From the American Dream to the American Nightmare

Artwork by Joey Bruce

by Gilberto López y Rivas

The recent massacres in the United States perpetrated in schools, universities, hospitals and supermarkets, among other public spaces, which have had a dramatic impact on world public opinion in recent weeks, are added to the macabre accounting that Gun Violence Archive has been reporting for more than a decade, with a total of 248 so-called mass shootings so far this year, which have left 18,957 dead and 15,986 wounded as of June 8 (https://www.gunviolencearchive.org).

Amy Goodman and Denis Poymhan point out in their Democracy Now page, dated May 27, that these mass shootings are the worst form of American exceptionalism, highlighting that the United States is the country with the largest number of weapons in the world: “it is estimated -they assert- that there are 400 million weapons in circulation. This means that there are more guns than people […] and that Americans hold almost half of all civilian-owned weapons on the planet” (https://www.democracynow.org).

If we add to these data that the United States is the largest arms producer and accounts for 60 percent of arms sales worldwide, it is possible to locate other expressions of U.S. exceptionalism, with its thousands of military bases and establishments, overt and covert, in at least 160 countries, with a defense budget that covers more than 50 percent of all the defense budgets of other countries, with more than 2,150,000 active duty military personnel, and a dozen intelligence agencies that participate, support or finance, directly or indirectly, numerous war conflicts, in various regions of the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Niger, and, evidently, Ukraine, imposing what I have referred to as global state terrorism (https: //bit. ly/3MzzJ6V).

Historically, the wars of extermination for the dispossession and occupation of territories of indigenous peoples, the enslavement of the population of African origin —giving rise to the incorporation of a new verb in several languages, to lynch—,  and the overwhelming expansionist process at the expense of the Spanish empire and the young Mexican Republic, in particular, masterfully studied by the Cuban researcher Ramiro Guerra in his work, La expansión territorial de los Estados Unidos (1935)(Territorial Expansion by the United States), mark the national character of dominant sectors of that country during the 19th century. Its early vocation of covering up its intentions of neocolonial and imperial dominations, with incendiary emancipatory discourse, were understood accurately and prophetically by Simon Bolivar: The United States seemed destined by Providence to plague America with miseries, in the name of freedom. 

This expansionist movement strategically aspired to the conquest of the entire continent, to the economic, political and military predominance of the United States over the nations of America. The immediate territorial objective, already defined since the beginning of the 19th century, was the acquisition of the Floridas, Louisiana, which extended to the border with Canada, Texas, northern Mexico, up to the Pacific, including the Port of San Francisco, and, ironically enough, the island of Cuba, considered by John Adams, one of the founding fathers, as the ripe fruit that would inevitably fall into the American Eden. These aspirations and projects of the dominant groups -many of which were fulfilled to the letter- constituted the basis of the so-called Monroe Doctrine, and the context in which the providential ideas of manifest destiny are shaped and deployed in the popular imagination. Even the noted poet Walt Whitman wrote in 1847 in a Brooklyn newspaper: “Mexico must be thoroughly punished […] Advance our arms with a spirit that will teach the world that while we do not seek quarrels, the United States knows how to crush and deploy.”

These are the times in which the myths and stereotypes are created or strengthened around the taming of the Wild West, the fetish of guns in the hands of citizens, constitutionally guaranteed, and the corporate-legislative obsession to not regulate the free sale of every kind of weapon, like that used time and time again by the psychopaths that perpetrate the horrendous racist crimes against afro-descendant populations or against defenseless minors and their children.

The one indispensable nation, according to Obama, with its superheroes saving the world from terrorism and communism, ever great with its marines and Rambos, the United States will find its exceptionalism when it confronts reality from the perspective of the iconoclasts and rebels who break with the racism and the imperialist strategies promoted by the dominant classes of white, anglo-saxon, protestant (WASP) United States.

This article was published in La Jornada on June 10, 2022. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/06/10/opinion/019a1pol English interpretation by Schools for Chiapas.