Tuesday, November 16, 2004

KRS ONE: Where are you when I need you?

This morning I awoke to the news I was already aware of, thanks to Drudge, when I had fallen asleep the night before: That it would appear that Condelezza Rice is set to be our new Secretary of State. Somehow, the news hitting my eyeballs at 11:30pm is a very different thing from it hitting me at 7:30am, and I got angry all over again only this time more unintelligably than I had the night before.

I laid on our couch with the blankets pulled up by my ears, just sort of muttering to myself, "Goddamn... stupid... puppet... hate her... stupid... provost... hate... puppet..." for quite some time, before the immortal - if, at this instance, completely incoherent - words of KRS ONE came to me. Blaring in my head, I could hear the line, "You want to see the devil? Take a look at Clarence Thomas!"

Ok, techincally that made no sense that I would suddenly think of Clarence Thomas and KRS ONE while looking at pictures of a beaming Condi Rice, except that I've now finally had a chance to sit down and look up those lyrics and it seems my subconscious was up to something:

The white man ain't the devil I promise
You want to see the devil take a look at Clarence Thomas
Now you're saying, "Who?" like you a owl
Throw in the towel, the devil is Colin Powell
You talk about being African and being black
Colin Powell's black, but Libya he'll attack
Libya's in Africa, but a black man
will lead a black man, to fight against his homeland
An accomplice to the devil is a devil too
The devil is anti-human, who the hell are you?

Jesus! That's so fucking awesome! (And comforting too: ok, KRS ONE ----> Colin Powell -----> Condi Rice... now I feel better.)

All this leads me to something I've been thinking about ever since the Republican convention wheeled into town. One of the local hip-hop stations turned over their noontime hour to nothing but back-to-back protest rap - and it was incredible. You forget - or at least I do - how unbelievably powerful Public Enemy and KRS ONE are/were, and how specific and razor-sharp their rhymes got. It was so moving to listen to this - this weird little mini-protest that was blaring in my headphones as I walked around, in the guise of a "classic showcase." That, along with punk, was the music that I really hooked into when I was a teenager, and it was amazing to hear all the raw emotion and urgency come rushing back to me, as fresh and immediate as when it was first recorded.

Another station hit the Rage Against the Machine button quite a bit during that week, but since then all the stations around here have been pretty quiet with the protest music. I don't know if anyone's making music this tough and urgent - and yet still highly listenable - anymore, but I'm really hoping someone younger and cooler than me will write in and turn me on to someone new.

But then, interestingly enough, I started listening to Johnny Cash this weekend (possibly because I'm old and uncool). And wow - if you ever finding yourself wondering if the world has changed or if you've changed, turn on Johnny Cash and be confronted by the answer: It's the world that's changed.

So here's Cash, playing country music, which by now is the de facto soundtrack to the GOP. Only it's not now, it's 1969, and Cash isn't playing to a crowd of drooling fat cats who have come in from their day of corporate high-living and fucking over their fellow man. He's playing to prisoners at a maximum security prison - the lowest of the low, men who never had anything and never were anything and most likely will never be anything. And he's, through his music, taking their side.

The moment in the album I was listening to that completely rocked my world was this - but wait, I have to set it up for you: So there's Johnny Cash on stage at San Quentin. Before him are a couple of hundred prisoners - probably not a few murders among them - and their guards; and he looks out from the stage and says/sings (in a voice so scary and serious, you think he's just witnessed another man fucking his wife and then shooting his favorite dog), San Quentin: I hate every inch of you.

The crowd goes nuts. San Quentin: I hate every inch of you - not like, "I hate all you prisoners" but "I hate this place as much as you do." As in "I hate all the horrible things that you went through that lead you here;" as in, "I'm on your side."

For me, personally, it was like looking out into infinity - I could see all these weird little loose strands of all my moral beliefs come together into a neat little package, all swirling around and reconciling themselves. Sort of like, "Oh right, the reason why I consider myself a Christian isn't because I secretly want to deny women abortions or hate people who are gay, but because I was always raised to believe that Jesus looked out for the lowest of the low, so therefore I should look out for the lowest of the low, which is exactly the same tradition that Johnny Cash was drawing upon when he said these words. And the reason why I've felt funny referring to myself as a Christian these last several years is that those teachings have been co-opted by others with a larger agenda, to the point where the Christianity seen now by the mainstream bears little resemblance to that in which I was raised. Oh, okay. Got it."

(I had a similar flash some weeks ago listening to Kanye West's sloppy, self-congratulatory, but very listenable "Jesus Walks," but it really took a superior songwriter and performer to really have it all come together for me.)

I don't know - this may be yet another example of me having my head up my ass, but it was a profound moment for me.

3 Comments:

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You talk about being African and being black
Colin Powell's black, but Libya he'll attack
Libya's in Africa, but a black man
will lead a black man, to fight against his homeland

Great, Libya is 97% Arab/Berber - not that Kris Parker (aka "the teacher") would want to be bothered by facts - guess he couldn't be bothered to look at a map to find an African nation that we've attacked (hey Somalia - oops, that attack was under Clinton..but wasn't he the first black president??)...

Also, if you removed the political affiliation of Colin Powell, Condi Rice or Clarence Thomas and listed only their backgrounds and subsequent education and professional accomplishments, the "left" would be all over it if a Dem nominated the first black Secretary of State or SCOTUS Chief Justice. With the possible exception of Ron Brown, President Clinton appointed African-Americans as "window dressing"..

In fact, former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers used to refer to Clinton's inner circle as "the white boys club."

I also find it ironic that Condi Rice was described as the "mastermind" behind the Bush foreign policies and now she is just a "puppet."

Let's just change the names to reflect reality (NAACP and NOW need to add "politically correct" before CP and W respectively).

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger earlyadopter said...

to anonymous poster: I don't think its true that liberals would be happy with Condi were she a democrat, same with Colin, I think the point is that they lie about really important things like WMD's and terrorism, as opposed to lying about sex, which seems less important, fewer people get killed, call me crazy for making that distinction. As for KRS's geography- i think he means that as a kind of short-hand to say exactly the same thing- we should judge people not by the color of thier skin but by what they do and who they are loyal to. He's critical of establishment blacks being loyal to the powerful rather than to what's just, i suppose, or loyal to one's race maybe that's what he means? I'm not really for being loyal to one's race, that seems silly. But I'm for being loyal to justice-- was the US justified in that attack on Lybia? I barely even remember the details, I bet it didn't accomplish a whole hell of a lot did it? How many innocent people got blown up? These things have to be judged on a case-by case basis according to what the actually acomplish for whom and at what price-- one should never just do things because you're told to, and one shouldn't assume that if the government says its just, then it is. Judging by race, like all predjudice is a form of laziness.

 
At 3:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think its true that liberals would be happy with Condi were she a democrat, same with Colin, I think the point is that they lie about really important things like WMD's and terrorism, as opposed to lying about sex, which seems less important, fewer people get killed, call me crazy for making that distinction.

Dear Crazy :)!

I think you are missing the point. I'm not saying they would be happy because ideological and policy differences exist; however, it's one thing to take exception to the policy proposals and ideology of someone, but quite another to portray them as an "Uncle Tom" or "Aunt Jemima" simply because of their political affiliation (and Colin Powell is more in the Rudy Guiliani wing of the Rep party). Imagine if a right wing radio talk show host called a democratic black cabinet member one of those names - you can bet Revs Jackson and Sharpton would be whipping up the masses in protest. Yet a left leaning radio person and syndicated cartoonists make those statements on air or in print and hardly a peep from the organization whose mission statement includes: "The NAACP insures the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority groups and citizens; achieves equality of rights and eliminates race prejudice among the citizens of the United States."

My point is even left leaning organizations can celebrate the advancement of minorities and women into positions denied to them in past while still engaging in civil discourse that those peoples' policy positions are wrong. Really, Clinton did appoint minorities in greater numbers to lower tier political appointee positions, but did not elevate them into the "inner circle" (see Dee Dee Meyers' comment).

Even your analysis of his intentions (He's critical of establishment blacks being loyal to the powerful rather than to what's just, i suppose, or loyal to one's race maybe that's what he means?) gives the impressions that Republicans have no "just" intentions and the Democratic party has a monopoly on what's "just"? Stepping aside whether a single definition of "just" exists in this context, doesn't that seem a little silly? I don't know many democrats or republicans whose intentions is to "make a certain segment of society worse off" or "screw them" - I do know that both sides often have the same or fairly similar objectives in mind, but have honest disagreements over the effects of policy. President Clinton signed "welfare reform" and "NAFTA" bills against a substantial portion of his party - yet I don't think people look back and call him "unjust" for his thinking on free trade and different incentives to get people out of lower income levels.

But I'm ignoring to this point your specific point about WMD and a case to attack Iraq. Would you say any of these Democrats believed they were lying when they made these comments? Note that many were made before President Bush took office unless you think George Tenet was conspiring to create a war with Iraq from when he took over as CIA chief in 1996. Why is it that Democrats with access to the same intelligence, who made appropriate policy conclusions, and voted in many cases the same way as Republicans are blameless yet Colin Powell and Condi Rice are somehow "liars?"

One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line."
President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998.

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998.

"Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."
Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998.

"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."
Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998.

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998.

"Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."
Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999.

"There is no doubt that . Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies."
Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, Dec, 5, 2001.

"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them."
Sen. Carl Levin (d, MI), Sept. 19, 2002.

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.

"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seing and developing weapons of mass destruction."
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002.

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..."
Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002.

"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force — if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002.

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years . We also should remember we have alway s underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."
Sen. Jay Rockerfeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002,

"He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do."
Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002.

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

And after 1993 WTC bombings, bombing of USS Cole, bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and 9/11 (to name a few), I hardly think they are "making up" a terrorist threat.

To answer your later question, President Reagan ordered air strikes on Libya in April 1986 in retaliation for an earlier Disco bombing in Berlin that killed or wounded almost 200 people including 2 US soldiers - an incident the Libyan government later admitted to sponsoring along with others such as the downing of Pan AM Flt 103 and a French airline (that killed the wife of a US ambassador). Was it tit for tat? Sure - but did we have the right to respond? - Yes, according to the UN charter.

one should never just do things because you're told to, and one shouldn't assume that if the government says its just, then it is. I agree, but in this case I think the US was justified to respond - we can argue over whether the response met the tenets of just war (was it proportional? was it discriminatory?) just as we could on President Clinton's and Wes Clark's bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia.


As for KRS's geography- i think he means that as a kind of short-hand to say exactly the same thing- Well, okay, but couldn't he at least use a more correct example? Colin Powell was not even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1986. Libya is in Africa (I'll give him that), but it's not populated by Black Africans to any significant degree. If his point is about loyalty of race to the "motherland", than this is a bad example and makes one wonder if he was being intellectually lazy in order to use a Republican example? Let's see - what about the attack against Aideed in Somalia under President Clinton? Or the "inaction" in Rwanda when 500,000 black Africans were slaughtered and the world (including the US) did basically nothing? Or how does KRS feel that the largest protest in the Anglican church over same-sex marriage and homosexuals as ministers/bishops comes from the black African parts of the Anglican communion?

Or am I asking too much for an artist to care as much about facts as the "rhyme?"


Judging by race, like all predjudice is a form of laziness...agree, just wish for a little consistency here. Given blacks vote consistently 90% for the Democratic Presidential candidate, maybe they should ask what they've been getting for their loyalty - but wait, that can't be an example of blind loyalty to the "establishment" now..could it?

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home