Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When America Became a Lynch Mob or do SUPERPOWERS Never Have to Say They're Sorry

In March 2003, a Gallup poll concluded that 79% of Americans thought the Iraq War was justified, with or without conclusive evidence of illegal weapons.  By 2012, that number had shrunk to 33%.    Oops. . . we changed our minds!

Between the time those two polls were taken, 6,486 Americans lost their lives in the Iraq War, a reported 32, 226 were seriously wounded, and an estimated one in five soldiers returned home from Baghdad suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or major depression. On the Iraqi side, U.S. Army Field Reports stated that 109,032 Iraqis were killed, the majority of whom (66,081)  were civilians.   ORB in London disputes those figures and reports the number of Iraqi casualties as being closer to 1.3 million, even though their numbers have received little attention in the American press.  

My question is this. What responsibility do citizens in a democracy have to redress foreign policy mistakes, when the victims number in the hundreds of thousands?  Should it matter that the public's initial support for the war in Iraq  took on the fervor of a lynch mob, seeking vengeance after 9/11?   Of course, we can blame former President George Bush for the invasion of Iraq with good reason.  After all, the White House insisted that Saddam Hussein was hiding "weapons of mass destruction."   But somehow this all sounds a bit too pat and familiar, because. . .that's how things used to be done in Mississippi.

The lynch mob hangs the nig--- from the highest tree and then goes back to being sheriff, store clerk or housewife.  Yes, it may turn out later that the victim had been wronged, but the whole town surged forth, cheering on whomever swung the rope around the tree branch and tied it around the victim's neck. And with the body left dangling from the tree, normal, everyday life returns.
 RELATED POST:  NPR's Diane Rehm Shushes Black Veteran

Monday, February 27, 2012

Author of "The Help" Exploits Black Maid's Life Story

Abilene Cooper,
"The Help" author's family
What a relief that "the Help" didn't win the Oscar for best picture. (See Melissa Perry-Harris's insightful comments here). Reviewers of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help" have credited  this bestselling novel and #1 box office hit, with going beyond stereotypes. But did it do so by exploiting the ugliest stereotype of them all?    On August 16, 2011, an Atlanta judge dismissed  a suit brought by the Stockett family's black maid, Abilene Cooper, claiming that Stockett's story "borrowed" from her life without attribution.  I'm disappointed but not surprised at the verdict, because America's justice system sometimes fairs poorly when it comes to moral issues.

That is, American readers and movie-goers are reveling in the feel-good sentimentality of "The Help."  And yet what this whole business shows is how little has changed in Mississippi race relations between white women and the black maids exploited by the racial caste system.  Is anyone really surprised that the Kathryn Stockett has received accolades and millions of dollars from this work and her family's black maid, whose life story the author embellished and then labeled fiction,  has gotten nothing?  An article in this week's Mail Online brought tears to my eyes. According to the article entitled -- Her Family Hired me as a Maid for 12 Years but then She Stole my Life and Made it a Disney Movie:

"‘I [Abilene Cooper] just cried and cried after I read the first few pages. In the book, Aibileen has taken her job five months after her son is killed in an accident. My son, Willie, had leukaemia and died when he was 18, in July 1998, three months before I went to work for the Stocketts.
‘I felt the emotions in my heart all over again. Kathryn copied parts of my life and used them without even asking me. .She claims she respects black people but she just ran all over me."

 "The Help" appears to have been an involuntary collaboration between Kathryn Stockett and the family's black maid.   True racial progress will have to await the moment when a work with the popular appeal of "The Help" has both womens' names on the bookcover and movie contract.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dancing to the Rhythm of Life

The more intellectual we perceive ourselves as being, the more self-conscious, foolish, and clumsy we feel in tapping into the wisdom of our bodies. However, rhythm and dance are as profound a set of tools for knowledge as reading. It is in the processing emotions through our bodies that we gain insight. We’re never too old to cultivate the gift of rhythm, to learn to harmonize our bodies to the pulsing life force of the cosmos. The more adept we become at attuning our bodies to rhythm, the less we live in our heads and distort reality through the lens of our mental constructions. As we learn to harmonize mind and body and soul, we join in the cosmic dance.  Turn on the music and dance. Dance as though your life depended on it. Dance for healing. Dance for joy.

The healing component of dance emanates from the body’s need for its own very particular kind of sanctuary.  It becomes a safe place for the body's natural self-regulating functions both to process emotional overload as well as attend to healing physical and psychic scar tissue. The stresses of modern life, whether from work, relationships, hurry, worry, pollution, manifests in the build-up of blocks in the muscle and tissue of the bodies. Dance dissolves these blockages, while teaching us how to listen to our bodies and relax even while engaged in motion.

Friday, February 3, 2012

NPR's Diane Rehm Shushes Black Iraq Veteran

NPR's Diane Rehm
I'm an avid listener to the Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio.  But the shameful way she treated a caller to her show on February 3, 2012, left me shaking with outrage and sorrow.   The male voice  introduced himself as an African-American veteran, who had served in Iraq.  Speaking in a manner that struck me as polite and authentic, but also poignant, he described how America had decimated Iraq and fueled explosive growth of Afghanistan's poppy trade, the consequence of which was a surge in heroin deaths in America's inner cities.

It took less than 20 seconds for Ms. Rehm to dismiss the caller with a hollow "thank you," while one of her guests insisted that Americans shouldn't concern themselves with Afghanistan's illegal drug trade, because all of its heroin was exported to Russia. Ha...ha!  And then they changed the subject.

Is this kind of mindless cocktail chatter (parading as news analysis) supposed to be the rational alternative to Rush Limbaugh?   In truth, I don't blame right-wing conservatives and the Bush White House for shoving the U.S. into meaningless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Warmongering is their game.  But where is the soul-searching among the Diane-Rehm-media types?  Their deafening silence allowed Bush to invade these countries with barely an opposing whisper ten years ago, and now they turn their backs on the horrors our nation created?