Debunking the “noble American soul”
In an oped piece published in AlJazeeera on 15 November 2018, Columbia University Professor Hamid Dabashi challenges the widespread assumption that “the American soul is something quintessentially good and even noble”. He goes on to point out that most of those who hold this view also believe that President Donald Trump and his policies and practices cannot possibly be representative of real American values.
Dabashi’s position is that both of these idealistic beliefs are nothing but ahistorical delusions. “We may, in fact, be hard pressed to find a single moment in American history when hateful racism, sexism, militarism and xenophobia have not been entirely definitive to this American soul.” In addition, “those who view President Donald Trump as unrepresentative of American values are wrong”. In Dabashi’s view, this president’s policies and practices are indeed who we are.
It is the liberals who Dabashi is particularly upset with for it is they who, in his view, have reinforced the facade of national goodness and held at bay, or perhaps simply ignored, any critical examination of this self-glorifying image. For instance, Dabashi notes that, while campaigning against Trump in the lead-up to the recent mid-term elections, Barack Obama asserted that “we [the US] helped spread a commitment to certain values and principles like the rule of law and human rights and democracy and the notion of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual”.
Dabashi is having none of this. More often than not both Republicans and Democrats have “identically” supported dictators and the brutalisation of entire populations. He notes that Obama is the president who “who gave billions of dollars to Israel to slaughter Palestinians with ease.” In terms of foreign policy, almost every president preceeding Obama has acted in the same culpable way, or worse.