We, the exceptional, the invincible, have lost yet another war. How many wars will we have to lose before we, as a nation, are willing to accept the truth that we are not exceptional? Anyone who failed to predict our ultimate defeat in the invasion of Afghanistan at its inception is suffering from the illusion of American exceptionalism and invincibility. And anyone who failed to foresee our defeat there is ignorant of history – either that of Afghanistan or our own.
This raises the question of why so many Americans actually believed that we could remake Afghanistan (or Iraq or Syria or Vietnam or any other nation) in our own image. Why do so many accept the “sales pitch” that we can win and it will be a win for everyone? Time after time after time we are bombarded with patriotic Kool-Aid1 lauding our exceptionalism, nobility, righteousness and invincibility only to be led down the road to defeat – an expensive defeat for everyone except those who profit from war.
Why is it so easy for the drums of war to rally so many to the “cause”? I don’t know if it is true or just my imagination, but it seems to me that independent, critical thinking is has declined over the years and more and more people are susceptible to propaganda, opinions, false news and persuasion.
Everyone has preconceived notions of what is, what was and what should be; but it appears that many people are unwilling or unable to challenge those preconceived notions when presented with evidence to the contrary. In many cases there is peer pressure to accept certain ideas and/or proposals where one is ostracized for challenging them. In many cases, I suspect pride prevents people from challenging their own preconceived notions as if admitting being wrong is something to be ashamed of. Whatever it is, it is clear that the willingness and ability of many to critically assess what they are told or what they think in light of contradicting evidence is overcome by other forces.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know for certain that in order to stop the endless wars and fix the problems we face, we must first stop accepting all that we are told as absolute truth. We must challenge the opinions of the pundits and examine and analyze the evidence, draw our own conclusions and make our own decisions. Doing so is especially important when deciding who should lead our nation. Most importantly, we must cultivate that tendency in our children at home and in school. Failure to do so will result in all of us willingly or unwillingly drinking the kool-aid.
1 For those who don’t remember or never knew the history of the Jonestown massacre, a cultist named Jim Jones had established a cult community, The People’s Temple, in Jonestown, Guyana. In November, 1978, he was accused of murdering U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan and others who were investigating his activities, and authorities were attempting capture him and bring him back to the U.S. for justice. Instead of surrendering, Jones decided to commit suicide and convinced his 900 plus followers to commit suicide with him by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. The expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” became synonymous with a person blindly following the instructions of another. (Click here to read “Drinking the Kool-Aid” in wikipedia.)