Wednesday, March 21 , 2018, 11:24 am | Light Rain Fog/Mist 56º


Randy Alcorn: U.S.A. Is Exceptional All Right ... As in Odd

The notion that America is exceptional, meaning that it is superior to all other nations, has been bandied about by both the ideological left and right. Although this belief was first introduced in the 1920s, it has become the latest patriotic banality — intrinsically conceited, and not entirely defensible.

If by exceptional we are referring to superior military strength and all the bragging rights of being the only remaining super-power still standing, then we are numero uno. But, being the biggest gorilla in the jungle is a very limiting definition of exceptional.

What is exceptional about the United States of America originated at its birth. The founding principles of how a society should be organized and governed — to promote and ensure maximum personal freedom — is essentially what has always qualified America as truly exceptional in all of the world.

However, that meaning of exceptional has been eroded so badly that it has become an empty slogan; part of the ubiquitous, obligatory flag-waving, jets-flying-over-packed-football-stadiums, U.S.A-chanting, propped up patriotism. It is like we are wearing a big sign that says “We are exceptional,” and expecting that will convince our neighbors and ourselves that we are. But, saying it does not make it so. Living it does, and we are living it less and less.

What is exceptional about America now is how oddly oblivious it is to the obvious deterioration of what made it exceptional in the first place. Since initiating the insanely futile war on drugs and the exaggerated war on terrorism, America has steadily descended into a police state in which civil rights and property rights are subordinate to ever-expanding and intrusive “national security interests” and to government-imposed prohibitions on victimless personal choices.

Under the insidiously named Patriot Act, citizens suspected by the authorities to be involved in terrorism have been arrested and incarcerated without due process of law — in spite of constitutional guarantees prohibiting such Gestapo-like behavior.

With the unconstitutional authority of the Patriot Act, the FBI has issued more than 200,000 demands to companies to provide the financial, Internet and phone information on its customers. Companies that legally resist these demands are hit with bullying counter suits by the FBI claiming that the resisting companies are guilty of interference with — you guessed it — “national security interests.”

Government wants its citizens to have no secrets from it, while it tenaciously attempts to keep everything secret from its citizens. In some states it is illegal to film the police, even when they are committing blatant abuses of power — abuses that are occurring with increasing frequency across the country. And, anyone who travels has experienced the oppressive behavior of the Transportation Security Administration.

When police powers are so intrusively broad, there is no national security for citizens, at least as it is defined by the Bill of Rights.

The contortionist interpretations of the Constitution’s commerce clause by the U.S. Supreme Court have concentrated economic and police power in the federal government well beyond the reasonable purpose and intent of that clause.

A nation once proud, and wise, to be a melting pot of peoples and cultures, now wants to emphasize its differences by constantly celebrating diversity. Whether dividing ourselves up by politics, ethnicity, religion or economic status, we are so diverse now that we have become many different Americas having less affinity with and fading compassion for each other.

We are less a nation and more a confederation of complaining, grasping, often mutually antagonistic, tribes all trying to use a monstrously large government to get what our particular group wants.

This is being written four days before the presidential election, and whether President Barack Obama or challenger Mitt Romney has won, neither man has the charisma or personal power to make America truly exceptional again. Romney has already dug a deep moat between his righteously self-reliant 53 percent and the remaining 47 percent who he discards as parasitic peasants beyond redemption.

Obama, meanwhile, has shown that he is just as willing to trample on personal freedoms as any of his predecessors were. He has unleashed federal drug warriors to bust marijuana clinics in California, and has done little to reverse the corrosive Patriot Act. Besides that, he is the object of disunity and, unless voters elect Democrat majorities to both houses of Congress — something unlikely to happen given the ongoing warfare between the two self-certain ideological tribes — he can only preside over the dysfunctional status quo.

The right-wing nuts will sacrifice the general welfare in its obsession to spite Obama and maintain the myth that he is a Muslim socialist bent on destroying traditional American values. Too late wing nuts, the nation is already well on the path to destruction thanks to both the left and right and to all the selfish tribes concerned more about their individual life boats than about the mother ship and the constitution that keeps it afloat.

But, we can all wave the flag, sing The Star-Spangled Banner, pretend to be one nation governed by a judicious Constitution, and say we are exceptional.

— Santa Barbara political observer Randy Alcorn can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to read previous columns.

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