...Negroes who spoke
the truth abroad in the years of the Abolitionist struggle were
bitterly denounced by the Big White Folks back home, and the U.S.
newspapers called Frederick Douglass a ‘glib-tongued scoundrel’
and said he was ‘running out against the institutions and
people of America’ when he traveled around Europe arousing
Paul Robeson, Here I Stand
black marines, George Daniels and William Harvey, were given long
prison sentences (Daniels, six years, Harvey, ten years, both later
reduced) for talking to other
black marines against the war.
At the time of the Scottsboro Boys
Incident, [Countee] Cullen wrote a bitter poem noting that white
poets had used their pens to protest in other cases of injustice, but
now that blacks were involved, most whites were silent.
Zinn, A People's History of the United States
A bust of Sojourner
Truth (Isabella) is on display at the Capitol in Washington D.C.
“Emancipated” in 1827, Isabella becomes a leading
abolitionist. She has to look over her shoulders, not that she lived
in fear. Nonetheless, Isabella risked annoying the leading
pro-slavery and anti-suffrage male power brokers in the North.
Harriet Jacobs (pen
name, Linda Brent) lives seven years in a “garret” at her
grandmother’s home. She shares this space, not more than “nine
feet long and seven wide” and “three feet high”
with “rates and mice.” Hiding from her “owner,”
in order to save her children from enslavement, Harriet’s
grandmother allows the two children to play close enough to the
garret so Harriet can hear their voices.
“Yet I would have
chosen this rather than my lot as a slave.”
The day comes when she
is finally on her way North. Her sacrifice pays off: Jacobs is able
to start a new life as no one’s property—along with her
Among many black
Americans, the two women write narratives depicted what it meant to
be black in the US. It’s became something of a tradition. Some
women grab hold of their children and jump—never landing on
these shores conquered by European settlers. Some threw their fist in
the air while others such as Vivian Malone and James Hood decide to
attend the University of Alabama—in 1963. Others just take a
It’s always going
On the other hand,
writers such as William Gilmore Simms, Joel Chandler Harris, Thomas
Nelson Page and others, worked hard to represent a defense for the
South and its way of life. I imagine the rising of Confederate flags
over their writing desks. The
creators of American greatness are verbal too in support of a war
that commences not long after the ink on their drafted articles,
essays, and short stories dries.
tradition continues, too.
watched and listened carefully as Senator John McCain’s funeral
procession moved from the Capitol to the National Cathedral in
Washington D.C. It was spectacle. McCain meant for it to be such. He
had a message to send to the current president of the US. McCain, the
war hero, so dubbed by the majority of media and public opinion since
his five-year imprisonment at the infamous Hanoi Hilton in North
“communist” Vietnam, fashioned a protest
have no idea how Fox News handled
the funeral. A little more than forty years ago, I put in time as a
reporter watching and listening to the totally absurd for the
“assignment.” So I clicked between CNN and
MSNBC online. I refuse
to invest in a television and struggle with a cable company trying to
up the cost of viewing, what, is it over 200 channels now?
two cable news networks both were mostly favorable to McCain and
wanted to make sure the viewer recognized the deceased's invisible
hand. McCain didn’t invite the current president or Palin (and
how is this one so different from the one’s invited?), but he
wanted Bush Jr. and Obama to speak, praising him, McCain, for his
service to country and flag. He’s scripted this narrative to
focus on his sacrifice as prisoner of war, a man who could have come
home as the son of a respected Navy admiral, but opted to stay on and
suffer. It’s the US narrative for posterity! See
that, Mr. President? McCain
still narrating from the coffin there at the cathedral.
And is that Henry
Kissinger, I see, McCain?
don’t recall either of the cable news anchors reminding their
audience about the Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State during the
Nixon era, who is responsible for the suffering and death of so many
thousands of people in Latin America.
there’s Bill Clinton too. How many black and brown and
Indigenous Americans did he help put away behind bars for minor
of honor. Great Americans. None of this mean-spirited and cruel
“Trumpism.” None of this insulting of the brave. Let’s
be the great nation that we are already! And who needs to be told in
this day, with all the history of war atrocities on the ledger that
these former presidents are war criminals too. Who needs to be shown
more photos and footage of mangled arms and legs of bloodied children
in some foreign land. Whenever these men picked up a pen and their
signature materialized on the proverbial dotted line, we, citizens of
this nation, agreed to exchange millions of US dollars for plane
loads of smart bombs and drones. And the mega-corporate war industry
obliged us by working out a schedule of production and deployment
with the military to stage “shock and awe” spectacles as
profitable ventures. And “Trumpism” depends on your
proximity to the noose or police bullet.
I, the Maverick, protest!
Of course, in the
alternative press, the narrative was different. I read two articles
in Counterpunch and both
referred to McCain, rightly so, as a warmonger. “Bomb, bomb,
bomb Iran,” McCain. Mike Malloy asked how anyone could consider
McCain a hero when it’s on his 23rd
mission as a Navy pilot, dropping bombs over Vietnamese citizens,
that he is shot down. How could anyone call such a person a hero?
didn’t require Malloy’s question or the op-ed writers’
arguments about McCain’s consistent pro-war stance to know
McCain. I saw him.
I’ve said in an earlier piece, I could have been drafted in
1972 for the Vietnam War, except I was born a female. My father
wasn’t a veteran, but one uncle was drafted for the Korean War
and served. Another joined the Air Force and served for 23 years. A
younger brother enlisted in the mid-1980s. When I visited Washington
D.C. the first time in 2002, I went to walk along the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial Wall not to acknowledge “heroes,” but
to feel human about the lose of so many lives. Here and in Vietnam.
All the horrors, the displacement of human beings, animals—the
senseless destruction of Earth. On the second visit, I traveled to
march with thousands to the Pentagon in protest of the continuing
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
known men my age and older who are made to feel ashamed that they
weren’t drafted. Didn’t volunteer to put on some uniform
and hold some kind of weapon or sit in some tank or plane. Instead,
they protested the Vietnam War just as the former Secretary of State
John Kerry did when he returned home from Vietnam. But unlike Kerry,
eyeing the political power, they didn’t agree to a new
definition of “war” that becomes intervention,
assistance, training of foreign law enforcement and military
personnel so it’s no wonder the news out of Yemen, for
instance, looks and sounds no different than the war in Vietnam or in
the meantime, “peaceniks” becomes a derogatory term, used
to refer to the anti-American, the unpatriotic. Desiring and working
hard to attain all the wealth in the world has become an admirable
goal for most Americans of whatever political, social, religious, or
ethnic affiliation. I haven’t heard a “war hero”
protest the police shootings of black Americans. These “heroes”
have been as silent as the countless Confederate statues of deceased
generals and colonials. “War heroes!” America, at its
worse, identifies with the white, male, and wealthy rather than with
those who are the consistent target of American external and internal
aggression. That America wants nothing to do with peace is evident in
the daily body count of Americans in Puerto Rico or Chicago or on
Pine Ridge and in Yemen or Afghanistan or Mexico. Anyone opposed to
the order imposed by the Market isn’t really an American. Are
the aisles at the Capitol! Unify! To do what?
that podium in Akron, Ohio, from that garret, from wherever we have
found ourselves in the US, we know it’s not that virulent brand
in the Oval Office. If we just get rid of him! Removing
“Schoolteacher,” who beats males and allows for the rape
of women for a return to the “good ole days” when the
“nicer” slaveholder allow his enslaved males to go here
and there but refuses to see them as free human
beings, is to fixate on a system dependent on the inhumane treatment
of the majority. Some of us have seen this before.
then, maybe that’s the point! Such systems of mean-spiritedness
just doesn’t go away on their own.
I’m used to Americans patting themselves on the back whenever
the nation is fighting the “enemy,” and, having come
through the “Cold War” era, I know America always has an
“enemy” or two. And the “enemies” in turn,
and there are too many to list here, are not to be congratulated as
people fighting for their lives under a dictatorship or fighting
their own civil war. No Americans love to object to anyone
threatening (even across the global!) their “freedoms.”
So they “protest”--with plenty of gun powder!
I can’t get pass the Senator McCain sitting on the panel
honoring the war criminal Henry Kissinger when protesters rose up
from the audience. They interrupted this spectacle to try and remind
these senators about the true work of Kissinger. His “greatest”
rests on the dead women and children, for the most part. Innocent
human beings trying to go about their lives—entitled to live
without the intervention and assistance to a dictatorship. And the
Maverick looked these protesters in the eye and called the “scum.”
out of here, you low-life scum.”
didn’t stop there. McCain, an American hero, called his fellow
citizens protest of a warmonger “disgraceful behavior.”
He, Senator McCain,
said to the protesters’ face that this man, Henry Kissinger,
“served his country with the greatest distinction.” (Come
across the aisle, huh?). McCain
saw nothing wrong in what happened in Chile under Pinochet.
Kissinger, I, the Maverick, “apologize profusely.” In
a certain form of protest.
I, McCain, protest before the world and stage this spectacle for all
to learn well how to hold on to political, social, cultural, and
above all, economic hegemony. Self-interest rather than
self-reflection. From the White House to Main Street. Any Main street
in any American town or city. Tax cuts and jobs are all that matters.
A collective indifference to omit and to marginalize those who might
protest. In the end, there is no “good-people-on-both-sides”
moment here. On the side of the humane, there’s only one side
making sense. Otherwise, there’s nothing sane here or anything
remember George Daniels and William Harvey, black Vietnam veteran
protesters—who served time—for protesting against the
war. I’ll recognize how Colin Kaepernick’s protest
against police shootings of black Americans and the lack of
accountability for murder is writing a new narrative, one that is a
courageous gesture because it says to the world that we understand
what it means to be black American but that we are not going to be
tolerant of being abused and demoralized. It’s a new narrative.
Activist/climbers, Takiyah Thompson and Therese Patrica Okoumou know
it. They and so many others now have learning. Heroic black
Americans, following in a long and deep tradition of black