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Our Relationship With Our Imperfect World: Part I-- Acknowledging the Good in the Imperfect

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Recently, on the thread about the statement from Joschka Fischer, Former German Foreign Minister, which appears at www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=436
a comment inspired me to go off on a riff.

On this riff I journeyed through three major points. In this posting, I'll share here the first of these, with the writing polished up a bit. In two subsequent postings, I will present the other two:

Part II-- The Persistence of Culture
and Part III-- How Crisis Defines the Possibilities for Transformation

Here is the first leg of that journey: "Acknowledging the Good in the Imperfect."


I should begin with a quick word about the essay by Fischer. In gauging Fischer's words, it is important for progressives to bear in mind just who he is: among other things, he was one of the leading figures in the Green Party of West Germany, and later became foreign minister in the Social Democratic government of very recent years. It is this progressive leader who wrote in this essay:

only the US – with all its power and sense of mission – had the ability to establish a new world order at the beginning of the twenty-first century. To achieve this, the US would have had to subordinate its power to the goal of shaping the new order, much as it did at the close of World War II in 1945...Only the US pursued a foreign policy that conceived freedom and democracy as its mission. This was not always and everywhere the case – certainly not in Latin America. But where it did apply, America’s strength and willingness to seek international cooperation created an order whose institutions still hold the world together. ...The UN, NATO, the IMF and the World Bank, the law of nations and international criminal law, even today’s free and united Europe – all are crowning achievements of US foreign policy. They mark the moments in history when America’s power was used to further a global order, while also pursuing America’s own interests in the most effective and sustainable manner....Madeleine Albright once called the US the “indispensable nation.” She was right then, and she is still right today... Will America hark back to the spirit of 1945 ...? No other power will be able to assume America’s role in the world for the foreseeable future. The alternative to American leadership is a vacuum and increasing chaos.

In one of the comments on that thread, a regular visitor to the site wrote:

“I don’t think that America’s net effect in the world can be anything but negative anymore until Americans find the will to build an impervious firewall between the State and all capital interests. (And a firewall between both of these and education.)”

And that launched me on my riff. I wrote:

I agree with you that we need A WHOLE LOT MORE FIREWALL than exists now, and that --even before the Bushites-- the balance of power in America had shifted much too much toward the corporate and commercial power.

But note what Fischer says here: he says that even capitalist America (with its inadequate firewall) was in the past a very important force for the good in the world, a force whose loss under the Bushites he laments.

There are a few basic points that I’d like to make about these issues, which are issues that define our relationship with our world right now as we face this present Bushite challenge.

One of those point is this: With respect to many of our long-term goals regarding changes in the basic nature of American civilization, now is not the time to focus on them. For the needs of this moment, many of these issues are a distraction. (Below, I touch upon what differentiates where important change is possible, and where it is not.)

The reason such issues should not be our focus is because --right now-- even the virtues of that basic civilization are being assaulted by the fascist power that’s arisen among us.

THAT’s where Fischer is directing our attention. He knows from historic experience, as a German, that --despite its historic faults, including the lack of "Firewalls"-- America was able to be a force for the good, and presumably could be again even if its long-standing basic nature, with all its flaws, remained unchanged.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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