Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street

Violence begets violence, slaughter begets slaughter. Kunduz and Roseburg are dialectically intertwined. Patients burned to death in the ICU. Hospital’s coordinates sent in advance. AC-130 gunship hovering overhead. A mistake. No, deliberate murder. Scene change—Oregon: premeditated mass murder, English class, multiple weapons, obsession with guns. General John F. Campbell and Christopher Harper-Mercer are interchangeable, except that one has multiple rows of ribbons, themselves testimony to, and dedicated to, killing human beings.

Kunduz/Umpqua, names, locations, number of deaths, it doesn’t matter, an unrelieved landscape of violence speaking to the cancer poisoning the American mindset. There is nothing new here. Vietnam was a thousand Kunduzs, Roseburg a like number of US atrocities, self-inflicted rather than coming from the top. Gunships hover, ready to blast; drones hover, ready to assassinate. The technology to inflict harm and destruction is not causative. People stand behind it, develop it, are responsible for it. Obama had his hand on the weaponry unleashed on the MSF hospital, a war criminal shielded by high office. The American public has its hand on the weapons every time a schoolchild is gunned down, itself shielded by custom, usage, the Constitution.

Each theater of war encourages the other. For every murder committed in the United States the bar is lowered, permission silently granted, for doing the same abroad. The flow is reciprocal. My Lai fosters Newtown. And still the slaughter continues, nothing to impede its progress. Self-hatred is a unitary phenomenon, in this case a license for genocide, micro- or macro- in scale, rooted in the fusion of Capitalism, Exceptionalism, and the hierarchical/class structuring of social relations. The superior don’t wince at their cruelty to others, and as with the Mercers of this world they kill by designated authority, that of the zeitgeist to which we are all habituated, while the Campbells of this world gloat in satisfaction over the higher level of delegated authority they wield.

Hierarchy (aka capitalism in its scaffolding and formal structure) is the self-acknowledged context for an operant ruling group, an alignment of political and economic elite leadership buttressed by the foot soldiers under its command, a mass populace ideologically rootless, apathetic, panting for crumbs from the table of privilege. We follow orders, as meanwhile we are being fleeced, flim-flammed, taken for granted. In addition to being a war criminal, Obama is a kept man, if not doing the exact bidding of industrial-financial upper groups, then acting within the narrow structural-ideological parameters the overall system created by wealth allows. He gives orders, but he is the servant of power—just, of course, as General John F. Campbell, with his decks of ribbons to show for it, is, and just as the political whores in Congress, the media, and the think tanks, are.

Right now, America is operating on several fronts of engagement—all harmful to the realization of human dignity. In that light, Kunduz must be whitewashed, instead of recognized for what it is, a deliberate assertion of power, knowingly criminal, to warn the world not to cross our bow, lest we be taken for what in fact we are, a declining Empire. Decline carries with it a sense of urgency: will the geopolitical dike hold? If not, blow it and ourselves to smithereens along with all others. The US in Syria is a product of the Kunduz-Roseburg mentalset, itself a product of centuries of ethnocentric arrogance as perfect disguise for the way America treats its poor, its minorities, its dissenters. The rallying cry is, Push forward, mouth the platitudes of freedom and democracy (while squeezing all meaning from them!), so that both Roseburg and Kunduz can become distant objects in the rear-view mirror of American history.

That is imperative, never stop moving, for otherwise we must halt to address as a nation who and what we actually are—militarized, as a way of life (intimately geared to the retention of hierarchy), expansionist, to satisfy the thirst of our capitalist enterprises and institutions, and for good measure, embodying ultra-patriotism to hide the self-destructive defects of national character. Guns are the pens with which we write out our fantasies of moral greatness and individual self-worth, the former, Kunduz, the latter, Roseburg. But why stop there? There are whole worlds to conquer to prove our sterling worth. Russia and China lie just over the horizon, testing grounds of character and courage—and the American brand of capitalism. The US must succeed in its endeavors; the alternative is pervasive darkness, the darkness that already envelops the American soul.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.