Friday, March 21, 2008

On Giving Up.

Ken wrote in a comment on the "Invasion and Occupation" thread,

I don't know what to do anymore. The urge to give up, to not vote, to withdraw is overwhelming. But we can't. Can we?

March 21, 2008 12:18 PM

No, we can't give up, which doesn't mean we must go to every fight we're invited to. It also means we don't have the luxury of giving in to that sense of helplessness we all feel.

It may seem to be an incredibly long string of defeats, but it depends on where we start from. If we took it for granted things have mostly been just and fair throughout American History, and the Indochina Wars were an anomaly, it does seem inexplicable. If we accept the cultural myth that ordinary people have power because it's the American Way, we wonder why "our" government is so unresponsive.

It was these questions, in part, which drove me back to the study of American History after I came back to "the World". I am more convinced, after thirty five years as Amateur and Professional, that the U S invasion of Indochina was not an anomaly, but just another damned example, and that ordinary people only rarely and indirectly make political decisions, and don't follow through very well.

My point is, we are not working against forty years only, and a rare mistake, but the American Experience for over four hundred years; Vietnam is who we have always been, and the rest of the world has begun to tell us so, which may be, much as I hate to consider the possibility that there may be one, a positive contribution by Dubya. His callous arrogance has finally pushed the rest of the world far enough to get them to say what they really think of us.

One of the themes that made this history possible was the notion, derived in part from Puritan views of their New World mission, that America was to be an example--"a city on a hill"--for the rest of the world to emulate. Once they meet us, they will do their best to be us--native peoples, exploited immigrants, other countries, etc. Given this belief, it may be difficult for us to hear that they don't want to be invaded, used for cheap resources and labor, etc., so we may continue to lord it over them as "the only Hyperpower".

It may be one of those "camel and needle" jokes, only I'm not laughing. Individually, most Americans are good people you'd like to know; collectively, we are the world's a**hole. So, despair is not an option, even though the job is a little bigger than we allow ourselves to notice most of the time.

Peace and solidarity, all y'all.


Fran said...

Johnieb- this is brilliant. Time does not allow me to elaborate but I had to say something.

Thank you.

Nina said...

Preach it, brother! Well said!

Anonymous said...

Yes... and I think it is time for us to begin considering the blessings of this administration. I don't think God gives us shit for no reason and/or without a way for it to be redeemed. It's true that GWBush is bad, very bad, but if we let him speak to us he may be the catalyst for change that we have long needed. Xianity itself is most defined by what it is NOT... Not this heresy, not that one either. And those are powerful identifiers. I am happy to say I am NOT like GWBush but I want to explore what exactly that means.

This is a great post johnieB. Thanks.

Doorman-Priest said...

Thanks for this and a Blessed Easter to you.

Unknown said...

In my visits to other countries, I think people feel the same way as you about Americans: individualy, good people but collectively difficult to comprehend.

One of my reasons for not giving up dissent is that even if nothing changes, I can at least be a contributing voice that tells the rest of the world that not all of us here in the U.S. support the actions of our government.

the P.S.

pj said...

Happy Easter, Johnieb. Peace.

June Butler said...

Johnieb, Iraq is not a new and uncharacteristic action on our part. We have never been as pure as we like to imagine ourselves. Remember the first huge compromise was in the founding of our republic - slavery, permitting one human being to own another human being.

Peace to you, my friend.

johnieb said...

Thanks to the choir for the accolades. :)

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...

Giving up is also a very American thing...I don't mean withdrawal from Iraq, the only sensible thing to do, I mean the idea of "it's all too much. Let someone else deal with it". One of the reasons this sorry administration has not been impeached, removed and tried for crimes against humanity.

johnieb said...


the Historian in me wants to try on a neo-Turnerian "Giving up as Frontier: an American characteristic"; one cannot move on to Texas before one has given up on Arkansas, Tennessee, or Alabama, eh?

What doesn't seem to attract us is "Stay put and build something where you're at." Perhaps it's individualism; to build communities where we are means playing with others. The Loner myth: cowboy, PI, etc.

And, as usual, womyn are only accessories to those who roam; it is they who are left to build: sodbusters and schoolmarms.