There was a time not long ago when America would unapologetically assert that its culture, born from Enlightenment-era ideals that strove to honor the Rule of Law and individual liberty, was innately superior in the morals which it represented. It is difficult to deny the increasing degradation of that certainty over the years. Perhaps it is a function of a sense of guilt from the nations’ involvement in many morally nebulous wars, or a subliminal understanding that the freedoms from which America has derived its moral standing have long eroded, but regardless, there is a rising trend of addressing both internal and international criticisms of everything from human rights violations to environmental and economic policies in relativistic, rather than absolute, terms.
Institution after institution successively crumble under the weight of frivolous charges. Harvard University was reported by Katherine Timpf of National Review yesterday to have ceased the purchase of water dispensing units from SodaStream, on account of the companies’ Israeli address. It was considered that having to see the company name of a business entity based in Israel would constitute a “microaggression” to Palestinian students. Ironically, this seemingly sensitive decision came from an administration whose president defended the right to free expression of a student cultural studies club who had planned to stage a Black Mass this past May.
Harvard President Drew Faust did certainly hedge her bets by condemning the Satanist event as being an intentional mockery of Catholicism, though she fell short of taking decisive action to prevent its’ occurrence. In the new America, tradition is suspicious for its relationship to privilege. In the new America, people who search for offense in the manufacture of a water bubbler have more right to institutional support than others who face open mockery for their beliefs. Familiarity with progressive politics tends to lead one to assume that the primary prioritization criteria for the validation of offense is an algorithm which removes points for whiteness, maleness, and being overly American.
In further American apologia, Paramount Pictures intervened to revoke the rebroadcast license of its motion picture property Team America: World Police, to thwart theaters whom had defiantly planned to show the movie in place of Sony Picture’s pulled film, The Interview. The act comes as a transparent defensive preemption in the wake of North Korea’s alleged cyber attack on Sony for their film’s satirical treatment of the isolated and authoritarian rogue state. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest took to the cameras to issue a denial of certainty that North Korea was responsible, likely in an attempt to reduce calls for the White House to address the issue.
Advocates of American militarism would like to characterize these events as weak, but strength does not require armed conflict to be projected. Culture has its own strength, which is largely derivative of its relationship to absolute truth, rather than relative. America wastes its time and energy catering to the demands of every self-aggrieved party, when the nation’s reaction in days past would have been to assert its belief in free speech and re-assign responsibility for being offended by satire and water machines back to the professionally aggrieved.
Opinion by Brian Whittemore
Photo by Joe Goldberg – flickr License