A Commentary by Bonnie Weinstein
I just had a very moving experience. Tom, (not his real name) is a young Black man in his late twenties and a long-time friend of my youngest son. He dropped by to say hello and give us his new phone number. My son and he met each other when we moved to Bayview/Hunters Point, S.F. in the early 1980s and he has become a member of our extended family ever since.
Tom lives in Oakland now and works for a social service agency that counsels youth in trouble there. He told me of a kid he had been working with for several months. He had just gotten this kid to return to school and straighten his life out. In fact, he had just spoken to the kid the night before about classes. But when he went to work the next morning Tom found out that the young man had been shot and killed. This, he said, had happened to him already several times this year and it was wearing him out.
He told me of a conversation he heard between some youths at a mall in Oakland just after he heard the news about this kid. He said a group of youths, boys and girls, were comparing how many murders took place in San Francisco with the number of murders in Oakland. One of the kids commented that San Francisco was “ahead of them, now!”—“As if this were a competition,” said Tom.
I asked him what he thought could be done about it—about the terrible unemployment and poverty that drives this violence. What does he think can be done to solve these problems in poor and working class communities across the country? He immediately responded, “that’s why we got to get these kids out to vote!” I asked him which candidate he would vote for. Of course he replied, “Kerry!”
When I suggested that the money our government spends on funding Israel and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan should be funneled, instead, into our communities to offer our youth real opportunities, he immediately agreed with me. In fact, he told me that the community he works in is called “the Gaza strip!”
We quickly agreed, our youth are being raised in a war zone and the invisible economic wall is oppressive like the Israeli apartheid wall imprisoning Palestinians. “The similarities are striking,” commented Tom. “Our poor communities are occupied by a huge police force. And the U.S. imprisons more people per capita than any other country on earth—the populations of these prisons is disproportionately filled with people of color, and 99% of all prisoners inside American jails are poor,” Tom concluded.
But when I told him that Kerry is in favor of sending even more money to Israel and that he is in favor of spreading “secularism” in the Arab and Muslim world, but stands 100% in support of the separate Jewish State of Israel and it’s apartheid wall; and that Kerry says Israel is the most democratic state in the Middle East, a look of shock came over his face. I told him of the article by John Kerry, entitled, “An Unwavering Commitment To Reforming the Middle East” in the August 27, 2004 issue of The Forward, a Jewish-American newspaper in which Kerry outlines all of these positions in his own words. (Just type in the title of the article in Google and you will get Kerry’s article from a variety of sources.)
If I were an English teacher I would assign this statement by Kerry as a quintessential example of “double speak”.
It reminds me of the old Smothers Brother’s TV Show in the ’60s and ’70s with their regular guest, comedian Pat Paulson. One of Paulson’s regular skits was as a presidential candidate (He actually ran for President as a write-in candidate in 1968). Paulson’s skit was to present a full frontal view head shot of himself giving a speech to the American people outlining his program and positions.
But the left and right sides of his face were split in half exactly down the middle as he was giving the speech. One half of Paulson’s face was saying one thing, while the other side of his face was saying the exact opposite. It was hilarious.
Of course, at the time, LBJ was running as the “peace president.” He won; and the rest is history—mass murder by the U.S. government raged in Vietnam more fiercely than ever.
My friend Tom had no idea that Kerry stood for such things. He didn’t know about Kerry’s unconditional support for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the “war on terror.” And, he didn’t know that Kerry wants to involve more troops—troops from the ranks of the poor in other allied countries—even after acknowledging the outright lies that have been offered as the reason for the war in Iraq in the first place.
Tom had heard nothing about Kerry’s positions on these issues because he was offered no alternative but the “dump Bush” rationale for voting for Kerry—the “Anybody but Bush” line—Tom recognized this and commented on it himself several times during our conversation. He seemed genuinely disappointed that Kerry held these positions and even more upset that Kerry’s position on these issues is downplayed in the Democratic Party’s mass media blitz to “dump Bush.”
“But, what can we do to fight for what these kids right here at home need?” Tom asked.
When I suggested we start organizing independently of the Democratic and Republican parties of big business who, as Malcolm X said best, “Turns the victim into the enemy and the enemy into the victim,” he enthusiastically agreed. When I suggested we should run our own candidates like, Mumia Abu-Jamal or Leonard Peltier—candidates who can represent poor and working people—he was absolutely thrilled at the idea! When I suggested we could spend the entire U.S. military war chest on human needs such as jobs that pay enough to allow everyone to “become the best they can be”, and for housing, healthcare, education—money for all the things people need to thrive and be happy instead of war—he agreed again.
I asked him why no one ever questions profit? No one questions whether CEO’s have the right to get billions in “bonuses” and accrue billions in profits—more money than they can spend in a hundred lifetimes while two-thirds of the people in the world are starving?
These are the things we have to challenge. We, the working class, pay for every drop that goes into the war chest. None of it comes out of the almighty cache of private profits!
I had finished making my point. There was a look of stunned realization that overcame him when he heard this. “I’m going to go back and talk about this shit,” he said. “I’m going to tell them the truth. I’m glad I came over here.” (We always have interesting discussions. Tom is a very bright and critically thinking young man. He indicated that he would go back and read Kerry’s statements for himself.)
I don’t know what will come of this. Certainly my young friend Tom, like most others struggling for survival understands the “bottom line”. (The program Tom works for has been severely handicapped by funding cutbacks. And he doesn’t know how long his job will last.)
Meanwhile, in communities like Bayview/Hunters Point and “the Gaza strip” in Oakland, the violence of poverty and police repression will claim the lives of hundreds of our young through drugs, shootings and incarceration.
Everyone knows it’s all about the money.
I am very enthusiastic about our future. People are not stupid. When presented with the truth, most can see it.
As you know, at some critical point in time, quantity turns into quality. At some critical point, people will put all these things they hear together to form a true picture of reality and the true relationship of forces between the haves and the have-nots.
The sheer numbers of the “have-nots” indelibly links the interests of all humanity together with the interests of the planet as a whole and places all of these interests way ahead of and above the interests of private capital. And the realization of the true relationship of forces by the masses—when they finally learn “Who’s Got the Power,”—that will be the moment of humanity’s salvation. I feel the time is near to unfurl the scarlet banner again.