Nov 22, 2006
To this day, I can hardly bear to think of that quintessentially American holiday -- Thanksgiving.
When I do, however, I do not dwell on pilgrims with wide black hats sitting to sup with red men, their long hair adorned with eagle feathers. I think not of turkeys, nor of cranberry, foods now traditional for the day of feast.
Unlike millions, I don't even think of the day's football game; and not thinking of it, I don't watch it.
I think of the people we have habitually called 'Indians'' the indigenous people of the Americas. Those millions who are no more.
I think of those precious few who remain, and wonder, what do they think of this day; this national myth of sweet brotherhood, that masks what can only be called genocide?
Several years ago, I read a thin text that was pregnant with poignancy. It was a collection of Native remarks from the first tribes who encountered whites in New England, and down through several hundred years. Throughout it all, the same vibration could be felt, no matter what the clan or tribe. A profound sense of betrayal and wrong; from people who were treated like brethren when they first arrived.
In New England, the name Powhatan (ca. 1547-1618) is still recalled (even if that wasn't his name, but what the English called him). Known as Wahunsonacock by his people, he headed a confederacy of 32 tribes, and governed an area of hundreds of miles. He was the father of Pocahontas, the young Indian maiden who saved the life of Capt. James Smith. A year after sparing Smith's life, the white captain threatened the great chief. This is some of his response given in 1609:
"...Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? We can hide our provisions, and fly into the woods; and then you must consequently famish by wronging your friends. What is the cause of your jealousy? You see us unarmed, and willing to supply your wants, if you come in a friendly manner, and not with swords and guns, as to invade an enemy. I am not so simple, as not to know it is better to eat good meat, lie well, and sleep quietly with my women and children; to laugh and be merry with the English; and, being their friend, to have copper, hatchets, and whatever else I want, than to fly from all, to lie cold in the woods, feed upon acorns, roots, and such trash, and to be so hunted, that I cannot rest, eat, or sleep. In such circumstances, my men must watch, and if a twig should but break, all would cry out, "Here comes Capt. Smith"; and in this miserable manner, to end my
miserable life; and, Capt. Smith, this might be soon your fate too, through your rashness and unadvisedness. I therefore, exhort you to peaceable councils; and, above all, I insist that the guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy and uneasiness, be removed and sent away." [Blaisdell, Bob, ed., Great Speeches by Native Americans (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Press, 2000), p.4.]
That great chief's sentiments would be echoed for over hundreds of years, but injustice would just be piled on injustice. Genocide would be the white answer to red life.
Centuries later, what can Thanksgiving Day mean to Native peoples?
Thank you for stealing our land? Thank you for wiping out our people?
Thank you for placing a remnant of our once great numbers on rural ghettoes called 'reservations?'
Thank you for abolishing most of the ancient traditions?
Thank you for poisoning what little Indian lands remain with uranium?
Thank you for poisoning the lands now inhabited by the whites?
Thank you for letting Indians fight in American wars against other people?
The real tragedy is that millions of Americans don't know, and don't want to know about Indian history and traditions.
Today, the names of rivers, lakes, and landmarks bear indigenous markers of another age.
The people, except for an occasional movie, are mostly forgotten; out of mind. The easier to replace with false images of happy meals, and turkey dinners.
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Nov 20, 2006
Since the recent Democratic wins in the U.S. House and Senate, there has been a concerted effort from the corporate media to evoke from them pre-installation promises of moderation, and a mass denial that there are any plans to impeach a widely unpopular President, George W. Bush.
There has been equally aggressive attention paid to House Speaker-elect, Nancy Pelosi (Dem. - Ca.), who makes history as the first American woman to reach what is essentially the third most powerful office in the nation.
With few exceptions, most outspoken legislators have pooh-poohed the idea of impeaching the President, even before there have been hearings into the events that led to the ruinous disaster in Iraq.
Columnists lecture, "It would be too divisive." Others decry such talks as 'radical.'
What is more radical than war?
Why are the same voices and institutions that led the cheerleading squad to war now setting the parameters of acceptable political debate and activity?
Perhaps the most influential newspaper in the U.S., the New York Times, used its front pages as a virtual billboard for the Bush administration, and high-ranking people like Vice-President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State (then National Security Advisor), Condoleeza Rice quoted the NYT incessantly in the run-up to the Iraq War. Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter, Judith Miller essentially served as a scribe for the White House.
It was press scrutiny that led to the recent downfall of outspoken anti-war figure, Congressman John Murtha (Dem.-Pa.) in the race for
House Majority Whip, using grainy tapes from almost 3 decades ago -- the FBI ABSCAM attempts to bust corrupt politicians. It certainly appears like the so-called 'Washington consensus' was unilaterally opposed to Murtha in the Whip post, for it would have provided the critic with a platform that could not be easily ignored. It was precisely this so-called 'consensus' that lined up to support the Iraq adventure, virtually without a whisper of dissent.
It very well may be the case that these same forces wanted to humble the House Speaker-elect. And yet it was this same alleged 'consensus' (driven, to be sure, by the mad neocons in the White House, the Defense Dept. and the corporate think tanks) that led to this mess.
Consensus, here in the U.S., is actually the agreement of a fairly narrow slice of the American (and sometimes foreign) elite. In the brief but brilliant book, Behind the Invasion of Iraq (N.Y.: Monthly Review Press, 2003) written by the Humbai, India-based Research Unit for Political Economy, this theme is argued quite strongly:
"Typically apart from legislators and the press, a proliferation of research institutes, semi-governmental bodies, and academic forums circulate proposals voicing the case of one or the other lobby (leaving the administration free to deny that they constitute official policy). These proposals elicit objections from other interests, through similar media; other powerful countries press their interests, directly or indirectly; and the entire discussion, in the light of the strength of the respective interests, helps shape the course of action finally adopted and helps coalesce the various ruling class sections around it. (This process, of course, has nothing to do with democratic debate, since the people are excluded as participants, and are included only as a factor to be taken into account)."
We shouldn't haggle with theory here. One need only recall the unprecedented mass pre-war protests, all around the nation, and abroad. The experts and think tank types decried the ignorance of the masses, but time has proven that the mass demonstrations were right. Now, the Democrats, being seduced by the lobbyists, the media, and the know-it-alls (who might best be called 'the know-nothings') are being persuaded to be bipartisan; to take impeachment off the table; to cool
that rap about ending the war.
That, like before, is the recipe for disaster, for it ignores the people who turned out to vote, largely disgusted with Bush's war. People are sick to the soul about Iraq.
If they ignore the public mood, they will, once again, be digging their political graves. For this war, from beginning to now, has been an unholy disaster, causing the deaths of at least a 1/2 million people.
That ain't impeachable?
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Nov 11, 2006
Several weeks ago, a long, dusty trail of thousands winded their way from the southern city of Oaxaca, to the capital of Mexico City, some 800 kilometers (or over 250 miles) to support democracy, and demand the removal of the governor, who got there through a stolen, and deeply
The marchers, a motley crew of teachers, students, farmers, vendors, and the like, made their tortuous way over mountain and valleys, through slashing rains, blistering heat, and numbing cold, marching for 19 days, to take their complaints to the seat of government.
The group, calling itself the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (or APPO, the Spanish acronym for Asemblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca), has rocked Mexico with its strong, principled insistence that elections be truly fair and free of corruption, and that the will of the People be heard.
I've actually been reading about the events in Oaxaca for several weeks, and every time I read about them, I thought of Americans, who quietly accepted the corrupt elections of 2000, and of 2004, like lambs being led to shishkabobs.
For, the stolen elections of 2000 in Florida, and later 2004 in Ohio, have done unprecedented damage to the very notion of democracy, and shattered the faith of millions in the electoral process.
The people of Oaxaca, braving not just the natural elements, but the political ones as well, indeed, the terrorism of the 'instruments of the state' (police and military violence), have proven by their march and protests that true democracy is deeply important to the people.
The APPO, which has sparked resistance throughout Mexico City, and in other parts of the country, has created a political crisis in the nation, by its fervent demand for the removal of Oaxaca governor, Ulises Ruiz, and the restoration of democracy.
The crisis arises from the fact that many of the country's political parties are doing their damnedest to silence, derail, or intimidate the people; for if they are successful (they fear) there will be two, three, a dozen Oaxacas all across the country.
Oaxaca, although the poorest state in Mexico, and one with the largest indigenous population, is inspiring people far and beyond its southern Mexican borders.
The Oaxaca resistance was born in repression, when Governor Ruiz ordered the police assault on the striking Oaxaca teachers' union in June. The teachers fought back, and within days, over 300,000 people gathered in a mass march to support the union. Out of that massive outpouring of support came the APPO, the Popular Assembly. The continuing crisis in Mexico may push social forces to join the radicalizing efforts of the APPO, or may open the door to the threatened terror of the 'instruments of the state.' To be frank, what began in repression may indeed end in more repression; but that will not, nor could truly be the end.
That's because the forces that gave rise to APPO are still rumbling barely beneath the surface, ready to emerge in another state, where workers and the poor are struggling to resist the ravenous forces of globalism.
When the poor are treated poorly, when workers are poorly paid, the conditions for resistance are already present.
And while the temptation of the State to use its brutal 'instruments' may be strong, it's also very possible that it may spark more resistance, deeper and broader.
Oaxaca is spreading like the wind, and the examples of popular and indigenous resistance from Mexico, like the APPO, and the Zapatistas, and various struggles from throughout Latin America, are spreading also.
The people of Oaxaca should be supported, not just with words, but with similar organizing against flawed and corrupt elections, from folks all over the world.
It should begin with the people of the U.S.
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
[NOTE: Many of Mr. Jamal's commentaries may be found in Spanish at: http://refugiodelriogrande.tripod.com]
Nov 10, 2006
Thomas Merton Award 2006 honors Angela Y. Davis!
November 10, 6pm at Sheraton Station Square
Student, teacher, writer, scholar, and activist/organizer, Davis is an advocate of prison abolition and has developed a powerful critique of racism in the criminal justice system. She has received the distinguished honor of an appointment to the University of California Presidential Chair in African American and Feminist Studies.
In this podcast, Mumia introduces Angela Y. Davis at the Awards Dinner
Nov 4, 2006
With excitement and barely suppressed glee, the media announced the death sentence returned against Iraqi strongman, Saddam Hussein, for crimes against humanity during the 1982 Dujail massacre.
In the face of the deadly horror that is Iraq, Hussein has become little more than a bad, but distant memory.
Indeed, in both print and audio interviews I've read and heard in the last few weeks, Iraqis looked to life under the Hussein regime as the good old days. That is a measure, not of how 'good' the old days were, but of how anguished is the present.
While Shi'as groaned under the repression of the secret police, and the Kurds lived in terror of the central government, the day-to-day life of Iraqis was one that was among the most envied of the Arab world. Its populace was among the most educated, certainly one of the highest among women in that region.
With the very serious exception of the omnipresent threat of government security forces, Iraqis lived lives of relative safety and security.
Today, Iraq is bedlam; the police and army are little more than ethnic death squads.
The U.S.-backed puppet government in Baghdad is a 'government' in name only. Real power is in the militias and regional religious leaders, like Moqtada al-Sadr, a man who is both!
In light of Saddam's death sentence, you'll probably hear some pundits claim it's a 'turning point', or a 'benchmark', of the new Iraqi democracy. In truth, it's neither.
The forces unleashed by the invasion and occupation have become bigger than Saddam.
The irony is that Saddam Hussein, according to recently published reports, never believed that the U.S. would actually take Baghdad; not because he thought his Republican Guard was so fierce, but because he thought that Americans couldn't be so stupid.
Peter Galbraith in an Aug. 2006 article in the *New York Review of Books* criticized the military knowledge of both Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Saddam Hussein, as leaders who routinely ignored advice from their generals.
In the article, "Mindless in Iraq," Galbraith noted:
"Men who had put their lives on the line in combat were mostly unwilling to put their careers on the line to speak out against a plan based on the numbers pulled out of the air by a cranky sixty-nine-year old [i.e., Rumsfeld].
"Fortunately for the US troops who had to invade Iraq, they were initially up against an adversary who was also convinced of his own military genius. Saddam Hussein knew it made no strategic sense for the US to invade Iraq and therefore he assumed it wouldn't happen. He had maintained ambiguity about whether he had WMDs not because he had something to hide but to intimidate the two enemies about whom he really was worried, the Iranians and Iraq's Shiite majority.
"Even before the invasion began ... Saddam could not quite believe the United States intended to go all the way to Baghdad .. Saddam could not imagine that the United States would see an advantage in replacing him with a pro-Iranian, Shiite-dominated regime." [Fr.: Galbraith, P., "Mindless in Iraq," NYROB (Aug. 10, 2006), p. 29.]
And so, Saddam will soon have a date with the hangman; but events and forces at work in Iraq will barely ripple from his passage. His death warrant, signed and sealed in Washington, D.C., will bring it no closer to US regional objectives.
Hasn't Iraq had enough death?
The hell of today is far worse than the hell of yesterday.
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal