Although national anthems and amber waves of grain tend to invoke passionate feelings of pride and patriotism, at some point in one’s life they must begin to wonder, what is truly “good” or “evil.” It is a simple thought process to follow, taking its first step with the question, “Is my truth, the right truth?” With so many opinions and so many different theories about the issues in life no one really knows about or understands, it is highly improbable to reach an educated answer to these questions definitively without thorough investigation. The author of “Is America exceptional? Liberals, conservatives agree — and disagree,” believes he can answer that question, however, with this simple conclusion: yes, all Americans agree that this country is exceptional, though what categories it is truly exceptional in are left to debate. With every opinion there are differences, though, there seem to be far too many “blanket statements” within this article to leave it untouched and unchallenged.
David Lake, an “acting Dean of Social Sciences” at the University of California begins his piece with an almost immediate attack on those who classify themselves as Conservatives, showing extreme personal bias toward the Liberal cause: “Conservatives believe the United States is exceptional because its people are inherently good… Liberals see the United States as exceptional because of our principles of limited government, embedded in the Constitution. Accepting that inherently good Americans often have different ideas of what goodness means, liberals celebrate our system of checks and balances,” (Lake). This bias completely ignores evidence, as bias tends to do, of the Liberal’s lack of practicing its own passion of Constitutionalism, and the Conservatives’ obviously marred vision of what “inherently good” people are like.
President Barack Obama has been the loyal and sole leader of the United States of America for nearly three years, and has managed to make a mockery of the Constitution the liberals and their obvious idol (working under the assumption that Lake is an accurate spokesperson for the Liberal Party) claim to view as the best and most exceptional benefit America has to offer. “After the Vietnam War, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, which granted the president the power to act unilaterally for 60 days in response to a ‘national emergency created by attack upon the United States…” (Ackerman). When President Obama engaged and initiated warfare in the country of Libya throughout what is widely known as the Arabian Spring, he and his administration ignored the fact that Libya had not caused any harm or threatened the United States with any warfare, by any definition of the word. This was in direct violation of the War Powers Resolution, along with blatant ignorance of the time constraints given to Obama’s Administration of 60 days, with 30 days given to remove troops from the country the President acted upon without Congressional approval (Ackerman). This unashamed disregard for the Constitution proves that there is no possible way Liberal Democrats show even the slightest respect, let alone celebrate, the beauty of the checks and balances system.
Lake continues within his heinous article to make more claims:
“Contemporary liberals support a larger, more activist role for government at home and abroad because they trust that the competing branches of government will limit the influence of what James Madison called ‘factions…’ Liberals extend the principles of limited government to the international arena. Believing that a leader needs followers, and that followers will only follow if the leader can be trusted, liberals embrace multilateralism,” (Lake)
Besides this supposed educator’s very obvious ignorance of proper English grammar, Lake once again overlooks the contradiction of loving the Constitution and hating factions. The United States Constitution was written and set in action due to the assumption by the Founding Fathers that they lacked the proper representation in the British Parliament to justify the vast taxation of their goods. Once independence was won, it was written and set in place that people have the innate right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” along with the freedoms the Amendments offered, such as freedom of speech. The value of freedom of speech not only lies in the fact that one has the freedom to say whatever they wish as long as it does not harm another person, but also in the implication behind that right—having the ability to say whatever one wishes, they also have the ability to form and act upon whatever opinion they have. “Factions” are typically defined as groups within groups, with the common stigma of disagreeing with the larger group’s actions or opinions—dissenters. By attempting to claim that the Liberal party aims to remove power from factions, Lake is claiming that the very party he argues protects the Constitution is practicing its rights incorrectly and is contradictory. Had it not been for the factions Lake believes should be limited, even the American Revolution would not have happened.
But this is not the end of Lake’s self-contradictions. Lake’s article continues on to say that “Liberals extend the principles of limited government to the international arena. Believing that a leader needs followers, and that followers will only follow if the leader can be trusted, liberals embrace multilateralism,” (Lake). Of course that would seem like a reasonable statement, or perhaps it is only a reasonable statement because of the indoctrination of Americans today. This is where the idea of American Exceptionalism becomes a dangerous motive and excuse for atrocious actions taken by its government, daily.
Exceptionalism, defined as “an attitude to other countries, cultures, etc. based on the idea of being quite distinct from, and often superior to, them in vital way,” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). This superiority complex American citizens, and most dangerously their leaders, has lead to the unlawful, unconstitutional imperialization of the world.
“It is said to be unconstitutional to hold territory, even temporarily, except ‘in a state of pupilage,’ as Judge Bradley expressed it, in preparation for eventual Statehood. This objection is based exclusively upon the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case. Chief Justice Taney’s words are now historic: ‘There is certainly no power given by the Constitutional to the Federal Government,’ he said, ‘to establish or maintain colonies bordering on the United States or at a distance, to be ruled and governed at its own please nor to enlarge its territorial limits in any way except by the admission of new States…It is acquired to become a State, and not to be held as a colony,” (Smith 50).
Whether this is unconstitutional or not, the United States has not only taken it upon themselves to acquisition and maintain territories and commonwealths such as Puerto Rico, Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and the Philippines within the past 150 years, they also currently maintain occupation within 135 of the 192 countries in the world with more Active Duty Military troops in other countries (1,435,450 troops) than on United States’ soil (1,130,135 troops) as of March 2011 (United States of America Department of Defense).
This is the issue one must take up with Mr. Lake; working under the assumption that nearly every American does believe that the United States is exceptional; it is not an issue of how it is exceptional but rather a question of if it truly is. Values are something that are innately relative to a culture—the uniqueness of people are something to be cherished, rather than compared on a scale that is impossible to balance without predisposition. The point is not which skewed side of the American philosophy is “more right” when considering exceptionalism, or which is less patriotic, but that there should not be any belief of superiority among one people when opposed to the other. This arrogance of supremacy is what leads to the fall of not only countries, but individuals everywhere.
Sources Cited in MLA Standard Format:
Ackerman, Bruce. Obama’s Unconstitutional War. 24 March 2011. 12 December 2011 <http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/24/obama_s_unconstitutional_war>.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Exceptionalism. 2011. 12 December 2011 <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/exceptionalism>.
Lake, David. CNN Opinion. 2 December 2011. 12 December 2011 <http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/02/opinion/lake-america-exceptional/index.html?hpt=op_t1>.
Smith, Frank Charles. The American Lawyer. Vol. 7. New York: Stumpf & Steurer, 1899.
United States of America Department of Defense. Active Duty Military Personnel Strength by Regional Area and by Country . Washington D.C.: Department of Defense, 2011.