The sum of our exceptionalism

Oct 9, 2013 at 5:00 am

Much has been written in recent weeks about American exceptionalism, and, of course, we are exceptional thanks to our unique American notions of liberty and egalitarianism and fried potatoes that are available in regular, curly and waffle shapes. Also, meat-lover’s pizza. And cat videos and super cottony toilet paper and an unlimited supply of casual-dining restaurant chains and our willingness to forgo governance when a handful of babies don’t get their way. The list goes on and on. Plus, we have a huge nuclear arsenal, so who is going to argue?

So yes, America is exceptional. But American exceptionalism is just the exceptional sum of our exceptional parts, and when we’re congratulating ourselves for our overall exceptionalism, we shouldn’t overlook the individual pockets of exceptionalism within America, many of which are right here close to home.

For instance, right off the bat, there is Kentucky exceptionalism. Take a look around and you’ll see that Kentucky is pretty much exceptional by default: Indiana sucks. Tennessee is a shitshow. Ohio, Illinois, Missouri? Suck, suck, suck. West Virginia is pretty much the Kazakhstan of the western hemisphere. And Virginia is for losers. But it’s not just that other states suck; Kentucky is downright brilliant. We’ve got friendly people and pretty girls and super-low expectations and Big Bone Lick and Beaverlick and all the three-pointers you can high-five over. And, I must reiterate, we are not West Virginia. But perhaps best of all is our natural humility. In fact, if we were any more humble, we probably wouldn’t even recognize our exceptionalism!

Another example is Shelbyville exceptionalism. This is not to disparage the fine people of Waddy and/or Paytona, but when you are in Shelby County and you want a ballpeen hammer, a refill on your Paxil, some woven wire, some shotgun shells and a filet-o-fish sandwich, where are you going to go — Finchville? I think not. You’re going to Shelbyville, that’s where, and you’re going to find it exceptional!

And how about cheap sushi exceptionalism? Yes, grocery-store sushi is often crunchy where it should be soft and soft where it should be crunchy, but it’s cheap, dammit, and it’s ready right NOW. You might be driving down the street thinking, “Sushi would be really great, but I only have $6 and I am hungry now,” and then you can slap yourself right in your forehead, mister, because you live in America, where cheap sushi is cheap, dammit, and it’s ready right NOW and you can pull over to the nearest grocery store or truck stop and walk out of there high on wasabi in less than 90 seconds.

On the topic of fine cuisine, there is also our cookie exceptionalism. In some countries, the cookies are so bad they call them “biscuits” — but not in the U S of A. The Dirty Kroger alone has more cookie options than most other nations combined, and that doesn’t even include all the clean Krogers, plus Trader Joe’s and the Girl Scouts. We’ve got so many cookies that our grocery stores have separate sections besides the main cookie aisle for “healthy” cookies, frozen cookies, granola bars and other cookie-like products. We’re so cookie-exceptional that one of our nation’s most beloved television monsters is entirely dedicated to the cookie. Don’t even get me started on crackers.

And don’t forget our rich-people exceptionalism. From Bill Gates to Warren Buffett to Jeff Bezos, our rich people are the greatest. But it’s not just our top-tier billionaires and their bizarre extravagances (like buying dying newspapers) that we admire. Heck, even our second-rate billionaires like Donald Trump and Mark Cuban and T. Boone Pickens are the envy of the rest of the world, even when they say crazy things or rob us blind. We love that, and do you know why? Because some day we are all going to be one of them!

And, of course, there is our TV exceptionalism. Yes, our TV programming is exceptional, but even our TVs themselves are super awesome. We have them in every room of our homes and on every wall in every restaurant in the land. And when we’re not looking at TVs, we’re watching TV on our computers and phones. Today, many of our finer churches and bathroom stalls even have TVs. The great thing about our TV exceptionalism is that our TVs are especially handy for reminding us how exceptional we are. Because without them, how would we even know?