From The Washington Post:
America’s basic founding myth describes us as a people selected by Providence to found a new world of liberty and hope, not just for ourselves but for the entire human race.
This myth of American exceptionalism has led to self-deception as well as a moral progress. On the Fourth of July we one can tell the traditional story that “all men are created equal,” or the counter-story of a constitution that treated slaves as three-fifths of a person, broken treaties with native inhabitants, and a doctrine of manifest destiny used to legitimize aggression against Mexico. As Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, points out in her thoughtful, and well-written bookessay, both stories may be true at the same time. In a nation held together by ideas rather than ethnicity, fierce debates over values “have driven our history forward. Democracy once meant suffrage only for propertied white men. At the dawn of the Revolution, liberty meant slavery for 20 percent of the population. Equality once meant segregated schools. And justice has often not been for all. Successive groups and generations of Americans have challenged the meaning and the implementation of these values — calling on our government to make good its promises and also disputing precisely what was promised.”