America is not an idea

And Americans are not proposition people:

The concept of American Exceptionalism is one that on its face would seem to be a healthy one, which is what makes it so pernicious. In practice, American Exceptionalism is a favourite idea of the Glenn Beck crowd. Often what this belief comes down to is that the rules that apply to every country on the planet don’t apply to America, because there’s a piece of paper with ink on it in Washington that claims so.

America isn’t bound by blood like every other nation on the planet. Ethnicity and race may matter everywhere from England to China, but not in America. America, you see, is an exception to these rules, because America was a country created by ideas put forward by the founders. America is a proposition nation, they will tell you. Ideas built America.

This seems to me to be quite the concept! I wonder what it would look like to see Liberty and Equality running around Boston in 1750. How would the Declaration of Independence have managed to push further and further westward, trekking through miles of dense forest, weathering the rain and the snow and the hail, civilizing what was in in effect barren wilderness? What a sight it would be to see ideas clearing forest, laying down railroads, and building canals! I can’t say I have ever seen anything so incredible, but perhaps I would if I took a trip to the propositional nation to the south of me.

Yet, somehow, I doubt it. What mainstream conservatives have largely forgotten is that ideas can shape societies and peoples, but they don’t create them.

It would have been vastly preferable if the Founding Fathers had stuck to the original term – the Rights of Englishmen – rather than trying to make them sound universal for the purposes of rhetoric.

Just to give one example, those who don’t believe in the existence of a Creator God cannot possibly appeal to unalienable rights that stem from Him.