Last night I hugged my Step-Dad (my Father) to wish him goodbye as he got himself together to depart a dinner we held for him on his birthday. His last words to me: “Don’t write too much… Or soon you’re going to have the secret service knocking at the door.”
..Heck.. if the ol’ men in black are giving the 5-Star service that press on his encounter give the impression Teddy Nugent got; thaaat -might not be a bad thing. I’ll gladly invite the toothpick and the buzz (Tone = Brown+poor = prooobably NOT!)
Fast forward to sunrise<< Upon checking my facebook first thing this morning, I stumbled on an article my good friend Jie had the courage to post. Today is the first I’m hearing about Tarek Mehanna; an American who converted to Islam as a young man, and began to protest U.S. war policy by openly supporting *the resistance* to unilateral interventions our military has used the trauma of 9/11/2001 to stage across the Middle East. Tarek, whom has been locked down 23 hours a day in a maximum security prison for the past 4 years, was given a 17 year sentence last week; NOT for any type of (act) of terror, not for any (plans) which could be interpreted as strategy to initiate or support terror.. but for sharing written ideas and spoken opinions deemed in favor >>NOT of Arab/Persian attack on the U.S. homeland, but in Arab/Persian resistance to the U.S.’s occupation of THEIR lands.<< A move many in America would *at this point in history* conveniently call: “Terror”.
Pops has reason to worry!
If not for my willful quest to speak with the voice God has given me, on thoughts my reading eyes and processing mind have supported :: –> for the blood lusting fever many who read this will catch, a decade into a war the opportunist media elite have conditioned us to believe we are the victim of… –> for the possibility that I might suddenly disappear, or so happen to take a bullet in an unrelated incident.
My worries? I’ve been working those in and out for quite awhile. All that’s left are allergies and carpel tunnel. The greater deal of anxiety I’ve had to mission through in these times (outside of the thought of my daughter) has had more to do with a question as to whether resumes I’ve sent out were actually arriving at my intended destination in my seasons of hunger – than they did with me being followed by unmarked cars. In fact, I’ve read enough Ward Churchill to know they don’t knock on your door before they shake your hand at a rally then find their way under your armpit on the way home from countless parties.
Only worry I have should my fate be sealed by one of the fore-mentioned scenarios, is that it happen before I’ve gotten out everything I feel there is that needs to be said; whether the universe has allotted me the time needed for me to have prepared my loved ones with information and insight into the nature of power in the world today, time needed to prepare them with an empowered grasp, on one’s capacity to find the past/present/and future in the most common people, places, and things.
The world is much more complex than most of us realize it to be; most are not even able to imagine how many internal factors presently work to influence tomorrow, much less are they/we following what external factors have an affect on the life our children and grand children will live. How many, outside of those in my circles know a considerable deal about Malcolm X? I wouldn’t be surprised to find that his trip to Mecca has translated into more students in Saudi Arabia having read his Autobiography than have the greater portion of middle America. How many outside of my college educated Latino circle know that the United Nations has condemned the U.S.’s colonial relationship to our Puerto Rican island on numerous occasions?
All of this is to say, while we for the most part rarely seek, barely discover, scarcely access, the information that is available to us in our local libraries; the masses outside of the United States (along with a growing number of us here in the U.S.) are realizing that in a world of globalized communication; there is a GLOBAL perspective on history, which our own discourse may contribute to.. but does not dominate, like it once did! The Chinese will tell their own story on Chinese events, the Pakistanis and Africans and Brazilians will tell their own history. And when those of us who covet to seek and sort the truth, put it all together to examine history from it’s primary sources, the common threads we find will tell itself through the Chinese curriculum, which reads of U.S. meddling in it’s affairs, the Pakistanis and African books will likewise tell, of the aggressiveness of a foreign presence in U.S. army fatigues and Wall Street tailored suits..
y o u k n o w.. all the events/people/occasions our own propaganda machine feeds us to believe is hero shit. (rememmmber all those times you sat convinced another country was “ungrateful” for ‘help’ YOU were informed we were there to give them in the first place??) Yea. Those lies. Or, have you come all this way with full faith in the notion that the only nation with a military base (over 700 in 130 countries) on every plot of land on earth would be looked at by the rest of humanity as a peaceful force? That the only nation to drop the atomic bomb, would have credibility to dictate who is and who isn’t a nuclear threat, to the rest of the world… (?)
Yea we were all taught that Thomas Jefferson had African slaves __ but how many of us assessed that time in history critically enough to be able to conclude that for all practical purposes, thaaat kind of meant they were refuges from a war on Africa as much as they were free labor? How many at that point are able to go the lengths of recognizing and respecting the African plight enough to then draw a connection between someone like Thomas Jefferson and someone like Saddam Hussein as war criminals the same?
Sure we know Abe Lincoln executed 38 Native American’s after squashing their uprising in what became known as the Dakota War of 1962… (oh, you didn’t know that? well now you know.) But see, having a general idea that the European ‘settlers‘ (clears throat_*invaders/occupiers*), displaced and murdered natives holds a different connotation than does knowing that even while Lincoln was president, natives were being exterminated and persecuted for their land, doesn’t it? Here’s where your ability to have a critical perspective on this bit of history comes into hand though.. relative to these times, couldn’t we so draw equivalence between someone like Abe Lincoln and someone like Syria’s President Assad??
What’s to say in 150 years, President Obama won’t be that ‘Great‘ President who signed all this legislation and represented such prolific change, but (like Jefferson/Lincoln), yeea, you know.. was in fact one of the Presidents who staged genocide in the Middle East < (?) I mean, we just as aloofly veil atrocities which will inevitably follow past Presidents whether the greater percentage of History Teachers choose to cover it, or not.
My decision to give the MyBrotherMan blog as a vehicle to preserve and share the 4/12 statement is a choice I make, not to advocate murder, not to generate war, not to align myself as a collaborator of any group! But as an independent journalist committed to presenting what I observe to be a monologue written in integrity of HIS experience; told responsibly enough, to lend me confidence that it can be read for insight into TM’s circumstance _ while expressing the struggle many American’s have come to wrestle with, in light of the events which back his sentiments, with war in our name.
Tarek Mehanna’s final words before the judge slammed a gavel on the coming decades of his life, amount, relevant to these times, to an *important* document in U.S. and international history…
Sentencing statement of Tarek Mehanna, 4/12/12
TAREK’S SENTENCING STATEMENT
APRIL 12, 2012
Read to Judge O’Toole during his sentencing, April 12th 2012. In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful
Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy ” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard-and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.
In the weeks leading up to this moment, many people have offered suggestions as to what I should say to you. Some said I should plead for mercy in hopes of a light sentence, while others suggested I would be hit hard either way. But what I want to do is just talk about myself for a few minutes.
When I refused to become an informant, the government responded by charging me with the “crime” of supporting the mujahideen fighting the occupation of Muslim countries around the world. Or as they like to call them, “terrorists.” I wasn’t born in a Muslim country, though. I was born and raised right here in America and this angers many people:
how is it that I can be an American and believe the things I believe, take the positions I take? Everything a man is exposed to in his environment becomes an ingredient that shapes his outlook, and I’m no different. So, in more ways than one, it’s because of America that I am who I am.
When I was six, I began putting together a massive collection of comic books. Batman implanted a concept in my mind, introduced me to a paradigm as to how the world is set up: that there are oppressors, there are the oppressed, and there are those who step up to defend the oppressed. This resonated with me so much that throughout the rest of my childhood, I gravitated towards any book that reflected that paradigm – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I even saw an ethical dimension to The Catcher in the Rye.
By the time I began high school and took a real history class, I was learning just how real that paradigm is in the world. I learned about the Native Americans and what befell them at the hands of European settlers. I learned about how the descendents of those European settlers were in turn oppressed under the tyranny of King George III.
I read about Paul Revere, Tom Paine, and how Americans began an armed insurgency against British forces – an insurgency we now celebrate as the American revolutionary war. As a kid I even went on school field trips just blocks away from where we sit now. I learned about Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, John Brown, and the fight against slavery in this country. I learned about Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, and the struggles of the labor unions, working class, and poor. I learned about Anne Frank, the Nazis, and how they persecuted minorities and imprisoned dissidents. I learned about Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the civil rights struggle. I learned about Ho Chi Minh, and how the Vietnamese fought for decades to liberate themselves from one invader after another. I learned about Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Everything I learned in those years confirmed what I was beginning to learn when I was six: that throughout history, there has been a constant struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors. With each struggle I learned about, I found myself consistently siding with the oppressed, and consistently
respecting those who stepped up to defend them -regardless of
nationality, regardless of religion. And I never threw my class notes away. As I stand here speaking, they are in a neat pile in my bedroom closet at home.
From all the historical figures I learned about, one stood out above the rest. I was impressed by many things about Malcolm X, but above all, I was fascinated by the idea of transformation, his transformation. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “X” by Spike Lee, it’s over three and a half hours long, and the Malcolm at the beginning is different from the Malcolm at the end. He starts off as an illiterate criminal, but ends up a husband, a father, a protective and eloquent leader for his people, a disciplined Muslim performing the Hajj in Makkah, and finally, a martyr. Malcolm’s life taught me that Islam is not something inherited; it’s not a culture or ethnicity. It’s a way of life, a state of mind anyone can choose no matter where they come from or how they were raised. This led me to look deeper into Islam, and I was hooked. I was just a teenager, but Islam answered the question that the greatest scientific minds were clueless about, the question that drives the rich & famous to depression and suicide from being unable to answer: what is the purpose of life? Why do we exist in this Universe? But it also answered the question of how we’re supposed to exist. And since there’s no hierarchy or priesthood, I could directly and immediately begin digging into the texts of the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, to begin the journey of understanding what this was all about, the implications of Islam for me as a human being, as an individual, for the people around me, for the world; and the more I learned, the more I valued Islam like a piece of gold. This was when I was a teen, but even today, despite the pressures of the last few years, I stand here before you, and everyone else in this courtroom, as a very proud Muslim.
With that, my attention turned to what was happening to other Muslims in different parts of the world. And everywhere I looked, I saw the powers that be trying to destroy what I loved. I learned what the Soviets had done to the Muslims of Afghanistan. I learned what the Serbs had done to the Muslims of Bosnia. I learned what the Russians were doing to the Muslims of Chechnya. I learned what Israel had done in Lebanon – and what it continues to do in Palestine – with the full backing of the United States. And I learned what America itself was doing to Muslims. I learned about the Gulf War, and the depleted uranium bombs that killed thousands and caused cancer rates to skyrocket across Iraq. I learned about the American-led sanctions that prevented food, medicine, and medical equipment from entering Iraq, and how – according to the United Nations – over half a million children perished as a result. I remember a clip from a ’60 Minutes’ interview of Madeline Albright where she expressed her view that these dead children were “worth it.” I watched on September 11th as a group of people felt driven to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings from their outrage at the deaths of these children. I watched as America then attacked and invaded Iraq directly. I saw the effects of ‘Shock & Awe’ in the opening day of the invasion – the children in hospital wards with shrapnel from American missiles sticking out of their foreheads (of course, none of this was shown on CNN).
I learned about the town of Haditha, where 24 Muslims – including a 76-year old man in a wheelchair, women, and even toddlers – were shot up and blown up in their bedclothes as the slept by US Marines. I learned about Abeer al-Janabi, a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl gang-raped by five American soldiers, who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses. I just want to point out, as you can see, Muslim women don’t even show their hair to unrelated men. So try to imagine this young girl from a conservative village with her dress torn off, being sexually assaulted by not one, not two, not three, not four, but five soldiers. Even today, as I sit in my jail cell, I read about the drone strikes which continue to kill Muslims daily in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just last month, we all heard about the seventeen Afghan Muslims – mostly mothers and their kids – shot to death by an American soldier, who also set fire to their corpses. These are just the stories that make it to the headlines, but one of the first concepts I learned in Islam is that of loyalty, of brotherhood – that each Muslim woman is my sister, each man is my brother, and together, we are one large body who must protect each other. In other words, I couldn’t see these things beings done to my brothers & sisters – including by America – and remain neutral. My sympathy for the oppressed continued, but was now more personal, as was my respect for those defending them.
I mentioned Paul Revere – when he went on his midnight ride, it was for the purpose of warning the people that the British were marching to Lexington to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, then on to Concord to confiscate the weapons stored there by the Minuteman. By the time they got to Concord, they found the Minuteman waiting for them, weapons in hand. They fired at the British, fought them, and beat them. From that battle came the American Revolution. There’s an Arabic word to describe what those Minutemen did that day. That word is: JIHAD, and this is what my trial was about. All those videos and translations and childish bickering over ‘Oh, he translated this paragraph’ and ‘Oh, he edited that sentence,’ and all those exhibits revolved around a single issue: Muslims who were defending themselves against American soldiers doing to them exactly what the British did to America. It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government’s own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.
So, this trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders – Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. It’s what the arrows on that seal above your head represent: defense of the homeland. So, I disagree with my lawyers when they say that you don’t have to agree with my beliefs – no. Anyone with commonsense and humanity has no choice but to agree with me. If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home. But when that home is a Muslim land, and that invader is the US military, for some reason the standards suddenly change. Common sense is renamed “terrorism” and the people defending themselves against those who come to kill them from across the ocean become “the terrorists” who are “killing Americans.” The mentality that America was victimized with when British soldiers walked these streets 2 ½ centuries ago is the same mentality Muslims are victimized by as American soldiers walk their streets today. It’s the mentality of colonialism.
When Sgt. Bales shot those Afghans to death last month, all of the focus in the media was on him-his life, his stress, his PTSD, the mortgage on his home-as if he was the victim. Very little sympathy was expressed for the people he actually killed, as if they’re not real, they’re not humans. Unfortunately, this mentality trickles down to everyone in society, whether or not they realize it. Even with my lawyers, it took nearly two years of discussing, explaining, and clarifying before they were finally able to think outside the box and at least ostensibly accept the logic in what I was saying. Two years! If it took that long for people so intelligent, whose job it is to defend me, to de-program themselves, then to throw me in front of a randomly selected jury under the premise that they’re my “impartial peers,” I mean, come on. I wasn’t tried before a jury of my peers because with the mentality gripping America today, I have no peers. Counting on this fact, the government prosecuted me – not because they needed to, but simply because they could.
I learned one more thing in history class: America has historically supported the most unjust policies against its minorities – practices that were even protected by the law – only to look back later and ask:
‘what were we thinking?’ Slavery, Jim Crow, the internment of the Japanese during World War II – each was widely accepted by American society, each was defended by the Supreme Court. But as time passed and America changed, both people and courts looked back and asked ‘What were we thinking?’ Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by the South African government, and given a life sentence. But time passed, the world changed, they realized how oppressive their policies were, that it was not he who was the terrorist, and they released him from prison. He even became president. So, everything is subjective -even this whole business of “terrorism” and who is a “terrorist.” It all depends on the time and place and who the superpower happens to be at the moment.
In your eyes, I’m a terrorist, and it’s perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m the one going to prison for “conspiring to kill and maim” in those countries – because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a “terrorist,” yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the “terrorists” are, she sure wouldn’t be pointing at me.
The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with “killing Americans.” But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.