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Saturday Soliloquy: American Exceptionalism

As seen on my car

As seen on my car

On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke to an Ohio crowd about U.S. exceptionalism.*

One of the ways the U.S. most excels is in weapon sales. In 2014, it was the world’s #1 arms exporter, beating the next in line–Russia–by a very, very long shot. This isn’t a Republican thing, either; arms sales have skyrocketed under the current Democratic administration.

Human rights-abusing Saudi Arabia has been a prominent beneficiary of these weapons. The U.S. has provided it other military assistance, too, making itself either “complicit” (New York Times) or “indispensable” (Glenn Greenwald) in the ongoing Saudi-targeted deaths of thousands of Yemeni civilians.

Saudi Arabia is just the start. Some of the U.S.’s other big weapons customers include other flagrant human rights abusers, which have frequently donated to the Clinton Foundation out of the goodness of their human rights loving hearts.

Other ways the U.S. is exceptional–within the Western world, anyway–are in child povertygun sales, gun deaths, and unprosecuted killings of citizens by police agencies the federal government has militarized to help fight its war on drugs. Come to think of it, that’s another way the U.S. leads the world: in mass incarceration, beating every single one of the countries it routinely chastises for human rights violations, again by a long shot.

But, hey. It could be worse! The nation could be summarily executing prisoners instead of simply stripping them of civil rights for the rest of their post-prison lives, principally for non-violent drug offenses.

In the meantime, it pushes world trade agreements that enable companies to sue countries for acts that harm companies, like raising minimum wages. By legislative action and inaction, it enables pharmaceutical companies like Mylan–whose Democratic senator‘s daughter CEO earns $18 million a year under perverse incentive schemes–to expand demand for their lifesaving drugs just in time to jack up prices 400%, offering savings cards to offset one-half the cost … but only for people already insured by non-government insurance providers.

(Poor people are barely even people, though, amirite? Who cares if The Poors’ kids die because they can’t afford both medicine and food?!)

Clinton says the U.S. is exceptional. Of course she’d think it’s perfect the way it is, having helped ensure it’s her brand of exceptional.

Surveying the evidence, I’d agree with Clinton only if “exceptional” were amended to:

“exceptionally ill equipped to improve lives of citizens anywhere in the world by its policing.”

The test of our progress is not whether we add more
to the abundance of those who have much;
it is whether we provide enough
for those who have too little.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

* Also, war. Lots and lots of war.
Not only does Clinton have the war criminal and
military industrial complex votes, neither she nor hers
hers will fight any war, so why not bring back the Cold War?
Weapons deals and wars–as long as the latter are fought
in someone else’s country–are
lucrative, like, whoa.

Recommended reads:

  • Democrats and Their Chilling Apathy Toward War: If you’re like me, you’ve voted Democrat for decades because you favor peace. If you’re like me, you’ve been voting based on wishes.
  • This Is What A Tor Supporter Looks Like: Writes Daniel Ellsberg, the hero behind the Pentagon Paper leaks, “The only reason for [officials fighting to contain knowledge] is to protect officials: from accountability, from blame for criminal prosecution in some cases, but more often just from mistakes, from admitting error, bad predictions, deceptions of the public, disastrous policies. In other words, these documents remain classified to protect officials from the electorate, to subvert democracy essentially. And that has been the effect.”
  • Putting the Clinton Foundation in Context: Corruption Plain on the Face of It: If you compulsively follow news, you’ll have seen there are dozens of independent, independently alarming issues related to the blurring of lines between the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s State Department. “Oh, but there’s no clear quid pro quo, meanies!” goes the establishment Democratic response. It’s working great among Democratic supporters afraid of Trump, so I’m sure the establishment will keep it up. For those actually willing to consider that there could be impropriety, this is a compelling start.
  • Your Tax Money is Subsidizing Wall Street Bonuses: Because we can’t afford to ensure all our kids eat, but we can pay wealthy bankers $725 million over a five-year period.
  • Politics, stories, and lies: Just kidding! This “Saturday Soliloquy” series sprang out of “shorter-please” commentary on this way too long post, in which I took 4,000 words to highlight why neither Democrats nor Republicans have my vote. Possibly ever.

Added bonus:

I ordered a Stein shirt for my sister. Amazon kindly threw in a Trump shirt for free. "Oops," they said, effectively. It wasn't "intentional." Yeah, sure, just like it's unintentional when people tell me daily that a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump. What folks saying this fail to understand is that I WILL NEVER VOTE FOR CLINTON. Why? Because I value black and brown bodies within AND OUTSIDE the U.S. Trump barks; Clinton has already bitten, and bitten, and bitten. As I wrote last weekend in a 4,000-word post getting at what I understand from having now read hundreds of articles, "I will vote for peace, and love, and hope. I will do this not because I am a senseless, uninformed, naive hippie, but because I am now too informed to possibly--given the contours of my heart--vote otherwise."

I ordered a Stein shirt for my sister. Amazon kindly threw in a Trump shirt for free. “Oops,” they said, effectively. It wasn’t “intentional.” Yeah, sure, just like it’s unintentional when people tell me daily that a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump. What folks saying this fail to understand is that I WILL NEVER VOTE FOR CLINTON. Why? Because I value black and brown bodies within AND OUTSIDE the U.S.
Trump barks; Clinton has already bitten, and bitten, and bitten. As I wrote last weekend in a 4,000-word post getting at what I understand from having now read hundreds of articles, “I will vote for peace, and love, and hope. I will do this not because I am a senseless, uninformed, naive hippie, but because I am now too informed to possibly–given the contours of my heart–vote otherwise.”

  1. Paul
    September 3, 2016 at 1:51 am

    Quite a damning post Deborah. It is refreshing to read an American who has taken off the red/white/blue glasses. And you’ve just scratched the surface. As a non- American, I can tell you that the rest of us see America as the biggest bully in the world. No foreign policy decision will ever put the best interests of another country above the making of money for America. Even though America holds the biggest stick in most relations they will still take from those who are poorer simply because they can. It is just a fact of life for the rest of us that we live with the biggest bully on our street. Have you ever wondered why so many hate Americans and will stick it to them as often as possible? I’ll leave that as rhetorical.

    That said, the list of positive things about America is so long it would fill all the volumes in a library. America has engaged in the greatest philanthropy in aid and betterment projects of any country in history. They are the very first to send help to anyone in a natural disaster – using those war machines like cargo planes and helicopters for helping people.They are the first defenders of freedom and put their money where their mouths are by almost single handedly funding the United Nations and World Bank. They promote and protect art the world over. They will be the very first to commit the lives of their citizens in warfare to stop the abuse of the downtrodden where they can. When they have beaten an opponent they will help to rebuild by giving aid and money when there is no requirement to do so. Their corporations bring jobs and better living conditions to countries the world over. America is the hearth of medical innovations that can help all who are sick. And that is just the beginning of the list.

    So very many stories and anecdotes can be used on both sides of they pro/con US argument. For instance there once was a very poor country in Africa that was essentially desert. There was so little water that the economy was basically non-existent. The water table lay thousands of feet below the scorched surface such that drilling was beyond the financial abilities of even the government. But not Coke. They moved in and drilled wells the better part of a mile into the ground and struck so much water that it was unending. They then used that water to make and bottle Coke and sell it. Those bottles were very expensive but still just a fraction of the cost of a bottle of water. This activity created a demand for all sorts of local entrepreneurship, like trucking and machine shops and cleaning supplies and communications,etc, etc. Money began to flow and people had jobs with regular protected income for the first time in their lives. If the water had simply been given away, no jobs would have been created. Now, many years later, the country has an economy and work and mines and police – it isn’t pretty and many are poor some because they were attracted to the region but couldn’t find a job. Many judge Coke as corporate gougers, making a big profit off a poor nation but many see that the people are far better off now than they were before. Personally I’m on both sides of the argument. 😀

    • September 3, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Anthony and I just discussed your comment while I was prepping breakfast a few minutes ago. He expressed a lot of appreciation for the thoughtfulness and nuance reflected in your words; I share his appreciation. Thank you!

      There’s a lot that’s good about the U.S., and I hope there’s a lot that will become even better by people working to align its actions with its foundational ideals. That’s a thought–for me!–worth writing and working toward.

      • Paul
        September 3, 2016 at 9:35 am

        Thank you. I find your political commentary very real and insightful.

  2. September 3, 2016 at 4:53 am

    Amazon really did that with the T-shirt?!??!!? Wow. Slimy. Makes me want to delete my app and cancel my Prime membership.

    • September 3, 2016 at 5:07 am

      It did! Here’s the key sentence in its response to my complaint: “see that you received ‘pro-Trump’ with the actual ordered product which wasn’t intentional.”

      Okay, then. If you say it wasn’t intentional without providing any insight whatsoever into how it “unintentional[ly]” ended up there, it must be true. ><

      I bought two books on Amazon immediately afterward before realizing, no, the way I get to respond to this effectively is by not buying from them. So where I can, I'll be buying elsewhere. Books are easiest since I can just request them through my favorite bookstores! 🙂

      • September 5, 2016 at 2:33 pm

        The good news is that they probably have to give them away because people aren’t buying them. (Hey, I can hope!)

        Is buying through Amazon the best way to support Stein? I hope so … Would be a sorry to think of your money going to someone who is just making money out of them.

        • September 5, 2016 at 6:39 pm

          Oh, man, I hope you’re right about people not buying them!

          As for Amazon and supporting Stein? It is definitely not the best way! I tried to buy on the Green site first, but everything I wanted was “COMING SOON.” I bought off Amazon to bridge the gap, telling Anthony how dirty I felt while doing it, so that this experience affirmed that I should go with my gut instinct.

          Next time, I’ll go with the not quite as awesome t-shirt that does a better job supporting that for which I actually stand! I will be buying more shirts, and they will be directly from the Green Party website. 🙂

          • September 5, 2016 at 6:50 pm

            Gary finally came out with one that I have to buy for the Hubbit and my brother-in-law … “Why choose the left nut or the right nut when you can have The Johnson”? Crude, I know … but it made me laugh. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a few laughs come out of the White House? As opposed to jeers, I mean…

          • September 5, 2016 at 7:21 pm

            LOL! This is fantastic! I’d loooove to have a few laughs come out of the White House. 🙂

  3. September 3, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Well… it could have been worse. They could have sent you a Clinton T-shirt 😛 I gotta admit, though… I’m still in shock that “building the wall” is one of trumps main “selling points.” I mean, I know there is a lot of stupid in this country, but it still shocks me that people REALLY believe a wall is going to help. It’s not going to change the fact that there are many jobs out there for the taking, we just snub our noses at them, and it’s not going to fix drug related crimes. The only thing that is going to fix drug related crimes is to stop making drugs so criminal! I feel like I’m sitting here waiting for a newscaster to shout, “America, you just got punked!” Cause I just can’t get over the reality that our democracy is not at all what I thought it was if this is what we get.

    • September 3, 2016 at 9:27 am

      You are so right about the need to stop making drugs so criminal. The more I read about the “war on drugs,” the more I am certain that it’s one of the single most destructive forces in America’s history. A book I’m slowly reading, The New Jim Crow, is very persuasive in its address of this.

      I have the same feeling of having been punked. More by the day, though, I become a little more acclimated to the reality that existed long before I was able to see it. It’s a sad feeling, but man. I’m hopeful we’re still early enough in our noticing to change the outcome.

      (Also, I LOL’d at your Hillary tee comment. Early on, I heard a lot of people saying Clinton was scarier than Trump in many ways. I thought that was a funny stretch. Now, after bunches more research, I agree. I’m not going to waste my time explaining it to people who–erroneously–feel entitled to the time and energy it would require to explain it. I’ve spent enough time analyzing people’s lack of willingness to research and do their own homework–to explore things that require genuine, questioning exploration instead of just digesting whatever’s fed to them–to not feel any personal responsibility for what anyone else does or does not get. I’ll speak my truth based on the research I’ve done and let others remain responsible for finding their own!)

  4. September 3, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    my dogs would happily
    sleep on that t shirt 🙂

    • September 3, 2016 at 12:35 pm


      They asked if I wanted to send it back. I’ve tried to return things to Amazon for refund, and it was such a hassle I gave up!

      I might pass your suggestion along to my sister, who has two dogs who’d probably enjoy a little added padding in their beds!

  5. September 3, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Where can I get a bumper sticker like that?

    • September 3, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      Anthony said he got it at NeitherOne2016.com. He saw someone share it on Twitter & he knew it had a place on my car. 🙂

  6. September 4, 2016 at 1:56 am

    well said Deborah! you hit the nail on the head. as a non American, I’m irish, I love hearing what these presidential candidates are going to pull out of their hats next, in order to win votes! XXX ps what does the bumper sticker say? I’m blind so cant read it. xxx

  7. September 4, 2016 at 7:07 am

    That shirt will be great for dusting or something 😉

    I tell ya, I find that whole “If you vote for ___, it’s a vote for ___” thing so freaking annoying. If I wanted to vote for that other person, obviously I would!

    • September 4, 2016 at 7:57 am


      It really is annoying! Folks who say things like this are trying to use shame as a tool.

      The actual impact of their doing this is to make me breathe a sigh of relief and go, “Thanks for reminding me yet again why I left the party!” They’re making it impossible for me to have even the slightest iota of nostalgia for the party.

  8. September 5, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    LOVE THIS! It needs to go viral. Seriously. AND YOU NEED A CAREER IN POLITICS. Correction … we need you to have a career in politics… 🙂

    • September 5, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      Oh … and I shared it on my blog and on my Facebook page. Doing my tiny bit to make it go viral!

    • September 5, 2016 at 6:37 pm

      Thank you! And by that, I mean, for the comment … and for inspiring this post (series)!

      In one of your comments, you suggested a once weekly politics post and joked about what to name it. I thought about that and it felt perfect: a way to make weekdays be about the stuff of my day to day life while still carving out space for politics. It also gives me an opportunity to sift through everything I’m reading and contemplating before boiling it down to what’s most important to me overall, instead of just posting every time I read something horrifying, “This B.S. needs to stop!!!”

      Once weekly posts represent the perfect balance for me. I really, really appreciate your comments and insights! THANK YOU!

      (It’s coming, by the way. It’ll just take me a few years to get myself situated first!)

      • September 5, 2016 at 6:48 pm

        Deb, you are so welcome. I must admit I cringed when I read your response to another commenter, in which you castigated people who don’t bother to do their own research. When it comes to politics, yep, that’s me. One day I hope to be better, but right now I’m spending most of my time stamping out fires … or struggling to stay vertical. So thank you for doing so much of my research for me, and making it accessible… 🙂

        • September 5, 2016 at 7:20 pm

          I do wish people would explore; that folks would take that, “Wait, what?” and try to work out why they feel that moment of hesitation or doubt when they see someone speaking or writing something weird, and research it instead of shrugging it off. By the same token, I know this approach is beyond politics; reading Gavin de Becker has shown that we humans (alone among species!) find countless reasons to justify working within these bizarre human rules that sometimes lead us to harm. Also, in today’s world where there is noise, noise, noise everywhere, it’s virtually impossible to not survive without drowning out some of it.

          Even more importantly, by far, I don’t want to ever, ever be a part of perpetuating the idea that people must do this amount of reading or that amount of research or have this pristine background before they can even begin engaging in dialogue. Quite bluntly, FUCK THAT.

          (That was where I was until three or four months ago. Even with a law degree! I hadn’t done enough reading, I figured, or participated enough to have earned the privilege to speak.)

          About that?

          My mom was so freakin’ smart. She was brilliant, and compassionate, and articulate, but she was poor and put her commas in the wrong place and so people taunted her mercilessly and told her her voice mattered less.

          You know when it’s hard to do research? When you’re trying to ensure your tiny human charges are safe and healthy. When you’re fighting your ex husband, and your family, and the system, and the world, just to have a fragment of hope life might be better for your kids.

          There is not a gorram second to research in such a life.

          And that was just my mom’s story. So many people have been disenfranchised, by people indicating–as I did, much to my mortification, and I thank you for calling me on it–that they only can weigh in if they achieve x, y, and z first.

          I have a lot that I’d like to say to them, and none of it is appropriate for this blog.

          But I have to recognize when “them” is “me,” too, when I feel that urge to get off a zinger in a moment of frustration … but then, in so doing, play a role in further disenfranchising someone from a system already manipulated to accommodate political elites at the expense of the people they’re supposed to represent.

          That’s why I’m so glad for your suggestions. You gave me a chance to really sit with what I want to do, and why I want to do it, and how my mom’s suffering inspires me to make a world less full of suffering. You nudged me toward writing a once weekly post written accessibly instead of just raging to rage whenever I felt like it. Raging really doesn’t accomplish much, by itself.

          I want to make politics more accessible. Period. I want to scrub away the grime and cobwebs intentionally placed and help encourage even one person toward the sense that they understand things think-takers have intentionally tried to obfuscate.

          I want a system that represents the people again. For that, people need to feel they can engage the system, and find ways to seek representation within it. To not be silenced before they can even begin to find the words.

          When I fall short of that, as I will, I hope the feeling I have afterward will remind me that the whole reason I’m so infuriated is remembering how my mom was purposefully pushed out as worthless, and thinking how no one deserves that. No one deserves that to help prop up the people already most powerful and best equipped to weather any/every circumstance, simply because they–understandably–can’t imagine having a meaningful voice in this wreck of a political system.

          There can be something better. There will. But for that to come to pass, the people have to believe it’s possible.

          I want to help people believe it’s possible.

          It is.

          • September 6, 2016 at 11:03 am

            Yes, it is indeed. And I love what you’re trying to do – such a powerful goal – “to make politics accessible … to scrub away the grime and cobwebs.:

            That said … my dear friend (I hope I may call you that – I find more and more it’s how I think of you): I was NOT trying to “call you out”. If what I said served as a check, to help you overcome a habit you don’t like in yourself, then I’m glad… but …. here’s the problem with these in-comment conversations: One has a thought in mind, and tosses off another thought as an aside, and doesn’t get back to it until the next day, if ever. The truth is, first off, I’m lazy about reading non-fiction. I want to learn, I love reading that stimulates me … but the act of cracking the book and getting started tends to be something I procrastinate about until I’ve run out of easy reading. So that’s a fault I recognize in me, and I really, REALLY appreciate that you DO make so much information accessible to me, in a way that stimulates my desire to read more.

            At the same time, while politics interests me, I think I mentioned in a previous post that I get riled up about it during election season, but most of the time the doings of politicians seems both remote and ephemeral. It touches me, but I don’t feel I can really touch it back. My approach to World Change is a much smaller one … I’m helping to put some kids through school. I respond when I can to personal appeals for help on Craigslist, or made directly. I’ve rescued a lot of dogs … educated a few children. And then there are lifestyle choices … When I pick a subject to study it’s much more likely to be on ethical farming than politics. That’s just the way my interests lean.

            In other words, your passionate intelligence helps me. It informs me, and I love that. It provides me with an enjoyable shortcut to knowledge that I value. Don’t stop! Thank you… 🙂

  9. Orinda Beiers
    September 5, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Amen Sister!

  1. September 5, 2016 at 2:23 pm
  2. September 11, 2016 at 7:35 am
  3. September 21, 2016 at 12:31 pm
  4. September 23, 2016 at 5:20 am

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