My view of “American Exceptionalism”, or exceptionalism of any sort, is expressed by this Underfable of mine:
Fool the Prophet
Once upon a time a Prophet said unto the people, “You are saints and heroes. Our exceptional nation is a blessed haven of justice, liberty, prosperity and learning. We are a light unto the world.”
The people agreed, and they said, “We’ve done enough.” So they closed factories, ports, universities and the Assembly. Roads grew weeds, bridges fell, sewers leaked, and a dark age began.
Later another Prophet said unto the people, “You are pigs and maggots. Our mediocre nation is an accursed hive of villainy, tyranny, poverty and ignorance. We are a disgrace before mankind.”
The people agreed, and they said, “We must do better.” So they built sewers, roads, bridges and factories; they opened ports, universities and the Assembly; and a golden age began.
Moral: Damn braces, Bless relaxes.
This Underfable has a Chestertonian title, a Blakean moral, and it illustrates Asimovian psychohistory. The first prophet was an exceptionalist; and ultimately a false prophet. The second prophet was a mediocritist; technically as false a prophet as the first, but nicer in effect.
I am patriotically averse to exceptionalism. I prefer to be a bracing mediocritist. For instance, dear reader, I am very disappointed in you. And not just you; all of mankind. Compared to what we could be, we are adequate; we’ll do; we’re run-of-the-mill; we’re second-rate. I’m telling you this as a friend, and I mean it in the nicest possible way.