The Government that Knows How to Channel Hate
Democracy Now presented a segment on its January 23, 2019 program that featured ACLU attorney Chase Strangio. The segment covered the latest attacks against yet another vulnerable population in the U.S.: transgender people. The Supreme Court and the Trump administration have created what is essentially a system of harassment and discrimination against transgender people in the military, making for a “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” policy reminiscent of the Clinton administration’s harassment of gay people in the military. Yogi Berra may have said, “It’s like deja vu all over again,” but not much of what goes on in U.S. society these days is very funny.
Martin Luther King, Jr. observed: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world: My own government.” (“Beyond Vietnam,” April 1967). Recall how Barack Obama dismissed King as some relic from the past vis-à-vis U.S. militarism? To enforce that violence, it uses its military forces and other global strategies like economic sanctions to punish any nation (and people) who dare to buck U.S. superpower global hegemony. And that’s the rub! The debate can’t end with a separation of U.S. military policy from the military, which is its enforcement tool just as police are the enforcement tool of domestic economic, social, and political inequality on the streets of the U.S. They’re two sides of the same coin. Check out the prison population in the U.S. to see how the latter works.
Following the horrors of World War II, the last time that the U.S. stood for a good cause that the military won, an international set of principles were expanded upon that include the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, the U.N. Charter, and other documents and laws. It took only a few, short years for the U.S. to toss those principles and goals into the trash bin of history. The Cold War and the War on Terror have spawned their own perversions against what was achieved in 1945. Where an international police action could have sufficed in September 2001, now we have endless war. And the latter does not take into account the reasons September 2001 took place. Even a baseline of the rules of war, thousands of years in the making, are not seen as a hindrance to military planners, war profiteers, and their ilk at all branches of the federal government. It’s very, very big business. Trillions of dollars are at stake.
Regarding income inequality and militarism, it is noteworthy that as both the global economy and endless wars have morphed, inequality continues to grow at alarming rates further victimizing groups such as transgender people, people of color, and the poor. It is a vicious cycle that has at its heart and soul the U.S. global empire that is the primary, but not the only, enforcer of the global economic, political, and social order.
Democracy Now and other media outlets are no strangers to the reality facing journalists on the ground today who attempt to report on the global empire. Once, one of the defenses against tyranny, journalism itself has repeatedly seen attacks of all kinds. Even with the proliferation of the Internet, the hegemony of U.S. control of the message and medium is difficult to deny. As I write, the government has become so bold that while they once cooked up plans to overthrow their adversaries behind a veil of secrecy, they now do these dirty deeds on primitive newscasts. Shame is too delicate a word to apply to such wrongdoing and bestial behavior.
Nuclear proliferation and environmental destruction are other suits of the military card that accompany the military’s march across the world in support of the global empire.
The U.S. has about 800 military bases in 80 countries (Politico Magazine, July/August 2015). They are not there to hand out chocolates to local children as some G.I.s did during World War II following their hard-won victories.
The Costs of War Project shows (The Nation, January 4, 2018) that the so-called War on Terror involves 39% of the world’s countries.
Here’s ACLU attorney Chase Strangio:
And I want to say something, too, to a lot of people who I’ve been in community with for a long time, who have very justifiable concerns about the actions of our U.S. military and don’t support the military for many reasons. This isn’t a question about whether or not we support the United States military policy. This is a labor issue. This is a survival issue. This is a question about whether the largest employer in our country can tell transgender people that they are not welcome, that they cannot actively be who they are and retain their employment. So we should be incredibly concerned not only about what this means for trans people, for our employment, for our healthcare, for our survival, in absolutely every context, but also whether or not we’re going to accept a government policy that’s premised on the idea that we don’t exist, and that if we do exist, we should not be protected in any way.
Agreed, transgender people deserve the same treatment as all others in all kinds of federal employment, including the military. That inclusion comes with a hefty moral and monetary price these days.
There is even a more significant issue or two here. Trump orchestrates hate like almost no political figure in the past. He feeds on his base of haters who like nothing more than to see others hurt more than they have already been. Look to the lethal reaction to the historic civil rights movement and the same forces can be seen here today. Faces twisted in anger and hate with the capacity to strike out and give those in power, who don’t care about democratic traditions and institutions, carte blanche.
Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.