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An American Fairy Tale

By       Message BK Faunce     Permalink
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If the measure of the decline of an empire is the degree to which its citizenry is kept ignorant of what the empire does in its name, America has fallen a long way indeed.

Old, worn out, diseased America. No longer the consent of the governed, everything about her is fake.

Fake news disseminated by fake anchors on fake news programs. Fake presidents put into office by fake Supreme Court Justices after fake elections rigged by fake officials. Fake politicians who run for office on fake platforms that concoct fake stories for fake constituents. Fake patriots railing against fake threats. Fake cops, fake churches, fake heroes, fake outrage.

The country is collapsing right before our eyes -- bent from exhaustion, weighted down by vice, ignorance and folly. No depth. No nuance. No relief. Only pieces of the once-principled republic remain, fragments of a history that are themselves only a partial telling.

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"Alas!" the rabble desperate cry, "to whom do we turn for succor?" -- which in the passive voice is "to be succored." And thus shall it follow that being succored in the passive is a lot like being suckered in the present. Amen, brother.

Even Uncle Sam has lost his way. Once considered the spirit of American liberty, he has devolved into a murderous, belligerent psychopath, more Cody Jarrett than Alvin York, someone who hears strange voices telling him he's special -- he's number one -- he's the only superpower -- and who then proceeds to kill everyone in sight to prove it.

Except his mother. And Israel. Never mind.

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The point is he's convinced himself that the world really was created in his image. ("Bless me father for I have sinned" is not a plea for absolution but a declaration of achievement. Something like, "Hey, pops, I just kicked some ass in Syria. Can I have the car keys?") It -- the world -- is his -- however one defines the antecedent. Because god is white and male and then there's Pat Buchanan and that guy from Galilee. So every time your crazy uncle starts another one of his wars of aggression, it's those voices in his head cheering him on. I mean god. Even if it brings about death and destruction on a massive scale. That is, protecting them from terrorism.

Gather 'round, children.

You see, long ago, when Sammy was just a wee hand-painted flyer, he was taught to believe in fairy tales -- folklore and fables and sometimes outright lies about, oh, practically everything: who he was, where he came from, why women have abortions, what the effects of napalm look like, and how many shots were fired from the grassy knoll. Little Sammy liked hearing these fairy tales because they made him feel good about being American without ever having to consider what it actually meant. He was ignorant, as the saying goes, and full of bliss. But his favorite fairy tale of all was the one about "American Exceptionalism" -- a wickedly clever bag of bogus that suckled him into believing he can have everything he wants, whenever he wants it, just because he wants it. Little Sammy knew -- in the same way the crow knows to fly straight and the caterpillar knows to avoid traffic -- that he was special. Raised above. Taken out of the herd. Because that's what Americans are. Exceptional. ("Ex" + "cepi": from the Latin, meaning "to put chrome on caca.") Get it?

Sammy believed in this fairy tale so much that when he grew up he routinely killed large numbers of people to get things he wanted, like copper and coffee and tin and oil. And oil. Did I say oil? You know, things he wanted. Because that's the other part of the messaging behind the myth of American Exceptionalism. Your crazy uncle doesn't just have the right to desire things other people own. He also has the right to -- how shall we say? -- reclaim them. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyhow.

In postmodern American-ese, to desire means to have. Therefore to desire and not to have means the un-having of desire. Which is un-right. In fact, it's wrong. And anyway if Sammy doesn't get what he wants he'll throw you a tantrum you'll never forget. (The 'you' here is metaphoric-type writer-speak for the country slash population Uncle Sam will now terrorize with the most sophisticated weapons ever developed. Boo-ya! "Tantrum" is euphemistic for the actual use of those weapons -- for example, in Fallujah, where a full-scale military assault on the civilian population proved once again that the US really is, in the words of Staff Sgt. Willie Pete, "a global force for good.") So don't ask.

(Slight (snide) aside: Chris Mathews did a commercial for MSNBC last year in which he called Barack Obama's successful journey to the White House an example of "American Exceptionalism." Sigh. Poor Tweety. Barack Obama's journey is of course an example of someone achieving the "American Dream" -- working-class kid, studies hard, saves his money, grows up to be president -- a different but equally-fraudulent fairy tale altogether. Obama telling people he's a champion of democracy and then strafing a bunch of Syrians is an example of American Exceptionalism. See the difference? One is concerned with controlling domestic resources. The other with controlling, well, the other. Note to Tweety: Sylvester is a cartoon character full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.)

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It's truly breathtaking when one considers how little Americans know about their gov't. Reared on non-history, a history that elides history, they slouch toward yet another Bethlehem waiting to be bombed. They're locked in, armed, and absolutely clueless. For them the stage has been abandoned. No drama. No mirror. No struggle. Only a relentless demand to stay connected to the string of images moving across their field of vision. Oh, and something about being terrified by an "over-proximity of all things." I think Baudrillard said that.

Maybe it's time we stop all this insanity, acknowledge what we've done and try real hard to make sure it doesn't happen again. I said that.

 

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Teacher, writer, filmmaker living in California.

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