As I remarked in a previous “Liberal Examination” (http://www.examiner.com/x-21075-Baltimore-Liberal-Examiner~y2009m10d11-USA-USA-Oylmpic-edition ), the incessant and incessantly unpatriotic chanting of USA, USA at McCain/Palin rallies during last years presidential campaign was “troubling” on several levels. That being said, and much more could be said, I will resist the urge to re-visit that sorry episode from a domestic perspective and “Liberally Examine” it anew from a global/foreign policy perspective! I will also reveal how that global or foreign perspective explains why the Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to President Barak Obama!.
Without a doubt, the narrowness, logically challenged and vanity soaked semi-nationalism evidenced by the perspective voiced by those Americans has damaged America’s reputation and standing in the world! Those people are so self absorbed, self-righteous and self-assured, the exhaustive evidence of the complete failure of their preferred politicians and policies notwithstanding, that rather then chanting USA, USA they should have chosen the more ideologically descriptive and nationally balkanizing US, US (as in just us)!
One of the many problems with this whole USA, USA chanters’ perspective is that said perspective only takes into account how a given issue appears to those who populate that narrow minded and regressive segment of the American population! Taking advantage of a enabling and uncritical media, politicians who share this perspective have brought forth disastrous policies on the domestic front (unpaid for tax cuts for the wealthy, unpaid for Wars, financial deregulation, politicizing everything) and they have made fertile the ground for foreign policy bad judgments (greeted as liberators, isolating North Korea) while demonstrating complete bewilderment in the wake of foreign opinion/opposition regarding their bad policy judgments! Consistent with their non-understanding of foreign opinion (“they hate us for our freedom”), those conservatives looked at Chicago’s rejected Olympic bid and concluded that it was the world’s rejection of President Obama! In a rare demonstration of intellectual consistency (albeit anti-Obama wrongheadedness), when the world awarded President Obama the prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace, their “pro- America” reaction was to attack him as undeserving and decry his celebrity (while embracing Sara Palin)! “How could the Nobel Prize Committee have done this”, they cried! One of life’s most important lessons is that where you make no attempt to gain an understanding of what motivates people to do a specific thing, you will never understand why they did that thing (this issue was explored in a previous “Liberal Examination” http://www.examiner.com/x-21075-Baltimore-Liberal-Examiner~y2009m8d28-Aint-understanding-mellow )! Of course, who needs to understand when your only real intention is to be critical!
While I don’t claim to know what motivated the Nobel Prize Committee, I think they may have been guided by the context (both contemporary and historical) in which the election of Barak Obama occurred! Most of the civilized world abhors war and fears nuclear weapons; therefore Obama’s stated desire to contain nuclear proliferation and to work towards complete nuclear disarmament had to be viewed as something of a Godsend, particularly after the Bush years! America is once again the most respected and admired nation in the world! When one considers that she had fallen to seventh place during the Bush years, this increase in our global prestige is too attached to Obama’s successful candidacy to be an unrelated coincidence. It is this new found respect and admiration for America that I think is the key, because that reflects how the world views the American people (we voted for Obama) and I hypothecate that Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize as proxy for us! President Obama, much like his unhinged conservative critics, also declared that he was unworthy of the award, but that he would accept the award because he considered it “aspirational”, as opposed to an acknowledgement of some great accomplishment. Since he had only been in office eleven days prior to his nomination, how can people not see that his being nominated for the award, let alone ultimately winning it, wasn’t about him at all! While Barak Obama is a truly inspirational politician, it was the American people who aspired to what he inspired! Again, understanding that with only eleven days in office, he had accomplished nothing on his own, why didn’t his nomination signal to all that he was being considered for this prestigious award, not simply because he asked the American people to embrace his leadership, but because we demonstrated the good sense and moral judgment to do so? And when he won, wasn’t that the Nobel Prize Committee’s way of acknowledging the magnitude of his accomplishment and his accomplishment being indistinguishable for our accomplishment, the Nobel Prize was really awarded to us! After getting the politician (Bush) we deserved, we’re finally (because we have evolved) getting the politician our ideals deserve and the Nobel Prize is our award for no longer being those (USA, USA) people!
If we step back and contemplate the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t watch Fox news or listen to talk (hate) radio and therefore has no idea (beyond their shameful reputations) who Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity are, the foreign perspective on America is much more likely to be rooted in objective fact! Objective fact is something the aforementioned blowhards and gasbags, which are handsomely rewarded by their corporate and political sponsors, work tirelessly to obfuscate, if not obliterate! Foreigners are also much less likely to suffer from the historical denial (a denial enabled by our compliant and corporatist media) that afflicts so many Americans! Our sleepwalking/talking media mavens seem to have also brought into the skewed notion of American “exceptional-ism” (USA, USA) without understanding what truly makes America exceptional! Here, I think its essential to understand that the breathtaking historical and cultural ignorance so often demonstrated and reinforced by our media is not engaged in by accident. To paraphrase the wise words of Upton Sinclair, it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his paycheck is dependant upon his not understanding it!.
Can there really be any doubt that we don’t understand what motivates people from foreign countries when we continue to show so little understanding of what motivates Americans in America! As a result, our pampered and perfumed media “blabberatti” continually demonstrates their collective “gang who couldn’t shoot straight-ness” by incessantly regurgitating the fallacy, not withstanding the results of Obama’s convincing victory in last years election, that America is a “center right” nation! Thus, 60+ % of the American people support a government run health insurance option, yet our clearly distracted media salons label it as a liberal program. They somehow do this without addressing the conundrum/contradiction inherent in the fact that if 60+ % of Americans support a liberal program, how can America be a center right nation? Isn’t 60+ % a clear majority? Helping to shed no light on this clearly self explanatory issue, Republicans appearing on political gabfest programs are never asked by our media salons to explain this “center right” attack on logic! Can liberal, liberalism, left of center and “the left” be such dirty words and phrases that our frequently and groundlessly chastised (for their nonexistent liberalism) media refuses to accurately define them and reveal their inherent virtues, and what’s that all about (a question The Liberal Examiner attempted to answer in http://www.examiner.com/x-21075-Baltimore-Liberal-Examiner~y2009m9d1-Say-anything-or-just-the-facts-maam)?
Similarly, a true understanding of what really makes America exceptional would require an understanding and acknowledgement of America’s continuing flaws. The American media can see those flaws in other nations with perfect 20/20 vision, yet when we look inward these same institutions (and the vast majority of the America people) seem as optically impaired as Stevie Wonder (The Liberal Examiner loves Stevie Wonder)! America sends election monitors to foreign lands to insure the fairness and accuracy of their elections, yet we fail to acknowledge the “issues” we have with our own electoral process. Thus, while the vast majority of the American people have all but disappeared what happened in Florida in 2000, foreigners (particularly Europeans) saw Republican officials denying black Floridians their right to vote in an effort to ensure the electoral victory of the Republican candidate! Being fully versed in America’s tragic history of racism and discrimination, they likely understood this travesty for what it was (a travesty)! Yet I imagine that even America’s harshest critics were surprised to see the opposing political party (no Democratic Senator would authorize an investigation of this travesty, and we’re talking Kennedy, Finegold and Wellstone) and the American people accept this immoral, anti-Democratic theft without rioting in the streets and demanding the jailing of the perpetrators of this treasonous attack on our nation! Our media salons were far to preoccupied with their breathless search for Jessie Jackson’s secret love child to notice the hijacking of America’s democratic process! So while America pretended not to see, the rest of the world watched as our racial bile became the dynamite that would nearly demolish our Democracy!
Imagine the reaction of our hyper moralizing media if the leader of Cuba had his political supporters/thugs ensure his election by preventing a segment of that population from voting in that country’s elections! Americans need to understand that, just as we accept the historical and current realities faced by; say women in Arab nations, other nations know US history. Thus, that we would so openly accept the political disenfranchisement of black Americans, while stunning, would be considered of a piece with that history! Americans wouldn’t be in denial regarding a similar complaint about the treatment of Arab women in Iran and other nations aren’t in denial about the treatment of black Americans in Florida! Continuing with this horror story, imagine that the foreign politician who came to power under those “Bush-like” circumstances was known to be that nation’s biggest proponent of the death penalty (Bush-like)! While the rest of the civilized world has abandoned this barbaric practice, the USA, USA crowd loves it! Imagine further that this same foreign leader (we would call him a despot) was in control of the world’s largest military (with accompanying nuclear arsenal) and that he had publicly stated his belief that Allah speaks to him and directs his decisions! Just imagine!
Consider how we would evaluate that nation’s people once we learned that said leader derisively dismissed a warning of an eminent terrorist attack on his nation and that in the wake of that devastating attack, he launched an illegal (but internally popular) war against a sovereign nation uninvolved in that attack! Glenn Beck’s head would burst into flames as he reported that nation’s torture program (GITMO, Abu Grhieb) and the hyper-loquacious, selectively combative and unjustifiably vein Chris Mathews would be rendered speechless as he watched that nation’s people re-elect that politician! Can there really be any doubt that the perpetually smirking Andrea Mitchell would grow an “afro” if she watched Arab women being abandoned by their government without food, water or other basic necessities (New Orleans style) even! Would even our most gullible news models accept the explanation that the foreign government’s actions weren’t sexist because they could also be defined as conservative (the late Bob Novack actually made this argument in defending Trent Lott from a charge of bigotry)?
Now if we’re willing to accept that we would have a negative reaction, not just to the criminals who perpetrated those crimes (and criminals are how we would characterize them) but also the citizenry who enabled and participated in them, just imagine how others have looked at us! Thus the corresponding free fall of America’s global image! A higher percentage of America’s citizens are incarcerated then is the case in any industrialized country (including Saddam’s Iraq) and we are the only wealthy nation that doesn’t provide health care for it’s citizens! While we may ignore or retreat into denial regarding these national travesties, the rest of the world sees them and it is based upon this knowledge that their opinion of America and the American people is formed! In a Democracy, politicians can only do what the people permit them to get away with, and it is our shameful enabling of these unprincipled and unpatriotic politicians that has defined the American people and American exceptional-ism for the last 8 years! We permitted this, so we got the politicians we deserved!
Enter the 2008 presidential campaign and the election of Barak Obama! In as little as eight years, the American people were transformed from a people that would permit the political disenfranchisement of an oft reviled and discriminated against minority, to a citizenry that freely elected a member of that same minority to the highest office in the land! Unlike the USA, USA crowd, our America has chosen a President who speaks of peace, cooperation and respect! We have chosen a man who wants to do things for Americans, as oppose to one who seemed primarily motivated by what he could do too others (not the USA, USA crowd)! Americans conducted a free and fair election and we rejoined the world community through the leadership of Barack Obama! It is the recognition of our national need to change course and then undertaking the difficult and humbling task of actually changing course, that now defines American Exceptional-ism and it is for that reason that the Nobel Prize was awarded to President Barak Obama! He is the embodiment of America’s course correction!
So it is in this context that the constant flow of venom vomited by his conservative critics seems so hypocritical, petty and un-American! If they truly believe that America is a land of exceptional people, why has it not occurred to them that we are collectively capable of doing exceptional things? If they weren’t in complete denial (but they are), they would see that a nation with our sorry history on racial issues, including the race based, semi-genocide of Native Americans, has done something truly exceptional when it elects an African American as it’s political leader! In a complete 180 degree political and cultural U turn, the American people have demonstrated that ours is a nation that is again worthy of ascending to our rightful place at the forefront of the world stage! The world has watched closely with hopeful eyes and it understands that because of the activism and dedication of millions of Americans, the American people have finally elected a politician that they (and the world) actually deserve! Barak Obama was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace on behalf of the exceptional American people (USA, USA)!