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03 January 2013


Ryan Mount

Um. Not sure where to begin. I'm trying to find a thesis here. My suspicion is that it's around American exceptionalism, and more specifically, how we've lost that sense.

Well, here's my opinion in case you're wondering (probably not0: there is no such thing as American Exceptionalism. It's a construction; a clever marketing campaign. But if there is such a thing, it's probably responsible for the things you are lamenting in this very post: entitlement, laziness, etc. In other words, I would say that this sense of exceptionalism, again if there is such a thing, is not virtuous, but rather the opposite: it's responsible for our demise.

Of course I blame the Boomers. But that's only because they're still alive to attack and they don't understand sarcasm in their daft seriousness (political correctness is their pathetic invention, for example) about everything under the sun. As if I care what they think anyway.

I'm certain the Millennials will blame me in a few years. Generally speaking the Boomers un-did many of the arguable destructive traditions in American culture (the sexual revolution, minority rights, etc.), and also instituted well-meaning, yet equally destructive fiscal obligations (there are too many to list but here's a couple of partisan CA examples: Prop 13 and Prop 98). So in the end, I think it's a zero sum gain for them.

Steve Frisch

This entire essay reminds me of the Saturday Night LIve skit where the old man says, "When I was a kid I had to walk five miles to school in the snow; todays young people just don't know how easy they have it." It is a prime example of nostalgic selective memory coupled with the luxury of being amongst the privileged.

“It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.”
― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild


One of my favorite dinner questions when meeting with a new couple is "what do you think was the best decade in US history, for freedom, values, general quality of life?" At least 80% of the time it is the 1950's.

"The good old days"

Some of the reasons for our decline:
-Government put in place of deity (our 'security' somehow being tied to big government. All powerful Federal Reserve, No more gold standard, disrespect of the constitution, wars don't need to be declared anymore, etc)
-Mom's being encouraged to leave the home (and her children behind)
-Class Warfare. Employers painted as villains by our politicians (Employers regulated and taxed as villains)
-Entitlements no longer accepted with shame

Ryan Mount


It is a little "get off my lawn"-ish. I think George even mentions that. I'm not sure if he meant it in that way. But I got a chuckle out of it.

Generally my quasi-Marxist sensibilities are not tingled enough to criticize the "privileged" perspective of this blog post. Because generally speaking, I believe in the year 2013, even the most repressed, marginalized and underprivileged American is still a massive titan compared to what I've witnessed in my overseas travels.

So with that in mind, we're all relatively spoiled assholes.

But to reiterate what I said above, if there is any exceptionalism, it's probably due to luck (like not being bombed to smithereens) and it's probably not virtuous.


I aim low. So any decade where I don't have to dig through garbage to feed the family is a good one.

Michael Anderson

George, you forgot to put in a paragraph about all you guys spreading seed in the bedroom like from 30 million fire hoses, which created 80 million of us little Boomers who would need to be diapered and fed, then have classrooms built, then pulse through the nation's workforce, and then finally pay for our old age, said entitlement which will surely break the bank.

It's not like the Boomers are any secret, we've been a problem since we were born. So who the hell is responsible for not dealing with this outlier spike in human meat?

George Rebane

SteveF 804am - "... luxury of being amongst the privileged." Who?

George Rebane

MichaelA 843am - You're right of course, but with that analysis we can take another generational step backwards in the causal chain. As parents we were very concerned about the population explosion (it was a hot item in the 1960s; 'Club of Rome' and all that) and brought only two into the world - less than the 2.1 replacement allotment.

Ryan Mount

> SteveF 804am - "... luxury of being amongst the privileged." Who?

I answered that above. But I included every American with a beating heart.

Steve Frisch

Like Ryan my contention would be that almost all Americans (as you became in the 1940's) are amongst the privileged. That is partly due to our history and form of government, our freedoms, the occupation of a resource rich and relatively undeveloped continent, and an economic system that rewards hard work and investment. I am not calling you 'privileged' per se, I am saying that "we", the collective we. have been privileged.

I will note that in your 'golden age' there were many Americans who did not share the same freedoms. Although we have been 'more free' we still do not, and did not, have a perfect Union.

Todd Juvinall

Well hell Frisch and Mount. Why are we privileged? Could it have been the sacrifices of our fore fathers and mothers? You think that because today you have a microwave oven and the poor schmo from Yemen doesn't that we all have to do a daily set of mea culpa's asking the great Gaia for forgiveness? Your responses are why there truly is a divide in out lands. Frisch should give his 100k and benie's to the Christian Sudanese and then go live in a tent out in the back yard. Then his observations about "privileged" would maybe have some bearing. Otherwise, he is a simple lefty bloviator who does not practice what he preaches and is a total hypocrite.

The "old days" were of course filled wth many of the same problems as we have today. The difference is the two million laws and regulations passed upon the people of the country. They interject government "nannieness" into all aspects of our lives and charges us for them to boot. So, yes the past always seems better because when we lived it we were young and full of it. We had respect for each other and I always called an older person Mr. or Mrs., and never by their first name. My pop was a hard worker, never took a handout, defended his country in war and raised six kids. All made it in life OK. Now the Frisch's want everyone to get a "redistributed" "guilt" dollar to the slackers and NGO's like his That is why America is at the fork.

Ryan Mount

This is about there here and now. No one is (well, I'm not) saying that we don't stand on the shoulders of giants. But they're dead. And we're living high on the hog. That's privilege. It is our dumb luck to be born into this era. But there is nothing that exceptional about the American experience other than we think there's something exceptional about us.

I'm not saying that we need to run off to a tent, wear rope shoes and eat fallen fruit, I'm merely pointing out what seems to me to be obvious: we are mega Titans compared to the rest of the world most notably since WWII when we literally incinerated the competition because we could. And did. We are no different than any other Empire (pick any of the past 1000 years) of the past. But we have the benefit of learning and improving. Not to mention the benefit of not having our industry and cities ground into oblivion by WWII incendiary bombs.

It's good to be the King, as Mel Brooks reminded us. And like always, the king assumes that God/Providence/Magic/his skill ordained his Majesty. When he's really no different than the piss boy.

For the record, I hate Microwave ovens. Cretinous culinary rubbish of the lazy class.

Steve Frisch

Well hell Todd, do you not know what privileged means? Are you just too stupid to understand that possessing a special advantage or benefit means? What the hell do you think "American Exceptionalism" means anyway? You are an idiot, pure and simple.

Steve Frisch

That should of course read "what possessing a special privilege means."

I mean really Todd, are you saying it is not a privilege to be an American? Hey George, do you think it is a privilege to be an American? Are you saying Todd that we are not privileged to live in this country? I mean really Todd, why do you hate America?

George Rebane

Privileged in America; of course. Privilege also has gradations. During my lifetime, we Americans have become less privileged with every passing year that has added thousands of pages to the US Code and its derivative regulations.

We arrived dirt poor in 1949, and in our climb up the ladder received no government handouts - our privilege was that the ladder was there for us, and that we paid taxes to keep the whole thing going. As academic studies now report, America is becoming less and less class mobile as progressivism deepens its hold on the land. (Recall that the bookend here is communism which claims to be a classless society.) And class mobility has always been our strong suit in exceptionalism.

I totally disagree with RyanM's view of our being just another empire on its way up and then down, and therefore thinking we are exceptional when we're on top. Our exceptionalism did not come from size, riches, and being a world hegemon. We were exceptional already when de Tocqueville visited us in the 1830s. It's been the ability to easily move up (and down) the class ladder, and allow others to do the same without being threatened that has made us exceptional. And that exceptionalism began to diminish the more people joined the dependent class, and discovered that it was more comfortable to stay there than to make the effort and take the risks involved in trying to get out.

Steve Frisch

I find myself in the ironic and personally uncomfortable position of agreeing with George 99%. Our exceptionalism is real, and diminishing, and comes as de Tocequiville and George noted, from our class mobility. My only disagreement is the nature of that class mobility; whether caused SOLELY by our market system, or by a combination of that system coupled with being blessed with a continent of riches, comparatively underpopulated, peopled by the innovators and outcasts of the world, and a unique set of liberties rarely seen in the world.

I am a committed capitalist, who believes that a part of the problem is that capitalism has allowed concentrations of wealth and power that retard the very class mobility that has made our nation great. I am with George that standing against tyranny (whether on the left or the right) is important; but the tyranny of foreign philosophies is a weak puppy, compared to the growing domestic tyranny of concentrated wealth coupled with a frozen and gerrymandered governance making law for the few.

Todd Juvinall

Reading Frisch's diatribes above then the last 180 degree flip, it is clear he needs mental help.

America is a shining light on a hill (who said tha?) because the humans that have and do inhabit it are not Frisch. They are truly exceptional as Frisch is simply "run of the mill".

The reason America is exceptional is in spite of attitudes of commonness exhibited by leftewing liars. It is a daily struggle to even survive for billions who have yet to embrace America's exceptionalism as exhibited by the real life stories and results right here with George Rebane.

Frisch is a fool and a idiot for denigrating his own path.

Ryan Mount

George. Let me clarify.

We're "better" but hardly exceptional. Often people interpret my criticism as nihilism. It's not, even if it looks like it. I am very interested in getting under all the flag waving and the "they died so you can say this" rhetoric. It's a tricky if not impossible maneuver.

Perhaps it's just a rhetorical (not semantic) issue. One man's exceptionalism is another man's new and improved, I guess. My point is the notion of exceptionalism is magical thinking. It's as real as the GEICO gecko. But then again, us Americans market better than anyone else: Note how the LA Times (the owner family owned lots of SoCal acreage) convinced millions of people to come to a waterless dessert in Southern CA in the early part of the last century. It was an exceptional place, I'm assuming.

Anyhow, exceptionalism is a self-serving construction to reverse engineer history. To justify our "progress." Frankly I find the language offensive. But for the record, I find it offensive when someone says ham sammich. So there you go.

However relatively speaking, we certainly are/were a formidable nation. But even that's arguably due to dumb or circumstantial luck. Like the French helping us out Yorktown or not being subjected to the Blitzkrieg. And there were reasons why the huddled massed fled their home countries to come here. So that's better. Exceptional? I think that's vanity thinking. Are we a great nation and a notable improvement over past empires? Absolutely.

Steve Frisch

Really Todd, do you just assume every reader is as dim as you are? Do you even realize that this second post is a complete contradiction of what you said in your first post?

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden" is from the Sermon on the Mount, and although I was raised an atheist, I have know that quote since I was about 8 years old. It was part of the the theme of John Winthrop's, "A Model of Christian Charity" speech, where the phrase, "a city upon a hill", was coined. Anyone who loves our country, as I do, would spend some time reading its history, and know that Kennedy and Reagan were paraphrasing Winthrop and the Sermon on the Mount. They would also appreciate the analysis of de Tocquiville and understand that class dynamics are fundamental to understanding our nation.

But I digress from your real dim-wittedness, claiming that my position is "180 degree flip". You can call people socialists and communists all you like, but and any reader here over the years can see that I have consistently and steadfastly supported a market economy. I merely reject an unfettered market economy; which you call socialism but is in reality the American system, and the managed market economy is what has created our wealth, stability, and for many generations our class mobility.

The only person here who is demonstrably a fool is you, who exhibits your class envy and rough manners every time you bring up my salary, as though it is something I should be ashamed of. I am sorry that you feel inferior (or morally superior which in your case is merely a front for inferiority), or under appreciated by society, but I must point out that reward in our society is based on merit, and if you have failed to rise, it is, by your own rules, because you live in the house that you built. Sound familiar?

So, I ask again, why are you so simultaneously so proudly patriotic and woefully ignorant of our nation and its history? I can only conclude that it is because you are an insecure dim-wit.

George Rebane

I will stand with my 850pm and the attribution that America is exceptional in the objective sense, and not only in a self-promotional sense. I say this as a naturalized citizen and immigrant who has known countless other immigrants from many countries, and has come to know how they also view America. 'Exceptional' means "forming an exception or rare instance; unusual; extraordinary" and even "superior" in many attributes that count. And America has been and, though now diminished, is still all that.

It is worth repeating that the most important dimension of our exceptionalism is the fluidity with which Americans can transit socio-economic classes; here you are not class limited or guaranteed, whether native or naturalized.

Todd Juvinall

What a hoot. Frisch must be missing some important logical skills here. As a silver spooner I do understand why he does not understand the wonder of America and it's greatness. He must have been raised in a cloister-like setting. Cutoff from the goodness and light. I will pray for your soulless life.

George Rebane

Administrivia re ToddJ and SteveF - OK gentlemen, we all know about your undying love for one another. Let it be.


"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri." - Douglas Adams

Ryan blames political correctness on Boomers, but it emanates from the Left and predates Boomers, though under lefty Boomers the curbs on speech at the former bastions of free speech, the American university, did reach new heights. Ryan's Humboldt State, perhaps the leftmost public 'university' in California (some might say UC Santa Cruz), it was probably worse there than average.

Though Milton Friedman did once say something like "the only people with true freedom of speech are tenured professors on the verge of retirement", I don't think even that is true now unless their speech is erring hard to the left. This is not always the case; an Austrian musicology professor recently put a piece on his university website to the effect that climate skeptics should be given the death penalty, and he's had to walk that back with his tail between his legs. So, there are some limits, at least in Austria. www.humboldt.edu might not be as contrite.

Personally, though I don't have any real memories of life in the '50's it strikes me as one of the more repressive decades, and I'd suggest the 1920's as a quintessential American decade. Culturally we had both George Gershwin and Louis Armstrong, Laurel & Hardy; black Americans were hopeful but repressed. A rising tide was lifting all boats and there was less of a literacy gap between black and white high school graduates than we have now.

Getting loaded was more fun, too, as rather than doing white or green drugs from south of the border smuggled by someone named Jung, you were more likely to be getting drunk on Irish hootch smuggled by someone named Kennedy. So much more daring to be drinking in a Speakeasy than at home after a Costco run.

Then again, someone who came of age in the Roaring 20's probably thought the 00's was the golden era.


"For the record, I hate Microwave ovens. Cretinous culinary rubbish of the lazy class." - Ryan

For the record, that's a silly notion. Right tool for the right job. Microwaves do an inferior job of cooking compared to traditional methods in most situations, but they do an excellent job at a number of other tasks, including defrosting solids and warming liquids, or warming leftovers. Melting butter, too. They can also be used to rescue errors like undercooked poultry due to errors in computation of cooking time or placement of meat thermometers in time to actually serve dinner.

Hating a microwave oven is as silly as hating a 1/4" torque wrench. The most common use of mine is warming up a cup of coffee since I tend to turn off the warmer of my coffeemaker after my first cup.

I'd suggest the only kitchen appliance (besides the obvious like most of the Popeil monstrosities) worthy of hate is the K-cup coffee makers which are purely an excuse to sell overpriced machines and ground coffee at twice the price.

Ben Emery

The era you point out is the progressive era that was made possible by the New Deal, progressive administrations, and progressive dominated congress that occupied your 45'- 65'golden years. Economically you are correct but if you were a woman, person of color, or homosexual among other non white male heterosexual sub groups their fight for equal rights were still decades of fighting away. We still are not a completely equitable society but we are inching our way closer, which is what gives those of us who believe in civil liberty and freedom for all people hope.

Paul Emery

Now here's something we didn't have to deal with in the 50's. Thank goodness for the 2nd amendment.


"Carbajal said that if you aren’t a true believer, just being prepared for any apocalypse or natural disaster is a good thing.

“My thought is if you are ready for zombies, you are ready for anything, whether it be natural disasters, fall of government, invasion from another country — the possibilities are endless,” he said. “The point is to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/01/03/3993965/kansas-militia-expects-zombies.html#storylink=cpy

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