Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Truth, Justice, and American Exceptionalism

America is special. America is good. America is noble.

And by America I mean the United States of America, not Canada or the various assortments of Latinos who happen to share the American continent with that most special of nations, the United States of America. You guys aren't special; just us Americans are special.

And don't get me started on how unspecial, ungood and unnoble (ignoble?) the rest of the world is. No if you want a country that's special, good, and noble, there's only one place to get it. The good old United States of America.

That's the doctrine of American Exceptionalism in a nutshell. We're special; the rest of the world is crap. This is why some people have a problem with the latest Superman movie (which, if memory serves, is entitled "Superman Opens a Deli"). Kathleen Parker references this issue in her latest article (which is more about Superman and Richard White as father figures).
Much has been written about the scriptwriters' decision to delete Uncle Sam from the Superman triune: truth, justice and the American way. In the latest version, Superman represents "truth, justice and ... all that stuff," as Daily Planet editor Perry White puts it.

Some critics have been deeply offended by the extraction of American exceptionalism from this quintessentially American superhero and take it as yet another manifestation of lefty Hollywood's self-loathing. Both the scriptwriters and director Bryan Singer have explained that they were after a more international hero, sent to Earth to save not just America but the world.
Conservatives clearly believe in American Exceptionalism. Moreover they believe that anybody who fails to believe in American Exceptionalism hates America. You either believe America is perfect and blameless (except when Clinton is in charge) or you hate America.

Al Franken contrasted the love American Liberals and Conservatives feel for their country by saying that Conservatives love their countries like a child loves his or her mommy, and can't or won't see any flaws. Liberals love their country like an adult and so want to see it improve and do better. I don't think he's wrong. Of course another thing about adults, they don't need to believe that their loves are naturally superior to everyone else.

Oh, and Superman hasn't been a quintessentially American superhero in a long time. You might be thinking of Captain America. Superman's enormous powers and extra-terrestial origin ensure that he protects the planet not just America.

Anyway the rest of the article argues that Superman, a fictional character, might make a very poor father. I'd say that's true of most fictional characters, actually.

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