USA EXCEPTIONALLY BLIND?
“American exceptionalism” is an expression all Americans are familiar with. It seems to even pervades all the way down to the bones. Tellingly, the concept originated with Alexis de Tocqueville, who was the first to describe the United States as “exceptional”. First irony: the fig leaf was made in France. (So was the Statue of Liberty, and the concept of the Land of the Free, after which Francia was named…)
Americans are familiar with their “exceptionalism”. It claims that the USA is qualitatively different from other nations. (Yes, of course, the USA is a European colony, a Europe overseas, and most nations did not start as colonies, only a few dozens did.)
America’s alleged exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution (as if there had been none in France or Britain, Rome, or Athens, or, for that matter, Venezuela, or Port au Prince!), becoming “the first new nation”, the “New World”, while developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire.
The same holds for all Spanish speaking countries in the Americas. And Canada is not far behind. Come to think of it, most countries agree with these goals, and practice them to some extent.
It is highly ironical that the last concept, laisser-faire, supposed to depict the reigning socio-economic paradigm in the USA, is French, and was born there well before the USA itself. If anybody knows about laissez-faire, it should be the French, since they invented it, and practiced it well before the city of Boston was paying for Indian scalps (a picturesque twist on government welfare state, a typical way to turn public initiative towards matters military, made in America; just a bit north the French were running Canada, and they did not do such a thing, quite the opposite).
Tocqueville, the germ of American “exceptionalism” was an impoverished aristocrat, a small scale philosopher. Tocqueville is popular with American plutocracy for insisting upon the self serving fancy that freedom is more important than equal rights. Any obdurate member of the plutocracy would reason that way. Tocqueville aristocratic roots go all the way back to the battle of Hastings, in 1066 CE, when the Franks invaded Anglo-Saxon England. (Mine are much older, but never mind, an angel full of discretion shall slither away…)
Unsurprisingly, Tocqueville’s doctrine of the superiority of freedom over equality is pounded into young American minds in American universities. Tocqueville missed a lot of the big picture of the USA, that makes him all the more useful. It is not surprising that he was caricatural, as he spent a grand total of nine months in the USA. He was also much less than honest. He had nothing to say when he witnessed the Cherokees being deported, dying on the way to concentration camps. This silence demonstrated that Tocqueville was a fast learner on the subject of ingratiating himself with his hosts.
Mitt Romney, a Mormon businessman, son of a governor, governor himself of Massachusetts, where he invented what came to be known as “Obamacare” has a big problem, besides having invented “Obamacare”. He speaks French. So he tries to compensate that with blatant Francophobia. Francophobia is popular in the USA, because plutocracy needs it, to show that the road not travelled by the USA is despicable, alien, hostile, to be rejected absolutely, albeit superficially tempting, in other words, French.
(This Francophobic negativism has the funny consequence that, since the Cartesian French spend a lot of brain power trying to do the best for themselves as a society, the USA ends down embracing increasingly the opposite of French ways, namely the worst solutions, for themselves as a socio-economy… But of course, this is precisely what unbriddled plutocracy wants)
Mitt Romney claims that Obama takes his ideas not from the small towns of America but from “the capitals of Europe.” Romney insists that Obama is offering “European answers to American problems.” And, horror of horrors, Obama has put the USA in tow behind France and its anti-dictatorial philosophers. Says Romney: “We’re following the French into Libya.” Obama undermines the USA by his “questioning as to whether America is an exceptional nation.”
Heady stuff. The New York Times ran an editorial on part of this, and I decided to conduct my own little experiment. So I sent an outrageously true comment, in connection to France, Britain, Hitler and the USA, to see how many readers of the New York Times had a true appreciation of history. Here is my comment (published by the NYT, June 17, 2011):
“We’re following the French into Libya.” So? It is a change for the best. After all, did not France follow the USA into Afghanistan? (And suffered the fourth largest number of deaths there?)
The greatest mistake of the USA, ever since it exists, was not to follow France and Great Britain in September 1939, and declare war to Hitler too. If the USA had followed France in 1939, or 1940, the Nazis would have been quickly dispatched, and seventy million people, would have been saved from death. (Including up to 6 million Jews.)
The relationship between France, Great Britain and the USA is not usual. It is the relationship of parents to child, and they constitute pretty much the same polity. After all, France and Britain were long part of the same country, and their filial relationship to the USA is direct.
Oops. How do you spell unpopular? Last I checked, only two readers approved of this correct and important piece of history, whereas 120 readers approved of a statement riling against “American exceptionalism”. Namely: “The average American is unable to accept the idea that the rest of the world’s civilized nations have caught up to us. Their universities are competitive, their industries are competitive, and in many cases their early educational system are well ahead of ours.” (David Underwood, Citrus Heights, CA.)
What Mr. Underwood wrote is correct, and rightly popular. However, what I wrote goes to the bottom line, and is much more painful, hence unpopular. Thus one observes that, where it really hurts, readers of the NYT are in total denial.
THE USA STABBED DEMOCRACY IN THE BACK IN 1939. Not only did the USA view France and Britain as “belligerent countries” (France since 1937, for opposing Hitler), and applied sanctions against them. Not only the USA did not join Canada, Australia, India and South Africa in declaring war to Hitler. But American companies even rushed supplies so that Hitler could keep on fighting Poland and France simultaneously in September 1939. Hey, the business of America is business, and that, among nations, the submission of morality to being busy, is truly exceptional.
Of course, in the end, it all makes sense. It is an eternal return of the same. The Nazis were immensely impressed of the way the USA exterminated the Indians, with a mix of hypocrisy (“protecting the natives” from colons, by sending them “west”; similarly the Nazis would protect the Jews from resentful Germans, by sending them “east”), deportation (if you die as you march in the snow without food, it’s too bad, correct thinkers and sinkers like Tocqueville had nothing to say about it, and the Nazis also duplicated that method to great effect), and concentration camps (for your protection against yourself). The Nazis decided to do just the same, forgetting they were confronting modern societies, not low density societies with partly Neolithic systems of thought.
I am not for repentance of the crimes of ancient generations, but I am for cognition, and exploration, of said crimes. “Truth and Reconciliation” as implemented by Mandela works, if one starts with “truth”. A great power such as France committed many grave errors and crimes (often towards herself), in the more than 15 centuries of her history. However, French philosophers and historians have led politicians, and then the entire population, and the culture which nourishes it, into drastic reassessments of the notion of political and philosophical correctness.
No doubt the USA does the same. However, for analyzing the attitude of the USA in, and leading to, the Second World War, there is much, if not everything to do.
Whereas the French have reassessed the crimes of those who hijacked the French state in summer 1940, most of the American population does not understand that a road which made Auschwitz possible started in the USA in 1933. Then Jewish organizations conducted a mock trial of Hitler in New York, driving the Nazis furious. President Roosevelt in turn used all his might to prevent further such mock trials (which were very efficient at making Americans furious against Nazism).
However ambassador Dodd of the USA in Berlin had met with high level German officials who told him secretly that such protests in the USA were the only way to stop the worst Nazis to commit their increasing crimes, and urged him to encourage more protests in the USA. So Roosevelt was pushing for the opposite of what his ambassador recommended.
Moreover, the USA and its Congress relentlessly pursued a policy hostile to France. And, not to be outdone, in 1935, Great Britain made a pact with Hitler which violated the Versailles Treaty. By 1938, Great Britain was back pedaling. But the USA never did, even after the Nazis attacked American destroyers (and sank one). Now it has come to the surface that payments from the Nazis to Standard Oil were ongoing during the entire war. Thus the hanging of Mussolini from a Standard Oil gas station in Milan.
History is hard. Stabbing democracy in the back, even harder, for a democracy. But Americans would be well appraised to realize that the very system of government they depend upon stabbed democracy in the back, once before, and got away with it. Not just that, but the crime paid, as American plutocracy became ever richer and more powerful since then. Thus the question: who is next?
A hint: at some point the Paris plutocracy embarked on a crusade, nominally against the Albigenses, but truly to submit and steal the very rich south of “Francia”, the de facto republican regime nominally headed by the very powerful count of Toulouse. It was a massacre: one million dead (starting in 1209 CE).
This crusade is both ancient history, and living present. It led, in the fullness of time, to the USA. Indeed Simon de Lancastre (“Lancaster”), the newly nominated (by the plutocrat in chief, the king of Paris, and France) Count of Toulouse, was himself infected by the parliamentary mood of the French south, and tried to be elected king of England by boosting the powers of the English parliament, something which would lead, in the fullness of time, to the Congress of the USA.
Philosophy in all this? The entire conflict, the renaissance of a brutal theocracy instrumentalized by Paris plutocrats was the consequence of the philosopher Abelard’s defeat by Saint Bernard, a Christian fanatic. Abelard was supported by many, and mighty they were. However Saint Bernard’s fascism was irresistible to plutocracy (which put it to good use, as we just saw). The system of thought Saint Bernard amplified the militant and armed Christianism of the Crusades, leading to the holocaust in Toulouse and 1,000 cities in southern France, within two generations.
History is immensely complex. Thus it is hard to learn. The danger is not just to repeat history, it is also to persist in the errors of the past, simply because they have not been denounced as such.
The USA had no billionaire in the first century of its existence. Europe, and much of the rest of the world, had plenty. The USA was a more equalitarian society, then. Now things are the other way. No wonder: Nazism was used by American plutocracy as a interplanetary probes use planets for what is called a gravitational boost. Refusing to learn of this boosting mechanism, is neither ethical, nor prudent.
A simplistic picture of the world is not just erroneous, it is also less interesting. Passion is not just exciting, it is also more powerful, as it incites to spend the energy to create more subtle brain structures, which can model the universe more precisely. Even those who want to be good, especially those who want to be good, have to abide by it.