Guest Opinion: America's Globalized Order
Operation Enduring Freedom: America's Globalized OrderBy Teresa Williams
September 28, 2001
The United States is currently engaged in initiating a war against terrorism and is seeking an alliance with countries it deems as loyal to this cause. In retaliation for the recent bombings on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which resulted in thousands killed and missing, the Bush Administration is gearing up to launch attacks on Afghanistan and on any countries that 'harbor' terrorists or condone terrorism - without yet having tangible proof of which countries are the culprits in these attacks. We prepare ourselves for another war scenario constructed by the United States which promises to be a long one and we have been asked to be patient and hard-working as Americans while this war coined "Operation Enduring Freedom (Operation Infinite Justice was perceived as being too insulting to Muslims as Allah is the only one capable of this pursuit) plays itself out.
As Operation Enduring Freedom sets out to protect the world against global terrorism, American civil liberties and civil rights are in question here at home. As Congress debates the issues of wire-tapping, email surveillance, sweeping arrests and questioning of suspected terrorists, random entry and seizure of property. Numerous people of Arab descent and/or of Islamic persuasion are being arrested and detained with no access to a lawyer or legal counsel and in many cases being detained with no contact with their family or friends. People who appear 'suspect' or who resemble Arabs are being attacked, killed and persecuted by American citizens in a nationwide rampage of racial profiling against anyone who might resemble a 'terrorist'. The national media has fomented this fear and prejudice and has fanned the emotional flames of racism and retaliation around the world.
As our nation reels from these horrific attacks in New York and Washington and seeks to comprehend what has happened and why, there has been minimal discourse and national reflection regarding the dynamics of domestic terrorism here at home - which of course, would not be labeled terrorist activities by the perpetrators or the governing authorities. Institutionalized domestic terrorism and oppression warrants as much attention and analysis as international terrorism because unless the prior is addressed more adamantly and truthfully, international terrorism will continue to manifest itself in a myriad of forms.
America is firmly rooted in a culture of violence and terrorism. One example would be that of the decimation of the indigenous peoples. Another example would be the institution of slavery and post-slavery which continues to bear engrained residuals of racism, intolerance and white supremacy to this day. Both systems of human exploitation and sanctioned murders exerted tremendous terror and fear in efforts to control, reform and suppress the target populations. The public whippings, rape and assaults on men, women and children of color in this country have left permanent scars on our national consciousness and cannot be eradicated and dismissed via denial and indifference.
The public mass lynchings of Black men and women (and youth) were certainly terrorist to black people during that time in history when it was a crime and a threat 'to be black'. Lynching was a public leisure sport and the horrific photos of black bodies swinging from trees or crisply burned at the stakes of railroad tracks with white men, women and children smiling in the background attest to the public acceptance of terrorism against Black people in American society. One's very existence was threatened and terrorized by the KKK and other groups of blood-thirsty whites who felt it their perogative and civil right to kill or maim black people because the American system of government had already sanctioned that Blacks were inhumane and did not warrant the same civility and humanity as people with white skinned privilege. Thus threatening, raping, terrorizing and incarcerating Blacks for prison labor did not constitute a crime in the eyes of the law and therefore no protection or restitution could be afforded to Black victims of these horrendous crimes. No one spoke of 'terrorism' in this country when such terror was (and continues to be) inflicted upon people of color in this society via racial profiling, police brutality, poverty, mass incarceration and violence in prisons, the war on drugs, institutionalized oppression, paramilitary searches and seizures, minimal income for demeaning jobs, poor health and education services, homelessness, violence towards women and girls, destitiution and ultimately an assault on basic individual humanity.
Terrorism is named and addressed now that it has hit all Americans and has the potential to further hit more of us across race, class and gender lines. As long as terrorism was something that was being done towards marginalized folks who were different or done by people of color towards each other, it was not deemed as a national threat. As long as it was being done by the Taliban towards their own people or done by men of color against their own women it was deemed as contained or legitimate - safe. As long as it was being done by Blacks towards Blacks in other countries or within the United States, it was perceived as non-threatening, socially expected and not news-worthy. Now, terrorism has hit the United States and it has hit the safe, glass bubble of white Americans in large numbers. It has the hit the middle classes of all races. Now it has been deemed an international threat.
Because our country has not addressed the history and causes of racism, violence and oppression which has divided many of us as Americans, it now seeks to unify us in the name of patriotism and war. It is a shame that we have to be unified in the name of a crisis and war to rally for the military assault against other countries of color. It is a shame that many of these American soldiers will be men and women of color fighting an unknown and unseen enemy because we have a government that is determined to control the global economy and the world. It is a shame that many of us are willing to support this war in the name of protecting American freedom and democracy when we allow this same government to inflict war, violence and economic exploitation upon other countries so that we can maintain our materialistic ways of life, consumption and freedom as Americans. We have not learned the lessons of the past wars and aggressions and many of us have chosen to remain in denial about why these terrorists did what they did recently in New York and Washington. Our national media would have us to believe that these were crazy people who just lost control of themselves, killed Americans and committed suicide. These individuals did not 'flip out' one day and decide to take out Americans. They strategically planned their targets and symbols for months if not years. They planned to take their own lives in this deadly process of targeting symbols of power.
Ours is a government that takes pride in its imperialism and seeks to perpetuate a global dependency on the United States and its imperialist alliances. We are witnessing the final stages of capitalism and Western imperialism and because other countries have grown weary of our global domination and arrogance, we are now entangled in a global 'blowback' as a result of our foreign policies, our destabilization of other countries, our covert actions and our globalization efforts to hegemonize the rest of the world according to the American Way.
The United States has focused primarily on being the global police rather than setting a global precedent of non-violence and democratic civility. We have allowed our own society to deteriorate to such a degree whereby many of us are socialized to live schizoid lives entrenched in extremes of both cultural violence and degradation of others on the one hand and a religious, moral and civil ethics on the other. Many Americans are expected to be aggressive, indifferent, arrogant and insensitive to others as witnessed in our media culture and embrace and uphold God and morality at the same time. We are the last ones who should dictate and preach to the rest of the world about the virtues of good and global civility when we do not lead by example at home. We are a racist nation. Our country walked out of The U.N. World Conference Against Racism with Israel recently in South Africa, illustrating to the rest of the world that we could care less about racism and that we refuse to address its past legacy and its present realities. We are a nation full of contradictions and hypocrisy. We are now a nation in pain and anxiety about our safety and well-being under global terrorism. We are now one nation under seige. We have discovered that terrorism, pain and violence can indeed attack all Americans regardless of where we are and that our vulnerabilities are great. The recent terrorist attacks against Americans did not mark its targets according to skin color.
Perhaps this crisis is happening at a time when all of us are in need of more dialogue to examine where we have been going and where we have been stuck in our social evolution as human beings. We have allowed the tenets of imperialist behavior to dictate our ways of life and how we think and behave towards others. Now we are being challenged to examine our tracks and who we really are as human beings. A capitalist society strips away the humanity of its people forcing them to focus on laboring and working for a system that rewards it in the form of cash and thereby keeping them preoccupied with surviving, spending and having a good time. The party is over.
We are not exempt from the pain and suffering that other cultures and peoples have had to endure for many years - in many cases, as a result of our country's foreign policies. We are not exempt from an economic recession or further terrorist attacks that could wipe us from this earth at any given time as we have recently witnessed. We need to be more engaged with a transparent and honest dialogue about who we are as a diverse nation of people and how we have arrived to this stage and time. We do not need pretentious waving flags of solidarity to assuage our pain and further cloud the truths of where we have gone wrong. Now is the time to examine our consciousness and have the courage to embrace our weaknesses, fears and failures in a effort to heal the wounds of our nation. This cannot be done as long as we do not address and atone for our past atrocities (at home and abroad) and to cleanse the blood that stains this country's hands. Now is the time for our nation to be more responsible as citizen's of the global community in exemplifying a behavior that transcends the hideous cycle of war and moves towards policies and actions that are more humane and ethical if we truly seek any enduring freedom. But freedom and civil liberties cannot be segregated according to race, class and gender contingency lines. Freedom has to be affirmative action in praxis for all Americans and with freedom comes personal and social responsibility.
Perhaps by getting our own domestic house and agenda in order as to what constitutes freedom, justice, democracy and being an American citizen, we will not continue to put our citizens at the risk of further global hatred and scorn as a result of marketing and imposing our cultural values and ideals upon the rest of the world. This tragic crisis is an opportunity to dispel the myths many of us have held about ourselves as Americans and to realize that we too have a responsibility as world citizens to listen to the rest of the world - for a change.
Copyright (c) 2001 Teresa Williams. All Rights Reserved, republished with permission of the author