There’s Weirdness in the Air Over There
Seen from Europe the United States looks pretty strange. In all fairness, different countries have a right to their individual differences, but the direction and degree of American differences are so exaggerated, so unusual that they shock sensibilities in Europe and farther afield, the way a snuff film leaves normal people horrified and unbelieving. We’re not referring to all Americans here, rather about half of them, the abnormal half, those who subscribe to extreme anti-any-sort-of-government political thinking, magical religions, Nazism, white supremacy and other forms of racism present from the cop on the beat to the highest echelons of the American government.
It was glaringly evident, for example, in the instant, knee-jerk Congressional opposition to virtually all of President Obama’s legislative initiatives throughout his presidency. Even today it lives on in the person of President Donald Trump, whose reneging on the Iran nuclear treaty was clearly motivated, by his own admission, by his rabid anti-Obama sentiment. Let’s be frank; to a majority of the United States Congress and many other high-ranking Republicans, Obama, though the elected President of the United States, was considered an aberration, to them “just an uppity nigger.” They consistently did their best to thwart him in every possible way, regardless of the subsequent negative effects on the well-being of the American public.
You see and hear actions and declarations in the USA that don’t occur anyplace in the real world. What shall we call the American setting? A parallel reality? The Fourth Dimension? Surrealism? Lowbrow Propaganda? Lock’em-up insanity? Brave new neo-con world? Or is this just American exceptionalism taken to the nth degree? What exactly is “American Exceptionalism,” anyway? Is it something they decreed or is it just a phenomenon they consider axiomatic? Isn’t it relevant that practically no one else in the civilized world accepts the stranger American “axioms?”
Ironically, the term “American Exceptionalism,” of which today’s right-wing American politicians are so proud and rely upon so heavily, was a term invented by the Comintern in 1927-28. The Communists employed it as an insult to their own American members who insisted upon special treatment for American communism due to their “exceptional” circumstances. It was an easy matter for American patriots to flip the term to refer to their country’s presumed special status in the world.
The NRA’s New President Starts Off on a Weird Foot
American gun laws are certainly strange, as are the most recent developments in the National Rifle Association, which has just named as its president, convicted (and later un-convicted) felon and international terrorist, Lt. Colonel Oliver North. His opening remarks as president are a textbook exercise in the most cynical manipulation of language in the interest of turbid interests. As for the Second Amendment to the Constitution, it has been skewed so far to the right that today it’s little more than a smokescreen behind which the country’s most sinister ideological and economic interests can hide. These interests pretend not to notice that the United States is the only country in the world whose laws defend the absolute right to bear arms, something considered dangerously anti-social everywhere else in the world. This has to be the most heinous example of “American Exceptionalism.”
On February 14, 2018, Valentine’s Day, students at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida witnessed the random gun slaying of 17 of their classmates, teachers and staff. The very day of the victims’ funeral the Parkland high-school students started to mobilize a nationwide opposition-to-assault-rifles movement, an initiative that most Americans considered valiant and admirable. But in his first remarks on assuming the presidency of the NRA Lt. Colonel North took advantage of the opportunity to insult these teenage activists.
North’s reaction was strange in the extreme. According to Julia Conley, staff writer for Commondreams.org, “In an interview on Thursday, NRA President Oliver North compared the criticism that gun rights activists are facing as Americans call for gun safety legislation, to the attacks on civil rights advocates in the 1960s.”
North claimed in an interview with the Washington Times that the student-led #NeverAgain movement which has invigorated Americans since February’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., amounts to “civil terrorism.” “This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America,” said North to the Washington Times. “You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and those kinds of things—even there you didn’t have this kind of thing.”
Such a disrespectful, bizarre-world reply from an individual like Oliver North calling protesting students “terrorists” just highlights the fact that, though he’s profoundly concerned about the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms, he has no regard whatsoever for the First, the right to free speech. The fact that the National Rifle Association should name a person like him its president speaks volumes about the values of that organization, which prioritizes its own deadly firearms-first agenda over all other considerations.
Rev. Sharon Risher, whose family members were killed in a mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015, replied. “For the NRA to compare its treatment today to the atrocities that occurred during the Jim Crow era is beyond the pale, especially considering it’s the NRA’s extreme leaders who have harassed and intimidated survivors of gun violence with often vile rhetoric. Oliver North should apologize, to black Americans and to all who’ve been touched by racism or gun violence in this country.”
(For information on Oliver North’s role in the Iran-Contra affair, here’s a link to an excellent long article published on the Politicalgates blog. At the end of the article the author draws some compelling parallels between North’s case and that of Bradley/Chelsea Manning and notes that North got off virtually scot-free while Manning did seven years of a 35-year sentence in Ft. Leavenworth federal prison.
Libertarianism Is to “Liberty” as Friendly Fire Is to “Friendly”
When I first ran across the term “Libertarianism” for what seemed to be a new current of political opinion in the United States I thought, “Great, the American anarchists have finally formed a movement to promote freedom for the oppressed.” Then I looked it up. Libertarianism turns out to be the exact opposite, a movement that promotes freedom to oppress and to turn one’s back on the rest. It’s the ultimate I’m-all-right-Jack political philosophy, if you can call that “philosophy.” The gist of it seems to be no—or very little—government, leaving the country’s most capable citizens complete “liberty” to operate and exploit, as if that were liberty. What about the rest of the population? “Oh, them, they’ll have to shift for themselves.”
This thinking (Did it come from one of Washington’s septic “think” tanks?) is offensive for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it ignores the fact that human society is an organism that depends upon the health of all of its members to survive and prosper. The opposing every-man-for-himself doctrine–built into the American “rugged individualism” pietism is pernicious when it comes to building a healthy, sane society, but it’s something that American right-wing cant emphasizes more than ever of late. The Libertarians seem to believe that Americans in a free society should have the liberty to sleep on the street in cardboard boxes.
What is most offensive is the way the Libertarians have co-opted the very word “liberty” for their own perverted form of un-freedom. If this concept gains acceptance across American society they will have young people growing up thinking that “liberty” is the right to divorce oneself from humanity in the interest of the individual: selfishness and greed as holy scripture, the right to neglect the less fortunate and abandon all notions of commonwealth. It’s manipulative and disgusting as it cynically twists beyond all recognition one of the basic supports of all decent human relationships: our language.