As an American Studies specialist I’ve been mulling the American assumption that our ancestors were chosen by God to set an example to the undercivilized countries for over sixty years. Raised as a Catholic, I was also constantly taught that I was chosen especially! The current Afghan scandals have made me take this long last look.
I would begin by asserting that soldiers who cavort at Abu Grab the ways ours did are exceptionally uncivilized. Pissing on corpses and gunning down sleeping children and cutting fingers off corpses for souvenirs are diabolically evil. Equally amoral are the U.S. Army medicos in Fort Lewis and elsewhere refusing badly wounded soldiers federal pensions. How phoney our Fourth of July praises sound in light of this ugly reality.
We are used to easy rhetoric when our soldiers returned dead to repeat pious platitudes about their sacrifices. As a person who volunteered for the Navy on my seventeenth birthday, I consider myself reasonably patriotic. But I aspire to be rational as well. These are really evil soldiers who get off on what we have been seeing in Afghanistan( and Iraq and Vietnam and the Philippines and Hawaii and Red Indians).
Our military abuse of other cultures has been a landmark of our “civilization” since King Phillips War. When our Puritan Forebears weren’t “excommunicating” other Christian sects (the Sharia Law of the 18th century!) they were abolishing any Indians that got in their way (there weren’t highways yet!) Our first “common man” President, Andy Jackson, perfected this maneuver in the Vale of Tears from Florida to Oklahoma. Without “reservations” we’ve been shortchanging our real forebears, except for the lucky few who get casino licenses.
Not to forget the black slaves who had to wait for Lyndon Johnson to get the right to vote! And anti-blacks are devising ID ploys today for blocking those votes. Don’t forget Thomas Jefferson had a black mistress. And Foundering Father George Washington had slaves at Mount Vernon. So evasive were Southern gentlemen to abolishing slavery, that 600,000 soldiers lost their lives unnecessarily to “free” them. Until the Feds stopped pressure to enforce black freedom in exchange for Rutherford B. Hayes’ election in 1876. The states took over. And Jim Crow thrived until 1965!
Heh, until then our flag should have been white, red and black. And in 2012 the ID counterrevolution is trying to keep blacks and browns vote free! Nice examples we’ve been setting.
As an American Lit professor I was surprised to discover that Mark Twain and William Dean Howells raised hell when America started to expand its rule to Hawaii, the Philippines and Puerto Rico! (They tried in Cuba, but we flopped there.) In 1916 Woodrow Wilson (who loved our first pro-slavery moving picture—Virginian gentleman that he was!) promised to keep the U.S. out of World War I—until he decided to “keep the world safe for democracy” (which was his way of sending the Marines throughout Central America to safeguard American banana farms, et al.) And he had the duplicity to put pacifist Eugene V. Debs in Federal prison for ten years for opposing the war. (Of course it had nothing to do with his founding a railroad union and being a Socialist nominee for president.) Try your neighbors who know these contradictions in our undereducated fellow Americans.
The ID flap is not the only way to steal minority votes. It is an outrage that blacks and browns who sell dope on the street go to jail, but the white sloburbans who take the same dope back to their college rooms go scot free. That is major reason for Americans leading the world in incarceration.
Now I don’t believe all of our legislators made those laws to entrap minorities, but many do. You may have missed the fact that more and more correctional corporations are trying to privatize incarceration- It’s a steady business and getting bigger and better. Do you remember the recent scandal in Pennsylvania when several judges were arrested for supplying more and more young defendants to these privatizing jails?
Somehow we miss crucial details in our infantilized media system: CIA and FBI did not share information they had separately gathered that many Islamic citizens were learning how to fly large airplanes. Those “students” ended up 9/11 committing their suicides in lower Manhattan. Yet a fascist sounding TSA is examining old ladies with breast protection. The hypocrisy of politicians like Dick Cheney who prate rhetoric about teaching the world democracy when they really want to keep an oil resource and/or make easy money for their former corporations which are mercernaryizing our armed forces.
In short, Americans have been exceptionally busy confusing themselves about who is chosen for what and why. Americans have been exceptionally hypocritical about Exceptionalism. Me thinks they protest exceptionally uncritically. Let’s join the human race and stop pretending we’re so great. WE AIN’T.
But it would be a tribute to our high ideals if we actually practiced what we’ve been preaching to others who have seen through our contradictory behavior.