J.L. Wall points out that president Obama put the US in good company:
Greece is the nation that gave us Plato, Aristotle, and gave birth to what we know as Western culture. (We won’t be getting into the messy questions of “what is Greece?”/”who is Greek?” here.) Britain is not only the nation which was home to the political theorists and philosophers from whom the deified Founders drew inspiration, and is not only a nation which illustrated the transition from monarchy to democracy, but it also, at the height of its empire, saw itself as the heir to a mantle which had previously belonged to Greece and Rome.
By putting us in the company of Greece and Britain, Obama is putting us on that same continuum.
The much-maligned mentioning of other nations in the same breath as the United States was, on one level, meant to imply that we now carry that mantle that it is our role to be the exemplar of Western society and values, and that the contributions of our Constitution are already as influential as those of Greece’s and Britain’s past heights.
Claiming that it is insulting, or anti-exceptionalism, to compare America to Greece or Britain turns exceptionalism into a sort of zero-sum competition. It ceases to be a point of pride, or a lofty obligation to fulfill, and becomes a quixotic undertaking not merely to be exceptional, but to remove the United States from the realm of history and nations.
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