Category Archives: Politics

The way it feels



What is never properly understood by those who do not experience it is how deep the rage over inequality goes once it is made conscious, how far-reaching it can be and yes, how unforgiving. At the moment, the hated imbalance between women and men, the one that all men, everywhere, have exploited for centuries, is in the dock, and women in the thousands have risen up to bring charges against men of power with the crime of having looked not at them but through them for as long as any of them could remember. These women are not yet Madame Defarge knitting at the foot of the scaffold, but half a century of insufficient progress, on the score of sexual predation alone, now fills their heads with blood and leads them to lash out at its ongoing pervasiveness, branding men to the left and to the right with accusations that include acts of real evil as well as those of vulgar insensitivity. As James Baldwin might have put it, an oppressed people does not always wake up a saint; more often it wakes up a murderer.

For many of us, it is dismaying to behold, in a movement meant to correct for social injustice, the development of what can seem like vigilante politics; the dismay, in fact, is being accorded disproportionate attention, as though its existence is more important than what gave rise to it. But if we stop for a moment to think rather than react, we soon come to realize that the courageous demand that begins with a visionary’s declaration of rights can, and usually does, descend quickly into the maddened belligerence characteristic of those who cannot stop rehearsing a grievance that feels very old and reaches far into the past. That is the course history has usually taken, and for the moment, we in America are all trapped in its turmoil.

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Incomparable Power and Wealth (415/455)

This is a good example of the sort of imperial self-mythologizing that characterizes late-stage American Exceptionalism. These remarks come from newly-minted member of the hashtag resistance John McCain on the occasion of his receipt of the Liberty Medal.

“We are blessed, and we have been a blessing to humanity in turn. The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world. And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on December 7, 1941.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.