Monday, January 30, 2012

One very special country

I, being someone who lives outside the US and who isn't considered a right wing lunatic in my home country, like the Democrats more than the Republicans.  I was happy when Obama beat McCain in 2008 and although Obama is far too right wing for me to support on his own he was definitely the lesser of two evils.  Despite my high hopes he continually manages to do things that make me cringe in disgust or fear, oftentimes both together.  I read over his State of the Union address recently and I really do wonder how anybody in any country could read this sort of thing and accept it at face value.  This isn't unique to Americans of course as most countries hold an unaccountably high opinion of themselves; rather in the same way that 90% of people are sure they are in the top 50% of drivers.   Some of the things in that address that jumped out at me:

America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs - and as long as I'm President, I intend to keep it that way.

From the coalitions we've built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we've led against hunger and disease; from the blows we've dealt to our enemies; to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.

We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings - men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

It boggles my mind.  Nobody could get along without America; otherwise who would start wars with other nations on completely fabricated grounds and demolish other nations who do the same?  Who would stand alone defending archaic systems of measurement against the entire world who has standardized itself in Metric?  (To be fair, Liberia and Burma are also holdouts.)  It is true that America holds a unique position as the most powerful economic and military power worldwide but somehow that has been construed to mean that everybody else needs America rather than the other way around.

The moral example of might makes right really doesn't seem like the sort of thing America should necessarily be touting as a contribution to moral authority.  It is true that there are regimes in the world that are worse than the one in America in terms of how they treat their own people but one would be hard pressed to find a regime that has done more damage to *other* people.  Did the North Vietnamese really need a 500 pound bomb dropped on their nation for every single person in the country?  Were the various bombing campaigns America has engaged in throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia somehow designed to convince us that America is good?  In my book murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians in other countries in pursuit of military or economic goals is much more akin to attempted genocide than a laudable moral example.

The fact that all people are determined to belong to either the group 'men' or 'women' is at least a widely accepted convention, though not accurate, but the assumption that all people belong to a Abrahamic faith is quite clearly and blatantly false.  Whether atheists, Wiccans, Taoists, Hindus and many others are simply assumed not to exist or are deemed irrelevant isn't clear but either way I don't much approve of a three way division of humanity into Jew, Muslim or Christian.

In the end this sort of hyberbolic nonsense dosed liberally with frothing patriotism isn't unique to America but it does seem to be at its worst there.  Canadians are known for being nonaggressive and accommodating and yet our politicians too paint us as the greatest of the great.  The difference may just be in plausible deniability; the Canadian Prime Minister can hardly claim we are indispensable to world affairs though I am quite sure he would if he thought he could get away with it.  I think being the sole superpower means that Americans feel entitled to speak of themselves as if their ascent is both deserved and eternal; they would do well to consider the fate of every other monolothic world power that has ever existed.  The Mongol Empire was mighty once too.

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