FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Beating Heart

by PETER LINEBAUGH

The beating heart, it’s the basis of all, student and prisoner alike.  They strip the one of dignity, and slough off the other with shoddy goods.  Our library had five storeys of books, now it barely has one.  Once we were a people’s university for the working boys and girls of Toledo, Ohio, – that was the stated hope in our founding – and then New Deal public works program built our buildings and office, with masonry meant to endure.  But the books are going.  Students are indebted.  Humanities slashed.  Administrators multiply and drive shiny black cars. Money for learning, down!  Money for prison, up!

Siddique Abdullah Hasan began his hunger strike yesterday.  His clear and strong voice was piped in from death row to our anniversary meeting at the University.  It is the 20th anniversary of the Lucasville uprising, “disturbance” as Hasan said.  No one knows who killed officer Vallandringham says a public prosecutor, yet four men are on death row for the crime.  How much further can human devaluation go than this?

Staughton Lynd wrote the story of the uprising, he dramatized it, and totally lost confidence in the “justice system.”  Next week in Columbus the uprising will be studied and revisited by folks who have begun the process of the valuation of human life.  This is part of “Prison Awareness Week” here in Ohio.  His comrade, Alice, gentle heart against the supermax will stands together with him.

Lucasville.  Up the road from the plutonium plant.  Maximum security penitentiary.   For eleven days without electricity, eleven days thrust upon their own devices, eleven days awaiting massacre, but from this cauldron of horror was born “the convict race.”  White and Black together, and in the aftermath Muslim, Gangster Disciple, and Ayran Brotherhood refused to snitch.  Not all.  But some.  That’s all it takes.  Human solidarity against the racial statute of the U.S.A. was enacted.  They now must languish on death row.

Music and sport are the first to go in school after school, despite the fact that all wisdom tells us that truth, knowledge, reason, art begins with the beating heart.  Hence, music.  Hence, sport.  Hence, play time.  Take them away, and it’s a short distance to the dumbing down engineered by the “testing” system and the ceaseless augmentation of incarceration.  Ishaq Alkhair and Abdush Shakur, veterans themselves of the cruel, dangerous B.S. of Lucasville spoke to us.  Ishaq as a prisoner was a librarian. Abdush, a student of the Koran and of Tom Wicker’s great chronicle of the Attica Rebellion.  They brought their knowledge, shared their experience:  respect, dignity, men of heart, brothers.

And the Bastille?  Behind walls more than a hundred feet high and thirty feet thick, the architectural monument of the ruling class fable that it can last forever, came down in a twinkling.  The awful prison of centuries crumbled to dust under the people’s vengeance.  A sempstress, Mme. Legros, was responsible, if glory for the liberation were to be awarded to a single individual.  Well, so claims Michelet, the first archivist of the French Revolution.  And then, Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité.  Where are these ideals now?  Dumbed down. No longer taught.

But wait!  Have we learned nothing from Franz Fanon, from Edward Said?  Who measured the exact depths of European racial supremacy?   We must revise the slogan and it must be Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, and Hypocrisy.  The key to this dungeon of absolute power was proudly taken by a prisoner and delivered to the Revolutionaries who in turn gave it to Tom Paine to carry across the ocean as a gift for George Washington in 1790.  But that was the year of the opening of Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Jail, and with the birth of the U.S.A. comes the racialized slavery of the cotton plantation, war against the emerging confederation of Great Lakes native peoples, and in Europe the coal-fired steam powered machines of the factory.  The system of expropriation and exploitation was laid in place, wall by wall – land enclosed, factory built, plantation enslaving, and penitentiary confining.

We are vigilant against the Hypocrisy of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.  Vigilant yes, but not neglectful.  At least this was the view that came a year later in 1791 in Haiti when the first successful slave rebellion in world history commenced to the drumming one night on the plains of the north.  The beating heart of freedom, now loud, now soft, is never absent.  Those drums will lead to a struggle that is brief when seen against the rolling centuries, the millennia, of patriarchy, oppression, and empire.  The struggle achieved a milestone in the 14th amendment – equal justice – which Hasan quoted for us.

It received another twenty years ago in Lucasville.  We heard it from Hasan, Ishaq, Abdush, and from Professor Cynthia Ingham and the University Inside-Out Program, bringing together penitentiary and university for …  For… what?   An encounter, an encuentro.  What will come of it?  The tale has not been half told.

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. The London Hanged and (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is the Magna Carta Manifesto. He can be reached at:plineba@yahoo.com

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. His books included: The London Hanged,(with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic and Magna Carta Manifesto. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is Stop Thief! The Commons, Enclosures and Resistance.  He can be reached at:plineba@yahoo.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Minute Musings: On Why the United States Should Launch a Tomahawk Strike on Puerto Rico
Tom Clifford
The Return of “Mein Kampf” … in Japan
Todd Larsen
Concerned About Climate Change? Change Where You Bank!
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Brexit: Britain’s Opening to China?
John Hutchison
Everything Old is New Again: a Brief Retrospectus on Korea and the Cold War
Michael Brenner
The Ghost in the Dream Machine
Yves Engler
The Military Occupation of Haiti
Christopher Brauchli
Guardians of Lies
James Preece
How Labour Can Win the Snap Elections
Cesar Chelala
Preventing Disabilities in the Elderly
Sam Gordon
From We Shall Overcome to Where Have all the Flowers Gone?
Charles Thomson
It’s Still Not Too Late to Deserve Your CBE, Chris Ofili
Louis Proyect
Documentaries That Punch
Charles R. Larson
Review: Vivek Shanbhag’s “Ghachar Ghochar”
David Yearsley
Raiding the Tomb of Lubitsch
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail