Wednesday 17 August 2011

Rise of the Image Nation

Denying the myth of American exceptionalism will quickly get you accused of blaming America for all the world's problems.

Nevertheless, American exceptionalism is still just a fantasy perpetuated by American interests upon the American people. And, yes, it is the same way that every state glorifies its heritage in order to nurture a patriotic citizenry lacking in critical thinking skills.

Now this, by very definition, does not make America exceptional, but typical.

National exceptionalism is always based on mythology and is symptomatic of collective denial. Not so much a denial of the standard ruthless geopolitical machinations. The most deep-seated denial hails from a class of folk who habitually ignore how these machinations benefit them, and they are at best conveniently selective in their opposition to their states' actions.

The mythology takes root in the minds of those who love to parrot that their nation was built on noble thoughts and ideals. Now, this notion itself may be idealistic, but it's also beyond delusion, if not merely ignorant of history.

And, of course, there's the "always righting the ship" part of the American narrative. Allow me to tackle one common example cited by the exceptionalist class of American patriot: What was the bread in the Civil Rights Act sandwich if not the US supervising and murdering 1.5 million Vietnamese?

How’s that for ideals? Americans love to use the Cold War as an excuse for bad behavior the same way the Democrats like to use Republican malfeasance as an excuse for their own. But respective Democratic and Republican Party exceptionalism is but a small part of what unites the political class.

In spite of collective American denial, the voting class has the feeling that an exceptional empire of sorts is coming to some kind of hasty end. But this view overlooks an entire heritage of murder and theft.

The truly exceptional politician can publicly lament his nation's having been built on slavery, cheap labor, genocide, and stolen land - all the while engaging a foreign policy which wages war and meddles in others' domestic affairs, enacting a trade policy which encourages wage dumping and environmental hazards, and fostering a domestic policy which makes eminent domain seem like a really cool website.

And the class of American under his influence still glorifies that old wealthy gentry as a group of super-enlightened fathers of democracy, when they were no more or less so than the friendly oligarchs of the past from whom they borrowed their great nobility of thought and speech.

So no, America: Just because I insist that you are not the world's preeminent good-guy does not mean that I believe you are the world’s sole bad-guy. The world doesn’t work that way. You just happen to be a classic example of yet another state whose rubes are led to believe that they are special.

At great expense.