War and Peace in the 21st Century
by Roberto Cintli Rodriguez
Despite the political rhetoric, America is not defined by its division into red and blue states, but by its addiction to imperialism, exceptionalism and a military budget that positions it as The United States of War.
In the United States, Arizona has come to represent many things; a super-magnet for the ignorant, the backward and the insane; a home to racial supremacists and xenophobes and, most of all, a laboratory for hate legislation.
And yet its real political function nowadays is that of a convenient political distraction.
Truth is, Arizona is but a mirror of the rest of the nation. It is what permits Americans to point the finger at this desolate state, allowing them to feel superior because it represents what America isn’t. Arizona is purportedly the past, symbolized by its right wing kooks like Gov. Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Attorney General Tom Horne, ad nauseam.
But Arizona is an aberration only in a symbolic sense. Such “aberrations” permit the media overlords and their talking heads to have a field day discussing our most recent elections. It permits them to exuberantly dissect the exit polls, break down demographics, examine the Latino and women’s vote and the coming new majority, which includes people of color, white women and the LGBT community. It permits them to discuss what this means for the future of the nation, without ever broaching the most important topic of all: war.
For many conservatives, this coming new majority — represented by the browning of America — is already here and signals the end of the American Dream. For these conservatives, President Obama and this new majority are prima facie evidence for what Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly recently proclaimed: that traditional America no longer exists.
Contrarily, for the liberal talking heads, this new majority represents a more enlightened America; one that believes in human rights for all and that is more tolerant and more embracing of different peoples, cultures, languages, lifestyles and beliefs. The liberal talking heads believe in the possibility of a new America.
With the president’s re-election, it appears that the old America is withering away while the new one is ascendant. And there is no turning back.
If this were true, even at a symbolic level, this would represent great news. But this is not quite reality. Through all this discussion, nary a word has been spoken about the business of America: not democracy, not human rights, not equality, but this nation’s addiction to war.
Who can deny that for all intents and purposes, we now live in The United States of War? Translation: The USA is the imperial power of our times.
Military weaponry, in effect, is this nation’s number one domestic product and its number one export. Of the top 15 most powerful nations, the United States spends more on its military than the other 14 nations combined, to the tune of $700 billion dollars in 2012, accounting for some 40 percent of the world’s military spending. Yet, beyond hardware, what it is actually exporting and spreading is its historic ideology: manifest destiny and today’s secular equivalents: American exceptionalism and global dominance.
The previous president put that ideology into effect with his belief that America had the inherent right to pursue unilateral permanent worldwide war, thus blurring the lines between legal and illegal wars and also at the expense of our rights, liberties, due process and privacy.
One could divide up those who believe or oppose that ideology into Republican and Democratic camps, but the reality of President Obama’s first four years in office is that party affiliation seems to be irrelevant. He has embraced that ideology perhaps even more wholeheartedly than his predecessor. Evidence of this is his expanded use of drone warfare (targeted assassinations sans trials) on a global scale.
And yet it is not simply the president. The new majority has not thus far challenged that imperial ideology. The Middle East is one example: Polls indicate that the majority of Americans continue to support Israeli occupation and aggression (under the guise of defense) against the Palestinian people. And the president’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, with his supporters’ acquiescence, have shown little difference from those of his predecessor.
After the Cold War, the nation had a short-lived discussion regarding the peace dividend. In a similar vein, the ascendancy of this new electoral majority calls for a new discussion regarding not simply the future of this nation, but about its militaristic character. Absent this discussion, it will matter little how Latinos vote or who this new majority puts into office.
One can infer that this new majority doesn’t simply want that discussion; it also wants its own peace dividend, not simply at home, but abroad. Judging from right wing discontent, peace won’t be gifted to them; it will have to be fought for. Given President Obama’s past inclination to appease and accommodate the wishes of his enemies, rather than those of his liberal/progressive supporters, he is unlikely to gift peace either. Let the fight for peace begin.
Roberto Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Arizona and a member of the Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board. He blogs at Dr. Cintli and can be reached at [email protected]. This article is copyrighted by Truthout.org, and is reprinted with permission from Truthout.