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Here’s How The Nation Responded When A Black Militia Group Occupied A Government Building February 28, 2018

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Gun Control/Violence, History, Race, Racism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Here, believe it or not, is a true story about  NRA supported Republican sponsored legislation on gun control.  It happened in my and maybe your lifetime; I remember it well.  I guess all things are relatives.  For Republicans and the NRA when oppressed people begin to arm themselves, that is another thing.  In other words, Black Panthers trump (no pun intended) the Second Amendment.  Getting back to the present, unless and until Blacks, Latinos, and Women begin to arm themselves en masse; it’s open season on assault gun sales.  Government tyranny must be addressed; and when the attack begins we will need those AK-15 to mow down as many as we can of those government soldiers, even though, of course, we support our troops.

Huffingtonpost, 01/06/2016 01:38 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2016
Nearly 50 years ago, a group of armed Black Panthers entered the California state Capitol to protest a gun control bill.

When armed militants seized a government building in Burns, Oregon, on Saturday, stating their willingness to “kill and be killed” and promising to stay for “years,” the official response was cautious and restrained. Many onlookers wondered whether this would still be the case if the militants were people of color instead of white people.

If you’re not familiar with the history of protest in the U.S., you might not know that the armed occupation of government buildings hasn’t always been just for white guys. In fact, on May 2, 1967, a group of 30 Black Panthers walked into the California state Capitol building, toting rifles and shotguns and quickly garnering national headlines.

Just to be clear, there are a world of differences between the Black Panthers’ demonstration and what’s happening in Oregon now (although it is noteworthy that you have to go back to 1967 to find an example of black activists doing something even remotely analogous). The two groups employed different tactics, fought for different causes and — predictably — elicited different reactions in vastly different places and times. But the 1967 incident serves as one example of the way Americans tend to respond to black protest — which some say is always likely to be different from the way Americans react when it’s white people doing the protesting.

SACRAMENTO BEE/MCT VIA GETTY IMAGES
Members of the Black Panthers hold guns during the group’s protest at the California Assembly in May 1967.

In October 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense as a small community organization based in Oakland, California. Its members — including the 30 people who would travel to Sacramento the following May — believed that black Americans should exercise their constitutional right to defend themselves against an oppressive U.S. government. At the time, California lawmakers were trying to strip them of that right, and the Black Panthers wanted to tell the U.S., and the world, that they found this unacceptable.

Among other things, the Black Panthers’ agenda involved taking up arms and patrolling their communities to protect against rampant racism in policing. And that’s what they did in the first few months of the party’s existence, carrying guns openly in compliance with California law, driving around their neighborhoods, observing arrests and other law enforcement activity — effectively policing the police. Newton was even known for packing a law book alongside his rifle that he’d recite from when informing an officer that a civilian’s rights were being violated.

The patrols weren’t meant to encourage violence. The Panthers were committed to using force only if it was used against them, and at first, their mere presence appeared to be working as a check on abusive policing. But the Panthers’ willful assertion of their rights — like the day Newton reportedly stood up to a cop in front of a crowd of black onlookers — was unacceptable to white authority figures who’d come to expect complete deference from black communities, and who were happy to use fear and force to extract it.

Don Mulford, a GOP assemblyman who represented Oakland, responded to the Black Panther police patrols in 1967 with a bill to strip Californians of the right to openly carry firearms.

Nobody tried to stop the 30 Black Panthers — 24 men and six women, carrying rifles, shotguns and revolvers — as they walked through the doors of the state Capitol building on May 2 of that year. This was decades before Sept. 11 or the Oklahoma City bombing, and the protesters were, after all, legally allowed to have their weapons. They entered with their guns pointed at the ceiling. Behind them followed a horde of journalists they’d called to document the protest.

As the rest of the group waited nearby, six Panthers entered the assembly chamber, where they found lawmakers mid-session. Some legislators reportedly saw the protesters and took cover under desks. It was the last straw: Police finally ordered the protesters to leave the premises. The group maintained they were within their rights to be in the Capitol with their guns, but eventually they exited peacefully.

Outside, Seale delivered the Black Panther executive mandate before a crush of reporters. This section of remarks, reprinted in Hugh Pearson’s The Shadow of the Pantherstill resonates today:

“Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetuated against black people. All of these efforts have been answered by more repression, deceit and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalate the oppression of black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods, and increased patrols have become familiar sights in black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of black people for relief from this increasing terror.”

Shortly after Seale finished, police arrested the group on felony charges of conspiracy to disrupt a legislative session. Seale accused them of manufacturing “trumped up charges,” but the protesters would later plead guilty to lesser misdemeanors.

Mulford’s legislation, which became known as the “Panthers Bill,” passed with the support of the National Rifle Association, which apparently believed that the whole “good guy with a gun” thing didn’t apply to black people. California Gov. Ronald Reagan (R), who would later campaign for president as a steadfast defender of the Second Amendment, signed the bill into law.

Although the May 2 demonstration failed to sway lawmakers into voting against the Mulford Act — and may have even convinced some of them that such a measure was necessary — it did succeed in making the Black Panthers front-page news. Headlines ran above evocative photos of armed black protesters, many wearing berets, bomber jackets and dark sunglasses, walking the halls of the California Capitol. And the American public’s response to that imagery reflected a nation deeply divided on the issue of race.

On one hand, such a defiant demonstration of black power served as recruitment fodder for the Black Panther Party, which had previously only been operating in the Bay Area. It grew in size and influence, opening branches in a number of major cities, building a presence on college campuses and ultimately surging to as many as 5,000 members across 49 local chapters in 1969.

The party even attracted a number of radical-leaning white supporters — many of whom were moved by the Black Panthers’ lesser-remembered efforts, like free breakfasts for children in black neighborhoods, drug and alcohol abuse awareness courses, community health and consumer classes and a variety of other programs focused on the health and wellness of their communities.

But it was clear from the moment the Black Panthers stepped inside the California Capitol that the nuances of the protest, and of Seale’s message, weren’t going to be understood by much of white America. The local media’s initial portrayal of the brief occupation as an “invasion” would lay the groundwork for the enduring narrative of the Black Panthers first and foremost as a militant anti-white movement.

SACRAMENTO BEE
The front page of The Sacramento Bee on the night of the protest.

In August 1967, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took steps to ensure that public support for the Black Panthers would remain marginal. In a memorandum just months after the armed protest, he deemed the group a “black nationalist, hate-type organization“ to be neutralized by COINTELPRO, a controversial initiative that notoriously skirted the law in its attempts to subvert any movement that Hoover saw as a potential source of civil disorder. A 2012 report further uncovered the extent of the agency’s activity, revealing that an FBI informant had actually provided the Black Panthers with weapons and training as early as 1967.

As the Panthers’ profile grew in the months and years following the California Capitol protest, so too did their troubles — something that many of the Panthers themselves regarded as no coincidence. Just two months after Hoover put the Black Panthers in his sights, Newton was arrested and convicted of killing Oakland police officer John Frey, a hotly contested development and the first in a series of major, nationwide controversies that engulfed the movement. (Newton ultimately served two years of his sentence before his conviction was overturned in a set of appeals.)

The strength of the Black Panthers ebbed and flowed in the years leading up to the organization’s dissolution in 1982. The party struggled to find a balance between its well-intentioned community efforts and its reliance on firepower and occasional violence to bolster its hardened image. High-profile shootouts with police and arrests of members created further rifts in the group’s leadership and helped cement the white establishment’s depiction of Black Panthers as extremists.

Many white Americans couldn’t get over their first impression of the Black Panthers. Coverage of the 1967 protest introduced them to the party, and the fear of black people exercising their rights in an empowered, intimidating fashion left its mark. To them, the Black Panthers were little more than a group of thugs unified behind militaristic trappings and a leftist political ideology. And to be fair, some members of the party were criminals not just in the minds of frightened white people.

The Black Panther protest in 1967 is not the “black version” of what’s happening in Oregon right now. Those demonstrators entered the state Capitol lawfully, lodged their complaints against a piece of racially motivated legislation and then left without incident. But for those who see racial double standards at play in Oregon, the scope and severity of the 1967 response — the way the Panthers’ demonstration brought about panicked headlines, a prolonged FBI sabotage effort and support for gun control from the NRA, of all groups — will serve as confirmation that race shapes the way the country reacts to protest.

 

This article has been updated to specify that one has to go as far back as 1967 to find black activists — rather than any activists of color at all — participating in a protest similar to the Oregon occupation.

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High School Students Lead Protest Against Gun Violence In Front Of White House February 19, 2018

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Gun Control/Violence, Uncategorized, Youth.
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Roger’s note: Youth have always been at the head of social and revolutionary change.  I wonder if they are aware of the antecedent for the cheer: “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today?”  Substitute LBJ for NRA and it takes you back to 1968.

POLITICS Huffpost

02/19/2018 12:39 pm

Several student-led demonstrations also erupted across Florida on Presidents Day.

WASHINGTON ― Dozens of students gathered in front of the White House on Monday to demand changes to gun laws, just days after a mass shooting at a Florida high school left 17 people dead.

 

The demonstration was organized by Teens For Gun Reform, an organization created by students in the Washington, D.C., area in the wake of Wednesday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

 

Protesters participated in what they said would be a three-minute lie-in, which began around 12:30 p.m. on Presidents Day. They lay down in front of the White House “in representation of the victims of school shootings,” according to a post on the group’s Facebook page.dogu

ZACH GIBSON/GETTY IMAGES
Demonstrators on the ground during a lie-in demonstration supporting gun control reform on Monday.

“By doing this, we will make a statement on the atrocities which have been committed due to the lack of gun control, and send a powerful message to our government that they must take action now,” the group wrote on Facebook.

 

Following the lie-in, protesters continued to hold signs in support of stricter guns laws and shouted phrases including “Shame on you” and “Disarm hate” toward the White House. The group also chanted “No more deaths,” “Am I next?” and “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids have you killed today?”

ZACH GIBSON/GETTY IMAGES
Protesters hold signs during the demonstration against gun violence.

Last week’s massacre at the South Florida high school, in which a 19-year-old former student opened fire using an assault-style rifle, sparked protests and calls to action from students nationwide.

 

A group of students who survived the Parkland shooting have been outspoken in their criticism of Trump and lawmakers who receive financial contributions from gun lobbying groups such as the National Rifle Association.

 

On Sunday, the students announced plans for a march on Washington to demand congressional action on gun violence. The event, dubbed “March For Our Lives,” is scheduled for March 24.

 

Whitney Bowen and Eleanor Nuechterlein, both 16-year-old high school students from the D.C. area, started Teens For Gun Reform just two days after the Parkland shooting.

We might be 16 now and we might not be able to vote, but we can protest and we can use social media and we will make our voices heard.Whitney Bowen, co-founder of Teens For Gun Reform

“You never wake up thinking it’s going to be your school or it’s going to be your friends or family,” Bowen told HuffPost. “The Parkland kids didn’t either. … They woke up and went to school for the last time because there’s not enough gun control.”

 

Monday’s protest at the White House was planned on Presidents Day for symbolic reasons, Nuechterlein said. It’s not enough for President Donald Trump and other politicians to say “sorry” after school shootings, she said, they also need to start taking real legislative action to prevent them from happening.

 

Both Bowen and Nuechterlein said they plan to attend next month’s march on Washington.

 

“We might be 16 now and we might not be able to vote, but we can protest and we can use social media and we will make our voices heard,” Bowen said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t come down to politics. It comes down to kids dying in classrooms.”

Elodie Camus, a 15-year-old student at the British International School of Washington, D.C., participated in the White House protest Monday with her mother

.

U.S. gun laws “have put so many people in danger over the years in this country and there needs to be reform,” Camus told HuffPost, adding that she no longer feels “safe at all” at school.

 

“Something needs to be changed so not as many people are harmed,” she said.

Elodie Camus, protesting with her friend, doesn’t feel as safe in school anymore

Felicia Garber, whose two daughters survived the Parkland shooting, was in D.C. with her family when she heard about Monday’s protest and decided to attend the demonstration.

 

“We felt it was important to be present and thank the people who felt it was worth coming out here on this cold, dreary, rainy holiday to help let whoever is in this beautiful White House know that we will not take this any longer,” Garber told HuffPost.

 

“These legislators need to step up for our children and not just for these lobbyists,” she continued. ”[Parkland] kids are smart, educated, savvy … and they are outraged. These are young adults who are ready and unforgiving, and I can only hope this is the beginning of the change they can create for our country.”

 

Several other student-led protests against gun violence erupted across Florida on Monday. Students staged a walk out at Olympic Heights Community High School in West Boca Raton, while parents joined their kids in front of American Heritage School in Plantation just 30 miles to the south.

Another student-led protest in response to the Stoneman Douglas High massacre. This one is happening now outside American Heritage School. The kids, joined by some parents, are demanding more gun control. @nbc6

Student protest in front of Hollywood, FL City Hall: “What Do We Want? Gun Control!”

See video and more photos of the D.C. protest below:

  • Zach Gibson/Getty Images
    Protesters lie on the ground during a demonstration supporting gun control.
  • Zach Gibson/Getty Images
    Demonstrators chant during Monday’s protest.
  • Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
    Students and supporters hold signs as they protest outside the White House.
  • Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
    Students protest against gun violence.
  • Zach Gibson/Getty Images
    Demonstrators chant outside the White House.
  • Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
    Students and supporters gather on Pennsylvania Avenue.

No Rational Argument (NRA) June 19, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Uncategorized.
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AN UNINTENDED GIFT TO THE BLOOD SUCKING ARMS INDUSTRY CONTROLLED NRA AND THEIR MINDLESS FOLLOWERS WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GUN CONTROL AND GUN ABOLITION or BETWEEN A MILITIA AND AN INDIVIDUAL CITIZEN

6-17-16-slave-patrols

IT TOOK SEVEN MINUTES TO BUY THIS ASSAULT RIFLE IN THE U.S. June 16, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I cannot remember how many times I have written the phrase “truly frightening” in this space.  Here we go again.  “Get your automatic assault weapon capable of mowing down hundreds in a split second.  Get it before the government bans all guns and before Obama himself breaks into your sacred home and not only takes away your arsenal but also your wife and firstborn.”

How many thousands of Americans are armed to repeat the Orlando massacre.

How many millions (billions?) of dollars in sales by the arms industry that writes NRA propaganda.

An informative article here, but concentrating on “fear and hate” misses the point that nearly all terrorist acts, domestically and internationally, are the direct product of the United States warring in Muslim countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, etc.) and the U.S. sponsored Israeli genocidal acts towards the Palestinian peoples.

 

A day after Orlando shooting, a similar gun to one Omar Mateen used is promoted as gun of the week

 

PHILADELPHIA — Seven minutes. That’s how long it took me to buy an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle like the one used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

Seven minutes. From the moment I handed the salesperson my driver’s licence to the moment I passed my background check.

It likely will take more time than that during the forthcoming round of vigils to respectfully read the names of the more than 100 people who were killed or injured.

It’s obscene.

Surprising to some, perhaps, though it shouldn’t be, not at this point in our bloody, hate-filled history.

If it weren’t so easy to get a gun in this country, the 29-year-old gunman who went on a shooting rampage in a popular gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday wouldn’t have been able to buy the weapon he used to kill 49 people and injure 53.

If it weren’t so easy to get a gun in this country, another gunman who came before him wouldn’t have been able to use the same kind of firearm to kill elementary-school children in Newtown, Conn.

If it weren’t so appallingly easy to get a gun in this country, it wouldn’t be easy for the next gunman to deliver the kind of carnage that’s as much a part of this country as the American flag.

And there will undoubtedly be a next one.

This has been said, but bears repeating and repeating and repeating some more.

If nothing changed after children were slaughtered in their school, do any of us really believe anything will change after the deaths of people so many fear and loathe simply for trying to live their truths?

The gunman was apparently enraged over seeing a same-sex couple kiss. Think about that. Love enraged him. Love made him kill.

But I try not to think about any of that as I drive over to the gun shop in Philadelphia. I need to come up with some plausible story, I think. What if I’m asked why, a day after this massacre, I want to buy a nearly identical type of gun used to slaughter people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

I consider my options:

I’m a woman who wants a rifle for safety reasons.

I’m a gun enthusiast with a soft spot for military-style rifles.

I’m a card-carrying member of the NRA who is afraid the government will be coming for my guns.

Turns out I don’t need a story. The AR-15 is on display in the window of the gun shop. It is being promoted as the gun of the week.

What will it take to buy one, I ask the sales guy.

Do I have identification? Yes.

Am I a U.S. citizen? Yes.

“Bingo,” the friendly gun shop sales guy said. “All we have to do is fill paperwork out.”

I’ve filled out more paperwork at the doctor’s office for a routine checkup than I did Monday afternoon.

I felt a little squeamish about not telling him who I was and what I was trying to do, but this wasn’t about them; they weren’t doing anything illegal. The truth is that I could have bought the gun as easily in any gun shop in Pennsylvania. I just didn’t realize how easily.

Go to a licensed gun store. Fill out about a page and a half of forms. Wait (if that’s really the right word for it) for an instant background check, and then pay the man. I told the guy I was on a budget, so I got an AR-15 for $759.99. God bless America.

No need for a concealed carry permit. No mandatory training, though the guys did give me a coupon for a free day pass for a local gun range. No need for even a moment to at least consider how gross all of this felt as relatives of the dead were still being notified.

To be fair, there was an extra 10 or 15 minutes or so of chit-chat inside the gun store before I walked out with a cardboard box with the words Smith & Wesson emblazoned on it, and an attagirl for thinking ahead and buying the most popular rifle in the country before there’s a run on the gun from nervous gun owners who fear a ban on them.

“Yeah, because it was about the gun, not Islamic terrorism, right?” a man buying a gun offered, unsolicited.

Here we go, I thought.

The fact is, what shattered so many lives in the early hours Sunday was about many things.

Homophobia, first and foremost.

Radicalism — the American gunman claimed allegiance to Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, and praised the Boston Marathon bombers. Even if that’s not true, the radicals won’t have a problem with that.

Mental illness.

And yes, guns. Insane, nonsensical access to guns. So pick whatever reason or narrative matches your politics or agenda.

Have at it, because the truth is that while they all play a part, what’s really destroying this country is fear and hate. A festering fear and hate that we better think about when it’s time to vote for our next president, because the fear and hate is not all coming from the outside. It’s not all from some unnamed foreign bogeyman. Increasingly it’s from within, from down the street, the next state over, the next potential leader of this country.

As I walked to my car with my brand-new gun, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I didn’t want it, but I also didn’t want it in anyone else’s hands either.

So I drove to the Philadelphia Police Department’s Sixth District, where I seemed to stump more than a few officers when I explained who I was and what I wanted to do. Have you ever tried to turn in a gun in this city? Spoiler alert: It takes longer than it does to buy a gun.

As an officer prepared the paperwork, I noticed a sign that hung on one of the walls.

United We Stand, it read.

My God, I thought, what a lie.

We are more divided every single day, and yet our answer to that is to meet fear and hate with more fear and hate and then expect a different outcome. To be shocked at the world we live in, left to do little else but hold vigils.

While we’re mourning the dead, let us mourn the national loss of humanity that is to blame for this world we have created.

And let us take more than seven minutes to do it.

 

 

Obama in Charleston July 12, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, History, Race, Racism, Religion.
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Roger’s note: I found this article to be particularly insightful with respect to the underlying and cynical political underpinnings in the rhetoric and strategy of the snake oil salesman who is the president of the United States.

Based as it is in the concept of “grace,” President Obama’s eulogy on June 26, 2015, for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the Emanuel AME Methodist Church, was framed to be moving . But at the same time it was crafted not to rock the ship of state by steering it safely through the troubled political waters of the controversial issues raised by the murders of the Reverend Pinckney and eight of his parishioners. Moving yet politically safe is the keynote of the eulogy.

In this respect the eulogy follows the rhetorical pattern of other speeches Obama has given in the past, most notably the 2008 Philadelphia speech on race. The pattern of these speeches is one in which Obama touches on key issues—poverty, race, gun violence, etc—and then does not propose concrete policy initiatives to deal with the issues, even as a way of educating the public on the specific route to justice we should be taking, no matter what the political obstacles. Instead, he offers us consolation and, of course, his trademark “hope.” That is, he sentimentalizes the issues: “…an open heart,” the president tells us at the end of the eulogy, “That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think.” So while earlier in the speech he insists that “To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again,” the eulogy, devoid of any policy recommendations to follow, is no more than a symbolic gesture.

In the case of the murders at Emanuel, the president offers us the consolation and hope of “grace,” which he tells us “according to the Christian tradition [cannot be] earned.” In point of fact, the president is wrong here. It is only a segment of the Christian tradition, the Protestant tradition, in which grace cannot be earned. For the 76.7 million Catholics in the U.S. (a significant number of whom are Black) grace must be earned, through penance. And Catholics, of course, are the first Christians. How significantly different would the eulogy have been had Obama pursued this avenue to grace? For, indeed, there is much actual penance in the form of restorative justice that the United States needs to do.

We should have no doubts that the killings of the Reverend Pinckney and the eight parishioners of the Emanuel AME Methodist Church on June 17, 2015, are part of the ongoing history of lynching of Black people in the U.S. In the present, these wanton killings of Black adults and children have most often been carried out by the police acting in the name of the law: Amadou Diallo, Yvette Smith, Eric Garner, Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Brown, Tarika Wilson, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, to name but a few. But they have also been carried out by white vigilantes as in the present case, where Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sr., poeticsimperialismSharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson were lynched alongside Clementa Pinckney. Recently as well, there have been others: James Byrd, Jr., tied to a pickup truck and dragged to death in Texas in 1998 by white racists, comes to mind; and, preceding the recent murders by police in several U.S. cities and by Dylann Roof in Charleston, the lynching of Trayvon Martin by vigilante George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012, stands out. But these few names only represent the multitude of Black lynchings, past and present.

Yet I have not heard any official or mainstream media commentary refer to the AME murders, or any of the killings I’ve referenced, as part of an ongoing history of “lynching?” Nor, while mentioning the history of racial violence in the most general terms, did the president reflect on this specific history in his eulogy. Why not? The reason would seem to be that the U.S. is continually in denial of its own continuing violent history, a denial that acknowledges this history but very generally, almost abstractly, distancing it from us as a way of not coming to grips with it in the present, a denial that works against real reform.

In his eulogy, President Obama referred to slavery as “our original sin.” An implicit effect of Obama’s equating the national “original sin” with slavery is that it reinforces the classic black/white binary. While this binary serves to emphasize a key strain of U.S. history, it simultaneously serves to erase other key components of a continuing history of imperial and colonial violence. In fact, our original sin was not slavery but Native American genocide and the theft of Native land.   This genocidal theft was the very ground of slavery, both literally and figuratively. But the U.S. does not want or cannot afford to admit that it is a settler colony.

In addition to Native genocide and continued colonialism in Indian country under the regime of federal Indian law, in addition to the legacy of slavery and the fact that 150 years after the Civil War Blacks along with Native Americans remain at the bottom of the economic ladder, the U. S. has continued to deny, under the myth of American exceptionalism, which informs all the president’s speeches, its colonial-imperial past and present in Latin America and the Middle East. If we are going to speak in religious terms, as the president chose to do in Charleston, the U.S. has a multitude of “sins” for which to atone both at home and abroad, where it continues to violate international law with undeclared drone warfare that is killing civilians like those who were murdered in church in Charleston.

Perhaps, then, if we followed the Catholic Christian tradition, in which there is also a strong tradition of action for social justice, we might do “penance,” and thereby earn our grace, by fighting for actual policy initiatives: gun control, reparations in the form of economic development for the official theft of labor and land owed the Black and Native communities, the end of deportations for undocumented workers, a living wage, permanent voting rights, equal pay for women, and total LGBTI equality under the Constitution. The implementation of such policies, indeed placing them at the top of the national political agenda, would go a long way to ending the psychological and social conditions that continue to foster lynching in the U.S, conditions that devalue not only Black lives but the lives of other marginalized people of all races, ethnicities, and sexual identities.

This tradition of action for social justice is also a part of the tradition of the Black Protestant Church, which the president references in the eulogy. In that Church this tradition is represented not only by Clementa Pinckney but by such ministers as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whom presidential candidate Obama jettisoned in his Philadelphia speech by taking out of context Wright’s just criticism of the United States’ history of violence at home and abroad; that is, by erasing Wright’s taking exception with American exceptionalism.

In the eulogy, Obama develops his meditation on grace by first noting , with admiration bordering on awe, that the families of the fallen forgave the killer at his arraignment hearing: “The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.”

In contrast to Obama’s praise for this act of forgiveness, on the June 24, 2015, Michelangelo Signorile satellite radio show on Serius XM Progress, two days before Obama’s eulogy, Mark Thompson—Black activist, minister, and host of his own show Make It Plain on the same channel—commented skeptically on the time and place of this expression of forgiveness: “What I as a Christian minister can’t understand and what no other Christian minister I know can understand is how you announce forgiveness less than 48 hours after your loved ones have been taken out by Dylann Roof…. it is humanly impossible with all the stages of grief that have been codified and studied ad nauseam…to make that kind of statement credibly that soon.”

Moreover, Thompson pointed out, to make the statement of forgiveness at a “bond hearing” is particularly inappropriate “because that opens the door for legal maneuvering on the part of his counsel.” Thus for Thompson, and he is not alone in this, the time and place of this expression of forgiveness by the bereaved, not forgiveness itself, suggests that the event “was orchestrated, staged and choreographed” in order to suppress potential aggressive protests by the Black community of Charleston, of the kind that had just taken place in Ferguson and Baltimore over the police lynchings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray (and Thompson made it plain in this interview that he understands these killings, along with those in Charleston and the others I have referenced, as part of the continuing history of lynching): “Nikki Haley,” Thompson remarks, “gets up there and says we’re not like Baltimore…which was insulting to the people of Baltimore, maybe you didn’t have that because people are still in shock, maybe you didn’t have that because you all choreographed, you made a phone call and said to some relatives you all need to come down to this bond hearing and say forgive this man,” though, Thompson notes, “I’m not saying I know that’s what happened but… we just really do not understand how that came to be, the timing of it, highly, highly, highly inappropriate….”

The timing, Thompson suggests, also served to present a comforting , indeed subservient, image of Black people to the nation: “It’s also part of the subjugation of our people…some people cannot feel comfortable in America unless we as Black people are always in this passive and submissive role….” The immediate expression of forgiveness by the families of those murdered at Emmanuel AME , then, is the perfect emotional antidote to the anger of the protestors in Ferguson and Baltimore and in fact to all the acts of Black resistance that are a crucial part of American history and of which the Emmanuel AME and the Black Church as a whole are a part. This act of forgiveness might remind some of us of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antebellum bestseller Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which presented a sentimental picture of a forgiving Christian Black populace in a U.S. caught up the in the antebellum violence of slavery and of Black and white abolitionist resistance to and rebellion against this “peculiar institution.”

This is exactly the comforting picture that Obama’s eulogy presents with its theme of forgiveness through unearned grace. At the end of the eulogy, Obama sang, in fine voice, quite movingly, Amazing Grace, and once again we might be reminded of the sentimental power of Stowe’s novel, even as we understand its hallucinatory vision of race relations in the United States.

Social critic Jon Stewart got to the heart of our continuing hallucination about the conjuncture of race and violence, when, a day after the Emanuel lynchings, he spoke about them on The Daily Show:

“I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist. And I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack s—. Yeah. That’s us….And we’re going to keep pretending like, ‘I don’t get it. What happened? This one guy lost his mind.’ But we are steeped in that culture in this country and we refuse to recognize it, and I cannot believe how hard people are working to discount it.”

Obama’s eulogy does the hard work of denial by at once “acknowledging” the continuing U.S. history of racist violence against Blacks (though he is careful not to call this continuing violence by the name of “lynching”), by “staring into that and seeing it for what it is,” but in the same breath denying this history by sentimentalizing it and turning policy into morality, most pointedly in the moment when he speaks about gun violence:

“For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation…. The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.”

This is vintage Obama: the problem of gun violence is at once articulated and solved in a virtual reality where the “vast majority of Americans—the majority of gun owners, expressing “God’s grace” make “the moral choice to change.” No policy needed; the “something” that “the vast majority of Americans…want to do” about gun violence is not specified, precisely because there is no consensus on the issue. It follows that if one does not voice an actual policy on guns, there are no hard choices of the kind, for example, that Australia (another frontier colonial state) made in instituting rigorous gun laws in 1996 after a lone gunman, Martin Bryant, went on a shooting rampage that left 35 people dead and 23 wounded in Tasmania. Indeed, Obama has cited Australia’s response to this massacre favorably in the past. Here, however, within the scope of God’s grace, the U.S. can apparently have its political cake and eat it too “by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country.” We can, it appears, control guns without disturbing “the traditions and ways of life” of gun owners. This is magical thinking, which clearly ignores the NRA and its vast lobbying power.

If the audience hasn’t been moved by this sentimental appeal, and apparently it has been if the applause the appeal calls forth is any indication, then the president’s invocation of “this beloved country” functions rhetorically to conjure his imaginary consensus.

At worst, one might be tempted to think that Obama’s eulogy was cynical in its turn away from policy, that is, from the major political form of accountability, to a sentimentality that mimics the precipitous act of forgiveness of the bereaved in Charleston. As Mark Thompson points out such acts of forgiveness, if they are to come at all, typically come at the sentencing hearing after the trial has been concluded. But there has been no trial as yet, not simply of the killer but of the country from which the killer emerged, from us: no testimony, no rigorous analysis of the evidence, no accountability, no verdict, no punishment or “penance” if you will.

We can be certain that the killer will be put on trial and a verdict rendered in due time. But it is highly doubtful, given our powers of denial, that the country has the will to face its own day of judgment.

Eric Cheyfitz is Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University. He is the author of The Poetics of Imperialism.

Merry Christmas and Bang, You’re Dead December 12, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Gun Control/Violence, Humor.
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Nation Debates Extremely Complex Issue of Children Firing Military Weapons August 31, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Gun Control/Violence, Humor.
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Roger’s note: Last week a nine year old girl from New Jersey was on vacation with her family in Arizona where she was taken to a gun range (the Last Stop shooting range) by her parents where she was given a Uzi sub-machine gun to fire at a target.  Something went wrong, probably with the weapon’s recoil, and she occidentally shot and killed the instructor at her side.  Unlike the article below, I am not making this up.

 

AUGUST 28, 2014

BY ANDY BOROWITZ
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CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY SVEN NACKSTRAND/AFP/GETTY
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Across the United States on Wednesday, a heated national debate began on the extremely complex issue of children firing military weapons.

“Every now and then, the nation debates an issue that is so complicated and tricky it defies easy answers,” says pollster Davis Logsdon. “Letting small children fire automatic weapons is such an issue.”

Logsdon says that the thorny controversy is reminiscent of another ongoing national debate, about whether it is a good idea to load a car with dynamite and drive it into a tree.

“Many Americans think it’s a terrible idea, but others believe that with the correct supervision, it’s perfectly fine,” he says. “Who’s to say who’s right?”

Similar, he says, is the national debate about using a flamethrower indoors. “There has been a long and contentious national conversation about this,” he says. “It’s another tough one.”

Much like the long-running national debates about jumping off a roof, licking electrical sockets, and gargling with thumbtacks, the vexing question of whether children should fire military weapons does not appear headed for a swift resolution.

“Like the issue of whether you should sneak up behind a bear and jab it with a hot poker, this won’t be settled any time soon,” he says.

An Opportunity to Survive: Someone Has Made A Bulletproof Blanket For Your Kids Because This Is What We’ve Come To June 10, 2014

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Roger’s note: I am reminded of the drop drills we had when I was in elementary school in the immediate post WWII years.  In case of atomic attack, the teacher would yell “DROP!” and we would dive under our desks.  This surely would have protected us from an atomic blast.  Security is not a matter of weapons or bullet proof accessories, but rather a just social and economic system.  Of course, fear mongering is good and profitable  for enterprising capitalists such as the one described here.  So, hurry, get your bullet proof blanket today, supplies are limited!  And pick up your automatic weapon and rounds while you’re at it!

When will they ever learn?

 

by Abby Zimet

An Oklahoma podiatrist has designed the Bodyguard Blanket, a bulletproof pad offering “an extra layer of protection” against “90% of all weapons that have been used in school shootings in the United States.” In their soft-focus, schmaltzy-music-festooned video, kids romp on “just an ordinary day” until – dark music for “when seconds count” – they dutifully strap on their blankets and hunch on the floor under some capitalist’s wet dream of a money-making scheme because that’s all the kids will have thanks to gutless politicians who’ve failed to do anything else to protect them against our national lunacy, and no this is not The Onion.

Comments

  • Things to bring on your first day of school:

    #2 pencils
    3 ring binder
    loose leaf notebook paper
    blue or black ink pen
    backpack
    lunch money
    bullet proof blanket
    bullet proof helmet
    Gun (if you’re a good kid…that way you can kill bad kids)
    a conformist attitude
    manners
    a battle plan
    bullet proof vest

    Lesson of the day: The pledge of Allegiance and American exceptionalism

    • …and be sure to wear clean underwear, just in case.
      …and make sure you hug Mommy before leaving for the school bus.
      …and feed the dog because you never know when or if you will be coming back home.

  • Looks like WE are back to ‘duck-and-cover’. This time the enemy is us.
    By the time the kids are in second grade they will have PTSD.

Trayvon Martin Nativity Display At Claremont United Methodist Church Urges Us Not To Forget Gun Violence Victims December 28, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Gun Control/Violence, Racism, Religion.
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Roger’s note: I am not that big on organized Christianity or the nativity myth, but there are some few who call themselves Christian who actually do reflect the ethic of love and peace.  And I am big on remembering Trayvon Martin and the institutionalized racism and gun industry that were responsible for his murder as much as the fool Zimmerman.

 

Posted: 12/27/2013 1:41 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/27/2013 6:02 pm EST Huff Post

Trayvon Martin hasn’t been forgotten at Claremont United Methodist Church in Claremont, Cali.– in fact, he appears front and center in their Nativity display. He serves as a bloody and tragic reminder of the dangers of gun violence and racial privilege in today’s America, reports David Allen of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

Amongst the traditional holy family, Martin sits hunched over in his iconic black hoodie, blood pouring from his chest and pooling at his feet, reports Patch.com. The title of the scene, “A Child is Born, a Son is Given,” is outlined within the blood and evokes themes of both Christmas and Easter, according to artist John Zachary, who has been creating thought-provoking displays since 2007.

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Zachary told Allen in an interview that the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot the unarmed teenager in 2012, “struck him as a worthy subject for Christmas comment.”

“There is no better time to reflect on gun violence than advent, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus,” says a sign at the church.. “Jesus was born into a state of total vulnerability as an innocent, unarmed child during a time of great violence much like Trayvon Martin.”

As families gather together at Christmas to celebrate, Zachary hopes to get them to think long and hard about their own blessings and privileges. He told Allen that many Christmas traditions of gifts reflect “privilege, and there’s a lot of people who don’t have that privilege. Maybe I should do something that’s provocative, that’s more in keeping with the teachings of Jesus.”

trayvon
Artist John Zachary

This isn’t the first time that the church has used the Nativity as an opportunity to remind people about issues of social justice and inequality, which probably would have been of great concern to Jesus himself. Past displays have included Jesus and Mary as a homeless couple struggling to feed their newborn child, as Iraqi refugees next to U.S. soldiers, as immigrants from Mexico stopped by the wall at the border, among others. In 2011, Zachary’s Nativity display was of the outlines of three couples, two of them same-sex, gathering under the banner “Christ Is Born.”

Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, lead pastor at the church, told Allen that she finds this year’s scene difficult to look at, due to its violence. “It’s hard to look at a young man who’s shot and bleeding to death,” she said. “But even though I’m uncomfortable, that’s the point. We have to take a look at the violence.”

Response to the display has been surprisingly muted. “I thought this would be more controversial, but I come to find out people don’t really like people getting shot,” Zachary told Allen. “They may not agree what to do about it, but they agree it’s a bad thing.”

Rhodes-Wickett said that her congregation is progressive, and that “Most people like something that makes us think and makes us search our hearts.”

sign

Also on HuffPost:

Guns Are Cool September 17, 2013

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by Abby Zimet

One more time: A guy – an unstable veteran who drank alot, suffered from anger management and other ill-defined mental issues, and “had a gun at all times” – killed at least 12 people at a D.C. Navy yard. There have been so many mass shootings in this country, and this country alone, that there are currently several battling definitions for mass shootings. If one uses the FBI definition – a spree in which four or more people are killed in one location – there have been six mass shootings in the past nine months and 20 during Obama’s presidency. If you broaden the definition to include people killed or wounded in the spree, as the folks at the database Guns Are Cool have reasonably done, the number comes to 250 in 2013, or almost one a day. Yes. Almost one a day. You can scroll down them. Scroll and scroll. While details are still emerging on this latest travesty, we do know a few things: that gun freaks should shut up already with their crap about how none of this would have happened if there had been more guns at the Navy yard – a notion Chris Hayes obliterates right quick – and that the body count in this country is well past obscene. Obama called the shooting “a cowardly act.” You wanna see a cowardly act? Congress persistently, unfathomably, unconscionably failing to halt the bloodshed.

“Guns don’t kill people. Nothing kills people. People don’t die. Stop saying words.” – spoof NRA tweet.