It takes a truly great nation to understand that defeating ISIS will not do a thing to end hunger, arrest climate change and confront poverty at home and abroad.
President Barack Obama likes to use the phrase, “That’s not who we are…” when referring to the distasteful side of American exceptionalism and its ideological progeny. He generally uses this phrase as he is finding out for himself that what he says we are not, we actually are.
Unfortunately, reality all too easily overwhelms the “not who we are” mantra. To name just a few: We do allow our citizens to be gunned down or gun themselves down at an alarming rate; we are willing to accept collateral damage as a consequence of our wars as long as someone somewhere else is dying; and we are willing to let children in the “homeland” go hungry and homeless.
Now it seems we can unequivocally add to President Obama’s “not who we are” list closing the borders of this self-benighted land to just about everyone who is poor, in search of a better life or on the run from wars we have instigated, armed and financed. Getting swept up in this latest exercise are Muslims of all types, refugees of all types, tourists coming from “friendly” countries and foreign college students. They will now join the Latinos on the other side of the soon to be built right-wing Republican wall.
Whatever else we can say, “xenophobia” is alive and well in the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is a big word for small people. It means “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” It means intolerance of outsiders and perceived differences. It shuts far too many minds to learning and compassion. Coming from the mouths of those who seek to lead America, xenophobia can easily become a national poison that saps the spirit from our shores.
America has long talked a great game about the higher moral plane from which we operate that sets us apart from everyone else who, by definition, operates from somewhere between a lower moral plane and no moral plane. As if to underline this notion and to make sure it gets trumpeted to non-believers at home and everyone abroad, John Kasich, one of the right-wing clown collection running for president, has come up with a bold new idea: creating a new government agency to promote Judeo-Christian values.
I think this is a really good idea that should get a very close and careful examination. But only if it replaces dropping bombs on those who haven’t gotten the message, at least until we give exposure to Judeo-Christian values a real chance to work its magic among the infidels. Imagine how much less destructive the Crusades would have been if those early Christian soldiers had led with Christian values instead of swords.
From my perspective, one of the truly entertaining aspects of this latest pathetic “Christian” crusade is to watch those self-professed Christians swimming in the Republican presidential candidate cesspool try desperately to outperform each other in the race to create a more Christian world. Thankfully, for those of us whose values stem from secular sources, another ride on the onward Christian soldier bandwagon seems unlikely to bring any more glory than that seamy bandwagon has brought in the past.
This would all be good fun but for the real folks on the run from other theocratic bandwagons. To meet the challenges presented by those with different ideas and different values and by those who have no values, America and its leaders must, for once, recognize “who we actually are” as a nation and rise above it.
We do not have to lead anything. It might even be worthwhile to try to help shape the endeavor instead of creating it. The blood of too many nations in the last 15 years is on American hands. There is a reason why no one will follow us anywhere anymore. The rest of the world believes that America self-indulgently defines its interests and ruthlessly pursues only those interests at the expense of those who get in our way. Maybe, after all the talk about leading from behind, it might be worthwhile to seize the opportunity to follow from the front.
But whatever the strategy, those who loudly proclaim America’s “greatness” and seek even greater “greatness” routinely expose this nation’s ugly underbelly to the rest of the world. We will never lead anyone anywhere on the good ship “Xenophobia.” That ship is full of lost spiritual souls whose dull eyes and even duller minds ensure that others will truly see us for “who we are.”
In these trying times, with real and imagined terrorist threats at home and abroad, a great nation rises to the occasion with sober counsel that addresses both short-term strategic needs and long-term global needs. Defeating the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh will not do a thing to end hunger, arrest climate change and confront poverty at home and abroad. It takes a truly great nation to understand that, and then to act upon that understanding. If America does not at least try to understand this, Judeo-Christian platitudes will not protect us from those willing to impose their theology, greed or both to fill the resulting global vacuum.
Neither Jesus nor Moses can save us from “who we are” until we are willing to save ourselves.
*[A version of this article was also featured on Larry Beck’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.