FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

One Week, Three Lessons on the Exclusivity of Exceptionalism in America

by

In the week beginning April 20, 2015, the American people got three object lessons about equal treatment and the stratification of status in the twenty-first century.

Three events in the week beginning April 20, 2015, show convincingly that the American promise of national and global societal justice is a lie. They specifically show that in this new American century, one’s economic status, access to power, and place of birth determine one’s access to human rights and equal protection under the law. Any illusions to the contrary are just that.

The separating of people into groups in which the privileged few look at the disadvantaged other is a byproduct of the extreme nationalism of the modern nation state. The United States has the unique status of being able to apply this “othering” to not only the underclass in its own society but also around the globe is due to its position as the world’s only superpower.

This week has been particularly noxious in terms of showing the intrinsic injustice in the American system, both on a foreign and domestic scale. In truth, any week of the past few decades could. To show the scope and scale of this week’s object lessons, we’ll forgo chronological order and instead focus on the events broadly to narrowly, from global to local.

Globally:

This week the President took the unprecedented step of confirming publicly that his administration’s drone program was responsible for the deaths of two Al Qaeda hostages. One, Warren Weinstein, was a US national, and the other, Giovanni Lo Porto, was Italian. The President expressed great sorrow at the loss of innocent life and gave his personal condolences to the men’s families. A visibly distraught Obama went a step further and took direct responsibility for the loss of innocent life.

Contrast that attitude with the administration’s words on innocent civilians who are not western nationals and you’ll find a very different take. When the administration acknowledges that its attacks kill innocent civilians, those victims are not given the courtesy of being named or even counted. They are, instead, referred to abstractly and their deaths are seen as at most a “regrettable” cost of the war on terror. No public official holds a press conference to admit culpability in their deaths. No public official expresses personal, individualized regret, when they express regret at all.

Nationally:

David Petraeus was sentenced for his role in leaking sensitive documents to his lover for her laudatory biography of him. Given the sentences handed down to such leakers as Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou, one might expect Petraeus to face some jail time and sever curtailment of his movement. Instead, of course, Petraeus was sentenced to two years of probation and a fine of 100,000 dollars. The probation will not stop his freedom to travel across the country to give speeches, where he will earn more than the cost of his fine and then some for one such stop.

This isn’t surprising to anyone who has paid any attention to the politicization of the prosecutions of Manning and Kiriakou versus the prosecution of Petraeus. For the former, their actions are seen as “treason” and their prosecutions are met with at best a stony silence. For the latter, after being publicly outed as a philandering leaker of documents for self-aggrandizement, his prosecution is deemed “suffered enough” and he is welcomed back to the White House in an advisory role less than two years after resigning in disgrace from the CIA, and while his trial was ongoing.

Locally:

It seems that being the son of a prominent Washington politician gives you a license to abuse the police arresting you in ways that have demonstrably led to death for young men of color in similar situations. Rand Paul’s son William discovered this on Sunday morning, April 19, when he was cited- not arrested- for DUI. The younger Paul’s behavior was described as “belligerent.” In spite of that fact, William Paul was released from hospital and not held by the police.

Contrast that arrest with the arrest and subsequent death in police custody of Freddy Gray of Baltimore, Maryland. Four hours before William Paul was cited, Freddie Gray died in a Baltimore area hospital from complications from a spinal column fracture that happened at some point while in police custody. Gray’s crime, almost a week prior to his death, was running away from a police detail in a Baltimore neighborhood looking for drug dealers. Somehow, during his arrest and booking, his spinal cord was broken and he was injured severely enough to kill him less than seven days later. Contrast that with the treatment of the “belligerent” Mr. Paul, who was cited and released with no bodily injury.

The three examples given here expose the corrupt injustice at the heart of American society. On a global level, the idea of the importance and uniqueness of life being exclusive to the US and her allies leads to the non-western victims of drone warfare being described in broad terms that rob them of autonomy and individual identity. On the national level, those with access to the high reaches of power and influence in the government get a fraction of the punishment for crimes their lesser connected counterparts can lose years of their lives to. And this bleeds down to the local level, where the same institution that kills a Baltimore man in the course of arresting him for running away frees the rich son of a politician for an actual crime.

The relentless “othering” of the global, national, and local underclass by those in power has consequences. These consequences are obvious this week. Victims of international aggression are only acknowledged as people when they are Western nationals. Architects of policy have rights and privileges those who expose the abuses in the policy do not. A member of the American political aristocracy is treated deferentially for his crime by the institution that kills a poor black man of a similar age for no crime at all.

If America wants to present itself as the arbiter of human rights, justice, and upward mobility around the globe and at home- as its leaders constantly assert they do- then societal change is needed, desperately. This week has thrown that fact into stark relief.

Eoin Higgins is a writer and historian from upstate New York. He is a recent graduate of the Masters in History program at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. You can find his work at https://medium.com/@Catharticme and follow him on twitter @CatharticMe

 

Eoin Higgins has a master’s degree in history from Fordham University. He lives in New York.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail