The Democratic National Convention was a carnival of inclusion: black, white, gay, straight, Christians, Jews, Muslims, cis-gendered and transgendered—all joined in proclaiming that “nothing can be wrong if it keeps our country strong” (with the implied corollary that the U.S. is “our” country). Its high point was Khizr Khan’s speech about his son, Humayun, who died in Iraq. For what, no one ever said. It was assumed that his interests coincided with the interests of those who sent him there.
If capital once tended to reduce all differences of nationality, religion, sex and color to abstract, homogenous labor-power, today it celebrates “diversity.” All are welcome at the table. I eagerly await the next historic breakthough, the transgendered President. One problem in all this is that personal identities based on individual variance have given way to “identities” defined by membership in a group the members had no part in choosing. Many of my students ask me, What would I be if I weren’t white? My answer, that you would be an artist, or a musician, or an athlete, or a parent, falls on deaf ears. The same is increasingly the case for others besides “whites.”
The armed forces are one of the most sensitive barometers of change. Time was that all black people were treated as members of a subject caste and confined to the lowest ranks of the armed forces; the disintegration of the U.S. army in Vietnam, brought about to a considerable degree by the reluctance of black people to go overseas to kill people who never did them any harm, convinced those in charge that they needed more black faces in high places—while millions of black folk still suffer misery as great as any in the Jim Crow era. Women hold up half the sky and an increasing number of seats in boardrooms and as military officers, and now in all likelihood the office of Commander-in-Chief. Gays, once forced to live their lives in hateful clandestinity, are now out of the closet everywhere, including the army.
The U.S. military is the greatest international proletarian organization since the British and French colonial empires and the Roman legions of antiquity. Whereas Trump, representing an antediluvian stage of capital, wants to keep Muslims out of the country, Clinton, the neoliberal, wants to enlist them in killing other Muslims. Let the commanders beware: the “Latinized” soldiers of Germanic ancestry led the way in bringing down the Roman Empire. The leaders of the independence movements in the British and French colonies came out of the colonial armies. The black men who killed police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge served in the U.S. armed forces (as did some of their targets). They are harbingers of what is to come. Do the “enlightened” representatives of capital who eagerly recruit Latins, Muslims and other victims of U.S. imperialism into the U.S. armed forces understand that they are digging their own graves?