There’s something on my mind pretty often when I see how other folks from the United States of America, particularly more privileged folks, engage with the country’s history and politics. I’ve discussed it in other blog posts, but I’m getting a sense that it’s time to address it more directly.
So here goes.
There’s always been an evangelical, navel-gazing element to the USA; a way of seeing that the entire world can, or really, must, flow through us.
There was this one Puritan settler in 1630 who said that the USA needed to be a “city upon a hill“, in reference to Jesus exhorting his followers that they were the saviors of the world. The settler’s preaching became very well-known, and was most famously brought up again by Ronald Reagan, over 300 years later.
(John F. Kennedy brought it back to the mainstream, though.)
And that’s when I start feeling like there’s some very reasonable conversations that need to be had about American exceptionalism – the idea that the USA is different and special and divinely inspired in ways that no other country is.
-So we are all clear that white settlers genocided the folk who’d lived in the lands that the USA before they got here, right? And that this multi-century process was justified by American exceptionalism? (see: Manifest Destiny)
-And that this country did that whole ‘slavery’ thing worse than nearly any other country-like thing in history ever has, before or since?
-And that the establishment of freedom of religion has roots in Christian settlers agreeing to disagree about the dehumanization and enslavement of people of African ethnicity (warning for academic sourcing)? And very little to do with acceptance of and respect for anything other than Christianity, at least in practice?
-And that now we have a president acting like this nation’s land is a divine deliverance to white Christians in comparison to anyone from ‘shithole countries’, and that around 40 percent of the white adults of this country agree with him?
These are not controversial statements in terms of factualness. If they were, Donald Trump’s poll numbers, and those of the Republican Party in general, would not have the ‘high floor’ that they have had for the last 50 years.
They are why we are heading towards a kind of civil conflict unlike anything there’s ever been before.
Which brings us to the title of this post.
There was this political identity called neoconservatism in the USA. It was pretty popular, especially in the 1990s and 2000s, among the magazine-writing type.
The central policy of neoconservatism is basically that the USA has the right to kill whoever the USA decides it’s good for it to kill, in the name of democracy and free markets.
There was a lot of high-school-level nonsense about who was and wasn’t a neo-conservative – especially after they provided the political cover for the USA-led invasion of Iraq.
But one guy who was an innovative leader of neoconservative-ness was Francis Fukuyama.
He is most famous for writing a book named The End Of History And The Last Man.
My sense of it, drawing from partial reading, is that it is a very long-winded ‘fuck you’ to communism, and a declaration that the USA had just won not only the Cold War, but the game of life. And that there would be no trouble from the country’s continuing with establishing free markets anywhere The People needed them – including with bombs and other forms of military intervention.
It was hideously vile. It was also very popular among the sort of people who help define the USA’s domestic and international policies.
And it is my little reminder of how fucking insane this country generally is about its own importance and centrality, and how much we are never to talk about the people that were slaughtered, enslaved, and otherwise deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the name of wealth and the middle class.
I tend to relate to my attendance of an Ivy League college as a re-emphasizing of everything American.
From this perspective, the Ivy Leagues are to the USA are largely what the USA is to much of the rest of the world: impossibly wealthy, aggressively self-obsessed, somewhat idealistic, and frighteningly influential.
And what I most reflect on is how both the Ivy Leagues (slash academics in general) and the USA are mattering less and less now.
The problem is that, after the level of power, influence, and weapons that the USA has gained in living memory, there is no motivation for anyone with money and power to ask most USA folk to stop being suckers.
There’s no motivation for them to suggest that there’s a tab to pay for all the shit that the country has done, from the 1600s to the last 70 years of military and economic dominance over all the other countries.
(The kind that’s part of why I can write this in the English language and expect it to be readable to a worldwide audience.)
Instead, we have #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. With the Leave It To Beaver-ness that that implies.
And we’re going to have the ideology of #MAGA and its descendants around for a damned long while.
And maybe after that, we’ll be able to talk honestly about the USA being a settler state without looking out for a flagpole in the back.