A People’s Cry, a Heroine’s Silence

Rhino Records released in 2004 a compilation CD of various artists from around the world coming together for a good cause: “Dedicated to freeing Aung San Suu Kyi and the courageous people of Burma”, as the front cover of the CD boldly noted. This two-disc set, titled For the Lady, featured tracks by the usual fare of socially conscious liberal/leftish artists, plus a few more apolitical types — like former Beatle Paul McCartney and guitarist Eric Clapton — that you normally wouldn’t see on this kind of overtly political music release.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, “The Lady” to whom this CD was dedicated, had been under house arrest by the brutal military regime in the southeast Asian nation of Burma for more than a decade. Buyers of this CD were encouraged to support and get involved in a nonprofit organization called the U.S. Campaign for Burma as a way to show solidarity for the oppressed people of that country. Aung San Suu Kyi was to Asia then what Nelson Mandela was to Africa — a true hero in the struggle for an oppressed people’s freedom.

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A New Media Storyline for MLK (pt. 1)

Today, 16 January, the people of the United States of America will recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday. And just as they have for most of the 31 years that the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been a nationally observed holiday, the American news media will basically get the story wrong.

Every year around this time, the storyline of the U.S. press goes something like this:

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A New Media Storyline for MLK (pt. 2)

• 1968 — The new year of 1968 begins on a turbulent note with a severe routing of U.S. forces in South Vietnam as part of the successful “Tet offensive” of the North Vietnamese guerrilla fighters, exposing the lies of U.S. military commanders and President Johnson himself that the USA was winning the war in Vietnam. U.S. public opinion against the war rises steadily from this point onward. Rev. King, at this critical time, stands at the forefront of the nation’s anti-war movement. And, as the above editorial cartoon shows, King is being increasingly viewed by white America as a rabble-rouser and a "troublemaker" who needed to be dealt with; U.S. government agencies such as the FBI are treating King as public enemy No. 1.

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Castro’s Most Enduring Legacy: An African Story

Say the words “Cuito Cuanavale” to the average American citizen, liberal and conservative alike, and you’re likely to get a shrug and a blank stare in response. Add the name “Fidel Castro” to that phrase and you’ll instantly notice a nervous tick in their squinting eyes. Dare to throw the word “hero” into the mix and you’ll see a definite jerking motion in their knees and a reddening in the face.

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A Pardon for Peltier

Dear President Obama:

You have many important domestic and international and issues before you at the moment that require your time and attention, and the fate of a 71-year-old man in failing health who has been in prison on U.S. soil for more than 40 years for a crime that, by all credible accounts, he did not commit is probably not among your highest priorities.

But I am writing you as a United States citizen living overseas — as one voice currently among many thousands of people around the world — to ask you to make this imprisoned man’s life your priority before your term as president ends in just a few more months. I ask you to grant executive clemency to Leonard Peltier.

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We are Sandra Bland

During the worst years of apartheid in South Africa, it was not uncommon for a person, usually Black and poor, to be arrested by police and then just disappear — never to be heard from or seen again. Suicide while in police custody, especially by hanging, was often listed as the official cause of such deaths.

Not even the well-known Black Consciousness Movement leader Steve Biko was exempt from police abuse. Biko, South African police said, had died of a “hunger strike” at age 30 while in jail in September 1977; it came out much later that he had died after being tortured by the country’s notorious security police and then refused the proper medical treatment. A cover-up of Biko’s death had taken place all the way to the top of the South African government. Biko’s crime? Being caught out of his designated “banning area” after curfew one night.

In the case of Ms. Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American citizen, the “crime” was a much simpler and thus more insidious one: a very minor traffic violation in Texas in July that led to her being arrested on a major felony charge. She was found to have killed herself by hanging in her jail cell three days later. Bland’s surviving family members do not believe the official ruling that she took her own life while behind bars, and neither do I. Looking closely at all the facts in the case, it's not hard to come to the conclusion that an official police cover-up of some kind was (and still is) in place.

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