Racist Rhetoric Fuels War Talk

(with intrusive Slingshot editing)

Well, it looks as if the good people of the rural U.S. should be breathing a sigh of relief right about now. What with the President and most Americans itching to bomb any place where terrorists might be hiding one can only imagine the kind of wrath that would have been brought down upon the heads of folks in Iowa or Nebraska had the guilty parties been white boys with crew-cuts, like Tim McVeigh. All this talk of “carpet bomb ‘em back into the stone age,” would have to have been replaced with “bomb ‘em back to the ‘Dust Bowl”.

But the fact is, we all know that such a scenario would never have transpired, and not because white boys aren’t capable of inflicting mass death. They certainly are. McVeigh proved that, if Hitler, Stalin, Andrew Jackson, Lyndon Johnson and Dick Nixon weren’t sufficient to make the case. But because the folks who are so quick to collectivize the responsibility and the payback when the perps are dark-skinned or “foreign,” are just as quick not to do so when white boys are the ones committing mass murder or engaging in terrorist activities.

Bottom line: people who look different, speak a different language or practice a different religion are a lot easier to view as the “other”, the enemy, somehow cutoff from the common humanity of which we consider ourselves a part. And so we speak now of killing Arabs indiscriminately, of not differentiating between the guilty and the innocent (ironically, the precise mentality of whomever carried out last week’s attacks). But we would have said none of these things had the perpetrators been internal extremists. We would never have heard columnists calling for profiling of white men, the way that reactionary crank Ann Coulter, called for the same against Arabs and Muslims this week. Actually, she also opined that it should be the role of the United States to invade “their” countries, kill “their” leaders, and “convert them to Christianity.” If these were the words of an Imam, calling for the forced conversion of Southern Baptists to Islam, we would call them the fanatical ramblings of a jihad-happy madman. But when Coulter says it she finds mass support for her nuttiness .

And so what does that leave us with? The fact is, I don’t know. And neither do you. And why can’t we just say that, admit our frailties and uncertainties and ignorance. That we demand quick and easy answers is indicative of our cultural attachment to instant gratification.

No wonder so much of the world looks at America with contempt and at Americans as spoiled children. First, we train terrorists the world over, including bin Laden, because we had to “get the commies” at all costs, even if it meant supporting dictators and murderers. Then we support corrupt and brutal regimes that trample the rights of their citizens.

This is not to say that any of these things, no matter how irresponsible or even criminal warrant an act the likes of what we saw September 11th. But there is something to be said for understanding why no one likes you. This is no game. There is no “winner” despite the blustery rhetoric of our frat-boy-in-chief. And unless we begin to fundamentally alter the way we as a nation operate around the world, we are in for many years of violence, empty platitudes and body bags. And if that happens, it won’t merely be the fault of those who attack us from outside, but also the fault of those who are the enemies of justice inside the American empire. There will be more than enough blame to go around.