Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he would like to ban Muslims from entering the United States has been the latest plot point in the dying life of the US empire. The reactions from the polarized political spectrum were typical: leftists warning to take the problem seriously or risk the easy rise of fascism within the US, liberals responding with moral outrage that such a man could say something like this and get away with it, conservatives disagreeing with his exact plan but agreeing with the sentiment that Muslims really are a security risk, and the far right fully supporting the move because after all, the first priority is “protecting America from all the things that are happening in the world.” Across the board, there is a lack of useful focus.
In some ways, the liberals are sticking their heads in the sand. Rather than engage in the real political conversation that has to happen about the violent nature of the US, they are blaming Trump for advocating this extremist position. Rather than coming up with a useful counternarrative, half of the political spectrum has fallen into the negation trap. “No! This is not a war between Muslims and the West!” “NO! America is NOT Christian.” “No! NO NO!” The beautiful thing about Trump is that he is accurately articulating the foundation of American deep culture.
Chosenness, Trauma, Glory- Dualism, Manicheism, Armageddon. It is laid out, plain to see.
Yesterday I was listening to a piece on NPR about fact-checking. Two points: in the end, facts really don’t matter. It is all about the narrative that is being told. Second, just negating a phrase actually reaffirms it in the mind of the public. “No! America is not fighting Islam” just perpetuates the idea that there is a war with Islam. This is why Trump’s message is so loud. He knows both of these things, speaks to the public truth of a large sector of American society (rural, white, conservative). Fact checkers and Liberals who don’t like it try and counter with facts in order to prove him wrong. The result is that they prove him right in the context of his narrative. “The liberals are trying to be reasonable. You can’t reason with EVIL, you can’t reason with terrorists. They have to be destroyed. Weakness will lead to the fall of this country.”
Looking at the current discourse in a Daoist manner yields an interesting result. There are forces and counterforces- mainly left vs. right, democrat vs. republican- that play a simple point-counterpoint.
The right is speaking something close to the immanent truth of US deep culture, the ‘liberals’ are constantly trying to play catch up. Until a new idea is inserted into this discourse, this will continue to cycle and result in the only answer anyone has- The war to ultimately degrade and defeat ISIS, which is an alternative to a ground war that everyone knows the U.S. cannot win. Some commentators on the Foreign Policy podcast, more people with no novel ideas and advocates of a failing system of political thought, pointed toward a similar choice- maybe a more isolationist president will withdraw while maintaining some type of light military engagement in the Middle East. Obama’s current plan is actually minimalist, as the other option is fully committing and risking total defeat. Once again, we see commentary from the right side of the political spectrum articulating the concerns of Prof. Galtung quite clearly.
The difference between the foreign policy establishment and peace scholars is that we actually have ideas for solutions.
Negotiating with ISIS, reducing foreign bases, being one state in a sea of equals. Peace is the only thing that works. The current news cycle is devastating mostly because there is no reporting on what the ‘enemies’ actually want and only conjecture based on violence and what fits the US’ imperial narrative. Now is the time where the best thing we can do as citizens is step back and reassess the narratives of this country. Looking at the world with clear eyes is the best way to decide what to do.
Here are some things to think about:
- Maybe it’s time to figure out what ISIS actually wants
- Give up the idea of American exceptionalism- There is nothing that makes the US special other than the fact that it is currently exceptionally violent. If we want to set an example, let it be for cooperation and peacemaking.
- Think of something better to say than negation. Propose policies that help rather than focusing on the individual. The issue is not that trump says these things, but that a majority of Americans believe in it too
It hurts to acknowledge that our culture perpetuates violence, but it will hurt less when we make a conscious effort for change.
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