Saturday, April 12, 2014

Phil Woods' poem about John and Condi Rice



The Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota is paying Condi Rice a large sum of money to speak Wednesday night (April 17). See here. Students for a Democratic Society and others asked for brief time to speak: to raise uncomfortable questions about aggression against and occupation of Iraq (lately, the Shiite government has legislation to force marriage on 9 year olds...) and particularly torture. One would think this would be easy for the Institute to grant as a matter of honor, free speech (as when Bush came to the University of Denver this summer) being an often invoked University ideal. But Universities raise money from the powerful and are reluctant to have the criminality of government speakers confronted by questions. Protestors (and audiences), they require, should be silent at glossy University events.

But SDS and other believers in law and democracy are protesting from below.

University administrations are, at least partially an important component of the war complex - what I have called the military-industrial-Congressional-think tank-intelligence-University administrations and favored scholars, satellite foreign militaries like Egypt's (it receives over a billion dollars a year to purchase US weaponry), major US foundations complex. The phrase is ungainly and my awareness of different aspects of it - and hence, the length of it - is growing. President Eisenhower gestured at it in his Farewell Address about the military-industrial complex (actually the military-industrial-congressional complex in his draft, but he thought that might be too frightening for his audience and so crossed the third branch of it out in the final speech).

But resistance to cries for war and attempts to paint torture (100 were murdered in American custody according to Pentagon statistics) as "not so bad" - the Bush administration attacked this centerpiece of international law and the Obama administration has done nothing to obey its treaty obligations under the Convention against Torture and even hold hearings (each power is supposed to bring its own torturers to justice first and quickly; the international community has been taking steps since 2008 which is why Condi can go to Minnesota and Rutgers, but not abroad. See here.

***

Here is Phil's poem on the complexities of dealing with the Klan for many black Southerners including ministers in Birmingham like John Rice and the curious denials of his daughter:

A LITTLE BIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY

I met her father once.
He'd come up from Birmingham
after the church bombing
to be a Dean at DU.
He drove out to Commerce City--
the suburb next to the stinky
oil refineries
where half the fathers
were long haul truckers
& gone most of the time
to talk to my class
about the Civil Rights Movement.
His face was full of lines
aged in from a lifetime of wariness.
He slept with one eye open.
Growing up black in the Deep South
will do that.

He said something like:
“Yes, we loved Martin;
we followed him,
but most of us
kept shot guns
under our beds.
You don't let people
shoot up your house
without a fight.”

Non-violence, yes, but
practical too.

His daughter
told The New Yorker
she owed the Movement
nothing.
All her success
was entirely
her own doing.
(I liked her father better.)

Now Condi
gets $150,000
to tell college students
what the Civil Rights
Movement was all about.

She doesn't get
put on trial
like Goring
before his suicide
& her pal,
the football fan,
he's exhibiting his paintings
instead of wearing
an orange jump suit
for unspeakable crimes.

Such is life
in the last days
of the Republic.


1 comment:

Chuck Turchick said...

Henry Giroux, in his 2007 book, The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex, claims that "academic" was included in an early draft of President Eisenhower's speech. And, interestingly, that speech was written by Malcolm Moos, who went on to become the president of the University of Minnesota from 1967 to 1974.

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