“each carries in himself the germs of death for society” (A People’s History…Ch. 16)

Anyone still in disbelief over Trump because they see him as somehow unpresidented unprecedented – or funnier still, un-American – has indeed suffered under the comforting myths of “the bubble.” For even a cursory review of American history will show you that he’s all-too-perfectly American. He’s quintessential America: spreading political lies to advance economic interests; sowing seeds of fear and mass hysteria; harnessing those emotions and directing them at easy scapegoats, e.g. bad hombres and Muslims terrorists; consolidating corporate power; militarizing the economy; pretending to act on behalf of “real Americans” while sustaining the profits of the plutocrats; propagandizing; glorifying and riding the waves of patriotism; deluding yourself (you being the President here) about how everything you’re doing is right and totally tenable.

Does this comment on the 1950s sound familiar?

Americans became convinced of the need for absolute security and the preservation of the established order.

Trump isn’t Truman, but he’s doing the same thing, except that he called “the established order” a swamp and acted like he was going to drain it; instead, he filled it with more crocodiles and he’s preparing to toss us in as chow. Huzzah! His promise to empower our police force and our military (as if the military is somehow bereft of economic support)? Right in line with standard American policy. In the 1950s, Communism was our terrorism, the Russians our Muslims. Obama never slowed down the trend of absurd military spending either, so let’s not look back on his two terms with overly rosey glasses. (I’m not aiming at any false equivalency between the two, just pointing out that America – i.e. every American – is in need of a deep spiritual reckoning, as Ta-Nehisi Coates and many, many others have already identified.)

French worker-philosopher (what a label!) Simone Weil expressed it well:

Whether the mask is labelled Fascism, Democracy, or Dictatorship of the Proletariat, our great adversary remains the Apparatus – the bureaucracy, the police, the military…No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this Apparatus, and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.

What feels potentially different in this age is how people are mobilizing against the apparatus, now that there’s an orange glowing ghoul as its head. Except that such mobilization has also occurred, with ultimate impotence, throughout American history. Laborers, for instance, went on strike constantly. And then they were neutered by unions, with enough concessions to enough people to keep (long overdue) revolution at bay. The Apparatus is quite the adaptive virus, and without its complete eradication, it (because it too is life) finds a way.

So I’m not sure where to find hope. History indeed repeats itself. I’m choosing to live my life in love, and I trust this will serve the modest social circle I’ll have around me, but what of a larger movement? Perhaps my small ripple in the water is enough, but we are an ocean of humanity. How do we make it so enough people are sending ripples through our shared environment to make a difference?

We might start by accepting America’s criminal record (even this small part, people!): Japanese internment camps as we were nuking Japan; greedy bombing of European civilian territory; Jim-Crowing; strategic ignorance to genocide around the globe, i.e. paying attention only to that which paid us in return; interventionist policies via the profit motive; the Red Scare; the fact that Stark Industries feels more real than fictional; and, of course, American History itself as a concept.

When will we confess all our lies? Until we do, we can never begin to touch the truth and stop our karmic wheel.

 

The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?

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