All posts by T. Mayheart Dardar

Regime Change and Capitalism

Regime change, both the term and the strategy it describes, has become all too familiar to those who follow the machinations of U.S. foreign policy. Enshrined in the lexicon of our 24 hour media I would not hesitate, however, to say that most people do not dwell on the historic implications associated with its applications. As the current administration proclaims nations such as Venezuela, Syria and Iran to be targets for regime change it would be worthwhile to examine how this weapon of American hegemony has been deployed by previous administrations in previous centuries. While 21st century politicians still offer an exalted claim to the promotion of freedom and democracy an honest examination of this policy readily points to a more base inspiration.

In 1953 the democratically elected secular government of Iran, under the leadership of Mohammed Mossadegh, sought to nationalize the oil reserves of their country. This brought them into conflict with the interest of the British and American fossil industry which in turn influenced their respective governments to actively instigate a coup. The Mossadegh government was overthrown and a repressive government under the Shah was installed preserving western access to Iranian oil.

The following year, 1954, the leftist Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz instituted an agrarian reform law which gave peasant and indigenous farmers access to land being horded by foreign interest such as the United Fruit Company. Refusing to lose access to their ill-gotten gains the United Fruit Company petitioned their contacts in the U.S. intelligence community and within months a CIA directed effort produced a coup that violently deposed Arbenz.

The pattern is easily discernable, regime change was the tool readily made available to the interest of western capital to insure access to foreign resources. In these cases any attempt to nationalize those resources for the needs and desires of the people who rightfully owned them was met by the considerable abilities of agencies such as the American CIA or British MI6 which easily overwhelmed those governments and installed more capitalist friendly replacements.

Looking at these two examples there are many who will admit to the moral short comings of these policies but will at the same time excuse them on the grounds that this was a time when the world was engulfed by the Cold War. The struggles between the western powers and the communist east produced, they would say, many regrettable but necessary sacrifices. But was regime change a Cold War tactic or does its roots lie deeper in the American historic reality than they care to admit? Is it an essential weapon for the promotion of freedom and democracy as America continues to argue or is it, as it appears in 1953 Iran or 1954 Guatemala, a key component in the engine of global capitalism? To find our answer let us look beyond the ideological conflicts of the 20th century to the earliest expansions of the American republic.

In the latter years of the eighteenth century the Creek leader Alexander McGillivray played the interest of the American, British, and Spanish colonial powers against each other to further the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Creek Nation. His successful maintenance of Creek autonomy was severely threatened soon after his death in 1793 by a series of treaties between the Creeks and the Americans that encroached on Creek territory.

Creek society also began to unravel as opposing factions divided over the growing political, cultural, and economic influence of the United States. The Lower Creek towns, enamored with the perceived advantages of white society, sought to restructure Creek society to the Euro-American model allowing an increase of American settlers and traders into their territory. The Upper Creek towns, led by the Red Stick movement, sought to preserve what they considered the virtue of traditional Creek existence.

From an American position the Red Stick movement was a hindrance to their expansionist ambitions. The Federal Road first established in 1805 as a route through Creek lands between Washington D.C. and New Orleans and its expansion in 1811 allowed for an increase of settlers and commerce. The adoption of white farming practices and land owning customs amongst the Lower Creeks gave the Americans a greater degree of access and control to the Creek economy.

When the conflict between the Upper and Lower Creeks expanded into a full-fledged civil war it was of no surprise where the sympathies of the Americans lay. The culturally conservative Upper Creek towns and the traditionalist Red Sticks were determined to hold the line against the increased incursions into their homeland and sought to suppress the growing influence of the United States expressed through the Lower towns. To this point the Americans sought to use merchants, agents and traders to leverage their power in favor of the Lower towns but the escalation of hostilities offered a more direct route to what we would come to call regime change.

In July of 1813 a band of Red Sticks travelled to Pensacola to obtain weapons, ammunition, and powder from the Spanish Governor. On their return trip the band was intercepted by an American militia unit initiating what would come to be called the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek (relating to the location of the skirmish, Burnt Corn Creek in modern-day Washington County Alabama). The short-lived minor battle resulted in few casualties on both sides but precipitated an expansion of the conflict that quickly became the Creek War (1813-1814).

When it ended on March 27th 1814 at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend the Red Sticks were decimated and the United States was in a position to dictate the future of the Creek Nation and the Creek people. The compliant Lower Creeks and the defeated Upper Creeks were signatures to the Treaty of Fort Jackson which ceded over 21 million acres of Creek land to the United States.

Overshadowed by the greater conflict of the War of 1812 between the United States and England the Creek War was relegated to the status of minor engagement. Lost in the midst of the historical narrative are not just the details of the battles but more so the repercussions of its outcome. The millions of acres of prime southern agricultural land taken from the Creeks as well as millions more taken from the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Seminoles, and other southeastern peoples would be essential to the establishment of the American capitalism system.

Southern agriculture, King Cotton, was built in the decades following Horseshoe Bend, the Seminole Wars, and the Trail of Tears on stolen land by the forced labor of enslaved Africans. This was the endgame of the American support for the Lower Creeks and every other political manipulation that produced compliant “Medal Chiefs” that supported the assimilative policies of U.S. leaders from George Washington to Andrew Jackson.

Cotton would grow to become over sixty percent of American exports prior to the Civil War and was crucial to every aspect of the American economy from New England textile mills to New York City financial institutions. The power of the southern slave states grew expediently prior to 1860, to say that slavery was the cause of the Civil War would limit our understanding of the nuances of American politics in the mid-19th century. It would be more accurate to say that the threat of disruption to the Union, more specifically the economy of the Union, was the casus belli for northern politicians while in the south it was the threat of losing the economic advantage that came with the institution of slavery.

Lincoln himself would state in a letter to Horace Greeley in 1862 that, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it”. While he had issues with slavery, advocating at one point the expulsion of freed slaves back to Africa, his loyalty was to the United States and its economic empire. The system that dispossessed Indigenous Peoples from the land and brought Africans here to cultivate and exploit it was, in the end, the system both sides sought to perpetuate in one form or another.

Regime change is simply one of the many tools used, whether two centuries or two weeks ago, to perpetuate the supremacy of capitalism. Despite all claims that it is the only path to a democratic utopia history shows us that it has an insatiable appetite to consume and destroy. There are times when it would seem to bring a level of prosperity to the marginalized but those usually short periods are the exception and not the rule. The nature of the system is predatory. Like the faiths of the ancients it requires a blood sacrifice.

Slavery ended in 1865 but within a few years the southern planter aristocracy was allowed to regain political power and the former slaves and their descendants were made to endure a century of “Jim Crow” oppression to keep them available as cheap labor for the southern economic recovery. Any just reparations such as “40 acres and a mule” were lost with the death of Reconstruction in 1877.

For poor whites the post-World War II boom years gave rise to an economically stable middle class because of the labor needs of industrial capitalism. To fuel the expansion of growing businesses such as the automotive and fossil fuel industries the economic elite was forced to pay higher salaries and submit to higher taxes on themselves. This transitional period lasted over three decades till the pendulum swing was manipulated to catapult in the opposite direction.

Offshoring and outsourcing are the mantras of global capitalism as it stretches beyond any nationalistic restrictions. The sweatshop worker of the 21st century has replaced the 19th century slaves until they themselves are able to be replaced by the ultimate labor force, automation. While political factions fight over the crumbs that fall from the tables of the economic elite the gap between the top and the bottom grows at an accelerating rate. Regime change still rears its head from time to time to keep selected regions politically unstable and unable to protect their resources from the avarice of the financial predators.

It is no accident that countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain unstable while multi-national corporations continue to reap massive amounts of profits from the exploitation of its mineral wealth. The threat to the economic monopoly France enjoys over its former colonies in West Africa by the pan-African efforts of Muammar Gaddafi was the chief impetus for the 2011 regime change in Libya that cost him his life. In places such as Syria and Venezuela it is always prudent to remember the mantra “follow the money” and not be distracted by any patriotic rhetoric.

Since 2016 the American left has sought to recast itself as the resistance, fighting the fascist, imperialistic, pro-industry policies of the Trump administration. While there is no white-washing (excuse the pun) the repugnant nature of the 45th President of the United States we must not lose sight of the reality that Mr. Trump is not the cause, rather he is the end result of rot that lies at the heart of American politics. While a President Barak Obama was much more palatable to the senses it was the Obama administration that gave us the regime change in Libya in 2011 that made it a failed state and is still flooding Europe with refugees. It was the Obama administration that allowed regime change in Honduras bringing to power a government more compliant to global capital but oppressive to its own population. Now a haven for criminality its population, fleeing violence, adds to the asylum seekers at the southern border.

The economic system that allows multi-national giants such as Apple or Westinghouse to pay little or no taxes but has no money or political will to feed its hungry children or fix its failing infrastructure will not change with the next election or any that will follow. Both political parties in America are beholden to the dictates of global capital; the system is biased and corrupted. If there is a silver lining to the Trump administration it is that the insidious nature of capitalism is finally laid bare for all to see. The quid pro quo of Sheldon Adelson, the pro-Israeli billionaire, opening up his checkbook to Trump and the Republican Party just prior to the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem leaves little doubt of the true nature of the post-Citizens United political reality.

While the mechanics of regime change has become much more sophisticated and complicated since that hot July day on Burnt Corn Creek in 1813 the overall goal has remained the same, make the world safe and profitable for the needs of capital. As the reach of industry has become global then so has communication enabling poor and indigenous people around the world find allies amidst there struggles. The same fossil fuel corporations that pushed Houma People off their lands in coastal Louisiana in the 1930s are the same corporations that are polluting the homelands of Cofan and other tribes in Ecuador in the 21st century. The tactics used against pipeline protesters in South Dakota were perfected by the Israelis against Palestinian protestors in the West Bank and Gaza. Hope may lie in the common interest amongst the Wretched of the Earth in true resistance and in their ability to frame the conflict as the anti-imperialistic struggle that it truly is.

On Guns

I grew up as the child of a small Houma Indian community in south Louisiana. My father was a hunter, trapper and commercial fisherman so my early years were spent at his side observing and learning those life-ways. In our household a gun was just another tool with which we put food on the table.

My first experience hunting was with a single-shot 410 shotgun with which, as a youngster, I brought home my first meal, a fat little marsh hen. In that experience was embedded one of the most important firearm lesson my dad would teach me. While I had friends who would use an occasional, non-eatable, seagull or blackbird for target practice my dad was emphatic that “if you kill it you eat it!” Waste and wanton destruction was a cultural faux pas that was unacceptable.

It is this background that always foreshadows my contemplation of the gun debate that has been so prevalent in America these past couple decades. I consider my observations on this charged political oratorical struggle to be somewhat non-partisan. I’ve been a registered independent since I signed my first voter registration nearly forty years ago. As an indigenous scholar with definite anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist leanings I do not fit squarely into either of the two political polarities. From this position issues are judged on merit, I would hope, and not as democratic issues or republican issues.

My social media feed today contains opinions across the spectrum from the friend who remembers fondly the bygone years when high schoolers had gun racks in their pick-up trucks to the social activist who wants to end private gun ownership this minute. They are, of course, entrenched in their respective political parties and leave little room for the possibility of common ground.  If there are to be solutions found it would seem that a first step would entail a lowering of those party flags. Unfortunately, it seems that with every incident, with every mass shooting, the flags go up, the bunkers are strengthened, and the doors are closed.

On the right, once you get past thoughts and prayers, we are pointed in the direction of mental illness or violent video games while the left calls out the corrosive influence of the NRA. This, of course, does not imply that there is some sort of both sides do it equivalency but rather speaks to the fact that both camps have now stock, pre-loaded responses ready for the revolving news cycle.

I feel forced to question the assumptions and interpretations of the gun rights advocates. Statistics tell us that mental illness is responsible for 5 percent or less of gun deaths in the United States. Further, it is understood that mental illness affects men and women somewhat equally yet the perpetrators of mass shootings are predominantly male. As to the influence of violent video games, these also exist in countries such as Denmark or Japan yet they have somehow escaped our mass shooting epidemic.

While I understand fully how the continued carnage in our classrooms inspires a passionate call in some to eliminate private gun ownership I cannot fully acquiesce to the idea as a solution. On the practical side we live in a nation of over three million guns; we are 5 percent of the world’s population yet we own over half of the world’s guns. If the sale of guns were outlawed today, this dynamic would not change for some time. Change, especially political change, has and always will be incremental at best. Fair, just, or infuriating, it is a reality we are forced to live with.

Added to this is the actuality that in America today money is considered legally to be speech so that now organizations such as the NRA can pour millions of dollars of gun manufacturers’ speech into the pockets of politicians to influence or obscure the issue. By equating money with speech the debate is skewed and any attempt to find a democratic consensus is curtailed.

An honest, personal perspective; I don’t see how giving up my shotgun or hunting rifle, if I care for and use them responsibly, could curtail or reduce needless gun violence. I feel like giving up these tools with which I can feed my family or enjoy recreationally would be patently unfair or unjust. While, at the same if I am asked or legislated into giving up my right to own a semi-automatic assault rifle I would wholeheartedly agree. My experience in the Armed services with the M-16 more than demonstrated to me its impracticality as a hunting weapon and its lethality as a weapon of war.

For those who feel that they need an assault rifle to stand against a potential tyrannical government I remind them that said tyrannical government possesses weapons such as tanks and hellfire missiles in abundance. A personal AR-15 is little deterrent to the most powerful army on earth. If we want to be truly safe from a tyrannical government, a vicious drug gang, or any imagined threat we should put all our efforts into securing a government that is ruled by its people and not by its corporations or special interest groups. When over 80 percent of the U.S. population supports common sense gun regulation yet the debate remains stymied in a political quagmire there would seem to be a fault in the political foundation.

If these common sense regulations only result in a 5 or 10 percent drop in mass shootings are not those lives worth the effort? I know there are those that proclaim that any legislative restrictions will lead eventually to confiscation. To that argument we have but to point to District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the right to individual ownership of guns. If you agree or disagree with the decision, it is still the law of the land and the government is obligated to it. Besides the reaffirming of those 2nd Amendment rights it did, also, reaffirm the government’s right and duty to regulate that right. You can have a rifle or pistol but you can’t own your own personal cruise missile.

Democracy is a matter of trust; can you trust your government to defend the right to own a gun while at the same time restricting the type and capacity of said weapon for the greater good of all? Or do you feel like all that stands between you and tyranny is your AR-15? Is this withholding of trust worth the price paid in blood for the anarchy it produces?

Rotten to the core

We’ve all heard this story in one form or another. A person finally convinces themselves to go see their doctor for some innocuous but persistent problem. Their hope is for relief from a quick injection or a round of pharmaceuticals. Sadly, for our protagonist, it will not be that simple or easy. The seemingly benign symptoms mask a hidden carcinoma lying unseen in some forgotten region of their body, the mostly tranquil surface masking a concealed decay deep in the core that denies a healthy foundation.

It’s a sad story and for our purpose here, an analogy for a truly sad reality. It’s a tale buried deep in the American narrative, anathema to the patriotic rhetoric of our times. The connection for our analogy might not be immediately apparent but bear with me here for a few paragraphs and I think we may come to the same conclusions.

Our analysis begins here with the current controversy over the Alabama senate race and the Republican candidate Roy Moore. Mr. Moore, a self-described Christian conservative who sacrificed his position as an Alabama Supreme Court Justice on a stone monument to theological supremacy. Unfortunately for his current political ambitions the transition from state to national politics shinned exponentially more light on his professions of righteousness. It would seem that Mr. Moore’s predilection for under-aged girls was a not so well hidden local secret that has become a national issue.

Coming on the heels of the Harvey Weinstein revelations and following the election of the “grab them by the genitals” Commander-in-Chief the Moore controversy quickly became another chapter in the ongoing purge of predatory misogyny. To those on the right of the political spectrum the possibility that a secure senate seat is at risk seems to be more salient than the election of an accused child molester. To some on the left this represents another battle in the conservative “war on women.”

Of course, the misogyny highlighted by all these revelations is not confined to democrats or republicans, as the recent disclosures about Senator Al Franken make clear. Men behaving badly is not a partisan issue, neither is it a recent phenomenon. Patriarchy lies at the heart of civilization and in the bastion of western democracy, the United States of America. Let us not forget that America existed for almost one hundred and fifty years before women were even afforded the right to vote.

While our discussions range from Bill Clinton’s oval office indiscretions to pictures of Congressman Joe Barton’s junk we have to remember the historical context. While the beloved founding father who penned the immortal “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;” seemed to have no compunction about fathering children by his slave. Despite the proclamations of freedom and liberty there existed a dark backdrop of bondage and suppression.

As marginalized segments of America’s population raise their voice in opposition to the repressive policies of the current administration their calls for justice are a continuation of an aged narrative. The plight of African-Americans highlighted by Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick stretch back to the failure of Reconstruction, the quest for equal rights for women began long before the struggle for Women’s suffrage, and the basis of the protest at Standing Rock lies in the lack of America’s commitment to the treaties it signed with the Indigenous Nations of North America. The seemingly healthy facade of “We the People” belies the marginalization of those people that exist outside of the white, landed power structure that enshrined those words.

For those on the left of the political spectrum the danger lies in believing that the only solution comes with a “D” following its name. Their reasoning declares that women would be so much better off if America had elected its first woman president in 2016 instead of their first orange one. While it is, of course, obvious that the serial sexual abuser-in-chief is a worst case scenario for America’s female population we should not give an easy pass to his opponent.

As the head of Obama’s State Department Hillary Clinton bears a great deal of responsibility for the failed states that resulted in Libya and Syria because of their regime change policy. While I care deeply that the gains in healthcare afforded by the ACA remain in place and that Planned Parenthood’s assistance to poor and marginalized women in the United States continue unhindered I cannot forget the bodies of women and children that washed up on Mediterranean beaches as a result of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy.

I know the refrain well; the only option of our political duopoly is to choose the “lesser of two evils.” We are quick to declare this the price worth paying for our democracy, not giving a thought to how the Syrian mother who lost her children beneath the waves or the African man who now finds himself sold into slavery in Libya might feel. Can we decry the republican America-first mantra without also being honest about the duplicity inherent in the majority of the democracy and freedom rhetoric?

So what’s the answer? In a phrase, I don’t know, but what I do know or believe is that it has to start with leaders who are more dedicated to principals instead of politics. If we are going to lambaste the republican attempt to take away healthcare where is the legitimate proposal for healthcare for all? If we criticize conservative militarism where is the serious legislation to slash defense spending? If we really believe that Black lives matter where were the voices of the liberal elite when 12 year old Tamer Rice lay dying in the snow in Cleveland? In a word, honest, let’s have an honest conversation on what it will really takes for this to be a safer world for women and a better world for all of us.

Levees

Here in south Louisiana we are, to a degree, surrounded by levees. For those not familiar with them, levees are manmade earthen barriers that are designed to protect the inhabited areas of the region from rising waters and storm surges. They are not a new strategy, historical accounts tell us of levees being erected by the first European settlers to the area three centuries ago. European styled settlements were always challenged by the climate and ecology of the bayou land.

Levees, locks, canals, and pumping stations are all modern manifestations of this centuries old effort to live against the ongoing pressures from the environment. From another perspective this reality reflects a philosophical ideal of living in opposition to the natural flow of existence. In this sense levees stand as a physical manifestation of this philosophical principle of standing against while, for millennia indigenous peoples here in what is today Louisiana have lived in a state of coexistence with their surroundings. The ebb and flow of life dictated the life-ways of the people of the land and ordered our existence.

Most of my life was spent in Plaquemines Parish (in Louisiana counties have retained their ecclesiastical designation as parishes), which stretches from just south of New Orleans to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Growing up in the southern portion of the parish, levees were a constant part of my physical surroundings. In 1969 we lost our home in one of the small Indian settlements “outside the levee” to hurricane Camille and upon our return took up residence inside the hurricane protection system.

For the next thirty-five years my life would evolve within the protections of those earthworks that surrounded my hometown. High school, marriage, and the birth of my children would all take place in the confines of the same south Louisiana settlement. From my front yard looking east you could see the great ships passing in the river, if you looked up that is. The inhabited land in southern Plaquemines within the levees is on average about 15 feet below sea level and only the levees keep out the Mississippi River to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west.

And so it was, for those thirty-five years that despite numerous storms and hurricanes the levees kept us safe and dry. Within the shadows of those man-made dikes the community survived and prospered in spite of nature’s seasonal upheavals. The U.S. Corps of Engineers had constructed a defacto barrier between the manufactured world I lived in every day and the reality of the ecosystem that surrounded us.

This all came crashing down on August 29th 2005 when hurricane Katrina came to call. Her thirty foot storm surge rolled ashore to challenge our hurricane protection walls that had stood for over three decades and our protection was found wanting. Two or three major breeches were all that was needed to put my home and the homes of my neighbors underwater. On that day we learned that no matter how much time, money, and effort is put into levee construction they are not, on their own, a permanent solution for the security of at risk communities.

During those years before 2005 as the real levees grew in high and breath the vibrant marshlands outside them deteriorated as the avarice of 20th century economic development devoured them. From the inside there is a false sense of security that grew with each year that passed while the forces of coastal erosion raged on. Since the 1930s Louisiana has lost over 2000 square miles of land, but since 1969 we were “safe” inside the levees.

I think about that lesson as I contemplate the metaphorical levee that surround us just as those physical one did. We don’t recognize them as levees but they are artificially constructed barriers that seek to shield us from the realities that exist outside of them. They exist in many forms and in many areas but they all have in common a foundation based on a constructed reality. And as we do with the physical ones, we need to set our sights on what is transpiring outside our figurative levees.

Ironically it is again in New Orleans, the focal point for physical levee failures in 2005, in which the failure of a philosophical barrier transpires in 2017. In the last few months all eyes have turned to the Crescent City as several century old monuments dedicated to the long defeated Confederate States were removed from their positions of prominence. Battle lines erected between those who supported the administration of Mayor Landrieu and his removal directive and those who opposed him in the name of heritage and history exposed the fallacy of many of the accepted views on the status of race relations in the city and in the state.

Race relations stand as a levee constructed over decades and giving us the sense of security based on the idea that we have not fully attained equality but we are “headed in the right direction.” The barrier is well known though not readily recognized for what it truly is. We are taught about the progress we’ve made, reminded about the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the election of Barack Obama all of which assures us protection from a social and civil system based on discriminatory statutes and traditions. We have the ability within this levee to realize the great American creed that all men are created equal.

But here in New Orleans within the levees, both physical and metaphorical, stood those statues dedicated to the battles and heroes of the Confederate States of America. For decades they have stood in counter distinction to the civil rights struggles that have transpired in their shadow. As the controversy over their existence reached its recent crescendo one could not help but wonder about the world that has transpired under the shadow of Robert E. Lee’s statue in the now oddly named “Lee’s Circle.”

To the defenders of the Confederate statuary these are memorials to a particular part of the city’s three centuries of history. The monuments to Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, and the Battle of Liberty Place commemorate the men who stood for a noble, though ill-fated cause and attest to heritage and not hate. The War Between the States is framed as a conflict over state’s rights and the issue of slavery is greatly minimized. These noble men fought in what their generation would call The War of Northern Aggression and their memory should continue to be honored.

In truth these shrines were erected in honor of an insurrection that sought to tear apart the nineteenth century United States of America to maintain an economic system that depended on chattel slavery to survive and prosper. No less a voice than Alexander Stevens, the Vice-President of the Confederacy, would declare in 1861 that slavery was the cornerstone on which the Confederacy was founded. This fact is reinforced by the succession proclamations of the individual states and stands in opposition to the modern defenders of these particular monuments and their view of history.

So the question asked in New Orleans, and increasingly across the south is this, can we have both a fair and just society and memorialize those who fought to prevent such a society from coming into existence. The answer for over a century in New Orleans has been yes and with that yes a levee was constructed that sought to protect both sides but in reality only fostered a false sense of peace and progress. From inside this levee we struggle to understand recent events in places like Ferguson, Missouri and movements such as Black Lives Matter because we’re shielded from the reality outside our protected system.

In truth the conflict over slavery and race has never truly been settled in this country, Appomattox Court House was not the final word by any means. When General Sherman tried to implement his famous “40 acres and a mule policy” he understood as the military victor that to assure that victory he needed to dismantle the white power structure of the south and give the former slaves an economic and social step-up to real equality. That effort continued sporadically through the Reconstruction Era but ended when Federal Troops were withdrawn from the former Confederacy in 1877.

The century of discrimination, lynching, and Jim Crow that followed made the Civil Rights struggles of the 20th century inevitable. The just and equal society that was paid for with the pains of the Civil War and built by Reconstruction policies was abandoned for economic and political expediency. The controversial monuments of recent news reports were erected at the end of the nineteenth century more as testaments to the survival of the antebellum power structure than to bravery of Confederate leaders. Indeed the Liberty Place Monument specifically commemorates a violent insurrection instigated by the Crescent City White League against the duly elected Reconstruction government in 1874.

None of these historical realities are addressed within our metaphorical levee so the turmoil that transpires outside their protective heights is misunderstood or ignored. When protesters raise their hands for justice or broach the age old subject of reparations there are many who are indignant or confused. Were not these issues resolved in 1865? Surely they were settled by the events in and around 1965? Why such controversy over flags and statues?

So the levee failed and the reality it held at bay came flooding in. Those flood waters swept down monuments despite all the protestations and cries for the preservation of ‘history.” But for those who cheered the removal the question is do they understand that the waters are rising on them also. If they believe that simply removing monuments will rectify centuries of injustice and assuage liberal guilt they are as oblivious to the historic realities as the confederate flag wavers.

Just as hurricane protection is dependent on the restoration of the ecosystem outside the levees so too is societal protection dependent on the restoration of truth outside our walls of ignorance. Repairing historical inequities depends on our acknowledgement of the historical realities of race and race relations in the United States. From inside the levee there were those who saw the election of America’s first black president in 2008 and thought we had arrived at true equality while today in 2017, outside the levee, we see the body of Philando Castile and know that we have “miles to go before we sleep.”