Sunday, April 21, 2013

An Unremarkable Massacre

by Anthony Schiappa

What else can be said about the attack on Boston? For all its carnage, it just confirmed what we already knew.

It reminded us that real legacy of the Bush years is very much alive, namely that the distinction between war and peace has disintegrated and will eventually become meaningless. For over eleven years now we’ve been fighting a war with no clearly defined enemies or objectives or battlefields. In many cases there are no obvious weapons—instead, we now have pressure cookers, ball bearings, and airliners. War is always happening and it is everywhere, a fact we are continuously absorbing into our everyday lives. And we’ll keep on getting used to it. Eventually it will become mundane. 

Within twenty years, Boston-like massacres followed by a martial lockdown will become little more than a nuisance, slightly more inconvenient than a traffic jam. 

Of course, this kind of violence has been a fact of life for millions of people for decades on end; the only thing new is that this violence is now happening in America. The history of the global role of the United States in the postwar years is well-known and no longer controversial. Even the most reactionary right-wingers accept these bland truths. The Long War, to borrow Rumsfeld’s ingenious phrase, has been raging on the periphery for years. On 9/11 it came home, becoming visible on our turf. Nothing more, nothing less.   

And it’s here to stay.

Without a strong, organized, and truly unapologetic Left, there is no reason to expect things to ever be different. What we have instead is more pleading from liberals for tolerance of Muslims and immigrants, and reminders of continuing horrors abroad. Many find it impossible to critique such a sentiment that on its face seems like a well-meaning message of understanding, but we must do so, because ultimately these sentiments miss the point. They reveal a tacit acceptance of an intolerable situation—namely the infinite violence engendered by the exercise and expansion of power through the marketplace—simply wishing to manage this repugnant, unholy state of affairs in a more human, multicultural way. We’re not exhorted to resist but admonished into superficial empathy.

It is easy enough to discern the familiar motivation behind the liberal reminders of the world’s ongoing horrors. It seems to come not from a genuine solidarity with the victims but from a desire to shame our fellow Big Dumb Americans for their narcissistic compassion. It’s a group surely worthy of scorn, but I have my doubts that anyone really cares about the Syrians, the Afghans, the Iraqis, or any of the other groups routinely blown to bloody smithereens, either by us or our donated weapons, but plenty of people are happy to use those same victims to embarrass Uncle Sam, the fat, ignorant maroon that he is, and the Diet Coke-guzzling, church-going, gun-fanatic proles that love him. This is not radical emancipatory politics, it is snobbery. The rancid class-prejudice Orwell identified way back in the 1930s still permeates the coddled and comfortable Left, a whole generation that has never had to put anything on the line for its alleged ideals.

This is why I harp so much on Left. It’s not around when we need it the most.

So it continues: a fearful and vain population more completely subsumed into the world of postmodern, everyday warfare of the “network,” endless power games waged across our bodies in ball bearings and shrapnel, on and on, until there's no more money to burn.

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