Roger’s note: Who says the New York City police are racist? Watch this video and see how affectionate they can be with the unpleasant minorities that clutter up their (once) lily white city.
12.09.13 – 11:01 PM
by Abby Zimet
Mayor Bloomberg is defending his city’s controversial stop-and-kiss program whereby the NYPD can kiss anyone – often black and Latino – they think looks suspicious. Great video from The Onion, which apparently many dismayed people have never heard of.
Roger’s note: This article reflects pretty much what I have been thinking but did not have the courage to say it. In a note to a friend I mentioned that the media and pundits have de-fanged Mandela much as they have MLK.
Nelson Mandela tributes in Parliament Square – London
(image by John Pannell)
OpEdNews Op Eds 12/7/2013 at 19:55:59
Offering a dissenting opinion at this moment of a general outpouring of grief at Nelson Mandela’s death is not likely to court popularity. It is also likely to be misunderstood.
So let me start by recognising Mandela’s huge achievement in helping to bring down South African apartheid, and make clear my enormous respect for the great personal sacrifices he made, including spending so many years caged up for his part in the struggle to liberate his people. These are things impossible to forget or ignore when assessing someone’s life.
Nonetheless, it is important to pause during the widespread acclamation of his legacy, mostly by people who have never demonstrated a fraction of his integrity, to consider a lesson that most observers want to overlook.
Perhaps the best way to make my point is to highlight a mock memo written in 2001 by Arjan el-Fassed, from Nelson Mandela to the NYT’s columnist Thomas Friedman. It is a wonderful, humane denunciation of Friedman’s hypocrisy and a demand for justice for the Palestinians that Mandela should have written. [http://www.keghart.com/Mandela-Palestine]
Soon afterwards, the memo spread online, stripped of el-Fassed’s closing byline. Many people, including a few senior journalists, assumed it was written by Mandela and published it as such. It seemed they wanted to believe that Mandela had written something as morally clear-sighted as this about another apartheid system, an Israeli one that is at least the equal of that imposed for decades on black South Africans.
However, the reality is that it was not written by Mandela, and his staff even went so far as to threaten legal action against the author.
Mandela spent most his adult life treated as a “terrorist”. There was a price to be paid for his long walk to freedom, and the end of South Africa’s system of racial apartheid. Mandela was rehabilitated into an “elder statesman” in return for South Africa being rapidly transformed into an outpost of neoliberalism, prioritising the kind of economic apartheid most of us in the west are getting a strong dose of now.
In my view, Mandela suffered a double tragedy in his post-prison years.
First, he was reinvented as a bloodless icon, one that other leaders could appropriate to legitimise their own claims, as the figureheads of the “democratic west”, to integrity and moral superiority. After finally being allowed to join the western “club”, he could be regularly paraded as proof of the club’s democratic credentials and its ethical sensibility.
Second, and even more tragically, this very status as icon became a trap in which he was required to act the “responsible” elder statesman, careful in what he said and which causes he was seen to espouse. He was forced to become a kind of Princess Diana, someone we could be allowed to love because he rarely said anything too threatening to the interests of the corporate elite who run the planet.
It is an indication of what Mandela was up against that the man who fought so hard and long against a brutal apartheid regime was so completely defeated when he took power in South Africa. That was because he was no longer struggling against a rogue regime but against the existing order, a global corporate system of power that he had no hope of challenging alone.
It is for that reason, rather simply to be contrarian, that I raise these failings. Or rather, they were not Mandela’s failings, but ours. Because, as I suspect Mandela realised only too well, one cannot lead a revolution when there are no followers.
For too long we have slumbered through the theft and pillage of our planet and the erosion of our democratic rights, preferring to wake only for the release of the next iPad or smart phone.
The very outpouring of grief from our leaders for Mandela’s loss helps to feed our slumber. Our willingness to suspend our anger this week, to listen respectfully to those watery-eyed leaders who forced Mandela to reform from a fighter into a notable, keeps us in our slumber. Next week there will be another reason not to struggle for our rights and our grandchildren’s rights to a decent life and a sustainable planet. There will always be a reason to worship at the feet of those who have no real power but are there to distract us from what truly matters.
No one, not even a Mandela, can change things by him or herself. There are no Messiahs on their way, but there are many false gods designed to keep us pacified, divided and weak.
WASHINGTON — If there were a chutzpah caucus in the United States Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would be its natural leader.
Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times
Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York has elevated issues like sexual assault in the military.
On a fund-raising swing through Chicago this fall, she told donors to pressure their hometown senator — Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat who is one of the most powerful men in the Senate — because he had yet to sign on to her bill to address sexual assault in the military. Mr. Durbin fumed when he heard about the move, an unusual breach in the protocol-conscious Senate.
She defies her party in smaller ways: After a bipartisan farm bill was cobbled together with great effort by her colleague Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Ms. Gillibrand tried to block cuts to food stamps that other Democrats said were needed to retain Republican support and brought in high-profile foodies from New York, including the celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, to fight it.
Her other tactics include cornering colleagues on the Senate floor and refusing to stop talking, and popping out a news release picking apart a senator’s competing legislation as it is being announced.
If her colleagues grumble about her ambition in a body where freshman members are applauded for keeping their heads down, so be it. “I’m trying to fight for men and women who shouldn’t be raped in the military,” she said of her work on the sexual assault legislation. If her approach “makes a colleague uncomfortable,” she said, “that’s a price worth paying.”
But Ms. Gillibrand’s savvy has quickly brought her national prominence in a chamber in which she has served less than five years and has elevated the issues she has championed, like the sexual assault bill and gays in the military. Her relentlessness is combined with a personal warmth and charm — she steps an inch toward anyone who approaches her, not away, locking eyes as they speak — and she deftly uses outside advocacy groups and the news media to push her agenda.
“She just approaches colleagues differently than other Republicans and Democrats from New York,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. What distinguishes her, he said, is “her determination and knowledge and willingness to sit down one on one with senators and explain what she is up to.”
An outside player in her caucus, the New York Democrat is nonetheless admired for her ample fund-raising, especially by women; she has raised nearly $30 million since being appointed in 2009, a tally that has scared away potential challengers from both parties and turned her into a mentor for female candidates around the country.
Ms. Gillibrand, who is 46, was the youngest senator when she was sworn in, and she seems a distinctly modern figure in a sometimes cobwebbed institution. She can swear like the litigator she once was, and runs one of the most informal offices in the Senate; her staff members are welcome in jeans and even in something resembling pajamas, and they call her Kirsten, rather than Senator, largely unheard-of on Capitol Hill.
She appeared in an elegant dress in Vogue magazine, and is co-captain of the congressional softball team. Seemingly always working — she has a book out next September — Ms. Gillibrand nonetheless leaves the office promptly at 5 every night to pick up her children from school. If there is a vote at that hour, she has developed a system to signal her aye or nay from a doorway off the Senate floor — where children are not permitted — so she can hold onto her 5-year-old’s hand. “She is ubiquitous,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, “and I mean that as a compliment. I don’t know how she does it.”
Some of Ms. Gillibrand’s Democratic colleagues are less enamored, likening her zeal to that of the Tea Party Republicans who hew to a belief and won’t let it go, ignoring some of the structural protocols of seniority.
“She is unwilling to knuckle under to demands for deference,” said Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School. “It is very rare that you see a relatively junior member of the Senate staking out a position and sticking by it.”
Ms. Gillibrand’s taste for a fight was presaged in her decision to run for the House in 2006, when she took on Representative John E. Sweeney in a Republican-rich district in upstate New York.
When she approached Howard Wolfson, a Democratic strategist, for help, he told her she could not win. “She told me she was going to run, was going to win, and I would either be the winning consultant or someone else would be,” he said. “I took the race.”
The campaign was one of the nastiest of the cycle, with a spate of negative ads that depicted Ms. Gillibrand as alternately dippy and a war profiteer for investing in war bonds, and ended with the release of a police report that detailed a domestic violence call made from Mr. Sweeney’s home. Ms. Gillibrand won over 50 percent of the vote. “She never wavered, never faltered,” Mr. Wolfson recalled.
Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand in her Capitol Hill office on Friday. “I’ve always seen myself as a voice for the voiceless,” she said.
A low-profile House member who was appointed to the Senate with the backing of Senator Charles E. Schumer in 2009, despite the interest of better-known figures like Caroline Kennedy, Ms. Gillibrand ran in a special election for the seat in 2010 and won with 63 percent of the vote. In 2012, she was re-elected with 72 percent of the vote.
She has skillfully aligned herself with causes with visible, moving human characters who have helped amplified her policy goals. Early to the fight for ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military, she set up a website that featured videos of gay veterans telling their stories.
She was equally canny pushing through health care legislation for the first responders who worked on the cleanup after the Sept. 11 attacks, helping them appear before the cameras, which helped lead to a coveted spot on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” to press what at the time seemed doomed.
Ms. Gillibrand has also made victims of sexual assault in the military more visible to her Senate colleagues, handing out copies of a documentary about their tribulations, which helped sway Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, to support her legislation.
“I’ve always seen myself as a voice for the voiceless,” Ms. Gillibrand said about her choice of issues. “When I hear these stories, they outrage me.”
The sexual assault fight exposed some of the tensions surrounding Ms. Gillibrand’s methods, and divided some in the party, as a fellow Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, offered competing and less aggressive sexual assault legislation.
Last month, in a private meeting, female senators tried unsuccessfully to bridge the gap between the measures. Ms. McCaskill, a former prosecutor, was outraged when an ally of Ms. Gillibrand’s, the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, took out an ad in Ms. McCaskill’s hometown paper that suggested she did not care about sexual assault.
Fellow lawmakers saw this as another stop on Ms. Gillibrand’s for-me-or-against-me campaign to get votes. Ms. Gillibrand told one member on the Senate floor that he needed to “stand with women,” even after he made it clear he supported Ms. McCaskill’s legislation, which angered him.
“When I talk to my colleagues, I want them to know all the facts,” Ms. Gillibrand said in an interview at a Starbucks near Capitol Hill. She dismisses any talk of tension, saying that she gets along with her Democratic colleagues. “I don’t have any adversaries.”
Ms. Gillibrand cuts an unusual personal swath in the Capitol. Her sons, Theo, 10, and Henry, 5, go to school near the Capitol Hill home she shares with her husband, Jonathan, who commutes to New York during the week.
After fetching her boys from school, she brings them back to work if needed, where they hang around Mr. Reid’s office. A sitter takes over at 6:30 p.m. if she has an evening event to attend. The children are fixtures around the Senate, and can be seen horsing around with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, or Mr. Schumer. “She is a very good mother, and she gets things done,” said Mr. Schumer, Ms. Gillibrand’s mentor and, according to other senators, sometimes her friendly competitor. “She’s a formidable figure.”
In the interview, Ms. Gillibrand began to lay out her agenda for the coming year: pushing her sexual assault amendment, even if it fails, raising the minimum wage, trying to restore cuts in food stamps, even as she fights, once again, with her own party. “All of these issues are about speaking truth to power,” she said, as her aide nudged her. It was time to pick up the kids.
Roger’s note: In the mid 1980s the United States Congress voted to demand South Africa recognize the ANC and free political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. When Reagan vetoed the act, Congress voted to override the veto. A young congressman from Wyoming by the name of Dick Cheney voted both times against the initiative, insisting that the ANC was a terrorist organization. Today Cheney says he does not regret his votes, although he now considers Mandela to be a great man who in his old age has “mellowed.” I kind of agree with Cheney (god help me) in the sense that the post-Apartheid Mandela has been much less threatening to the ravages of racist capitalism than he was in his radical youth. Not that I have any grounds to judge a man who survived 27 years in prison and came out of it with his heart and soul intact. But there is no doubt that the mainstream corporate media and the political whores love the “mellowed out” Mandela and don’t want to think about the kind of principled revolutionary activism he represented and implemented, which spelled the death knell of Apartheid in South Africa.
Nearly 50 years ago, in 1964, Nelson Mandela — along with many other comrades in the struggle for the liberation of South Africa from racist white domination under apartheid — was sentenced to life in prison. His statement to the court, made when he was facing the real threat of execution, remains an historic demonstration of defiance and resistance.
Mandela’s sentence was “reduced” to life imprisonment. He would spend 27 years caged by the brutal racist regime in South Africa, before the resistance movement there and a worldwide solidarity campaign helped to force his release.
Many times, the apartheid government dangled a pardon for Mandela — if he would agree to publicly renounce the armed struggle. Contrary to liberal, depoliticized histories of the life of Mandela, he was in fact a political leader who believed in achieving liberation by any means necessary. Indeed, in 1961 he helped to found Umkhonto we Sizwe — which means ‘Spear of the Nation’ — an armed struggle wing of the liberation movement. Earlier that same year, Mandela gave his first ever television interview. In it, he alluded to the sense of futility of fighting against a violent apartheid regime with only non-violent means.
On non-violence and the use of political violence, Mandela wrote in his autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom:
Nonviolent passive resistance is effective as long as your opposition adheres to the same rules as you do. But if peaceful protest is met with violence, its efficacy is at an end. For me,nonviolence was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.
In the end, we had no alternative to armed and violent resistance. Over and over again, we had used all the nonviolent weapons in our arsenal – speeches, deputations, threats, marches, strikes, stay-aways, voluntary imprisonment – all to no avail, for whatever we did was met by an iron hand. A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor.
Mandela spent nearly three decades in prison for his defence of principles and for his role in the struggle — alongside hundreds and thousands of other political prisoners. During those years, many others were felled by the apartheid regime: for instance, the hundreds massacred in Soweto in 1976, and Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, who was beaten and tortured before dying in police custody in 1977.
On February 11, 1990, Mandela finally walked free. On that day, he gave a speech to a joyous mass of humanity gathered to hear him on the steps of Cape Town’s City Hall.
“I great you all in the name of freedom and democracy for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you the people … I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands…”
International solidarity with South Africa took many forms. One under-analyzed factor in understanding the defeat of apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela was the military support given by Cuba to Angolan forces battling South African invasion in the late 1970s and 1980s, in addition to Cuba support for Namibian independence and the liberation of other “front line” states neighbouring Apartheid South Africa. In the documentary film, Fidel Castro: The Untold Story, actor and activist Harry Belafonte reflected on the importance of Cuba to the freedom of South Africa:
Had it not been for the Cuban presence in Africa, and in particular in Angola, the history of Africa would have never been what it is now. One of the greatest friends that Cuba has in Nelson Mandela, and his appreciation for what the Cuban people did… If you don’t understand that history, then you’ll never really understand the enormous success and importance of the Cuban Revolution.
In 1991, Cuba was one of the first countries Nelson Mandela visited — in order to thank the Cuban people for their contributions.
Mandela has also been an outspoken proponent of the liberation movement in Palestine, drawing analogies between these two struggles against racism and apartheid: “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” Mandela said.
In 2001, Mandela was honoured by Parliament with Honourary Canadian citizenship. One Member of Parliament, Rob Anders — who now sits as a Conservative MP — objected, shouting ‘No!’ during the vote in the House, and referring to Mandela as a “communist and terrorist.”
Mandela’s stature in history is now unarguable, and the just nature of the struggle against apartheid is denied only by outright racists and bigots. The likes of Rob Anders today sound like extremists, but in the 1980s it was standard practice for right-wing politicians around the world to disparage Mandela and the ANC as “terrorists.” In 1987, for instance, then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said: “The ANC is a typical terrorist organization … Anyone who thinks it’s going to run a government is living in cloud-cuckoo land.”
Mandela and the ANC did indeed run the government of South Africa; Mandela was democratically elected to the presidency in 1994. And while his, and the ANC’s, record in government was contradictory and is contested because of its failure to reject neoliberal economic measures and eliminate poverty, the democratic struggle he came to personify put the lie to racists and right-wingers like Thatcher.
Nelson Mandela. Madiba. A voice for justice has gone silent. But the words and example of Mandela will live as long as people struggle against injustice and oppression.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
rabble.ca Editor Derrick O’Keefe is a writer and social justice activist in Vancouver, BC. He is the author of the new Verso book, Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? and the co-writer of Afghan MP Malalai Joya’s political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice. Derrick also served as rabble.ca’s editor from 2007 to 2009. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/derrickokeefe.
Jahanzeb Hussain is the editor of Collateral Damage Magazine.
On “sanitizing” the legacy of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela
- Common Dreams staff
“A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”
“If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings.”
“The current world financial crisis also starkly reminds us that many of the concepts that guided our sense of how the world and its affairs are best ordered, have suddenly been shown to be wanting.”
“Gandhi rejects the Adam Smith notion of human nature as motivated by self-interest and brute needs and returns us to our spiritual dimension with its impulses for nonviolence, justice and equality. He exposes the fallacy of the claim that everyone can be rich and successful provided they work hard. He points to the millions who work themselves to the bone and still remain hungry.”
“There is no doubt that the United States now feels that they are the only superpower in the world and they can do what they like.”
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
“No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective.”
“If the United States of America or Britain is having elections, they don’t ask for observers from Africa or from Asia. But when we have elections, they want observers.”
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
On Gandhi: “From his understanding of wealth and poverty came his understanding of labor and capital, which led him to the solution of trusteeship based on the belief that there is no private ownership of capital; it is given in trust for redistribution and equalization. Similarly, while recognizing differential aptitudes and talents, he holds that these are gifts from God to be used for the collective good.”
On Dec. 4, 1948 Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and 26 others had a letter published in the New York Times warning about the then new “Herut” Party in Israel that was beginning a major fund raising drive in the United States. Herut has since morphed into the Likud, which runs the government now and has been the dominant party in Israel for over 35 years.
The letter pulled no punches. It described the party as “a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.” Realize this was just 3 years after World War II and you see the power of the accusation. It explains that the party was based on the former “Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.” It warned Americans to avoid the tour of party leader Menachem Begin (and later Israeli prime minister) so as not to support “Fascism” in Israel. The letter writers warned that the party pretended to stand for freedom and democracy, but “until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state.” The letter explained that the party in its actions was “terrorist” and related its part in the massacre of hundreds that spring in Deir Yassin and its beatings and shooting of Jews in Palestine that stood in its way.
The letter writers had a warning for labor leaders. “Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions.”
It concluded by explaining that the signers felt they had to send the letter because “the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.”
While very progressive on the whole the letter is not above criticism. In criticizing the followers of Herut the letter says, “They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity.” We know full well now about the settlements built by the Zionist “Left” generally built on land taken from Palestinians and almost universally restricted to “Jews only”.
Ten years ago I interviewed Columbia professor and social critic Seymour Melman(pp. 5-7) who then was one of the last surviving signers of the letter. He said the letter was largely composed by Zelig S. Harris and members of a group of Zionists that supported a “bi-nationalist” country. (At the time it was also called anti-state Zionism.) Einstein was friendly to the group.
I asked Melman about the effect of the letter. He said it “torpedoed much of their PR activity” and led to the cancellation by a major speaker at the Carnegie Hall event, John F. Kennedy.
When asked to talk about the Likud, the successor to the Herut, Melman said it had the “unmistakable stamp of a fascist party”. He said, “Israel is not fascist, but the Likud is fascist.”
Certainly Israel is not fascist in the old mold with one dictator ruling for life. It’s closer to the apartheid model of South Africa with the privileged “race” being allowed to vote for a multi-party parliament. Yet to the victims the racism and violence of modern Zionism the distinctions are hardly important
Israeli forces swept into the home of Muhammad al-Majid seeking to arrest him. The youth is four years old. In the same article on the Electronic Intifada it was noted that Muslim Odeh had been arrested 10 times and physically abused by Israeli occupation forces. Odeh is 12 years old.
The Israelis and the Egyptian regime have been smashing up the tunnels from Egypt that have provided the Gaza Strip with fuel. The result is the only power plant on the Strip has closed. The sewage plant closed and in some areas raw sewage water has leaked into streets and paths. Recently the lack of fuel has caused all the garbage trucks in the Strip to stop running. A Gaza school teacher said, “Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rubbish now litter Gaza’s streets,”
On November 28 Nour Afaneh , suffering from pneumonia, died in an ambulance on her way to a hospital in Ramallah. The ambulance had tried to get through the “Container” checkpoint near Bethlehem, but found it closed.. She was 14 years old. Israel has several hundred permanent and temporary checkpoints separating one part of Palestinian populated areas from another part of Palestinian area.
There were race riots against black Africans in Tel Aviv in May 2012. As a result Israel has built a new wall along its Egyptian border to keep out all Africans seeking asylum. As a result the number of Africans making it into Israel in the start of 2013 has declined 99% over the number in the same part of 2012. As of July 1,000 Eritreans were being kept in a detention center in a desert and are being sent back to Eritrea.
Even though they are Israeli citizens some 40,000 to 70,000 will be thrown off their land in the Negev through the Prawer plan now pending in the Israeli parliament. 35 “unrecognized” Arab villages are to be destroyed to be replaced by Jewish-only settlements. (There were wide scale protests in Israel and in other countries the last weekend in November)
Things were bad enough under the apartheid building Israeli Labour party. Thirty-five years rule of Israel by a “fascist” party have made the situation for worse and far more naked in the amount of open racism.
Postscript: For those who want to fight the Prawer Plan see the campaign being mounted by J ewish Voice for Peace (jewishvoiceforpeace.org)
Roger’s note: Kimberly Rivera is one of those rare soldiers who understands the Nuremberg principles. After serving a tour in Iraq, she refused to go back to participate in the commitment of further war crimes. After years living in Canada the corrupt and unjust Tory driven refugee process made a final negative determination. When a bill in the Canadian parliament was introduced to prevent the deportation of American war resisters, a bill with majority support from the three opposition parties, it was defeated when the current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and some other Liberals failed to show up for the vote. When it was finally announced in parliament that Kimberly had been deported, the Tory (Conservative) members burst out in applause.
But as this letter from Kimberly’s husband demonstrates, the Canadian Tories have nothing over the American military when it comes to mean spirited vengeance. A disgusting way to treat a strong and courageous woman.
When I arrived at the hospital I checked in to see my wife deliver the baby. Upon entering the room the staff sergeant proceeded to tell me that because Kim is a prisoner she is not allowed any visitations period but she said she would allow me an hour like it was some sort of favor. I politely agreed and proceeded to visit with Kim who was very upset at how they were treating her. And then I got upset too when I found out that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be there for the delivery.
Once the hour was up she kicked me out of the room. I then called our attorney and anyone else I thought might help to tell them about the situation. While I was in the waiting room I overheard a lieutenant talking with the staff sergeant and some nursing staff about Kim and what they were going to do with me. They were not happy because I had called the social worker, who called the staff sergeant to find out why I was being kept out. So I walked up to the lieutenant and asked him how I could see my son be born and bond with him. He then made me go with him to another room with another soldier and then they locked the door. They then said that had to stay in there because of SOP (standard operating procedure) and that they would need more manpower for me to be in the room, and that they already had the staff sergeant in there with Kim at all times. I continued to explain my situation and how I felt. I told him I understood that Kim had to stay under guard since she was a prisoner, but that I believed my rights as a Dad were being violated.
The lieutenant said he was ”on my side” but it didn’t seem like he wanted to really listen either. He did tell me that he would put a request in with the admiral. He then took me down to security where I sat and waited.
20 minutes or so later he came back. He said the admiral approved me being in the delivery room with the stipulation that I not be allowed to have my cellphone with me, and that I would of course have to follow their rules and medical rules. I of course complied with these conditions so I was allowed to be with Kim and our baby for the rest of the day.
The following day I came back to the hospital. I did not have anyone to watch my other kids, so I brought them with me. They held me at gate for about 20 minutes before letting us on base. At security, I checked my phone (as agreed) and they told me it would be no problem for me to bring our kids with me, but when I got to Kim’s floor they said that it was a problem and that we would not be allowed to see Kim or the baby until they talked to the Admiral. After a two hour wait, the Admiral gave the ok and our family got to be together.
The next day I was told that Kim was being discharged at 4 p.m. but the Brig actually came to get her at 9 a.m. The baby is now with me.
As you can imagine this whole experience has been horrible for our family. Our children are deeply traumatized from being continually separated from their mom and they are scared that if I leave without them, that they will not see me again either. Two of the younger kids, Katie and Gabriel are taking it really hard. And Christian now has depression and anxiety from this. They cry when they think of Kim and miss her a great deal. Christian has told me, “The military is supposed to protect us so why are they hurting us? Why did they take momma?”
Rebecca, a young lady now, misses her mom very much as well and is having to go through her female changes without her momma around. Katie always says she wants to rescue mommy from the bad people who put her in jail” and Gabriel, he just looks for her still not understanding why she is gone.
This has hit us all very hard. My kids are hurting and traumatized from all this and now my son Matthew cannot breastfeed. He is separated from his mom who carried him the last 8 and a half months. All night last night he cried looking for her, for her touch, for her smell. It breaks my heart. Matthew did not sleep well because of the separation and I am afraid it could impact him psychologically since he is unable to be calmed by his momma. I do not have her smell or touch that he is needing. I cannot breastfeed him and to give him those vital nutrients. Only my wife can and because of the Fort Carson general, Matthew can’t have that.
Roger’s note: The French proverb “tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner” tells us that to understand all is to forgive all. Hannah Arendt says otherwise, to understand is not necessarily to forgive, but she was pilloried by many when she refused to picture Eichmann as a Hitler-like monster, but rather as a nondescript and mediocre bureaucrat. From this her classic notion of the banality of evil. I believe this issue is not simply a question of historical interest but has much relevance today for Americans, Canadians, British, etc.
Those who oppose the murderous and planet destructive actions of the United States government fall into different categories. Two of these interest me: those who see the politicians and others (arms manufacturers, energy corporations, banksters, etc.) who are responsible as people who support bad policies versus those of us who see them a criminals. I also find it most interesting that many who would find the likes of Bush and Cheney to be criminal, are somehow able to absolve Obama for the very same policies and actions.
I have coined the phrase “the congeniality of evil” to describe especially those politicians who seem to have attractive personal characteristics and who do some things people like me can agree with. After Bush, many thirsted for an Obama, a man who is intelligent, articulate, personable and charismatic. A man who talked with apparent conviction, for example, about peace, transparency in government, human rights, etc. What was there not to like about Obama (apart from the fact that we now know that he is a serial dissimulator and a totally cynical self-indulgent lackey to the banks, generals and the mega corporations)? He has done a few progressive things that no Republican president would do, such as supporting (belatedly) same-sex marriage rights. Does, this, I ask, absolve one from grossly criminal and unconstitutional behavior?
When I read that Eichmann claimed not to know where the trains he had sent out were going, and that Arendt believed him, it brought to mind the bitingly satiric lyrics of the great satirist, Tom Lerher, where he sings that Werner Von Braun, the Nazi scientist whose V-2 rockets killed thousands of British civilians, only sent the missiles up, where they came down was”not his department.”
Back to the question of understanding and forgiving. Ethics and morals are far more complicated than fundamentalists (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc.) would have us believe. For me a vital distinction is that between individual and societal dimensions. As in individual, for example, within my own community (whatever that may be), then the Jesus ethic of “turn the other cheek” may have validity. But with respect to dealing with individuals outside my own community, and with respect to the communal/societal dimension (politics, government), then “turn the other cheek” can be an absurdity. On an individual level, a “love philosophy” is what I believe in. On a societal level, for me the highest notion of morality is “from each according to her ability, to each according to her need.” Most of us practice this level of morality at the familial level, and some day, most likely long after I am gone, perhaps the way society organizes itself economically and politically, “from each … to each …” will become a reality.
Margarethe von Trotta, award-winning German director, who directed the film “Hannah Arendt.” Her previous works include “Rosa Luxemburg”, and “Marianne & Juliane” — both starring Barbara Sukowa in lead roles — “Rosenstrasse”, and “Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen.”
Barbara Sukowa, actor who was awarded the Lola Award for Best Actress for her role in “Hannah Arendt.”
As head of the Gestapo office for Jewish affairs, Adolf Eichmann organized transport systems which resulted in the deportation of millions of Jews to extermination camps across Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. Eichmann helped draft the letter ordering the Final Solution — the Nazi’s plan to exterminate the Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Europe. After the war, Eichmann fled to Argentina, where he lived under a false identity until he was kidnapped by the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, on May 11, 1960. He was flown to Israel and brought to trial in Jerusalem in April 1961. After being found guilty he was executed by hanging in 1962. One writer reporting on the trial was the German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, the author of “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.” Arendt’s coverage of the trial for the New Yorker proved extremely controversial. She expressed shock that Eichmann was not a monster, or evil, but “terribly and terrifyingly normal.” Even more controversial was her assertion that the Jews participated in their own destruction through the collaboration of the Nazi-appointed Judenrat, or Jewish Councils, with the Third Reich. Arendt’s coverage of the Eichmann trial is chronicled in the 2013 film, “Hannah Arendt.” We air clips of the film and speak with the film’s star, Barbara Sukowa, who was awarded the Lola Award for Best Actress, the German equivalent of the Oscars, for her role. We are also joined by the film’s director, Margarethe von Trotta, one of Germany’s leading directors, who has won multiple awards over her 40-year career.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEENSHAIKH: After the U.N. in climate summit concluded in Warsaw, last week. Democracy Now! traveled Treblinka, an extermination camp built by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. The camp operated officially between July 1942 and October 1943 during which time over 800,000 Jews were killed. Tens of thousands of Roma, disabled people and others were also killed at the camp.
AMYGOODMAN: Our tour guide at Treblinka was Zuzanna Radzik of the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, a Polish nonprofit group that works to eliminate anti-Semitism in Poland.
ZUZANNARADZIK: This camp could actually receive 10,000 to 12,000 people daily, so — a day. Those people didn’t live there longer than an hour or two hours. Immediately from the trains, they went to the gas chambers and then were buried or their bodies were moved to a crematoria. The process was not very long.
AMYGOODMAN: The landscape of the memorial was dotted by thousands of large rocks, many of them not of individuals, but of whole communities with nearly a million killed, there would not have been room. One of the individuals responsible for sending Jews to their death in Poland and other countries in the Nazi occupied Europe was Adolph Eichmann. As head of the Gestapo Office for Jewish Affairs, Eichmann organized transport systems which resulted in the deportation of millions of Jews to extermination camps across German occupied Eastern Europe. He helped draft the letter ordering the final solution plan to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe. After the war, Eichmann fled to Argentina where he lived under a false identity until he was kidnapped Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad on May 11, 1960, flown to Israel, brought to trial in Jerusalem in April 1961. After being found guilty, he was executed by hanging in 1962.
NERMEENSHAIKH: One writer reporting was the Eichmann’s trial was the German Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, the author of “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.” Arendt’s coverage of the trial for The New Yorker proved extremely controversial. She expressed shock that Eichmann was not a monster or evil, but “terribly and terrifyingly normal.” Even more controversial was her assertion that the Jews participated in their own destruction through the collaboration of the Nazi appointed Judenraete or Jewish Councils with the Third Reich. She first coined the term the banality of evil to apply to Eichmann following her reporting of her trial. Well, we spend the rest of the hour on a recent film which profiles Arendt’s coverage of the trial. The film is simply called “Hannah Arendt.” This is part of the trailer
ACTOR: They were recognized Jewish leaders and this leadership cooperated with the Nazis. They’ll have our heads for this.
ACTOR: [translated] This was the headline in the daily news. “Hannah Arendt’s Defense of Eichmann.”
ACTOR: [translated] These think your articles are terrific, and these want you dead. Some of them are quite colorful.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] The greatest evil in the world is the evil committed by nobodies.
ACTOR: [translated] Did you really have no idea there would be such a furious reaction?
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Trying to understand is not the same as forgiveness.
ACTOR AS KURTBLUMENFELD: [translated] This time you’ve gone too far. .
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] It is this phenomenon I have called the banality of evil.
AMYGOODMAN: The trailer to the film “Hannah Arendt.” Democracy Now! spoke to the lead actor and director of the film earlier this year when the film was released in New York. Margarethe von Trotta is the director of “Hannah Arendt.” She is one of Germany’s leading film directors, has won multiple awards over her 40-year career. The actress, Barbara Sukowa, who plays Hannah Arendt in the film, she was awarded the Lola award for best actress, the German equivalent of the Oscars for her role. We started by asking Margarethe von Trotta why it was so significant for Hannah Arendt to decide to cover Eichmann’s trial.
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: She wrote it because she offered herself to The New Yorker to go there and she wrote to them, I was not in Nuremberg. I did not see one of these monsters, one of these Nazis in flesh, in the face and I want to go there to look at somebody, to see him and to make it my own mind. Then she meets him there and he’s so different from what she expected, and that was in the beginning it was difficult for her to understand. And one of her most important sentences “I want to understand.” She wanted to understand why he’s so different, why he is not a monster, why he’s not a Saddam.
AMYGOODMAN: But, her husband saying to her there, I know what this is going to turn you back to, the pain that you knew. What is this pain that she knew personally?
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: That is a pain that they both had when they heard about the Holocaust and heard about what happened in Poland and everywhere in the camps. They were both totally destroyed for months. So, he knew when he goes back and there are coming out all the testimonies, with all their stories, that she would go back into this depression. He feared for her. But, she wanted it. But, she was critical with the Hausner, with the prosecutor. That he had all these — and that the testimonies had to retell all her story and they’re some of them, they’re fainting and they’re really — you can see how much it cost them to tell the stories.
AMYGOODMAN: One of the devices in the film was to actually use the archival footage of Eichmann in trial. Because that amazingly was all videoed. Before we go to a clip that shows both your dramatic film but with the actual archival footage of Eichmann, so you have no one playing Eichmann, he is, in a sense, playing himself, talk about that decision.
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: I saw, a long time before I knew that I would make a film about Hannah Arendt, I saw “The Specialist,” an Israeli documentary that is only one hour and a half only the trial. He followed the line of Hannah Arendt, and he said it in the beginning. So, when we started to write the script, with Pam Katz, I’d immediately told her, we have to look it up again. We have to go with this material. And so, we already — during we wrote — we already chose some of the clips, let’s say, some of it. And then when I started to make the film, I saw much more material and I chose also other material that was not in “The Specialist.” But, for me, it was from the beginning, totally clear that I had to use this because to put an actor in, the spectator only would have looked at him, oh he’s so brilliant, he’s fantastic, how we did it. So, they will admire the actor and not see the mediocrity of the man. So, that was my point, to see the mediocrity, to go with Hannah Arendt to look at him and to get the same thought out of him.
BARBARASUKOWA: That was also a reason that we didn’t go for an impersonation of Hannah Arendt, because we didn’t want people to look at an acting job and say, now she looks like Hannah Arendt. We did not do a lot of prosthetics or anything. We just wanted people to concentrate and focus on what she is saying and what she is thinking. And not think about acting.
NERMEENSHAIKH: The film that you referred to, Margarethe, “The Specialist,” the documentary by the Israeli filmmaker Eyal Sivan, as you said, it is only two hours long, but apparently the footage of Eichmann, up to 350 hours of the trial itself?
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: At Youtube you can see 270, but there is still more, yes. But, I did not see that at all. But, I said to my assistant who saw it all, I want to have some of these scenes in, and so he looked for.
NERMEENSHAIKH: So, let’s just go to a clip of the Eichmann trial. This is the trial being watched by reporters on a television screen, which is how Arendt witnessed it. This is part of Eichmann’s testimony.
ADOLPHEICHMANN: [translated] I read here that during the transport, 15 people died. I can only say that these records, were not the responsibility department for 4B4.
NERMEENSHAIKH: That was Eichmann testifying as you show it in your film, “Hannah Arendt.” In another scene from the trial, Eichmann is asked explicitly about the final solution.
PROSECUTOR: Was it proven to you that the Jews had to be exterminated?
ADOLPHEICHMANN: I didn’t exterminate them.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Margarethe Von Trotta, can you talk about those scenes?
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: Somebody now who read the [Indiscernible] papers. They were coming out now in Germany but also before. That was a judge, a fanatic Nazi who went to Argentina, who knew where he was hiding, Eichmann, and did they did a long interview. And there he spoke about himself as if he was a real fanatic Nazi and he wanted to kill all the Jews, even after the war and so. He gave himself such an importance that that was not true. My interpretation is that he was hiding so long that then coming up somebody who he could show what a kind of man he was, and then in the trial, he put down his light — how do you say, he put down his importance and perhaps he was more important than he made believe in the trial. But I think it was in between. But this main point for “Hannah Arendt” is that she says he was not stupid. He was thoughtless. He did not think. And that you can really, in some of the clips I show, you can really see it. And when you speak German, you can even feel it more because he is unable to say one sentence in the right way.
AMYGOODMAN: As the trial in Jerusalem is underway, Arendt meets with friends at a restaurant and reveals what she perceives of Eichmann’s character. Her old political mentor and friend, Kurt Blumenfeld, fiercely disagrees with her.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] He swears he never personally harmed a Jew.
ACTOR AS KURTBLUMENFELD: [translated] So he claims.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] But isn’t it interesting that a man who did everything a murderous system asked of him, who even seems eager to give precise details of his fine works, that this man insists he personally has nothing against Jews?
ACTOR: [translated] He’s lying!
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] False, he’s not.
ACTOR: He claims he didn’t know where the trains were going. Do you believe that to?
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Knowing that was irrelevant for him. He transported people to their deaths but didn’t feel responsible for it. Once the trains were in motion his work was done.
ACTOR AS KURTBLUMENFELD: [translated] So we can say he’s free of guilt? Despite what happened to the people he transported?
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Yes, that’s how he sees it. He’s a bureaucrat.
ACTOR AS KURTBLUMENFELD: [translated] Your quest for truth is admirable but this time you’ve gone too far.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] But, Kurt, you can’t deny the huge difference between the unspeakable horror of the deeds and the mediocrity of the man.
AMYGOODMAN: That is Hannah Arendt fiercely debating Kurt Blumenfeld. Margarethe Von Trotta, talk about the heart, because this is the heart of what Hannah Arendt is arguing in the banality of evil. Explain.
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: Yeah, because she went there expecting a monster like everybody else because she couldn’t understand or she could not expect it’s only a normal bureaucrat. So, she had to wait to get to her idea about him. She did not have it immediately. But then in this scene, she was already there for certain time, so she could look at him and observe him already. So, she came up with this idea of the only bureaucratic. And Kurt Blumenfeld who was [Indiscernible] in this scene in the end, he’s so angry with her that she turns away. Even when he is on his deathbed, he even doesn’t want to see her anymore. So, we have both opinions in the film. You can choose where you want to stand and where you want to be, with Blumenfeld or with her, or also Hans Jonas her old friend, a student with her with Martin Heidegger the philosopher — he also turns away.
NERMEENSHAIKH: One of the criticisms of the film has been that it gives the impression that there were no Jewish intellectuals who agreed with Hannah Arendt at the time of her writing these articles in The New Yorker with the subsequent publication of the book, whereas people point out that there were, you know, Bruno Bettelheim, for example, as well as Raul Hilberg, there were Jewish intellectuals who agreed. Was their a decision that you made to represent only the voices of opposition for dramatic purposes, or can you just talk about that?
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: There were very few who did understand her and who defended her, very few. We chose Mary McCarthy because she was a friend of her during the whole life in America and also during the period we show. So, we put in all the defending theme in her part. And others are portraits and others enable and ho and so.
AMYGOODMAN: And explain, once she wrote the pieces in The New Yorker, the fire The New Yorker came under and that she came under, because she like many German Jewish intellectuals had come to be in New York at the New School, they founded the New School, and she might even have lost her job there. There were so much pressure for her to resign.
MARGARETHEVONTROTTA: Yeah, and she feared all of the sudden she will go to exile again. That was also a point she was suffering about, because when you had to go away from your country for once and then she went to Paris and when the Germans invaded France, they put these people who came to France to be protected, they put them in interment camps. All of a sudden there again she had to flee. So, it was from both countries she was exiled or she had to flee. Then she came to America. For her, it was paradise. Like she said in the film, she was so happy with her — even if she didn’t speak a word of English when she came here, no? And then after this controversy, she had the feeling that also in this country, who became her home, she was not well seen and she became again a stranger. That was very, very painful for her.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Let’s go to a clip from the film where Hannah Arendt is put under extraordinary pressure after the articles have appeared in The New Yorker and she is even asked to leave the university in the U.S. where she is lecturing at the time.
ACTOR: [translated] We’ve discussed it at length and arrived at unanimous decision.
ACTOR: [translated] We respectfully advise you to relinquish your teaching obligations.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Under no circumstances will I give up my class.
ACTOR: [translated] You may not have enough students were willing to study with you.
ACTOR AS HANNAHARENDT: [translated] Perhaps you’ve not been in communication with your own students, but I am entirely oversubscribed at the moment. And because of the extraordinary support of the students, I have decided to accept the invitation and I will speak publicly hysterical reaction to my report.
ACTOR: [translated] That is Hannah Arendt, all arrogance and no feeling.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Barbara Sukowa, could you talk about that particular scene? And she goes on after that to give an absolutely spectacular speech, which one reviewer has said is the greatest articulation of the importance of thinking that will ever be presented in a film.
BARBARASUKOWA: Really? Well, I had a good script writer.
NERMEENSHAIKH: It is a seven-minute long speech. Can you talk about how you prepared for it and how it is you delivered it? It is very powerful.
BARBARASUKOWA: Well, as Margarethe said before, what goes through all her writings is the sentence “I want to understand.” She wants those students to understand, too. I thought it was really important that I as an actor really have to understand what she is saying because otherwise the audience will understand it. So, we worked on that scene quite a bit. We changed a little lines. We really tried to make it in a way that people understood it. And there had to find a balance between an emotional approach because she was emotional at this point. She was very afraid. She always was very afraid when she had to go in front of the public and to talk. She had like almost stage fright. And also be very clear on the thinking. So, it cannot be — as an actor, you cannot only go the — you can’t be just like a cold thinker in that moment. You have to also bring in her emotion. So, we tried to find that balance so that those people would understand.
For me, the reason why I did also this film with Margarethe because of the topic of the Holocaust is one that has been a big topic of my life because the generation that raised me, my teachers, my parents, they were all part of that generation.
AMYGOODMAN: Where were you born?
BARBARASUKOWA: I was born in Bremen.
BARBARASUKOWA: When Hannah Arendt says, if you see that man, in the scene before, that you showed, and the difference, the horrors that happened, it was something that she could not bring together. How is that mediocre man there and there are these incredible horrors. The same for us. It was, how are there are these nice people that we know? How could they witness his incredible horrors? Are they lying? Are they not lying? What did they really know? So, this was, for me, also, a reason why I was very attracted to that topic again and to Hannah Arendt. I really do think that the question whether Eichmann is really mediocre or not, there’s been a lot of research out since Hannah Arendt wrote the book — I mean, JYad Va’Shem was only just founded at that time. Now they have big archives.
AMYGOODMAN: The memorial in Israel.
BARBARASUKOWA: But, the thing is, that he is a prototype. It doesn’t matter whether he personally — whether she was right on him. Other people might see a demon in him. But these people existed, these bureaucrat. The thing is that he never regretted. He felt justified with what he did. He said, “I obeyed the law of my country and a lot my country was Hitler’s law.” I think that is interesting for us, today. How much do you obey a law? You have to think about the law.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Actress Barbara Sukowa, is the star of “Hannah Arendt.” We were also joined by the film’s director Margarethe von Trotta. The film has just been released on DVD.
AMYGOODMAN: Tune in Thursday and Friday for our holiday shows our tribute to Yip Harburg, black-listed lyricist who the rainbow in “The Wizard of Oz.” He also wrote the words to “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” and so much more. Then our discussion about “Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of America’s Universities” with Craig Steven Wilder and Katrina Brown.
Roger’s note: I am thankful that I don’t have to spend up to thirty five years in prison. I cannot begin to imagine what that would be like. Chelsea Manning apparently has not been bowed by the draconian and vengeful punishment loaded upon her by the criminal United States military. A profile in courage.
Nov. 25, 2013, Time
I’m usually hesitant to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. After all, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony systematically terrorized and slaughtered the very same Pequot tribe that assisted the first English refugees to arrive at Plymouth Rock. So, perhaps ironically, I’m thankful that I know that, and I’m also thankful that there are people who seek out, and usually find, such truths. I’m thankful for people who, even surrounded by millions of Americans eating turkey during regularly scheduled commercial breaks in the Green Bay and Detroit football game; who, despite having been taught, often as early as five and six years old, that the “helpful natives” selflessly assisted the “poor helpless Pilgrims” and lived happily ever after, dare to ask probing, even dangerous, questions.
Such people are often nameless and humble, yet no less courageous. Whether carpenters of welders; retail clerks or bank managers; artists or lawyers, they dare to ask tough questions, and seek out the truth, even when the answers they find might not be easy to live with.
I’m also grateful for having social and human justice pioneers who lead through action, and by example, as opposed to directing or commanding other people to take action. Often, the achievements of such people transcend political, cultural, and generational boundaries. Unfortunately, such remarkable people often risk their reputations, their livelihood, and, all too often, even their lives.
For instance, the man commonly known as Malcolm X began to openly embrace the idea, after an awakening during his travels to the Middle East and Africa, of an international and unifying effort to achieve equality, and was murdered after a tough, yearlong defection from the Nation of Islam. Martin Luther King Jr., after choosing to embrace the struggles of striking sanitation workers in Memphis over lobbying in Washington, D.C., was murdered by an escaped convict seeking fame and respect from white Southerners. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the U.S., was murdered by a jealous former colleague. These are only examples; I wouldn’t dare to make a claim that they represent an exhaustive list of remarkable pioneers of social justice and equality—certainly many if not the vast majority are unsung and, sadly, forgotten.
So, this year, and every year, I’m thankful for such people, and I’m thankful that one day—perhaps not tomorrow—because of the accomplishments of such truth-seekers and human rights pioneers, we can live together on this tiny “pale blue dot” of a planet and stop looking inward, at each other, but rather outward, into the space beyond this planet and the future of all of humanity.
Chelsea Manning, formerly named Bradley, is serving a 35-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
Roger’s note: Support Our Troops (by screwing them after they have killed, been shot at in a place they have not business being, and come home)!
“Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, ‘I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.’”
As the doctor said to my father when he announced my gender to him on the day of my birth in 1941: “CANNON FODDER.”
Special to The Globe and Mail
PublishedFriday, Nov. 22 2013, 12:50 PM EST
Last updatedFriday, Nov. 22 2013, 12:58 PM EST
If the politics of contempt is the hallmark of Stephen Harper’s governing style – for Parliament, for accountability, for critics, for science, for journalists – nothing is more shameful than its contempt for Canada’s veterans. It’s not merely that vets have won the right to so much better. It’s also the flat-out hypocrisy, the unbridgeable chasm between the Harper government’s rapturous rhetoric and its actual policies.
Besides the usual Remembrance Day platitudes, there was the PM at the recent Conservative Convention in Calgary shamelessly boasting that only his party cared about Canada’s “brave men and women in uniform.” Yet precisely one week earlier, Corporal David Hawkins from London, Ont., injured in the field and suffering from post-traumatic stress, was booted out of the military before he was eligible to collect an indexed pension – one of many wounded vets who are being treated so callously.
The ugly truth is that Mr. Hawkins is only one example of the many “brave men and women in uniform” who have been betrayed by the Harper government. And refusing veterans their rightful pensions is only one example of the many heartless ways it has actually treated so many of them.
Indeed, just in the weeks around Remembrance Day 2013, the media has been replete with examples of this absolutely inexplicable phenomenon. In the typical words of Corporal Shane Jones, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, “We go overseas, we fight for our country, we do what we’re asked and when we come home it’s like we have to start another war all over again just to get the help we need.” That was three days after Mr. Harper’s Calgary speech and exactly one week before November 11.
And on Remembrance Day itself, in B.C., retired Air Force captain Claude Latulippe was among other vets who chose to turn their backs on their Conservative MP at the local cenotaph, “just like the Conservatives are turning their backs on veterans.” This attitude hardly surprises Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent, appointed by the Harper government, who angrily points out that the Harper government’s New Veterans Charter will relegate hundreds of the most severely disabled vets to poverty in their old age.
But lest we forget, Remembrance Day 2013 was no aberration on this front. Remembrance Day 2010, for example, was marked by a farewell J’Accuse! from Patrick Stogran, a 30-year vet and Canada’s first Veterans Ombudsman, also appointed by Stephen Harper but pointedly not reappointed.
“What I am here to do,” Mr. Stogran said, “is to expose to Canadians what I perceive as a system that for a long time has denied veterans not just what they deserve, but what they earned with their blood and sacrifice.”
“It is beyond my comprehension,” he later added, “how the system could knowingly deny so many of our veterans the services and benefits that the people and the Government of Canada recognized a long, long time ago as being their obligation to provide.”
Even more shockingly, Mr. Stogran stated, “I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst… that it is in the government’s best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term.”
Mr. Stogran’s cri de coeur did not come as a surprise to veterans. Over the 2010 Remembrance Day weekend they hit the streets in an unprecedented series of nation-wide demonstrations to publicize their long list of grievances against a government that has made a fetish of its devotion to Canada’s veterans.
Remembrance Day 2012 once again saw a series of public protests by vets against their own government. As reported by Canadian Press, disabled veterans and military widows assembled on Parliament Hill “to paint a stark picture of bureaucratic indifference and red tape that flies in the face of reassurances from the government, which says the care of military families is a top priority….Few of the government’s touted programs meant to help combat veterans find civilian jobs actually help the disabled.”
What does it take for the Harper government to be shamed into action? This Remembrance Day, 2013, many media finally gave the vets’ grievances significant coverage. Besides several news stories, The Globe, for example, published an editorial, two pieces by its own columnists and an editorial cartoon all harshly critical of the government.
There are some indications that the government is finally paying attention, though Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino insists, in quintessential Harperland style, that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.” At about the same time, 3,000 to 4,000 citizens took to the streets of Sydney, N.S., (population: 31,597) to support local veterans in protesting the government’s decision to close nine Veterans Affairs Department district offices across the country, including theirs.
Some Opposition MPs have been pressing the vets’ case for some time; Peter Stoffer has been an especially tireless advocate. But surely the Opposition must go further and make this just cause an absolute priority. Shaming Stephen Harper is not an easy task, as years of protest by vets have sadly proved. But surely his betrayal of Canada’s veterans cannot be allowed to continue.