Catching Up with Cynthia McKinney… and Looking (Worriedly) Ahead

I had the good fortune to hear Cynthia McKinney speak at an anti-war conference at Georgetown University in Washington, DC in 2009. There were 5 or 6 notable speakers. All were good, even inspiring. Former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was, for me, the most inspiring, informative, exciting. I told her then that I would like to interview her. Our paths did not cross again until 3 years later when we sat down and spoke about Libya and Qaddaffi, the 9/11 Truth Movement, the “Israelization of US policy,” the “criminality of war,” the Occupy Movement, “areas of commonality” (between Libertarians and Greens, for example), Foucault’s ideas about “breaking out of powerlessness” and old paradigms, a “moral center,” bravery, and “love for humanity” (See: http://www.activistpost.com/, etc.). Oddly, I felt I had barely “scratched the surface” of this complex and amazing person—the first African-American woman elected to the US Congress from the state of Georgia!

A couple of years later, I hoped for another interview with Cynthia. I was emailed an enthusiastic “yes” from her, but informed that she was in a Ph.D. program and a second interview would have to wait until after she submitted her dissertation. Well, “way leads on to way,” as Robert Frost tells us and our paths diverged again.

Recently, I found myself back in Atlanta and queried about an interview once more, wanting to “catch up” on so much now: What of her recent return to academia?   What could she say about the Theater-of-the-Absurd (and Vulgar) US “presidential” campaigns? Again, an enthusiastic response; but this time I learned that peripatetic world-citizen Cynthia was then in Asia!

Well, hell, we’ve got emails, don’t we? Let’s just have an exchange of views for a couple of weeks; kind of like writing in a journal—when you fully intend to share your journal with others! Cynthia sent me a couple of handsful of her recent posts. (A rich banquet which I am still digesting.)]

GC: Hello, Cynthia…. Will this format work for you? Could we begin with a little fill-in about your recent academic experiences? And then let things evolve?

CM: Well, Gary, it’s certainly good to catch up with you! Much has changed since the last time we met!  One, I’m done with my Ph.D., writing my dissertation on Hugo Chavez, race, Parrhesia, and Transformational Leadership….

GC: “Parrhesia”?

CM: Writing that paper helped me familiarize myself with the politics of the Americas in a more profound way.  My professors at Antioch U. encouraged me to explore uncharted territory.  I learned new navigational tools.  I did it and I feel more empowered to join with those who struggle–in the various languages of Latin America–to protect their sovereignty.  I am grateful to Drs. Peter Dale Scott, Al Guskin, Joseph Jordan, and others….

My personal struggle to get this done exposes everything wrong with education in the U.S., where we bomb countries of color that offer free education!  I don’t understand Americans’ loyalty to political parties that have sold them out!

I have begun to ask myself the extent to which US voters actually want the wars and dispossessory policies that put people like me and students in search of knowledge into such blood-sucking debt!  The note for my student loan is more than my house note!

U.S. policy is to deny education to its own people and then go around the world vacuuming up the brains that ought to be helping other countries to advance.  The U.S. hires brains like it hires mercenaries to destroy whole countries!  I’m no longer comfortable making excuses for US “citizens.” If they don’t know what’s going on with their tax dollars… well, they should know!

All of the destabilizations, the war crimes, the torture, the crimes against humanity; the lies, the deceit–the misery brought upon others because of U.S. policy!  I’m embarrassed…, and I’m embarrassed by…whatever the attribute is of the people that allows this to continue!

GC: Wow! Let it never be said that you mince your words!

“Embarrassment.” Yeah, I’ve been thinking recently, as I watch our surreal political campaigns, the vulgarities, egocentrism, misinformation, appeals to the lowest common denominator of rational thought—that I’m truly “embarrassed” about this American Empire!

I’m very glad we’ve begun our dialogue with a discussion of “education.” I’ve often thought that is at the heart of our problems.

When I taught in a high school, decades ago, I’d open my first classes by writing the word, “education,” and then the Latin root, “educare,” on the blackboard (hard to believe there were blackboards and chalk and chalky erasers way back then!).  “Educare“–to lead.  From “ex” & “ducare“—“to lead out.”

But… to lead where? To lead out of what?  How to lead? 

You ask those very questions.                                                  

Also, I’ve thought recently, that it has become commonplace for Progressives/the Left to complain about the US media—how biased it is, how distorted. Really, I believe we need to think about education and our media as the same thing. (The “Arts,” too, are an essential part of this system of control!) Instead of expanding our world, connecting us to all kinds of ideas and people, we are constantly restricted, shrunken.

Orwell is famous for his formulation: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.” My own favorite Orwellianism is this: “Whoever controls the information, controls the imagination.”

In so many ways, we’ve lost control of “information”! It comes at us through “education” or “IT—Information Technology” or the Arts. And thereby, we’ve lost control of our ability to imagine a different world, a humane and balanced one….

We’ll intertwine ideas as we progress—having a real dialogue. I want to hear more about your dissertation on Chavez, “Transformational Leadership,” etc. You got me going now.

Also…, would you kindly save me and our readers a trip to Google? What do you mean by “Parrhesia”?


“War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”

“Whoever controls the information, controls the imagination.”

George Orwell

​Wow!  You know, I need to re-read Orwell and Huxley!  They both were so spot-on!  I have three most favorite films of all time:  “Fahrenheit 451,” “Soylent Green,” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”  I can look at those movies over and over and never tire of them!

GC: Yes, “Soylent Green” (Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson–and we all turn into green food-mush!).  “Body Snatchers”–first saw it when I was about 13.  Could never look at a coconut quite the same way!  “Fahrenheit 451”—based on the Ray Bradbury masterpiece: Oskar Werner & Julie Christie in the movie. And the common theme in all of them—the way humans prey on each other; use one another; deceive and devour…. 

CM: Well, to get to your question: “Parrhesia” is a type of leadership that involves a special type of speech–it is a leadership that has the authority to ​speak and that uses that authority to speak what we would call “truth to power” and that does so despite the imminent and immanet risk posed to the speaker. Foucault explains Parrhesia in a lecture that he gave at the University of California at Berkeley and it is in that sense that I use the word.

Now, the interesting thing is that the protagonists of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Fahrenheit 451” are willing to risk danger in order to speak truth to power… and so… are an example, kind of, of Parrhesia.  In my dissertation, I wrote about Hugo Chavez as someone who was a master of Parrhesia.  Chavez’s leadership will be synonymous with the speech that he gave at the United Nations when he called President George W. Bush a devil. “I can still smell the sulfur,” he said at the podium, right after Bush had spoken there! Parrhesiastes usually don’t live very long.  But we hear their words and see their actions forever.

GC: Martin Luther King…. Malcolm X…. John F. Kennedy—when he spoke about ripping the C.I.A. to shreds—after their “Bay of Pigs” fiasco!

CM: Yeah… too many!

In my dissertation, I place Chavez in the context of a national leader in the Americas who dares to express his differences with neoliberalism and the so-called “Washington Consensus.”  The evidence that his speech was “to power” and at the same time very risky comes from information I found in WikiLeaks, as well as the US history of intolerance toward such leaders–as exposed in the COINTELPRO Papers, Senator Frank Church’s Intelligence Investigations Reports, declassified information available in State Department historical volumes, declassified reports of U.S. activity in “Operation Condor,” “Operation Gladio,” “Operation Northwoods”; as well as whistleblower interviews that I conducted specifically about US governmental attitudes toward Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution.  I wanted my dissertation to be a one-stop shop for all of the current information about this type of covert US activity.

GC: And, “Transformational Leadership”?

CM: That’s the kind of leadership that professes values that James MacGregor Burns calls “end values”:  liberty, dignity, justice, peace!  In my dissertation, I conclude that Chavez is not only a Parrhesiastes, but also a Transformational Leader!  And the evidence that I provide comes from the very real policy achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution, as well as from interviews with Venezuelans, Africans in the Diaspora–mainly the Caribbean–and scholars and journalists.

Interestingly, what I uncovered from WikiLeaks is that the U.S. was particularly worried about the relationship between Qaddafi and Chavez.  Through the Africa-South America Summit process, those leaders sought to integrate their respective continents (and the Caribbean countries) in the spirit of South-South economic cooperation and racial and cultural harmony.  We now know from Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and the former Chairman of the Presidential Election Commission in Haiti that Jude Celestin, in 2010, was fraudulently denied the opportunity to become President of Haiti by Secretary of State Clinton, who claimed that Celestin was “too close to Chavez.”  Now, because of the work of Secretary Clinton on behalf of President Obama, those who objected to Chavez’s and Qaddafi’s assertion of sovereignty for Venezuela and Libya—because of their “Parrhesia”—those who objected will no longer have to worry because both of those leaders are now dead!

The people of the U.S. have a lot to atone for.  On my FaceBook page, when the State Department admitted in December 2014–that yes, President Eisenhower had approved the murder of Patrice Lumumba and the CIA had set aside $100,000 to accomplish the dirty deed, I asked the people on my page how we could make up for that and also repair the damage that the U.S. did to the Lumumba family.  I was shocked when most respondents claimed that they bore no responsibility for what the US government had done then–or does now!  I was stunned that people could so easily slip out of responsibility!

GC: I remember, when I was a child, seeing a movie newsreel of Lumumba’s murder. I was shocked! On the 50th anniversary of his murder—5 years ago–the UK’s Guardian newspaper—called the CIA assassination of Lumumba “the most important assassination of the 20th Century.” It is certainly a tragic event that changed the course of modern history; something about which our Empire’s “citizens” should know much more!  

CM: In fact, according to a recent study, Whites are now dying prematurely and a lot of the angst being felt in the 2016 election is a result of the fact that the genocide and human trafficking that White males’ ancestors engaged in—with which they never came to terms, even to this day with the descendants of the victims–, well, now, the country that they built is no longer theirs and their supremacy has been displaced and now they are treated just like they treated us!

Yes, I know it’s harsh, but it’s the truth!  So, until we can deal with these truths, the U.S. will continue its decline, even as the snakepit thrives.  And that’s because we will all be easily pitted against each other rather than turning to each other for help, solace, and liberation.  The U.S. is kind of like a husband and wife who are now at each others’ throats.  Either we will divorce and go our separate ways or we will work together to salvage our relationship.  I would like for the people of the U.S. to acknowledge the past–as painful as it is–and then move forward together in an even stronger relationship!  My parents were married for over 50 years….

Now, why are we at each  others’ throats?  Because as long as we’re fighting each other over really unnecessary things, the big criminals paraded before us on television as our “leaders” never get justice!  Nor the ones lurking in the shadows, directing the so-called leaders, depositing their ill-gotten gains in burgeoning bank accounts.  The U.S. is being stripped to the bone.  Everything the U.S. used to be is being erased.  We can’t even educate our citizens any more because the relationship between teacher and student–between professor and students–is mediated by the Chamber of Commerce and bankers.  We’re sicker because the relationship between the doctor and the patient is mediated by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and profit-seeking corporations.  Our infrastructure is falling apart because the relationship between the elected official and the voter is mediated by corporations looking for an easy buck from the government while paying no taxes.  And, just as bad, homeless families have their tents bulldozed to make way for stadiums that billionaires are given tax breaks to build!  When will it stop?  It won’t stop!  That’s why Whites have joined everyone else in the U.S. with premature deaths.  This situation is stressful!  And while we’re stressed to the max here, US bombs are destroying whole countries in Africa and Asia.  And that carnage will not stop, will only expand–to more and more countries.  That’s what President Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” is all about!

GC: My turn to say “Wow”!

Oh, Jeez, we need you back in the US Congress! We need you making a speech, or giving a talk–an analysis–like the one above! Yes, all the interlopers, all the “mediators,” as you say, standing between the people and their “elected” officials! Not only in politics! But the “mediators” or “administrators” standing between students and their professors! Or, the “mediators”—the pundits—between the people and true journalists! How can we call ourselves a “democracy” when the people have so little, or no, control?

I even heard Mike Huckabee recently talking about the “donor class”—the wealthy donors now encouraging the anti-Trump movement in the Republican party, and how the Republican politicians have become so comfortable with their relationships with their “donors” (“mediators”!) that they fear Trump will upset their cozy relationships… and so they promote the “Anyone but Trump!” movement. (Even Hillary would be preferable for them!)

Well, I don’t support Trump, and I don’t support Hillary! If Bernie Sanders were ten years younger, he might have chance. Of course, to a lesser extent, he must play the game, too. Every American politician must give obeisance to Israel—Israeli policies—if he or she wants to have a ghost of a chance of being heard! If he or she were to embrace “Parrhesia”—well, he or she might very well meet with Chavez’s or Qaddafi’s fate!

It’s obvious from what you’ve written above that you’re not very fond of Hillary Clinton! I’d be remiss, in this political silly-season, not to expand on that. To tell you the truth, I’ve been amazed to see the support she has garnered in the Black communities! I don’t think she’d be so far ahead of Sanders, I don’t think she’d have a real chance at the nomination, were it not for Black support!

There are, of course, the talking Black heads on Fox, MSNBC, etc., but Jeez!, do we even need Morgan Freeman articulating his praises in that rich, resonant voice of his? Except for Cornell West and Glen Ford, I have not heard, or heard of, any Black leader speaking against Hillary—or, for that matter, Obama! You’ve been eloquent about Whites’ failures to address their past and continuing racism—even “genocide.” Could you share your views on “leadership” conundrums in the Black community?    

[Interviewer’s Note: After a few days of silence, I’m a little concerned about computer glitches, transmission errata… or perhaps I’ve said something inappropriate…. So, I try again….]

GC: It’s mostly about keeping the tone of a conversation going, but, obviously, because it’s not off-the-cuff, we can dig a little deeper.

If you can answer the last “installment” I sent you, I’d like to continue from there.  The last question still hanging in the air concerns Black leadership.  And I don’t know anyone more qualified to speak to that issue than you.

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, I also hope we can get into substantive solutions.  Obviously, we all need to be better informed–but HOW?  I often think that the “average” person–White, Black, Brown, Asian, et. al., is overwhelmed living his/her “normal” life, and distracted in a thousand ways: with “entertainment,” or “religion,” or “sports,” etc.  How to break through?  How to organize?  Do you feel the “message” that we are already in a global crisis–in terms of the environment, the wars, population growth, domestic violence, racism and xenophobia, pandemics, etc.–is that message getting through?

lOOking forward–GC

CM: My latest on the Hillary Clinton campaign is one for RT [Russia Today] entitled, “Loose Lugs Lose Elections,” in which I describe all of the outstanding scandals/policy failures, etc. that lay in Secretary Clinton’s wake.  I describe the situation as one in which the Clinton campaign car already has five loose lugs and one more loose lug will have the car careening off the street.  Let’s see what happens between my writing this and its publication!

But, yes, I do want to address your questions….

Frankly, I don’t know what kind of women want for their President someone who doesn’t hesitate to set the stage for the wholesale murder of men, women, and children!  My feeling is that Hillary is a hired gun, a mercenary, who needs the approbation of significant others, and who will do anything to get it–including destroying whole countries.  But, you know, people like that, who portray themselves as leaders, but who are really only the worst kind of sycophant, command no respect from the people they lure to become their followers.  Everything is a transaction.  And so, they too, become dispensable when the next better deal comes along.  That’s Barack Obama in 2008; could be Bernie Sanders in 2016.  We shall see.

I think it’s outrageous that Black voters would be the deciding factor in support of Hillary Clinton’s limp campaign.  It just shows how bought-out and sold-out the Black political class has become.  After Haiti, Libya, Benghazi, Syria, and Cote D’Ivoire before that.  Honduras even before that.  And, that’s just on U.S. foreign policy alone.  A continuation of the Obama policies at home will devastate Black America even further.  I just watched a CNN interview of Black voters that took place just before the South Carolina primary.  I was saddened to see such lack of information.  Such parroting of mainstream media memes.  If all you know is what you’ve been told by CNN, MSNBC, and the lot of them, I’m very sad to say, you “know” nothing.  We really have reached the point of 1984: “Ignorance is strength.”

I have one question for the voters of the U.S.:  Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?

I daresay I know the answer!

Western European capitalism brought the world colonialism, its attendant genocide, and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  Yes, Thomas Piketty explains the corrosive nature of capitalism on society and neoliberalism is capitalism on steroids.  James Wolfensohn, in an extremely important speech at the Stanford Graduate Business School, stated that the organizations of the world (IMF, World Bank, UN) were created with the extant corrosion of global apartheid in mind.  Certain countries enjoyed unearned privilege and the great struggle today is for some to displace that privilege while others fight to hold onto it.  Venezuela, Brazil, Libya–all must be seen in this light.  The U.S. military is being used to protect and extend somebody’s privilege.  But does that privilege extend to average U.S. citizens? The answer is no.

Now, more and more U.S. citizens get it, but there are still so many who are walking around in a daze.  The matrix is real and you and I, we’ve taken the red pill, but so many are still high on the blue pill.  Otherwise, there should have been a rebellion by now.  In fact, it was George Herbert Walker Bush who reportedly said to Texas journalist Sarah McLendon, in response to a question about Iran Contra, “Sarah, if the American people ever find out what we have done, they would chase us down the street and lynch us.” Whether this anecdote is a fable or really happened, it most certainly is true.  And I’ve done my part to help the American people know what they have done.

I’ve had the book thrown at me; either you learn from such experiences or you rot.  So, thank goodness, I chose to learn.  Therefore, I look at what is happening at Trump rallies, and I can honestly say that I’ve been there, too.  The forces allied against me orchestrated a riot on election day at my headquarters!!!!!  It was so painful to watch!  It was then that the degree of PhD in political chicanery was conferred upon me!  Therefore, with reference to Trump, I know it when I see it.  That was a pure case of campaign dirty tricks.  The orchestrators can congratulate themselves on a job well done, but they won’t be able to put a dent in Trump’s appeal using those methods that at least one person can see through.

I studied Security Studies for my Master’s Degree.  I know about “Asymmetric Warfare.”  That’s what COINTELPRO was: destroying people’s marriages and such.  That’s what “Arab Spring” was; and the people who did it, will not hesitate to create an “American Spring.”

GC: Hi Cynthia,

Very glad to find your latest response in my Inbox today!  And, even happier after reading thru this once.

I think it’s perfect as is.  You raise questions, answer what you can, provoke, and, like my favorite journalists/writers, contextualize brilliantly.

My aim was to create a format allowing for something perdurable. A continuing reference point. You have done that.

Thank you for all that you’ve done, are doing, and will do.

More articles by:

Gary Corseri has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library, and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has published novels and collections of poetry, has taught in US public schools and prisons and in US and Japanese universities. His work has appeared at CounterPunch, The New York Times, Village Voice and hundreds of publications and websites worldwide. Contact: gary_corseri@comcast.net.

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