Monday evening I was standing with Palestinian Americans, and others, at a rally in Chicago’s Loop. There were Jews, ACLU monitors, Occupy Chicago friends, and many others derived from the amazing diversity of this city. They were people of conscience and peace. A small minority of bigots and idiots were marginalized and largely ignored. It was an unseasonally warm evening, so perfect that one might have, borrowing a page from the right, offered that God was on the side of these good people. They were demanding that the United States stop its biblically based militaristic support for the genocidal policies of the Israeli ultra-rightwing nationalists.
There are long roots to this conflict, and all of them have to do with a bigotry manufactured and defended in arms deals and militarism. For most Israelis and Palestinians peace is the ultimate goal, and coexistence the ultimate dream. The Ultra nationalists and arms dealers in this country and abroad, including Iran, Russia and China and other dealers who profit from supply to the various sides, have no interest in peace. Their hate and violence is a profit center.
I wanted to have someone from the Palestinian community in Chicago on our Sunday radio show on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT. Suddenly, in the middle of a conversation with three young Palestinians at the protest, I found myself anxious that I might draw suspicion, disdain or worse from the government. After all, the Hamas militia in the West Bank and Gaza are considered a terrorist organization. It is an arguable point. What is not is despite the inherent potential for corruption and even terror by any pseudo-military militia, too often crafted by fear, hate and paranoia, and stained by criminality, Hamas remains all the defense, or reactionary defense of the Palestinian people. Certainly, amid the emotional intensity of the Israeli bombardment of one of the most densely populated places on earth, there will be sympathy and solidarity with anyone willing to fight back. War pushes us all into moral and ethical corners.
I didn’t think a great deal about the emotion, swept along as thousand marched down Jackson in the heart of the Loop, and flanked by dozens of well-restrained Chicago Police on bike. They did nothing to interfere with the spirited but respectful marchers. Now and again, Chicago’s police superintendent, McCarthy, leading the march, would consult with the lead protesters. It was already dark, and at Michigan Avenue I parted ways with the protesters and headed home.
It was two days later when I met with an activist attorney in the Loop with my cohost., Brian We were looking for a strong legal perspective on a hearing regarding the so-called Hacktivist, Jeremy Hammond, who revealed a shadow corporate CIA called STRATFOR, in largely what was a prank to expose this dangerous rightwing organization, STRATFOR’s government friends pressed for Hammond’s arrest. The government is threatening him with life in prison for exposing STRATFOR-who some believe is a government crony operation. Life in prison for a prank to expose a potentially criminal enterprise in which no one was harmed?
What emerged was the vindictive nature of the government, particularly with regards to their corporate minders. Paranoid? The judge in the case is married to a client of STRATFOR. She likened Jeremy to a pedophile during the public hearing, obviously attempting to vilify him in statements likely to be carried by a media that either parrots information from the government without question or helps drive a right facing narrative.
Talking on that street corner about government vengefulness, I again suffered that acute anxiety that simply by discussing these topics, or being opposed to the wrong people politically and ideologically in this country, that I was placing myself, my family and their future at risk.
FOX and the right would trick you into believing that Obamacare, or the “imposition” of gay marriage, or any regulation on big business is a loss of freedom. They craft and market and flood their message throughout the culture with perverse and anti-democratic proliferation. But when a person fears their own government for standing on principle and justice, or even sympathizing for those who stand and sacrifice to real principles and justice, like Jeremy Hammond, that is the truest measure of the freedoms lost to this country.
Their playing field is silence. Through threats and action, the security apparatus of the nation successfully compels some to silence. The media takes care of the masses. But a few remain defiant and prepared to sacrifice, if for nothing more than to stand for what is right and what is just.
I recall a survivor from the mass executions in the Bosnian killing fields, interviewed on Sarajevo TV. He described being lined up with hundreds of men and boys for imminent executions by Serb forces. Most were silent, already given to death, which arguably they already had been their whole lives. A smaller number begged and pleaded for life. But a very few were defiant to the end. They stood tall and straight, with supreme disdain for their executioners, which I might imagine a man like Jeremy Hammond doing before a court with little interest in true justice, but rather the advocacy and defense of a dangerously co-opted and corrupted system.
We’ll talk more about this Sunday on WCPT Chicago’s Progressive Talk, 8-9am. Hope you can join the conversation. We need you to spread the word.