A concise attempt to explain America, 2017

Make America Great Again, America First, Law and Order: whatever else they are, these are concepts about power and control.

The instinct towards power and control is a normal part of human nature. It's stronger in some people than in others, but it comes out for most everyone in situations where we're threatened or afraid. Being in control is a fundamental human desire.

Power and control are what are being appealed to by our leadership: whether that's white power, American power, conservative power, Christian power, corporate power, or the power of our oligarchs themselves.

This isn't a new appeal, but it's a remarkably naked and unapologetic one with the Trump movement.

I'm halfway into the book Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, which is a history of racist ideas in the United States. It should be required reading, because it provides an excellent picture of the factors that have shaped the soul of America (mostly white America, but not exclusively), and specifically the factors that have shaped the American brand of will to power. It is a necessary background study for understanding America, 2017.

American domestic leadership has expressed the will to power and control in: slavery, the Native American genocides, Reconstruction, the police state, Jim Crow, Japanese internment, ICE, Gitmo, the removal of the filibuster, Citizens United, gerrymandering, and the prison industrial complex, among other things.

Justice movements have tempered the domestic will to power at times, but American foreign policy - at least in my lifetime - has been almost exclusively a pursuit of power and control. The dark art of Manifest Destiny. In general, Americans conceptualize people in other countries theoretically as others, or aliens, rather than humans, so they approach them with a mixture of fear, mistrust, and fascination. So they seek to control them.

In the modern era, both neoliberal economics and the neofascism of the right are expressions of the American desire for power and control. In America, justice movements will likely temper the will to power of the right. Internationally, we will likely accept the American push for power and control as acceptable, or even morally just.

This is what Syria is about. This is what Iraq is about. This is what Afganistan is about. This is what Yemen is about. This is what Libya is about. This is what the War on Terror is about.

The spiritual driver of this push for control is a Christian war on Islam: a war for ideological control. This is why 'peaceful' Christians can be so easily sold on the murder of children.

The economic drivers are obvious: control of energy and resources is synonymous with "American interests".

The emotional drivers are fear and revenge, most nakedly a fear of the amorphous threat of terrorism, and revenge for the physical acts of terror.

But Americans have to be honest that as a political entity (whatever is in our 'heart') we are functionally not about peace. We are about peace for us, which is to say power and control. And to the extent that we treat this reality as acceptable, we are morally culpable for evil.
If we were about peace, we would be pursuing a strategy that didn't predictably fuel cycles of violence. Most of that violence occurs 'over there' where the rebels we alternately arm or bomb live.

But it is also not about peace here. Terrorism is not a justifiable response to tyrrany, but it is a predictable one. US bombs in the Middle East don't make 9/11 okay, but they do make it likely. Because imagine yourself, an innocent person, living in a context where an American missle strike on your child's school is a real, daily possibility. Or where poverty is forced on your family by a partnership between your government and wealthy western corporations.

The human instinct that functions as a counterbalance to the quest for power and control is partnership and trust, which are the foundation of every healthy relationship from marriage to international partnerships. Our leaders are complicit in evil, and Americans are complicit in evil, to the extent that we continue to push for power and control rather than working towards partnership and trust.

And the message of every peacemaker in history is that, paradoxically, only partnership and trust ultimately provide human beings with the power and control that they seek through violence.

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