Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search

 


Neikrie’s Notes: American Exceptionalism

Neikrie’s Notes: American Exceptionalism

By Jamie Neikrie

Since coming to New Zealand, I have heard my fair share of America-bashing. Too often, these stereotypes and stigmas are true. Americans are a self-centered breed, convinced that their country is the epicenter of the world. After all, only Americans call the United States “America,” forgetting that there are two continents worth of people who consider themselves Americans. I have heard plenty of other criticisms, of American greed and capitalism, but as a political journalist, what stings the most are the negative sentiments directed toward American politics.


In U.S history books, American democracy is the little engine that could, an improbable experiment in government and culture that, by all accounts, should have collapsed into a disorganized, fragmented jigsaw of combating nationalities. To New Zealanders, however, American democracy is an overbloated wreck, barely surviving on its own sense of self-importance.


I admit, I am a bit envious of New Zealand politics. I recently wrote about New Zealand’s political agility, specifically their prowess when it comes to gun control legislation and federal minimum wage laws. Kiwis have extraordinary access to their politicians and leaders. Without the emphasis on money and name-recognition in campaigns, they also have an unparalleled ability to affect change in any given election year. Those are the benefits of living in a country with a population smaller the some U.S cities.


The irony is that you no longer need to leave the U.S to hear American-bashing. As support for Congress drops to all-time lows, cynicism is at an all-time high in the United States. A recent poll showed that 64 percent of U.S parents don’t want their children to go into a career in politics. To most Americans, politics has become a dirty industry and a thankless job, where you have to sacrifice your morals and values just to get ahead.


I can’t say why I so vehemently disagree. I can’t claim to be a child of government, pulled onto my feet by welfare programs. I can’t even claim to be a product of great American education. But somewhere along the way, I developed an unyielding faith in American democracy. Politicians, despite their squabbling and power-mongering, become politicians to help people. They are social leaders, who believe they have the ideas to improve our country.


This is, of course, also the liberal side of me speaking. Conservatives see American government is much the same way that the rest of the world does; a bureaucratic, oversized mess that can’t do the simplest of tasks (like, say, run a healthcare website). But to focus on the failures of Healthcare.gov would be to ignore the good that the Affordable Care Act has done, creating competitive market places to provide affordable healthcare to every American and expanding Medicaid to insure that no American is unprotected. And to focus on the failures of American democracy would be to overlook centuries of improbable progress, to undervalue an institution that unites so many cultures under the same values and goals.


The rest of the world hates American patriotism. And with good reason. Too often, American patriotism curdles into American exceptionalism and sheer ignorance. For every “America the Beautiful” there is “America the all-powerful.” For every pragmatist like Woodrow Wilson, who sought to use America’s influence to create world peace, there is a power monger, who uses America’s power to interfere and tamper in world politics. You can’t get too far without hearing the phrase “greatest country in the history of the world.”


And yet, I see American patriotism waning, and it saddens me. While I am admire New Zealand and its political system, my visit here has only increased my sense of patriotism. I am proud when the United State’s news makes the front page in New Zealand, because, for better or worse, U.S policies affect the rest of the world. I am proud when I see the jerseys and colours of American sports teams on the other side of the world. I am proud that Holden manufactures a car called the Colorado, which it doesn’t actually sell in the U.S (explain that to me).


No doubt, the America is a flawed country. But it is my flawed country. And, in many ways, it is the world’s flawed country. The United States runs like a poorly oiled machine, absorbing and synthesizing different cultures and traditions, spitting out an American amalgamation. It is a crude process, but a strangely beautiful one.


Wilson’s magnum opus was the League of Nations, a world governing body to represent the interest of every country. He may not have succeeded in creating world peace, but if President Wilson wanted to see the benefit that American influence can have on the world, he need only have hopped on a plane and picked a destination.


ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 
Scoop Review Of Books: Q&A: Prue Hyman On ‘Hopes Dashed?’

For Scoop Review of Books, Alison McCulloch interviewed Prue Hyman about her new book, part of the BWB Texts series, Hopes Dashed? The Economics of Gender Inequality More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Chuck Berry (And James Comey, And Bill English)

Back when many people were still treating rock’n’roll as a passing fad – was calypso going to be the new thing? – Chuck Berry knew that it had changed popular music forever. What is even more astonishing is that this 30-ish black r&b musician from a middle class family in St Louis could manage to recreate the world of white teenagers, at a time when the very notion of a “teenager” had just been invented. More>>

Howard Davis Review:
The Baroque Fusion Of L'arpeggiata

Named after a toccata by German composer Girolamo Kapsberger, L'Arpeggiata produces its unmistakable sonority mainly from the resonance of plucked strings, creating a tightly-woven acoustic texture that is both idiosyncratic and immediately identifiable. Director Christina Pluhar engenders this distinctive tonality associated with the ensemble she founded in 2000 by inviting musicians and vocalists from around the world to collaborate on specific projects illuminated by her musicological research. More>>

African Masks And Sculpture: Attic Discovery On Display At Expressions Whirinaki

Ranging from masks studded with nails and shards of glass to statues laden with magical metal, the works are from ethnic groups in nine countries ranging from Ivory Coast to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More>>

Obituary: Andrew Little Remembers Murray Ball

“Murray mined a rich vein of New Zealand popular culture and exported it to the world. Wal and Dog and all the other Kiwi characters he crafted through Footrot Flats were hugely popular here and in Australia, Europe and North America." More>>

ALSO:

Organised Choas: NZ Fringe Festival 2017 Awards

Three more weeks of organised chaos have come to an end with the Wellington NZ Fringe Arts Festival Awards Ceremony as a chance to celebrate all our Fringe artists for their talent, ingenuity, and chutzpah! More>>

ALSO:

Wellington.Scoop: Wellington Writer Wins $US165,000 Literature Prize

Victoria University of Wellington staff member and alumna Ashleigh Young has won a prestigious Windham-Campbell Literature Prize worth USD$165,000 for her book of essays Can You Tolerate This? More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Review Of Books: We’re All Lab Rats

A couple of years ago, there were reports that Silicon Valley executives were sending their children to tech-free schools. It was a story that dripped of irony: geeks in the heart of techno-utopia rejecting their ideology when it came to their own kids. But the story didn’t catch on, and an awkward question lingered. Why were the engineers of the future desperate to part their gadgets from their children? More>>

  • CensusAtSchool - Most kids have no screen-time limits
  • Netsafe - Half of NZ high school students unsupervised online
  • Get More From Scoop

     
     

    LATEST HEADLINES

     
     
     
     
    Culture
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news