Sunday, July 19, 2015

Jimmy’s Hall



Screenplay by Paul Laverty
Director, Ken Loach

A review

The recent film Jimmy’s Hall was one of the best movies that I have seen.  This is a biography of Jimmy Gralton who was born in Effernagh, Ireland in 1886.  At the time of his birth, all of Ireland was a British colony.  This means that Gralton was born about 35 years after the Irish potato famine, when one million Irish people starved to death.     

The life of Jimmy Gralton

Gralton’s father was an indigent farmer.  His mother was a librarian who encouraged her son to read.  Gralton joined the British armed forces, and refused to serve the army attempting to crush the Indian independence movement.  Instead he joined the movement for an independent Ireland.

In 1909 Gralton got a job on a ship and sailed to the United States.  He settled in this country, succeeded in attaining employment, and gravitated to the worker’s movement.

In 1916 the British crushed the Irish revolution known as the Easter Uprising.  Patrick Pearse and James Connolly were two of the leaders the British executed.

In 1921 Jimmy Gralton returned to Ireland and organized his neighborhood community to build a community center on his family’s land.  The name of this center was The Pearse-Connolly Hall.  The center held dance parties in the evenings.  During the day, there were poetry readings, dance classes, boxing lessons, as well as political discussions.

The Irish government as well as the Catholic Clergy saw this community center as a threat to the status quo.  The pressure on Gralton became so strong that he left Ireland for the United States again in 1922.

Gralton returns to Ireland

By 1932, in the middle of the worldwide depression, Gralton returned to Ireland.  He felt the new Irish government might be a bit more tolerant of his ideas.  Eventually he reactivated his Pearse-Connally Hall. 

During these years, wealthy landlords evicted many Irish families from their homes.  Gralton organized to reverse these evictions.  He also organized farmers to use the land of the affluent landlords for grazing everyone’s cattle.

In one of the most moving scenes of this film, the actor who portrayed Gralton addressed a demonstration of farmers who took back a home that had been confiscated by a landlord.

In this speech Gralton talked about how this demonstration had walked by the manor of a wealthy landlord who had manicured lands for as far as one’s eyes could see.  He talked about the speculation he saw in the United States during the 1920’s that led to the depression of the 1930’s.  He argued that working people are not about throwing people out of their homes, but want to have descent lives where we might enjoy dancing.

On Christmas Eve of 1932 the Pearse-Connolly Hall was burnt to the ground.  Shortly after that event the authorities attempted to deport Gralton.  He was able to hide from the police for several months, but eventually he was arrested and deported to the United States.  Jimmy Gralton was the only Irish citizen who was ever deported from that nation.

Back in the United States Gralton helped organize the Transport Workers Union.  He died in 1945 and never was able to return to Ireland.

In a sense this film resembles the film Footloose that stared Kevin Bacon.  This was the story of a confrontation between a rebellious youth and a religious cleric.  The disagreement was about whether or not the people of a small town would be allowed to dance. 

Clearly this film didn’t attempt to have the revolutionary implications of the film Jimmy’s Hall.  However, the idea that working people should have the right to enjoy themselves, as well as to have an unfiltered education does have revolutionary implications.

For anyone who is interested in the kind of struggles it will take to liberate humanity, Jimmy’s Hall is well worth seeing. 

      

Monday, July 13, 2015

Fascism and Big Business



By Daniel Guerin

Pathfinder Press 1939, 1965

The Second World War is one of the most written about events in the history of the world.  However, few books give an accurate view of why the political economic system of fascism erupted in Germany and Italy.  Daniel Guerin is one of the very few who gave a comprehensive view of why the monstrous system of fascism became a reality in these two countries.

In order to explain the relationship between fascism and big business, first we need to give some background.  The first theoreticians of capitalism were David Ricardo and Adam Smith.  Both these economists understood that the underlying forces of capitalism move the system towards a complete collapse.

Corporate officers routinely strive to increase sales and cut costs.  Because the priority of corporations is profits, this means that eventually there are more commodities on the market than people will buy.  First, there are recessions, then depressions.  Both seek to do away with the excess commodities by reducing production and eliminating jobs.  However, with depressions there is no guarantee that the economy will ever recover. 

This is one of the reasons why Karl Marx and Frederick Engels argued that the only way for humanity to escape this reality will be with a revolution of workers and farmers.

The First World War

In the early years of the twentieth century the British empire was falling apart.  British capitalists had effectively dominated the economies of the world for quite a long time.  Then revolutions erupted in Iran, Russia, China, and Mexico.  Although these revolutions did not achieve their objectives, the days of British domination of the world were numbered.

The emerging world powers attempting to replace the British were Germany and the United States.  The defeat of Germany in the First World War was followed by the Treaty of Versailles.  This treaty forced the German people to pay for the war and contributed to the collapse of the economy in that country.  However, by 1929 the capitalist system plunged the entire world into an international depression.

When capitalists loose their ability to profit off of investments, they continue to have resources they use to revive their economy.  In Germany and Italy capitalists used their enormous resources to fund fascist political organizations.  German capitalists actually funded the fascist civilian standing army known as the SA.  This army was used to attack demonstrations of workers in an attempt to break up any resistance.

Worker’s resistance and the lack of political leadership

We should also understand that working people had a militant history in Germany.  Before the rise of the Nazis, German workers had been able to force numerous concessions from capitalists.  While there continued to be discrimination against Jews, that discrimination had been weakened over the years.

Then, after the defeat of Germany in the First World War a revolution erupted in that country.  The working class movement was not properly organized, and two of the principal leaders, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were murdered while in the custody of the authorities.  Working people of Germany have not had a leadership of the caliber of Luxemburg and Liebknecht since that time.

Adolf Hitler and many officials of the German National Socialist Party understood that their movement could have easily been crushed in its first years.  When armed thugs of the Nazi SA attacked demonstrations of workers, the so-called leaders of those years told workers not to defend themselves.  They argued that it was the obligation of the capitalist government to defend their so-called right to demonstrate.

However, before these demonstrations of workers the police would disarm the demonstrators making it difficult to defend themselves from armed Nazis.  This state of affairs caused the Nazis to gain confidence, and for workers to become demoralized. 

However, even after the Nazis took power, the majority of German workers refused to support their rule.  In fact, Hitler called his organization the National Socialist Party because he understood that the idea of socialism was immensely popular with workers.

There was another problem with the so-called leaders of the German Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party.  These were the parties of the German Workers and together they controlled a majority of the votes.  The officials of these parties refused to form a block to prevent the Nazis from taking power.

After the Nazis took power the German congress called the Reichstag was burned to the ground.  The Social Democratic Parties and Communist Parties were outlawed and the Nazis sent their officials to prison. 

The myth and reality of Adolf Hitler

The Nazis argued that they would improve the lives for the German people.  However, Daniel Guerin gives the true history of what happened during their rule.

Wages of workers and farmers were slashed in half.  Anyone who promoted a strike to protest these conditions could be sent to prison.  Even insubordination on the job was grounds for a prison sentence.  Workers needed to belong to the fascist unions where they paid union dues.  This meant that resigning from a job was against the law.  Civil rights vanished and Germany became a dictatorship.

These were the conditions that German capitalists needed to continue to gouge out their obscene profits.  The problem was that since German workers had considerably less money, there didn’t appear to be anyone to purchase their products.

So, the Nazi government became the primary customer of German corporations.  The Nazis purchased new roads and built a few new buildings.  However, the commodities the Nazi government wanted most were armaments to be manufactured in peacetime.  Therefore, the Nazi strategy for rescuing the German economy was to militarily dominate the nations of the world.

Why did masses of German people support the Nazis?         

We should keep in mind that there were masses of people who supported the Nazis.  This is why fascism is different from a military dictatorship where the military has little support from the people.

As I mentioned, after the First World War, Germany experienced one of the worst depressions in the world.  Inflation was astronomical and most middle class families experienced poverty.  Because of the lack of a competent working class leadership, the middle class looked for alternatives. 

The Nazis promised that they would bring back the old days when the middle class had a better standard of living.  As we have seen, when the Nazis took power the standard of living for workers deteriorated. 

Adolf Hitler was able to maintain power by murdering anyone who opposed his regime.  This included some of his most ardent supporters.  The Nazi regime achieved a bit of stability because of their war against workers, their military spending, and their occupation of other nations.

What are the lessons for today?

In order to understand the reality we face today, I believe we need to look at a bit of history.  From the years 1877 through 1934 the labor movement in this country took part in numerous strikes against employers.  Most of these strikes ended in defeat.

Then, in 1934 there were three victorious strikes that transformed the labor movement.  During the next twenty years millions of workers joined unions, participated in numerous strikes, and raised the standard of living. 

The Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s followed the enormous strikes of the labor movement of the 1950’s.  Then, the capitalist class of the world changed one of the ways they functioned.

As I mentioned, the capitalist system will eventually move towards collapse.  For this reason capitalists are continually driven to drive down wages.

Since working people in this country had made gains, capitalists made the investments to move many of their enterprises to other countries.  By doing this they lowered their production costs, and created new markets for their commodities.  The United States changed from being a largely manufacturing to a service based economy.

This shift of where commodities are manufactured enabled capitalists to avoid depression for a half a century.  So far, they did not need to place a fascist government in power.  However, the current international economic crisis means that the relative stability of capitalism is over.

We should keep in mind that when the fascists took power in Germany, they threw out everyone who held a government office in the old regime.  This means that if a fascist government were to take over in this country the entire government would be replaced.  Even the most hateful politicians of today will not be acceptable if fascists take power.    

Understanding this working people will have the opportunity of preventing a fascist takeover.  When we think of the Black, Latino, and working class communities of this country, my opinion is that they will not sit idly by while fascists attack their communities.

Today many liberals favor gun control and non-violent disobedience.  Well, this only works if one’s opponent chooses to be non-violent.  The words of Malcolm X continue to ring true.  The Black community will defend itself “by any means necessary.”

Understanding this reality means that working people have the potential to prevent a future fascist takeover.  Yes, we have the potential to make this a world where everyone will have a real opportunity to live a rewarding life.  My opinion is that these are the issues working people need to consider today.     
    


  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The John Carlos Story – A Review



John Carlos tells the story about why he raised his fist while being awarded a medal in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

People from around the world have seen the photograph of Tommy Smith and John Carlos raising their fists with black gloves when they won medals in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  In his book The John Carlos Story, written with Dave Zirin, Carlos explains why he made that stand and why he would do it again.

John Carlos’ early years

The story of John Carlos begins in Harlem, New York.  His father, Earl Vanderbilt Carlos, was a veteran of the first world war and worked twelve hour days in his shoe repair shop.  His mother Violis Carlos was born in Jamaica, lived in Cuba till the age of 17, and worked on the night shift as a nursing assistant. 

John Carlos felt that he was lucky to be raised by both parents.  Many of his friends only had one parent.  Some of these friends would visit the Carlos home so they might have enough food to eat. 

From an early age young John Carlos had a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong.  He understood that there were many in Harlem who did not have enough food to eat and he and his crew decided to do something about it. 

There was a rail yard near where he lived where large amounts of food were stored.  Carlos and his crew would each take containers of food, run from the police, and distribute that food to people who were in need.  This gave him the reputation of a modern-day Robin Hood.

John Carlos’ first sport was swimming.  He was a natural athlete and won the 200 meter freestyle New York City championship.  Carlos had dreams of going to the Olympics in the swimming competition and his father researched what he would have to do to achieve that goal.

Earl Carlos discovered that his son would not be allowed to properly train for the Olympics in swimming because he was Black.  When John Carlos began to understand the ramifications of what that would mean, this was one of the changing moments in his life.

Because of his background, John Carlos was inspired by Malcolm X who was well known in Harlem.  Young Carlos made it a habit of running with Malcolm X as Malcolm rapidly walked to all of his appointments.  By doing this Carlos was able to ask Malcolm questions on many issues and the two became acquaintances.

Because John Carlos had dyslexia, he never had very good academic grades.  Although he became an excellent track and field athlete, many of the better schools would not give him a scholarship because of his academic record.

Carlos received a scholarship in East Texas where he learned first hand what the realities of Jim Crow segregation were.  He also learned how he was not the only person on his track team who challenged that system.

The 1968 Olympics

After Carlos left East Texas he became involved in the movement to boycott the 1968 Olympics.  The reason for this boycott was the fact that Black people in the United States continued to be second-class citizens, even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Many celebrities, including Martin Luther King supported the idea of the boycott.  However, after the assassination of King many of the athletes abandoned the idea of the boycott.  For these reasons John Carlos and others decided that they would compete in the 1968 Olympics.

Before the Mexico City Olympic games, Mexican students protested the fact that resources were being used for the Olympics while poverty and a lack of educational opportunities existed for the people of that nation. 

The Mexican government decided to respond to these demonstrations with brutal repression.  The armed forces of Mexico murdered hundreds if not thousands of demonstrators.  It was in this atmosphere that the Mexico City Olympic games began.

Tommy Smith and John Carlos were the ones who protested the inhumanity of those times by raising their gloved fists in the air as they received medals for winning their event.  Their protest showed the world the other side to the history of Black people in the United States.  Their attire symbolized the lynchings, the humiliating jobs, and the poverty Black people endured.  However, their protest also demonstrated how defiance was the characteristic that gave black people their humanity.    

As The Star Spangled Banner played and the gloved fists were raised in the air, there was silence in the Olympic stadium.  This silence was followed by boos from spectators who were upset by this protest during the games.

The consequences of their protest

After the Olympics both Smith and Carlos had difficulty finding work.  This underscores the fact that freedom of speech, which is supposed to be guaranteed by the constitution, doesn’t exist when people are critical of the powerful forces in this country. 

Many people have the impression that John Carlos returned his medal to the International Olympic Committee.  In fact, Carlos refused to give back his medal and stated that the IOC could come to Harlem and see how far they would get if they tried to take the medal back. 

Carlos was able to eventually find work as a guidance counselor and he never regretted his protest in the Olympics.  To the contrary, a statue was built in Smith and Carlos’ honor and ESPN produced a documentary featuring their protest.

When we think about the current 2012 Olympics in London, we might also consider how two young men chose to risk their careers to protest some of the injustices in the world.  This is the kind of courage that young people will need in order to take on the powerful interests and make this planet a much better place to live.                   


    

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rebellion in Newark – Official violence and ghetto response




By Tom Hayden

Published with The New York Review of Books, Vintage Books, a division of Random House, 1967

A review

Recently, we have seen uprisings in Baltimore, Maryland, Ferguson, Missouri, and several other cities where Black men had been murdered by the police.  Only after the rebellion in Baltimore did a State Prosecutor issue indictments against six police officers involved in the murder of Freddie Gray.

Tom Hayden’s 1967, book Rebellion in Newark – Official violence and ghetto response demonstrates that both rebellions and police violence are nothing new in this country.  While this book continues to be well worth reading, in my opinion, there was one significant weakness.  Hayden’s book failed to place the rebellion in Newark in a historical context.  This review will attempt to correct that flaw.

The history of racist violence

An undeniable fact about the history of the United States is that thousands of Black people died as a result of lynchings.  Many if not most of these lynchings took place in rural areas in the south.  The film Rosewood documented how racists destroyed an entire Black community in 1923.  A similar event happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921.  Rarely, if ever, did the government of this country make any attempt to prosecute those who organized these lynchings.

Racist violence wasn’t limited to the United States.  Before the Second World War most Jewish people lived in Eastern Europe.  At that time there were a series of racist raids on Jewish communities where thousands lost their lives.  Jews used the Yiddish word pogrom to describe these racist attacks.  The Tsarist government of Russia had no problem with these pogroms and even encouraged the murderers. 

One of the definitions of the word pogrom is: A massacre or persecution instigated by the government or by the ruling class against a minority group, particularly Jews.     

However, when many Jews and other Europeans came to this country, something happened.  The writer James Baldwin argued that there was a price to be paid by Caucasians who came to this country.  He called this the Price of the Ticket.  This meant that many Caucasians forgot their experiences in Europe and viewed themselves as white. 

Becoming white meant they needed to forget some of the horrors of Europe so they could feel some sense of entitlement.  This so-called entitlement was about the illusion of an expectation of being treated better because they were not Black.

The civil rights movement erupted because Black people had been systematically denied citizenship rights in this country partly because of the Jim Crow laws.  In 1963 Martin Luther King was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama.  At that time, there were religious officials who criticized King for being arrested.  They argued that he needed to be patient and that change would come eventually.

King responded to this argument with his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  He wrote that his daughter asked King why she wasn’t allowed to play in a local park.  King didn’t like the fact that he had to tell his daughter that she wasn’t allowed to play in the park because of the color of her skin.  This was one reason why Martin Luther King decided he wasn’t going to be patient and took direct action.

Malcolm X lived most of his life in cities in the northern states that didn’t have Jim Crow laws.  Malcolm argued that it wasn’t sufficient to argue for civil rights.  He argued that the government routinely denied Black people human rights throughout this country.  For this reason Malcolm argued that the United States government needed to be put on trial in the World Court for its human rights violations against millions of Blacks living in this country.    

The Newark rebellion

The rebellion in Newark, as rebellions in many other cities, started with an incident of police brutality.  The police arrested a cab driver by the name of John Smith on July 12, 1967.  One of the charges against Smith was that he used “abusive language.”  This is what Smith had to say about his time in police custody:

“There was no resistance on my part.  That was a cover story by the police.  They caved in my ribs, busted a hernia, and put a hole in my head.”

The rebellion in Newark wasn’t about protesting this single incident.  In January of 1967 business officials issued a report where they argued that Newark’s problems were “more grave and pressing than those of perhaps any other American city.”  City officials applied for funds under the Model Cities Act using the following argument:

“Newark had the nation’s highest percentage of bad housing, the most crime per 100,000 people, the heaviest tax burden, the highest rates of venereal disease, maternal mortality, and new cases of tuberculosis.  The city was listed as second in infant mortality, second in birth rate, seventh in absolute number of drug addicts.  Its unemployment rate in the Black community was 15%.”

We might also think about the fact that rebellions had been erupting in Black communities all over the nation four years before 1967.  Some people were surprised, not that the rebellion happened in Newark, but that it didn’t erupt before 1967.

After John Smith’s arrest civil rights leaders demanded to see him.  After some resistance from the police, these leaders saw John Smith and demanded that he receive medical attention.  Smith was taken to Beth Israel Hospital.

John Smith had initially been taken to the Forth Precinct Police Station located on 17th avenue near what was then Belmont Avenue.  Today, the former Belmont Avenue is called Irving Turner Boulevard.    

Across the street from the Forth Precinct were the former Hayes Homes housing projects.  Tom Hayden reported that the Hayes Homes consisted of six buildings each housing about 1,000 people on twelve floors. 

Cab drivers throughout the city had been communicating to one another about the brutality John Smith experienced.  A demonstration took place at the Fourth Precinct that evening.  The anger of the 500 demonstrators turned into rage and missiles started flying at the police station.  These missiles would break 110 windows. 

The police came out of the station with helmets and clubs.  They were met with a torrent of bricks and bottles.  Afraid for their lives, the police retreated back into the station.

Tom Hayden gives this useful description of the thinking of Black people who participated in the rebellion:

“Fathers and mothers in the ghetto often complain that even they cannot understand the wildness of their kids.  Knowing that America denies opportunity to black young men, black parents still share with whites the sense that youth is heading in a radically new, incomprehensible, and frightening direction.  Refusal to obey authority—that of the parents, teachers and other adult ‘supervisors’—is a common charge against youngsters.  Yet when the riot broke out, the generations came together.  The parents understood and approved the defiance of their sons that night.”

The so-called “looting” of white owned stores started that evening.

James Baldwin spoke about the so-called “looting” that took place in the Black community during the rebellions.  He argued that when a young Black man takes a television from a store, he doesn’t really want that TV.  Baldwin argued that what that young Black man wants is for people to recognize that he exists and is in fact a human being.

We might also consider that the United States became a nation as a result of a political revolution.  The Declaration of Independence states clearly that when the people are subjected to a “long train of abuses” it is not only, “their right, but their duty” to throw off their oppressors and establish new guards for their security.

At the Boston Tea Party of 1773, insurgents boarded three ships in Boston Harbor.  It took them three hours to throw 342 chests of tea overboard.

The so-called “looting” of white owned stores was partly about the routine cheating these storeowners practiced in the Black community.  Well-dressed working people participated in the rebellion and felt entitled to get even for all the money these stores effectively stole from the community.  The insurgents left the Black owned stores alone.

While the Black community felt a sense of empowerment from the rebellion, the police took a different approach.  On Thursday, July 13, 250 people were treated at City Hospital.  At least fifteen had gunshot wounds.  The next morning there were 425 people in jail.

However, the brutal police response was incapable of stopping the rebellion.  Newark Mayor Hugh Addonizio asked Governor Richard J. Hughes for assistance.  Governor Hughes mobilized over 3,000 National Guardsmen to carry out, what was in effect, a pogrom against the Black residents of Newark.

Governor Hughes toured Newark on Friday morning July 15.  He called the uprising, “An obvious open rebellion.”  This description by Hughes differed descriptions by the press and the history books that have routinely called the Newark rebellions “riots.”  Hughes was open about his hatred for the tax-paying residents of Newark with his statement:

“The line between the jungle and the law might as well be drawn here as any place in America.”

A Committee of Concern that included the Episcopal Bishop, deans of Rutgers Newark campus as well as their law school, and the vice-presidents of Prudential Insurance Company disagreed with Governor Hughes statement.  They issued a statement arguing that a major cause of the rebellion was a belief held in the Black community that the police are, “the single continuously lawless element operating in the community.”

During the government-organized pogrom about 24 people lost their lives.  This number may be higher given that the hospitals were overwhelmed with residents who had been injured or murdered.

Friday evening July 15 was the time of most of the murders.  Among those who lost their lives was Detective Fred Toto and Fire Captain Michael Moran.  Tom Hayden reported that in all probability these men died as a result of gunfire coming from the police or national guardsmen.  Also on Friday evening ten Black people were killed, 100 suffered gunshot wounds, 500 were “treated” at City Hospital, and as many were arrested or held. 

One clear example of vandalism was the police organized destruction of Black owned stores.  As I mentioned before, those who participated in the rebellion didn’t damage any of the stores owned by Black people.  Those stores were marked “soul brother.”  Witnesses observed police destruction of 100 stores that had been marked soul brother.

Tom Hayden quoted a statement made by lawyers that included members of the American Civil Liberties Union.  They argued that the police were an instrument of a conspiracy, “to engage in a pattern of systematic violence, terror, abuse, intimidation, and humiliation.  They went on to say the police “seized on the initial disorders as an opportunity and pretext to perpetuate the most horrendous and widespread killing, violence, torture, and intimidation, not in response to any crime or civilian disorder, but in a violent demonstration of powerlessness of the plaintiffs and their class.  .  .”

In 1967 I happened to be fourteen years old and living in a section of the South Ward in Newark known as Weekquahic.  All I knew about the rebellions were the National Guardsmen stationed at the end of the street where I lived.  I also remember stories of how there were snipers who were firing at the guardsmen from rooftops.  In Hayden’s book I don’t recall anyone being convicted of being a sniper.

There were however three young people who died in the rebellion.  If I had a different skin color and lived a few miles from where I was living at the time, I could have been one of those young people.

One was ten-year old Eddie Moss of 240 Rose Street.  Eddie was sitting in his family car on the way to a White Castle for dinner.  Guardsmen shot at the car and Eddie lost his life.

Another was twelve-year old Michael Pugh of 340 Fifteenth Avenue.  Michael’s mother sent him to take out the garbage.  Guardsmen apparently heard someone say something derogatory.  They shot Michael Pugh dead.

Another was sixteen-year old James Sanders of 52 Beacon Street.  Police records indicate that James lost his life because of gunshot wounds.  The circumstances of his death are uncertain.  However, his father said he had never been in trouble before.

Governor Hughes dismissed the charges of police and National Guard brutality arguing that this was, “standard operating procedure.”  He went on to state that he was “thrilled” by the performance of the troops.     

The war against Vietnam

We might also consider that while the National Guardsmen invaded Newark, the U.S. military was at war against the people of Vietnam.  Le Ly Hayslip wrote her book titled, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places that describes what the war meant to her family.  Her book was made into a film titled Heaven and Earth. 

The story of Le Ly Hayslip's family shows concretely what this war was all about.  Ms Hayslip's oldest brother, Bon Nghe spent most of his adult life in the army that forced the U.S. out of his homeland.  Another brother, Sou Bon was reported to have been blown up by a land mine that was made in the U.S.A.  The death of this brother was never confirmed and to this day Sou Bon is what the newspapers refer to as "Missing In Action".  Because of the war a sister of Ms Hayslip (Lan) was forced off the family's farm and became a prostitute in order to survive.  Both Ms Hayslip and her mother were also forced off their land and experienced homelessness as a result.

Ms Hayslip was held in prison and tortured on three separate occasions.   Ms Hayslip's father, Phung Trong remained on his farm that was located in the middle of a war zone.  The separation of the father from his wife and six children, the fact that he was tortured in prison by the U.S. and its allies, and the fact that he had to endure the complete destruction of his way of life provoked Phung Trong to commit suicide.
 
In all, millions of people lost their lives in the U.S. war against the people of Southeast Asia.  While these stories are unimaginably horrendous, the Vietnamese people eventually forced the U.S. military out of their country.

The aftermath of the rebellions

Tom Hayden argued that the National Guardsmen left Newark just a few days after they arrived.  We might appreciate that there was seething hatred of the guardsmen by the people of in the city.  The government that gave orders to the guardsmen apparently were concerned about what might happen if this anger was mobilized.

Martin Luther King visited the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts after the rebellion in 1965.  King asked the question: “What did it profit the Negro to burn down the stores and factories in which he sought employment?”

Clearly, there was considerable destruction that took place during the rebellions.  I went to Arts High in the Central Ward of Newark.  Every day on the bus ride to school I saw block after block of burned out stores that hadn’t been torn down.

However, we might speculate that those who have power in this country understood that when cities erupt in rebellion, that this is bad for business.  We might also speculate that that this awareness prompted business and government officials to promote affirmative action programs in education and employment.

When I attended the 40th high school reunion of my graduating class, I learned that many of my former classmates had educational and employment opportunities their parents never had.  Most of my former classmates are Black.  Martin Luther King didn’t live to see this development.

We must also state that today the government has targeted Black people for prison.  The numbers of Black people in prison is grossly out of proportion to their percentage of the population.  Anyone living in this country has a better chance of going to prison than citizens of any other nation in the world.  Understanding these facts, my opinion is that we need to stop calling the prisons of this country, prisons.
A better description would be to call these institutions concentration camps.

So, what can we learn from the rebellions that have erupted all over this country?  My opinion is that we first need to think about the worlds in the Declaration of Independence.  That declaration argued that people don’t normally take up arms against a government.  But when there is a “long train of abuses,” it is not only “their right, but their duty,” to throw off the old regime and establish new guards for their security.

The rebellions demonstrate clearly that the people of this country are not apathetic.  When we are pushed to the point where they need to respond, we have responded.  The problem has been that we need an organized leadership that can transform the justifiable rage people feel into action that can make a profound difference.

This did happen in the nation of Cuba.  A nation that experienced routine police brutality and extreme poverty, was transformed into a nation that leads the world in health care and education.  While Cuba continues to have pressing problems, their example is inspiring for all those seeing human dignity for everyone in the world.