Say what you will about America, there’s one thing that’s undeniably true: people don’t like you to say what you will about America. Despite being the most powerful economic and military force on the globe for the last 100 years, our culture is quick to take offense at even the mildest of criticisms. Self-reflection has never been our greatest strength, making a list like this controversial.
Nonetheless, we face several crises together. Most commentators don’t consider 2014 to have been a “good news” year. Whether we realize it or want to admit it, this country’s business and political classes have committed inhuman crimes in our name, and they will continue to do so for as long as we let them. If, instead, Americans pledged to confront these issues openly and honestly, we could pave the way to a much brighter future. These are the issues activists, organizers, and opinion leaders should be hammering home in 2015. Continue reading
You could be forgiven for mistaking the spectacle surrounding Seth Rogen and James Franco’s “The Interview,” a film about an American talk show host who is recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, as a convoluted marketing ploy. The real-world story is almost surely a thousand times more interesting than the movie itself, with alleged North Korean cyberterrorists hacking Sony and threatening movie theaters, Sony canceling the film’s Christmas release and President Obama promising to “respond proportionately,” presumably by disrupting some future North Korean film he doesn’t like.
“Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un, center, is the Justin Bieber of North Korea. Photo by Reuters.
There’s a great deal of doubt over whether North Korea is actually behind the hacks, and even greater doubt they could actually make good on any threats. Still, I disagree with Sony’s critics. As difficult as it is for me to say, Sony did the right thing by pulling the movie. Continue reading
Shortly after World War II, the well-known psychologist Carl Jung ascribed a collective guilt to Germans for the crimes of the Nazi Party, Kollektivschuld. Whether Germans realized it or not, the horrors carried out in their borders, by their leaders, and with their tacit blessing would come to bear on their national psyche. To reinforce this feeling of Kollektivschuld, the U.S. and the UK hit Germany with propaganda posters following the war, depicting images of the Holocaust and sternly reminding the German people, “These atrocities: you are to blame!”
A series of photographs reveal torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib.
So at what point must we, the people of the U.S., acknowledge our own Kollektivschuld for the crimes of our leaders? Few crimes in world history, let alone U.S. history, compare to the Holocaust, but there is still plenty to reckon with that we have yet to maturely confront: the genocide of American Indians, the enslavement of Africans, a system of racism and violence against blacks that continues to the present, the use of napalm in Vietnam, the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, support of brutal dictators and the overthrow of democratically elected governments, the war and sanctions in Iraq that killed perhaps a million or more people – and that’s just what springs to mind off the cuff. Continue reading
When dealing with a police officer, there’s a standard wisecrack a lot of people like to pull out: “Hey, I pay your salary; you work for me.” And while it’s true that tax dollars fund America’s police-industrial complex, what’s not true is that police are accountable to the public as an employee is to an employer. Authority figures tell Americans what to do – not the other way around. Continue reading