Dylann Roof, Terrorist (and let’s end the “war on terror”)

July 4, 2015

James Comey, director of the bloated and corrupt, deeply dishonest and deadly criminal enterprise known as the FBI, is usually quick-on-the-draw when it comes to labeling acts of violence “terrorism”—after all he has an annual $3.3 billion dollar budget to counter terror—but he hesitated in the case of Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine African-Americans in the Charleston Emanuel AME church on June 17. Why?

It was “horrific,” he acknowledged, but “terrorism” is “more of a political act and…I don’t see it as a political act.”

The perpetrator himself saw it as a calculated and willful political act, painted his self-portrait in the posture of a partisan actor on an explicitly  political mission; his “manifesto” is as thoroughly articulated a political document, filled with apocalyptic fantasies and white supremacist day-dreams, as you’re likely to find.

The farce of Comey’s ambiguity is telling: it highlights the fuzziness of the word itself, but more important it reveals the selective and hypocritical deployment of “terrorist/terrorism” as propaganda by the paid agents of the ruling class. “Terrorism” is a mindless term of art for “the stuff the powerful don’t like.” Comey’s FBI has labeled acts of vandalism “terrorism,” including breaking windows, hammering on nuclear silos, disabling tractors in ancient forests or airplanes set to bomb civilians, freeing caged animals, and more. As a founding member of the Weather Underground in 1970, I know from close experience just how sweeping—and sticky—that label can become.

Having myself been called (falsely) an “unrepentant domestic terrorist” for decades now, I’m reluctant to use the word at all—it flows so automatically  into the rushing propaganda stream unleashed by the so-called “war on terror,” screaming insistently for permanent war, more US aggression, more assassinations and torture, more ethnically-based surveillance and repression, more suspicion and fear, more targeting of Arabs and Muslims. But I’ll make an exception here: Dylan Roof is a white supremacist and a terrorist, his actions part of a long legacy of terrorism carried out against captured Africans, and later the descendants of formerly enslaved people.

What is terrorism for real, and why is this guy exhibit one?

Nicholas Lemann attempted a definition of “terrorism” a couple of years ago in the New Yorker. He claimed that the expert consensus included a few common traits: terrorists have political or ideological objectives and they intend to spread fear and panic as they intimidate an audience larger than their immediate victims. Good enough, but then: terrorists are non-state actors, he claimed, which conveniently exempts Russia’s brutality in Chechnya, Iraq’s crushing of the Kurds, the US bombing of villages in Vietnam, and countless other horrors and atrocities throughout history designed to cause fear and panic toward a political goal. Terrorists, he continued, target ordinary citizens, or, when they kill soldiers, their attacks don’t take place on the field of battle. That’s an expedient tautology: whenever and wherever the US military marches in, the space becomes, by definition, a “field of battle;” if the US decides to pound a village to dust—as in, say, Fallujah—that’s a field of battle, but if a villager kills a US soldier in the exact same spot the day before the invasion commences, that’s “terrorism.”

In the interest of consistency and fairness let’s define “terrorism” more precisely: the use of violence intended to intimidate a civilian population in order to accomplish some specified political end-point. If we focus on the use of coercive violence we can see clearly that terrorism can be the work of a religious cult, an individual warrior, a political sect, a group of zealots, or the state itself. And the state throughout history takes first prize.

The history of organized terror against African-Americans begins with the capture and kidnapping of Africans, tortured and transported to the Americas as chattel, none of them willing volunteers on the Middle Passage. This massive crime against humanity was state-sanctioned, legal terror.

Enslaved people ran away and resisted in a thousand ways, and after hundreds of years legal slavery was abolished. A decades-long campaign of terror against free Blacks began immediately—pogroms, arson, displacement, false arrests and imprisonment, night-riders, and thousands of public-spectacle lynchings. White gangs rampaged on a whim through African-American communities in Chicago, St. Louis, Tulsa, Rosewood, and hundreds of other places, and the message was clear: white supremacy would police the racial boundaries and punish any transgression.

Dylann Roof’s murderous outburst must be located in that long history of organized violence against African-Americans to accomplish a political goal: the maintenance of white supremacy. The legacy continues, and the resistance must be mobilized and energized.  Part of that resistance is to educate and organize around abolishing the whole structure of the war on terror, including the vague language that points toward indistinct enemies. There is no good reason to call for the state to pursue a terrorist enhancement charge against the terrorist Dylann Roof. He should and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And we should continue to oppose endless war, the construction of a Prison Nation, mass incarceration, the militarization of the police and the serial murder of Black people, surveillance and repression.

This could be a moment of unusual clarity for all of us.


American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs

June 30, 2015

Grace Lee Boggs turned 100 years old on June 27, 2015.

Woo-woo!

Her 95th was a noisy intergenerational riot, and an uprising is what we all need this time around. Grace goes on and on, and she inspires and challenges us to do the same.

To celebrate her 100th, get the dazzling documentary, “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” by the young film-maker Grace Lee. The documentarian Grace was filming “The Grace Lee Project,” a collection of interviews across the land with everyone she could find who shared her name. The idea was cool: show the vast range and diversity of Asian-American women simply by following this one thin thread. And then she met the wondrous revolutionary Grace, and a whole new film project was launched.

Grace Lee Boggs has one of the most interesting minds you will ever encounter. She is always restless, always awakening and rethinking, forever astonished and moved to act, never standing still or entirely satisfied. Even at 99 she’s the most forward-looking person in any room she walks into. She’s a great believer in the power of the unfinished conversation—she loves the unscripted, surprising ideas that percolate in-between when we speak with the hope of being heard, and listen with the possibility of being changed. Since every idea contains its opposite and nothing is fixed or final, she dives into dialogue with unmatched fervor. It’s a sight to behold, and a gift to participate.

Grace wears a t-shirt these days that reads: [r]evolution. She says that we must work for revolution, but not in any old stereotypically scripted way. We must fight for revolution, yes, a huge transformation of all that is before us, and we must embrace evolution—becoming new men and new women capable and worthy of the changes we envision and struggle toward.

Grace challenges us to grapple with the big questions: What does it mean to be human in the 21st Century? How will we grow our souls? Who will we choose to be in a world not of our choosing? What can we imagine and how will we get there? What time is it on the clock of the world?

Happy Birthday, Grace!!


Follow @ WilliamAyers on Twitter…

June 18, 2015

Please and thank you.

Also Facebook.

Joy and Justice, Bill


Classroom Aesthetics

June 18, 2015

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-ayers-/classroom-aesthetics-not-the-art-of-teaching-_b_7614548.html


WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

June 16, 2015

The smart and radical Steve Clark has written a provocative and helpful pamphlet under the pen name VI Lenin, and yes, it’s called WHAT is to be DONE? Get it here:
It’s an ebook so you don’t get a hard copy. If you have a Kindle, iPad or smartphone, you can buy it for any of those formats. If you want to read it on your computer, you can download the free Adobe Digital Editions reader. Then, you order the book in epub format. It’s available now at Smashwords, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.


Assata Shakur welcome here!

June 15, 2015

http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/06/13/assata-shakur-mural-removed/


American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs

June 13, 2015

Grace Lee Boggs will be 100 years old later this month, and we’ll be in Detroit for her birthday party.

Woo-woo!

Her 95th was a noisy intergenerational riot, and while we will have a quiet time together next week, an uprising is what we all need this time around. Grace goes on and on, and she inspires and challenges us to do the same.

To celebrate her 100th, get the dazzling documentary, “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” by the young film-maker Grace Lee. The documentarian Grace was filming “The Grace Lee Project,” a collection of interviews across the land with everyone she could find who shared her name. The idea was cool: show the vast range and diversity of Asian-American women simply by following this one thin thread. And then she met the wondrous revolutionary Grace, and a whole new film project was launched.

Grace Lee Boggs has one of the most interesting minds you will ever encounter. She is always restless, always awakening and rethinking, forever astonished and moved to act, never standing still or entirely satisfied. Even at 99 she’s the most forward-looking person in any room she walks into. She’s a great believer in the power of the unfinished conversation—she loves the unscripted, surprising ideas that percolate in-between when we speak with the hope of being heard, and listen with the possibility of being changed. Since every idea contains its opposite and nothing is fixed or final, she dives into dialogue with unmatched fervor. It’s a sight to behold, and a gift to participate.

Grace wears a t-shirt these days that reads: [r]evolution. She says that we must work for revolution, but not in any old stereotypically scripted way. We must fight for revolution, yes, a huge transformation of all that is before us, and we must embrace evolution—becoming new men and new women capable and worthy of the changes we envision and struggle toward.

Grace challenges us to grapple with the big questions: What does it mean to be human in the 21st Century? How will we grow our souls? Who will we choose to be in a world not of our choosing? What can we imagine and how will we get there? What time is it on the clock of the world?

Happy Birthday, Grace!!

See: “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs”


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