Here in the United States, we are brought up to believe that our nation is different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral; that we expand into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy. But if you know some history you know that's not true. If you know some history, you know we massacred Indians on this continent, invaded Mexico, sent armies into Cuba, and the Philippines. We killed huge numbers of people, and we did not bring them democracy or liberty. We did not go into Vietnam to bring democracy; we did not invade Panama to stop the drug trade; we did not invade Afghanistan and Iraq to stop terrorism. Our aims were the aims of all the other empires of world history -- more profit for corporations, more power for politicians.
The poets and artists among us seem to have a clearer understanding of the disease of nationalism. Perhaps the black poets especially are less enthralled with the virtues of American "liberty" and "democracy," their people having enjoyed so little of it. The great African-American poet Langston Hughes addressed his country as follows:
You really haven't been a virgin for so long.
It's ludicrous to keep up the pretext?
You've slept with all the big powers
In military uniforms,
And you've taken the sweet life
Of all the little brown fellows?
Being one of the world's big vampires,
Why don't you come on out and say so
Like Japan, and England, and France,
And all the other nymphomaniacs of power.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Howard Zinn - An Inspiration for Progressives
It's tough being a progressive. We're always ahead of the curve, trying to drag stubborn conservatives toward progress. Howard Zinn is an example of what we can accomplish. He was fired from Spelman College in 1963, because of his civil rights activities. This year, he was invited back to give the commencement speech: