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As the sun sets on the American Empire (not to mention the planet itself), we find ourselves thinking in the American construction of free choices. Neoliberalism, or late-stage capitalism presents itself as the freedom to choose. Just look at the rise of companies like Uber and AirBnB or look at the modern day music streaming industry or the rise of fast food chains or of Walmart. The consumer (individual) has never had more choices, but within these companies there is less work or in companies like Walmart, conditions like slavery. But we are free to buy whatever we want! (and most often we are too poor to make other choices or are at least left behind by corporate schools and media in our education of how the world works). Community and solidarity has been replaced with the rights of the individual.
Trump’s recent transgender ban in the military was cruel and unnecessary. Missing in most mainstream commentaries was as usual, any sort of class analysis. While of course one would like all people to be able to choose to go to the military, note that nobody from Trump’s class is making that choice. Note, also who profits of the wars that poor people go to fight in. While it is not possible under this level of capitalist corruption, a draft that does not discriminate between the classes would be much more equitable than our current state of free choices.
The military provides a dangerous and traumatizing financial incentive to a population with few real choices. Where are the real well-payed, long term, full time jobs? Where is the affordable education and health insurance? Joining the military is not the different from joining a gang. People may have sincere and even sound reasons for doing so, but generally those who join have few options. The body bags of soldiers are no longer seen on the news, the veterans are treated horribly (one of the reasons I think Trump got elected), the trauma from these experiences are never addressed, as the soldiers are supposed to be tough and cold.
Pretending to be gay used to be a tactic to get out of armed combat in the United States. Now the armed forces is not an obligation, but a “choice.” A choice everyone should have surely, but one that ideally no one should have to have. Killing other humans so the people ruining the planet for your children can make an extra buck is a choice that should be given to one and all, if nothing else, then out of principle, but where is the outrage in this being the best option for any person in the first place, regardless of their identity? Maybe this is what Hillary Clinton meant in her book Tough Choices; not that her choices were tough for her, but that her choices were tough for you.
I do not mean to sound like Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama in only bemoaning the lives of American people. Malcolm X pointed to the racialized dynamics of the white man’s war. How the dark people overseas are supposed to be the enemy of the dark people at home. Just look at which countries we go to war with and we can see how deeply racist imperialism is and how much it is linked to colonialism/capitalism. Also look at who are the soldiers here and you can see how the white man is profiting from the deaths of black and brown people.
There does seem to be a real disregard to blood shed abroad, even on the left. Take the drone program, which does not use American soldiers to kill. Obama’s drone program was hailed, which was disappointing, but so was he. Bernie was supposedly an outlier in our political system but once again, he liked the drones, because he only seemed to care about American (white) lives.
The good part is that the American people seem to be tired of all the lies to justify war. Few people other than uppity liberals are falling for the Russia hysteria, or at least they don’t care. But as I noted before, even when the propaganda fails, the financial incentive for Americans (and people not accepted as American citizens) is often enough to push people to the military, who are known for malfeasance recruiting tactics.
In all this, I hope I am not belittling the plight of transgender folks either. As far as choices go, it’s beyond necessary that people can be the gender they feel like they are in my opinion. What is often forgotten though is that this choice between genders is not necessarily an all-liberating one either. In supporting the transgender community we should not forget the lessons of feminists that taught us that women not only are more vulnerable to socio-economic oppression but also to sex specific issues like domestic violence, sex trafficking, pregnancy and sexual assault. Not to mention, most men in the world have crabby lives too. And being transgender often puts you at more risk than either. Once again, just because there is a choice available doesn’t mean there are good options.
People are rightly not as concerned about the Russians, and is perhaps because we have recognized how little democracy there is to take away. We keep hearing the Russians are a threat to our democracy, but even if there was proof that they did anything (still waiting) what exactly would they be a threat to? We are right now choosing between two parties completely beholden to the interests of the elites, neither of whom have any interest in the 99.9% or the planet. Talk about a binary I want no part of.
So, screw Trump for being a hateful and close-minded idiot. But, let’s keep in mind the choices we had before him also. Neoliberal freedom is like that joke where you set a bag of poop on fire outside someone’s door and run away. The owner of the house can choose to step in shit. At least Trump is forthright enough to just burn the whole house down.