Saturday, August 28, 2004

And Now for a Word

Not from our sponsors, but rather a quote from a book I~m reading, Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. It is most apropos to what I wrote here about US, democracy, and our "territories" -- specifically, Guam, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico (though I feel like I may be missing one or two; if that's so, what I say obviously applies to them as well). (This very ignorance of mine is emblematic of part of the problem.) The quote below serves for today as much as it did then, especially if you replace those territories above for the mentions of the downtrodden class in this passage.

"Fellow Citizens: Pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today: What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence: are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us: And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from you independence to us?...

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival...

--Frederick Douglas, Fourth of July, 1852

Harsh words. The Holocaust obviously springs to mind as a modern day atrocity that the US cannot compete for. And perhaps not. But how quick we forget, nonetheless, the 1 million Vietnamese died in the Viet Nam war? We suffered grave casualties, yes, but what did we inflict? With the two so far apart, how can we spend so much time mourning for our own and so little for others? We have lost perhaps 1,000 troops in Iraq. Iraq has lost perhaps 13,000 civilians and 5,000 or more soldiers. Yet we hear of our casualties so often; so often. And they are truly losses beyond recompense. Yet we almost never hear of the Iraqis' casualties; are their losses less tragic? How? Why? It's said by our military that 1,000 of Muqtada al-Sadr's fighters died in the recent clashes with the US in Najaf. We may not believe in what they're doing, but they believe they are fighting for independence just as we did over 200 years ago. Does our belief that they are wrong invalidate that they are also people's sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers? Do they deserve to die because we think they're wrong to oppose what we want to do with their country? And our handpicked successor, Allawi, ex paid CIA collaborator? Would we like to have a Baathist appointed leader of the US come November? Oh, but what if it is a really GOOD Baathist operator, is it ok then? Then why for us, and for Allawi?

I leave with a second quote. Many may say, should they read this blog, that I hate America. Yet they are wrong. I hate the deeds of the United States that are reprehensible, and I wish to see those responsible out of power forever, prosecuted, and remembered as a lesson. (What the hell is Kissinger doing still walking around?) If anyone should understand the concept of hate the sin, not the sinner, it should be some of those who most decry us America Haters, those who profess true belief in a Christian god. Yet they ask us to prove we love the sinner, by forgetting or endorsing the sin.

"If war be declared... Will we fight in defense of a government which denies us the most precious right of citizenship?...The States in which we dwell have twice availed themselves of our voluntary services, and have repaid us with chains and slavery. Shall we a third time kiss the foot that crushes us? If so, we deserve our chains.
--The Colored People Press, 1841

"Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reforms. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of struggle...If there is not struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will..."
--Frederick Douglas, 1957

Is it just me, or could he be talking of the Irish and the Ulsters, the Iraqi insurgents and the Coalition Forces, WTO and Convention Protests, or even the desire to put Kerry in in order to put out the brightest fires of imperialism yet still letting it burn...

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