Mark Mitchell: American Exceptionalism or a Modest Republic?

Over at The Front Porch Republic, Mark Mitchell has a nice reflection on American exceptionalism–its history and the kinds of hubris that it bring to all those who embrace it.  He prefers a more humble, more modest, and more gracious republic.  Here is a taste:

…American Exceptionalism does not lend itself either to humility or gratitude. If, rather than an exceptional nation, America is a nation greatly and mysteriously blessed by God—and this despite her many imperfections, which for the Christian is a necessary admission—then Americans should be moved to a profound sense of gratitude. There is a world of difference between the person who with a brash swagger asserts that America is the greatest nation on earth and the patriot who lovingly cares for his particular place while uttering a prayer of thanksgiving for the manifold blessings he and his children enjoy. One fails to admit responsibility or to tread lightly and therefore invariably behaves poorly while remaining blind to the fact. The other recognizes that gratitude is inseparable from responsibility, for a gift rightly received must be tended with intelligence and care.

Perhaps it’s time to seek out (or carve out) another strand in our American tradition, a strand that acknowledges the many good things we have inherited and soberly embrace the responsibility to steward these things well. A more modest republic would, in light of our history, be an exceptional accomplishment.

4 thoughts on “Mark Mitchell: American Exceptionalism or a Modest Republic?

  1. “America [is] the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the Earth.”

    Sounds properly humble and grateful, giving credit where it's due. I don't see the problem here. Don't be a hater.


  2. “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”—Alexis de Tocqueville

    As it turns out, Tocqueville didn't say it.

    Still, the line was used by both Reagan and Clinton, and properly describes our self-image. Mitchell's “person who with a brash swagger asserts that America is the greatest nation on earth” is a straw man.


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