Monday, December 05, 2005

Exceptionalism, America, and the Green Party

This article has a few golden nuggets about U.S. imperialism. Sometimes a nugget is not a new piece of information, but a well-known piece of information that is made digestable for people like me, who don't know one 'ism' from another:

Thanks to history textbooks, Hollywood, television and politicians (Democrat and Republican), the US people are kept in ignorance of their imperial past. Each intervention is presented as an altruistic response to a crisis. Since there is no American empire, no pattern, habit or system of extra-territorial domination, the motive for each intervention is assessed at face value. Somehow the principles of liberty and human happiness always seem magically to coincide with American national self-interest – or, more precisely, the economic interests of the US elite.

That's so true - I never once was presented with the idea, in any of my schooling, that perhaps the U.S.'s intentions were something other than wholly benevolent. Never. Didn't you know the entire U.S. government was run by a bunch of God clones, dressed as politiciasn? Because they always made perfectly benevolent decisions, apparently. Never had I ever been told, or had it suggested in any way, that the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes. Never. How is that even possible? Our history books need changing - but I guess it starts with us, and then the U.S. adult population recognizing our long imperialist past for what it was, and continues to be.

The article finishes strong:

Whether it’s talk of “empire lite” or Bush-style unilateralism, you can hear the drumbeat of the old American exceptionalism, the claim that the US has a unique destiny and that this destiny embodies the fate of humankind. History has taught peoples in many lands to fear the USA’s altruism. In a poem from the early 1920s entitled ‘The Evening Land’, DH Lawrence wrote:

I am so terrified, America,
Of the iron click of your human contact.
And after this
The winding-sheet of your selfless ideal love.
Boundless love
Like a poison gas.

Dyaaaaaam! I've read some poems in my day, but this one - unreal. Like a poison gas. Awesome.

Once I recovered from the enormity of this poem, over the next week or so, two phrases stuck in my head: 'poison gas', and 'American exceptionalism'. The more I mulled over the latter phrase, the more convinced I became that it represented something very close to what I'd been thinking, if not writing, for a couple of months now.

The Green Party, when formed here in the United States, could do anything it wanted, in terms of setting an agenda - deciding on guiding principles, etc. Of course, whatever those principles were going to be were supposed to be based on the Four Pillars - something that did not happen, in my opinion. I would also argue that it was not even necessary for the founding Greens to dream up a new set of principles, since they they had some pretty good ones in the Four Pillars - but that's neither here nor there. Besides, how many people could the new Green Party lose? You had to have members before you could lose members.

Why did the Green founders here in the U.S. decide they needed some new values to use for their new party, even though they had some perfectly good guiding principles they could adopt, in the Four Pillars? American exceptionalism. We're Americans, not Germans, or New Zealander's. We invented democracy. We're too good for that.

You don't agree? Ok. A case could be made to offer the founders a little leeway, here. After all, they did start a brand new party here in the U.S., and that's pretty cool. But what about now, in the year 2005, twenty or so years after the founding of the U.S. Green Party? It seems the U.S. Green Party has been trying awfully hard to keep the Green Party small and ineffective. With the Feminist backlash lasting over 20 years now, one might think that it was time to, you know, think about changing up the game a little bit. Not flipping the script - just changing the game - just a little bit. A tweak here, a shizzle there - little stuff. But there they are, and there it is - the Ten Key Values, and Feminism. Haunting me. Stangling the Green Party, preventing it from growing and becoming effective on a national level, where it can do the most good.

What is the level of American exceptionalist thinking required to keep the Ten Key Values, unaltered, as part of the U.S. Green Party's platform after its managed to keep the party down for so long? Who are these elites running the Green Party, so committed to a rigid platform, in face of exteme popular political hostility towards it? Or is the core of the Green Party so hostile to outside ideas that they'll cling to their stance, stagnating membership rolls and all?

Let's do away with this American exceptionalism. Let's adopt the Six Principles of the Global Greens. The U.S. contingent to the last Global Greens Charter apparently signed-onto the Six Principles, so why haven't we adopted them yet? Canada has, as have other countries, I imagine. Are we that self-absorbed? The United States Green Party wiki page says:

... the Global Greens Charter, signed by many of these parties in Australia in 2001, was based on the Ten Values and Four Pillars, reduced to Six Principles for brevity.

This is truly a global document, a historic accomplishment for all people involved it, and it represents, I believe, a great hope for the future of the earth and its inhabitants. But the promises of this document, the Global Greens Charter, will not be realized by our deifying the Ten Key Values and refusing to move forward in time. We have to take action. Let's drop this American exceptionalism, and keep our commitments - adopt the Six Principles in place of the Ten Key Values, now.

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