Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Notes On The Greatness Of The American People

In the recent past, readers of the Winter Patriot community blog have been treated to two articles from a contributor calling himself "Truth Excavator", one extolling the virtues of non-violent resistance and the other urging a new awakening of American consciousness, or a new expression of American conscience, or something, and ending with the following words:
Only a great and virtuous people are capable of bringing justice to their deprived leaders, and correcting the wrongs endorsed by generations of government officials. But if there ever was a people in history who could pull off such a task, it is the American people.

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." - Thomas Jefferson
Unfortunately for "Truth Excavator" and those who find this line of reasoning attractive, the greatness of the American people is not only a myth but an extremely destructive one.

The myth is most notably promoted by your so-called leaders, who by its use demonstrate quite clearly that they know more about you than you know about them. In particular, they know that flattery will get them everywhere, because you are far too ignorant, far too arrogant, too inward-looking, too self-absorbed, too addicted to your daily fiction, to ever vote for anyone so bold as to tell you the truth about yourself, your country and its role in the world, or the body politic itself -- of which you are a vanishingly insignificant member.

Instead they talk about how proud they are to be American, and how proud you are to be American, and how they know the great people of this great nation will support them in their great campaign to become the next great president, senator, congressman, governor, attorney general, dog-catcher, or whatever. God Bless America, this great and wonderful country. Or something.

The myth of the greatness of the American people is -- to use Lincoln's famous words -- altogether fitting and proper under the circumstances, which is to say it is necessary to the American political landscape for several interconnected reasons. In addition to the most transparent of flattery, the myth provides invaluable support for American exceptionalism, the mass-murderous fiction according to which the United States is never obliged to acknowledge -- or apologize for -- or rectify -- the damage it does to the rest of the world, where it slaughters innocent people by the millions and poisons square miles of landscape by the hundreds of thousands, all in the name of spreading democracy, or stability, or prosperity, or security, or whatever they think you'll believe next year.

As Sarah Palin stated when she was running for the Vice-Presidency:
"America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here [...] as a force for good in this world."
As I explained at the time: This is political code, very thinly veiled, which means:
"It doesn't matter that we have killed thousands of our own people, and millions of foreigners, in our quest for global empire, because we are exceptional, and immune to the laws that apply to ordinary nations.

It doesn't matter that we have turned millions of people into refugees, depriving them of what little they had before we decided to "liberate" them, because we are a beacon of hope.

We don't even have to apologize for destroying Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Somalia, and Pakistan, nor for the covert and proxy warfare we are currently waging against Iran, and Russia, and China, and Venezuela, and many other countries which have never attacked us, because we are God's chosen people, in His shining city, on His hill."
None of this nonsense would be even remotely plausible without the fundamental lie: that Americans are inherently so "good" that they can be collectively called "great", with no hint of irony whatsoever.

As if that weren't enough, the myth also obscures the reality of American prosperity: that it is not solely or even primarily the product of American ingenuity and the inherent greatness of the American people, but of brute force, brutally applied. The story of American wealth begins with a continent rich in natural resources, devoid of natural enemies and protected from the rest of the world by two oceans, conquered through genocide and developed by slavery, fed by the most rapid destruction of resources mankind has ever seen, and growing by hammering the rest of the world, murdering innocent people and stealing the resources to which the victims and their progeny should have been entitled. For this you congratulate yourselves, and your politicians congratulate you, as righteous Christians whose worldly wealth signifies your holiness. Or something.

But no, your so-called leaders will never tell you any of this, and neither will your so-called news media. And even though the plain and horrible truth is available -- and always has been -- in your local library, and -- relatively recently -- on the best (read: least-popular) internet sites, you mostly choose to avoid it. And this avoidance is altogether fitting and proper as well, since your continuing denial allows you to go on about your life in "peace" and "quiet", secure in the "knowledge" that regardless of whatever trouble awaits you and your country, your inherent greatness -- and that of your friends and neighbors -- will certainly come to the rescue, if only it can be awakened. Or something.

Chris Floyd, writing recently about "the gut-wrenching footage unearthed by Wikileaks", had a few kind words to say about the greatness of the American people:
The American people are simply too good, too just to let stand such a foul besmirching of their national honor. After all, didn't they rise up as one after the Abu Ghraib atrocities were revealed in 2004, and boldly oust the architects of these crimes in the ensuing presidential election? Didn't they take to the streets in their millions when first Bush and then Obama claimed the right to have any citizen put to death without charges or trial simply by declaring the victim a "suspected terrorist"? Didn't a great groundswell of public ire force Congress to open impeachment proceedings against George Bush and Dick Cheney for their Soviet-style gulag of concentration camps and systematic tortures -- and threaten similar justice for Barack Obama's continuation and cover-up of this system? Didn't the American people demand a national day of mourning and atonement when they realized that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis had been murdered in a war based on false pretenses and cynical manipulation?

So let us have faith in the American people. They have proven time and again in this last decade that they will not countenance crimes and atrocities being committed in their names. They will not abide leaders who unleash a war machine of blood money and blind fury against innocent people. When push comes to shove, when the truth is revealed to them, they will always -- always -- do the right thing.
To Floyd's summary, one might add ... um ... interminably. The mythical greatness of the American people goes on and on and on.

The "people of good conscience" Jefferson was talking about have remained silent -- or else they were falsely assumed to be "of good conscience". So much for American "greatness".

It might seem surprising to see this mythical quality extolled by a writer who opposes the endless wars of empire. But as Chris Floyd noted in a more recent post, this is the sort of analysis we often get from
... American "progressives" -- almost of all whom are deeply marinated in their own brand of American exceptionalism ...
We don't expect that sort of "marinated analysis" around here, though ... at least not usually. Usually we make it clear here that the greatness of the American people is on a par with the greatness of sharks.

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On A Personal Note: A Sudden and Unexpected Turn

My physical condition, which has precluded my blogging for most of the past year, has taken a sudden and unexpected turn -- for the better!

I am still struggling with pain (and painkillers!) and still having problems with mobility and strength, but these aspects of my daily grind are much improved recently.

I expect to be able to blog again, if only on a very limited basis.

None too soon, I might add.

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