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Internal Link – Memory shape National Identity

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Internal Link – Memory shape National Identity

Our collective memory shapes national Identity. We win the best internal link to epistemology

Cruz, 2k

(Consuelo Cruz, Identity And Persuasion: How Nations Remember Their Pasts and Make Their Futures Consuelo Cruz * Copyright © 2000 by The Johns Hopkins University Press, DA:6/25/11, CP)
This article makes two arguments. The first is that we cannot grasp the nature and dynamics of political identity--and collective identity more broadly--unless we understand the rhetorical frames that emerge as dominant at critical junctures in the history of a group or a nation. Indeed, we will see that it is precisely because identity, memory formation, and rhetorical frames are so closely entwined that identity has both the appearance of naturalness emphasized by primordialists and the constructed properties emphasized by constructivists. The logic here is as follows. Collective memory, by its very nature, impels actors to define themselves intersubjectively. Shaped by past struggles and shared historical accidents, collective memory is both a common discriminating experience (this was right, that was wrong) and a "factual" recollection--a seemingly veridical narrative--of the group's past "as it really was." 4 Thus whether in war or in peace, a collectivity expresses and defends its identity by declaring, "We are as we are because the world has made us this way; and because we are who we are, we can change our world only so much without changing ourselves." This declarative imperative does not suggest, however, that identity is reducible to a rhetorical manifesto. Rather, it simply suggests that while the impetus for identity formation arises from collective memory and contextual changes, identity is ultimately contingent on a "realistic" description of the world and on a relatively strict understanding of the permissible and the forbidden. And on neither of these counts can collective self-definition be completed without the active participation of those living the identity. At critical points, for example, rival political leaders and entrepreneurs seek to persuade themselves and others that things must either remain as they are or be changed in significant ways. In their efforts at persuasion, rivals must appeal to the national group's sense of practical competence (its sense of mastery over the [End Page 276] world) and to its convictions about the possible (what the group can or cannot do; and normatively, what it must or must not do). In brief, rivals seek a political grip on the constitutive elements of collective identity. 5 This they cannot do at will, however. They must advance their competing visions and agendas within a dominant rhetorical frame--a discursive structure that articulates in accessible ways the fundamental notions a group holds intersubjectively about itself in the world and that allows or disallows specific strategies of persuasion on the basis of their presumptive realism and normative sway. The second argument this article makes is that the (trans)formation of collective identity shapes a nation's political and economic development. 6 The logic of this second argument is closely related to that of the first. Because actors situate their struggles within a dominant rhetorical frame, political contests between them engender a collective field of imaginable possibilities, which I define as a restricted array of plausible scenarios of how the world can or cannot be changed and how the future ought to look. This field's boundaries are established at critical points, along with new sets of power relations and the rhetorical settlements that accompany their construction. Within such boundaries, actors routinely make claims to vocality, manipulate the positive and negative values assigned to past defining experiences, generalize from these claims and experiences to craft "simply is" statements about reality, and drawing on this generalization, identify viable routes--be they conservative or transformative--to a better future.

Impact – Extinction

The continuation of an American National Identity rooted in the frontier produces spectral forces that risk annihilation of the planet.

Spanos 08 [William Spanos, American Exceptionalism in the Age of Globalization: The Specter of Vietnam, pg. 95-97]
Huntington, too, like virtually all of the neoconservative deputies of the Bush administration, posits the dependence of a unified civilization (a mobilized national identity) on an “Other,” a rival civilization it can define itself against. In keeping with the binarist logic of this assumption, he and his fellow conservatives not only celebrated the “triumph” of American democracy over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Invoking the tradition of the American jeremiad (to which I will return in chapter 6, these nationalists also began to lament its end in that it meant the loss of an enemy that could “reinvigorate their core culture” (WAW, 20). As Huntington puts this primary agenda at the beginning of his book, “The dissolution of the Soviet Union eliminated one major and obvious threat to American security and hence reduced the salience of national identity compared to subnational, transnational, binational, and other-national identities. Historical experience and sociological analysis show that the absence of an external ‘other’ is likely to undermine unity and breed divisions within a society” (WAW, 17; 277). The attacks by Al Qaeda on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, according to Huntington (and the Bush administration), did not simply fill this disturbing void; these “militant Islamic” terrorist acts also catalyzed the disintegrating essential American national identity, that is, its Protestant “core culture”: “When Osama bin Laden attacked America and killed several thousand people, he also did two other things. He filled the vacuum created by Gorbachev with an unmistakably dangerous new enemy, and he pinpointed America’s identity as a Christian nation” (WAW, 357–358; see also 263). To reiterate, I have invoked Samuel Huntington’s latest books in my attempt to demonstrate the quite remarkable relevance of Greene’s The Quiet American to the post-9/11 global occasion, not for their uniqueness, but because they are, like York Harding’s books in the context of the Cold War, representative of the discourse of the policy makers of the Bush administration about America’s global war against terror. The difference— and it is a crucial one, as we shall see when I return to him in chapter 6—is that Huntington makes quite explicit the deeply backgrounded religiocultural or “civilizational” foundation of this extremely dangerous—but finally self-defeating—national initiative that most of his other neoconservative colleagues conceal behind the geopolitical “realism” of their global vision. I mean specifically the American exceptionalist problematic of the frontier (the Puritan “errand in the wilderness”), epitomized by the American jeremiad, that determined the theory and practice of those who inaugurated and executed the American war in Vietnam—and, in the fulfillment of its oversight, inadvertently turned that which was invisible to it into a spectral force that defeated the most powerful army in the world. As I have been suggesting by way of pointing to the indissoluble relationship between York Harding’s policy books and Alden Pyle’s American Protestant “textual attitude” and its disastrous practical consequences, Greene’s novel about America’s initial intervention in Vietnam is proleptic of the post 9/11 occasion. In perceiving the United States’ original intervention in Vietnam in terms of the perennial American exceptionalist/Cold War/Orientalist problematic, it enables us a halfcentury later to retrieve the singular actualities of the Vietnam War from the oblivion to which they were relegated by the American culture industry in its aftermath. By overdetermining the role of York Harding’s books in the clandestine terrorist practice of Alden Pyle, Greene anticipates not simply that this American exceptionalist problematic, in privileging oversight, in spatializing time/history, manifested itself in the following decade as an oversight that ultimately resulted in the devastation of an inordinate number of innocent Vietnamese people (it is estimated that about half of the two million that were killed were civilians) and of their land in the name of saving them for the free world. Insofar as this problematic was necessarily blind to the blood of its subaltern victims, it also rendered that invisible blood visible—made it a specter that haunted the American exceptionalist problematic, a specter whose visible invisibility molecularized and eventually defeated the most powerful army in the history of warfare.45 By thus anticipating these paradoxical consequences of the American exceptionalist problematic in the Vietnam War, Greene’s novel also anticipates the disastrous consequences of the exceptionalist “civilizational” problematic of the intellectual deputies of the Bush administration that is now determining America’s global “war on terror”: not simply the carnage its relentlessly single-minded (Ahabian) perspective (“staying the course,” as the president has insistently put it) is wreaking in the Islamic Middle East in the name of saving it for the “civilized world,” but also, as the sporadic and dispersed but increasingly frequent acts of a “terrorism” suggest, the emergence of a spectral force—one that promises to become global—the visible invisibility of which, as in the Vietnam War, is molecularizing the American juggernaut and thus threatens to eventually produce an impasse that is likely to terminate in the peculiar kind of defeat that America suffered in the Vietnam War—or the annihilation of the planet. Unlike the imperial and totalitarian societies it measures itself against, killing its Other—and all too many of its own—“at long range” seems to be the American way: this kind of killing—and the specter it activates— is, to put it succinctly, what renders Graham Greene’s Quiet American, especially in its focus on the remote immediacy of York Harding, a prophecy not only of what was to happen in Vietnam in the years following the United States’ violation of the Geneva Accords, but also of what is happening in the Middle East in the aftermath of 9/11. Much of the literature written by American veterans of the Vietnam War will bear witness to these unpleasant realities that Greene foresaw at the origins of America’s intervention in Vietnam. As I will show in the following two chapters, Philip Caputo’s memoir, A Rumor of War, and Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato, are, in their very resistance to its disclosures, remarkably exemplary of this witness.

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