Imagine a Nation Like This

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Imagine a nation so reactionary and racist that “Black Lives Matter” is considered a “radical slogan” inside its borders.

Imagine a nation so economically unequal that its top one-thousandth has more wealth than its bottom 90 percent.

Imagine a nation so racially unequal that the median household wealth of its Black households is equal to 7 cents on the dollar of its median white households.

Imagine a nation so sexist that its women make 82 cents for every dollar men make while 15% to 20% of its women have been raped and girls and women are regularly subjected to sexual harassment and domestic violence.

Imagine a nation so sexist that its women’s rights to control their own bodies and reproductive decisions are under constant patriarchal assault.

Imagine a nation so racist that its states pass laws suppressing the votes of non-whites and forbidding honest teaching about the country’s long and ongoing history of racial oppression, including two and a half centuries of Black slavery.

Imagine a nation so classist that it taxes its teachers, secretaries, and waitresses at a higher rate than it taxes its parasitic corporate and financial oligarchs.

Imagine a nation so classist and plutocratic that it lets a lethal pandemic produce an increase in its already obscene over-concentration of wealth while hundreds of thousands of its citizens die from the disease.

Imagine a “democracy” so classist and plutocratic that it can only and barely replace its fascist billionaire president with a conservative corporate toady who promised his wealthy backers in advance that “No one’s standard would change, nothing would fundamentally change” when he became chief executive.

Imagine a nation that claims to be the homeland and headquarters of democracy while its politics and government are structured to render majority public opinion irrelevant beneath the hidden rule of an underlying un-elected class dictatorship of capital.

Imagine a “democracy” so reactionary that it won’t honor majority opinion by granting its workers a half-decent minimum wage or permitting the passage of legislation that would allow workers to legally organize unions or of a bill to stop racist voter suppression and the right-wing gerrymandering of electoral districts.

Imagine a nation so reactionary that the elementarily moral and majority-backed notion of providing all its citizens health care as a human right is regularly shot down as “too radical” by its dominant corporate media and its permanent oligarchic political class.

Imagine a nation so unhealthy as to have an obesity rate of 42% along with numerous other terrible health outcomes that make it the world’s unhealthiest rich nation while its profit-based health care system is the most expensive in the world.

Imagine a nation that claims to be a monument to “free market capitalism” even as its capitalist ruling class owes its opulence to government subsidy and protection.

Imagine a “democracy” that let itself be presided over by a pandemo-fascist narcissist who fanned a virus that has so far killed more than 600,000 of its own people.

Imagine a nation that calls itself a model of “democracy” but: fails to provide for the direct election of its president; grants disproportionately white, low-population right-wing states massive over-representation in its powerful upper legislative body; staffs its powerful supreme court with lifetime appointees far to the right of its populace; puts elections and policy up for sale to big money campaign bankrollers; grants viability to only two political parties, both captive to the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of capital and empire.

Imagine a nation that boasts of its “free press” as a great democratic “fourth estate” while its media are dominated by a handful of corporations whose owners and managers are dedicated to manufacturing mass consent to that dictatorship.

Imagine a nation whose talking television heads can’t speak for more than ten minutes on even the gravest of issues before viewers are redirected to a slew of expertly manipulative commercials selling fetishized goods and services to affluent people.

Imagine a nation that celebrates and promotes Social Darwinian cruelty by saturating its population with powerful images of sadistic and mass violence and upholding selfish power and wealth acquisition as the only real purpose of life – the true meaning of “human nature.”

Imagine a nation that gives free reign to sociopathic corporations to pollute public discourse and opinion with toxic lies and misinformation about matters of dire significance like the climate catastrophe.

Imagine a nation whose priorities are so perverted that tens of million of its children live below its notoriously inadequate poverty level while more than half of its government’s discretionary budget pays for a military empire that keeps more than 800 bases across more than 100 countries while functioning as a giant public subsidy for high-tech for-profit “defense” firms.

Imagine a nation so phony that it claims to be “the land of liberty” while its mass incarceration system accounts for nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners even as the nation is home to less than 5% of the world’s population.

Imagine a 60% white nation so racist that two-thirds of its prisoners are Black and LatinX.

Imagine a nation whose police are so violent as to have killed more than 32,000 of the nation’s citizens since 2000, with at least 60 percent of the victims Black, LatinX, Native American, and Asian.

Imagine a nation so violent as to experience more than 35,000 gun-related deaths per year.

Imagine a nation so saturated by guns that it has enough firearms – including 20 million military-style assault weapons – for every one of its women, children, and men, with 67 million guns left over.

Imagine a nation so eco-cidal that it would take at least four additional planets to sustain its per-capita rate of natural resource utilization and pollution – this while it regularly poisons its land, air, water, food, and drink.

Imagine nation that trumps the ever more urgent need for social and environmental planning with the anarchic dictates of capital and its self-endangered rate of profit.

Imagine a nation that speaks of being “post-racial” and honors the memory of a great Black civil rights leader it executed more than half a century ago while consigning most of its Black population to savagely separate and unequal apartheid communities.

Imagine a nation so ignorant of its own history that most of its citizens can’t tell when or why it was founded or when and why it fought a major civil war and who was on what side in that epic conflict.

Imagine a nation so ignorant of Western and world history that only a small minority of its population knows what Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Third Reich were about and who fought who in World War II.

Imagine a nation whose citizens are incapable of recognizing that one of its major political parties has gone fascist.

Imagine nation that lets one of its two dominant political parties become neofascist but can’t say so even after that party attempted to overthrow the nation’s last presidential election and is openly preparing to steal the next one.

Imagine a nation that claims to be the global champion of freedom, democracy, and decency while invading, occupying, regime-changing, and otherwise interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, killing tens of millions of people along the way.

Imagine a nation so perverse that it calls enlistment in its armed forces to kill and maim people around the world “service.”

Imagine a nation so twisted as to call imperial assault and invasion and mass murder abroad “protecting the homeland” and “preserving freedom.”

Imagine a rich nation that won’t adequately feed, clothe, educate, and provide health care for all its people but grants trillions of dollars’ worth of “cost-plus” contracts to filthy rich manufacturers of means of mass destruction.

Imagine a nation that pours the lion’s share of its federal discretionary spending into a permanent war state that could blow up the world many times over instead of in vaccines, medicine, and other medical goods and services to defeat a pandemic that has killed 4 million people the world over.

Imagine a nation where a vast swath of the relatively privileged racial majority absurdly fantasizes that it and not its oppressed racial minorities are the people who experience the most racial discrimination in the country.

Imagine a nation so pathetic that a portion of its “left” is more worried about a fascist lunatic’s access to Twitter and Facebook in 2021 than it was about the lunatic’s access to the nation’s nuclear codes between 2017 and 2021.

Imagine a country so dumbed down that more than a third of its populace refuses to take vaccines to protect themselves and others from a deadly pandemic.

Imagine a country so clueless that its population ranks “illegal immigration” as a more serious concern than the biggest issue of our or any time – the climate catastrophe.

But, of course, you don’t have to imagine such a country.

All this and much more terrible to contemplate is pulled from the ongoing record of the self-described greatest country in the world, the United States of America.

Imagine that.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).