Americans tend to be Believers, Not Thinkers

It is much easier to believe something good about yourself than to be forced to think that the opposite may be true. There is an old saying that "love means you don’t have to say you are sorry", but the reality in international affairs seems to be that "a superpower (and its citizens) never has to say it is sorry".

Americans are raised to believe that America is and always has been a force for good in this world, without exception. Americans are generally not taught the exceptions, though the exceptions are well-documented in sources such as Howard Zinn’s writings and those of Bill Blum, Noam Chomsky, and many others.

Americans are believers, not thinkers. Americans rally behind the removal of foreign dictators and think of such actions as proof of American benevolence in this world. But Americans do not think about the fact that most of those very same dictators gained power with the full support of America’s government, despite their brutal, authoritarian actions, because those dictators were perceived as furthering America’s vital interests. Saddam Hussein was once America’s CIA man in Baghdad, just as the repressive Shah of Iran was once America’s man in Tehran. The Shah was manipulated into power by American forces in an overthrow of democratically elected President Mossadeq, who practiced policies determined to be contrary to America’s vital interests. Americans don’t like think about such details. Americans like to believe, not think.

Americans like to believe in the "free market" and attribute America’s dominance in this world to business excellence, not brute force. But the "free markets" exploited by America’s businessmen were often opened by brutal military force, as General Smedley Butler of the U.S. Marine Corps once revealed. General Butler, a rare double winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, once said that he and the Marines were sent to Central America to make the world safe for American corporations, such as Dole Pineapple, and United Fruit. The indigenous peoples of Central America received no substantial benefits from the "free market", but were impoverished, murdered, and forced to live in squalor as their natural resources were hijacked across continents so the American people could become rich and well-fed. Americans do not like to think about such details, because Americans prefer to believe that American corporations are just and fair.

Americans like to believe that America is the bastion of democracy in this world. But when the citizens of the world’s civilized nations reject illegal wars, such as the War of Aggression in Iraq, America’s citizens prefer so-called democratic leaders who completely violate the will of their citizens. And then Americans revile those leaders of democratic nations who abide by the wishes of their citizens. It is just too much trouble to think about what democracy REALLY means.

America’s President George W. Bush is the prototypical believer, and not much of a thinker at all. Bush can smirk his way through his press conferences because his belief system is strong, and not weighed down by intensive thought. Bush believes he was called by God to the presidency, perhaps as a reward from God for his excellent performance in the U.S. military, in his academic career, and because of his great success in business. Bush does not bother himself with actual thought about the details of his success, but he deeply believes his course is right and righteous.

Citizens of superpowers do not have to think too much as long as their nation is on top. But pride comes before a fall, and the cycles of history come and go. Little nations and weak peoples must show circumspection, because the cycle of reaping what one sows is a shorter cycle than for the strong. But the reaping does eventually come.

Believing something does not necessarily make it so. Hitler believed his Reich would last a thousand years. Cheney and Wolfowitz believe that the Pax America will last another century, if not forever. They do not think that the Pax Americana will morph into the Pox Americana. But the world of thinking people sees things differently. It is past time for American’s to begin challenging their beliefs, and to think for themselves. American internal democracy is at risk as never before, and believing otherwise will seal the ultimate failure of democracy in America and the collapse of the American dream. Americans who think and recognize reality over belief still have an opportunity to influence America’s future for the better.

An impeachment of George W. Bush would be the rational beginning of a process of securing America’s future before it is too late. Think about it.