Rob Loughran, writing about Afghanistan in the Feb. 3 issue of the Bohemian ("Go to Your God," Open Mic), could be right that the United States is just another imperial power like Britain or Persia, sure to meet "defeat" in the Afghan/Pakistan theater.
But perhaps we'd better hope American foreign policy represents something more than control of resources, like democracy, pluralism and even human rights, as corny as that sounds. And perhaps there really is a face-off with radical Islam and "we" need to prevail. There is the argument that the United States represents something important in human history and that this current conflict is more akin to WW II than the Vietnam War. Certainly the very bright and eager members of the U.S. military believe so, as does much of the country.
Did America conquer Japan or Germany? No. We conquered their extraordinarily powerful culture of militarism. We helped to establish democracy quickly and had no problem befriending the people. We now have no closer allies. The defeat of fascism is still a seminal event in modern history not to be forgotten. Those were giant battles in the 1940s involving casualties running into the millions. The prosperity and freedom of much of the world in 2010 is still directly the outcome of that war.
In a lot of ways we are closer to peace than any other time in human history. Our understanding of the oneness of the human race is almost commonplace now. We are not at odds with Japan or Germany. Europe is at peace; it even joined in a union. The Soviet Union miraculously changed internally, let East Europe free up, and then Russia adopted "our" economic system. Our militaries cooperate, and thousands of people travel across our borders.
The Korean and Vietnam wars were basically surrogate wars with the People's Republic of China, but now the Chinese are raging capitalists and our economies are astonishingly joined at the hip. These three biggest players—Russia, the United States and China—could reduce their military budgets if they really put their minds to it. So what's left? The battle with holier-than-thou Islamic jihadists. Their destructive desire is a legitimate concern, and America actually is not about to retreat inside its borders in response. We are extremely engaged worldwide, and many aid workers and people with middle-class aspirations hope we don't abandon them to this ruthlessly violent sect. So, peace-loving friends, let's find something else to get excited about—like building communities.
I myself like to concentrate on building a sharing, cooperative culture through the intentional-communities movement. The American people are sorely divided. Perhaps a greater appreciation of America's role in the world from the left, one that concentrated on positive building instead of constant criticism, would go a long way to healing our national rift and helping America play another outstandingly positive chapter in world history.
Nationally, we now face overdevelopment, and the rest of the world will too. I believe that sharing, caring and generosity are the catch-phrases of the future, and this is where more energy is needed. Stop fretting about Afghanistan. Use the most freedom and prosperity humanity has ever had to create a shining example of a more cooperative society.
Here we have the perfect opportunity. From rock stars to athletes to millions of successful working folks, more wealth is at our disposal than ever in history. Whose fault is it our society is dominantly about selfishness and accumulation? How hard is that to change? You won't get jailed for it. With massive unemployment and a new concern for the environment, the conditions are ripe for creating land-based communities of people learning to live and survive in cooperation. This would be a shining light; this would be a contribution to the world culture.
I have such a sense of how powerful this people power movement could be. The Vietnam War is over. This is a new day. The new paradigm, the transformation, is not about a thousand protests but about creating a more joyous cooperative culture. What was it that St. John said? You might say that I'm the dreamer, but you know, I'm not the only one.
Arthur Kopecky is author of 'New Buffalo: Journals from a Taos Commune' and 'Leaving New Buffalo Commune' (UNM Press). He works as a contractor and carpenter (used to anyhow), and is active with the intentional communities movement.
Open Mic is a weekly feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 700 words considered for publication, write firstname.lastname@example.org.