At the recent CNN Tea Party debate, an exchange between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum took place that caught my attention. Santorum generated a healthy applause from the Tea Party crowd with his argument for American Exceptionalism as the blame for what happened to us on September 11, 2001. He wanted to emphasize that he had no intentions of being "ashamed" of standing for this principle. Ron Paul earnestly tried to appeal to the crowd by citing the blatant description of why America should be demonized left by Bin Laden. However, not unlike his fellow conservatives, Rick Santorum, in a feeble attempt to remain relevant a moment longer, called upon the ignorant, yet effective Tea Party dogma of blindly pledging allegiance to preconceived notions despite contradictory evidence. So the crowd cheered wildly and as a child boldly stating he has the toughest dad in the neighborhood, refused to repudiate that America is anything but the greatest country in the world.
Of course, if you'd ever question this belief you are unpatriotic, possibly treasonous, and probably socialist. Why would we ever question what we've been taught to believe since our first recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance? Haven't we always been purveyors of peace, solace in a cruel world, tools of freedom, exceptional? What is it that makes us so exceptional? The greatest country in the entire world?
It MUST be our exceptional healthcare system! We came in 37th in the last WHO rankings and have the highest per capita spending. We came in 41st in infant mortality, but that's out of almost 200! There are 200,000 preventable deaths from medical error annually in the United States, but that's just because these doctors are worried about "frivolous" lawsuits from victims' families, as Herman Cain pointed out at the most recent debate. At least our pharmaceutical companies' needs are being adequately met in Congress. They should be with the amount in excess of $230,000,000 they contributed to Congress in 2010. Well, maybe the Michigan jobs plan will cut state assistance for 30,000 children to perpetuate tax cuts for big businesses, but it says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "let them that will not work, not eat." So what if senior citizens are fighting for Medicare with the fear conservative budget cuts will rob them of the ability to acquire services and medication. They'll be gone soon anyway, right?
Well, okay, if it's not our superb healthcare, it has to be our stern, but fair American justice system. It is highly effective as 1 in 99 Americans is incarcerated and with just 5% of the world's population, we house 25% of the world's prisoners. We're so tough on crime that over half of federal prisoners are in for drug crimes with the majority (72% of all prisoners convicted) being non-violent. Not only that, but we're cracking down increasingly hard on those drug peddling minorities as time served by African American drug offenders has increased by 73%, while increasing 28% for whites. We've even merged prisoner incarceration and rehabilitation with capitalism in the private prison industry. If that doesn't scream "AMERICA!" I'm not sure what does. Maybe the U.S. has a firearm death rate more than twice that of the next highest country among industrialized nations, but that's just because we don't get pushed around. If you don't take that threat seriously, Rick Perry drew quite the applause when discussing the 235th death row inmates in Texas executed under his governing, which is more than any other modern governor.
So the case could be made that we have some issues with our justice system. At least there's no denying the power and candor of our free market economy! The invisible hand of capitalism allows those that work hard to thrive as the wealth trickles down in benefits to those that assist in the attainment of profit! The fact that we have more income disparity than the Ivory Coast and Pakistan just proves that our system works, right? I mean, it's only natural that many of the conservative presidential candidates are squawking about eliminating minimum wage, that only holds back growth. Why would the president want to cut taxes for working families with his jobs plan when there are perfectly good corporations that are hitting all-time highs in profits that need more cuts for a little boost. The first cuts obviously just weren't enough to coerce these reputable companies into improve wages or creating new jobs. More is always better! Big deal if half of the country only owns 2.5% of the wealth, that's just a testament to the American Dream; they must not have wanted it enough. The richest 400 Americans' wealth has quadrupled while their taxes have nearly halved in the past 12 years. This is a clear example of American exceptionalism and rewarding success, right? Billionaires can have a lower tax rate than their secretaries because their secretaries clearly aren't creative and resourceful enough. The average college student graduating with $24,000 in debt is merely a motivational technique to inspire graduates to strive for something better. The high levels of depression among college graduates is just proof most aren't up to the task. American exceptionalism is why Americans work more hours than any other industrialized country and take few vacations.
As if that wasn't conclusive evidence of American exceptionalism, it has to be our representative government's protection of its citizens. The rejection of Hurricane Irene relief funding was a hard stance and calling for citizens to rally and help each other without government spending. The $50 billion in GOP-approved funds to repair Iraq's infrastructure was an excerpt from the compassionate, heart-warming tale that is the American government's functioning. Maybe there was a time when Operation Northwoods was proposed to fake terrorist attacks on U.S. targets at home to generate support for Cuban opposition, but that was a different age. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Attacking the EPA has EVERYTHING to do with corporate interest, because "corporations are people" as clarified by Mitt Romney. The FDA may have approved Vioxx and Celebrex that have killed tens of thousands despite the fact that the clinical studies were faked, but that was just a case of misinformation, right? We've had our fair share of that in this country. Even though the Global Commission on Drug Policy has urged for drug policy reform focusing on decriminalization or even legalization, the fact that we've ignored this request is a testament to our commitment to business. It reveals that illicit drug dealers are as effective lobbyists as pharmaceutical companies. We aren't so different, you and I. Maybe there are 4000 different chemicals in cigarettes including 51 known carcinogens that are linked to over 400,000 deaths annually in America, but this is the land of choice, right?
On second thought, I have no doubt Rick Santorum is completely right in his belief: America IS exceptional. Exceptionally hollow where freedom, democracy, and equality should be.