Thoughts on Protest and War
The foundation of American political stability is in many ways similar
to the foundation of bioevolutionary mechanics. Stability comes from
the mutual interdependecies and supports of the plural instabilities of
diversity. It is a government that exists in flux, and from that flux
stems its resiliency to foundational change.
On a generalized and abstracted level, the fluctuations in American
politics shift power in varying degrees between two different sites:
the centralized federal level, and the decentralized folk level. The
people grant a certain degree of power and autonomy to their federal
government, and they reserve the right to challenge that government.
These challenges are constant, diverse, and frequently contradictory to
one another. Nonetheless, it is the right of the people, and the
person, to act, that drags power away from the centralized federal
government and brings it towards the folk level. It is for this reason
that Americans are the most empowered people, as well as nation, on the
Earth. That is a very important distinction to note, so I'll say it
again, we are the most empowered People on the Earth, as well as the
most empowered nation. It is this empowerment of the People that makes
us so great, that is the American dream, that is the reason for the
founding of the country, the framing of the Constitution, etc.
The exercise of the right of protest and disagreement itself protects
and furthers American freedom and power.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were also protests. They were
actions designed to drag power away from the American centralized
government and towards the folk level. However, they were actions
designed to drag power not into the hands of American folk, but into the
hands of Islamic Extremist folk. It is in this way that those actions
were most profoundly breaches of our national boundaries.
The system of flux and conflict we have established as our political and
social system exists within a very specific border: the line that
distinguishes our nation-state. Our right of protest exists to shift
power from nexus of power to nexus of power within that border. It is
due to certain social contracts, assumptions, declarations, policing
agencies, and other mechanisms that we, as Americans, can allow for the
conflict and the fluctuations in power. It is because of these
agreements that we make as Americans that our system of diversity and
instability is, in fact, so stable.
The terrorist attacks were attacks on the very boundary that allows for
the shifting and fluctuating power in our system to remain contained in
the hands of Americans. Thus, as attempts to steal our power and
thereby our freedom to do what we will with that power, these attacks
cannot be tolerated or left unaddressed.
However, to seek out and fight the terrorists as a group is a dangerous
proposition. International relations and foreign domestic policy
represent aspects of a dialogue or polylogue that occurs between
nation-states. If the US addresses the terrorists directly, then that
dialogue is no longer taking place between nations, but rather between a
nation-state and a folk. Folk cannot be defeated by a nation-state.
The impact that one woman sitting on a bus can have on our domestic
policy is a testament to the power that resides at the folk level. It
would be to blaspheme the foundation of stregth of the American body
politic not to admit this power and the nexus of its location: in the
hands and voices of individuals.
Additionally, it is perhaps irresponsible to chase the terrorists
themselves, for to do so is to disrespect the years of suffering and
labor, sweat and tears, blood and lives that have been spent to create
the border that surrounds our system of power. To condescend to
allowing the terrorists to be an identity, a threat, a group recognized
by our military is perhaps to forget what we are, and how we got here.
We are America. We are a nation. Courage and fortitude, perseverance,
vision and belief are what brought us to where we are. We do not waste
our time with piss-ants, cowards, and murderers. We talk to nations.
To disallow the terrorists the act of dragging American power towards
the hands of non-American folk, it is necessary to maintain this Act and
Scene of the international dialogue at the level of the nation-state.
In forming an anti-terrorist coalition of nations, we are doing
precisely this. In attacking nations who knowingly harbor terrorists,
or actively fund and support them, we are maintaining this discussion at
the level of the nation-state. It is in the act of bombing Afghanistan
as a nation, because their governmental leaders will not cooperate with
our objective of securing our national boundaries, that we do the
greatest good for ourselves and the greatest ill to the aims of the
Our national security is most greatly bolstered by guaranteeing that
those who engage us in dialogue do so from the standpoint of their own
national body. Those nations that allow or support non-nations in
engaging us in dialogue must cease to be nations at our hand, for the
message this sends is one of support for every national body on Earth
that wishes to engage us as a national body and a reinforcement of our
committment to our own political system and the proliferation of that
When terrorists attack us, and those terrorists are supported by
Afghanistan, it is necessary to bomb Afghanistan. Not specifically to
kill terrorists, but because it is implicate to our interests as a
nation and speaker on the world stage. If Iraq harbors terrorists, it
is Iraq that must be bombed. This holds true for every nation that
supports or harbors those who would engage the US from a non-national
standpoint. Any non-national engagement of our country is a slap in the
face of every American who worked or died to create the thing that is
America. We must slap back, but specifically at the national level.
It is important to remember, also, that our ability to bomb any nation
that harbors or supports terrorists is not what makes us great. It is
simply a tool to preserve and further our greatness. What makes us
great is our right to protest our own actions in making these military
gestures. It is our diversity of opinion, our tolerance and
inclusionism, and the empowerment of our people that shows to the world
the success of the political and social experiment that has become our
country. Those same protesters we jokingly talk of punching as a means
of justifying or explaining our military presence in Afghanistan are a
part of that plural and diverse system of disagreement and struggle for
power and majority that makes it worth the effort to bomb Afghanistan on
our own behalf. It is the preservation of the protesters' right to spit
on their own sons and daughters who give their lives to protect them
that is the American way. It is this right and many others like it that
are the face of freedom and are the America worth killing to protect.
Some further argument has been brought to my attention that bears
consideration. Firstly, as the sole present superpower in the world, as
the leading economic, military, and cultural player on the stage,
America does, in fact, have an impact on the lives of, and thereby a
responsiblity to, the folk of other countries. It is highly important
that these folk have avenues and mechanisms in place to protect the
necessity and presence of their voice in any international discussion.
By working to maintain this discussion at the level of the nation-state
we are securing the national boundaries of every nation in the world,
and stabilizing the environment for discussion, dialogue, and policy.
By working to proliferate democracy, we are strengthening the access of
those folk to their governments, and in so doing opening and solidifying
their access to presence in that environment. American idealism and a
humane conscience dictate that every individual has a right to voice and
opinion in these dialogues. It is our responsibility as the
trailblazers of this great political system to ensure such access, just
as it is our responsibilty as a world leader to ensure the safety of the
system from the potentially violent expressions of certain opinions.
Put in simpler terms, everyone has a right to representation at the
table, no one has the right to come in shooting, and there will be armed
guards at every entrance to guarantee that this is so.
Secondly, in a situation such as Afghanistan where the present
government is arguably illegitimate, is without doubt a hindrance to the
process of bringing representation of its folk to the international
dialogue, and where evidence of violent attrocities and oppression of
its folk exists, it becomes important to remember why we've become
involved in the first place. An illegitimate regime holding power over
a nation weakens the security of our system of international dialogue.
Moreover, it works contrary to the humane and idealistic inspirations on
which society must be founded to be just. In such a situation, the
dismantling of the government and its subsequent reconstruction are not
simply an economic or military necessity, but also, and more
importantly, a responsibility of the powers of the world to that folk.
And just so there is no mistake, the "powers of the world" are nothing
more than the collective might, resolve, and inspiration of the folk of
those nations that have become world powers. The responsibility, though
many things, is in some degree a responsiblity of one individual for the
life and wellbeing of another.
This began as a simple argument in protection of the spirit of protest
as an American institution, but has grown, perhaps only a little, into a
discussion of some of the very spirit of America and democracy itself.
As informed and intelligent people we must recognize that to protest our
government is to take part in our government is to be very much a
patriot and is to express, however distorted by circumstance or personal
issue or whatever else distorts expressions as such expressions can and
do become, love for life, involvement in society, and responsibilty for
our fellow men and women. Heinlein suggested in a science fiction novel
that for one to be a citizen of a society it was necessary for that one
to serve his society first. In America, we have the opportunity to
serve as military personnel, rescue and safety personnel, policy-makers,
and as critics. All of these roles are necessary to make America great
as it was designed to be two hundred years ago, for this country's
greatness stems from the empowerment of its people, from the idealism of
its people, and from the role of responsibility it can and must play in
Just as an afterthought, as patriots our complaint cannot be with our
military who serve us, cannot be with out protesters who serve us,
cannot be with our government who by and large is us. If any complaint
is to be made, it can only be with those who choose not to make use of
the empowerment that is theirs as Americans, those who do not
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