Is American Exceptionalism Still a Valid concept?

Let's Base Our View on a New 21st Century Definition of American Exceptionalism

New Motorhome

Loading day. This is the 1999 Winnebago unit that replaces the motorhome ripped apart by a speeding logging truck in Yulle, Florida, thanks to the trucker’s honest insurance company. I still had to trade in my 2005 Fifth Wheel trailer that I pulled with my diesel pickup truck. This motor home is easier to maneuver when I pull in between the pumps at a gas station.



Back to Blogging after Highway Mishap


My April 4 brief tangle with a logging truck is now history. Three charges have been filed by the sheriff’s office against the driver. I’ve been told I may have to return to testify against him. Not  a pleasant prospect, but probably necessary. Traffic laws need to be enforced to protect the public from distracted, careless or indifferent drivers.
Fortunately I was not injured, so, as they say, “the show must go on.” I left the crash rather unhappy, but without a single bump, bruise or scratch. I am convinced God was there, protecting me. He must like little old bloggers. I am deeply grateful. However, I am a bit troubled by the unexpected delay. As you know, this is a very large country to cover.
The incident took place on Florida Highway 17 near Yulee, Florida.  I had to load everything I own into a rental truck from Jacksonville to haul it the 300 miles back to our winter home in Southwest Florida. The mess was then piled up in our small living room. Both Judy and I will be glad to see my stuff back where it belongs.
Now, three weeks later, I have a new, (used) motor home, thanks to the integrity of the trucker’s insurance company plus the value of another camping unit I traded in.
As soon as my newly acquired 1999 Winnebago has been loaded with my clothing, my tooth brush, pots and pans and groceries I will resume visiting America’s small towns, interviewing the people of America about their interesting lives, while  looking at the plight (as well as successes) of those engaged in commercial fishing, forest products, and farmers who raise kitchen crops for a living, or those who produce their own back yard organic vegetables to feed their families.
I’m also interested in the deliberate denigration of the concept of American Exceptionalism by individuals who choose to be identified with those who express enthusiasm for liberal politics.  
The liberals have become a group that seems to be embarrassed by, or even angered by the suggestion that our nation is both historically and actually special.
Why they feel that way is puzzling to me. However, exploring their mindset isn’t my prime goal at the moment. But I am interested in considering the theories and findings of Stanford University Psychologist Carol Dweck. She explains how the failure of the brightest and most talented among us can be related to having an improper mindset, while those who are less brilliant are hard workers who often experience greater personal success. Perhaps that is why President Obama is making such a mess of things.
But I digress.  I had to trade in my 2005 fifth wheel trailer, which I had purchased new, to sweeten the deal. I had purchased it along with a one ton diesel truck to pull it. But the rig was simply too long to drive comfortably. I found trying to thread it through gas pumps rather difficult. When I had to turn around on a narrow road it was challenging. The fifth wheel with four slides was a great trailer, but it didn’t fit my new, self-imposed small town assignment that involves blogging.
My replacement for the clean, comfortable, shorter Class C  is a 35 foot long 1999 Winnebago Chieftain.
My earlier motorhome was clean, comfortable, shorter – may it rest in pieces in a salvage lot. As mentioned, my new, day-to-day on-the-road home is a 35 foot long Class A 1999 Winnebago Chieftain. True, it is old, but it also is clean, larger and even more comfortable.
I am now diving north to eventually write about what makes Maine special now that the temperature in New England has warmed up. Soon I will  head west along our country’s northern border. I’d also like to head north to Alaska, where my lovely, brilliant granddaughter will be married in the fall. That trip is possible but not likely,
Now and then I also will borrow a photo or two from my adult son, Jonathan, who has become a skilled photographer, and now makes the Boston area his home.
So I’ll see you down the road.



PASS CHRISTIAN, MISSISSIPPI- Looking for the best place to raise you children in the State of Mississippi?

 Pass Christian, a small city built along a substantial part of of a beautiful 21 mile Gulf of Mexico white sand beach  has, for the past several years, been named the best school system in the state.
It would be more accurate to say “rebuilt.”
Pass Christian took a heavy blow from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Katrina was the storm that made all the news down the road in New Orleans, clearly a much larger, better known city.
The storm wiped out city hall, the city’s library and all of Pass Christian’s schools. Students were moved into temporary trailer-like buildings in a community to the north until the schools could be rebuilt.
Along US 90, which runs beside the beach there are vacant lots overlooking the Gulf for sale. But Amy Wood, a Pass Christian real estate broker, says only one lot is for sale agent the edge of US 90 in Pass Christian. The rest have sold.
The city hall, city court and library have been replaced in a new, attractive U-shaped facility. They also have taken steps to rebuild the downtown on Davis Avenue around a new courtyard with parking.
The thing holding up real estate sales is the FEMA rule that requires the first floor of all homes and stores to be at least 19 feet above sea level. The portion of Pass Christian closest to the water is what appears to be an old sand dune or a “bluff.” It is higher ground than much of the rest of the city. In some areas, where the land is 19 or 20 feet above sea level homes and stores don’t have to be built on stilts to meet the FEMA rule. But many of the newer properties have posts and pillars to lift them off the ground. Some use this space to park their cars and pickup trucks and for storage.
This is a community with a collection of shrimp and oyster boats and a scattering of seafood restaurants that have returned.
Jennifer L. Burke runs the local Main Street program. She reminds me that area was hit by Hurricane Camille in 1969. It had almost completely recovered from that storm when Katrina swirled in.
Now all the FEMA projects have been completed. It is Burke’s job to bring in more business – both retail stores and industry. However, officials persuaded Wal-Mart to rebuild  their store at the east edge of the city. Pass Christian now has a firm commitment from a major hotel chain, ten years after the big storm. DuPont has  continued manufacturing.
The DuPont plant  is located about five miles from Pass Christian and produces a single product — titanium dioxide – a non-toxic white pigment used in paper manufacturing, textile fibers, ink, paint, and plastics. It provides whiteness, brightness and opacity, according to the experts.
Between 500 and 600 people work there. Equally important, DuPont buys what it can locally and pays taxes that substantially help support the area.
In so many ways Pass Christian’s can-do approach provides a positive picture that turns the old opinion so many across the country have held about Mississippi as a floundering, backward state on its head. Add to this that African American mayors have been elected in Philadelphia and Aberdeen and a new Mississippi image is emerging.
Now if only Mississippi public schools in general can improve, the state could become an example of American exceptionalism.

Changing the Reasoning Behind American Exceptionalism

Are We Still the Shining City on the Hill? Or is it Time To Change the Justification for the Term  “American Exceptionalism?”


By Howard James

In so many ways the concept of American exceptionlism has, from the beginning, been closely tied to religion and politics.

For hundreds of years America has been considered a unique and exceptional nation with the mission of spreading liberty, egalitarianism, and democracy around the world.

Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinker and historian, was among the first to actually refer to our young country as “exceptional” in his two volumes, Democracy in America, published in 1835 and 1840. His words are still being quoted 180 years later.

The early Puritans believed God had a covenant with our people – chosen to establish an example of liberty for other nations to follow.

As early as 1630 they referred to Proverbs 4:18 – “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

They also refer to Matthew 5:14 – “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”

The influential Educational reformer, the Rev. Holmes McGuffy, author of McGuffy’s Reader, which sold 125 million copies between 1836 and 1920, also suggested God gave the United States the responsibility of producing liberty and democracy throughout the world.

Confidence in American Exceptionalism was bolstered by our successful role in World War I when Germany accepted the “14 points” outlined by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and agreed to an armistice that ended the war.

Later we were credited with saving Europe from the Nazis and defeating the Japanese in World war II. The steps we took to establish democracy in Germany and Japan and to rebuild war torn countries bolstered the belief in American Exceptionalism.

This long prevailing theory undoubtedly had a role in our intervention in Korea in an era when it appeared the Soviet Union intended to export communism to the rest of the world. Korea had been split in half at the end of World War II. The Soviet Union backed the government in the northern half, the United States supported the government in the southern half. When the Soviets invaded Korea it appeared they intended to control all of Korea.

Today Korea remains divided and the Department of Defense declines to tell us how many U.S. troops are still there due to “sensitive and political reasons.” The Congressional research service has used the number of 28,500, but some say that is too high.

In the 1950s and 1960s the Soviets continued to spread communism to other countries, including Vietnam. When America became involved it caused an uproar around the nation by those who opposed the war.

Was President George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” in Iraq a deliberate decision or just a subconscious desire to fulfill our longstanding obligation to spread democracy around the world?

Do segments of America refuse to accept the longstanding belief in American Exceptionalism? Or because our educational system has faltered and failed, are millions of citizens unaware of what our forefathers saw as an obligation?

Whatever the reason one can accurately argue we are an exceptional country on other grounds. We are undisputed leaders in creativity, innovation, and problem solving.

Next: A new concept behind the words “American Exceptionalism.”
Howard James