Oppositional identity politics and disproportional remembrance (Jan. 15)

by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier

A co-worker, a White male in his fifties and a proud Trump supporter, asked me how I felt about the drone strike that killed Iran’s top military commander General Qasem Soleimani.

I told him I didn’t feel anything.

But he announced he was glad Gen. Qasem Soleimani was dead. To justify his gladness my co-worker listed a number of attacks the general orchestrated against the United States and named the terrorist organizations the general assisted over the years. As he gave me the rundown, I remembered two days after 9/11, I was at work in Florida, and a white van sped through the parking lot honking the horn. The driver wanted everyone to see what was spray-painted on the side of the van. It said: Bomb the ragheads. A lot of people in the parking lot cheered as the driver sped toward his next destination to solicit more applause. I think my mind conjured the memory to prepare me for where the conversation with my co-worker was headed.

Now, I knew 10 days ago, my co-worker never heard of General Qasem Soleimani, but over the past 10 days my co-worker became an expert by listening to right-wing talk radio, and his 10-day crash course in Middle Eastern affairs gave him enough confidence to tell me, “As an American you should be glad General Qasem Soleimani is dead, too.”

I asked why.

He repeated the same information from the radio, just more emphatically, then added that the Iranian regime was the world’s leading exporter of terror. Then he said, the “liberal media” and the Democrats were encouraging the public to sympathize with the enemy by calling the drone strike a disproportional response. This was his way of suggesting that my lack of exuberance toward General Soleimani’s death revealed a degree of sympathy for the deceased.

I knew my co-worker believed his gladness toward Gen. Soleimani’s death was an act of patriotism, but when he insisted that I should feel the same “as an American” he became a proselytizer of “oppositional identity politics.” He essentialized our shared American identity as an oppositional force against a common foe and attempted to instill in me the proper belief I should hold as a member of the identity group. Proselytizers of “oppositional identity politics” insists on telling others how they should feel as a member of the collective, but they have no interest in what individuals think as rational human beings. That’s the antithesis of individual liberty, which is un-American.

After my co-worker finished, I told him no American was going to be glad when they retaliate.

He laughed at what he believed was my ignorance and told me I haven’t been paying attention to the news. He told me the Iranians launched a dozen missiles at U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, but they purposely missed the targets and caused no casualties. He said the Iranians wanted to show they were willing to retaliate, but they can’t go to war without their top military commander, and he repeated that’s why he was glad General Soleimani was dead.

But when I said Americans won’t be glad when they retaliate, I wasn’t referring to an immediate response. These events will radicalize a new generation of extremist against the United States because there’s going to be a disproportional remembrance of General Soleimani.

My co-worker will forget these events over the next 10 weeks, but 10 years later the new generation of extremists who remained patient will retaliate and most Americans won’t remember why and no one will be glad.

(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)

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