Ever since Donald Trump took office last month and started implementing his poorly thought-out agenda, people on the Left keep saying “this is not who we are.” I beg to differ. I think this is exactly “who we are” and who we’ve always been. I believe, as a country, that we suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome; we just refuse to grow up.
American exceptionalism is our mantra and denial is our creed. We are “the best” country, not only in the world, but of all human history. The American worker is “the best” worker in the world, Americans are the “most” generous people on Earth, or, my all-time favorite, Americans are the most devout people in the world.
It seems that our view of the world is that of a place of competition rather than cooperation, and America sits atop the competitive pyramid. This is why our political gatherings have more of an air of a football pep rally than a meeting of ideas.
I heard an Iranian man being interviewed on the radio one day. He talked about watching American movies and how many of the war-genre films portray America as the “rebel force” and not the “empire.” “Star Wars” is a perfect example.
In his view, in this conflict between the Western world and the Middle East, the Middle Easterners are the rebels and the Westerners are the empire. We like to brag that we have the biggest, baddest military in history, and yet, we can’t consider that this overwhelming power might just make us the world’s bully. We still want to believe that we bring peace in the midst of the rubble.
Teddy Roosevelt used to say, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That’s exactly what he did to acquire the land to build the Panama Canal.
Panama did not exist in the early 20th century; that land belonged to Colombia. President Roosevelt offered to buy the land to build a canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Colombia did not want to sell the land, and even if they did, they didn’t want to sell it for what the U.S. was offering. In response, Roosevelt used the money to finance a “coup d’etat,” the Colombians were kicked out and the country of Panama was formed. America got its canal.
This is like me wanting to buy a bike and if you refuse me, I’ll pay someone to steal the bike. Roosevelt sure knew how to swing that big stick, and he was one of America’s better presidents.
All this doesn’t make us bad, it just makes us human. Power has always been a corrupting mistress. History is littered with her cast offs.
I’m suggesting that we are vulnerable to all the terribleness the world has to offer. We are not immune to it. We seem to believe that horrible regimes only exist in other parts of the world: Germany, Cambodia, the USSR, Iraq ... the list goes on, and this is just recent history.
America is no better, no worse. We are human. So, when you say, “This isn’t us,” look at our history and take inventory of yourself in order to arouse the better traits of our nature.