Modern Liberalism is Distracted
As America progressed into Trump’s America, more and more of Trump’s agenda was affirmed as the current president scrambled to push several heavy campaign items, such as the travel ban on majority-Muslim countries and a heavy crackdown on immigrant families nationwide.
Awakened was a profound shift in the racial dynamics of America as overt racism skyrocketed as a result of an overt racist’s election. We became more and more aware of incidents where immigrants were subjected to the onslaught of mass xenophobia, a deep-seated sentiment existing within the paradigm of America for centuries, yet energized as our country’s leadership became defined by bigotry and violent far-right ideology.
The month of April is welcomed with dozens of airstrikes on Syrian land, as Trump deems necessary such as a response towards the horrifying chemical attacks on Syrian people, such emotions of resentment towards the Syrian government for its unethical regime are shared by both the left and right.
It is not unusual for liberals to jump on every one of Trump’s actions for another reminder that he is a “cruel” and “unqualified” leader to hold such an important position such as the president of the United States. This airstrike (or, 59 airstrikes) on Syria was no stranger to an onslaught of liberal critiques from both leftists in society and in mass media. Where this critique falls short is its narrow-minded focus, incorrectly representing Donald Trump as the figurehead of America’s modern-day military juggernaut that devastates the developing world today. Though I still believe that Donald Trump should hold accountability for such actions, these criticisms fail to note that Hillary Clinton nonchalantly claimed that she would have done the same, that Barack Obama had conducted dozens of these same operations in the Middle East during his terms, that all of this hegemonic militarism culminated from a long history of the military-industrial complex, drives for transnational capital, and fearful national security discourse in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The same symptom-led focus was expressed when Donald Trump dropped the biggest non-nuclear weapon on Afghanistan later in the month, where liberals saw this action as exclusive to Donald Trump rather than, say, a response built from years of post-9/11 securitization that would have been committed by various other American leaders and representatives accepted by current liberal discourse. Trump did not create the overhyped fears of Middle Eastern terrorism or the world’s biggest arsenal, and I feel that it is very important that we as liberals know where issues like the war on terror stem from.
Donald Trump is not as new as leftists like to boast every now and then, and that is a component of the big issue with modern-day liberalism: a symptomatic focus rather than a broader structural analysis. People like Trump have existed for centuries, and it is that buildup of misinformed, ignorant bigotry that has culminated in the preconditions that allow perpetrators of said bigotry to ascend to powerful positions of power, so it doesn’t make sense to act like these issues are exclusive to our unexpected presidency. Donald Trump is not a source, but a symptom, and the failure to recognize this is what distracts many leftists today. Treating Donald Trump as a source only leads to disappointment when we recognize that many of the issues he “created” still exist after he’s gone, but treating him as a symptom means we still focus on the big picture once he’s out of it.
One example I’ll mention is that one of the most pressing issues today is that of police brutality, and the common liberal response is a demand that the perpetrators of police brutality be processed under law and punished for their actions, but this never exposes how the judicial system serves as a conduit for police violence rather than a remedy, or how the police system still has inertia from its long history involving slavery, racial profiling, and post-abolition manifestations of anti-black violence, which is why this demand for judicial action is seldom fulfilled. It is not that individual actors of police brutality are the simply the issue, but rather the structures that indoctrinate them into a fear of blackness, and the system of policing that deputizes them to carry out that fear with a gun in hand. In short, liberals are too obsessed with band-aid solutions when they could be devoting power to a reform (or destruction) of existing structures. Instead of calling forth a punitive legal measure of individual cops, we can begin to make demands that call to de-militarize the police or bring broader-scale reparations.
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly align with the same goals of liberals, sometimes being a bit more radical than moderate. It is focus and methodology I am most concerned with in my analysis of modern-day liberalism and how it tackles some of the most pressing issues regarding race, gender, class, and many other spheres of oppression in Trump’s America. It is liberal obsession with exposing oppression, rather than oppressors, but do not confuse this statement as an either/or. I believe that exposing oppression can often become the precursor to tracing the oppressors, but we must not stop so soon at the former step.
What we need is to expose broader systems of power and how they interact to create many of the issues of oppression today, rather than reducing our focus to individual actors and individual victims. Though I find it is very important to help victims, what must be done is a supplementary redirection towards interrogating the systems of power that creates victims, analyzing them from multiple perspectives of both the marginalized and privileged to deconstruct them within various facets of society. This is much easier said than done, but it is important we start educating one another on where the issues we fight for come from. We need to have discussions that build consciousness and focus on the bigger picture and begin to read and write demands that function within the broader scheme of things.
The liberal obsession with documenting pain and reprimanding individual perpetrators or laws will not grant us the liberty and justice we demand, we must fight for it against the source of oppressive rhetoric that informs these perpetrators and laws in the first place. We need to get more political than we are now, finding solutions by expunging hate from its origin, rather than its manifestations. That may be difficult with how deep-seated America’s promotion of self-interest over reparations, liberty, and justice, as well as America’s history that damns marginalized people to unethical treatment is, but with a deeper analysis of said history and self-interest can we begin to establish a framework for a more just society and make the right demands for our people.