Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Oliver Stone's Irony


Oliver Stone’s Irony

Peter Schultz


            Here’s an interesting sentence from Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States: “The election of Barack Hussein Obama, the child of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, who was raised in Indonesia as well as Hawai’i and went on to graduate from Columbia and become president of the Harvard Law Review, felt like a kind of expiation for the sins of a nation whose reputation had been sullied, as we have shown throughout this book, by racism, imperialism, militarism, nuclearism, environmental degradation, and unbridled avarice.” [549-550]


            This sentence is almost comical: the election of a biracial person, who attended Ivy League schools, and wasn’t raised in the continental United States, would expiate “the sins” that “sullied” the reputation of the United States. This one sentence reveals several of the myths that Americans cling to in order to remain believers in “American exceptionalism.” There’s the myth of exoticism, as if a biracial person would somehow have qualities that simply white or black people don’t’ have. There’s the myth that the United States committed “sins” that need “expiation” because they “sullied” the US’s “reputation; and not that these “sins” reveal that the United States is a deeply flawed, even sadistic nation, a nation so deeply flawed that the election of one man to fill one office could never redeem it. There’s the myth that our highest educational institutions, like Ivy League schools, impart a superior education and not an education geared to indoctrinating the future elites who will be committed to maintaining their own status and, thereby, the status quo, because for them “the American dream” isn’t the nightmare it is for a lot of other people. But as George Carlin use to say: “It’s called ‘the American dream’ because you have to be asleep to believe it.”


            “The suffering caused by misguided US policies had been immense. For many, Obama’s election offered redemption.” [550] Wow! So, US policies were “misguided,” the product of well-intentioned but definitely not sadistic or savage elites. And Obama would provide “redemption” for we Americans, thereby proving just how “exceptional” we Americans are. As Stone and Kuznick put it: “It attested to the other side of America;” that is, to the side that allows us Americans to go on thinking we are “the indispensable nation,” an “exceptional nation,” unlike any other. “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you!” There were those who believed that the election of Obama expiated, or erased centuries of slavery, genocide, savagery, imperialism, militarism, and unbridled greed. And, so, they also believed those “sins” weren’t revelatory of the kind of nation America was and is. It wasn’t only Trump who wanted “to make America great again.”

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