FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ah!: Arsonists for Haiti?

“To become a civilized, moderate, responsible nation, in other words, we must first become a nation of extremists.”

— George Monbiot

I almost spilled a hot cup of coffee on my son’s lap when I overheard the talk in the adjacent booth at Peet’s. I think I actually soughed, “Ah!”

As George Monbiot points out in his Guardian/UK piece of March 2nd, “Extreme Measures: The Only Way to Bring Down Blair and Change the Political Context is to Take Direct Action”, people taking to the streets “must be accompanied by polite campaigns of lobbying and letter-writing.” However, he’s crystal clear that nothing will happen “unless we get off our butts and make it happen.” He addresses the need to take some risk, and as I read his words I found myself nodding in agreement, noting the parallels for us in the U.S.

It’s not a stretch to contemplate direct action of the sort Monbiot advocates, but –with all of my experience at the barricades– I still did a cranial double-take when I heard three men discussing arson in nearby Aptos…on behalf of the Haitian people! The loose lips that sink ships might have been emboldened by my wearing a headset; it wasn’t turned on, unbeknownst to them. My little Marcel certainly didn’t give them pause.

They didn’t murmur long or provide a lot of details, but I was able to tune in to the thrust of what they were, supposedly, about to do. Burn something down? To put the “imperialists” on notice? I didn’t catch exactly where they were planning to strike a match, and if John Ashcroft or that Head of Homeland Security who looks like a character out of Dick Tracy is reading this, please note that I didn’t get a look at anyone. In fact, the only way I knew it was three people is that I heard three different voices. One could have been a talking dog from the Letterman show for all I know.

However, in all seriousness, the ravages of Jean Tatoune and Guy Philippe–to name just two murderers we’ve supported up the kazoo– I think it’s a safe bet that there are elements in this country…citizens…with driver’s licenses…with and without color…all across the demographic spectrum…that are about to explode. They’ve stopped taking bets in Britain with regard to whether or not there’s life on Mars now that something’s dipped into moisture up there, and it doesn’t take a great leap to say it’s a good bet that both frustrated activists and previously non-invovled citizens may pick up the battering ram before long. As one tortured protester screamed recently, “Yesterday it was Iraq, today’s it’s Haiti, and tomorrow it’ll be Venezuela!”.Some people will wait only so long before they do something extreme.

Etymologically, extreme is the latinate equivalent of the native English utmost. Voting –please note the approximate 25% turnout in California’s primary yesterday!– and lobbying and letter-writing do not represent the highest, the greatest, or best of our abilities, powers and resources. The word comes via Old French from Latin “extremus” (meaning, for one, “furthest”). The underlying notion of “furthest outlying” still survives in the use of extremities for the “hands” or “feet.”

In the outlying, excessive reaches of the angered minds of our citizenry, there’s the potential for much that I hope we’ll be able to avoid. Admittedly, it is a shred.

The three guys –or mad dogs from Letterman’s show as the case may be– sitting on the Naugahyde surfaces behind me on March 2nd seem like they’re all set to let their little feet –or paws– carry them to the furthest ends of activism in an effort to do their utmost…to stop our abominations. The question is what are you going to do?

Our Revolutionary War was advocated by only a third of the people living on these shores. Another third supported England, and about 33% didn’t give a damn or didn’t take a postion one way or the other. Ditto for our Civil War, according to Howard Zinn. Today it wouldn’t take more than a handful of Timothy McVeighs to weigh in with a whole slew of 9/11s overnight. And I’d say that today –faced with the prospect of Bush or Kerry– we’d better move as if we’re in extremis in some fashion.

Monbiot made his plea for people to move in solidarity nationwide overseas. With the prospect of variations on the proposal laid out Tuesday in Peet’s peaking over the horizon, I’d say America doesn’t have much time. Remember, this is the land of rugged invidualism.

Around the time “Burn, baby, burn!” was a household phrase in America, Joan Mellen wrote a brilliant review of Gillo Pontecorvo’s “Burn!” (director of “The Battle of Algiers”) for “Cinema” magazine (Issue 32, Winter 1972-73). In it she rightly points out that the film should have been titled “Burnt!” as the destruction wrought falls on the exploited and their land, not on the imperialist forces, as suggested by the title. English has two separate words burn, one transitive, the other intransitive. Both apply here as the country begins to boil over. Fire and brimstone? I’m afraid fervent patriotism is taking on a new twist, and that segments of our singed population will not allow it to go on, burning out of control.

RICHARD OXMAN is a former professor at Rutgers University and other institutions of higher education; he’s also a former postal worker, well-acquainted with the “going postal” syndrome. He can be reached at mail@onedancesummit.org.

 

More articles by:

RICHARD OXMAN can be found these days reading Joe Bageant’s material in Los Gatos, California; contact can be made at dueleft@yahoo.com. The Ox’s never-before-revealed “biography” is available at http://news.modernwriters.org/Some of his recent writing can be found in his Arts & Entertainment section and Features (under Social) there.

September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail