Generations of Americans have grown up on the promoted ideology of national and individual exceptionalism when compared with "other" peoples and nations of the world. In fact, the term "American exceptionalism" has been invariably used by every tin-horn American political charlatan, industry robber baron, and snake oil salesman to deflect ordinary people from focusing on real germane challenges and problems. Setting aside the racist and white supremacist connotations of this loaded, dog-whistle of a construct, American exceptionalism is the exclusive birthright of white Americans since Black slaves, American Indians, and the "others" in society could never ever measure up to this ideal.
Moreover, grandiose notions of this "exceptionalism" has spawned untold cruelty, violence and a cavalier disregard for and a devaluing of Black and Brown lives whether at the hands of white police officers acting "above the law," or simple gun-toting xenophobic white mobs masquerading as "all-American patriots." This exceptionalism argument was repackaged and rebranded with the "America first" slogan peddled by President Donald Trump and his "make America great" an old, white supremacist mantra of the 1950s. It was then as now a political dog whistle to the most intolerant and ignorant sections of white America, and the blind, unthinking manifestations of white hyper-masculinity.
But karma is a real b**ch. Today the MAGA crowd have gotten their "exceptionalism" wish as the United States leads the world in this global and deadly pandemic, racing well past other nations in the numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths. This should come as no surprise: anyone paying a modicum of attention to the deliberate design of the U.S. economy and infrastructure could have predicted the pandemic's ultra-negative impact. The Trump Administration's constant and unrelenting bragging coupled with a national hubris is America's greatest weakness pre-COVID-19.
There is absolutely no doubt that the daily efforts and bombast to maintain and conform to the delusions of American exceptionalism has blinded the nation to its gaping vulnerabilities. For example, America ignored the perils of a creaky and inefficient health care system because America was exceptional and just too great to fail. All this while health disparities ravaged poor communities, immigrant communities and communities of color. America paid very little attention to the ever-increasing wealth inequality in the society, because the riches of the tiny wealthy oligarchs is but an "inspirational" measure and example of American ingenuity, talents, individualism and greatness. Also, American society dismissed racial and gender disparities because to admit them would sully the shine of an exceptional and mythical America.
COVID-19, far from the much-touted great equalizer, is the great exposer of the rape and pillage of American society by the one percent and the callous and cruel disregard for the wellbeing of "we the people." The recent and much ballyhooed "stimulus packages" have exposed the greed and privilege that undergirds America's exceptional inequalities. Consider this: New York city's vibrant and thriving small business community of over 800,000 got a paltry 8% of the small business relief loans. This is hardly surprising when you realize that the big banks who managed the program has long ago stopped lending to small restaurants, hair salons and other so-called "risky businesses" in immigrant-rich Brooklyn and Queens.
And too, consider the fact that the United States does not have a national public health system but an inefficient, uncoordinated for-profit patchwork of private/public hospitals that is hugely expensive to run, and offers little protections when people need them the most. Such a system, as evidenced today as COVID-19 rampages across America, was destined to fail in ANY healthcare crisis. Yet, you hear from President Trump on down about the greatness of America and its exceptional efforts in fighting COVID-19 even as the death toll eclipses all American deaths in the Viet Nam war in just over two months.
Still, American national hubris is a bipartisan affair. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated with shocking clarity with long-held ideas of American superiority have simply been cheap delusions of grandeur. They have blinded the people to the inevitable failures of a weakened empire that invested in military hardware over healthcare for all Americans. Yes today, America can boast of being the world's wealthiest nation and having its mightiest military. Perhaps that is the measure of a new exceptionalism. But that means nothing in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the internal crisis that America is now confronting. And the world is both changing and watching. President Trump and the Republican Party's "inward looking" America First stance, limited international engagement, and comical, inept behavior have cost America its commanding leadership position in the world as many nations now look on with amusement at the daily buffoonery and antics in American politics.
The petulant, childish finger-pointing, thumb-sucking, blaming and accusing others to cover up and deflect from the poor handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in America is a sad and pity-worthy commentary on "American exceptionalism." It is very clear today that the Trump Administration has no real plan to save American lives going forward. For months he dithered and danced and literally ignored warnings from the US intelligence agencies about the looming pandemic. And up to now there is no organized, coordinated national federal response as Trump has left it up to states to deal with this epidemic that's killing so many Americans every day. So, do not be, as Malcolm X would have said, hoodwinked or bamboozled: Trump and his Republican ilk care only about reopening the economy so that the president can use any positive markers in his reelection campaign.
Want to understand the paradigm shift by countries that now see American exceptionalism as a thing of the past? Check out this New York Times piece of April 23 captioned: "'Sadness' and Disbelief From a World Missing American Leadership," by Katrin Bennhold. The particle noted that this pandemic is, "perhaps the first global crisis in more than a century where no one is even looking to the United States for leadership." Offering a tougher view of America Calvin Woodward wrote in Associated Press that: "Coronavirus shakes the conceit of 'American exceptionalism.'" Woodward tellingly wrote, "A nation with unmatched power, brazen ambition and aspirations through the arc of history to be humanity's 'shining city upon a hill' cannot come up with enough simple cotton swabs despite the wartime manufacturing and supply powers assumed by President Donald Trump."
Finally, I conclude that America IS EXCEPTIONAL. For a moment set aside the origins of America's brutal and genocidal conquest paid for by the blood of indigenous Americans, or the building of its economic might on the backs and sustained national cruelty of enslaved Africans, America's history is the story of blood, inequality, incarceration, mass shootings, war, waste, over-consumption, greed and pollutionall rooted in self-righteous nationalism. So, in this sense America is exceptional but for all of the very wrong reasons.