Immigration – And The Diversity It Brings – THAT Is “American Exceptionalism”

Rich Christian white guys, pumped up on cheap beer (they don’t drink it for the taste, they drink it to get plastered) think THEY are American Exceptionalism.

What Republicans think “American Exceptionalism” looks like…

Rich, Christian white guys with real money — we’re talking Koch & Mercer level wealth — don’t care about American Exceptionalism. They care about maintaining power and cultural hegemony. They don’t give a damn if enriching themselves far beyond ANYONE’S ability to spend the money even multiple generations onward results in the demise of the greatest experiment in human self government ever.

But American Exceptionalism is a very real thing. While white Christian men — already advantaged because they brought the money with them — may have placed themselves at the center of power in their new-fangled Democratic Republic, they weren’t actually the generators of the new ideas and vitality that would bring more money (and more new ideas and vitality) to the country — all those diverse OTHER PEOPLE were and still are.

Money is important to realizing great ideas. But money doesn’t “make” the ideas. Great minds do. And most every human has the potential for greatness in one way or another if given the chance (and the training, education and encouragement).

Take just a cursory glance at the biggest ideas of the last century — who did the innovating, whose cleverness solved a challenging problem, whose genius made lots of people lots of money — and you’ll see a sea of diverse faces staring back.

If American authoritarians continue to hold power (minority rule, remember) — and they drive every immigrant away — it will only be a matter of time before somewhere else becomes “Exceptional” in the way we used to be.

But then, looking backward — to how it was — is what rich, white, Christian men are all about. They’re “conservatives” remember — hell bent on conserving. The exceptionalism they have in mind exists only IN their mind.

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When Gun Lovers Insist They Need Their Guns To Fight Tyrannical Government, What They Mean Is THEY’RE RACISTS

Pro-gun people will insist right to your face that their arsenal of death is all that stands between the collective us and a hostile, tyrannical government taking over all our lives. Their devotion to the second amendment (well, to their bizarre interpretation of it that rearranges syntax and redefines words to make them more convenient) is our last bulwark of freedom.

That ain’t just bullshit, it’s RACIST bullshit.

Do a quick survey of who mouths that nonsense. See what I mean? Not a brown face to be seen. Think it’s a coincidence?

These are the same princes who believe American Exceptionalism is the money rich white men put down in the casino of ideas. They think ownership of an idea is what matters rather than the idea itself. Of course they would — they can’t think of the ideas because their brains have all stagnated. Great ideas are born of diversity — and the many different ways of thinking that diversity organically inspires.

The joke about white supremacy of course is its total wrong-headedness about its core mythology — that white people breeding only with white people will produce white perfection. You might indeed get a “race” of people with alabaster skin — your ideal of perfection. But that blindingly white flesh will come with lots of baggage including genetic issues. Ask the Spanish aristocracy how that works out.

American Exceptionalism (it’s a real thing) flows directly from its diversity. Until travel became easy in the 19th century, most people lived and died within a few miles of where they were born. A family — a community of families — would live on the same patch of land for generations, bonding, becoming a tribe. The tribes that lived around and between the Seine, Rhone, Loire, Garonne and Marne Rivers eventually became French. That same formative process produced the English, the Spanish, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Swiss and every other nation of Europe (and the world up to that point).

Meanwhile, in North America, millions of Native Americans were thriving. When the European tribes eventually arrived, they found a nearly empty continent. That’s because the very first European arrivals brought germs with them that quickly, silently and pretty thoroughly reduced a collective population of millions to a mere tens of thousands. The European tribes were all white and saw their larger tribe as superior.

Had the European tribes had to go up against the native tribes at full size and strength? They’d all still be in Europe — without a bit of the New World’s wealth in their pocket. That fact alone would have changed the fate of humankind.

But white people stepped onto a blank canvas and saw only themselves. But others were here, too. Black people, brown people, Asian people, Middle Eastern people. As there was no native tribe anymore, all the new arrivals filled that tribal vacuum and became a tribe. Regardless of wherever they were from, most came to America to stay. To become something they hadn’t been before because no one had been it: Americans.

It wasn’t just white, European people and their money.

White, Christian people have always lived in irrational fear of every other race. Having invented the myth that America was a white, Christian country by nature, white, Christian people proceeded to make life miserable for everyone who wasn’t white. Over the course of two hundred years, America’s white, Christian people persecuted, enslaved, massacred or disrespected every single other group they encountered — and usually? They used their faith to justify it.

Go back to those faces — of the earnest, deeply concerned citizens insisting that their gun is our freedom. Replace the word “government” with “black person” or “brown person” or “Asian person” or “Muslim” or “Jew” or “Feminist” even. It plugs and plays perfectly.

It’s not a coincidence. Gun lovers fear the government because they love their guns. It’s not the government taking their guns that scares them to death, it’s how defenseless they’ll feel afterwards — when or if one of those other tribes comes looking for payback. Never mind how entitled those other tribes are to every bit of payback they can get, the white people ain’t paying it. Not willingly.

Want fairness? Want Justice? As former proud NRA member Charlton Heston once proudly asserted about gun regulators and his guns, we’ll have to take fairness, Justice and our safety from their “cold, dead fingers”.

Chuck Heston wasn’t staring at the government when he said that. He was staring at “the help”.

Americans Despise Paying Taxes Because They Perceive It As Money For Nothing

Ask just about any American “What do you get for your tax dollars” and I’ll bet you next year’s minuscule tax refund they’ll reply “Nothing. We get NOTHING!” There’s even a chance they’ll spit, too. Several times.

Want to lose an election? Tell an American you’re raising his taxes. Doesn’t matter what the raised taxes are for, the American will assume it’s bullshit. It must be bullshit — because no one can ever seem to tell us what our taxes pay for except in the very abstract: our taxes pay for the military and Congress and the president and “government”. We see most of that (if not all of it) as money out with nothing coming back in return.

Oh — occasionally what comes back in return is a $100 toilet seat or some other expensive boondoggle that did no one any good except the politician who made the deal. You couldn’t buy or invent worse press.

In Europe, by contrast, they pay a huge tax bill. But they get so much in return. The Danes, for instance, pays the highest taxes in the world. Yet they’re also the happiest people in the world. Those taxes are buying them complete health care coverage and educational expenses. The Danish government spends more money on its youngest and oldest citizens per capita than any other country. And every Danish tax-payer knows this.

Belgium’s citizens pay 4% corporate tax rate, 21% VAT and upper limit of 50% on personal income. Belgium still ranked 18th in the world in GDP and consistently ranks high in the quality of life ratings published in the United Nations Human Development Report. It’s not perfect. An influx of immigration has strained the economics — but that’s because Europe’s economies aren’t really geared to absorb immigration the way America’s economy is (and always has been).

On the flip side — in the interest of fairness — there’s Italy and Greece. They approached the same desire for social democracy but without the discipline required. It does require discipline.

If Americans walked into a restaurant and were told, more or less, to fork over X dollars for their meal — sight unseen — they’d balk for sure. Rightfully so, too. It doesn’t help that Americans don’t see the government as theirs or representative of “them” but as some interloper and part-time thief.

What if We The People — in order to perfect our imperfect union – re-imagined our government and how we fund it from the point of view of its citizens. You know: “We The People”.

What if, instead of just paying taxes — or having them taken from us by an unseen and unstoppable hand — we had paying taxes explained to us. What if we gave Americans a solid civic education that made it clear how they, Americans, are an essential part of this Great Experiment in Human Self Government?

What if we made passing a real civics test part of any high schooler’s high school graduation. It should be hard, too. No pass? No graduate. It’s for real. What if, as part of that education — and it doesn’t have to be a dull, trying experience; we could just as easily make it exciting — as exciting and meaningful as actually being an American.

And what if part of the excitement of being an American was the healthcare your tax dollar was buying you — in addition to the military protection, the infrastructure, the college education, the supplemental pension and the assistance if you need it? The data set says that populations that don’t have to worry about losing their homes should they get cancer — they’re happier than, say, US.

The data also says that people who don’t spend half their working lives paying for their educations also are happier than Americans. We could bring Guaranteed Basic Income into the conversation but — another time.

Americans have a bad habit of telling themselves things about themselves that simply aren’t true. We loves us some mythology, we do — especially when it paints us as rugged individualists. Yes, sure — there are lots of Americans who fit that description. Part of America’s lure is that anyone from anywhere can come here and — if they’re willing to work hard enough — accomplish anything. But no one – NO ONE – every does that alone.

We keep bumping into the sharp edges of our own hubris. That is, the white minority of this country continues to paint a phony picture that Americans (white guys in their minds) are exceptional just because they’re who they are. They have bought into a phony mythology that, left to their own devices, each white man is a great commercial success just waiting for his moment to shine. Taxes on such a junior level captain-of-industry are budensome.

Horse shit.

American exceptionalism is its diversity. Its exceptionalism does not extend to rich white guys and their money. It doesn’t extend either to the phony belief that Americans, somehow, are different — that we love “freedom” more. No, we love keeping money in our pocket more. We love indulging our greed and calling it by a nicer name — “prudent”.

Americans need a tax system that 1) taxes them fairly and with the understanding that those tax dollars are meant — ever dollar spent — to benefit them, their family, their community, their state, their country. If there’s waste — let’s get at it with a sledge hammer FFS! The goal is for Americans to see their taxes as their money that their government is spending for their benefit.

An itemized tax bill — as itemized as a tax return — would be nice. Even nicer — if the line items showed not just the outflow of tax dollar to the government but the inflow of benefits (assuming health care & college & the security that you won’t die a pauper). If Americans could see their taxes in terms of a cost-benefit analysis — where they were clearly getting something — they’d think of their taxes very differently.

I doubt they’d ever be happy paying taxes but at least they’d understand their taxes — their relationship to them. It could even quiet their moaning about taxes. I’m not holding my breath though.

On This Perverse Independence Day, A Reminder — American Exceptionalism Is REAL: It’s Our DIVERSITY…

Today may be July 4, but it doesn’t feel like a normal Independence Day. More like… Trumpendance Day. Not a national celebration, a national tragedy.

If our problem were only Donald Trump — his corruption, his crime family and their spider web of self-serving criminal enterprises — his treason — this “problem” would have been solved already. Not hyperbole: the entire Republican Party is evidently complicit in every last bit what Donald Trump is doing, has done — intends to do to what was the United States of America. Not to get too far into the weeds (there are so damned many) — The demographics clearly against them (remember those “demographics” — we’ll return to them shortly) — the Republican “brain trust” saw that the days of White, Christian hegemony over America were sunsetting — and fast. Popular vote numbers (and the more Americans who vote, the more Democratic we tilt) put the presidency (the Executive Branch) permanently out of reach. The Legislative branch also looked dicey. The one shot the Republican brain trust saw as a means to hold onto power: capture the judiciary. Fill the benches from SCOTUS on down with permanent appointees, every last one a cultural/legal troglodyte, wedded like a Bride of Christ to the idea that America needs to live in its Antebellum past.

Those people have hijacked the country. Before that, they hijacked the language (twisting “A well regulated militia” into “have all the guns ya want!”) and even history (going into the Civil War, not a single seceding Confederate state said a word about “state’s rights”. Every single secession document sites slavery as its reason for leaving the Union. The South proved the maxim — never mind who wins the war, what matters is who wins the peace that follows. The South managed to revise history to make us think we weren’t still arguing about slavery.

Those people — Conservative, white Christians — also have tried to hijack the idea of “American Exceptionalism”. They want everyone to believe what makes us different — special, damn it! — is white, Christian men and their money. That is prime, grade A bullshit.

American Exceptionalism is its diversity.

With the caveat that step one involved wiping out most of America’s native population (guns, steel and especially germs) — and with the added caveat that European populations were living in abject squalor while great civilizations thrived across North America — America was a kind of blank slate culturally and historically. Whereas the Gauls, the Celts, the Bretons, Aquitanians, Ligurians, and Germanic people arriving at the beginning of the Frankish Empire (481–843) would, in time, evolve into “French People” just as the Hun tribes in Germany became Germans, the Swiss became Swiss, the Spanish became Spanish and the Italians became a collection of disorganized city-states masquerading as a country, there were no tribes present on North America to eventually evolve into those “people”.

As I said, aside from the ones the arriving Europeans wiped out, THEY were the foundation for what became “Americans”. But not just Europeans. They weren’t the only ones here. There were still native Americans. And lots of Africans. There were, in fact, people from all over the world — here at the founding of the country and immediately thereafter. The white men who drew up the documents over-represented themselves and their interests — as wealthy white men always do. But the ideals transcended their narrow-mindedness.

Look at America’s history, who contributed to it, who BUILT the country, not just with their labor but with their passion, their idealism, their love of the idea of building something of your own creation — that you participate in governing. What a remarkable notion to spring from the minds of people who’d always been ruled over by kings and inheritors of power. No more inheritance — power would spring from the Will of The People.

And the people, as we know — as any Republican can tell you, their pearls clutched tightly — are, have been and are getting even more DIVERSE.

Happy Birthday, America. Happy Exceptionalism!

Americans Need To Get It Out Of Our Heads: We DO NOT Do Everything Right

My gut is, this very American attitude — “How WE Do It Is How It Should Be Done” — flows from, the MALE of the American species. It’s definitely got a “I alone can fix it” pong to it.

You know how men are kind of “famous” for refusing to ever ask for directions when lost? Yeah — same chromosomal character flaw. We don’t HAVE to know how to do something, we assume we can figure it out. Then, when we stare at the wreckage our ignorance produced, we can blame the manufacturer or inadequate customer service for the mess. Men — dirty little secret here that I just KNOW I’m gonna pay for — are a lot like Ikea product instructions. You’re never going to “read them” through first; instead you’ll plunge in and get two-thirds of the way through before you realize you put the key piece on BACKWARDS at the very beginning and now the whole goddamned thing has to be taken apart so you can start over.

That’s men. That’s us. No kidding.

Men were mostly responsible not so much for founding the country as taking credit for it and making up all the rules. Women’s role in the founding has gone — shocking, right? — under-reported. I guess, in the men’s minds, someone had to “put the kettle on”. Being men, in whose same minds they were always right, they applied that fallacy to the document (and the country) they created.

If we — White Christian Men — say a thing is so, it MUST be so. Now go and Manifest Destiny already.

White Christian Men decided that slavery was okay. They thought it passed muster that black people were 3/5 of a white person. These things are embedded in our character. They’re part of our swagger (along with the things for which we’re justifiably celebrated as a culture). It’s a package deal. Like everything. Good is a fellow traveler with bad.

But, in our case, that “bad” has caught up with us. I blame the high bullshit content of our swagger.

America does not do healthcare right. We don’t do public education right. We don’t do secondary education — college, university, trade school — right. We don’t do taxes right. We don’t do humanitarianism right any more (we’re hellbent on the exact opposite). On healthcare — we’re the only country that ties healthcare to employment. There’s a REASON we’re the only country stupid enough to do that.

During WWII, employers weren’t allowed to give raises to employees (the money was redirected toward the war effort). To keep good employees from leaving — and to entice new hires — companies offered up healthcare instead. Lots of companies did that. Then the war ended. But that job benefit didn’t. The companies found it hard and expensive to keep providing healthcare. Insurance companies took over the workload — and sank their hooks in deep. They put themselves at the core of American healthcare.

The first question you get asked when you seek medical attention in America isn’t “How can we help you?”, it’s “And how are you going to PAY for this?”

Money, sadly, sits at the heart of what ails America. Greed has undermined the Greatest Experiment in Human Self Government Ever. Let’s be honest, if greed’s involved, the fix is always in. Nothing “trumps” greed. Ever.

America’s greatness flows from its largesse — which, in turn, flows from its diversity. Nothing but cold, Christian calculus (as opposed to Jesus-like, Do-Unto-Others thinking) flows from the White People who believe THEY and they alone are the keepers of the American Flame. They’re the remnant of the Boys Club that — thinking it was always right — sat down to make up the rules some of us still follow that others (Republicans all) blatantly piss on.

I guess “doing it right” is a matter of perspective. If you’re the majority of Americans — we feel in our gut that children dying on our southern border is us DOING IT WRONG. If you’re a republican however… if you’re Donald Trump — you’re a guy waving his dick around, thinking how awesome you are — and how “right” everything is in the world.

Can We Be Honest? “Conservative Thinking” Is An Oxymoron

I’m a proud Progressive. I prefer the term “progressive” to “liberal” because the word liberal has gone through too many gyrations over time to be effective as an accurate descriptor. “I’m a liberal” could mean a whole lot of things that “I’m actually not”.

Progressives, as the name implies, want to progress. We want to see people — as a society — progress. We want each individual person to progress — to feel like their lives are constantly improving — as are the lives of their children and grandchildren going forward. There’s a caveat there — progressives build into their calculus the fact that change is a constant. In order to progress successfully, one has to accept as a fact that things will change. People will change. Circumstances will change.

Change is a Fact Of Life.

Progressives say “Okay — change is a thing — let’s deal with it like big boys & girls, accommodate where we must but convert to our advantage in every other way”.

Conservatives also do what their name implies. They want to conserve — what is (if only because they failed in this instance to conserve WHAT WAS and so have no choice but to accept it) but really — they want to conserve WHAT WAS. Or how they “remember” what was. How they idealized “what was” in reality.

There’s a reason conservatives tend to be more institutionally religious — more affiliated with their church than the spiritual side of their faith. They like the rules and regs; doing unto others — that’s a little too hippie-dippy for them. You know — “progressive”. They prefer the concrete of Commandments. Don’t Do This, Do That — Or Else.

Conservatives want to hold tight to a thing that makes them feel safe and secure — a world where men were men and women (and people of color, non-Christians, LGBQT people) knew their place. They see the antebellum south as a kind of heaven on earth. They think white people ARE America. And that’s the America they want to conserve.

Unfortunately, that America is entirely a figment of their imagination. Yes, white people have always held sway. But “white people” have never been the engine that drives the remarkable (but flawed) experiment in self-government that is the United States of America. One of our flaws is that white people have held too much sway. The engine — the thing we call “American Exceptionalism” is diversity. It’s the flow of people from every other country in the world into this one — e pluribus unum — from many, one — that’s the nature of American Exceptionalism.

It’s the opposite of what conservatives “think”. That’s just it — conservatives, by their nature, don’t have to “think”. When everything you do is motivated by your knee jerking lizard brain, you’re not thinking — ever. You’re reacting in real time to a fear-fueled twitch instinct. Everything you do is colored by it. Your whole goal in life is to get the toothpaste back into the tube.

As we all know — that’s never going to happen.

This is why conservatives stopped playing by the rules the rest of us play by. It was leading them nowhere — except to extinction — and they know it. That’s why Mitch McConnell — at the behest of conservative money (the Kochs, the Mercers, Sheldon Adelstein) — refused We The People Merrick Garland (chosen by the POTUS we elected) — then conspired with Russia to literally STEAL election 2016 in order to shove conservative judges into every open judicial seat — seats they’d been KEEPING open for this very purpose.

Make no mistake — what Mitch McConnell did and is still doing — is a deliberate soft coup d’etat. Mitch is a traitor (not a revelation). Mitch is the conservative errand boy, doing what he’s told to do. Reminder — it’s not just conservative money holding Mitch’s nuts in their hand — it’s Vladimir Putin, too. Mitch has taken gobs (as in MILLIONS) of Russian money into his PAC. In the abstract — perfectly legal. But in the midst of a counter-intelligence operation looking directly at Russian influence on American politicians and an American election? NOT so innocent or even legal perhaps). But I digress…

Mitch isn’t “thinking”. He’s reacting. He’s trying to drag us back to a time and place in the past that never was — not because he’s thinking how good it will be for us if only we’d listen to him — but because he’s stuck in the past like a mastodon stuck in tar — sinking slowly — grabbing desperately at everything around it.

They can’t save the mastodon. They can only get sucked into the tar with it. Welcome to “conservative thinking”.

Can We Be Honest? “Conservative Thinking” Is An Oxymoron

I’m a proud Progressive. I prefer the term “progressive” to “liberal” because the word liberal has gone through too many gyrations over time to be effective as an accurate descriptor. “I’m a liberal” could mean a whole lot of things that “I’m actually not”.

Progressives, as the name implies, want to progress. We want to see people — as a society — progress. We want each individual person to progress — to feel like their lives are constantly improving — as are the lives of their children and grandchildren going forward. There’s a caveat there — progressives build into their calculus the fact that change is a constant. In order to progress successfully, one has to accept as a fact that things will change. People will change. Circumstances will change.

Change is a Fact Of Life.

Progressives say “Okay — change is a thing — let’s deal with it like big boys & girls, accommodate where we must but convert to our advantage in every other way”.

Conservatives also do what their name implies. They want to conserve — what is (if only because they failed in this instance to conserve WHAT WAS and so have no choice but to accept it) but really — they want to conserve WHAT WAS. Or how they “remember” what was. How they idealized “what was” in reality.

There’s a reason conservatives tend to be more institutionally religious — more affiliated with their church than the spiritual side of their faith. They like the rules and regs; doing unto others — that’s a little too hippie-dippy for them. You know — “progressive”.

Conservatives want to hold tight to a thing that makes them feel safe and secure — a world where men were men and women (and people of color, non-Christians, LGBQT people) knew their place. They see the antebellum south as a kind of heaven on earth. They think white people ARE America. And that’s the America they want to conserve.

Unfortunately, that America is entirely a figment of their imagination. Yes, white people have always held sway. But “white people” have never been the engine that drives the remarkable (but flawed) experiment in self-government that is the United States of America. One of our flaws is that white people have held too much sway. The engine — the thing we call “American Exceptionalism” is diversity. It’s the flow of people from every other country in the world into this one — e pluribus unum — from many, one — that’s the nature of American Exceptionalism.

It’s the opposite of what conservatives “think”. That’s just it — conservatives, by their nature, don’t have to “think”. When everything you do is motivated by your knee jerking lizard brain, you’re not thinking — ever. You’re reacting in real time to a fear-fueled twitch instinct. Everything you do is colored by it. Your whole goal in life is to get the toothpaste back into the tube.

As we all know — that’s never going to happen.

This is why conservatives stopped playing by the rules the rest of us play by. It was leading them nowhere — except to extinction — and they know it. That’s why Mitch McConnell — at the behest of conservative money (the Kochs, the Mercers, Sheldon Adelstein) — refused We The People Merrick Garland (chosen by the POTUS we elected) — then conspired with Russia to literally STEAL election 2016 in order to shove conservative judges into every open judicial seat — seats they’d been KEEPING open for this very purpose.

Make no mistake — what Mitch McConnell did and is still doing — is a deliberate soft coup d’etat. Mitch is a traitor (not a revelation). Mitch is the conservative errand boy, doing what he’s told to do. Reminder — it’s not just conservative money holding Mitch’s nuts in their hand — it’s Vladimir Putin, too. Mitch has taken gobs (as in MILLIONS) of Russian money into his PAC. In the abstract — perfectly legal. But in the midst of a counter-intelligence operation looking directly at Russian influence on American politicians and an American election? NOT so innocent or even legal perhaps). But I digress…

Mitch isn’t “thinking”. He’s reacting. He’s trying to drag us back to a time and place in the past that never was — not because he’s thinking how good it will be for us if only we’d listen to him — but because he’s stuck in the past like a mastodon stuck in tar — sinking slowly — grabbing desperately at everything around it.

They can’t save the mastodon. They can only get sucked into the tar with it. Welcome to “conservative thinking”.