Dec 10, 2013
The Unsilenced Voice of a ‘Long-Distance Revolutionary’
Posted on Dec 9, 2012
By Chris Hedges
“It used to be that a politician promised jobs, a chicken in every pot,” Abu-Jamal says. “But in our new national security state they promise law and order. They get elected by saying they will be tough on crime and by calling for the death penalty. Death sells. Fear sells. What was a crime by the state in the 1960s is now legal. The state can wiretap, eavesdrop, listen to phone calls and break into homes. And there is nothing we can do about it. The mass incarceration and the mass repression impact every community to make people afraid and compliant.”
“In this place, a dark temple of fear, an altar of political ambition, death is a campaign poster, a stepping-stone to public office … ,” Abu-Jamal has written. “In this space and time, in this dark hour, how many of us are not on death row?”
“The brutality of the empire was exposed under George W. Bush,” he says to me. “The empire desperately needed a new face, a black face, to seduce the public. This is the role of Barack Obama. He is the black face of empire. He was pitched to us during the most recent presidential campaign by Bill Clinton, the same Clinton who gave us NAFTA in 1994 and abolished good-paying manufacturing jobs for millions of workers. The same Clinton who locked us up. Clinton and Obama represent the politics of betrayal at the heart of the corporatist machinery. And they have fooled a lot of people, especially black people. During slavery, and even post-Reconstruction, there were always a few black people who served the system. The role of these black servants to white power was to teach passivity in the face of repression. This is why Obama is president. Nothing has changed.”
It is only by stepping outside the system, by carrying out acts of civil disobedience, by defying both of the major political parties, that we have any hope of resisting the rise of an oligarchic and totalitarian corporate system that will finally enslave us all. Abu-Jamal sees hope in the Occupy movement, largely because white middle-class youths are beginning to experience the cruelty of capitalism and state repression that has long been visited on the poor. But, he adds, we must recover our past. We must connect ourselves to the revolutionaries, radicals and prophets who fought injustice before us. We must defy the historical amnesia the corporate state seeks to cement into our consciousness. His book “Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life of African and African-American People” sets out to do precisely this, to recover a past intellectual and spiritual life for African-Americans that is trivialized, ignored or censored by the dominant culture. He is worried that the mindless diversions of popular culture and the assault by corporate power on education are keeping many from grasping not only what is happening but the continuity that modern systems of oppression have with older systems of oppression.
On the far side of the visiting area are vending machines that dispense White Castle hamburgers, soda, candy and Tastykake cupcakes. We drop in the prepaid tokens—no money is allowed inside the prison—and the fast food is dumped in the vent. To Abu-Jamal, forced to eat prison food, it is a treat, especially the Hershey’s bar. He watches as a boy darts past him toward his father.
“I didn’t see children for 30 years on death row,” he says softly. “It is a delight to see them here. They are what is most precious, what the struggle is finally about.”
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