Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflections on an Empire

Here's an intelligent article about of the effects of 911 on the American empire, written by Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center .

Imperial Delusions: Ignoring the Lessons of 9/11
Here's an excerpt:

Empires rarely learn in time, because power tends to dull people’s capacity for critical self-reflection. While ascending to power, empires believe themselves to be invincible. While declining in power, they cling desperately to old myths of remembered glory.

Today the United States is morally bankrupt and spiritually broken. The problem is not that we have strayed from our founding principles, but that we are still operating on those principles -- delusional notions about manifest destiny, American exceptionalism, the right to take more than our share of the world’s resources by whatever means necessary. As the United States grew in wealth and power, bounty for the chosen came at the cost of misery for the many….

While the terrorism of fanatical individuals and groups is a serious threat, much greater damage has been done by our nation-state caught up in its own fanatical notions of imperial greatness.

Being outside of the US, I could easily see, all through the 90s, where this was leading. The intoxication of victory following the fall of the Soviets was really our undoing, the rise of the radical Right which teamed up with corporation America and the Christian Right, but most of all there were those odious phrases I kept hearing, "America, as leader of the free world.." Or "The last superpower, the United States, has a responsibility to..." It was slipped into the public consciousness without argument as if it was stating an incontestable fact.

I recall sitting in a cinema watching "Jerry Macquire" and the opening was something like, "This is the world. (CGI of Earth spinning) This is America. America sets the standard for the rest of the world." It set my teeth on edge because it was had the vile smell of imperial pretension. And worst of all, even if you accept that statement, if America did set a standard for the rest of the world, then, as a model, it had an even greater responsibility to live by the rule of law, to seek peace over war and to show tolerance. Instead that arrogance led us to do exactly the opposite, against all of our best ideals.


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