I am just getting into an excellent book by Harry L. Watson titled, Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America.
In the introduction of the book, Watson recalls a story by a young Frenchman who visited America in 1834 and witnessed, among many things, a Democratic Party Parade. The event amazed the visiting European. As a matter of fact, he had NEVER seen anything like it. In Europe and in France where he was from, the ordinary European was not allowed to vote and to have gathered in such demonstrations would most likely have been considered a seditious act.
The amazed visitor wrote after the event, “[its] scenes belong to history. They are the episodes of a wondrous epic which will bequeath a lasting memory to posterity, that of the coming democracy.”
I know, a delusional Frenchman who did not understand how our Constitution did not give everyone the right to vote: most blacks and women prominent among them. There was nothing exceptional about us, this so called “coming democracy” was a farce.
Yep, nothing exceptional about it…
Levin says, “I am not studying history in order to feel better or worse about my country. Rather, and without going into detail, I am trying to understand the richness and complexity of what is the human experience. It has nothing at all to do with whether I love or hate America. To be completely honest, I am not sure what that even means. I will leave overly simplistic categories to overly simplistic minds.” [Link]
Levin makes the assumption that all of us “simplistic minds” are defending American Exceptionalism as if we are not capable or interested in the “richness and complexity” of history. Levin is an arrogant person and when you don’t agree with him, you are simple minded and not capable of understanding his level of thinking. Remember, he is sooo much smarter than the rest of us “simple minded” folk. LOL.
Because to even argue that America was unique, at least to intellectual morons, is tantamount to intellectual bankruptcy. To be a serious historian you must look for “richness and complexity,” whatever that means!? Frankly, Levin and I will never agree on what that means and that is what is at the heart of the issue. He can call me whatever he wants, I will do the same. The gloves will stay off. It does indeed have NOTHING to do with love or hate, but something else and that something is what will divide the likes of Levin and myself.
However, I will offer a guess. (Note, this is my own personal opinion!) Levin has issues with the Republican Party going back to Reconstruction and what they failed to accomplish. He is also disappointed in what the American Revolution failed to accomplish. He is very much like Howard Zinn. But that is the problem, America was exceptional for what it was attempting. It initially failed to live up to our modern and presentists views. I wish our Founders were able to give equality to all, though nowhere else on such a scale was there anything close to early America in terms of political participation.
The post-Civil War era was a disaster for Civil Rights. It is disappointing. However, when one looks to history with such a “presentist” eye and can then call themselves a “Democrat” — which is the historic party of slavery — is to me a bit hypocritical.
I know, I’m simply not smart enough to understand and I look forward to LEVIN setting me straight.