I absolutely support the idea of promoting exceptionalism, and I am proud of what the US has achieved and continues to achieve, but I am frustrated that the discussion of American Exceptionalism (particularly by the right wing of our political system) seems always so one dimensional. Exceptionalists want America to be its best, continue to be its best, continue to lead the world. But lead the world in what? The exceptionalist talking points usually have to do with technological, ideological, and even military supremacy. But what about the supremacy of our health, supremacy of our freedoms, supremacy of our happiness? The Declaration of Independence wisely identifies all three of these as our unalienable rights ("Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.") Our model for exceptionalism as it exists today doesn't meet our unalienable needs. It is far too limited in scope. It requires a holistic revision.
On the matter of life, there is no denying that, ignoring cost, US healthcare is the envy of the world. We have focused on developing technologies and doing research which has produced results which has no peers. But that hyper-focus on new machines and new treatments has created a healthcare industry that many Americans can't afford, many Americans struggle to afford, and the remaining Americans pay dearly to afford. And the question must be asked, does our superior medical prowess and spending translate into more lives saved? The answer is clearly indisputably, "No." We're ranked 38th in longevity, and ranked poorly in many other metrics related to overall health and lifespan. The model of exceptionalism we've adopted and wish to export has us working diligently to create drugs to treat obesity rather than encouraging us to develop the discipline to eat less and exercise more.
On the matter of our freedom we have now legally legitimized invading our citizen's thoughts (with and without court involvement and with and without our knowledge). Warrantless wiretaps, warrantless analysis of phone and internet data, warrantless seizure and analysis of citizen's encrypted and unencrypted laptops at our nation's borders, warrantless and waranted examination of our web searches, web readings, book purchases and borrowings, etc. all show that this nation has completely lost its passion for liberty. Freedom is now just a pretty word we emptily use.
And on the matter of happiness, I would argue that our nation has completely lost its way. Most American happiness is now found at the bottom of a glass, in the unboxing of a new 57" HD TV, in the firing of a virtual gun in a game machine, and in the laughing at a prime time joke told on a major network. Obviously we still find joy in the more appropriate things as well, such as the enjoyment of our family, pets, nature, religion, etc. but few can argue how very much our happiness has shifted to the fleeting satisfaction of the material, technological, etc. If one of our national goals really is the pursuit of happiness then we must admit our increasing failure.
I want the world to learn from us, but let us devote ourselves more to the business of getting our own house in order rather than trying to export our distressingly devolving values.