Editorial: Exceptional egotism

On January 6, the very foundations of American democracy were put to their test, as a homegrown insurrection threatened to upend the 2020 presidential election. Yet far from being an isolated event, this tragic incident threatens to become our future if we do not take substantive steps to reform civics education across our nation.

A vicious siege laid waste to the Capitol on Jan. 6. But is this the end to our troubles? | Graphic courtesy of Reuters

On January 6, we as a nation witnessed one of the most tragic events in American history. When a mob of violent insurrectionists broke down the doors of the Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election, they weren’t just shattering glass and splintering wood; they were striking at the very core of American democracy. Yet to simply view this earth-shattering incident as irrefutable evidence of one individual’s wrongdoing, and only the byproduct of such, ignores the greater issue that untold thousands of individuals out there even now are willing to do the same given the opportunity. Simply playing into a game of pointing fingers does nothing to resolve the much more insidious reality that too many out there, who are otherwise everyday Americans, will not hesitate to tear down the bulwarks of our democracy in favor of the whims and wishes of one man. How did it come to this?

Perhaps the very aspect of America that has made it so distinctive in the first place is itself the impetus for the problems we see today. Driven by the proliferation of nationalist ideology under the Trump era, the past six years has witnessed a resurgence in fiercely nativist rhetoric that extols the “exceptionalism” of America and holds all other countries and peoples beneath it. Yet the concept of American exceptionalism in no way emerged as a means of distinguishing Americans from the rest of the world, far from it. Rather, America drew its exceptional character from the principles of free and fair democracy that inspired its foundation and empowered the people to hold their rulers accountable. America was unique not because it was inherently perfect, but rather because of its consensus that peaceful elections could bring it one step closer to perfection. Yet the educational culture today does far too little to provide its up-and-coming citizens a sufficient appreciation of the liberties and democratic prerogatives afforded to them that are categorically rejected to people in countless corners of the globe. Even in LMSD, a basic civics education is almost absent from the picture, especially in the years that are vital to one’s conception of the world around them.

The truth is that America is only as exceptional as the values it upholds—falling short of its promises to protect the right of all to be equally heard is itself deprecating the very basis of American exceptionalism. The only reason this nation has survived this long is because it continues to strive to improve and defend the principles of fairness and equity in the law and on the ballot. We must hope it is not too late to continue on the same path.

Unsigned editorials reflect the general opinion of the staff and not the opinion of any single editor.