We live in a shitty society. When you look at our history, which so few people aside from those overtly oppressed by this society–because, face it, overtly oppressed people have little or nothing to lose and much to gain from critiques of history and social norms–when you even begin to look at our history with a consciousness that is not colonized by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, you must come to terms with perpetual terror. Horror. Genocide, enslavement, the shackling of personhood to economic interests.
My naivete began to end on September 11th, 2001. Being from a white middle-class background, having been educated in public schools, somehow I assumed that, in the face of an overt terror attack, the government and citizens of the United States of America would take a measured response. Investigate. Ponder. Consider foreign policy. Consider the problem.
Somewhere along the line, I missed the cultural indoctrination, the secret memo passed around that said, the Declaration of Independence and basic human rights don’t apply to all people the same way; people? Why, that’s a very limited category, don’t you know? No, rather, I took seriously the words of the Declaration, that all men (which I was educated to believe meant people, not just males) are created equal, endowed with unalienable rights like Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness with a capital H.
I internalized the notion that women were equal to men.
I took the Civil Rights movement seriously and assumed that we’d moved into enlightened territory regarding race–although, living as I did in South Carolina, certain tensions were evident. But I assumed those tensions were not widespread in the nation; this was, after all, South Carolina.
I assumed that the hippies had won significant gains in the struggle for peace.
I was 14 when Operation Desert Storm was executed. Watching the bombs drop on CNN, war playing out like a video game. That felt wrong to me.
Perhaps Operation Desert Storm was the moment when cracks began to form in my cognitive model of my country. Ten years later, planes destroyed the World Trade Center and my country’s response to that act destroyed my faith in it. The backlash to the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, commonly described as the “war on terror”, is ongoing. The trauma inflicted by this so-called war far exceeds the trauma of the destruction of those towers. It far exceeds any notion of justice. It is retribution. It is punishment. It is white supremacist capitalist patriarchy raging against the Other. It is not a war. It is a holocaust.
White supremacist capitalist patriarchy knows how to execute a holocaust. The destruction of Native America–an insufficient term for the diverse indigenous societies so nearly extirpated by European colonization that the remains have been partitioned into reservations–is a holocaust. The execution of this Indigenous Holocaust was fundamental in shaping the world we all inhabit, this technological dystopia so frequently mistaken for progress. This Indigenous Holocaust is ongoing.
White supremacist capitalist patriarchy knows how to execute a holocaust. The forced removal of millions of Africans from their homes; their subsequent storage below decks in ships in service of their dehumanization and subjugation, their treatment as property, as objects; the over two and a half centuries of enslavement; the fraud of their emancipation; the struggle of survivors of chattel slavery to come up and thrive in the face of and inside of a system that was and continues to be based on dehumanizing them–that is a holocaust. The execution of this African Holocaust was fundamental in shaping the world we all inhabit, this technological dystopia so frequently mistaken for progress. This African Holocaust is ongoing.
Refinement of bomb-dropping and on-the-ground combat into drone warfare is not going to protect us from terror; it is terror, and its result will be terror. Refinement of fuel consumption and pursuit of mythical sustainability in a world that has far exceeded its carrying capacity will not correct climate change; climate change is likely irreversible by now, and we are likely to be forced into a radical revision of the way in which we live on Earth and interact with its ecosystems. Reform of police departments through tracking of police homicides and the use of body cameras will not end the problem of police brutality; the policing system, like the military, is rooted in violent repression of the Other.
We cannot engage democratically with each other to solve our pressing problems in a framework of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, which by its very nature is anti-democratic. White supremacist capitalist patriarchy excludes a high percentage of the population from meaningful engagement in the democratic process. It always has. It always will.