The COVID-19 pandemic has left the US on its knees, with the public health crisis sparking financial insecurity for millions. At the same time, it has attacked a fundamental part of the national identity: American exceptionalism, or the belief that the country has a special destiny, separate and better than the rest of the world. “Alexander Tocqueville first drew attention to America as a society that was markedly different from its colonizer and early settler societies due to its lack of class structure (relatively), newer history, and (for Whites) relatively independent populations,” says Dr. Milind Thakar, a professor of international relations at the University of Indianapolis.  This mentality snowballed as the US became a global power. Even in hard times, crises have been framed as proof of the States’ greatness. For example, 9/11 was viewed as an assault on the American way of life, reinforcing the country’s status as an emblem of radical freedom.