Few nations obtain the opportunity to lead the world of nearly two hundred nations of diverse cultures, histories, and economies. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States emerged as the sole superpower with formidable military and economic strengths.
As a well-functioning democracy under which governments changed periodically and peacefully and where constitutional rights were being democratized for previously excluded communities, the United States was proving the thesis that liberty and prosperity can coexist within a decent legal system. Many highly gifted individuals all over the world viewed the United States as a miracle nation and wished to live and work here.
Gradually but steadily, arrogance misguided politicians and policy makers in Washington D.C. The presidency, congress, the military, and think-thanks – all dominated mostly by men intoxicated with power — embarked upon juvenile rhetoric and conduct that insulted diverse cultures, ridiculed world religions, and asserted raw power even in diplomatic circles of the United Nations. In 1995, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proclaimed with unmitigated hubris: “We’re the only country complicated enough, sophisticated enough, big enough to lead the human race.”
The 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States bamboozled the power-drivers in Washington D.C. The fall of the iconic twin towers and an assault on the Pentagon inflicted a national trauma anchored in disbelief, shaking the confidence in progressive American values. “The whole world is under the control of the evil” was the new consensus even among the highly educated secular elites, let alone the ordinary people indoctrinated with militaristic patriotism.
An erratic analysis of the “evil world” forced the United States into a self-squandering trajectory of war mongering. When an empire or a nation begins to fight the world through aggressive means, its tragic end is predictable. Recall how the Soviets invaded, occupied, and bullied Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), and Afghanistan (1979), paving the way for its own demise. The U.S. invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), though vengeful and projections of power, were manifest errors.
Bombing villages in Afghanistan, destroying neighborhoods in Iraq, wholesale violations of human rights, and faith-based torture committed at Bagram, Abu Gharib, and Guantanamo shattered the morality of a superpower that lectured the whole world about the inherent dignity of human beings. Through inhumane invasions, America was losing its status as a beloved country of liberty and economic freedoms. The city on a hill, as President Ronald Reagan called the United States, turned off its lights.
Congress, more haughty and fitful than the presidency, has embarked on its own visionless path of imposing sanctions on various countries inviting ill-will and hatred of their people. Trade and financial sanctions rarely distinguish between friends and foes. Foes including Cuba, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe, and friends including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Mexico, all have been subject to various types of sanctions, embargos, and financial constraints. These sanctions have also been hurting the U.S. economy.
The rise of China as an enormous economic power is also quickening the self-squandering of the United States. While the United States armed forces are killing and getting killed in Afghanistan, China is investing in Afghanistan’s natural resources. While the United States is drifting away from Pakistan, China is reconstructing the historic silk route with billions of dollars. While the United States is engrossed in military conflicts in Syria and Libya, China is weighing its options to rebuild these worn-torn countries. What the United States did to the Soviet Union, China is doing to the United States.
Having squandered its influence abroad, the United States is now turning on its own domestic future. The rise of Trumpism is more petrifying for the country’s future than Trump’s fatuous twittering. Trumpism as a phenomenon, though controversial, yearns to revive the “good old days” of a pre-1954 America (Brown v. Board of Education)(a case that outlawed apartheid) when non-white immigrants were fewer in number, when there were no mosques, when American-Japanese were interned, when blacks were under the white thumb, when women had little access to higher education and corporate America, and when there was no social pressure to recognize Spanish as a language.
Under Trumpism, diversity is turning into a dirty word. Ignoring contemporary ethnic complexity of the nation, employment hiring is blatantly reverting to dominant communities already disproportionately represented in corporations, universities, and government. Academic freedom is under attack as teachers and professors are harassed and punished for speaking up against hegemony of the National Rifle Association, for the rights of Palestinians, and for the dignity of Muslim women wearing religious hijab. The lands of Native Americans, whatever is left of them after centuries of theft, are being appropriated for laying fetid oil pipelines.
The promise of a complex and diverse America seems to have been torn apart. The Jeffersonian America of inalienable rights for all, once a cherished ideal, is being publicly mocked. Creatures like Carl Paladino and Bill O’Reilly are reinventing a bigoted America. Ugliness is replacing tolerance. Sentiments for secessions on part of various states, including Texas and California, though mere unpleasant rhetoric at this time, challenge the core integrity of the Union.
At this time of weakness both home and abroad, the slogan of Make America Great Again sounds much like the Siren Song in Homer’s Odyssey. It is tragic entrapment for a shipwreck. Students of history know how nations squander to lose their God-gifted competitive military, economic, and moral advantage. The fall of the United States, and its possible dismemberment, will be yet another heart-rending story in human history.
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|Allen L. Jasson|