I Will Not Teach American Exceptionalism

I Will Not Teach American Exceptionalism September 19, 2020


Just for the record, I will not teach my daughter to love America “with all her heart and all of her soul.”

I will teach my daughter to love the Lord her God with all her heart, all her soul, all her strength, and all her mind, and to demonstrate that by loving her neighbor where God dwells in hiding as herself.

I will teach her that the Commandments order us to honor legitimate authority, which means she should obey local and federal laws as long as she can do so without violating the love of God and the love of neighbor. I will also teach her that an unjust law which oppresses her neighbor, is one she’s obligated to break.

I will teach my daughter real history, as I’ve been doing already. We’re learning world history nice and slowly with a lot of library books and documentaries. She’s gotten all the way to ancient Greece. Eventually she will learn American history, but she’s also been picking that up as she goes along. She saw a picture of Christopher Columbus and of Native Americans dotted with smallpox, and a drawing of the layout of a slave ship, on a page in her book we’re studying for a unit study on germs and the immune system in science class. I explained about those.

I will continue to explain, in greater detail, as she gets older.

I will teach her to love all that is lovable about America. I will teach her to glorify God for the beautiful nature here, and for all of our friends here whom we love. I will teach her to love words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I will impress on her the great tenacity and courage it took our founding fathers to fight for those rights. I will also teach her how greedy, cruel, cowardly and inexcusable it was to then only recognize those rights in white males, leaving the rest of the human race with nothing. I will teach her that it’s not a contradiction that people, and nations, can be admirable in some ways while shameful in many others– indeed, that this is usually the case.

I will teach her to be proud of every American who stood up and demanded that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness be recognized for themselves or somebody else when it wasn’t. I’ll tell her that it is a necessary work of our Christianity to fight for the rights of our neighbor. We will honor the enslaved people who freed themselves and the ones who couldn’t get free.  We will honor the abolitionists and all who worked on the Underground Railroad. We will honor the women’s suffrage movement while not looking away from the racism of the white feminists in the movement. We will honor the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. And we will do whatever we can to uplift and protect the oppressed in our own time.

We will honor American saints and blesseds, and pray for miracles through the intercession of Venerable Dorothy Day, Venerable Augustus Tolton, and Venerable Black Elk.

But I refuse to look away from America’s sins, and I refuse to hide them from my daughter. I refuse to pledge allegiance to the genocide of millions of indigenous people. I refuse to pledge allegiance to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and all the ill-gotten wealth that we built from it. I denounce as grave sin lynching and Jim Crow. I condemn and mourn for the My Lai massacre, the internment camps, the atomic bombing of Japan, and all the gross injustices of our present day as well.

I will not pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America nor to the Republic for which it stands, or demand that my family do so and call it education. Honor, yes, but not allegiance.

I will honor America, when she is honorable. I will obey America when I can do so without sin.

American exceptionalism is a sin, the sin of idolatry.

The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all of your mind. The second is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself.

To love America with all your heart and soul, sometimes means turning away from God and Neighbor.

And that’s something I will not do.



Image via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross

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