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July 4th

July 4, 2017

Most of us on the left have mixed feelings on the 4th of July. Speaking for myself, the root problem is the contentious meaning of the imagined community we call the United States, one that directly parallels our great political divide.

The right wing has long asserted a monopoly on nationalism, or more accurately, nationalism has long been a central ideology of the right. It is linked with a fascist-like acceptance of established power hierarchies, hardline Christianity, a white ethnicity, intolerance of others, and an adoration of all things military. Those opposing it are implicitly or explicitly branded as un-American traitors. People of goodwill everywhere reflexively reject this kind of imagined community for it’s a nightmare of hate, intolerance, and ignorance.

While we reject this kind of community, though, we still have a need to replace it with something positive. Humanity evolved in groups and a sense of community, fraternity, rootedness, and identity is central to who we are. Where can we find this if not in nationalism?

The answer, I believe, must transcend the nation. Marx was right when he said back in the nineteenth century that workers have no country and it has never been truer than today. The system is oligarchy and it’s played on a global board. Working people everywhere are but pawns in this brutal game and have no real home to count on. The system at heart is not inter-national, it’s inter-class and its global extent means there are no nation-level solutions. It is an illusion to think otherwise.

Workers have no country but this is also true of our elites. They have no country for they have no need for one—their country is the world. They are the transnationally diversified owners of the planet and national borders have little real meaning. The US elites are the primary designers of the current globe spanning oligarchic system built out of the ashes of WW2 and we see it evidenced in the many treaties on global trade, investment, banking, and the various formal and informal transnational institutions. Expansionism is a central dynamic of oligarchy and it has been the guiding light of US policy going all the way back to the end of the Civil War, first in this huge country and then around the world.

No one today, neither workers nor the empowered elites, actually has a country and, to the extent this is internalized, it is actually cause for hope. Nationalism is a dangerous emotion that has perpetually misled peoples into war. It’s a relic that must be transcended. The future of humanity demands we extend our imagined community so that it encompasses all mankind.

In this sense, the best that is in the United States, as is also in the European Union, should be celebrated as an important step in the right direction. What makes America great is that, more than any other place, its population reflects the world. Especially in its cities, it’s a nation of immigrants, a melting pot and it’s a beautiful thing.

The imagined community I celebrate is global and it partially and very imperfectly exists today in the United States. It is diverse, multicultural, multiracial, radically democratic, anti-authoritarian, anti-war, anti-hierarchical, anti-military, anti-oligarchic, and above all, anti-nationalist.

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