America is Salvageable


I recently watched Captain America: Winter Soldier.  It made me cry three times.  That kind of thing doesn’t usually happen.  Like never.

It also seems like not a tear-jerker.  It’s not.  It’s a gritty realist action movie, mixed with all that Marvel goofiness and implausibility.

What got to me was the idea that America could be a force for good again.

Don’t get me wrong – this place has issues (and the movie makes sure to point many of them out).  It was founded on genocide, sustained by slavery and imperialism, and serves as the global home of capitalism.  And, thematically, our security state is out of control.

But we shouldn’t forget that the USA has a dual history.  There’s all the horrid shit – which really, every country has; atrocity is universal.  But let’s not forget the great progressive train of events in this country, with the labor movement’s many incarnations, women’s suffrage, the Abolitionists, the Civil Rights movement, the wild dreams of liberation in the 60s, the Battle of Seattle, the anti-war movements, the rise of the Internet, Occupy, and most importantly, rock and roll.  Sure, many of these movements were merely attempting to counteract injustices – negating negations.  But the point is, again – every country has these injustices.  Every country has its struggles to overcome them.  And we have ours.

Selecting a specific race to place in chains and compel to forced labor is one of the worst things anyone could possibly do.  At the same time, I cannot think of any other countries off the top of my head which actually fought an entire civil war to end slavery.

Sure, that’s not entirely why the Civil War started (though it is certainly why the South seceded).  And now some scholars are saying that the War of Independence itself was to protect slavery, too.  But regardless of why these conflicts started, we know how they ended.  The USA extended the gradual development of democracy in Britain to a whole new level, creating a culture of democracy, liberty, and anti-monarchism not seen since Greece and Rome.  This then reflected back to the rest of Europe.

That is a critical juncture in world history.

Freedom is what got me, with this movie.  Freedom was the rallying cry of our first revolution.  The love of freedom is not dead in the USA, even if it has drifted into meaninglessness among some people, and been twisted to support capitalism by others.  But it’s that love of freedom which still exists, and which can become the rallying cry of the next revolution, too.

And that brings me to my next point.  If we are to imagine a successful global wave of revolution toward socialism, it would have to come to the United States.   Really, its overall success could be judged mainly by its degree of impact on the United States.  It would serve as the ultimate turning point in geopolitics.

If the rest of the world went socialist except the United States?  I just don’t think that will happen.  I don’t think we will be the humiliated “last to join.”  At this point I think that honor goes to Russia, with its developing fascist movement and culture of authoritarianism.

Our culture is just too wired, technologically.  We are too class-conscious at this point.  Some countries will definitely beat us to the punch.  But many others will watch us, in hope, to see what we do.  I am not the first to think this

You can do this safely, for you will not need to fear foreign interventions. Japan, Great Britain and the other capitalistic countries that intervened in Russia couldn’t do anything but take American communism lying down. As a matter of fact, the victory of communism in America – the stronghold of capitalism – will cause communism to spread to other countries. Japan will probably have joined the communistic ranks even before the establishment of the American soviets. The same is true of Great Britain.

In any case, it would be a crazy idea to send His Britannic Majesty’s fleet against Soviet America, even as a raid against the southern and more conservative half of your continent. It would be hopeless and would never get any farther than a second-rate military escapade.

Within a few weeks or months of the establishment of the American soviets, Pan-Americanism would be a political reality.

The governments of Central and South America would be pulled into your federation like iron filings to a magnet. So would Canada. The popular movements in these countries would be so strong that they would force this great unifying process within a short period and at insignificant costs. I am ready to bet that the first anniversary of the American soviets would find the Western Hemisphere transformed into the Soviet United States of North, Central and South America, with its capital at Panama. Thus for the first time the Monroe Doctrine would have a complete and positive meaning in world affairs, although not the one foreseen by its author.

When we go, our massive economic infrastructure goes with us.  When we go, our military power comes with us, roughly the equivalent of the entire combined rest of the planet’s.  When we go, our webwork of political and economic integration with every other country on Earth goes with us.

When we go, the world goes.

Does this change my political stances?  No, of course not.  I have no illusions about our government, no illusions about foreign intervention or imperialism.  But I really don’t feel a need to hate this country.  I think there is a part of it, not just a fiction but a real part, that we can redeem, or is indeed already admirable.  And I’ll take the fiction, too.  If the single good thing about America is that throughout its history, it has always maintained a dream of freedom — I’ll take the dream.  Not as an illusion to breed complacency, but as vision of what to achieve.  We have to hold tight to this part of America, this admirable part, and stay loyal to it, knowing that it can become the whole.

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