The American Exceptionalist Fraud!

 Thomas Jefferson Emboydied the Schzoid American Character

On the Imperative of Learning from Our History

It is fashionable among those who pretend intellectual gravitas to quote the 19th century Harvard philosopher George Santayana’s axiom “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are bound to repeat its mistakes.”  Yet few of them, whatever their political persuasion, can identify its origin or adhere to its advice.  This is especially true of those who subscribe to the self-righteous, vulgarly nationalistic, bogus doctrine of American Exceptionalism. 

The great danger of this false doctrine lies in the fact that this myth is widely regarded as fact, and even serves as the basis for policy decisions in both domestic and foreign affairs. It is at the root of the belief that Americans are morally superior to other people in the world. And undergirds what Dr. Henry Kissinger has recently called the “Evangelical” character of American foreign policy; which justifies American interventionism all over the globe.

One need only listen to the explanations given by American policymakers who speak casually about attacking Iran because they may be developing the capability to make one bomb; even while the US has tens of thousands of advanced nuclear weapons, as well as weaponized germs and poison gasses in large quantities – most of which are US inventions – to recognize the danger of this conception of American civilization. But uprooting this false and dangerous doctrine is no easy task, because so many white Americans have an emotional investment in it.

Consider the following commentary written in Sunday’s New York Times of 10/14/12, by Christia Freeland titled “The Self Destruction of the 1 Percent,” an excerpt from her learned book about how greedy elites self-destruct: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.  “In theearly 19thcentury,” Ms. Freeland writes, “the United States was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet.  ‘We have no paupers,’ Thomas Jefferson boasted in an 1814 letter. ‘The great mass of our population is of laborers.  Our rich, who can live without labor, either manual or professional, being few…most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families, and from the demands of their labor are enabled to exact from the rich and the competent such prices as enabled them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families.’”

Ms. Freeland goes on to observe, without a hint of embarrassment or shame: “For Jefferson this equality was at the heart of American Exceptionalism.”  Alas, this passage from Jefferson’s letter reveals that even the smartest white Americans were as deluded about American reality at the founding of the Republic as they are today.  The wealth of the colony of Virginia, where Jefferson lived at the time, was based on the labor of African slaves and their American descendants, who were neither well fed nor well clothed.

Nor were their families recognized in the law; in fact they were classified as live-stock, which is why plantation owners could sell their children like piglets.  Furthermore, poor whites could not bargain for fair wages because they were competing with a workforce that was working for free!

And all of the prattle about the land they owned conveniently overlooked the fact that the whites acquired it through genocide against Native Americans and the greatest land grab in history!  Jefferson – who owned 200 slaves and sired seven children by a slave concubine, all of whom remained his slaves til he died – acknowledged these crimes when he lamented “I shudder for my country when I reflect upon the fact that God is just!”

Failure to admit these facts is the reason why Americans refuse to recognize the role of historic and present racism in producing the dismal statistics regarding health, wealth, education, employment, incarceration, and life expectancy among the Afro-American, Native American and Hispanic populations – and to a lesser degree the white working class – today.  Hence the problems persist.

The great 20th century Afro-American novelist and essayist James Baldwin put it best in a speech to a group of white New York City School Teachers in 1964: “If you have to lie about anybody’s history you have to lie about it all…and If I’m not what I’ve been told I am, you are not what you have been told you are either.”

The refusal of white Americans to confront this fact is the reason why so many of them believe that Affirmative Action policies are unjustified – as does their right-wing black lackeys in the Grand Obstructionist Party. While some whites oppose these remedial measures out of ignorance, others who know better play upon the resentment produced by that ignorance to maintain the racial status and avoid the issue of Reparations for the victims.

However, since they are all bible thumpers who claim Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, instead of running around the country slandering President Obama, our great biblical scholar Dr. Cornell West ought to be warning these people that denying this nation’s crimes might get them over politically: But living a lie won’t get them into the pearly gates of heaven!

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

October 15, 2012

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