Exceptionalism

The Louisa, Portland, OR Yes, that's the roof

The Louisa, Portland, OR
Yes, that’s the roof

Reading time – 61 seconds  .  .  .

America is an exceptional country in many ways. The problem is that without a mindfulness about it, we can easily assume that America is exceptional in every way. That myopia can lead to the arrogance of dismissing the ideas, capabilities and the accomplishments of others, which many do as a matter of course, and that can lead directly to a Chinese 21st century. Follow the logic.

There are many people in America who look down on the French. They seem to consider them to be backward or unproductive or lazy. But I ran across this short article about the French, courtesy of S.G. (thanks for the pointer), and it seems that they are doing something about global warming, energy consumption and beautification of their cities all at the same time.

The French government has mandated that buildings being constructed in commercial zones must have roofs that include plantings, solar panels or both. These “green roofs” are popular in several other countries, too, but the technology has not been widely embraced in the U.S. Sadly and self-defeatingly, this technology might be further ignored, since it’s the French now leading the way. After all, we prefer our “freedom fries” over those lowly French fries. Okay, that part was snarky, but the American dismissing of the French is quite real.

The Germans supply 4% (and the number is climbing) of their energy needs with renewable technology, but we resist that path, mostly because our energy companies make their money by burning fossil fuels and use their profits to turn the heads of our legislators. On top of that, many Americans wouldn’t want to emulate the Germans.

Come to think of it, we probably wouldn’t want to emulate the Swedes either, since theirs is a socialist state, meaning they don’t have a single good idea in their whole country. I guess we should ignore all of Europe. That isn’t snark, as our legislators routinely invoke that very sentiment.

And we routinely assume that because the Chinese are communists that our superior attitude toward them is warranted. Our leaders imply that we can just ignore the enormous hydroelectric plant they are constructing on the Yangtze River to bring electric power to the entire central portion of their country. We can close our eyes to their modern cities that make ours look like medieval hamlets and their ground transportation system that makes ours seem archaic. They are pouring hundreds of billions of yen – actually, our dollars – into building infrastructure across their country while our politicians dither in Washington solving no problems, mounting no challenges and watching our own infrastructure crumble, all the while telling us about American exceptionalism. There is, indeed, something exceptional about that, but it isn’t good exceptional; it’s bad exceptional and that is what will lead to a Chinese 21st century.

The problem with American exceptionalism is that we assume a superiority that isn’t warranted everywhere. That doesn’t make us exceptional.

But we could be.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
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