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

Posted by rogerhollander in Afro-American, Genocide, History, Racism, slavery, Uncategorized.
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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.


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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.

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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.”

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‘Occupy Antarctica’ Protester Carries On Despite -50 Degree Temperatures November 7, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Mark Donahue, http://www.thedailyrash.com/occupy-antarctica-protester-carries-on-despite-50-degree-temperatures

AMUNDSEN-SCOTT, ANTARCTICA – In the tradition of some of the most ardent revolutionaries throughout history, 32 year-old Steinar Skramstad isn’t allowing inconvenient circumstances to hinder his steadfast determination to lead the charge for change in Antarctica. Protesting by himself in mind numbing -50 degree temperatures outside his parents’ home, Steinar Skramstad’s lonely revolt against corporate predators is a stoic demonstration of a modern day David standing tall and defiant in the face of a Goliath called Wall Street. A lionhearted rebel’s valiant crusade to make his world a better and brighter place. With wind gusts up to seventy miles per hour, Steinar is routinely knocked off his feet and sent sliding across the icy tundra until he is able to stand again. Forced to venture indoors every three to four minutes to avoid hypothermia, Mr. Skramstad returns to the brutal and merciless outdoors after his hallucinations dissipate to resume his demonstration against greed.

Over a static filled short wave radio interview, Steinar Skramstad’s mom told the Daily Rash that she is proud of her son’s ‘Occupy Antarctica’ protest to make the world a better place.

“Is what my son is doing any different than the actions of revolutionaries like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi or Kanye West? Steinar’s father and I are so proud of his willingness to stand outside in a frigid, barren wasteland of ice and rock and protest until Wall Street pariahs hear his cries for change. And to be honest, I don’t know of any other revolutionaries who’ve had their eyes freeze shut so tight that you need a fork to pry them open. Do you?”

Steinar’s father, Skjoldulv Skramstad, is a glaciologist who studies snow for the Department of Energy’s “Office of Science.” The elder Skramstad received his PhD in Snow at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Skjoldulv’s wife Betty, an artist who makes ice sculptures, stole his heart in college when she took a pile of snow he was studying in class and shaped it into a remarkable likeness of downtown Chapel Hill. Betty Skramstad said the passion she and her husband have for snow and ice rubbed off on Steinar.

“At a very young age Steinar was mesmerized by ice. We had to put a lock on the freezer to keep him away from the ice trays. When he was five we bought him his first snow cone and he got so excited that he began jumping up and down and peeing in his pants. To this day he has an insatiable urge to urinate when it snows.”

Like his father before him, Steinar Skramstad earned a PhD in Snow at UNC. His dreams of working along side his dad were shattered when Congress slashed funding for the Office of Science. Burdened with an $85,000 student loan and few employment prospects, Steinar was forced to move back home with his parents after school ended. Last week, after his mom read him a newspaper clipping about Occupy Wall Street protesters demanding their student loans be forgiven, Steinar recognized a fury growing within him to begin demonstrating against corporate greed.

“There are very few part-time job opportunities here in Antarctica,” Steinar’s mother told the Daily Rash. “Even though Steinar helps around the house by taking out the trash and feeding the goldfish, his father and I wish he could contribute more to his $600 school loan payment that we’ve been saddled with. If his courageous and selfless protests against greed and corruption inadvertently led to the elimination of his student loans, it would be a tiny pat on the back for a magnanimous young man’s heroic efforts to battle the soulless and corrupt cretins of Wall Street.”

Roger’s note: something tells me the Daily Rash is known for putting out satiric news.


A War Resister Speaks from Prison: Let GI Resisters Stay in Canada March 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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by Robin Long

In 2004 when Jeremy Hinzmen applied for refugee status in Canada the Conservative government stepped in at his Refugee Hearing and said that evidence challenging the legality of the war in Iraq can’t be used in this case. The U.N. Handbook for Refugees and the Nuremburg Principals say:   

A soldier of an army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. They also have the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention.

By refusing to allow him, and by precedent all other claimants, the right to use the argument that the war was illegal, the decision closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.

The invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal act of aggression.  The U.S. was not under attack or the imminent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq. The action was also not approved by the U.N. Security Council.  By taking this stance, the Conservative government is condoning the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq.  Is this what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have also realized it to be a mistake. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding onto the idea and still deporting war resisters?  Why are they separating families and being complicit in the incarceration of morally strong young men and women?  What message is this sending?

Parliament voted to let war resisters remain

In June of 2007 Canada’s Parliament voted on a non-binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent resident status. The vote passed. In agreement with the vote, a poll of Canadian opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution.  But in defiance of Parliament and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley, ignored the bill.  The government stated that all refugee claimants are given a fair chance to plead their case at the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq resisters wasn’t fair to the other claimants. The government has also stated in the past that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the U.S. which they say has a fair and transparent justice system and we wouldn’t be singled out for being political.

On July 14th, 2008 in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community are, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn’t prove I would be treated harshly by the U.S. military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration policy.  She predicted that my punishment would be minimal and I’d serve at most 30 days in the brig. (This is probably because less than 10% of AWOL cases are brought to court martial.) She then cleared the way for my deportation.

Convicted of a felony

Less than a month later I was tried in a court martial presided over by a judge who is a colonel in the Army, a person who has the President in her chain of command. (A person late appointed by Bush to Guantanamo Bay no doubt because of her credentials and political position.) The only aggravating evidence the prosecution presented was a 6 minute long video of me stating among other things that “I feel my president lied to me.” (A political statement.) The fact that this was found admissible in court for the crime of desertion is beyond me.  There were no character witnesses brought against me.  The only factor the prosecution wanted shown in determining a sentence was the fact that I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing the Commander in Chief. It seems like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming the President was a domestic enemy.  While I was openly saying in my defense that the Bush administration created reasons to go to Iraq, she had superiors to answer to who answer to the President.

The judge came back with a 30 month sentence; that’s two and a half years for not showing up for work I thought to be morally objectionable, by far the harshest sentence given to a deserter from the Iraq war. The only thing that saved me was a plea bargain for 15 months. I still received a dishonorable discharge. A dishonorable discharge will keep me from ever having a government job and be at a disadvantage in the civilian sector as well. I will have a hard time ever getting a loan for a house or a car. This conviction is also a felony!  A felony will make it hard for me to return to Canada to be with my young family.  Then again, Judge Ann Mactavish had already made sure I wouldn’t be allowed in for ten years.

People who committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than mine.  I refused to participate in killing and got 15 months, but a First Infantry Division soldier, Spc. Belmor Ramos, was sentenced to only seven months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the case of four Iraqi men. In 2007, he stood guard while others blindfolded and shot in the head four unidentified Iraqi men,  afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal.  During his court martial, Ramos admitted his guilt, stating, “I wanted them dead.  I had no legal justification to do this” 

Where is the justice?  The system is not fair and impartial.  Can it really be transparent when you don’t know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command?  See how the military justice system works? It gives light sentences for killing, but God forbid someone should call the president a liar and war-monger.  In a court martial, a person’s words and political opinions – if they are anti-war and critical of the president – seem be far more damaging to his case than someone’s illegal actions in an occupied foreign nation.

What about the contract I signed?

Often, people have argued that I signed a contract  I’d like to quote from a letter one of the Founding Fathers wrote to George Washington on his thoughts about contracts:

When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non- performance is not immoral.  So if performance becomes self-destructive to the party, the law of self preservation overrules the laws of obligations to others.  For the reality of these principles I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the head and heart of every rational man.   —Thomas Jefferson, April 1793

For me to continue in my military contract would have been destructive to me as a person with my views, morals, and ideals.  The contract I signed was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic, and to obey the lawful orders of the President and those officers appointed over me.  I did not sign to be the strong arm for corporate interests of oil.  The so-called “liberation” of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant and protracted struggle for the people, against the forces that are trying to impose their will upon them for power and profit.   True freedom is the ultimate expression and condition of a people to control their own destiny, not the manufactured, force-fed variety being offered to the people of Iraq.  True democracy is not found at the end of the end of a gun barrel. It rises up from within the masses.

The government manufactured pretenses for the war

The invasion of Iraq wasn’t about WMDs, or else we would have found some.  It wasn’t about regime change, or else we would be in Darfur, or Indonesia.  (Besides, regime change is not a legitimate reason to go to war.) It wasn’t about 9/11 terrorists because most of those were from Saudi Arabia.  It didn’t say anywhere in my contract that I’d be going to foreign soil halfway around the world, to invade a country that was no threat to the U.S.  It didn’t say in my contract that I would be called upon to risk my life, not defending the people or the Constitution of the United States, but creating more enemies for our country by being an occupier.  The invasion of Iraq has made the world a much more dangerous place.

Iraq was never a real threat.  And now the destabilized nation of Iraq has become a breeding ground, an awesome recruiting center, for al Qaeda.  And it has exacted a great price from the American people.  I’m not talking about the huge monetary price, but the human cost of war, the deaths of so many of our brave youth, the missing limbs, the PTSD, the suicides. 

The order for me to go to Iraq was not a lawful one.  It violated the Constitution.  Article VI of the Constitution states that any treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory shall be the supreme law of the land.  The last time I checked, the U.S. was a signing party to the Geneva Conventions.  There are certain rules in that treaty for declaring war, and the last time I checked, regime change was not one of them.  A country must be under attack or be under threat of imminent attack.  Neither was true in the case of Iraq.  Former President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution or the Geneva Conventions simply as he saw fit, and the 107th Congress had no right to pass H.J. Res. 114 which “allowed” the president to invade Iraq.  The Constitution was being ignored by the whole lot of them and they were derelict in their duty to uphold it.

The stand that the Conservative government of Canada has taken has separated a family – an act totally un-Canadian.  I have a young son, a Canadian citizen.  My partner, also a Canadian citizen, has multiple sclerosis and has been left to raise our son alone while I’m locked in the brig for refusing to participate in a war that Canada itself wouldn’t even send troops to.  In 2003 the then Liberal government saw the holes in Bush’s intelligence and refused to participate in the invasion.  The Canadian government not only deported me, but barred me from entering Canada again for ten years!  My flesh and blood is there!

Uphold Canada’s humanitarian tradition

The Conservatives are destroying Canada’s tradition of being a refuge from militarism and an asylum for those escaping injustice – a tradition that goes back to the times of slavery.  Are they truly representing the people?  Who are they working for really?  The days of Bush have ended.  This new Obama administration has a different view and different policies.  It’s time for Mr. Stephen Harper to change his view. He should listen to what his Parliament and a majority of Canadians are saying.

Please support the movement to allow war resisters to stay in Canada and to pardon those in the U.S. Please help me to return to Canada to be with my son.  I want only to live in peace and be in this life.  Stop the war!

Robin Long
Prisoner L4830R35
NAVCON Brig Miramar