The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America

By Mark Lewis Taylor | Go to book overview

2. theatrics sacrifice
in the U.S.-Led Imperium

The suffering of the conquered and colonized people appears as a necessary
sacrifice and the inevitable process of modernization. This logic has been
applied from the conquest of America until the Gulf War, and its victims
are as diverse as indigenous Americans and Iraqi citizens.

—Enrique Dussel, The Invention of the Americas

The argument of this chapter is that the terrors of Gulag America function theatrically, providing spectacles that have a negative impact, first of all upon those marked as poor and racially other. Such spectacles, involving the sacrifice of these especially marked ones, are carried out, however, in a way that also constitutes an intimidating display for exercising control throughout the wider society. These spectacles function on the domestic U.S. scene and also reinforce a global empire that is not identical to the nation of the United States but is anchored by the U.S. hegemony over military power.

This takes us more deeply into the notion of theatrics. In its most general sense, theatrics is simply the art of theater. In a more specific sense, it is a collection of dramatic mannerisms that are calculated for effect. Sometimes we use the word in a way that suggests theatrics are not important, as when we say, “Let’s spare the theatrics and address the issue squarely.” Here, the dramatic mannerisms are seen as a distraction from something else held to be more important.

This overlooks, however, the real power in theater and drama. We all know that the dramatic mannerisms, the theatrics, the acting out have effects. Issues analyzed and points made without theatrical display, without flourish, often go unnoticed. It is the essence of theatrics to be noticed. It is their role to have an effect, and theatrics are a visible and visceral way to have effect. Sometimes, theatrics are short-lived and powerless, and their effects quickly dissipate. For systems that use theatrics and are heavily institutionalized with long histories, however, theatrical display is a very effective tool of power. Gulag America, as analyzed in the previous chapter and with its six dimensions of terror, is a theatrical force of this sort. It is characterized by exaggerated self-display and drama. We must now ask why: as theatrical, what is its calculated effect?

I argue that the spectacle and spectacles of lockdown America involve the sacrifice of certain so-called surplus populations. These are groups both dis-

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