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White History 101

Mr Younge wants to distinguish "history" from "mythology." But the traces of myth can be found throughout his text.

Younge is correct that a historical understanding requires an understanding of complexity and contradiction. Yes, the Europeans who settled in the Americas brought both constitutional democracy and the mass murder of natives. Yes, white history in America ought to include not only Abe LIncoln but also Mr. Blake and the accusers of Emmett Till.

And (this is the part Mr. Younge leaves aside) African history ought to deal with both the suffering of the Middle Passage and the participation of Africans in the slave trade of their own people.

And black history in America ought to include not only Martin LUther King Jr. but also AL Sharpton and Tawana Brawley and everyone involved in the Duke lacrosse 'rape' scandal.

If, that is, it's really history we want, and not just a new mythology.

Alexander Riley

Lewisburg, PA

Feb 27 2007 - 2:18am

Remembering Norma Rae

While reading this article, I was looking for a mention of the John Sayles film Matewan, made in 1987.

It's another movie about unions that might fit in this discussion. The ending is more downbeat than that of Norma Rae, but it is a positive portrayal also rooted in history.

Bert Stevens

Kanawha, Iowa

Feb 26 2007 - 11:01pm

Sect Symbols

An excellent article.

Kudos to someone who does not hold back to be incorrectly politically correct.

Thumbs up.

Ali Darwish

Beirut, Quebec, Canada

Feb 26 2007 - 9:49pm

How to Fix Our Democracy

I do not understand why we are still operating under the assumption that a Constitutional Crisis has not already occurred.

The Bush administration has won the first battle. This October Bush signed into law his right to arrest and imprison any person on the face of this earth he chooses. He also signed into law the power for him alone to declare martial law. These powers are completely inconsistent with a democracy.

This is a stunning development. Not just because he used surreptitious means to get these laws passed, but also because his administration felt the need for these powers.

Does anyone think that a person who could willfully cause the death of 600,000 Iraqis would not use these powers? Does anyone think that someone who can contemplate the use of nuclear weapons, thereby immediately killing a hundred thousand Iranians and over the next 20 years hundreds of thousands of people all over the globe from radiation poisoning, would hesitate to use martial law to hold on to power?

If this administration is not swiftly removed from power then we will no longer have any pretence of a democracy. This is why Vladimir Putin said, “And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasis this--no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them.”

Mr. Putin knows he now has to negotiate, not with the once was democracy of the United States, but the military dictatorship of Mr. Bush.

I firmly believe that there is not a member in either branch of Congress who is not fully aware of our present situation. They are the people who passed these laws in September. They did not think that these powers were in the bills when they voted for them. We know this now because they are trying to repeal these laws. The anti martial law bill has been endorsed by all 50 governors. Does any one think that Bush will sign these new laws? I don’t see him saying, “OOPS, my bad.”

We need a massive effort to let our Congress people know that we are aware of this situation, and that they need to come back to our districts and explain it to everyone. They need to shut the government down until they have sufficient voter backing to do the IMPEACHMENT. Eventually this is all about whether or not each member of Congress wants to give a very dire message to his or her constituents.

And we have to be directly in their faces until they do so.

Dan Monte

Dan Monte

Santa Rosa, California

Feb 26 2007 - 5:18pm

How to Fix Our Democracy

Congress will do nothing to stop the Bush regime from completing the transformation of America into a fascist dictatorship, not without serious, direct pressure on key members.

Here are the websites for Nancy Pelosi, Jack Murtha and other Congressional Democrats in positions to end the war in Iraq and hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their multitude of crimes.






Pelosi, obviously, tops the list because she is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. She gets to decide what legislation comes up for debate by the full chamber, and what languishes on the legislative table gathering dust.

John Conyers is Chair of the Judiciary Committee (where the process of impeachment must begin). David Obey of Wisconsin heads up the Appropriations Committee, and Jack Murtha leads the subcommittee on appropriations for the Iraq war. Finally, Ike Skelton of Missouri heads the House Armed Services Committee. These five are the ones to keep on your list, who are in the House of Representatives.




Robert Byrd of Virginia runs the Senate Appropriations Committee, Ted Kennedy is chairman of the Armed Services committee, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont heads Judiciary. Byrd and Kennedy especially are in positions to block legislation from coming up that does not bring an end to the war in Iraq and which does not prevent a war with Iran. Leahy is in a position to block Bush's judicial nominees.

So there you have it, just eight members of Congress to hold accountable. This is what you can do to make sure they do their jobs: threaten to get a recall election if they refuse to end the war in Iraq, and refuse to allow Bush and Cheney to be impeached. Organize people who live in their states and districts who are pissed off at their failure to do their jobs. Obtain petitions for the task, and then write a POLITE letter and follow-up e-mail urging them to use their power to start the ball rolling. Here are eight talking points from which to choose.

1. Democrats have control of the committees, and can use their power to prevent funding for the Iraq war and operations against Iran from getting through.

2. Republicans had no problem abusing their power to shut Democrats out of the legislative process, and Democrats are under no obligation to play nice now that they are in charge.

3. Democrats can take the high road by engaging in true compromise; if Republicans will lend their support to Democratic legislation and resolutions, then their legislation will at the very least get a debate. There is no need to promise that GOP legislation will pass, that would just be stupid. But if Democrats are smart, they will learn--quickly--to flex their newly strengthened muscles.

4. If Democrats are serious about ending the war in Iraq and preventing war with Iran, they must pass binding resolutions, or else block legislation continuing Bush's military appropriations. People are dying, and time is running out.

5. Impeachment must be put back on the table, and the Articles of Impeachment introduced against both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

6. Gerald Ford failed to hold Richard Nixon accountable for his crimes, and as a result lost his bid for election in his own right. Similarly, if Democrats fail to remove Bush and Cheney voters will remove them from power in 2008.

7. When Republicans impeached Bill Clinton, not only did they retain control of Congress in the next election cycle they went on to successfully steal the presidency.

8. Recall petitions are being prepared in the event Democrats in a position to end the war and hold Bush and Cheney accountable refuse to do so within ninety days.

You don't have to use all of the above talking points; use two or three to make your case, and put them in your own words. Make sure you get voters who live in these Democrats' states and districts to organize. (The reason it's important to get the people who live in the states and districts of the above-mentioned Democrats to do this, obviously, is that it is their states and districts whose representatives and senators require public pressure.) Send written letters and e-mails, and make telephone calls. Do this, and do not let up.

Above all, be firm but polite; nothing causes someone to hold to his position out of pure, stubborn pride than having someone talk trash to him. Start drives to obtain these petitions and gather signatures, and then have them ready to file. You may have to raise money to pay a filing fee, and obviously candidates willing to impeach and tie the purse strings shut must be available.

Finally, be realistic in your thinking. Any effort to recall the representatives and senators mentioned above is probably not going to succeed. If such efforts do succeed, great--but do not expect that they will. What is important, at this stage, is not success but the media attention derived from large, organized efforts to recall politicians who refuse to carry out their Constitutional duties. If we can pull this off, we may be able to light the fire under Congressional Democrats.

Lives are at stake, and so is the future of our country. For what good is having a representative form of government, if that government does not obey the wishes of the public it is supposed to represent? And what good are the Democrats, if after being elected to power they fail to do what the public wants them to do?

Michael Kwiatkowski

Cleveland, Ohio

Feb 26 2007 - 4:14pm

Uneasy Calm in Palestine

I agree with the previous letter. Until the Palestinians accept the reality of Israel, there is no sense in blaming Israel for the lack of progress. Nor is it wrong for the Quartet to demand that funding of a government should be predicated upon that government developing a civil society capable of making peace with its neighbors.

I do not want my tax dollars providing support for a society and a government that values creating suicide martyrs and targeting civilians. That the Palistinians have suffered and continue to suffer I have no doubt, but they must accept responsibilty for their predicament and come to the realization that fifty years of stuggle to destroy Israel has failed and gotten them nowhere.

Accept reality and stop blaming others for their failure.

Steven Bailin

Urbandale, Iowa

Feb 26 2007 - 3:20pm

What Kind of Economy?

Congratulations to The Nation for printing this fresh-thinking approach to economic matters. I take issue with many of its points, but it gets many things right.

Yes, we need to think more about the future and how to profit from the ever-increasing pace of change and less about how to protect what we have.

Yes, how we address climate change is fundamental, and the short/medium term economic effects are underdiscussed.

Yes, both sides have fallen into ruts on global trade matters.

Yes, the current fiscal deficits threaten nothing (notwithstanding the massive tax increases that will be necessary to redeem those lovely Treasury bonds.)

I wish he had talked more about technology's coming impact, whether on alternative energy, lifespan and quality of life changes from biotechnology, the now-rapid emergence of robotics and artificial intelligence on the service sector, no-job fully automated manufacturing, and so on.

Thanks again for thinking (a little) outside the box.

Larry Stevens

Los Altos, CA

Feb 26 2007 - 1:08pm

Remembering Norma Rae

How you can manage to write an article ostensibly about movies involving corporate labor relations without mentioning North Country is nearly incomprehensible to me. Of course the real villains in that movie were the unionized men, as well as the corporate management types. So I guess that makes it off-limits.

What's more, why would anybody go to a tenplex to see a message movie? Tenplexes exist for teenage kids to see large-scale video games in which things explode. Message movies are watched by their elders at home on the small screen at an affordable price.

And although I know nothing about film industry unions (except that Ronald Reagan emerged from one), perhaps they have some responsibility for preventing filmmakers from romanticizing organized labor. Certainly the luster attached to unions in American lore by Woodie Guthrie et al. was ruined for me by my real life experience of unionized construction labor with its corruption and its active hostility to seeing any work get done at anything but the slowest of artificial paces.

When unions are respectable, they get the respect they deserve.

Steve Feldman

New Harmony, Utah

Feb 26 2007 - 11:22am

Remembering Norma Rae

As a non-union type and staunch critic of unions in general, and union corruption and union violence specifically (I thought liberals opposed torture) I nonetheless truly enjoyed Norma Rae, and can't pass it up whenever it appears while I'm channel surfing.

The movie captures the essense of what unions once were and ought to be.

The reason why Hollywood doesn't make more such movies is that most rational Americans know what unions have devolved into, and most irrational types don't care because they just want to be mindlessly entertained, or are going to vote Democrat anyway.

Also, consider who runs Hollywood: Greedy, limousine liberals who often film in Canada to avoid high labor costs!

Scott Bernard

Plant City, Florida

Feb 26 2007 - 8:25am

White History 101

Gary Younge gives a superb analysis, the best I have seen. I hope that history teachers will carry this one-page article into their classrooms to help students understand how history gets converted into ideology. Here is the basic technique as Younge describes it:

"That's because so much of Black History Month takes place in the passive voice. Leaders "get assassinated," patrons "are refused" service, women "are ejected" from public transport. So the objects of racism are many but the subjects few. In removing the instigators, the historians remove the agency and, in the final reckoning, the historical responsibility."

So my challenge for history teachers and their students: drop the passive voice in describing settlement, slavery, and segregation. Name the white criminals who still run the country. Racism is not abstract; it is the daily activity of whites going about business as usual. Will they thank you for saying so? Ideology is their avoidance.

Here I publicly thank Gary Younge.

Alan Downes

Saint Cloud, Minnesota

Feb 26 2007 - 5:20am