“Do you know why they hate Americans everywhere?” Lenny Bruce used to cheerfully riddle his audiences, drawing on his years as a Navy gunner’s mate in occupied Europe during World War II; “because we fucked their mothers for candy bars, Jim.” (Note the deft jazz-noir usage of “Jim” as a kind of early “dude” equivalent—but, more specifically, a kind of “slow-on-the-uptake dude.” As in: “what the hell else would you expect,” Jim?)
This portrait of America as a stubbly, amoral GI slithering through the ruins of older civilizations, trading cigarettes and Hershey Bars and nylons for sex—and ripping everyone off on the exchange rate—is one that would still be immediately recognized by people all over the globe. Just switch “mothers” to “sovreignty” and “candy bars” to “military-industrial profiteering,” and they’d recognize us anywhere—the Dope-For-Guns Dealer, the One Who Rigs the Game, the Napalm Capitalist. The more countries you visit, the more you realize that’s how the world sees us.
But not Americans themselves: we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re exactly the opposite!
“America is taken advantage of by every nation on earth, virtually,” said Donald Trump, but he was only codifying, in his trademarked nitwit way, a series of messages drummed into us for years from all corners of the media, and from politicians of every stripe: we’re just too darn bighearted for our own darn good! This is Uncle Sam as a big palooka, a barefoot, brawny L’il Abner, innocent to big city ways, who’s constantly preyed on by greasy hustlers who con him out of his Friday pay and funnel it all into social justice programs for African lesbians.
And so America expects to be coddled and cooed-to and petted all day long, to be tongue-bathed and baby-powdered dry by the rest of the world. We demand to be adored, not only because we’re exceptionally exceptional—if we do say so ourselves!– but because we’re also just so—what’s that word again?—so…kind! America scrimps and sacrifices and works its fingers to the bone and wears patched-up hand-me-down trousers, just so we can nobly give all our savings away to tiny, shabby rat-infested Eastern European countries with names we can’t pronounce. Worse yet, once our hard-earned billions–still moist with the sweat of our foreheads– are parachuted down onto foreign soil, they are immediately converted into millions of bonds stamped Good For One Free Abortion On Demand. But come next payday, whaddaya think that big lunk, America, goes and does? Yep! He falls for the same old badger game! What a goofball!
Well, not under Trump! “Those days are over, folks,” he assures us, wallowing in the lie; but then two days later—his defenses weakened by sleeplessness and too much vanilla ice cream– he accidentally drops a truth-bomb that horrifies Jake Tapper and Brent Scowcroft alike: “what, you think we’re so innocent,” he says, RE Putin’s murders, “you think we don’t have killers?”
How revealing that the gatekeepers of the American narrative are attacking Trump for his offhand truth, not his perpetuation of the L’il Abner lie. Brent Scowcroft knows better than most of us just how plentiful—and how vicious—our hired killers are; all the more important to shout down the very idea that we employ them (and train them and reward them, and have done so for my entire lifespan.)
Yes, Trump has violated even the Democratic Party version of the Too-Kind Narrative–which, coming from the Democrats–is almost too limp and colorless to even remember: Hillary Clinton’s teeth-grindingly-bad mantra that—oh Christ, the mind can barely spit it back up: “America is great because America is good.”
America is great, because America is good.
Linger for a moment on that hideous sanctimony, that language of death, every dreary syllable etched in nothingness; marvel at the exact, focus-group-tested amounts of piety, flag-pride and tactical dramatic voice-hush (a favorite technique of Reagan’s, later much advanced by Barack Obama); millions of dollars of PR research, compressed into one tiny but superpowerful nugget of horseshit.
America is great because–
Why don’t you take that line on the road, Ms Clinton, and see how it plays in other parts of the world?
Tell it, for example, to Ezekechial, the driver/janitor/pastor from Congo. He can describe for you the Great America’s stunning display of its Goodness back in 1964, when the CIA kidnapped and brutally murdered Patrice Lumumba, part of a nonstop rape-and-robbery crime spree that America has perpetrated on Africa since well before JFK.
“–because America is good.”
Tell it to any Southeast Asian lived through the Viet Nam War.
Tell it to the victims of the Clinton-sponsored coup in Honduras.
Maybe it’s poetic justice: when Trump goes down, it won’t be for a lie; it’ll be for one of his rare but intolerable truths: that we ain’t no L’il Abner. Of course, what Lenny Bruce proclaimed with shame, Donald Trump sees as a good trade, or what he might call a “win-win:”
We fucked their mothers for candy-bars, Jim…”