It is alarming how many contemporary Americans believe in the exceptionalism of their country. This exceptionalism informs their foreign policy, domestic affairs, their role as international police and moral measuring stick for everyone but themselves.
Consider this: The United States has branded itself as a squeaky clean country with the moral authority to do just about anything it wants, even if that means circumventing the United Nations. They are the first and only nation that has ever dropped a nuclear bomb (one over Nagasaki, the other over Hiroshima).
They actively seek out and assassinate so-called enemies without trial. They drop bombs from drones that are controlled thousands of miles away, killing thousands of innocent civilians along with their (alleged) target. It is a country whose president presides over a death panel that decides who is getting killed in any given week. They spy on international friends, American citizens at home and abroad, on a massive scale to the point that they risk fascism.
They are one of the few countries that still have the death penalty, have no sense of humour when it comes to satirizing themselves and have one of the highest per capita levels of citizens in prison in the world.
Let’s take Henry Kissinger as another example. Dr Kissinger as he insists on being called, deliberately and cynically interfered with the Paris peace talks, promising the junta a more friendly President if they walked away from the talks (in contravention of the Logan Act prohibiting secret diplomacy or intervention) in order to get Richard Nixon elected. This triggered the extension of the war in Vietnam by an additional two years and added around 22,000 more names to the Vietnam War Memorial.
Kissinger also, on behalf of the United States, ordered the assassination of a foreign head of state, and was complicit in war crimes in several nations, on behalf of the American people.
So yes, the United States is indeed exceptional, though not for the reasons that most Americans assume. It is exceptional for ignoring it’s own massive internal and external problems while calling out those of other countries, and believe that it is their right and duty to do so.
How then can a country like this possibly consider itself exceptional? Water under the bridge, it was a long time ago (actually no, Obama continues to assassinate people without trial), we didn’t know then what we know now … the list goes on.
It is only through the sustained veneer of patriotism that these actions can be forgiven, or even cheered on like so many spectators at a bullfight, egging on the matador as the bull slowly, painfully, bleeds to death.
And then there is the duplicitous bugging of the phones of at least one foreign head of state (Angela Merkel of Germany), which has caused massive blow-back from international political bodies, the press and that section of the electorate that recognizes right from wrong.
Ah, and the press – charged with informing the electorate, have often been coerced by the government in unambiguous ways. Take CentCom in Afghanistan as an example. Jim Wilkinson – lead spokesperson for General Tommy Franks – actually told reporters that they need to write more positive stories about the campaign or they’d not be called on, nor receive access to bigwigs. Word is that he kept a list and that if you were on that list, God help you.
Speaking of the electorate: there is a massive project underway by a group of Christians callling themselves Dominionists who are bent on taking over the White House and turning America into a theocracy. Have they not seen what ends that has had in other parts of the world? Will Old Testament law be codified and enforced? The mind finds dark places in these things.
I asked a friend at the BBC what she thought American Exceptionalism meant, and she replied that “it refers to a number of things: first, I believe the doctrine means that all nations are found somehow lacking and inferior to the United States. Second, I believe the United States believe themselves to be the moral leader of the United Nations. Third, I think that they really, honestly believe that this is all true. The question is often asked, “well, just how far will they go” to which the answer is “that’s classified.”
It’s sad, though, given some of the great things that the United States have done and the contributions made to things like science, literature and music. How unfortunate that all of this good is so eclipsed by duplicity, cynicism, war crimes and murder – all sanctioned by the executive branch of the US. I pray they turn from this disastrous course.
Where we go from here, I suppose only the Dominionists know, but it scares the hell out of me.