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The Most Loathsome American Ideology is Exceptionalism
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The Most Loathsome American Ideology is Exceptionalism

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I have learned a new expression from an Irish friend - “Face Palm". It's like the physical act of slapping your own forehead in disbelief at something crass and stupid - such as those who cling to notions of an exceptional place in the unfurling of civilization, and abrogate rights unto themselves on such a basis, above and in denial of the rights of others.

You might think such ideas had died out long ago, with no real enemies to have to prove yourself superior to. But exceptionalism is still a reality, not only In terms of foreign policy but most aspects of our lives today. America and Americans in general, have proved they have a lot in common with the Germans of yesteryear, who likewise considered that by right of birth or happenstance they could demand their way or the highway. 

This attitude is what turned many against Hillary Clinton in the US presidential elections, and was also John McCain’s calling card. In 2016 Hillary championed the cause of American exceptionalism, despite it being a term traditionally embraced by Republicans, and proved unwilling to accept the consequences of when it came to the blowback, when many Democrats became convinced that she was really all that Trump was and worse.

She said, “Part of what makes America an exceptional nation is that we are also an indispensable nation … and we are the indispensable nation. People all over the world look to us and follow our lead.” Trump responded at the time that he did not fancy the term “American exceptionalism,” and described it as insulting to other nations. It might be wise to pause here, and confirm that he did actually once say this.

The basis of the argument Trump once said was insulting is that we Americans are better than everybody else, and that is why they should do what we say and not what we do. But Trump is proving to be the most arrogant exceptionalist of all—telling leaders of other countries that their days are numbered, amongst many other things.

Unfortunate though this is for many neocons and Americans, the only thing exceptional about America is its attitude that it is better than other countries.  As Foreign Policy describes it so well, “Most statements of "American Exceptionalism" presume that America’s values, political system, and history are unique and worthy of universal admiration. They also imply that the United States is both destined and entitled to play a distinct and positive role on the world stage.”

The United States talks a good talk on human rights and international law, but these are areas it has a dismal record in. It has also refused to sign most human rights treaties, is not a party to the International Criminal Court, and has been all too willing to cozy up to dictators—just think of those of Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, to name just two.

Many Americans consider themselves exceptional due to the hard earned freedoms we gained by force, and have defended, since the founding of our country. But these freedoms were taken away by the so-called Patriot Act passed in the wake of 9/11.  Effectively the concept of exceptionalism has come to signify the entitlement criminal individuals feel they have to take away the freedoms all Americans should enjoy by birthright. This must be fought by every American, until that entitlement is recognised as criminal, and preaching it is recognised as a form of terrorism. It is the duty of all Americans to ensure that the long-official doctrine of “American Exceptionalism” is stamped out forever.

But we might ask: where would doing this lead us, when we see our role in the world diminishing, and countries which once looked up to us perceiving Americans to be out of their depth, relics of an empire which is in decline morally, economically and politically?

Our seemingly eternal European allies now want to distance themselves from us, perceiving NATO to be merely a blunt instrument of an American foreign policy conducted at their expense, which Trump wants them to pay more for the privilege of enduring. They now feel more threatened by American flip flopping, and its destabilizing approach to Russia, than by any actual enemy, which is a large part of why the US is spending millions funding terrorists, or simply people who are “different”, to create the enemy it needs.

But Europe knows why all these terrorists have suddenly emerged in its midst. This is why a new coup d'etat has been put into motion: regime change in the name of “defending democracy” which uses another country’s national assembly as an instrument of legitimate this coup. The USA has made big efforts to meddle in Venezuela since the first time Chavez won the presidential election.

Washington has been meddling and conspiring with the old Venezuelan oligarchy, which is angry at being shut out of power, against the elected Bolivarian government, in direct contravention of its professed principles.  As usual, it is using so-called NGOs, USAID and NED, the National Endowment for Democracy, as its storm troopers, trying to take the country hostage from within.

Under Hugo Chávez, poverty in Venezuela has been cut by more than a third and extreme poverty by 57 percent. In 2013, the UN included Venezuela in a group of 18 nations that that had cut their number of hungry people by at least half. In 2014, the resident UN coordinator for Venezuela called the country “one of the leading countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in reducing inequality.” But these are the outcomes the United States, the bastion of democracy and freedom, does not wish to see.

These kinds of social gains have been almost entirely written out of media coverage of the effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government. The US would rather get Venezuela’s oil than let its people eat. That is the behavior I call exceptional, and it should never be a part of a county which considers itself innately superior to another.

Denial and Arrogance

All the while in the “Land of the Exceptional” one thing that is most notable about America is the contact degree of denial and arrogance. It is as if Americans think that it would always exist in its previous form—with the entire world observing with envy. However here is so much corruption and the degradation of the society—and it is not going away anytime soon

The grade inflation in colleges, the unsustainable levels of public and private debt, the ethnic and racial tensions, the demographic shift, the growing power of the state, the dismal healthcare system that won’t ever be changed, the corporate power in politics, the disappearance of the middle class, etc.

It is no wonder why cheap slogans, “Make American Great Again” resonate with so many people.

Author: Jeffrey Silverman