What are you giving thanks for today? Family and friends, certainly. Our communities and churches. Our leaders. For health if we have it, or for the past years when we did.
For me, the appropriate giving of thanks is for America, for American Exceptionalism. And in that exceptionalism it must be recognized that it is its people and its Judeo-Christian roots from which this exceptional country has risen. Thus I give thanks for growing up in such a country, surrounded by the people and the ethical structures which have made America exceptional — unique in the history of the world — for such is, fundamentally, the source of all else for which we traditionally give thanks. Is all of that in danger?Are we witnessing the twilight of America’s influence in the world? Roger Simon has an interesting piece in PajamasMedia which examines that question. He starts with
It’s hard to be wildly optimistic about our country this Thanksgiving 2010, and not just because China and Russia “quit the dollar” on the eve of our iconic national holiday and celebration of abundance. According to some, the American decline has been going on for a while now.
Simon’s article turns political — which I’ll largely ignore here — but nevertheless comes to a point that I discovered long ago when overseas with Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club (U.S. Navy for you Luddites from Loma Linda). Wherever I’ve gone, coming home to America was always the best. Simon experienced that while traveling abroad extensively. He had a “feeling” that America was still the best, in spite of her problems. He ruminates
I came to wonder why [America was best], but I couldn’t put my finger on it. One day, however, I was talking about our countries with my then French girlfriend — we spoke often of les différences between la France et les États-Unis — when she said of the USA: “Roger, you are the window of the world.”
The window of the world? I felt a little embarrassed by such a sweeping statement, but I knew instantly what she meant and that it was true — it was a kind of epiphany, I suppose. America represents human aspiration to the world. It is humanity’s window. It is the best of us — where we see our own hopes … and dreams, of course. For all its excesses and imperfections, take away America and you lose that — not just for us, but for everyone. There is no dream, no symbol of humanity’s hope.
Bill Bennett’s wonderful history series “America: The Last Best Hope” echoes and proves this bold statement.
Simon’s article goes into some depth on the current politics that (at best) decry American exceptionalism and (at worst) accelerate her decline into twilight. In doing so he points out this interesting piece:
The end of the Cold War, argues French writer Marc Weitzmann, was more significant to U.S. foreign policy than the attacks of Sept. 11
American foreign-policy analysts are divided these days into two camps: those who believe the United States is a twilight power, and those who think that the only threat to America’s superpower status comes from a self-induced crisis of confidence, brought about by wimps in high places who are steering us toward decline. President Barack Obama appears to be in the first camp, and there’s an argument to be made that he’s right.
I did not want this article to become intensely political so I simply commend to your reading the entirety of both Simon’s article, and Smith’s discussion of the Weitzman analysis. Both are worthy a full read. While celebrating and giving thanks for living in the place — physically and philosophically — of America’s exceptionalism, it is impossible to ignore the threats to that status.
So on this day, November 25, 2010 — a day of giving thanks — I celebrate and give thanks for family, friends, and this nation, under God, which has made all of that possible.
I want to be clear about how I feel about the term “American exceptionalism.” It is defined by some as not being subject to the normal rules. Just as is ultimately concluded by the “related article” below,
Palin and Gingrich and the rest are off base with their messianism. We are exceptional not by being an American—only by acting like one. (emphasis added)