American Exceptionalism?

When we hear the term “exceptional,” we tend to think in terms of merit–someone who is exceptionally good at something. But exceptional has another meaning: unusual. As in “not typical” or “abnormal.” Even before the disaster of the past four years, I’ve come to see American exceptionalism as more of an illustration of that less desirable definition than the former. Our current struggle with COVID-19 has certainly undercut the widespread belief that Americans are exceptionally competent.

My cardiologist cousin recently shared an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that focused on the prevalence of biases that have inhibited our national response to the pandemic–biases that, when added to the utter lack of competent national leadership, certainly help to explain our inability to contain it.

The article began with a discussion of ventilators. One of the first decisions made by the Trump administration in response to the pandemic was to spend $3 billion dollars to build more ventilators. As the article noted, however,

These extra ventilators, even had they been needed, would likely have done little to improve population survival because of the high mortality among patients with COVID-19 who require mechanical ventilation, which acts to divert care-givers away from more health-promoting endeavors. Yet most US residents supported this response because they believed that enough ventilators would lead to better overall survival from this scourge.

So why are so many people supportive of ensuring a sufficient number of ventilators but not similarly supportive of efforts to implement earlier, more aggressive physical distancing, testing, and contact tracing– policies that would have saved far more lives? The article attributes that (illogical) response to the referenced biases, beginning with our human tendency to “prioritize the readily imaginable over the statistical, the present over the future, and the direct over the indirect.”

In other words, to prioritize emotion over science.

This causes humans to respond more aggressively to threats to identifiable lives, ie, those that an individual can easily imagine being their own (or representing of people they care about such as family members) than to the hidden, “statistical” deaths reported in accounts of the population-level tolls of the crisis. Similarly, psychologists have described efforts to rescue visible, endangered individual lives as a highest priority goal, even if more lives would be saved through alternative responses.

Anyone who has ever wrestled with the Trolley Problem has encountered that bias.

This very human trait is why descriptions of the millions of people killed by the Nazis and the Soviets, or reports of the Rwandan and Chinese genocides–or our own near eradication of Native Americans– are less moving, less likely to cause outrage, than the individual stories that emerge from those and other horrific episodes in human history.

The article also cites “Optimism Bias,” our human tendency to predict optimistic outcomes.

Although early pandemic prediction models considered both best and worst-case outcomes, sound policy would have attempted to minimize mortality by doing everything possible to prevent the worst case results, but human optimism bias led many to act as if the best case was in fact the most likely. President Trump provides one of many good examples of this bias.

There were others: A preference for benefits in the “here and now” to larger benefits in the future,  leading us to place greater value on saving a life today than a life tomorrow, and something called Omission Bias–a desire to avoid an imminent “harm” (like the pain of a vaccination) even when avoiding it is likely to lead to significantly worse results down the road.

It’s one thing to recognize the prevalence of these very human biases. It’s another thing, however, to indulge them–and it is unforgivable to cater to them through public policies rather than basing those policies on medical and scientific knowledge.

If we really want to achieve that first definition of American “exceptionalism,” we will stop denigrating and dismissing scientific and other expertise, stop scorning people who know what they’re doing as “elitists,” and stop electing people. who pander to our biases rather than those willing to base policy decisions on the best information available.


  1. After seeing little snippets of the RNC, don’t look for any of these logical pursuits until all Republicans in THIS party are gone. I’ve mentioned the reasons for the emotion over logic human responses. We’re still operating with a reptilian emotional brain. The logical brain is relatively new and only with great effort will it overpower the emotional brain to do what is, well, logical.

  2. One should also note that our exceptionalism of the past was fostered by Democrats. The New Deal, the war, the Marshall Plan, the Peace Corps… All these things showed the world what and who we were. Then Reagan happened and all of it started circling the drain. “The Shining Light on the Hill” turned out to be just another Republican branding statement and was as hollow as a rotted out walnut shell.

    Since then, the corporatists and capitalists have fulfilled Lewis Powell’s manifesto to purchase the government and turn our exceptionalism into a fascist money grab. I think Todd will agree with me on this. The Democrats, sadly, clung to their idealistic wonkiness and failed to enter the branding game. As a result, we lost our exceptionalism momentum and have descended into this horror show of division, racism, hate, bigotry and abject greed.

    That descent has been embraced by the corrupt GOP to the man/woman. They’re getting paid to do the bidding of the monied classes, after all. Exceptionalism? Only if you’re richer than God.

  3. the above comment about who we elect, is the issue. we have become numb to listening and only vote when we are pissed. self governing is not recognized anymore,at least not in the working class. were too lazy to govern,and we expect someone to wipe our asses for us…seems in many conversations ive had with other blue collar types,they dont understand or recognize who they are listening to,when this someone wants to run for a party, and a seat. they ask BS questions and and expect headline news,because they are in fact,too lazy to read,and research. many just dont realize that endless window in their hands is a tool to look up their candidates track record or WTFs they are talking about and where the said person are leading them in conversation. im finding lazy is only cantpulted by the actual lies purveyed by those with power and money, and its end game. kushner was given the task to find out the WTFs of this virus in january because its above trumps thinking level,and hes too lazy to care.kushner takes his memos to wall street to find he will and his buddies,with think tanks,come up,with their looses over our needs ,while trump is doing circles around the daytona speedway at the races in march..his glory first,over the many. like wall street, investors first ,customers second and the working class dead last.(literally)..hey it worked for them, they were able to have certain elected officials dump stocks and cover their well padded elected asses,(and im sure if the SEC was a actual overlord to wall streets greed, the number of high dollar investors who got the word,first),over the peoples needs. whoever started the shit paper scam, was probably watching how this hysteria was spreading by such a scam,and hense, allowed it to lead to other scams as the people died in numbers.. the euros had it down, at least as far as reserch and ongoing studies that allowed the euro states to work together,and with the chinese. instead we got basically a economic holocaust going on because we,allowed the elected, we still elect without any research and questions and getting answers that should be given directly,who actully tote for wall street, to bring us a pandemic that has obvioulsly, been devistating to the minorities,and lower wage segment of our society. we now see just what kind of dependability this form of goverment inposes,and its outcome… in all,,
    i give trumpers a “F”in citizenship..
    but also to those who have allowed our goverment,to become a self imposed authoritarian goverment… evict,COVID 45

  4. Vernon pretty much nailed it this morning. My only add is Obama liked to talk about American Exceptionalism all the time despite there not being any facts to support his claim. Those areas where we are leading the world, aren’t positive facts at all.

    Obama had eight years to articulate the problem and proposed a solution, but he played politics with the American people. He addressed the biases in his base to garner their votes just like Trump does with his Neanderthal base stuck in survival mode — fight or flight. I’m sure neuroscientists have a term for the part of the brain conservatives use to process information.

    Trump’s base always says, “He’s more like us than a politician. Donald gets us!”

    I am 100% in agreement with that phrase. Donald is precisely like his base. Most politicians have to lie to get your vote, but Donald tells people his reality, which 35% of Americans can relate to because they are racists also.

    Obama’s eight years opened the door for the populist Trump. Americans were tired of being lied to about how this country operated and wanted an outsider. The RNC obliged while the DNC submarined their efforts by screwing over Bernie Sanders. To cover up their crimes, Robby Mook and the IC created the whole Russia interfered with our election blame game.

    Here’s our reality — neither political party is remotely close to being exceptional. The cream does not rise in American politics because it’s a captive class of sociopaths who can be bribed one moment and then lie to Americans the next. When you are honest and tell it like it is, you find yourself having a well-financed primary competitor. Just ask AOC how it works!

  5. American exceptionalism came to being around the same time of American manifest destiny!
    Tocqueville coined American exceptionalism! Manifest destiny was part and parcel to American exceptionalism.

    Again, you can’t change history! But you can prevent yourself from repeating it if you’ve learned something from it. But, since no one really is aware of what American exceptionalism is or its companion, American manifest destiny, or even American romanticism, you are doomed to repeat the same flawed reasonings that happened from the beginning of this particular timeline.

    The words of Tocqueville ring true, “What many today fail to appreciate is that American exceptionalism is not synonymous with American superiority. Indeed, a case could be made that there has been an inverse relationship between the two, in that America’s exceptionalism has become more tenuous the more powerful America has become. What further and more forcefully undercuts the conflation of exceptionalism and superiority is that American exceptionalism is rooted in America’s founding—that is, in a time when a fledgling and fragile America was eclipsed by more prominent civilizations, past and present.”

    The ideals of America was rooted in Manifest Destiny, which really still exist today in some form or fashion. The use of the underprivileged, by the white race to build an empire on the backs of those who were slaves and murder of the 1st ones in this country!

    And let’s not forget American Romanticism! This was used by writers, supposed intellectuals in music and literature that mimicked European Romanticism. Throughout most of the 1800s, what was there to be romantic about if you weren’t white? Slavery, the onset of Jim Crow, the theft of native land, the murder of 1st ones, the dismissal of women, I’m sure we could go on forever with this!

    All of this is the good old days! This is history! Myself, I’ve talked about this on many of these threads, but it seems that nobody really pays much attention to it. Because the source of the unfairness of this country originates with these 3 fallacies, Manifest Destiny, American Exceptionalism, and American Romanticism.
    Because these were all put to pen to promote a lie. Tocqueville was fascinated with American government, and he recognized and unfairness, but it was promoted by the eager white ruling class as a clarion call to all like-minded comers to this country.

    Abraham Lincoln quoted Scripture when he said, “a house divided cannot stand” and, the rot has continued festering under the surface, and the will to stop it completely has never existed. And the will to stop it now does not exist. It’s not any less entrenched NOW than it was in the early 1800s when the myth of Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism took root. It’s all a lie, this whole nation is based on a lie!

  6. “American Exceptionalism!” The phrase makes my skin crawl a little bit. Those same exceptional Americans who fostered the Marshall Plan had, just a few years earlier, dropped not one but two atomic bombs on cities in Japan. Note, they did this without knowing what the long term consequences would be and without knowing diddly about how to cure the effects of radiation poisoning.

    If I were wishing, I would wish for an America that displayed continuing decency toward all life. What we need is an America that recognizes it has a long way to go and is willing to work at it for as long as it takes. To begin to do that, we have to get rid of the abomination in the White House.

    As an aside, I wonder how long it will take until black lives really do matter.

  7. You’ll be waiting a long time Peggy! Inequality and racism is entrenched not only in the history of this country, but in its Constitution in its original form. Until the genetics of racism can be dismantled, it will never change! And, that I fear will be an impossibility. Man is incapable of being his brother’s keeper let alone his brother’s friend. Love your neighbor as yourself? Jesus Christ implored it, very few actually believe it or practice it.

  8. Peggy,

    Well, in 1945 WE WERE AT WAR with a nation that was willing to sacrifice ALL of their citizens rather than surrender. Perspective is a wonderful thing, isn’t it. The Marshall Plan, and its promoters showed COMPASSION FOR THE VANQUISHED. That was more than the Japanese ruling classes ever even considered. Forgive me, but you simply can’t make this comparison: It’s apples and oranges.

  9. “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” Albert Einstein

    Too many Americans have become exceptionally lazy in their thinking; relying on those in authority to do our thinking and decision making for us. We are still playing that childhood game of Follow the Leader which has never been more dangerous than today, in this era of Trump.

    “Be a voice, not an echo.” also Albert Einstein

    We should have begun questioning those in authority long before we reached the current double Pandemic we are trying to survive; Covid-19 and Donald Trump’s America.

    “the above comment about who we elect, is the issue. we have become numb to listening …” jack smith

    When former President Obama first reappeared on the public stage after leaving office, it was to introduce a group of young people participating in his organization to educate young voters. He asked those on stage for their views on current problems; one young woman stated (paraphrased), “We must question our own listening process, are we listening to learn or are we forming our response to the speaker.” An exceptional comment to ponder; especially when it concerns saving lives in this current pandemic.

  10. We’re dealing with two maladies that Trump is controlling: The Coronavirus and the man-made, Virus of Hatred. Finding a VACCINE for the latter is just as important as the former.

    Fortunately, that vaccine is available right now for the VIRUS OF HATRED, but there isn’t, at the present time, the CIVIC COURAGE to apply it. Hopefully, as our descent into Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell continues, maybe just maybe, a significant portion of the population might wake-up and do something for, at least, their children’s future, if nothing else.

  11. Greetings Peggy. Where were you during WW II? I was 16 when the war ended. I had two brothers in Europe. One was badly wounded. The other brother and a second one were be trained to invade Japan. If it had not ended there is a strong chance that even I might have had to go. Imagine what my parents felt! No. You can’t. It is easy to read and find fault if you have never been there. Irvin Korean War Veteran

  12. Peggy,

    I’m having trouble finding fault on what you said, or was it too close to the truth? Have you figured it out? If you have, please explain it to me.

  13. The hypocrisy that Peggy and John have pointed out is making it virtually impossible for us to take action against one of the most rotten, despicable, public figures of all time. Now that’s EXCEPTIONAL!

  14. What are you trying to say Marv? History is easy to be renounced. What truth are you questioning?

  15. Irvin,

    “What truth are you questioning?”

    One truth is the level of racism and anti-Semitism that existed throughout W.W. II and afterward.

    We didn’t do very much to stop Hitler during the ’30s. If the Japanese hadn’t pulled off their sneak attack, we might never have entered the war.

    No one is challenging your manhood. I’m sure you’re no coward, maybe even a hero. Be proud of your service during the Korean war?

    I was an R.O.T.C. officer with an eight-year commitment, trained as an artillery officer, I lucked out. My eight-year obligation ran out in 1967. My intern in 1968 wasn’t so lucky. Allan Clark lost both of his legs in Viet Nam.

  16. American Exceptionalism IMHO has been a Code Words for American Imperialism. It began after the American Revolution, it became known as Manifest Destiny. Anyone (Native Americans) who got in the way was subject to violence by militias or the US Army.

    Throughout the 19th Century the USA actively interfered in the sovereignty of Latin American countries. The 20th Century especially after WW 2, saw a vast expansion of American Imperialism on a World Wide scale.

    Our promises of freedom and democracy must have a hollow ring in the Middle East as we have supported dictatorships there since 1945.

    As Marine Corp General Smedley Butler noted:
    Quotes, “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

    “The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.”

  17. I have to agree with Monotonous Langour about American exceptionalism, as it is no more than an American myth.
    The bombing of Japan, as horrid as it was, may have been probably saved large numbers of American lives, as many of the higher level Japanese military authorities were for fighting to the death, and when one considers how much it cost us to take tiny Iwo Jima, if you extrapolate that to the Japanese homeland, you get one, also horrid, picture. Does anyone recall the stories of the Japanese soldiers, on isolated islands, found to be still “at war,” years after the actual war ended?
    In regard to that part of the brain that may work to “help” conservatives to process information, which Todd wondered about, it may be the amygdala, which plays a part in the limbic system, and brings emotion into the process of thinking. Conservatives tend to live with a lot of anxiety, and a fear of change, to begin with, so when a Trump type talks about “Those people” coming into the suburbs, or “Them” coming for “your “jobs, they can not really assess the validity thereof.

  18. I find America a truly exceptional country. It is a land of opportunity and freedom and talent and beauty that ranks near the top of the scale in those areas. It is equally exceptional in its wickedness, as in income inequality, racial injustice, denigration of working people, chest-beating arrogance, predilection for wars, a corrupting economic system, class consciousness, tribalism, etc. In other words, it mirrors the human race in its goodness and in its shortcomings. Any American who loves his country knows this and works to fix the problems. Those who can’t accept the flaws wrap themselves in the flag, which suffocates their ability to think.

    This morning on NPR I listened to a woman who claimed to be thoroughly data driven in her thought processes and talked as if that were the case. Then she concluded that there is no racism in America and that we are doomed if we don’t re-elect Trump. This does not speak to me of stupidity, but of ways that the mind works that I’m certain I will never understand. I predict that a thousand year from now people will be saying the same thing.

    All we can do is to do our very best, work to influence a handful of people in positive ways, and strive to achieve a majority of sane, reality-based citizens. Currently, we are often unable to bring people to act in their own self-interest. In addition, we have large numbers of academically brilliant people, like Mike Pompeo, who seem to come to the wrong conclusion every time they speak. We don’t have a pill for that, and I’m pretty sure we never will.

    And I’m slightly uncomfortable with my claim that as soon as the rest of the population falls in line with my thoughts, the world will be a better place to live. There are quite a few people who wish to be told what to do and how to think. There appear to be a number who believe autocracy is superior to a democracy. I’ve got a lot of cogent arguments, but no absolute answers for those people. One and a third billion Chinese are willing to give up large amounts of freedom for a shot at earning a good living in a country that, in some ways, functions more efficiently than ours.

  19. We all know but seldom consider that life in total is sustainable which is evidenced by the fact that it has been around so long and prospered, grew, evolved until it reached the limits of its territory, earth. How is this possible when the earth is limited? The answer is that life is sustainable because it only needs other life around and sunlight which is renewed every place on earth every day and that life recycles. Nothing is wasted, everything is borrowed and returned with no degradation of any kind. That is really the miracle of life. It’s a self renewing temporary arrangement of the stuff that’s here that’s recycled by birth, growth and death.

    Human civilization on the other hand is not sustainable. It is temporary because it takes natural resources and changes them into waste which renders it’s ingredients no longer what they were and no longer useful. As the amount of civilization that many humans now enjoy has grown each of the last 50,000 years or so, so have our numbers and so has our production of waste until we have reached the limits of earth to maintain us.

    One reason we love our civilization so is that it makes us comfortable. We now expend much less energy of our own to live but each much more energy from natural resources. Our own energy by consuming other life has been replaced by stuff we call fuel and that makes life easy for us. Little work, much free time.

    With so little that needs doing we passively fill the empty hours with entertainment. That’s become the business to be in supplying. Of course some of the work of life is learning from others who have more experience at it and another anomaly of now is that humans know so much collectively that no matter how much of our time we invest in learning instead of passively being entertained we can’t keep up with the collective growth in knowledge. We can choose narrowing fields of expertise but only at the expense of being entertained or learning other fields of knowledge.

    The signs of the fact that our civilization is temporary grow every day but are more apparent to those more heavily invested in relevant learning than to those enjoying an extra heaping helping of entertainment. We might call this the great rift in human life. Those who see what’s coming and are thinking of what should we do to slow it versus those just enjoying the ride now because they haven’t invested in learning all that makes now a temporary anomaly in the ongoing story of life.

    So on one side of the rift it’s those who have the learning to see what’s coming and believe that at least humans ought to make temporary last as long as possible and on the other those without that learning and oblivious to anything but enjoying the entertainment now.

    Each day progress depends on the relative size of the group on each side of the rift and each day is time that could be invested by and for our species in extending temporary so more of us can enjoy civilization. The complex calculus beyond me is the future of the species. Are we gaining on recovery or speeding inevitably towards failure to thrive?

    Not that any of this will affect me personally. The timing of my birth and therefore death was impeccable. I will however be forced to leave behind younger humans that I care very much about and I hope for them.

  20. Terry,

    “There appear to be a number who believe autocracy is superior to a democracy. I’ve got a lot of cogent arguments, but no absolute answers for those people.”

    Like you see, words alone will never do it. Maybe a picture of the future will do it. That’s what the leaders of German military intelligence attempted in 1938.

    See “the OSTER CONSPIRACY of 1938” by Terry Parssinen (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2003).

  21. Not really a comment on today’s topic of “American Exceptionalism,” but it struck me in reading the posts from Peggy about the U.S. having used atomic bombs against Japan to end WWII and the responses from Irvin, Mitch, Marv and others that Peggy has provided us with a real life example (perhaps on steroids) of a “Trolley Problem.”

    As to “American Exceptionalism,” I have always cringed upon hearing or seeing that phrase. And that’s without even getting into the debate over whether there is truly anything “exception” about the U.S.

  22. Very interesting Sheila! The runaway trolley.

    when you look at it, it’s kind of the same thing as saying do we let herd immunity kill a bunch of Americans to save much more down the road? Or do we continue on a path of seemingly uncoordinated and indifferent half-hearted effort?

    I fear the only way anyone will get involved and helping their fellow man as if they have some skin in the game. If that one person was your child, I think most folks would sacrifice the other five.

    How many would actually sacrifice their life for their brother? And I’m not talking about going to war, because most people going to war never think they’re going to die and people get lathered up in their patriotic fervor so they really don’t see it that way until they actually get into the muck of it. Combat is a different animal altogether. But the average civilian citizen, I don’t think they would rationalize the same as one would in combat.

    And as a side note, was anyone aware of Melania Trump’s chosen outfit last night? It looked exactly like a military uniform, same color and everything! Kind of like when she was going to the border and wore that coat that said who cares! She sends subtle messages out visually, don’t listen to the words, look at the actions! Pay attention to the visuals ?

    Her words mean nothing, her father was a criminal! She was nothing but I paid for prostitute anyway! And you can best believe she’s getting paid handsomely for her acting in front of the lectern.

  23. As Marine Corp General Smedley Butler noted:
    Quotes, “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

    “The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.”
    — Monotonous Languor

    Yep! General Butler hit the nail on the head about what America and her “exceptionalism” is REALLY about. True before he said it, even more true after WW2 to present. We basically just took most of what Europe had in world colonies and bases to be our own )spoils of war” after WW2 presumably to “pay for services rendered” for our financial and military loans/gifts before, during and after WW2. Great Britain, especially, lost much of their world military holdings to America. Gee, imperialism is fun, isn’t it? (sarcasm)

    The idea was the the USA and Great Britain would “police” the world to prevent another authoritarian escalation they had just defeated in Japan, Italy and Germany. Also, they did not want to repeat the absurd Versailles Treaty of 1919 and induce authoritarianism through austere financial penalties on the losers of the war. POVERTY, NOT socialism or communism, stated Lord Keynes, drove the desperate post WW1 countries into WW2. Hence, The Marshall plan.

    All well and good until the GOP shifted this “exceptional” 4 Freedoms vision of FDR for the world based upon compassion and human rights into a world power grab in military (hence, the military industrial complex) and financial control.

    Ironically, the “exceptionalism” FDR touted in his 4 Freedoms outline was literally mugged and transformed by the GOP into a calloused and violent onslaught on the world’s resources under the false narrative of “keeping people free from Communism.” What Bush/Cheney and Company did in the Middle East (and Obama’s continuation as well as Trump) is only the recent chapter in the warped and disfigured GOP and Democrat vision that totally undermined FDR and Churchill had originally for the world.

    So here we are. Most of the world either feels sorry for us, hates us or tolerates us (all 3 at the same time perhaps) for being able to see through the “exceptionalism” that mutated into the beast we prop up now with over 1/2 of our tax dollars in the non-discretionary federal budget.

    Congrats America!!!

  24. As per Terry’s latest comment: “No racism” in America is, obviously ridiculous. the myth of racial difference is blatantly false, in the first place, because there is no such thing as biological “races” of humanity, in the first place. I do not know what universe that woman lives in, but it is not this one.

  25. @Mitch….could the responses of the amygdala (fear of change/anxiety) have been an evolutionary device to preserve the safety of a group? Could we view this as one of those evolutionary “leftovers” whose purpose has long been supplanted?

  26. As perhaps the senior member on this blog I feel entitled to tell of a few experiences I had during WW II on Purple Beach in the Palaus and elsewhere to give context to today’s blog. I was in the South Pacific long before the atomic bomb ended the war with their emperor’s capitulation following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including some time in New Guinea and some time on a beach in the Palaus after the Marines had secured the beach and all the bodies had been cleaned up except for two dead Japanese. My buddie and I had come ashore in a duck and were looking at the bodies and noticed some yen nearby. I thought that would make a good souvenir to take back to Indiana after the war and started to reach for it when a marine behind me yelled to “get away from there!” As a smart teenaged sailor I asked him, “What’s your problem, friend,” upon which he told us that the bodies were bobby trapped, and which, upon investigation, showed a thin wire attached to the yen, upon which my demeanor changed to “Thanks, buddie.” Had he not yelled I would not be relating this experience.

    This was the reason why there were two Japanese bodies lingering on the beach awaiting engineers who would detach the detonator. I as a sailor didn’t know that the marine protocol called for cleaning up the beach of dead marines first and Japanese dead second or I might have guessed why two dead Japanese remained on the beach. I also didn’t know that a friend of mine from my little town in southern Indiana, a marine named Cotton Jones, was killed on that beach not long before my shipmate and I went ashore, and that I would be questioned by his emotional parents, both rural mail carriers, upon my return to Indiana, and that along with the death of another friend, Billy Arnold, while piloting a B-24 over China, it is fair to say I was a racist at the time while now recognizing that that was then and this is now.

    Having been in WW II does not give me any more right to criticize Peggy or anyone else whose views leave out the important ingredient that we were the ones who were victims of a sneak attack, but when you have friends die and see fingers on the deck it’s hard not to be critical.

    History, fueled by colonialism and capitalism and the lust for power, has yielded many examples of moral depravity, including the one in which I participated in order to secure our democracy against fascism, never dreaming at the time that I would someday face fascism again, but from within, which causes me to again reiterate my lifetime view that our democracy is the most important asset we hold in common, and one of the last few things worth dying for, as my friends Cotton and Billy did years ago. That’s my cult.

  27. For those who want to tell me of the horrors of war, although I have never personally experienced them, I had many relatives and friends who did and I feared for their safety. Also, I spent years working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, most of it at the VA Medical Center in Indy. As Patient Advocate I dealt with the good, the bad, and the ugly after effects of combat (some lasting decades) on the kids we send off to fight our wars. I’m just trying to point out that we aren’t perfect, we did a good thing with the Marshall Plan as we have done many good things throughout history. Those things don’t make us exceptional, they simply make us a little bit better version of us.

  28. Todd: “Most politicians have to lie to get your vote, but Donald tells people his reality, which 35% of Americans can relate to because they are racists also.”

    Donald tells people his reality? lol. Just where have you lost touch with reality.

    Trump may want to tell people his reality, but first he doesn’t even know what that reality is, and second, he doesn’t know how to express in English anything he wishes to say. He cannot say what he means; therefore, no one in their right mind can say that he says what he means.

    When Trump speaks, what comes out is a verbal Rorschach test, the only hint as to its meaning is the expression on his face and the body of lies he’s told on the same subject.

  29. Don’t worry about all those opinions Peggy!

    You’re entitled to yours just as everyone else is entitled to theirs.

    Of course, I would venture to say, some of the opinions you are reading here, are not based in reality!

    There are plenty who want to be admired, and want to be liked! And without a doubt, a bit of self-aggrandizement. Kind of goes along with follow the crowd mob mentality sort of thing.

  30. Greetings Peggy. I did not tell you any war stories. I was just reacting to your being critical of the U.S. using the atomic bomb to end a brutal war. Yes it killed Japs but it saved American lives.

  31. Terry: “One and a third billion Chinese are willing to give up large amounts of freedom FOR A SHOT AT EARNING A GOOD LIVING in a country that, in some ways, functions more efficiently than ours.” (caps mine for emphasis)

    For a shot at earning a good living…I’m apalled that you limit the “shot at” to a mere good living, something we in America have done for generations. Chinese give up the right to voice complaints about government and to have litters of kids–perhaps the only major freedoms they surrender–in exchange for many freedoms we do not have–the freedom from worry about health care, the freedom from worrying about financial ruin from the cost of health care, the freedom from job loss, the freedom from homelessness, the freedom of free education, and the list goes on.

    Frankly, I would trade my freedom to whine for many of the freedoms the Chinese have.

  32. Irvin, if I were to construct a poster child for ignorance, it would be you! The racial slur that you used concerning Japanese, shows that your level of ignorance is quite steep! I don’t speak of my own accord Irvin, I use history, I use scripture, and never self aggrandize you on the other hand, well!

  33. I’m no hero. The heroes are the ones who did not return, and of course anyone and everyone has a right to his/her opinion on what wars settle and what they don’t, including all of my fellow contributors to this blog, whose opinions I treasure, but many of whom I may disagree on specific issues. It is good that we are not all in lockstep based on our backgrounds and understandings, otherwise we would have nothing to talk or write about, so no more sea stories irrelevant to the issues of the day. I will save my time and energy to deploy in saving our democracy from the fascists within, especially one Trump.

  34. Just a reminder: the rules of this blog PROHIBIT name-calling and ad hominem attacks. I don’t relish the idea of blocking posts or posters, but if necessary, I will.

  35. “All I can say is we better find some way to get out of this horrible mess other than just chatting on this blog.” — Marv Kramer

    Bullseye!!! In order: Defeat Trump and as many GOP servants as possible up and down the ticket at local, state and federal levels! Direct our full energy and resources as a nation and world family toward Climate Crisis (if we don’t get the climate right, nothing else will matter….literally). Fix our corrupt Government and the Economy that works for the 1%. Fix Education and Health Care making BOTH of them human rights, not just for those who can afford to be healthy and literate. Fix Police Unions, de-fund (ie reallocate) and get rid of the corruption. Make a Federal Budget based upon human rights and Compassion!

  36. The “mess” at its root is that this civilization will change voluntarily or by the chaotic forces of nature to a much lower footprint. The social friction today is a symptom of us not changing voluntarily.

    Can/will Biden/Harris attend to the root or merely the illusion that we can ignore it? We don’t know. What we do know is the Trump is unable to.

    That’s enough knowledge for this year but not any year after.

  37. Larry Kaiser – Your take on the Chinese trade-off doesn’t square with my wife’s take – China is highly corrupt at every level (like the Trumps) – my father-in-law spent time in the hospital after a stroke and with subsequent kidney problems – he received minimal care – for a proper “gift”, the level of care would have improved considerably – we are talking the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars – I am told that this is the norm for services in China – and my wife was from an educated family – probably the equivalent of middle class for a non-party person

    Sheila – excellent listing of the biases involved – after years of associating with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), I have read much on all of these biases over the years – you covered them well

    Not to repeat myself, but I also lay blame at the “scientific” establishment – they were slow to recommend masks because it hadn’t been “scientifically proven”, but latched onto hand washing (and grocery washing, etc.) because they are quite familiar with the spread of disease in a hospital setting that is proven to be reduced by hand washing – I still don’t think that have “proof” of the efficacy of hand washing in preventing the spread of SARS-Cov-2

    However, if they had recommended face masks, omission bias would probably of kicked in – why “inconvenience myself” now for a possible future payoff –

    The Wiki article you referenced missed citing one of my favorite “trolley dilemma” TV dramas, The Return of the Saint (the Ian Oglivy series), where a disgruntled, fired civil servant demanded the public execution of the daughter of the man who fired him, or he would set off an A-bomb in London – I often thought that the real politicians would have quickly agreed

    Myself – I probably would dither like Buriden’s stupid ass trying to figure out the dilemma until it was too late 8(

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