Philadelphia mayor, John F. Street, at a 9/11 anniversary ceremony in the city, closed his remarks with the phrase, “We shall overcome”.
But in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, not Mississippi), no clarification was given about who “we” refers to…or what’s being “overcome”. Such vagueness allows everyone to create their own imaginary “we” association so that a speaker won’t alienate some by including unacceptable others. Only in wasp or ant or other clone colonies could “we” be as all-inclusive as our officials try to pretend we are. Programmed robots would be an all-inclusive “we”.
“We”, as spoken probably everywhere in the country on 9/11/02, is intended to mean “the American People” but it could as well mean the U.S. Corporate-serving military…the Oil Industry…or officials who hope to overcome growing public opposition to deprivations of Constitutional Rights and to oil-seeking invasions, dressed up as wars. As we are dealt liberty-restricting new laws, it’s no stretch to believe that the mayor meant “we, the corporate-funded officials”, will “overcome” us, the people.
For propaganda purposes, the Mayor was referring to “we” overcoming “terrorism”…meaning only anti-U.S. actions, of course. This is an arrogant, unfounded presumption that ALL people are joined in this oil-slicked Bushwhacking of civil rights, human rights and international law. Overcoming terrorism on the U.S. (or on others by U.S. forces) by stopping U.S./allied oppression and corporatization around the globe was not an option on the menu.
Mayor Street stole “We Shall Overcome” from the Civil Rights Movement. The phrase refers historically and specifically to overcoming unconstitutional, institutionalized racism in the U.S. It is jarring to hear Mayor Street, an African-American, using these words in the current situation that has undermined constitutional protections for all, especially those of people who are, or seem to be, of certain races. He doubtlessly benefited personally by civil rights protections gained in the 50s and 60s…yet here he is, taking advantage of his skin color, presumably to appeal to others of similar color, co-opting the movement’s rhetoric to promote “patriotic” violence, global-scale racism, and attacks on basic rights across the board. Use of this phrase is also an attempt to con those of any color who retain some “60s” principles of Peace and Brotherhood, etc., into converting to the New World Religion of corporate authoritarian militarism. A disappointing, stomach-turning procession of former “60s” musicians, and others, now wealthy establishment icons, have come solemnly forward to condemn “terrorism”…without an iota of qualification of that word to include U.S. caused/perpetrated terrorism. In quite un-groovy fashion, they are against some terrorism, not all.
One who was born yesterday might think the Mayor was promoting a progressive, leftist position. Listen to those radical, activist words! Those born somewhat earlier know that this rhetoric promotes Big Oil, Big Military Contracting, a virtual U.S. police state, and U.S. dominance of every corner of the globe where other people’s resources are there for the taking. It also excuses “reasonable” suspicion and profiling of all Muslims, Middle-Easterners, Central Asians and others. All the “compassion”, “love”, “coming together” and religious talk and flowers and flags and the rest can’t cover up the smell of lies, oil, gun-powder, and blood.
This stuff is piled deep out there. Watch your step. Keep shovels handy…lest we be overcome.
John Jonik lives in Philadelphia. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org