Some are saying the United States is no longer the dominant world power it used to be. See, for example, “A shattering moment in America’s fall from power” by John Gray and “Financial Hubs See an Opening Up at the Top: Wall Street’s Long, Dominant Run Is Fading, Global Financiers Say” by Ariana Eunjung Cha in today’s New York Times.
A decline from Top Dog status is inevitable; what goes up must come down, nothing lasts forever, etc. I’d like to think that if Al Gore had become POTUS in 2001 the decline would have been long forestalled. But the fact is that the social pathology known as “American conservatism” would have used its media muscle to weaken Gore and push us toward the edge of the cliff, anyway.
The Tao brings all things to equilibrium. A nation puffed up with a myth of its own exceptionalism is asking to be deflated.
I’ve argued in the past that the U.S. has to choose between being a republic or an empire; we can’t be both. The American Right chose “empire.” But if we fail as an empire, as we seem to be doing, maybe we’ve got a shot at restoring a republic. We’ll see.
I thought of this today when I read Jonathan Freeland’s column at The Guardian — “This pansy-ass limey Brit won’t butt out â€” the US election is our business.” Three weeks ago, Freedland wrote a column saying the world would judge America harshly if we choose McCain over Obama. Naturally, this column inspired some spirited objections.
The counterblasts featured all the usual themes familiar to any columnist or blogger who wades into this terrain. America had saved Europe’s “ass” twice before â€” and we would doubtless come bleating for help again when we inevitably sought rescue from the Muslim hordes imposing sharia law on London, Paris and Berlin. We can’t defend ourselves, of course, because we are limp-wristed “Euroweenies”, effeminate socialists whose own decline robs us of the right to say anything about the United States, which remains the greatest nation on earth.
Britain specifically forfeited the right to meddle in US affairs more than two centuries ago, when it lost the War of Independence. Besides, Obama is a Marxist, so Europe is welcome to him. One Bill07407 managed to capture the flavour of this virtual avalanche â€” including the curiously homoerotic undercurrent that runs through much rightwing American invective â€” with this effort: “If you want Comrade Obama we will gladly ship him over after he loses in a landslide. Meanwhile you can kiss my ass. I bet you would enjoy it faggot.” Equally reflective, this from bioguy777: “I love it! A pansy-ass limey Brit begs the US to do his bidding while his own country slips further towards total Islamic rule. We’re electing McCain, and the rest of the world can piss up a rope if they don’t like it. 1776, BITCH!”
Brits may find this amusing. They don’t have to live with these creeps.
For too long, the myth of American exceptionalism has prevented us from dealing honestly and pragmatically with both foreign and domestic issues. Too many Americans seems to think our country is a fortress of might and plenty unto itself, and what goes on elsewhere has no effect on us. If what goes on elsewhere is not to our liking, we have the almighty U.S. military and and endless flow of wealth to set things right. And, of course, God is on our side.
We can endlessly analyze the social-psychological miswiring that causes this attitude. However, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to understand there’s a deeply buried existential fear at the core of the hair-on-fire need to feel “exceptional.”
Whatever the cause, can a majority of Americans come to understand that our superpower, top dog status is not what makes us a great nation? And that we might actually be a happier, saner and more stable nation if we forget about being a mighty empire and re-focus on being the best republic we can be?
Sort of along these lines, a few days ago columnist Kathleen Parker wrote that Sarah Palin is out of her league and should step down as veep candidate. Today she discusses the reaction —
Allow me to introduce myself. I am a traitor and an idiot. Also, my mother should have aborted me and left me in a dumpster, but since she didn’t, I should “off” myself. …
…Who says public discourse hasn’t deteriorated?
The fierce reaction to my column has been both bracing and enlightening. After 20 years of column writing, I’m familiar with angry mail. But the past few days have produced responses of a different order. Not just angry, but vicious and threatening.
This must be the first time she’s pissed off the Right.
My mail paints an ugly picture and a bleak future if we do not soon correct ourselves.
The picture is this: Anyone who dares express an opinion that runs counter to the party line will be silenced. That doesn’t sound American to me, but Stalin would approve.
Readers have every right to reject my opinion. But when we decide that a person is a traitor and should die for having an opinion different from one’s own, we cross into territory that puts all freedoms at risk. (I hear you, Dixie Chicks.)
The thing is, there’s nothing new about this attitude. Anyone who has waded into the world of Free Republic has bumped into the “totalitarians for liberty” crowd. Or is it “libertarians for totalitarianism”? Whatever. We don’t call ’em wingnuts for nothing.
Whatever they are, wingnuts wrap themselves in the conceit that they are the mainstream and speak for the majority of Americans. If it ever dawns on them that they are, in fact, an unpopular minority faction, they are likely to become more dangerous.