In the New York Times today, columnist Stanley Fish interviews Dinesh D'Souza, asking Dinesh to respond to readers' criticisms of Dinesh's movie, "2016: Obama's America." The entire interview is more than worth reading--Dinesh may be the most unflappably articulate man on the planet--but this exchange struck me as particularly marvelous:
S.F.: Some posters were dismissive of the idea of “American exceptionalism.” They wondered what the phrase meant and suspected that it was a rhetorical device enabling the United States to justify actions it would condemn if they were performed by other nations. What, in your view, is so exceptional about America?
D.D.: My definition of American exceptionalism is one of identifying the ways in which America is unique in the world. First of all, America is unique in being a country founded, in a sense, by a group of people sitting around a table. Other countries have been founded by “accidents of force.” America is a creation of thought. A second aspect of American exceptionalism is that while in other countries citizenship is a function of birth and blood, you become an American by assimilating to a certain way of life, a certain aspiration. And third, America has been a kinder, gentler superpower than traditional empires have been. What does the doctrine of American exceptionalism empower the United States to do? Nothing more than to act better than traditional empires — committed to looting and conquest — have done. So that’s American exceptionalism, an exceptionalism based on noble ideas, ideas that it holds itself to even when it falls short of them.
"America is a creation of thought." Beautiful.