As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs

I recently re-read Chapter 7 of Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States of America, As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs-- a reference to possibly the single most infuriating unfulfilled promise in the history of America. And there are many in the running.

Say to my reel Choctaw children, and my Chickasaw children to listen-my white children of Mississippi have extended their law over their country. .. . Where they now are, say to them, their father cannot prevent them from being subject to the laws of the state of Mississippi. . .. The general government will be obliged to sustain the States in the exercise of their right. Say to the chiefs and warriors that I am their friend, that I wish to act as their friend but they must, by removing from the limits of the States of Mississippi and Alabama and by being settled on the lands I offer them, put it in my power to be such-There, beyond the limits of any State, in possession of land of their own, which they shall possess as long as Grass grows or water runs. I am and will protect them and be their friend and father.
Spoiler Alert: Andrew Jackson was a dick.

Today, there's the promise we collectively made to the great American city of New Orleans. My failure to visit that city before it was ravished by Hurricane Katrina-- with an assist from the Army Corps of Engineers-- is something I will regret for some time. Today, the Lower Ninth Ward still stands in shambles. What relief money wasn't blown on oil subsidies and perks to corporations that weren't hurt by the hurricane was channeled to the tourist areas. And now even the people who owned their own homes can't afford to come back. They've been forced off of their lands, and this time around those who forced them out through a gross misapplication of relief funds have offered nothing in recompense.

There's also the promise from our elected leaders that they would put the success of our country before their own success politically, whether by guile or by gutlessness. And the promise that capitalism would furnish us a better future than that of our parents. Our current President's promise to be a "Fierce Advocate" for the LGBTQ community is as of yet in the same territory. The promise to rebuild Afghanistan was deferred to the point where it may yet be impossible to carry out.in favor of our misadventure in Iraq, where we may never have had the chance to keep the promises we made.

Let alone the promise of freedom of religion. Seriously. What the fuck. Even Jon Stewart doesn't get it. He equates the GOP talking point that the Park51 Islamic Center is a monument of victory for terrorists with the counter-argument that the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan is celebrating opposition to the mosque. He says, in this clip, "How about we not give a fuck about what the terrorists think."

I love Jon Stewart, but sometimes I get pissed off at the false equivalences that he espouses. This one clocks in at eight megatons. Simply put, the War on Terror, for lack of a better phrase, is not solely a military engagement, even where we have boots on the ground. Indeed, General David Petraeus' Counter-Insurgency strategy in Afghanistan explicitly depends on a commitment to dismantling the Taliban/Al-Queda narrative that America is at war with Islam. When 70% of Americans express an intent to force the Cordoba House off of the property that they rightfully own because they don't think it's American enough to be two blocks away from Ground Zero, they are reinforcing that narrative.  They are making it easier for the enemies of freedom to  recruit new blood, raise money, and be accepted by a greater percentage of the Muslim world.

This may not come as a surprise, but this opposition isn't really about Ground Zero being hallowed ground. At least, it isn't only about that. Ever since 9/11, plans for new mosques and Islamic centers across the country have been beleaguered by the opposition of unscrupulous bigots. In 2008, I helped my friend Matt Porter shoot interviews for his documentary about such a conflict in Boston. Today, it's worse. Local politicians have felt completely safe adding their voices to the mix, most likely emboldened because of the public support for those speaking out against Park51 in Manhattan (whose residents, it should be pointed out, don't oppose its construction). In Tennesee, it's gotten violent.

In Gainesville, Florida, a Koran burning is set to take place on the ninth anniversary of the attacks on Manhattan and Washington DC. The pastor whose parish has sponsored the event says that he's aware of General David Petraeus' warning that such a display puts our military and civilian efforts to combat violent extremism in Afghanistan and around the globe at risk. That even rumors about it will boost recruitment and fundraising efforts for the Taliban. His response? He's praying about it. He says that it would be tragical{sic} if anybody gets hurt because of his church's actions. He also says that he thinks Petraeus is wrong, and that it wouldn't be on his fault if the General was right and there is a body count that results from his actions.

The leadership of the Republican Party have as of this writing failed to speak out against the event, despite their former assertion that we listen to our generals on matters of national security. They've also generally failed to speak out against anti-mosque rhetoric and violence in places that aren't near Ground Zero. And yet, they say, Muslims will still enjoy freedom of religion.

As long as grass grows or water runs.

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