Is America Really Exceptional?

American exceptionalism—the idea that America is unique and superior to any other country. This idea has permeated throughout society for many decades, and has inspired popular phrases such as the “shining city on a hill”. The pure imagery of that phrase illustrates America as above everyone else—we are shining on top of the hill while everybody else is below us.

This image is a satire that is extremely critical of American exceptionalism. In it the viewer sees that one of the characters is asking how the United States could possibly be this exceptional if it has so many flaws, such as high divorce rate. We as Americans believe that we are exceptional regardless of any flaws we have. As seen in the image, when one character asks the other what “American exceptionalism” means, he automatically answers that “we are number 1”, without any sort of thought or hesitation, just like many of us Americans would today.

Many other countries have lower amounts of people in prison, lower obesity rates, etc., so what makes our country so exceptional over all the other countries in the world?


3 thoughts on “Is America Really Exceptional?

  1. I would say that nothing particularly makes our country superior to others, other than the fact that we are, as this cartoon suggests, very prideful and patriotic about our nation. Although we may not have proof of what makes us better than other countries, we do have the mentality that we are deserving of something greater. It is much like the popular kids in high school who are not necessarily prettier, smarter or more athletic, however they are considered the “in” crowd simply because they walk around thinking they deserve such a title. Maybe we don’t deserve to think of ourselves as superior, but that certainly doesn’t stop us from behaving in such a way.


  2. Clearly, the numerous American flaws named in this comic point out that America is not all that exceptional. But perhaps the most important part of the comic is the punch line: “Look, I just put up the signs.” Neither of these workers really understand American exceptionalism, yet they’re putting up a giant banner in support of it. The comic suggests that American exceptionalism thrives on blind patriotism rather than any special qualities of the United States. Perhaps America is not exceptional at all, except for the fact that its people believe it to be. The pervasive belief of American exceptionalism does not depend on the United States being superior to other nations, but rather on the perceived status of America.


  3. In all honesty, I believe that American Exceptionalism has been around for so long we don’t remember what it is like without it. We don’t really have any reason to believe that our country is the best, we just do. I enjoy the television show “The Newsroom” and in the first scene we see the main character arguing about why America is not as great as it used to be. And in all honesty, I agree with him. I think that this country needs to wake up and realize this so that we can take steps to making it as great as it once was. (Here is the link for the scene: )


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