Tag Archives: American Exceptionalism

Of Freedom, Patriotism, and American Exceptionalism

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flag2“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Those lines from our National Anthem reflect what has been felt by most Americans over the years; that this country is the land of the free, and precisely because of those who are brave.

There has historically been a sense of pride in the level of freedom and liberty afforded Americans; a time when our National Anthem reflected a grateful people who lived in relative freedom from government coercion and tyranny. And as a people, we were proud of our heritage of liberty. But two new polls reflect a drastic change in how we view our freedom, and our pride in being Americans. There is perhaps no better time, than the celebration of our Independence Day, to reflect on what it means to be an American.

Just eight years ago, when Americans were asked in a Gallup poll how they felt about their individual liberty, 92% were satisfied, and felt they were living the American dream of optimal personal freedom. At the time, that was enough to earn the United States of America the top ranking, globally, in personal freedom. In just a few short years, Americans have responded to the same question in ways that reflects the diminution of liberty that comes from expansive government intrusion and a floundering economy that severely restricts economic freedom. We now rank #36 in the world, according to Gallup this week.

We were not the only nation to experience such a precipitous drop in our sense of freedom. Other countries that experienced comparable declines were Egypt, Greece, Italy, Venezuela, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Romania, Yemen, Pakistan, and Spain.

Certainly a significant contributor to this deterioration is the rise of governmental power and the micromanagement of nearly every aspect of our lives. Governments, and those who wield power within them, are historically the culprits in coercive erosion of freedom. But another component is likely economic, as it’s hard to feel free when jobs are scarce, good-paying jobs are even more scarce, and when the middle-class in America has taken a 9% trimming in real median household income, from $54,489 at the end of 2007, to $50,020 last year.

Patriotism-FlagPerhaps even more disconcerting than the perceived erosion of our liberties, is what was revealed in an extensive typology survey released last week by Pew Research. One of their shocking findings in their 187-page paper researching American attitudes was that a full 44% of us are not proud to be Americans. They separated polling groups by substrata of political self-identification, but in the conglomerate, 60% of “strong liberals” answered “no” to the question of whether they “often feel proud to be American.” The only groups that solidly agreed with the statement were those on the conservative side, from 72-81%.

Patriotism is now quantified as a dying trait of 21st century Americans. There was a time not long ago when in spite of ideological differences, the common glue holding our nation, society, and culture together was a shared love of country, a commitment to leave her better than we inherited her. We recognized that we were all Americans, and that we were a unique nation established upon fundamentally correct principles recognizing the equality of man because of our God-given inalienable rights.

9-11neverforgetReflect on how the nation coalesced for a time after the attack at Pearl Harbor, or even more recently, after the attacks of 9/11. As a nation we were unified with a love of country, a patriotic fervor, and a determination to overcome all obstacles and enemies that stood in the way of our perpetuity as a free and prospering nation. Flags, patriotic bumper stickers, and unifying messages on signs and placards were virtually omnipresent. Such unity is predictable from people filled with the American spirit, when we feel we are at risk and fighting for our survival.

I would submit that we are still fighting for our survival, and the risks are no less onerous or menacing now than they were in 1941 or 2001. But even more than those exogenous threats to our physical existence, the policies of governance today, which are so intuitively antithetical to those upon which the nation was founded, are a fulfillment of Thomas Jefferson’s fear. As he said, “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” The greatest threat unraveling America today is domestic, and ideologically driven.

There is nothing erudite or chic to those who harbor antipathy toward America. It may indicate some deep psychological maladies, but it’s certainly not “cool.” Not only is it possible to love America and all she stands for while still being critical of politicians and policy, but I think that’s what is meant by dissent being the ultimate form of patriotism: a devotion to America and a commitment to her perpetuity so great that we speak out in opposition to those policies that we’re convinced challenge the unique position America bears as an ensign of freedom to the world.

960x540There are some incontrovertible facts about America that must be recognized across the entire political spectrum, for they are historical verities. For example, we all should recognize that for the first time in history, a nation, even this nation, was created by people, for people, based on a series of principles and tenets recognized to be God-given, not government bestowed. As James Madison said regarding the patriots who founded this nation, “Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society.”

For the first time in history, a group of agrarian subjects united to throw off the tyranny of their monarch, and establish a new nation founded in the notion that rights are not simply granted by the ruler, but by God. And that since they were granted by God, they were inalienable, meaning that they were unable to be separated, surrendered, or transferred. And that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is the essence of American exceptionalism.

Even those who engage in national self-loathing, lamenting America as the cause of all the world’s grief, must recognize the power behind a country founded on the principle that for a government of free people to be legitimate, its powers must be derived from the consent of the governed.

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillAmerica’s greatness is not based in an arrogant presumption of supremacy on our part, but on a recognition of our unique origins, national credo, historical evolution, distinctive political and religious institutions, and of America’s qualitative dissimilarity from all other nations. It is not arrogance to claim greatness in this young republic; it is historical and empirical fact. Our Declaration reduced government from master to servant for the first time in history, regardless of the fact that the role has in recent years been reversed.

Our United States of America is not perfect. No temporal entity operated by man can be, yet the principles upon which this country is founded are fundamentally correct, based in freedom and individual liberty, and the resulting government by and for the people, at one time was the best on earth.

patriotismPatriotism is not a matter of waving a flag, but is rather manifest in how we talk of America, and how we treat her and our fellow citizens. Adlai Stevenson admonished us that our patriotism should not be “short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

In this context, to be true patriots, we don’t just fly our flag on the 4th of July, but we live lives of dedication to preserving this land, and passing it on to later generations in better condition than we received it from our forbearers. To fail in this most basic task is to fail as Americans.

“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” To which we answer unwaveringly, “Yes!”

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

American Exceptionalism; A loss Or An Opportunity

By Michael Lewinski  02/26/14

Economist, Richard Ebeling attributes American Exceptionalism to a set of principles emanating from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. On the success of the American economy he noted , “The history of the United States from the time of its founding in the late 18th century up to the early decades of the 20th century was a period during which virtually all market activities were free from government regulation, control or manipulation.”

The reason for this success he observed, “Before ‘America,’ virtually all societies were founded on conquest and plunder. But nowhere else than in America was there such a conscious and explicit claim that kings and their governments were not the giver and taker of ‘rights’ belonging to the people. Outside of protecting each in his individual rights, every individual was self-governing and sovereign in guiding and directing his own life. His life was his own to plan and implement. The government did not control, order, or plan his life for him. He chose his own career; he earned his own way; he was responsible for caring for himself and his family; all of his associations and relationships with others… were based on his voluntary agreement in mutual consent with others.

How far we have fallen. How unexceptional we have become. Where, in America, has big government not “interfered with the free-market interactions and activities of people?” Nowhere! Not in your personal life, your family life, your work life, or any other element traditionally left to civil society.

Look around you. Big Brother wants to put its “minders” in the newsrooms. It’s nullifying Freedom of Religion, 2nd Amendment rights, and spying on the people with its warrentless electronic searches. The IRS harasses and suppresses its political opponents. A regulatory juggernaut is methodically making us poorer by crushing wealth creation and destroying jobs.

The question before us is whether the contemporary rejection of American Exceptionalism will stand, or if instead, we will again embrace the core values which enhance the freedom embedded in a strong, vibrant civil society unencumbered by a Progressive, controlling, centrally planned government.

Pearl Harbor and American Exceptionalism

Why We Fight, the film series directed by Frank Capra back during a time when Hollywood still believed in American exceptionalism, is a fascinating watch. The reason for this is simple – during World War II we knew who we were, we knew who our enemies were and weren’t afraid to identify them.

These days we, as Americans, have become unsure of ourselves. Besides for the fact that we’re unwilling to identify our enemies, we are no longer sure of who we are as Americans. There has been a move away from the basic American concept that no matter your upbringing, religious or political leanings, race, or sex — that you can achieve success. Even more disturbing is the concept that someone else owes you something – not for working, not for services rendered, but instead simply because they have something that you don’t.

What made the Greatest Generation great wasn’t only that they marched off to war to save the world from the Axis Powers, but that they didn’t expect anything handed to them. They earned everything that came their way. These days, to watch the “occupiers” on television, complaining that their college degrees aren’t earning them top dollar, one would imagine that those of the Greatest Generation would tell them to ‘get real’. The men and women of that generation sacrificed for all of us – many of them without a higher education – for us to be able to take our freedoms for granted.

This Pearl Harbor Day let us take a moment to thank those of the Greatest Generation for not only extinguishing a great evil but for also showing us the selflessness they demonstrated when they worked long and hard hours in jobs they may not have found “satisfying” in order for their children to live a better life. Rather than complain about what we are supposedly ‘owed’, let us rediscover what has historically made us great. Alexis de Toqueville, writing in 1831, coined the phrase “American exceptionalism”, defining it as the ideals of liberty, equality, individualism, the common person free from a ruling class, and private business free from over-regulation.

These ideals, dating back to early America, are the keystones to our greatness. We must shake off the nonsense that we are no longer the America that our grandparents fought for abroad and at home by re-educating ourselves in our history and orienting our compasses accordingly.

It’s time to build on the strong foundation that the Greatest Generation left us. It’s time to rediscover American greatness.

John Wayne: The Hyphen

I remember growing up getting into my Dad’s old records and the John Wayne "America, Why I Love Her" album was my favorite. There is only one other actor that I might say was as patriotic as John Wayne, and that would be President Ronald Reagan. Now days the liberals have pretty much taken over Hollywood. John Wayne was known for not only his acting, but also his patriotism and straight shooting personality. If only everyone in America would realize the truth John Wayne puts in this song and the entire album.

 

Underdogma – Book Review

Underdogma - Michael PrellBenBella Books recently sent a review copy of Underdogma : How America’s Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power by Michael Prell to me. I was honestly expecting yet another, the Tea Party will save us from the left book, and to some extent, that message is included, but the book goes deeper into just why no one seems to like America anymore – even a large segment of the American population and its leadership.

In his  book, Prell takes a deft swipe at the progressive movement and democratic socialism as a whole. Michael takes the reader through a process of understanding the mechanism he calls underdogma and then laying out how it can be thwarted by defining the term, describing its implementations and then giving Conservatives the recipe to destroy it.

Underdogma is a principle that people will typically root for the underdog and despise the “overdog” in a head-to-head match. The author defines it as, “the belief that those who have less power are virtuous and noble – because they have less power, and that those who have more power are to be scorned – because they have more power”. Prell applies the David and Goliath-like ideology to Israel, America and capitalism.

One of the most vibrant examples of underdogmatism given in the book is the attacks of 9-11-2001. When those planes hit the towers and more than 3,000 innocent Americans perished, he pointed out, the world – even France – cried out, “We are all Americans Now”. We were the attacked, the underdog, but not for long. The liberal media set out almost immediately to change the message. All too soon America was the real terrorist and had brought the attacks on herself. The images of planes flying into the towers soon disappeared and discussions of America’s brutal and unconstitutional treatment of the prisoners at Guantanimo Bay re-took the lead message – America was once again the overdog and was to be despised.

Through about the first third of the book, I wondered if Prell was going to suggest that maybe America would have to become less of a country to regain international respect – the view of President Obama. The apology tour, bowing to every other head-of-state he could and decrying that America is not exceptional. If this is where Michael was going, I wasn’t along for the ride – it wasn’t.

Prell illustrated beautifully how the U.N., unions, and other socialistic, New World Order forces need America to be brought down to their level and how heaping scorn upon the most powerful nation in the world is a necessary step to achieving their end goals.

Understanding that the open society/NWO elements are using the zero-sum lie to destroy our equal-opportunity culture is key. Why do we have to tear down the rich in order for others to succeed? How does one persons success limit another’s? It does not. The book concisely explains how we all benefit from the Marathon oils, Wal-Marts, and Boeings of America and that if we continue bashing them, they won’t exist and neither will anyone else’s chance to create the next great American enterprise.

In the end, Michael Prell does a fantastic job of re-instilling hope that as Ronald Reagan once said, “America is the shining city on the hill”. We are the beacon of hope for oppressed societies. In America,  anyone can become the next Bill Gates, J.D. Rockefeller, Vanderbilt or Dell. What we have to do is re-instill the notion that America is exceptional and that Americans are an exceptional people. We have to be, think and act exceptional. We have to stop trying to destroy those who have achieved great success and spend more energy becoming successful on our own.

This is a book I feel proud to recommend to every free-market Conservative. It is a reminder that the United States is the greatest nation ever conceived. The publication is available from Barnes and Noble here.