“Never let your schooling interfere with your eduction”
“”I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” – Mark Twain
“I first learned of Manifest Destiny in American History in Junior High School. To me it has always meant that one could set goals, work hard, and achieve their dreams. Having the opportunity to design for the Gap was the realization of one of my dreams. This phrase and they way I used it was in no way meant to be offensive or hurtful, and I apologize to those who might have interpreted it in that manner.” – Mark McNairy designer of the MANIFEST DESTINY T-shirt for the Gap
If you’re looking for evidence of how stupid and racist American imperialism can make you, look no further than the MANIFEST DESTINY T-shirt that was released by the Gap. The designer Mark McNairy thought he was taking a political ideology of imperial empowerment and reclaiming it as a personal improvement slogan. Don’t know what Manifest Destiny is? … Then consider this to be a teachable moment for you… The question is, is it possible for white people to go all through their lives and not know that touting the benefits of Manifest Destiny is not a good thing? It would seem so… But when you analyze it further it sadly doesn’t seem that far-fetched. When i think about on my own schooling i remember how American imperialism was buffed to a shine so that it became easy to gloss over, slavery, women’s suffrage, the labor struggles of the late 19th and early 20th century, and the civil rights era, just to name a few things that come to mind. So the fact that Mark McNairy came out of Junior High School thinking that Manifest Destiny was a positive ideology is not that far off.
However it’s not just Mark McNairy who isn’t aware that Manifest Destiny is an ideology of imperialism with its roots firmly planted in racism, but everyone at the Gap and at GQ Magazine which seems to have had a hand in the collaboration between Mr McNairy and the Gap. It seems that this design got past everyone at the Gap and GQ and made it all the way to being a product that they were selling online. That is of course until an online petition started by AIM Southern California (AIM = American Indian Movement) got together a few thousand signatures and shamed the Gap into removing it from their stores. What’s shocking is that no one, at the Gap or GQ or even Mark McNairy thought even for a moment to do even the slightest research on Manifest Destiny before charging forward with this offensive idea. Or maybe they did and didn’t give a damn anyway? Either way that kind of thinking comes with the territory when it comes to white privilege. In the eyes of whiteness the world is designed (pun intended) and shaped by white people for their benefit. Manifest Destiny as an imperialist ideology rooted in racism that justified the slaughter of millions of indigenous people in the Americas and the Caribbean, is just a sidebar to the new brand of ironic hipster racism.
The implications of this are so wide and so deep that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where things went wrong… i’d like to throw the idea out there that things went wrong (and continue to go wrong) with the education system in this country. It’s a system that force feeds a warped white washed view of American history in order to indoctrinate the populace into pliability for the ongoing Manifest Destiny in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continued Manifest Destiny of American colonies like Puerto Rico. The problem with this kind of education is that it runs headlong into an opposing view outside of the classroom. In the real world Manifest Destiny is just as bad an ideology as Nazism. That however didn’t stop Mark McNairy from defending his MANIFEST DESTINY T-shirt design with this tweet as his initial response when the uproar began… MANIFEST DESTINY. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST. The fittest, get it? The fittest…? As in T-shirt, as in fashion…? There seems to be no end to this ironic brand of hipster racism that comes from white people believing that the election of President Obama is the beginning of post-racism.
This won’t stop here, because American imperialism needs a compliant populace to support its imperialist adventures around the world and the seeds of that compliance are sown in the American education system. The recent naming of the mission to get Osama Bin Laden as Operation Geronimo is another example of the failure (or success, depending on your politics) of an American imperialist education. (Check out my thoughts on that in A Rejection of American Mythology Part I and Part II) The ongoing elevation and hero-worship of Columbus, who was the harbinger of the holocaust of indigenous people in the Caribbean and in the Americas. It’s an ongoing and never-ending assault. The saddest part to all of this, is not that this happened, but that it will happen again and again and again because what can be sown from imperialist seeds planted within the American educational system but the yielding of an imperialist crop…?
A few years ago i started a T-shirt company called RICANSTRUCTED dedicated to the independence of Puerto Rico from US colonial rule. i’ve done a few of my own designs that were created to created discussion and dialogue about some of these issues… If you’re looking for something for an alternative to the Gap’s Manifest Destiny and the rewritten version of America’s imperialist version of history, then look no further…
“Mother should I run for President? Mother should I trust this government? Mother will they put me in the firing line? Ooooooh, Is it just a waste of my time?” – Mother by Pink Floyd
On November 4th of 2007 on the night Barak Hussein Obama was elected as the US President i was finishing up the edit on this video. X-Vandals had done a cover of the song Mother from Pink Floyd’s high concept album The Wall and while President Obama was being elected i was uploading the X-Vandal’s Mother video up to YouTube. X-Vandals is MC Not4Prophet and DJ Johnny Juice. Not4Prophet is the lead vocalist of Hardcore Salsa, Reggae, Be-Bop, Hip-Hop, Punk band RICANSTRUCTION and half of the spoken noise duo known as Renegades Of Punk, DJ Johnny Juice is one of the DJ’s and producers of the iconic Public Enemy. Together they create what i call Prog-Hop (Progressive Hip-Hop). Cerebral Hip-Hop you can shake your ass to… These many years later this cover of Mother by X-Vandals and the accompanying video i did for it, seems to have taken on an even greater importance.
America has always been a land of contradictions due to the mythology it’s propagated about being the bastion of democracy and equality in the world, while at the same time dealing in the reality of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and imperialism. It’s not that other nations don’t also struggle with those very same issues, it’s just that America likes to puff up it’s chest and pound on it in verbose boasting about how free and exceptional it is to the rest of the world. Americanism has never been one that’s wanted equality, American elites have never been too keen on honoring agreements with first nations peoples in the Americas, or freeing slaves, or giving women the right to vote, or giving workers an 8 hour day or a living wage, or giving LBGTQ people equal rights. In many ways the mythology of America’s equality that’s been sold, has been bought wholesale by those who need it most and when they find those promises to be empty vessels, they struggle to force America to make good on it’s promises by pouring themselves into the void. This is where the contradiction comes, the promises made by American mythology can only be fulfilled if you’re willing to fight for that mythology to exist as a reality. The ideals that America likes to put forth as inherently and quintessentially ones that could only exist within America are ideals that are not bestowed from above by some American divinity, as advertised, but are fought and sometimes won from below, but not without some great cost, and at a speed that can be best described as glacial in comparison to the rhetoric that is spouted.
People come to America wanting to believe in those ideals like Barak Obama’s father did or are born here believing in those ideals as Barack Obama himself does. The incredible arc of Barak Obama’s very life is the embodiment of the American contradiction. The X-Vandals Mother video is an essay that tries to bring these seemingly disparate ideas together. Obama’s rise to the Presidency is in many ways analogous to the bottom forcing it’s will upon the mythology of America. In 2008 Obama’s fight for the presidency was a challenge to the mythology of America, a challenge that was set on a world stage. For the first time in history, people around the world were paying attention to the US presidential election because it challenged America’s mythology of equality and democracy. It’s also the reason the whole world had a reason to be happy when Obama won. It wasn’t his politics that made Obama so popular but the fact that he had forced the promise of the American myth to finally yield to fulfilling itself into some kind of reality.
The problem is that American mythology has a pathology of yielding to reality but only with the idea of perpetuating itself. Barak Obama is the President but the racism that made his run for presidency such a dramatic undertaking still simmers to an occasional boil as it has in the recent Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin followed the next day by the completely unrelated burning of a Mosque in Joplin, Missouri. The old saying applies here – ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. Many called the election of America’s first Black President the end of racism, but racism didn’t end. The election of Barak Obama and the persistence of racism has now become a part of American mythology and so the American myth bends to reality only in ways that strength the myth. The myth of America remains intact even with a Black president.
The Mother video is an essay on the embodiment of the American myth clashing with the American reality within the life of Barak Obama. The video makes a distinction between Mother, Mama and She. Mother is a role occupied of course by Barak Obama’s mother, it’s a personal plea of a son to his mother. The connection we have to the story the video tells is through Obama and so his plea for answers from his mother become our pleas for answers.
“Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb? Mother do you think they’ll like this song? Mother do you think they’ll break my balls? Ooooooh, Mother should I build a wall?”
‘Mama’ in the song and the video is a stand-in for America. The images are political cries from below to force into being the reality of freedom and equality onto the mythology of America. ‘Mama’ is America’s response to those demands being made. This is an interesting piece because Not4Prophet adjusted the original lyrics of Mother to highlight the contradiction of the American myth in a concise and condensed way. ‘Mama’ conjures up the best ideas of motherhood but it’s countered to the point of negation with the threats that can only come from the absolute power to shape our world as ‘Mama’ sees fit…
“Hush now baby, baby, baby, baby, it don’t mean a thing.
Mama gonna keep all you nightmares in a sling. Mama gonna teach all of her fears in to your skin.
Mama gonna keep her baby hangin’ from a string.
Mama gonna sleep you underneath her broken wing.
Mama gonna let you sing or chew a teething ring.
Mama gonna have a soldier slangin’ for the bling.
Mama gonna turn you from a baby to a king, king, king.“
The last question the video and the song proposes is one for all of us watching. The images are of Obama asking his mother about America. In this last part of the song America is She. America is the woman Obama loves and the questions he asks of his mother are searching for her approval and her advice on what he loves. The questions being asked are also forcing us as observers to ask ourselves what those answers should be…
“Mother do you think She’s good enough for me? Mother do you think She’s dangerous to me? Mother will She tear your little boy apart? Mother will She break my heart?
Mother did it have to be so high.“
The price exacted by all this is high, very high and i feel for Obama in this instance. The hopes and desires of the whole world are projected onto him, in the same way that the hopes and desires of the world are projected onto America. This is by design, in both of these instances. America wants and needs to have the hopes and desires of the world projected onto it, so that it can manipulate it for it’s own selfish gain. Obama being President of the United States would also have to absorb the hopes and desires of the whole world since he has decided to be a part of the American myth. In a small way I feel for Obama because it’s one thing to have the hopes and desires of millions projected onto a deeply flawed and complex mythological system like the one America has created for itself and another thing to have that projected onto you as a single human being.
I’m not an Obama supporter simply because i don’t think that the Presidency matters in this government. i don’t think any political office matters very much. i don’t think this government is designed to work to the benefit of the least among us. This country got off on the wrong foot when it allowed slavery as it demanded freedom. Even when it got it’s freedom it defined Black people to be 3/5’s of a human being and it only allowed white male land owners the right to vote. For all the talk about the US Constitution being some brilliant document, it’s weighed down by it’s own contradictions. For all the talk of the slave owning founding fathers calling for freedom and liberty, it’s no wonder that the claims of America are like some snake oil salesman who is run out of town by an angry mob (dressed as it’s citizenry) who extract refunds in the forms of freedoms that should have been guaranteed at the point of sale. In this swirling vortex of contradictions comes Obama weighed down by the mythology of America that he needs to accept in order to try and deliver on the promise of America while at the same time not moving so fast as to exact a price that is higher than he’s willing or able to pay. It’s an impossible feat, the price is made too high by the American myth makers, high enough to tear a man apart…
To get X-Vandals first album The War Of Art click here…
Note: Mother isn’t on this album. It will be released on the next X-Vandals album…
“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.”– Malcolm X
From son to orphan to hustler to convict to revolutionary, the constant and consistent personal rise of Malcolm is what made his ideas so politically dangerous. If the sum of his life were just his political work it would be brilliant enough, but his personal life gave his politics a greater gravitas. When Malcolm spoke of oppression he wasn’t just speaking from some far off detached perspective that had to imagine the full spectrum of that oppression but spoke from the physical wretchedness of personal experience. A personal experience of oppression that he wasn’t supposed to survive much less conquer.
His life is an epic poem that encompassed the full arc of possibilities. From those early years when the agents of oppression burned his family’s home, to the murder of his outspoken father, to the scattering of his family after his mother went mad from it all, Malcolm was forged in the fire. From the orphanages, to the streets, to the prison and the pulpit Malcolm was in the process of not allowing his oppressor to define him. From his tour of African nations and African leaders to his pilgrimage to Mecca his metamorphosis seemed to never cease. He reversed the polarities of macrocosm and microcosm. Turning the machinations of his personal life into a grand microcosm of political oppression and using it like a weapon in his political life as a minor macrocosm to feed his ongoing metamorphosis. It was this process of defining and redefining himself to both his oppressors and the oppressed in which Malcolm declared his victories.
In Egyptian mythology the Phoenix rises from the ashes of the fire. It recreates itself, gives birth to itself from within the adversity that’s tried to destroy it. Each time it falls, it rises and it rises from it’s own will. It’s the cycle of life and death and life. Malcolm was a Phoenix rising from the ashes of his home, from the death of his father, from the oppression induced madness of his mother, from the orphanages and schools that furthered that oppression from the streets where he hustled, from the prison where he studied, from the pulpit where he preached, from the betrayal of his mentor, from the pilgrimage of his faith… Malcolm rose again and again like a Phoenix giving birth to itself, refusing to cool in the ashes… Malcolm isn’t dead… his life is a shining example that finds new life as we rise from the ashes of a fire that tries to destroy us and fails time and time again…
i had my doubts like any other man or woman
but i couldn’t let my apathy make me so durable
that i could idly stand aside and watch
the hungry go without fish and bread
the blind continue to stumble
the lame carry the burden
i had my fears like any other man or woman
but i couldn’t let my self preservation
allow me the comfort of cowardice
when they stoned that woman
when they changed money in the temple
when they dared me to heal the withered hand on the sabbath
i had my struggles like any other man or woman
and i resolved them in these waking dreams as i spoke to the crowds
keeping my faith in the humble quiet power of love
unsure of the path as i stumbled in the darkness
tripping into the faintest of light ahead
working out the dream of a new possibility as i spoke with you
and like any other man or woman i want a long life
but not standing by in the acquiescence of selfish longevity
while power is concentrated in the hands of the few
at the expense of the many
while greed nourishes and feeds a garden of oppression
while blood lubricates the machinations of war
and so like any other revolutionary man or woman
i didn’t come to bring peace but came with a machete
to prune the oppression from minds
both yours and my own
to cleave the hatred from hearts
both yours and my own
to hack off the hands of these demons clutching spirit
both yours and my own
and like any other guerrilla fighter man or woman
i paid the price for dreaming such dreams of anarchy
loosed upon the world
crowned with thorns and forced to carry my own cross up a hill
littered with the skulls of the guerrillas that came before me
and hung with nails as an example to the rest of you
sitting passively on the sidelines
and like any other guerrilla christ prophet man or woman
before me and after me i rise again and again and again
and each time the politicians and the merchants
and the high priests conspire
to abort this dream of anarchy that paves the road to equality
while massaging pliable illusions
that condemn these rebellions as failure
and like any other revolution filed and labeled and defined as failure
it will go on and on until we collectively recognize
the guerrilla christ in each of us
to form an army that will liberate the dream of anarchy
upon a center that will not hold
leveling the playing field horizontal
and burying this oppression beneath it
while the meek dance over it bringing heaven down to earth
as their rightful inheritance
“In effect, contentions over land usage and ownership have served to define the totality of US – Indian relationships from the first moment to the present day, shaping not only the historical flow of interactions between invader and invaded, but the nature of ongoing domination of native people in areas such as governance and jurisdiction, identification, recognition and education.” – Ward Churchill from When Predator Came
While we gather with family and friends to give thanks lets remember what was taken. Let’s remember that there are long overdue debts that that have accrued for over half an eon. Let’s remember that there’s action yet to be taken to repair the damage done. Let’s temper the thanks of what we have with the remembrance of what was taken. Let’s remember that there is no thanks for taking.
The idea of setting aside a day to give thanks is a good one. The idea of gathering with relatives and friends over a meal to spend some time remembering what’s important in life is a beautiful sentiment. The idea of taking time to give thanks for that is no small matter. But the American mythology that was built for this holiday was designed to white wash the atrocities committed in the genocide of Native peoples. Don’t let that happen. Give thanks for what you have but don’t accept the mythology of Thanksgiving. Remember the taking that went on after that first Thanksgiving, the taking of lives, the taking of land, the taking of history, the taking of culture…
With the recent Occupation movement sweeping this nation it’s crucial to remember that the beginnings of the rampant greed and voracious bottomless appetite for profit over people began with the genocide of Native peoples. The roots of modern day capitalism are deeply planted in the genocide of Native peoples. Wall Street was called Wall Street because a wall was built to keep Native peoples out. Modern day capitalism was also built on enslaved Africans. It was enslaved Africans that built the wall on Wall Street. The first commodity traded, bought and sold on Wall Street was African slaves. So the beginnings of this holiday are not as pure as American mythology would have us believe.
Remembrance can be the beginning of resistance but only if we follow through with action to correct the past transgressions that have become the present transgressions that will inevitably become future transgressions. We can’t be held responsible for the past but we are responsible for the present. It’s our actions in the present, that can be used to make us accountable for the past, by virtue of having done nothing to change the affects of the past on the present and foreseeable future. If we do nothing to alter the affects of the Native peoples genocide that began hundreds of years ago and continues today in slightly different form, then we can be held accountable to a continuation of that genocide. In being responsible with the present we become responsible for the future and perhaps in some future Thanksgiving we’ll all be free of these past transgressions once and for all. That will be a Thanksgiving worthy of the ideal.
“We cannot be free until we have power!How else can we achieve it?”
– Caesar from Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes
With the new Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes film opening this weekend i’m not holding my hopes too highly that it will be as radical a piece of agit-pop as the original Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes which was a condensation of anti-imperialist sentiment. Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes is one of the most openly unapologetic politically revolutionary science fiction films ever made. The ramification of its themes about race, slavery, and revolution resonates from the African slave trade and the wholesale slaughter of indigenous peoples of the so-called “new world” to the ongoing anti-imperialist struggles being waged throughout the world.
The Planet Of The Apes was originally a novel written in 1963 by a French writer named Pierre Bouell. The novel was adapted into a film and released in 1968. It’s success lead to a series of sequels all of which contained some socio-political commentary but Conquest was the most openly radical of the series. In Conquest Of the Planet Of The Apes, apes are trained and treated as slaves by human beings. Caesar an “intelligent” ape who can speak to both humans and apes clandestinely trains the apes to fight and amass weapons and eventually leads an uprising against the humans. The casting of Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán as Caesar’s sympathetic owner doing his best to protect Caesar from the authorities who recognize the threat of a “talking ape” and the African American actor Hari Rhodes who saves Caesar after Caesar has been tortured and ordered to be killed is also significant in that they are both non-white people.
Released in 1972 the film is a great piece of agit-pop, a scathing social commentary reflecting the attitudes of the time period. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 gave rise to armed organizations defending the human rights of oppressed people in the US like the American Indian Movement, The Black Liberation Army as well as white solidarity groups like the Weather Underground. In a global context the film was a reflection of other organizations that were fighting fascism and imperialism overseas like the IRA in Ireland, the PLO in Palestine, the Angry Brigade in England, Red Army Faction in Germany and Los Macheteros in Puerto Rico. Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes condensed that sentiment into a mythology that spoke to the reality of the times. Consider the dialogue between Hari Rhodes as MacDonald and Caesar played by Roddy McDowall, when MacDonald is shocked to finds that Caesar can speak…
MacDonald I never believed it… I thought you were a myth.
Caesar Well, I’m not. But I will tell you something that is… The belief that human beings are kind.
MacDonald No Caesar, there are some…
Caesar Oh a handful perhaps but not most of them. They won’t learn to be kind until we force them to! And we can’t do that until we are free!
MacDonald How do you propose to gain this freedom?
Caesar By the only means left to us… revolution!
MacDonald But it’s doomed to failure!
Caesar Perhaps… this time.
MacDonald And the next…
MacDonald But you’ll keep trying?
Caesar You, above everyone else should understand. We cannot be free until we have power! How else can we achieve it?
The whole crux of the film has been racing towards this dialogue. The whole story has been designed and built to make this point about revolution. Caesar’s reminder that MacDonald “above everyone else should understand” speaks volumes in a few short moments. The brevity of the scene gives it a weight without being heavy handed or preachy. Right after Caesar’s last lines are said the audience is divided into three groups. Those against the cause of the Apes, those who sympathize with their cause but not their method like MacDonald’s character and those who completely identify with Cesar and his cause of liberation. This division is not one that takes place during the film because everyone is on Caesar’s side while the film is rolling, this question of what side you are on comes after the credits have rolled and the evening news presents rock throwing Palestinians in Gaza.
The film could be looked at as some sort of time capsule artifact on revolutionary thought and struggle but it’s relevance unfortunately still rings true in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and Egypt and Jordan. Not to mention the ongoing the reunification of Ireland, the restoration of Hawaii as a nation, and the anti-imperialist struggle waged by Puerto Ricans for independence against US colonial rule.
“Puerto Rico has a history that is very heroic and prolific. Naturally, as a colony, there exists a history of double interpretation; the colony, and the history of the anti-colonial struggle. In reality, the colonial history does not apply to us. It is more fitting for the colonizer. Ours, the only one, is the anti-colonial history because it is the history of our native people who survived and are in constant battle to defeat the powerful colonial forces. It is the history of puertorriqueñidad.”
– Comandante Filiberto Ojeda Ríos
Imperialism is an ideology and an ideology needs a mythology to shape its culture. It’s the creation of an American mythology that cloaks US imperialism both abroad and domestically in a desire to “spread democracy” or “freedom” to those who are supposedly “struggling” to be free . It’s an American mythology that trumpets the hard won freedom from the British empire and mumbles the fact that it was only for white land owning men. It’s the American mythology that leads people to believe that Abraham Lincoln fought the Civil War to free the slaves. It’s American mythology that justifies war in Afghanistan to free women from the Taliban.
When the dust settles on the fallen American empire and archeologists sift through the rubble they’ll find that nothing has shaped American culture more than imperialism and that the mythology that was been built up to support that ideology was it’s greatest export. The difference between US imperialism and other empires is that it’s mythology is constructed around the deception that it’s “bringing democracy and freedom” to the world. It’s a mythology shaped around the idea that “US democracy” is democracy perfected and because the US built this perfected democracy from the ground up it is burdened to build US democracy for other nations and peoples around the world.
In affect US imperialism is a continuation of the European ideology of the White Mans Burden that justified the colonization of Africa, Asia and the Americas as well as the attempted genocide of those peoples. The White Mans Burden to educate and elevate non-whites to “civilization” is the template for US imperialism’s desire to “nation build” in non-white countries like El Salvador or Nicaragua or Guatemala or Vietnam or Korea or Somalia or Libya. US imperialism will bring democracy and freedom to our little lost brown brothers. It’s this thinking that has justified the wholesale destruction of nations in an attempt to bring freedom and democracy. The whole of US imperialism can be summed up in one statement during the Vietnam War, “It became necessary to destroy the town, in order to save it”. Whereas other empires had no clothes, were naked in their aggression, US imperialism clothes its ambitions in “nation building”. Meet the new imperialism, the same as the old imperialism.
In the wake of the US attacks on 9/11 the US government went into it’s shallow bag of tricks and dusted off the old divide and conquer techniques it had been using since the 1840’s. One of the greatest ramifications to come out of the US attacks on 9/11 was the redefining of terrorism to encompass all forms of violence against empire. It also did wonders for the evolution of the American mythology in creating a firm foundation for US imperialism’s credentials in the eyes of the world as judge jury and executioner of democracy. This American mythology that began some 160 years ago with Manifest Destiny was a foundation and the US attacks on 9/11 allowed the US to build on that mythology by becoming the defenders of democracy as it was defined by US imperialism. In defending US imperialist defined democracy it had the privilege of also defining its enemies. It gave US imperialists the latitude of labeling all those who fought against democracy, as it was defined by US imperialists, as terrorists. In essence if your struggle didn’t synch up with US imperialism then you were labeled a terrorist.
Former president Bush defined this new American mythology in one short mantra “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists” this was the theme of the new Manifest Destiny in the age of terrorism, condensed into a soundbite. This put struggles like that of Northern Ireland with Britain, the Basque with Spain and the Palestinians with Israel between rock and a hard place. The machine of American mythology had now incorporated and equated anyone who was not “with us” as “with the terrorists”. The struggles for freedom and democracy in Northern Ireland and in the Basque country and in the Palestinian territories didn’t fit the criteria of US imperialism and so they were relegated to being “terrorists”. The fact that that there is a a world of difference between the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in the US and the struggles for self-determination in Ireland, the Basque country and Palestine was of little concern to anyone outside of those struggles. The good will and sympathy that the world had for the US after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 allowed the US to strip away dialectical critical thinking on these struggles. There was now only the polarities of “us” and “them”.
As the US feasted upon it’s new found ability to turn the whole world upside down. The bones of it were thrown to countries like Britain, Spain and Israel. The ability to take the US imperial definition of democracy and terrorism as their own and apply it to their own imperial quandaries was a godsend to them. In Ireland the IRA felt the world looking at their actions for self-determination through the prism of the post US 9/11 terrorist attacks, as defined by the US. The ETA of Basque (a clandestine Basque separatist group) also felt the affect of this new “terrorist” paradigm. While Hamas in Palestine got the rudest awakening to the new parameters of democracy.
The IRA announced that it would put it’s arms aside because of the US terrorist attacks on 9/11, fearing that the world equate the tactics of their struggle with the US terrorist attacks on 9/11. Spain used the newly defined “with us” or “with the terrorists” paradigm as an excuse to go on massive raids rounding up and arresting hundreds of Basque independence sympathizers which decimated the ETA both financially and in terms of recruitment. Hamas set aside armed struggle to politically campaigning for power in the Palestinian territory, winning that political power in an overwhelming mandate, only to find that their democracy was one that didn’t fit the definition of either Israeli or US imperialists. Putting Hamas and the Palestinians backs against a different wall and leaving them with few choices in defending themselves.
These are the unrecognized and unspoken affects of the American mythology in the post US 9/11 terrorist attacks, as that mythology adapts itself to a new zeitgeist where people are rising up and taking the freedom that was always theirs as they’re doing in Iran, Algeria, Egypt, Syria and Yemen. It’s this adaption of American mythology that further buries the naked imperialism of the US in regard to the small Caribbean nation of Puerto Rico. While the US can pretend to negotiate peace between its British ally and their Northern Irish problem and condemn the ETA for their “terrorist” tactics against their Spanish ally and feign a neutrality in negotiating a solution between their Israeli ally and the Palestinians, the US has quietly done its best, to keep the dirty little secret of a colonial relationship it has forcibly maintained with Puerto Rico for well over a century, out of the limelight in all of these situations.
The story of Puerto Rico’s colonization goes back to 1493 with the Spanish. In 1898 it went from negotiating its autonomy from Spain to being a colony of the US the after the Spanish – American War. So while the new American mythology postures itself as the generous harbinger of freedom and democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan it harbors its own colonial dilemma. What the US doesn’t want you to know is that there has always been a strong and often times violent resistance to US colonialism in Puerto Rico. A resistance it labels “terrorism”.
If there is any doubt as to how the US equates those fighting for freedom and justice with terrorism, as it has in Northern Ireland and in the Basque country and in the Paletinian territories look at the how the recent capture or kill operation on Osama Bin Laden is eerily similar to another operation that took place in 2005 with Puerto Rican independence leader Comandante Filiberto Ojeda Rios. Filiberto is considered the founder of the armed underground clandestine movement to free Puerto Rico from US colonial rule. He was the leader of the EPB (Popular Boricua Army) also known as Los Macheteros.
On September 23rd of 1990 while awaiting trial for the $7 million Wells Fargo robbery of 1985 and he cut off the the electronic shackle on his ankle to live a life of clandestinity. While in clandestinity Filiberto mocked the FBI, CIA and other law enforcement agencies by giving television, radio and newspaper interviews. While these law enforcement agenices searched the 100 by 35 mile island of Puerto Rico for him, Filiberto was creating a mythology of resistance by living clandestinely in the open. He publishied articles in newspapers and issued statements on the ongoing Puerto Rican colonial condition from clandestinity. He lived among his people as he evaded the most powerful law enforcement agencies in the world. In doing so Filiberto was creating an alternate mythology to the dominant American mythology. It was a Puerto Rican mythology of resistance that could be used to shape a culture of resistance to the culture of imperialism.
In 2005 the FBI found Filiberto and they set up an operation to capture or kill him. Hundreds of FBI agents surrounded his house. Filiberto defended himself in a shoot out that ensued and Filiberto was wounded but the FBI refused to give him medical attention and let him bleed to death for over 24 hours. The fact that this took place on September 23rd, a day that Puerto Ricans celebrate an armed uprising against Spanish colonial rule that led to the abolition of slavery and 15 years to the day that he had escaped did not go unnoticed by Puerto Ricans. Former Puerto Rican political prisoner and prisoner of war Dylcia Pagan said it best when she said “…this is not just an attack on a leader of our movement but an attack on our very Puerto Rican-ness”.
When Osama Bin Laden was killed by the US government the similarities to the assassination of Comandante Filiberto were numerous. In the case of Pakistan the government was unaware of the operation on Bin Laden using the excuse that to do so might tip Bin Laden off to the operation. In Puerto Rico the FBI gave no warning to the colonial government of the island on their attack plans on Filiberto out of the same fear that doing so would compromise the operation. Both situations ended in what can only be described as murder. The latest story now, is that Bin Laden was unarmed and shot in the head. Filiberto was armed but wounded and unable to continue being a threat but the FBI saw fit to wait for him to bleed to death. The US equated the actions of these men because that is the paradigm of the new American mythology.
However just like there is a chasm of difference that exists between equating Bin Laden with Geronimo as the US military did in their operation to capture and kill Bin Laden, there is an equally large distance to between Comandante Filiberto and Bin Laden. That chasm of distance between Geronimo and Filiberto as freedom fighters and Bin Laden as terrorist is something that the new post 9/11 American mythology can choose to bridge. What we need to recognize is that, it is a bridge to far. What we need to do is reject the polarity and reclaim the dialectic. What we need to do is reject the development of this new American mythology with a counter mythology. One that doesn’t equate freedom fighters with terrorists.
For a quick background on the life of Comandante Filiberto Ojeda Rios check out the video i edited below. To hear Filiberto’s views on the colonial situation in Puerto Rico check out the series of YouTube videos FILIBERTO: THE CLANDESTINE INTERVIEW