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Empire – what Empire?

To understand why Americans believe their nation to be innocent of imperialism we must go back to the Founding Fathers of the Republic, says Graham MacPhee.

Some of the most powerful images to have appeared in the run-up to November’s American presidential election have been the video loops of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright – erstwhile pastor to presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama – played time and time again on US television. In a medley of outtakes from his sermons, Wright is heard to proclaim ‘God damn America!’, a startling inversion of the Irving Berlin song ‘God Bless America’ that serves as the unofficial American national anthem. This sound bite, regarded by many Americans as proof of Wright’s anti-Americanism, has by association proved hugely damaging to Senator Obama’s image as the post-racial, post-ideological unity candidate and heir apparent to John F. Kennedy. But whatever the immediate impact of these images on the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, they reveal much about popular perceptions of US history and its implications for the self-understanding of the USA as an international political actor today.

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