reflective #3: insight

One of the most intriguing things about our conversation on Tuesday was, I thought, the fact that no group actually challenged Stephanson's thesis entirely. Yes, we raised objections to specific claims, and yes, we had some disagreement about the precise scope of Stephanson's argument. But no one tried to prove that the US was not a country animated by a sense of its own election, especially when acting on the world stage. I wonder about that. Is it just that Stephanson is somehow right? Or is it that his thesis conforms to the way that we Americans think of ourselves? There is something ironic about a book on manifest destiny, I think, in that anyone already convinced that the country actually is specially chosen will read such a book, even if the book itself is gently critical of the notion, as an affirmation of what they already know to be true. Under such circumstances, it's tough to determine whether our reaction to the book is really a reaction to the author's argument, or to the claims of chosenness themselves. It's difficult to keep the claim of chosenness separate from the claims about claims of chosenness.

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