By Robert A. Vella

The idea of American Exceptionalism was always a myth.  The U.S. has never been an exceptional nation in all or even most respects.  It has always had its fair share of strengths and weaknesses, its fair share of jubilations and sorrows.  But, what the country did have for much of its history was an exceptional sense of aspiration, the belief that Americans could achieve great things together.  From its foundation as a democratic constitutional republic against autocratic rule, to its costly Civil War against institutional slavery, to its monumental efforts against fascism in WWII, to its impressive construction of a prosperous middle class, to its impassioned fight against racism during the Civil Rights era, to its prominence as a leader in medicine, science, space exploration and other technologies, the U.S. has often dared to do what others thought was impracticable, implausible or even impossible.

Today, however, the exceptional nature of America’s aspirationalism is dead and buried.  When the deadly and destructive coronavirus pandemic tested the nation’s resolve, the U.S. failed in the most catastrophic way imaginable.  It did so under the leadership of a megalomaniacal dictator who measures greatness only in terms which benefits himself and his cronies.  Donald Trump sees the world not as a constructive cooperative, but as a battlefield where aggressors freely take what they want from the most vulnerable.  Life, to Trump, is a zero-sum game.  The economic pie cannot be expanded or shared, it must be stolen and it must be hoarded.  Trump and his right-wing ideological cohorts see the concept of freedom not as the enabling of ordinary people to seek a better life for their families, but as the capture or dismantling of governmental impediments to their perceived privileged social status.  For the racist, that means being free to discriminate against and oppress blacks and other ethnic minorities.  For the bigot, that means being free to dominate and persecute women and LGBT persons.  For Christian dominionists, that means being free to impose their theology upon everyone else.  For the greedy, that means being free to deceive and exploit the masses.  Theirs is the authoritarian philosophy of predator versus prey.  So, Trump and his ilk are the personification of Social Darwinism;  and, that makes him the absolute worst kind of political leader for any nation to have especially during a terrible global health crisis.

From:  The US coronavirus response has finally shattered the myth of American exceptionalism

One might have hoped that large democratic unions like the US and the EU would have been well-prepared to face this crisis, with coordinated, collaborative response mechanisms in place across their member governments.

Instead, the rapid pace at which coronavirus has overtaken health systems on both sides of the Atlantic has exposed, and perhaps accelerated, the withering health of these democracies and the dwindling viability of the neoliberal order.

The US and UK both initially sought to downplay the spread of the virus among their populations, hoping they would somehow be spared from its devastating effects. Now, along with Spain and Italy, they lead the world in the number of confirmed cases.


For the past several years, political scientists and commentators have worried over the growing sense of disaffection, or ambivalence, that younger generations appear to harbor toward democracy. As efficiency, transparency, and speed came to be the primary values of life under late capitalism, the messy, opaque mechanisms of representative democracy seemed to be going out of style.


The coronavirus crisis risks exacerbating, and perhaps accelerating, this trend. Never in recent memory have national and class differences been felt so acutely, and never has the American political union felt quite so imperiled. Far from being a great equalizer, COVID-19 has exposed just how entrenched the oldest societal divisions really are.

The white-collar wealthy have been relatively insulated from the virus and its disastrous effects, with better access to testing, care, and comfortable quarantines. The stock market is rallying even though the national unemployment numbers are growing grimmer by the day.


“This is breathtaking — no pun intended — what’s happening with COVID-19,” said Marguerite Pappaioanou, a career epidemiologist and veteran of the CDC and the FDA, of the situation in the US. The pandemic preparedness efforts that she spent her career working on have been disassembled and defunded during the Trump administration.

Related story:  [Bernie] Sanders: US facing ‘worst moment in American history maybe since the Civil War’

Here’s today’s news:

From:  AP Exclusive: Docs show top WH officials buried CDC report

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The decision to shelve detailed advice from the nation’s top disease control experts for reopening communities during the coronavirus pandemic came from the highest levels of the White House, according to internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press.


The trove of emails show the nation’s top public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending weeks working on guidance to help the country deal with a public health emergency, only to see their work quashed by political appointees with little explanation.


White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Friday that the documents had not been approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield. The new emails, however, show that Redfield cleared the guidance.

This new CDC guidance — a mix of advice already released along with newer information — had been approved and promoted by the highest levels of its leadership, including Redfield. Despite this, the administration shelved it on April 30.

From:  US reversal prevents UN vote on pandemic truce

The United States on Friday stunned other members of the UN Security Council by preventing a vote on a resolution for a ceasefire in various conflicts around the world to help troubled nations better fight the coronavirus pandemic, diplomats said.

Washington’s reversal came a day after it agreed to the text, negotiators said under cover of anonymity.


Diplomats told AFP that the language used in the draft to describe the World Health Organization was behind the US move to prevent the vote.


US President Donald Trump has accused the WHO of downplaying the seriousness of the outbreak in China.

The procedure blocked by the United States would have allowed the sponsors of the resolution, France and Tunisia, to put it to a vote.

From:  White House’s pandemic relief effort Project Airbridge is swathed in secrecy and exaggerations

Widely credited to President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the plan harked back to storied U.S. wartime efforts such as the Berlin Airlift. It called for the federal government to partner with a handful of medical supply companies, which could purchase emergency masks, gowns and gloves in Asia. The government would pay to fly the supplies to the United States — bypassing weeks of shipping delays — as long as the companies sold half of the goods in parts of the country hit hardest by the pandemic.

Almost six weeks after its launch, Project Airbridge has completed its 122nd flight, having cost taxpayers at least $91 million. But its impact on the pandemic is unclear and shrouded in secrecy: The White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the companies involved have declined to disclose where supplies have been delivered.


At the heart of Project Airbridge is the deal the Trump administration struck with the six medical supply companies: Cardinal Health, Concordance, Henry Schein, McKesson, Medline and Owens & Minor.

In exchange for the subsidized flights — costing taxpayers $750,000 to $800,000 per trip — the companies agreed to sell half of their cargo to customers in geographic hot spots specified by the administration. But the companies decide where to sell the rest of the supplies flown into the country at taxpayers’ expense.

From:  ‘Steambath Earth’: Unsurvivable heat and humidity extremes have emerged earlier than expected, study finds

Welcome to “Steambath Earth,” featuring sauna-like temperatures and humidity too high for humans to tolerate.

Extremely humid heat that is more intense than most Americans have experienced — approaching a crucial, immovable human survivability limit — has more than doubled in frequency in some coastal subtropical regions of the world since 1979, according to a new study published Friday.

The study is the first to find that wet bulb temperatures of 95 degrees (35 Celsius), which renders ineffective the human heat response of sweating to shed heat through evaporation, leading to hyperthermia, are already occurring for short periods of time at a few weather stations.

These tend to be located in parts of the Persian Gulf shoreline and coastal southwest North America, where sizzling lands border sultry seas, as well as in northern South Asia, where extreme heat and humidity combinations overlap just before the annual monsoon begins.


South Korea Backtracks on Reopening After COVID-19 Cases Jump

Sao Paulo extends stay-at-home, ignoring Bolsonaro

Unfulfilled PPE contracts leave states scrambling for supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic

FDA commissioner [Stephen Hahn] in self-quarantine after exposure to person with COVID-19

Document reveals Secret Service has 11 current virus cases, as concerns about Trump’s staff grow

South Dakota governor [Kristi Noem] tells Sioux tribes they have 48 hours to remove Covid-19 checkpoints

[Federal] Court halts ban on mass gatherings at Kentucky churches

Utah gun lobbyist loses his appeal to block the ban on bump stocks

U.S. chief justice [John Roberts] puts [temporary] hold on disclosure of Russia investigation materials

Roberts rejects request for inquiry into appellate judge’s retirement

23 thoughts on “The gravesite of American Exceptionalism

  1. Extremely well articulated commentary by you on this post, my friend. I find the current state of America to be frightening, depressing, and deeply frustrating. It is hard to hold onto hope for the future, but I will not stop fighting.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Jeff. I just read another report on Trump’s decreasing support among senior citizens. I think our top goals for November is to fight like hell to ensure a fair election and to push people to vote. If we succeed in those two endeavors, I’m sure Trump will be voted out of office like Hoover was in 1932. His numbers really are bad.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Unfortunately, I think the former battle will be the hardest.

        Although this administration has made herculean efforts to deny Russia’s role in the last election, anyone with a lick of sense knows that Putin and his cohorts DID interfere … and will do so again. And Trump will help them.

        Plus all the other “stuff” that the Repukes will do to maneuver and manipulate to keep voters under their thumb.

        Nonetheless, we MUST keep fighting!

        Liked by 3 people

  2. To be fair, it was always quite exceptional that anyone would call *themselves* exceptional.

    But I have hope. This disaster that is Trump might turn out to be a necessary shot in the arm, a glimpse of what we had just in-time to save it from going over the cliff. This moment could become the Great Turning, where we reaffirm allegiances, and refocus our efforts.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. American Exceptionalism? HAH!!! Yeah, your commentary Robert is painfully spot-on. There are a plethora of dark, sad, nauseating, atrocious historical records demonstrating anything BUT exceptionalism! It’s a long, long list.

    However, here’s another one to add to the growing long list of American UNExceptionalism…

    The International Criminal Court (ICC)* at The Hague, Netherlands, that began forming in 1998 and was enforcing international criminal laws in 2002. From Wikipedia and the ICC website:

    The ICC has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. It is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore exercise its jurisdiction only when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individual states refer situations to the Court.

    1945-46 Nuremberg Trial and U.S. attorney and investigator Ben Ferencz was tasked with prosecuting Nazi war crimes, including the Holocaust crimes, and who afterwards was an enormous driving force in the creation of the ICC… tasked to TRY and deter future war crimes, violent hate crimes, and crimes against humanity. A most obvious and necessary step toward a better, more peaceful, tolerant or patient, compassionate world, yes!?

    Remarkably, or perhaps ASTONISHINGLY if just for humanitarian reasons, the United States—after participating as a major contributor to the Nuremberg Trials and future war crimes, genocides, etc.—later reneged on its signing to participate as a just, peaceful, humanitarian nation and be obliged or bound and abide by the ICC’s Rome Statute. Why? Well, that is the million-dollar question isn’t it?

    After the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq and then several other violent conflicts the USA initiated militarily, by 2018-19 the U.S. leadership withdrew from this international criminal court and humanitarian agency out of direct fear that the U.S. would be held accountable for its own war crimes and crimes against humanity when instigating military conflicts around the world. China, Russia, Israel, India, and several other aggressor states/nations followed the U.S. withdrawal. And I guarantee it was not our Democratic or Independent political parties and their members that withdrew from the jurisdiction of the ICC!

    Yep, chalk that one up to more American UNexceptionalism! 😠🤬

    * – Source: https://www.icc-cpi.int/

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I share Divine’s view that your post is an “[e]xtremely well articulated commentary.” Like John, I live in hope that “[t]his moment could become the Great Turning.” Our hopes and dreams make the impossible possible. Remember, America put a man on the Moon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, and thanks for the compliment. Political outcomes should be anticipated based on well-reasoned and well-researched probabilities, not on intuition or augur. However, even the most likely outcomes are not set-in-stone. Mitigating factors and changing dynamics constantly affect the potential result. Still, this analytical method is the best we’ve got by far. Prognostication, to me, is valueless.

      Liked by 1 person

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