Although the writers are addressing different subjects, one complaining about opponents to the war in Iraq and the other decrying U.S. arms control policies, they provide a neat juxtaposition of views. The first writer wraps up her letter with a perfect statement of the doctrine of American exceptionalism.
From the June 10, 2006, Letters to the Editor:
I hope you caught the key point made by Ms. Jones: The United States is “special” and “unique,” and its citizens must not do anything to risk that privileged position. In many respects, Jones is quite correct. Although we are no longer the society with the greatest freedom, thanks to our unitary president and his doctrine of being above the law, certainly the United States continues to be the wealthiest nation on earth. Our per capita consumption of the world's natural resources continues to outpace any other nation. We are a fortunate people (most of us, anyway) when it comes to material considerations.
Nabobs of negativity
There is no doubt: Bad things happen in war. But what is the emphasis on every negative report about our war effort and our troops designed to accomplish? I am suspicious of the extensive coverage of possible wrongdoing by our troops, the tone of which is positively giddy as the left continues to hope for our defeat.
I've had it with platitudes like “We support our troops but not the mission,” and “It's a sacred right in this country to dissent and to disagree.” Having a certain right does not mean it is always prudent to exercise it. Sometimes it's OK to just support this country to secure its continued special place in the world and in history, which it holds in spite of those that would without hesitation relinquish that uniqueness.
Karin Jones, Citrus Heights
However, the doctrine of American exceptionalism leads to hubristic policies that cause some Americans to feel an arrogant sense of entitlement. We can do what we want because we're above petty concerns like international agreements (so much for the Geneva conventions) or bilateral treaties (hence our unilateral abrogation of the ABM treaty with Russia) or even our own laws (that is, if the president doesn't like them). Pride goeth before a fall, as it says in Proverbs, and marching along with our nose in the air is just begging for a tumble. Who will get hurt when it happens?
Actually, many would say the war in Iraq is already a big tumble in its own right. I would say that. And the people getting hurt are our troops, as well as an even larger number of Iraqis. Now Jones is exasperated with people who say they support the troops but oppose the mission to which the troops were assigned. She wants us to shut up and allow our silence to connote assent to the administration's war games. Sorry! The men and women of our armed forces are being killed and maimed because of a misbegotten mission, complete with such travesties as limited supplies of body armor and armored transport vehicles (the ubiquitous HumVee is notoriously vulnerable to IEDs without major hardening of its structural components). There is a distinction between wanting better for our troops on the one hand and denouncing Bush and Rumsfeld on the other.
This is just a guess, mind you, but I suspect Jones found it easier to distinguish between patriotism on behalf of one's country and support for the man in the White House during the previous administration. Just a a guess.
Now here's a letter-writer who sees clearly what we, as a nation, are up to:
Ms. Parks, meet Ms. Jones. She'll tell you that the answer to your question is “yes.” We're the United States, by golly, and our exceptionalism permits us to do whatever we want. So there!
We get to make the rules
Re “Blix pins the blame on U.S. for growth in nuclear arms,” June 2: Do as I say, not as I do. Is that the U.S. creed? As the only nation having actually used nuclear weapons on an enemy, why do we get to have WMD when other nations like Iran don't?
Because we are the superpower, do we get to make and abide just by our own rules? We only torture and shoot those from alleged enemy states; we wouldn't nuke them. Trust us! And stay out of our business when we do unto you. God bless America.
Carolyn Parks, Rocklin
I suspect that Parks is being ironic with the last line of her letter. It could, however, be a fervent prayer.