Friday, November 12, 2010

My Country 'Tis of Thee

This past week’s events have provided more reason for a troubled heart than all in the last year. The mind is compelled to analyze, as the soul is to search, for the cause and subsequent new course of action. In our case, I am an American, meaning that in the diverse, Garden of Allah’s Creation, I am a flower colored red, white, and blue. My family has existed on these shores for some four centuries and has survived through the drought of liberty, and the ebbs and flows of freedom, justice, and equality. Both the African and the Scotch-Irish have seen and lived through times as arduous as any other in the history of mankind. Yet, this is our time and the difficulty that challenges requires the knowledge of our ancestors’ life-force, and never the duplication of their movements, actions, nor are they the architects to safety, security, prosperity, or peace. Times are quite different, and although their lessons echo in our spirits, they are dead, and we do not worship bones. Our Lord is The One True and Living God, Who has Provided us with Faith, though it wavers, and Reason, despite its being mired in a perplexing, enigmatic confusion. Faith and Reason are the architects of a vision, as right action is the engineer that can build an edifice founded upon, what the last President who hailed from Illinois termed, the new birth of freedom.

On March 4, 2007, the then candidate for, and now current, President of the United States of America spoke in Selma, Alabama commemorating the forty-second anniversary of the actions of a group of people-black people-he likened to our beloved prophet Moses (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him now and forever). He began his sermon as another cursory speech, but in truth, it was a sermon:

You know, several weeks ago, after I had announced that I was running for the Presidency of the United States, I stood in front of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois; where Abraham Lincoln delivered his speech declaring, drawing in scripture, that a house divided against itself could not stand. And I stood and I announced that I was running for the Presidency. And there were a lot of commentators, as they are prone to do, who questioned the audacity of a young man like myself, haven't been in Washington too long.  And I acknowledge that there is a certain presumptuousness about this.  But I got a letter from a friend of some of yours named Reverend Otis Moss Jr. in Cleveland, and his son, Otis Moss III is the Pastor at my church and I must send greetings from Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. but I got a letter giving me encouragement and saying how proud he was that I had announced and encouraging me to stay true to my ideals and my values and not to be fearful.  And he said, if there's some folks out there who are questioning whether or not you should run, just tell them to look at the story of Joshua because you're part of the Joshua generation. So I just want to talk a little about Moses and Aaron and Joshua, because we are in the presence today of a lot of Moseses. We're in the presence today of giants whose shoulders we stand on, people who battled, not just on behalf of African Americans but on behalf of all of America; that battled for America's soul, that shed blood , that endured taunts and formant and in some cases gave -- torment and in some cases gave the full measure of their devotion. 

Prior to our examining what President Obama meant in relation to being a member of the Joshua generation, it must be stated that Reverend Otis Moss Jr. served as co-pastor with Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Sr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia from 1971-1975. Prior to this, he was a pastor of two congregations in Georgia and a staff member of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Reverend Moss has advocated from human and civil rights and social justice for the great majority of his adult life. It is this man who wrote a letter to, then Senator and Presidential candidate, Obama encouraging him to remain true to his values and not be afraid. Afraid of what, one might ask, and the answer is simple: being a Morehouse man, Reverend Moss most probably, if not certainly, read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, in which he states that courage is observance of the mean with things that excite confidence and fear…and chooses its course and sticks to its post because it is noble to do so, or because it is disgraceful not to do so…and that of the five kinds of courage Aristotle identifies, he states that it is political courage which most resembles true courage. God Knows Best, but I would infer from Obama’s statement on March 4, 2007 that this is the lack of fear of which Reverend Otis Moss, Jr. spoke of in his letter to then Senator.

Obama would continue in his sermon stating:

Like Moses, they challenged Pharaoh, the princes, powers who said that some are atop and others are at the bottom, and that's how it's always going to be…They took them across the sea that folks thought could not be parted. They wandered through a desert but always knowing that God was with them and that, if they maintained that trust in God, that they would be all right. And it's because they marched that the next generation hasn't been bloodied so much… It's because they marched that we elected councilmen, congressmen. It is because they marched that we have Artur Davis and Keith Ellison[1]. It is because they marched that I got the kind of education I got, a law degree, a seat in the Illinois senate and ultimately in the United States senate… I'm here because somebody marched. I'm here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I thank the Moses generation; but we've got to remember, now, that Joshua still had a job to do. As great as Moses was, despite all that he did, leading a people out of bondage, he didn't cross over the river to see the Promised Land. God told him your job is done. You'll see it. You'll be at the mountaintop and you can see what I've promised. What I've promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You will see that I've fulfilled that promise but you won't go there…We're going to leave it to the Joshua generation to make sure it happens. There are still battles that need to be fought; some rivers that need to be crossed. Like Moses, the task was passed on to those who might not have been as deserving, might not have been as courageous, find themselves in front of the risks that their parents and grandparents and great grandparents had taken. That doesn't mean that they don't still have a burden to shoulder, that they don't have some responsibilities. The previous generation, the Moses generation, pointed the way. They took us 90% of the way there. We still got that 10% in order to cross over to the other side. So the question, I guess, that I have today is what's called of us in this Joshua generation? What do we do in order to fulfill that legacy; to fulfill the obligations and the debt that we owe to those who allowed us to be here today?

As God as my Witness and may He (SWT-Glorified and Exalted) Curse me if I am lying, I believed that there was to be a new America. I believed in his call, even as a Muslim, for I am Commanded to love Moses, Aaron, Isaac, Abraham, as much as Jesus, son of Mary, and Muhammad (may the Peace and Blessings of God be upon all of them now and forever). I believed. I believed and I answered the call of this brother; and I do not mean he is a brother because he is of African descent, for such a notion is antithetical to the Commands of God and the Teachings of Islam as understood by he who was the Seal of the Prophets, in Muhammad (SAAW). Barack Obama is a brother simply based on his masculine humanity, but especially because he was calling his countrymen to become the Joshua Generation.

Obama enumerated our tasks:

I worry sometimes, that the Joshua generation in its success forgets where it came from. Thinks it doesn't have to make as many sacrifices. Thinks that the very height of ambition is to make as much money as you can, to drive the biggest car and have the biggest house and wear a Rolex watch and get your own private jet, get some of that Oprah money. And I think that's a good thing. There's nothing wrong with making money, but if you know your history, then you know that there is a certain poverty of ambition involved in simply striving just for money. Materialism alone will not fulfill the possibilities of your existence. You have to fill that with something else. You have to fill it with the golden rule. You've got to fill it with thinking about others. And if we know our history, then we will understand that that is the highest mark of service… Second thing that the Joshua generation needs to understand is that the principles of equality that were set forth and were battled for have to be fought each and every day…Third thing -- we've got to recognize that we fought for civil rights, but we've still got a lot of economic rights that have to be dealt with. We've got 46 million people uninsured in this country despite spending more money on health care than any nation on earth. It makes no sense. As a consequence, we've got what's known as a health care disparity in this nation because many of the uninsured are African American or Latino. Life expectancy is lower. Almost every disease is higher within minority communities. The health care gap. 

To his absolute credit, President Obama fought to ensure that there was some system by which each and every American, in particular American children would not be denied quality, affordable health care. This is something that every man and woman of faith and goodwill who loves and honors Social Justice, whether they believe in God or not, should be extremely proud of the President for achieving. Yet it seems that he has forgotten two very vital things about the Moses generation whom he wishes, or wished, Americans to emulate. The Moses Generation would never claim in the midst of the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression-so large that is an Economic Depression in itself-that some form of universal healthcare without a public option was achievement enough. Secondly, the Moses Generation was full of political courage and did not cower in the face of setbacks as the one he is facing with the advent of the Republican Party’s taking control of the House of Representatives in 2011. In light of the heavy Democratic losses in the House of Representatives, I have heard the President of the United States reverse himself on outsourcing jobs, which he was fervently committed to limiting via ending tax breaks for companies who engage in such practices; and then announcing he was willing to compromise by extending the so-called Bush tax cuts for another two years. It is the Bush tax cuts that effectively squandered the $700 billion dollar budget surplus at the end of the Clinton administrations, and in the midst of our current economic depression, The Great Decession, Obama has proved himself lacking in the truest form of courage and ignoring the sound advice of one of the members of the Moses Generation in Reverend Otis Moss, Jr. Moreover, with Secretary Gates calling for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq longer and Afghanistan having turned from the hunt for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda operatives, the destruction of the Taliban into a $1 trillion dollar nation-building effort, the question becomes: does the Joshua Generation have a true leader in the President of the United States?

Perhaps Mr. Obama has forgotten that the Moses Generation had to march three times forty-five years ago in Selma. That the first Selma March was on the seventh of March, 1965, which is also known as Bloody Sunday, as 600 Americans protesting for the right to vote were beaten by State and local police. Did they compromise? Did they get together in the face of adversity and say they had gone far enough? Did they acquiesce to the agents of a power structure that were literally beaten them with clubs, firing tear gas, and compelling them to offer the ultimate sacrifice of their devotion? NO! They retreated, licked their wounds, bandaged their arms, legs, and heads; and TWO DAYS LATER, marched again, determined to get across that bridge. A second time they were beaten back, but on March 21, 1965, they marched all the way to Montgomery. One of those who did lose her life was a white woman from Detroit, who left her five children at home to aid and assist African-Americans, was Viola Gregg-Liuzzo. She was killed just to have memory slandered by the Federal Bureau of Investigations because she believed as she stated that the events in Selma were ‘everybody’s fight’. Viola Gregg was raised in Tennessee, but rose above the racism of her upbringing and her society to FIGHT! Political Courage is the truest form of courage a man or woman can possess, and it plagues my heart to see that the man I gave monetary contributions to, campaigned and voted for, is shirking from his professed spiritual commitment to social justice. Again, the moral coward asks and answers the question: why, without answering the more vital, more relevant question of: what shall be done. So what shall be done. There is a time for grassroots leadership and grassroots movements, in particular amongst the group to which I belong. Indeed, it is the only group to which I belong, for my bloodlines are nothing but diversity in the Garden of The One True and Living God. A Kansas member of the House of Representatives has said that Muslims are nothing but killers, to which NO ONE in Washington has responded at all. Well, allow me to respond with Islamic Principles of Economic Social Justice, but in a language, each and every American can understand. Allow me to respond to the Tea Party, the Republican Party that serves the interests of the affluent, and the millions of misguided, poor, white brothers and sisters who follow them just because they are led by other whites who do NOT have their interests in mind, just their votes.

First and foremost, unless you intend on causing I, or my three daughters harm, I have no wish or intention of ending anyone’s life. I am not a pacifist, but I am a man of peace. Secondly, according to Gene Smiley, ‘In 1936, main economic indicators (except unemployment) regained the levels of the late 1920s...but after the federal government cut spending with the expectation that the private sector would step in, the economy took another sharp downturn until WWII’.[2] And lastly, and this is in unison with my beliefs as a Muslim, though it was written by the greatest President of the 20th century:

We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people-whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth-is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure. This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights-among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty. As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however-as our industrial economy expanded-these political rights proved inadequate to assure equality in the pursuit of happiness. We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men’. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all-regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are; the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation; the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; the right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; the right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home and abroad; the right of every family to a decent home; the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; the right to a good education.[3]

It is time Mr. Obama and every American who is committed to Social Justice recognize these are economic truths within the American society, and that their author, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was of the Moses Generation as well. Only he and those in power can play Joshua to this, and they either have courage or they are cowards with courageous rhetoric. There will either be a new birth of freedom or their will be wage, tax, and deficit slavery. I can either follow my Universal Right of Conscience and worship God as I deem or I suffer under the tyranny of a Judeo-Christian majority. I will not live under the yoke of wage slavery and religious tyranny, and Inshallah, neither will my children. Obama's action will determine whether I will keep my faith, effort, and belief in the United States of America.

For what lies in economic hopelessness and insecurity is the death of the spirit and the games of Shaytain. I belong to invisible masters who control my life and that the wide majority of my fellow countrymen, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. A class of individuals and their families pass power in a hierarchical fashion, and make democratic-republicanism nothing more than a mere illusion. As The One True and Living God as my Witness, I am not free in the United States of America. And happiness, its pursuit, and its achievement is something that I will NOT be able to grasp. We, The People, are too often, under-educated, over-worked, underpaid, in debt, and so much of our time, effort, and wages seem to go to the very class that pays us, whom we owe, and should we not be able to work for any reason, will starve us. In other words, for every Barack Obama, Jay-Z, Michael Jordan, and Chris Rock, there are literally millions of black men in prisons, mired in addiction, or in their graves. For every Sotomayor, there are millions of Latinas that are languishing in the South Bronx. Millions of the Anglo-Celtic live in the trailer parks of Appalachia, with enough education to do nothing but labor in a coal mine on the precipice of Green Revolution that will make them and the mines obsolete. African-Americans, Latinos, and the ever increasing numbers of poor whites compromise ninety to ninety-five percent of the men and women that are compelled into the ranks of the United States Military’s enlisted personnel. They do the fighting and the dying, but imagine how many of them can’t find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map? The Imperial America has risen and therefore I left with the reality to which I was born: I am a Muslim and a current enemy of the state. In order that I may once again live, God Willing, in peace, relative prosperity, and with full, unadulterated capacity to exercise my innate rights, Endowed to me by The Creator of All to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and its achievement, I recognize that I, and my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, have so much political activity in which to engage.

 The United States of America, as it currently exists, cannot sustain or propagate world peace.  As Cornel West writes, ‘let us not be deceived: the great dramatic battle of the twenty-first century is the dismantling of empire and the deepening of democracy...Globalization is inescapable-the question is whether it will be a democratic globalization of a U.S.-led corporate globalization (with thin democratic rhetoric).’ The Muslim, no matter where he hails, is forbidden by The One True and Living God of cowardice. He is not unwise or reckless in his actions, but in following the example of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW), he must defend the oppressed-any people oppressed-from the injustice of their government with precision in intention and a heart seeking to fulfill his duty and obligations to his Lord as a human being, a man, and a servant of Allah (SWT). The prophet Muhammad (SAAW) has said that: the best jihad is to speak the truth to an oppressive ruler. No matter his disagreement with the American people or the American people’s misunderstanding, fear, and loathing about him, the Muslim and the Islamic Nationalist, must do all he can to argue for a system that honors the dignity of all human beings within the United States. He must compel those individuals who believe in private property and in the citizen’s right to expect more from his government in relation to true, economic rights that were born in modernity. Indeed, for the Muslim, these rights originate with the dawn of man and are just as inalienable as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He must do this in order to gain the Favor and Blessings of Allah, first and foremost. However, there is another reason that is based purely in wisdom and foresight. In the battle of dismantling empire, deepening democracy, and if West is correct, shifting globalization so that the interests of the world are considered, instead of the interests of an American hegemony being paramount: the Islamic Nationalist must gain as many allies as he can within the United States, while simultaneously returning the Republic to the American People. The alternative is war, death, and destruction on a global scale the world has yet to witness. The Muslim must explain that there is no Clash of Civilization-conflict that is imminent, except between the fanatical extremists of both the Islamic and Secular Capitalistic/Judeo-Christian traditions who are so blinded by their hatred for all who disagree with them, that they have forgotten the god they claim to worship. Osama bin Laden on one extreme and Rush Limbaugh on the other; both men worship the idol of the ego and are destroying what they claim to defend. The jihad of the Islamic Nationalist, Inshallah, will have nothing to do with battle plans and it certainly will have no missions in which the lives of innocent civilians are the prime target. 

Innocent non-combatants are protected under the Islamic Rules of Engagement and The Holy Qur’an and the Sunna of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) are perfectly clear in relation to said protection. I warn the enemies of Islam that by no means is the Islamic Nationalist a pacifist or a conscientious objector. No, when killing is just and necessary, we will not hesitate. Paraphrasing Malik Shabazz, we are a people that wish to be peaceful; to be courteous; to obey the law, to respect everyone; but if anyone, whether the IDF, the various groups of white supremacists, the FBI, whomever, we have no qualms about sending them to the cemetery. We believe in change through the sword, when necessary and in defense of ourselves, within the Bounds of Allah and His messenger (SAAW). However, we also turn to the pen, the mind, and the tongue, and in all truth, prefer these latter methods to the sword. We simply state to the governments of the West, in particular, that of the United States of America that we can build a future in which we both coexist, not in mere toleration, but in a setting of commercial prosperity, mutual aid and assistance, and with effort and understanding, perhaps even friendship. 

Indeed, this world is large enough for both of our political ideologies. In order for this to become a future reality not only must Dr. West’s dismantling of the Imperial America take place, but the Islamic Nationalist must mature his thinking, his goals, his politics so that a new nation-a once proud and vibrant nation-can be resurrected in the world of modernity.

Yet, in the final analysis, it is the actions of Obama that will determine whether I will keep my faith, effort, and belief in the United States of America.

 My Country ‘Tis of Thee.

[1] Artur Davis is an African-American Congressman from Alabama, and Keith Ellison is the first American Muslim to be elected to the United States Congress, and also an African-American from Minnesota.

[2] Smiley, Gene. 2002. A New View of its Causes and Consequences: Rethinking the Great Depression. Chicago, IL: Ivan R. Dee Publisher.

[3] FDR’s Second Bill of Rights.

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