In retrospect, it will seem completely natural that America’s period of worldwide dominance only lasted a short time. It is intellectually unfit to rule the world. It just doesn’t pack the gear to handle the job. Just as Sparta couldn’t rule Greece after the Peloponnesian War, so America couldn’t rule the world after the Soviet Union went down. We just aren’t cut out for it.
Think about it: America’s moment as the super power du jour spans the lifetime of the baby boomers. That’s it. In history that’s the blink of an eye.
We talk up a storm and build gaudy monuments, but in reality we’re just trashy used car salesmen experiencing a chance, temporary monopoly, and we cant’t even handle that. We went from Jonas Salk to Rush Limbaugh in the time takes for hair to go gray. We went from the Marshall Plan to quantitative easing and Wall Street bailouts in my mother's lifetime.
She was born in postwar middle class splendor; she’s ending her days in a mobile home on social security.
(She grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, where I lived as a child; it was a beachy, middle class place. Now it is an exclusive rich suburb, home to obscenely affluent fuckwads like Sharon Stone and Tiger Woods, and a legion of sniffy plastic yuppies. Last time I was there, they were all racing out to buy mini-coopers, because they were just oh so fucking hip and trendy at the time, don’t ya know? God, that fucking place always makes me feel like I need a shower.)
(Although I did meet Chuck Woolery in the produce department at Ralph’s once, and I’m a better man for it.)
Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in one generation.
American exceptionalism will be a term that refers to the speed of our decline, not any special quality within us.