Thursday, April 7, 2011

Farewell Manning Marable, (May 13, 1950 – April 1, 2011): A great scholar, a great man

With a heavy heart, I read of the death of Manning Marable at the beginning of the month. Marable was one of America's foremost scholars of African American Studies. He taught at Columbia University and he wrote far too many books to list here. His last book, apparently his magnum opus, was a biography of Malcolm X called Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.

I confess to not having read the book yet, but I have ordered it and eagerly await its arrival. In the future, I'll blog about it here. Malcolm X's famous Autobiography, co-written with Roots author Alex Haley, helped cement Malcolm's important place in American mythology. For the sake of full disclosure, few books have had as great an impact on me as Malcolm's Autobiography. An authentic First Edition, complete with the original dust jacket, occupies a very special place on my office bookshelf.

Marable, who had tremendous respect for Malcolm (this isn't the first book he's written about man), shatters a lot of the myths created by the Autobiography. Among the new revelations from Marable are that Malcolm exaggerated his criminal record in the Autobiography and, in his early life, had a gay relationship with a white businessman. There is a fantastic review of Marable's book in The Guardian. Very long, very nuanced and very positive.

A key graf:
Manning Marable, an academic and respected authority on black America, doesn't use his book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention to destroy the reputation of the man who told the heartlands that the assassination of President Kennedy represented "chickens coming home to roost". But, over 487 pages, Marable does effectively destroy the cultivated brand. There is a wealth of detail, some of it new, some of it old stories confirmed, all aided by documents and new recollections from the US government, the FBI and the Nation of Islam, whose leader Louis Farrakhan gave the author an unprecedented nine-hour interview. At the end of it all, Malcolm X remains Malcolm X, for good or ill, one of the most fascinating historical figures of the 20th century. But it is difficult to see him in the same way again.
The book took twelve years to write. Marable, it turns out, had sarcoidosis (a disease involving swelling of lymph nodes, lungs, eyes, skin or other tissues - in Marable's case, he'd hat in his lungs for about a quarter of a century), which necessitated a lung transplant. Thus, the scholar was racing against the clock to finish the biography before he ultimately died of causes related to pneumonia on April 1.

A wonderful biographical sketch of Marable appeared in an African American newspaper, The Florida Courier, at the time of his death. Here's an excerpt:

Black newspaper roots

Born in Dayton, Ohio, on May 13, 1950, Marable wrote in his book, "Speaking Truth to Power," that as the child of middle-class Black Americans – his father a teacher and businessman, his mother an educator and college professor – He watched the largely Southern civil rights movement from afar.

He found his political voice as a teenager writing columns for a Black newspaper, the Dayton Defender. He served as the Defender’s correspondent and marched along with thousands of others during Dr. King’s funeral procession.

"With Martin’s death, my childhood abruptly ended," he wrote. "My understanding of political change began a trajectory from reform to radicalism."

Marable earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Earlham College and his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Ohio State University, then served as the founding director of the Africana and Hispanic Studies Program at Colgate University before going to Columbia.

Prolific author

Marable wrote hundreds of papers and nearly 20 books, including "How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America" (1983); "Beyond Black and White: Race in America’s Past, Present and Future" (1995); "The Crisis of Color and Democracy" (1995); "The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in American Life" (2003); "Freedom: A Photographic History of the African-American Freedom Struggle" (2002); and "9/11: Racism in a Time of Terror (2002).

A public memorial service is set for May 27. Besides Leith Mullings, his wife of 15 years, three children and two stepchildren survive him.

Incidentally, I have my own Marable story. Years ago, long before I was a professor of history - hell, before I was even in graduate school - I met Marable. At the time, he was guest lecturing in Utah. And I had the great fortune of going to dinner with him. This was back in the 1980s.

He was a wonderful man and, even though I was only a teenager at the time, he treated me very respectfully and listened as well as talked. Sadly, I never met him in person again after that, although I read a few of his books and followed his career with great interest. When he passed away, a wave of sadness hit me at the thought that America has lost one of its great scholars of African American history and life.

It had also lost a great humanitarian and a truly decent man.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thee-thee-thee-uh-That's All Folks!

Political commentator Glenn Beck, who's so far over the extreme Right that he's on the verge of breaking through the partition into MaoistTopia, is leaving FoxNews. Or he's been fired from FoxNews. Hard to tell. It depends on which headlines you believe. "Fox Gives Glenn Beck's show the boot," said a headline in The Los Angeles Times. By contrast, a CNN headline noted: "Glenn Beck leaving Fox show." Who's right? Beck himself, in his usual overwrought style, went on Fox and explained his reasons for leaving to his viewers:

When I took this job -- I didn't take it because it was going to be a career for me. Paul Revere did not get up on the horse and say, ha, I'm going to do this for the rest of my life. He didn't do it. He got off the horse at some point and fought in the Revolution and then he went back to silversmithing. If you have watched this program and you really -- I ask you at times -- hear me, you know what I believe is coming. If you watch tonight's show, I believe you know that I believe we're heading into deep and treacherous waters.

It bothers me to be entering this phase and feel as though you might say, well, wait, wait, wait. I've been very clear with you. I've played my cards face up. We will find each other. I'm developing other content for Fox through specials and other things, on television and beyond. I will continue to tell the story and I'm going to be showing you other ways for us to connect, but I have other things to do. And not because it's good or bad for business, but I think you, out of all the people, will truly get this. Our only business is the business of freedom and our country at this time. It's why I told you about E4. I told you at the beginning of the year, prepare to be a leader. Educate yourself. Be the mouthpiece. Never rely on anyone else to spoon feed you.

Did you follow that? I sure as hell didn't. Maybe the master, Hunter S. Thompson, put it best when he said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

Whether he was fired or left on his own steam, Beck has achieved the dubious distinction of being too right-wing for FoxNews.

I hate to come out of the closet and say what I'm about to say, but I'll sort of miss the guy. I actually watch Beck from time to time. I get FoxNews and I'm one of the few lefties who finds his rants entertaining.

We haven't seen the last of Beck, that's for sure. He'll be back, on some other channel, giving some insane chalkboard conspiracy theories utilizing arrows and circles. And I applaud him for crying on the air. Some asshole liberals gave him grief for that. There are plenty of reasons to critique Beck, but getting emotional on the air isn't one of them, even if you think the guy is a pompous blowhard.

Beck will be back. Who knows? He may even get his own channel. Beck-24/7... Twenty-four hours of Beck. Day and night. Chalkboards galore. Conspiracy theories connecting Barack Obama and Woodrow Wilson to the International Communist Conspiracy. So many people love the guy. Not sure what that says about the state of the United States these days.

U.S. Politics 101: Making Sense of the Possible Government Shutdown Without All of Those Expensive Poli Sci Textbooks!

Republicans: MY WAY!

Democrats: NO, MY WAY!

Republicans: NO! MY WAY!

Democrats: No. My, um, way.

Republicans: NO! MY WAY!

Democrats: Look, we're not really getting anywhere with all of this shouting...

Republicans: NO! MY WAY!

Democrats: Surely, there must be some room for compromise...

Republicans: NO! MY WAY!

Democrats: In the spirit of bipartisanship, can't we simply...

Republicans: NO! MY WAY!

Democrats: The American people expect action, and, let's face it, we aren't delivering...

Republicans: NO! MY WAY!

Democrats: Okay, okay. Your way.

Republicans: NO! MY WAY!

(Note: That rumbling sound is Harry Truman spinning in his grave...)

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Great Disillusionment

What a difference four years makes.

Slightly over four years ago, on February 10, 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama announced his intention to run for the presidency in front of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, the same place another Illinoisan, Abraham Lincoln, delivered his famous "House Divided" speech in 1858. Thousands of people huddled in subzero temperatures to witness that historic event. Obama criticized what he called the "smallness of our politics." "The time for that politics is over," he told the cheering crowd. "It is through. It is time to turn the page."

Obama spoke repeatedly of the importance of what he called "hope" and, in the words of The New York Times, portrayed "his campaign less as a candidacy and more as a movement." "Each and every time," he said, "a new generation has risen up and done what has needed to be done. Today we are called once more, and it is time for our generation to answer that call." (Source)

After years of George W. Bush's presidency, Obama captivated people. He hypnotized them. He became a modern-day Pied Piper. People succumbed en masse to his siren call. People snapped up his books on They cheered him on as a "man of the people." Americans, young and old, rallied around him, supporting him despite attacks from inside and outside of his party. Obama could do no wrong in people's eyes. They viewed him as a savior. Without doubt, part of his appeal had to do with the fact that he was the first African American frontrunner in a major presidential campaign.

I myself called him "this generation's Abraham Lincoln."

But it was more than that. People saw in Obama what they wanted to see in him. Liberals regarded him as a liberal. Outsiders thought of him as an outsider, a man with limited experience who appeared destined to lead a great nation. Independents felt he was more of a genuine maverick than John McCain, his Republican foe. A "Cult of Obama" took hold. It swept people away.

Flash forward to today, April 4, 2011. Few took notice of Obama declaring himself a candidate for re-election. The announcement went out with a whimper, not a bang.

"We can't go backwards," he told the nation today. "We have to preserve the progress that we've made and take it to the next level, and that means that we're going to have to mobilize." (Source)

Or, as a campaign email in my Inbox from the Obama folks said, simply, "We aren't finished."

Despite a dimming of the enthusiasm, the White House will probably be an easy conquest for Obama. He will, in all likelihood, win handily in 2012. Most pundits are already concurring with that prediction.

Look at his challengers. The Republican opposition, thus far, has done a dismal job of finding someone up to the task of running against Obama. Michele Bachmann? Sarah Palin? Mitt Romney? Tim Pawlenty? Newt Gingrich??? Really? Newt Gingrich? Seriously? Newt Gingrich? Does anybody really think Newt Gingrich is going to be the next commander in chief? What a sorry state of affairs when some think he may actually be a contender.

The only credible challenger to Obama thus far has been Representative Ron Paul, who could easily forge a coalition of Republicans, Independents and even leftists who applaud his anti-interventionist politics. But the Republican Party leadership is likely to put the kibosh on those plans. Like him or not, Ron Paul, unlike John McCain, is a genuine maverick whose anti-establishment politics are a breath of fresh air in this age of tired, stale, partisan politics.

Barring any unforeseen disasters (particularly of the economic variety), victory in '12, at this point, appears highly likely for Obama. Professor Peverill Squire, who teaches political science at the University of Missouri, put it best: "If the economy does chug along the way it is now a lot of people may be more comfortable going with Obama." (Source)

Squire is right. And Tea Party talk about Obama being a "socialist" and a Muslim who wasn't born in the United States won't make a dent in his reelection bid if the economy continues to, in Squire's well-chosen words, "chug along."

But there will be something missing from Obama's victory this time around. There won't be any dancing in the streets. Don't expect two million people to journey to Washington, D.C., in chartered buses, carrying the iconic red and blue stencil picture of Obama with the words "Hope" and "Change" below his face.

Those of us who voted for Obama knew it would take time to repair Bush's errors. That is not the source of the disillusionment. No, the despair comes from a man who stands for nothing, who has reneged on so many promises, and who has done little to actually help people reclaim politics. So little, in fact, that some of his former supporters have actually flocked to the Tea Party, hoping perhaps its promises of change may yield greater results.

Today, the day Obama announced plans to run for president, a Los Angeles Times headline told of yet another broken promise. "No Guantanamo suspects will be tried in U.S. civilian courts." (Source) So much for the vow to close Guantanamo. Add it to a long list of unfulfilled vows.

Men and women who trudge to the polls on Election Day 2012 will not do so with the illusion that they're reclaiming American politics. This time, the idealism will be nonexistent. Joy will be knocked off her perch by pragmatism. And that euphoric moment on November 4, 2008 - Election Day - will be largely forgotten, recalled only be a few who look back fondly at a very different time, when an eloquent president-elect momentarily convinced ordinary voters that the system did, indeed, belong to them, and it was theirs for the taking.

Libya: Two Videos from Jack Hunter

Conservative political commentator and talk radio host Jack Hunter, who alienated many Neoconservatives with his criticisms of George W. Bush's foreign policy in the early 2000s, offers two very thought-provoking videos here. I'm posting them because I think Hunter raises a number of compelling issues on American intervention on Libya. Specifically, he likens President Barack Obama's actions in recent weeks to Bush's foreign policy approach to the post-9/11 wars. Hunter is saying what I've been saying on this Blog from the start of this intervention. Obama and the Democrats are adopting a Neoconservative approach to Libya that involves regime change, forging alliances with indigenous elements within the country, and military actions in the form of Coalition airstrikes to carry out this agenda.

Meantime, at home, America is in a lot of trouble economically. Hunter and others like him are insisting that it is high time to pay attention to matters closer to home. While I have some differences of opinion about what needs to be done in the country, I agree with his concerns about the United States continuing its role as a global policeman. This is a costly endeavor and, by its very nature, it's highly selective. It is impossible to argue that what is happening in Libya is far worse than what is happening in the Ivory Coast. Why pick one above the other, when the crises inside both countries are so strikingly similar in so many respects, particularly when it comes to the violence unfolding in both places? This is not to say the United States should become a hardcore isolationist nation. There are things that Washington can do to help those who are struggling to uphold the primacy of human rights. It is difficult to see how dropping bombs from airplanes is one of them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Three Cheers for Our Tea Party Comrades for Exposing the Running Dog Paper Tigers of the Reactionary Elitist Obama Clique! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

Our comrades in the Tea Party, America's equivalent to the Great Maoist Purification Drive in the People's Republic of China, are thankfully exposing the Paper Tigers who are acting as lackeys of the Democratic Party! The People's Revolution will stamp out these Running Dogs and show them to be the Truly Impure Evildoers that they are!

A New Day is Dawning! The People's Revolution has exposed the Dangerous Miscreant that is Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, a lackey of the People's Enemies who is pretending to be a Republican and who has deviated dangerously from the People's Revolutionary Doctrine! This Running Dog will be paraded through the streets of Beijing in a Dunce Cap for all to see!

Comrade Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation has drawn attention to this Cowardly Traitor's Outrageous Crimes Against the People! Last week, in an absolutely purge-worthy vile display of his love for the Enemy of the People, Senator Scott Brown, a dancing marionette of the Obama Clique, had the temerity to deliver a speech on the Senate floor saying that Tea Party cuts would hurt programs for the elderly and poor of the state of Massachusetts! How dare he?!?!?!? Thankfully, Comrade Phillips set the record straight, establishing the CORRECT PARTY LINE for the People! Here is what this man of the people said:

“Brown is a politician, and that is meant in the worst sense of the word. He knows self-preservation and self-promotion. He has aligned himself with the [Republicans in name only] crowd, which has no beliefs, other than getting reelected and appeasing whatever base he thinks will help him get reelected.” (Source)
Where would we be without Comrade Phillips leading us to the PROMISED LAND of the People's Revolutionary Utopia? We will purge this DEVIATIONIST ELEMENT from our People's Republic, for Criminals like Scott Brown hinder our Super Great Leap Forward! And let this be a lesson! ANYTIME SOMEONE FEELS THE NEED TO SPEAK THE TRUTH, THEY WILL BE MADE AN EXAMPLE OF SO THAT THEY DO NOT CORRUPT THE WILL OF OUR GREAT REVOLUTION!!!

So three cheers for Comrade Phillips!!!

(Cue the chirping crickets...)

Ivory Coast/Cote d'Ivoire 101: Making Sense of the Crisis

For those of you trying to make sense of the crisis and the escalating violence in the Ivory Coast/Cote d'Ivoire (and, like me, wondering why in the hell the international Coalition is intervening in Libya but not this troubled West African country), this Al Jazeera Q&A is extremely helpful. It is somewhat longer than the typical videos I post on the Tiki Lounge (about 25 minutes), but the talking heads here are extremely intelligent, unlike the "Usual Suspects" you're likely to find on the Sunday morning gab fests (who, let's face it, really don't have any idea what the hell is going on in the Ivory Coast). These Al Jazeera guests know their stuff and they do an excellent job of putting the recent events in the broader political and historical context.

Even if you're a lay person and know nothing about the Ivory Coast (like Yours Truly), you'll come away from this Q&A a lot more informed. Have a look. The 25 minutes are well worth the time and once you're finished watching it, you - unlike most of the pundits on the political talk shows - will have a much better idea of what is happening in this troubled part of the globe.