THIS column wishes respectfully to propose a temporary ban on references in political debate to both American greatness and American exceptionalism. This is not because Lexington denies that America is great and exceptional. It is. The case for the ban is that both terms have been emptied of serious meaning, converted into slogans and pressed into service, especially by the right, as a club with which to bludgeon political opponents. They should be put aside at least until America emerges from its present economic crisis, and perhaps for longer.
Implementing this ban will not be easy. Greatness is part of America’s birthright and lexicon. Its 18th-century founders had no doubt that they were embarking on a daring experiment inspired by the highest ideals of the Enlightenment. In the 19th century came Manifest Destiny, great migrations and the push to the West, civil war and the end of slavery. The 20th brought titanic struggles and famous victories against fascism and communism.
Even today, battered by recession, deep in debt, mired in war, Americans remain proud of their country, and justly so. America still towers over rivals in scientific virtuosity, military power, the vitality of democracy and much else. Polls show that Americans are still among the most patriotic people in the world. This summer 83% told Pew that they were “extremely” or “very” proud to be American…
NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.