we touched this same spot with our hands, our feet, our gaze and our dreams

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One nation, under illusion

THE HOARIEST and most oft-repeated cliche in American politics may be that America is the greatest country in the world. Every politician, Democrat and Republican, seems duty bound to pander to this idea of American exceptionalism, and woe unto him who hints otherwise. This country is “the last, best hope of mankind,’’ or the “shining city on the hill,’’ or the “great social experiment.’’ As if this weren’t enough, Jimmy Carter upped the fawning ante 30 years ago by uttering arguably the most damning words in modern American politics. He called for a “government as good as the American people,’’ thus taking national greatness and investing it in each and every one of us.
Carter was speaking when Watergate was fresh, and government had been disgraced, but still. The fact of the matter is that whenever anything really significant has been accomplished by our government, it is precisely because it was better than the American people.
Think of World War II, America’s entrance into which was strenuously resisted by the populace until Franklin Roosevelt carefully laid the groundwork and Pearl Harbor made it inevitable. Think of civil rights, which Lyndon Johnson pressed despite widescale opposition, and not just in the South. Even then it took more than 100 years. Or think of the current health care debate in which Americans seem to desire some sort of reform, just not a reform that would significantly help people in dire need, while the Obama administration is pushing to provide that assistance. In the end, government has inspired Americans far more than Americans have inspired their government. They are too busy boasting.
Read the whole editorial here…………
Neal Gabler is the author, most recently, of “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination.’’

1 comment:

  1. Vern the Ameriphile Amerasian10:01 AM

    Hey, Kenny!

    Do you love to stir the pot or what? I hope you don't get a lot of hate mail from blind Ameriphiles like some of the responses I saw when I read the rest of the article.

    Wasn't our class cosmopolitan enough to avoid some of the "love-it-or-leave-it" mentality? Or have I misjudged my classmates as urbane sophisticates?