Thursday, March 3, 2011

America After America: An Introduction

We have an excess of revolutions. Today, in early March of 2011, there are actually too many states in the midst of social revolt for even our bloated 24 hour media cycle to effectively cover them all. (Seriously, when was the last time you heard about the upheaval in Bahrain? Even Al Jazeera is struggling to find time for it.) In just over a month, Tunisia and Egypt have undergone regime changes. Libya is in the midst of civil war. The governments of Jordan and Yemen and more may not survive long enough to be April's fools.

And Madison, Wisconsin has been home to a series of the largest protests on U. S. soil since the Vietnam War. It's hard to imagine that this is purely coincidental.

Yes, it's true that the protests in Madison have a different aim than those in the Middle East and North Africa. (Although labor rights are a significant, often overlooked motivator in Cairo and Co.) But I don't think we should discard the larger similarities because of differences in the details. History won't.

Am I suggesting that America is in the midst of a regime change? No, not necessarily. But the United States may be on the verge of a transformation, a moment of considerable political change.

It's almost become a truism or a cliché to claim that our political status quo is unsustainable. Whether it's the right bemoaning deficit spending and massive foreign debt or the left warning of ecological collapse and the seemingly unbridgeable gap between wealth and poverty, both sides of the spectrum seem to agree that radical change is necessary and unavoidable. And social reality seems to agree: Even if you ignore the unrest in Wisconsin, you still have widespread unemployment and a increasingly political radicalism. And don't think that I only mean the Tea Party; the left is rapidly moving from years of timidity and quiet despair to visible, vocal direct action. Note the in-solidarity-with protests that have spread far beyond Wisconsin's borders.

But this isn't a doomsday blog, nor is it a revolutionary manifesto. I'm not interested in fearful dread of dramatic political change, or instigating revolt. Instead, I want to reflect on what the future might look like and what trends and forces might lead us there. What could widespread political change mean for American life? And how might it happen? Could we be pulled dramatically to the right, or the left, or in an entirely different, entirely new direction? Could we see the fall of one or both of our two dominant political parties, and the rise of one or more replacements? Or could we emerge with a radically different kind of democracy--or no democracy at all? Will the primary instigators be in the streets, or online, or both? And on and on and on.

And that's "America after America:" America, the continent and the community, after the end of America, the dominant perspective and the status quo. American society after a drastic change in the thing we've been calling the American Way of Life.

I hope to make posts fairly regularly. (Hold me to it!) And I don't want to become trapped in a single perspective or vision for the future. I plan to explore a lot of different possible theories and topics, and do so rationally without excessive editorializing. (Once again: Hold me to it!)

I know this is bad form, as far as conclusions are concerned, but: If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions, please comment. I'd like for this blog to be a dialogue, not a diatribe.

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