Schwab: This is not what was meant by American exceptionalism

How have we, singular among advanced nations, become unwilling to confront challenges we once did?

By Sid Schwab / Herald columnist

Once, it seemed the answer was humanity itself; the question being, how did things get this bad.

The imperfection of the human brain was to blame, having created problems beyond its capabilities to solve. Pretending it away, making up conspiracies, it’s gone into “tilt” mode as self-preservation.

But that can’t be the explanation. Every country but ours has been addressing climate change, and, now, attacking the pandemic successfully, as virtually all their citizens accepted responsibility. The problem, in other words, isn’t humankind. It’s us.

Only “we” pulled out of the climate accords. “Our” response to the virus has been catastrophic. Encouraged by an ignorant sociopath, millions of citizens have chosen to reject simple and logical rules. Republican governors and congressfolk, too. While other hard-hit countries are now safely reopening, in ours it’s worsening daily, especially in states that opened too soon, whose governors aped an irrational “president.”

How did we become an outlier nation, whose citizens are unwelcome across the globe, looked upon with pity and bewilderment by those who once saw us as the light of the world? A nation that produced Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Reagan, Obama, now “led” by a simulacrum who brags about passing a test designed to tell if you could find your way home without help.

In no other country have so many refused to wear masks, even physically attacking innocent employees who enforce it. If lunatics abide everywhere, America alone provides the spectacle of citizens claiming masks are satanic, are poisoning us, are communism; that the virus is fake, or created by Dr. Anthony Fauci; that a vaccine will contain microchips. Only here was a video, touted by Trump, viewed by millions, featuring backline “Frontline Doctors” downplaying the virus; one of whom warns of alien DNA, sex with demons, and vaccines that create atheism.

We’re the only developed country whose “leader” ignored and silenced Covid scientists. Wants to hide their data. Called for “liberation” of states whose governors took action. Insists, as American cases and deaths explode while other countries’ fall, that he’s doing a “beautiful” job. Rejecting their lying eyes, masses of indoctrinated citizens believe him, indifferent to endangering others, eschewing inconvenience. Such people would have deserted Valley Forge at the first snowflake.

What is it about America? How have we, singular among advanced nations, become unwilling and unable to confront challenges as we once did, to the benefit of the world? Formerly a “rugged individualist,” the iconic American is now selfish, paranoid and dangerously uninformed.

It’s not accidental. It’s the direct result of a plan hatched in the 1990s by Gingrichian Republicans: create a self-replicating cult of credulity, unable to tell truth from fiction. Overwhelm them with disinformation, amplified by an unending stream of broadcast propaganda. Ignorance begets ignorance, and that begets votes. How perfectly it has worked.

Its grandest achievement: Trump. Previously, it elected legislators determined, as they’ve admitted, to prevent President Barack Obama from doing anything good for America; who, to that end, abandoned legislating, eventually forgetting how. Helpful bills from the Democratic-led House sit in the Senate, undebated, while Congressional Republicans can’t agree on how to mitigate the economic collapse caused by their own absent leadership; whether to help people in need or mostly their donors and Trump, who cashed in bigly, last time around. So far, they’ve included more for the Pentagon, cuts in unemployment stipends, and zero local aid. But they, the Gingrichian party of Trump, would outlaw lawsuits against corporations that fail to protect employees.

In a country with enough science-denying, disinformed, embittered people to put Trump in office, there are plenty enough to prevent controlling a pandemic. Had our country been led rationally, we’d have already reopened safely, and our children would be heading back to school. Now, after Trump’s inexcusable mismanagement, the only option might be to start over. Maybe, because his coterie finally convinced him the virus is affecting white people in red states and, therefore, his electoral chances, he’d get it right.

Unlikely. He’s still pushing hydroxychloroquine and pre-discrediting election integrity.

We’re not the first country in which a sociopathic despot wrested control with false promises, warnings of domestic enemies, declarations that he alone could fix it, and brutal shows of force. Eventually, though, the oppressed have risen in protest, establishing democracy. As if it’s been the plan all along, begun even before the ’90s, ours could be the first to start with democracy and go the other way.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

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