We exist as part of an unbroken chain of events leading back to the singularity, or the furthest point in the past we currently understand. We have 13.772 billion years of universal history to celebrate and learn from (with an uncertainty of 59 million years. For personal reference, modern humans emerged around 200,000 years ago, modern civilization around 6,000-12,000 (depending on your definition of modern) and figuring out and deciding to use electricity on a mass scale led to increased possibilities around 150 years ago). Instead of celebrating the full richness of our heritage and spelunking for lessons, we fetishize our 250-year old nation-state (the modern idea for the type of western nation-state, currently the most popular method for organizing and socializing large groups of people within defined geographical limits, is generally agreed to have been created in Europe around 369 years ago).
The history of the land in which I was arbitrarily born witnesses the volatile interaction and power disparities between groups of hyper-religious immigrants, kidnapped people forced into slavery because, coincidentally, they were born into a specifically constructed and defined ethnic group, indentured servants shipped from Europe to serve as cheap, unregulated labor in exchange for a promised chance to improve their personal stability and power, and wealthy business interests taking advantage of the lack of oversight the anarchic continent offered. The colonials rebelled far more successfully than their Hindu, East Asian, African, Muslim, or South American colonial counterparts due to a convenient proxy war between France and England, as well as the mitigating benefits of constructed racial attitudes in Europe. The colonial elites then experimented with and debated various social amalgamations and governmental types until finally deciding on a compromised legal document with parameters that appeased all 13 distinct groups of colonial elites.
The nation gained stability and power, due in large part to its geographical location and the logistical difficulties the historical superpowers faced in funding their interests. In a page right out of their former-sovereign’s playbook, the newly-minted United States of America constructed the concepts of “Manifest Destiny” and the “Monroe Doctrine” in order to collect more land, wealth, power, and influence. Fortunately for the former colonists, the Native American civilizations that inhabited the land they wished to acquire were easy prey after diseases brought by European humans and other animals weakened and reduced their populations by 90%. Continuing in the colonial tradition of using race and class based forced labor to progress, the nation eventually achieved its goals by wiping out or subjugating the remaining native survivors. As it established its western border, the young nation-state also looked outwards to other lands ripe for war, subversion, or sabotage.
Tensions between its founding groups came to a head less than 100 years into its creation and the nation split into slave-holding and non-slave holding states until the non-slave holding faction killed enough soldiers from slave-holding faction to force the rebellious region to capitulate to its demands. Unfortunately for the former slave-holding states, the president of the slave-holding states was then assassinated by a radical pro-slavery terrorist group. In response, the replacement non-slave holding leadership enacted a policy of revenge and exploitation in the guise of reconstruction, which decimated the lives of the people living within the reincorporated territory. As a reaction to these destructive policies, many people constructed ideals they believe represented the best of the elites who lost the American Civil War and decided to enact their own plan of revenge by terrorizing groups of newly freed slaves. Many of these freed slaves, though still officially oppressed, moved north, altering the racial dynamics of fairly homogenous northern communities. Less than 100-years later, through extensive domestic efforts, all former slaves and women (who were unable to vote for 150 years of the nation’s history) achieved de jure, if not de facto, rights within the shifting country.
During its near history, the United States of America regularly used abstract ideals specifically defined to justify its expansive foreign agenda and oppress domestic attempts to balance power between labor and capital. Victory in World War Two (a war primarily caused by Japanese-American trade relations and post-World War One’s excessively harsh punishments of the German people), along with an all-consuming global proxy war with a near-peer ideological enemy, were of vital importance to the socialization regime the United States Government used to instill a strong national identity in its population. The propaganda derived from these events also served a crucial role in evoking and maintaining dominion over the particular ideals the nation claimed as its own.
In the age of the Internet, the nation has seen a resurgence in the domestic unrest temporarily suppressed in the 1960s. During the 1960s, the combination of new psychologically manipulative military training, a proxy war in Southeast Asia, a draft to thin the ranks of subversives, new policing tactics for the War on Drugs justifying pretenses for mass incarceration of oppressed group, and domestic political subversions and assassinations, the United States Government was able to prevent the turmoil from getting out of hand. By moving consumerism to the center of their citizen’s lives, the government stabilized and prospered.
Unfortunately in 1991, the USSR, the other side of the delicate bi-polar global power structure of the cold war, collapsed, leaving the United States as a global hegemon without a raison d’être. Nationalistic and militaristic rhetoric propagated by a government struggling to justify ongoing international involvement exacerbated yet-to-be-healed historical grievances from oppressed domestic groups. In less oppressed groups, these grievances aggravated latent resentments towards the ad hoc, incomplete, or violent official attempts to mend a deeply socialized divide. This, along with official alarmism about the newly created state enemy, the “Muslim Menace”, set tensions high in the nation and contributed to upticks in domestic instability.
There are a lot of lessons to learn from this, but it’s important to remember it’s only 250 years of our 13.772 billion year history (with an uncertainty of 59 million years). There are a lot of lessons to learn elsewhere as well.