Has Stan Goff gone mad or is he now possibly the most powerful spokesman for the Left?
Stan Goff has crossed a line. Recently, Goff penned an eloquent and heartfelt paean to his newfound Christian faith. But this was no simple testimonial of conversion. For Goff aimed this piece to Christian soldiers in the United States military and urged them, through careful reflection of their own commitment through baptism, to resist. To not serve and actively reject calls to kill. Stan Goff has asked Christian soldiers to become more Christian, and less soldier.
Like many others, I have long admired Goff for his trenchant and powerful critiques of American imperial wars and the weak justifications that keep getting thrown at the public for their support. His passionate advocacy of the working class and his own life story made me feel proud of "our side"- and hopeful that some would listen. But this recent turn has surprised me and dismayed others.
For now he has gone a step further and taken all that passion and analysis and put it into an area where so many on the Left are either uncomfortable, clueless about, or outright hostile to, and that is the fact that most of the United States remains a very Christian culture. Oh, there are many Christian leftists, working tirelessly at ending bigotry and war, but most American leftists misunderstand the Christian community's diversity and potential for engagement. And we err if we think all Christians are rabid right-wingers supportive of war and empire. Goff's newfound faith is touching in its tenderness, and subversive in its application to our current situation.
Goff has taken two of the Rights most important vocabularies, of war and of Christianity, and turned it against them. In one brave stroke (which apparently has caused some serious hand-wringing among ostensible allies) he has changed the conversation.
Empires cannot progress without armies of apologists to convince the masses of their cause, armies of greedy lackeys to maintain the profits derived by their actions, and armies to subdue those who thwart their agendas. By reaching out to the soldiers and persuading them to not join that enterprise because their religion actually condemns it, Goff courageously challenges the most important tool the empire has for subverting the ideals of a republic at home and continuing military domination abroad. What the Left sadly does all too often, is reject both the war and push away the warriors. This is a terrible, and shortsighted mistake I believe.
Once when I lived in Los Angeles and walked the streets after the riots, an old communist friend pointed to the rows of police and then to the youths who were taunting them. "They are making a big mistake"- he said. "Why is that?"- I asked. "Because they (the police) are not my enemies, they are the functionaries of my enemies,"- he replied.
For many average Americans, seeing veterans protest the war is among the most painful and ideologically distressing event in their civic life. For if the warriors return disenchanted, cynicized and embittered and speak out against the system which took them there, then what are we doing "supporting our troops"- by clinging to imperial designs on others and manipulating those soldiers--our neighbors--into doing that dirty work? It calls into question so many of the errant presumptions USAmericans have about their government's role in the world and our role in what they do. Gen. Smedley Butler understood this in the years after the First World War. Stan Goff understands this now.
Goff may succeed where so many other Leftists, suspicious of religion and spirituality in most its forms, fail. He can speak directly to the macho drives and ambitions of future warriors, address veterans in language they understand, and dissuade fence-sitters from joining the military. He can now do this by appealing to that other component of USAmerican working class culture--their religion. And he is doing it in ways that challenge the very basis of another precious part of that culture, its particular mixture of God and country. I hope he succeeds. For by going straight to the people and speaking to them of their religion and its historical distortion away from the revolutionary potential it has had despite centuries of being co-opted by State power, he gets their attention when many of us who don't share that connection can't. And by reminding listeners of his own years of service in the military, he provides a hardcore perspective even fewer of us have had. This is either a form of madness or brilliance. For Stan Goff may very well become the most powerful--and dangerous to the empire--man on the Left. Good luck, Stan.