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By T.T. Stern-Enzi

I caught myself slightly glazing over during the latest installment of the “Mission: Impossible” series. And apparently, I wasn’t alone because going into the weekend, I had conversations with several people who couldn’t recall how many iterations had come down the pike (for those counting, “Rogue Nation” only makes five—most people assume they have skipped at least five of them). A degree of monotony has set in as Tom Cruise fights off yet another anonymous espionage outfit lurking in the shadows, while gleefully reveling in its existence as the purest of escapist entertainment, with not even the slightest nod to real-world considerations.

But this past week’s news cycle, along with my own recent immersion into books (Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s “Mo’ Meta Blues”), has left me in a state of almost pathological cynicism. This funk, where the lowest of the low-end theories swims in the depths of the darkest blues, might remind some folks of the place where conspiracy theories are conceived—where smoking guns shoot magic bullets that pinball and ricochet in ways that defy natural laws, but I’m finally willing to admit that maybe the conspiracies are more than theoretical.

I have no intention of going all Mel Gibson wacko here, but, dammit, someone needs to shed some light on the myths we hold so sacred.

What I’ve come to realize is that maybe there is no “Rogue Nation”—all apologies to Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie—lurking in the shadows. In the real world, there is no Impossible Mission Force (or any other offshoot of the Central Intelligence Agency) battling to stay one step ahead of the global bad guys. First off, we need to admit that maybe the enemy isn’t somewhere out there but, instead, is comfortably within our borders. And even more confounding, that the nefarious rogues have always been in charge.

We were founded to protect the interests of a select few—white male elites—and have consciously turned a blind eye to any historical facts that challenge this notion. For proof, we need look no further than the very Constitution we hold so dear. Without the amendments, we would still be a nation ruled exclusively by white men, where more than half of the population (women) would be in no position to vote, own property or venture meaningfully outside the home, and all people of color would be nothing more than property. As it stands, we’ve made a few advances along the way, but it could be argued that we’ve done so despite ourselves.


Last week, I watched as Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters moaned and wailed about the fatal encounter between a University of Cincinnati police officer and an unarmed black motorist, something he says he couldn’t fathom happening in the United States. I found myself wondering if Deters has been avoiding the news, only watching streaming content for the past couple of years.

But that wouldn’t make any sense because television and movies offer examples of illicit activities performed by people in positions of authority, activities we have always scoffed at as nothing more than fiction. And now, we’ve come to embrace a current generation of antiheroes, dark avengers ready to mete out what they (and we) believe to be karmic comeuppance, but the reality is that because no one has ever been invested in seeking anything close to true justice, there has never been real peace in this rogue nation of ours.