Four years ago in these pages, Edward Said, the distinguished literary critic and Palestinian-American activist, published an article called “Et annet Amerika” (Another America). The title referred, quite consciously I’m sure, to a classic 1962 book called The Other America by sociologist Michael Harrington, in which he took the position that even as the U.S. was enjoying unprecedented levels of prosperity, millions of Americans were living lives of profound poverty under the reach of media radar. In his article, Said implied that Harrington’s picture of a divided America was applicable to the country on a political level as well as on an economic one.
Said proceeded to describe one version of America-- the mainstream, visible one-- as a country that thought of itself as representing
courage, kindness, freedom, economic promise and social progress—an
idea that is so strongly woven into daily life that it no longer sounds like
ideology but rather a fact of nature. America = The Good = total loyalty
In contrast to this self-righteous, self-aggrandizing narrative—which Said suggested, among other things, was a way of granting ourselves permission to invade Iraq—was what he called a “forest of discord,” a diverse collection of splinter groups under the media radar ranging from right-wing isolationists to African-American civil rights activists to radical feminists to anti-war student protesters. In Said’s opinion, all this added up to “a nation permeated with conflict, in which the protesters are more powerful that we are generally aware of." (…)