Saturday, March 20, 2004

Ojo Caliente- A New Civil War

Art Jacobson, who sometimes guest blogs here, wrote in his own blog, Ojo Caliente, about feeling a certain turning of the screw of late in political discourse, both in the public and private realms. "Something is different about this political cycle, and I seriously wonder if it won’t leave the nation more radically divided than any previous ‘campaign,’" he writes. "I need help getting clear about this myself. What do you think?" The crux of his concern seems to be that "when the election is over…whether we win or lose…there will be no coming together of any sort whatsoever."

Indeed. What do you think? Please leave comments on his blog or this one. I share his concern and go beyond it to a fair degree of certainty that, one way or the other, there won't be much room for a diversity of opinion following this election. Here is what I think:

"I think that it might be high time for America to get the shit slapped out of it, and to have a few scales dropped from our collective eyes. We've been living in a security state for the past 60 years that has been responsible for untold suffering and death, predominantly by the peoples of the third world. We have been the lucky few beneficiaries of that suffering. Now those same people, thanks to our own folly, the massive flood of arms we have spread across the earth, and globalization, have discovered means by which they can carry the fight home to us. The security state is now busy turning inwards, consolidating their control, in order to fight on the new battlefield - our own country. The result is the fascistic turn in our political cuture that we are witnessing.

"The battle will come home, not just in terms of terrorism, but as civil unrest and violence as the security state attempts to crack down here at home to create a united front on the home front. The result will be clashes between elements of the state and the citizenry that we can no longer ignore. The cameras turned away from the repression and brutality in Miami, but the battles will next be in New York, Boston, and TODAY, the anniversary of the Gulf War, as activists mobilize across the entire nation and the world (including here in Tucson at 10am at the UA mall). There's a limit even to the blindness of the mainstream press. If there is blood on the streets and some heads broken, then that may be the price paid to awaken a self-indulgent and self-absorbed America from it's long bout of denial.

"I think the whiff of violence you caught is only the edge of a front of stench swiftly closing in. People are at a snapping point; conversation and compromise are swiftly becoming irrelevant. Push is coming to shove, and slinging mud will turn to flinging rocks. It may take this to discredit the security state, to uncover its snarling face and iron club for all to see. The ugliness is already apparent in the halls of power, in our foreign policy, and in the unabashed cruelty of the Bush domestic agenda, for anyone who knows what they are looking at. But to those to whom names like Lumumba, Mosadegh, Allende, and Arbenz, or places like East Timor, Cambodia, Mozambique, or El Salvador, mean nothing in particular, days are coming in which they will learn what sort of country they are REALLY living in. How we deal with widespread knowledge that modern America is only a comforting veil draped over a mangled corpse, will be the real test of whether the coming months will be a needed purge, or a dangerous retreat further into denial."

I am afraid that interesting times are upon us, and that the beast that we created, the secretive and unaccountable security state, lurking under the thin skin of our Constitutional order, will not retreat safely into hibernation. No. Ringed around with terrorist threats, and faced with the dawning realization of the people that perhaps the United States can no longer afford to spend more on its military than budgets of the next dozen largest militaries on earth combined, as it is, it will chose to fight. And only one of us is coming out of the battle alive.

Either civil society, with its civil rights and Constitutional political system, or the security state, with its immense power, secrecy, incestuous bureaucratic politics, and monopoly on the use of coersive force, will survive the struggle. They cannot both rule the same nation. We were relatively safe so long as the security state was largely directed outward, at play in the rough and tumble of international affairs. But now that the security state sees a threat here at home in form of international terrorism, it is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with sharing power with the Constitutional order, and increasingly adept at operating in a domestic arena. In the end, only one system can survive. And that is what concerns me.


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