Eugene Weekly : Books : 9.30.10


Empire Falls
Arm yourselves, left-wingers, and get ready
by Suzi Steffen

The United States of America, broken down, bankrupt, without any hope of change from within (see Obama’s stance on state secrets and torture; see corporate corruption of the health care reform bill), losing its already pathetic safety net and social services thanks to the massive recession/depression/jobless “recovery” and all of the money spent killing people in other countries, stands on the brink of something

Ted Rall thinks that something is violent revolution, and he believes that the revolution will be led either by religious white extremists, who already have their guns and want to exterminate the gays and liberals, or maybe by African Americans and Latinos, specifically African American and Latino men, with (liberal) white men (and some women, if they can figure out the violence thing) following along.

What year is this — 1969? Or, reaching back to the Great Depression and the rhetoric of the hopeful socialists and communists, 1931? No, it’s 2010, and Rall (whose smart political cartoons, along with his columns and much else, you can find at, has a new book out called The Anti-American Manifesto (Seven Stories Press, $15.95).

Others (perhaps other history majors) who have read Chomsky and Zinn or who have studied the Weather Underground, will doubtlessly agree with Rall that the history of the U.S. is far from the Christianized, white-dominated versions taught in places like Texas high schools. The U.S. wasn’t founded as some kind of innocent Edenic place in which all humans actually were endowed by a creator with equality. Slavery, massacres of Native tribes, endless wars for land and power and corporate grabs marked the country from its bloody birth onward. And now, Rall says, the empire of the U.S. is about to fall. 

If the U.S. crumbles, he claims, the lives of people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and a variety of other places would instantly improve because the U.S.-backed and led wars would come to an end. Rall’s gone, several times, unembedded to Afghanistan — most recently with two other cartoonists, including Portland’s Matt Bors, whose account and images of the trip you can see at — and some of his narrative arises from his righteous anger at the ways civilians’ lives have been destroyed by the war. Some of it also arises from the unfinished (in the book) tale of his own layoff, at the hands of corporate media masters, last year. 

Rall knows that at other times, especially in the ’30s (when the New Deal, led by a woman, Frances Perkins, tamped down the desperation and thus the calls for revolution) and a bit in the late ’60s (when state violence against the anti-state groups pretty much ended the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground), populist revolutions almost occurred. 

This time, he thinks something will happen — and that the white, armed, conservative militias will take over if we progressives don’t get off of our thoughtful butts and fix the system … by ending it.  

Ted Rall reads at 6 pm Thursday, Oct. 7, at the Eugene Public Library.

Wordstock, the Pacific Northwest’s biggest and most unique (and cool) book festival kicks off next weekend, Oct. 9 and 10, in Portland. Molly Templeton, Suzi Steffen and Camilla Mortensen will blog about books and authors at the fest in the week leading up to it, Oct. 4-8. New reviews each day at!