If you know about “American Exceptionalism”, you aught to know that America having it’s brand of Exceptionalism is, well, unexceptional.
Recently, I was directed to the Wikipedia page on American Exceptionalism. The article describes a number of reasons why so many Americans subscribe to the ridiculous notion — but there is one obvious reason that they left out. That reason is this: it is far from uncommon, and possibly universal in the case of really large nations like the United States, for many people within the nation to embrace it’s own brand of exceptionalism. It can be seen throughout human history.
Let’s not forget Imperial Russia, the Third Rome (or at least one of them). Apparently, after Russia gained independence from the Mongol Empire shortly after the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire – the guy in charge of Russia married a Roman Princess — which he felt made him the heir to the fallen Roman Empire due to the implications of said marriage under some inheritance rule that some monarchies of the time followed. Of course – that rule was never part of the Roman system of succession — but we shouldn’t let technicalities like this get in the way of such a convenient claim.
So now – Russia was the new Rome just like Constantinople before it – and, well, Rome before that – right? Not exactly. According to a writing by Grand Duke Vasili III Ivanovich “Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom”. (By the way, this quote is copy-pasted from this Wikipedia article here which also documents other nations who based their brand of Exceptionalism on the notion of them being a Third Rome.) So apparently, not only did Russia inherit worldly significance and religious authority from the Roman Empire – but unlike it’s predecessors who were doomed to fall within the course of human history, the Russian Empire would last till the end-of-days. Apparently, though, the Bolsheviks never got that memo.
Rome, in turn, built it’s brand of Exceptionalism largely on how they saw themselves as descendants of the survivors of Troy, yet somehow heirs to the ancient Greek civilization. And what about the ancient Greeks? Well – according to them, they were the only people who were not barbarians.
Of course, this slew of Third Romes aren’t the only countries that base their brand of Exceptionalism on being successors to Rome. The Founding Fathers of the United States also idealized Rome a lot — with the goal of setting up the US government to be like that of the Roman Republic – with a few minor modifications so that we won’t eventually fail the same way Rome did. Though the US isn’t yet another Third Rome – because our Rome-based Exceptionalism is based on Rome’s Republican era rather than the Imperial era, and therefore Constantinople doesn’t really count.
Of course – most Americans today are not familiar with the notion of us supposedly being the heirs to the Roman Republic – but bolster American Exceptionalism today by other narratives. But it is unsurprising that a large and populous nation of the United States embraces it’s brand of Exceptionalism. It’s fairly standard among larger countries. I know fairly little about Chinese culture, or Indian culture – but I am sure that if I did, I would be able to describe their brands of Exceptionalism in detail as well.
It’s not limited to just large countries. Even small countries often have their brands of Exceptionalism – such as Bulgaria, one of the multiple Third Romes mentioned above. So next time you hear people talk about American Exceptionalism, and how it is irrational – you can be aware that the fact that we have a brand of Exceptionalism is in itself unexceptional.