The real “monuments to terrorism”

August 19, 2010

The right wing thinks that building a Muslim community center is "honoring" terrorism. But what about the monuments to the terrorists in U.S. history, asks Gary Lapon.

THE REPUBLICANS are stirring up outrage against the "Ground Zero mosque" (actually a prayer room in a Muslim community center to be built on the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory a couple of blocks away) to gain an edge in the November elections.

The right wing has called the proposed Cordoba Center a "monument to terrorism" on "hallowed ground," implying that all Muslims are responsible for 9/11, and therefore do not have the right to worship in lower Manhattan. Clearly, equating Islam (there are over 1 billion Muslims in the world) with terrorist extremists is as absurd as it is disgusting. and others have done a good job explaining why this controversy is nothing but vile bigotry and an attempt to justify the imperial slaughter of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But what about the actual monuments to terrorism in the United States?

For example, the official Mississippi state flag incorporates an image of the Confederate flag, which has long been a symbol of terror against African Americans in Mississippi.

A monument to Confederate soldiers in Jasper, Ala.
A monument to Confederate soldiers in Jasper, Ala.

From the days of the Civil War, when it represented the battle to preserve slavery and white supremacy, through the height of lynching and Klan terror, the murder of civil rights activists, the fire-bombing of churches with children inside and integrated buses during the Freedom Rides, and many more murders, beatings and bombings over the years, the Confederate flag has been the flag of racist terrorists.

The fact that it is part of the state flag is a slap in the face to every African American in Mississippi and across the country--on what should be "hallowed ground" in the sense that Mississippi was a reactionary center of one of the worst crimes in human history (American racial slavery) and its bitter legacy of Jim Crow.

For those of you who thought I was going to leave the North off of the hook, take the town of Amherst, Mass., right down the road from where I live.

It (and Amherst College, one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation) is named for Lord Jeffery Amherst, a terrorist who slaughtered Native Americans, pioneering the use of germ warfare. He approved giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans, as well as ordering his troops "to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race."

So Amherst and Amherst College are "monuments to terrorism" right in the heart of what used to be, before people like Jeffery Amherst came through, Native American land. Should this not also be considered "hallowed ground" in remembrance of the genocide of the Native Americans?

ACTUALLY, IF you want to find a state-sanctioned monument to terrorism, you don't have to look any further than your wallet. As comedian Dave Chappelle said in For What It's Worth, our money "looks like baseball cards with slave owners on it."

For example, Andrew Jackson's face is on the $20 bill, which honors a slave owner whose policies of "Indian removal" directly lead to the Trail of Tears, the ethnic cleansing that killed over 4,000 Cherokee men, women and children.

Finally, Columbus Day is still a national holiday in honor of a mass murderer and enslaver of Native Americans.

Andrew Jackson, Jeffery Amherst, Christopher Columbus and other perpetrators of slavery and genocide are celebrated by the mainstream media and politicians, while their crimes are glossed over and excused if mentioned at all. Over the years, campaigns to change the name of Amherst, Mass., or to teach the real history about Christopher Columbus receive nowhere near the amount of attention paid by media and politicians to the "Ground Zero Mosque" hysteria.

That is because a U.S. government responsible in recent years for the deaths of over 1 million Iraqis (and over 500,000 children killed by sanctions in the 1990s) and tens of thousands in Afghanistan, has more in common with the perpetrators of the great crimes of history than with their victims.

Just as Black slaves and Native Americans were deemed inferior in order to justify their enslavement and extermination, so today are Muslims dehumanized in order to justify the occupation of Muslim nations abroad.

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