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The Expansionist
Friday, August 10, 2007
 
It'll Be a Cold Nite in August ... before I'll spend an hour and more of my life watching a speech by Louis Farrakhan. That's what I might have thought before tonite. It's 58 degrees, in early August, and I've had to close several windows to keep out the chill. In channel-surfing on a crappy TV nite, I chanced across what appeared to be a church service on public access, with a familiar face behind the rostrum. I listened and was puzzled, because the speaker, who I thought was a Moslem, kept invoking the name of Jesus and speaking about Christ, in the familiar intonations of That Old-Time Religion, Southern Baptist-style. He was brilliant, alternately engaging; nasty; entertaining; fire-and-brimstony; personal and confiding; condemnatory and judgmental; aspirational; street/jive; inspirational; even, gasp, PATRIOTIC! He appealed to egotism; guilt; and racism/racial pride, blaming everything on "The Enemy". You had to supply who, exactly, The Enemy was, but I think pretty much everybody understood it to be Whitey.
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He claimed that blacks built everything in this country (never mind that there were large parts of this country in which nary a black face could be found), and accused Eli Whitney of being a thief and liar for claiming to have invented the cotton gin, because only the hand that picked the cotton would inspire the mind to create a better way; and since the hand that picked the cotton was black, the inventor of the cotton gin had to have been black, and the white man who claimed credit for the invention must, therefore, have been a thief and a liar. Never mind that the cotton gin did not pick cotton bolls from the bush but merely separated the fibers from the seeds.
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I listened all the way to the end and found that the speaker was indeed Louis Farrakhan, "(born Louis Eugene Walcott, May 11, 1933) ... in the Bronx, New York and raised as Eugene Wolcott within the West Indian community* in the Roxbury section of Boston, Massachusetts". Altho at one point in his speech he condemned integration (as lowering blacks to the level of (subhuman) whites), Louis Farrakhan, of all people, ended his speech by urging that black audience to make the United States the world's great superpower, and turn it around to use its power for good. Never mind that the United States is 80% white, and in order for blacks to 'turn around' this country, they will have to be fully integrated into at least the power structures of a predominantly white society.
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What I found most irritating was Farrakhan's constant invocation of the name of Jesus, as tho he was a Christian, and even of God's (supposed) covenant with the Jews, as tho he revered Judaism! He repeatedly quoted from or paraphrased the Bible, and, in the more than an hour of his presentation that I heard (I don't know how much I might have missed from the beginning; perhaps a few seconds; perhaps 15 minutes or more), he so much as paraphrased the Koran only once. In that solitary instance, Farrakhan couldn't even quote chapter and verse (well, actually, in the Koran, it's sura and verse), and tho he took out his pocket Koran and briefly searched thru it (or pretended to do so), he didn't find the exact verse. You'd think he'd have noted the sura and verse numbers of something that struck him when, he said, he was reading earlier that very day). Farrakhan said he wouldn't take the audience's time right then, but would simply paraphrase that passage: don't oppress those who believe in other gods than Allah, lest they oppress the followers of Allah. That is my approximation of his approximation of what he is supposed to have read. Unless that is in the area that speaks of respecting the People of the Book (the particular "Book" at issue being, originally, the "Bible", Greek (biblion) for book), that is utterly out of keeping with Islam's infamous policy of forced conversion of 'heathens'.
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(Farrakhan spoke negatively in that same part of his address of "Malcolm", by which I assume he meant Malcolm X, in whose murder many people (including, it seems, both Malcolm's wife and dauter) believe Farrakhan played a part. He feigned tolerance of Malcolm's disagreement with the teachings of Farrkahan's own teacher, Elijah Muhammad).
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Farrakhan's speaking style is definitely that of a Southern black preacher, and he gaily mixed and matched messages from Judaism — while denouncing today's Jews as not Jews at all — and Christianity, with just a smidgen of Islam thrown in for good measure. Was he altering his message for a largely Christian audience? I have no way of knowing, since I've never seen him speak to a wholly Moslem audience (and am not really eager to do so).
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It was in any case a breathlessly brazen performance, brilliant — no: absolutely brilliant — in its way. He appealed to guilts about unspoken vices in each listener; to prejudice against homosexuals; to racial pride, resentments, and feelings of persecution by The Man; to aspirations to be one's own best self; to solidarity with poor people 'over there' who are going thru now what blacks in the United States so recently emerged from; to social and economic justice; to legal and social equality; to patriotism (the man's brazenness knows no bounds); to egotism (God is working in you — yes you in particular; you are chosen; God is in YOU); to sympathy for a bout of near-mortally bad health, described in detail; to faith in the presence in the world of God and his works; to the belief that Satan, however, is also here, right now, working his dastardly charms (we are never to ask why God "Almighty" cannot simply destroy Satan); to fear of fast-approaching End Times. It would, indeed, be hard to find anything he did NOT try to appeal to.
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He mixed in bits of history, some apparently correct (Indians crossing the land bridge over what is now the Bering Strait and down into North America and thence South America), and cultural resentments. (The mean old white man destroyed Indian 'high civilizations' and the books of mathematics of the Mayans that might hugely have advanced Western mathematics had the bad old Spanish priests not ordered them burned. Never mind that the Mayan 'civilization' had long since passed its peak by the time Cortez entered Mexico and other conquistadors later reached the Maya area, and few to none of the then-existing Mayans could even read their old books. Moreover, what "high [or was it "great"?] civilization"' practices human sacrifice?)
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Now and then Farrakhan would say something intriguing, if odd, such as that Amerindians were expelled from Asia and sent into the wilderness of the New World for their sins! And that God permitted the white man to conquer the Americas and, yes, to bring blacks from Africa in chains. It was all part of His plan, you see. But the 'fact' that that was God's plan doesn't stop Farrakhan from resenting the bondage and "400 years" of injustice (to his credit, Farrakhan didn't assert 400 years of slavery, because the very longest slavery lasted in the United States was from 1619 to 1865 = 246 years). Farrakhan didn't trouble to mention that other parts of the Americas instituted slavery (among Indians as well as blacks) earlier and abolished slavery later (Puerto Rico, then part of the Spanish Empire, abolished slavery only in 1873; Cuba, ditto, 1886; Brazil, 1888).
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It's hard for a rationalist to follow the delusional thinking of the religious faithful, such as the notion that God deliberately permitted whites to bring blacks to America in chains, but that's still not alrite, even tho it was part of God's plan. Any absurdity is to be believed as long as you say it's part of God's plan.
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And yes, Farrakhan even invoked "love", claiming to love everyone in the audience, as God loves everyone in the audience. He very nearly claimed to be, himself, the voice of God, but broadened that to say, in effect, that God speaks to all of us, in the quiet of our minds, and thru some of us who buy int ... spread His word.
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The address was given in a church in the Atlanta area in 2002, shortly before the Congressional primary election, since Farrakhan vaguely endorsed then five-term incumbent Cynthia McKinney in 'next week's election'. McKinney went down in flames, defeated in that primary by a (female) newcomer to partisan politics, 58% to 42%. I don't know if Farrakhan's endorsement played any part in that humiliation.
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Still, this was a most impressive performance, much like another impressive performance I recently caught on television, Lindsay Lohan's playing a double role in a remake of the classic 1961 Disney film The Parent Trap. I had never before seen Lohan in anything. So I didn't remotely understand media's fascination with her, until I saw that she is indeed a very gifted actress. (Oh! that forbidden word, "actress"! I should be ashamed of myself. No.) Now I see why there is such concern that a young woman of such talent seems intent on obliterating that talent in a fiery automobile crash while driving drunk. In watching the film (I was desperate for entertainment; forgive me), I knew that Lindsay Lohan wasn't one of twins, but almost wanted to go online to check that to be sure, she was so convincing. You find yourself, after the physical switch of separated twin 'tweens (yes, I know that's hard to say; stop moving your lips while reading!) to fool their divorced parents, just waiting for the British kid in California to say something British to give it all away, or the American kid in London to slip up. And then you catch yourself as having suspended disbelief, as truly good actors/actresses induce you to do.
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So it is with Louis Farrakhan's performance in Atlanta in this taped speech. He's not the vicious anti-Jewish, antihomosexual, antiwhite troublemaker and divider he's represented as being. No, he's an amiable, loving, wise, and indulgent, inspired man of God who is just trying to get (black) people to be all that they can be ('cause we need you, in God's arrrr-aar-ar-my!). So what if he uses some rhetorical tricks and pulls some emotional strings to stir guilt one minute, then offer redemption the next? So what if he invokes the name of Jesus as much as would an evangelical Christian preacher? So what if he incites bigotry against homosexuals and whitey? At end, he's just trying to help! No. He's not.
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Louis Farrakhan is not a Christian, even if he speaks the names "Jesus" and "Christ" over and over as tho he is a true believer in the "Son of God". Islam denies the divinity of Jesus, tho it does accord him a very special place, of very high honor (unlike Judaism's treatment of Jesus as "blasphemer"). Nor does Farrakhan really accept that God's Covenant with the Jews is perpetual, and Islam is blasphemy for denying that the four corners of the truth of God is contained in the Torah. Farrakhan will use the language of the Old Testament, New Testament, Declaration of Independence, and Constitution to win over his audience to his point of view.
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He is a brilliant poseur, and not the simpleminded cartoon caricature his foes like to portray, a bowtie-wearing, teetotaling demagog who is up to no good. For one thing, he was wearing a long tie, not bowtie, in this appearance. For another, he actually does seem to be up to some good. It is his idea of good that is the problem.
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He talks the talk of "equality", but it's not the equality of Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin (one of my people, gay men, who was instrumental in keeping MLK on the straight-and-narrow — you should pardon the expression — of nonviolence), John F. Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, or any other American champion of racial or socioeconomic equality. Farrakhan's message is tinged with unatonable white guilt, not Christian forgiveness and reconciliation. He is no Desmond Tutu. He is no Jesus, tho he's eager to use Jesus's name to advance his goals. He is also no success, despite his brilliant rhetorical skills, because blacks refuse his message, for they are not about to leave their sweet Jesus for the Mohammed of the sword and suicide bomber.
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Farrakhan's health apparently did not fully recover from a 1999 crisis he spoke of in this performance. He admitted that he worried at that time that (white? Jewish?) doctors in a hospital would willingly let him die rather than exert all their medical skills to save him, so had himself flown to Howard University Hospital for surgery after (white? Jewish?) doctors elsewhere had stabilized his condition. (What? They didn't kill him? How could that be?) It may thus be that Louis Farrakhan will not much longer be with us. What a pity.
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But seriously, folks, it's sad to see a man of such obvious gifts so delusional (God is all around — think a variation of the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme: "God is all around, no need to waste Him. You can have Him all, Why don't you take Him? You're gonna make it after all!"), who has spent so much of his life resenting others rather than working apart from and without regard to those others. "The Enemy"? Who exactly is that, Mr. Farrakhan? Is it the person, of whatever race, or all such persons as a group, whose heart has no room for charity and whose mind is so insecure that extending equality to others not like him- or herself is unthinkable? Or is it white people? Jews? Christians? Americans? Who?
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If it's white people, isn't The Enemy in you? Your skin is pretty lite, and your hair isn't coiled ("kinky"). Surely you of all people wouldn't have straightened your hair to look white, so I must assume your hair is naturally non-nappy, that is, non-African. I've seen African immigrants of pure sub-Saharan ancestry. They don't look like you. One "black" militant, I forget who (I thought it was (the late) Eldridge Cleaver, but he apparently didn't spend any time in black Africa), visited sub-Saharan Africa and was introduced as 'our white guest'. That shook him up, and woke him up to the fact that white and black were united in him, and that that was a good thing, not bad.
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And so, Mr. Farrakhan (of the Bronx), you may invoke Americanism as cynically as you invoke the name of Jesus, to manipulate black Americans raised as Christians even if they later converted to Islam, but it's in you. (Again, I'm thinking media, the spaghetti-sauce commercial, "It's in there!")
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You, Mr. Farrakhan, are what you are because of where you are and where you come from. You're not in black Africa, and your feeble identification with all those people 'over there' who are in misery today does not alter the fact that your missionary zeal to save those people from that misery arises not, really, from Islam but from Americanism. We are here ONLY to change that. Ain't that a pisser?!?
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Isn't that really what you meant when you spoke of God allowing Whitey to conquer the Americas and bring blacks in chains from Africa? Wasn't THAT the plan: that the Africans and Amerindians and Europeans and Asians who merged here would want for all the peoples of all the places they came from to live in freedom and prosperity, and actually DO something to achieve that?
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Louis Farrakhan may be a brilliant con artist, but he is an American con artist, American thru and thru. And part of him actually believes his own spiel. God rest his soul.
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 3,683 — for Israel.)
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* Farrakhan's mother was from Nevis and St. Kitts. Alexander Hamilton was from Nevis, but I don't know if Farrakhan's mother was from Nevis (one island) or St. Kitts (another).



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