Militarization and patriotism discussed
Professor M. Jacqui Alexander gave a lecture titled “The New Militarization, The State, and the Citizen Patriot” in West Lecture Hall last Thursday.
Alexander, who was brought by the Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People, is a scholar of transnational feminism, militarization and nationality.
Alexander began Thursday’s lecture by addressing her concerns with the nature of her talk.
“I’m assuming I’m speaking in a safe space,” Alexander said, “where we can map an alternative image of what is happening in the world at this historical moment.”
Alexander quickly moved on to address U.S. imperialism as existing both internally and externally, linking it with militarization and nation-building. Internally, she said it exists as America’s relationships with indigenous peoples, immigrants, people of color, those who are both immigrants and people of color and the white working class at the borders. Externally, she said imperialism exists as America’s current holdings of Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and their involvement in nations like Iraq.
But imperialism, Alexander explained, is masked by its appendages, militarization and nationality. “Empire-building is not worded as such but labeled with patriotic terms like freedom, democracy and free enterprise,” Alexander said.
“Militarization is not a simple process of picking up a gun,” Alexander said. “It includes a diffusion of war propaganda, detention of large numbers of immigrants and surveillance of international students.”
Militarization also comes from the construction of interior and exterior enemies that resemble each other. “[The] dark immigrant citizen is perennially suspect — dark inside enemy matched with dark outside enemy,” Alexander said.
Zoning in on the construction of external enemies like Osama Bin Laden, Alexander said,. “The enemy has to be feminine enough to be subordinated, aberrant enough to detest, Islamic enough to require Christianity, Arab enough to need civilization and potent enough to require destruction.”
Alexander described the acceleration of a new round of empire with the USA Patriot Acts of 2001 and 2002.
Alexander quoted portions from the Patriot Act, asking, “why does the state feel compelled to legalize the patriot?”
Alexander said the patriot becomes a front for imperialism and the surveillance of internal enemies — much in line with the work of the CIA, FBI and library personnel who are given the right to report records of book loans.
Alexander makes a distinction between citizens for empire, or patriots, and citizens for democracy.
“Patriot,” Alexander said, “is for the consolidation of the empire.”
“What kind of citizens do we wish to be?” Alexander asked.