Myth of “American Exceptionalism” – The Ultimate, Pernicious Howler by Robert Becker

by Robert S. Becker
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
December 3, 2010

God’s mysterious sense of humor strikes again, afflicting the lunatic fringe with this especially ludicrous zinger: the delusion of infallibility.  Beyond the ‘50’s jingoism of “America, right or wrong,” the right now stays this course, “America, never wrong.”  We must be special, the chosen elect, morally superior to every other country.  Why else would an omnipotent God put us in charge?   End of discussion.

Frankly, the Roman Empire was more culturally tolerant.

Who else but the divine jokester, with his penchant for puncturing empires, would bestow absolutist delusions of grandeur on our most insular, willfully blind know-nothings?  Remember the last time Sarah Palin or W. expressed doubt, admitted error, even a touch of humility?  For sure, America is “exceptional,” more so every month by majoring in fumbling, blundering, and dead-ends.

Compared to western allies, our health care is bad and getting worse, with shorter life spans, more disease (and infant mortality), woeful urban public education, depleted resources and dangerously gapping income levels.  Oh yeah, throw in a total leadership quagmire.  God’s green acre, except for the poisoned Gulf, or what?  Isn’t there an old Borscht Belt joke about discouraging too many more of God’s special blessings?

The painful joke (oblivious to the mass media) is on all of us: 50 years of preposterous “America can do no wrong” groupthink and behold! — a nearly unparalleled spectacle of costly fiascos, especially on the big issues.  Take war: what rational risk-cost-reward measure could justify any one of our opportunistic, ideological, harshly geopolitical invasions, from Korea through Afghanistan?  Risks and costs were (are) astronomical, benefits (beyond arrogance) invisible even years later.  Half our federal budget feeds direct aggression — with 1000 overseas military outposts — or fending off resulting anti-imperial insurgencies.

A Dismal Fringe Scorecard

Likewise, today’s payoff from rightwing economics — a nasty brew of crony capitalism (subsidies, incentives, and bailouts), regulatory favoritism, and iniquitous taxation — is the brink of national bankruptcy.  An array of Constitutional and legal bombshells are erasing 100 years of progress, turning our marginal democracy into a free-for-all jungle of corruption — in elections, policies, broken treaties, and heads-in-the-sand defiance, bypassing looming calamities (fiscal, energy, environmental, climate).

Behind this sense of infallibility is the greatest crockery of all — that America, thanks to military prowess, a notable history, and high-sounding founding documents, must be specially blessed by God.  By this logic, Tea Party Americans are today’s chosen people, confirmed by their infantile belief any fairy tale they repeat often enough must be true – just squeeze in God, guns, freedom, liberty, and the 2nd Amendment.

Behold the American religion of Exceptionalism, with countless stupidities in its wake.  Turns out W. lied on about nearly everything important.  Turns out the Party of No is simply the Party of the Status Quo, aside from wanting to obliterate Obama.  Turns out Palin’s puffery, “Never retreat” (except for her quitting?) echoes the GOP’s double down mania — anything but admit error, change, apologize.  After all, what was closer to W. than his famed gut instinct, pulled by Dick Cheney?  Nothing feeds tyranny more than defying all doubt (and outside evidence) while glorifying gut instincts.

Does not Palin’s “Instead, reload” (that is, “instead” of thinking?) summarize U.S.’s “shoot first-plan later” foreign policy since the Mexican-American War (1848), the Spanish-American War (1898, taking the Philippines), through Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and more?  Remember the McCain-Palin catchphrase, “America First”?  Until self-sabotage takes its toll.

The Horror of Being Wrong

What most threatens America as a viable construct is the terrorist stew mixing religious fervor with nativist chauvinism – as voiced in Mike Huckabee’s specious yelp, “To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation.”  Soul, indeed, is the dog whistle.  If our country’s soul matched the Creator’s, we’d wait at least seven (indeterminate) days before blundering into the next pre-emptive, unilateral brutality (like Iran).  Was Iraq for one second about divine agency spreading goodness?

Papal infallibility, restricted only to matters of church doctrine, pales next to this presumption of absolutism, for nothing limits rightwing arrogance to know everything, from science to the creation.  Echoing what Nixon said, “when the president does it, that means it’s not illegal,” exceptionalists proclaim, “Because fundamentalists anoint themselves as chosen, that means it’s true.”  Just like early Protestants, declaring themselves saved on their “faith alone,” today’s fringe “elect” declare their dominion over the earth and its peoples (especially minorities, dark-skinned others with fewer guns).

What’s scary is how this ultra-right delusion is no longer a partisan divide.  A  majority of 58% here cry halleluiah that “God has granted America a special role in human history” (polling, Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution).  Of course, 58% everywhere could make this empty claim — and they’d all be right.  Is this the same 58% of Americans who predict offspring will live less well than they do?  Or that the country is headed in the wrong direction?

Exceptionalism, Noxious Leap of Faith

Once upon a time, nonsense about states’ rights, including secession, won the prize for extremist fraud, but national exceptionalism is more comprehensive. Listen to Gingrich, who shames his own history background: Obama fails to understand that “American exceptionalism refers directly to the grant of rights asserted in the Declaration of Independence” which “relates directly to our unique assertion of an unprecedented set of rights granted by God.”  Like where?  Any one example, even stress on “God,” will do, Newt the noodle-brain.

Exceptionalism comes spitting out of Palin’s mouth constantly, attacking Obama’s un-Americanism not for being born elsewhere but refusing to proclaim we’re chosen by her God.  “America the Exceptional” is a chapter title in her recent, ghost-written diatribe.  Former senator. but current bigot,Rick Santorum, never doubts “America is exceptional,” only why so many in Washington just “don’t believe that any more.”

Even Obama is obliged to affirm this commandment, though not without cleverness, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” But even this deft move becomes grist for Palin’s crudest of mills, “when President Obama insists that all countries are exceptional, he’s saying that none is, least of all the country he leads.”  No, he got beyond whether a country is God’s gift to mankind, just that citizens should honor their country, value its uniqueness to itself and the world (and almost all do and should).

Brace for this absurdity: the Party of No will find one mandate that warrants a Yes: American Exceptionalism, justifying our mighty status as the world’s superpower (for a time, anyway).  Especially if Palin is nominated by the GOP, evangelicals will tirelessly assert she’s running because of God’s goodness — proof positive America is more blessed than any other human artifact called a country.  Who knows, with the magic of technology, someday God may tweet from heaven.  Then, finally, we’ll learn which tribe is His (or Her) favorite and which country is chosen, if any,  awarded dominion over the speck called earth and all its inhabitants and assets.  Now, that’s a headline (and gender) worth waiting for.

5 thoughts on “Myth of “American Exceptionalism” – The Ultimate, Pernicious Howler by Robert Becker

  1. In my opinion it is a cause of faith and religion.
    (religion is meant as all dogmatic doctrines of salvation, incl. Stalinism, Vegetarism, and other beliefs without any evidence).
    This is not mysterious but weird and proves lesser thinking than an Amoeba – that always will follow the 1st law of life: SURVIVE !
    Faith is the only ability that divides men from animals! Beasts are not able to believe.
    Dogmas have killed all the billion people! Not plagues and wars!
    Without religious dogmas the overpopulation, the plagues and wars would not had been developed.
    I just read an interesting link about the education to avoid thinking in the middle ages – commonly named DARK AGES for this reason. Now we are going back to this practices very quickly. The last generation of well educated teachers is completely retired after the next 5 – 8 years. Their very few young followers will be kicked out or are already displaced from public education.
    The dumbest illiterate farmer knows, that humankind CANNOT derive from Adam and Eve – because he has watched, what happens, if the he-rabbit makes children with his mother … but million of people will go to war and kill and die for these dogmas.
    They claim a god for infallible, who’s first sentence was obviously a lie.
    Faith is knowledge –
    you shall not eat from the fruits of knowledge about the good and the evil!
    You have to believe and repeat (FOX-News).
    So can war be renamed in peace, lies in diplomacy and Big Brother in democracy. And they believe, that the truth is threatening the country and the most believe to be free.
    And the US-people (a big part!) additional believe to look good and be a great nation! Although they killed each other 140 years ago – much later, than the European civil-wars occured! Because they learned to believe it.

  2. Boundless arrogance! Someone wrote: don’t watch the “Axis of Evil”, rather watch the Anglo/Saxon axis. In the very end, we all end up in the same hole…

    • Anglo-Saxon Axis ??? ASA??
      A new term for Zionism?
      ASA sounds more like SS and SA as AIPAC does!
      And who is the “Axis of Evil” at the moment?
      Libya is out, Syria is out and North-Korea too …
      This “axis” is Iran and Cuba?!
      The last armed countries, that refuse any US military base?! (Besides China and Russia!)
      “axis” = line around which an object rotates –
      a line that divides a two-dimensional object into identical shapes …. If Iran is rotating – around what?
      This axis was drawn by Cheney and compadres to divide the world, like the other axis does – the “transatlantic axis” – or NorthAtlanticTerrorOrganisation.
      This axis does divide in heroes and terrorists at the surface – but in the depth it divides killers and victims – we are the victims. And above all – our children.

  3. Palin stands no chance at the white house. she will be buried in the primarys .
    the Roman empire has never died , it just contiuned and morphed into Spain’s great age to the French Zenith to the British Empire , to the American Empire , until China engulfs the world in 2025.

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