In late September, one of my great friends, who also happens to be one of the most committed and courageous environmental activists I know, will be visiting the American Rust Belt from her home in Melbourne, Australia. Samantha has been to the states before, but this will be her first time in the U.S. since 9/11.
On the surface, it appears that a lot has changed in sixteen years. At the same time, however, the more I think about it, much remains the same.
Racist police still murder young black men at an astronomical rate. Today, the only difference is that people carry hand-held cameras everywhere we go. Thus, for the first time in history, large segments of White Americans are seeing what Black Americans have been experiencing for centuries.
In the late-1990s, when my Aussie friend last visited the U.S., there wasn’t a major ground-war in Iraq, but the draconian sanctions imposed on the Iraqis by the Clinton Administration resulted in the deaths of over 500,000 people, largely women and children. But hey, as Madeleine Albright made clear in 1996, “It was worth it.”
Today, after decades of CIA meddling, three ground wars and the inevitable blowback such things produce, most notably Isis, Iraq is now completely destroyed, along with Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc.
Speaking of things remaining the same, the U.S. is poised to endure yet another Clinton in the White House. This time, Hillary and Bill will perform their final act in the Oval Office: the farcical return. As a result, millions of working-class Whites, neglected by the Liberal Class and much of the Left, have found solace in the verbose and fascistic Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
Trump’s rise highlights one of the more interesting and dangerous schisms that is currently dominating the American cultural and political landscape: the division between the Black Lives Matter movement and its supporters, on one hand, and those who wholeheartedly and uncritically support the police, on the other. Without question, the tremendous overlap with regard to Trump’s supporters, police officers and their largely White supporters cannot be denied and should not be ignored.
Here, the Left would be wise to organize, not mock, working-class and poor White communities. After all, we need a many allies as we can get, especially in these dark times. Unless, of course, we’re content with losing.
And just to be clear, I’m not arguing that it will be easy to organize certain segments of Trump’s supporters – I’m simply saying that it’s a necessary task if we hope to fundamentally change society.
If the Left is unable, or unwilling, to organize the White proletariat, it’s hard to envision a peaceful future in the Land of Uncle Sam. In fact, I would argue that if existing economic and racial divisions persist, or become increasingly worse, as they have for decades, the future of the United States will be violent beyond imagination. After all, U.S. citizens own more weapons than virtually anyone else in the world, and we already use them on each other at an astronomical rate. And all of this within the context of ecological collapse. Sounds fun, huh?
By now, practically everyone in the world knows about the recent shootings in Dallas, Texas, so I’ll spare you a regurgitation of simple facts and so on. For me, there are two important dynamics at play: 1) the role of veterans and, 2) the use of unmanned robotics technologies to kill.
When it comes to Uncle Sam’s imperial adventures, as the old saying goes, the chickens have come home to roost. This time, in the form of a highly traumatized veteran who, after being deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, felt so alienated and disempowered that he thought the best way to express his anger with the police was to gun down twelve officers, killing five.
Of the five officers killed, three were veterans. One of whom, Brent Thompson, previously worked for the American military contractor DynCorp International, where he trained local police officers in Iraq and Afghanistan. In some sick way, I guess it’s only fitting that Micah Johnson used an AK-47 (the weapon of choice for the Iraqi insurgency) to kill his victims, many of whom were veterans.
Oh, and let’s not forget: the AK-47 was purchased in a Target parking lot thanks to a Facebook interaction. How fitting!
Actually, that reminds me of a story from my time in the Marine Corps. One day, our battalion was called to the 29 Palms base movie theater where the battalion commander informed us that two marines had been arrested in connection with a double homicide. Turns out, the two marines who were arrested shotgunned to death two other marines in a K-Mart parking lot, dumped their bodies in the trunk, and then set their car on fire after a drug deal went awry.
So, when I found out the shooter in Dallas was a veteran, I have to be honest, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. In fact, after spending the last fourteen years of my life around veterans, I’m shocked that more them don’t commit such acts. I would guess more will as things deteriorate in the U.S.
After fifteen years of the War on Terror and forty-plus years since the end of the Vietnam War, Americans still glorify the military and military service, even though veterans are more likely to be homeless, imprisoned, drug addicted, unemployed, suicidal and homicidal than the average American citizen. Unreal.
The bottom line is that the U.S. military is a force for death and destruction. It’s not a jobs program, nor is it a healthy outlet for teenage angst (join a punk band).
Most appropriately, especially in the age of Drone Warfare, the Dallas Police finally killed Micah Johnson with a robot. According to CNN, “The Remotec Androx Mark V A-1, manufactured by Northrup Grumman, was purchased by the department in 2008.” Additionally, “The robot, which cost $151,000, sustained minor damage to the extension arm and is still functional.” That’s right: $20 worth of C-4 explosives and an unmanned robot ended the massacre in Dallas, Texas. A most dangerous precedent, indeed.
For instance, Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a radically reactionary piece of legislation on Wednesday called the Back the Blue Act. Jamie Lovegrove reports that, “The Back the Blue Act of 2016 would, among other provisions, create a new federal crime for killing a federal judge, law enforcement officer, or public safety officer, with the offender subject to the death penalty and a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years.”
In the meantime, organizers and activists are left wondering when someone in the U.S. Senate will gather enough courage to introduce a bill that would severely punish police officers for murdering unarmed civilians. Of course, they won’t be holding their breath. They’ll be in the streets, organizing and resisting.
When Samantha lands in Chicago, hopefully she’ll be able to navigate the dozens of living zombies who will be traversing the airport in search of Pokémon, the latest handheld digital spectacle. Unsurprisingly, the Pokémon Go smartphone application has been downloaded 7.5 million times since it was first launched six days ago. According to Christopher Nheu, a mobile product manager (whatever the hell that is), “Augmented Reality actually creates a digital connection with someone in the physical world.”
For fuck’s sake, the last thing this culture needs is another reason for people to keep their pitiful faces plastered to their iPhone screens like a bunch of digital junkies seeking their next fix from Apple Inc.
Here’s a radical idea: how about creating actual connections with people in the physical world? You know, like actually talking to people about things that matter. And while we’re at it, maybe we could reconnect with the natural world? It seems to me that would be more useful than chasing digital creatures on a device made with rare earth minerals and produced by children in slave labor conditions, right?
At a time of unparalleled connectivity, at least in the digital sense, American society seems more fragmented than ever.
Meanwhile, cops murder with impunity; bankers plunder the public coffers; militarists continue their imperial march; protestors are demonized; and the environment is ravaged.
Welcome to America!