Printed: 2017-06-26

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies





IEET Link: https://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/Messerly20170101

Michael Brenner’s: “America, The Disgraced Super-power”

John G. Messerly


Reason and Meaning


http://reasonandmeaning.com/2016/12/21/michael-brenners-america-the-disgraced-super-power/

January 01, 2017

Another great piece that conveys the severity of our situation is “America, The Disgraced Super-power: The America we have known and imagined is ended. It never will return,” The Huffington Post, November 16, 2016, by Michael Brenner, Senior Fellow, the Center for Transatlantic Relations; Professor of International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh. Brenner’s thesis is that, although America has always been a seriously flawed nation, the USA has taken a cataclysmic turn, and it is slowly becoming a failed state. Here are a few excerpts:

If truth be told, the America we have known and imagined is ended. It never will return. In terms of relations with others, image is of enormous importance. The United States has gained great advantage from being seen as exceptional. From its earliest days, it fascinated and gave inspiration as the first working democracy, as the embodiment of the hope-filled New World, as the land of the common man and common decency. Later, as it grew into a world power, it held the allure for many as being somehow beyond the world’s pervasive tawdriness. These images held even as contradicted by slavery and racism, by imperial wars of expansion against Mexico and Spain, by signs of hypocrisy …

The resulting “soft power” or “soft influence” has been a unique asset. Already dissipated to a high degree over the decades of the Global War On Terror, it now is destined to fade into a shadow of its former self. A blatantly racist, xenophobic, studiously ignorant, and belligerent country cannot retain the respect of other governments or the high regard of their peoples. A country so feckless as to choose Trump the buffoon as its president is mocking itself. The negative impact will be compounded as the United States is riven by internal conflicts of all kinds, repressive actions and perhaps another serious economic crisis.

The damage to America’s standing in the world should hardly be a surprise; yet many are inclined to underestimate the effect. Walk the streets of cities abroad for unscripted reactions to this historic act of national self-mutilation. We can expect that whoever winds up in senior policy positions in a Trump administration will downplay these intangibles—if they even acknowledge them …

… It is a manifestation of an unwitting coping strategy for coming to terms with the shattering event of his election. Americans in general are pursuing a similar psychological strategy for the sake of preserving the conception of themselves and their country that is a foundation stone of their identity. In this, they will be encouraged by the tradition of self-delusion that has become a feature of American thinking about its place in the world ….

These self-delusional practices have prepared the psychological ground for the grand illusion to come in, assuming that the America of Trump will continue to draw the world’s admiration and its deference to American leadership …

… For the choice of Trump reveals most Americans as immature and prone to juvenile behavior. To vote for Trump is the ultimate act of political immaturity. There are … identifiable reasons why many were drawn to the flamboyant candidate, why his demagoguery resonated, why his exaggerated imagery struck a receptive nerve. However, for that emotional response to translate into the actual selection of this man to be president crosses a critical threshold. Children—at times—let emotion rule their conduct. Children only weakly feel the imperative to impose logic and a modicum reason on their impulses. Children disregard consequences. Children overlook the downside in their implicit weighing of the balance in giving in to those impulses or not. Grown-ups do not.

Immediate satisfaction—at all and any cost—does not eclipse other considerations for adults. Even a child’s tantrum usually lasts no more than ten minutes or so. The tantrum of Trump voters has lasted 18 months. That’s pathological …

The shock waves of that vote are being felt around the globe. A crippled America will change the world.


John G. Messerly is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET. He received his PhD in philosophy from St. Louis University in 1992. His most recent book is The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives. He blogs daily on issues of philosophy, evolution, futurism and the meaning of life at his website: reasonandmeaning.com.

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