From time to time, an email from Trevor, a PhD-candidate at La Trobe University in Melbourne, reaches me. In a recent one he wrote:
"A few books I will have to get are described here: http://memo.brucebawer.com/" which made me go to the Bruce Bawer site that quoted the American writer Anne Applebaum who, according to Bawer, "spells out an important point for British readers:"
"Here is something that may be hard for foreigners to understand: Americans desperately want to believe that their country stands for fairness, for equality, for democracy. They especially want to believe this at times like the present, when there is a good deal of evidence to the contrary. After the disasters and embarrassments of the past few years - the mistakes made in Iraq and Guantánamo, the terrible financial crisis, the embarrassment of Hurricane Katrina - a vote for Obama allowed Americans to believe, once again, that the United States is still a virtuous nation. It's not just about being liked abroad, though being liked is nice: it's about being certain that we still are, as we have often told ourselves, an example to other nations, a "city on a hill"."
I wrote to Trevor:
"This is exactly what I can't stand about Americans: their exceptionalism. Why should they be an example anyway? Terrible thinking."
"Ha ha, yes, American exceptionalism is a key to understanding American identity. It also explains why they voted for Obama (one of many reasons). A man who promised, or made the best promises to repair and buff up their exceptionalism. Also merging it with the campaign, 'look how great we are, we voted for a black man'. You can feel the message of aren't we exceptional radiating from their blogs."