america: a nation founded on genocide and trauma that is afraid to acknowledge death and grief

back in july, i listened to the pauline boss episode of on being. i can’t remember exactly what she studies but below is a paraphrase of a comment she made:

we [america] are a nation founded on trauma and genocide. of course we don’t want to and are afraid societally to acknowledge death and grief. if we did, it would never end because it’s baked into every institution we have.

to be honest, i’m struggling to remember the exact context of what she was discussing, but it had something to do with the myth of closure. what i do remember is how true i thought her statement was.

i’ve specifically been thinking about this in the context of police. in america, so many people respect and trust in the police. however, the roots of the police are racist as fuck. the roots of the modern police forces we have today are people (often poor, white, and immigrant) that rich white people paid to “enforce order” among slaves, free black people, and people who agitated against the wage-labor systems enmeshed in slavery and indentured servanthood. this strategy (as is often employed by rich people) gave poor white people a stake in the systemic status quo. even though the extractive labor systems of slavery were bad for them and they should have been aligned with people trying to change the system, the police forces gave them incentive (jobs) to keep things as they were.

but we don’t talk about that. we talk about guns and police brutality and black-on-black crime (which isn’t real) body cameras and “good cops” and reforming police.

what we really need to do is re-imagine how communities stay safe. safety is almost definitely not possible when one community pays another to protect it from a third community. even if people don’t understand the roots of the system, the effects of its foundation reverberate throughout it. for a while i didn’t understand why people (especially some black lives matter activists) were calling for an end to police. i get it now.

if we stopped to truly acknowledge and move productively through the death and grief caused by our systems, we could no longer avoid the question “where is all this death coming from?” if we looked at the roots of almost all of our systems, we would be forced to face the fact that this whole thing is based on genocide and trauma (eradication of the native american people who were here first, slavery, farm labor, factory labor related to clothing and technology production, etc).