The naked truth

We stole our country from Native Americans, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and other groups whose territory we invaded in order to inhabit and enjoy its natural resources. We enslaved Africans and Native Americans to exploit those resources and build an economy. When that ended we continued to segregate, terrorize, and incarcerate them so that all their labor would continue to benefit only us, the invaders and slavers. Meanwhile, we continued exploiting the continent’s natural resources through the labor of the poor, especially immigrants, whom we paid only enough to scrape by another day and return to work themselves to death under brutal conditions. When workers sought better treatment, their collective actions and their ideas for a fairer system (progressivism, socialism) were violently suppressed. Meanwhile, we waged wars and coups around the world to set up markets for exploiting the natural resources and labor of more continents and more people. The people, places, and forms change, but the underlying patterns of expropriation, exploitation, and violence continue.

The Normal Has No Clothes

Trump rallies his base with militant white nationalism so that he and his cronies can profit from power. Republicans and to a lesser extent Democrats have been doing exactly this for decades. He only does it more blatantly.

While there are many aspects of this presidency that are not normal, they are merely distractions from just how normal it is.

Which isn’t to say we should not be alarmed. We should be very alarmed by all of it: the kleptocracy, the militancy and white nationalism, and our blindness to these features of our body politic when they are not laid bare by Trump.

While Trump deserves to be impeached, replacing him with Pence would only return us to a state of plausible deniability about the true nature of our nation. The far better outcome would be an electoral shift in favor of socially and economically progressive policies, like those competing for the heart of the Democratic party despite the party’s attempts to suppress.


Perhaps the root of all social ills is how bad we are at communicating and healing trauma — not only at the level of individual victims and perpetrators, but also the collective trauma of families, nations, peoples, species. The fears left by our hidden histories of trauma lead us to become traumatizers, too, or take refuge under the protection of traumatizers.

Whose world is it, anyway?

The fundamental collective action problem is exploitation: appropriating nature for the in-group to the detriment of others who are uncoordinated in their response. Examples: colonization, slavery, resource extraction, pollution. Solving the collective action problem requires coordination against appropriation to protect the interests of all people equally.

The most practical way to accomplish this coordination would be a global governing body to protect universal access to public goods — akin to the UN General Assembly where each nation has an equal vote, but with enforcement power. Instead the UN Charter gives veto and enforcement powers to the five permanent members of Security Council, the ultimate in-group.