Dispatches from the USA II
Vote Today, We’ll Hit the Streets Tomorrow
OK friends, this is from the tell-it-like-it-is department. Having lived outside the United States for decades, the hardest thing that confronted me on the return trip was the normalization of US corporate imperialism and the cult of the military. At every public appearance of a soldier who spent years butchering people overseas, you’re supposed to respect their suffering and pity their PTSD, instead of publicly asking how the endless wars can be ended, who are the criminals who organize those wars, and why so many soldiers sign up voluntarily for one, two, three how of “duty,” which itself is a sickening misnomer for the betrayal of humanity. For sure, I well understand that many people left behind by the capitalist economy are lured into the military, and I totally support the ones who admit their mistake and denounce their abusers. But not the others, not the recruiting pool for the militias and the Trumpistas. The majority of USians fail to look outside their country, to find solidarity with its victims, and they were shocked that someone would want to blow up the World Trade Towers! Huh? Why exactly should the US have the right to sling infinite bombs on the Middle East or anywhere else in the world, and never receive an answer? Even many of my friends here still seem to think Obama was a noble man and a force for good in the world! Huh? The guy who supported the Arab dictators, prolonged the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, cozied up to the surveillance capitalists and used their manipulation techniques, while supporting the fracking industry to the point where the US became the largest exporter of fossil fuels under his watch? If you have the slightest political discipline, and not the fuzzy emotional attachments that are exalted here in the name of empathy, then these things are just obvious. Of course such ignorance is not shared by everyone, there’s definitely not just one America. But the normalization of imperialism is abject and criminal in itself. What we need is protest, subversion, refusal, revolt – anything that can undermine the system.
Having said it, I’m going to vote Biden/Harris and I encourage everyone who can to do it, in order to open up a viable space in which to fight for change in this country and in the world - a fight that will require activism and mass demonstrations in addition to everyday commitment, organization, institution-building and the development of a left worthy of the name. To understand why you too should hold your nose and vote, let’s just look back thirty seconds to see what led to this moment. All the grassroots pressure that elected a Black man to the presidency in 2008, that created and supported the Black Lives Matter movement, that worked in favor of immigrant rights, and that pushed the environmental state into open conflict with extractivist industry, all that activism led to the backlash called Trump: by far the weakest and most incompetent president the US has had since it rose to hegemony after WWII. Thanks to a terrible circumstance -- which is also a blessing in disguise -- Covid-19 struck and revealed exactly how hapless Trump is, breaking his power at the imaginary source (at least, if enough folks get out to vote) and even more importantly, revealing the inner rot of this country with its racist police, its militias, its savage industrial corporations, its fascist Silicon Valley tycoons, etc. etc. etc. In this sense the system has already been undermined from within, although it took the pandemic to precipitate the breakdown.
Now we are finally in a good position in these old United States. Our abusive dominance of world politics has been shattered by Trump’s arrogance. Our systemic racism is officially recognized as an historical fact that must be changed. The pathology of our militarism has been exposed by the gun-toting Proud Boys and Three Percenters. Our economy is durably damaged, notably the fossil fuel sector, the airlines sector, the agricultural export sector - in other words, exactly the ones whose CO2 emissions are murdering planet earth. No armed revolution could have achieved such subversion, it would have been nipped in the bud by the FBI, just as they rightly stopped the bomb-happy militia in Michigan. Instead it has been done by a combination of tireless ecological, multiracial and socialist critique, and by the sheer force of unconscious internal contradictions. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not wish for the country’s entire economic or even military system to disintegrate, because out of those ruins some new fascist monster would inevitably spring. Let’s think strategically for a change, instead of emotionally and narcissistically like the populists do. The collapse of the European constitutional monarchies in 1914 was not exactly a force for good in the world, and a conflagration similar to those of 1914-1945 could easily happen today. In fact, everything points to its likelihood. The apocalyptic wish that is supported by so many American anarchists is another example of fantasmatic self-gratification masquerading as politics. Instead of apocalypse we have the great good fortune of severe and devastating decline, which makes it possible to change our national priorities. If we work hard to entirely disqualify, not just the rabid Republican right, but also the cynical status quo ante of the Clintonian Democrats, and if we create the new solidarities, new laws and new institutions that will be required to face the current national emergency (which is both social and climatological), then maybe we can recover some dignity by collectively doing less harm to ourselves and the rest of the world. The phase of undermining has been successful, everyone on the left can be proud. But actually building something better is a lot more difficult. Kick the bastards out and give it another try!