Saturday, August 27, 2016

There's a New Man in the Fight

Welcome, Colin Kaepernick, to the real home of the brave.

It’s not an easy place to walk, but those who walk there walk tall.  Tommie Smith walked there.  And John Carlos.  Peter Norman.  Others, too.

You hadn’t even been born yet when those three — Smith, Carlos and Norman — walked the walk.  It was 1968.  The Olympic Games.  Mexico City.

Smith was, in a manner of speaking, the Usain Bolt of his times, arguably the fastest man on earth.  He had just won the 200 meter sprint in world record time.  Norman placed second; Carlos, third.  They mounted the podium to receive their medals.  The national anthem of the United States, as is the tradition, was played for the presentation of the gold to Smith.  He and Carlos were without shoes, wearing black socks.  They raised their black-gloved fists in what was known back then as the black power salute.  They did it to call attention to segregation and racism in the United States, and to stand in silent protest against it.

Norman, a white man, represented Australia in that Olympiad.  Back home, he had opposed his country’s “white Australia policies,” which restricted non-white immigration and persecuted the its black aboriginal population. He knew that Smith and Carlos had decided to make a silent statement if they got to the podium; they would wear black gloves.  Norman wanted to make a statement of his own on that podium.  He approached Paul Hoffman, a U.S. Olympic rower, and asked to borrow his badge for the “Olympic Project for Human Rights.”  Wearing it would be his statement of solidarity with Smith and Carlos.

Avery Brundage, the Nazi-loving head of the American Olympic committee, ordered that Smith and Carlos be suspended and banned from the Olympic Village.  They were vilified in the media.

Norman, too,  paid a heavy price for his role.  “As soon as he got home he was hated,” his nephew, Matthew Norman, said.  Although he qualified in both the 100 meters and the 200 meters, Norman was not invited to represent Australia in the 1972 Olympic games.

Peter Norman died of a heart attack in 2006.  Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave eulogies at his funeral and served as pall bearers. 

Smith and Carlos had brief professional football careers.  Both later became educators and coaches.  In 2008 they shared the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for their action forty years earlier in Mexico City.

When you refused to stand for the national anthem before a football game the other night, Colin Kaepernick, you stood instead beside Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," you said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

As Carlos told an Occupy Wall Street gathering on Oct. 10, 2011, “There’s a fight still to be won.”

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Oblivion

In this election you can fit the Republican candidate’s brain in a flea’s navel and still have room for the Democratic candidate’s heart.

If Trump wins he will be the first American president able to call a summit meeting at which no participant speaks English.

If Hillary wins they will replace the security checkpoint at the White House grounds with a cashier’s station for the Clinton foundation.

Between now and November the late night shows can fire the writers for the hosts’ opening monologues.  All they have to do is read the transcripts for the evening “news” shows.

Clinton  has already  spent $82 million buying time to air television commercials.  Trump hasn’t spent a nickel; he gets twice that amount of air time free just for opening his mouth. The only complete sentence he has ever uttered is, “You’re fired.”  

Someone said, “The lesser of two evils is still evil.”  

“Crooked Hillary.”

“Stronger together.”

It’s the age of sound bytes, issues be damned.

Count all the cool things.

How cool is this?  There’s a thing, invented by scientists, called the “Doomsday clock.” it is intended to reflect basic changes in the level of continuous danger in which mankind lives in the nuclear age; when it reaches midnight, kaboom!, nuclear holocaust destroys the planet. Just before Bush II took office, the clock read nine minutes to midnight.  Now it’s three minutes to midnight.

How cool is this? Fifteen years after Bush II took us to war in Afghanistan, our longest war is still raging, and it’s going badly, and there’s no end in sight.  Our president boasts that we’ve bombed 18 countries, and droned still more, and we’ve just resumed bombing in Libya, which we “liberated” by giving its ex-leader a bayonet colonoscopy.  

How cool is this? Earth Overshoot Day came on Aug. 8 this year, the earliest ever.  “Overshoot Day” is the point when we have used up more natural resources than the planet can replenish in an entire year.  Now we’re living on resources borrowed — stolen? — from future generations.  Explain that to your kids and grandchildren, if you can. 

One per cent of us still own more wealth than all the rest of us.  People in blue uniforms charged with maintaining peace and safety routinely kill more innocent black citizens every year than have been killed by the dreaded Zika virus.  Millions of kids still go to bed hungry every night.  Millions of your fellow citizens still can't afford health care.  

Less than a block from where I live is a house (one of many in the neighborhood) with a three-stall garage.  In each stall is a new vehicle costing more than $60,000. Less than a mile further on is a tract of agricultural fields.  Tap any shoulder harvesting those crops and you’ll likely find a parent whose children consider it a feast when the laborers get their Friday pay and everyone goes to the nearest convenience store for chips and soda pop and beer.

Oh, it’s a hoot here in Amerika this election season.  I can’t wait for Colbert’s next monologue.