America is choking to death on its own mythology. The ‘strongest nation in the world’ cannot defend its own Capitol. The ‘oldest democracy in the world’ is attacking the right to vote. The ‘richest people in history’ are broke and dying in lakhs upon lakhs.
(White) Americans consistently refuse to believe what is happening to them because it’s not supposed to be happening to them. Our democracy cannot be collapsing, it’s so old. The pandemic cannot be out of control, we’re rich. From the crazies of Q-Anon to sober talking heads on TV, everybody agrees, America is exceptional and things cannot be exactly what they are.
The country cannot be corrupt, that’s for Africans. The country cannot have a coup, that’s what we do to South America. The country cannot be collapsing, that’s the ‘third world’. And yet here you are.
American exceptionalism is wrong. Worse than wrong, American exceptionalism is precisely what’s getting you killed.
As CLR James said, “a myth that has lost all contact with reality is the direct source of immeasurable confusion, catastrophes and disasters.” That’s precisely where America is today. The myth of American greatness has come completely unmoored from American reality, and disaster has ensued.
The most central myth is that America is a city on the hill, destined for greatness, blessed and best among nations, leader of the free world. Every country has some delusions of grandeur, but no one believes it with the confidence of an American. Because for many years, they’ve been right (as in might makes right). America was the lone superpower for years, with consumer goods and power to rain death anywhere upon the globe. Now a microscopic virus has shown how fragile it all was.
The fact is that the central myth of America — that it is an old, strong, and prosperous democracy — is not true. None of it is true, but the fact that this has become a quasi-religious belief makes it impossible to fix anything without also melting American brains. People would rather die than believe that America sucks. So they’re dying.
Let me unwind these myths as gently as I can (not very gently).
American democracy was founded by black people just 55 years ago.
Your democracy is shit
American democracy is only 55 years old and it was founded by black people. Modern democracy is one person, one vote, and America only got universal franchise in 1965, after 56 other countries. American democracy isn’t old at all, it’s very young, which explains a lot. The fact that your founders are black people like Rosa Parks and John Lewis, of course, completely short-circuits many American brains.
American democracy is also not very good, built as it is on a centuries old voter suppression system. Literally nobody else waits for hours to vote. In most countries the popular vote winner wins. Nobody waits for two months to seat the President. Your democracy is honestly quite shit, as you may have noticed, because it’s on fire.
Your security forces are more likely to join white terrorists than to resist them.
Your defenses are weak
Americans are surprised that their Capitol was so easily overrun, but that’s misunderstanding what American ‘defense’ is, and who it is. America’s ‘defensive’ troops are actually ‘offensive’ troops, bombing poor places and torturing Muslims for sport. Starving people in Yemen or endlessly occupying Afghanistan has nothing to do with your freedom and security, as you may notice as you can’t fucking go there.
America is wholly unprepared to defend itself against its greatest threat, which is white America. Your intelligence services merrily drone an ‘Allahu akbar’ from 10,000 miles away but won’t track public Facebook events in their own city. Your security forces are more likely to join white terrorists than to resist them. Your cops and and border police are the same, they’re offensive forces pointed at brown and black people. When it comes to the actual threats America faces, your ‘defenses’ are more likely to turn against you than help.
The modern image of America is a car in a bread line, the perverse juxtaposition of seeming prosperity with actual poverty.
Your people are suffering
The general myth of America was that all its sins were OK because it somehow worked and delivered prosperity. This doesn’t work anymore, and it never did for many people. America has worse public health than Ghana, worse infrastructure than China, and a weaker democracy than Malawi. Much poorer countries have better healthcare (like Cuba) and literally no one goes into debt peonage for education like Americans. Nobody imprisons as many people. Nobody has active-shooter drills in schools. Nobody is dying of COVID-19 so bad.
America has also completely divorced its ‘economy’ (ie, rich people’s yacht money) from people’s actual lives. Stock prices go up while people go hungry. The modern image of America is a car in a bread line, the perverse juxtaposition of seeming prosperity with actual poverty. Life is pretty shit, as you may have noticed if you’re alive.
America Is A Country In The World
I say this not to dunk on America (well, a bit) but just to welcome you to the world. We’re all in some shit, aren’t we? In the third world we regularly get printed reports about how much we suck and how we can do better, and a lot of its true. You guys should now take some feedback from us. The central myth of American exceptionalism is that America is not like other countries and is thus not comparable (except maybe to other rich, white people) but that’s not true. America is just another country in the world. We can send consultants. Or just ask the black, indigenous, or ‘illegal’ people in your midst. They get it.
White Americans are not used to examining how you suck, but this dooms you to never getting better. It’s like never going to the doctor because you were in great shape in high school. Uh OK, that’s how you die of gangrene in the modern world. Your nation has literally turned into a Bruce Springsteen song, which is not a good thing.
America has been a failed state in a Gucci belt for years, and now even the belt has fallen off. I’m telling you, the empire has no clothes.
The Mental Collapse
This should actually help you because you could then see your problems, learn about other solutions, and fix them. Rather than looking down on the third world, you could look up to places like Mongolia, and learn. Unfortunately, this just isn’t human nature. People will literally die before swallowing their pride.
Rather than admitting that they voted for a grifter, many Americans have created a whole-ass world where Trump is a hero, secretly fighting Satanic pedophiles, and not, you know, just a grifter. Rather than admitting that America has failed on COVID-19, they’re saying COVID-19 doesn’t exist. This sounds crazy, but it’s one way of resolving the cognitive dissonance of America’s collapsing myths.
Even liberals really struggle with the core fact that America is a just another country in the world. April D. Ryan asks “what makes us different from a third world country & dictatorships?” The answer is nothing, besides hubris. Nothing makes you different. Looking down on these countries just makes you ignorant. April Ryan seems cool, but even she inhabits the same mythology of American exceptionalism.
Pete Buttigieg will say “weapons like the one I carried in Afghanistan have no place on our streets or in our schools — least of all in the hands of white nationalists” ignoring the fact that white nationalists shouldn’t be carrying weapons in Afghanistan either, and that chickens come home to roost. Buttigieg seems like a douche but not evil. Even his brain cannot process that Americans should not be using these weapons on anyone. Even to him, America is an exception.
This idea that exceptionalism is some protective secret sauce (ingredients: blood of Jesus, 11 herbs and spices, OxyContin) is precisely what’s getting you killed. There is no fucking sauce, you’re just another country and you’ve committed the cardinal mistake of smoking your own propaganda. Just look at where you are, look at other people, and try to do better. You’re not better than everybody else. It is this idea that’s made you so much worse.
Again, I’m saying this ‘solution’ like it’s possible, which it is, theoretically. Just not psychologically. People would rather believe that Americans are the victims of their own demise rather than their cause. People will literally believe in a modern Protocols of The Elders of Zion rather than looking at the elites looting in front of their eyes. This stabbed in the back mentality leads, of course, right to Hitler ’32.
So this is where you are. Face down in a ditch, insisting you’re among the stars. The first rule of being in a hole is to stop digging, but half of Americans don’t even believe in holes.
Perhaps you think I’m building to some solution but I’m not. I have no idea where you’re going (your children will have to figure that out) but you’ll never get there without understanding where you came from, and where you are. All I can tell you is this. America is exceptionally fucked.