THE EMBODIMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY…
AN FTW EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CYNTHIA
By Carolyn Baker, Ph.D.
© Copyright 2006, From The Wilderness Publications, www.fromthewilderness.com. All Rights Reserved. This story may NOT be posted on any Internet web site without express written permission. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. May be circulated, distributed or transmitted for non-profit purposes only.
Our nettlesome task is to discover how to organize our strength into compelling power.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
September 19th 2006, 2:18PM [PST] - Knowing that I would be spending five days in the Washington, D.C. area, and recalling FTW’s long-standing relationship with her, I contacted Congresswoman, Cynthia Mc Kinney, six-term African American representative of Georgia’s Fourth District, to request an exclusive interview. After one week I was informed by her staff that an appointment had been made and that Representative Mc Kinney was looking forward to speaking to FTW. Having been recently defeated under extremely questionable circumstances in a run-off election, the necessity of which was equally dubious, Mc Kinney on that day was in the process of packing up her office and returning to Georgia and to an unknown future, having proven herself to be one of the brightest lights on Capitol Hill in the nation’s history.
On September 14, I met with the Congresswoman in her office, not wanting to ask her many questions, but rather, out of my and FTW’s deep respect for her and her service to our country, simply experience the extraordinary wisdom, integrity, and courage that exudes from every fiber of her being. I shamelessly admit my bias, for we have so few men and women in government who serve this nation as irreproachably as she has.
CB: Representative Mc Kinney, would you comment on elections in the United States in the twenty-first century, the current voting process, and your most recent experience in the Georgia primary?
CM: In the United States, we have representatives, but there is a difference between having representatives and having representation. The quality of representation will determine the extent to which public policy reflects our values. Now if we just vote for a representative, there’s no guarantee that our values will be reflected in public policy, so it is imperative that we have representation and that that representation reflect our values and that those values are reflected in our public policy. They will be reflected in our domestic policy—how we treat each other and in our foreign policy—how we treat the rest of the world. And increasingly, there has been a disconnect between the values that exist out there in the heartland of America and the public policy that is a result of the representatives and not the representation of the American people. So if we have a situation where not only the election process is in question but the integrity of our vote itself is in question, then that could perhaps be perceived as a silent coup. For example, we know that America fundamentally transformed at the murder of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. Now, the final straw would be for our votes to mean nothing—that we are put in a matrix of apparent representation, but the reality is something quite different.
Well, what happened to me was very interesting. We had a new phenomenon—at least it was new to us—to occur in the Fourth District of Georgia where we had people who contacted us after the run-off and said that the Fourth District race was on their ballot for the primary, but then when they went back to vote for the run-off, the Fourth District was not on their ballot. And we’re calling these people “phantom voters.” We don’t know where their votes went or if their votes were counted. But the interesting thing is that they come from jurisdictions outside the Fourth District. Those people who are somewhat familiar with the geography of the metropolitan Atlanta area know that my district comprises portions of De Kalb County, Gwinnett County, and Rockdale County. But people voted in the Fourth District race in areas outside of the configuration of the Fourth District in De Kalb, Gwinnett, and Rockdale Counties, but in addition to that, the Fourth District ballot was on their computer screen in City of Atlanta, Fulton County, Cobb County, and Clayton County that we know of. So in eight jurisdictions that were not the Fourth Congressional District, people had the Fourth Congressional District on their computer screen. We are now trying to figure out how it happened, and we expect the Georgia Secretary of State and the various county offices to tell us how that came to be. We haven’t even publicized it yet—well, after this is published, it will be. And we expect that more people will come to us and tell us that this also happened to them.
CB: FTW readers would like to hear your comments on 9-11 and the war on terror? I know that you are on the Armed Services Committee, yes?
CM: Yes, and you could say that the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee constitute the nerve center of the war against—well, the war against the world—is what this is turning out to be. The powers that be at the Pentagon have told us that the world is the battlefield now, including the United States of America. So if the world is the battlefield, then that gives license for the kinds of things that we have seen take place that occurred against international law and against American law as well—torture, renditions, but also the attack on civil liberties, the invasion of privacy. Now, everything is open to government scrutiny, including library records, shopping records, medical records, you name it. There is nothing that’s private anymore, and there’s something inherently wrong with the track that the Bush administration has put this country on. Now, that is inherently wrong, and it makes it even more wrong when the Bush administration is illegitimate itself. It was not elected by the American people; the election in 2000 was stolen from the American people, and the political party that was charged with the responsibility for fighting on behalf of all of us, chickened out. The Democratic Party could have fought for the rights of all Americans to have their votes counted, but because the Americans in question in Florida were black Americans, somehow the fight was cut short for some reason—I don’t know why. And the Democratic Party has never really had to tell the American people why because too few people have demanded an answer. The fact remains, however, that the American people have been saddled with an illegitimate administration because of the failure of the Democrats to fight for the rights of all of us. That was 2000; in 2004 the global community is asking the question, “How in the world (now this is a president who has been called either an idiot or a moron at the highest levels of European and Canadian governments, and the international community is asking), could the American people re-elect this man?” Well, thank goodness there were activists. It really has come to my attention of late, that those activists were members of the Green Party who were steadfast in demanding accountability for what happened in Ohio. And because they stood, when the Democrats wouldn’t, we now are absolutely certain that the Ohio election was stolen as well.
I would have to recommend the film “American Blackout” to FTW readers because that film clearly shows the mechanism that was used by the Republicans to steal the elections of 2000 and 2004 and also my elections in 2002 and 2006.
CB: And has that film been released yet?
CM: It opened in theaters across the country on September 8, and it will open in New York on September 22, but you can find out specific dates by visiting the website www.americanblackout.org
CB: So American Blackout deals with stealing elections?
CM: That’s right. It deals with stealing elections, but it also shows how pivotal the vote is of people of color in terms of which way America goes. And so you could really say, as I have always said, that the progressives in this country ought to fight dearly for the right to vote for blacks and Latinos because out values demand the most from this country, and that’s where the progressive community’s values are also. For example, if black people did not vote in the 2000 election—CNN did a study that showed that there had only been 34 senators present, and of course that means that Tom Daschle never would have become the majority leader. Now, any other community that made that kind of difference in the political configuration would derive some benefits from it. You invest your time in voting, and you expect that your community will achieve something as a result of your vote. But the African American community has been consistently denied opportunity in this country, and the statistics reflect that because of—really, a failure of the governing community, which depends on the African American vote to deliver. And that is the Democrats. When Tom Daschle was the majority leader, there should have been a reaction to that in African American communities across the country. There wasn’t. And so much so that the Democratic Party has felt compelled to abandon the progressive ideals which bolster its support from that community and the progressive community because it can do so with impunity.
Let me just make a few observations on the facts. Racial disparities on some quality-of-life indices have grown worse since the time of the murder of Dr. King. Now most white Americans don’t know that. Well, you’re not going to learn it from CNN or FOX, and if you’re not going to see it put into the normal discourse of a country, then you won’t know it unless you seek it out.
A number of studies reveal that the white community is completely oblivious to the daily indignities that black and other people of color have to deal with. They are oblivious to the economic realities of people of color. If they don’t know, then they aren’t likely to support changes in public policy. So it’s not a very long distance from mistreating people of color to mistreating everyone. The U.S. Department of Labor just came out a few months ago with statistics that indicate that racial disparities are growing. For example, in white families for every dollar of family income that they have, people of color have 16 cents. That is not sustainable. That disparity goes back to the Kerner Commission—two Americas: one black and one white. The Hull House Report, sponsored by Loyola University of Chicago, revealed that if nothing is done in public policy, it will take black Chicagoans 200 years to catch up to the quality of life of white Chicagoans. A New York Times study revealed the inordinately high levels of unemployment of black men. I could go on and on. On any indicator of justice, the disparities between people of color and whites are unsustainable, and they’re not getting better but worse.
So now, what are we to do? White Americans, rightfully, are concerned about the integrity of their vote, but black Americans are concerned about life—just life. And the only means we have to address those concerns is with the vote. So now we have a wonderful coming together, the opportunity to build the true Rainbow Coalition. But it’s the Rainbow Coalition that frightens the powers that be. How do we know that? They wrote it down in the COINTLEPRO (Counter-Intelligence Program) Papers. They wrote that they had to malign, in every way possible—discredit or “otherwise neutralize”, to use an exact quote from the FBI, black leadership that was charismatic enough to create the real Rainbow Coalition to move our country forward, but everybody else as well.
I have visited the Afghan refugees who were in United Nations refugee camps. I asked them, “What’s communism?” They didn’t have a clue, but they were living in a refugee camp because America was fighting communism. They wanted to eke out a living and live with a modicum of dignity. That’s not communism. Now today, George Bush’s version of “communism” is terrorism. So why are these people still living in refugee camps? Terrorism. Well, some would say that it’s “terrorism” to go into their country and to deny them the opportunity to have representation in the global political arena.
This is the language of the FBI (COINTELPRO): It said that it had to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of “hate” (black nationalist) organizations, such as Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They also in the document talked about how there were certain whites who would be susceptible to a message of justice and therefore they had to target those whites in particular to discredit the blacks who were delivering that message to them. For example, there was a white actress who thought that America ought to be fair, and who was an activist. The FBI put out disinformation that she had become pregnant by a member of the Black Panther Party. She was so discredited that eventually she committed suicide. In fact, everyone who had the potential of bringing the Rainbow Coalition together to move our country forward was subjected to this kind of discrediting in order to neutralize their efforts.
CB: And you have been pushing for a deeper investigation of Dr. King’s murder, yes?
CM: Yes. We know certain things—that just about everything we’ve been told is not true. We’ve been told that the murder weapon was the rifle. I had a panel, and Judge Joe Brown told us that the murder weapon wasn’t the rifle. You know, these things happen to our country for a reason. And I think it was Malcolm X who likened politics to a boxing match and said that if one boxer delivers a blow and then no blow returns, then that boxer will deliver another blow, then another, and another and at some point the other boxer has to deliver a blow, or he’s going to get knocked out and lose. That’s what’s been happening to us. The powers that be have been delivering the blow after blow, and they remain unanswered, and through their ability to persuade people to obfuscate the truth, through their control of the media, they sap the will of people to counter, and pretty soon because of their technology, they will be able to have so much control that it will be very difficult—they’ll put everybody inside the matrix, and it will be very difficult to deliver any kind of counter-blow which really amounts to saving our country.
I see what’s happening to our country kind of like what happened to the Soviet Union after it imploded and the sharks went into Russia and stole the patrimony of the Russian people.
CB: Congresswoman Mc Kinney, your last comment leads me to the final question that I want to ask you today which is: Where do you see us going? You’re on the Budget Committee as well, so perhaps you can say something about our economic future.
CM: Yes, America has been hollowed out by theft and corruption, and we have allowed that to take place, haven’t we? We are borrowing two-and-a-half billion dollars a day. How can the Pentagon’s Donald Rumsfeld say, “Well, we can’t find 2.3 trillion dollars?” Trillion! How can he say that and then in the same breath ask for more money to go to the war machine. It was Eisenhower who said that every dollar spent on war is in a very real sense a theft from people who are hungry and need to be fed and people who are naked and need to be clothed. He also said that he hated war, and he warned us about the military-industrial complex. And now they have just about consumed our freedom, every bit of wealth that this country has earned, mostly as result of the toil of people of color.
The American people are being tricked into believing that we have to build a fence on our southern border. It’s going to make a lot of contractors rich—another example of the hollowing out of the American economy.
All morning, the House had been debating a bill to build a 700-mile fence along the US-Mexican border. As our interview was drawing to a close and while debate was occurring on the floor of the House, Congresswoman Mc Kinney stood up and showed me large, poster-sized photos of immigrants who had sustained severe injuries in attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexican border. She also revealed a photo of a young black man who had been found, hanging from a tree, by school children passing by. She then asked, “When do you think this happened?” I replied that I would guess it happened sometime in the 1960s. Instead, she informed me, it had happened in 2002—in her words, “a twenty-first century lynching.”
“You know,” she said politely and reluctantly, “I need to go vote.”
Just then, I recognized anew that Cynthia Mc Kinney, as Martin Luther King said, “organized her strength into compelling power”, and that power can no longer be tolerated in the halls of Congress, in the White House, at the polling place, or anywhere else in America where it might resuscitate a perishing republic. While I mourn for the poor and people of color who have lost a magnificent champion in Congress, I have no doubt that the retiring Congresswoman will pick up the torch at some other time, in some other place and devote the rest of her life to the causes of justice and human dignity.
As she thanked me sincerely for stopping by to talk, I felt tears beginning to well up inside me. One of a handful of American legislators that I trust was soon to be vacating this building and this legislative body forever. As the cacophonous reverberations of the hallway outside the Congresswoman’s office haunted me down three floors to the exit of the Cannon Office Building and I stepped back onto the rainy Washington streets, I knew that I was living one of those moments of which she had spoken in our interview when she referred to the way in which America had fundamentally transformed after the murder of John and Robert Kennedy and of Martin Luther King. No life was lost, no blood was shed in her highly suspicious electoral defeat, but another tipping point in American history had occurred—another vital sign in the existence of our democratic republic had been extinguished. I knew that most of the officials who occupied the offices of that building were owned by corporations and centralized financial systems, but the woman I had just spent the past hour with was and is not.
Standing somewhat stunned in front of the Library of Congress, I needed a quiet place to reflect, to ponder the momentous experience I had just lived. Suddenly, there was no question in my mind where that place would be—the one place whose solitude and solemnity could exquisitely allow me to connect the dots of history. My next stop had to be Arlington National Cemetery and the graves of John and Robert Kennedy.