4. THE GOOD EMPIRE VERSUS THE EVIL EMPIRE
There is a significant difference between the American exceptionalism imagined by Winthrop and the actual American exceptionalism. The Puritan from Arbella explained American exceptionalism on religious grounds. Instead, in the 20th century the concept came to rely on political, geographical and social arguments. The American nation is special because it is a mosaical association of people who have in common the need for freedom, human and natural inalienable rights, democracy, republicanism, rule of law, civic virtue, fair-play, private property and constitutional government. Hence, the American nation holds a special state of mind, a special environment, and a special political culture compared to other nations. The United States is built on republican ideals, rather than a heritage dictated by a monarchical ruling class. Ever since their conception, the American policies have followed a system of federalism, examinations and balances meant to prevent any person, faction, region or governmental body to become too powerful.
At the moment, American exceptionalism is a multifunctional political and patriotic instrument. For example, it is used to provide legitimacy to the superior attitude of America in its relations with the other nations of the world. Patriotism is the civil religion of America and the Christian duty of spreading the gospel to all people conveniently transformed into the idea that America has the mission to civilize the world according to its own image. American exceptionalism was also used to fight communism. The rivalry between the United States and Russia exists since the First World War, because the latter is the cradle of the communist revolution. Immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, American society lived the First Red Scare – a nation-wide hysteria regarding the imminence of a communist transformation. The Americans feared that, following the wave of worldwide communist revolutions, their country was on the brink of a proletarian uprising that would change the American values and lifestyle. At its height, in 1919-1920, concerns regarding the political agitation and the alleged spread of communism and anarchism among American labor movements fueled a general sense of paranoia, further exacerbated by newspapers into xenophobia. Later, in 1929, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin named the resistance of America to the communist revolution as the “heresy of American exceptionalism.” On the contrary, Jay Loverstone identified American exceptionalism with American capitalism – a power that prevents the communist revolution. According to Loverstone, the United States had to be the example of a nation freed from Marxism and socialism for European societies, a weapon and a wall of defense in front of the communist expansion.1275