ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
How long ago were those happy, innocent days when we saw for a few seconds
Janets nipple and staged indignant congressional investigations
The Dark Side of Obedience
America, A People in Frozen Isolation
By Rudolph Lewis
Human values and human dignity are probably strange concepts to [people in frozen isolation] because of their own lack of self-esteem. That is why they have no scruples while seeking their own advantage, and that is also why they tend to boast about their acts. It is the howling down of ones own insignificance. Désirée Verweij, The Dark Side of Obedience: The Consequence of Hannah Arendts Analysis of the Eichmann Case, Professional Ethics, 2002, V. 10, pp. 151.
We should raise the question who owns what. Are we willing to take possession of ourselves? Identity and Integrity. The Kurds are waiting their turn. Who has described this scenario to us by half? Our news reports by our major media have no real sense of the psychological, social, and political drama that is playing out in that region of the world. That would require them to read and studyto become the Other. But they are news people, not the learned, but rather, the digitized image of knowing. They regurgitate the geo-politics of imperial power, not the life lived from within out.
And worst, they don’t really care about the hopes and dreams of the Islamists and the various national and ethnic groupings of that region, though we claim otherwise. But these Mid-Easterners aint fools. They been around the barn a few times. They have become experts with the new technology to self create or recreate themselves, outside their rulers’ images, their rulers’ weak imitations of European and American lifestyles.
Not blind the new Arab media realize much of US commentary weighs objectively toward government positions, national pride, and self- interest. The Islamists have learned the media game and want their own league and control of their own historical destinies.
But we Americans have taken ownership of the Iraqi people, and dream of the entire region (like a stud mounting a filly), as we know our Negroes, we know Iraq’s best interest.
No hypocrite, Israel says plainly that it acts in the best interest of Israel and if that means ridding themselves of Palestine and Palestinians, so be it. Who will find in them blame? Not the United Nations, surely not any presidential candidate. The Israeli leaders make no bones they will slaughter women and children, fearing another Holocaust. “Do unto to Them before they do unto You” is biblical. Abraham, Joshua will bear witness.
Bush and his evangelists have so many of us backward Americans (so many of us never finished high school, black and white) reciting by rote that all our efforts and resources and wealth dispensed in this War is for the Iraqi people, “the good ones”the moderates. Nathaniel Turner of Southampton knew this game, this rhetoric and mask of piety and good will of American evangelical Christians, as they sold him from pillar to post. He 31, his final owner was a nine-year-old white boy.
Our cowboy & Indian psychology tell us the insurgents on the field fighting for a free Iraq, for their Iraq, are the bad guys. These patriotic Iraqis don’t know by half what is best for Iraq, only George Bush knows what is best for Iraq. Like Israel is the Chosen People, Bush is the Chosen Mana Moses who will lead us to the Promised Land. The Land of our Savior. It is Americas destiny to make way for the Second Coming the Reckoning. The Rapture. The Coming of the Kingdom of Americas God.
Chalibi is a trickster, knows Americans, better than many of us know ourselves. Yes, we can be gullible. Chalibi is also a practical man in search of power. Power in Iraq. Power in the region and willing to achieve his means, by hook or crook. He played neocons like a well-tuned fiddlethe enemy of my enemy is my friend. And got money out of it too. Saddam is out the game. A kind of tar baby game in which we have become the tarred. Chalibis intelligence had its own ends and neocons only now realize Chalibi is not us. But Chalibi is Chalibi, an Iraqi. As much of a Iraqi as Saddam, only a Shiite, whose cousins are in Iran.
We are dumbfounded that others do not want to be just like us. We prefer they adopt our history rather than pursue their own. Of course, the Kurds want Kurdistan, like Jews want historical Israel. We Americans talk in turn of a sectarian war among Iraqis. That is a red herring. What Iraqis want is their lives not shaped by former colonial powers primarily European (England, France, Germany), but now also America, with its beachhead secure in Israel.
Kuwait and other Arab allies of America are also tricky, like Chalibi. Who’s cruising, zooming who? But Israel is tied to America like a child to its mother’s tit. Woe to the Palestinians! Hellhounds are on their trail.
All these national boundaries are fictions, Euro-American creations. This Euro-American alliance sustains these fictions for Euro-American comfort, with the poorer states (like Poland) throwing their hands in for a chance of monopoly (a piece of the real estate). These Powers want to impose their perspective, their dominance in the region, in a manner similar to the Powers in the 1890s and the division of Africanow seemingly an eternal basket case. Below the Sahara, one jokes or cries sentimental tears in helpless and hopeless sympathy.
England is ingratiatingly thankful to the US facilitating her return to the game, now only a shadow of its former self, now overrun by immigrants from its former Empire. Too many Englishmen ask now what it means any more to be an English man. All these bloody niggers from everywhere, East and West. Only the immortal Shakespeare provides image stability to that sagging kingdom.
The Iraqis like Europeans (and the English especially) have a long and fulsome sense of history and historical struggle for power in the world and World Power. They are much more sophisticated than Americas backwoods hillbillies and Americas unreconstructed South and its shallow Midwest. Americans only know that George is the father of the country and that we struck a blow for freedom on July 4th. And he has been reborn in George the Third.
A cookout and beer, and the regional flags, in the breeze. Thats all any good American need know, or need ever know.
We are enthralled and captured by our own myths and fictions, as blind as Oedipus, though enlightened by technologies. Unlike Michael, we cannot see the man in the mirror. We only have a skin sense of what it means to be “white” and what it means to be “black,” or for that matter what it means to be an “Iraqi” or what it means to be an “Iranian.”
And, of course, few will use google.com to find out for themselves. Our schools are so limited by prayer and sports. And so too are many of our teachers, however good they are in the basics and at getting the poor to pass government tests.
The irony of our technology escapes many, while we stay the course, to win the War. We began with a shock and awe campaign thunder and lightning, lighting up and shaking the night skies of Baghdad, exploding into the lives of millions. Hollywood could not have staged it better. We all get a front-row seat to a nazi-like blitz to Baghdad, more horrific then Mean Joe Green crushing a four-foot midget.
Those were the days. Those wonderful days of 2003 when we shone in all our glory. American heroism, like a cold beer, on a July day.
And what a slippery slope we have had, a steep moral declinedigital cameras and video cams in the Hell Holes of Tier IA of Abu Grahib.
How low can we get, without falling on our ass? You remember that bar game. More awful than the dead and the murdered, what we have produced in the dark wearing the mask of Democracy and Freedom cant be shown on TV. To secure our national interests, we encouraged American boys and girls (courageous GIs and mercenaries) to choreograph pornography in a US military prison. Torturing Iraqis because they Iraqis.
The King of Jordan cannot issue pardons for these violations of humanity, nor can the Saudis. Not even the Egyptians. And definitely, not the Israelis.
We all of us, as Americans, were involved in sodomizing, humiliating, and torturing Iraqis. Those seven hillbillies cannot be the goat we send out into the wilderness. We must all bear this collective sin and bend our heads in shame and humility. Get down on our knees and toss ashes upon our heads, owning up to our self-humiliation and self-degradation at our own hands. How long ago were those happy, innocent days when we saw for a few seconds Janets nipple and staged indignant congressional investigations and demanded a national apology?
We shaken out of our comfort zone by a nigga gal, making public our hot desire for black flesh, sullying our innocence, broadcasting, nay reenacting, before millionsThe Dance of Tom and Sally, shaking a tail feather, doing the slop, the rape of black woman. Thats not Ozzie & Harriet, good ole family entertainment.
So America is teflon, nothing sticks certainly, not hypocrisy, not the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow (lynchings as holiday sport), Native American genocide; not outrageous hubris, Mexican decapitation and domination; not shame, Hiroshima and Rwanda; not greed, Haiti, Cuba, Philippines, Puerto Rico.
Dennis the Menace, you might remember, is only an innocent child meaning well. He just gets carried away sometimes. Still we, especially our white American boys, are more righteous than mostthose Others, that Savage Other, is altogether another matter. Moreover, God blessed America. Every school child knows that tune.
These Others still worship idols (like Muhammad), a little too feminine for American taste. Note the various sexual assaults that took place in the hell of Tier1A. Did you ever read Martin Lings Muhammad, and note the prophet’s destruction of the “idols,” the old female gods, some of them black as Nubians? Muhammad became the Super Power on that peninsula, and his followers, the Super Power of the then civilized world. Blocking the development of Europe, Islam necessitated the discovery of an America, the shortest way to the Orient.
We Americans sadly cannot image anything greater than ourselves, and our America Way of Life created from the heads of Our Fathers. It was they who laid the foundation for our Wealth, Power, Democracy. Without a doubt, we are the envy of the world. But it’s an easy forecast that with our present character to assert our brutal dominance for national security, we like the Romans will establish no real peace, at home or abroad. Believe it or not, these Others think they got something as good or better, and just as willing to die for it. The new bully on the block we think in centuries, they in millennia.
Unlike the Romans, we move at the speed of light and little can be kept in the dark. Maybe we can avoid the Great Fall by declaring bankruptcy. Being a Super Power may be hype we can’t afford. It just may not need be in our budget, a necessary priority. That realization may indeed set us on the road to true Enlightenment. It may prepare the ground for us to acknowledge our shame, our sins as an American people, making full restitution for the harm we have done to the Savage Other and ourselves.
These are the steps that will allow us to fulfill the American Dream (a reconstructed America), owning up to our ideals by a faithful and unswerving commitment to social justice for our poor, dispossessed citizens. Only then can we become The City on the Hill, truly worthy of emulation.
posted 23 February 2004
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The Banality of Bush White House EvilFive years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to protect us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from another 9/11, torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White Houses illegality.
Levin suggests and I agree that as additional fact-finding plays out, its time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, to review the mass of material we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values.
President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It wont vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We dont need another commission. We dont need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nations commitment to the rule of law. NYTimes
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Report of the Research Committeeon Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Based on the examination of currently available primary and secondary documentary evidence, the oral histories of descendants of Monticello’s African-American community, recent scientific studies, and the guidance of individual members of Monticello’s Advisory Committee for the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies and Advisory Committee on African-American Interpretation, the Research Committee has reached the following conclusions:
Dr. Foster’s DNA study was conducted in a manner that meets the standards of the scientific community, and its scientific results are valid.
The DNA study, combined with multiple strands of currently available documentary and statistical evidence, indicates a high probability that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he most likely was the father of all six of Sally Hemings’s children appearing in Jefferson’s records. Those children are Harriet, who died in infancy; Beverly; an unnamed daughter who died in infancy; Harriet; Madison; and Eston.
Many aspects of this likely relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson are, and may remain, unclear, such as the nature of the relationship, the existence and longevity of Sally Hemings’s first child, and the identity of Thomas C. Woodson.
The implications of the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson should be explored and used to enrich the understanding and interpretation of Jefferson and the entire Monticello community.Monticello
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Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 July 4, 1826) was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom (1777), the third President of the United States (18011809) and founder of the University of Virginia (1819). He was an influential Founding Father and an exponent of Jeffersonian democracy.
Sarah “Sally” Hemings (Shadwell, Albemarle County, Virginia, circa 1773 Charlottesville, Virginia, 1835) was a mixed-race slave owned by President Thomas Jefferson through inheritance from his wife. She was the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson by their father John Wayles. She was notable because most historians now believe that the widower Jefferson had six children with her, and maintained an extended relationship for 38 years until his death. When Jefferson’s relationship and children were reported in 1802, there was sensational coverage for a time, but Jefferson remained silent on the issue. Four Hemings-Jefferson children survived to adulthood. He let two “escape” in 1822 at the age of 21 and freed the younger two in his will in 1826.
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By Annette Gordon-Reed
Attorney Gordon-Reed (law, New York Law Sch.) presents a lawyer’s analysis of the evidence for and against the proposition that Jefferson was the father of several children born to his household slave Sally Hemings. Gordon-Reed is not concerned with Jefferson and Hemings as much as she is with how Jefferson’s defenders have dealt with the evidence about the case. Her book takes aim at such noteworthy biographers as Dumas Malone, who has been quick to accept evidence against a liaison and quick to reject evidence for one.Library Journal
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By Virginia Scharff
According to historian Scharff, Thomas Jeffersons most closely guarded secrets, the most fiercely maintained silences, all had to do with the women he loved. It stands to reason that in order to fully understand a man as tremendously gifted and as deeply flawed as Thomas Jefferson, one must also understand and appreciate the women who collectively formed the foundation of his life and shaped the nature of his legacy. Although Jeffersons mother, daughters, granddaughters, wife, and enslaved mistress were all fascinating women who played distinct roles in his life and legend, they were also creatures of their time and place, living, enduring, and playing by the rules of a patriarchal, male-dominated society. By studying these women Scharff not only opens a window to the heart and soul of one of our nations founders but also resurrects their own contributions to our nations history.Booklist
The chapter on Sally Hemings does not add much new information, but it certainly lays out the facts we know in a comprehensive and well organized fashion. Much like Professor Gordon-Reed, the author carefully explains the strange dual-family existence that prevailed at Monticello, and how servants integrated with the Jefferson family as they all lived together. As regards the two daughters, they too emerge from the historical darkness and we learn a great deal about them and their important role in TJ’s life and activities. As I read each chapter, I learned all manner of things of which I had not been aware, and I have read a lot of material on TJ. So women are central to the story, but there is also an abundance of additional facts and perspectives that very much enhance the book. Ronald H. Clark
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By Annette Gordon-Reed
This is a scholar’s book: serious, thick, complex. It’s also fascinating, wise and of the utmost importance. Gordon-Reed, a professor of both history and law who in her previous book helped solve some of the mysteries of the intimate relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, now brings to life the entire Hemings family and its tangled blood links with slave-holding Virginia whites over an entire century. Gordon-Reed never slips into cynicism about the author of the Declaration of Independence. Instead, she shows how his life was deeply affected by his slave kinspeople: his lover (who was the half-sister of his deceased wife) and their children. Everyone comes vividly to life, as do the places, like Paris and Philadelphia, in which Jefferson, his daughters and some of his black family lived.
So, too, do the complexities and varieties of slaves’ lives and the nature of the choices they had to makewhen they had the luxury of making a choice. Gordon-Reed’s genius for reading nearly silent records makes this an extraordinary work.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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updated 6 October 2007