Thursday, February 19, 2015

Henry Giroux on Politics of Disposability and Violence: Implications for the Orchestrated Attack Now Underway on Gay Citizens of U.S. after 2014 Elections

Henry A. Giroux writes, regarding the wild success of "American Sniper," the latest shoot-'em-up movie glorifying macho American exceptionalism and holy-war violence visited on our perceived enemies,

There is more here than a trace of unadulterated racism; there is also an indication of how violence becomes so palatable, if not comforting, to the US public through the widespread ideological and affective spaces of violence produced and circulated in the United States' commanding cultural apparatuses. 
This is not surprising since under a regime of neoliberalism, a persistent racism and politics of disposability are matched by a theater of cruelty in which more and more individuals and groups - such as immigrants, low-income whites, poor blacks, the unemployed and the homeless - are considered throwaways and hence are tarred with the label of being less than human and hence are all the easier to evict from any sense of social responsibility or compassion. Extreme violence has become an American sport that promotes delight in inflicting suffering on others. But it does more. It also ups the pleasure quotient when the Other is entirely reified and demonized, making it easier for the US public to escape from any sense of moral responsibility for a war that was as immoral as it was illegal.

A politics of disposability . . . in which more and more individuals and groups - such as immigrants, low-income whites, poor blacks, the unemployed and the homeless - are considered throwaways: in the final months of 2014, in national elections showing the lowest voter turnout since 1942, a third of Americans just voted to place that politics of disposability, with its throwaway culture, front and center in our political life. 60% of white Catholics voted to put the politics of disposability, with its throwaway philosophy, front and center in American political life, as did 72% of  white evangelicals.

The result: as Giroux points out, on the screen of our national cultural-political theater, all of us are now watching unfold acts of extreme violence — "an American sport" — designed to inflict suffering on others and  to give us thrills of pleasure us as we see that suffering scroll across our screens. 60% of my fellow white Catholics gleefully went to the polls last fall to help elect political leaders who are now, in the state of Wisconsin, seeking to strip same-sex couples of the right to visit each other in the hospital — a political decision by Wisconsin's GOP governor that Doug Mataconis rightly calls "unspeakably cruel." 

60% of my fellow white Catholics helped put into place political regimes that now want to shut the swimming pool down if "they" are permitted to swim in it deprive everyone of the right to civil marriage if gay people can marry. 60% of my fellow white Catholics have re-energized the alliance between the Catholic right and the evangelical right that is now churning out theological statements which, as Bill Berkowitz notes today, are characterized by such a mean-spirited assault on their fellow human beings who happen to be gay that it's as if we're watching the second coming of Fred Phelps. 

60% of my fellow white Catholics chose political leaders last fall who now want to strip cities and towns of the right to pass legislation protecting me and others like me from discrimination in my own state of Arkansas. 60% of my fellow white Catholics voted into office political leaders who, in states like Oklahoma, now want to impose stiff penalties on civil officials who do what they are hired to do and grant marriage licenses to couples seeking to marry. 60% of my fellow white Catholics voted last fall to energize leaders like Kansas governor Sam Brownback (a Catholic), who in another recent cruel, meretricious act of violence targeting gay citizens of his state, abolished legal protections from discrimination for LGBT state workers.

As Ed Kennedy notes today,* none of this political violence being visited suddenly on gay citizens of the U.S. in state after state is happening in a vacuum: it gives every sign of having been strategized, of being funded by the same deep-pocketed donors who bought the 2014 elections. With the express purpose of designating some American citizens as throwaway people, so that the rest of us could sit back with our popcorn and enjoy the show, as those throwaway human beings get what they deserve — violence, demonization, rights blocked and stripped away, the right to visit each other in the hospital suddenly yanked away, protections from discrimination abolished by the stroke of a gubernatorial pen . . . .

So that we can watch them get what we deserve and bolster our own nice feelings about ourselves as the righteous, the hard-working, the moral, and the good . . . . As those who should enjoy the right to take the rifle in our hands and target the "enemy" du jour in our latest iteration of a holy war . . . .

60% of U.S. white Catholics, those who regard themselves as the very quintessence of Catholic, the best, most-churchgoing and most orthodox among us, chose all of this in the last elections. Along with 72% of white evangelicals, who regard themselves as the very definition of what it means to be Christian . . . .

And it will never stop until the two-thirds who are kicked back in front of their television screens watching the spectacle of violence, enjoying the spectacle of violence, choose to make it stop. Because the hard, mean core of American voters who turned out in the fall elections and voted these folks into office intend to keep turning out and placing more and more such folks into office . . . .

An implication we'd be blind, deaf, and utterly self-deceived not to see in the results of the last elections in the U.S.  . . .

*Please note that the link points to Backlot, a gay culture-commentary website. If you're sensitive to such material, as some bloggers at Catholic blogsites have noted they are, when a link points to a gay-themed wite, please be forewarned before you click. It goes without saying that this site is not pornographic.

The graphic is Pew Forum's diagram of the results of the 2014 elections aggregated by reported religious affiliation of voters in House elections.

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