Consider, since 2001, terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, an illegal invasion and war crimes in Iraq, beheadings, bombings and forced slavery, terror strikes by drones, cluster and phosphorous bombs, relentless bombing leveling Gaza, Sana’a and Aleppo, lone wolf attacks in Orlando, Dallas and San Bernardino, terror bombings in Baghdad, Beirut, Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Dhaka and Medina, stabbings in Jerusalem and Hebron, slaughter at Mother Emmanuel, despair in Ferguson, Baltimore, the Ninth Ward and Flint, and Herman Wallace, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile.
Sadly, we mourn and console the families of the five heroes in Dallas who fell protecting their neighbors, and we remember all who sacrifice to protect the innocent.
Consider, too, those who profit off the grief of shattered families and displaced and disenfranchised peoples, who demean, diminish and marginalize those who struggle for dignity and social justice.
Consider Rudy Giuliani’s claim, and Donald Trump’s agreement, that the Black Lives Matter movement is “inherently racist,” suggesting that BLM inflames racial tensions and targets police officers. Giuliani’s comment reflects not only ignorance but also reflects the hypocrisy and arrogance of those seemingly threatened by the possibility of communities of color, after hundreds of years of marginalization, achieving political and economic parity with dominant whites — that today, for the first time since Jamestown Colony, Black Lives might equally matter.
As I prayed, as Ramadan ended and we witnessed Muslim lands stained with the blood of innocents, the blood of innocents world-wide from all faiths and traditions, as families grieved and America mourned, I began to hear echoes of Rev. Jeremiah Wright from 2001.
Reverend Wright who from his Chicago pulpit said: “I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday … on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said America’s chickens, are coming home to roost.
“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux … We took Africans away from their country … We bombed Iraq… We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
America should’ve listened more closely to Ambassador Peck’s voice speaking from deep within the halls of white authority and privilege calling upon us to set asides our egos, to recognize the intersectionality of all we witness, all the storms stirred by countless butterfly wings beating at different rhythms across the globe.
I actually think Wright’s and Peck’s reflections aren’t broad enough. I think in a world dominated by oligarchs and military adventurers there’s no separation by border, no religious sanctuary, no freedom for the economically underprivileged and politically disadvantaged.
Recent surges in violence, in racist and xenophobic sentiment is not unique to America. I believe that until we’re prepared to confront the complicity of some elites with violence – violence both primitive and institutional, whether in Baghdad or Baton Rouge – we’ll have little justice, less peace.
It’s time we hold profiteers accountable, not just for the neo-colonial way they police the world but on how we ourselves are policed – and on how those tasked to protect us are trained.
Some may be criminals, but there’re criminals everywhere; what’s unique today is that whether in Cleveland or St.Paul those tasked to enforce “Law and Order” aren’t always aware that they’re also protecting those who profit off division, strife and conflict.
Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first independent president, coined the term “neo-colonialism” because he believed that the West would continue to colonize much of the world through sophisticated and “non-violent” instruments like embargoes, IMF, cartels, educational and cultural institutions, and through unfettered free-market capitalism – empowering the privileged to continue to exploit the weak and helpless.
Nkrumah was right – it happens still, an ongoing conflict between the West’s post-colonial exceptionalist identity and everyone else’s.
To engage this conflict we to be more intentional in distinguishing between criminals like Dylann Roof and Omar Mateen and the desperate cries of the dispossessed who, as Franz Fanon described in The Wretched of the Earth, “For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.”
Recently, within a week of each other, lone-wolf gunmen terrorized the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, the Pulse night club in Orlando and, in West Yorkshire, England, assassinated Labor MP Jo Cox. These attacks, as in Nice, France, didn’t occur in isolation; the gunmen were alienated losers drawn to delusional ideologies that called upon them to confront those whom they believed challenged their dignity and identity.
Responding to such violence with an ‘iron hand in a velvet glove’ doesn’t work; countering ideologies with violence is counterproductive.
And, as I write this Friday morning, news reports from Nice indicate that yet another madman, a petty criminal 31-year-old French-Tunisian, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlela, married with 3 children, killed at least 84 innocent people at Bastille Day celebrations in an unfathomable act of terrorism.
Pray for the victims.
It’s not insignificant that the French terrorist, like so many others, was a petty criminal with a life most likely spent in France’s underserved and marginalized banlieues, physically, economically and culturally isolated, too-often holding menial, insecure, low-wage jobs.
That’s a too-familiar profile for many Americans; Be attentive.
To progress toward justice and security we must acknowledge the intersectionality of such conflicts, find a balance between appreciating commonalities and appreciating differences, unequivocally condemn terrorism without denying legitimate political resistance and struggle together to find a compassionate model where the innocent aren’t victims, or victimized, but sisters and brothers – where chickens have no place to roost.