Every now and again, the notion that America is "exceptional" comes back to haunt us. This is one of those times when it's popping up in the crazy quilt flurry of jabber about this country's role in the world.
At its worst, it's an appeal to blind arrogance, built on the pride that might makes right and that God underwrites our adventures as the Koch brothers back the crusade to crush unions.
It is a term so easily prone to misuse by a multitude of greedy, self-righteous causes that it deserves to be banished.
But since it won't likely go away, it's worth remembering that the basis for the pompous word has a kinder, gentler side.
The derivation is religious, of course, and drawn from the naive but innocent hope by those 17th century migrants to New England that they might establish a society that escaped the evils of Europe. They held the illusion that they could give birth to a Christian community as it was meant to be. Soon their own forms of intolerance and waywardness would testify against that idealism but somehow it never left our collective system. The belief that we are the light of the world lives on.