5 min read

The Laboratory of Our Future

The Laboratory of Our Future

Years back, I read a book by Charles Bowden on Ciudad Juarez. At the time, Juarez was at a boiling point, or whatever is worse than that–cartels were fighting immensely bloody battles over Juarez and other territories across northern Mexico (and everywhere else) in order to control these avenues of black market commerce, and thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire, along with journalists, minor government factotums, and virtually anyone who appears to cross the cartels. In response, then-president of Mexico Felipe Calderon launched a much more literal War on Drugs than ours–putting actual soldiers on the street in a bid to wrest control from the cartels and corrupt government officials. This did not go well, and the soldiers only became another level of corruption, as violent but more lethal than the cartels they supposedly fought. The book, Bowden's Murder City, was arresting, mortifying, enthralling, and the start of my journey through his oeuvre. I take the title of this letter from one of Bowden's books, which described Juarez as an experiment between nations, meant to push the boundaries of how low a people could be trampled before something broke.

Before I go forward, I want to say that the above paragraph is a gross simplification of an ongoing problem with deadly consequences for which the United States is directly responsible–and I'm happy to have that conversation with anyone who wants to, as it remains an interest of mine (which is, itself, a gross way to phrase it). Tens of thousands of people have been killed in direct actions between cartels and the Mexican police and soldiers, while hundreds of thousands have been murdered altogether as a result of US policies dating all the way back to NAFTA. But enough preamble.

The Specter of 'Liberalism'

A recent briefing from the Washington Post was titled "Israel's war in Gaza and the specter of 'genocide.'" And I'm calling it–that is the worst use of quotation marks this year. The coverage within is as disgusting as you might imagine, with every mention of Palestine including "Hamas-controlled X" in the same way people used to say Barack Hussein Obama every time they mentioned the United States' first Military Drone President. The briefing includes the growing plurality of people and nations who call Israel's massacre of Palestinians a genocide–and even clearly states that Israel is attacking and killing a huge population of children, cutting off their electricity and water and food–all to follow that small paragraph with a larger one that describes the attack launched by Hamas as a "hideous rampage" with "whole families butchered" yet carefully elides the death toll, as it is dwarfed by the ongoing Israeli bombardment.

I happened to turn on NPR during a drive the same day I read that WaPo briefing (also a mistake), and the segment I caught mentioned, without context, that swastikas have been displayed in a gesture of gross antisemitism at anti-Zionist/pro-Palestinian rallies across the country. Now, you and I know that no self-respecting leftist owns a damn swastika, let alone would find one to fly at a protest. There is no leftist turned so bitter by this attack that they went Nazi. The alarm was sounded very quickly to warn everyone that pro-Palestinian demonstrations would be and are being infiltrated by right-wing extremists hoping to gain converts who are outraged by Israel's brutality. And I all but guarantee you they've had no luck. Nevertheless, such people have been at protests and such people, I'm sure, are the source of any fascist iconography. You'll find on Twitter that some far-right mouthpieces have been extremely, strangely, vocal in their support of Palestine. But no mention of that on the liberal bastion that is NPR. Biden, as recently as last week, has double-down on debunked rumors that Hamas beheaded babies, burned them, etc. and no pushback from the media that knows better. And that's a problem.

Though you likely have a hefty distaste for liberals, they are functioning in the US government as our bulwark against unfettered kleptocracy, bigotry, and authoritarianism. And as thin as that bulwark may be, I would posit that up until somewhat recently we have believed that bulwark to be doing its job–at least to some extent (yeah, that's a lot of caveats). But I am deeply concerned by the response of the liberal apparatus in the United States to the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. I find it brazen, transparent, and bloody. It shouldn't surprise us that all of our suspicions about the Dems has come to be confirmed, but it is nevertheless infuriating. Icons that we have cheered even recently like Bernie Sanders and John Fetterman have been silent on this subject or worse. Elizabeth Warren has given several toothless responses toward a halt in the conflict, but no call for a ceasefire. (This particular issue, thankfully, has more recently seen a turn toward the outspoken --Eric from the future/actual present.)

A Trial Balloon

More than just proving themselves corrupt, the moves the US government (and other US institutions, like several universities) is making with regards to Palestine and pro-Palestinian/anti-Zionist protest movements is extremely disconcerting–and this is not just a US issue. What we are seeing, in real time, is the laboratory of our future. Gaza has become a proving ground for the mettle of resistance worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of people–probably millions at this point–have gone out into the streets, have called their representatives, have boycotted, have done all the things within the bounds of legality possible (and sometimes beyond). And while some countries have listened to their people, cutting diplomatic ties with Israel, any governmental response is largely immaterial so long as the United States stands behind Israel. Which it does, and will do.

This is a lot of words to get to this point: I am concerned that we are seeing a movement from the ostensible left toward a hawkish authoritarianism. The meme of two airplanes dropping bombs, one undecorated and the other festooned with rainbows, rings true. While the left placates us with small social victories (or, at least, social fights), it allows the right to curtail our right to protest, showers the military-industrial complex here and abroad with money, and supports not just genocide but open attack on other sovereign nations by what the US describes as a key ally in the Middle East. Even in a long stretch of democratic presidencies, I see the United States making paltry efforts to combat climate change, but immense efforts to enrich the war machine. Because, at the end of the day, this is about making money.

I could link to the potential motives of Israel's asymmetric warfare–the billions to be made off fossil fuels, the obvious desire to be rid of Palestinians altogether–but motive is, when talking about genocide, irrelevant. There is no worthwhile motive. What we are witnessing is one nation's desire to steamroll a people backed by the world's greatest superpower, when in the not-so-distant past said superpower itself decided to engage in the same kind of asymmetric warfare, resulting in the death of over a million Iraqis. It's bald war profiteering, but it is also a push for the future of the planet. Will the masses be cowed, be wooed, be crushed out of resistance to these powers? Or have we finally seen enough? Are we finally going to put up a real fight?

I am pessimistic on these questions. But insofar as the United States is choosing to push its luck in supporting Israel against the moral majority, I think they are making a grave error. It may not come today. The tide may not break with Palestine. But there is swiftly coming a day when we will have had enough. It won't happen in time–I wish it had happened years ago–but either this world collapses under its own weight, or we break it ourselves, and make something of what remains. We're entering into a landscape, I think, as politically fraught as it is climatically, in which powers and players are testing boundaries in new and frightening ways. We've got to be alert to these moves, and ready to push back. It's not just us in this fight–as should be made clear–but we can't let our growing numbers make us overconfident.