Friday, December 02, 2011

Oh, Put It To Bed, Please

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for December 2, 2011

            O.K, we’re in a grumpy mood, despite Christmas cheer wafting around in the Santa Ana winds that are blowing Los Angeles into the sea. We’re unemployed, we’re poor, we’re cranky.  Well, at least 99% of us are.  But in the gloom, there may be a shining glimmer of hope.  As reported in the Dec 2nd The Week, “As recently as 2002, 60 percent of U.S. citizens surveyed said they agreed with the statement, ‘Our people are not perfect but our culture is superior to others.’  But with our economy in tatters, our debt rising, and our foreign interventions producing frustration, American’s belief in our innate superiority has fallen to 49 percent, below a majority for the first time.”

To which I can only say, “It’s about time.”  This phony belief in “American Exceptionalism” was always a dangerous notion, useful for deluding school children and a handy tool used by demagogues hoping to fool the lumpen proletariat. Recently, we’ve heard a great deal of huffing about it from Republican candidates who take gassy umbrage at President Obama whenever he dares to gently point out America’s clay-footed reality, as if pointing out clay feet to a world keenly aware of those giant muddy brogans is nothing more than stating the obvious.

Ronald Reagan’s political ad men really cranked up that “shining city on a hill”  hokum and it’s been the Holy Grail of conservative mythmaking ever since.  True, America was seen as a New Jerusalem to a small band of early immigrants, but to vast numbers of other arrivals, America was never a City of God but a Wide Open City Of Main Chances.  It was a place where boomers and strivers, the greedy, the ambitious, the talented and the lucky could find a place to make their dreams come true.  It was also a welcoming home for the rapacious thieves and scalliwags who came to prey, not pray.

And they almost all did very well for themselves. But it does not take too long reading real history, not the fake kind we love so well, to discover that Tolstoy’s dictum, “Behind every great fortune is a great crime,” applies to many of our most revered American Heroes.  You don’t have to look very deeply inside our cherished “American Exceptionalism” to find slave holders, shady land deals, a few duels, genocide, broken treaties, outright theft, treason, and the endless litany of sleazy ethically-compromised “sausage-making” that constitutes how our Congress gets anything done.  Shining City?  Washington?  As if.

No, America isn’t exceptional, and it isn’t singularly blessed by God to be a beacon to the world, and it isn’t a New Jerusalem.  Its founders brilliantly created some distinctly unique wrinkles in self-governance that greatly improved the chances that a democracy of and by and for the people could survive and even thrive, but governments and nations are living things – fallible, finite, fragile.  They need constant care, but the care must be founded on a cool-eyed, realistic assessment of how things are actually operating.

I mean, it’s no good handing a mechanically-challenged, muddle-headed, ideologue a brand new Rolls Royce. If he believes that it’s God Made and hence Perfect in all its parts and forms, he won’t hear that the engine is running a bit rough.  Or see that the wheel bearings need repacking. And if you point out those realities, it will only earn you a thrashing as a Commie or a “person who hates America.”  And if you silence and cow the realists long enough, the very real engine block will seize up, the wheels will fall off and that gorgeous Rolls will go off into the ditch.  

So, please.  Enough with this fake American Exceptionalism.  Dump it.  God had nothing to do with the disasters we create.  In this latest mess, God’s in the clear.  He didn’t do it. A whole bunch of war mongers, greedy rapacious gamblers and wholly-owned Corporate Boss Tweedian Pols and a citizenry cowed or deluded by shining cities on hills or just asleep at the switch failed to pay attention to the engine light that came on.

And now the country’s grumpy.  Good.  Maybe this time, they’ll pay attention and will call in a whole bunch of realistic mechanics who know what a real engine “ping” sounds like and just how to fix it.           



mom said...

testing. testing.

Mike Taylor said...

Wow, you really stand up for the “I hate America” group of loonies. I guess you really have to dig deep and pull out Reagan to hate all over again, come on I thought G. Bush was the choice to blame every thing on. Why is it that when Comrade Obama is unwilling or unable to show leadership for this country it becomes necessary to destroy it. Ann, are you one of the 1% group, if you are, just remember this every time you buy something for yourself or your beautiful dogs you are supporting a capitalist.

Anne R. Allen said...

I agree. Joining the rest of the human race isn't a bad idea. We might even start teaching our kids several languages, like the rest of the civilized world. The globe has got too small for us to maintain a state of childish narcissism.

The other night, Jon Stewart introduced a segment on the Egyptian elections saying that we might be surprised to learn that other countries had elections. "I sure was," he deadpanned. "You mean there are *other countries*?!!

Time for us to grow up and see that we are no better and no worse than other people and we're all in this together. Especially since China now owns us all...

Churadogs said...

Mike sez:" Wow, you really stand up for the “I hate America” group of loonies"

Mike, that statment tells me you've been watching too much Glen Beck. Uninformed, mindless jingoism does not serve this country well. Jingo is like the Mom who blindly dotes on her handsome foot-ball playing son who prances around the field yelling "I'm number one! I'm number one," but fails to do his homework or pay attention in class and after graduating wakes up to find out he can't spell or do math and can't get a job while his geeky, nerdy classmates, whose Mom's were like Barak Obama's and woke them up at 5 a/m and sat them at a table and said, STUDY, now have all the jobs and own the town. Blind doting Mothers do no service to their spoiled sons and daughters.

I would also suggest you start reading some better history books. Our real history is far richer, more challenging and far worthier of genuine admiration than that fake made up stuff spooned out to us.

and sez:"just remember this every time you buy something for yourself or your beautiful dogs you are supporting a capitalist."

I am ALSO paying the WORKER who made that something for my beautiful dogs. People nowadays keeep forgetting there's two parts to that capitalist equation.