Edited by The Nation
“THE WAR COMES HOME" is a misleading phrase that we should probably abandon. America’s endless foreign wars usually reflect violent economic, social, and political currents already within our borders and that stretch as far back as settler colonialism, chattel slavery, and the birth of racial capitalism.
But foreign wars and domestic social ungluing certainly interact with each other, as when Chicago police commander Jon Burge tortured Black Chicagoans with electric shocks familiar from Vietnam. And you could see this dynamic this spring, when right-wing politicians and journalists embraced vigilantes, especially those with military backgrounds.
For several days after he fatally strangled a homeless Black man, Jordan Neely, for threateningly vocalizing his crisis on an F train on May 1, New Yorkers didn’t know Daniel Penny’s name. The press, following the lead of the police, referred to him only as the Marine. The effect, particularly amid a generation-long War on Terror, was to portray Penny as an anonymous hero, someone willing and able to confront the scourge of homelessness with the due force usually applied against America’s foreign enemies. In this framing, Penny wasn’t the modern Bernie Goetz. He was Cincinnatus reborn as the Punisher.