One year into the Joe Biden administration and most of the world has accepted two realities. First, America is not back, and Biden’s slogans notwithstanding, there simply is no going back to the pre-Trump era. Secondly, whether America keeps troops in various parts of the world or brings them home, America’s will to fight is by and large no longer there. Its implications for the trans-Atlantic relationship will be profound. Europe would be wise to pro-actively adjust its defense policies accordingly. American decision-makers have long warned allies and partners that the United States must reduce its security obligations, lighten its military footprints in certain regions and that greater burden-sharing is inescapable.
History is being written in the United States today. Even the most pessimistic about the prospects of American democracy have rarely ventured out this far while offering a bleak analysis of America’s future, whether in terms of political polarization at home or global standing abroad. As shocking and, certainly, telling as the images of thousands of American protesters taking over the symbols of America’s federal, representative democracy in Washington DC on January 6, it was only a facet in a far more complex and devastating political trajectory that has been in the making for years. While mainstream US media has conveniently attributed all of America’s ills to the unruly character of outgoing President Donald Trump, the truth is not quite so convenient.
Washington, DC - “That is not who we are,” insists the U.S. political class after the grave events of January 6 when a mob of Trump supporters brutally invaded the Capitol here in Washington, DC, leading to the loss of five lives. An entire nation, if not the whole world, has been traumatized, unable to believe that these images came from a developed country in North America. The key questions are simple, “Why” and “How?” The answer is visible in the raw emotions on the demonstrators’ faces, strategically veiled in the concept of “American Exceptionalism” that has done so much damage throughout the history of the country’s democracy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not made the planet any safer from the threat of U.S. militarism. Nothing encapsulates the inhumanity of the U.S. social order more than the loss of tens of millions of jobs and nearly 200,000 lives occurring alongside the expansion of U.S. aggression around the world. For seven months, the majority of the planet has been busy engaging in high level cooperation to contain the pandemic. The U.S. has done the exact opposite, focusing instead on scapegoating China to deflect attention away from its own shortcomings.
Once again, this Fourth of July, Americans will celebrate — to the unwitting militarist racist tune that is the “Star Spangled Banner” — more than just the nation’s Independence Day. Though most folks will, if at a reasonable social distance, focus more on the backyard beer and brats, U.S. jingoism and exceptionalism will invariably be on the menu. That last sentiment, particularly amidst the COVID- and mass protest-exposing era of forever war at home and abroad, deserves a closer and critical look. For exceptionalism is truly a national disease that ravages American bodies and democratic institutions alike. This malignancy must be named and shamed in pursuit of precisely the “participatory patriotism” the holiday purports to celebrate. As the (late) man said, “Always look to the language;” so let us begin there:
Data from around the world on how nations are handling Coronavirus makes clear that, as in most things (this claim is documented below), the United States is exceptionally awful. Among wealthy countries, only Sweden, which has chosen to intentionally allow the disease to spread, has done worse. A handful of countries in Latin America and the Middle East are doing worse than the United States, though some are doing better. As in many world rankings, as documented below, the United States looks fair to middling as a third-world country, but off-the-charts terrible as a wealthy country — much less as a country that endlessly (albeit falsely; see below) calls itself the wealthiest country on earth ever. The United States’ handling of Coronavirus is not a fluke. It’s not an exception. It’s not a case of a country that’s generally competent and well-run screwing up.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the contradictions of U.S. imperialism, including those that continue to render the American left politically isolated and ineffectual. China has found itself at the center of this process. U.S. imperialism has successfully convinced many of its so-called “citizens” to believe that the U.S. government is the principle arbiter of bourgeois freedoms such as the right to individual liberty and free speech. China, on the other hand, has long been depicted by the U.S. ruling class as an “authoritarian regime” where the rights of individuals are crushed under the weight of a centralized state. This Cold War era dichotomy persists into the present day. A strong yet often unspoken belief in the ideology of American exceptionalism within the American Left has created a massive double standard when it comes to China.
Washington, DC - What if the real “invisible enemy” is the enemy from within — America’s very institutions? When the coronavirus pandemic came from distant lands to the United States, it was met with cascading failures and incompetencies by a system that exists to prepare, protect, prevent and cut citizens a check in a national crisis. The molecular menace posed by the new coronavirus has shaken the conceit of “American exceptionalism” like nothing big enough to see with your own eyes. A nation with unmatched power, brazen ambition and aspirations through the arc of history to be humanity’s “shining city upon a hill” cannot come up with enough simple cotton swabs despite the wartime manufacturing and supply powers assumed by President Donald Trump.
In an op-ed published April 1st, former Democratic Party presidential candidate Andrew Yang commented on the increase in racist assaults against Asian-Americans occurring across the country in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Yang argued that Asian-Americans can best respond to racism by appealing to white America and becoming an even stronger fixture within the social order. According to Yang, Asian Americans “…need to embrace and show our American-ness in ways we never have before. We need to step up, help our neighbors, donate gear, vote, wear red white and blue, volunteer, fund aid organizations, and do everything in our power to accelerate the end of this crisis. We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need.”
The 21st century is an age of globalization. Crisis in one part of the world affects all the people of the Earth. We, the humanity, live in co-existence with the Nature of Things within the Universe. If we tend to be blind to basic human requisites of human rights, human safety and care, social justice and peace, we tend to challenge and deny the cosmic harmony and justice in which we exist as mankind. The COVID-19 pandemic crisis is a strand that can be found in the interwoven people’s thought and politics of the 21st-century knowledge-based informed governance that echoes concerns and priorities that humanitarian imperatives are scarified for political expediency. The common sentiment of human solidarity is increasing over the inept nationalistic politics of the few like President Trump- “America First.”
As the capitalist emperor strolls down the avenue of U.S. public opinion butt-naked but for the first time since the 1930s, more and more people are starting to realize that they were not crazy. The brutal failures of the capitalist system that they saw were not a figment of their imagination or a diversion from their own personal failures. Instead, they were the awful reality of degradation, dehumanization and social insecurity embedded in the system. Many could see that reality but wouldn’t allow themselves to believe their own eyes and experiences. They couldn’t call it out like the kid in the fable – until now. The claim that the U.S. was an exceptional nation and that the capitalist order represented the highest expression of human development has been shattered by the second global collapse of the capitalist order within twelve years.
In early March, senior judges in the international criminal court ruled that an investigation into the actions the U.S., Afghan and Taliban military committed in 2003 could take place, overturning a previous ruling. Perhaps more remarkable than the fact the ICC, which had earlier assumed such an investigation wouldn’t be possible because none of those implicated would be likely to cooperate, was the U.S. response to the decision. “This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Although the Trump official’s blatant disparaging of a global justice organization is deeply troubling, American undermining of the ICC predates both Donald Trump’s rise to power and the Afghanistan War.
Coronavirus and second economic collapse in just ten years should finally put to rest the fairy-tale of U.S. Exceptionalism. Trump’s “Make America Great” and Obama’s “U.S. Exceptionalism” are slogans that reflect an ongoing commitment to the normalized assumption of white racial and civilizational superiority. The idea that the territory that became the United States, and its settler population, were specially anointed by a god who gave them providence over the land and the Indigenous people is so ingrained in the national imagination that its extension to rationalize and justify U.S. imperialist policies was seamless. The U.S. over the years shamelessly boasted of its “greatness” and being number one in all things, including having the best healthcare system in the world.
The culture and nation-state of the United States of America are founded on the egregious and forceful dispossession of others. You might even call it an earlier version of fascism – institutional dehumanization for private profit. A myth, or grand lie, was created that we are an exceptional people, effectively pre-empting openly experiencing the important feeling of social shame and, in turn, blocking any accountability or genuine inquiry into our genocidal origins built on stolen land and labor, that murdered millions with impunity. Thus, we live by the fantasy of our superiority, which functionally makes us stupid, as if in a stupor.