Martí and the Ugly Truth

José Martí, claimed by both sides in the Havana-Miami civil war, once wrote an essay called “The Truth About the United States,” which is of course a loaded phrase, kind of scary to contemplate, but why not start with the above, which is a picture of a 1949 incident in Old Havana’s Parque Central in which American sailors urinated on a statue of, as fate would have it, José Martí. The photo has been circulating here and there following the revelation that American service personnel urinated on apparently dead Taliban. This heavy-handed news flash is what began the weekend just past, the one that purported to honor one of this country’s great leaders and orators, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

And what a weekend it was. Almost immediately after this revelation, which shocked and dismayed most humans, the relentless 24-hour news cycle began to spit out things like “Bill Maher doesn’t think it’s such a big deal” and then a CNN personality named Dana Loesch also agrees.



Then you got the eloquent ex-Republican presidential candidate from Texas, Rick Perry–taking time off from making sure Obama doesn’t flood the schools with homosexual Christmas haters–implying that the actions of the Taliban corpse pee patrol was sort of understandable. His first reaction over the weekend was almost apologetic, only to explode on Monday night with this amazing outburst of blood rage, setting us straight about what exactly is utterly despicable:



Perry’s was just one of several moments in the most recent debate–held in South Carolina, rapidly making a case for itself as a state to avoid at all costs–that made me wonder whether the Murdoch Primary rules are back in effect: Demagoguery, not Divinity, defeats Democrats. Let’s be real–in the Anybody but Romney battle between frantic Santorum evangelicals whose main concern is gay marriage and Roe v. Wade and the Trump/Bush/Murdoch/Ailes/Rove/Carlyle Group/Goldman Sachs/Chase/Koch Brothers money guys, whose main concern is, uh, money, who’s going to win?

A look back into the relatively recent past might shed light on this. Some of you might remember Willie Horton (not the pinch-hitter for the Detroit Tigers):



We sure have come a long way since then, haven’t we? That little awkward, low-budget spot made all the difference then, but times were so much different. Mild scare tactics backed by a simple syllogism sufficed. Nowadays the voter sitting home watching this stuff needs a series of ugly, blood-curdling, teeth-gnashing puñetazos to get the message straight. (The message: Obama must be defeated at any cost.)

Let’s recall an earlier presidential debate, this time between the Republican and Democratic nominees in 1988, when CNN anchorman Bernard Shaw asked this question–an early display of cable-news driven shock journalism in the service of “values-driven” fear-mongering as a tool to distract voters from real issues:



Now let’s re-imagine that moment. Instead of a journalist asking a direct question evoking fear of violence, as well as the emotions of guilt and shame, fast forward 24 years to a journalist now in the employ of the Murdoch/Ailes team, passively asking a question designed to incite the mob of South Carolina extremists to seethe with anger:



Note Gingrich’s seemingly rehearsed pause when he responds Williams’ suggestion that Gingrich’s implications about lack of work ethic among the poor are irksome to people of color: “First of all…Juan.” [Not only is Williams African-American, but he’s got a Latino name!] “The fact is…that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama…than any president in American history!” [Picture this, Obama, behind his desk, personally entering thousands of new food stamp recipients, lacking no work ethic whatsoever, into a shiny new computer paid for by your tax dollars!]

Cheers! Confederate yells! Put him in his place! The south shall rise again…Juan.

Afterwards the Fox pundits could not contain themselves. Almost every last one of them declared that solely based on this Two Minutes of Hate, Romney was totally in trouble and could easily lose the state that has picked the Republican nominee each time in the last 32 years. It is over before it’s over!

What a way to end the late Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. A garish spectacle of race-baiting, jeered on by an unruly mob. Add that to Martí’s uncomfortable truth.


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