The Sins of America
by Mike Meyer
Was American culture always this bad? Were the levels of oppression, abuse, and repression always like this? People keep trying to say that this is not normal and it wasn’t always like this. But too many are saying this is the road to the greatness we lost. The majority are horrified. What we are seeing now is a continuous and shocking demonstration of racist, misogynist, and blatant bigotry by more than a statistically inescapable minority. Is that all we ever had but just didn’t know?
There’s the rub. We always knew there was an inescapable minority who would hold ugly and hateful ideas. It is the logical reality of a relatively open society with, at least, rudimentary and minimal respect for individual rights if not diversity. In fact that was the message of what America was about as I was taught very deliberately as a child. “I’ll disagree with what you say but will defend your right to say it.”
I grew up in a galaxy far away and long, long ago. It was called Indiana and it was the 1950s and 1960s. Often identified as the heartland of America it was filled with good, white people who were willing to let people of other nationalities and races (they never tried to define that word) live as long as they kept to their own kind. It was ok for other people of lesser forms to mingle as long as they were white. The groups that were given a pass were Catholics and, maybe, people from India if they were Protestant and only appeared in church on Sunday.
But, by god, we were free and proud of it. We were special and had already saved the world twice. All of those pitiful foreigners that we collected money and clothes for had better appreciate it but they didn’t value human life the way we did so what could you expect?
Yes. there were communists everywhere and you had to watch for them and tell people when someone started talking funny. It was really hard to understand why those people wanted to destroy the promised land and the people that were going to show them the way to salvation, but maybe they just didn’t know how we lived.
We sure as hell didn’t know how they lived because no sane, free person would ever want to do that. For that matter the only people that went to those other countries were missionaries so they could come back with stories that were bizarre and disturbing. But some of them had strange gleams in their eyes when they told the stories that they were expected to tell and I wondered about that as a kid, watching and listening.
The girls in my school had to wear dresses and could only play volleyball . They were going to grow up to be good Christian wives and mothers. But in high school they were pretty easy to get to first base with and, if you were ‘going together’ you were supposed to get good at pulling it out before you unloaded. That was really important because good girls didn’t do anything and even mentioning things like condoms was terribly dirty and an insult. What? Yes.
If they were still in high school and got pregnant they disappeared and were never mentioned or heard from again. After graduation that changed. As a male you were at the mercy of your girlfriend who would decide when she wanted to lock things in and suddenly sex was easy and then she was pregnant.
But jobs were good and this was when America Was Actually Great. This was the pattern of America in the heartland that typified that greatness. Unless you were not white, Protestant, and male. Women didn’t count because all they could do was get pregnant and then you were screwed. What? Yes.
A great number of people were permanently screwed. Both male and female were likely to end up screwed but that was not to be discussed.
If you didn’t feel comfortable in that life you needed to leave. The easiest way to leave was the US military because we had an empire to control and wars of liberty and freedom to fight. But unless you fought your way out of the fight and the military order you were locked in wherever you went. And the people there needed to make what they could from you. Many of the citizen soldiers survived to go home with problems and, maybe some bitterness at being screwed, but having been able to only see what we had been told we would see. That’s all there is, boys. Don’t forget to wash your wanger when you are done.
Why am I telling this sad story? That is the world that I, Donald Trump, the senior Trumplicans in Congress and the parents of the folks like Kavanaugh were taught was America’s exceptionalism. This was the image that the world needed to be made to reflect and they had to want it because we were chosen of all people. If they didn’t they were communists and needed to be eliminated.
The rich ones in America had many more social options and the girls could get abortions, although that should be forbidden for all the others. The exceptional in the American Exception knew how to do it and not talk about it so the others wouldn’t get ideas. They could travel but it was easy to hold their privileged world in their heart as the ideal. They were once known as ugly Americans but later generations learned how to blend in. You needed experience as the leading people but once you’ve done it there’s isn’t anything there worth what we already have. That is until the whole planet understands American Exceptionalism.
Was America always as bad as we have finally come to understand? Did Trump suddenly turn it bad? Wasn’t it once good? Yes, but only if you were the right race, religion and gender. And there were only two genders and many, many things that you couldn’t think or do although you might pretend. Rape was ok if you didn’t really stick it in. Girl were always playing along and the game was old and set. Getting her where you could do it to her and then not giving it to her was a good way to show power and leadership. Deny here the only control she could have on you. Some girl will win in the end and you’ll have to support her. You’ve got to do it because it’s an obligation on those who lead. Is it because I’m old that I can give the knowledge away?
From SNCC, NAACP, Flower Power, Woodstock, the New Age of democratic socialism, many of us thought we were finally breaking away from America that wasn’t right. Many of us were seeing a world with things that showed our perfect world to be filled with lies. But the real lie was that many of us couldn’t see more than what we were taught from birth and quickly accepted our privileges and decided that was fine. The rest of us thought we had done something but slowly it became clear that the bad things were still there because we never really looked it in the eye and called it what it was. For a lot of people always avoiding the lies and brutality never changed.
But the world, our planet, has changed and it has gotten harder and harder for the believers in America Exceptionalism to be like their parents who never looked at the bad. Somehow, in all these people’s minds over two or three generations, this was distilled into a harder and harsher American liquor. And the people that struggled to believe this America of greatness were pretty sure that they hadn’t been given something that they should have had maybe because the hangover were gettinsg worse. Maybe because it didn’t really work the way their parents said and their sacred privileges were being eroded every year. Things kept changing as if América wasn’t great.
I’m not presenting the three hundred years of conquest, oppression, murder, and crimes against humanity. I’m talking only of America from its peak of Greatness to the distilled essence of that Greatness that most people have learned is actually a poison but the remaining believers want to force everyone to take. It was once survivable in small doses but in concentrated form it brings a horrible, lingering death. It was never right but it wasn’t deadly until it was.
Our constant wars in the 20th and now, the 21st century, can never stop because our wars of resource exploitation are also our missions to remake the unfortunate targets of our needs in the image of believers in American exceptionalism. Think of Bush and the neoconservatives in full strength bringing death to Iraq. But all the people who we force this on end up rejecting it and trying to kill us. Our planet has been building antibodies to American Greatness for the last sixty years.
And most of our own population has rejected it, too. But only for ourselves. We let the others who still believe continue to spread the poison. Out of weakness? Fear? Because we can’t let ourselves see that what we were has moved from sad but acceptable to horrible and criminal. It is very, very hard to say that how you were taught to define yourself as a nation also hid things that were inherently wrong from the beginning. Those things are part of all of us who have been born or bought into the American way of exceptionalism. They contained poison and that is increasingly deadly in the world we are living in now.
And now we are amazed that we are sick and dying. Amazed. How could this be. But it is and we can never make the poisonous way right. Kavanaugh showed us the anger of being denied his exceptionalism that he refuses to give up. He just did what was supposed to be ok for his kind. Everyone that matters knows the rules.
Trump is showing how we will suffer and die in lies and delusion. For our sins and the sins of our forefathers. They taught me that too but it didn’t apply to America. But now it does. We can no longer get by. The laughter at Trump in the UN General Assembly was the sign. Caught! They laughed without any fear!
There is no other that will save us from these sins we were hiding. As always we must save ourselves. Or not.