American Exceptionalism Threatens the Planet

September 16th, 2022 - by Frank Cordaro / Via Pacis

Americanism: The Most Threatening
“-ism” on the Planet

Frank Cordaro / Via Pacis

(April 2019 issue) — I noticed a post on Facebook on February 17 remembering the anniversary of a United States-led one-day massacre in 1991 that killed over 1,000 disarmed retreating Iraqi soldiers. I shared the post with the following note:
“It was a war crime then, and it still is. However, we can’t keep up remembering this because so many other United States-led war crimes continue to happen on a daily basis. Just as some view mass gun killings in the United States, which seem to happen one after the other, such death and violence is now the new normal.”

We don’t really remember the war crimes committed by our country. The best we can do is list them. This should be a problem for any Christian in the United States. The core of our faith in Jesus is based on our ability to remember Him; in the breaking of the bread, in the serving of the poor.

Remembering Jesus in today’s America means being a peacemaker in a total war culture, living lives devoted to making things right for all who suffer unjustly, one person at a time. We Americans can’t follow Jesus and be pro-rich, pro-war and pro-USA at the same time. Los Angeles Catholic Worker, Jeff Detrick, wrote years ago that us baby boomers must commit class suicide if we are to follow Jesus.

What we are up against is the newest version of what St. Paul called the “powers and principalities.” Americanism is as measurable as racism, sexism, classism and all the other “isms” that plague the human race, only in Americanism, we are so extreme in our destructive behavior. It is a unique time in human history where our very existence as Americans is the problem.

In our post-World War II atomic bomb era, the human race and the life forces on the planet are at risk like never before. Not by God, not by nature, but by our own hands! This is a first in the human experience. Americanism exists because the United States has almost complete control and dominance over the systems of death by its overwhelming global military superiority and our continued dominance of the global financial systems.

A Global Pyramid Scheme
70 years into this new and perilous human predicament, we’ve morphed beyond the military and financial systems. Now we have organized our human systems needed to meet our most basic human needs like food, water, health, and education to be based on the same lies and systems that are killing the planet.

It’s a nightmare reality, of “Book of Revelations” proportions, a global pyramid scheme as old as Pharaoh’s Empire, as murderous as the Romans in Jesus’ time. Only now, it’s total, it’s global, it’s immediate (minutes away by the atomic bomb) and inevitable (within a generation or two by just living our modern lives in ways which harm our natural environment)!

As a member of the baby boomer generation in this country, I am painfully aware that we have lived our whole lives off of the ill-gotten gains of World War II and the United States Empire that followed. There is no more identifiable group of human beings more responsible for the destruction of the planet than we American baby boomers.

The human race is killing the planet. Every fourth grader knows this. Further, we Americans are the most responsible for this reality, yet we are the least able to see this truth about ourselves.

Ciaron O’Reilly versus a B-52
Of all the “-isms” we suffer in this culture of extremes, Americanism is the most dangerous because it is the most denied! Any work we Americans try to do to address racism, sexism, classism and all the other “-isms” is bound to be too little too late, too short sighted for what really needs to be done.

This is why the witness and message from my old friend, long-time Catholic Worker, and deportee, Ciaron O’Reilly, is so important! Ciaron’s been a Catholic Worker for over 40 years. Born in Australia with Irish citizenship, Ciaron helped start a Catholic Worker in Australia in the 1970s.

He came to the United States for a few years, checking out the folks at Jonah House and visiting other Catholic Workers. He participated in his first Plowshares action in 1991 during the Gulf War.

Ciaron was a member of the “ANZUS Plowshares” group, which attacked a B-52 bomber heading to the Middle East at Griffiss AFB near Utica, New York. He ended up doing 13 months of jail time before being deported from the United States forever! Ciaron went on to do two more plowshares witnesses, the 1998 “Jabiluka Plowshares” in Australia and the 2006 Pitstop Plowshares in Ireland.

He’s been in and out of Catholic Worker communities the whole time. When not at risk himself, he stands in solidarity and support with those who are.

Plowshares and Julian Assange
In recent years, Ciaron has embraced the cause of Julian Assange, who is the founder of WikiLeaks and has dedicated his life and liberty to exposing not only the crimes of the American government abroad, but also mass surveillance here in the United States. For a number of months, he and others have been maintaining a 24/7 vigil at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Assange has taken sanctuary from being arrested and extradited from the United States to face what is sure to be a political prosecution.

Ciaron’s perspective from the United Kingdom adds another layer to our indictment of the American system. From his vigil site in London, he berates American imperialism and the apparent inability of the political Left in this country to effectively counter our own government’s militarism:

“It’s like no one has heard of Rwanda over there, or that Colin Powell was due to lead the 1991 MLK March in Atlantic, but was too busy incinerating Iraqi kids to make the gig. Really… in the United States, to most of the rest of the world, you’re all Yanks until proven innocent! The US Left [was] once inspiring [but] is now literally… the love child of neoliberalism and postmodernism… .just another American Heresy.”

At the time of this article’s writing, Chelsea Manning has been thrown in jail again for her refusal to testify against Julian Assange, while Assange himself has been illegally arrested in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, despite his Ecuadorian citizenship. United States drones are raining death upon civilians in Somalia, Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. Venezuela’s people live in fear of American bombs and American bullets.

Ciaron’s vigil and testament reminds us here, in the heart of the American empire, of the moral necessity of witness against the violence of the American state upon the people of the developing world and those who, like Assange and Manning, would seek to expose its heresies for the world to see.

April 2019 Via Pacis
p.1 CW Faith and Resistance Retreat Report and Reflections
p.2 “Prison Reform” by Jade Suganuma
p.3  “A Culture of Violence: The Roots of the Migrant Caravan” by Richard Flammer
p.4 “Seven Women Walked into the Vatican: A Mission Walked Out” by  Maria Bergh
p.4 ” Catholic Worker Farm Retreat: Catholic Worker Farms are Thriving” by Jakob Whitson and Ryna-Ria Ignacio

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes