Taking Sides

If you’re uncertain which side to favor in any of the myriad conflicts raging in these complicated times, you’re not alone. Here in the USA, we’re picking up debris left over from an election contest between two of the least popular celebrities that ever adorned a magazine cover. Which one do you hate less? Which political party should we repudiate, considering that, in tandem, Pubs and Crats gave a us a choice between crime families? Suppose you had to select the lesser evil from these two choices: the Trump Administration and the FBI. It’s almost a joke. Public policy as situation comedy. Are you obliged to hate Assad and love Netanyahu? Can you honestly detest Nunes without also gagging on Schiff? Is it really treachery to be rootin’ for Putin?

If we wanted to assess our potential allies and adversaries on the basis of merit, we might start with a list of virtues and vices that institutions and nations typically exhibit. Most Americans would probably favor humane, fair-minded, egalitarian systems over brutal, arbitrary, autocratic ones. Whether we’re talking about nations, businesses, political parties, or even families, we like to think of ourselves as caring and generous folk. Our actions as a nation say we are nothing of the sort.

With the approval of both political parties and big swaths of the mass media, our government displays armed force in over 100 foreign countries and has killed people in dozens of them as a matter of course. We have been bombing Afghans for 17 years, and we have no plans to quit. We deny education to poor children and we deny health care to their families. We incur debt like the most desperate of degenerate gamblers. We give our law enforcers the power of life and death. We imprison people without charge for indeterminate periods. We reject science and worship fame. We consume advertising like candy. Among endorsers of this system–employers, members of Congress, rich people–fair-minded egalitarians will find few allies.

On the theory that an enemy of your enemy is your friend, good citizens of the USA might reasonably express approval of adversaries of their own government and condemn its allies. You might resist the urgings of Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Donald Trump and simply repudiate their ally, Israeli leader Netanyahu (who bombed some Arabs this week), but embrace their mortal enemy, North Korea’s Kim Jung Un (who has initiated diplomatic contact with his nation’s long-time enemy and US proxy to the South). If Democrats tell you Russians are bad, and the CIA is good, Russians are probably good, and the CIA isn’t. If Republicans tell you immigrants are not to be trusted, but Fox News is, it’s probably the other way around.

This analysis will require a bit of adjustment when both parties to a conflict are equally corrupt. Consider issues of war and peace as addressed by the US government. Republicans express their approval of armed force with displays of weapons, military parades, and F-16 fly-bys, while Democrats do it by spending tax dollars with local arms dealers and pledging allegiance to the flag. The two parties claim to disagree on key issues of what they both call “national defense,” even as both subsist on rich peoples’ money, much of it derived from weapons sales.  Who you gonna favor in that staged and scripted showdown? You might as well try to choose between Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Sometimes you can’t even figure out which side is which. Turkey is in an alliance with the USA. Turkey is also fighting a rebellion by Kurds, members of a distinct ethnic group that reside in parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The USA has been arming Kurds for over 20 years in an effort to destablize governments in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Lately Turkey has been in close consultation with its neighbors Iran, Syria, and Russia, in hopes of mitigating some of the bloody conflicts on its borders and beyond, even as it’s dropping bombs on Kurds armed by the USA. In the meantime, Israel, the UK and the USA work tirelessly to keep the armed conflicts going, even to the point of arming combatants on both sides. Sometimes it looks like the object of all this is to shed blood, destroy property and expend munitions, a highly profitable enterprise for those who can afford to invest in it.

Your safest bet in taking sides may simply be to oppose the interest of the rich in every conflict. By this standard, you’d have to repudiate both Democrats and Republicans, both NPR and Fox News, both Lockheed and the American Red Cross, all funded and controlled by wealthy interests. Rich people don’t want us to know that economics is a zero-sum game in which their gain is our loss, but you can do the math and maybe discover who’s on your side and who’s not.