Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
My point is that Hillary Clinton has not, in fact, survived the worst that the Republican attack machine (and its pilotless drones online and on talk radio) can dish out. We will learn what the worst really means if she is nominated. The Commie law firm will be only the beginning. Many tempting targets—from Bill’s little-examined fund-raising and business activities during the past seven years to the prospect of his hanging around the White House in some as yet undefined role for another four or eight years to whatever leftovers from the Clinton “scandals” of the nineteen-nineties can be retrieved from the dumpster and reheated—remain to be machine-gunned. The whole Clinton marital soap opera, obviously off limits within the Democratic fold, will offer ample material for what Obama calls “distractions.” To take the most obvious example, the former President’s social life since leaving the White House will become, if not “fair game,” big game—and some of these right-wing dirtbags are already hiring bearers and trying on pith helmets for the safari. Is this a “there” where the Democratic Party really wants to go?
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
But he ran against Mrs. Nixon, Mrs. Nixon's victimhood, President Clinton, and their 15 years of campaign history in the Keystone state; the Pennsylvania Democratic party machine led by Gov. Ed Rendell; Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter; Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl ; John McCain, ABC, Fox, CNN and MSNBC; and his own foot-in-mouth bitter comments and lackluster performance at that hit job folks still want to call a debate. Am I missing anything?
And yet, he only lost the Pennsylvania primary by 9 points after being behind 26 points in polls right after the Reverend Wright videos looped nonstop on cable news and the Internet.
One doesn't need to be a politician to spin that as a a big step toward victory in the war. Because she didn't score a huge victory in a state tailor-made for one, Mrs. Nixon will have to win 71% of the popular vote in the remaining states to catch up to Obama in pledged delegates.
I'm not afraid of what happens from here on out. But it's going to get ugly. Really ugly. And the intent will be to destroy Obama's humanity to bring him down.
North Carolina and Indiana are next up in two weeks. Obama is polling extremely well in North Carolina and almost even in Indiana where he delivered his concession speech last night.
Republicans are terrified of running against Obama. The North Carolina Republicans are about to start an overtly racist ad campaign against Obama starting tomorrow. The maker of the Willie Horton ad is about to air racial ads in North Carolina starting tomorrow.
Mrs. Nixon is going to keep running her fearmongering Kitchen ad which features an image of Osama bin Laden. The first time a Democratic candidate has used that image in any election since 9/11. And ad that also, ironically, suggests that the Black man—the one we should be afraid of, the one they've cast as a Black radical Islamofascist Manchurian Candidate terrorist—is a pansy wimp. A contortion worthy of a circus act.
In her victory speech, Mrs. Nixon co-opted many of Obama's "empty words" and used them as her own. And she once again shamelessly promoted her woman-ness as the reason she must, must, must be president.
Obama lost the battle. But he will win the war.
We will win the war. We have to fight to win, and we will not give in.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
I guess she hasn't been thoroughly vetted after all. Or, there's simply a glaring double standard at work here.
What say you?
Here's the article that appeared in the NY Times in 1997.
But this was how it was, as I documented in my book, on that Sabbath evening seven years ago:
Their Eyes Were Watching God
It is dark. It takes them a little while to locate the right unit. Craig anticipates what’s about to happen, his anxiety stiff and peaked like whipped egg whites. What will she look like?
The time is near.
Will she recognize him?
The time is near.
How will she react?
The time is near.
They find the right unit. Uncle James, still talking on the phone with Sonja, knocks on the door. Job aims the video camera at the door.
Craig stands away from the door, away from his husband and uncle. James knocks again.
“Who is it?” a voice replies. Is it hers? Or his sister’s?
“It’s Uncle James.”
The door opens. She appears in blue-green shorts and a white T-shirt. Her face shrouded with hair.
“It’s the CIA.” James laughs his shrill and infectious laugh.
“I thought you weren’t coming until tomorrow.”
“Well, I’m here now. Mind if I bring my friends in with me?”
“Not at all. Who are your friends?”
They exchange pleasantries.
Craig shakes her hand, quickly, and steps inside, trembling.
“So who are your friends?”
“This is Job.” Job shakes her hand.
“Job’s full name is Jacobus, which means James.” Cell phone still live with Aunt Sonja, Uncle James steps inside and away from Craig.
“Who is this?”
“You know who he is.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
With the back of her right hand, she pushes her long hair out of her face. She studies Craig’s face. He has her protruding bottom lip. She studies closer. He has her exact caramel-colored skin with the reddish tint.
He has that slightly squinted left eye that reflects her tightly squinted right eye.
And closer still.
She cocks her head subtly to the right, but not so subtly that he doesn’t notice, and furrows her brow.
“It’s been thirty-three years.”
But she doesn’t hear Job, because she already knows.
“Wow.” She raises her right hand. “Joseph.”
He nods again.
She steps forward to hug him. He clenches her.
“Oh, my God.”
His water breaks.
“Oh, my God.”
His earth quakes.
“Oh, my God.”
His bow breaks.
“Oh, my God.”
His heart aches.
“Oh, my God.”
He can’t let go.
“Oh, my God.”
He won’t let go.
“Oh, my God.”
She rocks him slowly side to side.
“Oh, my God.”
“It’s okay,” she whispers.
He buries his head in her shoulder.
She strokes his head.
She rocks him slowly and strokes his head.
His earth quakes
His water breaks.
And he wails three decades and three years of tears.
And time stands still.
The day after. From left: The grandmother, the husband, yours truly, the nephew, the sister, the birthmother, the auntie, the eldest uncle, the younger uncle
"On the question of experience, Hillary has had a healthy taste of the possession of power, but she has never wielded that power to create anything of tangible and lasting value.
"Come November, after all the nominating conventions are over, if Hillary is the Democratic candidate, the choice is easy. McCain, a Republican, long-established public servant and war hero, will provide the balance for the Democratic majorities in both House and Senate which will almost certainly result. Should Barack Obama emerge as the candidate, a genuine decision will be necessary. The press will deeply probe his background, achievements and failures. A comparison will be made, and the two men will be judged.
"My choice has not been made should the Obama-McCain situation obtains.
"One thing is certain. If Hillary and her motley revenue of residual trailer-trash retainers from Arkansas and the new cadre of star-struck guileless youth enters the White House, the USA will sustain a tragedy exceeded in its magnitude only by the Civil War."
—Greg Vermeychuk, a commenter on the article "Why women shouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton," by Camille Paglia, published today
Casey has filled an unexpectedly vital role for Obama, testifying to his character and message in a state that can take a dim view of change, at a time when gaffes and controversies threatened to carve an even larger gulf between the Illinois senator and Pennsylvania voters.
“I don’t think we have had a better endorsement in an individual state than Bob Casey,” said Robert Gibbs, a top Obama adviser. “He gave the campaign a tremendous amount of credibility. He helped in areas that have been tough.”
In making one of his earliest calls to Casey after the “bitter” comments became public, Obama first wanted to explain what he meant, but also to share that he knew they were poorly worded, Gibbs said.
Obama apparently didn’t need to worry.
“When I make a commitment to someone,” Casey said, “it is for the smooth road and the rocky road.”
Sen. Casey campaigned with Sen. Obama on his six-day bus tour through small-town and rural Pennsylvania earlier in the month. Appeared with Obama on his On Track for Change whistle-stop train tour through southeastern Pennsylvania last weekend.
Sen. Casey has taken on Gov. Ed Rendell, Sen. Nixon's biggest supporter, on Meet the Press and Face the Nation. Has defended Sen. Obama's character and empathy in the wake of the manufactured "Bittergate" on the Clinton News Network (CNN). Starred, alone, in an advertisement set in Scranton, his hometown and Sen. Nixon stronghold, praising Obama's vision for America.
If Obama keeps it close in Pennsylvania, or better yet, pulls off the upset by a few points, Casey's support will be the biggest key to a victory, perceived or outright, in the Keystone state.
You can see how much these men love each other. And it's a beautiful picture.
So, if you live in Pennsylvania, can you do me a favor? Will you please cast my vote -- and yours -- on Tuesday for Senator Barack Obama?
I haven't spoken publicly 'til now as to who I would vote for, primarily for two reasons: 1) Who cares?; and 2) I (and most people I know) don't give a rat's ass whose name is on the ballot in November, as long as there's a picture of JFK and FDR riding a donkey at the top of the ballot, and the word "Democratic" next to the candidate's name.
Seriously, I know so many people who don't care if the name under the Big "D" is Dancer, Prancer, Clinton or Blitzen. It can be Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Barry Obama or the Dalai Lama.
Well, that sounded good last year, but over the past two months, the actions and words of Hillary Clinton have gone from being merely disappointing to downright disgusting. I guess the debate last week was the final straw. I've watched Senator Clinton and her husband play this game of appealing to the worst side of white people, but last Wednesday, when she hurled the name "Farrakhan" out of nowhere, well that's when the silly season came to an early end for me. She said the "F" word to scare white people, pure and simple. Of course, Obama has no connection to Farrakhan. But, according to Senator Clinton, Obama's pastor does -- AND the "church bulletin" once included a Los Angeles Times op-ed from some guy with Hamas! No, not the church bulletin!
This sleazy attempt to smear Obama was brilliantly explained the following night by Stephen Colbert. He pointed out that if Obama is supported by Ted Kennedy, who is Catholic, and the Catholic Church is led by a Pope who was in the Hitler Youth, that can mean only one thing: OBAMA LOVES HITLER!
Yes, Senator Clinton, that's how you sounded. Like you were nuts. Like you were a bigot stoking the fires of stupidity. How sad that I would ever have to write those words about you. You have devoted your life to good causes and good deeds. And now to throw it all away for an office you can't win unless you smear the black man so much that the superdelegates cry "Uncle (Tom)" and give it all to you.
But that can't happen. You cast your die when you voted to start this bloody war. When you did that you were like Moses who lost it for a moment and, because of that, was prohibited from entering the Promised Land.
How sad for a country that wanted to see the first woman elected to the White House. That day will come -- but it won't be you. We'll have to wait for the current Democratic governor of Kansas to run in 2016 (you read it here first!).
There are those who say Obama isn't ready, or he's voted wrong on this or that. But that's looking at the trees and not the forest. What we are witnessing is not just a candidate but a profound, massive public movement for change. My endorsement is more for Obama The Movement than it is for Obama the candidate.
That is not to take anything away from this exceptional man. But what's going on is bigger than him at this point, and that's a good thing for the country. Because, when he wins in November, that Obama Movement is going to have to stay alert and active. Corporate America is not going to give up their hold on our government just because we say so. President Obama is going to need a nation of millions to stand behind him.
I know some of you will say, 'Mike, what have the Democrats done to deserve our vote?' That's a damn good question. In November of '06, the country loudly sent a message that we wanted the war to end. Yet the Democrats have done nothing. So why should we be so eager to line up happily behind them?
I'll tell you why. Because I can't stand one more friggin' minute of this administration and the permanent, irreversible damage it has done to our people and to this world. I'm almost at the point where I don't care if the Democrats don't have a backbone or a kneebone or a thought in their dizzy little heads. Just as long as their name ain't "Bush" and the word "Republican" is not beside theirs on the ballot, then that's good enough for me.
I, like the majority of Americans, have been pummeled senseless for 8 long years. That's why I will join millions of citizens and stagger into the voting booth come November, like a boxer in the 12th round, all bloodied and bruised with one eye swollen shut, looking for the only thing that matters -- that big "D" on the ballot.
Don't get me wrong. I lost my rose-colored glasses a long time ago.
It's foolish to see the Democrats as anything but a nicer version of a party that exists to do the bidding of the corporate elite in this country. Any endorsement of a Democrat must be done with this acknowledgement and a hope that one day we will have a party that'll represent the people first, and laws that allow that party an equal voice.
Finally, I want to say a word about the basic decency I have seen in Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton continues to throw the Rev. Wright up in his face as part of her mission to keep stoking the fears of White America. Every time she does this I shout at the TV, "Say it, Obama! Say that when she and her husband were having marital difficulties regarding Monica Lewinsky, who did she and Bill bring to the White House for 'spiritual counseling?' THE REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT!"
But no, Obama won't throw that at her. It wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be decent. She's been through enough hurt. And so he remains silent and takes the mud she throws in his face.
That's why the crowds who come to see him are so large. That's why he'll take us down a more decent path. That's why I would vote for him if Michigan were allowed to have an election.
But the question I keep hearing is... 'can he win? Can he win in November?' In the distance we hear the siren of the death train called the Straight Talk Express. We know it's possible to hear the words "President McCain" on January 20th. We know there are still many Americans who will never vote for a black man. Hillary knows it, too. She's counting on it.
Pennsylvania, the state that gave birth to this great country, has a chance to set things right. It has not had a moment to shine like this since 1787 when our Constitution was written there. In that Constitution, they wrote that a black man or woman was only "three fifths" human. On Tuesday, the good people of Pennsylvania have a chance for redemption.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
She opens "Lest We Forget" with a personal history of what race and class in the south looked like from her childhood eyes. What she saw wasn't pretty.
We lived in a shack without electricity or running water, under a rusty tin roof that let in wind and rain. Miss May went to school as a girl. The school my parents and their neighbors built for us was burned to the ground by local racists who wanted to keep ignorant their competitors in tenant farming. During the Depression, desperate to feed his hardworking family, my father asked for a raise from ten dollars a month to twelve. Miss May responded that she would not pay that amount to a white man and she certainly wouldn't pay it to a nigger. That before she'd pay a nigger that much money she'd milk the dairy cows herself.
When I look back, this is part of what I see. I see the school bus carrying white children, boys and girls, right past me, and my brothers, as we trudge on foot five miles to school. Later, I see my parents struggling to build a school out of discarded army barracks while white students, girls and boys, enjoy a building made of brick. We had no books; we inherited the cast off books that "Jane" and "Dick" had previously used in the all-white school that we were not, as black children, permitted to enter.
When I joined the freedom movement in Mississippi in my early twenties it was to come to the aid of sharecroppers, like my parents, who had been thrown off the land they'd always known, the plantations, because they attempted to exercise their "democratic" right to vote. I wish I could say white women treated me and other black people a lot better than the men did, but I cannot. It seemed to me then and it seems to me now that white women have copied, all too often, the behavior of their fathers and their brothers, and in the South, especially in Mississippi, and before that, when I worked to register voters in Georgia, the broken bottles thrown at my head were gender free.
You know exactly where she's going already, don't you?
I am a supporter of Obama because I believe he is the right person to lead the country at this time. He offers a rare opportunity for the country and the world to start over, and to do better. It is a deep sadness to me that many of my feminist white women friends cannot see him. Cannot see what he carries in his being. Cannot hear the fresh choices toward Movement he offers. That they can believe that millions of Americans –black, white, yellow, red and brown - choose Obama over Clinton only because he is a man, and black, feels tragic to me.
In many ways, it is a rebuttal to both Geraldine Ferraro and Walker's friend Gloria Steinem. Steinem insists that gender is "probably" the most restricting force in American life. That women are never front runners. Um. Okay. I guess that means Mrs. Clinton's inevitable nomination 15 months ago was simply a media creation. Guess she didn't hear Mrs. Clinton declare without equivocation, "I will be the nominee." Ferraro, the first woman to appear on a presidential ticket, said years ago that it would be easier for a woman to be elected president than a Black man because, like it or not, racism still existed.
But when Clinton failed to close down Obama on Super Tuesday, when Obama ran off 12 contests in a row and amassed an insurmountable pledged delegate lead, Ferraro changed her tune. Decided to exploit the racist attitudes she admitted still prevail in the minds of many. Mrs. Clinton changed her song as well and started to promote the idea that she was the victim of sexism and misogyny in order to appeal to the Sisterhood Walker is addressing. Now, according to Mrs. Clinton and Ferarro and Steinem, that Barack has benefited from his race. That he's an affirmative action candidate to rail against. If you're poor and white and bitter, that is. According to Ferraro, if Obama were white or a woman of any color he couldn't be where he is.
Once again, Walker disagrees and points out the forest of the trees:
When I have supported white people, men and women, it was because I thought them the best possible people to do whatever the job required. Nothing else would have occurred to me. If Obama were in any sense mediocre, he would be forgotten by now. He is, in fact, a remarkable human being, not perfect but humanly stunning, like King was and like Mandela is. We look at him, as we looked at them, and are glad to be of our species. He is the change America has been trying desperately and for centuries to hide, ignore, kill. The change America must have if we are to convince the rest of the world that we care about people other than our (white) selves.
It is hard to relate what it feels like to see Mrs. Clinton (I wish she felt self-assured enough to use her own name) referred to as "a woman" while Barack Obama is always referred to as "a black man." One would think she is just any woman, colorless, race-less, past-less, but she is not. She carries all the history of white womanhood in America in her person; it would be a miracle if we, and the world, did not react to this fact. How dishonest it is, to attempt to make her innocent of her racial inheritance.
Some have suggested that Walker has gone too far comparing Obama to Mandela. After all, Obama isn't even president yet. But her point has nothing to do with accomplishment and everything to do with spirit. Humanly stunning, she writes. Humanly stunning. A stunning use of language to describe a remarkable human being. The Hawaiians call it mana. Universal Power. "And the loving use of this incredible Power is the secret for attaining true health, happiness, prosperity and success."
That would seem to be what Walker sees in Obama, in Mandela, in Dr. King. The night of the Hawaii caucuses, a native Hawaiian said she saw it in Obama, too. And there's nothing insubstantial about it.
World leaders also see it, despite concerns about his inexperience. But the raw symbolism of Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States of America, would do wonders in restoring America's reputation around the globe. This is not lost on Walker.
I can easily imagine Obama sitting down and talking, person to person, with any leader, woman, man, child or common person, in the world, with no baggage of past servitude or race supremacy to mar their talks. I cannot see the same scenario with Mrs. Clinton who would drag into Twenty-First Century American leadership the same image of white privilege and distance from the reality of others' lives that has so marred our country's contacts with the rest of the world.
Such would also be the case with John McCain, warmonger of warmongers. A man with so litter respect for others not like him he still has no clue about the difference between Shia and Sunni.
Our nation is at a crossroads. Our time is now. We have a statesman in the body of a presidential candidate who so believes in the intelligence of the American people that he's willing to put his and his family's life on the line to lead us toward our aspirations instead of trying to snuff them out in the pursuit of power for power's sake. Willing to stand up for Unity. To denounce and reject division. This is our chance. Now is our time. We cannot wait.
We have come a long way, Sisters, and we are up to the challenges of our time. One of which is to build alliances based not on race, ethnicity, color, nationality, sexual preference or gender, but on Truth. Celebrate our journey. Enjoy the miracle we are witnessing. Do not stress over its outcome. Even if Obama becomes president, our country is in such ruin it may well be beyond his power to lead us toward rehabilitation. If he is elected however, we must, individually and collectively, as citizens of the planet, insist on helping him do the best job that can be done; more, we must insist that he demand this of us. It is a blessing that our mothers taught us not to fear hard work. Know, as the Hopi elders declare: The river has its destination. And remember, as poet June Jordan and Sweet Honey in the Rock never tired of telling us: We are the ones we have been waiting for.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I bet Obama's campaign headquarters have been bombarded with donations since last night.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
9:40 - How would you use Dubya Bush in your administration? Hillary would have to think about it. Barack would use H.W. Bush's foreign policy philosophy.
9:33 - Affirmative action time. Barack repeats his belief that quotas based on race or gender don't work. A whole picture of the person needs to be taken into consideration. Hillary gives a policy wonk answer, but no philosophy. Running out of time and now they're talking about gas prices. Hillary is rushing. Can't catch her points really. Windfall profit tax. Talks about infrastructure rebuilding. She has a plan for energy independence, of course. So does Barack. Price gouging. Market manipulation. Windfall profit tax. Fuel efficiency standards raised. Renewable energy projects. Blah, blah, blah.
9:24 - It's gun time. An issue important to Pennsylvanians to be sure. But a wedge issue. No blanket statements will suffice. Hillary invokes Mayor Nutter and violence in Philadelphia. Will bring back the cops program and the assault weapons ban. She talks about balance. Protect rights of lawful gun owners but keep guns out of the wrong hands. I can't imagine Barack feels any differently. He doesn't. But he puts on his constitutional lawyer hat and he nails it. But there's no difference between the candidates on this. Next.
9:12 - It's social security time. Barack defends raising the cap for the social security tax of $97,000. Hillary invokes her husband's administration. Blah, blah, blah. More posturing. Campaign rhetoric. And still no discussion of urban issues. This debate is a non-event.
9:04 - It's economy time. George starts with a McCain gaffe about the "audIcity" of hope and Hillary cackles. Now she's going to talk about the 90s. Yup. Thought so. Promises not to raise taxes on the middle class. Blah, blah, blah. Another website plug. Barack's turn. Offset payroll tax to give tax cuts to the middle class. Other stuff we also heard before. Who are these moderators? These are not questions. These are talking points with no creativity behind him. Now Barack is being asked about capitol gains taxes. Here's where Barack talks about making the tax code more fair. Pay as you go. He really reminds me of Bill Clinton. Without the slime. That's why they want to destroy him. He's doing Bill Clinton better than Bill Clinton. Leos don't like to be upstaged. Especially by other Leos. Hillary starts in with all the buzz words that are supposed to get middle class votes. But she's not actually saying anything. She praises Gov. Rendell. For what I'm not sure.
8:57 - Barack's turn. The President sets the mission. The generals and our troops carry out that mission. He will always listen, he says, to the commanders on the ground regarding tactics but the buck stops with him as commander-in-chief. George asks about Iran. Barack will do whatever is required to keep Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. This debate is whacked. The control freak moderators who told the audience that they couldn't engage in the debate with any applause for the responses has drained the energy out of this talk fest. Now Hillary is blabbering about diplomacy in the Middle East and I'm not following it. Not because it's Hillary talking (I didn't follow Barack's foreign policy chatter either), but because we've heard some version of all of this before.
8:52 - It's war time. Do the candidates have a real plan to get us out of Iraq? a voter asks. How is that going to happen with what's going on on the ground? Charles asks if the military commanders came around on day one and advised against a withdrawal, would she order the troops home? She says yes. The civilians control the military. She will begin withdraw troops within 60 days. No matter what. She talks about intense diplomacy. She has been convinced and clear about her troop withdrawal plan. She's making up debate time (Barack was talking a lot) and chattering a lot about Iraq and Afghanistan.
8:38 - A voter asks Barack about how he feels about the American flag because he doesn't wear a flag lapel pin. (Hillary isn't wearing one either, by the way.) Barack gives a brief remark about how his story couldn't have happened in any other country except this one. And then says he expresses his patriotism through working for veterans and making sure the economy takes care of people. And then William Ayers and the Weather Underground comes up. Barack cussed George out. Hillary pounces. But he served on a board with Ayers. She's not right. But I knew that already. Barack slammed her. He was ready. She wouldn't pass her own vetting process because her husband pardoned two members of the Weather Underground before he left office. Her face cracked. Next.
8:32 - It's Tuzla time. A voter who's no longer voting for Hillary asks how she can get his vote back since she lied about what happened. Her attitude is outrageous.
8:22 - It's Wright time. Charles asks about what Obama knew about his statements that caused him to rescind his invitation to introduce his candidacy. Blah, blah, blah. Now Hillary is asked about it. She's agitated. But she has to say that for Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to have blamed it on us would have been intolerable for her. Just a personal reflection that regardless of whatever good is going on, you choose your pastor and she would not have stayed in the church. George jumps in and asks if Wright loves America as much as he does. We're almost half and hour in, and there are no questions about issues related to Philadelphia or Pennsylvania specifically. Yawn. (Hillary tries to make the Wright, Farrakhan, Hamas connection to make Obama look like a radical anti-Semite who supports Palestine. Yawn.)
8:16 - George steps in. Asks Hillary about her conversation with Bill Richardson. "Can Senator Obama beat John McCain." Hillary doesn't answer directly. Speaks about being on the receiving end on what the Republicans dish out. George asks again. "Can he win.?" "Yes. Yes. Yes. But I can do a better job." Barack says that he believes Hillary can win too. Talks about being a person of faith and a candidate who has reached out more to people of faith than any other candidate. And then he smacks Hillary. Tells us that she's using the same tactics she's learned when under attack by the Republican machine. Hillary rebuts (not very well, mind you - Barack came to fight) with a weak argument about getting every vote. Then turns to her passion for empowering people. Talks about respect and connection.
8:12 - Bittergate on the table. Barack concedes that he understands why people were offended. Clarifies for the umpteenth time (nervously, I might add). Hillary rebuts with her biography and uses the word "cling" several times.
8:07 - Gilbert asks about the voting in many states. He asks to no one that they commit to each other as running mates as Cuomo suggesting. Obama bites first. Says its premature to discuss running mates.
8:04 - Hillary opens with a discussion about the promise of America. She's wearing a soft green. She pumps her website. Says we the people can keep the promise.
8:00 - The National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gilbert introduces the debate, who are standing behind podiums away from each other. This could get ugly. Obama goes first. He speaks about the frustrations of Pennsylvanians in his preamble. About changing it into something more hopeful. He's wearing his usual dark suit and light tie.
7:52 - The debate begins in less than ten minutes, and I'm calmer than I expected I would be. I don't like presidential debates. Never have. And if their basic format doesn't change, I never will. One of the reasons is because the questions tend toward "gotcha" than they do anything actually relevant to my concerns and my life. Since Obama has weathered yet another smear campaign and Hillary Rodham Nixon is getting blasted in the polls while it turns out she told her husband to "screw" southern working-class whites, corporatists are getting nervous. Obama could lock down this nomination sooner rather than later. Corporatists are getting nervous. Corporatists will do anything to hold onto their power. See: Bill and Hillary Rodham Nixon. See: the mainstream broadcast networks. See: ABC, the hose of tonight's debate. Expect to hear a lot about Rezko and Wright and Ayers and Farrakhan and bitter guns, but not that much about Tuzla and Columbia and $109 million and "Screw 'em." And I don't trust George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson. We'll see.
At the moment, critics have tried to diminish Senator Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships. While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision, so well described in his excellent book, Dreams of My Father, often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues: war and peace, the fight for economic and racial justice, reaffirming our Constitution, and the protection and enhancement of our environment.
After the terrible damage done over the past eight years, a great American reclamation project needs to be undertaken. I believe that Senator Obama is the best candidate to lead that project and to lead us into the 21st Century with a renewed sense of moral purpose and of ourselves as Americans.
I'd be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that the man who made "Born In The U.S.A.", the nation's second national anthem, and the man whose most famous lyrics give voice to small-town America, to be anything other than a "real American."
Perhaps this endorsement might matter in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary on April 22 after all. The Boss does have great songs entitled "Badlands" and "Streets of Philadelphia" doesn't he?
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
At the same time, Hillary Clinton, with household income of $109 million over a mere seven seven years, and John McCain, with his eight houses and a multi-millionaire wife who steals fancy recipes from the Food Network, recipes few small-town and rural working-class Pennsylvanians could afford to make, and passes them off as family recipes, are calling Obama elitist. But uppity is what they're really calling him.
It's time for a White leader to give a speech on race. Well, one who doesn't have a Black African father anyway.
Not exactly. Just a way of calling the "uppity Negro" a Negro.
Truth-tellers are always labeled arrogant.
Probably because there's nothing humble about the truth.
It's perceived as coming from "on high" and it always kicks you in the gut.
Thus was born the phrase, "Don't shoot the messenger."
Quiet as it's kept, Obama is a messenger, not a messiah.
Monday, April 14, 2008
"Real Americans" are, white working class folks from Middle America who don't like gay people, colored people, and immigrants; who have deep (institutional) religious convictions and own guns.
I guess that would make me—a natural-born citizen from Middle America who's gay, colored, immigrant-accepting, with deep (non-institutional) spiritual convictions and no guns—a foreigner in almost every way. Or worse.
I guess I could be insulted, but this meme is far too old to have much sting.
But it keeps those "real Americans" right where the powermongers want them: terrorized by poverty, insecurity, and fear.
And oh, so easy to exploit.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
By Tim Wise,
For most white folks, indignation just doesn't wear well. Once affected or conjured up, it reminds one of a pudgy man, wearing a tie that may well have fit him when he was fifty pounds lighter, but which now cuts off somewhere above his navel and makes him look like an idiot.
Indignation doesn't work for most whites, because having remained sanguine about, silent during, indeed often supportive of so much injustice over the years in this country--the theft of native land and genocide of indigenous persons, and the enslavement of Africans being only two of the best examples--we are just a bit late to get into the game of moral rectitude. And once we enter it, our efforts at righteousness tend to fail the test of sincerity.
But here we are, in 2008, fuming at the words of Pastor Jeremiah Wright, of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago--occasionally Barack Obama's pastor, and the man whom Obama credits with having brought him to Christianity--for merely reminding us of those evils about which we have remained so quiet, so dismissive, so unconcerned. It is not the crime that bothers us, but the remembrance of it, the unwillingness to let it go--these last words being the first ones uttered by most whites it seems whenever anyone, least of all an "angry black man" like Jeremiah Wright, foists upon us the bill of particulars for several centuries of white supremacy.
But our collective indignation, no matter how loudly we announce it, cannot drown out the truth. And as much as white America may not be able to hear it (and as much as politics may require Obama to condemn it) let us be clear, Jeremiah Wright fundamentally told the truth.
Oh I know that for some such a comment will seem shocking. After all, didn't he say that America "got what it deserved" on 9/11? And didn't he say that black people should be singing "God Damn America" because of its treatment of the African American community throughout the years?
Well actually, no he didn't.
Wright said not that the attacks of September 11th were justified, but that they were, in effect, predictable. Deploying the imagery of chickens coming home to roost is not to give thanks for the return of the poultry or to endorse such feathered homecoming as a positive good; rather, it is merely to note two things: first, that what goes around, indeed, comes around--a notion with longstanding theological grounding--and secondly, that the U.S. has indeed engaged in more than enough violence against innocent people to make it just a tad bit hypocritical for us to then evince shock and outrage about an attack on ourselves, as if the latter were unprecedented.
He noted that we killed far more people, far more innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki than were killed on 9/11 and "never batted an eye." That this statement is true is inarguable, at least amongst sane people. He is correct on the math, he is correct on the innocence of the dead (neither city was a military target), and he is most definitely correct on the lack of remorse or even self-doubt about the act: sixty-plus years later most Americans still believe those attacks were justified, that they were needed to end the war and "save American lives."
But not only does such a calculus suggest that American lives are inherently worth more than the lives of Japanese civilians (or, one supposes, Vietnamese, Iraqi or Afghan civilians too), but it also ignores the long-declassified documents, and President Truman's own war diaries, all of which indicate clearly that Japan had already signaled its desire to end the war, and that we knew they were going to surrender, even without the dropping of atomic weapons. The conclusion to which these truths then attest is simple, both in its basic veracity and it monstrousness: namely, that in those places we committed premeditated and deliberate mass murder, with no justification whatsoever; and yet for saying that I will receive more hate mail, more hostility, more dismissive and contemptuous responses than will those who suggest that no body count is too high when we're the ones doing the killing. Jeremiah Wright becomes a pariah, because, you see, we much prefer the logic of George Bush the First, who once said that as President he would "never apologize for the United States of America. I don't care what the facts are."
And Wright didn't say blacks should be singing "God Damn America." He was suggesting that blacks owe little moral allegiance to a nation that has treated so many of them for so long as animals, as persons undeserving of dignity and respect, and which even now locks up hundreds of thousands of non-violent offenders (especially for drug possession), even while whites who do the same crimes (and according to the data, when it comes to drugs, more often in fact), are walking around free. His reference to God in that sermon was more about what God will do to such a nation, than it was about what should or shouldn't happen. It was a comment derived from, and fully in keeping with, the black prophetic tradition, and although one can surely disagree with the theology (I do, actually, and don't believe that any God either blesses or condemns nation states for their actions), the statement itself was no call for blacks to turn on America. If anything, it was a demand that America earn the respect of black people, something the evidence and history suggests it has yet to do.
Finally, although one can certainly disagree with Wright about his suggestion that the government created AIDS to get rid of black folks--and I do, for instance--it is worth pointing out that Wright isn't the only one who has said this. In fact, none other than Bill Cosby (oh yes, that Bill Cosby, the one white folks love because of his recent moral crusade against the black poor) proffered his belief in the very same thing back in the early '90s in an interview on CNN, when he said that AIDS may well have been created to get rid of people whom the government deemed "undesirable" including gays and racial minorities.
So that's the truth of the matter: Wright made one comment that is highly arguable, but which has also been voiced by white America's favorite black man, another that was horribly misinterpreted and stripped of all context, and then another that was demonstrably accurate. And for this, he is pilloried and made into a virtual enemy of the state; for this, Barack Obama may lose the support of just enough white folks to cost him the Democratic nomination, and/or the Presidency; all of it, because Jeremiah Wright, unlike most preachers opted for truth. If he had been one of those "prosperity ministers" who says Jesus wants nothing so much as for you to be rich, like Joel Osteen, that would have been fine. Had he been a retread bigot like Falwell was, or Pat Robertson is, he might have been criticized, but he would have remained in good standing and surely not have damaged a Presidential candidate in this way. But unlike Osteen, and Falwell, and Robertson, Jeremiah Wright refused to feed his parishioners lies.
What Jeremiah Wright knows, and told his flock--though make no mistake, they already knew it--is that 9/11 was neither the first, nor worst act of terrorism on American soil. The history of this nation for folks of color, was for generations, nothing less than an intergenerational hate crime, one in which 9/11s were woven into the fabric of everyday life: hundreds of thousands of the enslaved who died from the conditions of their bondage; thousands more who were lynched (as many as 10,000 in the first few years after the Civil War, according to testimony in the Congressional Record at the time); millions of indigenous persons wiped off the face of the Earth. No, to some, the horror of 9/11 was not new. To some it was not on that day that "everything changed." To some, everything changed four hundred years ago, when that first ship landed at what would become Jamestown. To some, everything changed when their ancestors were forced into the hulls of slave ships at Goree Island and brought to a strange land as chattel. To some, everything changed when they were run out of Northern Mexico, only to watch it become the Southwest United States, thanks to a war of annihilation initiated by the U.S. government. To some, being on the receiving end of terrorism has been a way of life. Until recently it was absolutely normal in fact.
But white folks have a hard time hearing these simple truths. We find it almost impossible to listen to an alternative version of reality. Indeed, what seems to bother white people more than anything, whether in the recent episode, or at any other time, is being confronted with the recognition that black people do not, by and large, see the world like we do; that black people, by and large, do not view America as white people view it. We are, in fact, shocked that this should be so, having come to believe, apparently, that the falsehoods to which we cling like a kidney patient clings to a dialysis machine, are equally shared by our darker-skinned compatriots.
This is what James Baldwin was talking about in his classic 1972 work, No Name in the Street, wherein he noted:
White children, in the main, and whether they are rich or poor, grow up with a grasp of reality so feeble that they can very accurately be described as deluded--about themselves and the world they live in. White people have managed to get through their entire lifetimes in this euphoric state, but black people have not been so lucky: a black man who sees the world the way John Wayne, for example, sees it would not be an eccentric patriot, but a raving maniac.
And so we were shocked in 1987, when Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall declined to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution, because, as he noted, most of that history had been one of overt racism and injustice, and to his way of thinking, the only history worth celebrating had been that of the past three or four decades.
We were shocked to learn that black people actually believed that a white cop who was a documented racist might frame a black man; and we're shocked to learn that lots of black folks still perceive the U.S. as a racist nation--we're literally stunned that people who say they experience discrimination regularly (and who have the social science research to back them up) actually think that those experiences and that data might actually say something about the nation in which they reside. Imagine.
Whites are easily shocked by what we see and hear from Pastor Wright and Trinity Church, because what we see and hear so thoroughly challenges our understanding of who we are as a nation. But black people have never, for the most part, believed in the imagery of the "shining city on a hill," for they have never had the option of looking at their nation and ignoring the mountain-sized warts still dotting its face when it comes to race. Black people do not, in the main, get misty eyed at the sight of the flag the way white people do--and this is true even for millions of black veterans--for they understand that the nation for whom that flag waves is still not fully committed to their own equality. They have a harder time singing those tunes that white people seem so eager to belt out, like "God Bless America," for they know that whites sang those words loudly and proudly even as they were enforcing Jim Crow segregation, rioting against blacks who dared move into previously white neighborhoods, throwing rocks at Dr. King and then cheering, as so many did, when they heard the news that he had been assassinated.
Whites refuse to remember (or perhaps have never learned) that which black folks cannot afford to forget. I've seen white people stunned to the point of paralysis when they learn the truth about lynchings in this country--when they discover that such events were not just a couple of good old boys with a truck and a rope hauling some black guy out to the tree, hanging him, and letting him swing there. They were never told the truth: that lynchings were often community events, advertised in papers as "Negro Barbecues," involving hundreds or even thousands of whites, who would join in the fun, eat chicken salad and drink sweet tea, all while the black victims of their depravity were being hung, then shot, then burned, and then having their body parts cut off, to be handed out to onlookers. They are stunned to learn that postcards of the events were traded as souvenirs, and that very few whites, including members of their own families did or said anything to stop it.
Rather than knowing about and confronting the ugliness of our past, whites take steps to excise the less flattering aspects of our history so that we need not be bothered with them. So, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, site of an orgy of violence against the black community in 1921, city officials literally went into the town library and removed all reference to the mass killings in the Greenwood district from the papers with a razor blade--an excising of truth and an assault on memory that would remain unchanged for over seventy years.
Most white people desire, or perhaps even require the propagation of lies when it comes to our history. Surely we prefer the lies to anything resembling, even remotely, the truth. Our version of history, of our national past, simply cannot allow for the intrusion of fact into a worldview so thoroughly identified with fiction. But that white version of America is not only extraordinarily incomplete, in that it so favors the white experience to the exclusion of others; it is more than that; it is actually a slap in the face to people of color, a re-injury, a reminder that they are essentially irrelevant, their concerns trivial, their lives unworthy of being taken seriously. In that sense, and what few if any white Americans appear capable of grasping at present, is that "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best," portray an America so divorced from the reality of the times in which they were produced, as to raise serious questions about the sanity of those who found them so moving, so accurate, so real. These iconographic representations of life in the U.S. are worse than selective, worse than false, they are assaults to the humanity and memory of black people, who were being savagely oppressed even as June Cleaver did housework in heels and laughed about the hilarious hijinks of Beaver and Larry Mondello.
These portraits of America are certifiable evidence of how disconnected white folks were--and to the extent we still love them and view them as representations of the "good old days" to which we wish we could return, still are--from those men and women of color with whom we have long shared a nation. Just two months before "Leave it to Beaver" debuted, proposed civil rights legislation was killed thanks to Strom Thurmond's 24-hour filibuster speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. One month prior, Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus called out the National Guard to block black students from entering Little Rock Central High; and nine days before America was introduced to the Cleavers, and the comforting image of national life they represented, those black students were finally allowed to enter, amid the screams of enraged, unhinged, viciously bigoted white people, who saw nothing wrong with calling children niggers in front of cameras. That was America of the 1950s: not the sanitized version into which so many escape thanks to the miracle of syndication, which merely allows white people to relive a lie, year after year after year.
No, it is not the pastor who distorts history; Nick at Nite and your teenager's textbooks do that. It is not he who casts aspersions upon "this great country" as Barack Obama put it in his public denunciations of him; it is the historic leadership of the nation that has cast aspersions upon it; it is they who have cheapened it, who have made gaudy and vile the promise of American democracy by defiling it with lies. They engage in a patriotism that is pathological in its implications, that asks of those who adhere to it not merely a love of country but the turning of one's nation into an idol to be worshipped, if not literally, then at least in terms of consequence.
It is they--the flag-lapel-pin wearing leaders of this land--who bring shame to the country with their nonsensical suggestions that we are always noble in warfare, always well-intended, and although we occasionally make mistakes, we are never the ones to blame for anything. Nothing that happens to us has anything to do with us at all. It is always about them. They are evil, crazy, fanatical, hate our freedoms, and are jealous of our prosperity. When individuals prattle on in this manner we diagnose them as narcissistic, as deluded. When nations do it--when our nation does--we celebrate it as though it were the very model of rational and informed citizenship.
So what can we say about a nation that values lies more than it loves truth? A place where adherence to sincerely believed and internalized fictions allows one to rise to the highest offices in the land, and to earn the respect of millions, while a willingness to challenge those fictions and offer a more accurate counter-narrative earns one nothing but contempt, derision, indeed outright hatred? What we can say is that such a place is signing its own death warrant. What we can say is that such a place is missing the only and last opportunity it may ever have to make things right, to live up to its professed ideals. What we can say is that such a place can never move forward, because we have yet to fully address and come to terms with that which lay behind.
What can we say about a nation where white preachers can lie every week from their pulpits without so much as having to worry that their lies might be noticed by the shiny white faces in their pews, while black preachers who tell one after another essential truth are demonized, not only for the stridency of their tone--which needless to say scares white folks, who have long preferred a style of praise and worship resembling nothing so much as a coma--but for merely calling bullshit on those whose lies are swallowed whole?
And oh yes, I said it: white preachers lie. In fact, they lie with a skill, fluidity, and precision unparalleled in the history of either preaching or lying, both of which histories stretch back a ways and have often overlapped. They lie every Sunday, as they talk about a Savior they have chosen to represent dishonestly as a white man, in every picture to be found of him in their tabernacles, every children's story book in their Sunday Schools, every Christmas card they'll send to relatives and friends this December. But to lie about Jesus, about the one they consider God--to bear false witness as to who this man was and what he looked like--is no cause for concern.
Nor is it a problem for these preachers to teach and preach that those who don't believe as they believe are going to hell. Despite the fact that such a belief casts aspersions upon God that are so profound as to defy belief--after all, they imply that God is so fundamentally evil that he would burn non-believers in a lake of eternal fire--many of the white folks who now condemn Jeremiah Wright welcome that theology of hate. Indeed, back when President Bush was the Governor of Texas, he endorsed this kind of thinking, responding to a question about whether Jews were going to go to hell, by saying that unless one accepted Jesus as one's personal savior, the Bible made it pretty clear that indeed, hell was where you'd be heading.
So you can curse God in this way--and to imply such hate on God's part is surely to curse him--and in effect, curse those who aren't Christians, and no one says anything. That isn't considered bigoted. That isn't considered beyond the pale of polite society. One is not disqualified from becoming President in the minds of millions because they go to a church that says that shit every single week, or because they believe it themselves. And millions do believe it, and see nothing wrong with it whatsoever.
So white folks are mad at Jeremiah Wright because he challenges their views about their country. Meanwhile, those same white folks, and their ministers and priests, every week put forth a false image of the God Jeremiah Wright serves, and yet it is whites who feel we have the right to be offended.
Pardon me, but something is wrong here, and whatever it is, is not to be found at Trinity United Church of Christ.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Monday, April 07, 2008
Spike Lee stands before Danny Aiello, the racist owner in Do the Right Thing
TO NEW YORK Magazine:
What do you think of Obama?I’m riding my man Obama. I think he’s a visionary. Actually, Barack told me the first date he took Michelle to was Do the Right Thing. I said, “Thank God I made it. Otherwise you would have taken her to Soul Man. Michelle would have been like, ‘What’s wrong with this brother?’ ”
Does this mean you’re down on the Clintons?
The Clintons, man, they would lie on a stack of Bibles. Snipers? That’s not misspeaking; that’s some pure bullshit. I voted for Clinton twice, but that’s over with. These old black politicians say, “Ooh, Massuh Clinton was good to us, massuh hired a lot of us, massuh was good!” Hoo! Charlie Rangel, David Dinkins—they have to understand this is a new day. People ain’t feelin’ that stuff. It’s like a tide, and the people who get in the way are just gonna get swept out into the ocean.
But there is a mindset among many people that the Clintons are the saviors of Black people in this nation. President Clinton apologized for slavery, after all, didn't he? He was the "first Black president," right? He found refuge in the Black church, even had Reverend Jeremiah Wright come to the White House and pray for him at the impeachment hour, didn't he? He set up shop in Harlem after his second term because he felt so at home, so close to soul food, right? He's always been a friend, his loyalists say, to Black people, despite all the compelling evidence to the contrary, hasn't he?
Reverend Wright stands before Bill Clinton at the White House
But here's the thing: the Clintons have shown in this very campaign that the votes of the Black electorate are expendable. Instead of defending Reverend Wright and the Black Church, the Clintons are pushing the Wright controversy on the nation like Nixon segregationists and Dixiecrats to solidify the racist vote. But what's even more insulting, the Clintons think Black people will come back to the fold en masse should the Clintons succeed with their race baiting and secure the nomination by any means necessary.
Spike Lee has never minced his words. Has never hesitated to air our dirty laundry. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then put School Daze at the top of your Netflix queue. Black people can be complicit in their own oppression. Some call it internalized racism. Others call it the mindset of the House Negro. That's what Lee is talking about here.
And he's right.
This is a huge tidal wave, writes a commenter in the blogosphere. Shaped and hardened by this nation's collective experience. Many people are poised to end up on the wrong side of history, swept aside because of their refusal to embrace this transformational energy. While the number of folks who understand that something special is happening grows, there remains a considerable amount of people who utterly lack this foresight. In the end it will be those who wish to revel in a glory long since passed being washed away by a nation determined to create new foundations for glory yet to be realized.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of "outsiders coming in"
I am in Birmingham because injustice is here ...I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider ...
We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say "wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger" and your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodyness"—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience ...
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality ...
There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.
Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience.
We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws ...
I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are presently misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. Before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson scratched across the pages of history the majestic word of the Declaration of Independence, we were here ...If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands ...
Never before have I written a letter this long—or should I say a book? I'm afraid that it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else is there to do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts, and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
Friday, April 04, 2008
into the Worcester Art Museum
to expose a predominantly white, suburban
audience to the intricacies of
toting a big black bag,
inconspicuously clad in everyday attire,
I, nonetheless, was singled out
by the security officer, rapidly
approaching from behind the safety
of his desk, as if to interrupt some
impending disaster on his
desperate journey toward me.
Hey you! What you got in that bag?
The air around me sputtered
in search of retort, while my
tongue lay hostage
against a confused palette.
As the approaching crowd smelled
the progression of fear,
to his Robin-Hood rush to save
a museum in distress,
a thick, curious tension rushed in
on a whirlwind, besieging the small crowd,
now marveling at what might become an
adventure Worcester hadn’t seen in decades.
I said, what’s the bag for and what you got in it?
Now, empowered by the women around me,
I could stay silent no longer.
It’s my purse. Just like hers, hers, and hers.
And what’s in it is none of your business!
Well, that’s an awfully big purse!
And I’m an awfully big girl,
now back off!
What could his mind
Perchance he thought
I was going to swipe some
art museum treasure, more priceless
than a Van Gogh original,
fold it up in, say, sixteen sections,
secure it neatly in my bag,
from which I’d just retrieved by compact Uzi,
threatening to take out any man
who dared stop me (subsequently
his wife and children),
and rush out past the front
desk into a welcoming
Or perchance he thought
my bag was loaded with
several pounds of coke,
a hundred vials of crack, and
all kinda dope I was eager to
deal to a museum crowd
desperate for a fix.
Or perchance he thought
I was just some loose-cannon vandal,
up to no good, armed with several cans of
metallic mauve spray paint,
or more likely,
a big old watermelon, which
I’d smash on the floor,
scooping out large chunks to
smear across the designs displayed
on the walls of his big white castle on the hill,
leaving behind my own art,
a trail of little black seeds
following me out the back door.
As I moved past this
the strap of the bag
biting into my shoulder,
its contents pulling me down
a bit closer to the earth
I walk on,
I realized the bag I carry around
with memories, wishes, dreams & stories
with city streets, country roads, highways & rivers to places
with groans, laughter, cries & screams
And deep down,
somewhere near the bottom of that
big black bag,
there’s a neighborhood,
where no person
carries the fear
to dare ask
what’s inside it.