The American Mission

8 August 2016

Issue one from the McKenna text presents two divergent political philosophies from Humanities professor Wilfred M. McClay and Historian Howard Zinn regarding the concept of American exceptionalism. McClay and Zinn provide convincing arguments as they support their contrasting viewpoints with key examples from American history on the question, “Should Americans believe in a unique American mission? ” On one hand, McClay offers a belief in the unique American “mission” as interconnecting with our Founding Fathers through divine providentialism.

On the other hand, Zinn rejects this notion asserting that restraint from the mythical belief of American exceptionalism will suppress combative desires. Professor McClay believes that Americans should be in the uniqueness of our mission. He is adamant that there should be a steady interplay between founding ideals and current realities by fostering an interlocking relationship with the Founding Fathers through academics and paternal/governmental influence.

The American Mission Essay Example

He claims that our social cohesiveness depends on the preservation and dissemination of American myths and legends. For example, the myth of “Manifest Destiny” justifying American expansion into territory held by Mexico and expansion into Cuba and the Philippines in the 1890s (McKenna & Feingold 2011, 3). This helps further rationalize the countries’ advancement of values of universalism, idealism, and zealous crusading by endorse the notion that, “God is on our side! ” asserts McClay (McKenna & Feingold 2011).

Lastly, McClay does acknowledge that in nurturing mythic reality as a sustaining feature of American democracy and cultural hegemony, we must does not disregard the “strange moral complexities” of the past because it provides a basis for learning from previous mistakes (McKenna & Feingold 2011, 12). Conversely, Historian Zinn describes this sense of American exceptionalism and “Divine ordination” in conjunction with military power as a dangerous notion (McKenna & Feingold 2011, 14).

He posits that belief in divine authority causes America to exempt itself from legal and moral standards accepted by other countries. The ethnic cleansing of Pequot tribesmen by Captain John Mason during the 1630s and the military excursions into the Philippines, Cuba, and Hispaniola in the late 1800s/early 1900s are examples Zinn’s description of these associated dangers (McKenna & Feingold 2011, 13-15).

In The Power and the Glory, Zinn further expounds on Albert Einstein’s argument that, “Wars will stop when men refuse to fight” by stating American will stop fighting wars when they discard the myth of American exceptionalism (McKenna & Feingold 2011, 18). I believe that McClay and Zinn provide a persuasive argument elaborating their notion of the validity of America’s “unique” mission. However, I am inclined to agree with Professor McClay in his assertion in the mythical nature of American exceptionalism that has promoted social cohesiveness and propelled America as the “beacon of liberty and democracy” (McKenna & Feingold 2011, 14).

The existence of present-day America developed after a period of empirical practices that allowed us to incorporate the positive qualities of democracy and make note of the negative aspects of wrongfully enforcing democratic ideals internationally (McKenna & Feingold 2011). Since our inception, the “invisible hand” of “divine providence” has directed America to propagate freedom and democracy to all peoples of the world (McKenna & Feingold 2011, 2-3).

The majority of American Presidents adhered to a sense of American providentialism to justify soft or hard approaches in establishing social order and democratic principles in foreign lands making as described by Abraham Lincoln, “a people set apart” (McKenna & Feingold 2011, 3). However, I must add into the equation that the political and social sensitivities involved with intervention and the economic reality facing America necessitates the presence of shrewd application of coercive actions in the name of national interests.

I believe that the deep sense of American history, Constitutional reverence, social dynamism, respect for the rule of law, and adherence to democratic principles overshadows America’s imperfections making us the world’s defender of democracy and human rights. I feel that as the world’s leading democracy, America has a duty to protect and maintain peace and security by shaping conditions before crises emerge and to confront threats before they become devastating.

America has a rich history of diplomatic and military intervention such as in WWI and WWII against Nazi Germany, prevention of the spread of communism by the Soviet Union, diplomatically intervening in the Pakistan/India conflicts especially in response to the Mumbai attacks, and in defense of ethnic Muslim Bosnians. The aforementioned are a short list of American exceptionalism and our capacity to uphold democratic ideals and restore social and regional stability. ?

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