What About Whataboutism?
Semantics will not stop a war. Peace will.
War and nationalism are being romanticized to the benefit of no one in the world.
As Russia continues its assault on Ukrainian territory, the world has been watching for a week, we have seen acts of extreme bravery and acts of extreme inhumanity. Social media has become an incredible resource for news and mutual aid as well as a place for a lot of bad takes and misinformation.
America, as a society that is guilty of over consumption on a regular basis has covered this conflict incessantly. They offered visas and refugee status to prominent, rich Ukrainians, viral songs for peace, and without much understanding of geopolitics and a long history of red scare propaganda developed terrible takes on communism through the whole ordeal so far. Somehow an imperialist land grab done by a billionaire dictator, a Christian Nationalist and the former US president’s buddy has been linked to socialism, communism and the likes.
During this time, as it is during divisive times in the age of social media, fights erupt over opinions. As winter, aka vacation season for a lot of middle class people in the USA ends, I see a horrible trend of Americans condemning Russia’s horrific actions of occupation on sovereign land via tweets from the comfort of a cheap air bn b in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and other occupied Caribbean islands.
The decolonial version of history understands the USA as an ongoing occupation on unceded Indigenous Lands based on broken treaties. Through that lens one can understand the extreme frustration of Indigenous people and people of the global South in general with the constant talking points that commend Ukrainian citizens for taking up arms against their occupiers but treating BIPOC like savages or terrorists for doing the same. At the risk of sounding like a whataboutist I find that the contrast between the way the American public sees the struggle of the Ukrainian People and how they react to it, to the little to no media attention around historic fights (that happened not too long ago) like no DAPL or even now as the Apache fight against copper mining on their sacred lands is telling. Enough time passed America has stopped warring so much with (usually ‘underdeveloped’) Nations as they are now war with concepts, like drugs, terror, communism etc.(in said Nations) this really has allowed the shift to move into the realm of fantasy. Americans love to imagine a scenario where they have to fight in their hometowns, survive the impossible, bleed out their occupiers. This Red Dawn Day fantasy can allow the amount of dissonance that has some folks sharing endearing pictures of neo nazi Azov Battalion of Ukranian soldiers with cats and photographs of kids making molotov bombs with no nuance. From JROTC programs and recruiting offices in every High School to teaching kids a pledge of allegiance before they can even read and understand the words recited, GI Joe and every marvel universe movie used as a way to liken masculinity, manhood to militarism, at the default America is inherently militant. Kids understand that we are the heroes in the story, the saviors of the world, teenagers know that not only can they make a difference in the world through serving their country, they can gain upward mobility, financial stability and resources such as healthcare and paid college, this is what it takes to create the level of disconnect that it takes for a nation that just bombed over seven countries in the past month to be so appalled at the bombings occurring on an European nation we have vested interest in.
The whitewashed history of this nation, the glorification of nationalism and war and the ongoing assaults on our liberties, rights and personhood makes a perfect setting for the desensitization to war, violence and aggression as the default response to violence.
We the people win nothing by continuing to drum up and galvanize wars that only our children will fight for the politicians, the oligarchs, the billionaires and multinational companies to cash in on the suffering of the poor.
America would do well in not playing the hypocrites game and take out the plank in our own eye instead of worrying about the spec on the other imperialist, chrsitan nationalist nation with nuclear capabilities.
I think that in a world steeped in violence, the most revolutionary act that we can do is to embody love and peace. I cannot know what it is like to live without violence because pain, poverty and violence touched my life, but I know that responding with violence only begets more violence, hatred, pain and aggression. The only way I know how to advocate for peace these days is to continue healing gently, loving myself, my family and community. Doing what I can within reasonable service and doing my job excellently is my contribution to pushing light into the world. There is always a food not bombs chapter in your community, an on going protest to War by feeding folks in your community. And of course, my invitation for you to come march with me and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival this June 18th 2022 in Washington DC. Sign Up here: www.poorpeoplescampaign.org
Reverend Leonina Arismendi Zarkovic is a DC State Campaign Organizer for Poor Peoples Campaign A National Call for Moral Revival, co-leader of Iglesia del Pueblo, a virtual faith space for action and reflection over on Kairos Center FB Live every sunday 7:30PM and Circle of Creatives Writer for Farmers Footprint.
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