Our twisted view of what makes us exceptional

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 22, 2018, 11:38 PM | comments: 0

Among other things, the issues of gun regulation and healthcare get people fired up. What bothers me is not the positions themselves that people take, but rather the notion that the United States is too exceptional of a case to learn from any other country. There's no arguing that, perhaps, the American problems could be addressed by looking at the solutions elsewhere.

I'm a big fan of humility and self-awareness. It took me a long time, but at some point I realized that these qualities were ultimately the things that would allow me to be successful in my career. It is, and has been, harder to apply these to my interpersonal relationships, and definitely to my role as a parent, but dammit, I try. The humility reminds me that even if I am objectively doing the right things, I am open to improving. The self-awareness helps me know when I'm not exercising humility or I'm objectively doing the wrong things. In other words, I avoid viewing myself as exceptional, because doing so would short-circuit my ability to correct and improve.

We don't do that as a nation. To be fair, I don't think it's wrong to feel that we're exceptional as a nation, but again, doing so without humility and self-awareness is a blocker to improvement. So we look at the regulation of weapons in other countries, or the health care systems where there are better outcomes for less money, and we simply end the conversation with, "That wouldn't work here." For a nation that prides itself on winning, that sure feels like a defeatist attitude to me.

My sense of optimism often gets the better of me (this may be a self-defense mechanism), so I do think we have a lot of reasons to believe we're exceptional. We still make great things like electric cars, rockets and wooden roller coasters. Despite the current political climate, we have a radically diverse population and immigrants that come here to add to our collective ability. Our artistic contributions to the world are pretty good. Our science and technology often leads the world in innovation.

I'm not against flag waving, I just don't think it has to be boastful when we have so much room to improve.


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