Sunday, November 23, 2008

May we all feel and know that we are part of this enterprise

Photo by Derrick Z. Jackson/Globe Staff

I profoundly enjoy the thoughtful articles of teacherken, who posts frequently at Daily Kos. He is a social studies teacher who helps kids not only learn about how government works but to recognize its vital importance in their lives and their need to engage it.

He has a great one out today, one reflecting on Derrick Z. Jackson's column at the Boston Globe titled 'It's OK to be an American now.' Teacherken talks about issues of inclusion and participation.

Jackson begins thus:
IN CALLING President-elect Barack Obama a "house Negro," Al Qaeda missed the memo from Grant Park. Before Obama's victory speech in Chicago, the crowd of 125,000 people said the Pledge of Allegiance. In my 53 years I have never heard such a multicultural throng recite the pledge with such determined enunciation, expelling it from the heart in a treble soaring to the skies and a bass drumming through the soil to vibrate my feet. The treble and bass met in my spine, where "liberty and justice for all" evoked neither clank of chains nor cackle of cruelty, but a warm tickle of Jeffersonian slave-owning irony: Justice cannot sleep forever.

Spontaneous street bursts of the pledge and the national anthem came from notoriously liberal Madison, Wis., and the People's Republic of Cambridge. The day after the election, children claimed they said the pledge in school like they never said it before, in places like majority-black Washington, which still does not have a vote in Congress, and Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
A taste of teacherken:
Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the Civil Rights era and of Vietnam saw the flaws of our nation. Many of us sought to alleviate the pains, to correct the failings. Some feared change. Others sought to use that fear in ways that further damaged the country. That applies to those who encouraged violence whether to suppress dissent and protest or to undermine the government and the polity. Too many withdrew and focused on their immediate needs and desires. Others began to participate, but mainly to resist changes that they feared. And our nation suffered.

We need to heal. That is incumbent upon us all. Such healing can only come through participation. That participation requires a commitment to something beyond ourselves, our immediate wants and perceived needs. It requires political participation. It requires a meaningful commitment. That is one important expression of love of country, commonly called patriotism.

I commend them both to you.

Additional note: Juan Cole points out the following:
In the video, al-Zawahiri does pointedly refer to Malcolm X's distinction. But he speaks in Arabic of "`abid al-bayt," "the house slave," and does not use the word "Negro" (which the al-Sahab translators are rendering 'zinji.') The connotations and implications are much the same, but it is not exact to say that al-Zawahiri used the phrase "house Negro" himself.

--the BB

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