Well, I haven’t been posting for awhile. I am self employed, which means there are times when I have to put in a lot of overtime. But during these past few weeks, I kept running across an interesting term in the media. After thinking about it for a while I decided that I had to write about it from the heathen perspective. This term is “American exceptionalism.”
This seems to be a term used by the Fox News crowd as one of the core beliefs that all true conservatives are supposed to hold. This is the belief that America is an exceptional country, and that Americans are all exceptional people, by virtue of being Americans. Signs of this belief include never condemning any action that America has ever taken, affirming that America’s accomplishments are superior to the accomplishments of all other nations, and always assuming that Americans are better than other people.
This is not a very heathen idea. The nine noble virtues counsel against it. Remember the virtue of Truth? Well, that virtue means that real heathens should always speak the truth. In truth, America has accomplished some truly great things, including creating a society that values individual rights more than most societies have managed. However, she has also failed to live up to her own ideals, far too many times. The genocidal campaigns against the First Nations, the enslavement of people of African descent, the horrors of Company Towns, laws outlawing the practice of minority religions and alternate sexual orientations, and a system that has often regarded women as property and that was designed to keep the poor poor while the rich grow fat off of their labors. The truth is, America’s past is not pretty. Much of it is brutal. Some of it is downright evil.
Other nations have accomplishments of their own that outstrip many of America’s. Iceland has maintained a near one hundred percent literacy rate. They also pioneered a much purer form of democracy than we use, much earlier than we did. China invented many of the devices that allowed us to gain the upper hand over the rest of the world, militarily. A large amount of modern science was pioneered by Germans, not Americans. Many countries have much lower rates of violence than we do. Many Asian, African, and South American peoples have pioneered psychological and physiological science that Americans are mostly still ignorant of. We have accomplished much. But so have other people.
It takes courage to speak unpleasant truths, or even admit them to yourself. Especially when those truths maybe mean that you have a responsibility or two that you otherwise wouldn’t. Courage is another of the nine noble virtues. Heathens should therefore have the courage to speak the truth, both to themselves and to others. This means speaking well of America and Americans when they deserve it. It also means speaking poorly of America and Americans when they deserve it. To not dare to speak the truth is cowardly.
Fidelity and discipline are also important amongst the nine noble virtues. Fidelity means loyalty. Loyalty to America, in this case. Loyalty does not, however, mean blind support no matter what. That isn’t loyalty. That’s enabling. Loyalty means providing true support. Showing fidelity to America means doing your best to keep America strong. To be strong, America needs to know herself. To be honest with herself. A strong house cannot be built on a weak foundation. Discipline means doing what needs doing, even if it’s difficult. We can only figure out where we need to go as a country, and how to get there, by knowing where we’ve been. That is, where we have actually been, not where some Fox News revisionist fantasy would place us.
Have you ever known somebody who thought that they were the greatest thing since bottled mead? Somebody who could somehow never admit when they were wrong? Not only are jackasses like this really unpleasant to be around, they’re also incredibly stupid and incompetent. They have never really learned how to do anything, because they are convinced that they are great already, without making any effort.
This is what the modern conservative movement, or at least the Fox Brigade, wants to make us into, the kind of loser described above. That is patriotism? Desiring to make the national character into a hyper-annoying boorish loudmouthed loser? Bullshit. That isn’t patriotism. Those who refuse to speak the truth, even in the name of national unity, patriotism, or anything else, are liars. Those who lack the courage to look at the truth without flinching, who lack the courage to speak that truth to themselves and others, are cowards. Those who boost any action that America takes show no fidelity. They are faithless, and the very worst kind of faithless too: the kind who hide under the disguise of fidelity. Those who do not do what needs doing to make America truly strong are undisciplined. They are children. Those who believe that it is always more important to feel joy than guilt are weaklings and cowards. Guilt has a place. It is a useful tool, and it leads to the more true, enduring form of joy.
The plain truth is, the rabid mania about American exceptionalism is just another kind of philosophical drug. It appeals to losers who know they are losers, deep down inside. It allows them to feel special, just for belonging to a group, without having to do any work at all to earn that feeling. That is a profoundly non-heathen thing to do. This is the same sort of thing that makes people become racists, xenophobes, misogynists, and homophobes.
I am a true patriot. I love this country, and want her to be strong. I want her to live up to the incredible promise that she has. I will show my loyalty by helping her become truly strong. This is heathen patriotism. This is heathen pride.