Saturday, October 24, 2015

This Is How You've Lost Me

Many years ago, just for fun, I took a creative writing class at a community college.  In that class we read an excerpt from a story which was part of Drown, an anthology written by Junot Diaz.  (The part we were assigned was the part where Yunior, the protagonist, got carsick while riding in a van with his father.)  A long time after that, I read that Junot Diaz had written another anthology titled, This Is How You Lose Her, in which Yunior was again the main character.  That anthology was an examination of the life of a young man, inwardly sensitive and looking for genuine love, yet outwardly macho, whose machismo led him to sabotage all his relationships with women by using them as objects and cheating on them.  At the end of the road, the pain of multiple rejections caused him to introspect and face the reality of his character and cultural influences, and to own the consequences of his actions.

Here's a disclaimer: The summary I have just sketched is a condensed version of other summaries of the book.  I haven't read it personally, other than skimming excerpts of a couple of its stories, because although I could see the strength and talent of Diaz in the story I read for the creative writing class, I found his style a bit too gritty for my taste.  Yet the central premise of This Is How You Lose Her is intriguing in light of current events.  I am thinking of "The Cheater's Guide to Love," and wondering how widely a cheater's reputation spreads among his potential victims once one of them catches on to the fact that he's a cheater.  I am also thinking of how rare it is that people who look at others as objects to be exploited ever come to the point where they are genuinely, healthily sorry for their actions.  I am also thinking of the perspective of the characters who were cheated by Yunior: were there ever any instances in which two or more of them met and began to compare notes on him as a way of making sense of their own experiences?  (In order to find out, I guess I'd have to read the book.)

That last question is central to today's blog post.  Each of us deals with diverse characters in the course of day-to-day life.  And sometimes those dealings involve conflict between individuals.  Each side in such conflicts has his or her own story, and frequently each side tries to recruit a "jury" of his or her peers to render a favorable judgment on his or her side of the conflict.  But if you're a member of such a potential jury, and you have been trashed by one of the parties in the conflict, your experience will color your judgment of each side's claims in the present conflict.  Let's say then that a few of Yunior's exes met by chance, and that they all knew a woman who was currently involved with him (and being cheated on by him).  If she complained to her acquaintances about his cheating, whom would they be more likely to believe?  Her or him?

In the same way, there now exists a dispute which involves more than individuals.  It now involves entire nations.  I am referring to the struggle between the West and those nations who have refused to submit themselves to Western economic domination.  The United States is the chief protagonist for the West, and Russia has begun to emerge as the chief protagonist for the other side.  The two most recent conflicts between these sides have involved the Ukraine and Syria.  In these conflicts, in addition to armed combat, there has been an information war.  In the early months of 2015 it became clear that Russia is winning the information war, and that the United States is none too happy about this.  Concerning military action in Syria, Russia has strongly extended its winning streak, with an increasing number of people ready to believe the Russian side of the story even here in the United States.

What is the American side of the story? It is that Syrian President Bashir Assad is a threat to peace and democracy who has committed horrible atrocities against his own people and who has sought to suppress the birth of genuine democracy in his own country.  Therefore the United States felt compelled to involve itself in Syria by arming rebel groups and bombing Syrian forces loyal to Assad.  Oh, and by the way, there was also this terrible Islamic threat that sprang up out of nowhere and was guilty of great atrocities, so we had to bomb them as well.

And what is the Russian side of the story?  Namely that the United States intervention in Syria was an illegitimate action designed to topple a legitimate government in order to gain geopolitical advantage, that ISIS was a threat manufactured entirely by the United States to destabilize the entire Middle East for American economic and geopolitical advantage, and that the real objective of American and NATO use of force ostensibly against ISIS was to destroy targeted Middle Eastern countries in order to facilitate the installation of puppet governments favorable to American economic and geopolitical interests.

Which side to believe? And on what basis does one make the choice?  Making the choice might involve much research, including reading Wikileaks documents authored by the governments in question.  It might also involve much tedious analysis of evidence.  But one thing would help greatly to shorten the process: if you as a potential juror in the court of public opinion had ever been trashed by one side or the other, remembering your experience would help you to arrive at a speedy verdict.  So if we look at Russia's claim that the intervention and use of force by the United States in the Mideast, and especially now in Syria, has nothing to do with the stated aims of the United States to "protect and promote democracy" and to "fight terrorism," we can ask whether the United States has on any other occasion used force for ulterior purposes which had nothing to do with its ostensible stated objectives.

The answer to that question is a resounding "Yes!"  I am thinking of the "War on Crime" and the "War on Drugs," wars which have been waged ostensibly to protect American citizens from supposed violent threats within its borders, wars whose actual effect has been to destroy lives, families, neighborhoods and communities by locking up a disproportionate number of people of color for very petty and nonviolent offenses, and in far too many cases, to lock up people who never committed any crimes in the first place.  As far as locking up innocent people, the following links should be an eye-opener:

Minorities (especially African-American) make up a disproportionate number of those incarcerated or sentenced to death in this country, yet the available data seems to indicate that the majority of prisoners of color in the United States are innocent. It is a real challenge for the innocent to prove their innocence and to obtain release from prison, because the criminal justice system purposely makes it hard for convicted prisoners to prove their innocence. Indeed, in 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled that prisoners have no constitutional right to DNA testing that might prove their innocence.  And there is the continued slaughter of unarmed people by American police, who have killed 928 people so far in 2015.

It is also true in this country that most of the mainstream media is being used to spread lies and misinformation about the prevalence of crime among minorities and the necessity of harsh policing of minorities.  In this weekend's New York Times is a piece in which FBI Doofus (Oops! I mean, "Director") James B. Comey insinuates that scrutiny, criticism and video recording of police misconduct is leading to a rise in crime in "certain cities" which he refuses to name.  Another paper ran an article a few weeks ago in which chief pigs (Oops, I mean "police chiefs") at a national convention expressed frustration that citizen scrutiny and the threat of Youtube video footage of police brutality were hindering cops from "fighting crime."  My question is, if the police are fulfilling their ostensible goal of "fighting crime," then why should they object to scrutiny?  They should have nothing to hide, should they?  Unless, of course, they themselves are criminals, and their "ostensible goal" is really a pretext for destroying the designated scapegoats of a narcissistic country.

This country keeps trying implacably to trash certain scapegoated populations within its own borders.  (And I am a member of one of those scapegoated populations, being a Black male.)  So it's easy - oh, so easy! - for me to believe Russia's assertion that this country would trash other nations on a lying pretext, and that American media is full of lies.  It's also easy to believe that the United States would spend over $500 million to train mercenaries and thugs to overthrow a foreign government while refusing to spend any money to help the poorest of its own citizens or to clean up injustices within its own borders.  (Don't you wish you had a brand new ISIS Toyota truck?)  Doofuses like Republicans Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce are trying to recapture my "heart and mind" by spending U.S. tax dollars for better, louder media to fight Russia's "weaponization of information."  They refuse to do the one thing that might change my mind concerning this country and its real aims, and that is to start treating its own citizens differently.  In this they are utterly lacking in the humility and introspection that enabled Yunior to own his mistakes.

And this is how they've lost me.

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