More than five hundred students, old folks, scruffy types, and members of the Tucson intelligentsia listened intently to Noam Chomsky. Sitting on folding chairs in front of the downtown Joel Valdez main library, you could hear a pin drop.
Speaking of “American Exceptionalism, Reconsidered” Chomsky treated audience members as smart people. I liked that. He never missed a beat in his thought-provoking teaching, constantly referring to evidence.
Building the foundation to his talk, he first returned to the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629. History. We need to know it.
Since this country’s formation, “humanitarian intervention,” has been the impetus to killing off Native Americans and seeping the US in slavery. We meant to do good…”Our mistakes are always with [supposed] benign intent,” said Chomsky.
The same has been true of colonial stakes planted by various European countries around the world.
How is this 89-year-old man so smart? How does he remember so many dates and cite sources as nonchalantly as sipping a glass of water? How does he stay on topic so succinctly? How does he retain so much history?
The truth is that American Exceptionalism doesn’t exist. Nope, this bullshit concept spouted by presidents and politicians is “universal.”
Two components of American Exceptionalism do exist — the dramatic effect of “WE the people…” the first words in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which had never been uttered in Europe, and our free public education system that began in the late 19th century.
“That great achievement is under attack,” Chomsky warned the audience. Arizonans understand the danger. We’re experiencing it, perched at the bottom of per-pupil spending and teacher salaries.
“There are always some scattered people who know what’s happening,” said Chomsky. Not knowing is more likely, or twisting the truth. Until 1947, the U.S. War Department became the Defense Department. How Orwellian is that?
Truth didn’t break out in the public domain until civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activism took hold in the 1960s. I believe that huge anti-war protests, which I participated in, stopped that war.
In 2013, the Gallup Poll took an international survey, asking, “Who’s the biggest threat to world peace?” By a large majority, respondents pointed to the United States.
We’ve been engaged in endless war, from the time of our revolution to Iraq, our longest, most misguided war.
We’re currently experiencing our most precipitous decline ever, in so many fields, but especially in any semblance of moral judgment.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who recently quit his post. “He accomplished what he set out to do,” said Chomsky. The Republican “lavished gifts on the rich and destroyed social justice for the rest of us.”
Still, progress is possible. Popular mobilization can bring about change, he said.
If we care about the future, the United States wouldn’t be the only non-participant in the effort to reduce climate change, an existential threat to the entire planet.
“The Republican Party is dedicated to the destruction of the species,” affirmed Chomsky.
Misrepresentation and lies besmirch truth. They’re not solutions.
For example, how can members of the Tucson Jewish community complain that Chomsky is anti-Semitic? That’s right, when he lost so many family members in the Holocaust. It’s stupid and disgusting. But that’s a story for another time…
Many Americans hide behind outrageous distractions and untruths. Why, to avoid change? Out of fear?
I don’t know. There’s a lot I don’t know. As I grow older, I want to read more, learn more, see more. It’s all thrilling. Thank you, Professor Chomsky.