"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Tuesday, January 31, 2006,10:07 AM
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
By Daniel Gray-Kontar

The first time I ever heard Gil Scott-Heron, I had no idea whom I was listening to. "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," destined to remain the most popular song of his more than 25-year career, was recorded in 1974. Today, it is still a highly anthologized rare groove classic; with its fusion of percussive jazz and spoken word, it's still in heavy rotation wherever politically conscious Afrocentrics puff on clove cigarettes while sipping coffee (or Long Island iced teas). I was in one of these spots the first time I heard the song and was instantly captivated by Heron's delivery as much as by his message.

"The revolution will not be televised, because the revolution is gon' be live," Heron predicted. And I believed, although it had been twenty years since Heron first recorded those words. Many of us are still waiting for that non-televised revolution. Others put away their black power fist necklaces in exchange for gold ones. Still, during that curious period of my late adolescence, I had internalized Heron's message without asking whom I was listening to. The message in itself was enough of a gift.

A few years later, I was ending my undergraduate study at a university in rural Ohio, and had formed a bond with the man who would become my mentor: a creative writing instructor named Dr. John Scott. A cool, well-dressed, hipster-type in the guise of an academic, Scott was in his 50s while I was figuring my way through my early 20s. Scott took me under his wing, teaching me about more than our shared craft of creative writing, but also, about how to survive in the world once I left my protective academic environment. One day, "Scott" -- as I used to call him -- asked me if I had heard Gil Scott-Heron's latest album Spirits. "No," I answered. "Who is Gil Scott-Heron?" Scott looked me up and down, shook his head and said, "let's go."

Three minutes later, Scott and I were in his Lexus (only the best would do for Scott), when he played the disc for me. As the main streets of our rural college town morphed into Rt. 20, where we were surrounded by corn stalks, Scott turned the volume up to its near peak.

"Now, listen to this," Scott said. "That's who the fuck Gil Scott-Heron is." And immediately, I remembered "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and I made the connection, as I heard the lyrics from the disc's final track "Don't Give Up." "Ain't no way overnight for you to turn your life around/And this ain't the commentary of somebody who hasn't fallen right back down/ But if you're looking for a loser who found strength and success. Remember the spirit of brother, Malcolm X."

With these words, I not only knew who Gil Scott-Heron was, but what he was and will always be to his listeners. Gil Scott-Heron is a culture bearer. A griot in the truest sense of the word, whose message must be transmitted from generation to generation in the same way in which my mentor revealed Heron's work to me. There are few artists who emit this type of importance to their own culture and beyond. Gil Scott-Heron is one of them.

With this much meaning attached to Heron's repertoire of songs traversing 23 albums, it sheds light on why the upcoming re-release of two Scott-Heron discs resonates with such importance. It's Your World, originally released in 1976, is a Gil Scott-Heron live recording. The compilation disc The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron converges his recordings from 1970-1978, and was originally released in 1979. While the live disc captures Heron in all of his improvisational wit, the compilation album restores Heron's blues idiom with perhaps more intent than the other compilations that have come since.

Both discs are necessary reissues, particularly when given the temporal circumstances in which Heron created the bulk of his art: the 1970s, which truly was a "blue" period for many black Americans. Truly, one of the champion artistic spokesmen of the times, Heron's bassy, gravel-voiced blues style awakened underclass blacks to their political landscape, while evoking the challenges facing black men and women as they strove to survive with one another. Scott-Heron told it like it was (and still is) for better or worse, reflecting the collective will of black America through spoken word, song and soul.

"That's who the fuck Gil Scott-Heron is," my mentor said to me. And these re-releases, in less "hipster" terminology, will say the same to you.
 
posted by R J Noriega
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,9:43 AM
You will be Missed Mrs King
By MARIA SAPORTA

Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., has died.

The 78-year-old Mrs. King died at a holistic hospital in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, 16 miles south of San Diego, said her sister, Edythe Scott Bagley.

"I was told that she slept away," said Bagley, 81, of Cheney, Pa. "It's comforting. She's at peace now."

A spokesman at Hospital Santa Monica in Rosarito Beach confirmed Mrs. King had died at the health center. He could not say when she had checked in. The center's website says it treats "chronic degenerative diseases considered incurable by the orthodox medical profession."

"It is very difficult for me right now," said Christine King Farris, the sister-in-law of Coretta Scott King. "She was my sister."

Farris said the family is still sorting out details. Farris confirmed that Mrs. King died on the West Coast.

"We will bring her back here," Farris said.

Former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young, a family friend and former King aide, said Mrs. King was found dead by her daughter, Bernice.

"It seemed as though she was resting when she passed away. Bernice thought she had had a rather difficult day yesterday and felt like she needed her rest. It wasn't until early this morning that she [Bernice] went to check on her and saw she had passed away," he said.

"It's just sad to see her gone," said security guard Richard Cheatham. About 7:30 a.m., he had lowered the American flag at the King Center to half-staff.

Last spring, Coretta King was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which causes the heart to quiver instead of beat regularly. The condition led to a major stroke and a minor heart attack on Aug. 16. She was trying to recover from the stroke, which impaired her right side and speech, at the time of her death.

Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered flags on all state buildings and grounds at half-staff in memory of Mrs. King. The flags will remain at half staff until sunset the night of her funeral.

"Coretta Scott King was one of the most influential civil rights leaders of our time," said Perdue. "Mrs. King was a gracious and kind woman whose calm, measured words rose above the din of political rhetoric. For decades, she proudly bore the torch of her husband's legacy. Now she has passed it on to a new generation to keep the dream alive. Mary and I mourn the passing of this dynamic leader."

"It 's so significant that we would lose another giant at the heels of losing Ms. Rosa Parks," said the Rev. Harold Middlebrooks, a Knoxville, Tenn., preacher who lived with members of the King family during the Rev. King's student days at Morehouse College and as a civil rights worker.

"Both of them could not be out there on the front lines," he said. "Somebody had to rear the children. That was her role. She saw that that was her role and she did it. At the same time, she was very supportive of her husband."

"I am very saddened by the suddenness of Mrs. King's death," said Evelyn Lowery, president of SCLC/WOMEN. "I am sure that she is much relieved, where she is now. Her last days were not that pleasant.

Lowery said she had seen Mrs. King over the Christmas holidays. The world saw her for the last time in January, when she made a surprise appearance at the King Salute to Greatness dinner.

"She looked so radiant and beautiful. We just hugged and hugged when we saw each other. She couldn't speak, but we were able to communicate," Lowery said. "She was such a strong person. Such a dignified person committed to the movement. She was a leader in her own right."

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a family friend, called Mrs. King's death a "monumental" loss.

" For those of us that were too young to get to know Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. very well, we got to know Coretta Scott King as a compassionate, caring, yet firm matriarch of the movement for justice. She was kind and gentle with impeccable grace and dignity, yet firm and strong and immovable under issues that she and her husband committed their lives to," said Sharpton.

During the battle to desegregate the South, Coretta Scott King walked alongside her husband. After he was assassinated in April 1968, she stepped out of his shadow and became an internationally respected advocate of justice, peace and human rights.

She worked tirelessly to spread her husband's message of fighting for equality through nonviolent struggle.

Owen Lawson, a manager for Cardinal Health Systems, came to the King Center after hearing the news. He stood for a few moments in silent meditation at the reflecting pool.

"It's not a sad day, not really," said Lawson, a 1992 graduate of Morehouse College. "It's a day to remember Mrs. King and Dr. King and all that they accomplished."

Nickeya Weathers, 29, lives around the corner from the King Center on Auburn Avenue. "I was shocked," Weathers said. "Everybody thought she would get better."

Weathers started crying while standing next to the reflection pool at the center.

"I feel like this was everybody's mother in the fact that her family was so important," she said. "It's just sad."

Said John Evans, who was taking a break from his job at the Parkview Manor Nursing and Rehab Center across Auburn Avenue from the King Center: "Boy, it's really a hurting feeling. My joy just went down when I heard about it because she was such a wonderful person for this community."

Four days after the Nobel Peace Prize winner was killed in Memphis, Coretta Scott King delivered a speech in which she declared, "We must carry on because this is the way he would have wanted it to have been. ... We are going to continue his work."

She spent the next 37 years doing just that.

Staff writers Add Seymour, Bill Montgomery and Ernie Suggs contributed to this report.
 
posted by R J Noriega
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Monday, January 30, 2006,8:30 AM
Inside the River of Poetry
By Louis Reyes Rivera


Always there is need for song. And every human has a poem to write, a compulsion to contemplate out loud, an urge to dig out that ore of confusion locked up inside. But with the contradictions of privilege and caste, of class and gender distinctions regulating access, of those ever present distortions in textbooks with their one-sided measure of human worth, and with the culture of white man still serving as ultimate yardstick to what is acceptable as matter, not everyone is permitted to learn to read, much less to study poetry or hone the art and take the risk of putting one's self on paper.

While wanting to be naturally soothed by self-definition, too many among us learn to rely on commercial lyricists to reflect our joy and pain. At best, we latch onto committed activists who take on as social vocation the work of bridging the human spirit with word made flesh. At worst, we fall prey to professional wordsmiths (politicians and preachers alike) who conjure up another religion that dissuades us from social contention. Somewhere in between these two extremes, we sometimes meet and break a moment's bread with poets.

Today, what was once called poetry is referred to now as Spoken Word Art. Unlike the Rappers who have Hip Hopped twenty-syllable couplets into a steadfast beat, Spoken Word Artists have returned to free verse oration exhilarated by internal rhyme schemes and unfettered metaphors that speak directly to inner city blues. The news of the day, testament and affirmation, current and advanced, informs this form of poetry that outlines the immediate and understudied aspirations of African and Latino Americans caught in the crossfire between skin game caste and an ever shrinking planet of high tech advances.

Desk top publishing, internet websites, tea parties and Open Mic readings, marathon jams and poetry slams have combined to form the latest battlesites between truth and decadence. Inside the range of this contention are the new poets being pulled by and pushing against a state of confusion in search of clarity.

Their names are many and they come from everywhere, like Jamaican Dub Poets in Germany and England, or Nuyorican Poets in Texas and the Bronx. To single out the more notoriously known here in New York as comprising the new heat (like Tony Medina, Asha Bandele, Jessica Care Moore, Nzinga Chavis, Saul Williams, UniVerses, 2nd To Last, Ras Baraka), without qualification, is to commit the same crime as today's textbooks: taking a single droplet or two out of a river and making out like two droplets are the actual river itself. For just as each drop of water helps to form a river, each name dropped is but a metaphor for the many others who came before or right alongside those whose work forms our current popular canon.

Poetry, you see, is as old as breath itself. For when human beings across the planet simultaneously uttered that first initial sound, they gave rise to the same echo heard in the wail of every newborn child. The sound of that cry might be onomatopoeic, but its meaning is quite literal. "I am here, now!" This is the essential affidavit that serves as testament inside every person's compulsion to give voice to the voice, as condition urges vision, vision provokes thought, and thought pronounces the name of God: "I matter, too!"

Thus the birth of the word, the root of every language. Poetry. The strength of the people. The finest manifestation of craft, content and intent in every written and oral expression. The basis upon which all other literary genres have evolved. From poetry, not only the lyric, but as well drama and narrative, the expository and the thematic, the didactic and the ideological as root to all our scripture, sacred and profane.

It began as a blending of sound (the rhythm), sense (the experience), and color (the given image). A voice raised in celebration of itself. Chant and dance, music and tone, mystery and miracle forged into the embodied literature of people passing it on, by speech and sight, to each subsequent generation, asking and answering the fundamental question: How do we live? And is that the same as how we want to live or what we mean when we say there's something we're supposed to do?

The Chinese call it The Way; the Buddhist, Enlightenment; the Hindu, Nirvana; the Muslim, Complete Submission to the Will of Allah; the Egyptian-Judeo-Christian, Seeking the Light; and among many Africans and Amerindians it was once referred to as Being At One With Life. And from the poets among them, it is that inner compulsion to Follow the Muse. They speak to the same cause, challenging the inner voice to maintain balance between flesh, thought, action. Thus, Poet as author of scripture and Griot as Keeper of a Narrative. Each generation, regenerated by its own voices has, since the first word heard, added to that tapestry of affirmation. In Egypt and throughout the Americas, they called it Song; in Israel, Psalms; in West Africa, Nommo; and in Greece, Poetry.

It knows no borders. Unrestricted by or to genre, gender, nation, race, time or class. For in the need to contemplate, inside the compulsion to sing, and as Gylan Kain says, "to give voice to the deeper meaning of ourselves," poets learn to look upon love, life, struggle both as interchangeable terms and as the only limitations self-imposed. This is why poets are never invited to participate in televised forums, roundtable discussions and panels with other writers and speakers, journalists, politicians, social activists, academics, religious leaders. You never know what the poet will say.

This is also why poetry is considered the most dangerous art form, why it is not honestly taught and thoroughly nurtured into our youth in the schools, among our adults in the factories and fields, inside our homes, churches, offices. It cannot be diluted, bought, sold, compromised or traded without treason to its beauty, its necessity, its meaning. The poet learns to care about every word.

What we often view as a national literature is but one of many rivers coursing its way into the ocean of all our knowledge. In the general sense of world literature, we're supposed to bear in mind the ocean into which every river flows; with the particular local canon, however, we are actually cheated from studying all those droplets comprising both rivers and streams (the ethnic and the national), despite the fact that without them, there'd be no water to feed into that ocean.

Sad to say that too many of today's Spoken Word Artists lack an understanding of their own context. So focused on the immediacy of their own moment of breath, they are not as well studied into the history and evolution of this artform for the vocation that it is. In short, they have not really read or been taught to engage the works of those who came before them. And so, this contributive note regarding the river of our poetry.

African American poetry is not restricted to the United States. It is an hemispheric phenomenon as old as the dirge and the moan heard inside those first slave ships bound for the slave-breaking islands of the Caribbean, to Hispaniola and Mexico, long before they landed in Virginia. In the U.S., where drums were outlawed, it manifested as folklore, Spirituals and the Blues; in the Caribbean as Plena (Barbados), Bomba (Puerto Rico), Ska (Jamaica), with conga and steel drums, as with Merengue (Haiti) Mambo (Cuba) Calypso (Trinidad), like Samba (Brazil).

With European influences setting up the parameters over form and acceptability, here or there the poem was separated from music. Thus, slave narratives grew into novels and African poetry in the Americas often took on the semblance of European meter, pace and nuance (a la Phyllis Wheatley).

Today's reading rooms, soirees and poetry jams are hardly a new tradition, as they can be consistently traced back to 1888, the year that marked the end of American chattel slavery and the beginning of Negritude (both in Brazil) --during which period the children and grandchildren of slaves and runaways begin their careers as writers searching for new definition (like Charles Chestnut in fiction, Paul Lawrence Dunbar in poetry, and W.E.B. DuBois as researcher and social critic).

Of course, freedmen were writing long before then. North American (John Russworm, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Martin Delaney, William Wells Brown) and Caribbean writers (Placido, Eugenio Maria de Hostos, Ramon Emeterio Betances, Lola Rodriguez de Tio, Jose Marti) had been laying out a foundation for a literary African/American thought. But it is after 1888 that a genuine and continuing renaissance begins, as it now included all of the descendants of former slaves learning to define themselves on paper. Thus, Rag and the Blues as immediate metaphor for the thousands of artists in places like Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago, Santiago de Cuba, Le Cap and Harlem, who helped initiate a composite rebirth of African art spreading across the face of America, sometimes rolling like a teardrop, other times in denial of itself, but always from the spirit of intellect shaping its own voice.

By the 1920s and early '30s, social struggle and a budding aesthetic had converged throughout the colonial world. Political movements (unionism, socialism, communism, anarchism, Pan-Africanism, nationalism, independence) often intersected with a cultural counterpart (Creolism, Diepalism, Negritude, the Harlem Renaissance). Cross-fertilizing. Like the largest number of UNIA chapters during the Garvey years were in Louisiana and Cuba, corresponding to the growth of a U.S. National Negro Renaissance and a Cuban Negrismo movement also taking place. Each in their own way stood against European imperialism while uncovering the parameters of self-definition.

As with the many African and Latino American poets practicing the art today, the list of folks involved back then is endless. In addition to critics, researchers and activists, like Ida B. Wells, William Monroe Trotter, Carter G. Woodson, Richard B. Moore, Alain Locke, J.A. Rogers, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. DuBois, and with people like Arturo Alfonso Schomburg serving as natural bridge between the English, Spanish, French diasporic communities, the poets themselves comprised a river of personnel: Pablo Neruda, Luis Pales Matos, Jose de Diego, Nicolas Guillen, Juan Antonio Corretjer, Julia de Burgos, Clemente Soto Velez, Alfredo Miranda Archilla, Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedor Senghor, Leon Damas, Countee Cullen, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Sterling Brown, and so many others who've not been as extensively published or read as these few. But their collective impact ushered in new forms and a continuum of literary stalwarts like Richard Wright, Margaret Walker Alexander, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Baldwin, and John Oliver Killens. Killens, by the way, along with historian John Henrik Clarke, co-founded the Harlem Writers Guild, the one group that definitively bridged the Harlem Renaissance of the '20s/'30s with the 1960s Black Arts Movement and the 1970s Nuyorican Poetry Phenomenon.

Those who workshopped alongside Killens, in or out of the Guild, include at least two generations of dramatists (Lonnie Elder III, Loften Mitchell, Charles Russell, Douglas Turner Ward, Ossie Davis), fiction writers (Alice Childress, Rosa Guy, Piri Thomas, Maya Angelou, Louise Merriwhether, Sarah E. Wright, Richard Perry, Doris Jean Austin, Brenda Connor-Bey, Elizabeth Nunez Harrell, Nicholasa Mohr, Brenda Wilkerson, Arthur Flowers), poets and lyricists (Mari Evans, BJ Ashanti, Askia Muhammad Toure, Mervyn Taylor, Thulani Davis, Ntozake Shange, Fatisha, and Irving Burgie --the one who wrote most of the British Caribbean songs that first made Harry Belafonte famous).

With the Black Arts Movement, the proverbial Pushkin spark turned into flame as the 1966 National Black Writers Conference at Fisk University (organized by Killens) gave cognizance to what had already been taking place; thus we have the new poet-theoreticians, like Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal, Askia Toure, Ishmael Reed, Audre Lorde, Henry Dumas, alongside new critics, like Addison Gayle and Hoyt Fuller, new venues, like Umbra, Cannon Reed & Johnson, or the Watts Writers Workshop, through which Jayne Cortez and Quincy Troupe had developed their skills, or like Detroit-based Dudley Randall, through whose publishing efforts began the careers of Haki Madhubuti, Carolyn Rodgers, Sonia Sanchez. Like The Last Poets, many of them were as influenced by Malcolm X as by Martin Luther King, Langston Hughes, Margaret Walker, Paul Robeson and DuBois.

By the late 1960s, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Jesus Papoleto Melendez and Felipe Luciano became the latest spanning between African American and Puerto Rican literature that had been previously bridged by the likes of Schomburg, Guillen and Jesus Colon. As the 1970s took off, a Nuyorican mix began its own sidestream fruition to both African American and Puerto Rican orthodoxy. Spanglish took its place beside AfroAmericanese as a new idiom, with poets Miguel Algarin, Lorraine Sutton, Americo Casiano, Miguel Pinero, Sandra Maria Esteves, Julio Marzan, Lucky Cienfuegos, Roberto Marquez, Jose Angel Figueroa, Tato Laviera, Noel Rico, Magdalena Gomez, Susana Cabanas and Pedro Pietri serving as initial progenitors to another poetic sensibility. Its availability and earned place has often been hindered by Anglo arrogance and Hispanophilia, caught, as these poets were, between an evolving aesthetic-in-exile influenced by Ebonics on the mainland and an active insular and extremely cultural nationalism in Puerto Rico that at first refused to even recognize this hybrid created out of U.S. colonialism.

During this same period, from the late 1960s straight into the 1980s, the tradition of small press and self-publishing (traceable to the 1730s, when Europe began allowing colonies to own printing presses) had expanded into roughly 1,000 independent magazines and publishing outlets under the influence or control of African and Latino Americans: Freedomways, Journal of Black Poetry, Hambone, Callaloo, Literati Chicago, The Rican Journal, Third World Press, Third Press, Quinto del Sol, Black Classics Press, Yardbird Reader, Mango Publications, Arte Publico Press, Black World/First World, Poettential Unlimited, Shamal Books, Bola Press, Kitchen Table Press, Single Action Productions, Blind Beggar Press, Drum Voices Revue, Harlem River Press, just to name a few.

Thus, sandwiched between the Black Arts Movement and the rise of Hip Hop is a linking generation of African and Latino American poets, producers and publishers who had come into their own (and many of them by the mid-1970s) to serve as the latest bridge connecting the continuum of an hemispheric African American literary canon. These were the students of Malcolm and Martin and H. Rap Brown, entering the new decade with their own resolve, reading, performing and organizing everywhere: in prisons, community centers, cafes, in homes and on the streets, at Kwanzaa festivals and Malcolm X commemoration programs, at political rallies and in the schools. These sidestream stalwarts, most abundant in places like New York, were the immediate parents of those who would later become Rap and Spoken Word (Chuck D., Reg E. Gaines, Bruce George) Artists.

They had entered the '70s knowing that the major publishing outlets had already slammed its doors on Black Literature. Thus, they became the generation that had proliferated the publishing world with their own gumption, giving rise to, if not solidifying the careers of an Alice Walker, a Toni Morrison and an Ntozake Shange. Poets-publishers-organizers who did the basework while working a 9-to-5, raising a family, studying and performing their craft. In New York City alone, these included Yusef Waliyaya from The East's African Street festivals, John Branch from the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, Rich Bartee of Poettential Unlmtd., Lois Elaine Griffith of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, George Edward Tait of the Afrikan Functional Theatre, Gary Johnston and C.D. Grant of Blind Beggar Press, Layding Kaliba now with African Voices, Barbara Smith of Kitchen Table Press, Abu Muhammad of Nubian Blues magazine, Glen Thompson of Harlem River Press. From them and through them, such poets as Safiya Henderson-Holmes, Akua Lezli Hope, Zizwe Ngafua, Dawad Philip, B.J. Ashanti, Ted Wilson, Malkia M'buzi Moore, A. Wanjiku J. Reynolds, and many others previously mentioned either began or continued finding outlets for their works to appear in print.

Meanwhile, music and poetry never did finalize the divorce Euro-Americans insisted upon. Not only were Hughes and Hurston experimenting with the "jazz poem" and the intonations of northern and southern folklore back in the 1930s, but from the BeBop and Afro-Cuban Jazz era straight through to the present Rap/Spoken Word epoch, musicians and poets have consistently uncovered the African tradition of incorporating sound and sense into a wholistic art form. Literature, music and dance. Louis Armstrong, Sun Ra, Charlie Mingus, King Pleasure, Slim (Gailliard) & Slam (Stewart), Alvin Ailey had all eloquently continued that course. Singers Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks, Oscar Brown, Jr., and, of course, Nina Simone, had long ago fused poetry into the jazz voice (Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit was actually a poem someone had given her).

Of equal significance is the immediate link to Rap and Spoken Word. Musicians Weldon Irvine, Ahmed Abdullah and Oliver Lake, like their literary counterparts, Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets, Jayne Cortez, Sekou Sundiata, Tom Mitchelson, Yusef Waliyaya, Cheryl Byron, Atiba Kwabena Wilson, Ngoma Hill, each in their turn, have preceded Sharif Simmons, UniVerses, 2nd To Last, etc., in fusing the poem with the idioms of music and dance.

And so the insistence that music and word are inseparable elements to the voice raising up and rising up comes full circle inside the currents of modern poetics. It's part of an ongoing continuum in constant evolution, an unfinished renaissance establishing its own parameters on its own terms. Like Sterling Brown once posed, "If it took Europe 300 years to unfold its renaissance, what makes you think that we can do it in six?"

And while it is homegrown North American, it is also cross-rooted in an African and Caribbean experience.
 
posted by R J Noriega
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Friday, January 27, 2006,8:53 AM
Road to Zion
 
posted by R J Noriega
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,8:51 AM
Dark Child of the Fourth World
By Amin Sharif

What do we want? That is always the first and most pertinent question for the oppressed. During those long hot summers of the 1960s, almost every Black person was asking themselves that question. Then the simmering resentment of an entire race was beginning to be translated itself into a “cause”—into a movement. By the middle of the1960s, thousands of young voices were echoing the answer to that question throughout the southland. What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!

By defining what they wanted—African-American youth, then the vanguard and most stout defenders of the African-American community—were able to launch a program of radical activism that led to the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. African-American youth were ready to face dangers that many African-American men had previously cowered before in the South.

In the early 1960s, the segregated South was hundreds of times more dangerous than any drug infested urban centers of America today. Any Black man or woman who went against the forces of segregation faced the Ku Klux Klan-an invisible organization of racists whose brutality toward Black people make today’s Bloods and Cripps look like amateurs. And, the Klan was just the public face (mask) of white racism. There were many more thousands of unofficial (maskless) racists throughout Dixie—hell bent on enforcing the idea of white supremacy at any cost.

Despite all this, the Freedom Riders-African—American youth organized by Dr. King and SNCC—went into South armed, not with guns as so many of the youth are today, but with courage. This courage rose from a basic understanding of what it meant to be Black in a white nation. These young people understood that apathy about their future in America was dangerous as a Klansman’s rope—and still is for that matter.

The Freedom Riders rode buses throughout the Southland stopping at cities and towns to desegregate lunch counters and other public facilities. There are compelling black and white images of that time, if you wish to see them. They are most often shown to the public on Dr. King’s birthday. The images show powerful water hoses washing young Black men and women down streets, dogs tearing at their clothes, and redneck policemen beating them down.

Still, in the face of all that brutality, even as these young people were placed in police vans, their voices are never stifled. One could hear them singing as the jail cell door shut behind them about how each and everyone one had “got [their] mind of freedom.” More than the March on Washington, more than King’s eloquent speech of dreams, more than the burning cities of America after King’s death, it is the image of those courageous Black youth that define that time and that moment.

Today, we see youth in France on the rise. They have set a nation ablaze for the same reason that Black youth went to desegregate the American Southland decades ago. Like their Fourth World brothers and sisters in America, the Black and Arab youth of Europe have recognized that if they are apathetic about their future that they too will have none. They are not as prone toward patience with white European racism as the Freedom Riders were with the American version.

They are on a faster learning curve than the children of the American Civil Rights Movement. Yet what is shared by the black youth of the Alabama decades ago and the Arab and African youth of France today is that they have both come to see the bankruptcy and hypocrisy of Western democracy.

They each have presented checks to their respective western societies. They each have had those checks returned to them marked “insufficient funds.” Here, we would like to make an appeal to Europe on the matter of race. If you wish to avoid the amity that exists between the white and African American in the United States today, do not balk at paying the check. Do not procrastinate! Pay up now and the price will be cheap! The dark children of Europe like the Freedom Riders of America will not to be put off.

The old tactic of stalling might have been an acceptable option when the West was dealing with the first generation of emancipated Black slaves or the first generation of African and Arab immigrants. But today things are different. Such tactics have been rendered obsolete by the facts on the ground and your continued pronouncements of the glories of Western democracy.

How can you pay your white European citizens in the currency of freedom and equality and not spend as much as a franc on my freedom and equality, the African and Arab child of the West asks? What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now! How can you spend on wars to defend democracy everywhere else in the world and spend not a single pound to make democracy a reality for me?

Rather than speak to these dark children of Europe in platitudes, it would be better to admit your moral and political bankruptcy and be done with it. Admit that there is and will never be a place for the nigger in America or the Black African or the Muslim Arab in the Europe. We—niggers (Arabs, and Africans)—are willing to admit that this is the present state of affairs, even if you will not. What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!

The rebellion of Fourth World youth in Europe is part and parcel of the rebellion started by Fourth World youth in America decades ago. They each have as their enemy a system of xenophobia and economic exploitation fostered by a so-called Western democracy. Just as the Black child in America became conscious long ago of the fact that George Washington, the father of American civilization, was a white man. So the African and Arab child in Europe is now aware that the fathers of their countries are also white men.

And, if white men are, so to speak, the fathers of all of Western civilization, then the darkness of their skin already makes each dark child an outcast. It is only the investment of the labor of their fathers . . . the very flesh and blood of their fathers that makes them American, French, or Belgium.

The West, of course, will answer that flesh and blood are not sufficient payment for citizenship in the West. You must speak perfect English or French. You must dress as men and women do in the West. And then there is the whole history of Western civilization to consider—a history of a time when there were no noisy, pushy Africans or Arabs among Europeans.

The answer of the dark child is always the same when these things are suggested: Our fathers tried to do all those things and what good did it do them? Could they drink from the same water fountain as the children of George Washington? Or get a decent job or find a place to stay as could the children of de Gaulle’s Grand Design? What do we want? Freedom! Could they even speak the name of the God they worshipped out loud? When do we want it? Now! And, as for your history, the dark child laughs, we hear you boast about it all too much!

Already Europe has started taking up tactics learned from the racist American south. It (France) has begun filling its prisons with Black and Arab youth just as was done with the Freedom Riders. Persecution . . . then prosecution—that is always the way of the oppressor. You will soon find that you may snuff out a fire here and there but the flame will remain. What flame do we speak of? Not the one by which the Molotov cocktail is lit by the Arab child on Parisian streets; you have nothing to fear from that flame.

That is simply the flame of spontaneity. You can always put that flame out with a club or a bullet. The flame of which we speak is the one that your very fathers and grandfathers once held high when the darkness of tyranny spread across your land. We speak of the flame of your own democratic revolution. The flame that burned into your fathers’ hearts the words: Brotherhood! Equality . . . Do you remember that flame? Or has Algeria and Vietnam clouded your memory?

No, we are passed all that, the European replies. These dark vagabond children have nothing to do with the Kasbah or the hut. If what you say is true, why have you banished them to the far borders of your city? Is it because out there you can not hear them shout: Freedom! When do we want it? Now! Do you remember Fanon? Do you remember what he said about these places of exile for the nigger and the Arab?

They are places “starved of bread, of meat, of clothes, of shoes . . . of light.” Yet you claim that the dark children among you have nothing to do with Algeria or Vietnam. In the mind of the dark child, the difference between the native town and the outskirts of Paris is unappreciable.

“Once you came to our country to rape us,” the dark child claims. “Now, we have come to your country to be raped. There is no difference between us and the niggers of America, now. That is why we scream as they once did—We want freedom!”

Let us be reasonable, Europe says. Do you expect us to give up our culture and our history just to appease these others? Even now the dark child looks at Europe and laughs when he hears this. Then he reaches for the gas can, the bottle, and the match. “Do they expect us to give up our history, our culture, our religion, and our very souls just to pick up their trash,” he asks a friend. “Better to rot away in a French prison than to give up what we are.” Be careful, Europe.

It was you who first spoke of your superiority over the native and then you not only lost a war, but your way. Now, you speak of your superiority over the son and the grandchild of the native. Is that Sartre in the corner smiling, clapping, and holding the dark child’s hand when you spout such nonsense? What is it that Jean-Paul is whispering into the child’s ear? Something about Jefferson and Chirac being the same white man who is wont to give up his slaves.

“Yes, they talk a good game,” Sartre says, “but in the end. The devil is the devil.”

The dark child of the Fourth World is most attentive when white men speak of being reasonable. What white men mean when they talk of what is reasonable in these situations is what is reasonable for them. If the white man’s reasonability means that the dark child must wait hat in hand for Europe to embrace him, his sisters and brothers, then we have the beginning of a nasty problem.

“You must have forgotten already what happens when you make dark children wait,” he explains. “Lumumba was a dark child who waited in ambush for your fathers. Mao, Che, Castro, Nkrumah, and Malcolm X—all were dark children. No Europe, your call for reasonableness will never do. The jig is up. You must put up or shut up! When you speak of the Rights of Man, you must let me know now if these words apply to me.”

What we have here, of course, is a case of unintended consequences regarding the racial and political policy of the West. What we mean by this is that it was never the intention or policy of the West to have the African or the Arab hear such slogans as "All men are created equal" or "Liberty, Fraternity," and the like. These words were given by God to white men. For centuries, it was believed that the African and the Arab—who said to possess no God or Logos—was incapable of pondering the complexities of such slogans.

But then, things changed. Like a parrot mimicking its owner, the Black African spoke the words of his master, “Liberty. Fraternity, Equality.” Then the Arab miraculously followed the Black man’s lead. For awhile there was hope that this mimicry could be turned into real social progress for the Black African and the Arab, at least in the eyes of Europe. In the United States, no such hope was held out for their niggers.

The nigger would always remain more ape than human down in Dixie. Those were the heady days for both native and master. “We can teach them to worship our whiteness,” Europe, the master, cried. “If that does not work, we can teach them to fear our power.” On native side, there were more than enough Blacks and Arabs ready to serve whiteness and fear power. So you can see it was the beginning of an equitable arrangement: One man readily giving whiteness and the other readily receiving it.

So it was for a time. In France, Portugal, and Belgium, the policy was to have the African and the Arab brought to Europe and learn to mimic all things European. Then return these human parrots to their native lands. But when the African parrot spoke to Africans and the Arab parrot spoke to Arabs suspicion among the natives grew. There was talk in the village of white Black men possessed by evil spirits and strange Arabs possessed by the jinn.

These human parrots came to be known among the natives as “enemy brothers.” What grew up in the hearts of the black Black man and the true Arab was resistance against the entire arrangement. For what the African and Arab feared most was the power of whiteness to turn them into unnatural beings—zombies and demons and enemy brothers.

When the native African and Arab refuse to become Europe’s parrots, worship whiteness and fear power, fearful words appeared in their mouths: Revolution! Self-determination! Independence! Things had, as they often do between the oppressor and the oppressed, gone strangely wrong.

Do you remember any of this, great Europe? Do you remember the cost in flesh and blood? If you failed with the father what makes you think that you will fare any better with the son or grandson. Do not be fooled by those among you who say that it is possible to make the children dance to music where their fathers’ would not. Can’t you see that your cry for secularism is just another attempt to have white Black men and strange Arabs produce enemy brothers within your midst?

Secularism is what you cry. But worship whiteness and fear power is all that your words convey to the dark children of Europe. You may beat, imprison, and make these children outcasts in your land. But, in the end, their mouths will be filled with words as fearful as those uttered by their fathers at Dien Bien Phu and Algiers: Democracy! Equality! Freedom! When do we want it? Now!

Here is the crux of the matter. If the West was what it claimed to be, it would never have gotten itself into this situation. For, if the greatness of Western democracy has to be defended with clubs, bullets, police dogs and other such weapons against the dark children of the world, then all that it has already said about itself is nothing more than “false advertisement.”

What the dark children of America call “hype.” It is not enough in the post-modern age to talk of democratic rights for white men or the rich and the powerful in Europe or America. The democratic slogans of the West must now be translated into rights for all persons who live and work on her soil. If the West fails to recognize this responsibility then those who are denied their democratic rights have a revolutionary responsibility to acquire them through any and every means.

We know that the West will say that this is not how things are done in a democracy. There is the rule of law, etc. To this, we answer that the King of England spoke of the rule of law to the colonies. The King of France spoke of the rule of law to the peasant. The rule of law then was based upon the false divinity of the king. Today, the rule of law in regard to the Black African and the Arab in Europe is based upon the false divinity of “whiteness.”

It is precisely the latter rule of law that the Black African, the Arab, and the Asian—the entire Fourth World oppressed in the West—wishes to dispense with today. Whenever the Rights of Men are abridged or abrogated, the rule of law is evoked by the ruling class or the oppressor. When Dred Scott, a runaway slave in America, appealed to the very system that was charged with protecting the rule of law, he was told that the Black man has no rights that white men need respect.

Indeed, there has never been a single significant right taken from the oppressor by the oppressed by rule of law! The rule of law is fashioned by men and it is men who make it an equalitarian tool or a ruse for oppression.

If all that has been stated above is the crux of the matter, the only question that remains to be answered is what will the West do about Fourth World people within its midst. In the United States which has had the longest experience with dealing with African Americans, the first Fourth World people of the Western Hemisphere, the prospects for the resolution of the problem of race are grim.

America is in the grip of a wave of conservatism that is, if not covertly racist, at least overtly indifferent to all matters of race. What is worst is that the forces of opposition to American conservatism—the Democratic Party and other such liberals, both Black and white—have become spineless imitations of the very forces that would render the problem of racism invisible within America. Until Hurricane Katrina, these combined forces gave the world no reason to think that, other than in the vaguest of terms, American racism was nothing more than a vestige of the past.

But Katrina exposed America’s ugly under belly—those people who live “beneath the underdog” in the most economically advanced sector of the West—and the world was shocked. The fault line between whiteness, wealth, and power and blackness, poverty, and powerlessness was fully exposed. Once again, questions of race and poverty became credible issues for discussion in the political arena—at least for the moment.

Europe has a long standing history of racism that it would also like to render invisible. Anti-Semitism is but another form of racism. The Jews of Europe can recount their own history of oppression better than anyone else. But, even before Hitler spoke of a “final solution, there were a thousand pogroms carried out all over Europe against them. The world has not forgotten from where the term “wandering Jew” originated. When Europe was not demonizing the Jew, it was speaking of the “enemy” Moor from whose hands the Holy Land must be liberated. Shortly, after the Muslims were purged from Europe, there began the conquest of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Fanon points out that nearly “four-fifths” of the dark people of the world were under some form of colonialism during Europe’s imperialist period.

We can easily see that the legacy of racism in the West is both deep and abiding. Yet the West has failed to successfully face and resolve its racist tendencies. This is not to say that it has not attempted to wrestle with these problems. In America, Slavery, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movements were all periods when she attempted to tackle her greatest internal problem in the United States. But America grew weary of the race problem. She will undoubtedly pay for her neglect of the race issue sooner or later. America should not be fooled by the current lack of activism among the African American. The racial front has been quiet before and then suddenly America has been rocked by some form of Black militancy.

Now, in France, the internal problem of race and economic oppression has made itself evident in form of urban riots. Already she is responding with a knee jerk reaction to the problem. France has already made the mistake of demonizing the rioters—Black and Arab. They are “thugs” on our streets the French Minister of Interior claims. They are “looters” on our streets the American media says of the Black and poor victims of New Orleans.

Has racism no other strategy at its disposal? The cry of barbarians at the gate is always thrown up in these situations as fodder for the white masses. It is only when the fodder of prejudice has been thoroughly digested, passed through the intestines, and out through their bowels that the white masses are made ready for the truth. It is only then that France or America is ready to admit that it has a “race problem.”

But, the Black American, the Afro-European, and the Arab-European know this. “What do you intend to do about it?” is what they want to know. There is always a rush of wind and then silence when this question is asked in Washington or Paris. For the oppressed of the Fourth World, the rushing wind is no more than the collective passing of gas from the white masses and the silence is their complicity with institutional racism.

In the end, it may not matter what the West intends to do about the problem of Fourth World people within her midst. It may be that the resolution of this internal problem is wholly in the hands of Fourth World people in the West—just as the resolution of the external problem of colonialism rested solely in the hands of Third World people.

Still, whenever the oppressed confront their oppressor, there exists for some reason a psychological necessity to lay their compliant at their feet—to give fair warning as Eldridge Cleaver proclaimed of the shit storm on the horizon. That is all that the riots in France signify at this time. “Do something about our problems,” that is always the first cry of the oppressed masses to the oppressor.

But almost always their appeals go unheard and a period of intense activism follows. It is then that the complaints are converted in to shouts for action. “What do we want! Freedom! When do we want it! Now! All this, history informs us, is prelude to revolutionary action. Perhaps that is what is needed in the West—revolutionary action to shake it to its foundations.
 
posted by R J Noriega
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,8:51 AM
Dark Child of the Fourth World
By Amin Sharif

What do we want? That is always the first and most pertinent question for the oppressed. During those long hot summers of the 1960s, almost every Black person was asking themselves that question. Then the simmering resentment of an entire race was beginning to be translated itself into a “cause”—into a movement. By the middle of the1960s, thousands of young voices were echoing the answer to that question throughout the southland. What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!

By defining what they wanted—African-American youth, then the vanguard and most stout defenders of the African-American community—were able to launch a program of radical activism that led to the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. African-American youth were ready to face dangers that many African-American men had previously cowered before in the South.

In the early 1960s, the segregated South was hundreds of times more dangerous than any drug infested urban centers of America today. Any Black man or woman who went against the forces of segregation faced the Ku Klux Klan-an invisible organization of racists whose brutality toward Black people make today’s Bloods and Cripps look like amateurs. And, the Klan was just the public face (mask) of white racism. There were many more thousands of unofficial (maskless) racists throughout Dixie—hell bent on enforcing the idea of white supremacy at any cost.

Despite all this, the Freedom Riders-African—American youth organized by Dr. King and SNCC—went into South armed, not with guns as so many of the youth are today, but with courage. This courage rose from a basic understanding of what it meant to be Black in a white nation. These young people understood that apathy about their future in America was dangerous as a Klansman’s rope—and still is for that matter.

The Freedom Riders rode buses throughout the Southland stopping at cities and towns to desegregate lunch counters and other public facilities. There are compelling black and white images of that time, if you wish to see them. They are most often shown to the public on Dr. King’s birthday. The images show powerful water hoses washing young Black men and women down streets, dogs tearing at their clothes, and redneck policemen beating them down.

Still, in the face of all that brutality, even as these young people were placed in police vans, their voices are never stifled. One could hear them singing as the jail cell door shut behind them about how each and everyone one had “got [their] mind of freedom.” More than the March on Washington, more than King’s eloquent speech of dreams, more than the burning cities of America after King’s death, it is the image of those courageous Black youth that define that time and that moment.

Today, we see youth in France on the rise. They have set a nation ablaze for the same reason that Black youth went to desegregate the American Southland decades ago. Like their Fourth World brothers and sisters in America, the Black and Arab youth of Europe have recognized that if they are apathetic about their future that they too will have none. They are not as prone toward patience with white European racism as the Freedom Riders were with the American version.

They are on a faster learning curve than the children of the American Civil Rights Movement. Yet what is shared by the black youth of the Alabama decades ago and the Arab and African youth of France today is that they have both come to see the bankruptcy and hypocrisy of Western democracy.

They each have presented checks to their respective western societies. They each have had those checks returned to them marked “insufficient funds.” Here, we would like to make an appeal to Europe on the matter of race. If you wish to avoid the amity that exists between the white and African American in the United States today, do not balk at paying the check. Do not procrastinate! Pay up now and the price will be cheap! The dark children of Europe like the Freedom Riders of America will not to be put off.

The old tactic of stalling might have been an acceptable option when the West was dealing with the first generation of emancipated Black slaves or the first generation of African and Arab immigrants. But today things are different. Such tactics have been rendered obsolete by the facts on the ground and your continued pronouncements of the glories of Western democracy.

How can you pay your white European citizens in the currency of freedom and equality and not spend as much as a franc on my freedom and equality, the African and Arab child of the West asks? What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now! How can you spend on wars to defend democracy everywhere else in the world and spend not a single pound to make democracy a reality for me?

Rather than speak to these dark children of Europe in platitudes, it would be better to admit your moral and political bankruptcy and be done with it. Admit that there is and will never be a place for the nigger in America or the Black African or the Muslim Arab in the Europe. We—niggers (Arabs, and Africans)—are willing to admit that this is the present state of affairs, even if you will not. What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!

The rebellion of Fourth World youth in Europe is part and parcel of the rebellion started by Fourth World youth in America decades ago. They each have as their enemy a system of xenophobia and economic exploitation fostered by a so-called Western democracy. Just as the Black child in America became conscious long ago of the fact that George Washington, the father of American civilization, was a white man. So the African and Arab child in Europe is now aware that the fathers of their countries are also white men.

And, if white men are, so to speak, the fathers of all of Western civilization, then the darkness of their skin already makes each dark child an outcast. It is only the investment of the labor of their fathers . . . the very flesh and blood of their fathers that makes them American, French, or Belgium.

The West, of course, will answer that flesh and blood are not sufficient payment for citizenship in the West. You must speak perfect English or French. You must dress as men and women do in the West. And then there is the whole history of Western civilization to consider—a history of a time when there were no noisy, pushy Africans or Arabs among Europeans.

The answer of the dark child is always the same when these things are suggested: Our fathers tried to do all those things and what good did it do them? Could they drink from the same water fountain as the children of George Washington? Or get a decent job or find a place to stay as could the children of de Gaulle’s Grand Design? What do we want? Freedom! Could they even speak the name of the God they worshipped out loud? When do we want it? Now! And, as for your history, the dark child laughs, we hear you boast about it all too much!

Already Europe has started taking up tactics learned from the racist American south. It (France) has begun filling its prisons with Black and Arab youth just as was done with the Freedom Riders. Persecution . . . then prosecution—that is always the way of the oppressor. You will soon find that you may snuff out a fire here and there but the flame will remain. What flame do we speak of? Not the one by which the Molotov cocktail is lit by the Arab child on Parisian streets; you have nothing to fear from that flame.

That is simply the flame of spontaneity. You can always put that flame out with a club or a bullet. The flame of which we speak is the one that your very fathers and grandfathers once held high when the darkness of tyranny spread across your land. We speak of the flame of your own democratic revolution. The flame that burned into your fathers’ hearts the words: Brotherhood! Equality . . . Do you remember that flame? Or has Algeria and Vietnam clouded your memory?

No, we are passed all that, the European replies. These dark vagabond children have nothing to do with the Kasbah or the hut. If what you say is true, why have you banished them to the far borders of your city? Is it because out there you can not hear them shout: Freedom! When do we want it? Now! Do you remember Fanon? Do you remember what he said about these places of exile for the nigger and the Arab?

They are places “starved of bread, of meat, of clothes, of shoes . . . of light.” Yet you claim that the dark children among you have nothing to do with Algeria or Vietnam. In the mind of the dark child, the difference between the native town and the outskirts of Paris is unappreciable.

“Once you came to our country to rape us,” the dark child claims. “Now, we have come to your country to be raped. There is no difference between us and the niggers of America, now. That is why we scream as they once did—We want freedom!”

Let us be reasonable, Europe says. Do you expect us to give up our culture and our history just to appease these others? Even now the dark child looks at Europe and laughs when he hears this. Then he reaches for the gas can, the bottle, and the match. “Do they expect us to give up our history, our culture, our religion, and our very souls just to pick up their trash,” he asks a friend. “Better to rot away in a French prison than to give up what we are.” Be careful, Europe.

It was you who first spoke of your superiority over the native and then you not only lost a war, but your way. Now, you speak of your superiority over the son and the grandchild of the native. Is that Sartre in the corner smiling, clapping, and holding the dark child’s hand when you spout such nonsense? What is it that Jean-Paul is whispering into the child’s ear? Something about Jefferson and Chirac being the same white man who is wont to give up his slaves.

“Yes, they talk a good game,” Sartre says, “but in the end. The devil is the devil.”

The dark child of the Fourth World is most attentive when white men speak of being reasonable. What white men mean when they talk of what is reasonable in these situations is what is reasonable for them. If the white man’s reasonability means that the dark child must wait hat in hand for Europe to embrace him, his sisters and brothers, then we have the beginning of a nasty problem.

“You must have forgotten already what happens when you make dark children wait,” he explains. “Lumumba was a dark child who waited in ambush for your fathers. Mao, Che, Castro, Nkrumah, and Malcolm X—all were dark children. No Europe, your call for reasonableness will never do. The jig is up. You must put up or shut up! When you speak of the Rights of Man, you must let me know now if these words apply to me.”

What we have here, of course, is a case of unintended consequences regarding the racial and political policy of the West. What we mean by this is that it was never the intention or policy of the West to have the African or the Arab hear such slogans as "All men are created equal" or "Liberty, Fraternity," and the like. These words were given by God to white men. For centuries, it was believed that the African and the Arab—who said to possess no God or Logos—was incapable of pondering the complexities of such slogans.

But then, things changed. Like a parrot mimicking its owner, the Black African spoke the words of his master, “Liberty. Fraternity, Equality.” Then the Arab miraculously followed the Black man’s lead. For awhile there was hope that this mimicry could be turned into real social progress for the Black African and the Arab, at least in the eyes of Europe. In the United States, no such hope was held out for their niggers.

The nigger would always remain more ape than human down in Dixie. Those were the heady days for both native and master. “We can teach them to worship our whiteness,” Europe, the master, cried. “If that does not work, we can teach them to fear our power.” On native side, there were more than enough Blacks and Arabs ready to serve whiteness and fear power. So you can see it was the beginning of an equitable arrangement: One man readily giving whiteness and the other readily receiving it.

So it was for a time. In France, Portugal, and Belgium, the policy was to have the African and the Arab brought to Europe and learn to mimic all things European. Then return these human parrots to their native lands. But when the African parrot spoke to Africans and the Arab parrot spoke to Arabs suspicion among the natives grew. There was talk in the village of white Black men possessed by evil spirits and strange Arabs possessed by the jinn.

These human parrots came to be known among the natives as “enemy brothers.” What grew up in the hearts of the black Black man and the true Arab was resistance against the entire arrangement. For what the African and Arab feared most was the power of whiteness to turn them into unnatural beings—zombies and demons and enemy brothers.

When the native African and Arab refuse to become Europe’s parrots, worship whiteness and fear power, fearful words appeared in their mouths: Revolution! Self-determination! Independence! Things had, as they often do between the oppressor and the oppressed, gone strangely wrong.

Do you remember any of this, great Europe? Do you remember the cost in flesh and blood? If you failed with the father what makes you think that you will fare any better with the son or grandson. Do not be fooled by those among you who say that it is possible to make the children dance to music where their fathers’ would not. Can’t you see that your cry for secularism is just another attempt to have white Black men and strange Arabs produce enemy brothers within your midst?

Secularism is what you cry. But worship whiteness and fear power is all that your words convey to the dark children of Europe. You may beat, imprison, and make these children outcasts in your land. But, in the end, their mouths will be filled with words as fearful as those uttered by their fathers at Dien Bien Phu and Algiers: Democracy! Equality! Freedom! When do we want it? Now!

Here is the crux of the matter. If the West was what it claimed to be, it would never have gotten itself into this situation. For, if the greatness of Western democracy has to be defended with clubs, bullets, police dogs and other such weapons against the dark children of the world, then all that it has already said about itself is nothing more than “false advertisement.”

What the dark children of America call “hype.” It is not enough in the post-modern age to talk of democratic rights for white men or the rich and the powerful in Europe or America. The democratic slogans of the West must now be translated into rights for all persons who live and work on her soil. If the West fails to recognize this responsibility then those who are denied their democratic rights have a revolutionary responsibility to acquire them through any and every means.

We know that the West will say that this is not how things are done in a democracy. There is the rule of law, etc. To this, we answer that the King of England spoke of the rule of law to the colonies. The King of France spoke of the rule of law to the peasant. The rule of law then was based upon the false divinity of the king. Today, the rule of law in regard to the Black African and the Arab in Europe is based upon the false divinity of “whiteness.”

It is precisely the latter rule of law that the Black African, the Arab, and the Asian—the entire Fourth World oppressed in the West—wishes to dispense with today. Whenever the Rights of Men are abridged or abrogated, the rule of law is evoked by the ruling class or the oppressor. When Dred Scott, a runaway slave in America, appealed to the very system that was charged with protecting the rule of law, he was told that the Black man has no rights that white men need respect.

Indeed, there has never been a single significant right taken from the oppressor by the oppressed by rule of law! The rule of law is fashioned by men and it is men who make it an equalitarian tool or a ruse for oppression.

If all that has been stated above is the crux of the matter, the only question that remains to be answered is what will the West do about Fourth World people within its midst. In the United States which has had the longest experience with dealing with African Americans, the first Fourth World people of the Western Hemisphere, the prospects for the resolution of the problem of race are grim.

America is in the grip of a wave of conservatism that is, if not covertly racist, at least overtly indifferent to all matters of race. What is worst is that the forces of opposition to American conservatism—the Democratic Party and other such liberals, both Black and white—have become spineless imitations of the very forces that would render the problem of racism invisible within America. Until Hurricane Katrina, these combined forces gave the world no reason to think that, other than in the vaguest of terms, American racism was nothing more than a vestige of the past.

But Katrina exposed America’s ugly under belly—those people who live “beneath the underdog” in the most economically advanced sector of the West—and the world was shocked. The fault line between whiteness, wealth, and power and blackness, poverty, and powerlessness was fully exposed. Once again, questions of race and poverty became credible issues for discussion in the political arena—at least for the moment.

Europe has a long standing history of racism that it would also like to render invisible. Anti-Semitism is but another form of racism. The Jews of Europe can recount their own history of oppression better than anyone else. But, even before Hitler spoke of a “final solution, there were a thousand pogroms carried out all over Europe against them. The world has not forgotten from where the term “wandering Jew” originated. When Europe was not demonizing the Jew, it was speaking of the “enemy” Moor from whose hands the Holy Land must be liberated. Shortly, after the Muslims were purged from Europe, there began the conquest of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Fanon points out that nearly “four-fifths” of the dark people of the world were under some form of colonialism during Europe’s imperialist period.

We can easily see that the legacy of racism in the West is both deep and abiding. Yet the West has failed to successfully face and resolve its racist tendencies. This is not to say that it has not attempted to wrestle with these problems. In America, Slavery, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movements were all periods when she attempted to tackle her greatest internal problem in the United States. But America grew weary of the race problem. She will undoubtedly pay for her neglect of the race issue sooner or later. America should not be fooled by the current lack of activism among the African American. The racial front has been quiet before and then suddenly America has been rocked by some form of Black militancy.

Now, in France, the internal problem of race and economic oppression has made itself evident in form of urban riots. Already she is responding with a knee jerk reaction to the problem. France has already made the mistake of demonizing the rioters—Black and Arab. They are “thugs” on our streets the French Minister of Interior claims. They are “looters” on our streets the American media says of the Black and poor victims of New Orleans.

Has racism no other strategy at its disposal? The cry of barbarians at the gate is always thrown up in these situations as fodder for the white masses. It is only when the fodder of prejudice has been thoroughly digested, passed through the intestines, and out through their bowels that the white masses are made ready for the truth. It is only then that France or America is ready to admit that it has a “race problem.”

But, the Black American, the Afro-European, and the Arab-European know this. “What do you intend to do about it?” is what they want to know. There is always a rush of wind and then silence when this question is asked in Washington or Paris. For the oppressed of the Fourth World, the rushing wind is no more than the collective passing of gas from the white masses and the silence is their complicity with institutional racism.

In the end, it may not matter what the West intends to do about the problem of Fourth World people within her midst. It may be that the resolution of this internal problem is wholly in the hands of Fourth World people in the West—just as the resolution of the external problem of colonialism rested solely in the hands of Third World people.

Still, whenever the oppressed confront their oppressor, there exists for some reason a psychological necessity to lay their compliant at their feet—to give fair warning as Eldridge Cleaver proclaimed of the shit storm on the horizon. That is all that the riots in France signify at this time. “Do something about our problems,” that is always the first cry of the oppressed masses to the oppressor.

But almost always their appeals go unheard and a period of intense activism follows. It is then that the complaints are converted in to shouts for action. “What do we want! Freedom! When do we want it! Now! All this, history informs us, is prelude to revolutionary action. Perhaps that is what is needed in the West—revolutionary action to shake it to its foundations.
 
posted by R J Noriega
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Thursday, January 26, 2006,10:42 AM
Justification of Identity politics in America
By Sonia Shah

“To critics who would the say , well then, how does it make sense to talk about Asian American women at all? I would respond: It makes as much sense as it does to talk about white people or black people or Latinos. These racial groups admit just as much, if not more, diversity within their ranks than they have similarities.

In the end, they are historical constructs, kept in place by social and political institutions, in service of hierarchical, racially biased society. White people include poor Irish Catholic immigrants, rich WASPS, and Jewish intellectual.

They are at least as different as they are similar. But it makes sense to talk about them as a group because they all share the same rung on the racial hierarchy, which, in many areas of life, is the most significant determinant of their social status in the United States.

More than their shared language, ethnic heritage, or class, their Whiteness determines who they live with, who they go to school with, what kind or jobs they get, how much money they make, and whom they start their families.”

Along with that here is a reliable breakdown of why the old school social engineers organizations no longer work

by William Wei

It has been castigated for catering to middle-class women who are mainly interested in enhancing their employment oppurtunities....[the organization believes that] it will be the professional, rather then the workers, who will be the vanguard of social change in the United States. Besides, its leaders claim, when it organizes activities that focus mainly on middle-class women, it is merely responding to the wishes of the majority of its members
 
posted by R J Noriega
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,9:50 AM
the concept of Black Jesus is now mainstream
 
posted by R J Noriega
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006,10:51 AM
The Impeachment of George W. Bush
by ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN

Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush--not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so.

I can still remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach during those proceedings, when it became clear that the President had so systematically abused the powers of the presidency and so threatened the rule of law that he had to be removed from office. As a Democrat who opposed many of President Nixon's policies, I still found voting for his impeachment to be one of the most sobering and unpleasant tasks I ever had to undertake. None of the members of the committee took pleasure in voting for impeachment; after all, Democrat or Republican, Nixon was still our President.

At the time, I hoped that our committee's work would send a strong signal to future Presidents that they had to obey the rule of law. I was wrong.

Like many others, I have been deeply troubled by Bush's breathtaking scorn for our international treaty obligations under the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions. I have also been disturbed by the torture scandals and the violations of US criminal laws at the highest levels of our government they may entail, something I have written about in these pages [see Holtzman, "Torture and Accountability," July 18/25, 2005]. These concerns have been compounded by growing evidence that the President deliberately misled the country into the war in Iraq. But it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)--and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws--that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate.

As a matter of constitutional law, these and other misdeeds constitute grounds for the impeachment of President Bush. A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law--and repeatedly violates the law--thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment and removal from office. A high crime or misdemeanor is an archaic term that means a serious abuse of power, whether or not it is also a crime, that endangers our constitutional system of government.

The framers of our Constitution feared executive power run amok and provided the remedy of impeachment to protect against it. While impeachment is a last resort, and must never be lightly undertaken (a principle ignored during the proceedings against President Bill Clinton), neither can Congress shirk its responsibility to use that tool to safeguard our democracy. No President can be permitted to commit high crimes and misdemeanors with impunity.

But impeachment and removal from office will not happen unless the American people are convinced of its necessity after a full and fair inquiry into the facts and law is conducted. That inquiry must commence now.

Warrantless Wiretaps

On December 17 President Bush acknowledged that he repeatedly authorized wiretaps, without obtaining a warrant, of American citizens engaged in international calls. On the face of it, these warrantless wiretaps violate FISA, which requires court approval for national security wiretaps and sets up a special procedure for obtaining it. Violation of the law is a felony.

While many facts about these wiretaps are unknown, it now appears that thousands of calls were monitored and that the information obtained may have been widely circulated among federal agencies. It also appears that a number of government officials considered the warrantless wiretaps of dubious legality. Reportedly, several people in the National Security Agency refused to participate in them, and a deputy attorney general even declined to sign off on some aspects of these wiretaps. The special FISA court has raised concerns as well, and a judge on that court has resigned, apparently in protest.

FISA was enacted in 1978, against the backdrop of Watergate, to prevent the widespread abuses in domestic surveillance that were disclosed in Congressional hearings. Among his other abuses of power, President Nixon ordered the FBI to conduct warrantless wiretaps of seventeen journalists and White House staffers. Although Nixon claimed the wiretaps were done for national security purposes, they were undertaken for political purposes and were illegal. Just as Bush's warrantless wiretaps grew out of the 9/11 attacks, Nixon's illegal wiretaps grew out of the Vietnam War and the opposition to it. In fact, the first illegal Nixon wiretap was of a reporter who, in 1969, revealed the secret bombing of Cambodia, a program that President Nixon wanted to hide from the American people and Congress. Nixon's illegal wiretaps formed one of the many grounds for the articles of impeachment voted against him by a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee.

Congress explicitly intended FISA to strike a balance between the legitimate requirements of national security on the one hand and the need both to protect against presidential abuses and to safeguard personal privacy on the other. From Watergate, Congress knew that a President was fully capable of wiretapping under a false claim of national security. That is why the law requires court review of national security wiretaps. Congress understood that because of the huge invasion of privacy involved in wiretaps, there should be checks in place on the executive branch to protect against overzealous and unnecessary wiretapping. At the same time, Congress created special procedures to facilitate obtaining these warrants when justified. Congress also recognized the need for emergency action: The President was given the power to start a wiretap without a warrant as long as court permission was obtained within three days.

FISA can scarcely be claimed to create any obstacle to justified national security wiretaps. Since 1978, when the law was enacted, more than 10,000 national security warrants have been approved by the FISA court; only four have been turned down.

Two legal arguments have been offered for the President's right to violate the law, both of which have been seriously questioned by members of Congress of both parties and by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in a recent analysis. The first--highly dangerous in its sweep and implications--is that the President has the constitutional right as Commander in Chief to break any US law on the grounds of national security. As the CRS analysis points out, the Supreme Court has never upheld the President's right to do this in the area of wiretapping, nor has it ever granted the President a "monopoly over war-powers" or recognized him as "Commander in Chief of the country" as opposed to Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy. If the President is permitted to break the law on wiretapping on his own say-so, then a President can break any other law on his own say-so--a formula for dictatorship. This is not a theoretical danger: President Bush has recently claimed the right as Commander in Chief to violate the McCain amendment banning torture and degrading treatment of detainees. Nor is the requirement that national security be at stake any safeguard. We saw in Watergate how President Nixon falsely and cynically used that argument to cover up ordinary crimes and political misdeeds.

Ours is a government of limited power. We learn in elementary school the concept of checks and balances. Those checks do not vanish in wartime; the President's role as Commander in Chief does not swallow up Congress's powers or the Bill of Rights. Given the framers' skepticism about executive power and warmaking--there was no functional standing army at the beginning of the nation, so the President's powers as Commander in Chief depended on Congress's willingness to create and expand an army--it is impossible to find in the Constitution unilateral presidential authority to act against US citizens in a way that violates US laws, even in wartime. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor recently wrote, "A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

The second legal argument in defense of Bush's warrantless wiretaps rests on an erroneous statutory interpretation. According to this argument, Congress authorized the Administration to place wiretaps without court approval when it adopted the 2001 resolution authorizing military force against the Taliban and Al Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks. In the first place, the force resolution doesn't mention wiretaps. And given that Congress has traditionally placed so many restrictions on wiretapping because of its extremely intrusive qualities, there would undoubtedly have been vigorous debate if anyone thought the force resolution would roll back FISA. In fact, the legislative history of the force resolution shows that Congress had no intention of broadening the scope of presidential warmaking powers to cover activity in the United States. According to Senator Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader who negotiated the resolution with the White House, the Administration wanted to include language explicitly enlarging the President's warmaking powers to include domestic activity. That language was rejected. Obviously, if the Administration felt it already had the power, it would not have tried to insert the language into the resolution.

What then was the reason for avoiding the FISA court? President Bush suggested that there was no time to get the warrants. But this cannot be true, because FISA permits wiretaps without warrants in emergencies as long as court approval is obtained within three days. Moreover, there is evidence that the President knew the warrantless wiretapping was illegal. In 2004, when the violations had been going on for some time, President Bush told a Buffalo, New York, audience that "a wiretap requires a court order." He went on to say that "when we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."

Indeed, the claim that to protect Americans the President needs to be able to avoid court review of his wiretap applications rings hollow. It is unclear why or in what way the existing law, requiring court approval, is not satisfactory. And, if the law is too cumbersome or inapplicable to modern technology, then it is unclear why the President did not seek to revise it instead of disregarding it and thus jeopardizing many otherwise legitimate anti-terrorism prosecutions. His defenders' claim that changing the law would have given away secrets is unacceptable. There are procedures for considering classified information in Congress. Since no good reason has been given for avoiding the FISA court, it is reasonable to suspect that the real reason may have been that the wiretaps, like those President Nixon ordered in Watergate, involved journalists or anti-Bush activists or were improper in other ways and would not have been approved.

It is also curious that President Bush seems so concerned with the imaginary dangers to Americans posed by US courts but remains so apparently unconcerned about fixing some of the real holes in our security. For example, FBI computers--which were unable to search two words at once, like "flight schools," a defect that impaired the Bureau's ability to identify the 9/11 attackers beforehand--still haven't been brought into the twenty-first century. Given Vice President Cheney's longstanding ambition to throw off the constraints on executive power imposed in response to Watergate and the Vietnam War, it may well be that the warrantless wiretap program has had much more to do with restoring the trappings of the Nixon imperial presidency than it ever had to do with protecting national security.

Subverting Our Democracy

A President can commit no more serious crime against our democracy than lying to Congress and the American people to get them to support a military action or war. It is not just that it is cowardly and abhorrent to trick others into giving their lives for a nonexistent threat, or even that making false statements might in some circumstances be a crime. It is that the decision to go to war is the gravest decision a nation can make, and in a democracy the people and their elected representatives, when there is no imminent attack on the United States to repel, have the right to make it. Given that the consequences can be death for hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of people--as well as the diversion of vast sums of money to the war effort--the fraud cannot be tolerated. That both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were guilty of misleading the nation into military action and neither was impeached for it makes it more, not less, important to hold Bush accountable.

Once it was clear that no weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, President Bush tried to blame "bad intelligence" for the decision to go to war, apparently to show that the WMD claim was not a deliberate deception. But bad intelligence had little or nothing to do with the main arguments used to win popular support for the invasion of Iraq.

First, there was no serious intelligence--good or bad--to support the Administration's suggestion that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were in cahoots. Nonetheless, the Administration repeatedly tried to claim the connection to show that the invasion was a justified response to 9/11 (like the declaration of war against Japan for Pearl Harbor). The claim was a sheer fabrication.

Second, there was no reliable intelligence to support the Administration's claim that Saddam was about to acquire nuclear weapons capability. The specter of the "mushroom cloud," which frightened many Americans into believing that the invasion of Iraq was necessary for our self-defense, was made up out of whole cloth. As for the biological and chemical weapons, even if, as reported, the CIA director told the President that these existed in Iraq, the Administration still had plenty of information suggesting the contrary.

The deliberateness of the deception has also been confirmed by a British source: the Downing Street memo, the official record of Prime Minister Tony Blair's July 2002 meeting with his top Cabinet officials. At the meeting the chief of British intelligence, who had just returned from the United States, reported that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." In other words, the Bush Administration was reported to be in the process of cooking up fake intelligence and facts to justify going to war in Iraq.

During the Nixon impeachment proceedings, I drafted the resolution of impeachment to hold President Nixon accountable for concealing from Congress the bombing of Cambodia he initiated. But the committee did not approve it, probably because it might appear political--in other words, stemming from opposition to the war instead of to the President's abuse of his warmaking powers.

With respect to President Bush and the Iraq War, there is not likely to be any such confusion. Most Americans know that his rationale for the war turned out to be untrue; for them the question is whether the President lied, and if so, what the remedies are for his misconduct.

The Failure to Take Care

Upon assuming the presidency, Bush took an oath of office in which he swore to take care that the laws would be faithfully executed. Impeachment cannot be used to remove a President for maladministration, as the debates on ratifying the Constitution show. But President Bush has been guilty of such gross incompetence or reckless indifference to his obligation to execute the laws faithfully as to call into question whether he takes his oath seriously or is capable of doing so.

The most egregious example is the conduct of the war in Iraq. Unconscionably and unaccountably, the Administration failed to provide US soldiers with bulletproof vests or appropriately armored vehicles. A recent Pentagon study disclosed that proper bulletproof vests would have saved hundreds of lives. Why wasn't the commencement of hostilities postponed until the troops were properly outfitted? There are numerous suggestions that the timing was prompted by political, not military, concerns. The United States was under no imminent threat of attack by Saddam Hussein, and the Administration knew it. They delayed the marketing of the war until Americans finished their summer vacations because "you don't introduce new products in August." As the Downing Street memo revealed, the timeline for the war was set to start thirty days before the 2002 Congressional elections.

And there was no serious plan for the aftermath of the war, a fact also noted in the Downing Street memo. The President's failure as Commander in Chief to protect the troops by arming them properly, and his failure to plan for the occupation, cost dearly in lives and taxpayer dollars. This was not mere negligence or oversight--in other words, maladministration--but reflected a reckless and grotesque disregard for the welfare of the troops and an utter indifference to the need for proper governance of a country after occupation. As such, these failures violated the requirements of the President's oath of office. If they are proven to be the product of political objectives, they could constitute impeachable offenses on those grounds alone.

Torture and Other Abuses of Power

President Bush recently proclaimed, "We do not torture." In view of the revelations of the CIA's secret jails and practice of rendition, not to mention the Abu Ghraib scandal, the statement borders on the absurd, recalling Nixon's famous claim, "I am not a crook." It has been well documented that abuse (including torture) of detainees by US personnel in connection with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been systemic and widespread. Under the War Crimes Act of 1996 it is a crime for any US national to order or engage in the murder, torture or inhuman treatment of a detainee. (When a detainee death results, the act imposes the death penalty.) In addition, anyone in the chain of command who condones the abuse rather than stopping it could also be in violation of the act. The act simply implements the Geneva Conventions, which are the law of the land.

The evidence before us now suggests that the President himself may have authorized detainee abuse. In January 2002, after the Afghanistan war had begun, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush in writing that US mistreatment of detainees might be criminally prosecutable under the War Crimes Act. Rather than order the possibly criminal behavior to stop, which under the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act the President was obligated to do, Bush authorized an "opt-out" of the Geneva Conventions to try to shield the Americans who were abusing detainees from prosecution. In other words, the President's response to reports of detainee abuse was to prevent prosecution of the abusers, thereby implicitly condoning the abuse and authorizing its continuation. If torture or inhuman treatment of prisoners took place as a result of the President's conduct, then he himself may have violated the War Crimes Act, along with those who actually inflicted the abuse.

There are many other indications that the President has knowingly condoned detainee abuse. For example, he never removed Defense Secretary Rumsfeld from office or disciplined him, even though Rumsfeld accepted responsibility for the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, admitted hiding a detainee from the Red Cross--a violation of the Geneva Conventions and possibly the War Crimes Act, if the detainee was being abused--and issued orders (later withdrawn) for Guantánamo interrogations that violated the Geneva Conventions and possibly the War Crimes Act.

More recently, the President opposed the McCain Amendment barring torture when it was first proposed, and he tacitly supported Vice President Cheney's efforts to get language into the bill that would allow the CIA to torture or degrade detainees. Now, in his signing statement, the President announced that he has the right to violate the new law, claiming once again the right as Commander in Chief to break laws when it suits him.

Furthermore, despite the horrors of the Abu Ghraib scandal, no higher-ups have been held accountable. Only one officer of any significant rank has been punished. It is as though the Watergate inquiry stopped with the burglars, as the Nixon coverup tried and failed to accomplish. President Bush has made no serious effort to insure that the full scope of the scandal is uncovered or to hold any higher-ups responsible, perhaps because responsibility goes right to the White House.

It is imperative that a full investigation be undertaken of Bush's role in the systemic torture and abuse of detainees. Violating his oath of office, the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act would constitute impeachable offenses.

Next Steps

Mobilizing the nation and Congress in support of investigations and the impeachment of President Bush is a critical task that has already begun, but it must intensify and grow. The American people stopped the Vietnam War--against the wishes of the President--and forced a reluctant Congress to act on the impeachment of President Nixon. And they can do the same with President Bush. The task has three elements: building public and Congressional support, getting Congress to undertake investigations into various aspects of presidential misconduct and changing the party makeup of Congress in the 2006 elections.

Drumming up public support means organizing rallies, spearheading letter-writing campaigns to newspapers, organizing petition drives, door-knocking in neighborhoods, handing out leaflets and deploying the full range of mobilizing tactics. Organizations like AfterDowningStreet.org and ImpeachPac.org, actively working on a campaign for impeachment, are able to draw on a remarkably solid base of public support. A Zogby poll taken in November--before the wiretap scandal--showed more than 50 percent of those questioned favored impeachment of President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq.

An energized public must in turn bear down on Congress. Constituents should request meetings with their Senators and Representatives to educate them on impeachment. They can also make their case through e-mail, letters and phone calls. Representatives and Senators should be asked specifically to support hearings on and investigations into the deceptions that led to the Iraq War and President Bush's role in the torture scandals. Senators should also be asked to insure that the hearings already planned by the Senate Judiciary Committee into warrantless wiretaps are comprehensive. The hearings should evaluate whether the wiretaps were genuinely used for national security purposes and why the President chose to violate the law when it was so easy to comply with it. Representatives should specifically be asked to co-sponsor Congressman John Conyers's resolution calling for a full inquiry into presidential abuses.

Finally, if this pressure fails to produce results, attention must be focused on changing the political composition of the House and Senate in the upcoming 2006 elections. If a Republican Congress is unwilling to investigate and take appropriate action against a Republican President, then a Democratic Congress should replace it.

As awful as Watergate was, after the vote on impeachment and the resignation of President Nixon, the nation felt a huge sense of relief. Impeachment is a tortuous process, but now that President Bush has thrown down the gauntlet and virtually dared Congress to stop him from violating the law, nothing less is necessary to protect our constitutional system and preserve our democracy.
 
posted by R J Noriega
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