Could we just stop arguing about whether we are, or were, or will be great again? Could we, for the next four months at least, ban the word exceptional from our vocabulary? Could we dispense with superlatives like “the best country in the history of the world”?
Plenty of countries have universally accessible healthcare and affordable higher education, fairer wages and better parental leave policies, more tolerance and less homelessness and hunger. Lots of cultures are less obsessed with consumerism and competition, and more committed to the common good. America is exceptional in our level of gun violence and our rate of incarceration. And also for the amount of money we throw at preparing for and making war.
Do we need to remind ourselves that this nation was birthed with genocidal policies toward native populations and the enslavement of Africans? That our founding document accorded voice and political power solely to white male property owners and assigned people with dark skin only a fraction of humanity?
Yes, at our best we are a beautiful and generous and compassionate country. And we should celebrate that whenever we can. But we are also deeply flawed and very human. And that makes us quite ordinary. The rest of the world knows this. The sooner we acknowledge it and start considering the common good of the planet rather than our own exceptionalism, the sooner we can begin to work together toward solutions for the very real crises that plague us.
“What does the Holy One require of us but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?” -Micah 6:8