My weekly chats with Wisconsin conservative talk-show host Jerry Bader got heated last week when Jerry accused me and other progressives of doubting American exceptionalism. He said Russian president Vladimir Putin's commentary piece in the New York Times "probably spoke for" much of the American left.
Putin's much talked-about commentary ended with the following several sentences that referred to President Obama's speech on Syria:
"And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is 'what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.'
It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."
For Bader, or any other conservative, to accuse progressives of siding with Putin goes beyond shallow and childish to insulting and idiotic.
Apparently, right-wingers believe that if you don't agree with their way of thinking, that makes you a bad American and you'll side with international leaders who nobody trusts.
I called out Jerry and clearly stated my case that, no, progressives believe in American exceptionalism, believe in America and are every bit as patriotic (if not more patriotic) than conservatives.
More patriotic than conservatives? OMG, McFeely, are you nuts? Who could be more patriotic than conservatives? Well, maybe a group of people who welcome all viewpoints (no matter how vehemently we might disagree) and don't call those with whom they disagree unpatriotic or un-American.
I find it comical how conservatives believe they own patriotism, that somehow by spouting buzzwords like "Constitution" and "founders" ad nauseam they are more American than moderates, progressives and liberals.
My discussion/ranting on Jerry's show (which airs on three Wisconsin stations) spawned some feedback from his listeners. Included was this e-mail from a devoted Jerry fan who, after I verbally beat up Jerry and forced him to back-track on his outrageous statements questioning my belief in American exceptionalism, changed the topic and accused Hollywood, media and political liberals of making anti-American statements and promoting anti-American ideas.
Ludicrous, but I thought I'd share:
I listened to your show and the dialog with Mike today but I could not call in.
He is missing the point on the exceptionalism issue. While not all liberals, or perhaps not even a majority, dispute the fact that America is exceptional, it is unarguable that ALL the anti-America sentiments are issued from the left. From academica to Hollywood to the media to politicians, the only place where you will hear people claiming how rotten America is among liberals. Many examples of their statements were accurately given on your show today.
Those comments are not coming from conservative commentators or Republican politicos. And they cannot be dismissed by Mike as coming from just a few fringe, sign-waving lunatics on his side. No--they are coming from mainstream commenters and educators. They are being fed to our children in grade schools, high schools, and colleges. They are published in mainstream media outlets and underlie plot themes in major movies.
Conservatives do not claim to have a monopoly on patriotism, but they—unlike Michelle Obama—are not the ones who said they were proud of their country for the first time in their lives only when Barack was elected president. Conservatives consistently recognize American exceptionalism—something that the left as a political ideology cannot claim.
Is this truly what all/many/some conservatives think? That progressives are claiming America is rotten? Sad. Just sad.
Do you believe conservatives have a monopoly on patriotism? Or that progressives go around spouting anti-American sentiments?
(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)