One of the great things about empire is it doesn’t attempt to hide its monstrosity. The latest “Military Parade” stunt, normally reserved in Western cultural imaginations for Stalinist USSR, Maoist China, and North Korea, has now come home to roost. The spiritual decedents of Prussian government, the command and control act of the US government, long warned by its own commander and chief as a Military Industrial Complex, is reaching new vulgar displays of power (to quote the title of the metal band Pantera’s best-selling album). We’ve got the quintessential fast-talking recovering coke addict playing the part of the president, and a cabinet to back up this vaudeville act. The only problem, of course, is that if we don’t put our foot down to the endless tomfoolery, that more and more people will suffer and die, far into the future, as a result of our negligence as citizens in charge of maintaining sanity in our land.
Native Americans, Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, women, and LGBTQ communities are the hardest hit, and the most woke to the ratcheting up of the reign of terror they have already been experiencing since before the dawn of US statehood. The savagery and exclusionism, the dehumanization, and arbitrary violence against these groups has caused them to be much more aware of the injustices systematically imposed by generations of American leaders, and written into the Constitution. It’s been slow going too for middle-class and poor white Americans to realize that they are next in line on the chopping block. Part of the problem of the cognitive isolationism of American culture is that we are wholly unaware of the crimes perpetrated world wide in order to keep us from noticing.
As Rob Nixon writes in Slow Violence, “It is a pervasive condition of empires that they affect great swaths of the planet without the empire’s populace being aware of that impact–indeed, without being aware that many of the affected places even exist” (p. 35). Our ignorance is their currency of continued plunder. We are underwriting “making the world safe for democracy,” by not actually keeping tabs on the rest of the world or democracy. This is because, Nixon argues, capitalism has an “innate tendency to abstract in order to extract,” allowing the “body count of slow violence” to be “diffused–and defused–by time” (p. 41).
When The Hill reports that “Opponents of the parade, both Democratic and Republican, have argued that a military demonstration of this level could send the wrong message and make the U.S. appear ‘totalitarian,'” that should give us cause to stop and think. Instead of barreling ahead with more disastrous displays of our collective buffoonery, such a blatantly superficial and bellicose act could, in a world not overworked by the exigencies of capitalism, serve as yet another rallying point for diplomacy, reason, and de-escalation–in a similar way that the uproar and direct action in response to Florida’s recent school shooting is f i n a l l y causing even the most retrograde politicians and unrelenting corporations to distance themselves from the NRA and propose concrete solutions to the exceptional deadly gun violence.
We need more #metoo moments, but not manufactured ones in order to take down the opposition. We need to expose those who warrant exposing. The games of politics have always been rife with blackmail, espionage, and intrigue. But rape and pedophilia, still appallingly frequent in the most hallowed halls of government, deserves punishment to the fullest extent of the law, and restitution to all victims. When these various movements, and their courageous leaders see the intersectionality of the violence they successfully have been fighting against, then real transformation will happen, and then, perhaps, we don’t have to worry about our elected officials calling US plans and actions totalitarian.