Of course, many Middle East and African countries are hampered by the arbitrary boundaries set up across ethnic and cultural fault lines by colonial powers. Some countries don’t have enough natural resources to develop a stable economy conducive to democracy. Others have too many for their own good.
Furthermore, our country has been working at democracy for a lot longer than most countries. Of course, our “city upon a hill” was never Eden. Our nation grew out of the destruction of the Indians, slavery, an exploitative war against Mexico, a civil war, and hard-fought, protracted battles to realize the rights of minorities, women and gays.
Still, last week’s events in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and many other places remind us that the United States is an excellent place to live. Some of this we owe to the wisdom and will of our founders and ancestors. Some of it we owe to the vast, largely untouched trove of resources that lay before the first settlers. In some ways, we’ve just been lucky.
Of course, our culture has its own fault lines, but usually we manage to use the rule of law to resolve them without taking to the streets, which is exceptional enough in the modern world. Sure, we’re exceptional, but maybe we can find a way to appreciate our exceptionalism, while tempering it with realism and modesty. Now, that would be exceptional, indeed.
John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)
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