Ritualistic evocations of “America” . . . and the deep-seated sense that somehow the United States is sacrosanct space—war, by definition, taking place elsewhere—are ways of being toward the world that mask an overwhelming desire, sometimes ferocious, to avoid all sacrifices: professionalized (class-based) military, ridiculously low taxes (especially for high earners), lax popular engagement, minimal obligations, a dislike for central authority bordering on hatred. The “exception” was extended into the 1950s by means of the Cold War (which was in fact the intention), but the last time the sacrifice was generally accepted was indeed the last: Vietnam. From then on, the geopolitical imperative has looked different. Accepting the globalism of the U.S. in one form or another is one thing; sacrificing for it is an altogether different one. Sovereignty, the right to decide on the exception, has thus typically resided in the geopolitical imperative, and it has been experienced on the outside. Few foreigners make any mistake about the importance of U.S. geopolitics and the “right” that it seems to embody.
Posts Tagged ‘Cold War’
On Sunday, The New York Times featured an article on the significance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s “Operation Telstar” performance at Mount Rushmore, nearly fifty years ago. Telstar was the communications satellite through which U.S. programmers, in a “now nearly forgotten salvo of the cold war,” sent “a blast of American culture and technological prowess aimed at Europe,” on July 23, 1962.
I think Jonathan Sheehan points to something quite useful in his last post: the need for a discourse that does not immediately slide into the “ideological” conflict of religious versus secular teleology. I think many in the religious studies and sociology of religion fields have tried to find such a discourse for decades now. It is just that their disciplinary efforts have become far more visible to the rest of us recently. Still, Justin Reynolds raises a point that is indeed important in the entirety of the “post-secularization” discussion, as it is now being called. However we contextualize this discussion—I tend to see it as accelerating rapidly after the end of the cold war—it is clear that much of it has circled around the question of teleology. For a variety of reasons, two of the foundational questions of religion and philosophy, and certainly not only in the West, have reemerged to trouble the standard thesis among Western intellectuals that predicted inevitable and irreversible secularization and modernization: What is the aim, the end, the purpose of human life? and, Can different societies reasonably embrace quite different answers to this question?
In a recent conversation regarding the effects of the Cold War, in particular the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the long proxy war that followed, an academic who regularly works on policy regarding South and Central Asia told me that among policymakers in the US any such reference immediately meets with the response: “That’s ancient history”. This seems regrettably to be the general tenor of reporting on the present global war against terrorism as well, of which the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has now become a part. [...]