Syria and the Middle East: Reaping the whirlwind – An editorial
Hosea 8:7: “they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind”
Many years ago on September 11, 2001, after watching the second plane hit the WTC from a red light in Jersey City, N.J., I made a comment that I didn’t know quite how, but that I was sure the US government had either a) been involved in the nefarious planning that led to September 11th or that b) after sowing violence and oppression and torture and supporting every dirty war and evil dictator around the world, we were ‘reaping the whirlwind.’
I was a working attorney and poet in those days, and I posted a historical article I had written about bloody military US intervention in place after place, including the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile, on another September 11th… I was jeered at and ultimately had to resign as editor… It was months later that one of the poets on the board sent me a copy of an article he had posted to the effect that we should all be as aware of US history as I was… but my desire to understand US history came from my own growth as a Cuban refugee, leaving my beloved land in October 1960 against my will, as an 11-year old child. I dedicated years of my life to learning about US involvement in Cuba’s history, life, independence (in Spanish the word rather than involvement is ‘inmiscuirse’ which means unwanted meddling).
As a child in Cuba at the age of ten, before we left as exiles, I won a national contest on the work of our revolutionary leader, José Martí, who was a well-known poet, writer and intellectual fighting for independence against Spain, and who wrote that after we earned our independence, we had to make sure that the United States did not take over our country. That is what happened, however, as the U.S.S. Maine was sunk and blamed on the Spanish, and the US invaded, and attempted to annex Cuba, but ultimately settled for setting up a ‘permanent’ base in Guantánamo, and under the Platt amendment, demanding the right to invade our country whenever we were not behaving ‘democratically,’ which you should read between the lines as ‘not giving up all our property rights to US investors.’ And Cuba before the Cuban revolution was a gambling and prostitution paradise, not only Giancana’s, but a paradise for US investors; one of the largest banners welcoming you to La Habana in the early 1900’s was from Chase Manhattan Bank; the United Fruit Company and others raped the land and gave back nothing in return, which is typical of US investment worldwide. The history books did not analyze these things, because as in much of the United States until Howard Zinn, the ‘real’ history is unknown to duped citizens.
Jim knew as much or more about Cuban history as I, and he shared with me, on No Room for Racism vigils at Five Flags in Hayward, that he had suffered a similar fate when he tied September 11th to our worldwide policies of imperial domination, unbridled capitalism and greed… Now we are once again listening to Obama talking about a ‘narrow’ strike against Syria’s government. This ‘narrow strike’ will be a coward’s attack, where missiles or unmanned drones will be launched upon targets and will wind up maiming and killing civilians. We hazard nothing; they reap blood and tears. Where is the criticism by the Democratic Party of our national government’s continued outrages? The massive spying on citizens? The use of drones?
Jim stressed that we continue to exhibit the same behavior of world domination, hypocritically accusing other countries of human rights violations when the US has committed them throughout its history. At the time of our founding a republic based on the beautiful statement that all men are created equal and endowed with rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the definition of ‘all men’ left out men who were poor, of color, and all women. It left out the native dwellers of the land who were not recognized as citizens until 1924, and left out those people who mined our minerals and built our roads and highways, for until 1940 it was unclear whether children born to ‘aliens’ were automatically citizens, and the Chinese were excluded until the Chinese Exclusion Act came to an end in 1943.
I am outraged at the passivity of the people as to the ‘wars’ in our midst. When you ask our poorly educated young people about their position on war, most of them will respond, what war? This club which was founded on a peace premise, and whose original forty founders went against the Democratic Party to call for an end to the Vietnam War, needs to reconsider its priorities and be counted among the fighters and the resisters, and mount marches and protests and direct action. Of all of my arrests for civil disobedience, my two with Jim were among my proudest, because despite constant back and leg pain which he never complained of, he was willing to speak truth to power, age and infirmity be damned. His spirit was never infirm, and it lives on.
As I said in my words during his service on August 17th, everything you do is a political act, the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat; in some places in the world and in many places in our country today, with a poverty index, particularly among children, that we should be ashamed of, people cannot breathe or drink good water or eat good food. The U.S. maintains the highest prison population in the planet; the Jim Crow system has never gone out of style… And when you buy products such as Soda Stream, made from stolen Palestinian resources, you are making a political choice… or when you shop at Wal-Mart or cross a picket line.
You have to decide whether this club as it was founded by Jim and Fran and so many others will continue in that original spirit, or whether the club becomes just another political club with a local agenda, afraid to criticize ‘our rulers.’ You have to decide whether to join the forces of dissent in the world and say, enough, or as we say in Spanish, BASTA. Jim said this with every fiber of his being until the end of his life; he said it with his feet by walking picket lines and by lying down and being arrested, despite his waning health, despite any discomfort, at 83 and 85. He was outraged, even more than I am, because he felt guilty that he was ‘white and privileged’ and was a US American. He wrote on our wedding blog at the time: I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life (which has already started) but one which is a continuation of the story of my life up til now: afflicting the comfortable and arrogant and comforting the afflicted. I am overjoyed to join in partnership with Silvia. Needless to say, that has been the story of my life as well, so we were well matched.
You decide. We are looking at annihilation. We do not have the moral right to complain about violations by other nations because we violate human rights every hour of every day. It was Jim’s passionate conversation about Nagasaki (the fact that we would unleash a second bomb when we already knew the devastation caused by the first one) that led me to lie down last year on Nagasaki Day and be arrested. It is up to you, collectively and individually, to march to that final moment of your life with a clear conscience. Jim’s conscience was clear; he lived out his dharma to the end. Are you?