Racism Informs the Lies of American Exceptionalism
Goodbye to four years of lies. Hello to four years of (hopefully) truth.
Two years ago, during a bipartisan meeting with senators, President Donald Trump referred to Haiti, and then other nations on the African continent, as “shithole countries.” This was in response to Haiti being granted special consideration for immigration, to which the president of the United States responded: “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” What’s amazing about this statement from Trump — aside from being wildly racist — is that everything he supposedly has assumed was true for Black-led nations encompass the very situations he has created or upheld in the United States over the last four years.
Since his trip down the escalator and into American politics, Trump has created a society fraught with disinformation, has incited his followers to violence, ignored a global health pandemic, caged children, defunded our public education system, gutted the EPA, and vacated various global alliances. Trump plays right into the lie of American exceptionalism, or that somehow America first means that America is better and doesn’t need allies or support. But in truth, his upholding America as the “greatest country ever” is another one of the over 25,000 lies he has told during his presidency.
The only significant difference now between the United States and lower wealth countries are our social safety nets as implemented by our government. From protections for our agricultural resources to our health and education systems — those systems that Republicans coincidentally work so hard to gut — are what used to elevate us from the rest of the world but now conjoin us. Turns out we’re only as exceptional as the people we choose to lead us are.
America, over the course of four years of separating career public servants from critical posts, has done all the things that so-called “shithole nations” do. That includes diverting resources from invaluable agencies, threatening your political adversaries, and sowing ill will around the globe. And that was before the current occupant of the White House allowed over 280,000 Americans to die from a controllable pandemic.
A humanitarian crisis is defined by Canada’s Humanitarian Coalition as a singular event or a series of events that are threatening in terms of health, safety, or well-being of a community or large group of people. It may be an internal or external conflict and usually occurs throughout a large land area. Given this definition can you think of a country that may be exhibiting these very traits and yet there are no alarms being sounded around the globe? Here’s a hint: us. By every “hot zone” metric America is currently in the throes of not only an existential crisis regarding the reality of our tattered democracy, but also a humanitarian one with an out of control health pandemic, a series of attempted coup d’états by the Republican Party, a battered economy, increasing White domestic terrorism, and growing calls for secession. If any other country of our size or statue were ticking off red flags like this, America and our allies would be in emergency talks on how to proceed and stabilize a very unstable region. And yet here we currently sit — isolated and on the verge of collapse. Is this what you get when you decide to double down on an America first, self-centered foreign policy agenda?
Much like Trump has been successful in persuading his cult-like followers into believing that the most secure election in the history of elections was stolen from him, America has tricked the world into believing in our exceptionalism.
American exceptionalism is steeped in our emergence from the American Revolution with a new political ideology that was founded on the principles of a representative democracy, based on liberty and equality before the law. So, what does that definition mean at a time when you have a president and an entire political party willing to thwart the will of this representative democracy in favor of tyranny? What does it mean to a democracy when we have no shared principles or consideration for the value of law? It means that, much like other nations around the world that have experienced political unrest and have been ravaged by civil conflict, America is not the exception but instead is following a very path that has been traversed many times over. America’s romanticized belief in rugged individualism has us in the death grip of a pandemic that ultimately requires us to chuck our solo-centeredness. Of course, this is not likely to happen, which will place our nation into yet another precarious year of fighting Covid-19 in 2021.
We are a nation operating solely through our id since we have yet to evolve into the fullness of our being and are currently being led by a person devoid of empathy, morals, and the ability to exist in reality. You see how democracy went left so quickly? Sigmund Freud’s famed psychoanalysis on the makeup of our personality as humans might have well been a window into America’s current demise. He argued that there were three parts of our personalities that create our behavior: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is key here as it represents our most primal selves, driven entirely by pleasure and immediate gratifications. As we evolve, we begin to embody our ego, which is meant to ensure that our impulses are expressed in a socially acceptable manner. Our superego provides the guidelines for our judgments and morals. And while our nation is over 240 years old, we are still in our infancy compared other developed nations. This greedy, self-centered idea of self is apparent in a year when we are called to care about something outside of ourselves and our immediate desires.
The irony here is that the very Black-led nations that Trump lamented as shitholes have done an exceptional job in dealing with the global health pandemic and they did so not operating alone but instead in collaboration.
“Africa is doing a lot of things right the rest of the world isn’t,” Gayle Smith, a former administrator with the U.S. Agency for International Development, told the Christian Science Monitor. She’s watched in astonishment as Washington, D.C. looks inward instead of leading the world. But Africa, Smith continues, “is a great story and one that needs to be told.” The worst thing about the moment we are in now is that we remain so blinded by American exceptionalism and the idea that what has happened in other countries consumed by an authoritarian regime can’t happen so in turn we refuse to really face this reality and try to save ourselves.
James Baldwin once wrote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” If we don’t face the fact that American exceptionalism is a fallacy, how will we ever evolve into perfecting this derelict union? Only time will tell and sadly we are running out of it.