Tuesday, September 30, 2008

American Exceptionalism

Exceptional Myopia.

Exceptional Hubris.

Exceptional Cowardice.

Exceptionalism in the first category leads to the second and does so via the third's close kinship to an exceptionally irrational devotion to religion which so infuses even American aetheists, in no small part, with a belief that, if you give the "other" any small degree of acknowledgment of value, then you have lost, and "they" have beaten you.

The idea that there is some sort of American Exceptionalism allows educated folk such as Sarah Palin and Ben Stein to believe that humans and dinosaurs once walked the Earth together; at least until the great ad nauseum grand parents of Every Person Now Alive became the first of the Boat People in order to survive some sadistic deity's wrath.

It encourages millions of middle class peops to vote against their better economic interests, year after inflationary year, in favor of the "trickle-downer" candidates with whom they think they'd rather have a drink. They'll even buy it for him!

We seem to believe (well, amongst other ridiculous things) that our mere proximity to the Rich and Famous and Powerful - even though only through the magic of television - somehow endows us with those same capacities. As if the greater become the fortunes of our wealthiest citizens we will somehow increase our own, even though the actual facts show, clearly and without illusion, that the divide between the wealthiest 5% and the overwhelming majority of income earners in this country grows untenously while so called "Conservatives" control the government. The fact that one millionaire can try and lump another millionaire into the same category as yet another, though lesser, millionaire in order make all us non-millionaire's believe the lesser of the three has in some mysterious way less in common with us non-millionaires, and that we buy it hook line and sinker is merely one more indication of the Exceptional Credulity with which Americans are imbued when it comes to our Exceptional Self-delusionment.

Ahhh forget it. This must just be a tired ol' Librul's Sour Grapes. I guess we should really just trust the President when he says, "Everything will be fine."*

After all, his retirement isn't in any jeopardy... That's something. Right?

* That link goes to der Spiegel and an article entitled "The End of Arrogance: America Loses its Dominant Ecomonic Role"

Is it only President George W. Bush, the lame duck president, whom the rest of the world is no longer taking seriously, or are the remaining 191 UN member states already setting their sights on the United States, the giant brought to its knees? UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon referred to a "new reality" and "new centers of power and leadership in Asia, Latin America and across the newly developed world." Are they surprised, in these new centers, at the fall of America, of the system of the Western-style market economy?

Even America's closest allies are distancing themselves -- first and foremost the German chancellor. When push came to shove in the past, Angela Merkel had always come down on the side of the United States. As a candidate for the Chancellery for the conservative Christian Democrats, she helped Bush in the Iraq war, and as chancellor she supported tougher sanctions on Iran and campaigned in Europe for an embargo against Cuba. "The partnership with the United States," the chancellor insisted again and again, "has a very special meaning for us Germans."

There was no mention of loyalty and friendship last Monday. Merkel stood in the glass-roofed entrance hall of one of the German parliament's office buildings in Berlin and prepared her audience of roughly 1,000 businesspeople from all across Germany for the foreseeable consequences of the financial crisis. It was a speech filled with concealed accusations and dark warnings.

Merkel talked about a "distribution of risk at everyone's expense" and the consequences for the "economic situation in the coming months and possibly even years." Most of all, she made it clear who she considers the true culprit behind the current plight. "The German government pointed out the problems early on," said the chancellor, whose proposals to impose tighter international market controls failed repeatedly because of US opposition. "Some things can be done at the national level," she said, "but most things have to be handled internationally."

Perhaps we've reached a rather exceptional point in History. I'm not convinced of this, yet, and I hope with every Vote I cast that the United States has not.

But be it Great Britain, Napoleon's France, Rome, Pharonic Egypt, the Ming Dynasty. Empires fall.

With grace and intelligence, my country may yet fall to something greater still; an Earth of humans who survive by pulling together.

Yeah. We'll be to see...

3 comments:

  1. It's always seemed to me that 'American Exceptionalism' is just a code word for monumental greed.

    I could be wrong as well...on second thought...

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  2. Hey now, Kvatch! As usual, I'm thinking you're pretty much right.

    Thing about Greed is that it's mostly just a exploded permutation of Fear. Fear that someone else is gonna get what we want if we don't get it ALL to ourselves.

    blech....

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  3. As empires go, America's time was fairly short in the grand scheme of things, though it certainly had its spectacular moments. I, too, hope that the lesson we learn from this will make us all better people and better human beings.

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