Governing on fear

By Mumia Abu-Jamal from death row

It's in the air, as thick as molasses on a wintry Vermont morn.

Like a pungent, disagreeable odor that assaults the
nose in the morning, only to be forgotten (although it's
still present!) by nightfall, this thing that's in the air hasn't
disappeared, nor dissipated.

It's still there; the only thing that has changed, is *us*.

That thing is fear.

Americans are afraid; and worse, they are afraid of
being seen as afraid.

The nation's political leaders have O.D.'d on this
fear, and like Saturday night drunks, have gone off on
the fumes into fits and flights of fancy, like the so-called
PATRIOT Act. I remember, staring in disbelief, as
politicians, -- yeah, even Black politicians -- admitted
on TV that they voted on the Act, and had not read it!
They felt pressured to do so by the US Justice Department.

Politicians, driven by the demon of fear, sacrificed
their oaths of office on the altar of expediency.

Like perhaps many others, I waited, virtually in vain,
to hear the voices of dissent raised at this, and other acts
of state, like the military tribunals.

I knew this wasn't really a democracy (most Blacks
who've lived a little'll tell you this), but to see the
Administration erect the tribunals, in violation of
American legal precedent, and in the face of
international law, seemed like handwriting on the wall
of where America is headed; and it ain't pretty.

A part of me knew that it was fear; and another part
of me saw the political opportunism lying below, like a
gator in the everglades; waiting for the moment to snap.

How else can one begin to explain the Red Scare, the
Palmer Raids early last century, the placement of
Japanese Americans in concentration camps, the
persecution of dissidents and radicals during the
COINTELPRO period, and the mad dash for
incarceration of the '80s, '90s, and now?

Those social injustices were made possible
because the government utilized fear to mobilize
people against vast sections of the population,
immigrants, workers, Jews, Japanese, socialists,
Blacks, anti-war activists, and students ... you
name it. All of these people, for the most part
so-called 'citizens' of America, were treated as
enemies of the state, simply because they were
protesting the repressive status quo -- something
allegedly protected by the U.S. Constitution,
and the 1st Amendment.

But these types of tragic episodes were only
possible in this country because those Constitutional
guarantees were meant for those who wrote them
in, and their class, the well-to-do, the propertied,
the established, not the vast majority of the people
in this country. Why else would people have to
struggle, for years, for decades, indeed, for
centuries, to get some grudging acknowledgment
that Blacks, that women (the majority of the
population, mind you!), that working poor, that
national minorities, like Japanese, were included
in the meaning of the documents?

And still, today, the political tool is useful;
to bring back draconian measures that seem
unfit for a nation that claims to be a democracy;
that claims to be a protector of human rights.

With fear steering the country, anything is
possible, all in the name of a bogus 'war
against terrorism', that seeks to plunge the
nation into a new dark age of desperation.

The history of this country has always been
one of swinging pendulums, between forces
for democracy, and forces of reaction and
repression. That's the real history. It is the
history of the powerless fighting against the
privileges of the powerful. It is a history of
the many fighting against the prerogatives of
the few.

It is still going on, and mindless, cringing
fear will only mark an end; not a beginning.


[Mr. Jamal's upcoming work, *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, will be available
soon from South End Press, Cambridge, MA.

Copyright 2024 Mumia Abu-Jamal

[Mr. Jamal has written widely about war and other issues. His latest work, *Faith of Our Fathers* (Africa World Press, 2024) was named one of "The Most Remarkable Books of 2024" by *Black Issues Book Review* (Nov/Dec '03).]


Mumia Abu-Jamal is also the author of three other books: 'Live from Death Row', 'Death Blossoms', and 'All Things Censored'.

When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die. And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Copyright 2024 Mumia Abu-Jamal