Monday, September 12, 2016
"Conformity is Death"
"Conformity is Death"
By Richard Girard
"The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity."
- Dr. Robert Anthony
"The Colin Kaepernick affair is a reminder to me of the dangers inherent in a society that insists on conformity, and celebrates intolerance and stone-like permanence. Seventy-five years ago Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union stood out as bastions of conformity and intolerance in the world, but they were not alone. Conformity and intolerance were the watchwords of the day, even in the great Democracies of the United States and Great Britain. The United States was about to lock up more than one hundred thousand of its citizens whose sole crime were being of Japanese descent. Judge Lynch and Jim Crow still ruled in the former Confederacy and elsewhere. In Great Britain, Alan Turing, the man whose machines would crack Germany's Enigma code machines, would have been immediately arrested and imprisoned if he had acted on his homosexual desires, and the German Enigma code would have remained unbroken, changing the war's course, and leading to hundreds of thousands of additional casualties for the Allies. Finally, women were second class citizens as much in the great Democracies as they were in the great Dictatorships.
Things have improved since, at least superficially. Judge Lynch doesn't rule so often and blatantly in the United States these days as he once did, although cell phone cameras are showing us how often law enforcement still acts as judge, jury, and executioner even today if you are poor, a minority, or both. Jim Crow has gone underground for the most part, but still rears its ugly head more often than I like or we should be comfortable with. Alan Turing would no longer be arrested and imprisoned, but there is still a violent strain of homophobia throughout much of our nation and the world. While women's lots have improved since the Second World War, they still receive less than four-fifths the salary a man does for the same job, and are subject to proving they were raped, and the way they were dressed, or the amount of alcohol they consumed, didn't justify their being raped.
Conformity, especially in the form of custom, has always been a higher hurdle to overcome than we care to admit. It usually requires the death of all the generations for whom a custom existed, such as racism against a given people, or a prejudice or assumption about a group that exists, finally disappears. This is the reason that the Washington Redskins still bear that odious name, and Jews are still called "Christ-killers," even though Jesus was killed by the Romans, and the Jewish Sanhedrin could have ordered Jesus stoned to death, as they did the Apostle Stephan, if they had so desired.
The current situation at the Standing Rock Lakota Reservation in North Dakota is another example of this problem. The genocide against the Native Americans has always been about the white man's obsessive search for material wealth. The Trail of Tears was about the discovery of gold in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama. The Whites certainly didn't wish to share the newly found wealth with the Cherokee "savages." So they exiled them to Oklahoma.
What is happening to the Lakota at Standing Rock, the Paiute at Golden Butte, and poor and minorities around the country is but a prelude to what is going to happen to us individually, as well as our country as a whole, if the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are ever accepted and ratified by the U.S. Senate. We are already seeing the dominance of corporate interests over human rights and needs here in the United States. Ratification of either or both of those treaties will, for all intents and purposes, nullify our Constitution with respect to anything having to do with those treaties, because both the Constitution and Treaties together are the Supreme Law of the Land. (Article VI, Section 2)
The great Hunkpapa Sioux leader Sitting Bull stated in a speech in 1875: "Strangely enough, they have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possession is a disease in them. These people have many rules that the rich may break, but the poor may not. They have a religion in which the poor worship, but the rich will not! They even take tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule. They claim this mother of ours, the Earth, for their own use, and fence their neighbors away from her, and deface her with their buildings and their refuse.
We cannot dwell side by side. Only seven years ago we made a treaty by which we were assured that the buffalo should be left to us forever. Now they threaten to take that from us also. My brothers, shall we submit? Or shall we say to them: 'First kill me, before you can take possession of our fatherland.'" (Sitting Bull, Tatanka Yotanka, "Behold My Friends, the Spring is Come;" “Great Speeches by Native Americans;” Robert Blaisdell, editor; New York, Courier Dover, 2000; p.166.)
I think that this describes many of us "whites" perfectly. We need to take a careful look at the mirror that Sitting Bull has provided us before it is too late. We must kneel with men like Colin Kaepernick and Brandon Marshall in solidarity with the Blacks and Hispanics who are so casually arrested, beaten, and killed around the country simply because they are different. We must kneel in solidarity, and yell from the rooftops that the sacred lands of the Lakota and Paiute and their resources are worth more as they are, than the profits of the energy and development corporations.
In the immortal words of Chief Crazy Horse, on his way to the Battle of Little Big Horn, "Hoka Hey! It is a good day to die." If the first confrontation of Bernie Sander's revolution starts on the sacred grounds of the Native Americans, I can think of no better place or cause for it to start."
"Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity."
- Christopher Morley