The Reality of American Exceptionalism

Posted: September 21, 2011 in WMD and Iraq
Tags: , ,

As a liberal I take issue with the conservative, jingoistic concept of American Exceptionalism also known on online as the “America, Fuck Yeah” attitude.  That perspective boils down to America is always right, should never apologize even if we are wrong and that the rest of the world should look to us as a leader not only because of our greater fiscal success but also because of our moral superiority.

I’m not going to go into my many arguments against such thinking, except to say that former Pres. Bush and VP Cheney thought this way and look where that got us in terms of foreign entanglements.   Sullivan, a conservative blogger, wrote about the effect of it on him today and his view is basically my own.  Money quote for me is:

It has sickened me – the lack of morality, the lack of accountability, the constant recourse to mass amnesia. And in a man like Perry, you see all the characteristics of this belligerent, diplomatically autistic, aggressively stupid, and fundamentalist psyche. The dragon we thought we had slain is stalking the land again.

The last thing we need is yet ANOTHER leader who thinks this way.  Whenever you hear a Republican candidate bemoaning the President’s apologist statements for American behavior, that’s what they’re referring to.  That we should never apologize, right or wrong.

However, Sullivan’s post also brings up an overlooked consequence of this cocky mindset….the inevitable result on our soldiers.  Many of them sign up full of patriotism, which is wonderful, buoyed with a sense of righteousness fostered and foisted upon our nation’s youth by their families, their politicians, their churches, their schools, etc.    Indeed, conservative activists have made it a leading goal to affect local school board elections so that they can re-write textbooks to only include items that bolster the concept of American Exceptionalism…..which promises only to make the problem worse.

What happens when these kids* see the effects of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  As the troops themselves report, the fall is devastating.  To go to war thinking your purpose was noble to find that it was not….to kill in righteousness only to find that you’d been duped…..It’s a betrayal of trust on a massive scale.  This betrayal added on to the many psychological and physical scars that war naturally exacerbates the damage.

Will we elect someone who believes “America Fuck Yeah!” again in 2012?  Should we?  Our vets’ cups “runneth over” with bitterness.  Surely we owe it to them as a nation to stop the mindless repetition of worn out slogans and instead begin to deal with REAL American history…the good, the bad, and the ugly….to teach future generations that we might be flawed but to love our country anyway.  Isn’t that real love?  When you accept something for what it is, instead of what you wish it to be.  We owe it to our veterans of today and tomorrow to teach the reality of America.

 

Notes:

*Although not all of them are young by any means.  A lot of enlisted after 9/11 were older than is typical but their attitude, in general, bought into the Exceptionalist mindset as well.  My own nephews have gone off to war, not affected by the jingoism of this mindset or in reaction to 9/11, but instead as a result of long-standing unemployment.  Lack of opportunity has long been a great recruiter for the Armed Forces.  They have come back scarred mentally without having to watch their country fall from some pedestal of righteousness.

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Comments
  1. Great piece, IG.

    Another issue with our military is that the rich don’t generally serve. It is left to the poor and middle class to wage the wars that the rich see fit to engage in.

    • drangedinaz says:

      Yeah, I thought of that while writing it. It’s just incredible how the wealthy avoid military service and if they can’t avoid that, they certainly avoid being in a theater of war (ie, Bush, Cheney, etc.) Who was it, Michael Moore I think, who stood outside Congress and filmed himself asking the members as the walked to work if their kids served in the war. Maybe that ought to be part of the deal….if you get elected to Congress your kids HAVE to serve in the military during your tenure. That way those bastards would have “skin in the game” (so to speak).

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