In the days following the Obama rally I attended, I gave up all patriotic allegiances. I abandoned the state as a provider of security and health. By looking at history, especially early 20th century history, and the ontology of the nation-state, the true nature of humans organized around state centrality blossomed before my eyes. Additionally, the Holy Spirit worked tirelessly to redeem my view of who G-d loves and therefore who I should love. When we structure our government around a minority of economic elites who live thousands of miles away making decisions with effects on people and topics they know nothing about, we invariably concede autonomy for the sake of imagined security and prosperity. Those who live within the boundaries of the state’s watchful, “beneficent” eye receive the honorable title of citizen. Citizenry creates “us” and “them”. Consequently, the state demands solidarity of its citizenship. Without citizen solidarity, how would it know who to protect? A circular feedback loop grows. The state offers security to its citizens, the citizens support the state, dissenting citizens remove their support of the state, the state enforces its security protocol on the dissidents, and the citizens return to support. This way of maintaining state power can be done both explicitly and subconsciously. For example, the “Shock and awe” campaign of Bush-era Second Iraq War quietly tells citizens that we should fear terrorism, but we should fear the bombs of F-117 stealth fighters even more. What became quite clear was that support of the state meant support of violent measures of protection of “us” against “them”. Since I never supported violence, I withdrew my support of the state.
Herein lied my major problem. Up until this moment, I maintained a fairly healthy socialist viewpoint on most topics. I supported state sanctioned health care, state schools, etc. Contrary to the arguments of Chris Hedges and other neo-socialist Americans, socialism mandates nationalism. To say otherwise is to deal in faulty, ridiculous logic. Nationalism looks somewhat different than patriotism. The root for nationalism comes, obviously, from the word nation, but patriotism derives from the Latin word for father, “pater”. Nationalism is plainly support for the state; patriotism implicates an intimate love of the state. Ultimately, both demand belief in the system. Nationalism indicates one can reform the nation and still support it; patriotism means an acceptance of the state’s direction no matter what. In the end, both fail to live up to the standards of a G-d who calls us to “love neighbor, stranger, and enemy”.
To call for reform means accepting the system as good. When the state promises security through violence, prosperity at the expense of others, and a system of hierarchical bureaucracy that typically elevates one person (the president) as the most powerful person in the world, a pacifist, anti-patriot, who detests the hierarchies between men and women, rich and poor will see reform as out of the question. The only option is revolt. To give the state more control sounds insane. Democratic socialism will not work when the government finds it so easy to lie to its citizens not to mention provide more power to an already defunct hierarchical political system. Republicanism clearly failed. Therefore, the state, who holds a monopoly on violence, must be vanquished.
More deeply, during this time of growth and reflection, a theological debate motivated me, as well. Growing up, everyone taught, in my church, to rely on G-d and G-d alone. To thrust the power to provide all necessary services into the hands of the state looked like a replacement tactic. We need no G-d when we have the wonderful generosity of the state. Meanwhile, the more I read about Jesus, the more I reflected on the nature of community, the more it seemed as though the state really did try to replace G-d. The Caesars called themselves divine, and when I watched Obama rally the fervor of thousands of supporters around the great and glorious United States of America, the country who Obama called “the last great hope of the world”, it looked like the state had replaced G-d. Was socialism going to end this usurpation? Quite clearly it would not. Of course, neither would the laissez-faire free market and its replacement of G-d with multi-national corporations. How could we provide for everyone, live without power over one another, not replace G-d with a system, live in true freedom, love our neighbor, live without fear of death when we dissent, and outlaw the state? The churches provided me no framework to do this. Socialism only reinforced state control. The way things were was failing. Only anarchism gave me the room for all these things.
Finally, the very notion of being a citizen in a country supported everything I stood against. It created a divide between people based on state security. Only small communities committed to non-violence have a reason to not live in fear. The citizens of a nation-state must live in fear simply because the nation demands they do. With a military, the nation implies that there are people “out there” who seek to harm “us”. The xenophobia intrinsic to nation-states and militarism makes G-d’s love of all people into an impossibility for G-d’s people. State support makes us unable to follow G-d. Period. Support of the state mandates “us” and “them”. Security by the state creates military violence. Military violence against people deemed different and less than “us” rebukes Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. These were things I could not accept.
In my next post, I will finally outline exactly what anarchism is, and how it serves to address all the problems facing us in these dark times.