A post-America America
America is a failed state. You need to accept that and figure out what role you are going to play in building a different one.
Not fixing this one; this one was not broken, it failed. Building a new one to replace it.
Not rebuilding this one, this one was built by slave labor, which means its very framing was a rotting lie. No rebuilding, building a different one.
Not taking this one back, this one was never the property of the people who actually built it, and even the greatest founders and framers believed only the owners should govern it. No, we need different framers to create a new and different one.
Not bridging the divides in this nation, it was born as a collection of divisions: colony/king, master/slave, confederacy/union, capital/labor, on and on. Building a new union or unions.
America is a failed state. Not becoming one, not at risk of becoming one, not sharing some aspects with other failed states. Is. Presently.
- It did not become one on November 8: the election of 2016 only confirmed for hundreds of millions what was already apparent for some. The sick feeling you have felt since then is only the confirmation of the hints and whispers you had shut out for many years. I’m sorry it took the shouting to convince you.
- It did not become a failed state because of one person’s outlandish enterprise to own and dominate people and things. 5% of the people want to but do not work, another 4–6% have stopped looking. 13% live in poverty. 14% of adults can’t read. 14% of all Americans are hungry, 20% of children. 46% of the voters…did not vote. 99% of the people combined…control less capital than the remaining 1%.
- It did not become a failed state during the recession. It did not become a failed state on 9/11. It did not become a failed state in the 2000 bust or in Bush v Gore. These things made it clearer and worse, but it was in failure already. Perhaps it failed in Welfare Reform or the government shutdown of the Clinton administration. Perhaps it failed in the First Gulf War. Perhaps it failed in the 2nd Reagan administration. Perhaps it failed in the gas crisis. Perhaps it failed in Nixon’s pardon. Or his reelection. But it definitely has failed.
It cannot be governed.
It cannot control corporations.
It cannot care for the sick of body or mind.
It cannot uphold its agreements or treaties.
It cannot safeguard its resources from poisoning, irretrievable loss or outright calamity.
It cannot uphold institutions.
It cannot make justice for the disenfranchised.
It cannot make equality for women.
It cannot break new ground for human rights.
Time and again it has failed these tests. America is a failed state. This is the time for acceptance.
This is the question: how do you want to build a different one?
- Do you want to work within the existing structure? You can do that, but it is not building a new state, it is rejoining an existing one that has failed. Future generations will not notice. Your contributions to parties will not be known in the records. Future citizens will not remember the names of your political parties because they are unable to repair the wreckage and will be forgotten. Parties that seek to reform or regain ground lost are working within this failed and broken system. They will be forgotten. Your life may not have been wasted, but the state you spend it on is already dead. Ghosts are only remembered by other ghosts.
- Do you want to leave this country and build somewhere else? There is no frontier. If you leave, understand you aren’t building a new state, you would be emigrating to an existing one and joining their existing state. You can do that, but make no mistake you are not making a new nation. There are no frontiers on earth; if you mean to truly break new ground, you must go literally to outer space.
- Do you want to break up this country through civil war? There was a civil war fought once to hold it together, and the pressure will be enormous to retain the holdings of any breakaway provinces, just like the first time. The first civil war was fought to prevent slave states from breaking away — there is nobility in this, for it sought to lend aid to the vulnerable who would be left behind on the other side of the slave/free line. This would be the moral choice put to any rebellion: how do you help the people who cannot join you but who will suffer the most under the regime you break away from, the children now or in future, the people of color, the poor, women, queer? Are you ready to die for strangers? Most revolutionaries die. Do you understand that on this path, Aleppo is a rehearsal for Atlanta? Do you understand that on this path, Kirkuk is the template for Minneapolis or Seattle; and before that, the 1974 destruction of Qaladiza is the future of Bend, Helena, or Boulder? You will be a rebel against the most powerful military force in the history of the world. Your allies will not be clear, and many of the nation states who have traditionally thrown in with rebels presently face grave crises of their own. Your allies will be reluctant to see nuclear fire on the skyline of Paris or Sidney or Toronto.
- Do you accept it has failed and quietly carve out territories, and try to discover frontiers upon its vast holdings, ones that cannot be managed by the corpse of the state? This asks that you trust it will wither away and ignore you, will let you go. Or this asks that you will work, both openly and in secret, to thwart laws and authorities. This asks that you risk being moved against your design from resister to revolutionary, that you will still be bodily at risk, that you will be branded a traitor and a criminal while you try to build a new thing.
Many of you will not live to see a new thing. You will enter the metaphorical — and probably the very literal — wilderness. You will need to form underground railways. You will need to build food supply independence. You will imagine new borders. You will see landforms differently.
You will need to take a bottle in the face for a Muslim man who does not really agree with you. You will taste tear gas or lose an arm to keep a black single mother with her children. You will need to hold hands with an AIDS patient who has been stabbed. You will need to be beaten with a bat to help a trans woman whose outfit looks weird to you.
Your windows will be smashed. Your house will smell strange. Your lawn will never be green again. Your clothes will fit strangely and will never be fashionable. Your music will be homemade. You will be on a no fly list.
You will need to make friends with refugees, who will lead you by their experience, now that you are one too. You will need to learn the discipline of civil disobedience. You will need to learn the language and tools of “opsec” and “counter intelligence.”
You will need new skills or to revive old ones. You will need to farm, or bandage, or midwife, or bargain, or handcraft, or hustle, or lie, or sabotage. You will need to think of living temporarily in “camps” or an “autonomous zone” or a “free city.” You will need to prevent internecine conflicts and head off warlords in your midst. You will need to write a new constitution. You will negotiate a dissolution. Or later, and worse, a cease fire. You will need to hide and run and protect and huddle.
There is no hope in option 1; it is just denial. There is great romance in option 2 but it leaves behind a vulnerable homeworld; it is just bargaining. Right now, I am considering options 3 or 4 and you should too. These are angering and depressing. You no longer have a choice about acceptance. It will come, you might as well stop waiting.
The American state has failed. Maybe the people who are haunted by it can yet succeed.