Know, therefore, the virtues of exceptionalism, O critics and carpers; we care and bother, So the world of evil axes may remain in order
Badri Raina Delhi
The first thing to know about American
Exceptionalism is that you do not ask
Why we are so special. The poser
Itself might lead you to grace the list
We always have ready and updated of terrorists.
Another matter that in that list, often,
Today’s terrorists become tomorrow’s
Pals, yielding place for other people’s sorrows.
Thus, when Reagan supported apartheid,
Mandela was a terrorist, as was Saddam
Until we sent him arms to invade Iran.
Exceptionalism teaches us many things:
We use drones to kill without risk
To ourselves, not just the terrorists,
But also ordinary folk who might,
In the days to come, terrorists become.
In that sagacious farsightedness, we ask,
Where is the harm? Indeed, we use
Such prerogatives to save
God’s great world from global abuse.
We keep friends and foes alike under
Surveillance for no sneaky self-interest,
Or imperial reach; but just to know
What starry-eyed subaltern leader
May breach our protocol dictated
By Calvin who, closest to god
As he was, taught us to know that
Our exceptionalism, grounded in gunfire
And lots of gold, was a manifest destiny
Which god did bestow.
It was not that Mao Mao who said
That power flows from the barrel of the gun,
But the first marauding dissenter
Who braved the high seas and became American.
Nor did that queasy Englishman, Orwell,
Write his Animal Farm and 1984 about
The pathetic commies, but truth to tell,
In anticipation of our own assaults
On life, liberty, decency, all the faults
That go with ungodly, un-American deviancy.
Some there were who thought Obama
Might do things differently—prosecute
A Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld for war crimes,
For instance, wind up the sinful horrors
Of Guantanamo, do justice to his spurious
Nobel for Peace, honour the noble
Whistleblowers, call off the dogs of war
From near and far, and make of us
A country and a people as normal
As any that do a good day’s work, care
For their neighbour, and wish everyone well.
Well, well, well, you reckoned without
Exceptionalism which presses the black
In a white house to be as white