The thesis of “American exceptionalism” seems to have two meanings. To some of those who speak of it, it means that for generations, something different in our cultural DNA made the country a beacon of liberty and opportunity. With several large qualifications, this seems to be true. But there is also a governmental meaning: That our rulers will never do the sorts of evil deeds we have seen done in totalitarian lands.
I don’t see why not. Our rulers are not so much different from rulers in other places, and they are becoming more venal by the day.
Official, planned destruction of the economies of coal mining areas, and the slow and careless official response to the destruction of the air and water of East Palestine, Ohio, suggest that many of those who make our policies may not be particularly reluctant for the disfavored parts of the country to become unlivable. They aren’t Green enough, or Blue enough, or there is something else wrong with their color.
Perhaps East Palestine can be cleansed. Or perhaps it will come to resemble Chernobyl. But when I think of the totalitarian countries, I think not so much of careless disasters, like nuclear reactor accidents and train derailments, as of deliberate, man-made miseries and coerced movements of population, including the planned ruin of entire classes and regions.
Is our government exceptional? Less and less, it seems. If you want to keep such things from happening here, never assume that they can’t. Never even assume that they aren’t.