My original post: Goodnight America
Katy’s detailed rebuttal: The Reckoning
This post is my response.
You’ve clearly spent time on this and I’m honoured you felt the opinions of an “ill-tempered brat” warrant such detailed attention. I’ll do my best to reply in similar depth.
Before we start, I cant help noticing you refer to me as ‘him’, ‘he’, ‘lad’, ‘fellow’ etc. Mine’s an anonymous blog and my profile contains no reference to my gender. It’s interesting that you made an assumption without checking either way. Then again, this scant regard for research sets the tone for the rest of your post. (It’s a serious comment as well as a cheap shot.) Let’s move onto the main business.
Firstly, I agree with your assertion that evangelical Christians are not guaranteed to vote Republican. Obviously not. But most strict evangelical Christians do, and this is the platform the Republican party uses in its election campaigns. Please bear in mind I was differentiating evangelicals from all other branches of Christianity. That’s an important point, and you’d be misinterpreting my words if you assumed I was referring to every type of Christian. Indeed, plenty of Christian Americans (and other nationalities) have no problem with homosexuality, gay marriage and so on. Evangelicals don’t normally approve, but that is only one branch of Christianity. And my point was specific to this branch.
Naturally, every Christian believes they have the ‘right’ interpretation of the Bible. I was educated at Christian schools and am consequently very familiar with the Bible. We could debate Biblical ‘meaning’ for ever and still never agree, as the book contains innumerable contradictions and allegories. Don’t forget it was written in ancient Greek and Hebrew, so unless we speak either of these languages fluently, we can’t ever be 100% sure that the translations we use encapsulate all the subtleties of the original text. I’m well aware of that particular Leviticus quote but, as I say, you can ‘prove’ anything you like with the Bible. If you’d really like to get into a detailed scriptural debate then I’d oblige, but we aren’t likely to change each other’s minds even if we try. Besides, I’ll happily respect your interpretation if you respect other people’s. I’m sure we fundamentally disagree on more or less everything, but I wouldn’t call an alternative view “stupid” the way you do.
Back to Jesus. I wouldn’t call Jesus a ‘liberal’ in the modern American sense, no. I did, however, say he was one of the most tolerant left wing (in the British sense) figures in history. And I stick by this. This theory stands even if someone is not personally a Christian. History describes Jesus as a pacifist socialist (as we define that), regardless of whether you believe he’s the son of God or not. According to the New Testament, Jesus openly consorted with people whom his society despised as immoral. Isn’t that a pretty strong message to Christian bigots? How can any Christians condemn others for doing things they consider sinful when Jesus is quoted saying “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? How can they defend rabid warmongering if Jesus said “Turn the other cheek” and “Love thy enemy”? I could go on indefinitely but, like I said, we’d probably still never reach an agreement. Perhaps you could check non-Evangelical sources like this Christian pacifist site for an alternative viewpoint to your own.
You rightly point out that not all evangelicals are Republicans, but then fall into the same trap of generalising about liberals. Not all liberals believe in abortion. Not all liberals believe in same sex marriage. Like all other belief systems, there’s an element of disagreement among the people you call ‘liberal’, just as the Christian churches are forever arguing amongst themselves about points of doctrine. That’s human nature. I’d love governments to “leave God and politics apart”, as you say. That would fix the problem I wrote about in the first place.
Hip hop and racism
I’m a big fan of hip hop, so I’m glad you brought that up. Although I’m not sure why you did, as it doesn’t seem to relate to anything I said. Are you citing rappers as the opposite of evangelical Christians? Why? Where’s the link? I note you’ve already posted an opinion on what you consider black racism in an earlier post on your blog, so perhaps it’s an obsession of yours. OK, let’s discuss it with reference to rap.
We’ll disregard for a moment any rap lyrics written by white, Hispanic, Asian and European artists, even if they are equally violent. You’re talking about African American rappers, so I’ll refer to this area alone.
You’ve conveniently managed to ignore the 98% of lyrics which are not in the ‘gangsta’ genre and which don’t advocate violence against anyone. You’ve ignored all examples of poetry, incisive social commentary, lyrics which speak of peace, against violence and in support of racial harmony. You’ve ignored the party anthems and the love songs. You’ve ignored joyful pop grooves and mournful emotional explorations. You’ve even misinterpreted some of the lyrics you actually quote which, when read or heard carefully and in context, you’d realise are spoken in character or as a narrative commentary on social events. But I guess that’s because hip hop is nothing to do with your world, and ignorance breeds fear and mistrust.
Brand Nubian were a militant Nation of Islam crew who loved the controversy their extreme lyrics generated. So what? You’re overestimating the power of music, and underestimating the intellect of the young people who listen to it. I don’t agree with racial separatism or racial supremacy in any form, but I don’t take personal offence at the views of Louis Farrakhan or those who agree with him either. I don’t take offence at your opinions, extreme though they are. Differences of opinion are healthy, so long as everyone has the right to reply.
At this point, I’m tempted to reel off a whole page of racist or religion-intolerant lyrics by white artists, but then I’d be sinking to the same simplistic, blinkered level. So let’s just concentrate on African American rappers.
Such selective accusations of racism are often made when hip hop is discussed by white people who are terrified of black people. Why are they so threatened and appalled by the artistic products of young black working class men, while ignoring any dumb chat from white artists? Perhaps because of repressed guilt about the fact that America’s fortunes (and, yes, Europe’s empires) were built on the back of slave labour? Perhaps because they don’t actually know any black people? Who knows. Ordinary Britain is more racially integrated than America, though our elite institutions are just as white-dominated, so it’s difficult to judge from this side of the Atlantic. All I’d say is that the time I’ve spent in America has included a whole stack of gasp-out-loud moments when I witnessed the way some black people were treated by some whites, and how black society is all but invisible in the white areas of even the most equally-proportioned states. I can only assume this cultural divide is responsible for the half-truths and misunderstandings shown by part of the nation towards hip hop, arguably America’s dominant and most innovative popular art form.
Anyway, this racism charge is deceptive. There are several issues you are missing here:
A – On average, African Americans are at a greatly disadvantaged social position in America compared with white Americans. Like most of the developed world, America’s institutions are inherently racist. There are more African American kids in poverty even than Native American kids. The average black American earns 61% less than the average white American. You don’t need me to explain all this, you must know that black people get a much worse deal in your country than white people do, no matter how talented they are. I could write a whole book on this subject, but it’s pretty basic and obvious, so I won’t insult your intelligence by spelling it out.
B – This power structure puts an entirely different perspective on it. Racism by someone in a position of power is clearly oppression. On the other hand, if someone who’s at the bottom of the heap expresses prejudice against white people, that’s not going to set the heads of rich white people rolling down Main Street USA. Black prejudice is every bit as stupid as white racism, and each perpetuates the other. Racism on any level is a divisive, unconstructive attitude and will never build any social bridges. But are you really telling me you can’t understand why some poor black people are angry with white society? If white people had been enslaved, forcibly segregated then supposedly ‘liberated’ a few decades ago, then told they are equal and should quit whining, while still hitting their heads on an invisible glass ceiling that stops them ascending to the top of almost any social or business group – apart from sport and music, two officially sanctioned entertainment roles – wouldn’t white artists start writing a whole lot of angry lyrics about black people? My guess is: yes. This doesn’t make prejudice OK. But such lyrics make up a tiny minority of this music, and are frequently spoken in character form, to make a point via hyperbole, to use extreme imagery to highlight the violence of the criminal justice system, to explore the dangerous conditions of poverty, to satirise the contradictions of modern American life, to construct metaphors for the greed of big business, and a million other things.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever studied literature or poetry to any great extent, but you’ll agree that a poem which contains the words “I killed my mother today” (for example) does not immediately provoke the reader to say “My God! This poet is telling people they should kill their mothers! Why isn’t something DONE about this?” Not if it’s a white poet anyway. Does anyone think the author of a crime novel is ‘promoting’ murder? Does anyone accuse Arnold Schwarzenegger of ‘promoting’ violence, given the excessive bodycounts in his films? No. Artistic licence and deeper levels of meaning are expected from artists. Look for them in rap and you may be surprised.
C – A lot of rappers are young men. A lot of young male African American rappers start life poor, fiercely intelligent and livid at a society which treats them as second best and fights against them attaining power at every turn. A lot of them respond angrily in words. The bottom line is that a lot of kids of all colours and creeds shoot their mouths off, before they grow up and take a more measured approach. That’s youthful passion for you. Yes, some successful rap artists are violent in real life. Most are not – though they or their security team may carry guns because they feel vulnerable, but that’s probably true of most rich celebrities in your country. Unless they actually take a gun and enact those violent lyrics, I’d suggest they’re protected by your comprehensive freedom of speech legislation and their songs should be taken as fiction and a damning indictment of racial tensions in modern America. Which is what they are.
Needless to say, you also miss the point that some black people are also Christians. Sometimes they’re evangelical Christians. So some could theoretically be bloodthirsty neocon bigots too, just like some white people are. Isn’t it a small world?
America and society
I didn’t state that Christians are more interested in money than non-Christians. If anything, I’d say a truly devout Christian should be less interested in material wealth and more in spiritual wealth than the non-religious. My point referred to the hypocritical corporate-biased Christians who are running the country.
As for my two fake commandments, I suggest you read them again. I was pointing out that these DID NOT appear in the Bible, contrary to the behaviour of some of those same professed Christians. It was a wry joke. Never mind.
The ever-escalating American national debt has less to do with foreign aid than pouring endless money into defence spending and tax cuts for the rich. And the main reason so many Africans are starving is because rich countries like ours screw them over via organisations like the WTO and the IMF, and their own corrupt governments collude with ours. If you’d like to research this point further, I can recommend plenty of comprehensive sources. Try George Monbiot’s The Age of Consent, Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival or former World Bank Vice President Joseph Stiglitz’s Globalisation and its Discontents for some initial background on these structures.
And for the last time: the war in Iraq is nothing to do with terrorism. Iraq had no involvement with acts of terrorism against our countries. 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian, as is boogeyman-in-chief Osama bin Laden. Not Iraqi. Why didn’t America attack Saudi Arabia instead? Because Saudi Arabia provides 25% of your gasoline supply and the Saudi royal family have business and personal connections with Bush’s family and friends, amongst other reasons. Again, I could refer you to any number of authoritative sources on the real state of post-invasion Iraq but perhaps these are two of the most eloquent and touching:
Finally, your numbered points:
1 – Unilateral in the sense that the UN, an organisation to which America belongs, did not permit military action in this case. America decided to do it anyway, followed by lapdog Britain. Kerry isn’t the point here. I am referring to international politics, not local.
2 – 100,000 civilian Iraqis and at least 1,000 soldiers have died violently since 2003. The main cause of death in Iraq is now violence, and plenty of Iraqis are blowing themselves up in a deranged attempt to rid the country of what they see as an illegal occupation. Need I say more?
3 – Yes, I’m aware of Britain’s shameful imperial past. If you’re not aware of America’s current imperial ambitions, you should make it your business to find out.
4 – What happened to conscientious objection and standing up against the school bully?
5 – I find it staggering that you’re clearly so unaware of America’s foreign policy, but this may be down to the education system which you referred to in a previous post.
6 – Yes, I call a place deliberately outside US borders where foreigners are detained in violation of international law without trial or charges, due to their Arab ethnicity, a concentration camp. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a direct label. Amnesty International is equally appalled (“cruel, inhuman [and] degrading treatment in violation of international law”, as they put it), and so is the International Red Cross. The treatment of these prisoners should be a stain on America’s conscience. Again, if you’d care to research it properly – i.e. through a balanced variety of independent sources, not just the White House homepage – you’ll learn that a huge number of Arab prisoners in Guantanamo were captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance with a price on each head. These prisoners are not guilty of any act of terrorism. In fact, many of them are men who had been forcibly conscripted to the Afghan army by force and who were captured during US violence in Afghanistan. How’s that for irony?
7 – I do indeed blame the lazy, biased media. But those who do not scratch the surface to find the truth beneath are equally culpable.
Britain never had free gun ownership, so I’m not sure where your odd crime statistic point comes from. Handguns were banned entirely a while ago, but the general ownership of guns has never existed here. In the words of the late Bill Hicks: “In the USA, where guns are not just legal, they’re a way of life, there were 23,000 deaths from handguns. In England, where guns are illegal, there were 14 deaths from handguns. Now let’s go through those numbers again because they’re a little baffling at first glance. England, where no one has guns: 14 deaths. United States… 23,000 deaths from handguns. But there’s no connection… And you’d be a fool and a communist to make one. There’s no connection to having a gun and shooting someone with it and not having a gun and not shooting someone.”
Lastly, I reiterate that Osama’s not worried. Bush isn’t even looking for him. He admitted that a couple of weeks ago.
Thanks for reading and enjoy a peaceful Sabbath.