Tuesday, November 11, 2003

What other wonders will this day reveal 10, 20, 30 years from now? In 1940, November 10 was reportedly the day when Walt Disney started as a secret informer for the Los Angeles office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. So. Mickey Mouse was a rat.

In his speech on November 10, 2001, US President Bush reminded the UN General Assembly of the founding principles of the United Nations without of course being aware of the implications of his words two years later. “We affirmed that some crimes are so terrible they offend humanity,” said Bush in his UN speech in 2001. “[W]e resolved that the aggressions and ambitions of the wicked must be opposed early, decisively, and collectively, before they threaten us all. That evil has returned.”

Indeed. It has returned.

“Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research,” said Malcolm X on November 10, 1963. “All you have to do is examine the historic method used all over the world by others who have problems similar to yours. Once you see how they got theirs straight, then you know how you can get yours straight.” Malcolm X in 1963 was speaking about the black revolution in the US, the Cuban revolution and the revolutions in Asia against imperialism. The same year “Busted” by Ray Charles was given the Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues and “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Peter, Paul and Mary the Grammy for Best Performance by a Vocal Group.

A year later, on November 10, 1964, US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara held a news conference where he said that everything was under control and that the United States had no plans to send combat troops to Vietnam.

By 1969, more than 500,000 American troops were in South Vietnam.

It brings to mind the unlamented demise today of the Bush administration’s “cake-walk” triumphalism. In lieu of the cake, US troops are being served presently with bombs, bullets and landmines.American troops are being attacked at least 35 times each day in the Baghdad area alone and Washington insists it has no intention of adding American troops in Iraq because of the happy progress that the US occupying army continues to make.

One single day and yet replete with so much to ponder on.

Like oil and dispossession.

November 10, 1975 -- the day the UN General Assembly approved a Resolution 3379 which equated Zionism with racism. A resolution which, by the way, recalled another UN measure -- passed on November 10, 1959, and directed at the regime in South Africa -- which condemned racial discrimination wherever it occurred.

Remember November 10, 1995 -- the day the Nigerian writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged by the brutal military dictatorship of Gen. Sani Abacha?

Saro-Wiwa was hanged along with eight other activists from the indigenous Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People for speaking out against the Abacha regime and the repugnant Dutch transnational oil company Shell, which had devastated the land of the Ogoni people because of its oil operations.

Shell Oil never intervened or denounced the hanging of Saro-Wiwa (may the world never forget its complicity) while US oil companies such as Chevron Texaco lobbied Washington intensively to maintain good relations with the Abacha regime despite the hanging.

A brochure from Mobil (now ExxonMobil) explaining the company’s tolerance of the human rights abuses of the Abacha dictatorship proclaims passionately “[W]e do not believe that cutting off relations or instituting trade sanctions or boycotts will achieve the desired result. In fact, such actions could cause Nigerians to resist and resent what may be seen as unfair meddling in the country’s political development by outsiders.”

So much disdain for meddling; so much concern for the political sensitivity of Nigerians.

Perhaps because Nigeria is the 7th largest producer of crude oil in the world and Abacha was America’s good buddy?

But November 10 need not remind us only of bad things.

Here’s a glowing one. The very first broadcast of Sesame Street, the children’s educational show, was on November 10th, 1969. In the show, Jim Henson’s fun-loving muppets, people, animals and imaginary friends lived together in a community that helped teach young children about numbers, letters and social values. Such a shame that by the time Sesame Street was first broadcast, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were already grown-up bullies.

Who knows, maybe the world would be a little less bad today if only these leaders grew up with Sesame Street.

Maybe George, Dick and Donald would have learned something.

Or maybe that’s asking too much of Big Bird, Ernie and Grover?


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