Friday, October 4, 2013

Lies across the Americas

In his 1999 book, “Lies Across America,” James Loewen (who also wrote “Lies My Teacher Told Me”) discusses the many racist US monuments built & maintained by those who still can’t accept the Confederate Slaveocracy lost the Civil War & who attempt with monuments to glorify slavery & discredit Black Reconstruction. There are also dozens of monuments in many states not just demeaning to Native Americans but glorifying the genocide & conquest by Europeans. One of these monstrosities sits at the entrance of the NYC Museum of Natural History; it is of the colonialist Teddy Roosevelt on horseback flanked by an African & a Native American on foot. It is frequently protested by Native American groups, especially around Thanksgiving, the festival of colonial genocide smothered in sentimentality.

The question of course is what to do with these ugly-assed things when humanity has finally destroyed the scourge of racism & exploitation. Some may argue to maintain them as an object lesson of history; others will want them destroyed. You don’t have to be a barbarian to side with the latter view since most of them are as ugly as their inspiration. It wouldn’t be like burning the ancient library at Alexandria. But that’s a decision future generations will make.

There’s presently no catalog of this type of monument in the rest of the Americas but we can be sure they exist aplenty. One such monstrosity sits in a park in Sao Paulo, Brazil--the massive & grotesque Monumento às Bandeiras (completed in 1953), built to honor the 16th century Bandeirantes, a Portuguese mafia of slave hunters who captured & forced native peoples into slavery & later expanded their mission to hunting for gold, silver, & diamond mines & forcing the native peoples into slaving in the mines.

On Tuesday, October 1st, Indigenous people from several tribes in Brazil began a weeklong campaign against a proposed constitutional change that would end the demarcation of their ancestral lands & open them up to foreign agribusiness enterprises like Monsanto (which the media euphemistically refers to as “farmers”). In Brasilia, hundreds of protestors set up camp in front of the Brazilian Congress, danced war dances & brandished bows, arrows, & spears before attempting to invade the Congress; tribes across the country blocked highways, jammed traffic, & occupied government offices. Yesterday in Sao Paulo, they went after the Bandeiras monument with red paint symbolizing the sacrifice of their ancestors. It can be said with some certainty that in the future they will lobby strongly to have such monuments deconstructed in no uncertain terms. This photo of the defacement will confirm the judgement that these monuments are not just objectionable eyesores & a blight on the landscape but irredeemably racist & of no historic value whatsoever.

In the fight against agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, there are allies on every continent including thousands of dispossessed farmers & Indigenous tribes. Solidarity with their struggles is not an option but a necessity.

(Photo by Paulo Whitaker/Reuters)

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