WARS FOR THE WHITE NATION
The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties; the minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem really to be converting them. [From Zinn & Arnove, Voices of a People's History ..., p. 299.]...War, Bourne explains, creates such wrenching social divisions, that fellow citizens often turn on fellow citizens, with one side, usually the pro-war side, demeaning the other, antiwar side, as traitors to the nation -- as if the nation is the political leadership!
WARS FOR THE WHITE NATION
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
[Col. Writ. 11/28/04) Copyright 2004
We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens ... Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations. -- Emma Goldman, Radical Emigrant & Activist "Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty" (1908) (Fr. Howard Zinn & Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History of the United States (N.Y.: Seven Stories Press, 2004), p. 271]
In light of the recent election, these coming four years promise to be ones of continuing war. Nor will it end, no matter who is elected in 2008. That's because the major allegedly opposition party, given its deep corporate funding, will not dare to truly oppose the Administration. They fear being targeted as 'unpatriotic,' or, even worse, 'soft on terrorism.'
That's because, they know, at some level, that millions of Americans rally to the martial strains of war. Even a 'bad war.' Even one based upon false pretenses. Even one based upon that most ulterior of motives -- greed.
Some thinkers believe that Americans were perhaps too stupid to see past the Administration's smokescreen for the War on Iraq. I am not so convinced. I think many people simply didn't care.
Where, as here, the 'enemy' were nonwhite Arabs, and mostly, folks of an alien faith, it was easy to project them as fair game -- even if Iraq actually hadn't a thing to do with 9/11.
There's simply something about the allure of war, that writer and social critic, Randolph Bourne, put quite nicely, in his 1918 essay, "The State":
War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties; the minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem really to be converting them. [From Zinn & Arnove, Voices of a People's History ..., p. 299.]
War, Bourne explains, creates such wrenching social divisions, that fellow citizens often turn on fellow citizens, with one side, usually the pro-war side, demeaning the other, antiwar side, as traitors to the nation -- as if the nation is the political leadership!
While Bourne was describing the events around World War I, his insights reflect our present, under the power of this "wartime... uniformity of feeling" [p. 299].
Bourne tells us:
Not for any religious impulse could the American nation have been expected to show such devotion en masse, such sacrifice and labor. Certainly not for any secular good, such as universal education or the subjugation of nature, would it have poured forth its treasure and its life, or would it have permitted such stern coercive measures to be taken against it, such as conscripting its money and its men. But for the sake of a war of offensive self-defense, undertaken to support a difficult cause to the slogan of "democracy," it would reach the highest level ever known of collective effort .... [p. 300].
We are conditioned to, for the most part, quietly accept it; to not rock the boat; to go with the flow.
Yet it's also true that Americans, by their millions, all across the country, came out to oppose the war -- before a shot was fired!
Perhaps it reflects a deep-seated distrust of political promises and claims to justify wars. Certainly, American presidents throughout the 20th century, have given people enough reason to be skeptical. Perhaps they came from families where men returned, in shattered bodies, or fractured minds, from glorious wars past. Perhaps people simply knew that this war had nothing to do with that war.
It is a good start, and would've been far better if people really continued to protest, in great numbers, throughout the election year. But, of course, this didn't happen. But people learn, especially if the lesson is a painful one. Perhaps, in the future, they will not stop, until they force the politicians to hear them.
Text © copyright 2004 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.
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