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What’s Going On Here

June 19, 2015

That’s not a question. In this episode of our nonfiction political novel about the psychopathology of American democracy, here is a plot summary of one major thing that is going on in America.*

In June, 2015, we are living the current re-iteration of an historic pattern that began with Columbus in the Caribbean (dehumanizing people and using them, brutally, for his own pleasure and gain), was localized in the southern British colonies (human trafficking for labor and sex), was fought about in a Civil War, briefly went underground and then emerged with white riots and a reaffirmation of the klan, receded just a bit as we fought a world war and then enjoyed the relaxation afforded by prosperity, then re-energized itself with a move to extend civil rights and a countermove to take them away again—a move that reached fever pitch in reaction to the election of a black President.

(Man, I’ve seen enough of this, myself, to feel like I’ve lived it all. I do think that we’re making progress, at great cost. The next steps, toward defeating persons and groups who want to continue to dehumanize and exploit, should be education to eliminate ignorance that produces fear and prejudice, 100% enfranchisement of American citizens, extensive creation of job opportunities for a return to the security of prosperity, and various other actions to equably distribute financial resources and political power.)

What’s going on here is an historic struggle over whether every homo sapien person shall be considered fully human and treated as such, with “certain inalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” including the security of full participation in governance and the economy. The alternative, which we contnue to re-enact, is violent suppression of one group by another (both groups being designated by a color code).

This is a struggle about the distribution of power, in very concrete and practical daily life, including whether someone lives or dies.

A lot of us do not feel threatened with loss of power (indeed a lot of us feel more humanly empowered) by recognition of full humanity of all members of our species and all members of our national community; and some of us take various peaceful actions (or violent, during the Civil War), to extend that recognition.

But a lot of us fear having insufficient power if certain others also have power. Fear (combined with ignorance) breeds us-or-them perception, anger, hatred. Some of our fearful fellow citizens kill in order to maintain their perception of dominance. Others (like more sophisticated, although equally ignorant, Columbuses) use trickery, exploitation, and other forms of mental and emotional violence, to serve their personal self-interest, and often to achieve actual dominance.

As the song put it: “Which side are you on?” That’s a question, and each of us must answer it.

Violence doesn’t do violence, persons do.

Update:  an excellent brief discussion of the racist context of Roof’s act of violence.

* Simply a scan of the following list of subplots (they’re headlines of Daily Kos coverage) pretty much tells the story:
Rick Santorum turns South Carolina massacre into political fodder / ‘You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country’ / Why we must call Dylann Roof a terrorist / Sign the petition: South Carolina, take down the Confederate flag! / CNN’s Chris Cuomo speculates that maybe suspect is not white—hours after it’s confirmed that the suspect is white / Dear White America: This crap has to stop. ‘Bomb threat at Greenville vigil for Charleston victims’ / Fox News: Charleston shooting is an attack on faith, not race—calls for pastors to arm themselves / Suspected shooter pictured with two patches: Rhodesian flag and apartheid South African flag / Statement by the president on the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina / The Confederate flag is still flying high at the South Carolina capitol building today / Terror attack at South Carolina church was on 193rd Anniversary of 1822 Slave Revolt / Guns Do Kill—Charleston, SC is just the latest example / South Carolina still has no hate crime law / The beautiful history of resistance and leadership of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

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