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A little rant on American Exceptionalism to start your day.

“We’re Americans…we’re better than this…”- a survivor of Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting rampage commenting on recent mass shootings in the news.
‘We’re Americans…we’re better than this…’

‘No, no we’re not.’ was my first thought when I heard that statement made on NPR this morning. The myth of American exceptionalism is a dangerous one, and it needs to die. I was going to say, ‘it needs to die if we’re ever going to get ‘better’ than this’, but there’s really no getting better than this. This is the human condition, and we are only able to improve by understanding that we are all animals, and we are all capable of any kind of behavior under the sun.

Think of the worst people you know. Odds are, they believe they have it all figured out. Human potential only shows through when people embrace struggle; the cruelest, stupidest, most backwards among us are people who have decided it is better to embrace a comfortable illusion than to be real.

“God is on our side. Our people are better than their people. My kids would never do anything like that.”

There is no god. People are people. You better believe your kids are capable of anything.

Let’s stop bullshitting ourselves. We’ve got work to do.

cross posted at EVERYTHING IN THE MEDICINE CABINET HAS EXPIRED.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

    by Spencer Troxell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 05:12:50 AM PDT

  •  I agree that exceptionalism is dangerous (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kestrel9000, Smoh

    and destructive. I would think that if you're totally obsessed with the US being "number one" (at anything other than incarceration and military spending), you'd want to look and see where we actually are in say, education, or health care, or standard of living. Then you'll notice we're not AT number one in those things. Then take a look at what country IS number one. See what they are doing differently, and see how that approach could be adapted to the US, and start competing. Americans like competition, right?

    NO. We like to say we're number one even when we're not and call anyone who disagrees "un American".

    Yep. It's dangerous alright.

    I know what Mitt Romney is hiding: Mitt Romney. equalitymaine.org

    by commonmass on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 05:27:33 AM PDT

  •  Completely agree (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kestrel9000, Smoh

    a British comedian was on "Wait,Wait, Don't Tell Me" a week or two ago and was asked if he was proud to be British because of the Olympics. "that's stupid," he said. "being proud because of where you happened to fall out on this Earth is stupid. What next? Being proud because you're Cesarean?" (ok, I don't get the last part, but British humor can be tricky). Every country has exceptional and nonexceptional people. Why can't we like what we have without feeling the need to say it's better than what someone else has? And I think American exceptionalism adherents stand in the way of us learning from other countries and trying to "borrow" some of their good ideas--because they cannot acknowledge that any country might sometimes have a better way of doung things than we do.

    We Won't Let Republicans Replace Medicare with GOP Vouchercare!

    by CatM on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 05:32:12 AM PDT

  •  Missing the point of "exceptionalism." (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Spencer Troxell

    To say that "We're better than those people over there because we're Americans" is the danger of exceptionalism.

    But "being American" means something else to a lot of people.  It reflects an ideal that we should be an example through how we think; how we treat other people; how we react when someone else needs help.  It doesn't mean being a global bully, or ramming one's belief-system down another's throat.  "Being American," for many, means standing up for the little guy, whether he's your next door neighbor or he's on the other side of the planet.

    But the profiteers of partisanship punditry have twisted that, and it cannot be fixed so long as they --- those who will profit immensely from Mr. Loughner's heinous act --- hold their positions of authority.

    Think about this for just a moment:  Think of what our politicized media has become; how the traction garnered from the sensationalism of this one event will fuel their purpose, and fill their bank accounts.  They have invented "Global Fame Via Infamy" --- and offer it freely to anyone who's interested.  Being "friended" or "liked" on a social network is becoming culturally ingrained as more important than being a decent human being --- and Loughner will get more attention with this one act of destructive stupidity than he could get from two or three lifetimes on Facebook.

    I wouldn't be worrying about the guy on NPR.  I'd be worrying, instead, about the individual exceptionalism of a million or so Jared Lee Loughners, each and every one being about a hair's-breadth away from putting into action their own cognitively-contaminated means of declaring "I'm bigger and better than everyone else."

    I count even the single grain of sand to be a higher life-form than the likes of Sarah Palin and her odious ilk.

    by Liberal Panzer on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 05:56:49 AM PDT

  •  I see American Exceptionalism as part of (0+ / 0-)

    the robber class narrative. If one says "In unregulated capitalism, the super rich will take all the money; just like they did for the last 5000 years". They say "That won't happen here because of American Exceptionalism". And the sheep fall for it and get sheared.

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

    by PowWowPollock on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 06:12:31 AM PDT

  •  sad times (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Barbara Marquardt

    this is a sad time to be alive anywhere on the planet. as the dominant species we are taking the long and low road of evolution.  i keep thinking perhaps we have to take one step back before we can take two forward. well that's what i keep telling myself. it's easier to tell myself that than accepting that the human race is devolving, no longer learning, growing - that civilization has stopped moving forward and has turned on itself like a body with cancer.  i read history books to remind myself of the "worser" old days.  we've come so far technologically but haven't crawled out of the primordial ooze when it comes to wars over religion, hatred of color, fear of vaginas. the people hear the drumbeat of what they should hate or fear or fight from what used to be trusted sources -the preacher, the newman, the teacher, but those leaders are themselves products of manipulation of secret  hands.  the majority of us are conflicted as we realize the flawed leader is the best we can hope for.  cynicism takes hold as we grapple with the reality of forces so beyond our control, that it becomes easier to become one of them - one of the haters, one of the fearful, one of the bunker dwellers - instead of living in the light, pushing where ever we are for all of us to be better, to live up to our potential. to move the bar higher for all - even if it's just the inch.   just when i see a little improvement in one area and feel that little glow inside - that oh look at that, isn't that inspiring - there are the constant intruders of bad news that assault the good deed doers and make them appear foolish for even trying. but those of us who want better have to keep pushing, being louder, being stronger, being more organized, being the leaders, following what we know to be
    the upward - forward path.  we cannot allow the monied, the cruel, the me firsters to drag us back to those "worser" times.  i just wish i was stronger, had more resources, the handle on the megaphone.  i wish i knew for sure there are more of us then there are of them...................my favorite quote comes from a Star Trek episode where Mr. Spock says "in an insane world the sane man appears insane"  i guess i'm appearing quite insane these days.

    •  In spite of my rant, (0+ / 0-)

      I think mankind is improving. Read 'The Better Angels of Our Nature' by Steven Pinker for evidence. We are getting better at introspection, and society is becoming more open. We will always experience growing pains.

      I think you may be succumbing to--if not 'the good old days' fallacy, then at least 'the better old days' fallacy.

      Life seems more urgent as we experience it, so I think we have a tendency towards transference when interpreting current events.

      "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

      by Spencer Troxell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 06:37:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Smoh

    The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

    by Azazello on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 06:35:31 AM PDT

  •  Not helpful. (0+ / 0-)

    The greatest, most humanistic Americans believed in the "myth" you think should die, and were driven by it to morally excel.  It's the same myth that drove the British to a different path than their continental European brethren.  "We're better than this" does not mean others are not - it just means we have no excuses.  Are you seriously in favor of giving people excuses to be worthless?

    Republicans would rather live in shit than be seen working a shovel.

    by Troubadour on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 06:46:46 AM PDT

    •  I'm in favor (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Smoh, Barbara Marquardt

      of people being real. The whole statement was 'We're Americans...we're better than this'. You do not become 'better than this' by virtue of being an American. You become 'better than this' by recognizing you have the seed of every conceivable action inside of you, and that your skin color, your country, and the family you are born into don't make you 'better than' in any way. I wouldn't have thought twice about someone saying 'we can be better than this'.

      "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

      by Spencer Troxell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 06:51:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The myth was always a lie. (0+ / 0-)

      America's greater opportunity has only been true when compared with much worse places that immigrants have escaped from. Loving one's country or town for what is good about them is a totally different thing from saying that Americans are better than others. And I don't understand why you think Britain's history is better than that of continental Europe.  It's all horrific, with some good and some progress mixed in. If you take a single issue that makes Britain look good, like ending slavery before we did, or maybe beneficial aspects of common law, you can find other disgraceful aspects, like burning criminals and witches alive, and the same can be done for all countries.  And yet each also has many people who love the place where they grew up.  If they think they are better than others because of it, that is rarely anything but prejudice.

      •  and now the opportunities are gone (0+ / 0-)

        Colonists and early immigrants had the advantage of a huge and mostly empty continent full of untapped natural resources, little in the way of established authority, and the ability to pack up and move if they didn't like the way things were run.  Any random peasant who could afford (and survive) the trip could build himself a little house, plant himself a little farm, and live better and freer than he could ever hope to back in Europe.

        Europe on the other hand was crowded, deforested, every scrap of land was owned by some noxious little prick of an aristocrat, rack-renting and heavy taxes, forced labor and tithes, constant warfare, guilds controlling the learning and practice of skilled trades, police states and established churches monitoring everything you said and did, legitimately burdensome trade barriers, etc.

        The reason Americans don't understand their situation is that we're all still wedded to a mythology and self-image created in circumstances that don't exist anymore.  America today is a mature society with far more in common with the societies most of our ancestors left than with the early colonial days.  What that means is that there's nowhere to run anymore, and there's little or nothing an individual can do.  It may take the kind of massive and violent action that characterized revolutions against deeply entrenched establishments in Europe and Asia.

        To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

        by Visceral on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 10:31:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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