Who will save us from America? A short discourse on the nightmare of US exceptionalism
“Mickey and Mallory Knox are without a doubt the most twisted depraved pair of shitfucks it has ever been my displeasure to lay my god damn eyes on. I tell you these two motherfuckers are a walking reminder of just how fucked up this system really is.”
From Oliver Stone’s controversial 1995 black comedy, Natural Born Killers, the above unforgettable lines, when rewritten with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s names substituted for those of Mickey and Mallory Knox, serve the most salutary purpose of disabusing us of the myths of US liberal exceptionalism, while at the same time bringing us face to face with its grim reality.
It’s a grim reality that has never been more important to confront at a time when Barack Obama has decided to make a return to mainstream politics in the run-up to the US midterm elections in early November. This he does as the liberal saviour America has been desperate to see appear on the horizon of the dystopia fashioned by the current impostor in the White House, ‘the orange one’, bearing his trusty shield of hope in one hand and steady lance of decency in the other.
The only problem with this particular movie is that the distortion of reality at its heart is so outlandish it makes the suspension of disbelief impossible.
Obama’s record, in truth and in fact, is such that it elevates his successor to the level of moral giant by comparison. Of course, this may well change. In Trump, after all, we have us a man and president for whom caprice is a virtue. But nonetheless, at the time of this writing, there is no escaping the fact that of the two it is Obama whose worldview presents the greatest danger to a world left battered and bruised by too many years of US exceptionalism and the litany of crimes committed in its name.
Don’t believe me? Think I’m overstating things? Well, for those who continues to harbour hope in a man who peddles hope like a drug dealer peddles crack, I implore you to survey the kind of evidence that should rightly be presented at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It comes in the form of journalist Neil Clark’s heartrending piece on the devastation visited on Libya in 2011 by the West — this under the rubric of yet another NATO ‘humanitarian intervention’ — which only succeeded in turning the North African country from a functioning state able to boast, per the United Nations Development Program, the highest human development index of any African state, into a living hell.
Obama and his then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton (Mallory to his Mickey) were prime movers in unleashing this catastrophic military intervention, one that was tantamount to NATO flying sorties for al-Qaeda. And who will ever forget the sight of Clinton, upon learning of Gaddafi’s brutal slaughter at the hands of a baying mob of sectarian butchers we’d been told were the heroic harbingers of Libya’s democratic future, clapping her hands in undisguised glee while proclaiming, “We came, we saw, he died.”
Held up by their supporters as representative of everything good about America — freedom, liberty, opportunity, and all that jazz — Clinton and Obama are in truth representative of the ocean of bodies left behind in the swirl of their tireless paens to the ‘promise of America’ in the name not of democracy and freedom but exceptionalism and hegemony.
Clinton’s record, staying with her for a moment, is a veritable monument to mendacity. She and her husband come as a package of liberal opportunism who’ve made a virtue of speaking left and acting right. The fruits of this malady are mass incarceration, the entrenchment of Wall Street as the golden temple of the US economy, and perpetual regime change wars and military intervention overseas. Their Clinton Foundation is the acme of moral turpitude, where corruption comes dressed in the top hat and tails of liberal cant. On this, Christopher Hitchens was never more right than when he opined, “She [Hillary Clinton] and her husband haven’t met a foreign political donor they don’t like and haven’t taken from.”
And yet it’s Trump who we are being told is the nutcase, the half lunatic and crackpot against whom members of his staff are working to ‘protect America and the world’ day and night. Such a rendering only makes sense when you ask yourself who in their right mind could possibly conceive of making peace with North Korea and Russia when you can have war?
When it comes to the state of the nation at home, anyone who believes America is a classless society need only spend half an hour walking around Hollywood, acknowledged epicentre of the American Dream, to realise how wrong they are. For not only will they be assured that there is no society more defined by class than US society, they will be left in little doubt that every minute of a every day a fierce class war is raging with up to now only one side taking all the punches and doing all the bleeding.
Not only in Hollywood but all across America the abandonment of the poor, downtrodden and sick to their fate has and continues to be so brutal that its human consequences given new meaning to the words ‘wretched of the earth’. And this wretched constituency of millions — lacking healthcare, decent housing, jobs, and hope — hardly saw their fortunes improve under Obama, despite the soaring rhetoric about hope and change, etc.
Try Cornel West for size: “The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump — but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.”
And there’s more: “Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikes unintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief — nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch — Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans.”
The real hope when it comes to the ills of America, those it dispenses at home and those overseas, lies not with Trump’s overt white supremacy nor with Obama and Clinton’s liberal exceptionalism. The real hope lies in the resistance to both that runs like an unbroken thread through the country’s history. Indee, the names of its most courageous proponents shine like glittering stars in a coal black firmament: Sitting Bull, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, the San Patricios, Frederick Douglas, John Brown, Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood and the Wobblies, Eugene Debs, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, MLK, Malcolm X, SNCC, the Black Panther Party, anti-Vietnam War movement, Cesar Chavez, the list goes on.
Each of the aformentioned were sustained by moral outrage at the injustice they experienced and witnessed being inflicted on their own and other peoples in the name of progress and might is right. Many, of course, experience this sense of moral outrage. The difference lies between those who learn to make their peace with it and those who refuse to make their peace with it — who instead choose to grapple with this monster in what they know before they start will be a losing fight.
This is the human condition at its most inspiring, the willingness to fight even while knowing you are destined to lose. But, then, such a reductive and one dimensional interpretation of victory has no place when we understand history as a river that flows without end, rather than a monument separating it into neat and tidy chapters, as in a book. Fighting is winning and winning is fighting in a struggle that will continue so long as injustice and oppression obtains.
The race for the White House in 2016 was a race between two representatives of a psychopathic ruling class for the keys to a kingdom of despair. But lest this ruling elite allows itself to to remain too complacent in its privilege and ostentation, let the words of legendary Native American Chief Crazy Horse, spoken days before he died while resisting imprisonment, resound as a portent of the reckoning to come:
“The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations; a world longing for light again.”