Now that it’s the Fifth of July…
by Eric Jackson, a dual citizen thinking about his American side
With the pyrotechnics and patriotic gestures now put away until next year, perhaps it’s time for Americans — in the USA and around the world — to give serious thought to what it takes to rescue a country and a civilization.
There is no going back, even if this or that detail or law might be restored. Some, like the New Deal banking rules whose abolition paved the way for the 2008 financial collapse, absolutely should be. It is of no use top pretend that nothing has changed, nor should there be any fatalistic or facile acceptance that the changes that we have seen are all for the best.
There are bad people on the scene, for sure, but the moment that they are typecast as scapegoats or degraded to that modern form of outlawry that comes with being a media demon is the moment that they have caused us to take leave of our senses. Scapegoating and demonization leave us shorn of our sense of history and take away our ability to see people and situations as they really are. Such cognitive disabilities can allow those who don’t wish us well to manipulate us into doing self-destructive things. They rob us of the judgment needed to provide for a secure future.
Is North Korea’s boy tyrant — the guy who sent his agents to dupe a couple of women into killing his exiled brother, just because — a bad guy? It would depend on your sense of good and evil, but for the great majority of this planet’s inhabitants who know anything about him, he’s toxic. HIS Fourth of July rocket, an apparently successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, was meant to goad America into doing something stupid.
Do we nuke him, and run the risk that one of more of his nukes might get through to the USA, and the even greater risk that a world appalled at a “first use” of nuclear weapons would take measures to protect itself from the Americans? Do we play Kim’s assassination game? The United States Played that way in the early sixties. What we got was a blowback of political murder that ranged from men with licenses to kill in our popular culture to assassinations and attempts on the lives of many US leaders.
American vulnerability is not destruction by others. It’s not some foreign military threat. It’s not unfair competition in world economic relations. It’s not the importation of unsavory persons or products into the United States. All of those things have enough of a basis in reality that they can’t be ignored. However, hyping up the national immune system can give us a life-threatening reaction to a figurative bee sting.
We have been goaded into ruinous wars by minor wannabes, often characters of US creation. The blind rage has spilled over into attacks on people who had not attacked or threatened the United States. Afghanistan is America’s longest-running war, with no victory and no exit strategy in sight. The Levant and the Fertile Crescent are in flames. The notion that Washington can pick the right faction of the Sunni jihad and win some victory worth winning is madness — it’s the sort of thing that the founders of the American republic warned against. The danger is not of an Islamic State or North Korean conquest of the United States, but of America going bankrupt from fighting endless wars all over the world.
Might I suggest that America take care of Americans before denigrating or attacking others? Might I suggest that we cure some unhealthy social situations — things like the spike in opiate and opioid addiction — without all the demonization, hysteria, stereotypes and mass imprisonment? Might I suggest that America rebuild its peacetime industries — not to restore what was, but to create and protect the productive capacities of the future? Might I suggest that “heads I win, tails you lose” pass out of the realm of public policy and into that part of American cultural lore of which scary fiction is made?
Such suggestions will not fly with those who live in worlds of “alternative facts,” who can’t distinguish fact from fiction, who mistake reality TV for reality. Their minds might change in time, but that would be coincidental. America’s rescue and rejuvenation is a task for a coalition of the non-delusional.
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