Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!!

Disclaimer: I am by no means condoning violence. I only ask a question.

Yeah, I'm still on my Michael Jackson kick. Now, apparently no one could get him off drugs. But did anyone at least try to get him out of those tight pants? If you don't like the song, don't play it.

Today, July 18, is Nelson Mandela's birthday. A lot of people, believe it or not, hold him in low regard. I don't know how well known it is that one of the things he was jailed for was bombing government buildings. Since you can get his biography pretty much anywhere, I wanna talk about militant activities, his Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), translated Spear of the Nation.

I wanna ask you, at what point is violence okay and when does it over-reach? Here's a good introduction on just war theory. Here are two articles that ask the question I ask: what's the difference between (just) war and terror? Admittedly, the question is not new and I'm no special genius for asking.

Don't get it twi'tted. I am a special genius, but asking this question isn't why.

It's just something that gnaws at me, especially when people like Pat-B get on their white, male high horse about who's accomplished what here and around the world. I mean, think about it. Really think about it. You don't actually have to be a historian to realize the only thing the separated white men from everyone else was weaponry. Which isn't to say for fact that there were, or are, better alternatives. That's besides the point. My point is just that there are other, viable alternatives to what European patriarchy, exploration, colonialism, and slavery has begotten us.

Well . . . that's the point in response to the argument that "white men built America!" Right? Cause it's not like there was nothing here they didn't have to destroy and decimate.

So, anyway. Back to Mandela and my question about war and terror.

You know, one of the things that I find most ironic about the "war on terror" is that war itself is terror. Right? Lets ask Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis how they feel. Do they not feel terrified?

And what about the Palestinians? Are they not terrorized?

And what about black men? Why shouldn't black American men feel terrified when a police car starts slowing behind them, or beside them? I know Latinos in Arizona gotta live in terror.

So there's that.

I've been wondering about this for years and still don't have a clear answer. The first time the thought crystallized for me was when I learned about the Kikuyu war for Kenyan Independence against Britain. You probably know it as the Mau-Mau Rebellion.

I mean, what makes George Washington any different from the leaders of the militant wing of Hamas? What makes John Adams or Thomas Jefferson any different from Hezbollah?

Why do we so readily accept these simplistic labels like "terrorist" which only describe, at best, one side's "truth." I just think that's something we should start considering before we decide whose violence to sanction and whose violence to forbid. And we should make these judgements based on what's just and what's right, not simply what's in America's best interest.

Some claim that the actions Mandela committed took lives. Mandela says otherwise; but he is rather open and honest about having supported violence in response to government terrorism. The guy isn't a pacifist by any means. He ended up on our "terrorist watch" list because initially, our government supported South Africa's apartheid state. Any group that challenged white minority rule was a "terrorist organization," and a terrorist group for South Africa was a terrorist group for the US. In fact, the US vetoed 4 UN resolutions condemning apartheid in 1982. It wasn't until 1986 that Congress passed legislation restricting trade with South Africa; they overturned President Ronald Reagen's veto, which is but one reason black folks don't too much care for him. In 1991, President George HW Bush opened trade, even though the first fully democratic elections didn't take place until 1994.

In fact, the WMDs Suddam Hussein used against his own people are weapons he got from the US. Osama bin Laden became a hero while fighting "Charlie Wilson's War" against the Soviets. He got his "training" from the US. Fidel Castro came to power because Cubans were tired of Miquel Batista, a US supported dictator. The CONTRA's got their money from the US, not just by the Iran-CONTRA affair, but by the government willfully and knowingly allowing cocaine to flow in to South Central LA.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and other members of the ANC are heroes and heroines because he fought for freedom and justice. There's no question that the loss of life is terrible, but what other means did they have? We have to ask ourselves, still, what's the difference (just) war and terror? Why do we demand so much more of people fighting justice and freedom than we do of people who start wars? Is it the expectation that those who fight for good are good and pure themselves? That's just a simplistic way of understanding the world.

Don't get it twi'tted. I'm not suggesting that violence be the first weapon against injustice. I only ask when is violence justified, and what, exactly, should be the last weapon against injustice? The nonviolent Black Freedom Movement (or Civil Rights Movement) accomplished a great, great deal.

After all, just 40 years after Martin Luther King, Jr, symbol of the Movement in collective memory; and, after 40 years (and continuing) of white backlash; and, 8 years of George W Bush, we have our first black president! Who, by the way, faced public oppositional "Taxed enough already!" parties and talk of secession not 4 months into his presidency, and who chastises the black community publically more than he talks about racism.

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