“American Exceptionalism” is not defined merely as a passing phase in history but is defined by Natural Law…which defines larger collective human endeavors by either being “survival-enhancing” or “survival-endangering”…and sometimes even “survival-neutral”, as where certain things cultures do have no bearing on survival one way of the other.
Nature proclaimed America-the-experiment to be the construct for a newer, truer type of survival-enhancing behavior because America-as-founded contained two elements absent in the rest of the world that accentuated a type of freedom for ordinary people unknown to the world’s lower classes for thousands of years. And even though America has only been around a few hundred years, they (we) have done so much to showcase the difference between our bottom-up approach to self-government to the rest of the world, almost everyone who’d ever heard of us wanted to be able to have a nation like ours. Only their millenia-long town-down approach wouldn’t allow it. So then, unable to to do so, they sent their “tired, their poor, their huddled masses” here instead, many of whom became captains of industry. (Note: the woman who wrote that poem, Emma Lazarus, was not French, like the statue, but was herself a Portuguese Jew, whose family was the first of Jews fleeing the Inquisition, settling in New York long before the Revolution. She was 34 when she wrote it and died 4 years later. She knew of what she spake.)
Professor Larry Schweikart, whose Patriots History of the United States has been the standard pro-America American-history book out there since 2004, reminded us of this special criteria for exceptionalism recently when he compared America to the sudden collapse (or surrender) of Australia to authoritarianism. First, that surrender really began when the Aussies gave up their guns, legislation for that beginning in 1996. Still, as in America, it’s only a guess as to how many unregistered guns are still in private hands, and where. But when Australia went from a survival-enhancing government and society to a survival-endangered one began with the surrender of those guns, and as Mark Twain once said, they have become “a sinking ship with no excess weight to throw overboard.”
Dr Schweikart gave the most concise definition of this Natural Law, or, as I like say, “how things work”in a recent Tweet:
“AUS does NOT have 2 of the key “Pillars of American Exceptionalism”, a mostly Protestant (bottom up/congregational church governance) tradition; and no common law tradition. ENG had common law but governed colonies/Dominion top down.”
America still has both. And they are still intact. Plus the guns.
This says it all, for those two elements define the foundation of American Exceptionalism, for every person who emigrated here from abroad, all the way from Jamestown to after World War II, (with a few exceptions, such as bankers Woodrow Wilson imported from Europe around 1910–does the family name Schiff mean anything to you?– or the H1-B tech specialists from Asia in the early 2000’s, or the brigades of criminal gangs from Albania Clinton allowed in 1998-1999, for a variety of remunerative reasons).
Whether they stayed in New York, Boston or migrated west to Chicago, and the steel mills, factories, sweat shops, or farms in Wisconsin, they mostly began by living alongside the people they came over on the boat with. Usually for mutual protection. Often from their same village in Slovakia.
This same occurred to black folk who emigrated out of the south in search of work in the north. They had the same experience, by also being segregated, only not by tribe but by color. (As Dick Gregory schooled Dr Martin Luther King, in the North they didn’t mind how big blacks got just so long as they didn’t get too close, the reverse of life in the South.)
It was a three-generation process for Slovak children in the steel mills around Dayton to move from their old neighborhood where a St Mark’s church marked their four block territory, first to the suburbs and then to marry God-knows how many kinds of people, ending up with that “big fat Greek Wedding” in Gen2 or 3, totally destroying the dream of the surviving family matriarch, that her grandchildren would marry higher ranking Slovak from Bratislava. The disappointment lasted at least until her first Presbyterian-Orthodox granddaughter was born into the clan and the families all gathered for the baptism.
This is how “to be American” came about, usually in three-generation cycles. I remember sitting on the front porch of a retired Chicago steel worker’s house, who lived across the street from my dad, who told me his best friend at the steel mill had been a Catholic from Slovenia, while he was Orthodox from Macedonia…and had they stayed in Yugoslavia they would have killed one another for no particular purpose.
And this “to be American” assimilation process was augmented by the efforts of “the state”, only the state-state, not the federal-state. Public schools, from elementary on up, began by teaching American history by third grade, saying the Pledge of Allegiance in unison, and the singing of non-denominational Christian songs. By the time a kid graduated from high school he understood the basic elements of his town’s organization, and his state. The federal government in Washington didn’t matter that much, and would be the 1930s, 150 years into our Republic being born, that it would.
This fact that everything in America was built from the bottom-up, just as Larry Schweikart said, was the key component. (And the role of the Common Law, which was a total accident caused by King John signing the Magna Carta, but which opened the door for local judges to give over much of the king’s arbitrary power to local courts, had much to do with the development of our legal system.)
But only two days ago, while listening to five minutes of my local morning talk radio show, hosted by a fellow named John Reid, he was interviewing a man about the new Afghan immigrants (I think) being kept at a nearby military post, mentioning all the things we would have to do to make them feel like they were still back home…including providing resources to keep them together politically.!
My first thought was Little Somalia in Minnesota, and the extent of protection provided by the state to prevent them from ever having to become American…which took me back to Paris and their “No-Go” zones for North Africans where French law, by and large does not apply. Then I’m reminded that even the English “zoned” crime, including drugs, up to small-time gang-on-gang murder, in Soho (East London) where prostitution, drugs, and the associated “good times” to be had paying customers have flourished since the Beatles.
For what it’s worth, America’s Old West was a little like that, a famous vestige, which I visited in 1971 while touring some of the coal fields, was Minnesota Street in Billings, Montana. The police only went in if there was a killing. (After the fact.) But public outrage
Today, modern Chicago, and truth be known, almost all the major American cities now have no-go zones, only not warning paying customers to stay away, but rather placating the ethnic and racial criminal forces (gangs) who control those territories. It probably explains the do-nothings of Portland. Every group, ethnic or political (Antifa) have their Sinn Fein’s these days, a political front with deep pockets, and where there is big out-of-town money, some of it always crosses the palms down at City Hall.
There is only one way to end that, and that is by rebuilding local and state governments from bottom-up all over again.