Saturday, November 21, 2009

Poison Snowflakes in the Sky

This is Part II of a major diatribe that makes me happy I have yet to specify exactly what grant I may or may not have received.

Let me sidetrack a moment, though. Why did I just say that it makes me happy? Because I’m speaking out against what I perceive to be poor stewardship of my country and my planet? Well, that’s stupid. Freedom of speech and all that. Plus, and this is something I’ve been trying to do work on in my day-to-day interactions – I keep telling myself that I need to stop being ashamed of being American. No, I don’t identify with many things that most stereotypical Americans hold dear. But I am still an American, am I not? When I speak English, I speak with mainstream American accent, only every so often forgetting an –r or adding one where one should not be; when I speak Russian, it’s tainted by that native tongue.

So take this for your cross-cultural enlightenment, Mr. Sir-Who-Makes-The-Totentanz-Go-Round. Some Americans are crazy people. I am one of them.

We were talking about American “exceptionalism” and how it poisons the policy-makers’ logic, particularly in regards to the still-unsigned Kyoto Protocols.
“…the negotiations [on global warming] that they’re having now on Capital Hill, at the UN, they’re not between, fundamentally, the US and China and whatever – they’re fundamentally between human beings on the one hand and physics and chemistry on the other, and that’s a tough negotiation because physics and chemistry don’t haggle, they don’t compromise, they don’t go: ‘Sorry your economy is in a tough spot, let’s suspend the laws of nature for a couple decades until you’re back on your feet’…” –Bill McKibben, author, activist. (read more at
Let’s imagine a conversation. (I’ve been reading The Republic.)
Frozen Icarus: We should sign the Kyoto Protocols.

American Senator: But we would lose some of our national independence, of that independence that makes ours the greatest nation on earth!

FI: I’m more than fine with that. I’d love to strengthen the Geneva Conventions, too, and neuter our military proliferations, and while we’re at it, do some relief in the poorest of the ghettos in our own country, before we try to fix all of the world’s problems.

AS: So you don’t like freedom? Well, fine, then – but if we lose our national self-determination we’ll lose our rights. You won’t be able to write in your blog any more.

FI: Submitting in part to a lawful, supranational body (especially something as weak as a watchdog like the Kyoto Protocols) doesn’t entail a disavowal of all personal liberties.

AS: Agree to disagree.
This is my problem. This is what makes me mad. An impenetrable fog, some corner of the maya curtain of this world settles between me and a “politically-minded” individual any time I try to speak on my politics, because I have never heard a convincing argument against saving our own planet, and because as soon as any question of betraying American “exceptionality” comes into play all sorts of ridiculous hyperbole comes out of his or her mouth. It’s like there’s a game of telephone hanging in the air between my vocal cords and that individual’s ear drums, and no matter what I say, it enters their brain as “BLAH! America Sucks! Hippie Student Culture RULZ!” and anything they say enters mine as “MONEY MONEY MONEY EXCEPTIONALITY MONEY MONEY.”

I had a whole series of Socratic dialectic samples prepared, but that gets tiresome pretty quickly. I’ll shorten the rest of this post by quoting Brett (Lady Ashley), my “BFF:”
All logic and rationalities aside, I support gay marriage because I look back at what kind of stance my grandparents took in the Civil Rights Movement, and I wonder how my grandchildren will look at me. When everyone’s allowed to get married, I want my grandchildren to see that I stood on the side of acceptance.”
That’s enough about American politics for one day.

Part III tomorrow. And don’t worry, Russia. Tomorrow belongs to you.

(An all-organic, sustainable square of grass to anyone who knows the song reference. It’s ironic, in its own way.)


Sasha said...

But lets define FREEDOM as being in the position where you "get to", and sometimes "have to" make difficult choices about what to do in the world.

Then, American "exceptionalism" (which means, essentially, never having to take responsibility for actions before others)is the OPPOSITE of FREEDOM. It's enslavement to an intoxicating ideology, that robs us of that freedom.

FREEDOM doesn't look like fields and flowers and Heidi and dancing ALL THE TIME. It looks like people sitting by themselves and having existential crises about what to do...because they have to CHOOSE.

Word Verification: kupeervi

Andrew said...

My understanding of the politician-construct's point is that if we reject exceptionalism we reject freedom because we'll be held to a greater system of answerability in world politics. To me, then, it has the same fallacy as the "this seems like a slippery slope" argument, which seems to consider that if we make one decision in the present our future selves will never be able to handle a situation with some form of logical irrationality and the excrement will strike the cooling unit. When really what's going to happen is that we'll bully our way into a position of authority and unanswerability just like we did with the UN Security Council's veto power.