Just in case you missed it, I highly recommend that you check out Patrick Smith’s Memorial Day homage to America posted on Salon’s website. Here I was thinking that Memorial Day was a time to reflect on those who made great sacrifices in the name of democracy.
To enjoy the company of loved ones while acknowledging that our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were dearly purchased with the blood, sweat and tears of others. To grill tasty meats and sip on tasty beer while basking in the glow of our shared freedom.
Thankfully Mr. Smith (a Yale man!) has corrected my many misunderstandings of America and allowed me to reexamine our blighted history in a much more enlightened manner. Just in case the title and subtitle weren’t subtle enough, American exceptionalism is a dangerous myth: Move beyond Tea Party lies and phony patriotism. This Memorial Day, let’s remember our history honestly, Smith went on to clarify in painful detail why there is little to celebrate on this American holiday.
Rather than try and explain Smith’s ideas and come up short, as is practically guaranteed considering my previous conservative leaning sympathies (thanks to Smith, I now know better) and obviously shallow thinking abilities, I prefer to let his words do the talking (with my own humble interpretations added for those who aren’t fluent in doublespeak).
Ranging from the birth of our nation to the present day, among the many Memorial Day lessons I gained from the learned Smith include:
1. History doesn’t matter.
“One need not subscribe to the politics of these or any other formations in history to derive benefit from an enriched and enlivened knowledge of them. They enlarge and revitalize the American notion of “we.” And in so doing, history opens up more or less countless alternatives—alternative discourses, alternative ideas of ourselves, alternative politics, alternative institutions.”
2. Osama bin Laden had his good points.
“Osama bin Laden and those who gave their lives for his cause spoke for no one but themselves, surely. But they nonetheless gave substantial, dreadful form to a truth that had been a long time coming: The world does not require America to release it into freedom.”
3. Some gobbledygook about power, or something.
“Power is a material capability. It is a possession with no intrinsic vitality of its own. It has to do with method as opposed to purpose or ideals—techne as against telos. It is sheer means, deployment. Power tends to discourage authentic reflection and considered thought, and, paradoxically, produces a certain weakness in those who have it. This is the weakness that is born of distance from others. In the simplest terms, it is an inability to see and understand others and to tolerate difference. It also induces a crisis of belief. Over time a powerful democracy’s faith in itself quivers, while its faith in power and prerogative accumulates.”
4. America is the source of all evil.
“Think merely of the twentieth century and all the wreckage left behind in it in America’s name.”
5. The modern era would have been better served if ruled by Nazis and Communists.
“It would mean looking back at America’s democracy and recognizing that Americans alone had to make it. Is this to say that post-Wilsonian Americans are to sit and watch as others suffer? My answers to this are two. First of all, there is little doubt that the span of American interventions beginning in 1898 and ending now in Afghanistan has caused more suffering than it has relieved. This is so by a wide margin, to put the point mildly.”
6. Representational democracy is for the birds.
“Among Wilson’s useful insights was that Americans possessed a system that did not have the perpetual capacity to self-correct. It required the attention of those living in it. Otherwise it would all come to “disorder.” And this is among the things Americans are now faced with in a different way: Theirs is a system, a set of institutions, that yet less possesses the ability to correct its errors and injustices and malfunctions. Time, to put it another way, has taken its toll. This is a stinging judgment, fraught with implications. But at least since the Cold War, it has been necessary to cancel all previous assumptions that American political and social institutions are able to correct themselves as they are currently constituted.”
Since Smith tends to get a little wordy with his ideas, and in case you don’t have the time or energy to plod through his very long and somewhat boring article for those with small brains, what he is really trying to convey is how much better the world would be with deep thinkers like him in charge. Just think, under Comrade Smith’s thoughtful leadership there wouldn’t have to be all this messy democracy stuff getting in the way of progress.
From the lowest welfare baby to the highest welfare promoting journalist, in Smith’s world all (liberal) points of view would be equally respected. Al-Qaeda’s message of freedom would be proclaimed from the rooftops while the dastardly truth hating Tea Partiers would get a one-way ticket to a reeducation camp near you.
A Memorial Day message that every
Soviet citizen American can be proud of.
Fred Dardick got a BS in Biology at Boston University and MS in Biology at Stanford University before deciding that science bored him. He now runs a staffing company in Chicago where he is much happier now.
You can find Fred’s political commentaries on his website Political Kryptonite.
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