Thursday, July 31, 2008

On empty apologizing and vacuous legislative rhetoric

Naked bids by politicians to hold onto power compel them to do bizarre things. Sometimes the actions seem so much out of turn and extraordinary that it makes one reflect on our opportunistic tendencies. A latest example of this was the successful effort by Representative Steve Cohen, a Tennessee based house member in the United States Congress, (a white individual who represents a majority-black district in Memphis) spurring and passing a bill in the Congress that apologized to black Americans for "fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow" segregation.

Oh, by the way, he faces re-election seven days from today.

The apology seems to have come about 140 years after slavery was abolished.

A fashion trend that seems to be overtaking the legislatures around the world is apologizing for atrocities so egregious that detailing some of the incidents might induce the throwing up of ones last meal. It seems to me that telling the descendants of peoples long after they were subjugated, appropriated, abused and taken advantage of economically, socially and culturally serves only to reopen sore and healing wounds and nothing else. If however, the politicians had told us that along with the apology came a grant that served to open up a number of hospitals, public schools and recreation centers in economically blighted areas with appropriate rehabilitation programs, it might have come with some meaning. Of course, then, the government would be labeled communists and pandering to socialist ideals. Either way, an empty apology is not going to wake anyone up and would do little to help the downward slide perpetuated by racial policies from long ago.

In related news, Canada delivered an apology to indigenous people who as children were ripped from their families and sent to boarding schools, where many were abused as part of official government policy to "kill the Indian in the child."

Also, the Australians apologized to the "Stolen Generations" i.e. aboriginal children taken from their parents to be raised by white families in order to enforce the following policy: "Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the race and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white..."

On June 15, 1920, Duluth, MN police arrested several young black men accused of raping a white woman. That evening, three of them – Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie – are taken from jail by a mob and lynched. As was common, a postcard was made to commemorate the event. (Picture ripped from here)

Lyrics from a recent song ‘Beer for my Horses’ by superstar country singer Toby Keith

Grandpappy told my pappy back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he'd done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street
For all the people to see

STRANGE FRUIT – a poem by Lewis Allan
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black body swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

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