American Exceptionalism?

I agree with you. The United States of America is awesome. We are awesome.

It may only be a matter of time before the American news media puts The Comedy Channel out of business. For, which SNL comic could deliver that line above with such sincere fervor and straight face? It is a tribute to the dazzling success of the self-esteem movement, which applauds a child’s accomplishment, regardless of the number of feet away from the baseball, he swings the baseball. Yes. We incarcerated, and tortured, and anally raped, and trampled on their religious sentiments. Yes, Many of them were completely and knowingly innocent. But we did it in an awesome manner, and for awesome cause. We are awesome!

Should we sit down in ashes and wail in jeremiad lament? Nay. It’s time for another Anderson Cooper giggle fit!

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And yet there was a time when America was awesome; when American Exceptionalism had some recognizable validity. And that Exceptionalism had less to do with a “benevolent global hegemony” and material success; but with uniquely distinctive understandings and principles. One of these American eccentricities came to mind during all those NSA exposes last year.

After the expose of the PRISM program, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, a previous leader of the Conservative Party, declared.

The net effect is if you are a law abiding citizen of this country, going about your business and your personal life, you have nothing to fear; nothing to fear about the British state or intelligence agencies listening to the content of your phone calls or anything like that.

It was that expansive expression of posh condescension, inculcated in this son of Dandelion and Burdock manufacturers, declaring you have nothing to fear; which provided that magic moment; one, which I doubt, American parodists could out-parody. Had someone scripted and produced those lines in a movie drama, the thespian would have been mocked for ham acting; the scriptwriter lampooned for creating such a stickman caricature.

I can imagine Herr Doctor Hague greeting with wide smile and sweeping assurance for those naked Juden, trudging towards those shower stalls.

If you are an obedient and healthy inhabitant of this camp, going about your assigned tasks and routines, you have nothing to fear; nothing to fear about these soldier’s protrusions or oversized easy bake ovens.

Herr Hague might be a persona who could probably get away with it.

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It was this if you are a law abiding citizen of this country, you have nothing to fear attitude, distinctive of British Toryism, and one with which I was familiar here in Canada of my youth, which reminded me of the Exceptionalism of the historical small-r republicans of the American political heritage. In America, there was always acknowledgment that that propensity towards mendacity, vice, self-aggrandizement and tyrannical impulses in humanity did not magically terminate upon election or appointment to civic offices. The watch guards needed to be vigilantly watched and occasionally resisted.

The ability and license to “collect it all”, acquired by the NSA or GCHQ, in the name of protection against criminal and foreign elements, is not merely a matter of an inconvenient invasion of privacy. Rather, that information could enable the use and abuse by these watch guards to violate the life, liberty and welfare of its citizenry or even of the foreign elements! That point is rarely raised.

The good will and motivations of the governors are too readily assumed by the governed nowadays. This shows up in the U.S. by the all too easy acceptance of porn photography and genital groping by the TSA, roadside shakedowns of vehicular occupants, pre-trial exoneration of corrupt and/or incompetent cops, warrantless collection of private information, quick dismissal of military and intelligence travesties or the expansion of Presidential discretion in the execution and de facto legislation of laws.

The roots of this devolution from American Exceptionalism are theological/philosophical. A Puritan or Non-Conformist version of Calvinism, which stressed the radical propensity and enslavement of human nature to evil, including in that of the governors, founded this republican impulse, which maintained healthy skepticism of civic officials and structures to check corruption and tyranny. However, with the dilution of this skeptical perception of the virtue of human nature comes a dilution of that healthy skepticism and perceived need for citizens to protect themselves from their leaders.

In this regard, America is no longer Exceptionalist.

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