What Is Not Being Said
by Mat Callahan
October 17, 2002
Sifting through the headlines and sound bytes to gain some perspective it is important to consider not only what is being said but what is not.† It has been widely remarked that Bush and company are focusing on Iraq precisely to divert attention away from two vital areas of concern where their policies have been dismal failures: 1) Finding and apprehending the culprits in the 9/11 attack, more specifically, Osama Bin Laden and, 2) The devastating impact of the Enron, etc., financial scandals.† The German minister who suggested that "Hitler did this, too" lost her job.† Punishment for making an obvious correlation.† But more, the desperate attempt to silence anyone suggesting that history can teach us something about our current problems or that what we might be witnessing now is systemic, built into the basic structure of rule we are being asked to support.
Among the many things being ignored or deliberately buried by the PR campaign for war is that the United States itself is a deeply divided country. It bears little resemblance to the picture being presented of a "people united to defend their democratic ideals".† Furthermore, these conflicts are not being resolved by patriotic hysteria.† They are, if anything, being exacerbated in ways that will intensify civil conflict in the near future.† To begin with, the centuries old racial issues that underlie all social relations in the US burst forth in the observation made by a number of African American writers that not a single black person they know was surprised that 9/11 happened. Saddened and dismayed, even outraged, yes.† But not surprised. Indeed, black people, generally, remain deeply aware of the history of the US both inside and outside its borders.† Like any large group of people, their opinions and viewpoints differ widely but none can deny historical experience particularly when the country continues to refuse to deal with its past and is presently pursuing policies that increase the disparities between blacks and whites.
Another example is with the Native peoples.† How can anyone who knows anything about the US not take into account the genocide that is a simple, incontestable fact.† The descendants of the original inhabitants of the Americas live on, in many cases confronting the same duplicity and brutality that their forbears did at the hands of the US government.† How can they be reasonably expected to enthusiastically "wave the flag"?† How can they be expected to believe one word about liberty and justice for all?† How can they be expected to react to a government that promises the Iraqi people (not to mention the Kurds) that the war against Saddam will be followed by democracy and economic prosperity?
There can always be found a few among Indians and Blacks who can be counted on to say whatever the Powers That Be want them to.† There are such in the government itself.† But this changes nothing.† It only obscures the more significant fact that the entire population of these groups knows and lives the history and present reality of their oppression, past and present. It is impossible to ignore.
†The same can be said with equal force about other groups within the borders of the US.† And recent reports about the growing poverty in this, the richest country on earth, certainly cannot be dismissed without considering the implications for growing unrest.† The social gains wrested from the powerful by the great upheavals of the '60s, while now being whittled away, remain, if nothing else, as stark reminders that it is only through such struggle that any improvement is achieved.† Consumerism has been an effective propaganda weapon is disarming opposition and diffusing criticism.† But even as our homes fill with meaningless objects purchased madly at the mall the economic engine stalls, the police harassment increases, the government becomes more intrusive and abusive and our life chances dwindle and fade into hopelessness.† This is the reality that the Decade of Delusion, the "Boom" of the 90s, has left in its wake.† These are things not being spoken of, not being said.
The incredible wealth of the country and the lofty ideals articulated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights are constantly referred to at the very moment they are being eroded.† They have served as justification for every foreign adventure embarked upon by the US and have succeeded, to a certain extent, in convincing people that, no matter how detestable some policies or politicians may be, the benefits outweigh the costs.† But this phenomenon, so loudly proclaimed, obscures another important division in the US.† The numbers shrink and swell, individuals come and go, organizations emerge and decline but the opposition continues to oppose.† And another incontestable historical fact rises to the surface: every single right, every single protection, every single economic or political gain that the American people enjoy has been won through massive struggles.† None, not one, was given by the Founding Fathers or any other representative of government. This goes back to the origins of the country in a revolution against imperial domination.† This includes the struggle against slavery, for the rights of the propertyless and women to vote, for the right of workers to organize, for the elimination of Jim Crow and racial and gender discrimination and on and on.† This basic fact cannot be obscured forever nor can its implications be lost on those who, now, seek a redress of grievances and the Justice they have been denied.
It is one of the consequences of the Bush regime's current strategy that these questions are being raised anew, with renewed vigor by people who might otherwise be silent.† Indeed, it is one of the risks of such a dangerous course.† They are gambling that the multitudes will remain docile and obedient when history teaches we will not.† Which is, of course, why they do not want anyone to remember or to ask how we came to this sorry state of affairs.† One question leads to more questions and, sooner or later, people are questioning the entire system by which they have been deluded and denied.† Pregnant within this historical moment is the opportunity it presents to expose the hypocrisy and denude the hypocrite, to illuminate the crime and identify the criminal, to unite all who have no stake in this madness and isolate those who would defend it.† This we must do with the confidence that, even as the lies get bigger and more shrill, we will be joined by growing numbers as they become aware of what is in their own and humanity's interests.
Mat Callahan is an award winning musician, composer, producer, and community activist living in Bern, Switzerland. Mat performed with Prairie Fire and the Looters. He is the author of Testimony (Freedom Voices Press, 2000) and Sex, Death and the Angry Young Man (Times Change Press, 1991). Visit Matís website: http://www.matcallahan.com/