Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The whole world is watching!

That's the chant from the Occupy Wall Street crowd. "The whole world is watching!" Actually, not so much chant as mantra. And actually not so much mantra as magical spell.

I've seen two videos recently, Occupy Oakland and Occupy Denver, where unsurprisingly, police in riot gear beat, gassed, and arrested OWS protesters. Denver had the interesting addition of cops firing rubber bullets into the crowd.

And before it all, while the hostilities are rising, before even one police baton strikes one protester's skull, we hear that desperate chant, "The whole world is watching!"

My question is, even if the whole world actually is watching, why the hell should they care?

Why would the world care? They have problems enough of their own. This attitude then, is a perfect example of American Exceptionalism. Emphasis on the exceptional. When it happens to America, it's exceptional. It's worth watching. It's worth paying attention to. Sure there are riots all over the world, but this is America we're talking about! A truly special place. Why, it's so special a place that even their riots must be top page, big headline, world news. Look! Americans are doing... something! The whole world is watching! 

Granted, in America we aren't really used to seeing these kind of popular uprisings. And we aren't really used to seeing the police beat and bloody protesters to quite this degree. But to think the world cares one whit about America's problems is hubris in the extreme.

The world may be watching. It's on the news, after all. But the world doesn't care. In America, everything we do we want treated like it's a drawing by a three year old. "That's beautiful!", we want people to say. "You're so special for doing that! Why, that might just be the best drawing in the whole world! I'm going to put this on the refrigerator. Everyone is going to want to see this!"

But this isn't preschool. It's a grown up world. And the world doesn't care. Stop thinking that simply being an American makes you Exceptional.

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