“a permanent adversarial culture” (A People’s History…Ch. 22)

Viva la (unreported) resistance!

Chapter 22 is all about the emerging consciousness of American citizens about America, “the land [I’m supposed to] love [without question],” to partially quote a famous patriotic anthem. It’s about how people have taken action against a government that is more concerned with corporate profit than national security, even though it conflates the two and chooses the latter’s label as its rationale. So much of what our government has done – especially in its foreign policy – is about the red herring of national security. America – according to the ever-wise acumen of our political leaders – is always under potential siege, and so whatever we do is to protect our shores. (By the way, when have our shores ever been legitimately threatened?) When it’s not Eurasia, it’s Eastasia, and it’s always been Eastasia. Thank God Big Brother is always watching us them!

“A permanent adversarial culture,” which is what American intellectuals have ostensibly formed (even though our history shows that protest isn’t the eminent domain of our intelligentsia)…is it possible for there to exist an adversary when the target of its rebellion isn’t a Death Star but implicit forces that have shaped a nation? Or perhaps I’m buying into an intellectual misfire: the idea that “hegemony” or some abstract concept explains our current social conditions instead of the complicit assent of every American citizen. That is to say, we are personally responsible for how our world looks and how we choose to look at it. It isn’t some ambiguous, elusive force ruthlessly propelling us into an unknown future; through our beliefs and behaviors, we actively chart our own path. We the people make America. We have always made it. We can re-make it. We can become allies in a new national project, not adversaries to some false foe that we keep feeding undue power to.

Trump isn’t our enemy; we are, as it turns out, our own worst enemy. We scapegoat as much as he does, and we fall prey to a cynical cycle in the process. We can escape this wheel, but first we have to recognize that we’re all turning it like a collective lab rat. We rob our poor; we don’t have to. We marginalize large swaths of our population; we don’t have to. We threaten global order; we don’t have to.

America has always deliberately turned its attention abroad, manufacturing problems out there instead of doing the hard work of looking in here and facing the reality of who we are. Instead of seeing, forgiving, and finally loving our true Self. Underneath “the system’s dependency on militarism and war” is a Spirit that needs life and love. We can feed the Spirit what it needs (what we need). We’ve already been feeding this Spirit, though perhaps only scraps. And then those scraps have been poorly digested thanks to a culture (see: the people that make culture what it is, aka each and all of us) that commodifies and commercializes, diminishing any spiritual nutriments we might receive.

A “permanent adversarial culture” will only create more adversaries; anger feeds anger. As Martin Luther King knew:

If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited every day, if we are trampled over every day, don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love. We must have compassion and understanding for those who hate us. We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate. But we stand in life at midnight, we are always on the threshold of a new dawn.

The sun won’t rise without our will. We choose the light we receive, the life we live, its food. We can let the clock strike midnight and let it stay there, the magic ended. We can think that the magic came from somewhere else, that it doesn’t find its source deep within us. Or we can choose to create our own magic, for it is there waiting for us in our hearts. We can create our own happy ending, not waiting for some Prince we don’t need to squeeze us into a slipper of comfort we don’t want. We can make the sun rise, make the dawn arrive. You might say: we will, if we can. I prefer freedom: we can, if we will.

Better yet: we can, and so we will.

We woke up a long time ago; it’s time to get out of bed and greet the dawn we make.

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