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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2020 10:01 am

Title: American exceptionalism was our preexisting condition
Category: Uncle Sam
Posted By: BeaverFever
Date: 2020-07-23 09:59:18

CKA Uber
CKA Uber
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Posts: 15043
PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2020 10:01 am

America is sick. Still sick. The fever spikes, abates, returns. The shortness of breath lingers. America is waiting in virtual bread lines, listening to bad jazz, on hold with the unemployment office. America is strewn with the glass shards of Starbucks windows, busted by protesters, and bullied by unidentifiable agents of the government. America, barefoot and in Brooks Brothers, is defending its marble palazzo with an AR-15 rifle. America is spray-painted with the faces of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, on bollards and plywood and mailboxes. America is trying to keep the kids occupied, and fed, and learning, and sociable without socializing. America is in the middle of a public health wildfire, an economic sinkhole and an earthquake over racial injustice — and the president of the United States is having to reiterate that he took a cognitive exam and correctly answered that, yes, the drawing of the large animal is, in fact, an elephant.

.., This test of solidarity and public trust couldn’t have come at a worse time. America’s mask has slipped. There is a feeling of failure, of being repeatedly victimized by a virus despite our supposed exceptionalism. National pride in the United States has fallen to a record low, according to Gallup, and only 1 in 5 Americans is satisfied with the direction of the country — a steep drop from four months ago, when satisfaction was at a 15-year high. Forty-nine percent of whites — also a record low — say they are “extremely proud” to be an American; for nonwhite Americans the rate is half that.

Perhaps we ignored our preexisting conditions for too long. In 1979, Jimmy Carter admitted to a national “crisis of confidence,” in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate and energy shortages. But then we shut our eyes and pictured Ronald Reagan’s “shining city,” as wealth oozed upward. We believed Bill Clinton’s pep talk about how our best qualities excused our worst, which included prioritizing mass incarceration. We cloaked George W. Bush’s costly foreign policy in pageant-style patriotism and then believed Barack Obama’s insistence that Americans were not as divided as we seemed. Meanwhile, big banks crashed the economy and got bailed out, white people in rural areas started dying “deaths of despair,” black people kept getting killed by police at disproportiately high rates, and more Americans turned to conspiracy theories to make sense of it all and prescription pills to blunt the pain.

Then a minority of voters elected as president a salesman who built his empire on fraud, spectacle and bankruptcy. Three years and 20,000 “false or misleading claims” later, the reality-show presidency is reaching a dramatic first-season climax marked by mass death, rampant joblessness, tens of millions of people in the streets.

.., “You can no longer pretend that ‘the American century’ isn’t over,” says Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, an associate professor of history at Loyola University Chicago. She views the years since 1968 as a cycle of recessions and widening inequality, debt and disenfranchisement that is only now becoming apparent to broader America — white America, moneyed America — because the pandemic and social media have made it impossible to ignore. Institutions have been deteriorating and failing us for generations, she says, but we rigged workarounds with our own social networks and mutual-aid groups. We made do. Then the pandemic scattered us, isolated us, exposed us for what we really are.

Federal officers disperse Black Lives Matter demonstrators at the federal courthouse in Portland, Ore. (Noah Berger/AP)

“All these years after the Civil War, are we still just a union of states — or have we become a nation of people?”

... In his 1998 book “The American Century,” Harold Evans wrote about the nation’s “inner light of freedom.” Since then, he says, the pursuit of freedom has become reckless. Democracy has become transactional. An isolated America has plunged into a “permanent fog of war” on its own turf.

“We are reeling from the tsunami of lies and the images of outrage,” Evans, 92, writes in an email from his home in the Hamptons. “What has been inspiring to see is that Americans have cut through the mist to fight for justice and equality.”

Is America failing, or is it just changing?... ... utType=amp

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