Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rose Parks, 2000 dead, Hurricane Wilma, Wally and Tommie Smith and John Carlos

[Nina and I just got back from the movies and Ma says, "Michael, who died yesterday?" Rosa Parks, why? I typed "Rose Parks" in the title. I'm just a really bad typist. I hunt and peck. I can't change it because it's got a web address now and "Rose" is in it. So I will just offer my apologies for being a really, really bad typist. I spelled it right in the stuff below. I do the title last and I was hurrying to get to the movies with Nina. So I'll again say, "I'm sorry."]

Good evening. We have three things from Democracy Now! today:

Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks 1913-2005
Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks has died at the age of 92. It was 50 years ago this December that she refused to relinquish her seat to a white man aboard a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and convicted of violating the state's segregation laws. Her act of resistance led to a 13-month boycott of the Montgomery bus system that would spark the civil rights movement. The boycott would also help transform a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King Junior to national prominence. In 1958 King wrote "no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, 'I can take it no longer.''' Parks had been involved in the fight for freedom since the 1940s. She was active in the NAACP, helped raise money to defend the Scottsboro rape case and attended trainings at the Highlander Folk School of Tennessee. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said yesterday ''She sat down in order that we might stand up. Paradoxically, her imprisonment opened the doors for our long journey to freedom.'' Henry Louis Gates Jr called her "the Harriet Tubman of our time." After he was freed from jail Nelson Mandela recalled how Parks had inspired him and others in the South African struggle against apartheid. We'll have more on Rosa Parks in a few minutes.

Rosa Parks is an icon, a leader, a motivator, a dreamer leading others to dream a better world. After MLK, she was probably the person we learned the most about in school. But listening to Democracy Now!'s broadcast of an interview with Ms. Parks from 1956 and hearing other stuff during the broadcast, it seems pretty obvious that I was taught about Rosa Parks in isolation without all the connections and activism involved. C.I.'s talked about that a lot (and a lot in roundtables and book discussions at The Third Estate Sunday Review), how popular history strips people from the movements they led and inspired as well as being led and inspired by the movements. She has earned her rightful place in history. But hopefully someday we'll have the space in the school books to really go into the struggle she was a part of.

U.S. Death Toll Nears 2000
And the U.S. death toll in Iraq is creeping closer to 2,000. The military has announced a Marine died in Ramadi on Sunday bringing the death toll to 1997. Anti-war activists have organized over 300 protests to take place across the country on the day after the US announces the 2000th U.S. soldier killed. On Monday Cindy Sheehan announced she and other peace activists will begin holding a daily vigil each night this week outside the White House.

We've already hit 2,000. We'll climb even higher. What's the magic number that makes America scream "Enough!"? Already the polls show disgust with the war and with the majority of Americans say bring the troops home. It's just our leaders who can't find their voices. I'll exempt my Senator Ted Kennedy because he's called for us to bring the troops home months ago. The media just didn't make a big deal out of it because it's not a message they want to trumpet.

Why is that? I read something, maybe it was in Amy Goodman's Exception to the Rulers?, about how war is big coverage and a money maker for networks. I wonder if they think that now that the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad is being attacked by someone other than the American military?

Dexter Filkins is among the worst of all the reporters in Baghdad. In my home he's known as the guy who lied about Falluja in November of 2004. He went on to win an award for his lies.
Day after day, you see bloggers nail Judith Miller to the wall but they're silent on Filkins so the question is, do they not know about him? Or does the cat have their tongue?

I wasn't aware, until C.I. pointed it out, that the questioning of Miller's reporting began before the war did. It's interesting that so many are so loud now but not a lot of them had much to say then. Maybe it's going to take years for Dexter Filkins to be exposed but I think he will be. I know among my friends he is a joke and I think that will only increase with each passing year. Someday there may be universal calls for him to be stripped of his award.

It's too bad those calls aren't going on right now when it would matter. When we were all in D.C. for the protests, we got to talk to a few journalists and they all said Dexter Filkins' reporting was just as damaging as Judith Miller's. They're theory is that a lot of people don't know what happened in Falluja still and that some of those who do don't want to make a big deal out of it because, since a lot of people don't know the truth about Falluja, it might mean going out on a limb. C.I. dealt with it in real time. (C.I. has noted that Ron has dealt with it as well at Why Are We Back In Iraq?) But in their little, bitty worlds, a lot of people seem to want to play it all safe and snuggly. Maybe they're too busy pushing a candidate or a book club?

Me, I think you do a blog because you want to talk about something that matters to the world. I don't think laying the groundwork for election 2008 to be sewn up by some guy you've got a crush on qualifies as mattering to the world. But I guess it beats cat blogging. (That goes to "Watchdog Daily" which is hilarious. You have to read it if you haven't already. I laugh at it every time I read it and I helped with the writing of it. You can also read Rebecca's VH1 Behind the Blogging backstory on that piece here.)

Hurricane Wilma Wrecks Havoc in Florida, Cuba & Mexico
Residents in southern Florida, Cuba and Mexico are all facing massive cleanups following the devastating Hurricane Wilma. In Florida at least six people have died and six million are without power. In Cuba parts of Havana flooded after a seawall broke Monday. In Cancun, 500,000 residents have lost nearly everything.

I was really worried about my buddy Wally all day. He could have been safe but his mom told him Sunday that she wasn't able to get his grandfather to leave. His grandfather's attitude was he'd seen it all and one little hurricane wasn't anything to be scared of. So Wally got in his car and drove to his grandfather and made it before the hurricane hit. This morning, I checked The Daily Jot and there was no new post so I really worried. As soon as I got to campus, Tony walks over and goes "Wally's safe" and says C.I. already gave a heads up.

I was really relieved. Wally's a friend but he's also one brave dude. He knew going to his grandfather's wasn't going to change the old man's mind. He knew the most he could do was stay there with his grandfather to make sure they were in it together. Wally understands the importance of family and loyalty and he's a really cool dude. I'm glad you're okay, Wally. Hope you guys get electricity soon.

Be sure to check out Elaine's take on the above at Like Maria Said Paz.

On a day when we remember Rosa Parks' brave activism, let's also note Dave Zirin's
"When Fists are Frozen: The Statue of Tommie Smith and John Carlos:"

Trepidation should be our first impulse when we hear that radical heroes are to be immortalized in fixed poses of bloodless nostalgia. There is something very wrong with seeing the toothy, grinning face of Paul Robeson staring back at us from a stamped envelope. Or the wry expression the US Postal service affixed onMalcolm X - harmless, wry, inviting, and by extension slanderous.
These fears erupted in earnest when I heard that San Jose State University would be unveiling a statue of two of its alums, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. The 20 foot high structure would be a commemoration of their famed Black Gloved salute at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. I dreaded the thought that this would be the athletic equivalent to Lenin’s Tomb: when you can't erase a radical history, you simply embalm it. These fears are not without foundation. Smith and Carlos's frozen moment in time has been consumed and regurgitated endlessly by the wide world of corporate sports. But this process has taken place largely without any kind of serious discussion about who these men were, the ideas they held, and the price they paid.
With palpable relief, I report that the statue does Smith and Carlos justice, and then some. It is a lyrical work of art, and a fitting tribute to two amazing athletes who rose to their moment in time. Credit should go to the artist, a sculptor who goes by the name Rigo23. Rigo23's most important decision was to leave Smith and Carlos's inventively radical and little discussed symbology intact. On the statue, as in 1968, Smith and Carlos wear wraps around their necks to protest lynching and they are not wearing shoes to protest poverty. Rigo23 made sure to remember that Carlos' Olympic jacket - in a shocking breach of etiquette - was zipped open, done so because as Carlos said to me, "I was representing shift workers, blue-collar people, and the underdogs. That's why my shirt was open. Those are the people whose contributions to society are so important but don't get recognized."

Rosa Parks is a portrait of courage and bravery. So are Tommie Smith and John Carlos. We don't see a lot of courage these days but it still exists. You can hear it in the voice of Congress members Barbara Lee, John Conyers and Maxine Waters among others. You can hear it in Cindy Sheehan. I wonder if it's possible that there's as much courage now as at any other time but that we just don't hear about it or see it because the mainstream media gave up caring about the people a long time ago?

Lastly, my apolgies to Maria. I wasn't watching my typing at all Saturday (I hate typing) and I called her Marie in my title. Beau and Leigh Ann both caught that and e-mailed on it.