Monday, March 28, 2011

Who are the Real Tyrants?

March 24, 2011
BH 405

This column was supposed to be dedicated to the late civil rights and women’s right advocate Fannie Lou Hamer, and highlighting Women’s History Month. But the developments in Libya and in response to President Obama suggesting that military action would aim to change conditions in Libya, while authorizing U.S. and British warships and submarines to launch 110 Tomahawk missiles against air defenses around the capital Tripoli and the western city of Misrata changed my mind. It leads me to ask ‘who are the tyrants’?

The reasons given were to force Muammar Gaddafi's troops to cease fire and end attacks on civilians, but are we getting the real story? There was no mention of protecting the oil fields, or a mention that Gaddafi was defending himself and his country from rebels who were trying to overthrow him and seize power by force. I am not surprised at the actions taken against Mr. Gaddafi because recently radio talk show and late night Television show hosts have been laughing at and making negative references to ‘Khadafy’s bad hair’. I also notice the many ways his name is spelled and pronounced.

In common usage, the word "tyrant" carries connotations of a harsh and cruel ruler who places his or her own interests or the interests of a small group of people over the best interests of the general population, which the tyrant governs or controls. That sounds familiar. Is this the argument that is used to justify the attack on Libya? We must remember that we are getting only one side of the story.

In his book Media Control, Noam Chomsky noted The United States pioneered the public relations industry. Its commitment was "to control the public mind," as its leaders put it. Since there's no way to get together with other people who share or reinforce that view and help you articulate it, you feel like an oddity, an oddball. So you just stay on the side and you don't pay any attention to what's going on.

Was Thomas Jefferson a tyrant? Did he inflict dictatorship or oppression on Americans? Jefferson wrote “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” He asserted “the policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him. When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty”. Was he a liar and a hypocrite?

On January 10, 1806, President Thomas Jefferson addressed a gathering in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. The occasion was a concluding ceremony following a series of meetings with the chiefs of the Cherokee Indian Nation, and others, who had been invited to Washington as a gesture of friendship. Jefferson opened with: "My friends and children, chiefly of the Cherokee Nation.

Seven treaties with the Cherokee later, the United States, "because he happens to be stronger," took all Cherokee land East of the Mississippi River. In exchange the Cherokee were given $5 million and an Indian Reservation in Oklahoma Territory. Of course, the Cherokee were never handed $5 million. That's the amount that was to be spent on their behalf, for public facilities and "mills to grind your corn."

But he also wrote about Africans and African Americans in his Notes on Virginia. Let me warn you that you might find what Jefferson said disturbing.

He wrote: Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of color in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immoveable veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race?

Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form, their own judgment in favor of the whites, declared by their preference of them, as uniformly as is the preference of the orangutan for the black women over those of his own species. The circumstance of superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man?

. . .

They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labor through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it is present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the whites.

They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection.

. .

Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one black could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.” These are the thoughts and words of slave owner Thomas Jefferson, who compared black women to orangutans

We must remember that America was the model for Apartheid in South Africa, and America created the eugenics movement. Eugenics, a term invented by Francis Gaiton that refers to ensuring "the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable", had from its beginning in America, a political orientation. Wealthy individuals from within the highest levels of the American exploiting class funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into the eugenics movement. Laws were implemented in state legislatures to prevent the procreation of "inferior families:"

Fannie Lou Hamer felt the stings of apartheid, racism and tyranny. On August 22, 1964 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in testimony before the Credentials Committee at the Democratic National Convention, Mrs. Hamer said “I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives are threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America? Mrs. Hamer said “What was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do to me was kill me and it seemed like they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember.”

So who are the tyrants? Who is being oppressed and by whom? Are they the people of New Orleans who are still suffering from Katrina and Rita, or the people of Haiti? What about the people in North St. Louis who are without hospital facilities or those in E. St. Louis who must travel miles for any type of health care?

Who are the tyrants? What is the definition of tyranny?

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Be Ever Wonderful!