I had a recent post on a different blog topic where someone asked why it (supposedly) was that Obama is “more angry” at the maker of the offensive film about Muslims, than he was about the attacks on U.S. interests. That’s obviously not true, but what strikes me is the attitude many Americans have adopted about recent events, including politicians and others who should know better.
It seems that what many Americans want Obama to do is to start to threaten retaliation for the recent attacks, to show “American strength”. Obama, of course, is doing what he has to do in this situation…walk a very fine line, making it clear that such attacks will not be tolerated, while at the same time stopping short of aggravating the situation by further angering those with grievances against America. It’s an impossible situation. Muslim culture just doesn’t recognize the same freedom of speech that we enjoy. They simply can’t comprehend that such a film could be produced in America, without the express consent of the government and its people. They view it as an attack on their belief system, with the backing of the American government. It’s a ridiculous notion of course, to hold an entire nation accountable for the actions of a handful of people. But if Obama handled the situation the way Romney and Ryan said they would have handled it? We’d be looking at even more bloodshed right now.
What bothers me is that the Romney/Ryan/Conservative/Republican reaction to the events of the past week is so pervasive in America. There seems to be this line of thinking that the U.S., the most powerful nation on earth, can dictate foreign events like some puppet master pulling the strings. There seems to be a line of thinking that ANY world event, ANY foreign entity that goes against American interests, should be threatened into submission, that our military might alone is what dictates American power.
In short, American exceptionalism has been co-opted by those who believe that American Might is what makes America what it is. It’s a complete corruption of the idea of American exceptionalism, the belief that we’ve “got it right” in terms of our freedoms and system of governance. To far too many Americans, “American Exceptionalism” means that other people’s systems of governance, or at a more basic level, other people’s belief systems, are unimportant compared to American ideals. It’s ironic that American exceptionalism, built on the incredible freedoms we enjoy, has been corrupted such that far too many Americans think we should simply impose our will on others who may not share our beliefs.
It’s a belief that is SO ingrained in Americans, that even at a time of economic crisis, where the very long-term survival of our nation may be at stake, that military spending is “untouchable”. For fools like Romney, Ryan, and much of the Right, they believe it’s the American military that is what makes us strong, what defines us. It also seems that a complete disrespect for “un-American” belief systems goes hand-in-hand with this focus on military superiority. Might makes right! Our military, along with our supposedly “superior” belief system, means that simply threatening military action or retaliation should be enough to quell the violence that’s occurring right now.
Such a paradigm is destroying our way of life, not making us stronger. Instead of investing in our future, we’re spending more than the rest of the world, combined, on a military that is simply irrelevant in bringing long-term peace to areas like the Middle East. After 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan…is America “stronger”? Have we done ANYTHING to solve the long-term issues in the Middle East? Or has this corrupted version of American exceptionalism just ensured that future generations in the Middle East will grow up resenting, and even hating, this foreign power that tries to impose their will on people’s of the Middle East?
It’s scary what’s happening in the Middle East right now. It’s scary how misguided the people are who are involved in the violence. But it’s also scary to look at American attitudes back home, and the belief that American “might” should be used to counteract the violence.