Archives for posts with tag: America

The war in Afghanistan began with the oppressive, theocratic Taliban in power, and ended with the oppressive, theocratic Taliban in power. Sisyphus rolled his Katamari Damacy boulder up the mountain, and it rolled right back down again. The absurdity of the war is obvious on its face, but there is a desperation to find meaning within it that would make Camus blush. Though it’s somewhat old news by now, during the American withdrawal, there was all sorts of noise about how Western forces were abandoning their Afghan comrades to the brutality of the Taliban.

I am not trying to diminish the severity of what the Taliban has done and will continue to do with those dissenting under its rule. My glibness comes as a result of the crocodile tears shed over the bodies of those slain during the withdrawal from the war that ignore the over a hundred thousand bodies that accumulated preceding it. Losing a war is bloody; that’s the reality of war. If you don’t like it, maybe question the war itself rather than the means of its end.

The realities of war

The tears come from the bipartisan desire to create meaning in a pointless war: if there are good Afghans to save, it means that the war produced good Afghans worth saving. Nobody would have given a shit about them otherwise; the West would be much more inclined toward taking refugees if there was a heartfelt belief that we need to create a safe haven for those fleeing violence and persecution. The sad irony is that those whose freedom from the Taliban was being demanded were those who had aligned themselves with the invaders, cementing the linking of a “good” Afghan with their complicity in the war.

Another central tenet that the war in Afghanistan was meaningful is the women’s liberation that the war provided. Some women were able to go to school, and therefore 20 years of death, torture, and war crimes are vindicated. Those women are worse off now than they were before; again, no argument, but finding miniscule acts of success to justify what is otherwise 20 years of pointless war is incredibly ignorant. In actuality, using war to generate feminism is more likely to produce a nation of incels who see feminism as cancer than an Islamic Feminine Mystique.

Thanks, Betty Friedan!

Using feminism as justification for the war in Afghanistan, and gesturing loosely toward the mostly urban women who benefited, pointedly ignores the majority of women who live in rural settings where most of the war took place. Afghan women were certainly not benefitting from the war when they and their families were dying from it. The quick rise of the Taliban points to a nation hungry for incel-logic; Afghanistan may actually be worse off than it was 20 years ago from the perspective of democratic and liberal reformation due to the brutality used allegedly in its name. Sisyphus’s boulder fell back down the mountain and into a ravine. The West tried to viciously impose liberal secularism in Iran with the Shah, and he too was violently overthrown by a virulently religious fundamentalist group. Any positive regard held for Western ideals is just as dead as all the rest of them.

The war made Afghanistan worse, and for what? The bipartisan narrative adopted in much of the media paints the picture of a blundering but ultimately benevolent force trying so hard to do good but occasionally failing in simple but horrific ways. Like if Rocky Balboa knocked out Apollo Creed in the first round, but because his eyes were all bruised up and he couldn’t see, he wandered into the crowd and begun striking civilians at random. At home we’re watching and thinking, no! Rocky! If only Mickey had cut you so you could see! We are helpless as Rocky bludgeons old women and children in his missteps. Then, after the crowd boos too loudly for too long, we lament Rocky leaving, shaking our heads at the blows he receives on his way out the door. Meanwhile, Apollo Creed has gotten up and dusted himself off, and being the only one left standing in the ring, claims victory.

YO AMERICAAAAAAAA!

We could still love Rocky after such a blunder. It’s forgivable. But that’s not how war works. The better analogy would be if Rocky was at a bus stop where Apollo Creed was reading a newspaper, and Rocky was like, “I heard you hate women!” and then pulled out a gun and shot him. Then he wandered away from the bus stop to a nearby wedding reception and shot up the guests. And he did so with eyes wide open.

The West knew what was going on in Afghanistan. They’re actively preventing themselves from being held accountable to international law. We’ve had whistleblowers point out the war’s criminality to us repeatedly and they’re all being punished for it by both American political parties. And for what? For what? For literally no reason. Terrorism didn’t go away; Al-Qaeda evolved into ISIS-K. Afghanistan is fully red pilled. America wanted war instead of justice, the rest of the West went along with it, and this is what we’re left with.

Cartoons make the villains easy to spot!

I’ve purposefully avoided talking about the military-industrial complex and how the reason for the war is obviously all the money that was made by the defense contractors and weapons manufacturers. It’s not that I disagree, it’s that we don’t have a smoking gun pointing to that level of Machiavellianism, and I want to be as convincing as possible. The war is provably pointless in a way that ought to make us reflect on why it ever happened in the first place. When there is no justification for a war, it’s a lot easier to compare it to straight-up murder. The war in Afghanistan was criminal. Those who participated in it are criminals. Anyone saying otherwise is covering up a crime.

While maybe not surprising to long-term readers who have been following since I wrote an article defending communism, I am now writing an article about how maybe we could all use a little less freedom. George W. Bush was right: we hate your freedoms, and we’re coming to take them away. Sorry America, but the terrorists just had the better argument. Blame the free market of ideas, and then marvel at the irony.

The thing is, freedom is actually a paradoxical ideology. Universal freedom is necessarily contradictory. The current “debate” about masking during a pandemic is case-in-point. If you are free to disregard masks and parade around mouth-breathing your aerosol droplets all over me, my freedom to avoid getting sick from Covid is reduced. There are millions of examples you can come up with: my freedom to be verbally abusive limits your freedom from verbal abuse. If you are free to make puns, it renders my freedom to live in a world without puns sadly utopian. If you believe yourself free to cheat on your monogamous partner and your excuse is, “I thought this was America!”, you will quickly discover that people aren’t super thrilled when your alleged freedom impinges on their own.

Kill me.

Am I entitled to mature and well-developed humour? Maybe not. Am I entitled to health? This point becomes harder to argue against. Am I entitled to health that is not being actively damaged by the choices of others? It would probably be a good idea to have a society that adopts that mentality, yeah. The issue is that the debate never focuses on the issues impacted by the free actions of others, and the freedoms they might be reducing in turn. It typically focuses on ‘freedom’ as an abstract, unexamined concept that just has that certain je-ne-sais-quoi that most people find appealing. Even those denouncing the demands of those freedom-loving anti-maskers won’t condemn the concept of freedom itself, but you heard it here first: freedom the way most people imagine it is a masturbatory fantasy.

Freedom advocates would argue that freedom should not exist completely deregulated, but that the only reasonable regulations are negative ones: you can’t murder, for example, but you shouldn’t be compelled to act in any particular way. Hence, you can’t make me put on a mask, you commie! However, the limits on negative regulation are arbitrary. Being forbidden from making puns is a negative regulation, but I have yet to come across a libertarian seriously making this argument despite its expansive merit. The distinction between negative and positive impositions on freedom is completely meaningless, and doesn’t address my original point that all the actions we take are going to be affecting those around us in ways that may well reduce their freedom. While this is a small case of conjecture, I can speculate that the ‘true believers’ would say that those who are negatively impacted by their free actions should just suck it up; they should content themselves with having less freedom than others. Sounds completely reasonable and not at all systemically oppressive.

Those kids should be free to do whatever they want, and if she doesn’t like it, she has the freedom to start her *own* school!

Freedom is a pretty great idea. I like being able to do things, but I also recognize that I am one individual among many with equal entitlement to the things that I ought to be entitled to. I want to be healthy, but I have to recognize that everyone else wants to be healthy too. I want to live in a world without puns, but I have to recognize that other people have the wrong sense of humour, and I just have to live with their wrongness. If I begin to act in a way that limits the puns of others using my own freedom to coerce their behaviour, I am limiting their freedom to make awful “jokes.” I would appreciate the same consideration when I make delightful and well-timed fart jokes from the plebeians that simply don’t understand the nuance!

When we recognize the needs of others as equally requiring consideration, we recognize that we must be responsible to those needs and our freedom must be curtailed. If we disregard the needs of others, we are not actually advocating for universal freedom, we are demanding selfish preference. Freedom is not generalizable, but the great thing about responsibility is that it is! Everyone is capable of shouldering equal amounts of responsibility to their neighbour. An argument could be made that some parties may be more responsible than others (more polluting nations are more responsible for reining in their carbon emissions to address climate change, for example), but aspirational responsibility is not as contradictory as aspirational freedom.

I may have lived long enough to see myself become the villain, here

Viktor Frankl is quoted as saying that America needs a Statue of Responsibility to temper its Statue of Liberty, and his worries are coming to deadly fruition today. Politicians and pundits that espouse and proselytize freedom can only be pandering to the selfish ego of their followers, by the very nature of the ideology they are spouting. The purposeful disregard and neglect of one’s neighbour is the disregard and neglect of their freedom. I guess the point is you’re not supposed to give a shit about your neighbour because your freedom is the only freedom that matters.

Let’s instead work toward a universal responsibility. It’s not particularly difficult because it’s something that can be adopted in every action. We can be responsible to others as individuals; it can be foisted upon our politicians and other macro-level actors sure, and adopted by corporations and those on the mezzo level too. Everyone can be responsible. The less we focus on a pointless concept like freedom, the more we can focus on taking care of one another. I think the world would be much better off, and we’d probably have fewer Covid cases too.

In the wake of the treasonous insurrection that beset the US capitol building, Joe Biden was quick to claim that this does not reflect the “true” America. This is a fantasy. It is a fantasy just as much as Trump’s claim that he won the election is a fantasy. Childish Gambino summed it up in song long ago, but dissidents have known this for even longer. Noam Chomsky identified the Republican party as the most dangerous organization in human history, pointing to its self-enriching climate denial and nuclear militarism, necessarily fed by a distracting, rabid ideology that led to the Trumpism that is incinerating the country (and the world) today. This isn’t new. This isn’t shocking. This kind of thing doesn’t just appear out of nowhere; it’s a creeping infection.

Consider this. During the insurrection, police were videotaped opening the barricades to allow the traitors to storm the capitol. They were similarly taking selfies together. This harkens back to when police thanked Kyle Rittenhouse for his “vigilantism” during the George Floyd protests almost immediately prior to him murdering two Black Lives Matter protesters, and then allowing him to walk right past them after he was done. The police are the arm of the system, and the tacit, systemic allowance of far-right radicalization and extremism that has permeated the country is emblematic of its culpability. Far-right terrorism is the greatest domestic threat to the country, but federal law enforcement prefers to investigate environmentalists. This radicalism has been built up over decades and decades, and is egged on by political malfeasance.

Law and Order for some

Joe Biden wants to “reach across the aisle” to work with Republicans in order to unite the country after four years of increasing divisiveness. I guess he thinks that further tax cuts, greater environmental deregulation, and more law and order will bring the QAnon fanatics back to reality? The image of Democrats created by Republicans is as Venezuelan Bolsheviks. Democrats will tank the economy through hyper-inflation, impose a totalitarian invasion of personal privacy, and lock up in the gulags anyone who so much as blinks the wrong way. Obamacare, née the Affordable Care Act, was literally created by a Republican, but because of its adoption by the liberal side of the spectrum, it needs to be dismantled. If Biden wants to work with Republicans, he’s going to have to consider that 70% of them believe he stole the election through widespread voter fraud. How do you compromise with a false reality that won’t even bother to acknowledge your effort to connect? Well, it seems like Biden is making his attempt by trying to silence activists who want to defund the police because he doesn’t want to be framed as soft on crime. Biden could claim that he would increase funding to the police, or choose a tough-on-crime prosecutor as his Vice President, and neither of those things will placate the Republican accusations. Biden will impose anarchy in the USA, and he could execute all the BLM leaders in front lawn of the White House, and he would still be a socialist enabler. How can you appease someone who thinks you’re a pedophilic cannibal who worships Satan? Why would you even bother?

Maybe there is an argument that the “adults in the room” will reassert control after the departure of the current fascist. However, do you remember when John McCain denied that Obama was an Arab which is now looked at so fondly as a Republican who knew how to handle conspiracy theories? Take a look at the video in the hyperlink again. When the woman says the word Arab, John McCain smiles before saying “No ma’am.” While Trump was profiting off the Birther movement, the establishment Republicans were well aware of the narrative they were subtly weaving. The “adult” Republicans introduced the “Southern Strategy” and have been using dog-whistle racism for decades. This current chaos is the child of these “adults”, and they seem to have no inclination to issue any consequences. Yet the Democrats seem to think that acquiescing to bad faith madness is an appropriate strategy, and they’ll stymie potential allies who are looking to actually improve the world in order to do it. The thing is, the Democrats are just as culpable for American decline as Republicans through their enabling and mutual goals of self-enrichment.

The Democrats will frame it in the language of care and the importance of process, while the Republicans will frame it in the language of might, but the underlying content will remain the same

Americans want progressive change. Government healthcare is actually increasing in popularity across the spectrum, yet Joe Biden is against it even though it is ultimately more popular than he is (63% compared to 55%). Florida, in addition to voting for Donald Trump, voted to increase their minimum wage. Other States, who only marginally supported Biden, passed laws to decriminalize all drugs (Oregon) and increase taxes on the rich (Arizona). When removed from tribal politics, the things that will obviously improve the lives of citizens are quite popular. These ideas have legs when they are sampled at the grassroots level, but always seem to die when they reach the political heights. Perhaps it is because the needs of the people have been consistently ignored by both national parties that the country is burning, and only competing delusional narratives dominate the political discourse, whether the immigrants are invading or that everything is fine for everyone. No wonder then that people cling to delusions to justify their situation and then fight to defend them.

The next panel is the dog nostalgically reminiscing about the original arsonist.

The institutions of America appear to be standing firm, for now. Biden did win the election, and it was certified by the electoral college as well as congress despite attempts to supplant the democratically elected leader with a tyrant. The court challenges were all thrown out. Arrests are even being made, despite police complicity, though the treatment of those attempting to overthrow the government ought to be compared to those who were protesting police violence. The point is, it is unlikely that this coup attempt will succeed due to the sustained functioning of democratic institutions like elections and the court system. However, it could just be Trump’s incompetence that allowed the American experiment to limp on. A proper dictator would have followed through on his promise to join his militia in their storming of the capitol, but Trump just went home to Tweet. It’s blind luck America developed a fascist so lazy he can’t even be bothered to participate in his own overthrow of democracy.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that these institutions can be sustained forever in a culture as cancerous as American politics. Republicans seem intent on dismantling them for their own benefit, and Democrats only appear to be willing to make stern but futile gestures of superficial frustration. They will run campaigns based solely on the perpetuation of the establishment while portraying Republicans as bogeymen without ever actually capitalizing on mobilizing platform ideas that Americans are begging for. Who will the Republicans put forward for 2024 after the increased popularity of their last brutish fascist, and how tantalizing might that choice appear to a population fed only moralizing platitudes during one of the most dismal times in American history? The modern day Marie Antoinette is a Democrat dismissing cries for help by suggesting “thoughts and prayers” to assuage their crisis. How successfully will democratic institutions protect modern civilization if they are not repaired from the sustained assault they have been enduring for years?

Once the Orange Man is gone, I’m sure that’ll clear right up

I’ve written before about how post-Truth is more about accountability than it is about truth. When the atrocities of American torture were revealed, Obama wanted to “look forward” rather than hold his predecessors to any form of legal or moral accountability. This bore fruit when Trump elected torture-enabler Gina Haspel to lead the CIA, and the wheels kept on turning. The lies, the delusions, the mayhem: these things need to be accounted for. The only way for America to avoid destruction is not to reach across the aisle. Appeasement toward fascism doesn’t really have any successful, historical precedents. Democrats need to implement the beneficial, popular agendas that the people actually need regardless of how many lies are spun, and hold accountable those who are literally committing treason, up to and including the 45th president. This isn’t partisanship. It’s sanity.