The United States was designed to be "not Europe". Almost with painful self-consciousness, the Founders established a nation that was unlike its parents, and they recognized that its people were, even then, unlike anyone on earth.
In one school of logic, it is common to express things as being, say, "cats" and all other things "not cats". In virtually every important way, we were designed as a national entity to be "not Europe" in that logical sense. True, some of the forms were kept, as from English common law. But on a deep, fundamental level, Americans were not, and their national charter was not, anything like Europe.
We were something new under the sun, literally and every other way. We still are, but every day we have to choose to be that. Every day, we have to choose to be Americans, and many of us choose to be something else.
What are...and what were...Americans? What made us different? What makes us different now?
Well, one thing we are not, as individuals, is "small people". We never were that until some very European ideas infected the national thinking, ideas that had us being trodden down by powers we individually could not resist, and urged us to look at others with envy and resentment, as though that was not a civic sin. We, as past or present Americans, are never "little people". We were and are a broad-shouldered, generous, growing and capable people...a people large in every important way. When we saw our neighbor achieve, we were happy, knowing that what a person can do, we could do if we valued it.
Today, there is pressure on each of us to buy into the notion that we are "citizens of the world". Americans cannot accept that. We have been, and will be, good neighbors in the world. But we will not lose our unique identity in exchange for some fuzzy warm nullity. It would be like forsaking one's family to join a cult. And our family is a fine, healthy family. Not without "issues", to be sure, but not one of which we need be ashamed, either. Our family is unique, and that is a virtue of itself.
Europe...which we are not, and should never be...is in decline. Some of us, including many in our political class, think we should be Europe now. We have been apart too long, according to them...too individualistic, obstinate and arrogant. Europe is more civilized, more humane, more cultivated and cultured.
But that was always true, and it was true at great cost. And Americans and those who aspired to be Americans could not leave it fast enough. They fled that place, and what it meant to be European. They were right to do that, and we are right to flee it in our thinking now.