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“We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means, by being prudent, the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction. But we think as people and countries, not as a species.” — José Mujica, president of Uruguay
“The recent brutal murder of two Brooklyn police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, is a national tragedy that should inspire nationwide mourning. Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and dangerous profession law enforcement is. We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.
“At the same time, however, we need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.”
I volunteer with a food program here in town. It was started by a black man, run by a black church, operates in a mostly black neighborhood.
Funny thing: after I had been helping for a few months, they asked me to join their board (I had to decline due to work). I asked why they wanted me, since I was just a guy volunteering to serve mashed potatoes one night a week, not important or particularly influential in any way, and prone to insulting prominent people. The founder told me plainly that because I’m a middle-aged white dude, I could go places and say things that the other board members couldn’t.
The other board members are pastors and retired businessmen and known in the community, but random white guy me has access that they don’t have. Seriously. As obnoxious, cranky and undiplomatic as I am, I’m more respected than people who have worked and served the city for decades, simply because my ancestors were from Europe.
That’s white privilege. When somebody uses the term, they aren’t calling you a racist, or playing the race card, or making excuses for their own condition. They are stating a fact. A white jerk who never graduated college and can’t behave politely in public is more respectable than a successful retired black businessman.
“Your crown has been bought and paid for.
All you must do is put it on.” — James Baldwin
“Allow me to quote that classic philosopher known as The Poster for Death Wish 2: ‘First his wife. Now his daughter. It’s time to even the score!’ Well, in the wake of a terror attack, Step One is to forget about ‘the score’ completely…
“That scoreboard, it turns out, is nothing more than a manifestation of the most primitive, violent, reptilian part of your brain. Seeing someone wrong you and then letting it slide — letting that ‘score’ stay in their favor — is almost physically painful. So, yeah, if SEAL Team Six had exploded bin Laden’s skull on September 13th, 2001, we would absolutely have still gone to war. We’d have still been 3,000 deaths down on the scoreboard. No way we’d let that go.
“So the next time you turn on the news and see that terrorists have blown up 10 children with a car bomb, that’s the first step: Realize that the scoreboard lies. It will tell you that winning the game means dropping bombs that you know full well will splatter ten times as many children as collateral damage. The score — the real score — would then be:
“America’s distance from the military makes the country too willing to go to war, and too callous about the damage warfare inflicts. This distance also means that we spend too much money on the military and we spend it stupidly, thereby shortchanging many of the functions that make the most difference to the welfare of the troops and their success in combat. We buy weapons that have less to do with battlefield realities than with our unending faith that advanced technology will ensure victory, and with the economic interests and political influence of contractors. This leaves us with expensive and delicate high-tech white elephants, while unglamorous but essential tools, from infantry rifles to armored personnel carriers, too often fail our troops.
“We know that technology is our military’s main advantage. Yet the story of the post-9/11 ‘long wars’ is of America’s higher-tech advantages yielding transitory victories that melt away before the older, messier realities of improvised weapons, sectarian resentments, and mounting hostility to occupiers from afar, however well-intentioned. Many of the Pentagon’s most audacious high-tech ventures have been costly and spectacular failures, including (as we will see) the major air-power project of recent years, the F-35. In an America connected to its military, such questions of strategy and implementation would be at least as familiar as, say, the problems with the Common Core education standards.
“Those technological breakthroughs that do make their way to the battlefield may prove to be strategic liabilities in the long run. During the years in which the United States has enjoyed a near-monopoly on weaponized drones, for example, they have killed individuals or small groups at the price of antagonizing whole societies. When the monopoly ends, which is inevitable, the very openness of the United States will make it uniquely vulnerable to the cheap, swarming weapons others will deploy.” — James Fallows, “The Tragedy Of The American Military”
An African-American sportscaster recently dismissed the impact of slavery on contemporary American culture. Senator Hank Sanders of Alabama wrote and posted an open letter to the sportscaster. I’ve taken the liberty of redacting the sportscaster’s name and replacing it with America; I think that makes the senator’s message more personal and pertinent to the majority of our citizens.
I write you out of love. I write you out of profound pain. I write you out of deep concern. I hope you accept this letter in the spirit that I write.
America, I understand that you said, in so many words, that slavery was not so bad and that you were tired of people bringing up slavery. I was shocked by both statements. Then I was mad. Then I was terribly disappointed. Finally, I was just in deep hurt and great pain. Now, I am trying to help you and all those who may think like you.
America, allow me to tell you why slavery was “not so bad,” but very, very bad. First, African people were snatched from their families, their villages, their communities, their tribes, their continent, their freedom. African people were made to walk hundreds of miles in chains. They were often beaten, poorly fed and abused in many ways. Women and girls were routinely raped. The whole continent was ravaged and still suffers to this day. America, this is very, very bad.
Second, African people were placed in “slave dungeons” for weeks and sometimes months until the slave ships came. They were often underfed, terribly beaten, raped and stuffed together so tightly they could hardly move. African people were packed in the holds of ships with little space to even move. They performed bodily functions where they lay and then lived in it. They were oftentimes beaten, raped and abused mentally, physically and emotionally. Many died from disease and broken spirits. Some were so terribly impacted that they jumped overboard and drowned when brought to the deck of the ships. Millions died during the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas. America, this is very, very bad.
Third, African people were broken like wild animals. They were stripped of every element of their identity. Their names were taken. Their languages were taken. Their religions were taken. Their histories were taken. They were forbidden to have family. They had no rights to own anything. They were considered property. Their personalities were permanently altered. Their freedom was taken. They became chattel sold from “slave blocks.” This crushing of identity impacts us to this day. I call it the psychology of the oppressed. America, this is very, very bad.
Fourth, African Americans were worked from “kin to can’t;” that is from “can see” in the morning to “can’t see” at night. There was no pay for their long, hard labor. Many were poorly fed. Most felt the lash of the whip. All felt the lash of the tongue. Many were repeatedly raped. Their children and other loved ones were sold at will. Some mothers killed their baby girls so they would not have to endure the ravages of slavery. America, this is very, very bad.
Fifth, African Americans had no right to defend themselves no matter what was done and how wrong it was. By law, they could not even testify against their abusers. As U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Toney said in the 1857 Dred Scott case, “A Black man has no rights a White man is bound to respect.” This became the law of the land and its legacy bedevils us to this day. America, this is very, very bad.
Sixth, African Americans were perceived and treated as sub human. The only way enslavers could square this terrible treatment with their Christian beliefs was see us as less than human. Therefore, they could proudly place such beautiful words in the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution with impunity: i.e. – “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” To them, African Americans were not human so these beautiful words did not apply. Even the U.S. Constitution designated us as 3/5 of a person. That’s why White terrorists, in and out of uniforms, can kill us without punishment. The legacy of being less human lingers with us today. Black lives are worth much less than White lives. America, this is very, very bad.
Seventh, it required great violence to implement and maintain the worse form of human slavery known to humankind. It required unbridled violence by enslavers, slave catchers, local, state, federal governments and the entire society. Maintaining the institution of slavery created a very violent society that infests us to this day. That’s why the United States has far more violence than any country in the world. America, this is very, very bad.
Eighth, even after slavery formerly ended, we still had Jim Crow. These same imbedded attitudes generated state-sanctioned terrorism for nearly another 100 years. The Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groups hanged, mutilated, maimed and murdered without any punishment. It was state sanctioned terrorism because the “state” did not do anything to prevent it. That’s why even during the Civil Rights Movement murders took many years before even a modicum of justice was forged. Just look at the deaths of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, the three little girls murdered by the bombing of a Birmingham Church and so many others. That is why today Trayvon Martin could not walk the streets of his neighborhood and Jordan Davis could not play loud music in his car and Eric Garner was choked to death and Michael Brown was gunned down. America this is very, very bad.
America, if you knew your history, you would not say slavery is not so bad and you are tired of people bringing up slavery. The legacy of slavery is everywhere. However, you are not totally to blame because you were deliberately denied the opportunity to learn your history. That is one more legacy of slavery. I hope you will seek the full history for yourself so that you will not ever say such things again.
In deep concern,
“A majority of nearly every group — non-whites, women, young adults, the elderly, Midwesterners, suburbanites, Catholics, moderates, the wealthy — said that torture of suspected terrorists can be often or sometimes justified.
“A majority of only one other group beyond liberals and Democrats disagreed: people with no religion.” — Emily Badger, Washington Post article “From moderate Democrats to white Evangelicals, nearly every demographic group believes torture can be justified”