EXCEPTIONAL: American Exceptionalism Takes Its Toll
American Exceptionalism permeates American culture. Most Americans were taught to believe in American superiority long before they were able to think for themselves. “America is the greatest country in the world” is an article of faith. Of course, it can’t be proved or even defined. What, indeed, is the measure of greatness for a country? Do genocide, slavery, racism, imperialism and endemic poverty count? If the United States is really the greatest country in the world, what does that say about the world?
In Exceptional: American Exceptionalism Takes Its Toll, author William Boardman examines forms of American denial that shape a country where therae is little integrity in public discourse, truth is optional and society is out of rational control.
The book is a anthology of Boardman’s best essays since 2012, mostly first published online at Reader Supported News. Each piece is a snapshot in time, when the author was reacting to the moment, whether that was an act of voter suppression, the start of an aggressive war, the police killing of another unarmed black person, or the failed humanity of so many of America’s “leaders.” Whatever the horror of the moment, Boardman objects and lays out why official behavior is corrupt, wrong for the nation and worse for its people.
The essays, along with accompanying updates, appear chronologically in each of the book’s seven sections. These follow seven paths to parts of the crisis that now engulfs America:
• Voting vs. Elections. This is fundamental to everything else. There is an innate tension in our electoral system. There are those who believe in letting everyone vote. And there are those who prefer to game the system by legalizing gerrymandering (for example) to get the right election results.
• America Loses Altitude. America has been losing altitude for a long, long time. Boardman describes this decline as bi-partisan, but driven by the long march of right-wing ideologues since Goldwater/Nixon. The state of the nation is illustrated by the rise of the American police state and the reduction of the Supreme Court to little more than an integrity-free committee to defend the interests of the rich and powerful.
• Coming to America. This chronicles some of the ways a “nation of immigrants” has come to act as if it hates itself. It begins with maltreatment of Dreamers and children at the border in 2013-14. It covers the police-state terrorism of ICE. The section ends with Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, an articulate Democrat who should be celebrated as one of the first Muslim women in Congress, but who is instead subjected to bi-partisan calumny and death threats to which her party responds timorously.
• Black in America. It’s not easy. Some examples.
• America Saves the World. From Afghanistan around the world to Afghanistan still, American salvation comes at a steep price. The examples are Orwellian, “like a boot stomping on a human face – forever.” Yemen is the worst, perhaps.
• Radiation and Fossil Fools. The nuclear world is inherently dan¬gerous, expensive and profitable (for a few). So is the carbon world. Will enough leaders figure out how to exploit the future in time to preserve it in livable form?
• Impeachment is Easy, Removal is Hard. This is the Trump-centric section.