December 25, 2017

Let America Be America Again

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

December 17, 2017


... or The reason Christianity sucks

This will be kind of a hodgepodge tale of how European Christianity led to America being simultaneously admired and despised by the rest of the planet. I'll just be hitting the high points. You can follow the links or do your own research if you want to know more. We'll start out with the Myth of Christopher Columbus and work our way to the Bears Ears National Monument.

Chris Comes to America - Or does he?

Columbus was more or less a freelance bounty hunter of the 15th century. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, with the blessing of the Church, offered a bounty for anyone who would steal property from Spanish Jews and Muslims to hand over to the crown, and our daring young Chris was quite happy to oblige. It was the money obtained from that plunder that provided the funding for his explorations. With his pockets full of booty, three ships and about 90 crew, Chris set out looking for a new route to East Asia and India.

To give you a bit of insight into his character, while en route Columbus offered a reward of 10,000 Spanish Maravedis (about $540) for the first person who sighted land. That much money was huge, since it represented what the typical sailor would have earned in a year. One early morning on October 12, 1492, one of the crew shouted out from atop a mast that he had seen land. Indeed what the sailor had spotted was probably Watling Island in the Bahamas, which is where Columbus is recorded as making his first landfall. Columbus immediately reneged on the reward, claiming that he had seen it first.

Nice guy, eh?

In the process of attempting to approach the island, Columbus wrecked the Santa Maria. Local and friendly indigenous bands of Arawaks, Tainos and Lucayans witnessed the accident, swam out to the wreckage, rescued the sailors and Columbus, and then worked for hours saving their cargo. We know all this because Columbus kept very good records. He was so impressed with the friendliness of the native people that he claimed their land in the name of Spain and the Catholic Church, kidnapped local women and children for the entertainment of the crew, and enslaved the men to look for nonexistent gold. In his own journal he wrote:

“As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”

So now we know the evil that was in the heart of a man for whom our Exceptional America has named a national holiday. 

On to the next chapter, skipping ahead about three centuries. 

In 1775 Thomas Johnson and some other British citizens convinced the Piankeshaw tribe to sell them some land in what is now Virginia. Johnson died and willed the land to his heirs. In 1818 a Scotsman by the name of William M'Intosh bought a bunch of land from the U.S. Congress, with about 11,000 acres of it being part of the land Johnson bought from the Piankeshaw. As you might guess, this pissed off the Johnson's heirs, so they sued M'Intosh. The Court ruled for M'Intosh because it was the Congress that made the sale. Johnson's heirs appealed to the SCOTUS, which upheld the lower court ruling. In Johnson v. M'Intosh (1823), Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in his opinion that "the United States earned the 'exclusive right…to extinguish [the Indians'] title, and to grant the soil.'" He further wrote that "...the Indians themselves did not have the right to sell property to individuals," and that "...M'Intosh's claim, which was derived from Congress, was superior to Johnson's claim, which was derived from the non-existent right of Indians to sell their land." 

So at this point you have to ask, why did the tribe not have the right to sell their ancestral lands? Well, Chief Justice Marshall had an explanation for that. The M'Intosh case was one of three such cases, collectively known as "the Marshall Trilogy." All were based on the Doctrine of Discovery.

This doctrine is not and never was a law. It is a legal construction built upon the Christian faith and dates back to the time when the Church needed to justify what Columbus had done to the natives of the Bahamas. In 1493 the Pope retrospectively issued a Papal Bull which in part states, "...any land not inhabited by Christians" was available to be discovered, claimed, and exploited by Christian rulers and declared that "the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself." 


Marshall applied the Doctrine according to the way that colonial powers laid claim to lands belonging to foreign sovereign nations during the Age of Discovery. Under it, title to lands lay with the government whose subjects traveled to and occupied a territory whose inhabitants were not subjects of a European Christian monarch. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments. Our Exceptional America has used this doctrine as an excuse to violate a majority of the treaties it has made with the native peoples of this land.  

Fast Forward Two Hundred Years

In 1851 the Standing Rock Sioux reservation was created under the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The Standing Rock Sioux may sound familiar, and it should due to the debacle created when our Exceptional America violated the treaty by agreeing to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross near reservation land without consulting the tribe. This set off a protest as the tribe was rightfully concerned about it's only access to clean water. As the tribe protested, peacefully for the most part, there was video shot of the pipeline construction company bulldozing ancient stone prayer sites near the pipeline. Then the same company brought in private security guards who unleashed dogs on the protesters, and when the dogs didn't deter them, the guards sprayed the protesters with Mace. Not to be outdone, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple first brought in water cannons, dousing the protesters with water on a frigid day, and then declared a state of emergency as an excuse for cutting off the protester's camp water source. In the end the protesters disbanded due to the oncoming, brutal winter. President Obama finally put a stop to the construction, but the current president gave the go ahead. Since that time the pipeline has lived up to the people's predictions, springing several leaks with the first coming before it was fully operational.

Less than a year later, in an unprecedented executive, that same president ordered the review of 40 national monuments created over the past 21 years, all on Indian land. The goal was obvious. He wanted to give the lands that were preserved for their beauty and for the native culture to those who would exploit the resource and defile the sacred ground. The current president called national monuments created by Obama as “an egregious abuse of power,” and said “It never should have happened. I am signing this order to end abuses and return control to the people,” when in fact, the action took the land back away from The People."

In an article appearing in the online edition, National Geographic writes, "Even in the face of Trump’s frenetic efforts to erase other parts of Obama’s legacy on multiple policy fronts, his call for ending abuse of monument designation stands out. No president has ever revoked a national monument named by a predecessor. No president has ever tried."

Just as when the 1851 and 1868 Treaties of Fort Laramie were broken, the reason for the shrinkage of Bears Ears is because of America's greed. Conservative Republican lawmakers have long argued that the federal government, which owns almost half the land in 11 western states, should turn control of much of it over to the states, or sell off parcels for commercial development and the allure of new jobs. In the black Hills the treaties were broken due to the discovery of gold. For Bears Ears it is the lure is coal and oil

When Obama created the monument in the waning days of his administration, Utah’s congressmen denounced Bears Ears as “a slap in the face” and “a travesty.” Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, promised, in a website video, “We will fight to right this wrong.” With this president it was no fight. If Obama did it, he was going to undo it.

It is clear that Obama had the power to create national monuments on federal lands. That authority was written into law by the Antiquities Act, which was signed in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. With the exception of Reagan, every president since Teddy has used the law to designate national monuments. Obama created 34, which apparently rankles the current president.

His actions with Bears Ears will not be met with acceptance. There is still hope that we can put a stop to this latest violation of trust. Brad Sewell, a senior lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says “These are very popular places.”  He points out that “Many of our national parks started as national monuments. Even in Utah, where a fair amount of opposition is brewing in certain quarters, the public at large is in favor of national monuments.” Bears Ears is also home to more than 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, considered sacred by many tribes. This was Obama's primary reason for setting the land aside.

Disagreement over the Antiquities Act’s intent lies in its simplicity. The four-paragraph law clearly states that the president is authorized to “declare” national monuments. But the law says nothing about the presidential authority to do the reverse. “The Antiquities Act does not provide for rescinding a national monument,” says Robert Keiter, director of the University of Utah’s Wallace Stegner Center, and a specialist in public lands law. “The courts have not ruled on whether there is an implied power in the statute. The issue has never been litigated previously.”

There have been numerous Attorney General opinions arguing that the president lacks the power to revoke, with the most notable being authored by President Franklin Roosevelt’s attorney general in 1938. When FDR inquired if the Antiquities Act allowed him to scuttle a derelict Civil War-era fort in Charleston, South Carolina, as a national monument, he was advised it did not. Successive administrations heeded the same advice. This administration, having shown a disregard for precedent, public opinion, and the law, will attempt to once again show the contempt that this country has held the First People, and once again the People will rise up to meet the challenge. 

European Christianity has set the tone for the exploitation of the land and the disenfranchisement of a people. The natives may have been savages in the eyes of the old world, but the truth is that there has never in recorded history been so much savagery wreaked upon a people as was seen and is still being seen in this country. 

So tell me please... exactly why do we say that America is exceptional? If there was ever a time when this land was exceptional at anything, it was before the white Europeans brought their Christianity to these shores.