Everywhere is War

{Originally published in Counterpunch June 5, 2020}

I Can’t Breathe by Joni Sarah White.

Everywhere is War

Until the philosophy
Which hold one race superior and another
Inferior
Is finally
And permanently
Discredited
And abandoned
Everywhere is war
Me say war

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the color of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes
Me say war

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all
Without regard to race
Dis a war

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained
Now everywhere is war
War

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
That hold our brothers in Angola
In Mozambique
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled
Utterly destroyed
Well, everywhere is war
Me say war

War in the east
War in the west
War up north
War down south
War war
Rumors of war

And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight we find it necessary
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good over evil

Good over evil, yeah
Good over evil
Good over evil, yeah
Good over evil

Bob Marley, Rest in Power, reduced to lyric, words of consequence and self determination that have accompanied our collective journey since it began. At times, its vanguard has been the spoken word. At others, the pen; and, yes, more often than not, the rock, the mask, the gun have led the way. There is no singular correct or acceptable megaphone of resistance for those historically who have said enough. Defiance is dictated not by the aim of those who struggle but by the reach and tactic of those they fight. At times, sweet words and chant have triumphed while at others, tears and smoke and blood. But, rest assured, power concedes nothing without struggle. It never did and it never will.

Like a chorus of obedient social referees, pundits of all pedigree and purpose, the political and the pompous have tripped over one another the last few days as they race to be the first and loudest to dictate to hundreds of thousands in the streets, in this country, what is and what is not acceptable protest. All that has been missing from this stew of politically correct is announcing to the world, from statehouses and zoom alike, is the mascot… some of my best friends…

There is nothing sui generis about rebellion. Its paradigm has generated definition and debate for time immemorial from those whose names have long outlived their imprint upon the times in which they lived… and often led. There is nothing complex about rebellion. It finds its legitimacy in the natural marrow of those who agree to step back from complete self determination with the expectation that this transfer of personal power to the state will, above all else, be met with full equality and due process. Simply put, it’s known as the social compact. It has long been the linchpin of state power, the legitimacy from which it derives that command or loses it when, like any contract, its breach outlives its defined purpose.

At its core, the social compact reflects a long customary willingness of people to cede fundamental aspects of personal freedom to governments in exchange for institutional concern and support for their health, safety and equality. This largely unconscious cede is very much a fragile connection, however, one that maintains relevance and purpose only so long and so far as people feel invested in the machinery of state, its credibility and its integrity. When those institutions that carry historically fail, people instinctively reclaim their limited loan of independence. For some, a legislative voice is the echo of that loss as they pursue traditional electoral process in an effort to regain a sense of equity and purpose. Others withdraw to the safety of their solitude finding comfort in isolation, hopeful and committed to the folly that political leadership will gratuitously meet their task if for no other reason than to hang on to personal posture and gain. Then stand those who have never found comfort or security in the notion that a loss of liberty necessarily means more freedom. It is to them that we owe much… naysayers of blind political faith who have earned the scorn of institutional liberals who, with ease, turn blind eye to the obvious… opting instead for the witting embrace of surreal political caste.

Future Now by Joni Sarah White.

Long ago compliance to comfort and denial was swept away by those who welcomed dare to the convenience of silence. There was, for example, a guy, a man named Paine, an author and revolutionary with Common Sense who with ferocious pen rejected any social compact that vested total, unilateral and endless power to a throne be it emerged from legacy birth or the voting booth. To Paine, the social compact’s aim was to protect the rights of each individual who entered into it:

“A man, by natural right, has a right to judge in his own cause; and so far as the right of mind is concerned, he never surrenders it. He therefore deposits this right in the common stock of society, and takes the arm of society, of which he is part, in preference and in addition to his own.”

Never one to bind each new generation to the straps of the previous, Paine went further:

“There never did, there never will, and there never can exist a parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the end of time or of commanding forever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it. Every age and generation must be free to act for itself, in all cases, as the age and generation which preceded it.”

Sage vision and powerful words by a pamphleteer-philosopher who rejected the Presidency turning, instead, caution to the wind as he returned to England and then to France where his words inspired yet another revolution. Though iconic, Paine’s voice has not been singular in the historical debate over the social compact in a country built of repression and rebellion of theft and talisman of vision and violence. These expressions speak to an inherent, ever-present, tension between an individual’s drive to climb a mountain they chase and the state’s demand it control the nature of that journey… always, of course, because it’s in their legislated best interest. Others have tasted the acidic strain between ideal and fidelity.

To liberated slave Frederick Douglas…

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

To abolitionist John Brown, pursuit of personal principle was above all else the defining expression of one’s poise:

“Be mild with the mild, shrewd with the crafty, confiding with the honest, rough to the ruffian, and a thunderbolt to the liar. But in all this, never be unmindful of your own dignity.”

Legendary Apache leader Geronimo summed up, like few others, the interconnect between resistance and outside stare.

“I know I have to die sometime, but even if the heavens were to fall on me, I want to do what is right. I think I am a good man, but in the papers all over the world they say I am a bad man; but it is a bad thing to say about me. I never do wrong without a cause.”

While crowned by some, perhaps many, for his dutiful obey to non-violence Martin Luther King reminded us that

“…a riot is the language of the unheard.”

Malcolm X opined . . .

“If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her.”

These words of resistance are not mere abstract sentiment of an academic circle podcast for the detached and unaffected to debate as if their target has not repeated itself over and over and over and can, by magical ignore, be reduced to isolated anomaly. To the contrary, they target a hardscrabble road of a history that has demanded silence and obedience from those against whom it has all too often extracted the ultimate pain and punishment born of race and little else.

There is no uniform shout. Nor is its march a singular one… the product of inherited skin and pain alone. Today, all over this country, young white women and men have joined their family of color in announcing in a clear, unified and unmistakable voice that the social compact is shattered… a vehicle of power and promise for but the chosen few. For the cynics who dispatch the motivation of those who, themselves, have not felt the sting of racial hate and divide, anarchist Emma Goldman, spoke long ago of a bond sculpted not by the individual but the rejoice of the collective:

“It requires something more than personal experience to gain a philosophy or point of view from any specific event. It is the quality of our response to the event and our capacity to enter into the lives of others that help us to make their lives and experiences our own. In my own case my convictions have derived and developed from events in the lives of others as well as from my own experience. What I have seen meted out to others by authority and repression, economic and political transcends anything I myself may have endured.”

The streets of this country are filled with a cry of conscience not heard in more than half a century. It is a powerful united, demanding voice whether arched by passive resistance or pushed, in the eyes of some, by unsettling militant response. Yet, to ignore its shout or to reduce its legitimacy on the basis of its means of message is to guarantee history will once again repeat itself, adding to an already unbearable timeless graveyard of those entombed by color, and color alone, in the shadow of a social compact that for all too long speaks of lofty ideals but acts with the uncontrolled darkness of hate and murder.

The rate at which black Americans are killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans. This is a non-comprehensive list of deaths at the hands of police in the U.S. since Eric Garner’s death in July 2014.LA Johnson/NPR

For background on a few of these victims, please visit https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/police-killings-recent-history-george-floyd-1.5593768 Note that these men, women and children were murdered by modern police officers.

Below is a very partial list of past lynchings of men, women and children from 1800’s to mid 1900’s. Note that the below is an incomplete list from Alabama. For a more complete list including all states please view https://www.ourtimepress.com/view-from-here-never-forget-the-lynchings-list/

Wes Johnson, lynched, Abbeville, Ala. Feb 2 1937
Jonathan Jones, lynched, Altoona, ALA, July 1 1904
N/A Pedigrie, lynched Andalusia, Ala. Feb. 20 1906
John Jones, lynched, Anniston, ALA, July 13 1890
Ray Rolston, lynched, Anniston, Ala. Nov. 24 1909
Willie Brewster, murdered, Anniston, Ala. July 15 1965
William Wallace, lynched, Axis, ALA Aug. 1 1910
Holland English, lynched, Bakerhill, Ala. Apr. 2 1894
Marsal McGregor, lynched, Banks, ALA Jan. 5 1899
Walter Clayton, lynched, Bay Minett, Ala. Apr. 6 1908
3 Unid. black men, lynched, Berlin, Ala. Dec. 8 1893
William Smith, lynched, Bessemer, Ala. Nov. 2 1912
James Jackson, lynched, Bibb Co, ALA Jan. 31 1897
John Steele, lynched, Birmingham, Ala. Sept. 27 1889
James Brown, lynched, Birmingham, ALA May 11 1901
Jerry Johnson, lynched, Birmingham, Ala. Sept. 3 1907
N/A Thomas, lynched, Birmingham, ALA Apr. 25 1909
Wilson Gardner, lynched, Birmingham, Ala. Aug. 24 1913
1 unid. man murdered Birmingham Ala. Aug. 23 1934
Addie Mae Collins age 10 murd. Birmingham Ala. Sept 15 1963
Denise McNairm age 11 murdered Birmingham Ala Sept 15 1963
Carol Robertson age 14 murdered Birmingham Ala Sept 15 1963
Johnny Robinson age 16 murdered Birmingham Ala Sept 15 1963
Virgil Ware age 13 murdered Birmingham Ala Sept. 15 1963

Please also visit https://source.wustl.edu/2018/02/police-kill-unarmed-blacks-often-especially-women-study-finds/

2 thoughts on “Everywhere is War”

  1. a piece of great humanity in which art,poetry, justice,philosophy,knowledge agree in the wise,clear and rebel mind we have:Stanley Cohen’s

    Like

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