gulags to re-educate the “enemies of the genre” and with Cuban-style ration books to avoid gluttony and consumerism. They may be more or less horrible, but they have something in common: the desire for America to stop being so —and that would be tragic.
Why is America exceptional?
Because the United States is truly exceptional: a republican experiment that emerged at a time when the paradigm was the absolute monarchy, a system based on freedom of conscience at a time when dissent was considered treason and even punished with genocide (as happened in the Vendée during the bloody French Revolution), a society built from multiple religions, languages, and national identities, which also operated without an emperor or even a strong central government. It was absurd, it was impossible, and yet it worked.
In 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, in 1783, when the War of Independence ended, in 1788, when the Constitution was ratified, hardly anyone expected the United States of America to succeed as a country, much less to become a major power. But it did, and this fact is in itself exceptional. Even more so, when we look at the impact it has had on the rest of the world, galvanizing the democratic system primarily by the force of example, and providing a system of political checks and balances to an array of passions, ideologies, and prejudices that would have thwarted any other nation.
The United States of America is exceptional, not because it is perfect, but because despite its flaws it has persevered and built something unprecedented in human history. It is not exceptional because of a divine privilege but because it has built something extraordinary from the same plane of humanity that it shares with the rest of nations. Of course, it was born with the original sin of slavery but even fought a civil war to banish it from its nation. Also, there are indeed cases of discrimination, but this is essentially unavoidable in such a diverse country.
Let us look at other latitudes, starting with Mexico (the murders and laws against the Chinese community during the first decades of the 20th century), and we will notice that this problem is by no means exclusive to American society.
What is unique to the United States is how people from such different backgrounds manage to share identity and life —for as our admired Margaret Thatcher once said: while Europe is a product of history, America is a product of philosophy.
That is why the anti-American sounding board proclaimed in chorus by the Democrats, and a good part of the intellectuals, is so dangerous: because America is not held together by the color of its skin, religion, or history, but by the conviction that this nation is an extraordinary achievement, worth preserving and perfecting. If this conviction is diluted, the country will lose its basic element of unity.
On September 17, during the White House Conference on American History, held within the framework of Constitution Day, Trump announced the establishment of the “1776 Commission” and budgetary support to develop an academic agenda to celebrate the great history of the country. That is good news, but reversing the damage of the narrative that the left has spewed out for decades will not be easy: it will take years of effort from government, media, families, and society alike.
If any nation can rise to this task, it is the United States: after all, it would not be the first time that the United States has achieved something exceptional.