I planned to be writing not-funny but instructive “jokes” about ideas for embassy relocations this morning. I mean, really, China and Saudi Arabia own the US treasury. They could move all consulates and embassies to either London or Mexico city and reaffirm the original capitals. To make it easy, everything east of the Mississippi River could be declared under London jurisdiction and everything to the west under Mexico City. I know this isn’t the “real” original boundary between USA and Mexico but since when do colonial administrators care about those things? It’s so much easier to just arbitrarily carve up a map without worrying about the people on the ground. Sounds good to me, my Spanish isn’t great but I can read OK and learn fast.
But now, yesterday’s School Shooting of the Day happened a few blocks from my dad’s house in Aztec, New Mexico. And I’m thinking about the intersection between a culture built on imperialism and conquest and the endless litany of murders and violence it produces. Aztec was once the “All American City of the Year.” It’s a tiny town, more of a village, really. The name comes from a misidentification of some ancient Native American ruins. Some time ago a bunch of white, colonial archeologists assumed it must have been the northern edge of the Aztec Empire. They were massively wrong, it was, in fact, built by ancestors of the Pueblo Indians, but the name stuck and the ignorance of white people is now forever preserved in the name of a tiny town. It’s a good place to settle down and build a town, on the banks of the Animas River and having a fertile river plain and regular water source, it’s been a popular place to live for a few thousand years, at least.
New Mexico is one of those places where no matter how hard the eraser is scrubbed a long and brutal history of colonialism is still visible. It’s amazing there’s any paper left to keep trying to erase. It really should be world-famous for the Great Pueblo Revolt. This one of few really solid examples of indigenous people successfully evicting colonizers. And there are lessons to learn from this event, for anyone who’s curious about how to do this. Unity between otherwise factious groups is the most obvious one. Of course, after a decade Spain regrouped and looked at the Rio Grande river region as an extension of the Reconquest and took out their animosity against the Moors on the Pueblo people to regain control. What is now the state capital was once home to thriving Native American communities. Then it was Spanish Empire territory. Then it was part of Old Mexico. Then it shifted to a territory of the United States. During the Civil War it was briefly under confederate control. This is land drenched in blood and battle and conquest and settler colonialism. We still have to specify on our license plates and Twitter profiles that it’s “New Mexico, USA” because somehow we’re never quite fully included in “America.” New Mexico is the “foreign and exotic” place north americans go for a spiritual pilgrimage when they can’t afford airfare to Palestine or to see ancient ruins when Rome’s too expensive and Egypt too dangerous. At least once a month someone tells me how lucky I am to live here, assuming I have nothing to do but sit around being “spiritual,” without having any clue that most of what we do here is survive.
And now we’ve finally caught up with our neighboring states and taken the “civilized” right-of-passage of School Shootings. This is my home town I’m writing about this time. I’ve written dozens of posts about these things before. But this time it’s the tiny town I just visited family in over Thanksgiving. This time I actually burst into tears at the news and waited on a bed of nails to hear from my family and friends. And over and over and over I heard and saw posts from people shocked that this had happened in our town.
I’m not nearly as shocked as I wish I was. I’m more surprised it’s taken us so long to loose our marbles and join the fad. School shootings, mass murder, and terrorism ought to be the expected outcome of settler colonial projects. When an entire culture is premised on conquest and power this is just what happens when there is no longer an “other” to exterminate and extract from. We start eating ourselves from within. The entirety of the American Enterprise it built on domination and violence. Of course when kids are dealing with hard shit they turn to guns to solve their problems. That’s what “Real American Men” do. If we actually wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen here, that it never happened again, we would do the hard work as a community to embrace an ideal of equality, justice, real pluralism, and absolute nonviolence.
But we don’t. We’d rather keep watching our children die than admit that WE ARE THE PROBLEM. We teach our children that might makes right, that the world is ours to subjugate, and then pretend we didn’t see it coming when they act on what we have modeled. Militarism and the Security State only reinforce the idea that problems are solved with guns. The arrogance of naming the capital of another “country” is the same arrogance that young men imitate when they gun down their schoolmates. Every time we support any form of violence as viable we are teaching our children to kill each other.If we don’t want these things to happen here, if we really mean that, we, all of us humans on planet earth, are going to have to reject the use of force and repent of our blood-soaked histories. But we don’t want to do that, don’t want to face our feelings and our demons, don’t want to let go of our “exceptionalism.” It doesn’t really matter where here is, here is everywhere. In a world of globalized neoliberal capitalism and massive arms deals here is everywhere. This is all of us. And we are all the problem.