Saturday, May 18, 2013

This Is What American History Looks Like

I don’t know why, given where we are with dronefare, but I didn’t expect the man making the announcement about Assata Shakur being the first woman “terrorist” to appear on the FBI’s most wanted list to be black. That was a blow. 
I was reminded of the world of “trackers” we sometimes get glimpses of in history books and old movies on TV. In Australia the tracker who hunts down other aboriginals who have, because of the rape and murder, genocide and enslavement of the indigenous (aboriginal) people, run away into the outback. 
He shows up again in cowboy and Indian films: jogging along in the hot sun, way ahead of the white men on horseback, bending on his knees to get a better look at a bruised leaf or a bent twig, while they curse and spit and complain about how long he’s taking to come up with a clue. And then there were the “trackers” who helped the pattyrollers during our four hundred years of enslavement. When pattyrollers (or patrols) caught run-away slaves in those days they frequently beat them to death. 
I’ve often thought of the black men whose expertise at tracking fugitives helped bring these terrors, humiliations and deaths about. When I was younger I would have been in a rage against them; not understanding the reality of invisible coercion, and mind and spirit control, that I do now. 
Today, only a few years older than Assata Shakur, and marveling at the unenviable state of humanity’s character worldwide, I find I can only pray for all of us. That we should be sinking even below the abysmal standard early “trackers” have set for us: that the US government can now offer two million dollars for the capture of a very small, not young, black woman who was brutally abused, even shot, over three decades ago, as if we don’t need that money to buy people food, clothes, medicine, and decent places to live.
What is most distressing about the times we live in, in my view, is our ever accelerating tolerance for cruelty. Prisoners held indefinitely in orange suits, hooded, chained and on their knees. Like the hunger strikers of Guantanamo, I would certainly prefer death to this. 
People shot and bombed from planes they never see until it is too late to get up from the table or place the baby under the bed. Poor people terrorized daily, driven insane really, from fear. 
People on the streets with no food and no place to sleep. People under bridges everywhere you go, holding out their desperate signs: a recent one held by a very young man, perhaps a veteran, under my local bridge: I Want To Live. 
But nothing seems as cruel to me as this: that our big, muscular, macho country would go after so tiny a woman as Assata who is given sanctuary in a country smaller than many of our states.


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