Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Manifestering Destiny

Of all of the points that Anders Stephanson seems to be making about the way in which Manifest Destiny has become a central tenet of the American psyche, that of American exceptionalism is one I do not think he explores fully enough. While he does focus on the way this exceptionalism is inherent in the idea that we in America are a “city on a hill” chosen to provide the rest of the world with an example of the ways they should be, whether this be religious, as the first settlers saw it, or political as it has been since we became the worlds model for democracy, or economic as we overtook the commercial empires of Europe, he does not seem to touch on the idea that I believe to be ingrained in the American psyche of exceptionalism that makes it seem like America exists outside of world history. I believe Manifest Destiny has become corrupted in the American psyche as Americas exist outside of everything else. I mean this not just in the sense of America as the in group and all other people of the world as the other, but instead that we as Americans see the world as two different but simultaneous things, America and everything else. Further this everything else encompasses more than just the present but history. By history I mean the way the world has been shaped outside the forces of America. We as Americans believe America to be both the cause and effect of history, both for our country and for the world. We have an incredible ability at forgetting the ways in which outside forces of the world have shaped us as a people and a nation. Manifest Destiny is shaped by this notion. What Manifest Destiny means today is we as America and Americans are shaping the world and shaping history as we have always done. It is an idea that goes beyond territorial expansion, beyond our place as chosen people, to a position of power, of cause, to be the hammer that shapes the rest of the world. And this is incredibly troubling. We as Americans are blissfully unaware of how much this is not the case. We sit in our walled off tower above the clouds and believe that those soft white peaks are the surface, unable to see below them. Na├»ve and unaware of the myriad of forces and struggles taking place, the way the world is changing and the tides ebb and flow. While those of us privileged enough to be receiving a college education may be more aware of this unseen world, and some of us may have glimpsed and even lived in it, we represent the exception. To a majority of Americans their world view ends at the western edge of the Atlantic and the eastern edge of the Pacific. This view will be changed when the world does as the American tower cracks and crumbles and we are pulled down into the depths of the world and into global awareness. The forces beneath those clouds are growing ever stronger and our ignorance to them will not last.

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