Americans have long embraced a notion of superiority, claims Howard Zinn. Governor Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony described establishing “a city on a hill,” to serve the world as a beacon of liberty. So far, so good. But driving this sense of destiny, says Zinn, was an assumption of divine agency—“an association between what the government does and what God approves of.” And too frequently, continues Zinn, Americans have invoked God to expand “into someone else’s territory, occupying and dealing harshly with people who resist occupation.”
In March of 1951, Jacobo Arbenz came to power in Guatemala after having been resoundingly elected by the people. A little more than three years later, he was forced to resign in the midst of armed intervention. His reforms to redistribute unused land to poor peasants had fallen afoul of the United Fruit Company, which owned and warehoused vast tracts of Guatemalan land. The American corporation solicited the US government to overthrow the populist president and the Eisenhower administration delivered with the help of the Department of State and CIA, which happened to be led by the Dulles brothers, who had strong ties to the company. Arbenz’ ousting put an end to democracy in Guatemala for decades and replaced it by military rule. A civil war followed several years later, resulting in the deaths of over 200,000 people. The country remains one of Latin America’s most impoverished to this day.
“Memorial Day is a time to remember, appreciate, and honor the selfless patriots who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to freedom. At a time when our country seems so divided, we must not forget that it is because of their service and sacrifice that we live in the most free and prosperous nation on Earth.” —Congressman Tom Garrett
Writer and activist David Swanson discusses his new book Curing Exceptionalism, with TRNN’s Ben Norton, exploring how American nationalism and the myth of US superiority is used to justify hyper-militarism and capitalist oppression.
It feels as if world events are in overdrive, and sometimes it’s hard to escape the thought that that there is no longer much point in trying to analyse, or make sense of, a trajectory increasingly out of control.
Back in the 1890s those who believed conquering a continent was killing enough (without taking over Hawaii, the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc.) included Speaker of the House Thomas Reed. He clipped an article out of a newspaper about a lynching in South Carolina. He clipped a headline about “Another Outrage in Cuba.” He pasted the two together (fake news!) and gave them to a Congressman from South Carolina who was pushing for a war on Cuba. The Congressman eagerly read the article, then stopped, looked puzzled, and remarked “Why, this isn’t Cuba.”
There are good reasons for any good progressive to bemoan the presence of the childish, racist, sexist and ecocidal, right-wing plutocrat Donald Trump in the White House. One complaint about Trump that should be held at arm’s-length by anyone on the left, however, is the charge that Trump is contributing to the decline of U.S. global power—to the erosion of the United States’ superpower status and the emergence of a more multipolar world.
US President Trump’s declaration last week before the UN to “totally destroy” North Korea and his general ranting about American military might is on par with the Nazi Third Reich’s invocation of “Total War”.
A five-meter tall resplendent Quadriga sculpture tops the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Wellington Arch in London, The Bolshoy Theater in Moscow, the Victor Emmanuel Monument in Rome, and other important structures elsewhere. Quadriga is a Latin word (quad=square plus yoke or iugum), the name of the two-wheel chariot drawn by four horses (not three as the Russian Troika) yet harnessed abreast, one beside the other, projecting an image of unusual power. The four-horse Quadriga was used in chariot races by Greeks, Romans and Byzantines and its drivers, the charioteers, were popular heroes like Formula One race drivers today. Some were even driven by gods and the Quadriga image was used also on coins. So the Quadriga became a symbol of war, victory and also the peace following a military victory.
As most everyone knows, white supremacists descended upon my city of Charlottesville, VA, this past weekend, and chaos, violence and tragedy ensued. I’ve been thinking since then about the concept of supremacy and how odious it is–as if one race were purer and better than another, as if one color of skin were of a higher virtue than another.
Top Russian officials are concerned that a bill passed by the US Congress will do more than increase sanctions on North Korea. Moscow claims H.R. 1644 violates its sovereignty and constitutes an “act of war.”