The Cult of American Exceptionalism: A Crisis of Faith and Losing My Religion
Author’s note: All hyperlinks throughout the article lead to primary and secondary sources as well as examples and will be a primer for additional articles.
This is a hard article to write. As for myself, I grew up on 80s Saturday morning cartoons. Cheered on G.I. Joe, Optimus Prime, and the many staples of frankly, the best decade the U.S. had to offer a child, in my humble opinion. I lived in the rural South, proud to be an American, and feeling lucky to be born in the greatest country on the planet. No one else could compare. We were taught in school how we demolished the British in 1776, the Germans in WWI, the Axis powers in WWII, and was victorious against any enemy that crossed us. What is not to love about being here?
After graduation from high school, I began trying to get into college with some difficulty (financial). I had health problems that needed medical attention, but that had to wait until I got a good job. That is one of the benefits of being an adult, right? That is how you know you made it as an adult, got a decent paying job with healthcare. The next stop, buying a house. At least, that is what I was taught in school. The United States is full of promise for anyone willing to work hard for it. Yeah…… I apparently drank a lot of Kool-Aid.
Saving everyone from an autobiography, I will cut to the chase. I think the façade of how great a country the United States began to crack when I had many international friends. I remember one guy I knew about fifteen years ago. He was from Israel and I will remember this one thing he said until the day I die “I think it is so expensive to travel from the United States to other parts of the world because they (the government) does not want you to know how great it is in other countries.” When I began traveling overseas, I knew he was right. In many ways, the United States was downright primitive to other countries. Infrastructure, businesses, even how people were overall more “civilized” and friendly. Ironically, this realization continued after I began working in and eventually doing work as a speaker and instructor for emergency services. At some of the higher-level resident federal training programs, I learned about where to get my news from and the fascism checklist employed by federal agencies to determine if a country was in danger of becoming a fascist regime.
As time progressed, and myself being an analyst, I eventually came to the horrid realization that we (my country) were not always the “good guys.” When I say this, I am not talking about the evil genius telling the heroes that they do not see the big picture. If anything, I am usually on the side of the villain who sees the big picture, Sith Lord, all the way. I am talking about outright doing horrible things so that particular interests could profit. As such, much to my dismay, the United States is falling into the trappings of a fascist regime, and in many ways can be argued it has been pretty much since its inception. Really though, I should not be surprised. Seriously, any country established by using biowarfare (smallpox) and government-sanctioned and military enforced genocide to grow, and slaves to become an economic superpower kind of never was much on freedom of all people and democracy, to begin with. For modern examples, ask Japanese Americans about what happened during WWII with Internment Camps, Arab Americans regarding harassment and surveillance since the late 60s, African Americans with the continuous push for civil rights, Latino Americans with harassment from DHS and ICE, and so on. Being the bastion of Democracy does look good on paper, that is for sure, especially when you get to write your own history books.
So to start, let’s get into this checklist for the Fascism danger indicator. The one I will use is the fourteen-point list created initially by Laurence W. Britt. While my memory is fuzzy, I can say this is similar to the one used by federal agencies. More information can be found here with the list pictured below.
So let’s get this party started. Nationalism: check. Remember the Trump trains, honor the Vets, back the Badge, the crying about cancel culture, and what happened to Colin Kaepernick? Ironically, this is not very different than what happened during the Hollywood Red Scare and Blacklists that began around 1946 after WWII and the beginning of the Cold War. This was not much different than the Salem Witch Trials, except only careers were executed.
Disdain for human rights? Supremacy of the military? Check and check. We do like blowing stuff up and to celebrate war. The United States has been on and off at war almost continuously since our inception. There is a whole segment of the population who enjoys military dominance with examples such as the one below and examples of aggressive merchandise can be found here, here, and here (there are many more). We love war so much, that per capita, we spend just north of $2,200 per year as per the latest numbers, for that good old-fashioned war and security. Proud to have my tax dollars at work….now can finally get this bum knee fixed? Granted some may argue that the United States had to build a strong military after WWII and they would not be wrong. The Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 allowed other countries access to the United States consumer base while the United States ensured trade route security, in exchange for the Dollar being pegged as the global reserve currency to help rebuild the nations and economies devastated by the war. In reality, the time of the United States operating as the global police should have long since passed and that argument does not stand anymore.
Scapegoats, we can check that box too. That is what war is for besides making money and asserting dominance. It has been pretty much every one of color, currently is immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and leveraging of the two-party system. Depending on which side you are on, it is either the liberal Democrats' fault or the right-wing Republicans. There are bills currently being pushed to limit the rights and voices of some of these communities. This is nothing new. Using COINTELPRO as an example, it was an FBI program that had intelligence gathered on groups and trained an extreme paramilitary right-wing group to use intimidation and violence from 1956 to 1971. This sounds oddly similar to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers currently.
Rampant sexism may be not as much as when this list was made however current movements such as the incel movement, as well as, employment salary disparity, predatory social media, poverty porn, and bias in general still exist. Controlled mass media and the obsession with national security can be checked as well. The repeal of the FCC Fairness Doctrine in 1987 laid the groundwork for the talking heads, fake news (I loathe that term), opinions being fact, and pretty much what is seen in every mainstream media agency in the United States. This was essentially the groundwork being laid for propaganda. Obsession with national security is visible with the big news topics like the border wall and such; however, lesser-known (I trained with some of these organizations), TSA, DHS, and ICE have less oversite than they should with the amount of power they wield. Granted that is strictly my opinion, but using TSA as an example (really it is the low-hanging fruit here), is an organization that effectively does very little besides making the travel process just enough of a hassle to make it appear that the United States has strict security. The TSA search image is narrow compared to what threats can be present during travel.
Religion and government are intertwined….yep, and yep. How many council meetings open in prayer? Our money has “In God We Trust” branded onto it. Side note, paper currency did not have “In God We Trust” until 1957 after “In God We Trust” was declared the national motto by law on July 30, 1956. Politicians frequently ask or commit to prayer in order to please the religious masses. There is a reason the founding fathers warned of the mixing of church and state and contrary to popular belief, were not Christian fundamentalists.
Corporate power is protected and labor power is suppressed. I could literally write a dissertation on these two topics. The simple reality is that the United States does not even meet international law when it comes to labor standards and is considered actively attempting to prevent collective bargaining (looking at you Amazon). This puts the U.S. DEAD LAST in worker protections among developed countries and puts it on par with Iraq, Haiti, and Iran. To be as brief as possible for further details regarding the erosion of worker rights and the destruction of social mobility check out my previous articles linked in this sentence.
I could go into detail regarding the disdain for intellectuals and the arts but coming off a Trump presidency, anti-vaccine, climate-denying, I swear the earth is round for the last time, and yes for the love of everything good, stop coal rolling your diesel trucks. A. it is not cute, B. we are laughing at you, and C. as a gearhead that was rebuilding engines since I was 9, good job on wrecking your turbo, tranny, and who knows what else. I actually have another article planned for the anti-intellectualism as someone who majored in environmental science but finally gave up after explaining climate change for the 15 millionth time and went dark side into business.
Obsession with crime and punishment. Oh yeah. We have our private prisons and are literally the prison capital of the world with the largest prison population and the highest per-capita incarceration rate. It has gotten to the point that the United Nations is beginning to reprimand the United States, with examples here, here, and here. Additionally, the United States expenditures on policing per year are literally higher than the three and four-ranked countries combined on their MILITARY SPENDING with twice the budget for policing than welfare programs and completely eclipsing expenditures on the CDC, EPA, FEMA, and OSHA. Seriously…why do we need a police force with a better budget than India and Germany combined…those countries even have nukes! See the graph below with how the United States policing costs compare to national military/defense budgets.
Finally, we come to rampant corruption and fraudulent elections. Again, I could write a dissertation on this topic alone. Super PACs, dark money, lobbyists, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah; laws are not generally made in the interest of the common good. This was made obvious with the handling 2019/2020/2021 COVID pandemic. The two-party system leans on each other to make sure that what needs to get passed gets passed, and what does not align with interests gets bogged down in politics where it goes to die. That is the cynic in me saying that, but let’s be honest, how long have we been talking about improving healthcare and raising the minimum wage? A decade at least? How many terms is that?
When it comes to fraudulent elections, I could talk about voting machines (the early ones for 2000 that were “hackproof” were cracked by security experts within the first three weeks of deployment utilizing a simple boot disk), sorry Al Gore, you really should have won that one. No, I don’t have proof, but I can dig up the article using the internet archive machine about the hack technique. Really though, that is moot, where the real problems come is from gerrymandering the districts to stack a legislature, making voting more difficult, and numerous other tactics that go under the radar. It has progressed to the point that the United States is now considered a flawed democracy and ranked 25 out of 167 total.
So, what does all this mean, and why this long diatribe? I love where I live, there is so much potential here; but for us to progress into a bright future, there are problems that must be addressed. There is a real danger that our country is going to slide backward and be lost among the rubble of the previous empires unless we change. Before we can do anything else, however, we must realize that there is a problem. The truth that the United States is not the best country in the world and has not been for quite some time. Once we realize that, then we can begin to build brighter.
As always, thank you for your time and attention my friends.