01 November 2012

Exceptional pride, part two

(Part one is here.)

"It was the Soviet Union that ended the second great war. In the USA, they teach that they ended it with the atomic bombs, but they don't give the whole picture."

My friend, a former soldier in the Russian army, explained how the USSR ended World War II: "The atomic bombs by themselves wouldn't have been enough. It was the Soviet invasion of Manchuria that convinced the Japanese that surrender was their only choice."

Historians don't necessarily disagree with my friend. The virtual destruction of the Japanese navy by Allied forces and the strangulation-by-blockade of the home islands were also huge factors, along with Curtis LeMay's program of saturation-bombing almost every significant Japanese city (including purely residential districts--acts constituting war crimes by any reasonable definition). In conventional political/military terms it may be impossible to assign any one factor the status of "decisive," but the Soviet role was more important than I remember hearing in school.

My friend then began to reflect on the similarities and differences between the USA and Russia. "In both countries," he said, "80% of the people don't care about who controls the country, as long as their lives are OK, and 20% do care." Russia's 20% are those with political power, he said; America's 20% are those with economic power. He supports Putin's drive to take political power away from Russian billionaires, and claims that, in contrast, the USA's politicians are helpless in the face of American corporate wealth. With an overextended military, huge national debts, and an eroding infrastructure, he predicted that America's collapse was inevitable--sooner rather than later.

Richard Conn Henry's rendering of Panarin's prediction.
(Wikimedia Commons.)
These kinds of analyses, with variations (Igor Panarin's notorious predictions of the USA's disintegration into six countries, for example), circulate widely here. Another friend of mine asked me whether it was any coincidence that American bases in and near the former Soviet Union all seemed to be petroleum-related. "The USA doesn't put civilian 'bases' where they can help people become more democratic and prosperous, as your myths claim; you build military bases to help you secure oil."

Within the USA, belief in America's special goodness and permanence are articles of faith, especially for any politician who wants to be successful. Despite my own conscious preference for biblical realism over American exceptionalism, I nevertheless grew up in this atmosphere of assumed superiority, so it is an interesting experience to feel it challenged almost daily, especially as the U.S. election day draws near. This contrast between the USA's own self-image and the rather different image that others have of us (sometimes good, sometimes evil, sometimes both at the same time!) is especially evident in USA presidential election seasons, when everyone hears candidates trying to outdo one another in conspicuous patriotism. Sometimes it just makes me want to wear a sign: "We Americans are better than what you see on TV!!" Instead, I just quietly tell myself--the election is only five days away!

I made some related comments in the "Peace and Justice blog" on Northwest Yearly Meeting's Web site. Candidates and voters: Blessing, not boasting, please!

"Something to say about silence...": a thoughtful and delightful look at the pluses and minuses of silence in Friends worship. (Thanks to quakerquaker.org for the reference.)

Nick Block: "Sometimes you feel like a nut" ... or a failure....

"Palestine in pieces" ... "When the memory of suffering becomes a lever of power, strange things begin to happen. Memory is militarized and soon so are you. You begin to contemplate actions that will, in another place and time, become new memories of suffering. In turn, these memories become militarized. The cycle of memory and suffering continues on."

"Undercover reporting--not as dead as you've heard."

Listening to Roadhouse # 400
at our local gym.
Congratulations to The Roadhouse on its 400th broadcast/podcast of "the finest blues you've never heard." Lots of good music on the 400th show, including Kid Ramos, Imelda May, and Lynwood Slim and the Igor Prado Band, not to mention Lavay Smith & Her Red-Hot Skillet Lickers.

And for jazz fans in Tokyo, future appearances by Pamela MacCarthy.

The online tribute album for the legendary Russian rock band Akvarium continues to grow.

Three helpings of dessert in a studio setting...


'Mela said...

Howdy, Johan!

Thanks for the mention... ;^)

Johan Maurer said...

You're welcome! Wish I could come!!