Sunday, February 12, 2006

As we were (and will be) saying....

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
Dwight Eisenhower, January 17, 1961. As Amy Goodman said, today we could consider Eisenhower a radical. But what struck me about this passage, one used to open the new movie "Why We Fight," is Eisenhower's deliberate use of the word "spiritual" to describe the state of a nation, and of its people.

Ronald Reagan is supposed to have returned religion to the public square, when in fact all he did was introduce the now de rigeur political speech closing cliche, "God Bless America", an empty piece of rhetoric which seems to say something religious, but actually says nothing at all. Eisenhower is much closer to the true place of religion in the public square, yet how many politicans would dare speak this way today?

I'll even be so bold as to say I think there is a reason for that; and that it is tied to responsibility, to the notion that we, the people, as spiritual beings, and as the sovereign under our form of democracy (the forms of democracy being one of the subjects we will have to discuss further), are responsible for what "they" the government, are doing. And that these issues, and the issues of what Jacques Derrida called "globalatinization" (a reference to the language of ancient Rome, whose words and concepts undergird and provide the boundaries by which we in the European tradition define the world around us), and "the worldwide concept of the political, where the democratic realm becomes constitutive of the political realm" (Rogues, p. 28) , intersect the issues of the "cartoon controversy" and the fact that "the only and very few regimes, in the supposed modernity of this situation, that do not present themselves as democratic, are those with a theocratic Muslim government." The question of why that is so, and why self-representation is important to our understanding is also something that we will, as Derrida likes to say, return to in a moment.

Or two.

No comments:

Post a Comment