By Mickey Z.
28 April, 2013
World News Trust
“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.” – Black Elk
Prologue: In the 1999 film Run, Lola, Run, the female protagonist is magically given three chances to cope with a dodgy situation. Like having a reset button on a video game, if Lola screws up, she gets to go back and start from the beginning.
Many people imply that unless a critic expounds a specific strategy for change, his/her assessment is worthless or, at the very least, too negative. This reaction misses the essential role critical analysis plays in a society where problems — and their causes — are so cleverly disguised. When discussing the future, the first step is often an identification and demystification of the past and present.
In order for us to hit the reset button, we must collectively agree that we got it wrong the first time.
Built on Terror
Rosa Luxemburg once declared: “The first revolutionary act is to call things by their true names.”
Okay, Rosa, here goes:
Whether we choose to admit it or not, the vaunted “American way of life” was built on a nearly exterminated indigenous population, the African slave trade, and all those killed in places like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Southeast Asia, Central America, the Middle East, and far too many more to name.
Our way of life was built on the terror of stolen land using stolen oil and is maintained by the terror of cops, the terror of prisons, the terror of the military, and the psychological terror of propaganda.
If you don’t agree that the United States was built on and is maintained by terror, just ask a Native American. As Howard Zinn explains:
“Indian Removal, as it has been politely called, cleaned the land for white occupancy between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, cleared it for cotton in the South and grain in the North, for expansion, immigration, canals, railroads, new cities, and the building of a huge continental empire clear across to the Pacific Ocean. The cost in human life cannot be accurately measured, in suffering not even roughly measured. Most of the history books given to children pass quickly over it.”
“The politics of living space”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the estimated pre-1492 population of what is now called the United States ranges from 5 million to 15 million. By the late 1800s, the number of indigenous people was down to 25,000. Such a holocaust is only possible if the long traditional of dehumanization is utilized as a shield of denial.
“There is a profound historical legacy in the United States, going back to people like George Washington, for example, describing Indians as ‘wild beasts of the forest’ and ‘savage as the wolf,’” explains Ward Churchill.
Broken treaties (more than 400 signed and every single one broken), innumerable massacres (from the deliberate genocide of Powhatans to the slaughter at Wounded Knee), forced marches (i.e. the Trail of Tears relocating the Cherokee Nation from Georgia to Oklahoma), and federally sanctioned dehumanization… the treatment of Native Americans reads like a hideous catalogue of crime.
Speaking of hideous crimes, a man by the name of Adolf Hitler took notice of how America’s indigenous people were nearly exterminated in the Home of the Brave.
Ward Churchill explains how der Führer “used the treatment of the native people … the policies and processes that were imposed upon them, as a model for what he articulated as being … the politics of living space.”
In essence, says Churchill, Hitler took the notion of “a drive from east to west, clearing the land as the invading population went and resettling it with Anglo-Saxon stock … as the model by which he drove from west to east into Russia — displacing, relocating, dramatically shifting or liquidating a population to clear the land and replace it with what he called superior breeding stock … He was very conscious of the fact that he was basing his policies in the prior experiences of the Anglo-American population.”
Never forget, comrades: This is what we’re up against.
The familiar template of dehumanizing enemies and exploiting that subhuman status to commit atrocities continues to facilitate U.S. policies of unremitting foreign (and domestic) entanglements.
After decades of relentless propaganda, there are now many who readily accept — and will often encourage — such iniquitous U.S. military and law enforcement behavior under the guise of a perpetual War on Terror™.
Hmm… maybe a war on terror is precisely what we need.
No, I’m not declaring public allegiance to the current campaign against a tactic (which is in actuality a war against terrorist attacks not perpetrated by the United States or its allies). Instead, I’m thinking of another meaning entirely for the word “terror.”
Author Don Lutz has written that terror is “what one feels when being kidnapped or raped.” He goes on to list other examples:
“Terror is what poor people worldwide feel when approached by uniformed, armed men; what animals feel in research laboratories; what people feel when their families are faced with starvation; what a child feels when an adult starts to hit; what millions of families feel when they hear planes overhead; what fish feel when hooked in the mouth; what people feel under threat of having loved ones tortured or killed; what forest dwellers feel when the loggers come in to clear-cut; what people feel when they are threatened with invasion; and what animals feel at slaughterhouses.”
You wanna’ wage war against terror, why not find a worthy adversary? No shady FBI stings, unconstitutional wire tapping, or panic-inducing color-coded warnings that conveniently pop up at the most politically expedient intervals. The variety of terror Lutz describes is genuine and endemic and it is the real problem.
Many Americans reflexively defend their country’s rampant illegalities because they perceive these actions as falling under the seductive justification of defending the “way of life” I described above.
But if America is supposed to be the world’s shining light, why are its citizens left with no choice but to organize in a desperate attempt to protect human, environmental, civil, and animal rights?
If America is the zenith of human social order, why does our vaunted way of life provoke terror as a tactic and an emotion?
Postscript: In his 1941 classic, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, Henry Miller contemplated what it might be like to bring an American Indian back to life and show him the steel mills of Pennsylvania.
Miller imagined the Indian thinking: “So it was for this that you deprived us of our birthright?”
Miller pondered, “Do you think it would be easy to get him to change places with one of our steady workers? What sort of persuasion would you use? What now could you promise him that would be truly seductive?”
I think I know what might win over that resurrected soul: A reset button, just like the one Lola had.
For if this is the best humanity could produce with the gifts we’ve been given; if this is what is accepted as normal by the majority of Homo sapiens on the planet, what we really need is to hit the reset button — before it’s too late.
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.