America has long been seen as a leader on the world stage. The depth of the COVID-19 crisis makes this claim seem ever more tenuous. Every U.S. presidential election is called “the most important in a generation.” As an American living abroad, this maxim has never felt more resonant.
It feels like we are at an inflection point. One path leads towards reclaiming a sense of self, a reclaiming of an identity. The other is almost too dark to contemplate. Watching the crisis unfold from the relative normalcy of London has given me a unique perspective. It has opened my eyes to the many ways in which the doctrine of American exceptionalism is actually a myth.
American exceptionalism is the idea that America is a nation set apart. Uniquely endowed with a set of special attributes that qualify it to lead the world. This idea is often expressed in familiar tropes like “leader of the free world” or Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on the hill.” Those sayings ring hollow now in light of the poor pandemic response….