We asked George Lakey – a longtime proponent of nonviolent direct action – to interview Mubarak Awad – a Palestinian Christian psychologist who organized a nonviolent resistance movement against occupation of Palestinian lands at the end of the 1980’s. Israel expelled him to the United States where he currently runs an NGO based in Washington D.C. – Nonviolence International.
I came here tonight to talk about the response of American intellectuals to the events of September 11—and I use the neutral, meaningless term “events” to start off right where any intellectual response begins, with an attempt to name what took place, or to avoid naming it.
Sidney Poitier won his Lilies of the Field Academy Award just before my 11th birthday. That event was part of the world opening up to me and changing for everyone.
A couple of days after the attacks on the World Trade Center, a number of NYU students were wearing white ribbons in solidarity with the dead firemen. A friend who teaches there was fascinated to see undergraduates singing “God Bless America” in Washington Square Park, a spectacle she could not have imagined forty-eight hours before. Maybe it helped to be able to smell the fires that were still consuming the dead – you could do this from Washington Square Park. At approximately the same time, at a college a bit over the city line, where the dead could neither be smelt nor, perhaps, fully imagined, white ribbons instead signaled solidarity with those “faculty and students of color” who felt unsafe in the face of American racist violence.
The author was in NYC from Sept. 9th to Sept. 15th and this piece was written in the week after the attack.
‘Harlem is the last great frontier of Manhattan real estate,’ gushes Barbara Corcoran, manager of an elite New York real estate brokerage. ‘There are many wonderful things happening in this historic and beautiful area.’ Others are calling it the new Harlem Renaissance.
Wonderful things do happen in Harlem but gentrification isn’t one of them. Since the city’s real estate market exploded in 1996, Harlem has had a bull’s eye on its back as brokers and developers have made fortunes buying and selling brownstones for renovation. Victorian mansions have been gutted, and refitted with intricate wooden staircases and period chandeliers; black professionals, white gays, students and many others have followed the developers, desperate to find a place to live in a borough where last year the average apartment price was recorded at $770,000. 125th Street (which no-one calls Martin Luther King Boulevard) has been reinvented as a suburban mall. Gone are many of the street vendors and small shop owners, replaced by the large logo stores such as Disney and Old Navy. The jewel in the crown is the mall, ‘Harlem USA.’ And a new first run movie theater, thanks to Magic Johnson’s real estate company.
I’ve been studying social movements for about 35 years and the more I study, the more I feel a distance between what I think I know and what is generally thought to be the essence of politics in this culture. And that distance keeps growing.
First Thought: if you came of age in the late nineteen sixties, the assertions about Mr. Kerrey’s participation in a massacre in Vietnam trigger very powerful moral reflexes–and it is the nature of a reflex to come into play faster than thought. Reflex condemnations of Kerrey–and reflex exonerations of him–may turn out to be right or wrong; what they cannot be are cautious and reflective.
Marian Swerdlow worked as a New York City Subway Conductor for four years. The following is excerpted from her book on her experience, “Underground Woman” (Temple University Press).
David Horowitz, still here, has lately fashioned himself into a martyr for Free Speech. He composed an ad in opposition to the idea of reparation payments for the United States’ part in the trans-Atlantic African slave trade; tried, with mixed success, to place the ad in various college newspapers; and then spun that mixed success out into a series of live appearances around the country, the No Reparations Tour (accompanied, of course, by lots of self-flackery, on-line and off). The almost inescapable Horowitz swears that he is a victim of censorship.
“When Marge first told me she was going to the police academy, I thought it was going to be fun and exciting. You know, like that movie Spaceballs. Instead, it’s been painful and disturbing. You know, like that movie Police Academy.”
There has never been a popular American movie about why someone becomes a cop – that is, about the egotism and politics that influence such a decision. Yet even after the killings of Patrick Doresmonds, Amadou Diallo and the rape of Abner Louima, police-worship in movies and in the general media persists. It’s a special American cultural fetish.
A hooker was in trouble,
She twisted on her bed
And when she could, she whispered,
And this is what she said:
‘Go out and find my true love,
the one who did me dirt.
I’m sure he’s with another –
don’t give the lady hurt.
But tell him what transpired,
He ought to know the score,
And tell him that I’m dying –
O Jesus, I’m dying for more.’
While in another city
Inside an I.C.U.
The fellow of her fancy
Was in extremis too.
He cried ‘go find my baby,
The one who gave me this.
Be wary of her welcome,
Be careful of her kiss.
I’m sure she’s with a sailor
(Don’t make the sailor sore)
But tell her that I’m dying –
O Jesus, I’m dying for more.’
The outcome of this story
Is anybody’s guess –
Some say they both recovered,
Some say it was a mess.
They both have loaded lugers
Whatever else they’ve got –
The rule is not to use them,
The trick’s not getting shot.
For when affection falters
And down the tubes goes trust,
We’re right back where we’ve started
With self-destructive lust.
And now that I’m a bastard
And now that you’re a whore,
Our love’s a kind of death, dear –
Though Jesus, I’m dying for more.
Charles Keil emailed First of the Month a series of essays, notes and poems during, and immediately after, the war in Kosovo. Keil’s messages were marked by his determination to keep thinking–and feeling–in the face of fascism. Here are excerpts from his communications.