Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American Exceptionalism

The title of this essay is a phrase which many studied and learned observers of cultural and behavioral anthropology have been using to describe the tendency of Americans to become so enthralled by the view of their country that a healthy sense of humility has been replaced by a potentially troublesome and Narcissistic hubris.

It makes some sense when one recalls that George W. Bush was re-elected to a second term.

How in Hell did that happen?

The Rovian White House bet and won that appealing to the egos, flag waving tribalism disguised as true patriotism, motherhood in the disguise of a threatened black bear with her cubs, and testosterone of a vast number of citizens who held the view that America, and by extension Americans, are the saviours of the world, would carry the day. Sound bites, spin, propaganda like "Don't change horses in the middle of the stream", stuck like mud to the walls of the walled off minds against which it was flung.

It's actually not surprising. There are unnumbered examples in history. In our own time
the French still like to think of themselves as the center of the Universe, though rescued by the Allies in WWII. The French King, Henry XIV, called himself the Sun God, around whom everything revolved. DeGaulle perpetuated a similar arrogance.

No one has ever wanted to be thought of as over the hill. Countries, empires, so-called great powers are simply congregations of those no ones.

But history is the story of, among other things, the building up, leveling off and decline of everything, including peoples who create something special, enjoy it for awhile, but continue awareness that one should not rest on their laurels, followed by a decline in that awareness, replaced by a wish to simply enjoy the fruits of life, forgetting what it took for ancestors to plant, fertilize, tend, care for the vines which produced the fruit.

In the world of business and commerce the phrase which best captures this very natural process is, "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations".

In our local rag today, The Cape Cod Times, I saw a quote by Billie Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A's baseball franchise, commenting on the third time our opening day was played in Japan. "Who knows where this will lead? Some day, we may literally have a World Series."

I cite this quote as just one piece of evidence that American Exceptionalism is real. Why in the world should we call the end of our baseball series, The World Series?

I know many people who would tell me that I hate America, and should leave, and not let the door hit me in the ass on the way out. These are just the kind of people who believe in American Exceptionalism. How about just a little bit of humility, especially now that George Bush has convinced the rest of the world of our deeply stained fabric.

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper.

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