Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Echoes Of History: 1955 and 2017

From this tragedy large, diverse groups of people organized a movement that grew to transform a nation, not sufficiently but certainly meaningfully. What matters most is what we have and what we will do with what we do know. We must look at the facts squarely ... The bloody and unjust arc of our history will not bend upward if we merely pretend that history did not happen here.
- Timothy B. Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till

As a species, we are terrible students of history. Although its tools have become much more refined over the years, its lessons seem all too frequently lost on many, either because we prefer comforting illusions or we see them through narrow ideological lenses. Refusing to confront ugly truths ensures their longevity.

One of the most emotionally difficult books I have read in a long time is The Blood of Emmett Till. This excerpt from a NYT review sums up the murder of Till, the 14-year-old black lad from Chicago who, in the summer of 1955, was visiting relatives in Mississippi:
On a Wednesday evening in August, Till allegedly flirted with and grabbed the hand of Carolyn Bryant, a white woman who worked as the cashier at a local market. According to recovered court transcripts released by the F.B.I. in 2007, he let out a “wolf whistle” as she exited the store to get a gun from her car. Bryant later informed her husband and his half brother, who proceeded to uphold a grim tradition: Till was abducted, beaten, shot in the head and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. A 74-pound gin fan was tied to his neck with barbed wire, with the hope that he would never be found.
Despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, his murderers were, in the Southern tradition of the time, found not guilty. Despite the absence of justice, Till's mother, an indefatigable woman, changed the course of civil rights history by insisting that the horribly mutilated body of her son rest in an open coffin, of which photographs were published in prominent magazines, while an estimated 240,000 filed by his casket.

The purpose of this post, however, is not to revisit the horrific details explored in the book that go well beyond the murder of a young teen. Rather, it is to draw parallels between the language and justifications of the racists of Till's time with those of the contemporary white supremacist movement. While over 60 years separate the two eras, the echoes of history are evident for all who care to look.

The most obvious parallel evolves around efforts to discredit the veracity of events. Examples of this 'strategy' abound in the book:
The editor of the Picayune Item snarled that a "prejudiced communistic inspired NAACP" could not "not blacken the name of the great sovereign state of Mississippi, regardless of their claims of Negro Haters, lynching, or whatever [emphasis mine].
Sherriff Strider, a racist who was friends with the accused, sought to constantly undermine the evidence and question whether or not the body was, in fact, that of Till's, telling reporters the following:
"The body we took from the river looked more like that of a grown man instead of a young boy. It was also more decomposed than it should have been after that short a stay in the water."
Soon after, Strider told reporters, "This whole thing looks like a deal made up by the NAACP."

During the trial, Strider was happy to share his racist view with reporters, disguised as questioning the evidence:
"It just seems to me that the evidence is getting slimmer and slimmer. I'm chasing down some evidence now that the killing might have been planned and plotted by the NAACP."
Of course, there was no such evidence. Just as there was no evidence to support a convenient claim that Till had been spirited out of Mississippi and was now living in Detroit, again part of the larger effort to cast doubt on the evidence and the integrity of the NAACP.

Why the attacks on the NAACP? Besides trying to sow doubts about the murder, it was part of a pattern of extreme resistance to school integration and voting rights that Hodding Carter wrote about in The Saturday Evening Post:
Whites considered the NAACP "the fountainhead of all evil and woe," and the factual nature of most of the NAACP's bills of particulars ... doesn't help make its accusations any more acceptable. "The hatred that is concentrated upon the NAACP surpasses in its intensity any emotional reaction that I have witnessed in my southern lifetime." This reflected the NAACP's demands for voting rights and school integration as much as it did their protests over the Till case.
Any fair-minded person who reads The Blood of Emmett Till cannot emerge from the experience without a deep sense of outrage over the horrible injustices meted out to Black people over the years, as well as a profound admiration for those extraordinary souls who, countless times, braved both physical and economic reprisal in their long battle to be treated exactly as they were: American citizens demanding their full rights.

And the battle continues today. In Part 11 of this post, I will look at the tactics employed by white supremacists today, tactics that eerily echo those of a much earlier time as the racists among us seek to turn back the clock and once more subjugate those they deem their inferiors.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Deciphering White Supremacists

The New York Times provides a very useful glossary of the terms favoured by white supremacists these days. Be sure to check it out. As well, the following video breaks down the symbols brandished by these hate-mongers, symbols that were much in evidence last week in Charlottesville.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Very, Very Timely Message

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a timely and very powerful message for Donald Trump and his racist supporters:

If you go to the YouTube page where this video is posted, you will see by the many vile comments that his message needs to be spread widely.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Will This Saudi 'Explanation' Give Freeland And Trudeau The Cover They Desperately Seek?

As I recently wrote, I am very doubtful that the Trudeau government will rescind its $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, damning evidence of the Saudi deployment of the weaponry against their own people notwithstanding. It is my suspicion that both Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland hope that their sanctimonious expressions of concern prompted by this evidence will be sufficient for the Canadian people.

Now Saudi Arabia has admitted using the armoured vehicles in their Eastern Province, but guess what? They claim it is to fight terrorism.
The Saudi Arabian government is defending the recent deployment of Canadian-made armoured vehicles against residents of the kingdom’s Eastern Province, saying security forces found it necessary to use “military equipment” to fight terrorists who threatened the safety of its population.
Interestingly, the vehicles have been unleashed in al-Qatif, which is predominantly Shia, a sect that finds no favour in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. And while it is true that tensions abound in the area, the Saudis are not keen to talk about any of the reasons.

Consider the following event from June of this year:
A Saudi soldier has been killed and two others wounded when an explosive device went off during a patrol in the kingdom's restive Qatif province, the interior ministry said.

In a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the ministry said that the blast occurred late Sunday evening in the Masoura district in the village of Awamiya.

It described the explosion as a "terrorist incident".
What led to this 'terrorist incident'?
The oil-rich eastern province of Qatif is mostly Shia, a minority in the Sunni-majority kingdom.

The SPA has reported an increase in clashes between Shia fighters and security forces in Masoura in recent weeks after the Saudi government sent in workers to demolish a 400-year-old walled neighbourhood there.

UN rights experts have urged the Saudi government to halt the demolition, saying the planned commercial zone threatened the town's historical and cultural heritage and could result in the forced eviction of hundreds of people from their businesses and residences.
Nothing to see here, claim the Saudis:
“The terrorist groups in Awamiyah are equipped with military equipment and they are attacking civilians in the area,” the embassy said in a statement.

Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group that tracks military exports, said the Saudi explanation for what took place merits skepticism.

“The Saudi government’s depiction of military operations in civilian areas as being part of its war on terrorism has become routine, and increasingly suspect,” he said.

“The fact is that there are too many red flags. A country consistently found to be among the very worst human-rights violators on the planet is now categorically denying any human-rights violations in the siege of Awamiyah. The Canadian public needs to know how much credence Ottawa gives to this claim and whether it is consistent with its own findings.”

Ali Adubisi, director of the Berlin-based European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights, said the Saudi government criminalizes any form of dissent. Many civilians were targeted and killed in Awamiyah, he said, while the government is saying it’s fighting armed men. “Portraying themselves as the protectors of civilians in Awamiyah is a mockery.”

Human Rights Watch said in a statement this week that residents in Awamiyah told them Saudi security forces fired into populated areas from Al-Masora, killing residents, occupying a public school, closing clinics and pharmacies and preventing essential services such as ambulances from reaching the area. The group called for an investigation into whether Saudi authorities “used excessive force in Awamiyah.”
There has been long-standing evidence of the almost genocidal hatred the Sunnis have for the Shia. For Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland to cherry-pick the evidence and stand behind the deal would not only be indefensible, but also yet another indication of an amoral government with contempt for principles and human rights.

For Your Consideration

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

UPDATED: No, Mr. Trump, There Aren't Two Sides

Although issues of justice and equity have concerned me throughout most of my life, as I move through my final decades I find matters becoming more, not less, pressing. Clearly, history is not on an upward trajectory, and as the saying goes, we can rest when we are dead.

Like most, I suppose, I can only bear witness to the suffering that injustice, prejudice and hatred impose and, when opportunities and venues materialize, speak out and write about them and personally intervene if witnessing untoward acts. We all have a deep moral and social obligation not to turn away from but to confront evil in its many forms. Silences gives consent.

One of the most accessible venues for speaking out is a blog, although I am under no illusions about the efficacy of such methodology. However, if it serves to convey information that a reader might not otherwise have, I feel it at least accomplishes something, however little that might be in the larger scheme of things.

In that spirit I offer a clip from NBC News that includes an excerpt from a Vice News documentary exposing what went on behind the scenes in Charlottesville last weekend; it is a clip that puts to the lie everything the diseased leader of the 'free world', Donald Trump, had to say yesterday about some of the fine people who were marching with the white supremacists there. After watching the clip, you can follow this link to Mother Jones, where you can view the entire 22-minutes of the piece.

UPDATE: There is nothing more pathetic than a whining Nazi. Watch below as Christopher Cantwell, the white bare-shirt supremacist who so proudly extolled violence in the Vice clip, now sings a different turn: