America Is That Guy…

Abu GhraibYou know that guy? He’s rich. Everyone knows it, but that doesn’t stop him from boasting about all his money and his great car. He also boasts about how generally great he is. But he also complains. He complains about every way that every person in his life has harmed him. In fact, if it weren’t for his brilliance, he’d be living in the gutter—or dead. But lucky for him, because he is so amazing and hard working, he has been able to make a success of himself despite all the people who are out to get him. Oh, and did I mention that he inherited most of his money? The extra money he stole from people. But they were bad people—people who were out to get him.

That guy is America. I remember that growing up. I was well into my 20s before I learned that the Soviet Union wasn’t cowering in the corner during World War II. According to our television documentaries, the great war went like this: Germany attacked Poland and France and they both folded like a cheap ironing boards. England tried to fight Germany, but hey, they’re English. And the Soviets were somewhere else—perhaps vacationing in the Bahamas. So America had to step into the war and save the world. And remember: it only became the world war when America joined!

Meanwhile, we harm people all over the world. Our history since World War II is really quite bad. Look at the Vietnam War. There were about 1.5 million Vietnamese killed in that war. Many of them were killed in ways that I can only think of as constituting war crimes. But what do we talk about? The 58,000 Americans who were killed. I don’t mean to minimize our losses. But I don’t think more than one out of ten of those guys were keen on fighting that war. The more the people disliked the war, the more the country killed its people and 30 times as many Vietnamese.

But nothing beats our response to 9/11. It was a tragedy and an outrage. But was it a singular event? Did the United States really suffer something that most of the rest of the world had not? People all over the world have seen their countrymen and loved ones killed unjustly—often by us. Eric Alterman mentions this in his book What Liberal Media? He took a trip in Europe after 9/11 and spoke to intellectuals there:

Almost all expressed solidarity with America vis-a-vis the 9/11 attacks. Alessandro Portelli, editor of an Italian literary magazine, voiced the hope that America’s recognition of its own vulnerability might help the nation develop some empathy for the vulnerable elsewhere in the world, who lack the ability to act on the world stage with impunity. Yet the primary response, as Portelli saw it, as voiced in the media and among well-known American intellectuals, has “a rhetoric of the exceptionalism of American sorrow.”

That’s right. Conservatives like to claim that the media are very critical of America. And then they point to things like this blog as though that has any relationship to what America is seeing and reading. According to our media, America never hurts anyone. We are just this beneficent country and others hate us for our freedom. And no one understands how we suffer when things go wrong here. We are the most powerful country in the history of the world. But somehow we are the real victims of the world—the only ones who really suffer.

I bring this up because I saw a couple of minutes of a documentary on National Geographic Channel, Inside 9/11. It was first presented in 2005. But it was added to over time up through 2010. The whole thing is over the top in its production as though Osama bin Laden were worse than Hitler. As though 9/11 is the worst thing that ever happened to a country. It is all designed to allow America the country to continue its aggressive foreign policy while pacifying Americans with the myth that no one ever has any reason to be pissed off at us.

You know the worst thing about that guy? Since he won’t take responsibility for the bad things that he does, he never learns. He’s the same immature asshole at 50 as he was at 15. And he seems to be incapable of understanding that. So we have many more years of listening to him go on about how great he is and how terrible everyone is to him for no reason at all. Because he’s just perfect. So completely fucking perfect.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “America Is That Guy…

  1. What the hell happened to channels like NatGeo, Discovery, and History? I mean, I can’t say that any of them were ever great, but I remember them all having fairly good documentaries on a semi-regular basis. History, for example, had some really good documentaries on Paleo Indians a while ago. I watched a few of them online, and I was struck by how grounded by evidence and research they were. There weren’t any wild claims, misleading presentation of evidence, and "expert" interviews of people who are clearly not experts.

    Today, all you see on NatGeo and Discovery are reality shows, mainly work-related, where they follow people around with cameras doing pretty mundane work.[1] History is guilty of this, too. [i]Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Alaska State Troopers, and Gold Rush[/i] are just a few examples. But even worse than NatGeo and Discovery is what History has devolved into. I’ll just list a few titles; no explanation should be required: [i]Ancient Aliens, Monster Hunt, Finding Bigfoot, Searching for Atlantis.[/i] At least I still have PBS. Otherwise, I doubt I’d ever watch TV.

    [1] I’m not saying that the work they’re exhibiting in those programs is necessarily mundane to experience in person, because some of it clearly isn’t, but most of it is very boring and repetitive to watch on TV (at least to me). I, for one, can’t imagine how someone could find watching someone drive a truck compelling or entertaining. Apparently a good chunk of people do, though, otherwise it wouldn’t still be airing.

  2. @Mack – As far as I can tell, History only plays [i]Pawn Stars[/i] and [i]American Pickers[/i]. They really don’t seem to play anything else. For a while [i]History International[/i] wasn’t bad. But I think it isn’t part of [i]History[/i] anymore and it doesn’t seem to be widely available.

    That reminds me: I’m planning to do a comparison of [i]Pawn Stars[/i] and [i]Antiques Roadshow[i]. I hate PS very much.


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