Monthly Archives: December 2010

American Exceptionalism

As the Germans say… Eigenlob stinkt.

What that means roughly translated into English is…


Have you figured out yet where I am going with this?  In case you haven’t, let me give you a little more help.  Let me make no bones about it, not beat around the bush, but instead, lay my cards on the table.

I think at this time in the history of my nation, and I am a 9th generation American, the widely held concept and “belief” in  American Exceptionalism is poison.  That’s right, I said POISON and I meant POISON.  I think it is the kind of a poison that first makes you deaf and then makes you blind, before it finally kills you dead.

As the saying goes, “Pride comes before a fall.” If there ever was a nation, a people and an empire overly ripe for that fall….. it’s America.  It is my contention that it is precisely our “pride” and our “belief” in our own exceptionalism that, like a slow acting poison, has reduced us to this state and rendered us incapable of anything even close to objectivity when it comes to not only our past and present, but, our future.

Did the phrase “American Exceptionalism” once have the unquestionable ring or truth to it?  Undeniably!  Did our founding and the rights afforded to Americans by our Constitution and Bill of Rights represent something truly “exceptional” in human history?  Absolutely!  Does the accident of being born within the borders of the United States of America, in and of itself, mean that you are better than another human being born someplace else?  No it doesn’t and that is something America will either come to grips with and internalize, or, it will take its place at the end of a long line of “exceptional” empires, that ceased to be, found today only in history books.

Human beings are funny creatures and a little understanding of just how odd we truly are is essential in making any kind of sense out of where America is today.  All the rest of the living creatures on planet earth exist in what is called a “primary reality”.  What that means is they are, if you like, pre-programmed  to act and respond to what ever life has in store for them more or less without what we understand as thinking.  Their reality is concrete and waiting for them when they enter the world and remains just as unquestionable and concrete right up until the time they exit.  The opposite is true for humans.  We are the animals that create the reality we inhabit.  We do that primarily with a thing we call “culture”.  Culture, you understand, is that big bag of bullshit and lies that we all pretend is absolute truth and promise each other we will teach our children is true too.  It’s what holds a society together.  It is the “reality” we create for ourselves to provide us with rules and guide us in making decisions that will be productive rather than counterproductive in holding our society together.

My purpose with this essay is to prove that our culture of “American Exceptionalism” has passed the point of being productive and reached the point where the smell of the “bullshit” has left us all drunk on our own… bullshit.

So, lets at least try to look at ourselves objectively for a change.  Are we the happiest people in the world? No.  Are we the healthiest people in the world?  No.  Are we the best educated people in the world?  No.  Are we the most law abiding people in the world?  No.  Are we the most optimistic people in the world?  No.

Are we the most in debt people in the world?  Yes.  Are we the most obese people in the world?  Yes.  Are we the most depressed people in the world?  Yes.  Do we have a larger percentage of our citizens in prison than any other country in the history of the world?  Yes.  Can our nation and our government run, for even one day, without borrowing money from other people and other governments that we not only “believe” but teach our children WE are BORN BETTER THAN? …… NO!

So, where is that “American Exceptionalism” to be found other than in pleasant dreams and remembrances of days long past?  Who is that flabby, punch drunk, palooka with the cauliflower ears holding the microphone and telling us that, tonight, he is going to win back the title he once had from the young and still hungry new Champ?  We say to ourselves, “He is so proud” and we comment to each other about how TRULY great he once was and that he still “believes” in himself and that, in spite of the obvious reality that he is outclassed and fooling himself, he STILL thinks he will make it past the first bell.

Is he us?

Place your bets.  As the saying goes, “Money talks and bullshit walks.”



Filed under Uncategorized


What a pickle this appears to be for so many.  Not so myself.

I read Arthur Brisbane’s piece this morning in the New York TIMES entitled “What if the Secrets Stayed Secret?” and it got me thinking about secrets in general.  Now, I have had secrets and I know that secrets are deceptions, in one way or another, that serve the private ends or ambitions of the person that has them.  We all know that.  But, does the fact that we all “have them”, like fingers and knee caps, somehow make them good?  Can we rightfully and honestly defend something on a grand scale simply because we are comfortable with it ourselves on a small or personal scale?

Arthur Brisbane asks us to consider:

What if The New York Times in 1964 had possessed a document showing that L.B.J.’s intent to strike against North Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident was based on false information? Should it have published the material?

What if The Times had possessed documentary evidence showing that the Bush administration’s claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were unfounded? Should it have published the material?

These questions, which need only be posed rhetorically, supply an answer to the larger question: Would you as a reader rather have the information yourself or trust someone else to hang on to it for you?

I confess, I have no problem either answering that question or imagining how different the world would be today if that information had been made public.  What I do have a problem with are those who would have called it treason then as some call it treason now.  I am forced to ask myself who profits, or profited, from the wholesale death and destruction that results from secrets that mislead nations to war.

I have come to the conclusions that I have, namely that secrets, at least on a national level, are far more pernicious than secrets on a personal level. I think that reveling them, far from being treasonous is, in point of fact, patriotism on the highest HUMAN level.  I have come to this conclusion as a result of doing what I usually do when faced with conundrums of this nature.  As is my way, I attempt to consult wisdom where I know it can be found.  Of course by this I mean in the minds of men with the most outrageous facial hair and outlandish grooming habits.

This is what one has to say:  “Where secrecy reigns, carelessness and ignorance delight to hide while skill loves the light.”

   Now, if the obvious wisdom of that statement somehow “eludes” you…. take a look at who said it!

Google Daniel Coil Gilman.

And if THAT isn’t enough… consider what Albert Einstein said:  The world is a dangerous place to live – not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized