The U.S. has always been an incredibly violent society. Founded on genocide of Native people (ongoing to this day) and slavery (ditto), what chance was there for us to not turn Armistice Day into Veterans Day?
The survivors of the first industrialized war, one where even the wealthy sent their sons to be slaughtered, did not think the price of an entire generation of young men worth it. How many believed they were sending their beloveds off to stop barbarity in its tracks? How many knew that the fight had broken out over competition for the rich colonies of the rapidly failing Ottoman Empire?
As my friend Abby’s grandmother said after returning home from organizing against incipient World War I, the whole thing was about Mosul Oil.
As an adult on 9/11, I watched my own country turn into a jingoistic herd of war mad flag wavers.
Youngsters who remember nothing of that day know this: you dare not be called unpatriotic. Support the troops became a posture that no official hoping to be elected could afford to omit.
Photo of airplane maintenance worker was edited by me to obscure a homophobic slur.
The droves of people who sat by while their military invaded Afghanistan were traumatized by seeing the twin towers burn again and again and again, with soon-to-be corpses sailing out of the windows.
They’d woken up a bit by the war in Iraq. Millions bought the twin lies that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, and that he was a madman with weapons of mass destruction he aimed to use. But the people who oppose wars when a Republican is Commander-in-Chief came out in droves to object to the impending shock and awe unleashed on civilians in Bagdhad (and, later, Mosul).
By the time Obama was in office, continuing those wars and upping the ante by drone bombing civilians around the globe while his government admittedly “tortured some folks,” satisfied Democrats had gone back to reading the New York Times and believing it.
That satirical newspaper The Onion was consistently more fact-based than legacy media did not seem like a reason to give up their prestige. Educated, liberal, and peering myopically through a tiny peephole deemed to be “world news” was where they were comfortable.
In the same way that big money crept in and hollowed out organizations that had once challenged the powerful, alternative media was infected. Common Dreams, Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The Intercept — arguably once worthy of attention, now worse than useless. Worse because they hide their defense of oligarchs behind platitudes of either wokeness or limited investigations careful not to drill down far enough to see the levers of entrenched power at work. Many people are fooled by this strategy. The old are fooled by it because they value their comfort. And conformity for social animals is usually comfortable. The young are fooled by it because they want to belong and for their efforts to matter.
What happens to the few who don’t get fooled?
My ex once explained to me that historically the Ottoman Empire would send agents out into the provinces, e.g. Greece, where he was born, to find rebellious youth. Preteens or young teens with a penchant for kicking over the established order were evident living as a religious minorities under a repressive imperial government. These young men were lured into distant, luxurious jobs for life in the imperial service. The price: castration.
A thousand NGOs now employ once idealistic young people to go through the motions of halting climate catastrophe, “saving democracy,” or upholding civil rights. Entire careers are built on not achieving the stated goals.
The Ottomans thrashing in their imperial death throes unleashed the first genocide of the 20th century, marching a million Armenians to death in the Syrian desert.
The U.S. thrashing in its imperial death throes already has attempted genocide on its bloody hands. As its ability to control its vassal states and far-flung colonies unravels, it becomes increasingly dangerous (I know, hard to believe). But the nuclear weapons it claims others want to use in a first-strike are gleaming in their bays, and the bombers that could drop them are fanning out around the globe.
Today, legacy media outlets will glorify the imperial forces, now expanded even to outer space as a “warfighting domain.” Politicians will weep, embracing the mangled bodies of warriors. Little children will be paraded before their father’s coffins, draped in flags.
And liberals will cling to their comfort here in the heart of the empire, unless of course the final bomb is dropped. Then they will emerge from the radioactive dust like hikabusha before them to testify to the need for an armistice that endures.