May 14, 2010

The 40th anniversary of the shootings at Jackson State

Posted in History, Racial issues at 2:46 pm by The Lizard Queen

I write this post in memory of Phillip Lafayette Gibbs (c. 1949-1970) and James Earl Green (c. 1953-1970).  They were killed forty years ago tonight, when police opened fire on a crowd of protesters on the campus of Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) in Mississippi.  You can read about the shootings at this site, the text of which is reproduced in the post I wrote on the subject a year ago.  I also appreciated seeing that NPR recently covered the event.

I know it’s generally considered bad form to quote oneself, but I can’t think of anything to add to what I said last year:

The spring of 1970 was a dark period in our nation’s history, and it needs to be remembered, and I say that not because I’m a right-wing caricature of a left-wing anti-American pinko hippie*, but because I believe that our country needs to learn from events like the May 1970 campus shootings in order to move in the direction of living up to its moniker of “sweet land of liberty.”

(*indeed, one might argue that the attitude that protesting the actions of the US government and/or dissenting in other ways makes one anti-American is part of what led to the Jackson State and Kent State shootings in the first place…)

Seriously, the idea that if a person has anything negative to say about actions the government has taken, socio-political conditions in the US, etc., then it automatically means they don’t love or even hate this country (“if you hate it so much here, why don’t you move somewhere else, huh?!”) cannot die a quick enough death, as far as I’m concerned.  (Don’t even get me started on the folks who seem to think that believing the President is Kenyan means you’re a patriot, and wanting your fellow citizens to have medical coverage means you should move to Europe.)  I love my country; I just think we can do better than killing protesters and passers-by.

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November 11, 2009

Hump Day Poetry: Veterans Day Edition

Posted in History, Poetry at 10:19 am by The Lizard Queen

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

—Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872-1918), published 1915

(I feel I should note that I agree with Paul Fussell’s criticism, mentioned on the poem’s Wikipedia page (linked above), that the third stanza is problematic and doesn’t quite seem to fit with the first two.  Still, the poem has attained a significance for this holiday that seems to transcend its arguable literary or political merits, so I thought I’d post it all the same.)

May 15, 2009

Jackson State anniversary

Posted in History, Racial issues at 3:15 pm by The Lizard Queen

Late last night/early this morning (at approximately 12:05 am) marked the 39th anniversary of the shootings at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University). I first learned about this event when I was in high school; it was given about as much attention as the Kent State shootings (which is not to say very much; the 20th century, or at least the post-WWII era, was shoehorned into the last few weeks of school). If this thread over at Crooks & Liars is any indication, however, it seems I’m in the minority insofar as having heard about the Jackson State shootings is concerned, so I wanted to take some time to discuss the event.  You can get a thumbnail sketch of what happened from Wikipedia, through which I came across this archived site, which appears to originally have been on the JSU website (please note that there’s at least one paragraph and one photo in there that are potentially triggering).

In a nutshell, what happened is that escalating tensions relating to the Vietnam war and the invasion of Cambodia, race relations in the US and especially in the South, and the shootings at Kent State University led to protests, then to a riot on the Jackson State campus on the night of May 14, 1970.  At approximately 12:05 am, police opened fire on a knot of students gathered in front of a dormitory.  Two young men — Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, 21, a Jackson State junior and the father of an 18-month-old son, and James Earl Green, 17, a student at nearby Jim Hill High School — were killed, and twelve other Jackson State students were injured.  No police officers were injured.  The students claim that the officers were not provoked.  The event was investigated, but no arrests were made in connection with the two young men’s deaths.

In all honesty, it’s hard not to feel like a big part of why people remember the tragedy at Kent State and not the one at Jackson State is simple racism — perhaps unconscious racism, but racism nonetheless.  Phillip Gibbs and James Green deserve to be remembered just as much as Alison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder do.  The spring of 1970 was a dark period in our nation’s history, and it needs to be remembered, and I say that not because I’m a right-wing caricature of a left-wing anti-American pinko hippie*, but because I believe that our country needs to learn from events like the May 1970 campus shootings in order to move in the direction of living up to its moniker of “sweet land of liberty.”

(*indeed, one might argue that the attitude that protesting the actions of the US government and/or dissenting in other ways makes one anti-American is part of what led to the Jackson State and Kent State shootings in the first place…)

A more detailed account, from the archived site referenced above, is below the fold: Read the rest of this entry »

December 3, 2008

Read-ems from the last week or so

Posted in Censorship, Civil rights, GLBT issues, Health care, History, Human rights, Medicine, Racial issues at 12:53 pm by The Lizard Queen

(How is it December already?)

Recent must-reads:

On Thanksgiving and how it relates to, affects, and is regarded by North American indigenous peoples: Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians and Teaching The Young To Disrespect Indigenous Culture by Renee at Womanist Musings

On World AIDS Day: It’s World AIDS Day by Jill at Feministe and I Have No Words by Jay at Two Women Blogging

On Harvey Milk: What I’m Thankful For: Harvey Milk by theantidesi101 at Pam’s House Blend and Harvey Milk Lives by Christie at Dogged Blog

On the LGBTQ rights movement being a civil rights movement: Own Up to Your Bigotry by Mustang Bobby at Shakesville and Don’t Call it a Culture War by Ann (of Feministing) at The American Prospect

On expectations for children with Down syndrome: More on Peter Singer and Jamie Bérubé by Michael Bérubé

On freedom of speech: Why defend freedom of icky speech? by Neil Gaiman

It’s not exactly cheery material, so “happy reading” doesn’t seem appropriate. Still, I think an exhortation to enjoy wouldn’t be out of line, since I personally enjoy thought-provoking reading. So: enjoy!

September 12, 2008

Remembrance

Posted in History at 2:07 pm by The Lizard Queen

I didn’t post yesterday.  I simply didn’t know what to say, and it was a difficult day for me emotionally for entirely unrelated reasons.  However, Shark-fu, in all her brilliance, put up a beautiful post that is well worth reading: …shall not perish from the earth.

Go.  Read.  Ponder “a declaration of purpose that is beyond conflict and war.”  Remember.

May 26, 2008

Memorial Day links and thoughts

Posted in Government, History, Iraq at 4:55 pm by The Lizard Queen

Angry Black Bitch has a touching post up to mark the day: A Memorial Day memory…

Via Crooks and Liars comes this article about the prevalence of mental illness among veterans: On Memorial Day: Broken promises to our veterans

Also at Crooks and Liars is this week’s In Memoriam: “According to icasualties.org, the casualty count for Iraq is now 4,393. And per IBC, there were 158 Iraqi civilian casualties this week.”

Three of my four grandparents served in the military, and I’m grateful to them and to other veterans who have given their time, energy, and even lives to the service.  Even as I respect and appreciate their service, though, I can’t condone war.  My thoughts go to the words of President Eisenhower in 1953 (excerpted from a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors):

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms in [sic] not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Given what I know about politics and the history of the Cold War, I’m not sure whether Eisenhower was truly in earnest or if the speech was mostly rhetoric (in spite of his assertion that he “care[s] nothing for mere rhetoric”) to get the Soviets, etc. to stand down.  Nevertheless, I believe that what he says is true.

April 4, 2008

Remembering Dr. King, part two

Posted in Civil rights, History, Racial issues at 11:23 pm by The Lizard Queen

The day before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave another of his powerful speeches, this one known as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” It’s often remarked on for its almost eerie prescience: King talks about his life in a way that seems to suggest that he knew he wasn’t long for this world, and he also talks about being stabbed and coming close to death several years earlier. What I wanted to comment on with regard to this speech, though, is how much of it remains relevant today. I realize that, at least to most people who would read a blog like mine, such a statement seems rather obvious. Most, if not all, of what King said remains relevant today. Still, within the larger populace there’s a certain complacency, as if the civil rights movement of the 1960s achieved what it set out to achieve, and no more needs to be done. But King articulates what I feel is the essence of the progressive spirit that keeps people striving toward true equality for all U.S. citizens:

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.

He also speaks to people of faith in a way that makes so much more sense to me than the rhetoric of today’s conservative Christians whose shouts often drown out the voices of other people of faith:

It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

King himself may be gone, but his memory and the spirit of his work live on.  May that continue to be true.

Remembering Dr. King, part one

Posted in Civil rights, History, Racial issues at 8:56 pm by The Lizard Queen

As I’m sure the majority of my readers know, today marks the fortieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. I wanted to mark the occasion, even though I don’t really have anything substantive to add to the discussion.

I came across this haunting image this morning, though, via the L.A. Times’ Opinion section:

Here’s the explanation of the shot:

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968. Within hours, Life magazine photographer Steve Schapiro was on that balcony and through the door of King’s room.

“The physical body of Martin Luther King Jr.,” writes Schapiro in a new book of his photographs, “Schapiro’s Heroes,” “was forever gone, leaving a few small material remains behind: a wrinkled shirt, a book, a Soul Force magazine, an old Styrofoam coffee cup. The half-drunk coffee cup gave me a moment of pause. He had left his room planning to return.

January 21, 2008

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. roundup

Posted in Activism, History at 3:36 pm by The Lizard Queen

Feel free to add anything else you come across in comments.

Update: I’d intended to link to “Letter from A Birmingham Jail,” but got distracted.  Luckily, Evil Bender’s got my back.

November 5, 2007

Bonfire Night

Posted in History at 3:31 pm by The Lizard Queen

Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.

I can get behind pretty much any holiday that centers around bonfires, so enjoy, Brits! 🙂

(Info on the Gunpowder Plot here.)

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