“Exceptionalism” Shouldn’t = Arrogance
Cross posted from Renaissance Post
I keep hearing our elected leaders and their toadies blathering about “American Exceptionalism”. According to my spell checker, “exceptionalism” isn’t even a word. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the condition of being different from the norm; also : a theory expounding the exceptionalism especially of a nation or region” but something tells me that’s a recent addition and only added due to pressure from right wing groups. “American Exceptionalism” it seems, has come to mean that we as a nation aren’t subject to the same rules that we apply to everyone else. Why can America torture and hold people indefinitely without any charges whatever, while we condemn Iran for imprisoning people who violated their borders? Why is Russian intervention in Georgia or Iraq invading Kuwait “aggression” while unilateral invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan called “defense”? It’s partly because that for now, the United States is the biggest kid on the block but mostly it’s because that status has given the ultra nationalists and tribalists an excuse to throw our weight around and pretend that we’re better than everyone else.
This isn’t limited to foreign policy either. One of the most arrogant things I’ve ever seen done or attempted is when the Bush administration “re-defined” Carbon Dioxide as “not a greenhouse gas”. You get that? The chimp decided that not only could he re-define words but he could then proceed to re-define the physical properties of a molecule. That’s not exceptionalism. Hell, that’s not even arrogance. That is having delusions of grandeur. This self described “Christian” in one fell swoop attempted to usurp God’s position and dictate what the properties of a gas are, all to save his patrons from oversight. The result of the voters in Texas allowing him to get away with that is a zone of dying pecan trees between La Grange and Bastrop surrounding a dirty coal fired power plant. I used to buy pecans on the side of Hwy 71 when I drove to and from Austin but those stands have been gone for over a decade now. Like other power plants in Texas, the Fayette Power Project is no longer subject to stringent emissions regulation anymore, not since the Bush led TNRCC decided that carbon and soot emissions weren’t that bad after all.
Probably the second most arrogant thing I’ve ever seen was when Osama bin Laden told the world that he attacked the United States because our military was deployed in and occupying Islamic holy lands. Our state and defense departments pshawed that remark and said it was because “they hate us for our freedoms”. Our freedoms? Seriously? So it doesn’t have anything to do with us setting up puppet governments in the region and exploiting their national resources and their citizens for the profit of our corporations while trying to impose our standards on them. Have I got that right? It’s our freedoms they hate and not our penchant for going to war every time somebody doesn’t do what we tell them to do? It’s not the fact that we take the side of Israel no matter how egregious their treatment of the Palestinian people is? It’s our “freedom”. Got it. Let’s not listen to the guy who planned the attack but instead listen to the wise words from a bunch of clowns who go around talking about “exceptionalism”. After all, we’re benevolent and wise and just trying to tell them how to live make life better for them. We have a monopoly on what the “right” way to live is because we’re exceptional you see.
More than nine tenths of the people who cheered the Iraq invasion have never served a day in their lives, nor were they willing to put their lives or their childrens’ lives on the line to support the great crusade. The excuse was always the same: they said they could make a better contribution by staying home cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck. The same goes for Afghanistan. They love watching bombs fly on television. YouTube videos of helicopter gunships slaughtering civilians go viral and the comments are dominated by people cheering, people to whom the most dangerous thing that they ever faced was a fear of infection after stubbing a toe in a creek bed. These are the people who love to throw out the “American Exceptionalism” phrase like a talisman, a license to be just as cruel, exploitative and as oppressive as they wish. It’s not just limited to foreign nations either. There are some American people, especially brown people who are also subject to “correction”, justified by the same “exceptionalism” of the people who claim to be so exceptional. It’s just an excuse to give free rein to our baser instincts. American Exceptionalism isn’t exceptional at all. It’s brutal and it’s primitive and it’s about as benevolent as the Inquisition. Now that was exceptional.