American exceptionalism

I’ve found myself defending David Gergen rather often in various debates with other lefties.  I’d found his appearances on Jim Lehrer’s News Hour (he preceded Paul Gigot who preceded David Brooks in the Friday night slot) uniformly careful and thoughtful and ready to correct himself when he got something wrong.  And, when one looks across the broad narrow spectrum of modern American conservatism, very very few individuals look better than this fellow.  But as to the following … what the fuck?

I think one of the other aspects of this is very fundamental to who we are as a people. There are a lot of sociologists and historians will tell you we as American people are just different. We’re an outliers measured in many ways. Our value system is different. We don’t think like Canadians. We don’t accept government the way it is. We’re not deferential to authority the way Canadians are or in Western Europe.

Well, sure, every nation/culture show differences from others but how odd that folks like Gergen so commonly see these differences as pointing to America’s unique wonderfulness.  The exceptionally ugly, for which there is also persuasive evidence, doesn’t get much mention.  Even less commonly opined upon is America’s claims to a rather pedestrian set of characteristics.

“Not deferential to authority” like those Canadians?!  What is this man talking about?  American politicians, particularly the President, are treated by the media as something akin to the Pope or the King.  Sit quietly.  Be polite.  Follow the conventions exactly.  It’s only a step above “Do NOT under any circumstances gaze directly into His eyes when asking a question”.

Recall, for example, the interview of George Bush and the female Irish news woman.  She challenged him!  The very effrontery of it!  She failed to be obsequious.

All of this (and Gergen is only mildly guilty but quite unconscious of his guilt) is extremely well delineated in Anatol Lieven’s “America – Right or Wrong” and when I get to be World Ruler, it’s going right into every state high school curricula as item #1.

h/t Digby


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