American Unexceptionalism

Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman got caught in a brouhaha recently after claiming that he wasn’t sure if President Obama was a citizen. This is a big deal because it calls into question the legitimacy of the government by one of its official representatives. This statement didn’t really bother me, however. Coffman is just another crazy Republican, saying crazy things. And anyway, he apologized:

What bothered me about his statement was not his uncertainly; it was his certainty. Here is the whole quote:

I don’t know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don’t know that, but I do know this, that in his heart, he’s not an American. He’s just not an American.

This does offend me. This isn’t just a partisan attack. This is the line that Republicans always hold. It is the same hubris that most Christians have in believing that they alone know what God wants. In this case, Republicans know what America is and anyone who disagrees with them is not an American. They define what it is to be American. (Of course, they hold a thimble full of liquid out of the ocean of truth.)

When Coffman apologized, he said more than, “I misspoke and I apologize.” Here it is:

I have confidence in President Obama’s citizenship and legitimacy as President of the United States… However, I don’t believe the President shares my belief in American Exceptionalism. His policies reflect a philosophy that America is but one nation among many equals. As a Marine, I believe America is unique and based on a core set of principles that make it superior to other nations.

So he doubled down on the, “If you don’t believe what I do, you’re a communist.” Whatever.

For the record, I do not believe in American Exceptionalism, although President Obama clearly does. I accept that Americans who believe in this doctrine are Americans, but I suspect they are delusional. And I’m not even talking about our many and varied policy failures over the years to spread “freedom and democracy” around the world. We have a big army and a big economy and we use it to bully the world into giving us what we want. This is the only way in which we are exceptional. But throughout history, this is exactly how all big empires operated. And there is nothing exceptional about that.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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