Friday, November 13, 2020

Standing in Judgement

 From Obama's new book, A Promised Land. 

I recognize that there are those who believe that it’s time to discard the myth—that an examination of America’s past and an even cursory glance at today’s headlines show that this nation’s ideals have always been secondary to conquest and subjugation, a racial caste system and rapacious capitalism, and that to pretend otherwise is to be complicit in a game that was rigged from the start,

You didn't build that. Not only every physical comfort and advantage, but every idea of fairness, every understanding of justice, and every desire for freedom, mercy, kindness, and generosity came from the people you are now criticising. It is not true that the other places in the world, such as Kenya and Indonesia, have these things in abundance and America lacks them. All you have you owe to Western Civilisation in general, and America in specific. 

Could you at least acknowledge that, however insincerely with an eye to expanding your audience, at least once? 

Once?

17 comments:

PenGun said...

I'm not sure you understand.

That your "nation’s ideals have always been secondary to conquest and subjugation, a racial caste system and rapacious capitalism" is what I think. He goes on to say its not true.

You inherited a virgin continent right at the beginning of your industrial phase. One could not imagine a better place to start raping the world, and you did, and still do, if you can get away with it.

Thos. said...

It's very cute of our Canadian neighbors to sneer at Americans for being rapacious capitalist monsters - as if their entire existence (including the freedom to pretend moral superiority) did not owe itself to the fact that they have always been sheltered by American might, benevolence, and largesse.

Everything good about present-day Canada is a mere spillover effect of American Exceptionalism.

RichardJohnson said...

PenGun
You inherited a virgin continent right at the beginning of your industrial phase. One could not imagine a better place to start raping the world, and you did, and still do, if you can get away with it.
As did the Canadians. If you really believed that, you would leave Canada and go back to Great Britain.

Obama came across as a scold during his initial Presidential campaign, so this is no big surprise. I suppose that Michelle would tell us she can't be proud of a country where a publishing company gives an author a $65 million advance.

PenGun said...

Canada is guilty of many crimes, but Britain has far more to answer for. We do not have 800 military bases spread about the planet though.

As for American benevolence, we did have to burn your capital, that one time. ;) As for American Exceptionalism, well narcissists are just impossible to reason with. I know a few.

HMS Defiant said...

It’s funny how are cousins think it all ended in the Industrial Age. They blather on the internet using computers and software designed and sold by American companies as we exploit and rape the virtual world just as industrially as the British did for centuries and now how the Chinese do it harder in Africa than Belgium under Old Leo dreamed of.

james said...

Well, so far the Chinese aren't lopping off hands for not meeting the rubber quota.

Texan99 said...

Some terrible political and social theory can be ginned up by people who imagine that the line between good and evil can be drawn between their woke in-group and the villainous group du jour, instead of (as Solzhenitsyn said) through the center of every human heart.

RichardJohnson said...

Obama informs us that America has great faults. Compared to what? (not original)

Liza said...

What comes after the comma in your quote of Obama? That fragment seems like it is being set up as a contrast to what he will write next.

Sam L. said...

I ignore Obama as I do the media. Don't trust either,

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Liza - Yes. In the above quote he says "Some people say all these terrible things about American are true," and goes on to say "But I'm not ready to give up on American and say that yet." He is technically disagreeing with that interpretation. But he really isn't. He is taking the worst possible interpretation of American history, that only a small percentage of Americans believe, and saying he has considered this possibility but ultimately rejected it.

Well, that's damned generous of him, isn't it?

Liza said...

Why is this upsetting? Why does he or anyone else need to be “generous” in their opinions about how we have messed up as a country sometimes?

You doubt that he believes what he actually said and then express a desire for him to insincerely pretend that he sees no flaws as a way to placate people.

That seems.... inconsistent.



Assistant Village Idiot said...

The statement wasn't that "we messed up sometimes," or that he is to pretend he sees no flaws. I would have had no objection to that, and might even have had sterner criticism myself. The condemnation was much sharper than that, full throated.

Again, the idea that he is rejecting after seriously considering it for a bit: "... this nation’s ideals have always been secondary to conquest and subjugation, a racial caste system and rapacious capitalism, and that to pretend otherwise is to be complicit in a game that was rigged from the start..." That is considerably worse than messing up a bit, not is rejecting it thoroughly a statement that America has no flaws.

PenGun said...

He is not seriously considering anything. He is just putting out the worse case, and then denying it.

All empires have been just the same and "conquest and subjugation, a racial caste system and rapacious capitalism" is absolutely normal for any empire.

One reason I hang around is to watch the hypocrisy you rather enjoy. I find it funny.

Christopher B said...

Assistant Village Idiot said...
@ Liza - Yes. In the above quote he says "Some people say all these terrible things about American are true," and goes on to say "But I'm not ready to give up on American and say that yet."


He hasn't rejected or denied, not with that word in there. He is merely holding those thoughts in a state of suspended animation. He believes we are on that trajectory but redemption is possible if we would only do the right things, like putting the right people in charge. Again.

It's a theme ... For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.

random observer said...

Any nation rising to great size, wealth, and/or power, let alone durably so, has been built by comparable means to one degree or another, my own Canada included albeit to a relatively trivial degree whether looked at by intensity, virulence, or malevolence of motives.

One accepts these things for various reasons- one is personally a beneficiary, the product is so spectacularly better for the overwhelming majority [sometimes] than what existed before, pretty much every people has done it to the maximum of their technological and organizational capacity, so what's to freak out about? One fully condemns only the over the top stuff, like genocide for its own sake with no real prospect of resistance or even any original enmity.

Admittedly, an Old World perspective, from the landmasses on which every foot of near-level ground has been contested multiple times over millennia. I appreciate that aboriginal Americans, arriving as one in an empty hemisphere, spreading out fairly & justly & settling down to 15 millennia of peace & tranquility, might not have this perspective. Ditto anyone whose ancestors came as slaves, though their ancestors in the old world would recognize the paradigm too.

But the huge majority of [at least] North Americans who descend from colonizers or immigrants or both, and who are therefore 100% beneficiaries of the fact that Europeans built Euro-style high-productive agriculture, industry, technology, & political institutions at least imitative of Europe's better ideals, perhaps need to remember that none of us, & none of that, was here or likely would be without colonization.

Compared to most empire building of history, it had an above average share of idealism & generosity, & built a better outcome.

Doesn't mean it wasn't better for some than for others but, again, few other than full-blooded aboriginals can imagine any alternative North America with themselves in it, so we who complain now might retain some gratitude towards our forebears, or leave.

Sidebar- As a Canadian, I have aged into a disdain for the US in many ways comparable to that of other Canadians, just for the opposite reasons. The US is and has been for generations the chief source of progressive twaddle, and alas I find more and more that the American Exceptionalist vision is actually merging with it. Longer thought than I can or should attempt now.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ r. o. - very interesting thoughts, and I have left a note for myself to come back and read this again in a week.