Inheriting an Empire
[col. writ. 2/21/09] (c) '09 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Of all the myriad things to inherit, perhaps the worst is an empire, for such a transmission brings with it the duty of defense, which, in time, invariably becomes defending the indefensible.
For empires are constructed of crimes, and similarly so maintained.
They are birthed in invasion, nursed on occupation and raised on the cruel gruel of repression, torture and brutality.
That is their intrinsic nature as shown by the abundant examples of history. This was shown best by Rome, which ravaged the then-known world to enrich the 'eternal city'. Nations were invaded, their nobles either slain or enslaved, puppets were installed, and the natural resources extracted to feed the ever-hungry maw of Rome.
For millions of Blacks, the Obama election has sparked a new way of thinking and speaking of an America that has, heretofore, been a subject of considerable ambivalence. For perhaps the first time in U.S. history (certainly since Reconstruction), millions speak of the U.S. as "we", instead of "they."
This may well be a turning point in American history.
But is the American Empire "ours" simply because a Black man is the nation's chief executive?
Did we vote it into being, or did we merely inherit it?
Most who voted for Obama certainly didn't vote for the Iraq War, one of the most overt imperial projects in modern U.S. history. They supported a quick and decisive end of the war - not its continuation nor its expansion.
Indeed, of all Americans, Blacks opposed the war the most vehemently, according to national polls.
Perhaps it was the deep memory of national oppression that made it so unseemly to support such an oppressive occupation against the Iraqi people; perhaps it was the clumsiness of the government's lies used to 'sell' the invasion.
But empires begotten by violence and exploitation are poisonous things that damage both sides of this deadly duo.
The British Empire toiled for generations to conquer and exploit over 1/2 of Africa, most of Asia and two-thirds of the Americas. But all of that crumbled when the nation was almost broken under the weight of the Germans, and she was too weak to hold her colonies. Indeed America, as the strongest to emerge from the war, inherited much of Britain's loss, as well as other European powers.
It inherited the Vietnam War when the French could no longer sustain it, and paid a heavy price of death and defeat.
Empires shouldn't be inherited lightly, like knick-knacks from an elderly grandma.
This is especially so in democracies, where the people allegedly determine public policy, for what public policy could be more dire than imperial war?
--(c) '09 maj