Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels in countries around the world, but American Exceptionalism stands out for its unique degree of stupidity and hubris.
If there’s one way the United States is truly exceptional today, it’s that we’ve become perhaps the dumbest, proudest country on Earth.
After all, more than 40% of our citizens believe in the Rapture. We act as if two dollar gas is our God-given right. And you can be pretty sure that, at this very moment somewhere in Tennessee or Texas, a moron teacher is telling her science class that they really needn’t bother with, er, science, on such subjects as climate change or evolution.
Proud and prouder
Living in the South, I have some sympathy for put-upon folks, mocked for decades as hicks or “rednecks” by the urban types who have grabbed all the money in the last fifty years and who enjoy all the prestige today. Though it doesn’t give them back the self-reliance that once served as a justifiable source of yeoman-American pride, I can understand why too many working-class rural people today grab at the idiotic ideas so readily fed to them by big corporations and the GOP through Fox News. It may be their only way to tweak the city slickers.
But when smart people from big cities who should know better behave the same way, then I know that American civilization has gotten stuck in among the smelliest, rottenest trash that sticks to the bottom of the dumpster.
Case in point: At a campaign event in Wisconsin last week, professional slogan-repeater Mitt Romney accused President Obama of not caring enough about “American exceptionalism.”
Fortunately, Obama responded by giving Romney a stern lecture on patriotism and scoundrel refuges. End of story.
Obama did nothing of the kind. Instead, he decided to try to out-jingo the jingo:
“It’s worth noting that I first arrived on the national stage with a speech at the Democratic Convention that was entirely about American exceptionalism and that my entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism,” Obama replied in a sickeningly jokey White House press conference. “But, you know, I will cut folks some slack for now because they’re still trying to get their nomination.”
Thank Joe Stalin
This might not be JFK-enough to make Rick Santroum want to hurl, but for those of us Americans still left with an IQ above 80, hearing Obama say something so loutish feels like sucking on the tailpipe of a Chicago Transit Authority bus.
After all, “American exceptionalism” was never penned by Jefferson or Madison as a celebration of a blessed country’s unique role as a bringer of light to the nations through democratic government and free enterprise. And you can’t blame de Tocqueville for this dumbass phrase either.
No, “American exceptionalism” was first used by Joseph Stalin as a way to criticize American Communists for thinking they were somehow different from fellow-travelers in other, more-class conscious, countries. Later, sociologists picked up on the term to psychoanalyze the American mentality, to try to explain why we do exceptionally dumb things like enter into unwinnable wars such as Vietnam and Afghanistan just when they’re abandoned by less muscular imperial powers.
Now we find ourselves in a place where even a smart guy like Obama uses “American exceptionalism” as some kind of badge of honor.
And that means we shouldn’t expect any kind of understanding from our elites anytime soon that the U.S. should behave as a good world citizen or that we should rein in our wasteful use of energy and other resources and stop trashing the place from sea to shining sea.
Instead, we can just look for more talk about feeling special. And a sense of entitlement that can’t lead anywhere good.
— Erik Curren, Transition Voice