Monthly Archives: November 2016

Honoring Fidel Casto and the Cubans in African Liberation

Note: With the sad news of the passing of Fidel Castro I can’t help but be reminded of seeing him on the stage in Pretoria, South Africa at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in 1994. I was blessed to be there for the event. What an honor and thrill that was. In combination with the African National Congress and South African liberation movement, it was the Cuban troops that demoralized and defeated the South African military that then, finally, led to the downfall of the apartheid state. Castro was remarkable and defiant throughout it all. Here is Mandela referring to this in 1991 while in Cuba:

“We come here with a sense of the great debt that is owed the people of Cuba … What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?” (Mandela – Global Learning)

Yes, countless South Africans wisely love him for his diligence and commitment in helping to end the painful apartheid system that oppressed the Southern African region altogether. Countless numbers of those of us involved in the anti-apartheid movement outside of South Africa also adore the great man. Not only did Cuba play a major role in the downfall of apartheid but in its aftermath, Cuba also assisted Africans in their advancement in education and in medicine.   Here is some information about this:

ELAM (Latin American School of Medicine) Cuba  Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM), formerly Escuela Latinoamericana de Ciencias Médicas (in Spanish; in English: Latin American School of Medicine (LASM), formerly Latin American School of Medical Sciences), is a major international medical school in Cuba and a prominent part of the Cuban healthcare system. 

 
Established in 1999 and operated by the Cuban government, ELAM has been described as possibly being the largest medical school in the world by enrollment with approximately 19,550 students from 110 countries reported as enrolled in 2013.[1] All those enrolled are international students from outside Cuba and mainly come from Latin America and the Caribbean as well as Africa and Asia. The school accepts students from the United States – 91 were reportedly enrolled as of January 2007. Tuition, accommodation and board are free, and a small stipend is provided for students ….  
Preference is given to applicants who are financially needy and/or people of color who show the most commitment to working in their poor communities.  (Wikipedia).  


Below is an article by scholar Piero Gleijeses about Cuba’s important role in Africa .

Thank you Fidel Castro and the Cuban people – we honor you for your service to freedom and justice. 

Peace,  Heather Gray

Associated Press
Why South Africa Loves Cuba

Piero Gleijeses

Piero Gleijeses is a professor of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. All quotes from the article are drawn from his latest book: Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991, The University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

January 14, 2014
Global Learning

While the American news media recently focused on “the handshake” between President Obama and Raúl Castro, it is worth pondering why the organizers of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service invited Raúl Castro to be one of only six foreign leaders-of the ninety-one in attendance-to speak at the ceremony. Not only was Raúl Castro accorded that honor, but he also received by far the warmest introduction: “We now will get an address from a tiny island, an island of people who liberated us … the people of Cuba,” the chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) said. Such words echo what Mandela himself said when he visited Cuba in 1991: “We come here with a sense of the great debt that is owed the people of Cuba … What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?”

Many factors led to the demise of apartheid. The white South African government was defeated not just by the power of Mandela, the courage of the South African people, or the worldwide movement to impose sanctions. It was also brought down by the defeat of the South African military in Angola. This explains the prominence of Raúl Castro at the memorial service: it was Cuban troops that humiliated the South African army. In the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba changed the course of history in southern Africa despite the best efforts of the United States to prevent it.

In October 1975, the South Africans, encouraged by the Gerald Ford administration, invaded Angola to crush the leftwing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). They would have succeeded had not 36,000 Cuban soldiers suddenly poured into Angola.  By April 1976, the Cubans had pushed the South Africans out.  As the CIA noted, Castro had not consulted Moscow before sending his troops (as is clear from later tense meetings with the Soviet leadership in the 1980s.) The Cubans, Kissinger confirmed in his memoirs, had confronted the Soviets with a fait accompli. Fidel Castro understood that the victory of Pretoria (with Washington in the wings) would have tightened the grip of white domination over the people of southern Africa. It was a defining moment: Castro sent troops to Angola because of his commitment to what he has called “the most beautiful cause,” the struggle against apartheid. As Kissinger observed later, Castro “was probably the most genuine revolutionary leader then in power.”

The tidal wave unleashed by the Cuban victory in Angola washed over South Africa. “Black Africa is riding the crest of a wave generated by the Cuban success in Angola,” noted the World, South Africa’s major black newspaper. “Black Africa is tasting the heady wine of the possibility of realizing the dream of total liberation.” Mandela later recalled hearing about the Cuban victory in Angola while he was incarcerated on Robben Island. “I was in prison when I first heard of the massive aid that the internationalist Cuban troops were giving to the people of Angola. … We in Africa are accustomed to being the victims of countries that want to grab our territory or subvert our sovereignty. In all the history of Africa this is the only time a foreign people has risen up to defend one of our countries.”

Pretoria, however, had not given up: even after retreating from the Cubans, it hoped to topple Angola’s MPLA government. Cuban troops remained in Angola to protect it from another South African invasion. Even the CIA conceded that they were “necessary to preserve Angolan independence.” In addition, the Cubans trained ANC guerrillas as well as SWAPO rebels, who were fighting for the independence of Namibia from the South Africans who illegally occupied it.  From 1981 to 1987, the South Africans launched bruising invasions of southern Angola. It was a stalemate-until November 1987, when Castro decided to push the South Africans out of the country once and for all. His decision was triggered by the fact that the South African army had cornered the best units of the Angolan army in the southern Angolan town of Cuito Cuanavale. And his decision was made possible by the Iran Contra scandal rocking Washington. Until the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in late 1986, weakening and distracting the Reagan administration, the Cubans had feared that the United States might launch an attack on their homeland. They had therefore been unwilling to deplete their stocks of weapons. But Iran Contra defanged Reagan, and freed Castro to send Cuba’s best planes, pilots, and antiaircraft weapons to Angola. His strategy was to break the South African offensive against Cuito Cuanavale in the southeast and then attack in the southwest, “like a boxer who with his left hand blocks the blow and with his right-strikes.”

On March 23, 1988, the South Africans launched their last major attack against Cuito Cuanavale. It was an abject failure. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff noted, “The war in Angola has taken a dramatic and-as far as the South Africans are concerned-an undesirable turn.”  The Cubans’ left hand had blocked the South African blow while their right hand was preparing to strike: powerful Cuban columns were moving towards the Namibian border, pushing the South Africans back. Cuban MIG-23s began to fly over northern Namibia. US and South African documents prove that the Cubans gained the upper hand in Angola. The Cubans demanded that Pretoria withdraw unconditionally from Angola and allow UN-supervised elections in Namibia. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff warned that if South Africa refused, the Cubans were in a position “to launch a well-supported offensive into Namibia.” The South Africans acknowledged their dilemma: if they refused the Cuban demands, they ran “the very real risk of becoming involved in a full-scale conventional war with the Cubans, the results of which are potentially disastrous.” The South African military was grim: “We must do the utmost to avoid a confrontation.”  Pretoria capitulated. It accepted the Cubans’ demands and withdrew unconditionally from Angola and agreed to UN supervised elections in Namibia, which SWAPO won.

The Cuban victory reverberated beyond Namibia and Angola. In the words of Nelson Mandela, the Cuban victory “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor … [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa … Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point for the liberation of our continent-and of my people-from the scourge of apartheid.”

###

In addition – below is a video to comments from former Cuban Ambassadors to African countries about their role in Africa. Recorded by Heather Gray when in Cuba in 2014. 

History Not Taught is History Forgot: Columbus’ Legacy of Genocide

Introduction

European Violence in America 

Donald Trump talks about violent immigrants in the United States and wanting to throw them out of the country. I think instead it might be a time for Native Americans to kick out those of us who are of European descent. Violence? I can’t think any group in the world as violent as my own people – those of European descent. This is clearly depicted by Ward Churchill below regarding the genocidal Columbus and the excessively violent and inhumane British who came to the American shores. This is not our land and we have been disrespectful of it and especially of its people.

And violent people in America today? I beg to differ with Mr. Trump regarding pointing his finger at the Mexican poor and Muslims many of whom who have been forced off their land and destabilized thanks to US policies that have been a war against the masses in Mexico, US and the Middle East. He should instead look at the people he is surrounding himself with – racists and supremacists such as Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon and others. After 9/11 when President George W. Bush said he was going after terrorists, my first thought was “good” –  he was going after the major terrorists in the US – the Klan and white supremacists who have notoriously wreaked havoc and violence on our people here in the US historically and contemporarily. Alas, it was not to be.

A reminder: ‘When a reporter asked (Gandhi) what he thought of Western civilization, he famously replied: “I think it would be a good idea.”‘ Civilized people? Unfortunately, we are not there yet! I am, however, thankful of the “sanctuary cities” in America! These cities and their mayors are what I refer to as “civilized!” Definition of being “civilized”? Compassion toward the other, especially those outside your own group.

Heather Gray

History Not Taught is History Forgot:

Columbus’ Legacy of Genocide

 

Excerpted from the book “Indians are Us”
(Common Courage Press, 1994)
by
Ward Churchill
www.mit.edu

Columbus and the Beginning of Genocide in the “New World

      It has been contended by those who would celebrate Columbus that accusations concerning his perpetration of genocide are distortive “revisions” of history. Whatever the process unleashed by his “discovery” of the “New World,” it is said, the discoverer himself cannot be blamed. Whatever his defects and offenses, they are surpassed by the luster of his achievements; however “tragic” or “unfortunate” certain dimensions of his legacy may be, they are more than offset by the benefits even for the victims of the resulting blossoming of a “superior civilization” in the Americas. Essentially the same arguments might be advanced with regard to Adolf Hitler: Hitler caused the Volkswagen to be created, after all, and the autobahn. His leadership of Germany led to jet propulsion, significant advances in rocket telemetry, laid the foundation for genetic engineering. Why not celebrate his bona fide accomplishments on behalf of humanity rather than “dwelling” so persistently on the genocidal by-products of his policies?

To be fair, Columbus was never a head of state. Comparisons of him to Nazi SS leader Heinrich Himmler, rather than Hitler, are therefore more accurate and appropriate. It is time to delve into the substance of the defendants’ assertion that Columbus and Himmler, Nazi Lebensraumpolitik (conquest of “living space” in eastern Europe) and the “settlement of the New World” bear more than casual resemblance to one another. This has nothing to do with the Columbian “discovery,” not that this in itself is completely irrelevant. Columbus did not sally forth upon the Atlantic for reasons of “neutral science” or altruism. He went, as his own diaries, reports, and letters make clear, fully expecting to encounter wealth belonging to others. It was his stated purpose to seize this wealth, by whatever means necessary and available, in order to enrich both his sponsors and himself. Plainly, he pre-figured, both in design and by intent, what came next. To this extent, he not only symbolizes the process of conquest and genocide which eventually consumed the indigenous peoples of America, but bears the personal responsibility of having participated in it. Still, if this were all there was to it, the defendants would be inclined to dismiss him as a mere thug along the lines of Al Capone rather than viewing him as a counterpart to Himmler.

The 1492 “voyage of discovery” is, however, hardly all that is at issue. In 1493 Columbus returned with an invasion force of seventeen ships, appointed at his own request by the Spanish Crown to install himself as “viceroy and governor of [the Caribbean islands] and the mainland” of America, a position he held until 1500. Setting up shop on the large island he called Espa-ola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic), he promptly instituted policies of slavery (encomiendo) and systematic extermination against the native Taino population. Columbus’s programs reduced Taino numbers from as many as eight million at the outset of his regime to about three million in 1496. Perhaps 100,000 were left by the time of the governor’s departure. His policies, however, remained, with the result that by 1514 the Spanish census of the island showed barely 22,000 Indians remaining alive. In 1542, only two hundred were recorded. Thereafter, they were considered extinct, as were Indians throughout the Caribbean Basin, an aggregate population which totaled more than fifteen million at the point of first contact with the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, as Columbus was known.

This, to be sure, constitutes an attrition of population in real numbers every bit as great as the toll of twelve to fifteen million about half of them Jewish most commonly attributed to Himmler’s slaughter mills. Moreover, the proportion of indigenous Caribbean population destroyed by the Spanish in a single generation is, no matter how the figures are twisted, far greater than the seventy-five percent of European Jews usually said to have been exterminated by the Nazis. Worst of all, these data apply only to the Caribbean Basin; the process of genocide in the Americas was only just beginning at the point such statistics become operant, not ending, as they did upon the fall of the Third Reich. All told, it is probable that more than one hundred million native people were “eliminated” in the course of Europe’s ongoing “civilization” of the Western Hemisphere.

It has long been asserted by “responsible scholars” that this decimation of American Indians which accompanied the European invasion resulted primarily from disease rather than direct killing or conscious policy. There is a certain truth to this, although starvation may have proven just as lethal in the end. It must be borne in mind when considering such facts that a considerable portion of those who perished in the Nazi death camps died, not as the victims of bullets and gas, but from starvation, as well as epidemics of typhus, dysentery, and the like. Their keepers, who could not be said to have killed these people directly, were nonetheless found to have been culpable in their deaths by way of deliberately imposing the conditions which led to the proliferation of starvation and disease among them. Certainly, the same can be said of Columbus’s regime, under which the original residents were, as a first order of business, permanently dispossessed of their abundant cultivated fields while being converted into chattel, ultimately to be worked to death for the wealth and “glory” of Spain.

Nor should more direct means of extermination be relegated to incidental status. As the matter is put by Kirkpatrick Sale in his recent book, Conquest of Paradise, the tribute system, instituted by the Governor sometime in 1495, was a simple and brutal way of fulfilling the Spanish lust for gold while acknowledging the Spanish distaste for labor. Every Taino over the age of fourteen had to supply the rulers with a hawk’s bell of gold every three months (or in gold-deficient areas, twenty-five pounds of spun cotton); those who did were given a token to wear around their necks as proof that they had made their payment; those who did not were, as [Columbus’s brother, Fernando] says discreetly “punished”-by having their hands cut off, as [the priest, Bartolome de Las Casas
says less discreetly, and left to bleed to death.It is entirely likely that upwards of 10,000 Indians were killed in this fashion alone, on Espa-ola alone, as a matter of policy, during Columbus’s tenure as governor. Las Casas’ Brev’sima relaci-n, among other contemporaneous sources, is also replete with accounts of Spanish colonists (hidalgos) hanging Tainos en masse, roasting them on spits or burning them at the stake (often a dozen or more at a time), hacking their children into pieces to be used as dog feed and so forth, all of it to instill in the natives a “proper attitude of respect” toward their Spanish “superiors.”The Spaniards] made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow; or they opened up his bowels. They tore the babes from their mother’s breast by their feet and dashed their heads against the rocks…They spitted the bodies of other babes, together with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords.No SS trooper could be expected to comport himself with a more unrelenting viciousness. And there is more. All of this was coupled to wholesale and persistent massacres:

A Spaniard…suddenly drew his sword. Then the whole hundred drew theirs and began to rip open the bellies, to cut and kill [a group of Tainos assembled for this purpose] men, women, children and old folk, all of whom were seated, off guard and frightened…And within two credos, not a man of them there remains alive. The Spaniards enter the large house nearby, for this was happening at its door, and in the same way, with cuts and stabs, began to kill as many as were found there, so that a stream of blood was running, as if a great number of cows had perished.

Elsewhere, las Casas went on to recount how in this time, the greatest outrages and slaughterings of people were perpetrated, whole villages being depopulated…The Indians saw that without any offense on their part they were despoiled of their kingdoms, their lands and liberties and of their lives, their wives, and homes. As they saw themselves each day perishing by the cruel and inhuman treatment of the Spaniards, crushed to earth by the horses, cut in pieces by swords, eaten and torn by dogs, many buried alive and suffering all kinds of exquisite tortures… [many surrendered to their fate, while the survivors] fled to the mountains [to starve].

Such descriptions correspond almost perfectly to those of systematic Nazi atrocities in the western USSR offered by William Shirer in Chapter 27 of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. But, unlike the Nazi extermination campaigns of World War II the Columbian butchery on Espa-ola continued until there were no Tainos left to butcher.

Evolution of the Columbian Legacy

Nor was this by any means the end of it. The genocidal model for conquest and colonization established by Columbus was to a large extent replicated by others such as Cortez (in Mexico) a Pizarro (in Peru) during the following half-century. During the same period, expeditions such as those of Ponce de Leon in 1513, Coronado in 1540, and de Soto during the same year were launched with an eye towards effecting the same pattern on the North American continent proper. In the latter sphere the Spanish example was followed and in certain ways intensified by the British, beginning at Roanoake in 1607 and Plymouth in 1620. Overall the process of English colonization along the Atlantic Coast was marked by a series of massacres of native people as relentless and devastating as any perpetrated by the Spaniards. One of the best known illustrations drawn from among hundreds was the slaughter of some 800 Pequots at present-day Mystic, Connecticut, on the night of May 26, 1637.

During the latter portion of the seventeenth century, and throughout most of the eighteenth, Great Britain battled France for colonial primacy in North America. The resulting sequence of four “French and Indian Wars” greatly accelerated the liquidation of indigenous people as far west as the Ohio River Valley. During the last of these, concluded in 1763 history’s first documentable case of biological warfare occurred against Pontiac’s Algonkian Confederacy, a powerful military alliance aligned with the French.

Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander-in-chief of the British forces…wrote in a postscript of a letter to Bouquet [a subordinate] that smallpox be sent among the disaffected tribes. Bouquet replied, also in a postscript, “I will try to [contaminate] them…with some blankets that may fall into their hands, and take care not to get the disease myself.”…To Bouquet’s postscript Amherst replied, “You will do well to [infect] the Indians by means of blankets as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.” On June 24, Captain Ecuyer, of the Royal Americans, noted in his journal: “…we gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the smallpox hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.”

It did. Over the next few months, the disease spread like wildfire among the Mingo, Delaware, Shawnee, and other Ohio River nations, killing perhaps 100,000 people. The example of Amherst’s action does much to dispel the myth that the post contact attrition of Indian people through disease; introduced by Europeans was necessarily unintentional and unavoidable. There are a number earlier instances in which native people felt disease, had been deliberately inculcated among them. For example, the so-called “King Philip’s War” of 1675-76 was fought largely because the Wampanoag and Narragansett nations believed English traders had consciously contaminated certain of their villages with smallpox. Such tactics were also continued by the United States after the American Revolution. At Fort Clark on the upper Missouri River, for instance, the U.S. Army distributed smallpox-laden blankets as gifts among the Mandan. The blankets had been gathered from a military infirmary in St. Louis where troops infected with the disease were quarantined. Although the medical practice of the day required the precise opposite procedure, army doctors ordered the Mandans to disperse once they exhibited symptoms of infection. The result was a pandemic among the Plains Indian nations who claimed at least 125,000 lives, and may have reached a toll several times that number.

Contemporaneously with the events at Fort Clark, the U.S. was also engaged in a policy of wholesale “removal” of indigenous nations east of the Mississippi River, “clearing” the land of its native population so that it might be “settled” by “racially superior” Anglo-Saxon “pioneers.” This resulted in a series of extended forced marches some more than a thousand miles in length in which entire peoples were walked at bayonet-point to locations west of the Mississippi. Rations and medical attention were poor, shelter at times all but nonexistent. Attrition among the victims was correspondingly high. As many as fifty-five percent of all Cherokees, for example, are known to have died during or as an immediate result of that people’s “Trail of Tears.” The Creeks and Seminoles also lost about half their existing populations as a direct consequence of being “removed.” It was the example of nineteenth-century U.S. Indian Removal policy upon which Adolf Hitler relied for a practical model when articulating and implementing his Lebensraumpolitik during the 1930s and ’40s.

By the 1850s, U.S. policymakers had adopted a popular philosophy called “Manifest Destiny” by which they imagined themselves enjoying a divinely ordained right to possess all native property, including everything west of the Mississippi. This was coupled to what has been termed a “rhetoric of extermination” by which governmental and corporate leaders sought to shape public sentiment to embrace the eradication of American Indians. The professed goal of this physical reduction of “inferior” indigenous populations was to open up land for “superior” Euro-American “pioneers.” One outcome of this dual articulation was a series of general massacres perpetrated by the United States military.

A bare sampling of some of the worst must include the 1854 massacre of perhaps 150 Lakotas at Blue River (Nebraska), the 1863 Bear River (Idaho) Massacre of some 500 Western Shoshones, the 1864 Sand Creek (Colorado) Massacre of as many as 250 Cheyennes and Arapahoes, the 1868 massacre of another 300 Cheyennes at the Washita River (Oklahoma), the 1875 massacre of about 75 Cheyennes along the Sappa Creek (Kansas), the 1878 massacre of still another 100 Cheyennes at Camp Robinson (Nebraska), and the 1890 massacre of more than 300 Lakotas at Wounded Knee (South Dakota).

Related phenomena included the army’s internment of the bulk of all Navajos for four years (1864-68) under abysmal conditions at the Bosque Redondo, during which upwards of a third of the population of this nation is known to have perished of starvation and disease. Even worse in some ways was the unleashing of Euro-American civilians to kill Indians at whim, and sometimes for profit. In Texas, for example, an official bounty on native scalps any native scalps was maintained until well into the 1870s. The result was that the indigenous population of this state, once the densest in all of North America, had been reduced to near zero by 1880. As it has been put elsewhere, “The facts of history are plain: Most Texas Indians were exterminated or brought to the brink of oblivion by [civilians] who often had no more regard for the life of an Indian than they had for that of a dog, sometimes less.” Similarly, in California, “the enormous decrease [in indigenous population] from about a quarter-million [in 1800] to less than 20,000 is due chiefly to the cruelties and wholesale massacres perpetrated by miners and early settlers.”

Much of the killing in California and southern Oregon Territory resulted, directly and indirectly, from the discovery of gold in 1849 and the subsequent influx of miners and settlers. Newspaper accounts document the atrocities, as do oral histories of the California Indians today. It was not uncommon for small groups or villages to be attacked by immigrants…and virtually wiped out overnight.

All told, the North American Indian population within the area of the forty-eight contiguous states of the United States, an aggregate group which had probably numbered in excess of twelve million in the year 1500, was reduced by official estimates to barely more than 237,000 four centuries later. This vast genocide historically paralleled in its magnitude and degree only by that which occurred in the Caribbean Basin is the most sustained on record. Corresponding almost perfectly with this upper-ninetieth-percentile erosion of indigenous population by 1900 was the expropriation of about 97.5 percent of native land by 1920. The situation in Canada was/is entirely comparable. Plainly, the Nazi-esque dynamics set in motion by Columbus in 1492 continued, and were not ultimately consummated until the present century.

The Columbian Legacy in the United States

While it is arguable that the worst of the genocidal programs directed against Native North America had ended by the twentieth century, it seems undeniable that several continue into the present. One obvious illustration is the massive compulsory transfer of American Indian children from their families, communities, and societies to Euro-American families and institutions, a policy which is quite blatant in its disregard for Article l(e) of the 1948 Convention. Effected through such mechanisms as the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding school system, and a pervasive policy of placing Indian children for adoption (including “blind” adoption) with non-Indians, such circumstances have been visited upon more than three-quarters of indigenous youth in some generations after 1900. The stated goal of such policies has been to bring about the “assimilation” of native people into the value orientations and belief system of their conquerors. Rephrased, the objective has been to bring about the disappearance of indigenous societies as such, a patent violation of the terms, provisions, and intent of the Genocide Convention (Article I(c)).

An even clearer example is a program of involuntary sterilization of American Indian women by the BIA’s Indian Health Service (IHS) during the 1970s. The federal government announced that the program had been terminated, and acknowledged having performed several thousand such sterilizations. Independent researchers have concluded that as many as forty-two percent of all native women of childbearing age in the United States had been sterilized by that point. That the program represents a rather stark¾and very recent violation of Article I(d) of the 1948 Convention seems beyond all reasonable doubt.

More broadly, implications of genocide are quite apparent in the federal government’s self-assigned exercise of “plenary power” and concomitant “trust” prerogatives over the residual Indian land base pursuant to the Lonewolf v. Hitchcock case (187 U.S. 553(1903)).

This has worked, with rather predictable results, to systematically deny native people the benefit of their remaining material assets. At present, the approximately 1.6 million Indians recognized by the government as residing within the U.S., when divided into the fifty-million-odd acres nominally reserved for their use and occupancy, remain the continent’s largest landholders on a per capita basis. Moreover, the reservation lands have proven to be extraordinarily resource rich, holding an estimated two-thirds of all U.S. “domestic” uranium reserves, about a quarter of the readily accessible low-sulfur coal, as much as a fifth of the oil and natural gas, as well as substantial deposits of copper, iron, gold, and zeolites. By any rational definition, the U.S. Indian population should thus be one of the wealthiest if not the richest population sectors in North America.

Instead, by the federal government’s own statistics, they comprise far and away the poorest. As of 1980, American Indians experienced, by a decided margin, the lowest annual and lifetime incomes on a per capita basis of any ethnic or racial group on the continent. Correlated to this are all the standard indices of extreme poverty: the highest rates of infant mortality, death by exposure and malnutrition, incidence of tuberculosis and other plague disease. Indians experience the highest level of unemployment, year after year, and the lowest level of educational attainment. The overall quality of life is so dismal that alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse are endemic; the rate of teen suicide is also several times that of the nation as a whole. The average life expectancy of a reservation-based Native American male is less than 45 years; that of a reservation-based female less than three years longer.

It’s not that reservation resources are not being exploited, or profits accrued. To the contrary, virtually all uranium mining and milling occurred on or immediately adjacent to reservation land during the life of the Atomic Energy Commission’s ore-buying program, 1952-81. The largest remaining enclave of traditional Indians in North America is currently undergoing forced relocation in order that coal may be mined on the Navajo Reservation.

Alaska native peoples are being converted into landless “village corporations” in order that the oil under their territories can be tapped; and so on. Rather, the BIA has utilized its plenary and trust capacities to negotiate contracts with major mining corporations “in behalf of” its “Indian wards” which pay pennies on the dollar of the conventional mineral royalty rates. Further, the BIA has typically exempted such corporations from an obligation to reclaim whatever reservation lands have been mined, or even to perform basic environmental cleanup of nuclear and other forms of waste. One outcome has been that the National Institute for Science has recommended that the two locales within the U.S. most heavily populated by native people¾the Four Corners Region and the Black Hills Region¾be designated as “National Sacrifice Areas.” Indians have responded that this would mean their being converted into “national sacrifice peoples.”

Even such seemingly innocuous federal policies as those concerning Indian identification criteria carry with them an evident genocidal potential. In clinging insistently to a variation of a eugenics formulation dubbed “blood-quantum” ushered in by the 1887 General Allotment Act, while implementing such policies as the Federal Indian Relocation Program (1956-1982), the government has set the stage for a “statistical extermination” of the indigenous population within its borders. As the noted western historian, Patricia Nelson Limerick, has observed: “Set the blood-quantum at one-quarter, hold to it as a rigid definition of Indians, let intermarriage proceed…and eventually Indians will be defined out of existence. When that happens, the federal government will finally be freed from its persistent ‘Indian problem’.” Ultimately, there is precious little difference, other than matters of style, between this and what was once called the “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem.”

The above article is an excerpt of a legal brief from Ward Churchill’s book Indians Are Us? Culture and Genocide in Native North America (Common Courage Press, 1994). The defendants in the brief are leaders of the American Indian Movement, who were charged for stopping a Columbus Day celebratory parade near the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver, Colorado on October 12, 1991.

[thistle homepage] [Volume 9]

The National Popular Vote Compact

Laughlin McDonald
ACLU Voting Rights Project
November 17, 2016
 
The Existing Electoral College
      Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides that the President and Vice President shall be chosen by “Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the States may be entitled in the Congress.” The Electors, known as the Electoral College, are appointed “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,” and each could vote by ballot for two persons. The person receiving “the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed.” However, if more than one person receives such a majority, and has an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives would choose the President. If no person has a majority, the House of Representatives would choose the President from among the top five contenders. In choosing the President, each state would have one vote. The Vice Presidency would then go to the remaining person with the greatest number of votes, but in the event of a tie the Senate would choose the Vice President.
     In the presidential election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received an equal number of Electoral College votes (73), as well as a majority (52.9%) of the votes of the number of electors appointed.   Jefferson was eventually elected President by the House of Representatives by a vote of 10 to 4, but only on the 36th ballot. In an effort to prevent such ties in the future, the Twelfth Amendment was adopted in 1804 requiring that each Elector cast one vote for President and a separate vote for Vice President. The person “having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed.” In the event no person receives such a majority, the House of Representatives chooses the President from among the top three vote getters, with each state casting only one vote and a majority of votes being required to elect. The person receiving “the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors.” If no person receives a majority, the Senate selects the Vice President from among the top two vote getters, with a majority of votes being required to elect.
The National Popular Vote Compact
      The National Popular Vote Compact provides that state election officials in all states participating in the plan would award their Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who receives the largest number of popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.[1] National Popular Vote is an interstate compact that would not go into effect until enacted by states collectively possessing a majority of the electoral vote – 270 of the 538 electoral votes. As of 2016, eleven jurisdictions have passed a National Popular Vote Bill – the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington, Vermont, California, Rhode Island, and New York. That amounts to 165 (61%) of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate the compact. The bill has passed a total of 34 legislative chambers in 23 states.
      To prevent partisan manipulation, the compact contains a six-month blackout period from before the election through the January 20 inauguration during which a state would be prevented from withdrawing from the compact. The compact would also eliminate the possibility under the existing system of faithless presidential electors, i.e., an elector casting a ballot for a candidate other than the one chosen by the majority of the state’s voters. It would also eliminate the possibility that a presidential election would be decided by the House of Representatives and a vice presidential election would be decided by the Senate in the event no person received a majority of the Electoral College votes. It would further eliminate the possibility that a candidate who received the most popular votes, but did not receive a majority of the Electoral College vote, could lose the election, as happened in the Bush-Gore 2000 election.[2] The 2000 election was the fourth time in American history when the winner of the popular vote failed to win the presidency – in 1824 (Adams-Jackson),[3] 1876 (Hayes-Tilden),[4] 1888 (Harrison-Cleveland),[5] and 2000 (Bush-Gore). The 2016 presidential election was the fifth time in American history when the winner of the popular vote failed to win the presidency – Clinton-Trump.[6] On only one occasion has a candidate who got a majority of the popular vote lost the presidential election – Tilden in 1876.
      Today, all states choose their Electors by direct statewide election, except Maine and Nebraska, which select two Electors by a statewide popular vote and the remainder by the popular vote in each Congressional district. Under National Popular Vote, the Electors would be selected based on a nationwide popular vote.
Policies Underlying the Electoral College and the National Popular Vote    
      The electoral college from its basic conception was and is an undemocratic institution. It was brought into being based on a concept of elitism, under which the most distinguished citizens of each state would choose the President and Vice-President of the United States, unhampered by the wishes of those who selected the electors. The adoption of the National Popular Vote would ensure that the President of the United States would be chosen by direct popular election. National Popular Vote is based on the principle that each individual is entitled to the equal protection of the laws in having an elector’s vote equally weighed, and on its corollary enunciated in the one-person, one vote rule.
Is the National Popular Vote Compact Constitutional?
      The constitutionality of the National Popular Vote compact is strongly supported by Article II of the Constitution which provides that: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” Thus, the states have inherent power to select their Electors as they see fit, provided the method of selection does not violate some other provision of the constitution, e.g., the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments. See McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U.S. 1, 25 (1892) (Article II “cannot be held to operate as a limitation on” the power to appoint electors).
      One could argue that it is unconstitutional to award the votes of a state to Candidate A when Candidate B got a majority of the state’s popular vote merely because Candidate A got a majority of the votes nationwide, and that to do so would amount to vote denial. But votes are similarly denied in all elections; those who vote for a losing candidate have their votes disregarded.
      Critics of National Popular Vote have also argued that it is a compact which cannot be implemented absent congressional approval under Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the Constitution, which provides: “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress . . . Enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power.” Proponents of National Popular Vote say Congress could always give its consent, but that the compact clause would not be applicable because it only applies to compacts that encroach on federal power. See Northeast Bancorp, Inc. v. Board of Governors of Federal Reserve System, 472 U.S. 159, 175-76 (1985) (“The application of the Compact Clause is limited to agreements that are ‘directed to the formation of any combination tending to the increase of political power in the States, which may encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States.'”). Given the authority granted states by Section II of the Constitution to select Electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,” it is difficult to see how National Popular Vote would run afoul of the Compact Clause.
      Critics also argue that federal consent is required because it affects the interests of non-compacting states. However, the Supreme Court has apparently never rejected a compact based on a sister state interest theory.
Abolition of the Electoral College
      California Senator Barbara Boxer, following the 2016 presidential election, has also proposed a constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college. According to Senator Boxer: “This is the only office in the land where you can get more votes and still lose the presidency. The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately.”

[1]The official title of the bill is “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.”
[2]Albert Gore got 48.38% of the popular vote, but only 266 (49.44%) Electoral College Votes. George W. Bush got 47.87% of the popular vote, but 271 (50.37%) Electoral College votes and was elected. None of the third part candidates (Nader, Buchanan & Browne) got any Electoral College votes.
[3]Andrew Jackson got 41.36% of the popular vote and 37.93% of the Electoral College vote, compared to John Quincy Adams who got 30.92% of the popular vote and 32.18% of the Electoral College vote. In the ensuing election in the House of Representatives, Adams received 13 (54.2%) votes, Jackson 7 (29.2%), and William Crawford 4 (16.7%).
[4]Samuel Tilden got a majority (50.92%) of the popular vote, but only 184 Electoral College votes. He lost to Rutherford Hayes, who got 47.92% of the popular vote, but 185 (50.14%) of the Electoral College votes.
[5]Grover Cleveland got 48.6% of the popular vote, but only 41.9% of the Electoral College vote. He lost to Benjamin Harrison who got 47.8% of the popular vote, but 58.1% of the Electoral College vote.
[6]According to recent counts, Clinton got 47.8% of the popular vote, but only 232 (43.1%) of the Electoral College vote. She lost to Trump who got 47% of the popular vote but 306 (56.9%) of the Electoral College vote. While not all votes have been counted, Clinton is estimated to have received 1.2 million more votes than Trump.

Contact: Laughlin McDonald, ACLU Voting Rights Project, lmcdonald@aclu.org

First Democratic Elections in South Africa in 1994: Where Votes Matter 

by Heather Gray
March 16, 2016
 

Note: I first wrote this article in 2006, 12 years after the 1994 South African elections. It was posted on Counterpunch. I am re-sending this slightly edited article about the experience, now 22 years after those elections when I was fortunate to serve as an international observer.  I want to start with the prose below that I wrote about Tandi Gcabashe who was our leader in Atlanta during the anti-apartheid struggle. It was with her that a number of us traveled to South Africa for this momentous occasion.

Heather Gray & Tandi Gcabashe –  Johannesburg 1994

 To Tandi

by Heather Gray
20 April 1994 Johannesburg, South Africa 
(written and read to Tandi at a dinner in Johannesburg preceding
the first democratic elections in South Africa)
There’s the smile, the gleam in her eye,
a tease about something or other and…
Suddenly you are hers, of her family.
The generosity, beauty, wisdom and
humility are Tandi, but more than that…
It is the richness of her African soul that has
Profoundly touched her countless
brothers and sisters on both continents.
Twenty-four years in exile.
The painful separation from loved ones,
Her  own personal struggles, and yet…
The commitment, the dreams, the hard work,
the valiant and forthright call for justice,
the uncanny ability to unselfishly calm and
elevate the souls of those she has taken under her wing are constant.
With her very presence she has inspired us in the quest to
understand, to analyze and to never, never waiver in the
struggle for and with those treated unjustly.
As our mentor and learned teacher she has drawn us to Africa.
Tandi, we are honored to hold your hand in the land of  your
ancestors. This moment, this day, this year are yours and that of your people.
We love you and thank you for allowing us the privilege  of
sharing this unprecedented historical moment with you.

(Note: Tandi Gcabashe directed the American Friends Service Committee’s Southeast Regional Southern Africa Peace Education Program (1981-1994). Her father, Chief Albert Luthuli, was the president of the African National Congress and in 1960 became the.first African recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was killed  mysteriously in South Africa in 1967.)

As the United States is about to enter into another national election, I thought I would share something about my experiences in South Africa. It’s hard to believe that 22 years have passed since South Africa held it’s first democratic election. Many of us thought, though, that this would never happen in our lifetime. Serving as an international observer in those elections in 1994 was almost a surreal experience.

1994 Nelson Mandela Inauguration in Pretoria (photo Heather Gray)

So many memories are invoked as I think about it all. Involvement in the anti-apartheid movement in years prior to the election gave resonance to this experience. One of our mentors in the movement in Atlanta, and in the U.S. generally, was Tandi Gcabashe who was exiled in the United States for decades. She was the daughter of the great Chief Albert Luthuli who was head of the African National Congress (ANC), the first African Nobel Peace Prize winner, in 1960, for his part in the anti-Apartheid struggle, and who was killed mysteriously in 1967 in Natal, South Africa.

I remember how, in the 1980’s, Tandi would challenge us relentlessly to act and to organize! Once when we were planning one of our many demonstrations, it was raining and miserable. I told Tandi I didn’t think folks would be coming out for the event so perhaps it should be cancelled. She reprimanded me by saying, “Heather, South Africans continue to be oppressed whether it rains or shines. The least we can do is demonstrate in bad weather.” Indeed! We demonstrated!

I recall when Tandi wanted to go back to South Africa in the late 1980’s to visit her ailing mother and that at first she couldn’t obtain a visa from the South African government. Finally, after a white South African came to her aide, she received a visa from the South African consulate in Houston, Texas. It was a long time coming. Later, Tandi told me she saw the files of her activities in the United States that were in the South African consulate. “They were huge,” she said. “They included even speeches I had written but never given.” Everyone knew the South African Bureau of State Security (BOSS) was everywhere, including in Atlanta, of course. Its violence was renowned, from letter bombings to harassment and other oppressive chilling activities all over the world. This was clearly a concrete demonstration of its thorough work.

I recall when Neo Mnumzana, head of the ANC observer mission at the United Nations, spoke at an event in Atlanta in which South African and non-South African white panelists told him what they thought should be the goals of the freedom movement. I listened in amazement and disbelief at it all as they challenged his opinions. Neo told me later that whites, “never want us to be truly free or make our own decisions.” Regarding Black Americans, Neo also told me that many of them think they are free because they have cars, live in suburbs and have the appearance of independence. But, he said, “No matter how much you turn the slave cabin into a palace, or plait the chains of slavery with gold, you will never be free if you don’t have the right of self-determination.

Many of my ANC friends had expected that if the South African apartheid government fell, the U.S. would engage in a “contra-like” invasion similar to Ronald Reagan’s tragic Contra War against the Nicaraguan revolution. Some also told me that if a change is to take place, it had best happen while the Democrats are in power. In fact, under George Bush I in the late 1980’s, there were questionable rehabilitation activities in airbases in Zaire, which some thought might be in preparation for a U.S. invasion. The U.S. government and the right-wing, with the likes of Reverend Pat Robertson, had, after-all, been supportive of the anti-freedom efforts in southern Africa for years. Examples are abundant of course, but Angola is a striking and painful one.

During the Reagan years, the U.S. had supported and supplied thousands of land mines (left over from the Vietnam War) to forces in Angola opposed to the revolutionary government that had wrenched itself from Portuguese colonial rule in 1975. These mines still plague the Angolan people. Angola used to be the breadbasket of southern Africa. Now, when farmers go into the fields, there is still a threat of being blown to bits or losing limbs from land mines. Angola has held the record for having the largest number of amputees per capita in the world.

In Atlanta, for a while, living in my house was David Ndaba, his wife Thabi and one year old son Suku. David, as a young South African student in Soweto, had participated in the 1976 Soweto Student Uprising that resulted in the tragic harassment and death of students by the South African police. The students were protesting the apartheid government’s plans to teach only in Afrikaans – the language of the oppressor. A brilliant math student, David was forced to leave South Africa and his plans for a medical degree. Finally, after spending time at the ANC Observer Mission at the United Nations, he was accepted into the Morehouse Medical School in the 1980’s. He ultimately became the personal physician of Mandela’s successor, President Thabo Mbeki.

And so here it was, in 1994, with Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House, that many of us ventured to serve as international election observers in South Africa. This included, of course,  the observation of the victory of ANC leader Nelson Mandela as he became the president of a new democratic South Africa. Many in the U.S. chose not to come to South Africa because there had been violence prior to the election and more violence was thought to be in the offing.

I was there with an Atlanta group of activists under the auspices of the U.S. based Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. We first gathered in Johannesburg before we went to our various locations to observe. While there I asked my ANC friends if I could meet the person in the ANC most involved with land issues. They promptly introduced me to Derrick Hanekom who, that very day, had been asked by Mandela to serve as his Minister of Land Affairs. With Hanekom and others, I learned about the land movement in South Africa, how challenging it had been, and continues to be,  and about the imprisonment of almost all these folks, including Hanekom, as they fought for land reform and freedom during the apartheid years.

I recall how, in Johannesburg, a representative of the U.S. Embassy tried to warn us that some of us might not live through the South African elections. He was booed from the stage and out of the room. One observer stood to tell him “We have been working for this auspicious election for most of our adult lives in America and in our support of the South African freedom struggle. We will not allow you to destroy this moment for us!” The effort could be dangerous, however, and most of us knew that.

That same evening, the representative from the Lawyers Committee told us, tongue in cheek, that “We know we have observers here from Chicago. We doubt, however, how Chicago voters can contribute to a fair and free election in South Africa!” Everyone in the room burst into laughter, especially the Chicago group including, the course, the renowned organizer and anti-apartheid activist Prexy Nesbitt – everyone knew that Chicagoans have been famous for voting early and often.

Prexy tells me that at the orientation that evening when the US Embassy representative got booed off the stage, the late and wonderful African American lawyer, Haywood Burns, “walked up to me upon learning that I was going to be observing in violence-ridden Natal Province“. He embraced me and said, “‘Prexy, I’ve known you too many years. Don’t let your crazy-ass self get hurt over that in Buthelezi territory!!How ironic and sad that that same wonderful man would a few years later be killed in a Cape Town traffic accident while doing legal solidarity work in the country! Like so many other internationals, he left a great legacy for not only South Africans but for all the world to grow upon.” (Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi was the head of the Inkatha Freedom Party in opposition to Mandela and the African National Congress.)

The organizing prior to the election was impressive. There were people of all races working together to ensure a successful and inclusive election. We in the United States could learn considerably from the South Africans.

As it was recognized that many South Africans could neither read nor write, the paper ballot lent itself to an inclusive process. One line was devoted to each party. On the line there was the name of the party (i.e. African National Congress), the logo of the party, the initial of the party (ANC) and the photo of the leader of the party (Mandela). Voters selected the political party of their choice by placing a mark on the line of the party they wanted.

Anti-personnel carrier & military in Johannesburg pre-election 1994
(photo Heather Gray)

I went with some in my group to observe the election in Cape Town. When we arrived. the city was rather a ghost town. Many white South Africans had left as they feared the possible eruption of violence and tourists were non-existent. From my hotel I could see Robben Island where Mandela had been imprisoned. We went to political rallies a few days before the election that included the Democratic Party, the ANC, the Pan African Congress Party and the National Party of the incumbent President F. W. DeKlerk.

While taking a break from the rallies and having tea in a café, we heard sirens and looked up to see DeKlerk walking down the street. Suddenly there was a throng of defiant and jubilant ANC supporters following him while shouting chants and dancing the famous and invigorating “toi toi”. They shouted “One Mandela-One president”. I found myself caught in the throng and took countless pictures, while holding up my tape recorder.

On April 26, the first voters I observed were in Pollsmoor Prison where Mandela was imprisoned in 1982, after Robben Island where he had been held since 1964. We were shown his cell. Nelson Mandela was the most famous inmate of the prison. He describes Pollsmoor Prison as “‘the truth of Oscar Wilde’s haunting line about the tent of blue that prisoners call the sky‘” (Pollsmoor Prison).

On 31 March 1982 Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba and Andrew Mlangeni were transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, while Ahmed Kathrada, Elias Motsoaledi and Govan Mbeki were left behind. They were also finally moved to Pollsmoor in April. That same year a campaign demanding the release of all political prisoners was launched in South Africa and abroad. The campaign was titled ‘Release Nelson Mandela’ and together with the campaign for economic and other sanctions against South Africa become the symbol of the international Anti-Apartheid Movement. For several decades it was the largest social movement in the world (South African History Online).

We observed prisoners voting in the minimum, medium, and maximum-security areas of the prison. It was one of my most memorable experiences. After one maximum-security prisoner voted he lifted his arms and shouted “Yes”. Many of us observers wondered what we in the United States did to help prisoners to vote in our own country.

The ANC had wanted all prisoners to vote. The day before the election, however, the National Party government forced a compromise that all prisoners could vote, except those accused of murder. The prisoners revolted because of this ruling and, as we drove to the prison, hanging from many of the windows were burned mattresses as a profound symbol of discontent.

All over Cape Town there were huge long lines of voters. Many stood in the heat for hours. People were scurrying around to help the elders and bring them to the front of the line. Everyone seemed anxious to vote. There was electricity and excitement in the air. I met whites who were voting for the first time as well – some had refused to vote during the apartheid era.

In South Africa there was a tiered hierarchy based on color. Whites were on the top, followed by coloreds and blacks, who were the majority in the country, of course, were given the least rights of all. Blacks were mostly affiliated with the ANC political party. Coloreds were mostly associated with South Africa’s Democratic Party.

In one “colored” area of Cape Town we encountered potential violence between two rival groups of ANC and Democratic Party supporters. As the tension rose with yelling and screaming from both sides of the street, I found myself along with others falling on the ground for protection. Two South African anti-personnel carriers suddenly appeared. The tension was dispelled.

We went to a hospital where organizers were assisting patients to vote. It was impressive. If patients could not walk to the voting booth, the booth was brought to their room. I talked to one young white organizer who was helping black patients to vote. He said, “We will do everything we can to help people vote.”

Truck delivery of ballot boxes at Cape Town Town Hall (photo Heather Gray)

After the election, we observed the counting of the vote. It was perhaps one of the most explicit examples of successful electoral democracy at work. The ballot boxes were brought in trucks to the City Hall in Cape Town. As the ballot boxes were taken off the truck we were there. Each box was sealed. We recorded the province the box came from, the Box number and the seal number. For example, in my notebook the first box I recorded was from Station AO512, the Box Number was 049053, and the Seal Number was 260991. I recorded 63 boxes altogether.

Carrying ballot box into the Cape Town Town Hall  (photo Heather Gray)

Then came the counting. The hall was filled with tables. At each table there were representatives of the various parties as the ballots were counted. When each ballot was taken from the box, the voter’s choice was verbally announced and then it was written in the tally sheets. If there was a dispute about what the voter intended, all parties at the table made the determination on the spot about what to do with the ballot. With numerous witnesses, that included representatives of various parties, there appeared to be a level of confidence in the counting. Something we in the United States seem to be lacking at present with concern of the electronic voting machines and therefore about possible manipulation and lack of accountability.

The election process was with the direct involvement of the people. It was the people themselves being responsible for their election and the counting of the ballots. It did not include a computer, not a touch screen instrument of questionable integrity, but people, warm bodies, making collective decisions and counting the ballots. I was in awe and wondered why those in the United States can’t seem to do this.

I stayed for Nelson Mandela’s inauguration. It took place on May 10, 1994 in Pretoria and what a celebration it was. Tandi Gcabashe and her mother were on the stage along with Fidel Castro and others. Tandi told me that she mentioned to her ANC colleagues that the South African whites were probably helping the ANC with the protocol of what to do with the international dignitaries who came to the ceremony. She was told by ANC leaders, however, that the whites were clueless, as for years they had been ostracized by world governments and hadn’t experienced anything like this. A new day had come to be sure.

Nelson Mandela Inauguration in Pretoria – a celebration!
(photo Heather Gray)

Tandi, who now lives in South Africa, embodies the African philosophy of “umbuntu” that is also consistently promoted by the South African leader Bishop Tutu. Umbuntu means, people being connected to one another, as in “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

A few years after the election, Tandi became the South African ambassador to Venezuela.

There are, today, enormous challenges in South Africa. It will take years for South Africans to turn around the mess created by Europeans in that beautiful country. And the election process in 1994 was not perfect – is it ever? But, oh, what a thrill and privilege it was to be there!

HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net.

 ##

Briebart’s Steve Bannon as Trump’s Chief Strategist? You can’t be serious! My connection with Briebart and how he tried to undermine the civil rights leader Shirley Sherrod

 

Heather Gray
November 15, 2016

Introduction

Donald Trump is appointing one of the most egregious media people in the country to serve as his Chief Strategist – Steve Bannon of the Briebart News! This is mind boggling and disturbing. In 2012, Bannon became the executive chairman of Breitbart News. Briebart “is a politically conservative American news, opinion and commentary website noted for its connection to the alt-right” (Wikipedia). (See information below in the addendum about the “alt-right”.) While there are many stories about this conservative media entity, below is one of the most astounding deliberate lies and distortions emanating from Briebart News and it had to do with the renowned civil rights leader Shirley Sherrod in 2010.

Shirley’s husband Charles Sherrod was the leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the Albany civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Shirley and Charles Sherrod

In 2010, Andrew Briebart (1969-2012) attempted to implicate Shirley Sherrod as a racist because of a speech she gave at an NAACP meeting in Georgia in March 2010. The speech, in video form, had been completely distorted by Briebart News. Sherrod was immediately forced to resign from her US Department of Agriculture (USDA) position in Georgia as a result.

At the time, however, I was Director of Communications for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund where Shirley had worked before taking the USDA position. I spoke with Shirley the day after she got word from USDA that she was being  forced to resign. This unconscionable action by Briebart and the USDA was astounding.  For one, Briebart was seemingly deliberately attempting to undermine our civil rights leadership in the US. Secondly, the USDA believed him without even a review of the video to determine its validity. Astounding!  Ultimately, Shirley did sue Briebart and there was a settlement. (Click here for the joint statement regarding the settlement.) The point is, however, in my opinion, you can’t believe anything coming from Briebart News. And this is the person Trump chooses as his Chief Strategist – Bannon, the executive manager of Briebart! What a mess!

In 2010, I wrote two articles about Shirley and this controversy that were posted on Counterpunch. One article, entitled “The Saga of Shirley Sherrod” was essentially about the USDA and Shirley, and other one was about How Shirley Sherrod Saved a White-Owned Farm in South Georgia.

Below is an edited version of the article about Shirley saving the white-owned farm combined with information about the Briebart and USDA incident.

Discrimination against Shirley Sherrod by Briebart and about Sherrod saving a White Farmer’s land

 

Shirley Sherrod with farmers Roger and Eloise Spooner

In March 2010, Shirley Sherrod spoke before the NAACP in Douglas, Georgia. As the first Black director of the USDA’s Rural Development in Georgia, and a long history of advocating for justice and civil rights in the rural south, Shirley had much to share.

One experience, that Shirley has recounted numerous times with audiences, was how she helped save the farm of a white family in the 1980’s. It was life changing for her. She talked about this at the NAACP gathering and it was her presentation at this gathering that was distorted and distributed by Fox News and that led to her being forced to resign from USDA. The distortion made it look as if Shirley was racist; that she had not provided the assistance that she could or should to a white farmer who asked her for assistance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The consequence of the distorted video and the actions of the Secretary of Agriculture by asking Shirley to resign is yet another shameful chapter in the history of American agriculture and the USDA. The decision by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was made without him knowing the details. Nevertheless, he did apologize, as did President Obama, and that is, at least, appropriate and Shirley accepted their apologies.

I spoke with Shirley the morning after she was asked to resign and she shared with me what happened at the NAACP event as well as her experience with the white farmer who was referred to in the distorted video.

Here is the unedited full speech Shirley gave at the NAACP meeting:

Shirley Sherrod speaking at Georgia NAACP meeting in 2010
Shirley Sherrod speaking at Georgia NAACP meeting in 2010

First, though, a definition of racism needs to be given and it is this: Everyone (white, black or brown) can and often does discriminate against someone else. This is probably human nature. Racism, however, is defined as “discrimination plus the power to enforce your discriminatory views”. In no way can Blacks be racist in America. Blacks don’t control the government, the banks, corporate America, or the courts. At the helm of these institutions in America are whites – and predominantly white males.

I am a white female and know that it’s those of us who are white who are the racists. We control everything and can enforce our discriminatory views be it against blacks, immigrants, the poor, etc. You name whatever the prevailing discriminatory view might be among whites and rest assured we can usually enforce it. You can also rest assured that by doing so we whites demonstrate not a semblance of justice or an understanding of so-called democracy.

It’s we who are white who are in need of learning about justice and democracy and what they mean and about our abysmal supremacist past. We are the ones who need to get beyond our intransigent views. Shirley tries to teach us.

In the 1980’s Shirley was Georgia Field Director for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (Federation) that works primarily with Black farmers throughout the South. The organization grew out of the civil rights movement to assist farmers and rural communities across the region with, for example, land retention, access to credit and USDA programs, housing, farm management and importantly cooperative economic development. It continues with this important work today.

The 1980’s were a time when black and white farmers were losing their farms in record numbers.

In 1986, Shirley was approached by a white farmer who needed help. This was the first time she had been asked for
assistance from a white farmers. He was Roger Spooner from Iron City, Georgia. For someone white to ask for assistance from a black person was not the order of things in the South. He had been referred by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Also Carolyn Mugar, director of FARM AID, was referring white farmers to the Federation for assistance in the 1980’s as FARM AID continues to do today.

The meeting at first was somewhat uncomfortable. Spooner spent much of the time at the beginning of their discussion, according to Shirley, trying to demonstrate that he was superior to her. Southern poor whites have been socialized into thinking they are better than Blacks. It is always the classic divide and rule strategy by the white elite in the South to keep whites and blacks separated and controlled. In fact, Shirley mentions this scenario in her NAACP speech about the history of how the races were divided by the white elite and why.

But in spite of all, Shirley recognized Spooner needed help.

There was a lot to consider as to what would be best for him and where she should seek assistance for him. She also thought that perhaps it was best that someone in the white community help him as her networks were not necessarily prepared to rally assistance for white farmers.

It was the beginning of a process that changed Shirley’s life as well as that of the Spooner family. It was a growing and learning time for both.

Spooner’s visit to Shirley came just after Congress had passed the Chapter 12 bankruptcy provision to assist family farmers. Under Chapter 12 farmers could hold on to their land while arranging whatever they could to retain ownership. Chapter 12 also required that farmers had been in operation the previous year, otherwise, they were not able to file.

He needed an attorney. Shirley contacted a white attorney in Albany who she knew had gone through the Chapter 12 training. She also went with Spooner to the meeting with the attorney.

She, Spooner and his wife Eloise, then kept in close contact in the subsequent months and years as Spooner tried to hold on to his farm. Shirley helped him every step of the way.

One of the challenges faced by Spooner, however, and what was an eye opener for Shirley, was that the USDA county supervisor had rented Spooner’s farm to other producers without his approval. Because of this, Spooner was not able to file Chapter 12, as he could not claim having farmed the year before. Shirley had never witnessed this kind of abusive behavior by the USDA county supervisors even against Black farmers.

As it turned out, the Albany attorney was abysmal and did little for Spooner. Finally, in May of 1987, Spooner received a foreclosure notice along with 13 others in Georgia. He called Shirley and she asked him to come immediately. It was on Thursday before Memorial Day that they met. Time was limited as the farm was to be auctioned on the courthouse steps the week after Memorial Day.

They visited his Albany attorney who said, “You’re getting old, why don’t you let the farm go?” Shirley was outraged by the comment.

She then contacted another attorney in Americus, Georgia who had helped black farmers associated with the Federation. He immediately offered his assistance. On Tuesday after Memorial Day the attorney had the Spooner papers. Because Chapter 12 was not useful to Spooner, the attorney instead filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Spooner farm was saved, although the Chapter 11 filing was just the beginning of a process. It took two years for a final resolution. In the meantime, Shirley and the Spooners kept in close contact and a friendship evolved. They would often have lunches together after discussing the case. In the late 1980’s there was a conference in Atlanta on Black landloss issues. Shirley asked if the Spooner’s would like to attend. Roger Spooner drove his truck all the way from Florida so that he and his wife could drive from Albany with Shirley to the conference in Atlanta.

The lessons learned for Shirley from this experience were profound. While she had always thought that the white community and white farmers could work the system for their benefit, she realized this was not always the case. The Spooner’s were poor whites. They, as whites, had been treated by the USDA in a way she had not witnessed. She became aware that the problems farmers experienced were not only racial, but that it was also a question of those who have and those who do not. She stressed the importance of moving beyond race and for blacks and whites to work together and help each other. It was this that Shirley wanted to share with the NAACP.

Addendum

Alt-right

The alt-right is a loose group of people with far right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in the United States.The writings of the group are largely Internet-based and are found on websites such as 4chan and 8chan, where anonymous members create and use Internet memes to express themselves.It is difficult to tell how much of what people write is serious, and how much is intended to provoke outrage.Members of the alt-right use social media like Twitter and Breitbart News to convey their message.

Generally alt-right postings support Republican President-elect Donald Trump, and oppose immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness.

The alt-right has no formal ideology, although various sources have stated that white nationalism is fundamental. It has also been associated with white supremacism, Islamophobia, antifeminism,  homophobia, antisemitism, ethno-nationalism, right-wing populism, nativism, traditionalism, and the neoreactionary movement. ‘Alt-right’ is a recently coined umbrella term, with no clear criteria of membership yet agreed upon. The movement has been associated with multiple ideologies from American nationalism, neo-monarchists to men’s rights advocates and people who oppose mainstream conservatism. (Wikipedia)

HEATHER GRAY is the producer of “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She has been involved in agriculture advocacy and communications for 20 years in the United States and internationally. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net

Mr. Trump, have you ever read the quote at the Statue of Liberty?

By Heather Gray

November 14, 2016

At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Mr. Khizr Khan, who became a United States citizen after emigrating from Pakistan in 1980 and whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq, made a sensation when he asked Mr. Trump the following: “Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy,” …. while pulling a miniature version of the country’s founding document from his coat pocket “(NY Times).

The question to Donald Trump was a wise one regarding the Constitution. But being from New York and given all his disparagement of immigrants I wondered whether Trump had ever read the famous quote on the plaque by the Statue of Liberty which has become synonymous with the welcoming arms of America along with the assumption of respect, freedom and justice. The famous quote is as follows:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Statue of Liberty

The quote comes from a sonnet by Emma Lazarus  written in 1883 and entitled “New Colussus” “which she wrote for a fundraiser auction to raise money for the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty now sits” (Statue).  Here is the entire sonnet:

New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

I am an immigrant as well and have lived in and been citizens of three of the major former British white settler colonies – that being Canada, the United States and Australia and I have also lived in Singapore that was part of the British empire.

Given all this experience and observations, I want to shift the paradigm here. I want to shift the paradigm here. Most assumptions are that migrants come to the US to benefit themselves. Now that might be true in many instances yet it is often because the United States policies have destroyed or destabilized their home country which has made life excessively difficult for them.

However, there is another side to this story as well. Migrants benefit the US culture and economy in countless ways. In other words, we benefit from migrants who invariably offer skills, cultural advancements, diversity and especially new and exciting markets. As I write in my article below, we shoot ourselves in the foot if we do not acknowledge these benefits with people from other countries who join the cultural melting pot that is America. I demonstrate these benefits from my experiences in Australia and the United States.

Immigration in Australia

After World War II Australia began to rapidly increase its immigrant population. It’s growing industries needed laborers. So, Australia appealed to European laborers and many were paid for their relocation. Italians, Yugoslavs, Turks, Portuguese, Scots, Greeks, Serbians, Croatians and others “officially” made their way into the coal mines, steel mills and other Australian laboring jobs. While I was in Australia in the late 60’s and early 70’s these migrants were transforming Australian culture. In the later decades of the 20th century we began to see more Asians coming into Australia as well.

I was in Australia in the 1960s. Because of the migrants, Australia was experiencing an excitement and experimentation with newly discovered Italian and Greek herbs and spices, new sauces, and all kinds of pasta. An interest in an abundance and variety of wines was taking hold. Eating fresh salads was introduced along with a vast array of different vegetables, peppers and fruits. New Italian restaurants in downtown Melbourne were the talk of the town. The Women’s Weekly was filled with recipes introducing herbs and spices never before thought of by Australian women. Anyone not familiar with typical English or Australian cuisine needs to realize that this was an incredible departure from the diet of fish & chips, beer, lamb chops & mint sauce, potatoes, pumpkin and meat pies. New markets and industries evolved. It was transformative. And these are but a few examples! In addition, you might ask, ‘did this variety of new foods make many Australians more healthy’? I would think so.

Immigration in the United States

While America has always had its waves of migrants from all over the world, in the past few decades we have seen considerably more migrants from South and Central America, Africa and from southeast Asia. It has been invariably beneficial for the American society. A similar transformation to what I witnessed in Australia has taken place in the southern United States and opportunities are opening up across the region. The South and Central Americans, Asian and African communities in the southeast are providing enormous opportunities and markets for tens of thousands. People in the southeast are now eating and cooking in ways they would never dreamed of just 20 years ago.

On the market and production side, both black and white, as well as small to large, farmers in the south had been finding labor a major problem, and our neighbors from across the border have been helping considerably to resolve this. Both black and white farmers in the U.S.  began learning Spanish to help not only to converse with laborers, and to access new markets that are increasingly available. Goat, for example, is eaten by South and Central Americans, Africans and Asians. The meat goat market has expanded exponentially in the Southeast U.S. Farmers in Texas are growing corn to meet the taco and other demands for local Mexican consumer markets. Fresh herbs are being grown by women and male farmers in the region to appeal to all these new and growing additions to the southern palate. Farmers are now growing snow peas for Chinese restaurants, varieties of chili peppers and other new vegetables to access the expanding migrant population and the increasingly interested breadth of American consumers. All of these are exciting new and productive markets. And again, these are but a few examples.

The market opportunities and creativity resulting from this most recent influx of migrants south of the border seems endless.

Summary

What is encouraging about the US is that there is always resistance and organizing against  intolerance when its ugly head is raised and we are now witnessing the resurgence of another wave of resistance and organizing. I know this will continue as it always does in America and often with significant progress.

As mentioned, many of the migrants also left their countries because of war or other destabilization, often because of the United States military or economic aggressive policies or other regional conflicts. Many Mexican workers  have been victimized by the unfair trade agreements and huge U.S. subsidized crops such as corn being dumped on the Mexican market and forcing farmers off the land through no fault of their own… and then America wants to punish and malign them? Not fair or just!!!

I have heard from some that Trump has already solved the problem of immigration. With his comments and that of others why would anyone want to come to the country is the question and that maybe the wall is necessary to keep Americans in to stop them

from despoiling other countries. The selfish disdain expressed toward the present wave of Mexican and other South American migrants and those from the Middle East to the U.S. by Trump and others in the United States is not only immoral, it’s not practical for a stable and healthy country.

Trump and others also want to use religion as a criteria for discrimination? Did they forget that among the first Europeans to the American shores were those seeking relief from religious intolerance in Europe? And now America represents one of religious intolerant sentiments? One would hope not in the long term.

Above, I made reference primarily to the food industry regarding immigration but I do need to mention also that the breadth of ideas, language, religion, music, literature, science, medicine that we learn from other cultures and migrants is also immense.

Rather than exploring ways of embracing migrants, Trump, as mentioned, talks about building walls, and passing draconian laws to punish and isolate our migrant communities. Why not build a wall across the Canadian border? Some Canadians would likely appreciate that under the circumstances in order to keep Americans out. On Tuesday night, November 8, when Trump won the election, the Canadian Immigration website had to shut down because of the flood of requests from Americans wanting to move to Canada.

Emma Lazarus’ sonnet  “New Colussus” written in 1883 has resonated significantly and many in the world have assumed this welcoming heritage. It is still a worthy and important goal.

But with Donald Trump’s choice as his chief strategist being the”Alt-right” Briebart media entity, Steve Bannon, one would wonder where this is going. It is a concern to say the least.

Nevertheless, it might be a good idea for you, Mr. Trump, to finally read, if you have not done so, or re-read the quote on the plaque by the Statue of liberty in your own home state and city. It’s meaningful message of generosity and compassion has resonated across the world. And no one needs to lend the quote to you. It’s right there in your own city where thousands of migrants have thankfully entered the United States of America!

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
HEATHER GRAY is the producer of “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net

The Elections? What Now? There are Huge Opportunities for Change

 by Heather Gray

November 10, 2016

“Don’t mourn – organize!” In 1915 labor activist and song writer Joe Hill gave all of us this mandate. It especially applies now after the 2016 US presidential election. And under the circumstances there are huge opportunities for Americans. The demonstrations have already started. It’s a good thing. The American democracy is being more energized in the past year than I’ve seen in years and increasingly so since the election on November 8. We should be encouraged rather than depressed. There are great opportunities here. We need to keep it up. Here’s why!

To win his vote, Trump made use of what is referred to as the George Wallace “southern strategy” that utilizes race as a mobilizing factor and virtually anti-everything along with denigrating women. All of these sentiments are problematic in America yet, in some ways, however painful, having them come to the surface is a way to address them. We need to do precisely that! And they are white supremacy, anti-Islamic attitudes, anti- immigrant, misogyny and every other negative sentiment coming from Trump that seems to spout from him ad infinitum.
Understanding the presidential election? Below are four scenarios regarding this. It’s about a reaction to secret society interference (believe it or not). It’s about job loss and the marginalization of the white working class. It’s about the Democrats and Republicans being complicit in neoliberal economic policies that are largely elitist, racist and immoral. It’s about how Americans can and should react. Yes, I know some of this sounds conspiratorial yet the reality of it all relates to opportunities for Americans to respond in mass.

In my opinion, the vote on November 8 was not so much a vote for Trump or against Clinton. It was a vote against the political establishment in America developed since after WWII that was very much like the Brexit vote in Britain – and this is the case even though many of the voters are probably not aware of the underbelly of it all. This has been intentional by the powers that be. They don’t want us to know. It’s time for all of us to learn and to challenge them!

Secret Societies: Primarily the Bilderberg Group
Loss of American jobs is major regarding election issue concerns and international politics also plays a role. There are entities behind the scenes that we are not informed about – as mentioned, they don’t want us to know! You are simply not going to learn about this in the major corporate media as they are complicit in it all!

After the Second World War we saw, importantly, a response by world leaders and the world’s leading capitalists to collaborate so that, they hoped, there would be an end to World Wars. The goal in itself was commendable but there are problems with this model regarding both representation and goals of some of the groups that evolved. Some of these groups in question are largely about the government and the corporate elite attempting to control us all, largely for the benefit of the wealthy – the infamous 1%. To say this is undemocratic is an understatement.

Some of these groups are worse than others. And I need to add that, in my opinion, bringing people together to collaborate and discuss problems and solutions is, on the whole, a good thing, but not if the representation is biased and the solutions are oppressive to those who have had no say in the deliberations. And that is precisely what has happened since the end of WWII.
Examples of these collaborations after WWII are the United Nations, created in 1945 and based in New York which, to me, is largely a relevant institution. Then there is the excessively secret “Bilderberg Group” created in 1954 in the Netherlands. This was followed by the “Club of Rome” created in 1968 in Rome, Italy.
I will be referring primarily to the Bilderberg Group.
Bankers And Big Business Bosses To Dominate Secretive Bilderberg Talks

While I am providing more details about Bilderberg below, regarding the United States in this international “cabal”, both Republican and Democratic leaders have had involvement along with leading corporate representatives and major media. The participation in Bilderberg, however, is severely lacking in labor or working class representation and/or none at all. Black representation has been dismal.

Bilderberg is rather a capitalist cesspool for control of the world to then transfer money from the poor to the wealthy; rid the world of the middle class and therefore have only the poor and the wealthy classes – a feudal model you might say; and to throw away sovereign governments and the democratic model overall. (I encourage you to read Stephen Lendman’z review of Daniel Estulin’s book”The True Story of the Bilderberg Group” and What They May Be Planning Now“)
Estulin states that in 1954, “the most powerful men in the world met for the first time” in Oosterbeek, Netherlands, “debated the future of the world,” and decided to meet annually in secret. They called themselves the Bilderberg Group with a membership representing a who’s who of world power elites, mostly from America, Canada, and Western Europe with familiar names like David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Lloyd Blankfein, George Soros, Donald Rumsfeld, Rupert Murdoch, other heads of state, influential senators, congressmen and parliamentarians, Pentagon and NATO brass, members of European royalty, selected media figures, and invited others – some quietly by some accounts like Barack Obama and many of his top officials.
 
Always well represented are top figures from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), IMF, World Bank, Trilateral Commission, EU, and powerful central bankers from the Federal Reserve, the ECB’s Jean-Claude Trichet, and Bank of England’s Mervyn King (The True Story of the Bilderberg Group” and What They May Be Planning Now“).
The Bilderberg Group has its annual meeting in various parts of the world and, in particular, has played a central role in contemporary neoliberal economic trade agreements such as the European Union and NAFTA. Its theme is, apparently, to “bolster a consensus around free market Western capitalism and its interests around the globe” (Wikipedia),
It is also inferred that they don’t want us to know anything about what they do:
The Bilderberg Group’s chief fear is organized resistance. Members do not want the common people of the world to figure out at they are planning for the world’s future: mainly, a One World Government (World Company) with a single, global marketplace, policed by one world army, and financially regulated by one “World Bank” using one global currency (World Traveler).
 
As Geoffrey Pike has noted regarding Bilderberg:
While this is a powerful group, we should not delude ourselves that they run the world. Or if they do run the world, it is our own fault for allowing it to happen.
How can a group of 130 people possibly control 7 billion people on the planet? Even if there are 10,000 people in this inner circle, even with the vast amounts of wealth, there is no way they can control billions of people. They can only control us to the degree that we consent to it (Wealth Daily).
 

Pike is correct, of course, but first we’ve needed to know who they are and what they’re doing so that we can challenge and change all of this. We’re learning!

Job Loss – a “War” on the Workers

Regarding the recent election, a major issue we need to face in America is the marginalization of the white working class that has always been used by the elite as a way to keep wages down by competing with others be they black or brown or yellow. It’s said the white working class were the ones who voted for Trump because of their loss of jobs and lack of support and attention from the Republican and Democratic parties establishment.

The white working class is, in fact, one of the most marginalized groups in America. It’s also been said years ago that the United States overall was becoming like the South writ large which means no unions, marginalization of workers overall, and control by the largely white corporate elite of virtually everyone for their own benefit. The international trade policies have used this model as well. International trade, then, is also like the South writ large.

We’ve had periodic episodes in America of examples of whites and blacks working together for economic advancement such as the populist period after the end of Reconstruction in late 1800s and the Southern Tenants Farmers Union in the 1930s. The capitalist elite doesn’t like this and have done what they can to undermine these efforts and to prevent them, so these collaborations are obviously important and threatening. The corporate elite doesn’t like this? This means we should be developing these collaborations yet again as they are obviously important for significant change!

It is also wisely noted that many in the US are concerned about loss of jobs and the de-industrialization of the US thanks largely to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA afforded opportunities for American industry to take advantage of low wage areas in Mexico leading to a trend that sent American industry to other countries as well for cheap labor. The complaint by the working class about this exploitation is certainly not unreasonable and both Republicans and Democrats supported free trade overall and therefore have not protected worker rights. Both parties are complicit. This has been true with Reagan, the Bush’s, Clinton and Obama.

Regarding neoliberal economic policies and free trade agreements, I need to start with this statement from Lendman’s article:
Arkansas governor Bill Clinton…attended (the Bilderberg conference) in 1991. “There, David Rockefeller told (him) why the North American Free Trade Agreement….was a Bilderberg priority and that the group needed him to support it. The next year, Clinton was elected president,” and on January 1, 1994 NAFTA took effect (The True Story of the Bilderberg Group” and What They May Be Planning Now“).
Yes, Bill Clinton was given the directive about implementing NAFTA from Rockefeller of all people – one of the founders of Bilderberg!
I can remember when the European Union (EU) was organizing in its last phase. Compared to NAFTA, the EU negotiators made sure that before European countries joined the EU that they had developed protections for labor. This was simply not done with NAFTA negotiations for the benefit of American or Mexican workers – both have suffered as a result.
 
With NAFTA, some 700,000 American jobs were lost and the “bargaining power” of American workers was undermined considerably. In fact, when American corporations realized they could move to Mexico for cheap labor they were threatening US workers with comments like, “”If you vote in a union, we will move south of the border” The result has been 20 years of stagnant wages and the upward redistribution of income, wealth and political power….” (Economic Policy Institute).
This was how American workers were introduced and forced into the “neoliberal global labor market” and they are not happy which is understandable.
I might add that workers in America are not taking all this oppression sitting down. This is partly a reflection of what happened in the Trump election. Even if Americans are not told about Bilderberg and neoliberal economic policies overall, they are getting the picture. They have realized that the so-called establishment has not worked in their interests and they are right.
Democrats and Republicans are Complicit and How Americans Can React:
“Don’t Mourn – Organize”
CodePink demonstrators protest outside of the Trump Hotel in Washington –
Monday, March 21. 2016, as the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks inside.
AP Photo – Jose Luis Magana
Both the Republicans and the Democrats hold the same establishment politics and are basically of the same club! They both have an enthusiasm in protecting corporate interests at the expense of workers although they always try to mask their intent. What is encouraging here is that American voters selected an individual for president – Trump – who is largely not of that mix in establishment politics but has nevertheless an outrageous record regarding fairness toward his workers. I might add that, according to Geoffrey Pike, the Bilderberg Group does not like Trump because he is more a nationalist than a globalist.
In many ways it was a wise decision for Americans to vote against the establishment. Not because of Trump and his projected policies and dreadful attitudes but because the people have responded with outrage at what has been happening for decades regarding their jobs and the demise of the American industrial infrastructure. Enough is enough!!!
As mentioned, both the Republicans and the Democrats have been complicit in it all and in helping to shift our hard earned dollars into the coffers of the wealthy elite – the so-called 1%.
Supporters of Trump should be skeptical, however, that he cares anything about worker rights. He has never demonstrated this in his own businesses. If anything he has been abusive of workers.
So that being said, the American people need to claim their democracy and not allow Trump or the likes of a secret elite group like Bilderberg to determine anything without representation of the people – all of the people! And/or maybe the Bilderberg Group should be abolished, declared illegal because of its undemocratic activities and/or brought before the International Criminal Court for abuses against the world’s people.
Americans should not to allow an elite like Trump to determine much of anything, without oversight by the people. Trump will need to be educated or forced to do what is necessary on a consistent basis. As Franklin Roosevelt said essentially, ‘You want me to do something? Come to Washington and make me do it!’ We did not, regrettably, do that with Obama! This needs to change in this new administration.
While America, thankfully, finally installed a black president in 2008, Barack Obama is also, unfortunately, a part of that Democratic “Bilderberg thinking” establishment. He has attended some of their meetings. His policies reflect Bilderberg ideas.
It seemed as if demonstrations and demands by activists in America almost came to a grinding halt with the Obama administration. This was likely primarily because he was the first black president. During his administration, activists did not go to Washington or in their own communities to demonstrate to a significant degree or make their demands on a consistent basis. They gave him a pass. There was never enough critique of his policies and organizing against some of what he was doing, even though I know many of the youth who supported him were often disappointed.
This needs to change. In a democracy, the leaders are supposed to represent the people and are supposed to serve at the behest of the people. But the “people” also have a responsibility to make their demands known with those they have elected.
Americans, for example, did not demonstrate to any significant degree when Obama invaded Afghanistan. They did not demonstrate when he started using drones in the Middle East. They did not demonstrate when he went after “whistle-blowers”. They did not demonstrate when he was deporting immigrants. They did not demonstrate when he held his meeting in DC with African leaders and corporate America to, essentially, further exploit Africa. They did not demonstrate when he chose not to attempt to create a Universal Health Care System but rather have one owned, designed and controlled by corporate America. And these are but a few examples.

Mind you, I know in all of the above there was critique and occasional demonstrations but not to the degree that should have been the case.

If we expect to maintain a degree of freedom in America we cannot stop activism. In anything, it needs to be increased.

What is becoming a reality now is a critique of Trump along with demonstrations and a renewed activism – thankfully. The protests have already started against Trump. We need to keep it up.But we also need to make demands on what we want for freedom, for justice, for a reclaiming of a people’s democracy such as:  anti-war policies; dismantling as much as possible the military industrial complex;  announcing to the world that “Black Lives Matter” and making changes recommended by the movement’s platform; developing a new black and white populist movement for economic justice in America; getting rid of GMOs; beginning to  produce organic food in our cities on a mass scale – a “just” people oriented agricultural system; protecting and forming more unions and protecting collective bargaining rights; demanding a strengthening the Voting Rights Act and ending the “cross-checking” policy that has taken many people of color off the voting rolls; going after the “southern strategy” issue of race and anti-humanity sentiments as expressed by Trump; protecting women’s rights and Roe v Wade; protecting and increasing the funding of Planned Parenthood; protesting against any conservative Supreme Court justice appointment; once again teaching civics in our public schools so that our children understand what democracy and people’s rights are about;  on and on. Also, in that Bilderberg’s fear is “organized resistance”, that is precisely what we need to do – organize our resistance against the arrogance and abuse of this elite group.

An anti-Trump rally is held on Wednesday_ Nov 9 in Seattle.
Karen Ducey – Getty Images
I know there are thousands of recommendations! What are yours??? All of these opportunities are front and center right now and I know we can and will take them on!!!!
The demonstrations have intensified and this is a good thing. Perhaps one of the major goals should be to take back the US House of Representatives in two years with “progressive” Democrats or with a new “progressive” third party that will dismantle  the Republican based Tea Party in Congress.
Anyway….let’s do it. This is our opportunity!!! The time is now!!!

“Don’t mourn – organize!”

Addendum:

Learning about the Bilderberg Group

The Republicans Have Themselves to Blame: The Disastrous Right-Wing Strategy

By Heather Gray
November 4, 2016 

The Republicans have themselves to blame for the mess they are in. For decades the American corporate elite have attempted to marginalize all of us by espousing corporate control of virtually everything. In fact, right-wing America has learned well from Adolph Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, and, under Ronald Reagan, they also got rid of media constraints to be “fair” in reporting so they could follow Goebbels manipulation of the masses for the benefit of the elite. The godfather of the American rightwing, Leo Strauss, also has played a role here, of course. What is hopeful, however, is that Americans are more alert than the elite are willing to admit even after their decades of attempted manipulation in the media and/or through their right-wing think tanks.
Ultimately, all of this attempted corporate control of virtually everything and manipulation of the people broke up the Republican Party, which is not a bad thing in my opinion, but it left open a vacuum for the nonsensical, ill-informed and abusive rhetoric by the likes of Donald Trump. The Republican Party has not been respectful of the American people and its democracy – it is rather as simple and profound as that! The Democrats have also had their challenges, of course, but no where near the likes of the Republican elite.

Most Americans are probably not aware that the concept of “left” and “right” politics comes from the French Revolution. Here is an explanation:

The modern usage of the political terms left and right comes from the French Revolution of 1789 when supporters of the king stood to the president’s right, and supporters of the revolution to his left.  

 The simplest answer to “what do left and right mean?” historically speaking, is liberal is left (toward liberty and/or collectivism) and conservative is right (toward authority and/or individualism).

  • As a comparative term left is always toward liberalism and liberty, and right is always toward conservatism and authority (from any given perspective).
  • As an absolute term left means to the left of center (toward liberalism and liberty), and right means to the right of center (toward conservatism and authority).
    For instance, a democratic form of government will always be to the left, and a form of monarchy will always be to the right. (Fact/Myth)

The conflict in America has almost always been between these forces of left and right as in:

Left Collectivism –  i.e. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs to support the masses; labor unions and collective bargaining; a mixed economy of programs for the collective combined with some private entities, etc.;  and

Right Authoritarianism – i.e. basically capitalist privatization of virtually everything be it health care, education, prisons, politicians (Citizens United), women’s bodies (so-called “pro-life”; etc.

Regarding shaping the “conservative” Republicans and how to control and manipulate the people – then enters Leo Strauss.

…. Leo Strauss was born in 1899 and died in 1973. He was a Jewish scholar who fled Germany when Hitler gained power. He eventually found refuge in the United States where he taught political science at the University of Chicago. He is most famous for resuscitating Machiavelli and introducing his principles as the guiding philosophy of the neo-conservative movement. Strauss has been called the godfather of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” More than any other man, Strauss breathed upon conservatism, inspiring it to rise from its atrophied condition and its natural dislike of change and to embrace an unbounded new political ideology that rides on the back of a revolutionary steed, hailing even radical change; hence the name Neo-Conservatives (Yurica).

Leo Strauss, in the 1930s, had witnessed what Hitler was doing and beginning to threaten the Jewish community so he left Germany and came to the United States. He didn’t trust democracy and said it was democracy that brought Hitler to power. Yet, oddly enough, he seemingly learned from Hitler. Like Hitler he wanted to control the people and was not interested in their democratic rights.

Strauss said, essentially, that the people cannot handle the truth and need to be controlled. Religion is a good way to do this, he said. And it didn’t matter what religion it was. Christianity was largely the choice by his followers listed below along with some of what Strauss taught them:

The father of neo-conservatism (Leo Strauss) had many “spiritual” children at the University of Chicago, among them: Paul Wolfowitz and Abram Shulsky, who received their doctorates under Strauss in 1972. Harry V. Jaffa was a student of Strauss and has an important connection to Dominionists like Pat Robertson … However, Strauss’s family of influence extended beyond his students to include faculty members in universities, and the people his students taught. Those prominent neo-conservatives who are most notable are: Justice Clarence Thomas, Robert Bork, Irving Kristol and his son William Kristol, Alan Keyes, William J. Bennett, J. Danforth Quayle, Allan Bloom, John Podhoertz, John T. Agresto, John Ashcroft, Newt Gingrich, Gary Bauer, Michael Ledeen and scores of others, many of whom hold important positions in George W. Bush’s White House and Defense Department

Strauss’s teaching incorporated much of Machiavelli‘s. Significantly, his philosophy is unfriendly to democracy-even antagonistic.  At the same time Strauss upheld the necessity for a national religion not because he favored religious practices, but because religion in his view is necessary in order to control the population.

(From Shadia Drury‘s work on Strauss, here is) a brief list that shows the radical unchristian basis of neo-conservatism….

First: Strauss believed that a leader had to perpetually deceive the citizens he ruled.

 Secondly: Those who lead must understand there is no morality, there is only the right of the superior to rule the inferior.

 Thirdly:  According to Drury, Religion “is the glue that holds society together.” It is a handle by which the ruler can manipulate the masses. Any religion will do. Strauss is indifferent to them all.

 Fourthly: “Secular society…is the worst possible thing,” because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, all of which encourage dissent and rebellion. As Drury sums it up: “You want a crowd that you can manipulate like putty.”

 Fifthly: “Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat; and following Machiavelli, he maintains that if no external threat exists, then one has to be manufactured.”

 Sixthly: “In Strauss’s view, the trouble with liberal society is that it dispenses with noble lies and pious frauds. It tries to found society on secular rational foundations.”

 … Put all the enemies of the Dominionists together, boil them down to liquid and bake them into the one single most highly derided and contaminated individual known to man, and you will have before you an image of the quintessential “liberal”-one of those folks who wants to give liberally to the poor and needy-who desires the welfare and happiness of all Americans-who insists on safety regulations for your protection and who desires the preservation of your values-those damnable people are the folks that must be reduced to powerlessness-or worse: extinction.

 … Take, for instance, Sean Hannity’s remarks to Time Magazine, “You can play golf with liberals, be neighbors with them, go out to dinner. I just don’t want them in power.” Or take Ann Coulter’s assertions: “Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason.” Or, “Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy.” (It turns out that every single “liberal” in the country is a member of the Democratic Party and therefore is a traitor.)

…. Robertson’s book acknowledges that his followers, the “Christian” army raised up for political purposes are the elect chosen to rule. Robertson’s transcribed television interviews and dialogs give shocking evidence to the legitimization of greed, hatred, violence and cruelty by members of the various fundamentalist branches of the American clergy and by elected officials of the Republican Party, which can be cited as evidence that Dominionism is not a Christian religion-that above everything else, Dominionism is synonymous with Machiavellianism: the ends justify the means. Under Dominionism, true Christianity is a target to destroy, not a goal to achieve. … (Yurica)  

It is important to note also that after Gingrich’s “Contract with America” (that I refer to as the “Contract ON America”) civics classes were largely stopped being offered in America’s schools. The likes of Gingrich and others seemingly didn’t want Americans to know how a democracy works! Was it so they could take up the slack and suggest what they wanted which was seemingly a right-wing neoliberal economic system to serve the corporate elite? Sounds like fascism to me – as in “extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practices”. You be the judge!

Since Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s the elite have also wanted to rid the country of the New Deal policies because these were government programs that in many instances empowered the people through federal national programs such as social security. Many in the corporate elite have been categorically against this. They don’t want policies that empower people through collective government actions. They want to control people by ridding the country as much as possible of public assistance programs as well as unions and collective bargaining. They, for sure, have no interest in empowering workers. The list goes on and on. It’s “control” they want and they get their message out, for one, by control of the media. All of this became intensified since Ronald Reagan.

Joseph Goebbels? His many quotes are memorable. He referred to “lies” as a strategy by referring to the English behavior. He said:

The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous (Wikipedia).

 Hitler was saying much the same thing and the above quote has been shortened since which is relevant to America’s media, particularly since Reagan: “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”.

To control the people, Strauss’ three implementation principles, summarized, are: deception, power of religion, and aggressive nationalism (Alternet).

George Bush had 20 Straussians in his administration and they followed all these principles. So largely thanks to them what we witnessed under Bush’s administration was 9/11. It is also the case that some claim 9/11 to be manufactured by America’s military industrial complex and questions still remain on this interpretation. And also, manufactured were so-called enemies such as Saddam Hussein who was falsely accused and never had the so-called weapons of mass destruction. But it has led to a painful war and accusations that mobilized the Americans against many in the Middle East. This is right out of Strauss – “an external threat” and “aggressive nationalism.”

In many ways the Reagan administration in contemporary history was also a turning point. A lot of this undermining of programs to benefit the masses was happening before Reagan but intensified under the Reagan presidency with the right-wing’s economic agenda known as “neoliberalism”. Neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism refers primarily to the 20th century resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism.[ These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy (Wikipedia).

As a result, we have witnessed, dramatically, a conflict between the people’s economic interests and the corporate elite’s neoliberal economic agenda and this has been coupled with deliberate manipulation through unregulated media as a way to force all of this down our throats. It was ill-intent for the people from the beginning!

In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan, the darling of American capitalism, started deregulating everything from the environment, to banking, the media and nuclear policies to name but a few. Reagan’s policies were a war against the poor and an invitation to corporate exploiters in every conceivable area. Pro-corporate propaganda spin intensified as a result. As mentioned, since Roosevelt’s New Deal, America’s corporate elite had been waiting for the likes of Reagan to sit in the White House to begin to dismantle the social programs developed in response to the 1930’s depression and as a cushion for working Americans. In fact, corporate leaders finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel with their guy in the White House and organized their think tanks and corporate/government exploiters to distribute their sinister messages.

It is also important to note that this neoliberalsm or “free market” mindset changes under Reagan were made to media as well. It, in fact, was under Reagan that the media’s “Fairness Doctrine” was overturned. While Roger Ailes has recently been fired by Fox News over a sex scandal, knowing his earlier presence in the changes in media policy is essential.

But first, the “Fairness Doctrine” was a policy introduced by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1949:

The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States (Wikipedia).

 Roger Ailes was a consultant to help Reagan in his reelection campaign and was, therefore, instrumental in the Reagan decision to rid the country of “fairness” in media:

The Reagan administration effectively killed the Fairness Doctrine, choosing to stop enforcing it in 1987 in the wake of a court decision by future supreme court justice Antonin Scalia and the infamous Robert Bork that made its implementation discretionary. Congress voted to reinstate the doctrine with the force of law, but Reagan used his veto pen, a move that would clear the way for the rise of right-wing talk radio and Roger Ailes’ Fox News network….

 News stations no longer were compelled to be fair or balanced (MNN).

Without the “Fairness Doctrine” the right wing in America had tons of outlets, including, of course, Ailes’ Fox News, to manipulate the public at will to then serve the corporate interests and this has continued ever since.

 With Reagan and the advent of more conservative and reactionary media we also witnessed the strengthening of right-wing think tanks:

America’s new Counter-Establishment (was) a complex headed by such groups as the American Enterprise Institute, the Committee on the Present Danger, the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the Institute for Contemporary Studies, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, and the (Joseph Coors-backed) Mountain States Legal Foundation. This skewed recruitment pattern also held true for many of the second- and third-tier posts in the Reagan’s administration and, to a lesser extent, Bush’s. (There were) connections to right-wing think tanks, not only for the Court but also in such important fields as foreign policy, military spending, and economics and taxation (Ideas).

 To look more closely at this dilemma and conflict between the people and the corporate elite, I wrote about the issue in 2005 during the George W. Bush presidency. I am editing it to apply to today’s political and economic world, but am also sharing it because I am sure many of you reading this will recognize that in a contemporary sense much of what has happened since the 1980s is relevant to today’s political milieu.

Above all, they want us to stop thinking “collectively” within society and of any semblance of social responsibility. Recalling the past few decades of the insidious corporate myths that have been thrust upon us, there are three major themes I want to mention from my own experience and they are in the economic, religious and social spheres.

 I remember marching into New York’s Central Park in the huge 1982 national rally against Reagan’s military and nuclear policies and being greeted by activists who said “We invite you to a Republican fundraiser in Manhattan. It’ll only cost you $1,000. Don’t worry, with ‘trickle down’ you must have at least $1,000 in your shoes by now!”

Snide remark or not, this is myth number one: in the economic sphere “trickle down” was becoming ingrained in the American psyche thanks to the conservative manipulators, as in give more wealth to the rich and everyone will benefit. Corporate leaders have wanted us to accept this as an economic given for the development of a healthy and thriving economy. They wanted us to hand over our hard earned tax dollars to the wealthiest of Americans and what fools we’ve been to let Congress do exactly that!

The reality is that when we give these wealthy capitalists our money, invariably they keep it at the expense of everyone coupled with excessive greed and mismanagement. The recent Wells Fargo fiasco is a prime example. Witness, for example, the corporate abuse and/or huge government give-aways that took place in Iraq after the Bush invasion including, of course, the infamous Halliburton with billions of dollars in question. As in: “According to the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the level of corruption by defense contractors may be as high as $60 billion” (RSN). Or witness Monsanto’s outrageous manipulation of agriculture and disrespect of local farmers throughout the world resulting in destabilization and environmental degradation including harming human health while Monsanto reaps the profits.

Where is the plan for “real” efficiency by contracting with locals and family farmers who are more likely to have a vested interest in the community and keeping the wealth in the community? The great populist Jim Hightower’s response to all this has been “We need an economy that percolates up rather than trickles down.” Indeed! Or another of his renowned sayings is “We need to place our nation’s growth not on the Rockefellers but on the ‘little’ fellers because if we do it will be based on genius and not greed!”

Why we insist on wasting our money and resources on these wealthy Americans is beyond comprehension. In fact, when we in the United States attempt to establish programs to benefit the masses, they’ll attempt to malign us, divide us and destabilize our efforts while promoting myths such as “trickle down”.

In 1985, one of my friends accused me of being a “secular humanist”. “What on earth is that?” I asked. She said, “You’re more concerned about the physical welfare and well-being of the people then you are about their souls.” I said, ” Yeah, that’s me.” She then proceeded to criticize me, of course.

This is myth number two: in the religious sphere under Reagan and W. Bush there was “faith-based everything” and secular humanist criticism. (Amazingly, there was an effort to take out anything considered secular humanist in schoolbooks in some districts across the country during this period.) Basically, this was a means of discouraging the lack of support for programs and activities involved in hands-on support for the poor. “Just pray”, was the answer. “People are on their own”, it was inferred. It’s their fault if they don’t have good health coverage, good schools, good food, or a job. Obviously they haven’t prayed enough. God is looking at them with disdain as a result. If their environment is polluted, tell them to pray. Keep out of the public sphere. Leave it to the corporations or the free market to handle this. After all the market place is miraculous-it will take care of everything. And besides, people need to adapt and figure out these problems by themselves. Basically, the message from the right-wing was “don’t organize against anything. Go to church.”

The undermining of “secular humanism” in the United States is comparable to the Catholic Church’s ousting of the liberation priests who sided with the oppressed poor throughout the Third World. All of this was occurring at about the same time period. With liberation theology, finally the Catholic Church was doing something relevant for the poor, but the Church ultimately opposed this.

Liberation priests were a thorn in the side of the ruling elite throughout the Third World and of western multi-national corporations. Much to the chagrin of the corporations, the priests, for one, were helping to organize against corporate exploiters. The corporate elite was not about to let this continue whether it was by Catholics or Protestants. While in the Philippines in the late 1980’s I met a number of the liberation priests whose lives were threatened by the military and paramilitary when the church turned against them.

The reality is that the most outspoken religious leaders in America don’t appear to have a vested interest in the poor or programs that will benefit the poor through sustainable economic development. Witness the vengeance by the Reverend Pat “Assassination” Robertson, who was president of the Christian Coalition, against the late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Chavez’s remarkable programs to assist the poor and his attempts to build sustainable wealth in poor communities through cooperatives and other collective measures, were obviously threatening to the Reverend. He seemingly couldn’t handle the thought of empowered poor communities and certainly had no interest in a distribution of wealth.

Karl Marx was correct when he stated that religion is the “opiate” of the masses – at least the corporate leaders were doing their best to force the evangelical version of it down our throats so the last thing we would think about is their excessively decadent profits and stop us from organizing against their oppression. Clearly, the bond between conservative religious leaders in the world and multinational corporations is a deadly alliance.

In the 1990’s Hillary Clinton wisely stated, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I appreciated her articulating what I’ve always known – yet thought what she said was innocuous – a given – everyone knows this as true – I didn’t give it a second thought. Suddenly Clinton received a maelstrom of criticism from the Republican leadership and religious conservatives. I was astounded at this. Why this simultaneous outcry from the right-wing?

Clinton was stating basically that we’re all in this together. We are engaged in a “social contract” which incorporates a responsibility for the whole. No one is isolated. We bear responsibility for all children in terms of the funding and support of schools, of the environment, good food, of the support systems such as fire, police, and virtually everything in our local, national governments and international extended communities. And, it takes this “village” of all of us to nurture and raise all of our children.

This is myth number three: in the social sphere, “individual responsibility” is claimed to be sacrosanct by these corporate strategists and Clinton had violated their mantra by suggesting otherwise. They obviously want us to forget that we are part of a community. They wanted us to think that it’s us and our family against the world. Grab what you can for yourself and don’t even consider the consequences. It’s making money and material accumulation that bring you success and means that God shines “his” blessings on you. They want an end to government programs for the poor and to hand over the welfare of the masses to the “free” market. Think also of W. Bush’s efforts to privatize social security that would have been a disaster!

The hypocrisy here is rather astounding. The corporate elite in the U.S. seemingly doesn’t sneeze without informing others in the corporate world. The last thing they want is competition. In fact, they are excessively collective in action and spirit – “village minded” you might say. They sit on each other’s boards and consistently support and assist each other. They want us underlings, however, to fight among ourselves and certainly not to cooperate as they do. This is the classic case of “divide and rule” and they’ve unfortunately been successful at this game.

Further, the so-called rugged individualism was never a reality in the United States. Going west always required a community of individuals working together in order for families and communities to survive effectively. “Individualism”, therefore, is myth in American lore from the American west, rather like the Southern elite’s efforts (known as the “Lost Cause”) after the Civil War to romanticize an aristocratic gentile South with smiling contented Black slaves in the cotton fields. It’s all a myth!

In some ways, what the corporate community has done in the United States through the increase of “neoliberal economics”  serves as a substitute of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) imposed structural adjustment programs. As the U.S., for example, is not taking out IMF loans, the corporate controlled IMF couldn’t require that the United States end its social programs as a structural adjustment prerequisite for loan acquisition as it has done throughout the so-called “developing” world. Instead, the corporate world seeks and accomplishes the same goals in the west through use of propagandizing these myths and through political control of Congress and the White House.

All of these lies and manipulation have led to an ill-informed population and a disastrous Republican’s party’s ill-informed and disastrous candidate, Donald Trump, to play to the fears of the manipulated masses. All of this coupled with dangerous violent tendencies. The Republicans have themselves to blame for it all.

The above myths and lies in economics, religion and social concepts are the foundation of neoliberalism ideology that the U.S. and the world’s capitalists are attempting to impose everywhere in the world. I must say that the 2011 Occupy Movement helped to, importantly, alert the public to the dramatic inequities in the American society as the 1% versus 99% is now ingrained in the American psyche. But it’s way past time for a vigorous, coordinated and collective anti-corporate propaganda attack of our own in America, but based on reality and not myths. With crony capitalism running amuck in the United States and the world, it’s clear we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

As mentioned, it’s time for Americans to counter the manipulation of the right-wing and explore all the various economic and social options before us, as in: “What is capitalism?”, “What is socialism?”, “What is communism?”, “What is a mixed-economy?” “What is best to empower the masses of the people for the benefit of all rather than the empowerment of the military industrial complex and corporate elite in America?”

Needless to say, the Cold War and its rigid control after WWII didn’t allow us in America, and those throughout much of the world, an opportunity to dialogue and explore many of these above options and this was further compounded by the likes of Strauss and his conservative followers primarily since Reagan. But we can act now regardless of what happens with the presidential elections.

Also, we all should look at the Black Lives Matter Platform for excellent contemporary answers and options and organize around them. We should also explore Jack O’Dell’s important “Democracy Charter”.

We can do this! The time is now!

HEATHER GRAY is the producer of “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net.