The notion that America is exceptional has been taken up by the Republican Party and the Christian right as a rallying cry, to show how patriotic they are, while asserting that liberals, secularists, humanists and non-believers aren’t.
Some say that what makes us different and unique is that our ideals are stated and our government formed on a constitution declaring democratic ideals and personal liberty. But, as important as they are, these are only words, and our exceptionalism needs to be measured by our actions.
So we might say we are exceptional in fighting wars so frequently. We are exceptional in the amount of religion and religiosity practiced, where people still strive to create a theocracy, we are exceptional in our wanting to control women’s bodies, we are exceptional in our odd combination of concern for and disdain of education and that, while we have a glorious set of principles and ideals, we do not come close to living up to them.
Let there be no mistake, I would want to live nowhere else in the world. We have much to be proud of; the “great experiment” has and is working its way towards Martin Luther King’s arc toward justice.