Jack Random is the author of the Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press). See The Chronicles have been posted on the Albion Monitor, Bellaciao, Buzzle, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Pacific Free Press and Peace-Earth-Justice. www.jazzmanchronicles.blogspot.com
Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There's one in the spotlight, he don't look right to me
Get him up against the wall!
That one looks Jewish!
And that one's a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There's one smoking a joint
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I'd have all of you shot!
Roger Waters - Pink Floyd’s The Wall
The Donald Trump campaign has made it impossible to ignore the Nazi analogy. His rallies summon memories of the fascist movement in 1930’s Germany. He demands that his followers raise their right hands to take a pledge of loyalty, recalling the infamous Nazi salute. He instructs his security forces to remove from the gathering anyone who fails to fall in line, many of them unmistakably with darker skins than the loyal brood.
To anyone of my generation who remembers Pink Floyd’s epic rock opera, a metaphor for the Third Reich on British soil, the analogy could not be clearer.
“Lo, sleep is good; better is death; in sooth, the best of all were never to be born.” - Heinrich Heine - As quoted in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh
“It seems as though it is necessary for us to destroy some other thing or person in order not to destroy ourselves, in order to guard against the impulsion to self-destruction.” - Sigmund Freud
The human folly was on full display when the People’s Republic of China joined hands with the Republic of India to fight back an international response to global warming and climate change. Millions of their citizens live in a plume of smog so toxic that many choose to wear respiratory masks. Dramatically altered weather patterns and catastrophic storms devastate crops, infrastructure and populations on an unprecedented scale, yet these nations held to their god given right to continue spewing poisons into the atmosphere.
The human folly marches on with a growing army of religious warriors inspired by medieval philosophy. It is better to die than to accept that others do not embrace the same beliefs. It is better to kill than to tolerate the very existence of others. An eye for an eye until all the world is blind .
One of the questions consuming the meditation of philosophers through the ages: What is the nature of evil? Some suggest that greed is at its core and center. Others suggest it is vengeance. Still others propose that evil lacks a moral core. It is violence, death and destruction without external motive. It is essentially masochism. It enjoys the suffering of others for its own sake.
We like to believe we know evil when we see it. As Americans we recognize evil in others far more often than we see it in ourselves. We see evil whenever our leaders proclaim it and we sanction the full force of the most awesome military machine the world has ever known. When Presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush proclaimed evil in the person of Saddam Hussein, we sanctioned a series of military actions culminating in the most disastrous strategic blunder in modern history.
The warlords in Washington are undaunted. They look at the disintegration of the Middle East, the chaos, destruction and perpetual dysfunction that we ourselves have wrought, and they see opportunity. They see a new personification of evil on earth and they will not rest until they have stirred the American people into yet another irrational cry for war.
They know how it ends. They know the price to be paid will be bloody and pointless yet they do not seem to care. They are the paper generals who sit on the mountaintop and watch the battle unfold below. They will never be called upon to sacrifice. Their children will not be pulled into the fight. They will issue the call for more soldiers and mightier weapons and they will call it patriotism. They will invent victories out of mirages that vanish as quickly as they appear. They will hold parades in their own honor. The will hold press conferences and make television appearances to congratulate themselves. They will reap the benefits of war in political success.
In the Spirit of Charlie Hebdo - The son of a spirit guide (what the white eyes call a medicine man), a young Crazy Horse went alone into the sacred mountains (perhaps the very spot where the Great White Fathers were later carved in stone) to cry for a vision. He was blessed with seven visions, among them: He would accept no rewards, no acknowledgement and no tribute for his deeds and accomplishments. On the one occasion he violated the dictum of that vision he was shot in the head by a jealous warrior and some would say miraculously survived.
In keeping with his vision of modesty, Crazy Horse did not consent to be photographed and did not wish to be depicted in any form. While he lived that wish was honored.
There is no one more revered in Lakota and perhaps all of Native American history than Crazy Horse. It is ironic that more than a century after his death in 1877, the elders of the Lakota chose to immortalize the same man who explicitly decried any such honor by having his likeness carved into the granite of the sacred Black Hills of North Dakota.
A Hundred Years of Retribution - Given the radical antiwar sentiments I have expressed over the years, I am sometimes mistaken for a pacifist. I am not a pacifist. Though I stand in opposition to every major American military intervention in my lifetime, I am not opposed to all wars or all interventions regardless of circumstance.
I believe the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the Second World War were fought with clear purpose and justifiable cause. I believe that every war since that time has failed on both accounts.
The Korean War was unnecessary because our national interests were by no means at stake. It was unjustified because without the philosophical conflict of the Cold War and the eagerness of the American military to demonstrate its superiority, we would not have been engaged. The stalemate that war produced led directly to the paranoid dictatorship that provokes world powers today.
The Vietnam War was a travesty and a crime against humanity that ranks in its depravity among the worst in modern history: Native American genocide, the Holocaust, the Turkish-Armenian genocide, the Rwanda genocide and Vietnam. It began as an unjustified intervention and became a full-scale war with a fictional account of an attack on our ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. So began the tradition of American presidents lying to congress and the American people to falsify a case for war. Three million Southeast Asians and over 58,000 American soldiers would pay with their lives.
President of the United States of America
Dear Mr. President:
The clock is already running down on your presidency. In many ways you have been what you pledged to be. That is the foundation of our discontent.
We knew or should have known from the beginning that your primary corporate sponsors were the wolves of Wall Street. One does not become the first person of color to be elected president without significant corporate sponsorship. We knew or should have known that you would answer to corporate interests even in the wake of a financial meltdown born of corporate fraud. We knew that your hands would be tied not only by congress and the Supreme Court but also by powerful international interests that reign over all presidencies. We knew and yet we hoped for better and greater things.
If you believed (as I presume you did) that the Affordable Care Act would secure your legacy, by now you should be recalibrating. ACA is and will continue to be a legislative accomplishment of uncertain value. History may consider it a bridge or an obstruction to a more rational healthcare system. Only time will tell.
If you want your presidency to rest on more than the substantial symbolism represented by the color of your skin, you must do more. Consider what you can still accomplish: Pardon Edward Snowden and open the books on the NSA. Pass the Dream Act. Pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq completely. Declare an end to the war on terror. Close Guantanamo Bay. Call for an international framework on the future of war: Drone and robotic war.
These are some of the things a president can do without much help from congress. You will not receive much help from congress. But you don’t need congressional approval to do the most important thing of all: Tell the truth about the halls of power. Tell the truth as Eisenhower did. Reach for greatness as only a president can and your legacy will secure itself.