Susan Sontag, I think of you!
Saturday, January 09, 2021
In Illness as Metaphor, when she went after the “anti-intellectual pieties and a facile compassion all too triumphant in contemporary medicine and psychiatry”, she was well aware of the insertion of a illness metaphoric in politics too. In fact, one of the prized sentences in American political rhetoric is Abraham Lincoln’s use of a battlefield injury metaphor, “binding our wounds” – subtexting the Jesus story – to describe the national process of unification. Lincoln, like Bismark, helped forge a new, modern state. It was noticed early on that Bismark’s German was, like Lincoln’s English, a thing of folk poetry. But instead of using the metaphor of injuries (which presupposes the more extensive field of the “body politic”), Bismark was more inclined to peasant metaphors and similes, where the state is pictured as a plough horse, or “putting Germany in the saddle”.
Lincoln’s metaphors are often celebrated, seldom subject to the critical examination we should give to classic texts. What, after all, did “binding up the wounds” of the Civil War mean?
That meaning, in terms of Lincoln’s life, was of course fated not to be. Lincoln swerved a lot. It is hard to know whether he would have swerved towards the Sumner side of radical Reconstruction, which would have built a different America, or the course taken by the Northern bourgeoisie, who threw African-Americans on the pile – there’s a metaphor for ya! – and healed right whitely. But the healing metaphor was on its legs and since then has done a lot of work. Much of it in support of anti-intellectual pieties and compromises with oppression that normalized and spread oppression.
Lindsey Graham, a straw stuffed non-entity who, as Senator of South Carolina, has succeeded in impressing other non-entities, political reporters mainly for center-lib publications, just used the healing metaphor in the way it is always used – to creep around a gross act of oppression and violence.
“As President @realDonaldTrumpstated last night, it is time to heal and move on. If Speaker Pelosi pushes impeachm ent in the last days of the Trump presidency it will do more harm than good.I’m hopeful President-elect Biden sees the damage that would be done from such action.”
Time to heal. We’ve had so many healing moments! Sparing Jeff Davis and General Lee hanging. Sparing the Confederate leaders. Sparing the Jim Crow enforcers. Sparing every eminence, every rich man or woman who ever violated a federal law or salted away criminal proceeds in an offshore account. We’ve healed ourselves into a jolly little corner, where Aryan Nation Cosplayers accompanied by thugs looking to kill a couple of hate figures or two, Pelosi, a coupla Dems, those bitches, mainly, and peeing on the carpet as they went, and killing a cop – all of this is just healable fun and games. The price of healing is put off, and put off. That is, the price paid by comfortable white folks. The price is quite evident on the streets of Columbus Ohio, Ferguson Missouri, in the cancer gulch in Louisiana, in Kenosha, in Louisville, in every metro in this great healed Republic of ours.
But there comes a time to ask a question: what is the difference between healing and the disease?