Archive for March, 2013

The Goat!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on March 30, 2013 by playthell
Image: U.S. President Obama smiles while he addresses students at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem
Greatest Of All Times

Barack Obama In Israel

As is the case with so many essays published at Commentaries On The Times, the present essay came to me serendipitously, like a revelation from on high.  I had just finished watching a video of President Obama’s speech before students and other selected quest in Israel, and marveling at his political skills as he wooed and won the audience; who gave him repeated and boisterous standing ovations.

I got the feeling that I was watching the most gifted politician in American history.  Then I heard a guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, discussing his new book about forgotten US Presidents who had left their mark on American civilization, and was confirmed in that feeling.

When he was asked if he thought President Obama would be remembered, the author quickly pointed out that Barack Obama will be remembered if only because he is the first African/American President.  But then he went on to enumerate the President’s monumental achievements – saving the world economy from ruin, rescuing the US auto-industry, the Affordable Health Care Act, The Lilly Ledbetter Act, Icing Osama bin Laden, etc – and assured us they will never be forgotten.

As Erhardt talked I kept thinking about the President’s speech, and how Bibi Netanyahu was getting a dose of what the reactionary Republicans have been getting at the hands of this highly intelligent, profoundly humane, visionary, virtuoso at the art of politics.

For just as in America, Barack was winning the intelligent youths of Israel and touching the heart strings of all Israeli’s who dream of a peaceful future with their Arab neighbors.  It was not long before Bibi, Barack’s former antagonist, assumed a lips to posterior posture and maintained it for the balance of the President’s visit.  Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Barack and Bibi in Israel
Barack and Bibi
Watch the hands: Who’s Listening to whom?

Taking a trip to Israel was viewed as an act akin to walking unarmed into a lion’s den by many astute observers from all over the American political spectrum. The right wing Republican infotainment complex was so certain the trip would be a disaster for the President that FOX NEWS – the flagship media shill of the Grand Obstructionist Party- was running advertisements for an upcoming program exposing President Obama’s hatred for Israel, hosted by that greasy headed numbskull charlatan Sean Hannity.  Unfortunately for them, the ad debuted just as the President was being addressed as “Dear Barack” by Israeli in a ceremony where he was conferred Israel’s highest civilian award…no other American President has received this honor.

 Israel Honors Barack

Barack being Honored in Israel

Simon Perez Places ….Medal on President Obama

Although such a reception would have been newsworthy during the best of times in the US Israeli relationship, it was especially remarkable now.  Just a couple of months ago Prime Minister Netanyahu brazenly attempted to interfere in the US presidential election by showing an open preference for his old Boston business partner Mitt Romney.  But when Obama won reelection it almost finished Netanyahu’s political career.

Among the most important duties of any Israeli Prime minister is to manage and maintain good relations with the US, without whose largess Israel’s security is compromised, and Netanyahu’s disrespectful treatment of President Obama had imperiled that critical relationship.  It almost cost Netanyahu the last election a few weeks ago. And this blunder was followed by the recent attempt to block the President’s nomination of former Republican Senator and decorated combat veteran Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, led by the US Israel Lobby, an appointment that is now a fait accompli.

The speeches Barack Obama presented on his Mid-East sojourn were models of political acumen; they were designed to advance his goal of working out a solution to the intractable Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  And this is the basis upon which they must be judged, not one’s pet ideological peeves.  And the nit picking of academic historians, though accurate in factual detail, may well-represent a cure that is worse than the disease, in that it will sacrifice today’s progress on the altar of yesterday’s truths.

Of course thoughtful people who are familiar with the facts about the Middle-East will disagree with the substance of some of the President’s assertions, and others will question the symbolism of some of his acts – like placing a stone from the monument honoring Dr. Martian Luther King on the tomb of Theodore Hertzel, the founder of Modern Zionism; who was a racial nationalist and thus was far more like Minister Farrakhan than Reverend King, although pro-Zionist Jews will be quick to deny this fact.

It comes as no surprise that many of the President’s critics on the left were cynical about the trip altogether.  In an article titled “Why Obama’s Israel Trip is One Big Mistake” published on  Slate.Com,  Janine Zachariah scoffs at the President’s attempt to win over the Israeli’s and assures us: “If Obama wants to talk about drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the Israel Defense Forces or the price of apartments in Tel Aviv, he’ll find an audience. Those relatively marginal issues are what dominated Israel’s recent election, not the future with the Palestinians.” 

As usual, the hysterics on the left are wrong in their snarky critiques of the President.  Ms. Zachariah presents a laundry list of charges against Israel, which in her opinion nullifies any reason the President may have for visiting the Jewish nation.  Yet she offers no explanation as to how Barack will be able to address these complex issues without winning over substantial portions of the Israeli and American electorates.

It is as if the left yearns for a dictator who can issue a directive and the machinery of state act upon it the way the Catholic bureaucracy responds to an encyclical from the Pope, or the Chinese Communist Party carried out to the dictums of Chairman Mao without opposition.

But this is the USA, and we have a divided government in which the power of the executive is checked by the countervailing power of the legislature.  Hence the President will need the cooperation of Congress in order to successfully address the complex issues outlined by Ms. Zachariah, and he won’t get it if the Israel Lobby can successfully paint him as an enemy of Israel.

However, as is characteristic of the President’s critics on the left, Ms. Zachariah does not take the political opposition into account.  And as I have pointed out ad nauseum: That’s why the American left is confined to the status of a national debating society throwing verbal spitballs from the sidelines of American politics.  They are not even in the game where real power is exercised.

However as President of the United States Barack Obama is in the arena grappling with these monumental problems, trying to make deals that will further his objectives of peace and justice in the Middle East.  Which means his tactics must accommodate political reality, the commentariat can say whatever they want.  And even if he does not succeed he will have done no worse than all the American presidents before him.  But let’s not count him out just yet; for Barack is no ordinary politician.

The President’s political gifts were prominently on display during his Israeli Sojourn.  He beguiled the Israeli’s with his infectious charm, sun shine smile and moving eloquence.  And, Contrary to Ms. Zachariah’s prediction, he did talk about the future of the Palestinian people, in fact he called for the birth of a Palestinian State…and he was greeted with tumultuous applause. After effusive praise of Israel’s virtues and the history of Jewish suffering, the President told the audience:

There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, and leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is why security must be at the center of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiation. That is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations.

But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”

The reaction of Haaretz, Israel’s leading newspaper, is a measure of the way Israeli’s responded to the President’s speech.

“For Barack Obama to come to Jerusalem, and speak to Israeli students and talk persuasively of the possibility of a secure and peaceful future, for him to do that and garner a roaring ovation of approval, he would have to have given one hell of a speech. He did.  This was the speech that these young Israelis not only needed but wanted to hear. A speech that radically redefined centrism in Israel, bringing it down to extraordinary common denominators in directions Israelis have learned to think of as diametrically opposed.  He spoke of security and peace as inextricably and necessarily linked, not a narrow choice between options, but a conscious choice for both.  They roared.”

The article went on to point out that the Israeli college students President Obama was speaking to were different from American students in important ways.

“This was not the student crowd that Obama is used to. These students are Israelis. This is a crowd that is world-weary, hair-trigger volatile. They have come by it honestly. In comparison to their American counterparts, they are, by and large, older by several years – some would say, several lifetimes. They enter college after years in the military, often followed by the escape-valve rehab of a marathon trek to remote continents.

They know a snow job when they hear it. And the rare times when someone makes a sincere and enormous effort to understand them, to see things from their point of view, and to bring them a message that no leader in Israel has managed to bring them, they know that too.”

The praise for President Obama becomes ever more effusive, and ends with this observation “This is not the same country after this speech. Four years from now, when he hands back the White House, Barack Obama should consider a change of direction, even a change of venue. Let him run here. It’s about time we knew again what a real leader was like.”

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Of all the reasons given for the affinity between the USA and Israel, one of the major reasons is never mentioned: their mutual origins as colonial settler states.  Perhaps this is because of the fundamental character of these societies: which is the massive land theft and displacement of the indigenous populations by force and the establishment of a racial caste system in which the invaders become the ruling elite.  This is true whether we are talking about the creation of the USA by Englishmen in the 18th century; the Republic of Liberia by Afro-Americans in the 19th century; or the state Israel in the 20th century. 

However if we simply changed the word “Arabs” to “Indians” this observation on the founding of Israel by  the great Zionist warrior, Moshe Dayan – in a 1969 speech in Haifa, quoted from quoted in Ha’aretz, April 4, 1969, could well have been made by an American statesman.

“We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs and we are building here a Hebrew, a Jewish state; instead of the Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of those villages, and I do not blame you because these villages no longer exist. There is not a single-Jewish settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab Village.” ­

The similarities between the Israeli and American experience with nation building can be easily seen in the fact that American cities from Chicago Illinois, to Tecumseh Michigan, to Chicopee Massachusetts are named after the Indian villages that once resided upon this land before it was stolen by white invaders from Europe.

President Obama was no more candid in his discussion of the founding of Israel than any of the US presidents who have preceded him.  And the reason is simple: it contradicts the Master Narrative, i.e. the national myth of their civilization…hence neither Israeli nor American Leaders are anxious to discuss the real story of their nation’s founding.

Phillip Weiss, an American Jewish journalist, published an article titled It’s Time for the Media to Talk about Zionism on the World News Daily Information Clearing House, a website that bills itself as offering “News you won’t find on CNN or Fox News.”  Mr. Weiss excoriated the major American media for its lack of objective reporting and candid commentary on the state of Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians.  In this criticism he is joined by a host of brilliant Jewish critics of Israel and the one sided reportage on the question of Palestinian rights and national aspirations.

Don’t ask don’t tell is the rule regarding the crimes against the indigenous peoples that were essential to the founding of America and Israel.  But unlike Native Americans, the seizure of Palestinian lands occurred in the Middle of the 20th century, when genocidal invasions were unacceptable; largely as a result of the furor over the Jewish holocaust in Germany.   The Palestinians are 20th century victims of land hungry settler/colonialists, and they have been waging a protracted war against Israel for over half a century.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is also the root cause of their problems with Iran.  And President Obama’s position on Iran will not help the situation.  While he is resisting Netanyahu’s blatant attempt to persuade him to commit the US to a military conflict with the Persian nation, he has nevertheless adopted the Israeli view of the threat to the national security of the US and Israel, which is more propaganda than truth, more fiction than fact.

When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction. It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat. But this is not simply a challenge for Israel – it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States. It would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime, spark an arms race in a volatile region, and embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.

That is why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations. The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing. It is isolated. Its economy is in a dire condition. Its leadership is divided. And its position – in the region, and the world – has only grown weaker.

First of all, Iran has not grown weaker because the misguided American attack on Iraq has empowered the Shiites, which is a de-facto extension of the power and influence of Iran in the region and would make a war with Iran infinitely more difficult than the Iraq war, in which the US deployed troops for ten years at a cost of two trillion dollars!  It was the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history…an attack on Iran will prove worse!

If the Iraq war was folly, an American war with Iran initiated by Israel would be an exercise in self-mutilation: a disaster for US relations in the region, and on the home front because it would wreck the US economy. Furthermore the President’s contention that Iran acquiring an atomic bomb “would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime,” is dishonest hyperbole that will not advance the goal of peace in the Middle East – since everybody knows that Israel has a formidable nuclear arsenal yet refuses to even sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and thus do not allow inspections on its soil.

This attitude will result in a permanent state of hostility with their Muslim neighbors, which has caused Israel to become a garrison state, ever vigilant at the possibility of violence. And it shall remain so as long as the question of Palestinian sovereignty is unresolved.  Hence it is the possibility of peace offered by President Obama that inspired the most fervent hope and tumultuous applause

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 30, 2013

 

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Playthell on politics with tags , , on March 21, 2013 by playthell
Barack and Bibi in Israel - March 2013
A Very Odd Couple

Barack Must Avoid Mid-East Pitfalls and Quagmires

On his present foray into the Middle East President Obama must proceed with caution.   This is the most volatile region of the world; the political landscape is strewn with pitfalls which can quickly metamorphose into quagmires that can bog an interventionist superpower down for a decade, cost trillions in treasure and rivers of blood – much of it resulting from the slaughter of innocents -yet end up leaving the situation worse than you found it.  This is the story of Iraq, the longest war in American history, where after a decade of combat and social engineering the cure has turned out to be worse than the disease.

When the US attacked Iraq with Operation “Shock and Awe” – a devastating aerial assault calculated to break the spirit of the Iraqi people and sap their will to resist,  which I called “March Madness” in a commentary – we were assured by pompous poseurs masquerading as great military thinkers such as Dirty Dick Cheney, “Rummy” Rumsfeld, and Paulie Wolfowitz, that American forces would be greeted with open arms by Iraqi citizens and hailed as heroes.  We were also told by George II’s National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice – “a mere theoric who knows no more of war than a spinster” as Iyago said of Cassio –  that the war would be over in a few weeks, and it would be completely paid for by Iraqi oil revenues. George Bush, then the commander-In-Chief, even flew out to an aircraft carrier in his moth eaten pilot’s jumpsuit a couple of months later and formally declared victory.  History testifies to the fact that they were wrong on all counts!  And it could prove to be the most costly blunder in American history.

A Serial Blunderer

Bush Declares victory

He declared victory…… but didn’t call the troops home

Now Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is trying to get President Obama to do it all over again.  Thus far Barack has kept his own counsel on these matters and ignored Bibi’s various attempts to try and persuade him to commit American military power to an assault on Iran.  However the American intelligence forces are already deeply involved in hostile covert acts inside Iran that range from implanting exotic computer viruses in their nuclear research programs to assassinating nuclear scientist.  Which makes the arguments about the danger Iran represents to us sound absurd and hypocritical.  Given the historic American meddling in the internal affairs of this country, it is they who should be afraid of us.

If the President is to have a positive and lasting effect on the course of events in the region he must first stand up to the Israeli’s and force a settlement with the Palestinians so  that America can gain credibility as an honest broker of peace.  His visit with Palestinian leader Mohmoud Abbis – about which i shall have more to say in a future commentary – is a good beginning.

And he must seek to avoid any wider war with Iran.  The best case for diplomacy over military adventurism lay in the consequences of the Iraq war, and the evidence is compelling.  In a New York Times Op-Ed written by John A Nagil, a veteran military officer who saw combat in Iraq and now research professor at the Naval Academy, we get a succinct cost/benefit analysis of the war in Iraq.

“The cost of the Iraq War….are staggering,” writes Nagil, “nearly 4,500 Americans killed and more than 30,000 wounded, many grievously; tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis wounded or killed; more than two trillion in direct government expenditures; and the significant weakening of the major regional counterweight to Iran and consequent strengthening of that country’s position an ambitions. Great powers rarely make national decisions that explode so quickly and completely in their face.”

Reading this comment several things come to mind.  First there is the fact that two trillion may sound like a lot of money in the abstract, but to fully understand what that means in practical terms it should be pointed out that we could completely rebuilt the American infrastructure and put a million people to work in this same period.  And Professor Nagil’s final observation regarding bad decisions by great powers was the subject of a 2,500 word essay written on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.

Titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly – I argued that the invasion of Iraq was a classic case of folly as defined by the two time Pulitzer Prize winning historian Barbra Tuchman, and would be the undoing of George Bush’s presidency. That when historians looked back on his administration in the cold light of the future, it would be this misbegotten war that will define his legacy…and it would be viewed as the reign of a hapless buffoon who was beguiled into taking the nation to war on false pretenses.  And so it has come to pass.

It reasonable to assume in light of my predictions about Iraq, and the fact that I also pointed out that the real threat of Jihadist getting a nuke lay in Pakistan – another argument that all the wise guys in the punditariat now share – my predictions about Iran should be taken more seriously than the major media wags who are now mouthing the hysterical charges of the Israeli government that Iran poses a grave and present threat to the national security of Israel and the United states.  My response to this charge can be summed up in one compound word, which happens to be the title of a profound book on the subject by Princeton Philosopher Dr. Harry G. Frank: BULLSHIT!

To insist that even gaining the capability of making an atomic bomb on the part of the Iranians justifies a military strike on their country is transparent madness driven by hubris, which is but an expression of the arrogance of power.   When viewed from the perspective of Iran, who knows that the US has thousands on nuclear weapons that are sufficient to destroy all life on earth several times; is the only nation to actually employ an atomic bomb in warfare; refuses to declare a no first strike policy, and tolerates a nuclear arsenal in Israel which is estimated by experts on nuclear weaponry to be larger than Great Britain’s; yet they refuse to even sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty,  hence they don’t allow inspectors on their soil: the American and Israel position is an insult to the national sovereignty of Iran, and a burlesque of the art of diplomacy.

Hence it is reasonable to believe that if the US and Israel continues down this road it will eventually lead to a war with Iran. One need only look at the size of Iran on the map as compared to Iraq, and consider their level of military organization to see that a war with Iran would be a very different proposition from war with Iraq.  Plus the Iranians are Persians not Arabs, they were a great civilization when America, and even Western Europe, was a wilderness.

What President Obama should be calling for is a nuclear free zone in the Mid-East and energetically pursue his agenda of ridding the world of nuclear weapons altogether.  And in the meantime he must resist any attempt by the Israel’s, supported by their neo-con and Christian Zionists allies in the US, to push America into a war with Iran.

 

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Playthell  G. Benjamin

Harlem,  New York

March 23, 2013

A South African Judges Catholicism

Posted in Cultural Matters, Guest Commentators, On Foreign Affairs with tags , , , on March 16, 2013 by playthell
At the Alter
Conducting the Liturgy in Cape Town

Conjuring Up Bitter Memories

The White i.e. European world is still hung up on pigmentation, and the cobwebs of racism have not been cut off and dislodged from their collective psyche. Thus the choosing of a Pope from Africa is not about to happen, soon. I see them here of the Roman Catholic faith immersed into its symbolism and culture. There is this one Roman church here in Orlando. It has been there, and I found it there when I was born. It was only active in the community in as far as it can recruit its pious members.  As a child I was taken there by my aunt along with my cousins.

We could not help but observe how the members after receiving sacrament had liquor smell on their breaths. Or how they would walk in ‘holy solemnity’ after ingesting the dry and round morsel of bread(I think), and their lips moistened with the wine, that then you could see that these holy parishioners had just returned from heaven, the way they looked, hands clasped on their chest, walking ramrod-straight-like, and their eyes ogling at the White Mary and small Jesus, and Jesus statues with an open palm showing blood, and others, hoisted on the wall above in the cathedral-like church, that we were always left wondering what is happening.

A Catholic Mass In Soweto

safrica-catholic service in soweto

Indoctrinating the Children in Catholic Dogma

I do not belong to any church, but have my Mtundu (an alter we make for the ancestors), with its candle, snuff and specific cloths for the main ancestors in the pantheon of the ancestors according to our family lineage/tradition. We light a candle, spill some mixture of water and mealy meal, and sprinkle snuff for them to eat and some snuff to smoke.

Afterwards, having called them according to their seniority to last one who died most recently, we talk and tell them of our problems and plight and intone them to help us get ahead. This is what my grandma has taught me, and I have learnt even much more than the basic practice I am just describing over the years.

Now, the thing about it is that the very transformed members who ate the sacrament, when they get home, they take out their drums and jump into their traditional ancestral dress and call on the spirits and interact with them, in order to get instruction who to do about some cultural sacred rites to appease and satisfy and communicate with their ancestors for whatever outcome these acts will bring them – hopefully success and the like..

Venerating the Ancestors
xhosa0004 Xhosa women in South African performing ritual Dance

What I am saying is that the appointment of a Pope from South America is going to have a damaging effect on the membership that is now dwindling and then this is helping foist rising force that is the Islamic religion here in South Africa. People are poor and they complain that these Churches, Anglican, Lutheran, Roman, Methodist and the rest of them are fleecing them penniless, and so people are going with the Religion of Islam, because they provide grocery and comfort and support, instead of asking for ‘tithes’ as is done in the aforementioned Churches.

Islam is Growing among Black South Africans!

Muslims-in-South-Africa

A Harbinger of more Muslim/Christian Conflict?

The appointment of the Pope is coinciding with the Churches I have mentioned (the Roman Church in Particular, is going down in membership and relevance. The youth are worse. But, having said that, they will follow the Pope, whatever shape of form the doctrine will be decided by the parish, I think that making Africa irrelevant was a big mistake, because, as I am onto this piece here, one can see and witness the cracks and splits that are occurring, and my take is that Africans will continue to evolve and revolve the church until, like the Anglican Church of Africa, had to break with the Church of England at one point.

The Anglican Church in Africa is now run by Africans, and is called The Anglican Church of Africa.  It is divided into several different African countries, and most are named-according to the name of the country where they are based.  They are also called Anglican Church, African Episcopal Church, of Africa- very close to and reminiscent of the naming of the churches in America by African Americans in the late 18th century, as in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Or Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

My take of all this is that the African people here in Mzantsi, having left and leaving the churches.  They are headed to traditional healers, some fly-by-night churches and others in African Traditional churches; which are receiving many African peoples into their ranks and are burgeoning with in-coming recruits from the “traditional” Christian Churches mentioned above. As you say, the Catholic Bishops settled for a descendant of their former enslavers and colonialists of Argentina (Falkland War comes to mind), that the Papal’ocracy is a farce for me.

It will not change anything with the appointment of this new Pope, because what is happening to their Roman Church base in Africa may be beyond their power to reverse. I still talk and do the sacred practices and rites to and for my ancestors the way I was taught by my Grandma. I know many more people are now practicing this part of our culture and spirituality from the way families are now doing things – which may vary from family to family – but they retain the same protocol and form.

This is the religious double vision they will have to reckon with. The Roman church and other such-like religious institutions have introduced gambling, and is in cahoots with the gambling dens and their Moguls, that are sprouting all over the South African landscape. They bussed and are still bussing thousands of their members to these gamble caverns, start by giving them some paltry money to gamble when they reach the fleecing dens; the rest they will have to cough-out of their own cash in order to continue gambling.

  A South African Gambling Palace

A South African Casino

The Catholic Church is Good for Business!

People have now become addicted and are loosing huge sums of money/houses and jobs; yet there is still no one addressing this insidious odious affair. What the church is doing, is to constantly rebuild and renovate established buildings and their old church buildings over the years. The folks around them are poor, and the children who go to their schools are made to pay exorbitant fees.

So that, honestly looking at the arrival of the new Pope, I do not see any changes for the better in the African Roman churches here in South Africa, except those in the White Suburbs-well, that’s another long story. This is what we see happening and then some, here in Mzantsi… I do not see an African Pope coming in the next distant horizon, and the Roman Church here in South Africa, is not doing that very well, and this has been going on now for many decades.

Basilica of Our Lady Of Peace:  An African Vatican?

African Basilica

Yes! If African Catholics Follow the Example of Anglicans
 

And they Won’t Have to Look Far for a Pope!

African Prelate III

Take you Choice: Cardinals Frances Arinde and Peter Appiah Turkson

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 SkhoKho SaTlou

South Africa

March 15, 2012 

 

An African Pope as Act of Penitence

Posted in Cultural Matters with tags , , , , on March 14, 2013 by playthell

 African Cardinal Turkson

     Cardinals Francis Arinze of Nigeria and Peter Turkson of Ghana
 After Five Centuries Not one African Pope?

The eyes of the world were focused on the chimney of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican where the Cardinals, the princes of the Catholic Church, had assembled to pick the next Pope.  When the white smoke belched from the chimney on Wednesday, announcing the selection of the successor to Benedict XIV, the first Pope in 600 years to retire in office, many people in the Third world hoped that the color of the smoke would not be a precursor of the color of the New Pope.  Please God not another old pale, stale, white male they prayed.

As the massive crowd roared in anticipation of the announcement, many observers prayed the Cardinals would select a Pope from sub-Sahara Africa,  and the name of the Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson has banded about as a possible choice.  Cardinal Turkson is no ordinary Prince of the Church; his stature among his peers is such that he has been dubbed “The Social conscience of the Church.” And a case could be made that the Cardinal should have been honored with a Nobel Peace Prize by virtue of the critical role he played in preventing the outbreak of armed conflict after a contested national election in Ghana – a situation that has led to armed conflict and mass murder in other African countries.

At 64 years old Cardinal Turkson looks resplendent in his clerical costume; he is described by those who know him as an active man who jogs, plays the guitar and sings.  He is also a respected intellectual who holds several degrees – one from a New York Seminary – and speaks English, Italian, Portuguese, Hebrew and Greek.  He lives in Rome and heads a Vatican Commission.  And he is also a favorite of Pope Benedict, whose retirement opened the opportunity for Turkson to become Pope.  The hope for a black Pope was ginned up by the fact that ABC NEWS, who covered the entire proceeding, featured an Afro-America Archbishop as commentator on the proceedings.

However despite his outstanding qualifications, as a candidate for the Papacy Cardinal Turkson have pros and cons.  For instance, while he is an advocate for the poor he also upholds the backward and silly position the Catholic Church takes on condom use; which is banned.  This ban contributes to the population explosion, with all its attendant ills, and also promotes Aids infection in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.

In the advance countries Catholics just ignore these kinds of absurd positions their church is taking, which is why church membership is shrinking in those countries.  And it is reflected in lower population growth rates and a decline in HIV infection.  The most dramatic areas of growth in the church are taking place in the developing countries.

That’s why if the Catholic Church is going to continue to grow they must concentrate their evangelical efforts in the Third World. And it stands to reason that those efforts will be greatly abetted if they chose a Pope from this region of the world, the Southern Hemisphere, as they define that section of the church.  Since 40% of church members reside in Latin America, there is talk of a Brazilian Pope, Cardinal Sherer, but since he is of German background he is not a suitable candidate if the church really wants to repent for its centuries of racist sins that resulted in genocide against peoples of color.

This is no less true of the choice they made, an Italian from Argentina, Cardinal Bergoglia, a Jesuit Priest, who was roundly applauded by the massive crowd standing in the rain, shall henceforth be known as Pope Francis.  He is said to be a modest man from humble origins.  But given the bloody history of the European settlers in Argentina, especially their systematic extermination of the African population and genocidal dispossession of the indigenous peoples, an Argentinian of European lineage, does not address the sins of this European church against the peoples of color in the Americas.  That he may be a good, even saintly,  man does not nullify this fact.

To address this criminal stain on the history of the Catholic Church a Pope from Latin America must be of Native American stock, a survivor of the mass murders and massive land theft that have resulted in the extinction of many indigenous peoples in the Americas.  And because these historic crimes were led by Iberian Catholics under the banner of the cross, with the blessings of priests who traveled with the Conquistadors under the direction of the Popes, the contemporary Catholic Church must bear the burden of that blood stained history.  Hence appointing a Latin American Pope of European origin – a descendant of the invaders – is yet another slap in the face to the indigenes.

Those who attempt to argue that these crimes were committed by European Kings, hence the church cannot be held responsible are abysmally ignorant of history.  This whole gruesome chapter in human history was initiated by the Catholic Popes.  It begins at the dawn of the Age of Discovery, the period spanning which Europeans, led by Spain and Portugal, began to explore the world beyond Europe.

In a series of decrees issued by Popes known as “Papal Bulls” the catholic papacy called for the enslavement of non-European peoples and the confiscation of the lands and wealth.  The first of these was the Papal Bull of 1452, Dum Diversas, issued by Pope Nicholas V, which granted the Portuguese King Alphonse V the papal authority to reduce “Saracens, pagans and any other unbelievers” to slavery. This included Arabs, Africans, Asians and Native Americans.

Pope Nicholas went even further in the Papal Bull of 1455, Romanus Pontifex, which gave the “Right to Conquest” to Affonso V and clearly spells out what was implied in the Bull of 1452.  This decree gave the Portuguese king the following rights:

‘’to invade, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions and all movable and immovable goods whatever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons  to perpetual slavery.”

The Papal Bull of 1493, sought to address the growing rivalry between the two major Catholic powers, Spain and Portugal, for possession of the new lands they were discovering.  Issued the year after Columbus’ successful voyage to the America’s, when a new world had suddenly come into the picture, the Pope decided to mediate between the two Catholic seafaring nations by dividing the new lands between them.

Known to history as “The Line of Demarcation,” Pope Alexander VI drew a line through a map of the known world and gave the King of Portugal Brazil, the East and West coast of Africa, and the eastern and southern coasts of Asia and India.  That’s why Brazilians speak Portuguese and there are East Indians with Portuguese surnames like Denish De Sousa.

In recognition of Christopher Columbus’s  voyage the Pope awarded all of the lands west of the line to Spain, that’s why Spanish is spoken everywhere in Latin America except Brazil.  As a result of agreements with the Portuguese and Spanish monarchies –the Padroado for Portugal and the Patronato for Spain – the catholic clergy was under the direction of the Portuguese and Spanish crown in the New world colonies and served the needs of the conquistadors who raped, murdered and pillaged the native peoples of color all over the world with the blessings of the Pope.

Thus the destruction of the cultures and societies of the Americas and Africa,  the pillaging of their wealth, and the slaughter of millions of innocent souls  commenced with papal blessings.  The cruelty of the Spaniards resulted in such a high death rate all over the Americas – from pestilence and murder – among the Indigenous populations that it became clear if things continued unabated they would soon die out.

It was this fear that motivated Bartholomew de la Casas, a Spanish priest of the Dominican order, to take action.  From his first visit to the New World on Columbus’ third voyage in 1498, Las Casas was appalled by the Spanish treatment of the Native Americans.  He had imagined himself coming to a paradise where the Spanish and “Indians” were working together to build a new Christian community.  What he witnessed was horrifying and he was certain it was anti-Christian and evil.

He returned to Spain and began a long campaign for humane Christian treatment of the Native Americans.  By 1510 he had been ordained a Priest and he began to plead with the Spanish kings to turn to African for slave labor because the Indians were dying out from the rigors of the Spanish slave system. Many were committing suicide to escape it.

On the other hand Las Casas believed the African was strong enough to survive the arduous labors of slavery.  Hence it as De Las Casas, who became the Dominican Bishop of Cuba in 1541, was the mid-wife to the African Slave trade; a crime against the African people that financed the industrial revolution in Europe, laid the basis for the great wealth of the USA, and devastated vast areas of Africa.  It is a crime against humanity of such a magnitude that African peoples on both sides of the Atlantic are still suffering from the results five centuries later.

Bishop La Casas in his Study

Bartharlemew de la Casas

Midwife to the Slave Trade

Hence the Catholic Church could have made a real gesture of penitence for its myriad crimes against African peoples by electing a Pope from black Africa, one of the fastest growing segments of the Catholic Church.  Nigerian Church leaders are hardcore conservatives on church doctrine,  and they think they are right.   In fact, with 20 million believers and growing, they brag about the fact that while western countries have empty churches and struggle to find young priest, Nigerian churches are overflowing and they are producing so many priests they are exporting them to other countries.

Then there is the fact that the biggest church in the world is the Basilica of Our Lady Of Peace, in the Ivory Coast. This stunning architectural marvel rising out of the African bush is bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  It is a testimony to the passion African Catholics feel for the church.  All of these factors provide a compelling case for the election of an African Pope.

Basilica of Our Lady of Peace

African Basilica

 The World’s Largest Cathedral

There are two African Cardinals that are eligible and qualified to become Pope: Francis Arinze of Nigeria and Peter Appiah Turkson of Ghana.   By elevating one of them to the papacy the church would begin to pay long overdue penitence Catholics owe African peoples for the  role their church played in launching the Slave Trade and the establishment of slavery in the Americas.

Entire Catholic orders owned slaves and priest kept harems of African and Indian woman, often producing bastard off spring who inherited the status of their enslaved mothers.  With the selection of Pope Francis – whose Italian ancestors were recruited to Argentina in a racist eugenicist inspired scheme to “Europeanize” the Argentinian populace, bleaching out the Afro-Indio stain – chances are that neither of the African Cardinals will ever be elected Pope; which would be a tragedy for a church preaching righteousness.  It all depends on how long the 76 year old Pope Francis lives.

 

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Playthell G, Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 14, 2013

Rand Paul: Charlatan, Fool or Paranoiac?

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , on March 11, 2013 by playthell
Rand Paul 
 The Paranoid Strain in American Politics

A star is born in the Grand Obstructionist Party!  This seems the obvious conclusion based upon the response to Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, who conducted an old style filibuster by speaking for twelve hours on the Senate floor last week during the confirmation hearings for John O. Brennan, the President’s choice to head the powerful Central Intelligence agency.

The verbose Senator was roundly applauded by a mixed bag of paranoids and ideologues across party lines, as he railed on ad nauseum about the dangers of drone warfare, boldly demanding that the President assure us that no non-combatant American citizen who is sitting and quietly having his coffee will be suddenly attacked by drones on US soil.

It is a fear that struck me as having about the same probability of occurring as an invasion by men from mars. Yet given the wackadoodle nature of politics in the Republican Party these days, plus the widespread ignorance and gullibility of the American public when presented with conspiracy theories about the sinister intentions of their government, the most responsive government to public opinion in the world, many Americans are cheering Rand Paul for what they regard as the heroic stance of this lone Senator against the encroaching tyranny of government.

Even if the Kentucky Senator occasionally gets something right – like his opposition against escalating hostile actions against Iran – we must remember that a broken clock is right twice every day, but you wouldn’t  base important appointments on their ability to tell time.  And basing your views of how the world works on the blathering of Ron Paul, who reminds me of every pill freak I have ever know – don’t laugh cause this guy is a doctor and could well be self-medicating – is an exercise in folly.

Rand Paul’s views are often mercurial, ill-informed and reflect what the distinguished historian Richard Hofstadter called The Paranoid Style” in American politics in his 1964 essay published in Harper’s Magazine.  Spurred by the reckless and dangerous rhetoric employed by Senator Barry Goldwater, a rightwing Republican from Arizona, in his bid for the US presidency, Professor Hofstadter offered the following observations.

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wind. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.

In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics., In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds.

It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant. Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.”

The fact that this description of American politics was written a half century ago, but could have been written about American politics today, supplies compelling evidence that this phenomena is a recurring theme in American political history.  Two contemporary examples will suffice: one on the right and one on the left.

The belief by an impassioned minority that the attack on the world trade towers and the Pentagon on 9/11 were carried out by the Bush Administration is a striking example of paranoia on the left.  And Rand Paul’s filibuster demanding that the president assure the nation that he would not use drones against non-combatant Americans on US soil is characteristic of the paranoia that fuels the Tea Party movement on the Republican right.  Although there are some who support this concern from both extremes of the political continuum – which is the case with Code Pink’s support of Paul’s filibuster – the Kentucky Senator is a right-wing Libertarian.

While some see Paul as checking the power of the President by demanding accountability, I think he was grandstanding for the press in an attempt to raise his national profile.  Already he is murmuring about a run for the presidency in 2016, but playing upon the paranoia of fringe elements on the right and left of the American political spectrum does not strike me as a winning formula.

The ideological range of those who have rushed to support Paul’s filibuster is intriguing; it reveals a Sympatico between elements of the right and left that share a paranoia about governmental power, exposing fissures in the ranks of the Democrats and Republicans.  On foreign policy matters Republican opinion ranges from neo-con hawks that are ever ready to intervene anywhere in the world with military might in order to enforce American foreign policy goals, such as Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, to Libertarian isolationists like Rand Paul.

The Democrats tend to be less interventionist than the Republicans, but they can be persuaded to deploy military forces on foreign soil if they are convinced that “freedom” is being trampled underfoot by bloodthirsty tyrants, and innocent lives are at stake.  It is an expression of what Henry Kissinger calls “the evangelical” character of American foreign policy. While earnestly seeking a peaceful world, President Obama has nevertheless been drawn into the conflict in Libya, and may yet be lured into the Syrian imbroglio – a move that will inspire some resistance among Democrats and Republicans alike.

The question at issue in Senator Paul’s filibuster however is the Presidents employment of drone warfare, and if is constitutional.  On this question party lines have become blurred. While anti-war Democrats concerned with guarding the civil liberties of Americans applaud Senator Paul, right wing Republican militarists such as Graham and McCain supports the President’s use of drones, ridicules their Republican colleague’s concerns and dismiss them as the foolishness that they are.

Taking the floor in an uncharacteristic defense of the President Senator McCain – who normally acts like he is still carrying a grudge because he lost his presidential bid against Obama – intoned “We’ve done, I think, to a lot of Americans by making them think that somehow they’re in danger form their government.  They’re not. But we are in danger from a dedicated longstanding, easily replaceable leadership enemy that is hell bent on our destruction.” 

Senator Lindsay Graham Joined the defense by pointing out that there was a drone program under George Bush, and there was none of the fears and anxieties being whipped up by Rand Paul and his supporters.  However Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont – Chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee – voted against the President’s nominee, incensed by the refusal of the President to provide memos detailing their legal arguments in defense of using drones against American citizens anywhere.  Thus far the Obama administration has only been willing to provide such memos to the Intelligence Committee.

It seems that Attorney General Eric Holder’s terse letter to Senator Paul, in which he answered the Senator’s questions about whether the President thought he has the right to fire a drone to kill a non-combatant American on American soil with a simple “No,” was enough to assuage the Libertarian Republican’s fears.  But the fact that liberal Democratic Senators Lehey of Vermont and Jeff Merkley of Oregon joined far right Republican reactionaries like Tim Cruz of Texas in rejecting the President’s choice to lead the CIA, dramatically illustrates the extent to which the Paranoid strain in American politics infects members of both parties.

A Blathering Clown!

Rand_paul_370x278

 This Doctor’s  Prescription Spells Disaster!

That’s how they all ended up supporting the interminable blathering of a Senator who is either a charlatan or a paranoid fool…or a bit of all the above.  Alas the paranoid vision of the far right and the real left – the Marxist, not the miscast liberal Democrats – is such that you can barely tell them apart on some critical issues.  Their only distinction is that one is coming from the right and the other from the left, and as I have written elsewhere: It is a distinction without a difference!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 10, 2016
 

Tavis and West Expose True Motives

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on March 5, 2013 by playthell
                   Cornel West and Tavis Smilie Heckle and Jeckle: Two Trickster Crows

 Truth Crushed to Earth….Will Rise Again!

When I was a boy in Florida the old folks would say “Truth cometh in the morning.”  Well that was never truer than on this Saturday morning, as I awoke to the snarky voices of Tavis Smilie and Dr. Cornell West chattering away on my radio.  I had fallen asleep listening to the soulful blues infested voice of the late great Dinah Washington singing the Duke Ellington/ Juan Tizol tune “Caravan,” and awoke to a hear the dissonant sound of a sarcastic soliloquy fashioned in the fevered brain of Dr. Longhair, and pouring from his pie hole in a lava like flow of putrid bile.  He was joyfully engaging in his favorite sport: Obama bashing.

First, the fuzzy headed professor contemptuously ridiculed the President’s negotiating skills, trashing him for not being able to get the “Public Option” passed instead of congratulating him on the massive overhaul of the medical delivery system that he did manage to finess through Congress with consummate political skill.  This achievement is a major reason why a panel of presidential historians has already selected him as one of the top ten American Presidents.

Yet it was the Affordable Health Care Act – along with the president’s achievements in preventing the collapse of the world economy and ending the Depression at home; his diplomatic triumphs in signing a nuclear arms agreement with Russia that helped insure the survival of life on this planet in a very real way; plus ending two wars, etc – that prompted me to rate him even higher on the scale in the pantheon of American presidents. (See: The Real Barack Obama vs. The Reagan Myth” on this blog)

However what I personally find most galling about Cornel West’s criticism of President Obama is his smug assumption of moral and intellectual superiority.  Part of this of course can be attributed to the smug pretentions of academics that hold PhD’s from prestigious universities – a feeling that is enhanced if they hold professorships at such universities – but I remain at a lost to discover the source from whence the professor’s feeling of moral superiority over the President arises.

With the diligence of Diogenes in search of an honest man, I  perused the history of both men and found nothing in my interrogation of professor West’s record that would provide evidence to support his arrogant assumption of moral superiority over President Obama.  In Cornel West I see a talented intellectual who is well educated in his fields of religion and philosophy, and a gifted orator whose notoriety as a public intellectual is do more to his silver tongue and public relations skills that his intellectual gravitas.   He is a highbrow rapper who, like Little Wayne, has made a fortune playing to the cheap seats.

Conversely, Barack Obama is one of those rare special altruistic personalities who decide to spend their life in public service early on; addressing problems that will enhance the quality of life for their fellow citizens, and they purposely make choices about the type of education they will pursue guided by what they think they will need to become change agents through participation in the political process.

That’s why Barack chose the law, Constitutional law, because he thought it would best equip him to become an agent of change.  That’s also why his fellow Harvard man Dr. WEB DuBois chose the study of history, sociology and economics over a career as a philosopher, and was indifferent to the importuning of Harvard’s George Santayana, perhaps America’s most influential philosopher, to become his protégé – an opportunity West would have leaped at.

Dubois saw that those disciplines would better arm him in the fight to uplift his oppressed people.  And his educational choices led him to become one of the greatest Americans of the last century, and his ideas, scholarship and activism contributed mightily to the advancement of black people here and in Africa.  These are very special people; men like Barack and DuBois.  Indeed, Barack Obama has shown a consistent commitment to changing the plight of the poor and powerless throughout his adult life.

First there was his decision to take a job as a community organizer in the dangerous poverty pockets of Chicago – the people Harvard sociologist William J. Wilson calls “The Truly Disadvantaged” in his revelatory text by the same name.  Then we have Barack Obama’s legislative record in the Illinois State Assembly, and his record in the US Senate.  All of these records unambiguously demonstrate a consistent record concern for the least among us – the poor and the powerless. If you would like to examine President Obama’s legislative record in historical context, see the list at the end of my essay “Civilization or Savagery” on this blog.

Alas, Professor West and his doppelganger Tavis Silly inflicted a conversation on the audience about the looming budget sequester that was so lightweight it would be an act of generosity to call it simple-minded prattle.  Maybe it’s because these guys are in such demand they don’t have time to thoughtfully reflect on these complex issues…or maybe they are shameless charlatans and vulgar careerist who have entered into a Faustian bargain with Mammon and they will say or do anything that will help them achieve their true goal: making money.   I tend toward the former assumption; although it is clear that these guys are scrupulous about getting paid…and as much as possible. After all Cornel gets $30, 000 for a speech.

I see no record of self-less service and sacrifice on the part of West.  From all appearances he is doing just fine on Cloud Nine, spouting dangerous sophistry masquerading as political wisdom, while abdicating his proper role as intellectual  point man in the fight against the Religious Right; whose theology fuels much of the ideology of the contemporary Republican Party.  Instead he attacks what he thinks are President Obama’s moral failings; he even called the President a “war criminal” the other day- while simultaneously calling racist reactionary rednecks like Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich his “Dear Brothers.”

Transparent opportunist that he is, when Dr. West and sidekick Tavis Silly invited Paul Wykoff, Vietnam war combat veteran and head of an organization of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, on the show to discuss the plight of veterans, they quickly tried to enlist the old soldier and political progressive into their persistent attack on the President and turn the conversation into a referendum against his leadership and policies.

Paul Reickoff

Paul-Rieckhoff - Iraq and Afghanistsn vets

 Spokesman for Iraq and Afghanictan Combat Veterans 

As West droned on in his annoying voice about the “Dronification of War,”using it to  continue his attack on President Obama, the conversation took an unfortunate for Dr. West and sidekick, exposing them for the lightweight blabbermouths that they are.     Rykoff first explained what it was like fighting on the front lines, since he is an ex-infantryman who saw combat.  He shocked them when he not only refused to denounce the use of drones – since he knows it will save American soldiers from risking life and limb to do the same job these robots do.

But the real kick in the head was when Wykoff said that President Obama was a very elightened leader on questions of war and peace.  He explained that the president had a sophisticated understanding of the technological options open to him as commander-In-Chief and were deploying them Solomonic wisdom .  He went on to say that more importantly President Obama has always pursued non-military options and prefers diplomacy to bombs because unlike many other people in Washington he understands that you cannot impose democracy in a country with bombs and bullets.

To hear Mr. Rykoff  tell it, President Obama is just about as enlightened and humane a leader as one could hope for in matters of war and peace.  Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat with my ears cocked like a hound dog in anxious anticipation of the learned Dr. West’s response.  Would he acknowledge the possibility that he might have been wrong when he recently labeled the president a war criminal?   My wait proved to be in vain, as vain as Cornel West’s ego, for he  quickly changed the subject without comment.

West fared no better in trying to elicit Wykoff’s aid in painting an ominous portrait of the Africa Command’s mission on the African continent.   Wykoff saw nothing sinister in it, and only questioned whether we should be spending more money on developments at home.  After all, he was on the show to discuss the desperate plight of those who have bravely fought America’s foreign wars but are struggling at home.

I shall soon have more to say about what I think of drone warfare, and the Africa command.  But suffice it to say that in my view Dr. West’s position on drone warfare is neither intelligent nor morally superior to the Presidents; as he evidently thinks it is.  The more I hear from Cornel West the less convinced I am that he is a man of integrity, whose concern the poor and oppressed trumps his need for ego-gratification and the material rewards that accompany celebrity and intellectual notoriety in America.

Some of my colleagues have decided that he and Tavis are simply pimping off the misery of black people, the poor, the unemployed, and the economically distressed working and middle classes.  Since I once held Dr. West in high regard I don’t want to believe that he is that cold blooded.  I think Professor Bushy Bead is motivated by a combination of age old human failings of biblical proportions: Envy, Avarice, Ambition and revenge.  And these vices are fueled by combustible resentments of unrequited love.

If I had the ear of the President I would put a bug in his ear and hip him to how to handle this poot-butt professor; but since I don’t I’m forced to make a public plea: Please show this guy some love!  I would also tell him to consider President Lyndon Johnson’s strategy for handling that dangerous demagogue J. Edgar Hoover, who as head of the FBI, and thus had the capacity to create all kinds of problems for the President during a critical period of American history, when he was trying to do great things.

When Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked Johnson in exasperation, “Why don’t you just fire Hoover?”  To wit that wily old political player Lyndon Johnson responded: “Cause I’d rather have hoover inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in!”

Unrequited love is a Dangerous Thing
Cornel and Barack 
It leads to irrational destructive actions

 

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Playthell George Benjamin
Harlem New York
March 5, 2013 

The Struggle To Vote Continues!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on March 1, 2013 by playthell

Martinand John March - Selma to Montgomery

On The Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights

 Afro-Americans, Racial Equality and Supreme Court

Watching Congressman John Lewis addressing the rally on voting rights in front of the US Supreme Court yesterday I got a feeling of de ja vu.  It was like America had turned back the clock to 1965, when John Lewis, then a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, made a similar speech on the great March from Selma to Montgomery to gain the right to vote for black southerners.  The vicious attack on lawfully assembled marchers, who were mostly Afro-Americans, as the attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge leading to the former capital of the old Confederacy, shocked the world as it was broadcast around the globe on television.

It proved to be a sucker play on the part of the dumb desperate rednecks trying to preserve their “southern way of life,” the foundation of which was the severe oppression of black folks.  Instead they drove a stake through their own heart. The dim witted white officials who ordered the state police to arrest the advance of the demonstrators in a bloody melee of wanton police violence that was witnessed around the world didn’t understand that the world was changing, and what this implied for their racist apartheid system based on a Nazi like ideology of white supremacy.

The system of white world domination was rapidly crumbling due to the devastation Europeans wreaked on each other in the Second World War, and the rise of militant nationalism in Africa and Asia; the US was in a global struggle with the communist Soviet Bloc for the hearts and minds of the peoples in the newly independent nations.  However we now know, by virtue of studies on American diplomacy during this period such as Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, by Mary L, Dudziak, that those tasked with conducting American foreign policy considered the racist policies of the southern states a major stumbling block in their efforts to sell the American way of life to the leaders of emergent Third world nations.

For instance seven years before the passage of the historic 1964 Omnibus Civil Rights Bill, an Alabama court sentenced a 28 year old man black man named Jimmy Wilson to death for stealing two dollars.   This verdict sparked such intense outrage against the US around the world that Secretary of State John Foster Dullies got the federal government to intervene and stop the execution.  Everywhere he went Dullies was put on the defensive, when confronted with questions about white American barbarism in their treatment of Afro-Americans.

This was 1958, three years after the Bandung Conference, held in Bandung Indonesia, where the emergent non-white nations of Africa and Asia gathered to discuss their future in a new world order.  The question that preoccupied the American government was which side would they choose to align with: The capitalist or communist bloc?  It was a concern that would intensify as the Civil Rights movement against the legal caste system, which was the foundation of racial apartheid and white supremacy in the US, grew more vocal.

Indeed, Dean Rusk, President Kennedy’s Secretary of State, would write memos to Attorney Robert Kennedy complaining about how the racist outrages in the US, which the Russians made sure were widely publicized, was complicating his attempts to counter-Russian overtures to leaders of the new nations and their millions of non-white citizens.  Hence, as Dr. Dudziak shows, addressing major Civil Rights issues like desegregation, became an imperative for victory in the Cold War and thus the political elite was willing address the problem with a new urgency.

The Bandung Conference
Bandung Conference 1955
Africans and Asians Contemplate a New World

This was the political atmosphere in which John Lewis spoke at the 1965 rally in Montgomery in an attempt to persuade the Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act which President Lyndon Johnson would sign into law,  with one of the most eloquent and impassioned speeches in presidential history on the equality of Afro-Americans before the law.

Now, almost a half century later, as a US Congressman, John Lewis is arguing in front of the Supreme Court in an effort to persuade them not to declare section five, the most important part of the Voting Rights Act, unconstitutional.

Once again the fate of Afro-Americans rest on a decision of the US Supreme Court, continuing a long established pattern in American race relations.  In the Dread-Scott Decision of 1857, three years before the outbreak of Civil War, the Supreme Court ruled in a decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney that “Black Men have no rights that a white man is bound to respect.”  This left Afro-Americans in legal limbo, at the mercy of their racist white countrymen.  Among other things it meant that free blacks could not claim American citizenship and often had to travel abroad without benefit of a passport.

During the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, the Dread-Scott decision was reversed with the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment on July 28, 1868.  This amendment conferred citizenship on Afro-Americans and mandated equal protection under the law.  In order to insure its ratification Congress made ratification a condition for the former confederate states to reenter the union. The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870,  gave Afro-Americans the right to vote in quite explicit language: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.’

The Radical Republicans, led by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and Senator Charles Sumner, was determined that the northern defeat of the southern Confederacy would not be a pyrrhic victory.  So they passed a series of Civil Rights bills to buttress the new constitutional Amendments beginning in 1866, and culminating with the sweeping Civil Rights act of 1875.

This Act outlawed racial discrimination in all public accommodations: hotels, public conveyances and places of amusement open to the general public.  The original draft of the Act by Senator Sumner included a provision outlawing segregation in public schools, but was struck from the bill because the Republicans didn’t believe it could pass.

Thaddeus Stevens

thaddeus-stevens-4
Indefatigable Champion of Afro-American Freedom

Two years later the Compromise of 1877,  a backroom deal struck by the Democrats and Republicans to resolve the disputed presidential election between Samuel J. Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes, effectively ended congressional Reconstruction and removed the protection of federal Troops from the south, leaving the ex-slaves to the mercy of their former masters.  A reign of terror was unleashed on Afro-Americans by armed white terrorists like the Ku Klux Klan all across the South.  One of its main objectives was to drive Afro-Americans away from the polls. This great terror continued into the twentieth century.

Despite  growing racist violence  aimed at  nullifying Afro-American gains during the period of Radical Reconstruction, four years later, in 1881, the Supreme Court declared the Civil Rights Bill of 1875 unconstitutional.  This was followed 15 years later by the Plessey vs. Ferguson Decision, popularly known as the “Separate but Equal Decision,” which made racial segregation legal.

Taking it to the Streets
Ku Klux Klan
The Klan struts its stuff in the Nation’s Capital
Doing their devlish work in the South

Lynching Bee

American Exceptionalism!

Hence by the turn of the 20th century Afro-Americans had been stripped of virtually all the rights they had gained during the Reconstruction.  The South accomplished its goal of removing black citizens from the voter’s roles through a combination of extra-legal white terror and enacting all sorts of bizarre restrictions on the right to vote, while the Congress and Supreme Court turned a blind eye.

Afro-Americans were fixed in a racial caste system segregated from their white fellow citizens in virtually all spheres of personal and civil life, interacting only as employer and employee, or domestic servants in white households.  Separate but Equal remained the law of the land until the Court ruled in the Brown v. The Board of Education case of 1954, and passage of the Omnibus Civil Rights Act  of 1964; which outlawed segregation in the public schools and public accommodations.  In 1965 Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.

Together this legislation dismantled legal segregation and transformed southern politics.  The heart and soul of the Voting Rights Act  is Section Five, which requires states with a history of racial exclusion to submit any proposed changes in voting laws to the Justice Department for approval.  We can see from all of the Republican chicanery in the last election – where there were numerous attempts to suppress the black and Hispanic vote – that we desperately need the powers of Section Five to be expanded and vigorously enforced.  Not remanded as the state of Alabama, one of the worse historical offenders, is presently asking the Supreme Court to do.

In view of this reality the recent comments on voting rights by Justice Scalia, who is touted as a great legal mind, are the blathering of a charlatan or a fool.  This pie faced, pumpkin headed, black robed, pootbutt burlesque on a great legal theorist, had the unmitigated gall to call the Voting Rights Act “a racial entitlement.”   There is no shame in Scalia’s racist game!

Antonin Scalia

Antonin

A Racist Buffoon!

Earlier tonight Rev. Al Sharpton played a series of comments by leading right-wing radio bloviators like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, then juxtaposed them with Scalia mouthing the same putrid rhetoric…word for word.  The presence of foul hearted blaggards like Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court is a result of appointments by Republican President’s….so much for the Morons who say it doesn’t matter whether there is a Democrat or Republican in the White House.  Alas, they must share the responsibility for our present crisis.

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March 1, 2013