The left far too often dwells on gloom and doom. We postulate about the failures of past movements, the crashing of the economy, the bloodshed in the Middle East, and the wholesale destruction of the environment. Not to say all this is not occurring. It most certainly is.
The antiwar movement is on life-support; even the radical reincarnation of the Vietnam era’s Winter Soldier hearings weren’t enough to awaken the corporate press from its slumber. The economy is caught in a downward spiral. Hundreds of thousands have perished as a result of the US wars in the Middle East. Thousands of species on Earth face extinction as our polar ice caps melt and the climate warms beyond repair.
These are dire times indeed.
Even so I tend to cling to Ed Abbey’s admonition to be a part-time warrior, saving enough hours in the day to enjoy the offerings of this little blue planet while we still can. As my friend Jeffrey St. Clair puts it, “Be as radical as reality. Fight fiercely for what you feel passionate about, no matter how long the odds seem. But don’t fret so much about the meta-crises, such as global warming or ozone depletion. It’ll only weigh you down and drive you toward nihilistic despair.”
Desperation is no way to invigorate the soul, whether it’s your own or that of a movement. In fact while the last seven-and-a-half-years of George W. Bush may have seemed like an eternity of sorrow and misery, there may be a silver-lining to all that’s transpired.
No other president in modern history has done more to expose the dark side of US imperialism than Bush. The international community is not behind the Iraq war and doesn’t trust our half-baked intelligence toward Iran, making it even more difficult for us to get away with bombing the country in the future. US power, while not fully-deflated, is fast leaking hot air.
War is pretty unpopular across the US too. John McCain is the only candidate willing to call for an outright extension of the occupation of Iraq. And while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may covertly plan to lengthen our presence there, they dare not utter such nonsense out loud. Both are doing their best to position themselves as the antiwar candidate, hiding their military tactics away in the fine print of their policy briefs.
Old alliances are becoming obsolete. NATO has weakened and the US go-it-alone strategy has damaged the trend of US isolation in foreign hostilities. The US is unequivocally deemed a global menace. We have become, against Washington’s better wishes, a more humble nation. It’s a sure sign US dominance is on the skids.
So too is our economic prowess, as witnessed by the subprime mortgage collapse and decline of the dollar. The US banking system is in flux due in large part to the dismantling of Glass-Steagall under the reign Bill Clinton’s economic henchman, Robert Rubin. Sure Bush’s Fed has overstepped its boundaries and attempted to “bailout” the credit sector, but hasn’t this whole debacle also exposed the fallacies of neoliberal ethos?
These events sure seem to me to be something the left ought to be encouraged by. It wasn’t even ten years ago that we took to the streets of Seattle to rally in opposition to the WTO and Clinton’s free-trade pathology. Now even his wife is attempting to distance herself from the failures of NAFTA. Not that she’s sincere, but at least the language is beginning to change.
Many are also yapping away about the fate of the environment. Even McCain believes humans are impacting the global climate. While much of this is unadulterated green-washing, the tide is shifting. People are beginning to care about the planet they will are leaving their children and grand kids. Awareness is growing despite the campaign against it. The hike in gas prices, while hurting some financially in the interim, may in the long-run force us to rethink public transportation and our over-consumption of fossil fuels.
The reaches of Empire are being destroyed quicker than you may realize, yet the left is still stuck neck-deep in its dark, humorless, perpetual cynicism. But why not look at the bright side of the mess we’re in instead? Your outlook depends solely on your vantage point. No doubt the fight for social and environmental justice must continue. The bottom line is that we can either be dejected by the negative or inspired by the positive.
Ultimately, it’s up to you.
JOSHUA FRANK is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the forthcoming Red State Rebels, to be published by AK Press in June 2008.