THE CLOSED SOCIETY OF MISSISSIPPI AND FREE AMERICA TODAY [HUNTER GRAY 1/23/02 ] PUBLISHED AS "CRACKING A CLOSED SOCIETY" IN THE MAY/JUNE 2002 ISSUE OF AGAINST THE CURRENT
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
Increasingly and finally, concerns are being vigorously raised from many
global points and -- however slowly -- from within the United States itself
about the treatment of the obvious prisoners of war held by the US at
Guantanamo. And those concerns are also enveloping the many hundreds of
persons illegally held by the U.S. government within the United States
There's a place and a time that I'll always remember. Its government --
executive, legislative, judicial, and its local subdivisions -- was an
almost total complex "of one mind" in its determination to maintain its
status quo. That included the undermining and the destruction of due
process, and the perversion of the judicial system, and the stifling of
dissent by virtually any means possible -- even though its Constitution
pledged full civil liberty for all. Increasingly, it used various devices of
many nefarious kinds to keep a large portion of its populace powerless.
Virtually all of its media -- newspapers, radio, television -- supported,
via selective [omission/commission] reporting and by manipulated
interpretation, the government and the status quo. Its official educational
system at all levels propounded its orthodoxy, punished questioning
students, and fired dissenting educators.
And when much graft and corruption regularly surfaced, they were immediately
covered and cloaked by patriotic oratory and frenetically renewed attention
to internal and external threats.
As challenges came and mounted, this System became ever more hysterical,
adamant, repressive. It developed a formal state secret police agency with
wire-tapping and mail tampering and informers. It built up huge armies of
lawmen and volunteers. Its flag and comparable variants were widely and
ostentatiously displayed in public. Economic reprisals, forced exile,
judicial frame-ups, and murder became more and more common.
Polls were often conducted by quasi-governmental authorities which -- well,
what do you know! -- found that virtually everyone supported the
government and its policies on every single point.
And it was a System that consistently made much money -- lots and lots and
lots of dinero -- for a very few.
This System was called Mississippi. When Professor James W. Silver,
History, Ole Miss, wrote a great and revealing book about it and called it a
Closed Society, he was forced out of the state he'd lived and worked in for
Jim Silver's book: Mississippi: The Closed Society [New York: Harcourt,
Brace and World, 1964 and 1966.]
As History certainly knows, Mississippi's system -- and all of the other
very akin great big pieces of Dixie [the Magnolia State was certainly far
from alone ] -- were challenged with ever increasing effectiveness by the
Movement: local and mostly Black people -- and outside agitators spanning a
variety of ethnicities.
Those challenges went determinedly right into the very Pits of Hell.
I was Advisor to the Jackson Youth Council of NAACP, a member of the Board
of Directors of the Mississippi State Conference of NAACP Branches, and
Chair of the Strategy Committee of the Jackson Movement. I'm very well
versed in what I'm saying -- and I've written much about it -- including a
quite detailed and well-received book: Jackson, Mississippi: An American
Chronicle of Struggle and Schism, 1979 and 1987.
In Mississippi's hate-filled capital, our carefully organized grassroots
Jackson Movement climaxed with intensive and increasingly large non-violent
demonstrations in May and June, 1963: pickets, sit-ins, massive marches
numbering into the many hundreds. The System marshaled and used their
all-White forces brutally to the hilt: Jackson's more than 600 police and
its 1,000 member police auxiliary [this in a city of 140,000 -- roughly
half-Black, half-White]; sheriffs and deputies from every one of the state's
82 counties; almost the entire state highway patrol; hundreds of constables
and volunteers -- and eventually, via the Governor, the Mississippi National
Guard. In addition, huge numbers of armed Klan-types poured into Jackson.
And the FBI was certainly very much an enemy of ours. The Kennedys were not friends.
The very large Mississippi State Fairgrounds on the edge of Jackson was
converted into a huge concentration camp.
Our demonstrators were all met by swift arrest and frequent brutality and
most were loaded onto garbage trucks and dumped into that Fairgrounds
Concentration Camp. There, they were often forced to stand in the hot
Mississippi sun for hours, sometimes leaning against the walls of buildings.
Food was often thrown on the ground and they were told, "Eat, dogs, eat."
Police sometimes urinated in the drinking water buckets. Physical brutality
was commonplace. Medical assistance was nil.
Through the almost completely captive media of Mississippi, the White
population was told the demonstrators were Communist-inspired and that their leaders were Reds and Race-Mixers bent on destroying the "Mississippi Way of Life" -- which was held to be the basic cornerstone of the "American Way of Life." Rumours of a probable attack upon Mississippi by Cuba were
hysterically featured in some papers.
And through this almost completely pliant Magnolia media, the White
population was told again and again that the demonstrators were relatively
few in number [before it was over, there were thousands] and were told that
they were being arrested by the authorities in a consistently non-violent
and humane fashion.
When stories of hideous treatment at the Fairgrounds Concentration Camp
began to slowly surface, the obliging state-oriented media spoke
reassuringly of good meals and beds and supervised recreation for the
youth. Mississippi lawmen at the Concentration Camp were featured as kindly
volunteer scout master types.
Our Jackson Movement continued right along -- through one wave after another of bloody repression.
Fortunately, there was a world outside the Closed Society and all its Dixie
kin: much of the United States and much of the World -- with fairly honest
media on these issues. The truth, with whatever difficulty, began to emerge
and continued to do so with ever increasing coverage and accuracy and
vigour. And outside national and international pressure weighed in on the
side of the Movement -- our Movement and the other Movements that made up
the great, overall Freedom Movement.
Jackson cracked -- as other Dixie situations had cracked before it and as
many others eventually were to. And across the South, there were many
positive victories: The hard-lines of resistance to social change were
broken. There was the achievement of the right to organize and dissent and
the development of broad-based local leadership. The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 emerged. The beginnings of extensive desegregation and some integration commenced and continued. Widespread Black political participation and activism became a major and vital force. There was an
end to most open terrorism. A basis was created for interracial and
But, of course, the Dixie System is -- as it always really was -- integrally
plugged into the National System and the World System. The few at all levels
still make much, much money -- lots and lots and lots of dinero.
And many bad things are happening. More and more of them -- all over the
And so we still have a very long way to go on all fronts.
But when I look at the many, many profoundly negative things that are now
going on in this country -- sometimes dramatically and often with quiet
cunning and frequently wrapped up in "Security" and "Our Way of Life" --
and the very sinister global schemes and situations in which this country
has its hands -- I often think of Old Mississippi and the other comparable
sections of Dixie.
When I hear about people being rounded up in violation of the Constitution
and spuriously jailed "under color of law," I am one of a great many who
have been there and experienced it all before.
When I hear of a prison camp with hideous situations -- and governmental
authorities who, with cold and calculated and perverted alchemy, glowingly
depict conditions that are "open" and "warm" and "sunny" and "humane" --
well, I know much of that as well.
This country is still somewhat open for sure, and its very bigness assures
always some diversity and pluralism. And some constructive dissent is
certainly growing -- with whatever very deliberate speed. This isn't Old Mississippi or Old Dixie. Not quite.
But it's getting very close to that. And I for one am mighty damn glad that
a good part of the Whole Wide World is now beginning to look in and at and
around the United States of America.
In Solidarity - Hunter [Hunter Bear] [formerly John R Salter, Jr]
Rumsfeld defends Cuba camp as EU steps up the pressure
The Telegraph (U.K.) | 01/23/2002 |
Oliver Poole and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
DONALD RUMSFELD, the US defence secretary, yesterday dismissed as "just
plain false" reports that terrorists detained in Cuba were being mistreated
as the European Union stepped up the pressure on Washington over the issue.
He said he had visited the base and that for the Taliban and al-Qa'eda
fighters it was not a hardship to be held in open cells in "beautiful,
sunny" Guantanamo Bay.
"What's going on down there is responsible, humane, legal, proper and
consistent with the Geneva Convention.
"We have decided as a country that we'd prefer not to be attacked and that
having people back out on the streets to engage in further terrorist attacks
is not our first choice. They are being detained so they don't do that."
Mr Rumsfeld said he did not know when they would be charged in US courts. He insisted that as they were being treated humanely the detention was in
accordance with America's treaty obligations.
He said critics had not taken into account the danger the prisoners posed.
One had bitten a US official and several threatened to kill Americans. "It's
amazing the insight that parliamentarians can get from 5,000 miles away," he
In Los Angeles, a federal judge said he had grave doubts over whether he had
jurisdiction to consider a petition from civil rights advocates to bring the
terrorists before a court and define the charges against them. The case,
supported by Ramsey Clark, the former attorney-general, is the first court
challenge in America to the detentions.
Mr Rumsfeld spoke after the EU joined Amnesty International, the
International Committee of the Red Cross and the Dutch and Swedish
governments in criticising the conditions. Javier Solana, the EU's foreign
policy chief, said America must respect international law in its handling of
the detainees, implicitly challenging the US term "unlawful combatants" to
describe the prisoners.
"The detention of people like these must be carried out according to rules
established by international conventions," said Mr Solana. "The Geneva
Convention ought to be applied."
Chris Patten, the European external affairs commissioner, also raised
concerns at the donors' conference for Afghanistan.
He told the BBC: "We have to make it clear that what we're concerned about
is justice, not vengeance and that means that you have to show a certain
decency and generosity of spirit to the vanquished even if they're pretty
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
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