America’s Underwear is Dirty

It is probably safe to say that all of us were told by our mothers when we were little that we should always make sure our underwear was clean. They said the reason was that we never know when or if we might be in an accident. “You don’t want anybody to see that you’ve got on dirty underwear,” my mother would say.

America, it seems, has never changed her underwear.

The entire debacle of ICE agents ripping children from the arms of their mothers, and of putting children in detention centers while concurrently sending their parents to jail is not a new thing. More accurately, America’s power elite have a history of separating children from their families.

When Africans were brought to this country, it was common for those purchasing Africans would buy a mother or father, leaving screaming and terrified children behind. In many cases, those parents never saw their children again.

It is America’s underwear.

What allows anyone to separate families, ignoring the screams of mothers and their children, is the presence of cognitive dissonance, defined as “holding onto contradictory ideas simultaneously,” according to Joy DeGruy, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.”

            In America, she says, people hold onto the idea of freedom while doing something which is totally in opposition to that ideal. Thus, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who would staunchly defend his belief in democracy and Christianity could and did defend the policy of separating families of people coming to America from Central America.

Mr. Sessions does not, cannot and will not allow himself to…consider that these people are human beings, parents who love their children and who would not even think of leaving a despotic political situation and leave their children behind.

He does not relate to the immigrants as human beings. He has disassociated himself from them and therefore cannot feel their pain and worse, cannot believe that they are capable of feeling the same pain as does he and others whose humanity he respects.

Heather Anderson Williams writes in “Compartmentalizing Slavery” that “most white slaveowners …would have only a limited sense of what enslaved people felt and they did not pause the morality of an institution that deprived humans of their liberty and wantonly destroyed their families.” (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_history_of_american_slavery/2015/06/how_white_people_justified_and_struggled_with_separating_slave_families.html)

Likewise, there was no sense of how Native Americans felt when the Europeans came to America, bringing with them diseases to which Native Americans had never been exposed which resulted in over 90 percent of the Native American population at that time dying off. Nor did they consider what Native Americans felt when their land was taken, or how they felt when Europeans ignored their humanity in the quest for power and control of this country.

Martin Luther King said that there is a phenomenon called “thingification.”  In an address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967, he said, “A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will thingify them – make them things. Therefore they will exploit them …”

That “thingification” has contributed to the oppression of blacks in this country for 300 years, for the decimation and genocide of Native Americans, for the oppression of women, members of the LGBTQ community,  for Muslims, and now, for the horrific treatment the current administration is meting out to immigrants coming to America seeking asylum.

Those ripping children from their parents have made these people “things” in the classic sense. Though they hear the children screaming for their parents, and the parents screaming back to their children, reaching for them, they have distanced themselves from the human tragedy in which they are engaged. Like the Europeans decimating the Native Americans, and like white people thinking only of ways to use black people to further their economic goals, these people today cannot conceive that the parents and children’s screams they are hearing are genuine.

They have dissociated. These people are not true human beings, capable of feeling as do the law enforcement officers and government working against them.

America’s underwear is dirty. She has never changed that part of her presence which was sullied and soiled from the moment the Europeans landed on these shores.

Sometimes, something is so dirty that it cannot be totally cleaned. There is a gray film over it and no amount of washing or bleaching fixes the problem.

This desire to protect whiteness, which is at the base of most of the oppression in this country, has sullied America’s underwear for hundreds of years. Attacking a group of people, ruining their families and causing a lifetime of hurt and pain, is part of what has stained the ideal of American democracy. It is a stain that was begun from the moment Europeans arrived here, and it continues to spread.

Were America taken to an emergency room, sick and in serious condition, it is a sure thing that those trying to treat her would see her dirty underwear, clearly never changed …and be appalled, judgmental and perhaps unconcerned. America’s poverty of humanity caused by her consistent “thingification” of people is leading her to a bad place, where her myth of being “the greatest nation in the world” will no longer stand up to scrutiny. Her dirty underwear will finally be completely exposed.

A candid observation …

 

 

 

In Gaza, Quest for Power Overrides Morality

When people are in positions of protected power, the result is unspeakable suffering on the part of others, with little accountability asked for.

It was Lord Acton who said, “”Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”  http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/absolute-power-corrupts-absolutely.html.

Haven’t we all seen it? Law enforcement officers, in this country and in others, have shown the truth of Acton’s statement.  Too many police in our country are brutes; it seems that, for too many of them, the uniform, badge and gun gives them an inflated sense of themselves. Instead of being protectors, too many of them are predators, preying on the weak, the poor and the disadvantaged. The recent incident involving Eric Garner and New York police is, unfortunately, a prime example of power being used to abuse another human being.  Garner is just one of too many black people who have succumbed to brute power disguising itself as righteousness in the form of law enforcement. Blacks lynched in this country were often taken to their deaths by law enforcement officers who hid behind their badges and guns to do their dirty work.

Today I am wrestling with what is going on in Israel. I am more than disturbed; I am heartbroken that the Palestinian people are suffering at the hands of what Israel calls its soldiers: “the most moral army in the world.” http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.577295 I see no morality at all in what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinian people in their quest to wipe out Hamas.  I know the propaganda: that Hamas brings about the deaths of its own people by housing its weapons in heavily populated areas … but something about decimating women and children at will seems morally corrupt. No. It IS morally corrupt. Israel has a strong army, fueled and funded by the United States; the Palestinians, I read, have no army at all, but, rather, have a militia. The Israelis “warn” the Palestinians when they are going to fire upon them; but the Palestinians have nowhere to go! So, these innocent women and children …and Palestinian men who are NOT part of Hamas, are being gunned down like flies. I am appalled.

Absolute power. It’s absolute power in action. Israel has great power, buoyed by world-wide support. The Palestinian people have little to no such support. They are being forced from their homes, from their neighborhoods…

It feels too familiar. I am an African-American. I know oppression. I know what it is like to live in a country where absolute power has its way economically, politically and socially. It is a tribute to the strength and faith of black people in this land that we have not simple disappeared under the pressure. Theologian James Cone, author of many books but most recently penning The Cross and the Lynching Tree, said in reflections offered at the Proctor Institute of Child Advocacy sponsored by the the Children’s Defense Fund, that he didn’t know how black people have survived the oppression, the cruelty, the brutality, the bullying heaped upon them by white people historically. Power corrupts, clearly. White people in America have used the privilege of being white to trample upon people who built this country…and they have never had to answer for it.

It is what I am seeing, or feeling, as concerns what is going on in Gaza. The Israelis are pummeling the Palestinian people, and too many “leaders” are endorsing and supporting their actions. Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself …but this way? Seriously? Is it a fact that the only way Israel can defend itself against Hamas is by killing innocent Palestinians?

I heard Henry Seigman, a Jewish writer and scholar in this country, say that the conflict could be eliminated if 1) there was the development of two states in Israel (which he thinks is now impossible) or 2) there was the development of one state… with Palestinians being given full rights and full citizenship (of which now they have neither.)  Seigman said that Prime Minister Netanyahu will never agree to one state because he doesn’t want Israel to be such that there are more Arabs than Jews.

So, what? The massacre of the Palestinians continues? When (or if) the tunnels are all destroyed, then what? What will the powerful do as relates to those who have been decimated, dehumanized, and demoralized?

In this country, at least black people had the black church in which and from which to draw strength. We didn’t return fire for fire; we used God as the ultimate weapon. We fought, but not with weapons, because we knew we would never win that way. We saw power; white supremacy was and is our Goliath, and we certainly used “stones of faith” to fling against our oppressors.

Hamas, however, isn’t interested in stones. It wants to fight “man to man,” “missile to missile,” although it seems fairly obvious that such strategy is only resulting in the deaths of more and more Palestinians. Hamas is fighting the way Israel wants them to fight…and in this fight, there is no God, not from either side.

One more thing: the United States, in its quest for retention of power and respect, has shown no morality at all in supplying weapons to Israel with which to carry out its mission. The world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and America is complicit in the journey.

Power corrupts. Lord Acton was correct. In Gaza, the quest for retention of power is on the fast track, and when the race is over, I shudder to think of what will be left of the indigenous people, the Palestinians.

A candid observation …