Being an American is feeling more and more like a death sentence
It’s hard to believe in American exceptionalism when the pandemic keeps getting worse every day as the rest of the world recovers.
I’ve found that explaining the concept of “American Exceptionalism” to recent immigrants is somewhat hard, especially if these immigrants are pretty well-off from the moment they hit our shores. That said, I’ve also come to realize that it’s hardly a foreign concept, forgive the pun — nationalism (“American Exceptionalism” is just our domestic self-brand of it) is all too alive and well in the world, in fact more than ever since the end of the Second World War (a conflict spurred in absolutely no small part by nationalism). It’s also no small irony that two of the nations that most championed nationalism in that conflict, to the point where nationalism was itself their main strategic military goal — Germany and Japan — are now arguably the greatest global bastions against nationalism today. It’s precisely because of their stunning, unequivocal total defeat and hundreds of thousands if not millions of their own dead (and in the case of Eastern Germany, trapped behind the Iron Curtain) that their citizens and especially politicians understand the inherent dangers of nationalism and as a move of both human compassion and self-preservation have vowed their best to combat it the world over. This also plays a key part in, for example, informing Angela Merkel on how she should actually lead a nation in pandemic. For Japan, it hits even closer to home, even without the WWII subtext, dealing directly with deliberate attacks from their struggles with a relatively bizarre preponderance of “doomsday cults” as well as previous pandemics from the related and even deadlier SARS and MERS viruses that, fortunately, never hit our shores with as much force. The latter also informed neighbor South Korea’s response, a major reason why they are all the most likely the best country to actually be living in right at this moment.
“The best country to be living in” is a title most Americans associate with their own country — a title most often self-appointed, with no real evidence other than overblown patriotism (read: nationalism) to back it up (and an overwhelming preponderance of evidence to in fact support the contrary). If I’ve found it difficult to explain to newly arrived immigrants the bizarre phenomenon of American Exceptionalism (compounded by the fact that many, if not arguably most immigrants, coming into this country are trying to escape the nationalism of their own home lands at least in some form) then explaining the origins and rationale of the apparent immutable, inherent status of the United Stated somehow being the best country in the world automatically is doubly hard. Very honestly, I can’t explain it, other than to say that to Americans to believe otherwise is literally offensive. Many outside observers might conclude this is unique to Americans, but far from it, and perhaps in that lies no better way to illustrate how problematic it is. Both Putin and Xi are applying this same exact model of belief to their respective countries, Russia and the People’s Republic of China. And while on the international stage, again from an outside observer looking in, this might look like these country’s greatest strengths, it is in fact their greatest weakness.
It is a belief that leads one to in turn believe they’re infallible; that quite literally God has erected some invisible force-field around their homelands that will protect them from all outside threats. It’s a belief that here in the United States is reinforced with how exceptionally well we’ve weathered the SARS and MERS pandemics; but of course, we’ve also had actually informed, intelligent leadership to help guide us through those pandemics or at least leadership that understood the value of listening to experts appointed specifically in an advisory role. Unfortunately, Donald J. Trump represents the very personification of American Exceptionalism, and the belief that the United States somehow is anointed exceptionalism to everything — even to how other countries deal with reality.
And every single person residing in the United States is paying the price for that, despite less than 50% of voters from the 2016 election actually approving of crowning him the executive leader of this nation. With each passing day, the United States resembles less and less other developed nations that have successfully moved on from the “social distancing” or outright quarantine phase to the “suppression” phase, a list of nations that includes Xi’s People’s Republic. Whether we like to admit it or not, with every passing day the United States bears more of a resemblance to a so-called “third world nation.”
And thus, this is how having such a belief that one’s country is the greatest to an immutable degree, to the point where it’s literally ingrained into the fabric of the culture itself, dooms that nation to being passed by actually developed nations, descending into a hell-hole of an abyss. In short, the United States is far from the greatest country in the world. In fact, if the coronavirus pandemic proves anything, it’s that it’s far from it.
The United States is not a privileged nation. And our continued belief in that will only sink it further to the point where being a citizen of the United States amounts to a death sentence.