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Of Cowboys and Kings

Short Version: mp3, 2.26 MBs, 2:49
Long Version:
mp3, 2.75 MBs, 3:26

[Col. Recorded 6/25/04]

Col. Writ. 6/24/04] Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal

The more and more I look at modern American life, the more I am convinced of the similarities between the U.S. Empire, and its historical antecedent, Rome.

The utter servility of the Senate appears in both historical periods, where bodies sworn to protect the republic instead usher in laws which imperil the people's freedom, and which acts as emissaries of its ruling prince.

There are, of course, differences, as there should be, in 2,000 years; but the similarities are striking.

Warlike princes amass armies on the slightest pretext; who waged wars against neighbors incessantly; senates which protected the interests of the wealthy (which they were, of course), yet bled the purses of the poor with impunity. The same sense of hierarchy, of blind obedience to those in power, pervades both histories.

When Ronald Reagan passed away, the imperial media and scribes sang naught but his sweet praises, while the voices of those on the periphery were unheard, virtually ignored. I wondered what people in Nicaragua thought of his reign, when he unleashed a plague of pain upon that country, called the *contras*, who he said were "the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers."

Fortunately, I now have some idea.

Father Miguel D'Escoto, a Catholic priest, served as Nicaragua's Foreign Minister in the '80s, and remembers what life was like during the Reagan years. Fr. D'Escoto said, "Reagan was the butcher of my people." He pointed to the deaths of 30,000 people during the contra wars in Nicaragua alone.

In El Salvador, more than twice that number were slain in U.S.-supported dirty wars. In Guatemala, over *3 times that number*!

Reagan never met a dictator he didn't like, especially if he was anti-worker, or anti-communist.

Closer to home, on Black radio stations, something quite different than the media menu of praise was heard across the land. On the popular Bev Smith talk show, a nationally syndicated call-in program, the host spent 3 hours on the passing of the president; and not one caller spoke in favor of his terms.

Among the corporate press, there were calls for putting the face of Reagan on U.S. currency, and some looked to Mt. Rushmore to find space for his craggy face. The Roman Senate, to flatter Caesar, offered to enact a law naming him a god.
He declined, but after his death the law was passed that every Caesar would be named, after his demise, as a god, among the pantheon of Roman gods, like Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Mercury.

Reagan is so dear and so central to the American conservative movement that everything short of his very deification is sought by his followers and devotees.
In the blush of an adoring press, senators rushed over each other to sing his hosannas, both Democrats and Republicans. The African- American author/journalist, Jill Nelson, said in an interview with a German journalist that Reagan was bad news for Black folks:

On civil rights Reagan was a complete disaster. He tried to gut the Civil Rights Commission, to stop the extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1982. His administration was relentless in its attacks on affirmative action. Not only did he nominate Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court, but he got an incredible number of white male right-wingers onto the judiciary. He tried to grant tax-exempt status to segregated Bob Jones University; he created the fictional 'welfare queen' to attack the poorest and most in need in our society. He was a master at making it seem as though, if he thought something was a certain way, it was that way — and he succeeded in hypnotizing a significant portion of the U.S. public. Much of this laid the groundwork for the right- wing takeover of our government and democracy that we see in the current administration. [Fr. *Common Dreams Progressive Newswire*, 6/13/04, Sun.)


Like John Wayne, we seek to celebrate the cowboy-actor, and to ignore his other impacts on real life.

We celebrate a mythic past, only by ignoring the loss, the virtual genocide of tens of thousands of people; because they were Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans; the 'Indians' of our age; and Reagan played cowboy — and king.

Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal


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Text © copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.