The founding documents of the United States express the high ideals of their day, featuring equality, separation of church and state, freedom of the press, a right to privacy…
Easy to understand why slavery and inequality for women couldn’t stand the test of time, as the USA kept growing, by leaps and bounds. Buying Louisiana from Napoleon was a stroke of genius, amazing how Europe managed to own the place already — the Doctrine of Discovery was a miracle such as only the church could make people believe in.
Many assumed this was all part of God’s plan to bring the USA’s enlightened values to the world at large (Manifest Destiny).
The US Civil War almost ended the experiment. An identity crisis. Are we going to allow slavery or not? After that was over, another lingering question: are we going to vie with Europe and play the game of global empire? How would that be in keeping with core values, eh?
The Anti-Imperialist League (Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie…) expressed natural misgivings about empire, as how could a democracy with such principles be a tyrant overseas? The decision to invade the Philippines was unpopular and the nascent military socialist government (i.e. permanent war machine, later “military industrial complex” or “mickey”) needed a PR empire like Hearst’s to “sell the public” on the Spanish American War.
This dynamic, of getting an imperial-minded press siding with war planners, carried forward through continued expansionist endeavors. Brits could start vicariously reliving their Anglo empire again.
To keep the war machine rolling, with the PR machine in support, a lot of psychology went into demonizing the enemy (“the communists”).
Fast forward to our time, and the hated Butcher Assad, backed by Evil Putin, are somehow trying to destabilize the USA directly, by secretly controlling the choice of president. Or Putin might shut off the heating oil, close down the electrical grid. Rachel Maddow is convincing, to librarians and school teachers, those middle class power nesters who glue the consensus together with their mortgages and shopping dollars.
In Reagan’s day, it was UN tanks coming up through Texas that some (working class) learned to fear, backed by Russian MiGs based in Nicaragua. Or, if that didn’t seem real at all (to me it didn’t), how about Soviet nuclear subs parked off the coast of Long Island? Scared yet?
Money pays for fear and outrage, but properly tuned so that it might be directed productively. Sure Saddam had nothing to do with 911, we all get that. But attacking Iraq looked like cheap oil, just as Venezuela looks so tempting today. We’ll pretend this is about 911 and play along. If it doesn’t work out, we can always scapegoat the leaders down the road (which we’ve been doing).
The PR machine, the six plus Hearsts who own the media, are doing their best, with the war planners, to keep the fear and outrage (a) properly stoked and (b) conveniently malleable. If there’s a need to hate China, there’s money in the bank on that one (Wuhan Flu, Hong Kong). If it’s Russophobia we want more of, the political system has done its job nicely (cry for Crimea).
The empire is in good shape and doubts about the true identity of this sprawling global architecture, that still hasn’t gotten around to equal rights for women, that still has a “drug war” to create slavery, remain fringe. Those cult leader types won’t get to keep their platforms, the message has been sent.
No one of substance is in a position to question that the ruling cast is really still the high idealed democratic USA that wanted equality for all people. Sure it is. That’s perfectly obvious. You all see the flag every day and the Lower48 plus Hawaii and Alaska on every weather channel. There it is, right in front of you. What could be more real than your You Ess of A? Plus people keep paying the ultimate price.
What more proof do you need?
Nope, no existential crisis here. No mid-life crisis. All those scary demons are real. We believe the stories, and why should we doubt? We’re rational. We believe in science.
“The world loves what we do for them.” Commercial jingle goes here.