Friday, April 26, 2013

Chapter 101: In Which I Talk About Hope for the Human Race

I've been having a lot of hope for the human race lately.

Right after the Boston Marathon bombings, an online newspaper posted an old article about the United States bombing a wedding party in Afghanistan. It was almost ten years old, which people noted, and I suspect it was some kind of prank. But the intention of the prank was clear. We did murder those people in cold blood. Why didn't their deaths get mainstream coverage?

The bombings started a flurry of interesting articles about how the US reports its news. How the deaths of a bunch of white people in Boston is a tragedy, but the children murdered in Obama's drone strikes don't get reported. How there's no news coverage when the police kill another black child. The bombing, which ten years ago would be a rallying cry or a troop surge, instead caused a conversation about how white bodies are valued more than brown ones. And how, just because you're American, it doesn't make your life worth more. Condolences were coming in from countries that have been the victim of US oppression. Not for the government of course, but for the people who have no choice when the war is brought home.

That's exactly the kind of conversation we need to be having when this happens. I'm sure there were all sorts of folks, with their varying reasons, saying we should retaliate against somebody. But that wasn't the overwhelming discourse. The discourse I saw was about how we need to stop acting like we're special flowers whenever our country gets attacked. That white kid's life is not worth more than the hundreds of kids Obama has killed. If these Chechnyan fellows were inspired by their Muslim beliefs, then the Boston bombing is just one more tally in the neverending Christians vs. Muslims land dispute that's been going on since the Dark Ages. It's ancient, tedious, and entirely destructive. While it enables people like the Bush family to make money and name giant buildings after themselves, all it yields for the smallfolk is marathon bombings and drone attacks.

I haven't heard any great outcry for Obama to bomb anybody. Part of that is politics. The drive for the Iraq War in 2003 was always terribly partisan, and those who supported Bush's wars saw it primarily as a victory for white Republicans, a way to stick their tongue out at liberals and liberal allies, such as al Qaeda. No Republican wants to give Obama the chance to strut around in a flight suit, so that's why he does the same backdoor bombings that Clinton specialized in. In addition, and this is just a theory, I'm starting to think Americans are finally getting tired of war. We've been at it for twelve years now, and we've started to learn that there is no benefit. Nothing's gotten better. I spend much of my time around young people, and there seems to be a weariness with this state of endless fear and death. I can only call it a cultural maturation, after 9/11 turned us into a nation of adolescents throwing temper tantrums. What matters is that no politician has gained political traction off this tragedy, and that's a good thing, because they sure as hell want to.

The other recent score for the human race: dancing on Margaret Thatcher's grave.

Her death was the opportunity to learn more about her. God, what a vile person. Between invading the Falklands so she could win an election, supporting apartheid, supporting the Gulf War, cracking down on the miners, and privatizing everything in sight, the woman had a level of ambitiousness to her oppression that is unmatched outside of Bond villains. And the news of her death spurred England to engage in an honest and refreshing condemnation of the woman and everything she stood for.

This could have gone the other way. I remember when Reagan died, the Republicans had a week-day long state funeral on the country's dime. While I appreciated the assurance that he was dead, it was pretty disgraceful. This started the lionizing of Reagan's memory that they still use as political currency whenever they deny people healthcare or take away a woman's right to choice. Reagan was, at best, a senile old man who let his underlings do whatever they wanted and, at worst, the typical shady gangster that's been running the GOP for the last fifty years. And English conservatives were out in full force trying to spin the story like their American counterparts did.

The difference is, they weren't dominating the podium, turning Thatcher into a saint. They were too busy engaging in arguments. They were arguing on the comment section of The Guardian with the miners who Thatcher victimized. Instead of blithely naming her a feminist icon and savior of England, conservative politicians spent their time decrying those who were in the streets partying. Is it tactful to party when somebody dies? Not really, but it's about as honest a display of emotion as can be seen. It was also preemptive protest. The conservatives would use Thatcher's name to justify their policies, but the English people won't let them. "Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead" went soaring up the charts, and that's her legacy.

Those who control the means of communication control what is considered normal. They can say that Saddam Hussein was golf buddies with bin Laden and that becomes "truth." But nowadays the means of communication are not so concentrated and what we have here are common people getting into the conversation before the powers that be define what is truth. That's what needs to be done in order to make sure we have an honest conversation about our world today. The first step to having, say, a world in which the lives of brown-skinned children are ascribed value, is to have wide groups of people question the injustice.

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