Newsletter: Past And Present Myths Are Indivisible
This week two remarkable reports came out about US militarism. The first by James Lucas, documented that the US has killed 20 to 30 million people in 37 nations in wars since World War II. The second by Nicholas Davies showed the impacts of US militarism since 9/11, finding 120,000 air strikes in seven countries, occupation of Afghanistan for 14 years, Iraq for over 8 years, and destruction of Libya, Syria and Yemen, 1.6 million people killed, mostly civilians, and 59.5 million people driven from their homes.
This is quite a remarkable record.
These reports coincided with the celebration of Thanksgiving. Popular Resistance published eight articles debunking the founding myths and highlighting the reality of genocide against the Indigenous to take their land and enslavement of Africans brought to the United States for free labor.
Five hundred years later, the issues of genocide, land grabs and cheap labor continue to wreak havoc in the US and around the world. The Thanksgiving culture perpetuates myths created by media and government that reinforce the roots of today’s crises.
We are thankful that more people are waking up to the Thanksgiving myth. We published Brian Willson’s “Genocide and the Thanksgiving Myth,” three years ago. It has become a tradition to republish it. The article thoroughly exposes the abusive actions of European colonizers beginning with Columbus. Willson highlights orders given by George Washington to ethnically cleanse an Indigenous tribe and follows the path through Manifest Destiny to US Empire.
Since 1979, Indigenous people have treated Thanksgiving as a national day of mourning with annual protests in New England. Indigenous historian, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, who wrote “The Indigenous People’s History of the United States”, reviews the history of Thanksgiving and concludes Thanksgiving needs to become “a day to mourn US colonization and attempted genocide and celebrate the survival of Native Nations through their resistance.”
Glen Ford, the executive editor of Black Agenda Report, also calls for an end to Thanksgiving describing it as “a pure glorification of racist barbarity” that is rooted in “white supremacy.” Ford goes on to describe how in 55 years after the alleged first Thanksgiving, the colonizers eradicated almost all the indigenous tribes in the region. The European-Americans cloaked themselves in God while they committed acts of genocide. He describes how the Thanksgiving myth continues to this day to justify the goodness of white Americans as they engage in war and militarism worldwide. Kymone Freeman writes in Ebony that it is time for blacks to create their own holiday and not participate in a celebration of “white man’s Manifest Destiny, a legacy of slavery,[and] land robbery.”
Kelly Hayes writes about how the Thanksgiving myth is related to the myth of US policing. She writes we must expose the myths as “One page follows another, and the truth of the present cannot be understood without an honest retelling of the past.” Her focus on policing highlights how it began as a way to capture escaped slaves and control Indigenous peoples. She describes the ongoing police violence against black and brown people and ties them to historic mythology: “As police continue to kill both our peoples at startling rates, we must attack the myths of both the present and the past, because they are indivisible.”
Writing in Salon, Chauncey Devega also starts with police violence and then takes the argument to US Empire because the myths are “encouraging American Exceptionalism: a belief that the United States was preordained by ‘God’ for a special place…” He describes the impacts of genocide and slavery as central to US Empire as: “Stolen land and stolen labor are the twin bedrocks of American empire.” He describes how Thanksgiving comes at a time when the character of the nation is being debated around issues like police violence, immigration, poverty pages, the wealth divide, curtailment of civil rights and women’s rights as well as militarism. Devega concludes:
“On Thanksgiving, the American people should, instead of being thankful for what they have–and by doing so playing along with a tired mythology of American genocide and slavery–should inaugurate a day of political activism and resistance.”
Thankful for Activist’s Awakening for Justice
Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States have gone through an awakening and are now part of the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice. There are numerous fronts of struggle. We are going to highlight some that were very active this week.
Protesting Police Violence: Recently police killings surpassed the worst years of lynching and capital punishment combined. Professor Jerome Karabel writes: “Extra-judicial killings by the police … now number more than four times the number of people lynched or executed by capital punishment in the worst of years.” The movement against today’s racially biased police violence is part of a multi-hundred year movement for racial justice.
#BlackLivesMatter protests erupted in Minnesota this week after the death of Jamar Clark. Clark, 24 years old, was killed on November 15 by a police officer. Protests have erupted, including an occupation encampment at the police precinct where the officer worked. Protesters want the video of the shooting released and the police officer prosecuted. Clark’s funeral was held this week at a church located about a mile from the shooting and the police precinct. Hundreds attended. Before the funeral five people were shot at the encampment by three white supremacists, who have been arrested. The encampment continues and held a Thanksgiving Day dinner to bring the community together.
This week the Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, who shot Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014, was charged with first degree murder. Van Dyke is the first officer to be charged with murder in 35 years in Chicago even though police killed more people there than in any other comparably sized police department from 2010 to 2014. For 400 days people had demanded the tapes from police and other sources. The police settled with McDonald’s family for $5 million before a lawsuit in an attempt to bury the tapes. Whistleblowers led the fight for the tapes, and finally, two weeks ago, a judge ordered they be released.
The indictment came the day before the deadline to release the tapes. When the first dashcam tapes were released they showed Van Dyke shooting at McDonald as he was walking away from the police. Van Dyke fired all his bullets in 15 seconds and was stopped from reloading. The release of the tapes resulted in protests throughout downtown Chicago. The nonviolent protests resulted in some arrests, but courts dropped some of those charges. The next day more tapes were released showing the scene from different angles. People are calling the shooting an execution that the police tried to cover-up.
This case shows what is wrong with police across the country, the lack of accountability, the failure to respond to citizen complaints and the failure to take dangerous police off the streets. With 17 citizen complaints against Van Dyke the Chicago Tribune asks “Come on. What does it take to flag a problem cop?” The reality, as in almost all cities, officials fabricate a false story and seek to protect the officer. This reality is what must change.
We are not only seeing violence against African Americans by the police. As noted, in Minnesota white racists shot five people. At Donald Trump rallies people have been beaten, knocked to the floor and choked, with the seeming approval of the candidate.
There have been some victories by the movement. This week in Chicago, Police Chief McCarthy said the officer who killed Rekia Boyd should be fired even though he was not prosecuted. And a former Detroit officer was found guilty of beating a black man. In Nashville police training now includes lessons on Civil Rights history. And the FBI and DOJ announced they will track police shootings.
Ending Systemic Racism at Colleges: As we reported in our newsletter two weeks ago, youth across the country are demanding an end to systemic racism, whether it is racist actions by students that have gone unchecked, parties that are for whites only or removing symbols of racism, like former President Woodrow Wilson at Princeton or a building named after a racist at Georgetown. Students are winning some of these battles.
Two more universities took on race issues this week. Lewis and Clark students in Oregon protested because of the lack of safety for African Americans on campus after several race-related incidents.
At Brandeis University students sat-in at the administration building, where the president’s office is located and said they would not leave until interim president, Lisa M. Lynch, promises to address their demands pertaining to diversity, including hiring of additional black faculty and counselors.
Demanding Climate Justice: The COP21 UN Climate Negotiations are quickly approaching and activists have been gearing up for it. The terror attack in Paris has resulted in many marches and events being cancelled by the French government. The major marches have been banned and there have been preemptive arrests made of some activists now placed on home confinement. Activists have promised that the bans will not stop creative climate actions and will not prevent unprecedented climate marches around the world with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in more than 2,000 events in 150 countries. Already tens of thousands have protested in the days before Paris. In Oakland, CA 4,000 people marched for climate justice.
People realize that it is urgent for governments to act and the COP 21 is an opportunity for such action. They also see that facing up to the climate crisis is a win-win. Labor and environmental organizations released a report, The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs and Saving Money, showing that the US can reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 — while adding half-a-million jobs and saving billions of dollars on electrical, heating, and transportation costs.
Fighting for a Fair Economy and Living Wage: There continue to be protests demanding jobs that pay a living wage. This week, the #FightFor$15 focused on Walmart for the fourth consecutive Black Friday. John Zangas of DC Media Group reports “This year about 200 Walmart employees organized a nationwide 15-day fast leading up to Black Friday. The novel tactic was dubbed “Fast For $15,” and began on November 12 to bring attention to Walmart employees struggling to put food on their table.” Walmart raised wages to $9 an hour, but workers and their advocates say that is not enough.
Black Friday protests in Chicago combined justice for Laquan McDonald and economic justice. The protesters clogged streets in the business district where the day is normally a major shopping day. Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, which endorsed the protests, said, “When we take to the streets on Friday we will show the city that we intend to disrupt its economic center . . . It’s time to turn our pain into power.”
Racism is evident in the economy where multiple measures show blacks fairing worse, having lower incomes and less wealth than whites because of structural economic unfairness. This week a report showed that black women earn 63 cents on the dollar in comparison to the 79 cents for white women; one in four black women are uninsured, and suffer from health issues that are treatable; and 29.5 percent of black women with high school diplomas, but no college degree experienced 10 or more spells of unemployment compared with only 13.5 percent of white women with the same education. These are just a few of many measures. If we solve the problem of unfair economic treatment for black women, it will lift up communities across the nation.
Ending War and Militarism: In addition to the horrible statistics highlighted at the beginning of this article about the millions who have been killed because of US wars, there are other war issues that have come up this week.
The US’ hundreds of foreign military bases are bad policy that has a counterproductive impact, according to “Base Nation,” a book published this week. The United States has 800 foreign military bases while the rest of the world combined has 30. As with the myths of Thanksgiving, US wars are based on myths of ‘humanitarian intervention’ and ‘bringing democracy’:
“Rather than a noble instrument of beneficence, the U.S. military is a blunt projection of American power, radically opposed to the ideals of democracy and human rights it purports to represent. This gap between perception and reality has been cultivated for decades to serve the aims of the ruling class.”
Military bases have a great cost: as much as four times the amount spent on Social Security, Unemployment & Labor ($29 billion); nearly twice as much as Housing and Community ($63 billion); four times as much as Science ($30 billion); and 1.7 times as much as Education ($70 billion). The bases are corporate profit centers for military contractors, a form of crony capitalism for well-connected corporate interests.
Bases around the world create enemies as land is stolen from the people who live there, tens of thousands are brutally displaced to make way for the bases, sexual crimes and sexual exploitation occur around the bases as does violent crime and the population has no recourse. This provides one more answer to “why do they hate us?”
One area of stolen land by the US is now also an infamous prison, Guantanamo Bay. Protesters have been calling for the base’s closure and release of the remaining prisoners; more are calling for the land to be returned to Cuba, as Cuba demands. This week, Witness Against Torture held a Thanksgiving Day “dinner” where members of the group fasted sitting at a table with a prisoner dressed in Orange, head covered and chained.
DoD pulled the usual trick of releasing unpopular information around a holiday where there would be little news coverage. This time it was their report on the bombing of the Kunduz Hospital. Their report blames human error and picks a few scapegoats. Doctors Without Borders is not satisfied, says the report raises more questions than it answers and continues to demand an independent investigation.
Revolution in Consciousness Begins By Understanding Historic and Current Myths
There are deep problems in the US culture. They are built on myths that cover-up genocide, slavery, racism and poverty wages. All transformations begin with a revolution of the mind. We need to change the public’s consciousness, undermine the war culture, understand the global empire of corporations that control us and face up to the reality of US history and current myths; creating an awakening that will cause demands for radical transformation. As Brian Willson concludes his Thanksgiving Myth:
“We have yet to come to grips with the original holocaust that continues to serve as the defining and enabling experience of our ‘civilization.’ Embracing this ‘shadow’ can ironically enable sudden and radical shifts as we are freed from expending the incredible unconscious energy needed to conceal our shame. Sharing our grief for what we have done to others, and ultimately to ourselves, will be experienced as tremendous relief.”
On this Thanksgiving we are grateful to those who do not fear facing reality and are ready to work to change it.