By David K. Shipler
It’s not our fault. We can’t help it that others are less worthy, with flawed values, weak currencies, lame economies, oppressive politics, and anemic militaries. We Americans can hardly be held responsible for being “exceptional,” a relative term, after all. It’s no badge of honor to be exceptional in such a world, I’ll tell you.
If you want to blame us, blame us for being too good. Blame us for being the land of opportunity and justice and unbridled freedom, for being a frontier on which the humblest masses can carve prosperous futures. Blame us for doing battle for human rights and personal dignity around the globe. Blame us for thinking up solutions and then putting them into action. Blame us for winning all those Nobel Prizes every year.
And if you believe all that—if you see our Nobel brilliance and don’t recognize our political ignorance—it's not our fault. It’s the fault of those who imagine an America too beautiful to exist. It’s the fault of those who think—or who once thought—that everything that we have said about ourselves is true. It’s the fault of those around the world who desperately yearn for us to be a perfect beacon, and who feel lost and frightened when the light dims and flickers. People hate us when we fail to be what they want us to be. They need heroes.