05 October 2017

Vegas, the Pledge, the Anthem, and Black Lives

On the evening of Sunday, 1 October, a single human in Las Vegas, Nevada, using his arsenal of assault rifles with extended clips, killed 59 other humans and wounded 527 more humans, making 586 human victims in all, in the space of about 10 minutes.  That same amount of time is roughly equivalent to one of my pieces for a Left Ungagged podcast.  So, remember that number, 586, and let’s start counting: one, two, three, four…to be continued.

This mass shooting was brought to you by the archaic and badly misinterpreted Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the National Rifle Association, the Federalist Society, the conservative wing of the Supreme Court, the Republican Party, the Christian Right, and American ammosexuals from sea to shining sea.  To these individuals and groups, Second Amendment rights and the rights to profit of the arms industry’s merchants of death count more than the rights to life, health, and safety and freedom from fear of his victims.  Don’t be surprised if one day the government alters the U.S. national motto to “There is no god but Profit and Ayn Rand is its Prophet”; in the name of truth in advertising, of course.

By 1426 EDT on today, 4 October, there had been 46,873 shooting incidents leaving 11,725 people dead by gunfire and 23,795 people wounded by gunfire in the USA in 2017.  The Christian Dominionist words “under God” inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance after the phrase “one Nation” should be changed to “under fire”.  Because that’s what the USA is; one nation under fire.  Or, to put it another way, “Houston, we have a problem”.

The Pledge of Allegiance, by the way, originated as nothing more than a sales gimmick.  Its author, Francis Bellamy wrote it and devised the ritual for its recitation for a campaign by the mail order company he worked for to sell flags to every school in the country.  He introduced the Pledge on Columbus Day in 1892, which is fitting from pretty much any point of view.  The method Bellamy prescribed for saluting the flag during recitation of his pledge was with a stiff right arm palm down fingers pointed to the flag, a gesture that became quite familiar in Europe during the 1930s, and now you know the true origin of that salute.

Until Bellamy’s campaign, the only institutions which flew the national flag were buildings of the federal government and military and naval installations.  Within a few years, nearly every school in the United States had its own flag to which its children were marched out and lined up daily to pledge their loyalty and submission to American imperial capitalism.

Francis’ cousin Edward Bellamy wrote America’s third best selling novel of the 19th century novel published in 1887 called Looking Backward, a utopian science fiction conception of a completely socialized America a century later that launched a primarily bourgeois socialist movement which swept the country.  Locals were called Nationalist Clubs and the philosophy of the movement became known as Nationalism, in this case meaning the Nation, as in the people, against Capital.  This is the first known link of nationalism with socialism.

Looking Backward is not the only fictional work to launch a movement.  In 1905,  Thomas Dixon published the novel The Clansman, a highly romanticized view of the post-Civil War Reconstruction and of the Ku Klux Klan.  In 1915, D.W. Griffith turned it into the pioneering film The Birth of a Nation.  Besides being the first film ever shown in the White House and leaving the very racist President Woodrow Wilson in tears, it inspired a group of anti-Semitic terrorists known as the Knights of Mary Phagan to reorganize themselves as the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.  The latter organization was established at the future site of candidate Bill Clinton’s “tough-on-crime” speech in Stone Mountain, Georgia, during the 1992 Democratic primaries standing in front of row upon row of Afro-American inmates from the nearby prison.

In 1899, the US Navy adopted the Star-Spangled Banner as its official song.  Racist-in-Chief Wilson adopted it for military occasions in 1916, and the National Baseball League started playing it at the World Series in 1918.  To distract the nation from the stock market crash and Great Depression in 1929, a movement began to adopt the Star-Spangled Banner as the USA’s official national anthem.  It culminated in 1931 with President Herbert Hoover, signing the law making it so.  The anthem did not become standard before all baseball games until World War II, and while it’s been played before football games since the same time, players never appeared on the field for it until the 2009 season, when Barack Obama’s Department of Defense began paying money to the National Football League (that’s “football” as in American football, not what we Yanks call soccer) for them to do so.

Which takes us partly back to the beginning of this piece so we can move forward.  Of the 11,725 people killed and 23,795 people wounded by gunfire in the USA thus far  in 2017, 1,560 of those people were shot by cops, with 908 victims of police homicide dying by gunfire or some other means, a disproportionate number of them people of color, mostly black.  That bodycount is the original reason for the “take a knee” protests started last year by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, now spreading across the NFL and spilling over into Major League Baseball as well as college and high school football.

Pastor John Pavlovitz suggested that if your immediate response to the shooting of a man or woman of color is to try and justify why he or she is dead instead of asking why they were shot, you are part of the problem.  Think of Trump’s statement after Charlottesville that “there was violence on both sides, both sides”.  Think of every time when a person of color was gunned down by a trigger happy cop when Obama invariably said, “We don’t have all the facts yet.  We don’t really know what happened”, even though there were almost always dozens of witnesses and/or video of the event.

To those in power, and to too many juries in America, blue lives always matter more than black, no matter what the complexion of their own skin may be.  The very reason for the slogan “Black Lives Matter”, according to Alicia Garza, is because to in America, especially to those in power, they don’t, even though they should.

This morning in their weekly meeting, the commissioners of Hamilton County in Tennessee voted along party lines to keep the bust of Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart, wearing his Confederate uniform, on the courthouse lawn right in front of the main door.  True, after the war, Stewart, a distant relative of mine, played a huge role in the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park for its first 25 years, but having his statue on our county’s front lawn with him in the uniform of an army that attacked this country is a bit like having a statue of Kurt Waldheim is his Waffen SS uniform on the front lawn of the United Nations because of his service as secretary-general. 

It would not surprise me a bit if next week the commission passes a resolution supporting the NRA’s view of the outdated Second Amendment, which is in serious and urgent need of repeal.


…581, 582, 583, 584, 585, 586.

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