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By Robert A. Vella

America was founded on written principles, good ones which have served to inspire not only its own citizens to correct longstanding injustices but other denizens of the world as well.  These principles allowed Americans to stand high on a pedestal of moral and ethical virtue that shined brightly across the oceans where the arbitrary edicts of authoritarianism had ruled supreme.  It was a relative standard, of course, as American leaders have frequently defied it;  but, the effects cannot be denied.  In a world once devoid of democracy and the rule of law, these governmental structures are now commonplace.

However, it is difficult to stand on such a pedestal and it becomes impossible when those who attempt to sacrifice its fundamental principles for the allure of political pragmatism and expediency.  With the 2016 election coming to an embarrassing conclusion, America’s great fall from loftiness is for everyone to see.  In a Washington Post editorial this weekend, Griff Witte reveals how the rest of the world is viewing America’s momentous moral and ethical decay.  Here is an excerpt:

The U.S. presidential election — America’s quadrennial chance to showcase for the world how democracy works in the most powerful nation on Earth — has become instead an object lesson in everything that ails a country long seen as a beacon of freedom and hope.

Debates devoid of issues and deep in the gutter of personal insult. Interference from foreign intelligence services. Endless leaked emails, and FBI investigations that could extend long beyond Tuesday.

Americans may cringe watching their own election at close range. But the world’s reaction has been, in a sense, even more poignant and foreboding.

People in small and distant countries who count on the United States to stand up for democratic values have been astonished to see the essential components — a free press, the rule of law, respect for the outcome of elections — trammeled.

Long-standing allies have been left to wonder whether the essential American character has changed, and whether the United States can be relied on when it counts.

The editorial goes on to describe how the loss of American credibility overseas is damaging its geopolitical influence while fostering the demise of free and open societies at a time when strident xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise.  This trend, left unchecked, will lead to dire consequences for the entire world.

It should also be of no surprise that the perception of America’s changing character has coincided with a precipitous decline in the quality of public education in the U.S.  The resultant dumbing-down of the collective American intellect has heavily tipped the attitudinal scales away from adherence to principles in favor of shortsighted and reactionary opportunism.  Accordingly, American politics has followed suit.  As we have stated many times on this blog, healthy societies find the right balance between ideology and pragmatism.  Either extreme is inherently dangerous.  It appears that America today has lost that essential balance.

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14 thoughts on “Standing on Pedestals: The 2016 Election highlights America’s great fall

  1. “The resultant dumbing-down of the collective American intellect has heavily tipped the attitudinal scales away from adherence to principles in favor of shortsighted and reactionary opportunism.” Bingo. Excellent article, my friend.

  2. The problem, Robert, is that Americans, without an iota of evidence, believed the propaganda of an empire disguising itself as a nation (which remains nameless, I must point out) to inflict it’s oppressive and dirty pool bloody capitalism throughout the planet with military “force de frappe” backed by growing numbers of military bases, ships and missiles. Your “country” is and always was, a “totalitarian” military power with the kid glove extended to the home crowd and the famous Big Stick extended to everyone else, particularly those who had natural resources and slave labour to be had. Time to wake up and smell the coffee boiling: America was never great, nor was it ever a beacon of freedom and democracy to any part of the world: that’s the mission statement; the modus operandi to get the “rah! rah’s! going and the troops in the ships. I’m not going to quote individual stats of US overthrow of legitimately elected democratic governments wherever these governments tried to stand up to your rapist corporations. Soon enough your CIA was there stirring up trouble, pushing money into the most corrupt and corruptible hands to overthrow the leader who dared interfere with “free enterprise capitalism” a la USA dictate. When I read the above, my dander rises to the top of the thermometer, and I’m pretty mild and easy going these days. I just hate gullibility that swallows blatantly obvious untruths. And while millions were dying in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Central and South America – and as in Iraq, for absolutely no reason except the greed of your banksters, the shiftiness of your politicians and the bloody madness of your military leaders – many were also dying from racism, misogyny and gun-toting madness on the home front. The cows have come home to roost as Sgt. Drebbin of Naked Gun fame famously said. The world is NOT surprised at the downfall of America. It’s only wondering why it took so long and about to heave a great sigh of relief. Duterte and Putin are not the odd man out: they are representative of the real world as regards its feelings about America.

    • Your subjective opinion, and that’s all that it is, reflects the single-minded agenda of 21st century anarchists which obscures the kernel of truth contained within your comment. America is pure evil and must be destroyed at all costs – to paraphrase. Any enemy of America, no matter how corrupt, must by juxtaposition be good – to extrapolate. It is an opinion of purpose, not objectivity. I am saddened that someone with so much gifted spirituality can be so consumed with hate.

      America as the “totalitarian military power” you vilify did not even exist until after World War II. For most of its history, the U.S. nation was a geopolitical obscurity, a distant wild west show of perceived lawlessness which captured the imagination of Europeans and others around the world. America has always had trouble living up to its foundational principles, but it at least had them written into its legal framework while most countries at that time were governed by the arbitrary authoritarian rule by decree. This rule of law concept, along with allowing ordinary citizens to participate in governance through democratic practices, was very appealing to populations around the world oppressed by autocracy. I know this because my family immigrated to the U.S. to escape poverty and such oppression.

      • I didn’t want to post this reply, looked for an email but coudn’t find one. If you moderate your posts, you don’t need to post this, OK?

        Robert, my hate, and hate it is, is for a machine thoroughly deserving of it. The people within the machine may or may not realize what the machine has been threshing since inception, but when they do, they do not want to ask for forgiveness, be it from ex-slaves or the decimated millions of tribal peoples, not to mention the quasi slaves who came from China and Ireland, they want absolution; they want exoneration. If they did accept guilt for what their “country” has done to the world in their name, they’d want a pardon.

        Roosevelt spoke the phrase, “speak softly but carry a big stick” as basic US foreign policy in 1900. When “America” was spreading across the N. American continent to California, and attempting to claim all the Pacific coastal regions from Canada, it was already a military empire, albeit small as yet – a dragon barely out of its egg. But the trail of bloodshed it left behind as it annexed 2/3 of Mexico and took lands Spain could no longer hold on to, attests to the fact it was no democracy – had it been those lands would have been given back to the original inhabitants.

        Certainly the deadly civil war also attests to the fact that the US had become a military power in its own right, at least on the American continents. And Central and South America were to learn the hard way what it meant to be vassals of the US. You’ve heard the phrase, “He may be a son of a bitch but he’s our son of a bitch.” That’s history. Check this one article: http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/general-somoza-takes-over-nicaragua

        How many democratically elected governments of sovereign states did the US topple in bloody coups to install similarly vile and sociopathic dictators friendly to US corporate investments? Too long a list to put here. And today? Saudi Arabia; Israel are the main players. How many puppet dictators did the US then turn on and kill to try to get even more favourable returns from their enslaved states?

        And now you have a clearer vision of US foreign policy as so clearly stated by Hillary Clinton: “We came, we saw , he died.” followed by a big guffah! Succinct.

        When I was into activism, on the executive of a local support group called the Central America Friendship Committee, I met people who had been tortured under the Reagan Contras. I saw clandestine and stolen videos of torture that no human being should ever see, let alone endure. In one I saw a young campesino girl tied down naked to a large chair, her legs spread open. She was gagged and had a hood over her head. Her torturers pushed a beer bottle inside of her, then bashed her with a baseball bat to shatter the bottle, then left her there to hermorrage and die. Their techniques had been learned at special forces recruiting “schools” run by American special forces. I also saw a video of one of these “schools” where a naked man was hung by ropes tied in such a way that if he stopped forcing his body against the excruciating pain of the ropes he would suffocate, which he eventually did, with the “students” watching, commenting, laughing and drinking beer. One of the people watching and commenting on the torture was an American woman from the Pentagon. Business as usual. The tortured man was gagged so they wouldn’t be bothered by his screams. They were doing a demonstration of torture techniques, not trying to get information.
        Things are much worse now, and you know it. You also know that those silly puppets running for “president” are just there for show. They can say whatever they want, none of it will make an iota of difference as to how the machine is operated, and how many people it crushes as it pushes its way across the world.

        that’s what I hate, Robert. Anyone who chooses to defend that monstrosity must also feel that hate. There is no way around it. My final argument: as it stands, America not only deserves to be utterly destroyed, it must be destroyed.

        Perhaps you will think, those are not the words of a compassionate person. That would only demonstrate how poorly understood compassion is on this world. Compassion is empathetic, and how can any clear minded person have compassion for a torturer and his victim without making a judgment and taking action? You tell me: based on its real history, how should one demonstrate compassion to “America”? Should one only look at written principles? Or should one look at how those principles molded the entity that claims them? And if one looks at the end results, what does one do about the screaming hypocrisy that makes the Catholic Church look as virginal as a girl taking her first communion?

  3. How is one supposed to react to those stories, I wonder? I feel sick, having read them. I can’t help but wonder if, in order to ‘destroy’ America, those same kinds of torture and brutality would be employed on its citizens . . . and that would be some sort of justifiable action? And to what degree are citizens of a country responsible for the actions of its government? Surely you cannot think, Sha’ Tara, that compassionate people would support – indeed endorse – this kind of behaviour?
    I cannot imagine how Robert is supposed to react to this sort of thing. The bottom line, for me, is that hate never has solved one thing. Although I have to admit that if I had seen those videos I would probably be left with that strong an emotion.

    • I agree, Carmen. An eye for an eye is what she’s promoting — psychological tactics that are used to dehumanize and recruit terrorists. The ultimate message? She said it herself. Destroy America.

    • So, my lengthy comments on America were posted. I was hoping they wouldn’t because, as you say hate never solves anything. But so often it’s all we’re left with. If you’re starving, you’ll eat roots, leaves, grass, anything. We, as a species, are much further down the road of destruction than we realize, but for the few. I used “America” as a focus for my own rage because it’s right there, in my face, the Hegemon that dictates Canadian policy on all fronts, including how much our dollar is worth. The US don’t use special forces or CIA operatives to control Canadians, they use their economic policies. When our dollar is in the toiler, we pay, they reap the benefits. So it’s the same thing: totalitarian control by the empire. Yes, I met survivors of US torture in Central America. My wife was a volunteer in Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega, the man who replaced the Darth Vader of US intervention: Somoza. There were troubles with Contra invasions across the border but the Nicaraguan government protected the volunteers, though they could not protect their own people. An entire village was wiped out. Men, women and children were hung from trees. The men had their genitals cut and stuffed in their mouths. The women were raped and gutted. Children were shot. The plan was to instill so much terror the people would demand a return to a US-backed dictatorship.
      Now it’s open knowledge that the US are backing the terrorist organizations terrorizing the Middle East. And more to come.
      I’ll say this, as a non-violent non-cooperator who chooses not to vote in fake democracies: if the people of any country make the claim to live in a democracy, and if they vote, or otherwise participate in any process of government, then by default all these people are fully accountable for their government’s activities and must freely accept all consequences of those actions. Government of the people, for the people, by the people: is that not so?
      Honestly, I do not hate Americans as individuals. They are duped and fleeced just like the people of Israel or North Korea or Canada. They believe, mostly in ignorance. But for those who know? There is no excuse and no place to hide. The war crimes of the Washington/Wall Street cabal are their crimes as well. And now, when I hear them defending the cabal, or some parts of it, how do I respond? When I see the hypocrisy, what do I say to that? The first thing that comes to my mind is, “Get me out of here!” Earth has become an inferno I want less and less to do with.

  4. Sha’ Tara – I am sorry you had to see and hear about such atrocities. I can imagine it would be sure to discolour one’s perception.

    I am mystified as to why you would post your above comments on Robert’s blog, though. It seems to me that he is very good at uncovering and exposing abuse, government misdeeds and various unjust behaviours – indeed he is often critical of things that happen in his country. I certainly appreciate his candor and intelligent, thoughtful analyses on many topics.

    I am sorry, as well, that you seem to have developed such a negative attitude to life in general. I might have acquired that way of looking at things if I’d experienced what you have, too. I think, though, that perhaps my vision of the future is more optimistic (which you might see as being naive and maybe even ignorant) because I have a very strong reason to think positively – grandchildren. 🙂

    • Carmen, thanks so much for your rational perspective. Sometimes, people’s life experiences can trigger all-consuming negative emotions such as hatred and hostility which overwhelm their objective judgement with single-minded obsessions. In this case, Sha’Tara correctly points out the atrocities committed by America while completely ignoring the atrocities not only committed by rival nations but also those committed throughout human history. It’s a kind of self-serving selective blindness.

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