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Monday, April 30, 2012

Unexceptionalism: A Primer

Unexceptionalism: A Primer

By E. L. Doctorow
New York Times
April 30, 2012

TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would
render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished,
traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the
world, do the following:

PHASE ONE

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament
of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential
election.

Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.

If you’re the newly anointed president, react to a terrorist
attack by invading a nonterrorist country.

Despite the loss or disablement of untold numbers of lives,
manage your war so that its results will be indeterminate.

Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance
of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail,
make business, medical and public library records available to
government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of
homes and offices.

Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation
of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the
infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.

Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as
the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of
war.

Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those
you decide are enemies.

For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will
eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.

Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay
less proportionately than the middle class.

See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small
fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor
widens exponentially.

By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete
the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal
legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that
there will be less money for the education of the young, for
government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the
maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries,
and so forth.

Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession
in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.

Before you leave office add to the Supreme Court justices like the
ones who awarded you the presidency.

PHASE TWO

If you’re one of the conservative majority of a refurbished Supreme
Court, rule that corporations, no less than human beings, have the
right under the First Amendment to express their political point of
view.

To come to this judgment, do not acknowledge that corporations
lack the range of feelings or values that define what it is to be
human.

That humans can act against their own interest, whereas
corporations cannot act otherwise than in their own interest.

That the corporation’s only purpose is to produce wealth,
regardless of social consequences.

This decision of the court will ensure tremendous infusions of
corporate money into the political process and lead to the election
in national and state legislatures of majorities of de facto corporate
lobbyists.

PHASE THREE

Given corporate control of legislative bodies, enact laws to
the benefit of corporate interests.

For example, those laws sponsored by weapons manufacturers
wherein people may carry concealed weapons and shoot and
kill anyone by whom they feel threatened.

Give the running of state prisons over to private corporations
whose profits increase with the increase in inmate populations.

See to it that a majority of prisoners are African-American.

When possible, treat immigrants as criminals.

Deplete and underfinance a viable system of free public schools
and give the education of children over to private for-profit
corporations.

Make college education unaffordable.

Inject religious precepts into public policy so as to control
women’s bodies.

Enact laws prohibiting collective bargaining. Portray trade
unions as un-American.

Enact laws restricting the voting rights of possibly unruly
constituencies.

Propagandize against scientific facts that would affect
corporate profits.

Portray global warming as a conspiracy of scientists.

Having subverted the Constitution and enervated the nation with
these measures, portray the federal government as unwieldy,
bumbling and shot through with elitist liberals.

Create mental states of maladaptive populism among the citizenry
to support this view.

PHASE FOUR

If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, decide that the police
of any and all cities and towns and villages have the absolute
authority to strip-search any person whom they, for whatever
reason, put under arrest.

With this ruling, the reduction of America to unexceptionalism is
complete.


E. L. Doctorow is the author, most recently of the novel “Homer
and Langley.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/opinion/sunday/unexcep
tionalism-a-primer.html?_r=1

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