The most fundamentally flawed sociopolitical attitude of the American population is how their perspective is focused on what the ‘other’ is doing to ‘us’. To elaborate, this attitude has been around since the foundation of the nation and I cannot completely fault anyone in particular on how the evolution has occurred due to the turbulent American history. To begin with, the American foundation began in the transitioning of self-exiled citizens to a place that itself appeared hostile and frightening, due primarily not to the terrain and the natural challenges of building settlements, but because of the native populace.
The Native American history always seems to coincide with the some European population raping them of land and people. But because the perspective of the population was that of righteous persecution by the hands of those powers who had birthed them, that it was their righteous duty to oppose the native population. The savage that must be civilized or squashed. It was a competition of ‘us’ against ‘them’. The power of Manifest Destiny… the awesomeness of being white. An attitude that lasts to this very day…
When the nation was established as the original Thirteen British Colonies, the attitude shifted (temporarily) to focus on taxation without representation. This was a very justified attitude however, and it is what began shaping the ethical framework of the nation. We were fighting for civil rights and against injustice. Though this did not ever seem to equate to the African slaves and Natives, it was such a rousing attitude that hadn’t struck us since the original settlers had fled from their places of oppression. And when war finally broke out to secure the nation’s independence, it would inspire many nations in the years to come to do the very same from their oppressive regimes. And because of the uniqueness of the American experience already at this point it became a land of bountiful opportunity. Opportunity its native population was still in the way of…
We still return to the idea of ‘them’ and ‘us’. Just as it remained through the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, and Mexican-American War. And the extermination of the Native Americans proceeded along with the carnage even after the West Coast also began establishing statehoods and extorting the labor and numbers of the incoming Asian population, also hearing the call of Opportunity in the untamed lands of the Americas. But as the population continued to expand and the continent was claimed from one side to the other the nation grew complacent, happy and satisfied. With major innovations in industry, science and literature washing forth from the States, it seemed as Americans were on the top of the pile. Which we were in a way, brought on by the seemingly boundless natural wealth this country had (and still has). However, then something happened. The attitude began to change slightly. It no longer had an enemy to fight. It wasn’t involved in some great conflict or in the extermination of some race, so the oppositional attitude we have persisted in till that point looked in on itself for the answer. And that is truly when political strife and division began, but not before one more conflict. Though the United States had existed previously as a Confederacy and formed the central government since not a solitary thing could be accomplished divided. Not to say opposition to war or political ideas hadn’t existed before this, but the division became more the identity of where home was. And as one nation, we came to hold an identity asAmericans, not New Yorkers, Marylanders or Floridians solely.
The American Civil War (the greatest oxymoron in our history) was the turning point when we tried once, and only once, to settle our conflict through open war. There would be skirmishes and conflicts in states for years to come after the war had ended, however for the time being it was still an attitude of ‘us’ and ‘them’. If you are in Northern states, roughly anything Maryland and above (though the real border to the southern states occurs south of the 39th Parallel, so actually below Virginia) you are usually confronted with this term: The Civil War. If you are in southern states you are more likely told this: The War of Northern Aggression. These are the conflicting attitudes in play in one of the most simple and declarative of ways: language.
The evolution of our terminology explains our attitude as a nation. Though the more correct name for the war would be The American Revolution of the Southern States. However, this time friends, relatives and neighbors occupied the side of the ‘oppressor’ or ‘them’ as well as the slaveholders, racists and armed rebels. The country was fighting an infection. And initially it was not slavery; it was imposed tariffs and red tape that was placed on Southern exporting to Europe in an attempt to boost the socioeconomic condition of the North. And as the war raged, the climate amongst the politicians in DC became more and more divisive. And in a brilliant political move (that became a personal ambition) Abraham Lincoln he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This was truly the first president that understood this American perspective and exploited it absolutely effectively. This now was what was required to not only reemphasis the general attitude of every state (including the South) but also frames the war in moral intent. Just as with the Revolutionary War, this was a matter of freedom and independence. However, unlike the Revolution, this was a war of another type.
It was no longer about rebelling for our civil or national rights or trying to stop the splintering (and possible disillusionment of the Union in the aftermath) of the nation. This was a war that was to free another race of people from enslavement. This was a war against slavery. Though this was a war now that used the moral aspect of the conflict to the idea that god had deemed the African (and subsequent African American) people as unequal, with the smokescreen of the right to property could include humans. The argument even was made that Natives had African slaves (which was actually true). However, eventually the right thing was done and as the war ended, the slaves were freed. However… there was no longer anyone to fight. And since the tension and boiling blood of the legislation was still hot and fertile, that became the preferred battlefield of later American generations.
To be clear, the American political framework is not anything unique or new, modeled after a combined British Parliament and Roman Senate, the American Congress has struggled to preserve itself and the nation it controls (and now systematically extorts). However, unlike now, this congress was struggling, actively fighting to build and maintain the country in its infancy. And during the political tumult, the country would flourish in industry, the arts, and culture, blending from all parts of the world (though still primarily focused on very British and WASP-y perspectives). America was truly a unique experience; the world would see how fast we would grow, not only to power but also in our social, cultural and economic explosion. We became one of the truly powerful nations in the world. Though the majority of Americans continued (internally and eventually externally again when breaking our isolationism during World War I) to join the fight amongst ‘others’ in forms of Jazz, Women’s Suffrage and Reproductive Rights, Hispanic Immigrants, African American and Native American Civil Rights, Integration, Gun Rights, Marijuana, Communism, The Hippie Movement, AIDS, Censorship, Lenny Bruce, Malcolm X, Movies, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Interracial Marriages, Video Games, Arabic Americans and Immigrants, Muslims, Punk Music, Pornography, Homosexuals, even Sexual Education and the teaching of Evolution in schools… The list is beyond counting.
And every second that someone is fighting against something, one side or even multiple sides will claim moral or ethical (or even both) authority on something. The last conflicts that America were directly involved in that actually was justified on either/both an ethical and moral grounds were World War II and the aid given to Afghanistan in their fight against the advance of the Soviet Union. Though, we still royally destroyed any chance of claiming the latter conflict as something we can be proud of (also the A-Bomb doesn’t help our actions during WWII, but still the elimination of the Nazis and the Holocaust was in the Atlantic Theater), due to the horrible and utterly heartless way we abandoned the population after the Soviet army retreated. And after the rousing wake-up call that the country had after the feigned moral intent on the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the people didn’t believe the moral/ethical story any longer, and neither did the rest of the world.
The world attitude grew hostile and disgusted by the obvious imperialism disguised as ‘spreading freedom’ pouring from the armies, foreign policies, rhetoric and propaganda produced by theAmerican machine. Though this was the government and not the people promulgating this image, it became our image collectively, and due to the world-at-large (seemingly, due to the media and governments of foreign countries) we began curling in ourselves as it was now the information age and the information seemed to be that the world was against ‘us’. Though in many instances this is true, it is not true for every individual across the globe, or even the majority of every country. But it seems that the better part of the last quarter-century that America has become more and confined primarily due to the national reaction and mobilization after 9/11 and the countless political scandals and subterfuge perpetrated by the government and people in places of great power. Now it seems as if we have arrived at that place where so many scholars have said where we were heading, and it is considering since we have modeled so much after them: The Romans. This is so due to two reasons.
Firstly, Language is again the one item that gives this away more than our actions. Besides our Congress is on Capitol Hill and the Roman Senate was on Capitoline Hill and both of our national symbols are eagles, our rhetoric is inspired by the minds and politics of ancient Rome. Julius Paulus Prudentissimus (a prominent 2nd Century Roman jurist) is really who founded our justice system on multiple tropes and innovations, even down to the belief that one is innocent till proven guilty. And these are just the most basic observations of the system where the Roman core beliefs of expansion and might course through our economics, military and sociocultural development.
However, the last point has truly only become the headliner topic of only the last few decades, more than anytime in our history, has been the battle of the rich and the poor. Though we have thoroughly embraced the French concept of the Middle Class, the struggle between the ‘plebeians’ and ‘patricians’ in our society has never been closer to spilling over, just as it was at the end of the Roman Empire (though so many factors contributed to the fall of the Romans). And just as any other time in American history (but never on such an unprecedented scale), on every news station, radio show, newspaper, website, there is something screaming out at you that its ‘us’ or ‘me’ against ‘them’. There’s always this ever-lasting contest that you are fighting the other people trying to stop your happiness and freedom, whether by economic extortion (this is a term that can be used by both sides as an injustice or as a method of attaining profits), or by physical restraint. To elaborate, restrained by the injustice perpetrated and the utter disgusting numbers of people imprisoned by the (ironically named) United StatesJustice System.
Due to the racist tendencies dating all the way back to the foundation of the original colonies, the system is deliberately engineered to be the puppet of the rich, (just as patricians were the only ones to hold office in Ancient Rome) as well as the police and military are to be the arms of oppression to the lower classes, whether by implication, intimidation or outright violence (just as the Roman patricians had personal gangs to carry out their dirty work i.e. extortions, assassinations etc. and they were the might behind the army since they held their paycheck, not the state). The wealth of the nation was held by a select few that were lucky enough either to have born into the right family or had the right amount of circumstances occur financially and socially to accumulate the wealth and clout to be considered amongst the elite… Just as it is today.
This has nothing to do with capitalism, nor the will or luck of the freedom Americans experience. It was through the exploitation of the loopholes and lapses the government either overlooked, ignored or provided for the continued monetary flow into the pockets of private citizens who would give corporate and political identities a variable or even undistinguishable boundary till they are relatively one in the same. Just as in Ancient Rome where all of the major companies, farms and economic processes were controlled by the patrician class. The similarities are so similar that denial of said comparison is rather silly. And it finally goes back to the initial point: we as Americans have been born, raised, shaped and defined by the self-propagated struggle of ‘us’ verses ‘them’, and we never stop to ever think that it has been the wrong way to approach everything.
One of the greatest things America has come up with is the birth of our own genuine brand of horror filmmaking. The American Horror Film Industry also was very fortunate to receive a great and socially aware director as John Carpenter. And the reason for his involvement in this rambling is that he once said the very thing that drives Americans is what drives the idea of horror stories in general. There are usually two different sides to horror to where evil lives. One is that the evil is out in the dark, that it is the unknown, the ‘other’. However, the other horror is when the perspective is turned inward and the evil becomes introspective. The evil is within us. And this is the one thing that scares us(and we usually outright reject), not only as Americans, but also as human beings. That the true evil in he world is within us all. It never is an ‘other’ because as humans (as far as we concretely know) on Earth, besides the swirl of nature and its many creatures, there are not ‘others’. The horrible crimes,manipulations and all-around sick and detestable behavior that human beings have wrought on one another has always come from deep within each of us. And when enough like-minded people get together with the same deep and dark tendencies horrible things happen (see the Rwandan and Armenian Genocide, JimCrow, Apartheid, The House of Un-American Activities Committee, the NSA). All of us are capable of amazing things, as well as the utter destruction of ourselves. When we split the atom we found ways of providing power and opportunities for generations to come, at the same moment we discovered the power to annihilate our home many times over.
We spend so much time fighting and squabbling over what the ‘other’ is doing or pushing on the masses like the new best medication to cure your worries and numb yourself to the massive hypnosis that we never consider it is something within us that is flawed. And until the flaws in our perception of how injustice and the (absolutely unnecessary) unequal distribution of resources on this planet is being processed, then the system will remain as broken as it has existed for generations. The system from which was made by humans cannot be fixed until those who control and live by the system see the distinct flaws within ourselves. The majority of the highest 1% (that controls 90% of the wealth) of our people sees nothing wrong with the fact that the rift between the poor and the rich is so vast that it is in danger of destabilizing the country. How? There are so many decades a population (the gears of the machine) can take oppressive extortion of their absolutely justified rewards by the upper crust. It is the equivalent of never oiling your engine with more than an occasional squirt of oil (Trickle-Down Economics) and hope it reaches every part of the machine, and then wondering why so much is going awry and breaking apart. Just as those who, in positions of power, must see the evil inside themselves for the abuse that so many actively perpetrate (Kent State shootings, the NSA domestic spying programs, the Rampart Scandal and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and John F. Kennedy).
Until then, the broken aspects of the machine in America (and basically everywhere) will remain utterly dysfunctional until (like every machine working improperly) it will come tumbling apart and will have to be replaced, just as history has proved repeatedly throughout its entire record. That Is It. Until Next Time.