There has been a lot of talk about “American Exceptionalism” recently. The left side of the political spectrum generally disdains the concept, while the right wishes to affirm it. The concept has many contours that we can debate, but one thing is clear, whether or not the United States of America is exceptional, it is clearly contrary. The evidence?
- Nearly every country in the world uses the metric system for measurement; the U.S. remains committed to the “English” system, which even the English no longer use, at least officially.
- The standard electrical delivery system throughout the world is 220 or 240 volt/50 cycle alternating current; the U.S. uses 120 volt/ 60 cycles (as do our immediate neighbors in North America).
- Most nations generally ban or heavily restrict private possession of firearms. The U.S. constitutionally protects the right of private persons to keep and bear arms, with minimum restrictions. District of Columbia, v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008); McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010).
- Almost every country somehow restricts freedom of speech and expression, including the so-called hate speech. The United States constitutionally forbids all manner of prior restraint of expression, other than incitement to imminent lawless action. Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).
- The rest of the world uses the color red to symbolize the political left and the color blue for the political right. The U.S. reverses this scheme of color-coding.
And, apropos to this weekend, most other countries mark their day for commemoration of labor and workers on “mayday,” May 1. The U.S. marks the first Monday in September as Labor Day.
Celebrating Labor Day in September, unlike the other contrarian characteristics mentioned, was not an accident or result of an evolutionary process. It was passed by Congress at the urging of President Grover Cleveland after the 1893 Pullman strike. Cleveland had used federal troops to get the trains moving again, based on his legal, Constitutional responsibility for the mail. He wished to reconcile his party (Democrat) with the U.S. labor movement. Choosing the September day was deliberate and meant to be a rejection of the socialist premises of the International Workers of the World. Leftist groups have several times attempted to change our Labor Day to their May 1.
Being a natural born contrarian, and libertarian (but not a lunatic), I applaud America’s exceptionalism here, now, and in the future.
Happy Labor Day