Essays from a World Citizen

by Scott Ragsdale

This is the first in a series of essays on the political themes of our times.  The objective of these essays is to draw conclusions from our predicament that will allow organizations of citizens to return decency to power.  This first essay addresses the dark cloud that controls our current Executive branch and the deep cultural affliction that poisons our political thinking.  The essay has three parts

  • “There Will be No Reconciliation from Trump,” how we need to take Trump’s partisan, xenophobic, vindictive presence at face value.
  • “The Backlash is Against All You Obama Lovers, ” the underestimation of racism as a unifying barrier to people first policies.
  • “Meet Religiously Inspired American Exceptionalism,” we have never shed our habit of excusing subjugation of fellow humans and nature.

This essay ends with “we must first maintain peace in our hearts.  Second, stand openly to oppose exceptionalism…”  I welcome you to read on even as this reading might make you restless, pensive or combative.  Give yourself a minute – the goals are understanding and lasting positive action.

There Will be No Reconciliation from Trump:

I wish he was all hot air, but that’s not the case. He is very, very serious about gutting what’s left of civility and he is pissed-off about being shown up on January 21st. There will be no reasoning with this administration unless you are a white male CEO, Christian or general.

Severe abuse to human dignity will come in the form of attempts to restrict movement, criminalize non-white non-Christian citizens, appoint fundamentalist activist judges, expedite drilling rights, increase military expenditures, use public funds for corporate profits, and restrict voting rights. Women owned businesses are not going to get those infrastructure projects that Obama wanted for the last eight years.

The cathartic moment of the inaugural address (Our hope for Trump’s salvation) the “aw shucks folks, I was just trying to get elected and didn’t mean all those mean things” is over.  You likely have read about the reconsideration of opening “black-site” prisons. Can you say “extraordinary rendition”? It did not work when we lied about it the last time and it hurt us tremendously in our attempt to appear like a beacon of justice on the hill.

Sorry if we interrupted your pension plan and early retirement. This is not a test! This is an actual emergency. We now have a president who is impervious to and incapable of rational thinking. He is as serious a threat as any authoritarian history has brought about to plague the modern era.  We will not be exiting in happy resolution after two hours of this movie.

This is not just another president or swing of the pendulum. Those of us, who cannot abide by a war on social justice and the environment, are called to remake our system. A system that is impervious to ideological shifts of national government and that promotes a socially just and environmentally reciprocal society.

The Backlash is Against All You Obama Lovers

I want to caution my fellow citizens against placating and normalizing.  Standing there in disbelief, trying to figure out a way to feel good about your latte, is not going to help.

We have seen a raft of editorials about the Obama’s positive legacy (sip, sip…good coffee), about how the Trump administration might be unpredictably non-conformist – in a good way.  And we have even seen the occasional “things have never been better” article that attempts to make the case that our dissatisfaction is factually unjustified.  Orwellian.

The San Jose Mercury: “Republican leadership having won control of the presidency and the Congress will learn grace in victory.” Laughable as in “ha! ha! ha! Charlie Brown!” Mercury News Editorial Board, January 13, 2017.  The SJM is a good paper – maybe the editorial board is just trying to inject balance into the situation.

The Sacramento Bee’s Erika D. Smith, points out that Obama was an uplifting moral leader. (  Erika is correct, but while Obama and his family are wonderful people, he and his party were naive and tepid in their management of the white blow-back and shockingly complacent about keeping their mobilized young idealists engaged.  It just did not seem like the DNC had Obama’s back.

It seems that many credible news outlets are just now taking stock in how much Obama was judged by the color of his skin rather than the merit of his judgement and policy. At what point during the media frenzy that emboldened the Tea Party in 2009 were our nations journalists thinking that this was a broad secular multiracial reaction?

So, bad on them and on me. the whiteness and the racism did not self-implode in the way I expected it would.  And what we have seen is exactly as bad as what we have.  Any silver linings will be the ones we create.

Meet Religiously Inspired American Exceptionalism

The reasons for a Trump Presidency in America run deep. The epic tragedy that has made Trump possible, and that made Obama ineffective, is our own institutional, sometimes religiously inspired, exceptionalism and its close relation racism.

We have carried, and sometimes coddled, this tragedy for some 500 years. Our western disposition, to subjugate other humans started with the 1st peoples and when they were just about extinguished we turned to blacks. Americans, after all, deserve to abuse others and the planet along with it.

This narcissistic world view is mostly a white American demonic affliction; and I thought Obama knew this going in. I suppose he was just trying to survive his Presidency knowing full well that his public, his party, and even his secret service could only be moderately capable of protecting him form overt forms of white racist blow-back.

In his farewell address Obama stated “For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.” Obama then cautioned “But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion.”

I am not sure as our military has only gotten bigger, our foreign atrocities more egregious, our disenfranchised more numerous, and our attention to the earth more meager.  Most of these addictions and ailments to be laid at the feet of exceptionalism.

With Obama we could feel that the injury of racial injustice and assumed privilege had been overcome – or that we were on the right track.  Trump proved we were not.  We were not able defend our symbolic gain, mostly because what ails us has only been symbolically treated.

Our brand of exceptionalism says that intolerance and subjugation is our right and, for many in this Administrations’ court, ordained by God.   Being proud is one thing, but we must not make peace with that part of ourselves that looks for excuses to subjugate all we survey.

Instead we must first maintain peace in our hearts.  Second, stand openly to oppose exceptionalism and all the while reconcile with our brothers and sisters of all walks and places.  May you find peace within, in your country and in the world.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Tia Will

    I think that there is a failure to recognize the difference between being exceptional in some ways ( such was technologic innovation) while being far from exceptional, and even lagging in others ( such as provision of quality health care for all of our population ). Exceptionalism should be an aspirational statement of how we would like to be. Instead, it has been misconstrued to mean that we are indeed exceptional in every way, the corollary of which would be that everyone else is inferior. I see this as a major failing but something we would be able to overcomes with a little compassion, understanding and humility.

    1. Howard P

       Exceptionalism should be an aspirational statement of how we would like to be. Instead, it has been misconstrued to mean that we are indeed exceptional in every way, the corollary of which would be that everyone else is inferior.

      Dichotomous thinking perhaps?  What about those of us who believe “we” includes one race… the human race?

  2. Tia Will

    What about those of us who believe “we” includes one race… the human race?”

    Then I would agree with you. And would you go so far as to agree with me that since we are all one, that we should have open borders ?  That everyone should have enough of everything need for a comfortable life before anyone gets luxury items ?  Would you agree that health care and education for as long as desired by the individual should be a right of being a part of the human race ?  I truly believe in all of these and much more in the realm of equality based on our personhood. I doubt that many will agree with me.

    1. Howard P

      No, I would not…

      If by “open borders” you mean admitting and welcoming those actively involved in the sex trade (particularly child prostitution and child porn), those who advocate female genital mutilation, those who would turn this country into a police state because they feel it is their “cultural norm”, known serial killers, self-avowed Nazis, self-avowed misogynists, pedophiles, etc., etc…. hell no!

      So if someone prefers to spend all their adult life doing nothing more useful/productive than going to classes, while fully ‘supported’ by the others?  No.

      Basic health care, particularly including preventative care, including maternity, pediatric, etc. care, yes.  Extraordinary health care even in hopeless cases, to sustain ‘life’ at whatever cost, (or full coverage for female genital mutilation), no.

      What do you consider ‘comfortable’, and what do you consider a ‘luxury’?  Is a computer, unlimited internet access a basic need, ‘comfortable’, or a ‘luxury’, as an example?

  3. Howard P

    Let’s see… the ‘exceptionalism’ of Japan took over China, and much of SE Asia… then they attacked a US possession, Hawaii… the ‘exceptionalism’ of Germany took over much of the European continent… both of those took millions of lives…

    American ‘exceptionalism’ led to the end of both sets of atrocity… how ego-centric of us… we were clearly wrong…

    Slavery is older than dirt, morally wrong, should be resisted/punished at every opportunity, and has existed in very many places, and continues today in many places.. primarily dealing with labor and sexual satisfaction…

    Yeah, ‘exceptionalism’ is a clear and present danger… there is a kernel of truth in that, but…

    If you truly reject ‘exceptionalism’, let’s end GATE/AIM… we can do that locally, if that’s how the community feels… I do NOT share that view…

    Be leery of the term “exceptionalism” … it can cut inmany ways, tho’ it sounds ‘cool’ to say…

  4. Tia Will


    If you truly reject ‘exceptionalism’, let’s end GATE/AIM… we can do that locally, if that’s how the community feels… I do NOT share that view…”

    I would absolutely support that if it were being replaced with a full and robust program of differentiation for every student and if the transition were to be either started with a new school year or gradually put in place to ensure minimal educational disruption.

    The rest of your post seems to be picking extremes so as to bolster your objections rather than considering the types of immigrants that are represent the bulk of the people that are actually trying to come. These are absurd and do not warrant responding to individually, so I will not.

  5. Scott Ragsdale

    Tia, Howard and any other readers following this thread,

    I appreciate your back and forth on the perils of exceptionalism.

    I think you are aware of the Republican Party Platform‘s use of American Exceptionalism.  Which I had previously gone to the trouble of citing.  (side note: unfortunately I had attempted to provide a more comprehensive response – that attempt was defeated by the wrong press of a button and “poof” gone.  This will have to do. Love technology!)

    With what’s left of my energies on this topic I’ll summarize:  There should be no less dismay, but little surprise, in the initial actions of the Administration and apparent tacit approval by congress members in majority. La Times editorial provides additional perspective.  The roots of our current national legislative circumstances can be found in exceptionalism that can be fairly characterized as “American nativism and white grievance.”

    One of the points I was trying to make in my essay is that the exceptionalism narrative is toxic.  Stepping forward to “allow organizations of citizens to return decency to power,” will require exorcising the American exceptionalism narrative through the use of inclusive reconciliatory healing language and actions (this is the form of exceptionalism that would be better to promote).

    Would be leaders and organizations, who use decent rhetoric, promote and demonstrate decent actions will enable positive lasting change.  Know what you must cast aside – American Exceptionalism.



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