The American Politics of Morality
By Mumia Abu Jamal
It is utterly amazing to hear mouthpieces for the corporate media sound off about “morality issues” now driving the American political machine. One wonders: what does morality mean? Does it have anything to do with life and death; with war and peace; with slaughter and genocide? Or does it only have to do with sex?
What would a member of the first peoples, the so-called Indians, say about American morality? A man we now recall by the given name of Powhatan, who was called by his people, Wahunsonacock (1547-1618), who was principal chief of a confederacy of 32 tribes, and who ruled over an area of hundreds of miles, was threatened by Capt. John Smith with destruction.
Chief Powhatan’s reply gives us some insight into early American morality:
“... Why should you take from us by force that which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions, and fly into the woods and then you must consequently famish by wronging your friends. What is the cause of your jealousy? [From Great Speeches by Native Americans, Bob Blaisdell, ed. (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2000). p. 4].”
Smith owed his very life to Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, who had saved him from execution a year before he threatened her father. Nor was Wahunsonacock’s rap about the white colonists’ near starving mere words. Smith himself wrote, in The General History of Virginia, “So great was our famine that a savage we slew and buried, the poorer sort took him up again and ate him; And one amongst the rest did kill his wife, powder her and had eaten part of her.” [4th Book, p. 294].
How many Americans know that among their “founding fathers” were cannibals?
Some 200 years later, Americans would force a “loyal” Indian tribe, the Cherokees, off of their ancestral lands, in what has become known as “The Trail of Tears.” A leader of the Cherokees, a war chief known as Junuluska, had fought with Andrew Jackson in the Battle of the Horse Shoe against the Creek. Junuluska brought 500 of his young braves to assist Jackson, and saved Jackson’s life when a Creek warrior had him at his mercy. Junuluska’s tomahawk literally saved the man who would later become president.
When white colonists in Georgia attacked Cherokee lands, and the U.S. government sought to remove them, Junuluska traveled to Washington, D.C. to plead for his tribe. Jackson received him coldly, telling him, “There is nothing I can do for you.”
Within a short time, over 7000 Army troops and volunteers struck Indian country, and men, women, and suckling babes were forced at bayonet point into stockade where they would be imprisoned until the long walk, from Georgia to Oklahoma. Thousands would die, of hunger, sickness, fear, and broken hearts on this “Trail of Tears.”
Junuluska, seeing the way his people, who were called “the civilized Indians” because of their Christian faith, their European style of building, and their literacy, were treated by Americans, said, “Oh my God, if I had known at the Battle of the Horse Shoe what I know now, American history would have been differently written” [See Zinn, Howard and Anthony Arnove, Voices of A People’s History of the United States (NY: Seven Stories press, 2004), pp. 144-5].
What do you think they would say about American political morality? What about the long train of coups, and counter-coups waged by the US CIA all over the world? There are more dictators, autocrats, tyrants than I have time to name, who owe their reigns to Washington. They have ravaged their countries, devastated their workers, sold away their souls, for their American masters.
What kind of political morality unleashes psychopaths upon the peoples of the world, in the name of democracy? What kind of political morality seeks to keep the vast majority of the world’s people in subjection, in peonage to the Empire?
There is no such thing as political morality; it’s an oxymoron, like compassionate conservative, or military intelligence.
—Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, December 13, 2004