A Narrative from a Concerned Citizen
On December 18, 2010, I still remember where I was when the images began pouring into our American media of young and old Middle Eastern peoples filling their streets in protests to demand freedom from an oppressive, corrupt, and brutally arcane system of Government led by dictators and clerics convinced of their entitlement to rule with a murderous hand. It all started in Egypt, but it rapidly spread in the days, weeks and months ahead like a relentless flood of secular human need for freedom into other neighboring countries, to the utter dismay and panic of their respective leaders. Sharia law, and its derivatives, was being challenged soon all over the region with the whole world watching. And, now what would the rulers do? It just would not be an option to behead, jail and shoot their peoples on cable TV for the world to see.
Despite all the highest hopes, wishes and expectations, “The Arab Spring” was shorter lived than it needed to be. Slowly, but all too soon, the fervor cooled and things returned to status quo for the starry-eyed, and now dewy-eyed masses still dreaming and yearning to be free. Let us please, dear people, take this as a cautionary tale relative to what is happening right now in our great Dis-United States.
Our household (meaning my wife and I) have always been grounded in protests, good trouble, and advocacy for these many decades now. Believe it, or not I still remember listening in my father’s Hudson Hornet to radio broadcasts of WLS in Chicago while Edward R. Morrow was covering the McCarthy (yes, the other one, not Kevin) hearings on the investigation of un-American activities. Even as a youth, I knew that this was all wrong. And, couldn’t we the people do something about this? Well, thank the stars for Ed Morrow!
So, it was not by serendipity that we kept crossing paths with a brilliant and dedicated one-time protester, and eventually an equally brilliant elected leader - Tom Haden. I still clearly remember him standing on stage in front of more than a hundred thousand people packed into the San Francisco civic center in late September 1989 for the 100 day memorial of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which my wife and I helped to produce. We were standing just off stage left when he began his speech like this: “I have been watching the protests of the youth in China with great interest since June 4th. And they are saying they want Democracy for China now! They want it so bad they are willing to die for it! And I think we need to watch this all very closely, VERY CLOSELY. Because if it works there, then I think we should try it here.” Well, thank the stars for Tom Haden! And, yet once again, the June 4th uprising did not result in the changes demanded by those brave and sometimes martyred souls.
I submit to you the wise adage that if we do not learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it. Well, here we are again. May we please get it right this time?
My wife is Native American, and a few years back while I conducted some classes at University of Arizona, we came across a brilliant Native American thinker/writer and Professor of NA studies named Jack Forbes. His writings gave us some poignant insights into the American psyche and culture from his book “Columbus and other Cannibals”. In his book he posits for consideration the following:
Many people have examined the subjects of aggression, violence, imperialism, rape, and so on. I propose to do something a little different. First, I propose to examine these things from a Native American perspective; and, second, from a perspective as free as possible from assumptions created by the very wetiko disease being studied. Finally, I will look at these evils not simply as ‘bad’ choices which men make, but as a genuine, very real, epidemic sickness. Imperialists, rapists, and exploiters are not just people who have strayed down a wrong path. They are insane (unclean) in the true sense of that word. They are mentally ill, and, tragically, the form of soul-sickness which they carry is catching . . .
When Mr. Forbes refers to the “wetiko” (white man) disease he is drawing from a deep and profound well of experience. For instance, the epithet “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” (as carried in many publications of the 1800s), or, the “Trail of Tears” in which many thousands died as they were marched west from their traditional territories (my wife’s tribes were among these), or, the fact that some historical estimates have the massacre of natives in order to clear the territories for settlements numbering in the tens of millions, or more. It is estimated by some that there were well over 20 million natives living in North America when the white man arrived. By the mid 1800’s there were less than 2 million left, and a lot of those fled to Canada. And yet the atrocities continued; even to this day. I would submit Mr. Forbes is justified in citing “a genuine, very real, epidemic sickness”. It may be helpful here to note that according to widely held Native philosophical thought, all deeds (good and bad, as well as evil) are subject to a reverberating effect revisiting the peoples and tribes responsible for each action continuously through at least seven generations. It seem that acts and deeds of such insane soul-sick proportions rebound for much, much longer.
So here we are back to our present with our Autocrat wanna-be, our would-be dictator decrying loudly and often that the real problem in our world is the likes of Black Lives Matter, and ANTIFA, and, oh yeah, that damned radical, violent LEFT. Again and again his refrain is repeated, almost as often as he decries that damned Covid thing that beleaguers him, even while his own FBI and intelligence services keep saying it is really the Nationalists, the White Supremacists, the self-described Para-Military organizations and other similar groups that are the real threat to our society and Democracy.
For the past days, weeks, and months we have seen the rise of a new iteration of civil rights warriors. And we have been watching and cheering with a titillating mixture of extreme pride and deep trepidation for the risk of the obvious potential exposure to the deadly devastating scourge of virous (the Covid-19) that we are in the midst of trying to outlive and outlast. And even further, the exposure these brave people (young and old) risk to their physical safety and well being to the vagaries of the very police whom they are protesting. And now, a much more disturbing element of threat arises in the gun toting, mind numbing ‘basket of deplorables’ that want to be the Trump Enforcers who think they represent the rule of law. Yet, our dear, brave visionary peoples of all ages, descriptions and ethnic origins who champion the changes we need and demand still persist in the streets and in all the venues that they can access, raising their voices and demonstrating their resolve to remain steadfast until the change that must come can be achieved. Black lives do matter, and all other colors and shades of peoples who walk the earth, as well. And, we should all be nurturing and supporting the cause of all Anti- Fascists everywhere. Talk about self evident truths!
I keep hearing an old Crosby Stills and Nash refrain echoing in my head. “Carry on, Love is coming, Love is coming to us all…”Please, dear brave ones, carry on for us all.
Be brave, and persevere. Mi Hoban Luchadore. Un carborendum non legitamata! (Don’t let the Bastards grind you down!) . For what it’s worth.
Vote! Please vote like your lives depend on it! Because it truly does.
Sincerely, Passionately Paul & Rion Gowins