Wednesday, October 03, 2012

As a matter of fact...

"We have nothing against you as a people," it is often said; "our argument is with your leaders." Well, I actually think we can have a beef with the American people after the current election, and Conor Friedersdorf has made it very clear why.

Consider the fact that the vast majority of American voters will vote for either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama in November. This means they will not choose a president who intends to cease hostilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but will, instead, continue to do whatever serves "US interests in the region". That means that the drone war (which Romney does not disapprove of, as far as I can tell) will continue. Terrorizing thousands of ordinary people. Also, nothing very serious is going to get done about America's financial oligarchy, which will continue to dominate world finance and, as a consequence, come between the anxious mother and her ability to feed her hungry child all over the planet.

Meanwhile, other candidates, like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, have stepped up. They would do something about the military and financial violence that the US does in the world.

But the "issues" that will determine the choice between Obama and Romney have to do mainly with ensuring continued access to entitlements for Americans (simplifying somewhat, the question is on what end of the income scale the entitlements will be maintained or expanded.) That is, "it's about the economy, stupid," i.e., the American economy. It's about whether or not Americans have jobs, not whether or not America will continue to fight its wars.

Most of all, it's about preserving the lifestyle and privileges of the middle class, as well as a few (given the harsh realities elsewhere in the world) rather exotic "rights". In addition to worrying about how to continue to live lives of unprecedented comfort, we have here a nation that is enormously conflicted about, say, gay marriage. At the same time, it appears to be of virtually one mind about bombing civilians in foreign countries. (The key question seems to be: should it be at all apologetic about it? Not, should it stop?) As an outside observer, might one recommend first discussing the question of who you are going to kill, and thereafter taking up the question of who you're going to allow to marry? It would just seem to indicate a saner scale of values.

(Needless to say, if the productive capacity of America stopped being expended in wars to enrich the already rich, the lifestyles of the great majority of Americans would be just fine. Unless of course we buy the premise that America's lifestyle depends on the spoils of war. In which case America really needs to make do with less, don't you think?)

This is really what I think Friedersdorf is trying to get us to understand. The moral questions about sexuality, race and abortion will take a great deal of discussion, as it already has, over many generations. For the people who are currently at the front of America's wars on drugs and terror, there are, I think, more pressing concerns. A truly great nation would put the question of who it is afflicting on its frontier well ahead of the question how it might get a bit more comfortable in the homeland.

UPDATE: This BloggingHeads conversation gets to the core of it at around 61 minute mark.

CF: "Some progressives put insufficient value on the lives and rights of muslims."

MC: "I'm a progressive...I think the surge is indefensible [because a thousand Americans have died] … but I will vote for Obama because when I weigh that issue against the 30 million Americans who have health care, that's more important to me."

My point in this post, and my previous one, is that progressives believe that the benefits that Americans derive from their health care system is more important than the damage that their warfare system causes non-Americans. (It's a "gotcha" moment, I know, but, especially given the context, it is really embarrassing for Cohen that he emphasizes that the problem with the surge lies in the amount of american lives lost. After the 66:00 minute mark, Cohen becomes simply unhinged. He's trying to win an argument and forgets what he's saying. Roughly speaking, we find him saying that you can weigh 1,000 foreign killings against 150,000 domestic savings, but not 1,000 domestics killings against those same savings. At 75:05 Friedersdorf masterfully sharpens this point and holds Cohen to it.)

My view is that they should stop killing people at the frontier, and only then think about how to redistribute the peace dividend at home. There is a vast moral difference between not providing health care to someone and making war on their homes and villages. You can't just go ahead and do both and then "weigh" the pros and cons.

2 comments:

Maya Borhani said...

thank you for writing, Thomas.

Your insights are spot-on.

have fwd-ed to a listserv of poets and thinkers, and will be curious to hear their response. Most here follow C. Hedges, but you've pointed out things he has never hooked up, per se. Thank you.

Maya

Thomas said...

Thanks. Yes, I think Hedges has a similar perspective on things.