jump to navigation

Marine Le Pen Is What Happens When You Try to Meet Racism in the Middle April 25, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, France, Nazi / Fascist, Racism, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: It’s curious.  The notion of “appeasement” is widely misused to justify all kinds of illegal military invasions.  Chamberlain “appeased” Hitler, so now for all time forward it is legitimate to attack anyone we don’t like.  They must not be “appeased.”  Saddam must not be appeased, Gaddafi must not be appeased, Iran must not be appeased, North Korea must not be appeased, Assad must not be appeased, etc. etc. etc.

(This doctrine, curiously, was not applied to South African Apartheid, to Chile’s Pinochet, Cuba’s Batista, Haiti’s Duvalier and a host of other tyrannical rulers.  Nor is it applied today to Egypt’s Sisi or Turkey’s Erdogan or the Saudis, etc. etc. etc.  Not to mention Israel’s Netanyahu.  Curious.)

But where do we appease when we shouldn’t?  We do we lack the courage or the moral fibre to confront such cancerous social phenomenon as racism?  Read on.

marine-le-pen-france-election-1493045458-article-header Photo: Aurore Marechal/Sipa/AP

SHAME ON THEM all. French leaders from across the political spectrum could not prevent a far-right candidate who has denied the role played by her country’s wartime Vichy government in the Nazi Holocaust from reaching the second and final round of the presidential election.

On Sunday, Marine Le Pen became only the second National Front candidate in French history to make it through to the second round — the first was her Holocaust-denying father, FN founder Jean Marie Le Pen, in 2002 — where she will face independent centrist Emmanuel Macron on May 7. Never before in the history of the French Fifth Republic have both the Socialist and the Republican candidates failed to reach the presidential run-off. This is nothing less than a political cataclysm.

So who is to blame for the rise and rise of Le Pen and the FN? The conventional wisdom says that mainstream French politicians allowed the far right to win votes by letting them monopolize the issue of immigration. The reverse is, in fact, the case: Over the past four decades, both the center-right Republicans and center-left Socialists went out of their way to try and co-opt the xenophobic rhetoric and policies of the Le Pens, which only emboldened — and normalized — both father and daughter.

Go back to September 1984, when the Socialist prime minister, Laurent Fabius, told a TV interviewer that the elder Le Pen, a card-carrying racist and neo-fascist, was posing the right questions but giving the wrong answers. A few years later, the Socialist president, Francois Mitterrand, declared that France had reached a “threshold of tolerance” in terms of the impact of immigrants.

In 1991, after clashes broke out between French police and youths of Arab and North African descent, politicians from the left, right, and center fell over one another to denounce immigration and bash French Muslims. In June of that year, for example, it wasn’t the elder Le Pen who decried an “overdose” of immigrants who brought to France “three or four wives, some 20 children,” plus “noise” and “smell.” It was former center-right prime minister (and later president) Jacques Chirac. A month later, it wasn’t Le Pen who announced that the French government would charter planes to forcibly deport undocumented immigrants. It was then-Prime Minister Edith Cresson, a Socialist. Just a few months later, in September 1991, it wasn’t Le Pen who warned of an “invasion” of immigrants and called for French citizenship to be based on “the right by blood.” It was former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

Every time the established politicians and parties hardened their stance on immigration, or on Islam, the FN became less fringe, more mainstream. Perhaps the biggest boost to the LePenization of French politics came from Nicolas Sarkozy. As president of France between 2007 and 2012, he actively courted FN voters and helped dismantle the “Republican pact,” under which the two main parties had pledged to work together to defeat the FN at a national and local level. Remember: It was Sarkozy who launched the “Great Debate on National Identity” in 2009; who ordered the ban on the face veil, worn by only 2,000 out of the roughly 2 million adult Muslim women in France, in 2010; who absurdly declared halal meat to be the “issue which most preoccupies the French” in 2012. And it was Sarkozy who called the FN “a democratic party” and deemed its values “compatible with the Republic.”

The French left, however, also has a lot to answer for. Manuel Valls, Socialist prime minister between 2014 and 2016, defended a ban on the burkini and said the “most important thing” is not unemployment but “the identity battle, the cultural battle.” Marine Le Pen herself could not have said it better. Valls’ Socialist colleague Laurence Rossignol, France’s minister for women’s rights, compared Muslim women who choose to wear the headscarf to “American negroes who were in favor of slavery.” And the far left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came fourth on Sunday, condemned the candidacy of a headscarf-wearing female Muslim candidate in the local elections of 2010.

These are the moral depths to which French socialism has fallen.

With enemies like these, who needs friends? Should we be surprised then that Marine Le Pen has pulled off an unashamedly cynical policy of dédiabolisation (or de-demonization) in recent years, based on playing down the FN’s (unpopular) anti-Semitism while playing up its (more popular) Islamophobia? Without much resistance, she has framed the party’s hard-line stance on immigration as a liberal defense of French laicité, or secularism, against fanatical and illiberal Muslims at home and abroad.

Islamophobia long ago united French public figures from across the spectrum. “That anti-Muslim rhetoric can be used from the far left to the far right … illustrates the convergence of points of views about Muslims,” Yasser Louati, a French human rights activist, tells me. “They can disagree on everything but not Islamophobia.”

To fight the FN, he says, there has to be a recognition of the role that endemic racism and religious discrimination still plays in French society, from the boardrooms to the banlieues. A former colonial power like France, argues Louati, has “racism enshrined in its DNA.” The official statistics on rising hate crimes, like Sunday’s election result, seem to back him up.

Nevertheless, to also be fair to the French, the latest polling suggests around two out of three of them will vote against Le Pen and in favor of Macron in the run-off next month. Macron is on course to win a resounding victory — but Le Pen has made clear she is here to stay. Le Pen and her fascist friends will be back in 2022 to fight again, enthused and energized, not to mention legitimized, by achieving such success in 2017 — and by forcing both left and right to dance to their bigoted tunes.

So it’s time for a reckoning. The French elites’ strategy of trying to defeat the Le Pens by aping their rhetoric, stealing their policies, and pandering to their voters has been a political and moral failure. As Gary Younge wrote in The Guardian after Jean-Marie Le Pen’s shock victory in the first round in 2002, “Every step you make in the direction of a racist agenda does not ‘neutralize’ racists but emboldens them.”

Fifteen years on, nothing has changed. You cannot appease fascism by meeting it in the middle; you cannot beat racism by indulging or excusing it. Perhaps French politicians should re-read their national motto. Fighting for égalité and fraternité, regardless of race or religion, is the only way forward.

Top photo: Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen addresses activists at the Espace Francois Mitterrand in Henin-Beaumont, north of France, on April 23, 2017.

Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is an award-winning British columnist, broadcaster, and author based in Washington, D.C. He hosts UpFront on Al Jazeera English and has interviewed, among others, Edward Snowden, Hamid Karzai, Ehud Olmert, and Gen. Michael Flynn. He is also the author of two books — a biography of former U.K. Labor Party leader Ed Miliband and an e-book on the financial crisis and austerity economics. Mehdi has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, and the Times of London, among others, and is the former political director of the Huffington Post U.K. and a contributing editor to the New Statesman. He has been included in the annual list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world and named as one of the 100 most influential Britons on Twitter.

Warning: Canada Is Not What You Think It Is February 21, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Immigration, Racism, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: I have read some journalism with the theme: can the Trump phenomenon happen in Canada.  Well, my friends, it already has, and it is called “Stephen Harper.”  Just as I refer to current Toronto Mayor John Tory as “Rob Ford minus the crack cocaine,” I would characterise the now departed Canadian Prime Minister (Harper) as Donald Trump without the Tweets (but with hair).  Although the Harper government was soundly defeated in the last election, Harper’s fear mongering legacy lives on in the Conservative Party, which as spawned a gaggle of would-be leaders, who are counting on the Trump effect to further inspire Canadian bigotry.

 

1-iy_qsbszpb1l1uhufgacva

If you assume Canada is a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Trump, you may be mistaken.

By Andrew Mitrovica

February 20, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – “Al Jazeera” –  Warning: if you believe Canada is a pretty, picture-postcard Islamophobia-free zone, then I recommend you stop reading this column. You’re about to be profoundly disappointed, shocked, or both.

Scratch its inviting surface and you will discover quickly that, as in most other Western democracies, Islamophobia is not only alive and rampant in Canada, but it has long been a defining characteristic of at least one of its major political parties and large swaths of the country’s corporate media.

The most recent evidence of this unassailable fact has been on unsavoury display in the still raw residue of the massacre of six Muslim Canadians at prayer in a Quebec City mosque earlier this month.

Immediately after the terrorist attack, politicians went about the ritual of decrying the murders, while praying for the victims and their grieving families and urging their countrymen to rally around the Muslim community as a sign of unity and support.

Meanwhile, after a burst of attention to blunt any criticism that it took a terrorist attack on Muslims in Canada by a white, reactionary male as seriously as attacks in Paris, Brussels or London, much of the establishment media promptly went on its way, as the carnage in a mosque receded comfortably into the rearview mirror.

But difficult questions remained unanswered. Chief among them: What to do about the Islamophobia that was stoked into a raging bonfire by some of the very politicians and media that were pleading – with all the faux solemnity they could muster – for harmony and understanding?

Condemning Islamophobia

Wisely sceptical of the flowery rhetoric, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) – a prominent voice for Canada’s Muslim community – has written an open letter to politicians of all persuasions, urging them to take concrete steps to confront Islamophobia and racism and discrimination that exists plainly in their midst.

leitch-harperHarper and Leitch, the dynamic duo of Canadian racism, source: montrealsimon@blogspot.com

 
Finally, the NCCM threw its powerful backing behind a largely symbolic, non-binding motion sponsored by a governing Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid, that calls on the House of Commons to condemn Islamophobia and all religious discrimination in the aftermath of the Quebec city attack.

For context, it’s important to note that after a few hours of perfunctory debate, Canadian parliamentarians unanimously adopted another Liberal MP’s motion in 2015 condemning the “rise of anti-Semitism around the world”.

Not surprisingly, Khalid’s motion has faced a much more different, tumultuous and instructive fate.

Rather than be approved swiftly and unanimously, Motion 103 has morphed into a running spectacle that has not only dominated Canada’s political agenda but has also exposed the pus of Islamophobia still oozing from Canadian politicians and media that only a few weeks ago were expressing sympathy for men murdered during evening prayers because they were Muslims.

‘Phantom horrors’

Leading the hysterical charge in opposing the motion is Canada’s Conservative Party and the bevy of candidates who are vying to lead it. All but one of the leadership candidates have signalled their vehement opposition to the motion, claiming that, among other phantom horrors, it would stifle freedom of speech and possibly act as a precursor to the invocation of “Sharia Law”.

This is, of course, lunacy. But it is lunacy that has coursed its malevolent way through the core of the Conservative Party for a long time and not, as some have suggested, emerged only lately from the swamp of Islamophobia to take up residence at the party’s radical “fringes”.

Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them. 

This is a revisionist lie. Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent much of his tenure fuelling and satisfying the not-so-latent Islamophobia that was politically appealing to his legion of supporters by making the niqab a racist dog-whistle and lauding “old-stock Canadians”.

By the way, the NCCM has sued Harper and his former spokesman for suggesting that the respected advocacy group had “documented ties to a terrorist organisation such as Hamas“.

Harper not only stocked his cabinet with ministers who shared his embrace of what amounted to hate politics, but also plucked them from obscurity, gave them a national profile, all the while defending and championing them.

Perhaps Harper’s signature legacy in this sorry regard was first encouraging, and then promoting, the political career of Kellie Leitch – who, in turn, repaid her patron’s largesse with unrivalled zealotry and loyalty.

During last year’s election campaign, Leitch fronted the unveiling of a Harper-approved “tip line” for reporting so-called “barbaric cultural practices” – a thinly disguised, bureaucratic euphemism for Islam.

And, today, as a prominent and popular Conservative leadership candidate, Leitch keeps channelling her former boss’s odious modus operandi while attending a “freedom rally” stuffed with avowed Islamophobes who are convinced Motion 103 is an Islam-inspired plot to undermine Canadians’ rights and freedoms.

“It’s great to be in a room full of severely normal people tonight,” Leitch told the adoring crowd. “Canadian values are not fringe, and together, I know, we are going to fight for them.”

Leitch is Harper without the filter.

READ MORE: In Quebec, calls for unity amid rising Islamophobia

Cheering her on is an equally hysterical mob of largely right-wing journalists who have pounced on Khalid and her motion, chomping at the bit of Islamophobia while insisting, unconvincingly, that their objections to Motion 103 are motivated solely by their oh-so-sincere concern that it would grant one religion “special status” over all others.

Khalid put an emphatic lie to this transparently spurious reasoning after rising in the House of Commons to read out a sampling of the relentless torrent of hate, death threats and Islamophobia she has endured in the days since proffering her motion.

She has been called a “terrorist” and a “camel humping” “scumbag” who should be shot by a “Canadian patriot” or deported “like a disgusting piece of trash.” She has advised her staff not to answer the phone and to lock the office door behind them.

Undeterred, Khalid rightly excoriated the remnants of Harper’s Conservative caucus for its “cynical, divisive tactics … to try to start a fake frenzy around the word Islamophobia, instead of tackling the issue at hand.”

So, the next time you’re inclined to praise or even consider moving to Canada because it’s allegedly a welcoming haven from the bile and divisiveness in the age of Donald Trump, it might be best to remember these obscenities before you act on your impulses.

Andrew Mitrovica is an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism instructor.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

If Afghan Lives Mattered, Dallas Lives Would Matter August 31, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Afro-American, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS/ISIL, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Police, Racism, Uncategorized, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Roger’s note: this article was written following the shooting of police in Dallas in early July, which itself followed on the heels of the latest round of police shooting unarmed African Americans.  What I like about this article is that it makes the connection between the United States’ illegal and endless aggression in Afghanistan and violence at home.  I again reminded of Malcolm X’s notorious remark in the immediate aftermath of John Kennedy’s assassination: “the chickens have come home to roost.”

Capitalism and imperialism go hand in hand.  As we await another sham election in the United States, we know in our heart of hearts and mind of minds that our entire government — presidency, congress, courts — is nothing more or less than the administrators and executors of the Empire; and that implies responsibility for the crimes and suffering abroad as well as at home.  Unfortunately, no election (even Saint Bernie) is going to effect this grim reality.  It is up to us, the 99 percent.

 

 

 

By David Swanson

The man who murdered police officers in Dallas, Texas, this week had earlier been employed in a massive operation, now in its 15th year, that has killed many thousands of people in Afghanistan. He was trained to kill by the U.S. military using U.S. tax dollars. He was conditioned to believe violence an appropriate response to violence by the examples everywhere to be found in U.S. public policy, history, entertainment, and language.

Murdering police officers because some other police officers committed murder is unfair, unjust, immoral, and certainly counterproductive on its own terms. The Dallas killer managed to get himself killed by means of a bomb delivered by a robot. The police could have waited him out but chose not to, and no one indoctrinated to accept violent revenge will blame them. But that technology will spread among police and non-police killers. The airwaves are reverberating with cries for a race war. Greater militarization of the police, not greater restraint, will follow this incident. More lives will be lost. More screams of agony will be heard over loved ones lost.

Murdering people in Afghanistan because some other people who had been to Afghanistan were suspected of committing murder was and is unfair, unjust, immoral, and certainly counterproductive on its own terms – and according to the White House this week it will continue for years to come. Not only did most people in Afghanistan not support the murders of September 11, 2001, but most people in Afghanistan had never heard of that crime. The global war on and of terrorism has been increasing terrorism for nearly 15 years. “When you drop a bomb from a drone… you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good,” said retired U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in August 2014. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict.”

The cry of “Black lives matter!” is not a proposal that white lives or police lives or soldiers’ lives or any lives do not matter. It is a lament over the disproportionate targeting of blacks by police shootings. The trick is to understand the shootings as the enemy, the militarizing and weaponizing policies as the enemy, and not some group of people.

The murders on 9/11 were not rightly understood. The enemy was murder, not Saudis or foreigners or Muslims. Now hundreds of times those murders have been added in response, making murder the big victor and peace the big loser. With no end in sight.

We must not go on trying to solve a problem with the same tools that created it. We must, in fact, proclaim that “All lives matter.” But if that is meant to include only the 4% of human lives contained within the United States, it will fail. We must stop training people to imagine that violence works, and hoping they will only use their violent skills abroad among the 96% of people who don’t matter.

Where is our outrage and our grief when the White House admits to killing innocents with drones? Where is our indignation over the people killed by the U.S. military in foreign lands? Where is our concern over U.S. weapons sales flooding the Middle East and other regions of the globe with instruments of death? When attacking ISIS just fuels ISIS, why is the only option ever considered more of the same?

What brings in campaign funding, what earns votes, what wins media coverage, what generates movie ticket sales, and what sustains the weapons industry may just be at odds with what protects all human lives including those we’re traditionally encouraged to think matter. But we can redirect our votes, our media consumption, and even our choice of industries to invest in.

Dallas lives are, whether we know it or not, going to go on not mattering, until Afghan and all other lives matter too.

4 Comments

  1. Eloquent and to the point, Mr. Swanson. And frankly, getting the money out of war would go 97% of the war to “curing” it. The rest would be a clean up operation, deprogramming the religious zealots that so conveniently drive the war machine for the corporate moguls.

  2. Antonio Bernal

    The enemy is not black or white, the enemy is not Christian or Muslim, the enemy is not American of Arab, the enemy is MONEY. As long as someone can make a buck they dont give a damn who gets killed. We must learn to live without money. People can work for time credits- if it takes 10 minutes for a gallon of milk to go from cow to table, then you work 10 minutes and get your milk. Time cannot be stored, exchanged or corrupted the way money can. Money causes racism, polarization, environmental degradation, war and all the ills that afflict humanity. Doing away with it will solve all the world’s current problems. For more information write me guajolotl@aol.com

  3. Kudos on a well-conceived and bravely written analysis. Brave, because while it is the only view which makes sense, it is not what our misled and fearful population wants to hear. The United States has a long history of justifying all violence perpetrated by itself, as inevitable. Ditto for foreign governments and people. That said, I refuse to give up! Were I a religious man, I’d be wearing a Saint Jude medallion.

Did a Fear of Slave Revolts Drive American Independence? July 4, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Afro-American, Genocide, History, Racism, slavery, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

 

Roger’s note: we hardly need the article I have posted below to remind us that in 1776 genocidal racism directed toward African slaves and First Nations peoples was alive and well.  What I do think we need to be reminded of is how today’s orgiastic, exceptionalist, triumphalist (a la Joseph Goebbels) “celebrations,” along with the Trump phenomenon, are clear signs that things have not changed that much in 240 years.

 

FullSizeRender (1)d

FullSizeRender (1)b

 

Robert G. Parkinson, New York Times, July 4, 2016

Binghamton, N.Y. — FOR more than two centuries, we have been reading the Declaration of Independence wrong. Or rather, we’ve been celebrating the Declaration as people in the 19th and 20th centuries have told us we should, but not the Declaration as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams wrote it. To them, separation from Britain was as much, if not more, about racial fear and exclusion as it was about inalienable rights.

The Declaration’s beautiful preamble distracts us from the heart of the document, the 27 accusations against King George III over which its authors wrangled and debated, trying to get the wording just right. The very last one — the ultimate deal-breaker — was the most important for them, and it is for us: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” In the context of the 18th century, “domestic insurrections” refers to rebellious slaves. “Merciless Indian savages” doesn’t need much explanation.

In fact, Jefferson had originally included an extended attack on the king for forcing slavery upon unwitting colonists. Had it stood, it would have been the patriots’ most powerful critique of slavery. The Continental Congress cut out all references to slavery as “piratical warfare” and an “assemblage of horrors,” and left only the sentiment that King George was “now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us.” The Declaration could have been what we yearn for it to be, a statement of universal rights, but it wasn’t. What became the official version was one marked by division.

Upon hearing the news that the Congress had just declared American independence, a group of people gathered in the tiny village of Huntington, N.Y., to observe the occasion by creating an effigy of King George. But before torching the tyrant, the Long Islanders did something odd, at least to us. According to a report in a New York City newspaper, first they blackened his face, and then, alongside his wooden crown, they stuck his head “full of feathers” like “savages,” wrapped his body in the Union Jack, lined it with gunpowder and then set it ablaze.

The 27th and final grievance was at the Declaration’s heart (and on Long Islanders’ minds) because in the 15 months between the Battles of Lexington and Concord and independence, reports about the role African-Americans and Indians would play in the coming conflict was the most widely discussed news. And British officials all over North America did seek the aid of slaves and Indians to quell the rebellion.

A few months before Jefferson wrote the Declaration, the Continental Congress received a letter from an army commander that contained a shocking revelation: Two British officials, Guy Carleton and Guy Johnson, had gathered a number of Indians and begged them to “feast on a Bostonian and drink his blood.” Seizing this as proof that the British were utterly despicable, Congress ordered this letter printed in newspapers from Massachusetts to Virginia.

At the same time, patriot leaders had publicized so many notices attacking the November 1775 emancipation proclamation by the governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, that, by year’s end, a Philadelphia newspaper reported a striking encounter on that city’s streets. A white woman was appalled when an African-American man refused to make way for her on the sidewalk, to which he responded, “Stay, you damned white bitch, till Lord Dunmore and his black regiment come, and then we will see who is to take the wall.”

His expectation, that redemption day was imminent, shows how much those sponsored newspaper articles had soaked into everyday conversation. Adams, Franklin and Jefferson were essential in broadcasting these accounts as loudly as they could. They highlighted any efforts of British agents like Dunmore, Carleton and Johnson to involve African-Americans and Indians in defeating the Revolution.

Even though the black Philadelphian saw this as wonderful news, the founders intended those stories to stoke American outrage. It was a very rare week in 1775 and 1776 in which Americans would open their local paper without reading at least one article about British officials “whispering” to Indians or “tampering” with slave plantations.

Sign Up for the Opinion Today Newsletter
Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.
So when the crowd in Huntington blackened the effigy’s face and stuffed its head with feathers before setting it on fire, they were indeed celebrating an independent America, but one defined by racial fear and exclusion. Their burning of the king and his enslaved and native supporters together signified the opposite of what we think of as America. The effigy represented a collection of enemies who were all excluded from the republic born on July 4, 1776.

This idea — that some people belong as proper Americans and others do not — has marked American history ever since. We like to excuse the founders from this, to give them a pass. After all, there is that bit about everyone being “created equal” in this, the most important text of American history and identity. And George Washington’s army was the most racially integrated army the United States would field until Vietnam, much to Washington’s chagrin.

But you wouldn’t know that from reading the newspapers. All the African-Americans and Indians who supported the revolution — and lots did — were no match against the idea that they were all “merciless savages” and “domestic insurrectionists.” Like the people of Huntington, Americans since 1776 have operated time and time again on the assumption that blacks and Indians don’t belong in this republic. This notion comes from the very founders we revere this weekend. It haunts us still.

Robert G. Parkinson, an assistant professor of history at Binghamton University, is the author of “The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution.”

FullSizeRender (1)a

FullSizeRender

 

 

America:The Land of Terrorists and Massacres June 16, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Imperialism, Race, Racism, Uncategorized, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

hqdefault

 

black-people-lynched7-480x270

 

Roger’s note: Not to take anything away from the enormous tragedy in Orlando, mainstream news coverage exposes the ahistorical blindness of the chattering class. What happened in Orlando and what will continue to happen as long as the state sponsored United States terrorism goes unabated at home as well as abroad, goes beyond the culture of hate or the “radicalization” of Muslims.  

The Wounded Knee massacre of Lakota at the Pine Ridge Reservation by U.S. soldiers of the 7th Calvary Regiment, December 29, 1980: “by the time it was over, more than 150 men, women, and children of the Lakota had been killed and 51 were wounded (4 men and 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead at 300.” (Wikipedia)

Or do massacred “Indians” not count?

As the crocodile tears of Obama and his enablers in both political parties and the military industrial complex, evaporate into the air, so does the truth and lessons of American history.  We are condemned thus to relive it; the chickens indeed are coming home to roost.

 

by BAR (Black Agenda Report) editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo

The massacre in Orlando was not the largest mass killing in U.S. history, and the United States has been responsible for the massacre of millions around the planet. We should all be mindful of “the nexus between US foreign policy adventures that plunder and violate countries in search of natural resources and US domestic racist actions.” U.S. crimes against humanity stretch from My Lai to Ferguson.

“Historical records remind us that the murders in Orlando, unfortunately, do not constitute the largest domestic mass murders.”

 

The updated 2016 ROOTS historical chronicle finally got it right. Africans have resisted European/American terrorism from the moment it reared its ugly head to present day struggle against state sponsored police murders of African peoples. The current version of ROOTS reminds us that beheadings, lynchings, rapes, kidnappings, selling children, working and boiling people to death did not start with ISIL – these perverted and psychopathic practices constituted the building blocks of the American empire.  The carnage in Orlando bleeds our hearts with the senseless murder of many innocent lives.  Our rapacious thirst for lethal weapons spells future dooms. Yet, we march on desensitized to the violence and injustice in our nation and world.

We seem to be truly bewildered when blood flows on the streets of America. Often, some of these incidents of late, can contextually be linked to murderous US foreign policy adventures in the Middle East. Malcolm X would have noted that US foreign policies have resulted in “chickens coming home to roost.” The ability to contain violence in foreign theaters has become an unattainable goal for the Empire. Therefore, everyday citizens are now targets of combat. Whether the latest mass murderer is insane or not, what is clear is that US citizens must decide whether they will allow murder and plunder across the globe to continue in their names. And, perhaps, more importantly, whether they are prepared to accept the consequences.  Certainly one does not want to wade into the quagmire of comparing tragedies but to completely ignore the validity of other massacres and the loss of other lives seems to compound the tragedy.

“Malcolm X would have noted that US foreign policies have resulted in ‘chickens coming home to roost.’”

The news media has framed the latest massacre in Orlando as the largest mass murder in US history. Some members of the media with a measure of intellectual integrity will add that the Orlando Massacre is the largest “post 911.” Regardless, human beings lost their lives and communities are in mourning.  However, historical records remind us that the murders in Orlando, unfortunately, do not constitute the largest domestic mass murders.  This narrative proposed by corporate media is in search of a public willing to digest a sanitized and less-than thoughtful version of history that conforms with the simplistic but dangerous notion of American exceptionalism. The truth is much less flattering.  As we mourn the loss of young life in Florida, let us also mourn the massacre of thousands of young unarmed African men and women who lose their lives almost daily at the hands of police and entire Black communities struggling to escape the violence of white supremacy.

We must not forget the East St Louis Massacres of 1917 described as the worst race and labor violence in the 20th century with casualties ranging between 40 and 200 deaths.

In the spring of 1917, Blacks escaping from the terror of the South were arriving in St. Louis at the rate of 2,000 per week. White union workers were determined to stop Blacks from competing for job in the trades by refusing to allow Africans membership in trade unions. White corporate leaders, taking advantage of cheap and competitive labor viewed Africans as scab workers to stabilize and maintain low wages for whites. These two reactionary views of Black labor from the perspective of the white working class and white corporate interests formed the perfect storm that ignited the conditions that led to scores of Black deaths in the East St. Louis Massacre.

“The ability to contain violence in foreign theaters has become an unattainable goal for the Empire.”

Following a meeting on May 28th in which rumors spread that Blacks and whites were fraternizing, 3,000 white men marched into East St. Louis and attacked Black men and women. In a separate incident, white vigilantes burned entire sections of the city and shot inhabitants as they escaped the fire. In William Heaps 1970 book Target of Prejudice: The Negro, In Riot, USA 1765-1970, he notes: “members of the white community claimed that Southern Negros deserved a genuine lynching” and a number of African-Americans were lynched during the white terror attacks.

There was also the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre in which whites attacked one of the wealthiest African communities in the US.  These vilgilantes over the course of 16 hours burned private property, including a Black hospital, and injured over 800 people. Instead of police arresting white rioters they detained and arrested over 6,000 black residents. 10,000 Africans were left homeless and 35 city blocks destroyed by fire.  Officials reported that 39 Blacks were murdered but other estimates report between 55 to 300 people murdered.

All massacres are horrific, from Orlando, East St. Louis, My Lai, Vietnam, Wounded Knee to Oklahoma.  The latest massacre, however ‘could’ provide an opportunity to understand the nexus between US foreign policy adventures that plunder and violate countries in search of natural resources and US domestic racist actions that trigger staggering incidence of murder and violence on a scale nearly unfathomable outside America.

Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated: No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. She worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered South African vanadium mine workers. Marsha’s successful lawsuit led to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). She is Director of Transparency and Accountability for the Green Shadow Cabinet, serves on the Advisory Board of ExposeFacts.com and coordinates the Hands Up Coalition, DC.

The Centrality of Africa in the Class Struggle to Come June 1, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Imperialism, Racism, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Roger’s note: Africa is where we all came from, but we for the most part remain in blissful ignorance of the present day imperial pillage.  Devastated by mass poverty, AIDS, lack of adequate and clean water, malarial and other epidemics;  all supported by governments that are compliant with the goals of mostly U.S. economic interests.  Post-Apartheid South Africa continues to wallow under ever more corrupt ANC governments; post-Arab Spring Egypt is as sold out and oppressive at the Mubarak dictatorship; Nigerian oil continues to be plundered, and the Clintons have their hand in this; post-Gaddafi Libya is in continued chaos; I could go on (actually, I couldn’t, being largely ignorant like the rest of us).

by Danny Haiphong,Tue., 05/31/2016 

Africa – it’s natural resources and the labor of its people – built the economies of the West, which has no intention of leaving. The West drains Africa of hundreds of billions each year, while strangling its nations in debt. The U.S. military occupies much of the continent. “The movement against racism and class warfare in the US must defend Africa from imperialist attack and condemn US imperialism wherever it rears its head on the continent.”

The Centrality of Africa in the Class Struggle to Come

“The long history of solidarity between the Black liberation movement and Pan-Africanism should inform the struggle today.”

The continent of Africa has been kept a mystery to most people inside of the US. Since its inception, US imperialism has suppressed past and present developments on the African continent. The suppression of Africa’s history and development gave political cover for the West to reap enormous profit and infrastructural development from of the trade of Africans. Once Africans ceased existing as a commodity of slaves, the continent’s large reserves of natural resources caught the attention of US imperialism. US imperialism replaced Europe after World War II as the primary arbiter of neo-colonialism on the continent, thus cementing Africa’s centrality to the struggle for self-determination and social revolution inside of the US.

US imperial influence in Africa is multifaceted and starts first and foremost with economic strangulation. US-led “international” organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have forced the majority of Africa’s people into a relationship of dependence with Western capital. US and Western imperialism havs shoved debt disguised as aid down the throat of Sub Saharan Africa to the tune of 134 billion USD annually. Yet nearly 200 billion USD per year in assets are looted from the continent, leaving the majority of African people impoverished. Africa’s dependency on the West is fueled by aid agreements that include Structural Adjustment Plans (SAP). SAPs require African nations receiving aid to make drastic cuts to healthcare, education, and infrastructure in order to guarantee repayment of debt to lending institutions.

US imperialism replaced Europe after World War II as the primary arbiter of neo-colonialism on the continent.”

Africa has provided the imperialist system with 1.7 trillion dollars worth of capital outflow since 1970 as a result of these predatory lending policies. However, the majority of African people on the continent continue to live under conditions of poverty. These conditions could not exist without compliant, US-friendly regimes. All over the continent, the US imperialism has provided political cover for brutal strongmen of neo-colonialism. In Rwanda and Uganda, the US has sponsored regimes involved in a proxy war against the resource rich Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 1996, over 6 million Congolese have been killed at the hands of Rwandan and Ugandan-backed mercenaries.

This is but one instance of what has become a general trend on the African continent. US imperialism has expanded its footprint in Africa in recent years to compete with China’s growing economic influence. The US, being in economic decline itself, has primarily done so through the prism of the military. Just prior to George W. Bush’s departure from office, the US African Command was formed. AFRICOM, for short, was expanded under Obama’s rule and now has presence in 51 of 53 African nations.

The consequences of US military expansion in Africa have been devastating. Compliant, neo-colonial regimes have aided the US military through the expansion of drone operations, especially in the nation of Djibouti. In 2011, US imperialism overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. His proposed idea for a unified African monetary bank that dealt in gold ultimately threatened the hegemony of Washington in Africa. Libya under Gaddafi was one of the last remaining nations to both oppose Western financial strangulation as well as US military occupation in Africa. Since the overthrow of Libya’s sovereign government, there has been a proliferation in terrorist attacks that have spread the tentacles of instability throughout the entire region.

“US imperialism has expanded its footprint in Africa in recent years to compete with China’s growing economic influence.”

The plan for Africa, contrary to AFRICOM’s mission statement, is not regional stability but statelessness. US imperialism has done everything possible to keep Africa in a constant state of hunger, poverty, and underdevelopment through military means. AFRICOM has infiltrated African military forces so they can be deployed to halt China-Africa relations and keep Africa’s natural resources firmly in the grip of US and Western capital. Coups and proxy wars will thus continue with regularity under the supervision of the US military. AFRICOM’s expansion directly threatens any hope for self-determination and continental integration.

US expansion into Africa has only deepened the connection between the class struggle in the US and the liberation of Africa. Without a stronger anti-imperialist movement in the US and West, the imperialist states will continue to possess a great degree of freedom to employ resources toward the domination of the African continent. Furthermore, African resistance and liberation movements will continue to inform and instruct not only the future of the African continent, but also the futures of all peoples fighting to break the chains of imperialism.

Historically, this has manifested itself in the deep ties between the Pan-African movement in Africa and the Black liberation movement in the US. African liberation fighter Kwame Nkrumah shared a close relationship with Black liberation fighters Shirley and WEB Du Bois as well asMartin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Each visited Ghana in solidarity with Nkrumah’s leadership in organizing a united and independent Africa. WEB Du Bois spent his last days living in Ghanafree of US anti-communist repression. Later in the century, the Black Panther Party went a step further by actualizing its internationalist political orientation with the formation of chapters throughout the world. Its largest international chapter resided in Algeria.

Libya under Gaddafi was one of the last remaining nations to both oppose Western financial strangulation as well as US military occupation in Africa.”

The long history of solidarity between the Black liberation movement and Pan-Africanism should inform the struggle today. As African nations become more entangled in the web of US imperialism, the class struggle in both the US and Africa will become more entangled as well. This requires a movement that can organize around the day to day issues of the exploited in the US mainland and at the same explain these problems from an internationalist perspective. Zimbabwe and Eritrea are critical in this regard. Both nations remain steadfast in their opposition to AFRICOM. Despite their achievements, both nations suffer mightily from US sponsored sanctions. The movement against racism and class warfare in the US must defend these sovereign African countries from imperialist attack and condemn US imperialism wherever it rears its head on the continent as a whole.

The development of such a movement will require a great deal of education. Africa’s centrality to the imperialist world economy over the last several hundred years has made it a target of the most viscous campaign of misinformation known to human history. For many in the US and West, Africa is nothing but an uncivilized land that deserves the suffering its people have been forced to experience. Even worse, Western thought has attempted to erase Africa’s existence from the consciousness of people in the West all together. Only class struggle armed with the imperative to eliminate the vulgarity of the imperialist mind can begin to reserve this trend.

Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990@gmail.com.

Trump Is a Symptom Not the Disease December 16, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Right Wing, Trump, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
 
racism

By Hamid Dabashi

December 11, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – “Al Jazeera” –  On the same day that the depth of Donald Trump’s racist bigotry hit a new low bycalling for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States, another news item emerged that was overshadowed by the circus surrounding Trump: Candice Miller, a US Congresswoman, introduced a bill, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015.

If passed, the bill will suddenly cast US citizens of Arab, Iranian, and Muslim descent as second-class citizens in their own country – a “legislation that will effectively create two classes of Americans – Americans with Middle Eastern or Muslim background, and Americans without that background”.

“If you thought Donald Trump’s divisive, bigoted and blatantly racist rhetoric was just a reflection of the silliness we always face during primary campaigns”, as one observer rightly put it, “think again”.

As world attention is focused on Trump’s racist theatrics, the House of Representatives has just passed the bill with an overwhelming vote of 407-19.

Nothing new

In a country where US-Israeli dual citizens go and as mercenary soldiers fight to steal more of Palestine, and their New York Times columnist father publicly brags about that fact, if an American of Iraqi, Syrian, Iranian, or Libyan origin as much as sets foot in his country of birth she or he is subject to systemic suspicion and discrimination.

These are not easy days for Muslims who live in the US and the horrid criminal acts in San Bernardino or Paris have very little to do with these developments.

They are just a subterfuge. People like Trump and his ilk did not have to wait for the San Bernardino or Paris attacks to occur for their hatred of Muslims or Arabs to surface. That surfacing is a sign of much deeper troubles.

Trump is a symptom not the disease. He is a decoy, a diversion so outrageous, so disgusting, that it overwhelms and hides the real disease.

Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the US, or his earlier remark to single out and profile Muslims, or his fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson stating point blank that no Muslim should ever become president, are only the most obnoxious versions of a much more deeply rooted bigotry and racism against Muslims that has been dominant in the US for a very long time, but particularly since 9/11.

If you are distracted by the noxious symptom of Trump you will forget that the democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton only a few weeks agoprided herself to have the entire Iranian people as her enemy.

Today leading American liberals such as Michael Tomasky, taking their cues from like-minded Islamophobes gathered under the banner of “New Atheists,” unabashedly expose their racism and single out Muslim Americans and order them to prove their peaceful citizenship in the US by declaring to Muslim Americans that “the rights you have as Americans have to be earned, fought for”. Why? By what authority? Who died and made Michael Tomasky the judge and the jury of Muslim Americans peaceful citizenship?

To me this fundamental abrogation of human decency is worse than Trump’s vulgarity. It is a fundamental democratic principal that a citizen is innocent unless proved guilty, that a citizen is entitled to his and her inalienable rights, and need not “earn” it or “fight for it”.

But who has heard of Tomasky, busy as people are denouncing Donald Trump – and yet to me the roots of Trump are precisely in the pretty liberalism of Tomasky and his ilk.

Historic challenge

The threat the Muslims face today in the US is not limited to fascist wannabes like Trump.

The challenge is much deeper and firmly rooted in the political culture of a country that began its history by the mass murder of Native Americans, continued by the systematic slavery of African Americans, and most recently with a stroke of a pen ordered the US population of Japanese descent incarcerated in concentration (internment) camps during World War II.

Today, US Muslims are in serious danger of the same interment camps to which Japanese Americans were subjected to under similar circumstances.

In every generation the task of fighting racism and bigotry shifts from one scapegoat minority to another.

Arabs, South Asians, Iranians are today in the noble company of Native Americans, African Americans, Latino/Latina Americans, Asian Americans, fighting racism and discrimination by one brand of white supremacists or another.

Today, Muslims around the world face not one, but two, dangerous fronts: One internal, the other external.

Internally we are being eaten alive by a gang of murderous mercenary cannibals who have stolen the most sacrosanct insignia of who we are and what we believe in and call themselves “Islamic” one thing or another.

There is no battle more urgent and more noble than this moral and intellectual struggle against the criminal thugs who call themselves the Taliban or al-Qaeda one day, or ISIL and Boko Haram another.

Equally urgent is the external terror visited upon us as we are subject to incessant demonization by the ferocious Islamophobia of the conservative and liberal brands, aided and abetted systematically and financially by Zionist propaganda machinery that wishes to silence the legitimate, non-violent, and dignified critics of their colonial project in Palestine (now best represented in the BDS movement) by frightening us into complacency.

It is not accidental that we learn that Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering the US “rests on research from the Center for Security Policy, a neo-con think-tank run by Frank Gaffney, who has a long history of pro-Israel advocacy and has been called ‘one of US’ most notorious Islamophobes: by the Southern Poverty Law Center”.

We will have to face these two fronts simultaneously, bravely, consistently and with quiet but determined dignity. Other Americans for generations have fought that battle and continue to do so.

It is now our turn to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. The historic task of defending the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights is now squarely on our shoulders too.

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

© 2015 Al-Jazeera English

Mississippi Stuntmen August 7, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Police, Race, Racism.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

by BAR poet in residence Raymond Nat Turner

Our poet in residence reflects upon the unique

and innovative skillsets deployed by those who

allegedly take their own lives in police custody

Mississippi stuntmen

by BAR poet in residence Raymond Nat Turner

THANKS

to

Nina

Everybody knows about

Mississippi goddamn, Mississippi goddamn!”

But who knew about Mississippi stuntmen?

Hey Hollywood, get hip, headhunt,

Hire stunt men from Mississippi jails,

Recruit from backseats of Arkansas

police cruisers, Boy Scout, Eagle Scout-

like men, prepared to off themselves—

wizards using everyday objects; hanging them-

selves

with

dental

floss

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, men with sick skill-

sets, leaping up in jail cells, NBA hops and hang-

time

men making Michael Jordan, Dr. J, LeBron look like

weekend-warrior/couch potatoes, defying physics,

gravity, logic, performing impossible physical feats!

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, superb actors, too—

acting normal, hiding severe depression, recurring

suicidal thoughts, until the scene shifts behind bars

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, made for mysteries,

thrillers, whodunits, horror flicks; Masters of the

suicide scene, hanging themselves with anything

on the set—gaffers tape, super hero’s cape, head-

phones, chicken bones, eagle feathers, trailer tethers—

Garbage bag geniuses!

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, …”everybody knows about

Mississippi goddamn,” but who knew about Mississippi

stuntmen? David Copperfields in orange jumpsuits making

Handguns appear out of thin air, making dash-cam video dis-

appear!

Hey Hollywood, get hip, headhunt,

Hire Mississippi stuntmen, one take wonders

who’ll bring your blockbuster in under budget!

Independent contractors in right to work states

of mind: No pensions, 401ks, no social security,

no

Insurance.

Mississippi stuntmen travel and teach in Texas,

Arkansas, in fact, all over the U.S…. Up south,

Down

south,

Out

south,

Anywhere south of the Canadian Border!

Mississippi stuntmen come certified by CWS:

Crackkkers With Stars!

Raymond Nat Turner © 2015 All Rights Reserved

Kids Who Die August 6, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Police, Race, Racism.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Obama in Charleston July 12, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, History, Race, Racism, Religion.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

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.