Category Archives: Guns

Guns and Chips and Irony

I had Doctor Daniel Brown from Harvard spend 70 hours with Sirhan over almost three years [and] he comes away with this staggering, staggering evaluation. He says Sirhan was hypnoprogrammed ….. a technique of using chemicals as well as hypnosis ….. The program on him makes him forget everything within a certain time frame ….. He remembers when he gets a pinch on the neck [that] what he sees is not Senator Kennedy. It’s a paper target of a human being.

— William Pepper, 2013, speaking at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Two issues made explicit in the U.S Constitution had to do with personal protection and the creation of money. Regarding the Second Amendment, its single sentence is blunt: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (Infringe: to limit or control) The authors, informed by history, knew that governments typically grow despotic, and that being armed provides a measure of protection for citizens against a government grown oppressive and unaccountable. In Thomas Jefferson’s words, “…. to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

Yet there is a growing call for governmental control of guns in the hands of citizens, the call coming from within the citizenry itself, and the reason is evident: Every so often in recent years an apparently deranged individual goes on a shooting spree in a school or public space. With each shooting the chorus to rein in gun ownership grows ever louder, and ever more politicians, sniffing out prevailing public sentiment, make gun control a campaign issue. Ideas range from the registration of all firearms to the outlawing of weapons that might give citizens parity with, say, a militarized police force.

But here’s an interesting question: Might devious elements within a government, intent on disarming its populace, resort to the creation of false-flag scenarios designed to frighten and to produce justification for ever-tightening control? Might it be a question of “LIHOP” (let it happen on purpose) or “MIHOP” (make it happen on purpose), to use the lingo of what CIA-tutored media figures call “conspiracy theorists”? It’s just a question. I’m not so cynical as to imagine such intent, but the notion that such could be the case definitely exists among many who are inclined to ferret out details of certain events like the sinking of the Maine, the Lusitania, Operation Northwoods, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin. Things like that.

The fact that elements of the U.S. Government have developed and refined mind control techniques, such as those apparently applied to Sirhan Sirhan, is old news. The CIA’s Program MKUltra was born more than 60 years ago, and although it was reported as having been officially terminated in the 1970s, anyone who would accept that as fact resides in the kind of comfortable mental Happy Place that seems to be an American specialty.

Shootings themselves make excellent ‘news’, as they produce an uptick in public attention (and anxiety), which is important to those with a stake in maintaining narratives and crafting prevailing public opinion. And when poignant biographies of victims are aired as news items, with touching facial photos, evocative descriptions of their generosity and good works, and how they were so beloved, the victims are transformed for viewers into something akin to neighbors, and the shootings become a viewer’s neighborhood issues. Something must be done! And so public demand for gun control continues to grow.

Would central banks jump to the rescue and offer a fully anonymous digital currency? Certainly not. Doing so would be a bonanza for criminals.

— Christine Lagarde, IMF Director, 2018, speaking at the Singapore Fintech Festival

It is Congress that was granted the power “to coin money [and] establish the value thereof”, or at least that‘s how the U.S. Constitution would have it. But times changed, as did our governors, so in 1913 the Congress and President decided, despite multiple warnings from Jefferson to Lincoln (and others in between and since) to turn that process over to a private banking interest given the grossly misleading title “Federal Reserve”.

Those whom we allowed to become the masters of our money are now herding us toward an electronic global currency. The concept has been widely discussed since at least 1988 when a cover article in The Economist predicted a single world currency by 2018 along the lines of a theoretical “Phoenix”. The stepwise route described would be at first allowing — then later encouraging — the use of some form of private-sector money to be used in addition to existing national currencies. Thereafter, over time, the public would come to prefer it on the basis of its greater convenience. While the 2018 prediction was itself a miss, cryptocurrency had by that time become all the rage in some quarters, and the concept of cryptocurrency as a global reserve currency is now being discussed.

Meanwhile, the use of credit- and debit cards continues to rise, in some European countries virtually the sole means of making purchases. Banks and credit unions are now offering incentives for their use, even as powerful governmental forces are advocating the banning of cash altogether. Follow the threads and the world that emerges is one in which our every transaction is an electronic record. Consider, though, that a personal “chip”, that dreaded item of ultimate control in the worst of all dystopian futures, needn’t be a microscopic subcutaneous transmitter. A plastic card willingly (and, in a cashless society, necessarily) produced with every exchange works perfectly for recording the where and what of each individual’s every movement.

With cash a relic of the past, there would be no place to protect savings were The Economy to require negative interest rates and “bail-ins”; accounts would be docked automatically. Anyone deemed an irritant to the government would simply have his or her “chip” turned off (It happens!) leaving the offender absolutely disabled in a cashless world. With the loss of one’s card an ever-present possibility, instinct would naturally tend toward protective self editing, and the inevitable result would be a population rendered ideal from the standpoint of an oppressive and unaccountable government: obedient and submissive.

And the irony? If governmental and social forces now in motion continue unabated and unopposed, Americans, who proclaim themselves “lovers of freedom”, will have essentially disarmed and chipped ourselves. Having been made fearful, we don’t merely allow, we insist, on governmental control of personal arms. And through a process of multigenerational social engineering, our attachment to our plastic identifiers has been so reinforced and normalized that we have failed to realize what they represent and how they can be used against us.

Why Are These Facts So Stubbornly Forbidden?

Like you, I’ve had countless experiences of pointing out a new fact to someone, and seeing them acknowledge it and incorporate it into their thinking and their talking from that point forward. I’ve even had this experience with public petitions pushed on powerful people. But, I’ve also had a different experience. There are some facts that some people just will not accept, and for some of them I have a very hard time understanding why. Can you help me understand?

For example, today I received an appeal from the March for Our Lives people upset and outraged that teachers were going to be allowed to bring guns into their school in Florida. They do not want any guns in their school, they said. But — and this they did not say — their school already has ROTC and gun training. Their school already has lots of guns in it. Their classmate who killed many of their other classmates was trained to shoot guns in their school by the U.S. Army. So, do they want guns in their school or not? They are 100% dedicated to pretending that the ROTC does not exist, but also outraged by the idea of guns being brought into the school that they are pretending is gun-free. Why can they not incorporate into their consciousness the existence of the program whose t-shirt the murderer was wearing? What prevents it? I really want to know. Do you have an answer that’s not just a guess?

Also today I received an email from Senator Tim Kaine who remains outraged that a president might start an “unnecessary” and “unconstitutional” war. A president cannot legally attack Iran without Congressional approval, Kaine announces for the billionth time. But a president also cannot legally attack Iran WITH Congressional approval. Violating various laws, including the United Nations Charter, is a crime completely and utterly regardless of whether Congress is in on it. There’s no waiver for the U.S. Congress or any branch of any other government. I questioned Tim Kaine about this a long time ago and posted it on my Youtube page. He readily admitted that I was right, but in the next breath went right back to talking the way he has continued talking to this day — just like every single one of his colleagues and every single media outlet he ever encounters. Why is Kaine incapable of grabbing hold of a fact that he readily comprehended? I’d seriously like an answer.

Most of U.S. political discourse seems to me perverted by the stubborn universal refusal to incorporate basic acknowledged facts into general understanding. Also today I saw a report claiming that the U.S. government has been spending more on fossil fuel subsidies than on “defense.” Of course, the U.S. government spends little or nothing on anything designed to be defensive, so we have to translate that to “military.” But over half of the military budget is not counted in this or any other situation because it’s spread across numerous departments and agencies. At $1.25 trillion a year, it dwarfs fossil fuel subsidies, but the fact that those subsidies outpace the fraction of military spending that goes to the Pentagon is still staggering. Or it would be, if most people would incorporate into their worldview the fact that militarism costs anything at all. For most people, only non-military expenses cost anything, and their size determines the size of the government, even though militarism is now about two-thirds of federal discretionary spending.

What costs money and what does not really seems to be up to personal preference. For example, does the collapse of the climate — all the storms and droughts and floods to come — cost anything? On the one hand, you would think so. Young people are already suing governments for imposing enormous costs on young and future generations. There have been studies done of the cost of converting the world to sustainable green energy, and the cost is in the negative tens of trillions of dollars. In other words, it would save money, yet it is understood to be outrageously too expensive to even dream about.

In my city, we’re asking our local government to divest public dollars from weapons and fossil fuels, and city officials are concerned about their responsibility to benefit investors. But if the earth and our city with it remain habitable doesn’t that benefit even city employees? Wouldn’t the city leap at a guaranteed financial savings over a year or a month that was susceptible to temporary losses over hours or days? Why, when the same situation involves a decade rather than a year does it become incomprehensible? I really want to know.

Healthcare, too, is something we cannot afford, even though countries that have it pay less for it than we pay to not have it. This doesn’t seem to make any sense as long as we refuse to mention the parasitical insurance companies that are actually what we cannot afford, have no use for, and (in thousands of cases every year) die at the hands of.

What about all the health savings from green energy that would cost a fraction of either military spending or fossil fuel subsidies, and lower the cost of healthcare to a fraction of what we pay to not get healthcare? How can people be made to understand such incomprehensible realities as long as key facts are forbidden? I think we absolutely have to find out.

BUI: Born Under the Influence

Some of it is physical, but there’s more than muscle and mass to consider.  Men seem to perceive, process, and react differently than women.  A biological base to our differences is obvious, as is the likely interplay of socialization.  It’s not necessarily a negative: male specialization has been integral to the survival of our species.  Physical strength, aggression, and audacious behavior have enabled males to nurture and protect tribal identity, while concurrently spreading their half of the genetic seed.  But it’s not always a positive either: male aggression and perilous behavior can also be lethal to tribe, family, and self, especially in today’s world where masculinity is combined with modern technology.

Male boldness is visible and well documented.  4,833 people have climbed to the top of Mt. Everest (thru 2018).  288 have died in the attempt.  89% of the climbers were male and they comprised 96% of all deaths.  In 2017, Alex Honnold scaled the 3,000 foot shear face of Yosemite’s El Capitan alone, without aid of ropes or safety gear.  He’s made similar vertical climbs at other imposing cliff sites (as of this writing, he’s still alive).  At least 31 wingsuit BASE jumpers plummeted to their deaths in 2016; apparently all were male.  These risk takers are (or were) all brave, though not necessarily heroic individuals.  Their feats were performed not to escape or disable danger, but to experience it.  Such flirtations with death pose immense self risk, but little danger to others.  The same cannot be said for all male inclination towards audacious behavior.

We (males) capriciously put lives at risk, including our own, for no apparent survival benefit.  Often our displays are acts of aggression, and they’re not always just angry reactions.  Sometimes our behavior is planned; sometimes it’s simply bizarre and beyond rational explanation.  It’s not quite monopolized; females too, are seen to exhibit such behavior, but not nearly to the extent observed in males.

Males commit 70% to 90% of all murders.  Men perpetrate about 98% of all mass killings and constitute at least 90% of all modern day serial killers.  In domestic settings, 80% of spousal murders are committed by men, and in the workplace, males account for 97% of all rampage style killings.  The propensity towards violence and instability is clearly evident.  Less visible are some underlying neurological conditions that might give biological evidence to male associated instability. Men are three times more likely to be born with ADHD.  There are also several neurological diseases that display earlier and more severely in males: OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are three following that pattern.  Later in life, males are twice as likely to exhibit symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  None of these conditions are twined to a misanthropic nature, but they do indicate the presence of neurological instabilities that are closely associated with males.  That these recognized expressions exist provides reason to suspect the existence of other less conspicuous volatilities; predispositions that trigger some of our male associated acts of violence.

What Lies Beneath?

Brain Wave (by Poul Anderson) was a 1953 science fiction novel that posited the earth finally passing out of a stellar radiation field that had dampened cognitive function for eons.  Suddenly, every earthly animal with neurological activity became five times more conscious.  Humans, along with all animal species, were no longer cognitively suppressed (leading to human/non-human ethical complications).  Could something in that fiction be relevant to our nonfictional reality?  We like to think of ourselves as being completely aware, with an unimpeded rational thought process.  Maybe we’re not really so free and unimpeded.  Maybe evolution (rather than cosmic radiation) has bent us towards behavior patterns of which we take little notice.  We (males) have a shown proclivity to exhibit risky, bizarre, and violent behavior, yet are inclined to see ourselves as being completely cool and rational: “I’m totally okay” (even when it’s clear that some of us aren’t).

It might be comparable to alcohol.  In the history of the world, has any man in any bar, ever felt unable to drive home safely after two drinks?  We look around and observe others who are clearly inebriated and pose danger on the road, but see ourselves as completely unimpaired.  We might shake our head when another with five or eight drinks loudly declares himself still fit to drive; we ourselves have had two, yet clearly have it all together.  We’re under the influence, but don’t admit or even feel it.  We might drive home a thousand times without a mishap, but the two drinks have sent alcohol to our brain and have made our travel less certain.

Our male propensity for risk and violence is like that: we’re all at least “two drinks” along, but feel sober (and those further along than just two are equally confident).  Individually we think we pose no danger, but in fact have always been under the influence.  We’ve never known sobriety; two drinks minimum is our only plane of reference; our condition feels normal and unimpaired.  It’s not always a fixed plane; our level of impairment is multiplied by external events: humiliation, a terminated relationship, substance abuse, loss of employment, financial setback, etc.  From whatever baseline, we jump ahead and are suddenly more than just two drinks under and are no longer even close to “okay”.  We’re in a heightened state of flux and not quite predictable.  After an eruption, it’s not uncommon to hear: “He didn’t seem like the type.” or “I didn’t see it coming.”

So there’s a biological “drunkenness” that leaves males more inclined to exhibit risky, aggressive, and even misanthropic behavior with little pause for reflection.  It’s not the boldness, but various expressions of violence that arouse concern, especially in this era of lethal weaponry when an individual gone amok can reek havoc on so many.  When it happens, the easily available weapon of choice is usually a gun.

It took sober minded mothers (MADD) to arouse awareness and activate meaningful DUI regulation.  Recently, it’s activist children (Parkside) trying to motivate the nation to meaningful confrontation of another glaring danger: the proliferation of guns.  There’s something telling in that it took our mothers to awaken us to the drinking/driving/death reality, and it’s now taking children to shake us from the stupor of a nation’s infatuation with guns.

So Many Guns

We’ve a long history with guns. They’ve been present through all of U.S. history and the prior European conquest of America.  In some form or another, hand held guns have killed for more than 500 years.  That’s a lot of years, but just a blip on the historical time line of humans killing one another; guns have simply made the process more efficient and impersonal.  As with other human innovations, firearm refinements have come incrementally.  Bit by bit, they’ve morphed into incredible deadly machines.  Guns of today have visual resemblance (triggers and barrels) to early predecessors; beyond that, the similarities fade.  It’s now “rate of fire” per second rather than “rate of fire” per minute. While the lethal power of our weaponry has continuously advanced, human nature hasn’t.  Our mental/emotional soundness is as fragile (or inebriated) today as it was ten thousand years ago; we’ve armed our Stone Age mindset with 21st century killing machines.

Throw a dart at the calendar.  The gun statistics (U.S.) for that one single day will likely include the following: 135 gun related incidents, 37 murders (7 children), and 63 injuries.  Mention of a particular mass shooting will probably be old news, because one happens about every 30 hours.  Nearly everyone of these gun related acts of violence will be perpetrated by a male.

Gun ownership appears ubiquitous and nearly religious (“a god-given right”).  The U.S. adult population (15 & above) is roughly 265 million.  There are approximately 310 million civilian owned firearms in the USA.  That’s more than enough to arm every adult (except that 3% of all gun owners own 50% of the guns).  At least 39% of adult males claim to own guns, while female gun ownership is pegged at 22%.  About 42% of all homes have at least one gun present.

So Little Need

It’s a bizarre reality: so many guns and so little need.  Law enforcement has a need (much of it to deal with the 310 million civilian guns in circulation).  Some ranchers, farmers, and rural dwellers can claim a legitimate need for livestock protection and pest control.  Far on the fringes, there might still be some for whom a gun is needed to provide food and protection.  For the vast majority, though, that time has long past.  We have no survival need to hunt; shooting animals has become little more than a traditional exercise or an entertainment venue.  Most gun ownership for protection is delusional; the presence of a gun actually increases the likelihood of both personal and household victimization.  Why then, the infatuation?  At least a few reasons present themselves: tradition, machismo, fear, and NRA/weapons industry marketing.  We (especially males) have been targeted by gun makers, and our BUI mentality provides an easy mark.  The NRA’s marketing campaigns have always nurtured ego enhancement through conflation of gun ownership and ideals of strength, independence, and patriotism.  Invariably, the Second Amendment is called upon to portray weapon ownership as an expression of patriotic fervor.  Posing private gun ownership as protection from tyranny or foreign invasion is obsolete by about a century.  It’s now little more than a “two drink” fantasy; a passionate hustle aimed at those of us under the influence.

The birth of our nation occurred in the flint-lock musket era of small arms development.  It was state of the art technology that required 20 seconds of practiced reloading time.  A skilled and calm soldier (or civilian) could fire up to three rounds a minute, if aiming time was minimal.  Armies were without airplanes, tanks, helicopters, missiles, etc.  Aside from rather bulky cannons, soldiers armed with muskets provided the essence of battlefield might.  Anyone with tradable goods or financial means could acquire a musket and be as well armed as any soldier in any army.  The Second Amendment of 1791 provided the authorization for a state to reach an armed equivalency to federal or foreign armies (protection from tyranny): “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  In 1791, “well-regulated Militias” were today’s National Guards, and armed equivalency required only muskets.

Second Amendment Fog

The Second Amendment is now cited as providing the Constitutional right of all citizens to own virtually any type of hand weapon.  They’re no longer “three shots per minute” muskets; with today’s modern machines, a semi-automatic rifle enthusiast can easily fire 60 deadly bullets in a minute (without aid of a “bump stock”).  However incredible the fire power, our armed citizens lack equivalency to National Guard troops, the U.S. military, or supposed foreign invaders.  In whatever imagined standoff, automated rifles would provide but token resistance to the array of weaponry available to state supported military forces.  Citizens armed with modern rifles afford no significant protection from tyranny; they have meaningful significance only to the non-military victims they’ve come to target.

The NRA and arms industry is undeterred by that reality; they continue to market weaponry as the patriotic expression of constitutional rights.  The ad campaigns have evolved and spiraled into themselves: guns for patriotism, guns for sport, guns for self enhancement, and guns to protect against people with guns.  The circle of death is complete: with a population already saturated with weapons, gun ownership is now promoted as necessary protection against the success of previous marketing campaigns (imagine the tobacco industry promoting active cigarette consumption as protection against second hand smoke).

Dire Straits

Our situation needs acknowledgement: born under the influence and guns all around.  The statistics are undeniable; we (males) are prone to acts of audacious behavior that are often violent and even misanthropic.  It’s obvious we need some separation from the weapons that magnify the repercussions of our instability.  It’s a need resisted; we’re under the influence, yet sure of our clarity.  We look about and all is normal.

It’s normal; we accept forty thousand gun deaths a year through murder and suicide.  It’s normal; we accept the marketing and political manipulation.  It’s normal because we provide the votes.  It’s normal because we purchase the guns.  It’s normal because we’re under the influence.

A Passage Through

If meaningful regulation is ever to occur, it will likely come through those least under the influence: female activists and legislators.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) did it in 1980 (but faced less resistance).  Perhaps the recent influx of female representation in the legislative body will be the catalyst to sustained effort.  There are some positive signs: the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), revival of industry accountability, the curbing of bump stocks.  To be meaningful and lasting, true gun regulation will necessitate actual reduction of weapons in circulation; both number and type.  True regulation will remove the most egregious weapons that make mass killings easy, and will attempt to keep guns from the hands of those demonstrably under the influence.

The industry, its political sycophants, and those most under the influence will howl about loss of freedom, liberty, and constitutional rights.  It’s obfuscation; the only thing truly lost will be a quick and easy route to murder and mass killings.  Even if erring on the side of caution, nothing more than this will occur: accessibility to a machine whose sole function is to kill will be lost to one deemed most likely to use it.  The “loss” is really a freedom gained.  It would allow for passage through a dangerous period of instability: someone under the influence will not become a murderer, and those who might have died will still be alive.  Regulation means only that and nothing more (when under the influence, it’s easy to feel otherwise).

• Photo can be viewed here

Republicrats: Begin Anew!

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

— Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

— Puck, in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream

We have not yet reached the horrific insanities of the American Civil War…but we seem hell-bent on approaching that precipice and tumbling over like lemmings following manic “leaders,” disguised as politicians, “educators,” celebrities, journalists and the commentariat, et. al. We are not yet engulfed in Civil War, but we are certainly “testing” whether our nation, “or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”  If it were to come to actual Civil War, given a population that is 10 times what it was 158 years ago, given our dependence on our modern “grid,” our reliance upon drone weapons, and a vulnerable WorldWideWeb where deadly information spreads like cyclonic fires, the horrors we are facing could be many times what America’s soldiers/patriots/and misguided citizens faced back then.

Since the 2016 election, we have been passing through what Kierkegaard might have called “the long night of the soul.”  Accusations and counter-accusations have flown like blind, maddened bats out of the caves of our collective hells, collective guilts.  As we pause at the precipice now (if we are wise and steady enough to pause), we may wonder: What next?  What have we learned?

Though he did not frame it so, the great experiment Lincoln admonished we were “testing” was just what angels-and-demons-wrestling Milton had speculated about two centuries before: “the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience.”

But, in our age of Information Overload (or Overkill!), when our news and information is managed and mangled by a handful of media magnates and mega-corporations, their retinue among subservient “noble” (and highly remunerated) classes of attendants/scribes/and lawyerly mouthpieces…how can we hope—no matter how “conceived” and “dedicated”—to grasp and hold such “liberty”?

Dostoyevsky wrote that it was necessary to enter a nation’s prisons to understand its culture.  I taught in prisons for two years and I’ll vouch for Fyodor that it’s still true; but in our day a more handy entry point is through a nation’s media—MSM or “social.”  TV dramas and their sibling newscasts are the muezzins of our popular culture, calling us to a shared, created universe.  How to emerge from Plato’s cave to sunshine?

Is it too much to hope for commonsense and honesty?  Civil discourse to temper civil derangement?  Guidance based on the wisdom of the ages—Socratic, Confucian, Jobian, Sufi (take your pick or mix judiciously)?

In The Ornament of the World, her neglected, modern classic, (unfortunately published about the same time as the headline-engulfing 911 horror), Maria Rosa Menocal describes a “golden age” of medieval Spain, “where for more than seven centuries Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in an atmosphere of tolerance…where literature, science, and the arts flourished.”

Seven centuries!  They translated each other’s books; they recognized each other’s human rights; they practiced what they preached.  They learned each other’s languages; participated in the “commonwealth,” respected each other’s traditions, worked towards mutual respect and understanding, intellectual and physical security.

We are all “entangled”!  The scientists describe “quantum entanglement”—how once united quantum particles, though worlds apart, respond correlatively when one part of the particle is “spun” or manipulated in a certain, measurable way.  If true in the quantum world, how not true in the human?

There are two crises that have confronted generations of Americans for decades; crises that metastasize, cost more innocent lives, year after festering year.  The Republicratic factions divide and joust over these crises while innocent Americans are victimized by rapes and killings, drug addictions, fear and loathing.

There is no “manufactured crisis” on our southern border.  Nor is there a “manufactured crisis” about our antiquated gun laws.

If we want to help our neighbors to our South, we can do so in a reasonable, measured way.  Remember John F. Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress”?  That would be one sort of sensible approach.  Help them “over there” so that they are not victimized by drug cartels, wanting to breach the US borders and cause havoc here.  Who profits from such havoc?

Nor was it a “manufactured crisis” that macerated 17 young lives and traumatized countless others at that Parkland, south Florida high school.  Have we forgotten already?  And the 58 massacred during an outdoor concert in Las Vegas—forgotten?  851 injured by gunfire or the ensuing panic!  “Collateral damage” in our political-media wars?  And how many other thousands and hundreds of thousands of victims?

Our Republicratic factions had better start working together!  $5 billion dollars for a “border wall” is nugatory compared to the tens of billions wasted “controlling” drug addiction here, wasted on poor food quality, the fig leaf of healthcare protection, air and water pollution.

As for our gun laws—where in the 2nd Amendment is there any mention of AK-47s and other mass-killing “automatic” weapons?  The 2nd Amendment is about a “well-regulated militia.”  Is the national government prepared to delegate such power to “well-regulated” militia units?  Can it possibly be right/moral/sensible to delegate such power to individuals?

Let us remember: when our Constitution was written, we were a nation of under 4 million hunters, gatherers, and farmers.  Our weapons were primitive, ball and powder 1-shot affairs!  We lived in small communities where people knew their neighbors.  If the “village idiot” was suddenly roaming about aiming his gun haphazzardly—people sounded the alarm.

Republicrats—walk and chew gum at the same time!  Unite the factions around the principles of safety and common sense.  Stop the anarchy in the nation’s gun laws; stop the anarchy on our southern border!  Reporters and commentariat, Hollywood “celebs,” “educators,” et. al., you need not be “fools” and you must not treat the citizenry as fools.  Begin the renewal!  Secure our sacred “liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience” and honed understanding.

“That this nation…shall have a new birth of freedom.”

“Freedom from fear.”  Freedom to lead.  Freedom to be the best we can be.

Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings

Five weapons were said to have been used, all inscribed with symbols, numbers and insignia.  The individual charged with the shootings at two Christchurch mosques that left 49 dead was an Australian with, it is alleged, a simple purpose: inflict death, and on specific communities in worship.  Even as the carnage became clear, Christchurch was already the epicentre of twenty-four hour news television, supplying a ghoulish spectacle.  Saturation coverage followed, and continues to do so, a point that will warm the attacker’s blood (his entire effort was streamed on live video on Facebook).

The alleged perpetrator, one Brenton Harrison Tarrant, left an unstirring piece – to call it a manifesto would be far-fetched – for those interested before the attack. It is a document of banality and off target assumptions. “Who are you?” he asks himself, suggesting an inner voice in need of reassurance and clarity.  “Just an ordinary White man, 28 years old.  Born in Australia to a working class, low income family.”  Stock: “Scottish, Irish and English”; a “regular childhood without any great issues”.

He did not like education, “barely achieving a passing grade.”  Universities did not offer anything of interest.  He invested money in Bitconnect, then travelled.  A sense of cognitive dissonance follows; Tarrant had recently worked part time “as a kebab removalist”.

No criminal record, no watch list, no registry.  Nothing to suggest a tendency towards mass murder, disrespect or mania.  What Tarrant did have was a desire to avenge individuals he felt a kinship for, suggesting that the dull witted are just as capable of killing as the charismatically ideological.  The “radical”, rooted nature of violence lies dormant in many; all that is required is a match.

The simple language of the note resembled that of various European populist platforms, albeit trimmed of deep historical flourishes: fear the Islamic invader; take to the barricades to repel the forces of Allah.  Interestingly enough, Tarrant leaves the detail of the invaders unclear, given that European lands have received all manner of invasions over its existence, of which the Ottoman and Islamic is but one stream.  The broad statement strikes a note of nonsense: “To take revenge on the invaders for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders in European lands throughout history.”

Other statements of motivation follow: the “enslavement of millions of Europeans from their lands by the Islamic slavers”; “the thousands of European lives lost to terror attacks throughout European lands”.  Rather conveniently, and in manipulative fashion, the spirit of young Ebba Åkerlund, who died in 2017 in a terror attack in Sweden, is also channelled.  It was not sufficient to merely mention her; the eleven-year old inspired the shooter to name rifles after her.  “How the hell,” expressed stunned father Stefan Åkerlund, “can we ever get to mourn in peace?”

The problem with any such event is the risk of immoderate response.  Sensible comments have been noted: the risks posed by non-Islamic terrorists have tended to be neglected in budgets and rhetoric, though US President Donald Trump is, unsurprisingly, insisting that militant white nationalism is fringe worthy rather than common. Under the John Key government, the overwhelming focus of funding intelligence and security efforts was directed at the phantom menace of Islam, burrowing deep into the suburbs.  Watch lists of suspects were constantly noted; the fear of returned “radicalised” fighters was constantly iterated.  To add a greater sense of purpose to the mission, New Zealand troops were deployed to Iraq to fight the troops of Islamic State.  “Get some guts!” exclaimed Key to his opposition counterpart, Andrew Little, who seemed somewhat half-hearted in committing to the effort.

Other policy recommendations, still embryonic and possibly never to fly, are making their errands.  There are suggestions of deploying around the clock security personnel to mosques in various countries, something that risks militarising places of worship.

Vengeful rebuke can also find room in legislative and executive action.  In New Zealand, reforms to gun laws are being promised.  (These are already strict, and it is by no means clear if safety would be improved by such changes.)  In Australia, Tony Burke of the Labor Party suggests punishing hate speech and denying visas to certain right wing advocates of the white supremacist persuasion.  Australia’s immigration system is sufficiently intolerant and erratic enough to deny visas to those who might interfere with the false tranquillity of its society but a suspicious paternalism remains the enemy of free speech. Debate, in short, cannot be trusted.

The move to further push tech companies to reign in violent content will also receive a mighty boost.  The response from such companies as Facebook thus far is one of optimism: last year, some 99 percent of content linked with terrorism content promoted by Islamic State and al-Qaeda was successfully purged by artificial intelligence. Calls to do the same for other sources of inspiration are bound to follow.

There is also a stark, uncomfortable reality: no one is safe.  The entire field of terrorist and anti-terrorist studies is replete with charlatan impulses and the promise of placebo styled security.  There are fictional projections and assessments about whether an attack is “imminent” or “probable”.  There are calls to be vigilant and report the suspicious.  Political leaders give firm reassurances that all will be safe, a point that, quite frankly, can never be guaranteed.

The actions of Friday demonstrate the ease with which an act of mass killing can take place, the damage than can arise from attacking freely open spaces where people commune.  Extremism is said to lack a face or an ideology, but on Friday, it manifested in an all too human form.

That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah

As the frail body of 12-year-old Nassir Al-Mosabeh fell to the ground on Friday, September 28, history was repeating itself in a most tragic way.

Little Nassir was not just another number, a ‘martyr’ to be exalted by equally poor refugees in Gaza, or vilified by Israel and its tireless hasbara machine. He was much more than that.

The stream of blood that poured out from his head wound on that terrible afternoon drew a line in time that travelled back 18 years.

Almost 18-years to the day separates Nassir’s recent murder and the Israeli army killing of Mohammed Al-Durrah, also 12, on September 30, 2000. Between these dates, hundreds of Palestinian children have perished in similar ways.

Reports by the rights’ group, B’tselem, are rife with statistics: 954 Palestinian children were killed between the Second Intifada in 2000 and Israel’s war on Gaza, the so-called Operation Cast Lead in 2008. In the latter war alone, 345 child were reportedly killed, in addition to another 367 child fatalities reported in Israel’s latest war, ‘Protective Edge’ of 2014.

But Mohammed and Nassir – and thousands like them – are not mere numbers; they have more in common than simply being the ill-fated victims of trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.

In that single line of blood that links Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah, there is a narrative so compelling, yet often neglected. The two 12-year-old boys looked so much alike – small, handsome, dark skinned refugees, whose families were driven from villages that were destroyed in 1948 to make room for today’s Israel.

Young as they were, both were victims of that reality. Mohammed, died while crouching by the side of his father, Jamal, as he beseeched the Israelis to stop shooting. 18 years later, Nassir walked with thousands of his peers to the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel, stared at the face of the snipers and chanted for a free Palestine.

Between the two boys, the entire history of Palestine can be written, not only that of victimization and violence, but also of steadfastness and honor, passed from one generation to the next.

“Who will carry on with the dream,” were the words Nassir’s mother repeated, as she held a photograph of her son and wept. In the photo, Nassir is seen carrying his school bag, and a small bottle of rubbing alcohol near the fence separating Gaza and Israel.

“The dream” is a reference to the fact that Nassir wanted to be a doctor, thus his enthusiasm to help his two sisters, Dua’a and Islam, two medical volunteers at the fence.

His job was to carry the alcohol bottle and, sometimes, oxygen masks, as his sisters would rush to help the wounded, many of them Nassir’s age or even younger.

In a recent video message, the young boy – who had just celebrated the achievement of memorizing the entire Holy Quran – demonstrated in impeccable classical Arabic why a smile can be considered an act of charity.

Protesting the Israeli siege and the injustice of life in Gaza was a family affair, and Nassir played his role. His innovation of taping raw onions to his own face to counter the tears induced by the Israeli army tear gas garnered him much recognition among the protesters, who have been rallying against the siege since March 30.

So far, nearly 200 unarmed protesters have been killed while demanding an end to the 11-year long blockade and also to call for the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees.

Nassir was the 34th child to be killed in cold-blood since the protests commenced, and will unlikely be the last to die.

When Mohammed al-Durrah was killed 18 years ago, the images of his father trying to shield his son’s body from Israeli bullets with his bare hands, left millions around the world speechless. The video, which was aired by France 2, left many with a sense of helplessness but, perhaps, the hope that the publicity that Mohammed’s televised murder had received could possibly shame Israel into ending its policy of targeting children.

Alas, that was never the case. After initially taking responsibility for killing Mohammed, a bogus Israeli army investigation concluded that the killing of Mohammed was a hoax, that Palestinians were to blame, that the France 2 journalist who shot the video was part of a conspiracy to ‘delegitimize Israel’.

Many were shocked by the degree of Israeli hubris, and the brazenness of their mouth-pieces around the western world who repeated such falsehood without any regard for morality or, even common sense. But the Israeli discourse itself has been part of an ongoing war on Palestinian children.

Israeli and Zionist propagandists have long claimed that Palestinians teach their children to hate Jews.

The likes of Elliott Abrahms raged against Palestinian textbooks for “teaching children to value terrorism”. “That is not the way to prepare children for peace”, he wrote last year.

In July the Israeli army claimed that Palestinian children deliberately “lure IDF troops”, by staging fake riots, thus forcing them into violent confrontations.

The US-Israeli propaganda has not just targeted Palestinian fighters or factions, but has done its utmost to dehumanize, thus justify, the murder of Palestinian children as well.

“Children as young as 8 turned into bombers, shooters, stabbers,” reported one Adam Kredo in the Washington Free Beacon, citing a “new report on child terrorists and their enablers.”

This is not simply bad journalism, but part of a calculated Israeli campaign aimed at preemptively justifying the killing of children such as Nassir and Mohammed, and thousands like them.

It is that same ominous discourse that resulted in the call for genocide made by none other than Israel’s Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, where she also called on the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

The killing of Nassir and Mohammed should not then be viewed in the context of military operations gone awry, but in the inhuman official and media discourses that do not differentiate between a resistance fighter carrying a gun or a child carrying an onion and an oxygen mask.

Nor should we forget that Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah are chapters in the same book, with an overlapping narrative that makes their story, although 18 years apart, one and the same.

YouTube, Censorship and Nasim Aghdam

People like me are not good for big business, like for animal business, medicine business and for many other businesses.  That’s why they are discriminating and censoring us.

Nasim Najafi Aghdam discussing YouTube

She claimed to have detested it, issuing fiery calls on her social media outlets, and asserting that this creature was demonic in its effort to limit talent, expression and the profits of others.  Nasim Najafi Aghdam of San Diego spoke with a steely confidence that certitude brings, a self-perceived clarity of thought on such topics as veganism, the right to protest and animal rights.

“For me,” she stridently told the San Diego Union-Tribune at a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protest in 2009 outside Camp Pendleton, “animal rights equals human rights.”  In Iran, she came to be known as Green Nasim, commanding a certain degree of social media heft.

On Tuesday, that mind of screened clarity manifested itself in a shooting spree at YouTube headquarters.  Three were wounded, with the sole death being Aghdam, who took her life after the bloody spray.  On Wednesday, San Bruno’s police chief Ed Barberini claimed rather laconically that the suspect was expressing her anger at “the policies and practices of YouTube.”

Prior to that, a point confirmed by a Mountain View police representative, Aghdam had been found sleeping in a car on Tuesday morning.  “Our officers made contact with the woman after the licence plate of her vehicle matched that of a missing person out of Southern California.  The woman confirmed her identity to us and answered subsequent questions.”  Nothing, according to the officers conducting the interview, suggested future intentions.

The attack showed no evident discrimination. There were no set agendas against specific employees, nor was it even clear at first instance whether those wounded were, in fact, employees.  What the alleged shooter seemed to see was a ruthless target in the abstract, a brutal tech giant that had betrayed its mission.  Aghdam’s father, Ismail Aghdam, warned police that she might well be paying the technology company a visit, so disgruntled was she.

Her personal website spoke of there being “no equal growth opportunity on YouTube or any other video sharing site”. Growth would only take place “if they want you to.”  That particular point was stimulated by a change in YouTube policies requiring that individual channels have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 “watch hours” over the previous twelve months before qualifying to run advertisements.  One of Aghdam’s channels sported 1,579 subscribers, but in failing to meet the other threshold requirements, the account was demonetised.

Other restrictions were also the subject of Aghdam’s opprobrium, who attempted over time to build up the image of the technology company as an arbitrary censor.  One video she posted received an age restriction. She railed against those “new close-minded YouTube employees [who] got control of my Farsi YouTube last year in 2016 & began filtering my videos to reduce views & suppress & discourage [sic] me from making videos!”  The result of imposing such a limit precluded the video from receiving moneys.

So we return to that same problem: the digital frontier, far from flat in its egalitarian access, is vertical, hierarchical in its hold.  Power only devolved to the mass community of users in an artificial sense, giving that charming impression that the plebs controlled the production and creation of content.

Community standards are always cited, but these are ultimately set and determined by the particular provider, cajoled in parts, reviled in others.  In YouTube’s case, such policies zero in on vulgar language, violence or disturbing imagery, nudity and sexually suggestive content, or videos portraying harmful or dangerous activities.

YouTube, as a provider of content generated by individual users, has found itself in a brutal middle, harried by a range of groups keen to limit or advance particular platforms.  The morally righteous and surveillance-minded take issue with its permissiveness, seeking controls over such content as “hate speech”; other individuals find it unduly controlling, limiting engagement, debate and speech.

Last year, its “restricted mode” setting designed to permit libraries, schools and parents filter out content deemed inappropriate to children invariably screened other sources.  The videos of gay pop duo Tegan and Sara, fell foul of the provision. Vlogger Calum McSwiggan’s video featuring his coming out display to his grandmother also became the object of digital filtering, while Rowan Ellis would suggest a “bias somewhere within that process of equating LGBT+ with ‘not family friendly’.”

YouTube’s initial response contained a steadfast denial. “The intention of Restricted Mode is to filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience.  LGBTQ+ videos are available on Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be.” Experiments by various users testing this claim suggested otherwise.

It its subsequent and hurried note was the tone of a servant to numerous lords, seeking to placate and improve upon previous erring.  “We recognise that some videos are incorrectly labelled by our automated system and we realise it’s very important to get this right.  We’re working hard to make some improvements.”

These provide cold comforts to those recipients of bullet wounds, and certainly did nothing to calm the disturbed an impassioned Aghdam, self-proclaimed as “the first Persian female vegan bodybuilder.”  But again, where the gun is a logical extension of frustrated rights and social impotence, furious redress has come to be an almost reasonable, if predictable expectation.

Role Of Youth In The Coming Transformation

The eruption of youth protests over gun violence in schools and other issues is another indicator that the 2020s could be a decade of transformation where people demand economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace. Students who are in their teens now will be in their twenties then. They will have experience in how protests can change political culture.

Some view the youth awakening in these protests as reminiscent of youth movements in previous generations, others are less optimistic. We cannot predict the role this generation will play, but throughout the history of mass movements, youth have been a key factor by pushing boundaries and demanding change.

One of the slogans in the actions against gun violence is “adults failed to solve the problem.” The truth is, as many youth are aware, those currently in power have failed on many fronts; e.g., climate change, wealth disparity, racial injustice, never-ending wars and militarism, lack of health care and more. These crises are coming to a head and provide the environment for transformational changes, if we act.

Beware of Democratic Party Co-option

One of the challenges youth, and older, activists face is the Democratic Party. Democrats have a long history of co-opting political movements. They are present in recent mobilizations, such as the Women’s March and March for our Lives, which both centered on voting as the most important action to take.

Big Democratic Party donors, like George and Amal Clooney, provided massive resources to the March for Our Lives. The corporate media covered the students extensively, encouraged attendance at the marches and reported widely on them.

As Bruce Dixon writes:

It’s not hard to see the hand of the Democratic party behind the tens of millions in corporate contributions and free media accorded the March For Our Lives mobilization. 2018 is a midterm election year, and November is only seven months away. The Democrats urgently need some big sticks with which to beat out the vote this fall…

Democratic politicians see the gun issue as an opportunity for the ‘Blue Wave’ they envision for 2018, even though the Democrat’s history of confronting gun violence has been dismal. When Democrats controlled Congress and the presidency, they did not challenge the culture of violence, confront the NRA or stop militarized policing that is resulting in hundreds of killings by police.

Ajamu Baraka writes:

Liberals and Democrat party connected organizations and networks have been quite adept at getting out in front of movements to pre-empt their radical potential and steer them back into the safe arms of liberal conformism.

Indeed the history of the Democratic Party since its founding as a slave-owners party has been one of absorbing political movements and weakening them.

For this new generation of activists to reach their potential, they must understand we live in a mirage democracy and cannot elect our way out of these crises. Our tasks are much larger. Violence is deeply embedded in US culture, dating to the founding of the nation when gun laws were designed for white colonizers to take land from Indigenous peoples and control black slaves.

When it comes to using the gun issue for elections, the challenge for the Democrats is “to keep the public anger high, but the discussion shallow, limited, and ahistorical,” as Bruce Dixon writes. Our task is to understand the roots of the crises we face.

Historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz describes this in her new book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment. The culture of violence in the US goes beyond the horrific shooting in schools to the militarization of our communities and military aggression abroad. The US military has killed more than 20 million people in 37 nations since World War II.

One step you can take in your community is to find out if there is a Junior ROTC program in your local school and shut it down.

Potential for Youth to Lead in Era of Transformation

One of the reasons we predict the 2020s may be an era of transformation is because issues that have been ignored or mishandled by powerholders are becoming so extreme they can no longer be ignored. Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report writes the gun protests present an opportunity to highlight all the issues where Democrats (and Republicans) have failed us.

Youth are already involved, often playing leadership roles, in many fronts of struggle.  Rev. Jared Sawyer, Jr. writes that when racial violence arose at the “University of Missouri in recent years, student athletes and scholars united in protest, prompting the administration to take action. Organizations like Black Youth Power 100 have arisen in the wake of police” violence against black people. Youth are on the front lines of the environmental movement, blocking pipelines and carbon infrastructure to prevent climate change. Youth are leading the movement to protect immigrants from mass deportation.

This week, Hampton students took to the streets over sexual violence, housing, food and other problems on campus. Students at Howard University started HU Resist, to “make sure that Howard University fulfills its mission.” They are in their third day of occupying the administration building.

At March for Our Lives protests, some participants saw the connections between gun violence and other issues.  Tom Hall reported that those who “attended the rally had far more on their minds than gun control and the midterm elections—the issues promoted by the media and the Democratic Party. Many sought to connect the epidemic of mass shootings in American schools to broader issues, from the promotion of militarism and war, to poverty and social inequality.” Youth also talked about tax cuts for the rich, inadequate healthcare, teacher strikes, the need for jobs and a better quality of life. He noted those who attended were “searching for a political perspective,” and that, while it was not seen from the stage, opposition to war was a common concern.

Robert Koehler writes: “This emerging movement must address the whole spectrum of violence.”  He includes racist violence, military violence, mass incarceration and the “mortally sinful corporate greed and of course, the destruction of the environment and all the creatures.” What unites all of these issues, Koehler writes, is the “ability to dehumanize certain people.” Dehumanization is required to allow mass murder, whether by a single gunman or in war, as well as the economic violence that leaves people homeless and hungry, or for the violence of denying people necessary healthcare and to pay people so little they need multiple jobs to survive.

Movements are Growing, Now How Do We Win?

We have written about the stages of successful social movements and that overall the United States is in the final stage before victory. This is the era of building national consensus on solutions to the crises we face and mobilizing millions to take action in support of these solutions.

Protests have been growing in the US over the past few decades. Strong anti-globalization protests were organized under Clinton to oppose the World Trade Organization. Under the Bush administration, hundreds of thousands of people took the streets against the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. The anti-war movement faded under the Obama administration, even though he escalated US militarism, but other movements arose such as Occupy, immigrant’s rights, the fight for 15, Idle No More and black lives matter. Erica Chenowith posits that current youth activists “did their first activism with their moms. It’s a quicker learning curve for kids.”

At present, large drivers of mass protests are reaction to the actions of the Trump administration and the Democrats using their resources to augment and steer anti-Trump anger into elections. To prevent what happened to the anti-war movement under President Obama, people will need a broader understanding of the root causes of the crises we face, not the shallow analysis provided by the corporate media, and will need to understand how social movements can be effective.

To assist in this education, Popular Resistance is launching the Popular Resistance School. The first eight week course will begin on May 1 and will cover social movement theory – how social movements develop, how they win and roles people and organizations play in movements. All are welcome to participate in the school. There is no cost to join, but we do ask those who are able to donate to help cover the costs.

For more information on the school and to sign up, click here. Those who sign up will receive a weekly video lecture, a curriculum and an invitation to join a discussion group (each one will be limited to 30 participants). People who complete the course can then host the course locally with virtual support from Popular Resistance.

The next decade has the potential to be transformative. To make it so, we must not only develop national consensus that issues are being mishandled, that policies need to change and that we can change them, but we must also educate ourselves on issues and how to be effective. We have the power to create the change we want to see.

Soul on Ice Goes to College, and the Murder of Dr. King

Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are enriched beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change, we are going to have to change the system.

— Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

The murder of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, marked a  sea change in black America’s long, tortuous sojourn in this nation-state.  Of course, assassination of black leaders and sympathizers has been a mainstay of American life from even before this country’s inception.  Still, the Civil Rights and Black Power era of the ’50s and ’60s featured an especially gruesome series of murders that included, to name only a few of the most spectacular:

November 22, 1963,  A date seared into everybody’s consciousness.  We watched on live TV half of President John Kennedy’s head get blown off on that mid-morning in Dallas.

Robert F. Kennedy’s gut-wrenching take-down in Los Angeles a mere six weeks after Dr. King’s assassination.

Medgar Evers (top state NAACP executive) collapsed into a pool of his own blood under the relentless rain of rifle and shotgun fire on the steps of his own Mississippi home, also in ’63. Evers’ killing fit seamlessly between the rhythmic drumbeats of black church bombings across the south.

Then, on February 21 of 1965,  Malcolm X’s enormous black heart was  shredded by gunfire as he stood on stage in Harlem’s famed Audubon Ballroom.

Since 1955, I have been troubled by an indefinable pain as the sad, sad saga of the lynching of Emmett Till, in a place ominously called Money, Mississippi, played out on our eight-inch Motorola television set.  As a small child, I listened hard with little understanding while my elders recalled some of our own kinfolk who, unlike them, had opted to stay in the south (or had failed to escape) and therefore suffered fates identical to Emmett Till’s and so many faceless, nameless others.

Each of these murderous moments presented to our black consciousness as earth-rending points in time. But, again, none of these past or ongoing days and nights of terror affected, changed, black America as profoundly as the wholly expected, public, and unspeakably brutal execution of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1968:  How to Avoid  the “Paralysis of Analysis”

I was a  junior at Indiana University’s main campus in Bloomington in that revolutionary year.  Our mass marches, demonstrations and protests, walk-outs, stand-ups, sit-ins, lay-ins,  strikes, boycotts, and occupation of buildings paralleled and, more often than not, spearheaded the campus Hippies’, Yippies’, etc. assorted protests.  They, understandably, were offended by the Vietnam War, and inspired by a renewed white Women’s Liberation Movement.

We black students protested unjust and racially discriminatory practices and policies of the University itself – especially its abominable admissions policy. There were 500 black students on this, the state of Indiana’s flagship and largest state-supported university, a campus of 29,000 students.  There were just three black professors, not one of whom was tenured. And, naturally, there were no courses, let alone curricula, which even pretended to address the 400-year-old history and contemporary lived experience of black folk in this nation-state.  Thus, another of our non-negotiable demands was establishment of a degree-granting Black Studies Department.

We refused to allow our protests to be dismissed as momentary expressions of youthful exuberance. Through our marches, meetings, poetry slams, and classes, we questioned the fundamental assumptions of the University, especially its historical embrace of white supremacy/white racism. And, in concert with the anti-War movement, we challenged those who provided the financial wherewithal for corporations like Dow Chemical to do its lethal, on-campus research for napalm gas, which engulfed untold millions of Vietnamese in excruciating, fiery injury and death. We were at war, all right…at war with campus honchos who made peace with the war, and who were more committed to keeping peace on campus rather than in exploring the ways in which the University collaborated with the war efforts and its deliberate mis-education of all its students.

“Soul on Ice” Goes to College

In late ’67, Indiana University’s Black Theater Workshop was organized by black students to produce plays, poetry and nonfiction that addressed this nation-state’s real history, our present condition, and hoped-for revolutionary future. We breathed deeply, freely, of the burgeoning Black Arts Movement as it raced through the blackosphere like a fast-moving river. Those black tributaries flowed from, to, and back again through Harlem, Gary, Oakland, Madison, Watts, Ann Arbor, Chicago’s South and West Sides, Ohio’s Central State University, and New Jersey’s newly christened “New Ark.”

Our literary high priests and priestesses included, but were by no means limited to:  Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, Hoyt Fuller, Maya Angelou, Ishmael Reed, Rosa Guy, Sterling A. Brown, LeRoi Jones, Richard Wright, and, of course, the Master of them all, James Baldwin.

In ’68, the Black Panther Party’s Minister of Information published a black-busting tome entitled Soul On Ice. Eldridge Cleaver had done lots of California prison time, mainly for rape and robbery; but he was a powerful, even essential essayist.  Soul On Ice provided a first-hand look at the Panthers sans the usual establishment media bias.  Soul on Ice also chronicled Cleaver’s own astounding rise from prison inmate to Ramparts Magazine’s star, revolutionary writer.  

The BTW converted Cleaver’s book into a play.  Because his life and persona were so deeply conflicted, we divided the “Eldridge Cleaver” character into three parts:  The Rapist; The Revolutionary; and The Writer. Guess which part I played.

The Murder of Dr. King

On April 4, 1968, I was hiking – sans umbrella – across IU’s idyllic campus to play rehearsal. A light, steady Spring rain began to fall, so I decided to cut through the blocks-long Student Union building.

I passed through the giant cafeteria and approached an open-area TV lounge.  A large group of students stood gathered around a television. I stopped, but could hear only  muffled voices. Just as I came up directly behind them, Walter Cronkite said, “….and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.”

The students before me burst into loud, raucous whistles, hoots, and applause.  They cheered.  I stood directly behind them and watched and listened in open-mouthed shock….dumbfounded – not at the heart-stopping news  – that had not had time to register – but at the utterly appalling scene unfolding right before my eyes.

I never saw the TV screen and could no longer hear it.  I stared at the backs of these my fellow students for what seemed a long moment as some of them began to guffaw and slap each other’s backs.

Slowly….ever so slightly, the laughter began to subside.  And then, en masse, they turned their faces in my direction — as though they shared a single neck.  Their toothy, ear-to-ear grins looked weird, distorted. I could sense – feel –  sharp-edged daggers of hate radiating from them.  I could see their disgust at not just my presence among them but at my very existence. It was clear that I had intruded upon an electronic lynching and had inadvertently disrupted their blood lust.  It was only then, however, that I noticed the thing that has come back to haunt me each and every 4th of April since that night:  Every single one of these faces was “white.”

I dared not turn my back to these people.  I tentatively began walking backwards, furtively eying each one of them as I carefully placed one foot behind the other.  I made it out into the hallway and then sprinted to the nearest exit.

“Burn, Baby, Burn!” versus Learn, Baby, Learn!

I arrived at our director’s off-campus apartment soaking wet.  She was a strikingly beautiful, jet-black East Indian political science PhD. candidate, a devotee of both Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi. Although she was East Indian, she “identified” completely with “black” Americans. Indeed, she was so dark-complected (black) that when the sun touched her skin just right, she actually sparkled.

Standing there, just inside her pad, dripping onto the threshold, I watched  the girls gathered around the TV sobbing uncontrollably, hysterically. The guys, enraged, walked around the place pounding their fists into their hands, “We gotta get ’em!  We gotta get ’em,” they alternately mumbled or shouted. “How could they kill him?!” somebody said. “Not this man!”

The TV began showing scenes of riots breaking out across the country:   Chicago was ablaze; New York; L.A.; St. Louis; Detroit, even staid Indianapolis.  Later, we learned that over 110 cities had gone up that night.

“We can’t meet violence with violence,” the director said finally.  “If we even try,” she continued, “we will lose. They’ve got all the guns.”

“Not this one!,” a brother said, pulling out a shiny snub-nosed .38 pistol.

“Put that thing away!”, she ordered.  “The last thing Dr. King would want you young people to do is commit violence in his name,” she declared.  “Let’s use our heads! All of you must stay in school and graduate.  It’s more important now than ever before that we complete and present this play.”

Like so many other black people, that night changed my life.  I was one person before Dr. King’s murder, and a completely different person afterwards.

Marching for the Democrats: Another Farce on Washington?

They called in [Roy] Wilkins; they called in [A. Philip] Randolph; they called in these national Negro leaders that you respect and told them, ‘Call it off.’ Kennedy said, ‘Look, you all are letting this thing go too far.’ And Old Tom said, ‘Boss, I can’t stop it, because I didn’t start it.’… And that old shrewd fox, he said, ‘If you all aren’t in it, I’ll put you in it. I’ll put you at the head of it.’…

Malcolm X on the 1963 “Farce on Washington”)

Liberals and Democrat party connected organizations and networks have been quite adept at getting out in front of movements to pre-empt their radical potential and steer them back into the safe arms of liberal conformism. Before resistance to the election of Donald Trump could be developed into a radical rejection of the neoliberal order, the new alignment of ruling class forces that coalesced around the candidacy of Hilary Clinton launched a pre-emptive strike against Trump with the two-fold objective of preventing him from governing and ensuring that opposition to Trump did not take on an anti-system character.

A similar thing happened after the 2006 massive marches of undocumented migrant workers that had a militant anti-capitalist component. It was quickly marginalized and transformed into something called “immigrant rights” with the highest demand being a demand to become legalized settlers. Then, on the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington when Black people were still experiencing the devastating and disproportionate impact of the capitalist crisis of 2007-08, members of the Black Mis-leadership class warmly welcomed the first Black president to join in the day’s festivities ensuring that the gathering would be devoid of any meaningful politics.

Unfortunately, for the young people who sincerely want to understand and confront gun violence, the opportunism of the democrats made these students and their pain easy targets to advance the agenda of the democrat party that sees this issue as one that will advance their electoral agenda.

While the democrat party and liberals pretend to respect and celebrate the young people, they know that the narrow focus on largely irrelevant gun control reforms like more background checks, banning certain ammunition clips, and sale of assault weapons will do nothing to confront what Dr. King referred to as the deep malady at the heart of U.S. culture that makes it so fundamentally violent.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, points out in lavish detail on the subject in her new book Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment.  She reminds the reader of the central role of violence and the reason why the second amendment was seen by the ruling elite of the U.S. settler state as a fundamental right, second only to freedom of speech. She argues that the gun control and the normalization of violence was essential to how white nationalism, racialized dominance, and social control through systematic violence operated in the U.S. It was the method in which white settlers appropriated Native land and controlled their massive enslaved population.

So the young people will need to understand that this normalization of violence is reflected in the social institutions, values, and ethical framework of their society. The violent, white male shooters that are now turning their guns on the society at large are not an aberration but a logical, almost inevitable consequence of a culture in which people are degraded and de-humanized as instruments for others pleasure and exploitation, made into things, through what Dr. King called the process of “thingingfication.”

A respectful engagement with these young people is one in which you struggle with their understanding of the terms of their culture, its history and reality. We must be honest with them and help them to understand the role of violence not only as a cultural product but as the main instrument that created their nation.  That violence is systemic to the system and history of their settler-colonial nation and for the maintenance of the U.S. empire.

Judging from some of the statements, many of these young people are close to making the right connections. That it is the “thingingfication” of the racialized “other” that more people cannot see the moral contradiction between the concern for gun violence in the U.S. and their continued support for U.S. militarism abroad.

Radical politicization means that they and the public at large come to terms with the fact that the arms industry and the proliferation of arms/weapons is not just a problem domestically but that it is a billion-dollar industry in which representatives from both parties are implicated. And if the NRA is a terrorist organization, what does that make the arms industries and the U.S. state?

However, as long as those young people are ensnared by the morally challenged liberal democrats, their ideological development will be arrested, and a few will emerge as “new leaders” given salaries, awards for being in the struggle for two weeks and will become weapons used to block authentic radicalization among their constituency.  That is how hegemony works.

Fredrick Jameson reminds us of the lesson that these young people will have to learn that they will not learn from their liberal benefactors: “The lesson is this, and it is a lesson about systems: one cannot change anything without changing everything.”

So, it was a good week for both bourgeois parties. The democrats didn’t get called out for their collaboration with Trump and the republicans on the budget. The Trump folks have more ammunition to use to mobilize their supporters in opposition to what they will frame as efforts to violate the constitution and take away their guns and give more power to a repressive government. Even the intelligence agencies benefited from the week’s events with attention being shifted away from the FBI scandal that is threatening to blow the cover off of official criminal activity to undermine the electoral process, not by the Russians, but unelected forces in the U.S. state.

But for those of us from the colonized Black and Brown zones of non-being, we can never allow ourselves to be distracted by the diversionary and accommodationist politics of the latest carefully crafted spectacle, especially one that proports to be advancing a superior moral politics.

We must always remind ourselves that some can march with the confidence that “their” government might be trusted with regulating weapons and protecting their lives but that the protection of our fundamental human rights rest with our ability to defend our collective rights, and no one else.

Through our painful lived experiences, we understand and must live by the insight provided by our dear brother, James Baldwin, who counseled us that we must be vigilant when our oppressors speak of morality and the sanctity of life:

The “civilized” have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their “vital interests” are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the “sanctity” of human life, or the conscience of civilized world.

Distraction can be deadly, let’s us get and stay woke!