Views in brief

January 31, 2012

Chicago marginalizes dissent

IN RESPONSE to "The right to protest in peril": I was appalled to see Rahm Emanuel's sit-down-and-shut-up ordinance get through the City Council, in a modified form.

I'm still looking for the details on what passed, but watching the TV and news coverage I was also appalled at the way everyone, from Rahm, to Fraternal Order of Police President Shields, to Carol Marin on NBC News and the public television station WTTW sounding the alarm about the "professional anarchists who will descend on Chicago" and laying down a publicity barrage for the criminalization of protest against NATO/G8.

All the coverage of the City Council hearings, instead of reporting that the public was blocked from Council chambers, ran footage of screaming protesters outside, spliced with archived shots of Seattle--the window-breakers, not the 50,000 "Teamsters and turtles" mass protests which closed the city at the time of the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting.

The message? People who protest are crazy. Or worse.

This kind of pre-emptive publicity was also common in Seattle, in the lead-up to the anti-WTO actions now called the "battle of Seattle." It didn't work then, when the turnout to oppose the globalization plans of the WTO and the International Monetary Fund far surpassed all the organizers' expectations.

Today in Chicago, it would be wonderful to see the same kind of wide mobilization--of labor, of all those radicalized by the Occupy movement and all those touched by the attacks on our lives and livelihoods--come together to oppose this summit of oppressors coming to the city, and defeat these assaults on our rights.

To do that, we need to answer this stream of invective that marginalizes all dissent.
Tina Beacock, Chicago

A dictator in Chicago

IN RESPONSE to "Emanuel gets his clampdown": Hopefully, this has taught everyone a valuable lesson that voting for candidates--and that includes liberal and so-called "progressive" Democrats--is a useless endeavor.

Alderman Joe Moore's namby-pamby, Lakefront liberal politik-speak was to say that "No rights are absolute, not even our First Amendment rights." So I suppose that George W. Bush was right when he referred to the Constitution as a "goddamned piece of paper."

Whatever it is these days, we know that it has been left largely to the whims of politicos who mold it to fit their particular circumstances and needs. Shame on the Black and Latino aldermen who herded along with the mayor like the true suck-ups they are.

Free assembly is dead in Chicago and protests are illegal--unless you can somehow manage to jump through all the hoops and legal mumbo-jumbo set up by the dictators. Even if we manage to comply, they will rewrite the laws another way to make it even tougher for us.

When peaceful demonstration, a la Martin Luther King or Gandhi, isn't even permitted, I don't know what other routes are available to us.
MBH, Chicago

Did Jesus exist?

PHIL GASPER'S article "Jesus the revolutionary?", while a great article and giving important details about the time "Jesus" lived in as being a revolutionary period, has some points I take issue with.

Gasper writes, "We have evidence that Jesus was a real historical figure not only from Christian writings such as the four gospels of the New Testament, but also from the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus and the early 2nd century Roman historian Tacitus."

These are the two historians that theologians always point to as evidence of the historical single figure of Jesus Christ--but there is no real direct evidence. The problem is that Josephus was born in 37 CE. That is, after the life of the supposed single Jesus figure.

While obviously historians can write great works on events that happened before their birth, even the authenticity, let alone the factual basis of the work, of Josephus is disputed. The same is the case for Tacitus.

We do know that this period was a time of revolutionary struggle against the Roman oppressors and a time that "miracle workers" and "messiahs" were not uncommon. The Jewish people were greatly oppressed and looking for their God to bring them out from this oppression. The stories in the gospels are of not just revolutionary struggle, but "end of times" struggle where apostles must leave behind all ties with their property and family and, essentially, prepare for the end of the world.

John the Baptist and any single Jesus were clearly not the only revolutionary, end of times preachers or "miracle workers" during this time. There were sects setting up for all-out war in the mountains around Jerusalem.

It seems more likely that the figure of Jesus Christ was not only a mythological messiah with elements taken from Jewish and pagan traditions (many, like the halo, incorporated much later as the Christians began to assimilate with society, as Gasper notes) but a collection of stories of real preachers and real leaders during the times that Christ supposedly lived.

In addition to the excellent works by Karl Kautsky, Paul Siegel and John Molyneux, I'd suggest comrades check out the PBS Frontline series From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians.

I do agree with Phil that the right-wing Christians of today do not stand with the tradition of the radical revolutionary Jesus who gained followers with a message against the oppressive 1 percent (though they may not be so off in regards to the other image Jesus as an "end times are near" preacher).

And I cannot stress enough the importance for socialists of all faiths or no faith to embrace the radical progressive messages that religion can have, like Liberation Theology, and to embrace those of faith to join in the cause of the social revolution.
Tristan Sloughter, Chicago

Time for citizen journalists

IN RESPONSE to "The Old Gray Lady ain't what she used to be": Thank you for this well-written article. Your sentiments, my sentiments and the sentiments of millions of others in various cities of the world are simple when addressing mainstream press: Do your job. Do your job well. Do your job accurately.

Thank you for reminding us that we must all be vigilant. We cannot trust the politicos, the judiciary, the religious command, the educators, and not even the mainstream press, TV, or radio.

Each of us must become an investigative reporter. It may save us. For many of us who have lost all trust in humanity's worth, investigating a story is very therapeutic.
Jeffrey Kent Simpson, Vancouver, Canada