“American exceptionalism” – who gives a shit?

Andrew Sullivan has a nice little takedown of the National Review’s latest fatuous paen to America’s collective ego (poor Bill Buckley rolls over in his grave every time his magazine boils an issue down to reductive populist pablum this way. He does a lot of rolling these days).

The whole “America is the greatest thing in the history of things and if you don’t say so out loud or in print every 4.6 seconds then you are a godless pinko faggot” is a favorite blunt object of the right’s to get their dumbasses braying and bludgeon their ideological enemies/superiors. Sullivan, in the condescending tone one inadvertently adopts when speaking to a braggarty small child, rightly points out that the masturbatory, jingoistic rhetoric of articles like this does absolutely nothing to endear America to others; indeed, if it will have an effect at all, it will certainly be the opposite of that, playing right into the Americans as obnoxious loudmouths stereotype.

This has been a peeve of mine for some time now, the conservative obsession with public acknowledgment of America’s greatness. The simple thing I keep coming back to is, What’s the point? What exactly is the point of saying things like, “We remain the world’s sole superpower” and, “We amassed unbelievable wealth?” (direct quotes from the article in question) Okay, you’ve said it. We’re awesome… and? Now what?

On the other hand, I see every reason in the world to point out America’s drawbacks and problems. I see every reason to say things like, “We’re the wealthiest country in the developed world and yet we don’t guarantee our citizens healthcare” and, “We spend more on education on a per-student basis than any other country, and yet our world rank is an embarrassing mid-30s.” Acknowledging and raising awareness about a problem is the first step in solving it. There’s a point to bringing these things up for discussion, an end game in mind.

There is no reason at all to randomly blurt out AMERICA FUCK YEAH every once in a while the way those on the right do and demand of others. According to these people, if you don’t share their stars and stripes fetish combined with a case of semi-controllable tourette’s then you’re just not American enough. In their typical way of charging people with the crime of sanity, they accuse the other side of “focusing on America’s faults instead of its accomplishments.” Well, yeah. No shit. Because people like me are interested in discussing what would make America better, and the people who read National Review are interested in discussing whether Ronald Reagan came red, white and blue during orgasm.

I also get a kick out of the fact that it’s not the scientists or artists or intellectuals who actually do and have contributed to America’s past and current greatness that are the ones insisting on its continuous celebration. No, such churlish lay-proselytizing is exclusively the province of the proverbial great unwashed, the Tea Partying red-state retards who think providing a social safety net is tyranny and the separation of church and state is bullshit. You know, two American ideals that actually have made this country great.