American Exceptionalism and Canadian Reality

October 3, 2013
Suicide Caucus Map

Suicide Caucus Map

If there were any doubt that the notion of American Exceptionalism were a joke, or a hoax, or a myth easily busted, the current shutdown of the federal government by a group of congressmen conservative Charles Krauthammer called “The Suicide Caucus” ought to be the final bit of evidence. That computer-guided Gerrymandering has created a number of “safe” districts for white male Republicans that belie the basic truth driven home by the 2012 election – that is the U.S. is becoming more diverse and white men are soon to be the minority. These districts got more white in the last redistricting effort and no doubt echo the right wing propaganda spewed by AM hate radio, making it seem as if there is support for these kinds of missions, when in fact the rest of the U.S. wants AT LEAST Obamacare, if not a single payer system. Surely the country is fed up with the health care “system” that currently exists.

And it was just about a year ago when I made a post linking to a video of Walla Walla poet Charles Potts‘ takedown of “American Exceptionalism” in his poem “Geezers in Space: AKA The Case for American Exceptionalism.” Here is the first stanza:

All Americans are exceptional, let them tell you.
It was an exceptionally wide path God cleared for them
through the exceptionally beautiful American wilderness
over an exceptionally large number of dead Indians
creating the exceptional doctrine of Manifest Destiny
which manifested itself in their exeptional reluctance
to acknowledge the exceptional scale
of the genocide that is the bedrock of their exceptionality.

That’s just the first stanza. If the Wikipedia definition of the phrase is to be trusted, even USAmerican Communists believed they were exceptional! That is one theory as to how the term got started. That neo-cons are taking up where Communists left off is quite ironic.

Which leads me to the notion that those of us in Seattle who keep their passports current and venture over the border every now and then can get a little taste of a country that not only does not delude itself into thinking that USAmericans are exceptional, but they call us on our shit. Case in point, a brilliant review in the Autumn 2013 B.C. BookWorld on a book called American Exodus: Climate Change and the Coming Fight For Survival. The book is by Giles Spade and the review by John Moore.

I’ve not read the book, but the review suggests Slade is Paul Revere in reverse, as the headline screams in caps and two colors: THE AMERICANS ARE COMING! THE AMERICANS ARE COMING! The notion here is that, at worst, the U.S. will invade Canada when agribusiness collapses due to drought and sea level rise and, at best, USAmericans will migrate to Canada when the shit hits the streets. Literally. When the seas rise to the levels predicted, and there is a high tide and a decent-sized storm, the flooded sewers will: “turn the Big Apple into Typhus Beach on Lake Cholera.” Remember Katrina and the scene in the Superdome? Multiply that by a factor of 200 and you have a sense of the devastation Slade foresees.

One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is “Travel is the worst enemy of ignorance.” To travel less than three hours and be in a whole different country is one of the beautiful things about living here and I often feel a little more at ease when I cross the border. Something in the soil south of the 49th parallel can have an effect on people to make them believe they are somehow chosen by God to have new cars and microwave ovens. It’s part of why I work on creating a poetry festival that links people by bioregion, north and south of a line designed by colonizers. White Male colonialists.

But their day is numbered and, like a rat cornered, watch them fight the inevitable. They are losing power, no matter how many national parks and WIC programs they can defund for a few weeks.

So, while we sit and wait to see the ramifications of the drama that puts the nail in the coffin of the notion of Americans being exceptional, I mean, if you can’t even pass a budget while you have 1,000 military bases around the world, when you have to send drones out to do your dirty work, when you can’t even provide health care to the poorest of the poor, when your bridges and roads are crumbling, you’re exceptionally depraved, not exceptional. So while the drama unfolds, why not put something on your list of things to do. Boycott the Congressional Districts that would send such reprobates to do the work of real human beings. Stay out of their districts. Do not shop there, do not visit. Do not buy products produced there. If they get rid of these Teahadists, these members of the American Taliban, we can take their districts off the list, but for now, stay clear of the red dots above. Then have a nice cup of tea in a congressional district with values that are people-centric, because after all, this is about the commons and every permutation of that term, community, communal, you name it. And we are all connected.

See also 32 Republicans that Shutdown the Government.





  1. Ibtihal Mahmood

    Very well-written. I enjoyed reading it. I also love that stanza from Charles Potts’ poem.

  2. leslie mcbain

    well said, Paul! Up here, as so many of y’all down there, we sit in wonderment of the mad hatter tea party’s goings on.

  3. broo

    amen, Pablo — should be shouted in the streets!

  4. Meena Rose

    Very very well written, Paul. Will definitely read the remainder of Charles Potts’ poem. Definitely keep me in the loop regarding the Cascadia Poetry festival.

  5. Buffy Sedlachek

    So well stated, Paul! Keep those passports in order!

  6. hg

    Sadly, things aren’t exceptionally rosy this side of the border these days. Our very own Tea-Party-of-One, Steve Harper seems to be doing all he can to cram his pipeline dreams through as faits-accompli, scientists/environmentalists/people be damned. And while Canada hasn’t had actions as dramatic as the current ‘shutdown’, in essence, we’re in the same boat. Steve has a slinky rule called ‘prorogue’ which permits him to tell our Parliamentarians to stay home, which is exactly where they are now, probably watching reruns or something equally worthwhile.

  7. Linda Crosfield

    Love this, Paul. For so many reasons, not the least of which is, it reminds me that there are many, many sensible people south of the 49th, not just the idiots who keep grabbing the headlines. And on a more sobering note, what hg says. We are none of us perfect in this world, and apparently people who want to “give” themselves to serving in government tend to be of the … I want to say something like psychopathic, but that’s too strong a word but you get my drift, variety.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You May Also Like …

American Sentences Talk

American Sentences Talk

The second edition of my book of 17 syllable poems, American Sentences, was published in time for my 60th birthday...

read more