(This article was submitted to The Washington Post Op-Ed pages on October 29, 2009).
A lot has been said about American exceptionalism.
That the uniqueness of the United States is ingrained in its very foundations dating back to the Mayflower. In the courage of a few who knew little about hard labor to brave the vast ocean to find a distant land, only to have a chance to worship the way they wanted. They carried the King James bible with them to get away from King James I. In this sense, Massachusetts was different from the earlier established Virginia.
The meaning of the compact among those on the Mayflower manifest who had survived the voyage had since then become the Manifest Destiny of the United States, not the composition of the Massachusetts Bay Colony itself which was as pure racially as it was puritan. What mattered was the distillation of the meaning of the compact, even as the puritans wanted to be left to themselves, as the other immigrants, the Welsh, the Scots and later the Irish, from the British Isles followed along with many others from all over Europe. By July 4, 1776, the compact had morphed into the Declaration of Independence and then into the Constitution on September 17,1789.
All those various peoples of Europe wanted the same thing. Freedom to be what they wanted to be and what they could become. In the process, the identity of the American colonies had transformed. The ethnic identities inherited from the homogeneous countries they had come from were gradually transitioning into a quilt of mixed bloods, mostly European, but also in some cases, racially, European and non-European, since 1492.
Those separated by genetic distance for tens of thousands of years on the European, African and American continents found themselves intermingling more than they had ever intermingled in Europe or elsewhere, as a matter of choice, even though the predominant choice was still not to exercise the choice of ethnic or racial intermingling, which is also a choice.
Along with the evolving political concreteness of the ideas in the Mayflower Compact, the reality of a new European mosaic in the new world was forming that had never existed in Europe as peacefully as it did in the American colonies, albeit the social tensions. Empire in Europe was always a bloody affair, from the Greeks in antiquity through the Roman expansion to the Vikings much later.
A new race itself was being created in the American colonies, transcending age-old cultural predispositions about ethnic and genealogical purity. The populations of people of European extraction in the American colonies exploded, ensuring their continued survival. Had they been too concerned with ethnic purity, it would not have been possible, given the steep odds against them.
Germany, under Hitler, being the crossroads of Europe, for very similar reasons had, as late as in the twentieth century, gone into an excruciating and bloody soul searching about identity to define for itself what being a German meant. By then, the United States had figured out how to deal with it despite the agony of the one drop rule, and only more so since the end of that war, a matter that is still very uncomfortable to the Europeans and to most of the rest of the world.
This is what is exceptional about the reality that is the United States. Such intermingling had occurred very rarely in history, only at the beginnings of civilization, also when human populations had rapidly expanded. Fertility rates do not matter if racial and cultural boundaries are overcome.
One can only wonder if there is indeed a master race. Not the eugenics of the Hitlerian conception, but the offspring of those who bridge the genetic distance within the single species that we are as human beings, of our own volition to connect with another of those of the same kind in the same dominion given to all of us.
Biologists agree and so does the National Geographic.