By Odysseus Ward
I am not a fan of my country.
Yeah, that’s it.
I am also not a fan of countries that behave, in many regards, just like my country.
There is no “but” there either.
This is just how my thinking, with regard to justice, works. One need not fill one moral void with the polished and rebranded immorality of another. We could just demand justice, freedom from oppression and a righting of past wrongs, without seeking out and fetishizing a new(ish) Messiah.
Simplistic? Perhaps, or at least that is how it is often argued. Universally applicable? I think so, and that is kind of the point, is it not? What good is a stance on justice or progress if it can be easily wielded by those who impede progress or uphold unjust institutions?
Many, dare I say most, of the people outraged by Trump and his actions see him as an outlier and the singular catalyst for American dysfunction. If one were to point out the milquetoast, neoliberal, and largely ineffectual policies pushed by his predecessor, a cacophony of gnashing begins. It does not matter to them that he chose to tie health insurance to employment; put further strain on the environment with fracking, increased oil production and extraction; pushed for lopsided trade deals that further disenfranchised struggling workers; deported asylum seekers and built cages; oversaw the largest transfer of wealth in history to the parasitic 1%; and did nothing to stifle the creeping powers of the Executive branch, powers granted to him by his predecessor and then passed on to his successor.
Does that mean Trump is not a dangerous buffoon? No, of course not. He most definitely is a dangerous megalomaniacal buffoon, but that buffoonery and his outwardly caustic bravado represent 95% of the difference between the two of these conservative imperialists (3% is orange dye; 2% is overt racism). One man damages the reputation and exposes the diseased desiccated carcass of America for what it truly is: a hyper conservative genocidal imperialist machine propped up by lies and a highly advanced PR apparatus that thrives on debt and misery. The other man? He is the smooth polished veneer, the façade of American exceptionalism and coolness that many have grown to love and cherish, despite its aforementioned, and apparently inconsequential, failings.
Now tell me, is singing the praises of one over the other justice? If so, how?
If we zoom out and look at the USA and its frenemy China, we can find a similar situation but with slightly different actors, defenders, and detractors. Ideologically, there is a noticeable leftward shift. Instead of a clash between liberals/centrists and their further right counterparts, we now have an odd little feud between self-described socialists/commies who have turned pronationalist for another nation vs run-of-the-mill red, white, & blue nationalists. Notably, both groups think they are right and dedicate endless precious moments of time defending their chosen inanimate messiah.
Some might say that this is an unfair comparison. To them, I ask, “Unfair to who?” These inanimate things lurching across the globe, using the dollars they gained through exploitative practices to coerce and strong-arm people to fall in line? Those inanimate things brazenly attacking, vilifying, and censoring those who dare dissent? The inanimate things rife with generalizations about the other’s majority population that say this larger group is inherently hard-working and brighter than their darker hued counterparts? These inanimate things enriching themselves by feeding on already traumatizedpeoples?Theseinanimate things that, through their joint efforts, helped to facilitate the rapid decline of once thriving manufacturing and production centers around the globe? These destroyers of the environment? Am I being unfair to these things?
Sure, maybe I am… Because both are simply tools in the long game
of imperialism and capitalism (or whichever exploitative “ism” makes you most comfortable). And tools, to my knowledge, have no desires of their own. However, tools do take on the characteristics of their handlers. I mean, if these nations were not inherently viewed as homogenous ethnostates, there would be no need for hyphenated distinctions within them. Yet, there are, and many of them are rightly frustrated by and accustomed to their protestations being washed away by the dominant (in-group) narratives. Thus, the tool becomes a single nation of people with singular purpose and intention, and those who are seen as “other” (outgroup) have the crimes against them ignored or summarily dismissed as the ravings of ne’er-do-well subversives.
But here’s the funny part… You cannot easily tell which nation is which anymore. Sure, a more in- depth and nuanced analysis of each that specifically highlights certain historical traits might help to distinguish them, but oppressed people (particularly the victims of these nations) do not have time for or care much about your nuance. And if the defenders of these tools can ignore modern history to set them apart, I can do the opposite to merge them together, as What does any of this have to do with justice?
Simple. People, not nations (as a set of symbols, bygone affiliations, and inanimate characteristics), deserve protection and support. In so much as nations or figureheads can have their internal natures, policies, and machinations ignored or defended based on surface-level examination, injustice will fester; progress will be impeded; and the new messiah will pave the way for the next, but fundamentally the same old tyrant. The left or right twisting of the blade brings no solace to the marginalized.
To them, it matters little the color of the knife or whose hand is holding it. All that matters is that the knife be removed and their wounds allowed to heal. Unfortunately for them, those folks on the fringes, there are many who would rather praise the inanimate than focus on and protect life, playing at which direction to twist the blade instead of pulling it out.
Much in the same way as Obama to Trump and China to the USA, a lot of what is being presented as progress looks a lot like a sideways shift to oppressed people.
Odysseus Ward is a world traveler and survivor of many shipwrecks.
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 5. July/August, 2020. All rights reserved.