Is America exceptional?
That question is the center of the debate raging across our nation, with one side claiming that the concept of American exceptionalism is nothing more than a myth and the other defending an idea that has been a cornerstone of our identity for over a century.
If the attackers are correct, there is no reason to be "proud to be an American". If the defenders are correct, there must be an actual reason that America is indeed different from other nations. And that reason cannot rest on words like freedom or opportunity since other nations can reasonably meet such amorphous criteria.
Is there, then, something about this nation that is truly exceptional?
In a word, the answer is, "YES!"
Let’s start with our military. Every member of our military swears an oath, not to the legal ruler, but to the legal rule itself, as contained in our Constitution. America’s military is not bound to follow a leader. It is bound to defend the law that defines our Republic. If a leader steps outside those definitions, our military swears NOT to follow that path.
The same is true for every elected official in Washington. We call them representatives, but we did not…
elect them to represent our opinions – we elected them to uphold and defend the Constitution on our behalf. They each swear an oath to do so, and the oath does not contain a clause that says they will uphold the Constitution UNLESS their constituents would like them not to.
So if 99.99% of their constituents ask them to vote for something that is not permitted in the Constitution, they swear that they will uphold the Constitution anyway. Period.
Which brings us to the final, and most important, factor in America’s exceptionalism.
We, the People of these United States.
Because our job is to use our votes to hold our elected officials and our military men and women accountable for how they keep their oaths. We are the final guardians of American exceptionalism.
In an America governed by our Constitution, the rule is more important than the ruler. In such an America, the rule occupies the highest position of authority, so no one can be above its requirements or below the rights it protects. In that America, poverty can become wealth and oppression can become freedom.
America’s exceptionalism flows from a structure that binds the government to the Constitution, and trusts the People to keep those bonds intact.
The soldiers who fought and bled and died in Bunker Hill and Gettysburg and Guadalcanal and Omaha Beach and Benghazi were all saying, with their lives, that they believed that we would honor that responsibility. In other words, they were saying that they trusted us to honor their sacrifice by upholding the Constitution they died to defend.
America’s exceptionalism is not based on slogans – it is based on the willingness of America’s people to hold themselves and their government accountable to following the Constitution. We can preserve that exceptionalism for future generations, or we can let it slip away through our ignorance and apathy.
The decision, and the its consequences, rest squarely in our own hands.