Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2018 by playthell

J. Edgar Hoover, Founding Director of the FBI

On Trump, the FBI and Me

Andrew McCabe, the Deputy Director of the FBI, has been fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after after quitting his post at the agency.  A seasoned law enforcement professional who has honorably served the nation for over 20 years, McCabe was drummed out of office by the reckless and vulgar attacks of Donald Trump, the wanna-be dictator who presently occupies the Oval Office.

On the face of it, there is a rotting in the body politic when a megalomaniacal compulsive liar, who has spent his life dealing with mobbed up companies in the New York construction racket, and laundering dirty Russian money, can drive a dedicated lawman who has led the fight against dangerous criminals and terrorists out of his post.

There is no greater indication that we are living in fantastical times than the fact that I feel compelled to defend the FBI against the attacks of the President. Furthermore, I am willing to go about this work in concert with odious characters who in normal times I would have nothing to do with.  Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.  Alas, I approach this alliance like a carnival performer who is compelled to hold his nose and kiss a skunk because the act must go on.

My views on the Federal Bureau of Investigation has varied radically over the years. As a boy I listened to thrilling stories about the brave FBI who protected us from the evil Communist that denounced God and were trying to enslave us.  My admiration and respect increased as I was brainwashed by propagandistic movies like “I Was a Communist for the FBI,” where Frank Lovejoy played an earnest, incorruptible, undercover FBI agent who suffered the scorn of his family and friends that thought he had joined the evil Communist Party.  Then came Elliot Ness and The Untouchables, the fearless G-Men shooting it out with machine guns against the bad guys.  But that was the 1950’s, during the Red Scare of the McCarthy Era, the height of the Cold War when Communist conspiracies were believed to be unfolding everywhere.

However, during the tumultuous Sixties I developed a very different view of the FBI, when I became a victim of the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program; the notorious Co-In-Tel-Pro.  After having witnessed contempt for the law by racist white judges in Florida, and the lingering racist etiquette in the military despite efforts to stamp it out, observing the American nuclear strike force inside Central Security Control where the decision to launch nuclear weapons is made, and confronting the terrible plight of the plains Indians who lived on a reservation located near the base like a fort in the old west, I became radicalized.

These experiences made me a confused angry young man who wanted to bring about radical change in American society quickly.  It was during this period that I fell in league with a group of young Marxist revolutionaries who convinced me they had the blueprint for building a revolution that would bring justice to the poor and oppressed in America. Most of our elder tutors in radical politics were former communist who had joined the party because they were the only political party in the US that supported them in militant opposition against institutionalized white supremacy in the US -something the Democrats nor the Republicans had the inclination to do.   And they quit the CP when they abandoned their position on supporting the birth of a “Negro Nation” in the southern black belt.  These veterans of the militant anti-racist movement had suffered the anti-democratic attacks of the McCarthy era, and they presented a very different portrait of the FBI.

As I went on to engage in many militant struggles against race and class oppression as a founding member of the Revolutionary Action Movement aka RAM, I became a subject of interest to the FBI and their Co-IN-Tel-Pro files on RAM fill several volumes.  We assumed that we were being spied on by the FBI, but it was only after the Church Committee Hearings, the release of Co-In-Tel-Pro files under the Freedom of Information Act, and the publication of the pathbreaking study “Racial Matters: The FBI Secret File on Black America,” by historian Kenneth O’Reilly that I recognized the extent of FBI surveillance and covert action dirty tricks employed to disrupt our struggle against racist oppression, which we believed was justified by “any means necessary” as Malcolm X had declared. A principle which we knew white Americans passionately adhered to when their own freedom was involved.

The fact that J. Edgar Hoover, who had been the FBI Director from its creation by Congress in 1935 – after his appointment by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 to head the Bureau of Investigation, which preceded the FBI – was an avowed racist, meant that in his eyes all anti-racist struggles by Afro-Americans was subversive.  Hoover saw Dr. Martin Luther King, a brilliant and saintly apostle of non-violent “passive resistance,” as much a danger to National Security as armed revolutionary Maoist like RAM.

When I discovered that Hoover’s first covert action campaign was against Marcus Garvey – leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a mass black nationalist movement in the 1920’s that advocated Black Pride, collective economics and repatriation to Africa – I decided the FBI was the avowed enemy of Black Liberation.  And I view Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ orders to the FBI to investigate “Extreme Black Identity Activist” aka “Black Lives Matter” today, as a resurrection of Hoover’s discredited strategy.

For all these reasons, and more, I am one of the least likely candidates to mount a defense of the FBI.   However, as is often the case in politics: There are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.  Hence, ever since I became conscious of the political forces arrayed against the progress of non-white and working-class Americans, the rise of a right-wing oligarchy that would nullify all the progressive laws that benefit disadvantaged Americans going back to the New Deal, I have fought to oppose it.

I believe the election of Donald Trump is paving the way for just such a development, aided by the unlimited corporate spending made possible by the Citizen’s United Decision, which is turning our popular democracy into a plutocracy where the rich can buy politicians that are shills who place their private interests above the public interest.  The recently passed tax bill is a dramatic instance of the Republicans rewarding their donors.

Furthermore, being the amoral avaricious narcissist that he is, I believe Trump would willingly collude with the Russians to achieve the pinnacle of power.  And he would think nothing of obstructing justice to hide his dirty deeds because he believes the end will justify the means.  And so, apparently, does the Republicans in Congress, who see in the Trump presidency a rare opportunity to finally get their backward agenda enacted into law.

This explains why the Republican Congress, whom the Founding Fathers invested with the power to check the abuse of executive authority, are conspiring with the President to obstruct justice. Hence the fate of our democracy may well rest upon the shoulders of Robert Mueller, the Special Prosecutor, who has the will and the power to force the Congress to act based upon the results of his investigation…or failing to act the Republicans will be swept from power by the Democrats in the next election.   This would be the beginning of the end of the Trump Presidency and their radical right-wing Republican agenda.

The FBI, our premiere investigative agency, is central to the success of Mueller’s mission. That’s why Trump is itching to fire Mueller, and has mounted a vigorous campaign to besmirch the reputation and thus discredit the FBI.    Since politics is the art of the possible, which often means choosing the lesser evil, I am compelled to take an uncompromising stand in defense of the FBI; despite the presence of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.  Sessions – who always strikes me as an unrepentant old school southern redneck right out of central casting – wishes to deploy FBI agents against “Extreme Black Identity Activist.  Yet, despite shades of Co-In-Tel- Pro the FBI remains, by far, the lesser evil when compared to a Trump autocracy.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
February 10, 2018

Is Omorosa Trump’s Olivia Pope?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2017 by playthell

The Way they Were

Notes on Power, Privil ege, Sex and Race

The saga of Fat Donnie and Omorosa has burst upon the world stage with a bang.  Although We have seen this glamorous black woman hanging out with Donnie since his reality show days on The Apprentice, a hugely popular television show on NBC, where Omorosa became the star attraction among the contestants, her role in the Trump presidency propelled her to new heights in the real world.

Given the many pictures of them together all over the internet that suggest a secret intimacy, something more than meets the eye, it is unsurprising that many people wonder if we are not witnessing a real-life version of the hit ABC evening soap opera “Scandal,” in which Olivia Pope, a beautiful cunning Afro-American woman played by the ravishing Kerry Washington, captivates the white male US president, alienating his affections for his clueless white wife. Is life imitating art?

Well, maybe, but even if Devious Donnie and his chocolate sweetie are rubbin bellies, there are some sharp differences between the character, competence and experience of Omorosa Manigault and Olivia Pope.  Aside from the suggestion of a sexual scandal in their relationship with the President; the aura of sex and glamour that surrounds them; and their ruthless amoral approach to wielding power; Olivia and Omorosa have little in common.  A friend of mine, who is a successful show business entrepreneur that is a huge fan of Olivia Pope, and has interacted with Omorosa in a business setting, offers this assessment.  “These two women are light years apart in character and competence. Olivia is Queen of the Hill; she is running the whole show. Omorosa is a light-weight opportunistic bitch…just like her boss!”

First of all, Olivia is a brilliant and highly competent woman who is at the center of events in the White House, a big-time player.  Omorosa is an ornament, the black mascot whose role is to lure Afro-Americans to root for the Trump team.  The fact that 90% of Afro-American women voted for the Democrats in recent elections that were critical to Republicans, highlighted Omorosa’s irrelevance to Trump and the Republican Party’s black recruitment project.  And that’s because most black people regard her as little more than a slick ghetto hustler from hardscrabble Youngstown Ohio, looking out for numero uno.

Olivia Pope

Livin Large and in Charge

In this sense Omorosa has much more in common with Melania, a Euro-trash hustler and soft porn model from the impoverished Eastern European country of Slovenia, who may have been working as an illegal immigrant before she hooked the trick of a life time.  Neither of them are taken seriously by serious people – Melania is such a ditz she actually plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speeches twice!

Melania Strump

Euro-Trash as America’s First Lady

From all appearances the end came when the Republican princes and powers who counsel wanna-be King Donald convinced him that Omorosa is all blow and no go.   They presented unimpeachable evidence that she has not been effective in delivering the black vote, winning over black leadership, nor stimulating mass black love for the Great Leader who, by his own repeated declarations, is alone wise enough to save the nation.  In fact, just the opposite has happened. Fat Donald is despised in black communities in every section of the nation, and an energized Afro-American vote supplied the margin of victory in dramatic Democratic wins in Virginia and Alabama.  Once it became clear that Omorosa was useless, she got the same treatment that used toilet paper gets.

O Where is Her White Knight Now?

Trump’s Strumpet: Kicked to the Curb

Those with sources in the White House like Urban Radio White House reporter April Ryan, say Omorosa’s colleagues universally regard as ignorant and arrogant, with a permanent imperious attitude to boot. And beyond that nobody knew what her job description was; “Sister Girl” was all over the place.  So, there was much rejoicing amongst the white folks in the White House upon word of here unceremonious and abrupt departure.  Now she is playing the wronged, wounded, black woman who is pained over the way the Republicans are treating “My people…”

Well, from all the reactions I’ve witnessed from Afro-Americans, and I’ve seen a few – they are prominently displayed all over the internet – Omorosa fares no better than with her white co-workers in the White House.  Many long time Black Republicans have publicly accused her of being a “gatekeeper,” who used her position to block out more competent Afro-Americans -and they are legion – from Trump’s inner circle. She is widely regarded in the wider black community as a quisling and vulgar opportunist whose allegiance is dictated by expedience.  I’m reminded of a verse from “No Hiding Place,” an old hymn that was popular in the black community when I was a boy: “I went to the rock to hide my face / but the rock cried out no hiding place / O sinner man, there’s no hiding place down here.”

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Perusing photographs of Donald Trump and Omorosa Manigault together conjures up bitter memories from a shameful American past, where access to beautiful black women was regarded as the right of rich and powerful white men; a prerogative practiced by some of the most distinguished white men in American history, virtually all of them unabashed white supremacist.

We witnessed this practice after it accidentally spilled out into the open a couple of years ago when MS. V. Stiviano – a beautiful half black half Mexican lady – who was the clandestine concubine of Donald Sterling, owner the San Diego Clippers basketball franchise, put his racist hatred and penis envy of his black players on blast.  When she put his business in the streets he lost the franchise and his clueless white wife.

Beauty and the Beast

Donald Sterling and his Dusky Concubine

I have written an in-depth essay exploring the issues of race, class and ethnicity surrounding this affair (see: “Beauty and the Beast” at https://commentariesonthetimes.me/2014/05/16/on-racism-privilege-and-power/ )

Historically, racist white males were the most ardent at bedding beautiful black women, because it was a status symbol among their peers, the “good ol boys.”   It was part and parcel of the etiquette of white male supremacy.   However, like most of America’s barbaric history of white supremacy, this practice was banished from the public eye and relegated to the dustbin of US history.  I am aware of this tawdry tradition, which encompasses most of our national history, because I witnessed it growing up in Florida and I studied about it in scholarly texts.

Powerful white men of the political class who had black female lovers include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thaddeus Stevens and Strom Thurman.   Hence if Trump and Omorosa have ever been undercover lovers it would be nothing unusual in American history. The relentless, fevered, promotion of the white female as the most feminine, beautiful and sexually desirable woman on earth makes it hard for some whites to believe that a rich powerful white man would choose a black woman.

Prince Harry gets a pass – except from the White Nationalist crowd terrified of genetic annihilation – because his fiancée Megan Markel is not visibly black, although her mother is a dreadlock wearing Soul Sista and Queen Elizabeth described her future daughter-in-law as “exotic.”  But Megan would have been simply classified as “Negro” for most of my lifetime, and if she lived in the south during segregation as I did, she would have been subjected to every legal restraint that the blackest African Americans were subjected to because the Supreme Court refused to make a distinction between the legal status of “pure Negroes” and people of “mixed blood” when the issue was clearly raised in the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision.

I had neighbors when I was growing up in Florida that were whiter than Megan but were legally classified as “Negroes,” and so were some members of my family who moved to New York and Pennsylvania where they “passed” for white, which was illegal. In fact, Afro-Americans have a term to describe our folks who look like them: “Light, bright damned near white!’

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania – the architect of Radical Reconstruction policies that secured the status of former slaves as free  people – is the only one of the powerful white men I listed above who was willing to marry his Afro-American lover, Lydia Hamilton Smith, who was of mixed blood but was considered a “colored woman.”  A divorcee with two sons by a previous marriage to a free black man, she was formally identified as his “housekeeper” during the 21 years they lived together 1847-1868.  But she was known to all their neighbors and friends as Steven’s “common law wife.”

In the biopic “Lincoln” we see Steven’s proposing marriage, but like Olivia Pope Lydia refused his proposal of marriage because she felt it would hurt the important work she wanted to see him accomplish. Lydia told him that she would rather have the passage of the 13th Amendment permanently abolishing slavery than a marriage certificate.  However, for the others their black concubines dare not hope to be honored by marriage. And this racial prohibition remained true even after they had children together.  Sally Hemmings had seven children for Thomas Jefferson, but she remained his slave, and her children became the property of Jefferson’s children by his white wife upon his death.

Strom Thurman, a Senator from South Carolina, who was the longest serving member upon his death, impregnated a black teenage maid that worked for his family.  They had a child with whom Thurman maintained a secret relationship even while he was leading the racist “Dixiecrat” movement to deny his daughter and her mother basic human rights.   Yet they never outed the old hypocrite, although many people in South Carolina knew. I first heard of her from a friend who was her classmate at South Carolina State, an all- black college, where a special room was set aside for Thurman’s secret visits to his daughter.   And his daughter, Essie Mae, published her account of their relationship after Thurman’s death.

Essie Mae

Strom’s Secret Black Daughter

Although Thurman spent his early political career as a Democrat, like virtually all the hardcore white racists in the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party after Democratic President Lyndon navigated through Congress and signed the 1964 Omnibus Civil rights act and 1965, and he was much celebrated during his final days in Congress.  Largely as a result of the radical changes in American race relations brought about by this bill, white men in powerful political office can marry their chocolate lady loves.  Bill di Blasio, the Mayor of New York, Americans premiere city, the financial and cultural capitol of the world, has married his Black First Lady Chirlane.  Not so long ago this would have cost di Blasio the election, but he just won a second term.

The Mayor and First Lady Of New York
A Sunday Kind of Love

However, regarding the question that is the raison d’etre for this essay, the answer is no!  Even if Omorosa was sleeping with Fat Donnie, she is not his Olivia Pope, she has little in common with Pope. The nature of her overall relationship with Trump would cast her in the mold of Sally Hemmings or  Strom Thurman’s mistress.  Now, if rumors about a clandestine liaison between George W. Bush and the brilliant, glamorous, Condoleezza Rice are true, Condi would be George’s Olivia Pope.  In any case Omorosa has promised to write a book about her experiences in the Trump White House…I hope she tells all.

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
December 2017

On Breaking the Tyranny of Sin

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 3, 2017 by playthell
Marching Against White Supremacy in Charlottesville Virginia

A White Priest Preaches to Whites about Racial Justice

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.

“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have.

I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.” NRSV Genesis 45:1-15

Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.” NRSV Matthew 15:21-28
“Breaking the Tyranny of Sin”

Almighty God, you have broken the tyranny of sin and sent into our hearts the Spirit of your Son. Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service that all people may know the glorious liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s prayers teach us something profound about being a Christian. They tell us that God has broken the tyranny of sin, and we ask for grace to live in that freedom from tyranny, as faithful inheritors of the Kingdom that’s been promised to us. What does it mean, what does it take, to break the tyranny of sin? And how do we live our lives in a way that shows that we are free from the ruthless hold that sin can have on us?
This morning we heard the end of the Joseph story. Joseph was betrayed by his own brothers. They sold him as a slave, and he could have been dead for all they knew. Yet he forgave them, embraced them and saved their whole tribe from starvation. Joseph broke the tyranny of sin. This story is a pivotal change in the whole thrust of the Old Testament. It was normal in that society, to be competitive. It was normal to put yourself and your own family first. It was normal to get revenge, and they even had lists of rules about how much revenge you were allowed to take on another family or tribe. But Joseph was close to God’s heart and he took a completely different path.

Love, forgiveness and grace shattered the cruel, tyrannical hold sin had on that family. And then in today’s gospel, we follow Jesus up the coast, from familiar territory up into Tyre and Sidon – foreign lands. And a woman from a different race, from a foreign religion with strange customs, insinuates herself in Jesus’ path and demands attention. We’re not used to Jesus being snippy with people, but he gives her a hard time, suggesting that his healing is exclusive – it’s only for the chosen people of God.

What a slap in the face! Was Jesus having a bad day? Did he mean to push her away like that? But she persisted…even the dogs get the children’s crumbs, she said. And look what happens here – look how quickly Jesus heals her daughter. Instantly. That very moment. So, did her retort change his mind, or was Matthew up to something clever in how he shaped this story?

Perhaps the exchange was about teaching the disciples back then, and you and me now – teaching us to recognize our own tendency to ignore people we think of as outsiders. The disciples felt no responsibility for this woman’s problem. She’s not one of us, she worships foreign gods and strange idols, so we won’t waste God’s grace here. We owe her nothing so let’s move on.

To see what the author is up to here, let’s step back and look at Jesus’ whole ministry. All throughout the gospels, Jesus consistently crashed through the boundaries and barriers humans put up against one another…..bringing the ‘sinful’ blind man into the Synagogue and then we found out that he wasn’t the sinful one – it was the religious leaders who had excluded him; then Jesus chose the shamed women at the well to bring God’s truth to the whole town; he had dinner with people that the religious leaders thought were unworthy – hookers and charlatans; and the most interesting part – in a society where the only people lower on the social scale than the shepherds were the fishermen, and Jesus chose a bunch of them as his disciples.

The list goes on and on – whoever was excluded, Jesus pulled right into the centre of the community. This looks like a very intentional story, designed to show Jesus, once again, crashing through the tyranny of sin by including someone the disciples wanted to exclude. So, how do we live this out? Today we’re taught to stretch our understanding of who’s in, who belongs, who is worthy, who God includes…a message the world is crying out for, right now.

Today both Joseph and Jesus say no to hateful exclusion – Joseph won’t exclude his treacherous brothers. Jesus won’t exclude the foreigner who worships strange idols. I so appreciated Judy’s entry in this week’s Happenings. Judy sent us a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Judy was accurately taking the pulse of our times.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Washington March
A 20th Century Prophet Speaking Truth to Power

When there’s trouble in the world, it takes commitment to stand up and speak out, and to bring change. And Judy’s not the only one responding to the chaos of Charlottesville. In fact, most of the world, including Christian leaders from many countries, are responding to what happened – not only because Heather Heyer died, but because the vilest form of hate – represented by the swastika and the white robes of the KKK – has risen up to claim a voice in the streets of that powerful country that sets itself up as the moral leader of the world – a form of hate which many veterans gave their lives to resist in the war – a form of hate that led to the slaughter of millions – a form of hate that would string a man up, torture, mutilate and kill him because of the colour of his skin. These things happened – we humans did this to one another – and not so long ago.

Heather Heyer
Murdered by Nazi’s in America standing up for Justice
American Exceptionalism…
Torch Bearing Nazis March in the Night in 2017!

My friends, this has nothing to do with politics, because we know that there’s good and bad in every political platform. This has to do with right and wrong! This has to do with a rising ethos of white supremacy that decent human beings thought had been at least quieted decades ago. This has to do with decent people saying it’s not okay that our Jewish or Asian or Brown or Black brothers and sisters are pushed aside. And for you and me, this has to do with Christians taking a stand against something that is in complete opposition to everything Jesus taught.

It’s hard for me, for white people, to see the severity of this threat of white supremacy, because it doesn’t threaten me – it doesn’t personally or directly threaten me. Those of us with white privilege can live our lives blindly and happily completely unaware of what’s happening to other people. It’s so easy for us to say “Everything looks just fine to me – what’s all the fuss about?”
We must take a hard lesson from history here, and remember early Nazi Germany, when the Christian Church turned a blind eye as the government slowly and insidiously started segregating the Jewish people. First, they made it mandatory that they be marked with patches of the Star of David, and arm bands, taking away their autonomy by denying them the right to individual anonymity.

Then you’d find that your Jewish neighbors no longer lived in their house next door because they were pulled out of their homes, away from their possessions, and gradually isolated, pushed out to the fringes of the cities. Their rights were compromised one by one, until they had lost their freedom. There was a slow and steady normalization of placing the Aryan race above, and Jews and others beneath. But why should the church be concerned? It wasn’t affecting them. Can we hear that?

The Signs of those Terrible Times were EVERYWHERE!
But the Church Turned it’s Head!

Just like the rise of White Supremacists and the re-emerging KKK doesn’t affect us white people right now. Back then, the church was left alone by the powers in charge, and so they bought the deal. And to this day, they bear the shame and the guilt of that choice. Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn’t buy it, though. He was a humble German pastor who spoke out against the evil of Hitler because he saw where it was heading – to the ruthless torture, degradation and slaughter of millions of innocent human beings. He stood up and said, “Christians! Wake up! This is as far away from the gospel as one can get!” He was executed in prison for speaking out.

Reverend Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A Righteous German Churchman who Gave his Life Opposing Hitler

I’m not going to talk about how or why these hate groups have felt empowered to rise up again – that would take hours – but every expert out there is telling us that they are rising up again, threatening to become much bigger than Charlottesville. As of yesterday, there were at least 9 more rallies planned by white supremacists across the States. And here in Canada, there are similar rallies planned in Vancouver and Montreal, and the Canadian white supremacy websites are lighting up like a carnival.

Similar things are happening in England and elsewhere, so I’m afraid, my friends, that this is a thing. It’s happening. To be indifferent at this time in history when the whole world is challenging what’s happening just south of us – to be indifferent is just as dangerous to our moral integrity as it was for those Christians in Nazi Germany. But don’t take my word for it…here’s what Christian leaders and others are saying….
Debra Kolb says the opposite of love is not hate, its indifference. To be silent is to take a side.

One of the most respected Christian leaders and theologians of our time, Brian McLaren, says, clergy, church leaders, it’s time. It’s actually past time. It would have been good if Christians had seen throughout history that loving their Indigenous and African American neighbors would not mean genocide or enslavement or white supremacy or lynching. But we failed to understand the most basic message of Christ’s teaching … love for everyone – no exceptions. So white supremacy became systematically embedded in our systems and structures and we see the results today. It’s long past time for Christians to resist.
Long-respected news anchor Dan Rather says he covered the civil rights movement in the 60’s and he says tragically, what happened in Charlottesville demonstrates that history might be repeated. He remembers that Dr. Martin Luther King felt that if people who are unaffected by racism could see the true depth of the hatred, could see what it looked like, they would recoil. But he says, we are once again peering into an abyss. Perhaps we needed to see how easily our moral order can break down. This is a moment for moral clarity – a time for everyone to line up and be counted. Are you on the side of love or hate? The world is watching. History is watching. I hope we’re up to the challenge, he says, and I think we are.

A huge gathering of North American Christian clergy made this statement: All humans are created in the image of God, and yet in Charlottesville, white hatred, anti-Semitism and violence were on bold display. This hateful rally of white supremacists seeks to destroy the very soul of the country. White supremacist beliefs, the KKK, Neo-Nazis, the alt-right, are antithetical to our scriptures. One cannot serve God and embrace hate and inequality. Most importantly, one cannot be silent.
Our own Anglican Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz says: The events in Charlottesville, Virginia and the very real threat of more activities on the part of white supremacy movements, have been a painful reminder that racialized violence is a sad reality of our time, not only in the United States, but in our own country too. The escalation of racial tension causes great anxiety. Let us pray for the Church’s witness in the midst of this growing crisis. May we be united, courageous and unwavering, in denouncing racism and in proclaiming the God-given dignity all people deserve.

My regular theologians, Dr’s. Lewis, Skinner and Jacobsen said this: This is a moment when the church has to speak up. We cannot be vague and careful about this; we can’t be afraid because some people want church to be comfortable and safe. We must be faithful to the gospel we are paid to preach. White supremacy is a sin in all its forms, rooted in the worst, most erroneous theology imaginable. If the church does not speak up against Neo Nazism, the KKK, white supremacy and anti-Semitism, we will be complicit in our silence.

And finally, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” When evil rises up, Christians are called to respond from the core of our teaching. This is why the church exists – to name what is broken in the world and to stand up for justice.

Friends, this is about more than one or two little protests gone wrong. This is about the re-emergence of an evil that, if ignored by indifference, if allowed to become normalized in small steps, can take the whole world down an amoral pathway to the purest evil. But now we return to our earlier question…..how do we break the tyranny of sin? How do we remain faithful heirs of God’s kind of justice? How do we respond to this encroaching craziness?

• By opening our eyes to see that, even if a movement doesn’t hurt you, if it hurts your fellow man, it is your problem too.
• By teaching your children and your grandchildren what Jesus taught – that everyone belongs in God’s kingdom, without exception. By talking to them about Charlottesville, white supremacy, the truth about the KKK, what the Nazi flag actually represents. These lessons will spread out into the future and affect the world through those you influence with your words of truth.
• By speaking up at work or in your neighbourhood or amongst friends and colleagues when you hear talk of any religion, race or culture being excluded, isolated or oppressed.
• By praying for wisdom and guidance to respond to hate with God’s powerful love.
• By letting leaders know that we will not stand for the intolerance or oppression of any group of human beings; that we will not vote for leaders who do.
• By working hard to become a community right here, where people don’t even have to think about whether or not they’ll be fully welcomed…they just feel the love from the moment they walk in.
Joseph broke the tyranny of sin by forgiving in love instead of seeking vengeance in hate.

Jesus broke the tyranny of sin by embracing someone that everyone else wanted to exclude. The church cannot be a place that ignores the pain of the world. We cannot escape the suffering of our brothers and sisters, no matter how comfortable things might be for us personally. The church must speak out when the tyranny of sin from the past threatens to become the tyranny of sin in the present.

But our God is a great God, who always brings good news. And the good news for us today is this. Love will always prevail in the long run, because hate eats people up from the inside, and exhausts them. Love is far more powerful and enduring. Love fulfills us and transforms us and brings peace to us and to those around us. That holy love can even touch the hearts of the haters and bring them peace, because in the end Love Trumps hate! It is God’s love, my dear friends, working in us and through us, that will break the tyranny of sin.
Thanks be to God. Amen

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Sermon TSP ELEVENTH Sunday After Pentecost Year A 20 August 2017
By: Reverend Susanne
Priest in the Anglican Communion of Canada.

 

IN REMEMBRANCE OF MY BABY SISTER….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 7, 2017 by playthell

Finally She is done with the Troubles of This World. Now she dwells in that mysterious realm…where righteous spirits rest

A couple of days ago my baby sis, Claudia Morton, whom I loved more than any words I know can express, danced and joined the ancestors. Being an atheist, I cannot claim to know the name of “that mysterious realm where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death,” as the poet William Cullen Bryant put it in his epic contemplation of death “Thanatopsis.” Yet what I can say for certain is that if there is a paradise beyond this world, where good folks go when they leave us for an afterlife, Baby Sis is there.

I know this because I have never met a finer person in my life. Yet I have met people from all over the world, got to know many of them, and sometimes feel that I have greeted everybody twice. Hence, I have observed a representative sample of what the homo Sapien species has to offer. And Claudia represented the crème de la crème. She was smart, courageous, strong, generous, competent, loving and loyal. Plus she was a chocolate beauty who was elegant of style and manner like her gorgeous pecan tan mom – who shaped and cultivated her and my older sister Melba as if they were rare orchids.

Both of them grew up to be leaders in the educational professions because they deeply believed in the power of education to help all people make full and productive lives. It is a family value, passed on by two generations of female educators that preceded them. Yet beyond all these things Claudia was something different and something more, alas it must go unnamed because I can conjure up no suitable superlatives to accurately describe it – even tho I have command of the language that has nourished many the world’s greatest poets, novelists and dramatist – Shakespeare, Tony Morrison and the King James Bible.

Aside from Claudia’s magnificence as a person, there was the love and admiration she always showered on me; no big brother was ever more richly rewarded with an adoring little sister. About seven years my junior, I was twelve when Claudia was five and she would just tag along behind me all over the house and yard – we lived in Florida at the time and enjoyed spacious front and back yards. And she thought I could do anything!

When I have had some time to reflect, I will have more to say about my baby sister, for there is much worth recounting of her story. She spent her life helping others gain a better life, and there are many success stories that have resulted from her efforts. But at the moment, I must confess that I am puzzled. I am at a lost to explain by what cosmic accident I have outlived her; it seems the natural order of things is out of order…as if the sun suddenly began to revolve around the earth.

Claudia came into this world at the height of the hurricane season in Florida, and departed amidst the fireworks of the 4th of July.  It is no wonder that she was a bundle of energy that was prone to shake things up wherever she went. To make a difference.  Claudia’s memory will live forever in my heart and mind; my unbridled love and admiration for her will never die; and her departure leaves a hole in my soul that can never be filled. And I am certain that if there is any truth to the Bible, when the Saints come marching in…. Claudia will be in their number.

**********************

Playthell G. Benjamin
July 7, 2017
Carliase Pa

April Fools?

Posted in On Donald Trump, On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized with tags , on April 7, 2017 by playthell

Dumb and Dumber

Trump Strikes Syria!

“All Motion is Not Progress” observed Mao Tse Tung, a revolutionary philosopher and leader of the great Chinese Revolution.  Americans who are applauding the strike on Syria with 59 Cruise missiles, at a cost of nearly 30 million dollars for the missiles alone, should take a pause and consider the implications of this action by our government.  The paramount questions that begs an answer is: what is the strategic objective of US policy in Syria, and what role does this strike play in achieving that goal?

Based upon the public pronouncements of Donald Trump, who ordered the strike, and his surrogates the answers to these questions are elusive.  This is because we have a President for whom the complexities of international relations are at best a mystery, as is the art and science of governing in general.  Hence for years he has been an ardent opponent of the US taking any action against the Assad government.  The comments of this tweeting twit on Twitter are prolific on this question.

Yet when a chemical weapon was dropped on a group of Syrian civilians, some reports claim in was the deadly Sarin gas, Trump was quick to blame it on President Obama’s weakness in failing to act in 2013, when somebody launched a gas attack in Syria. The criticism of President Obama’s failure to take military action is based on the fact that he had drawn a “Red Line” in the sand that would prompt an American military response if Assad crossed it.

However, President Obama’s reluctance to act militarily in this case was based on several factors: Uncertainty as to who employed the gas; the fact that he had pledged to voters that he would end America’s protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and keep us out of new wars in the Middle-East, and failure of the US Congress to authorize a military attack on Syria which he requested.  Many people who voted for Obama did so based upon his promise of pursuing peace, I know I did.

Hence in my view, President Obama’s management of the Syrian situation displayed Solomonic wisdom. Furthermore, I would argue that this was characteristic of his approach to foreign policy in a turbulent time that witnessed the revolutionary outburst of mass movements collectively called the “Arab Spring,” the conflict in the Ukraine which could have thrown us into a military conflict with a nuclear armed Russia, and the rise of the militant Islamic Caliphate called ISIS, which arose from the ashes of the misbegotten US attack on Iraq.  How fortunate we would be if only Trump were only half as wise.

All objective observers of US foreign policy during the Obama administration agree that his actions were well thought out and based on a strategic vision of international relations; he sought to build effective alliances with concerned parties in troubled areas of the world, and acted deliberately not impulsively.   None of this is true of Donald Trump.  He has no strategic vision because he does not appear to have ever thought deeply about anything beyond his next real estate or branding deal.  His abdominal ignorance of the problems that he must now address is exemplified by his recent observation “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” and his sudden discovery that there are atrocities being committed against children in Syria.

Trump’s ignorance and indifference to the enormity and complexity of the Syrian conflict was exemplified in the policy statement by his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “The fate of President Assad will be determined by the Syrian people.”  To begin with, this was a repudiation of the Obama doctrine that the pre-condition for a permanent settlement which could bring peace to Syria was the removal of Assad from office. Tillerson’s announcement was no fluke; it was a restatement of a long-held belief of his boss, whose views on the matter are widely documented in the public record.

Hence Trump’s attempt to blame President Obama for the recent gas attack is the acme of hypocrisy! It is the pronouncement of a shameless charlatan and pathological liar. At the time, while others condemned Obama for his restraint in Syria, “The Donald” praised it!   His attempt to cast blame on Obama now is a transparent attempt to shift the blame from his ill-conceived policy of support for Assad expressed by Tillerson: Which is the real cause of the chemical attack. Since both Trump and Tillerson are novices at politics and foreign affairs, they failed to recognize that their statement was viewed by Assad as a green light to do whatever he wanted!

Viewed from this perspective, Trump’s attack on Syria must be seen as a smoke screen designed to deflect his responsibility for the horrendous gas attack on Syrian civilians; which the whole world viewed with stunned horror.  Hence, like the clueless scatter brain that he is, Trump acted on impulse and attacked Syria.  This is not part of any strategic plan because he has none.  This is verified by the fact that just a few days ago he had no problem with Assad’s leadership – as Tillerson’s policy statement nad Trump’s long record of support for the Syrian butcher will testify.

All observable evidence suggest that Trump gave no more thought to this assault on a sovereign country – with no attempt to get the support of the United Nations, the Arab League, the US Congress, or any of the regional powers – than his pre-dawn Twitter attacks.  It is an erratic, irrational, temper tantrum with no thought about its consequences.  And as the dawn of a new day approaches – Alas, I am writing this in the wee hours because the gravitas of the questions raised by this latest American military assault invades my dreams and destroys any attempt to sleep – we can only wonder what new dramas it will bring.

Just as when George W. Bush invaded Iraq with the spectacular bombing spree labeled “Shock and Awe,” millions of Americans are applauding this attack on Syria by American military forces.  I titled my essay on Bush’s attack “March Madness,” and I warned of its unintended consequences;which verily came to pass pretty much as I predicted.  I am titling this essay “April Fools?”  The title reflects my contention that this strike is not well thought out and the unintended consequences could prove disastrous.

Aside from the fact that we might have injured or killed some Russian military personnel, which would throw us into a crisis with a nuclear armed Russia that can reduce every city in the United States to a pile of radio-active rubble in a half hour from now, this attack on Syria is as illegal under international law as was the invasion of Iraq.  Yet after all is said and done, the most alarming thing about this attack is the real possibility that Trump launched it to improve his popularity in the opinion polls, where his approval rating is at a historic low.

As cynical as this sounds, when we consider the fact that Trump closed America’s doors to the children of war torn Syria seeking refuge in America, despite pictures every bit as horrible as those from the gassing, a thoughtful person cannot help but view his present concern for their welfare with a jaundiced eye, a cynical attempt to benefit from their tragedy.  As depraved as this seems, it is typical behavior for a “con man” with “no moral center;” which is how Donald J. Trump was routinely described by his fellow Republicans…..before he won the election, moved into the Oval Office, and promised to make all their right-wing dreams come true.

One of the most troubling questions raised by this attack is, if Trump can so quickly turn on a Head of State whom he has supported for years, what effect will this have on other nations at whom Trump has directed a steady stream of threats and invective such as North Korea, Iran and even China.

As I write the Chinese leader is visiting with Trump at his palatial estate in Florida, where he spends almost as much time as he spends in Washington, at great expense to American tax payers.  Although his home town, New York City, is much closer: he dare not come here.   In fact, Trump is so dispised in this city he may never be able to come home again!  It will be interesting to hear what Chinese President, Xi Jinpin, has to say about the attack on Syria.  Being a disciplined political actor skilled at the art of diplomacy I suspect his remarks will be restrained, respectful of the norms that mediate relations between nations.

Xi Jinping is here on a mission to improve relations with the US, China’s main trading partner.  As the leader of a nation with 20% of the world’s population, the Chinese are very careful to avoid military conflicts despite their formidable armed forces.  It is a policy that serves them well; it has allowed them to modernize at a rapid pace and grow the second largest economy in the world, which is predicted to surpass the US in GDP by 2050.

The paramount principle that guides Chinese foreign policy is non-interference in the affairs of other sovereign countries.  And they stick to this policy without significant deviation.  They have the largest army in the world but no foreign bases or troop deployments.  On the other hand, the US, with a fraction of China’s population have bases and soldiers all over the world and are fighting in multiple wars that seem unending.

The amount of blood and treasure we expend on foreign military adventures – along with the failure of the plutocrats to pay their fair share of taxes – is the principal reason why we cannot afford to rebuild our aging crumbling infrastructure, which is essential to our prosperity.  The Chinese see this all to clearly, and they are determined not to follow our example of meddling in everyone’s affairs as if the Gods gave America a mandate to rule the world.

This is why I am convinced that the Chinese will not play the role of disciplining North Korea for developing a nuclear weapons program that the US has assigned them. And given the US attack on Syria, the North Koreans are probably going on a war footing for real, imperiling the future of South Korea, which would be devastated if a war broke out on the Korean peninsula.

However listening to the pundits and the politicians on both sides of the aisle, as they raise their voices in something resembling victory cheers, I dispair for the prospects of peace.  The danger of perpetual war is real and is reflected in the comment of that old warmongering chameleon John McCain: “This is not the beginning of the end….but the end of the beginning.”  

History will judge Trump and his belicose confederates with unrelenting candor…and their deadly devious deeds will be duly noted.  But, alas, dealing with the unintended consequences of the Twittering Twit’s impulsive bombing of Syria, remains the burden of all Americans at this moment.

It’s On!

The US War on Syria has begun!
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Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Dissents

Tellin it like it is!

There is an avalanche of opinions now being expressed on Trump’s attack on Syria, but none is more compelling than that of Congresswonam Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic Representative from Hawaii.   Congresswoman Gabbard’s remarks are especially important because she is a former combat officer from the Afghan war,  Her experience in combat there has made he a passionate non-interventionists who is hostile to “Chicken Hawks” who promote wars for other’s to fight.  Like Donnie Trump . a notorious Vietnam era draft dodger, who avoided the war not for principled philosophical or religious reasons. but because he was a rich, entitled, cowardly party boy.  The great columnist and native New Yorker, who also hailed from Queens like Donnie, had this to say of his Homie: “Trump is a fake tough guy who couldn’t fight his way out of an empty lot!!!”
Athough celebrated corporate pudits such as Thomas Friedman, the three time Pulitzer Prize winning Foreign Affairs columnist at the New York Times, Joined by David Ignacious and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, are gushing over the reckless bravado of Donald Trump,  I remain highly skeptical about the mission’s motive, utility and consequences.
Yet because he is such a pompous know-it-all the contrarian in my soul cannot resist pointing out that Tommy Friedman was grieveously mistaken about the Iraq War; he went so far off the beam in supporting Bush’s war of choice with spurious ahistorical arguments that he was forced to write a column apologizng to his readers for having led them astray  by “not asking the right questions.”  On the other hand my essay, written on the eve of the invasion, has withstood the test of time and been confirmed by history.   Titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly,” it reads as if it were written by Nostradamus, and can be read on this site under the heading “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq.”
What Friedman and other “major” corporate  mooks of both of both political pursuasions had to say on that subject is analyzed in my essay “How the Iraq War Was Hatched in a Think Tank.”   The fun part of this essay is when their views about the Iraq War is compared to mine!   Alas, what these same pundits had  to say on Trump’s bombing of Syria last night sounds like pompous American exceptionalist bullshit when compared to what  Tulsi Gabbad had this to say about the fake President’s military adventure:
 “It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government. This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia.
This Administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States’ attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning. If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court. However, because of our attack on Syria, this investigation may now not even be possible. And without such evidence, a successful prosecution will be much harder.”
A Decorated Combat Officer

For more on this remarkable woman search her name on this site.
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 7, 2017

 

 

US Employing Wrong Strategy Against ISIS

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 6, 2015 by playthell
Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi-Al-Qaeda-Iraq-ISIS-400x330
ISIS Leader Caliph Ibrahim: The Sword of Allah

On Repeating the Mistakes of History

American foreign policy and diplomacy seems to have lost its way. While we spend thousands of hours in league with other nations negotiating a treaty to prevent Iran from acquiring a single primitive atomic bomb – which the US Senate is threatening to reject – a US led NATO is engaging in activities in Eastern Europe that could accidently lead to a nuclear war that would destroy all life on this planet in an hour!  And our search for an effective strategy against ISIS, a clear and present menace to much of the world, has proved an exercise in futility characterized by a series of fool’s errands alas.  In fact, all the evidence suggests that US policy makers have learned nothing from the disastrous adventure in Iraq under George Bush.

While there are myriad lessons to be learned from that catastrophe, I believe the most important is to understand that the US invasion of Iraq as a response to Al Qaeda, the perpetrator of the 9/11 attack on the US, was a cold and cynical deception.   It was clear to all serious students of politics in the Islamic world that Iraq had no relationship to al Qaeda; yet Dirty Dick Cheney, Donny Rumsfeld and their henchmen among the policy wonks like Dr. Paul Wolfowitz argued that their objective was to prevent Al Qaeda from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.  Hence these incompetent ideologues invaded Iraq, when subsequent events have shown that the wisest course of action for US policy would have been to form a military alliance with Sadam Hussein against Osama bin Ladin.  This would have been a piece of cake!

In Sadam we would have found a wise, willing and ruthless ally; exactly what we needed to defeat the Jihadists in al Qaeda.  He was wise because no one had been more effective in suppressing Muslim fundamentalist militants i.e. “Jihadists” than the secular military strongmen of the Islamic world.   Abdel Gamel Nasser of Egypt, and his successors Anwar Sadat (who was assassinated by a Muslim fanatic) and Honsi  Mubarak.  Mummar Quadafi of Lybia; General Musharif in Pakistan, and Sadam Hussein in Iraq were all cut from the same mold as anti-Jihadist strongmen.

Sadam and al Qaeda were natural enemies because according to the theology of al Qaeda all Arab heads of secular states are apostates.  And the penalty for apostasy is death!    The only legitimate governments are those based on Sharia Law in their view.  Hence if al Qaeda came to power in Iraq Sadam was a dead man. Thus it was either madness, or a grand deception, guided by the advice of right-wing Republican policy wonks in The Project for a New American Century, that led George Bush to invade Iraq in response to an attack by Jihadists from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, America’s closest allies in the Middle-East.  (See: “How the Iraq War was Hatched in a Think Tank” on this blog)  It would be like us getting attacked by Canadian terrorists and invading Mexico in retaliation.  As silly as it sounds, the decision to invade Iraq was not a jot or tittle smarter.

Now we are facing a far more deadly Jihadist enemy that al Qaeda, The Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and the Levant aka ISIL or ISIS.  Whereas al Qaeda is a stateless organization consisting of loosely coordinated cells spread around the world that can be activated to carry out clandestine surprise attacks, ISIL is an actual 21st century Islamic Caliphate with a government structure that is divided into civilian and military departments, a tax collection system and a sizable territorial base that is divided into provinces.  But most of all it is a base for revolutionary Islamic forces who ae pledged to cleanse the Islamic world of apostates and then spread the law of Muhammad to the entire world.

Ready to die for Islam…..
ISIS Militants II
And Kill Too!

ISIS Burns Pilot

Even Committ Mass Murders….

ISIS Mass Killings

In the Name of God!

As with al Qaeda, ISIS is first of all concerned with its enemies in the Muslim world, those who refuse to accept their version of Islam as the one true doctrine.  The question of what sacred edicts and scripture actually mean in the real world has been the cause of much bloodshed throughout history – especially among the Semitic monotheists i.e. Christians, Muslims and Jews – but with ISIS it has become a matter of life and death as it was in the medieval world.  And to make matters even more horrifying they have greatly expanded the definition as to which acts qualify as apostasy.

Originally apostasy had to do with denying the divine mission of the Prophet Muhammad or rejecting his teachings, but under ISIS’s theology it can range from selling alcohol and shaving your beard, to voting for a Muslim candidate in an election and being s Shite.  All Shiites are considered Apostates because they innovated on the original teachings of the prophets such as praying at the gravesides of departed Imams, and the public self-flagellation rituals that are central to Shiite religious practice.  For these eighteen hundred year old theological disputes Caliph Ibrahim, the absolute ruler of ISIS who holds a PhD in Sharia Law, thinks all Shiites should be put to the sword.  Hence it is perfectly acceptable to blow up their Mosques and murder them where the practice their apostasy!

Who could make better allies against ISIS than Iran: the greatest nation of Shiites in the world?  Try as I might I can conjure no rival to the Shiite Persians as allies against the Sunni Jihadists.   An August 27 article by Rick Francona – a former air-force intelligence officer and CIA operative stationed in Iraq during the Iraqi invasion of Iran, who now works as a military analyst for CNN – titled “Is your Government lying to you about ISIS?” supplies further evidence in support of my position.  After questioning “the rosy portrayal” of American successes against ISIS forces “coming out of the pentagon,” assuring us that ISIS forces are on the defensive, Col Francona tells us:

I remember the reports of the “success” of the Iraqi Army in ejecting ISIS from the city of Tikrit, when most of the actual fighting was done by Iranian-trained and led Shi’a militias. As the Pentagon assured us that ISIS was now contained, the Islamists mounted a successful assault on the city of al-Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar province, located on the Euphrates River just 65 miles from Baghdad – all the while under attack from the air. This hardly fits the definition of ‘on the defensive’”

From all observable signs and measurable activities the US is not winning the war against ISIS; they are growing more powerful as I write alas.  And the Republicans are sure to attempt to block any workable strategy.  They are to blinded by ideology, racism and Iranophobia that they propose absurd self-defeating policies and oppose strategies that could lead to success.  It would be crazy to arm the so-called “Free Syrian Army” because if we employ history as our guide it is easy to predict that those arms will end up in the hands of ISIS.

However if victory is the goal of US policy against ISIS an alliance with Iran will insure it!  President Obama’s looming success on the nuclear treaty with Iran will avert the probability of war just now,  but the Republican’s show no signs of concede defeat on Iran policy; the Coker-Cardin bill , which attempts to bar President Obama from waiving the sanctions that were imposed by Congress is their latest effort.  But because this legislation, pretentiously titled “the Iran Nuclear Agreement Act of 2015,” would violate the terms of the treaty, it has no real chance of becoming law unless the Republicans hold the Congress and elect a Republican president in 2016.

However, I believe that running on a platform of repealing the treaty and starting a war with Iran may help win the Republican primary, it will prove a milestone around the necks of Republican candidates that could well sink the Grand Obstructionist Party in the general election.  And that would be a good thing for America….and the world.

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Playthell G. Benjamin

On the Road in Cali

September 6, 2015

Reflections on Abraham Lincoln and Slavery

Posted in Uncategorized on January 5, 2015 by playthell

 

Rappin with Robert Allen Jones, Janie Jones and Miss Barbra 002 The First Baptist Church of St. Augustine Florida

 A New Year’s Remembrance circa 2015

When I was a boy the black churches in Florida used to hold a “Watchman” service every New Year’s Eve. As I remember it we would gather in First Baptist Church around ten o’clock, and there would be singing and sermons and communal prayers. At some point the electric lights would be turned off and we would sit by candle light as the preacher would call out “Watchman what time it is!” And the Watchman would reply “It’s eleven o’clock” and so on at various intervals growing shorter as we got round bout midnight until the New Year dawned and the congregation rejoiced in jubilation. Then we would enjoy a delicious repast prepared by the sisters in the basement of the church.

Held in the shadow of the old slave market, whose iron and stone structure was still standing a few blocks away just as it was during ante-bellum times, the Watchman ceremony had real meaning to the people at First Baptist. For unlike today, when young black people talk so glibly about how “nothing has changed” and a New York Times sports writer who ought to know better titles his book about rich black professional athletes “Forty Million Dollar Slaves,” there were still people in our community who had been been born into slavery and they and their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were among those huddled in the church waiting for the clock to strike midnight.

The Old Slave Market in Downtown St. Augustine

My Trip to florida with Makeda ETC 509

We viewed this as a sobering symbol of how far we had come

 I have no doubt that if these people who carried the memories of slavery in their hearts and minds could hear 21st century Afro-Americans, living in a time when a black family occupies the White House and many other black people doing everything they are good enough to do, comparing their problems to those of slaves they would surely have regarded such words as the mutterings of fools or a scandalous attempt to mock their ordeal in the hell of American slavery – one of the worse systems of human bondage ever devised by the minds of evil men. Harriet Tubman said it was “worse than hell” and Frederick Douglass told a white audience “One minute” as an American slave “was worse than centuries of that which your forefathers arose in armed revolt against.” Hence to anybody that actually experienced slavery – like my Aunts Gussie and Sally, who showed me the lash marks from the overseer’s whip – the casual equations of their conditions with the problems faced by present day Afro-Americans would be viewed as blasphemy.

They would also have looked upon the denigration of Abraham Lincoln’s role in ending their bondage and bringing about the Day of Jubilee, when the Emancipation Proclamation became law, as sacrilegious. The reverence with which President Lincoln was held by Afro-Americans in St. Augustine Florida is self-evident in the name they chose for their community, the oldest in the nation, which before the Civil War was known as “Little Africa,” but after Emancipation was renamed “Lincolnville.” Even Frederick Douglass – who famously spoke in the city after the Civil War put an end to slavery – and was quite candid in his criticism of Lincoln, had this to say about the assassinated president at the Washington dedication of the statue by Thomas Ball known as the “Freedman’s Memorial,” on April 14, 1876:

“We are here in the District of Columbia, here in the city of Washington, the most luminous point of American territory; a city recently transformed and made beautiful in its body and in its spirit; we are here in the place where the ablest and best men of the country are sent to devise the policy, enact the laws, and shape the destiny of the Republic; we are here, with the stately pillars and majestic dome of the Capitol of the nation looking down upon us; we are here, with the broad earth freshly adorned with the foliage and flowers of spring for our church, and all races, colors, and conditions of men for our congregation — in a word, we are here to express, as best we may, by appropriate forms and ceremonies, our grateful sense of the vast, high, and preeminent services rendered to ourselves, to our race, to our country, and to the whole world by Abraham Lincoln.”

Douglass would go on to say: “we, the colored people, newly emancipated and rejoicing in our blood-bought freedom, near the close of the first century in the life of this Republic, have now and here unveiled, set apart, and dedicated a monument of enduring granite and bronze, in every line, feature, and figure of which the men of this generation may read, and those of aftercoming generations may read, something of the exalted character and great works of Abraham Lincoln, the first martyr President of the United States.”

The Freedman’s Memorial

Freedman's Memorial II

A Commemoration by Former Slaves

Having begun by unambiguously enumerating Lincoln’s virtues, Douglass, the most incisive and thoughtful commentator on the great issues of his time, understood that in order to learn from history one had to first tell it like it was. Hence he made no attempt to mask Lincoln’s shortcomings. He told the august gathering:

We fully comprehend the relation of Abraham Lincoln both to ourselves and to the white people of the United States. Truth is proper and beautiful at all times and in all places, and it is never more proper and beautiful in any case than when speaking of a great public man whose example is likely to be commended for honor and imitation long after his departure to the solemn shades, the silent continents of eternity. It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.

He was preeminently the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans. He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slavery.

His arguments in furtherance of this policy had their motive and mainspring in his patriotic devotion to the interests of his own race. To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery in the states where it existed Abraham Lincoln was not less ready than any other President to draw the sword of the nation. He was ready to execute all the supposed guarantees of the United States Constitution in favor of the slave system anywhere inside the slave states. He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master were already in arms against the Government.

The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration. Knowing this, I concede to you, my white fellow-citizens, a pre-eminence in this worship at once full and supreme. First, midst, and last, you and yours were the objects of his deepest affection and his most earnest solicitude. You are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity.”

Frederick Douglass

Frederick douglass III

The Wisest Voice in the Nation

Then with his characteristic eloquence and unfailing evenhanded approach to argument, he noted:

“When, therefore, it shall be asked what we have to do with the memory of Abraham Lincoln, or what Abraham Lincoln had to do with us, the answer is ready, full, and complete. Though he loved Caesar less than Rome, though the Union was more to him than our freedom or our future, under his wise and beneficent rule we saw ourselves gradually lifted from the depths of slavery to the heights of liberty and manhood; under his wise and beneficent rule, and by measures approved and vigorously pressed by him, we saw that the handwriting of ages, in the form of prejudice and proscription, was rapidly fading away from the face of our whole country; under his rule, and in due time, about as soon after all as the country could tolerate the strange spectacle, we saw our brave sons and brothers laying off the rags of bondage, and being clothed all over in the blue uniforms of the soldiers of the United States; under his rule we saw two hundred thousand of our dark and dusky people responding to the call of Abraham Lincoln, and with muskets on their shoulders, and eagles on their buttons, timing their high footsteps to liberty and union under the national flag; under his rule we saw the independence of the black republic of Haiti, the special object of slave-holding aversion and horror, fully recognized, and her minister, a colored gentleman, duly received here in the city of Washington; under his rule we saw the internal slave-trade, which so long disgraced the nation, abolished, and slavery abolished in the District of Columbia; under his rule we saw for the first time the law enforced against the foreign slave trade, and the first slave-trader hanged like any other pirate or murderer; under his rule, assisted by the greatest captain of our age, and his inspiration, we saw the Confederate States, based upon the idea that our race must be slaves, and slaves forever, battered to pieces and scattered to the four winds; under his rule, and in the fullness of time, we saw Abraham Lincoln, after giving the slave-holders three months’ grace in which to save their hateful slave system, penning the immortal paper, which, though special in its language, was general in its principles and effect, making slavery forever impossible in the United States. Though we waited long, we saw all this and more.”

The wise and candid Douglass, who had devoted his entire adult life to the struggle for the abolition of slavery, who had rejected the call to African emigration issued by the nationalist intellectuals who opted for “African Redemption,” a euphemism for Afro-American colonization of Africa supported by the white racist in the American Colonization Society, asked if free blacks left America: “who would speak for the millions in chains.” Having been a slave – unlike the African Redemptionist such as Reverend Alexander Crummell, Dr. Martin R. Delany, and Reverend Edward Wilmont Blyden -no one was more emotionally invested in the evolution of the Emancipation Proclamation in a land where the enslavement of Africans and their descendants was a life sentence.   And he provides us moving first hand testimony as to the mood of African Americans on the eve of the Emancipation…the first “Watch Night.”

Can any colored man, or any white man friendly to the freedom of all men, ever forget the night which followed the first day of January, 1863,” he asks, “when the world was to see if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be as good as his word? I shall never forget that memorable night, when in a distant city I waited and watched at a public meeting, with three thousand others not less anxious than myself, for the word of deliverance which we have heard read today. Nor shall I ever forget the outburst of joy and thanksgiving that rent the air when the lightning brought to us the emancipation proclamation. In that happy hour we forgot all delay, and forgot all tardiness, forgot that the President had bribed the rebels to lay down their arms by a promise to withhold the bolt which would smite the slave-system with destruction; and we were thenceforward willing to allow the President all the latitude of time, phraseology, and every honorable device that statesmanship might require for the achievement of a great and beneficent measure of liberty and progress.”

Black Folk at Watchman Ceremony

Watchman Service on New Year's Eve

A black southern church in the early 20th century

For anyone interested in a balanced assessment of Abraham Lincoln this speech by Frederick Douglass is a must read; the text can be easily found on Google. But for the purpose of this essay I shall offer but one other quote. It was selected for its clarity in stating a fact that few of Lincoln’s contemporary critics recognize: Politics is the art of the possible! Douglas, astute political analyst that he was, understood that Lincoln was not a king; that his power was checked by two other branches of government, and that powerful members of both branches vehemently opposed any attempt at emancipating black slaves. Given that reality he had to make deals, enter into compromises that offended moral purists. He did not always understand this and was wont to condemn these vacillations, but in the end Douglass saw the light.

I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.”

Alas, as the learned and insightful social/intellectual historian and thoughtful commentator on America politics and culture Harold Cruse has observed: Americans are anti-intellectual and anti-historical. Thus people who regard themselves as well educated enough to post their opinions about weighty historical matters on Facebook – that great unmediated forum of opinion – do not take the time to read what Frederick Douglass thought of President Lincoln, despite the fact that they were contemporaries and Douglass watched his every move because ending slavery was the grand crusade of his life. Instead they seek the opinion of popular historians and magazine writers and swear by them.

Indeed, the raison d’etre of this essay is just such an opinion posted on Facebook. The self-assured commentator is convinced that he has found out “the truth” about Lincoln he feels compelled to spread it with the conviction of a Jack legged preacher proclaiming “the good news,” and with no less conviction.

“Folks really need to read Lerone Bennett’s book on Lincoln, “Forced Into Glory.” the writer tells us, “People like Lyman Trumball, Wendell Phillips, Thaddeus Stevens, all more progressive than Lincoln on race. Lincoln used nigger more than Richard Pryor and refused to sign two of the Confiscation Acts which would have doomed slavery years before the Emancipation Proclamation. And the emancipation thing enslaved a half million black people when it was enacted and freed none. But yeah I get the popular mythology of Lincoln”

President Lincoln at Antietam Battlefield

Abraham Lincoln Antietam

The Civil War….and Lincoln’s prosecution of it is no myth

Like most polemics that prize passion over reason this argument misses the mark by a mile.  From the outset our self-styled savant is fatally handicapped by his ignorance of history.    Lyrone Bennet Jr, a friend and respected scribe with whom I shared the podium on several occasions, was a very compelling magazine feature writer, not a professional historian.  This is a distinction that laymen are not equipped to understand but is in a very real distinction nonetheless.

In a nutshell what it boils down to is that historians go to the original records and attempt to present objective arguments based on that evidence regardless of their personal feelings about the subject.  And the work they produce is subjected to rigorous peer review.  Stacking the evidence in order to make a polemical point is called “Special Pleading.”  In its worst manifestation it is called “popular mythology,” which is what magazine writers do.  It is an approach to historical writing that is universally rejected by professional historians, and for very good reason.

Lyrone Bennett was Senior Editor of Ebony Magazine, whose role as stated by its founder and longtime publisher, John Johnson, is to report positive news about black Americans and denounce racist discrimination.  It is a noble goal but it is not what professional historians are about.  The failure to understand this distinction is what led so many black writers to attack Dr. Manning Marable’s book on Malcolm X.  If you really want to understand something about the writing of modern scientific history read my essay “Is Dr. Marable’s Malcolm yet another Reinvention?” on this blog. ( And by the way, if you wish to know what qualifies me to present  this analysis read my resume on this site under “A thumbnail Sketch”)

For anyone to suggest that Abraham Lincoln was a passive figure in the emancipation of American slaves reveals an embarrassing ignorance.  The Emancipation Proclamation was a war time executive order, which ONLY a president could issue.  That way Lincoln could avoid the machinations of a contentious Congress, which would NEVER have voted to end slavery!  Furthermore Lincoln’s position on slavery evolved while he was in office.  When the South started the war he was a “Free Soiler” who mainly looked at slavery as an economic issue, although he personally abhorred the system he was a lawyer who recognized that it was LEGAL and thus had no intention of overthrowing it where it was already established, but he was opposed to its expansion onto “free soil” i.e. non slaveholding states.  However during the war he became a passionate abolitionist who believed that slavery was a mortal sin.

There is no better indication of the depth of his commitment to ending slavery everywhere in the US than his refusal to make a compromise with the Confederates to end the war by allowing them to retain their slaves.  To those that know but little of history this may not seem like a big deal.  However let me point out a couple of facts that should be considered in assessing Lincoln’s opposition to slavery on moral grounds. The US Civil War was the most destructive war in the history of the world at the time, because it was the first war that used modern methods of production, transportation and technology.

Before it began nobody could envision what a bloody affair it would become.  That’s why Lincoln was urged by his closet advisors to end the war by compromising with the Confederates and allowing them to retain their slaves but he refused their advice! This is a compromise that he would have readily made BEFORE the war, but during the travails of war Lincoln spent his evenings reading Shakespeare and the Bible; he came to believe that the horrors of the war was God’s punishment of America for the “sin” of slavery – just as the “Founding Father” Thomas Jefferson, a former president and slave holder had earlier confessed regarding slavery: “I shudder for my nation when I reflect upon the fact that God is just.”   And Lincoln believed: “The judgments of the Lord are always right and just.”

Like everybody that ever lived Lincoln had his contradictions, but for a white man of his time he was enlightened in his view of race, otherwise he would NEVER have invited Douglass to the Inaugural Ball – the first black American to attend that prestigious gathering of the nation’s power elite – and definitely not proclaim him “the most meritorious man in the nation.”  These were radical acts by 19th century standards and cannot be dismissed with simple minded, ahistorical rhetoric based on 21st century standards.  That kind of thinking is mindless propaganda designed to make points in contemporary polemics not scholarly history.

Such tampering with the historical record may help win political arguments but does little to help us understand our past. Of course, I do not expect the average person to understand these distinctions, and thus to recognize their value, but being a compulsive pedagogue who is genetically predisposed to combat ignorance wherever I find it – especially about things that really matter – I feel compelled to offer this explanation of the difference between history and propaganda….i.e. “popular mythology.”

I reiterate: the greatest justification for presenting history based on rigorous adherence to the evidence is that this is the only way for us to learn the lessons it can teach. For instance the criticism made of President Lincoln by our Facebook savant is strongly reminiscent of the criticisms made of his fellow Illinois native Barack Obama today.  When the Facebook savant argues:“People like Lyman Trumball, Wendell Phillips, Thaddeus Stevens, all more progressive than Lincoln on race. Lincoln used nigger more than Richard Pryor and refused to sign two of the Confiscation Acts which would have doomed slavery years before the Emancipation Proclamation. And the emancipation thing enslaved a half million black people when it was enacted and freed none.”

In this one passage we can discern the basic themes in the anti-Obama polemics endlessly reiterated by critics among black and white leftists and Black Nationalists, who have accused him of everything from being a tragic mulatto with divided racial loyalties, to “the brown face of American imperialism.” The comparison with Trumbull, Phillips and Stevens with no mention of the powerful opposition Lincoln faced, is echoed in Cornel West’s criticism of President Obama for not being like Dr. Martin Luther King and other “black prophetic voices” of the past. It is an absurd expectation, the product of a mind trained in theology and philosophy and appears to have no idea of the complexities of politics or the different roles philosophers and politicians must play in society – for a thoughtful discussion of this difference see “On Moral Preachment vs. Political Realities” on this blog.

Then there is the ever present problem of “presentism” when layman discusses historical figures.  The charge that Lincoln used nigger more than Richard Pryor “ is a classic case in point.  Our Facebook savant obviously did not take into account the fact that the use of “nigger” to describe black folks was au courant at the time and was used by a wide variety of people of varying political views, including abolitionists passionately fighting to end slavery.  It was certainly not the subject of near universal condemnation as it was when Richard Pryor was using it in his monologues like a stuck record.  Yet there is no one who believes that Pryor’s intention was to insult or injure black people.  Here the commentator does not appear to make any distinction between words and deeds in assessing the intentions of the speaker or taking the measure of a man, only the race of the speaker is considered….and he is totally indifferent to historical context.

Randall Kennedy, an Afro-American Professor of law at Harvard, has made such distinctions in a thoughtful and provocative discussion in his book titled “Nigger.”  Professor Kennedy selects two white American historical figures that made monumental contributions to the political and cultural advancement of Afro-Americans, and thus based on their deeds cannot reasonably be accused of seeking to injure or insult us despite their documented use of the word “nigger”: Carl Van Vechten and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Van Vechten is well known to students of the Afro-American cultural movement of the 1920’s known to history as the Harlem Renaissance,  because he was one on the men who helped make it happen by introducing the works of black writers to major white publishers, and arranging salons in his downtown digs so that black artists could meet and fraternize with the patrons and exhibiters in the downtown art world, etc.    Yet Professor Kennedy tells us “Carl Van Vetchen, for instance, wrote of ‘niggers’ in correspondence with his friend Langston Hughes and Hughes did not object…should he have objected?” asks Kennedy.  To wit he replies “No. Van Vecthen, a key supporter of the Harlem Renaissance, had shown time and time again that he abhorred racial prejudice, would do what he could to improve the fortunes of Afro-Americans, and treasured his black friends.”

We see this same  attitude about the use of “nigger” by whites who are considered friends in the position taken by black players on the Miami Dolphins football team during the dispute between the Afro-American tackle Johnathan Martin and the white defensive end Richie Icognito.  When Johnathan Martin accused Incognito of hurling racist epithets at him the black players said it was cool for Ritchie to call them “niggers” because he was “more of a brother” than Martin. While this all sounds crazy to me, because I am not down with any white folks calling me nigger under any circumstance, we can see that other black people view the use of the word by some whites differently.

For Professor Kennedy it is purely the intent of the speaker that matters.  In President Lyndon Johnson he provides another compelling example of a friend of Afro-Americans who used the word “nigger” liberally in private conversation; about as often as Abraham Lincoln is said to have used it.   He tells us “In 1967, President Lyndon Baines Johnson decided to appoint an African American to the Supreme Court for the first time in American history.  First on Johnson’s list of candidates was Thurgood Marshall – “Mr. Civil Rights” the hero of Brown v. Board of Education and, of course, the man he ended up putting on the Court.  But before he announced his selection, Johnson asked an assistant to identify some other possible candidates.  The aide mentioned A. Leon Higginbotham, whom Johnson had appointed to the federal trial bench.  Reportedly, the President dismissed the suggestion with the comment “The only two people who ever heard of Judge Higginbotham are you and his mamma.  When I appoint a nigger to the Supreme Court, I want everyone to know he is a nigger.”

It ought to be obvious to all thoughtful readers by now that it is folly to equate Abraham Lincoln’s use of the word nigger with a hatred for black people.  And it ought to be abundantly clear that all talk about President Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation having nothing to do with the abolition of slavery is nothing more than ignorant prattle that reveals an innocence of any knowledge of the history of the period, alas.

Those who care to read a biography of Abraham Lincoln that reveals this complex man in all of his virtues and flaws, a man of conviction who vacillated to accommodate the realities of politics, read With Malice Toward None by Dr. Steven Oates.  And for an excellent account of how Lincoln was viewed by the abolitionist movement read Black Abolitionists, by the pioneering black historian and first biographer of Frederick Douglas Dr. Benjamin Quarles.  And finally, whatever contemporary Afro—Americans may believe about Abraham Lincoln, to those who endured American slavery and witnessed the coming of freedom, the people who huddled with their descendants in black southern churches as the Watchman called out the hour of night…Abraham Lincoln was their deliverer. Of this the great Frederick Douglass left no doubt:

Had Abraham Lincoln died from any of the numerous ills to which flesh is heir; had he reached that good old age of which his vigorous constitution and his temperate habits gave promise; had he been permitted to see the end of his great work; had the solemn curtain of death come down but gradually — we should still have been smitten with a heavy grief, and treasured his name lovingly. But dying as he did die, by the red hand of violence, killed, assassinated, taken off without warning, not because of personal hate — for no man who knew Abraham Lincoln could hate him — but because of his fidelity to union and liberty, he is doubly dear to us, and his memory will be precious forever.

Fellow-citizens, I end, as I began, with congratulations. We have done a good work for our race today. In doing honor to the memory of our friend and liberator, we have been doing highest honors to ourselves and those who come after us; we have been fastening ourselves to a name and fame imperishable and immortal; we have also been defending ourselves from a blighting scandal. When now it shall be said that the colored man is soulless, that he has no appreciation of benefits or benefactors; when the foul reproach of ingratitude is hurled at us, and it is attempted to scourge us beyond the range of human brotherhood, we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
 January 4, 2015