Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sarah Palin's 'America the Exceptional'

This is an excerpt from Sarah Palin’s new book recently published in the National Post.  One no longer expects a politician to write all their own material today, if they ever truly did.  Yet I presume she contributed significantly to the effort and this work certainly shows us that she is been exposed to significant thinkers who are shaping her intellectual development.

This is certainly a confidence builder.  It appears today that any one with political ambitions must start first with a book deal.

Her greatest political attribute is her proven capacity to stare down the money culture of Capital Hill and that folks is the sole reason that the Tea Party exists.  The informed public is seriously offended by a system that instantly seduces their representatives with mountains of cash. They know that it is impossible for the best of men to work properly on their behalf and an insurance company lobby.

She is saying that America is better than that.  That is why she can win in 2012 and I do not think that anyone is going to be able to stop her unless she does.  There are always better prepared candidates but rarely one who embodies the fundamental political crisis facing the USA brought on completely by money politics.  They ended the Reagan consensus in 1998 through Clinton and crushed economy which continues to stagger.  At that level she is creditable and becoming more so with this type of copy.

America the Exceptional
Sarah Palin, National Post · Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010

There is a depressing predictability to conversations about America these days. More times than not, if you try to say something nice about our country, you're accused of being a closed-minded nativist, one of those dangerous hicks clinging to her guns, her God and her country. The equally unpleasant corollary to this practice is that America's critics never seem to give her the benefit of the doubt anymore. She's never merely wrong in their eyes; she's just plain bad.
I was reminded of this distasteful tendency when Arizona recently passed a law that allows state law enforcement officers to question suspected lawbreakers about their immigration status. Love the law or hate the law, you couldn't help but notice that the reception it received from its critics seemed designed not just to discredit the statute, but to cast America itself in the most negative possible light. If you relied on MS-NBC for your news, suddenly Arizona -- and, by extension, all of red-state America -- had become the equivalent of Nazi Germany. Even worse was the way the law was portrayed by those who should have known better--including members of the Obama administration and others in Washington -- as a sign of the inherent badness of America.
As soon as the Arizona law was passed, the Obama administration shifted into a familiar mode: Apologizing for America before foreign audiences. In talks with Chinese officials (representatives of a regime that kills and jails political dissidents and forces abortions on women, among its many other human rights abuses), State Department officials called the Arizona law part of a "troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination."
Many members of Congress even shamefully stood and applauded when Mexican President Felipe Calderon spoke before a joint session of Congress and accused Arizona of using "racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement." This, from a head of state whose law enforcement officials have repeatedly been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses of immigrants on its southern border and does more to encourage illegal immigration to the United States than to see that Mexican citizens can provide for their families by working in their homeland.
The knee-jerk tendency on the part of some to run down America and accuse her fans of being mindless hillbillies is getting old. On the other hand, I'm not interested in closing my eyes to our country's problems. There has to be a middle ground, a way of talking about America that shows we are proud of her greatness but not blind to her flaws. Of course, we're not perfect, and the accusation that anyone who chooses to accentuate America's positive aspects is claiming that we are without blemish is not just tiresome but hurtful. It's a way of keeping the conversation focused on our flaws. It's a game of "gotcha" played by people who are either too disdainful of or too insecure about America's beauty to handle an honest conversation about our country.
You've probably heard a term being used by those who believe America is a special nation with a special role in the world: American exceptionalism. It may sound kind of cocky and arrogant to some people. But what do we mean when we say America is an exceptional country? We're not saying we're better than anyone else, or that we have the right to tell people in other countries how to live their lives. When we say America is exceptional we're saying we are the lucky heirs to a unique set of beliefs and national qualities, and that we need to preserve and value those beliefs. We're saying America is a model to the world, not a bully to the world, or responsible for the world.
In one of my favourite magazines, National Review, Richard Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru explain America's special character well: "Our country has always been exceptional. It is freer, more individualistic, more democratic, and more open and dynamic than any other nation on Earth. These qualities are the bequest of our Founding and of our cultural heritage. They have always marked America as special, with a unique role and mission in the world: as a model of ordered liberty and self-government and as an exemplar of freedom and a vindicator of it, through persuasion when possible and force of arms when absolutely necessary."
The idea of American exceptionalism is older than the United States itself. When Ronald Reagan used to speak of a "shining city on a hill," he was borrowing from John Winthrop, a preacher who led a group of Puritans to religious freedom in America in 1630: "We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us."
Winthrop, in turn, was borrowing from Matthew 5:14, in which Jesus tells his followers, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."
"The light of the world." "A city on a hill." These are high aspirations for a people in a strange new land. And it's one of the more curious things about American history, I've learned, that it was the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville who described how America has managed to mostly fulfill this promise. If you pay attention while you're listening to C-SPAN or reading American history you're sure to come across Tocqueville. He literally wrote the book on American exceptionalism.
In 1831, Tocqueville spent nine months traveling from Boston to Michigan to New Orleans trying to find out about this thing called democracy in this place called America. The first volume of his book, appropriately titled Democracy in America, was published in 1835 and was an instant success. What he saw in America was a country and a people distinctly different from Europe, and thus exceptional. Tocqueville said that three things -- American customs (particularly our religious heritage), law (particularly our commitment to federalism, or states' rights) and geography combined to make "the position of the Americans ... quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one."
One aspect of American exceptionalism as described by Alexis de Tocqueville that is particularly meaningful today is our propensity to govern ourselves, locally, without waiting for any central authority to show us the way. He could have been talking about towns I've been to in New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, or Alaska, for that matter, when he wrote, "In towns it is impossible to prevent men from assembling, getting excited together and forming sudden passionate resolves. Towns are like great meeting houses with all the inhabitants as members. In them the people wield immense influence over their magistrates and often carry their desires into execution without intermediaries."
Sad to say, many of our national leaders no longer believe in American exceptionalism. They -- perhaps dearly -- love their country and want what's best for it, but they think America is just an ordinary nation and so America should act like just an ordinary nation. They don't believe we have a special message for the world or a special mission to preserve our greatness for the betterment of not just ourselves but all of humanity. Astonishingly, President Obama even said that he believes in American exceptionalism in the same way "the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Which is to say, he doesn't believe in American exceptionalism at all. He seems to think it is just a kind of irrational prejudice in favour of our way of life.
To me, that is appalling. His statement reminds me of that great scene in the movie The Incredibles. Dash, the son in the superhero family, who is a super-fast runner, wants to try out for the track team at school. His mom claims it won't be fair. "Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of. Our powers made us special!" Dash objects. When his mom answers with the politically correct rejoinder "Everyone's special, Dash," Dash mutters, "Which is another way of saying no one is."
Maybe President Obama grew up around coaches who insisted that all the players receive participation "trophies" at the end of the season and where no score was kept in youth soccer games for fear of offending someone. Because just like Mrs. Incredible, when President Obama insists that all countries are exceptional, he's saying that none is, least of all the country he leads. That's a shame, because American exceptionalism is something that people in both parties used to believe in.
- From the book America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag by Sarah Palin. Copyright ©2010 by Sarah Palin. Reprinted by arrangement with Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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Unknown said...

I wish I could agree with everything Mrs. Palin says, but I remember that de Tocqueville also spoke about American slavery, the vilest slavery ever practiced in the world. When Americans take the time to seriously look at American slavery and hold truth and reconciliation meetings about it, we will rise closer to American exceptionalism and that city on the hill.

arclein said...

To call American slavery the vilest is truly a stretch. We have only done without its joys since the rise of fiat currency made it economically senseless.

Today we are all spoiled and try to impose today's values unfairly on the ugly past.

Yet we diminish the slavery until the gas chambers ethos of the Nazis or the games of ancient Rome.

Jill said...

Hi Arclein,

Just found your blog and LOVE it. I really like the way that you comment on the articles before I read them. Kind of helps me get an idea of what I am looking at before delving in. I am writing a grant pre-proposal in the next 10 days. I want to write it for cattail production and sustainable farming using a pastured poultry model (Polyface farms of VA). I would love to connect with you via email and pick your brain if that is possible. Thanks!