Are Americans exceptional?

Is this country exceptional? Are Americans exceptional? Yes and no, I believe.

Pundits debate the question of American exceptionalism. They have for a few hundred years. For example, French historian Alex de Tocqueville described the U.S. as exceptional back in the 1830ís.

President Obama damned the idea by faint praise a while ago. Political satirist Bill Maher recently ridiculed the idea on his TV program.

I like it when celebrities pooh-pooh or promote the idea. Their remarks set commentators a-flapping. Too often those commentators overlook a few things.

The most basic of these is the system. Our system of governing ourselves. It was exceptional when our founders created it. Many countries have since copied parts of it. Many have not. Compared to their systems, ours is certainly exceptional.

Some of the exceptional ingredients? Our concept of checks and balances. To keep people from wielding too much power. Our system gives our president great powers. Ahh, but it also gives our congress the power to whack his legs from under him. Double ahh, it also gives our courts the power to rein in our congress as well as our president.

Other exceptional ingredients: The Bill of Rights. Guarantees of various freedoms. Protection to own property. Innumerable devices that let our system flex with the times.

The men who created the system knew where and why systems had failed through history. They tried to build ours upon the carcasses of those failures. In this, they were certainly exceptional. Historians are hard pressed to find founders of other countries who had what ours had: Hindsight of great depth. And foresight of what might come to pass in this country.

In other words, our founders were exceptional. This is why their creation has lasted so long.

Their system has inspired Americans to behave exceptionally. It is the catalyst for that behavior.

As you must know, we have more of the Steve Jobs types than other countries. From Benjamin Franklin to Eli Whitney, Edison, Ford, Eastman, Bill Gates and countless more. Americans land a lionís share of prizes for inventions and discoveries. And for breakthroughs in drugs and mathematics. Americans have built most of the gigantic enterprises in the world. The list of things exceptional in this country is endless.

All this does not come from something in our water. Or our DNA. That should be obvious. Many of our exceptional people came from other countries.

In fact many fled oppression, landed in America, and blossomed. In their original countries they would have wilted.

Look no further than Bill Maher to understand this. He flourishes because our system allows and rewards his humor. In Cuba and China his satire would have got him drawn and quartered. In many countries no radio or TV station would touch him. The irony is that he whines that there is nothing exceptional about America. In Russia he would be Putinís boot polisher. A silent one.

The seemingly eternal question is whether there is such a thing as American exceptionalism. I vote Aye. It is the very infrastructure of the system by which we govern ourselves. That system allows, inspires and nourishes a bounty of exceptional behavior. By those so fortunate to live within it.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

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