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Harkin: An Apology For Slavery

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Iowa’s Sen. Tom Harkin spoke on June 18th in support of a bill that made an official government apology to black Americans for slavery in the United States, and for the government’s long failure to act against it. I am proud that one of my state’s Senators was a key mover in the apology. Every time America honestly faces the dark sides of its past, we become a better people.

Does it end racial division? Of course not. But, as with all trauma, healing only happens in small steps. Words are always part of those steps.   Some may say “Talk is cheap, nothing is solved, this Senate didn’t cause slavery anyway.”  But we are responsible for our history, and I’ll take an apology over official silence any day.


Today, Senator Tom Harkin delivered remarks on the Senate Floor just prior to the passage of S. Con. Res. 26, which he introduced and co-sponsored. The transcript follows.

“Madam President, the clerk just read for the first time ever in this body what we should have done a long time ago. An apology for slavery and the Jim Crow laws which, for a century after emancipation, deprived millions of Americans their basic human rights, equal justice under law and equal opportunities. Today the Senate will unanimously make that apology. Read the rest of this entry »

Clinton speaks out as Israel hardens

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Good news and bad news from the Middle East.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has criticized Israel for planning to demolish 88 Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem, saying,

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and S...
Image by connect2canada via Flickr

“Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the ‘road-map’… It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem.”

What a relief it is to hear an American diplomat admit, for once, that Israel is out of line.  Perhaps this is a signal of some movement toward fair play in U.S. foreign policy.  That could help the region a great deal.

Prof. Juan Cole points out that she’ll be besieged by Zionist critics in the USA for daring to say it, and urges “Please consider sending her a supportive message for daring [to] speak out on the issue. In fact, urge her to use a stronger word than “unhelpful” the next time.”

Now the bad news:  Israel’s new hard-line government will probably press ahead on a plan to build 73,000 new settler homes in the Occupied West Bank, doubling the number of Zionists living on Palestinian land to 600,000.  One can only imagine the despair and outrage this theft of the homes of Palestinians will cause throughout the region.

If they do so, Cole believes the two-state solution will be utterly dead: Read the rest of this entry »

Palestinian Loss of Land and American Manifest Destiny

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If it were, say, Iowa, and Century Farmers had been evicted at gunpoint since WWII by more recent immigrants, things would look mighty different. (h/t Clipmarks friend Jimbo1000)
clipped from www.ifamericansknew.org

Palestinian Loss of Land 1946-2005

four maps of shrinking Palestine
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Native Americans flee from the allegorical rep...
Image via Wikipedia

Tragically, Israelis may owe much to an American model. Their expansion so reminds me of the American doctrine called Manifest Destiny. It assumed all the territory that would become the USA was divinely given to white people. MD was used to justify the moving, killing, containment and lasting impoverishment of Native Americans. Indeed, westward expansion’s completion and total dominance of the indigenous people of the contiguous United States (not to mention Hawaii and Alaska) was only thirty years old at Israel’s birth in 1946: about as recent in American memory as the Vietnam conflict is today.

I would guess that the writings of the Hebrew Bible were used to encourage westward expansion in the USA; they are still, of course, the claim some Zionists stake (and some evangelicals support) to all the territory in and around Israel.

Such dominance—in either American or Israeli history—is starkly at odds with the ways of Jesus Christ, of course.


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The suppressed Thanksgiving-day speech of Wamsutta James, Wampanoag

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from Information Clearing House:

This is the suppressed speech of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James, Wampanoag, that was to be delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1970.

Wamsutta (Frank B.) James

Wamsutta (Frank B.) James

The Massachusetts Department of Commerce asked the Wampanoag Indians to select a speaker to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival, and the first Thanksgiving.

Three hundred fifty years after the Pilgrims began their invasion of the land of the Wampanoag, their “American” descendants planned an anniversary celebration. Still clinging to the white schoolbook myth of friendly relations between their forefathers and the Wampanoag, the anniversary planners thought it would be nice to have an Indian make an appreciative and complimentary speech at their state dinner. Frank James was asked to speak at the celebration. He accepted. The planners, however , asked to see his speech in advance of the occasion, and it turned out that Frank James’ views — based on history rather than mythology — were not what the Pilgrims’ descendants wanted to hear. Frank James refused to deliver a speech written by a public relations person. Frank James did not speak at the anniversary celebration. If he had spoken, this is what he would have said:

— I speak to you as a man — a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction (“You must succeed – your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!”). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first – but we are termed “good citizens.” Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.

It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you – celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection.

Samuel de Champlains 1605 map of Plymouth Harbor, showing Wampanoag village Patuxet, with some modern place names added for reference. The star is the approximate location of the 1620 English settlement.

Samuel de Champlain's 1605 map of Plymouth Harbor, showing Wampanoag village Patuxet, with some modern place names added for reference. The star is the approximate location of the 1620 English settlement.

It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.

Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt’s Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians’ winter provisions as they were able to carry.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

November 28, 2008 at 9:51 pm

“To live now as we think humans should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us…”

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UPDATE: I found some good encouragement in the comments of friends at Clipmarks today, and was reminded of this post from nearly two years ago. Here’s a re-post—’cause we all need hope.


Sometimes I think of the enormity of darkness which our world contains, and find the tragedies involved simply too crushing.

How small I am! How seemingly powerless! I find myself in need of hope.
I found some, today, in the conclusion to Howard Zinn’s 1994 book You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times. If you’re invested in bringing good to your world, perhaps you’ll find these words encouraging.

. . . In 1992, teachers all over the country, by the thousands, were beginning to teach the Columbus story in new ways, to recognize that to Native Americans, Columbus and his men were not heroes, but marauders. The point being not just to revise our view of past events, but to be provoked to think about today.

What was most remarkable was that Indian teachers, Indian community activists, were in the forefront of this campaign. How far we have come from that long period of Indian invisibility, when they were presumed to be dead or safely put away on reservations! They have returned, five hundred years after their near annihilation by invading Europeans, to demand that America rethink its beginnings, rethink its values.

It is this change in consciousness that encourages me. Granted, racial hatred and sex discrimination are still with us, war and violence still poison our culture, we have a large underclass of poor, desperate people, and there is a hard core of the population content with the way things are, afraid of change.

But if we see only that, we have lost historical perspective, and then it is as if we were born yesterday and we know only the depressing stories in this morning’s newspapers, this evening’s television reports. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

July 7, 2008 at 4:06 pm