Autobiographies from the Dead – Jefferson the Founding Father

For the next several weeks, my blogs are going to consist of “autobiographies” written by some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories will be told by the deceased themselves.  They cry out from the fields, rivers and graveyards to speak.  I have heard their cries.  They want me to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  This week, Jefferson will tell you the story of his life and death.

Jefferson the Founding Founder

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800My name is Thomas Jefferson.  I am one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.  I almost single handedly wrote the Declaration of Independence.  I was the third President of the newly united colonies and one of the most influential and famous Americans who ever lived.  Many people equated my skills and abilities with those of Leonardo Da Vinci.  I was considered a Renaissance Man.  My quotes and writings are ubiquitous throughout the world.  My name is synonymous with the concepts of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Yet, here I am today looking down at my grave in sadness.  I would never have thought that the day would come when I would be scorned and spit on and called a hypocrite.  Of course, even in my lifetime, I had many critics and people who attacked my position.  But it is different today.  Now, they are not doing it for political gain or to thwart my plans for building a great nation.  Today, I am being criticized because they honestly believe that I was a hypocrite and that I deserve to be denounced for it.

The sad part is that they are right.  I was a hypocrite.  I was also a coward.

I want to explain why I did not free my slaves.  I suppose I could make a few good excuses that would have to do with the economic realities in which I was faced.  I can’t deny that I knew slavery was wrong.  I often talked about how evil the entire enterprise was.  Our “peculiar” thing was, as we called it down South, not simply peculiar, it was fundamentally cruel and malicious.  Nevertheless, I was never a very good business man and I teetered between bankruptcy and solvency on a daily basis.  There was no way I could have freed my slaves and still run an economically viable business.  I was caught between making a living and living my ethics.  I choose to eat and continue my privileged life style.  In the South, I was not condemned for this choice.  I received no accolades either.  This was the way we lived.  We owned slaves and slaves were inferior beings born and bred to work for the White man.   I lived in a strange world.  I could not accept these beliefs but neither could I break free of them.  I do not justify my acquiescence and I do not seek to be exculpated for my failures.   If I were in a dock today, I would plead guilty.  My soul could not rest without such an honest admission.

sally hemingsNow we come to Sally.  I loved her like I never loved any other woman in my life.  I started a clandestine affair with her when she was only 14.  Was I taking advantage of her?  Maybe so, I do not know.  I never forced her or threatened her or coerced her.  Perhaps it started out as an affair of passion when my wife was sick and I was not able to have sex with her.  Soon though, it grew into much more than that.  Sally was witty and smart and fun.   She had none of the pretenses of the typical Virginian lady.  In bed, there were no rules and anything went.  If I could have imagined heaven, it would have been being in bed with Sally.

People started to suspect that something more than slave master and mistress was transpiring between us.  I could not afford to let anyone think it was anything more than that.  In 1790, in Virginia, it was permissible to sleep with a slave.  It was not permissible to love a slave.  My reputation, my entire life would have been destroyed if it had been shown that I was openly consorting with a Black woman.  I had six children with Sally.  Each of these children was kept secret from everyone around us.  I took the secret of these children to my grave.  One hundred and fifty years later, my family are still attempting to deny my lineage to these children.   I am sorry that I had to deny them.  I was worse than Peter with Jesus.  They were my children but they were raised in my house as domestic servants.

I freed Sally and her surviving children when I died.  I could not afford to free all my slaves as this would have left my heirs with a large debt.  My lands, house and slaves merely paid off the mountain of bills that my creditors were clamoring to be paid for.

Did Sally love me?  I don’t know.  I would like to think that it was more than simply serving her master.  But who can tell?  In the warped and perverted system that we called our “peculiar” thing, how could a Black woman have a normal relationship with a White man or vice versa?  Suspicion, fear, prejudice, uncertainty and opportunism were all pervasive in Black-White relationships.  Sally may have seen me simply as a way to have her children freed.  I might have indulged a younger beautiful woman simply to satisfy the narcissism of “old” age.  Who knows?  There is no sense wondering what I would do if I could do things over again.  I am sure I would do the same thing that I did before.  I would indulge in cowardice and hypocrisy because I could do no other.

I am looking at my grave stone now.  It reads:


These were my most important accomplishments.  Please remember me for them.  Forgive me for my failings as a human being.  I never claimed to be a god or to be better than my fellow man.  I ask forgiveness from my children and my descendants.  I hope someday my ancestors will acknowledge the patrimony and lineage between the Hemings and the Jeffersons.  Ironic, that in some ways, this lineage is a more fitting tribute to the principle that “All men are created equal” than anything I have ever done with my life.

I never believed in a God of judgement or a God of human like characteristics.  My belief was in some kind of a higher power that created the galaxies but was not necessarily sentient.   I wander now through these galaxies looking for the god of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed.   If I should find him, I will ask him why?  What was it all for?  What did I accomplish?  Would I have left a greater legacy if I had not been a hypocrite?  How could I have done this?   Would he forgive me for my hypocrisy and cowardice?  How do I get rid of the sadness and pain I feel?

Time for Questions:

Do you admire Thomas Jefferson?  What did you find most admirable about his life?  What would you have done if you were in Jefferson’s shoes?  Why?  What do you think he should have done with his slaves?  Why?  Do you think it was wrong for him to have a relationship with Sally Hemings?  Why?

Life is just beginning.

1789 “As far as I can judge from the experiments which have been made to give liberty to, or rather, to abandon persons whose habits have been formed in slavery is like abandoning children. Many quakers in Virginia seated their slaves on their lands as tenants. They were distant from me, and therefore I cannot be particular in the details, because I never had very particular information. I cannot say whether they were to pay a rent in money, or a share of the produce: but I remember that the landlord was obliged to plan their crops for them, to direct all their operations during every season & according to the weather. But what is more afflicting, he was obliged to watch them daily & almost constantly to make them work, & even to whip them. A man’s moral sense must be unusually strong, if slavery does not make him a thief. He who is permitted by law to have no property of his own, can with difficulty conceive that property is founded in anything but force. These slaves chose to steal from their neighbors rather than work; they became public nuisances and in most instances were reduced to slavery again. But I will beg of you to make no use of this imperfect information (unless in common conversation). I shall go to America in the Spring & return in the fall. During my stay in Virginia I shall be in the neighborhood where many of these trials were made. I will inform myself very particularly of them, & communicate the information to you. Besides these there is an instance since I came away of a young man (Mr. Mayo) who died and gave freedom to all his slaves, about 200. This is about 4 years ago. I shall know how they have turned out. Notwithstanding the discouraging result of these experiments, I am decided on my final return to America to try this one. I shall endeavor to import as many Germans as I have grown slaves. I will settle them and my slaves, on farms of 50 acres each, intermingled, and place all on the footing of the Metayers (Medietani) of Europe. Their children shall be brought up, as others are, in habits of property and foresight, & I have no doubt but that they will be good citizens. Some of their fathers will be so: others I suppose will need government.” – Letter to Dr. Edward Bancroft, Paris, January 26, 1789; “The Works of Thomas Jefferson,” Federal Edition, Editor: Paul Leicester Ford, (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5) Volume 5

Autobiographies from the Dead – Chima the Slave

For the next several weeks, my blogs are going to consist of “autobiographies” written by some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories will be told by the deceased themselves.  They cry out from the fields, rivers and graveyards to speak.  I have heard their cries.  They want me to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  This week, Chima will tell you the story of his life and death.

Chima the Slave

igbo boyMy name is Chima.  My slave name is Julian.  My family and I were Igbo people.  I was 9 when I was brought to the United States.  My father and mother also came with me.  We were captured one night by Arab slave traders who sold us to the British slavers.  The year was 1790.  We were chained together with other Igbo tribe members and forced to walk many miles to the coast of Africa. Slaves_ruvuma

Once on the coast we were loaded like cargo into the hulls of the British slave ships.  Nearly 600 of us were loaded onto one slave ship.  As we were loaded into the vessel, we were branded with red hot irons on our arms or chests or legs with the marks of various slave owners.  We were crammed so close together below decks that there was no room to move or change position.  We sat between each other’s legs and could not lie down.

Freed-Slave-Ship-by-Granger-in-Fine-Art-America-665x385There were numerous pails placed among us to use for feces and urine.  Several people were selected to dump the pails overboard each day.  Usually they were overflowing before they could be dumped.  The smell was horrible.  Many of the people selected to dump the pails overboard never returned.  We often heard how they had jumped overboard to drown rather than return to the hull.  Other slaves were then selected to replace them.

We were fed on deck twice per day.  We ate rotten meat and a mixture of oats and gruel.  We were given water to wash our food down with.  The amount of food was never quite enough to make one feel satiated and there was always a gnawing sense of hunger that was pervasive among us.  Many of use died from starvation or dehydration.  The slavers deliberately underfed us in the belief that the stronger of us would survive and bring better money at the auctions.

Slave-hung-on-ship-1Some of my tribal members tried to attack our captors.  This would end in either being thrown overboard or hung upside down from the Yard Arms until they died from starvation or dehydration.  Screams and cries were a constant sound at all times of the day from sick or hungry slaves.  My father died from some disease before we reached shore.  Diseases were rampant aboard ship and no one received any treatment.  Smallpox and scurvy were the most common disease killers.  Probably one third of all the slaves who boarded our ship died before we reached port either through starvation, beatings, suicide or disease.

slave-auction-virginia-PMy mother and I were still together when we reached the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina.  We were brought to an auction house with many other slaves and placed into large rooms with no furniture or windows.  We were kept locked in these rooms like animals in a pen.  They discussed whether to sell my mom and I separately or together and it was decided that because of my age, they would keep us together for a while.

cottonculture-1875After some White people purchased us, we were loaded onto a cart with the other purchased slaves and taken on a two day journey to our new home.  We arrived at a large white building with big columns set in the middle of a large field.  In the field and around the house were many other slaves and White people riding large black horses.  The horse riders all carried whips and riding sticks.  We heard constant yelling and orders which we later learned were instructions to speed up and work harder.

born-in-a-tar-paper-shack1_scruberthumbnail_3My mom and I were brought to a single room shack where an old Black woman lived.  She was given instructions to wash us and show us what the rules were around the plantation.  She was told to get us out in the fields as old slave womansoon as possible and to show us how to pick and tend the crops.  Anna, as she was called, told us that she had lived on this plantation for over fifty years now.  She told us we would both be field hands and that if we worked hard enough we might someday become workers in the big white house.

I first ran away ten years later.  I was nineteen years old.  I did not get very far as some other field workers yelled to the Master that I was running off.  When they caught me, I was tied to a large oak tree and given twenty five lashes.  I was warned never to try it again.  As soon as my wounds healed, I ran away again.  I ran away at least five more times in the next three years.  Each time I got further and further from the plantation.  Each time I was caught the beatings got more severe.  They hung me by the neck once for about three minutes before cutting me down.  I was told that the next time I ran, the hanging would be for real.

My mom and some of my slave friends told me to never quit or give up.  “No matter what they do to you” said my mom, “never give up your freedom.”

I have heard tell of how happy slaves are and how much better off we are on the farms then if we were left on our own.  I never met a happy slave.  I never met a slave who did not want their freedom.  I never met a slave who did not want to go back to their home in Africa.  If we were so happy on the plantations, why do they beat us, chain us, brand us and torture us?

Slave_Hung_1I see my body now hanging from the trees.  It looks like a big celebration going on beneath me.  My eyes are bulging out, my skin is flayed off my loins and I am bleeding from many wounds made by the whips and dogs.  Some people are throwing rocks and sticks at me while other people look like they are having a picnic with their families on blankets below where I am hung.  I see a large pile of sticks being placed under me.  I assume they are going to burn my body now.  It won’t matter much to me because I am already dead.  My soul left my body several minutes ago and I am simply dead meat hanging there.  I am finally free.

I am wondering what I ever did to these people to make them hate me so much.  Why do they treat us as like animals when we have souls and dreams just like they do?  I have heard that White people fought for their freedom and declared the following:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 

How could any people who believed in the above saying treat other human beings as we were treated?  The phase says “all men.”   Was I not a man?  Were my people not men and women?  Did we not want to have happiness and liberty?   How could we have a life and happiness if we were treated as animals and beaten and chained and whipped daily?  I do not understand.

Furthermore, the White people on our plantation all said that they were Christians.  They said they believed in a God who wanted peace and love among all people.  I heard it said that their savior (whom they wanted us to believe in) was a savior of compassion and mercy and forgiveness.  But these people never showed my people any love or mercy or compassion or forgiveness.  They treated us with contempt and scorn and intolerance and hatred.  Everything they showed us was the opposite of what they said their savior stood for.

They have lit the pile of sticks below me now and they are burning my body.  The smell is awful and many people in the crowd are holding their noses while many others are laughing and patting each other on the back.  It is time for me to leave.  I want to go find their God.  I need to see why he would let my people be treated like this.  What have I done to deserve such a fate?   Maybe he will be able to explain it to me.

Time for Questions:

Do you think the slave were happy down on the plantation?  Do you think the Confederate flag is about “heritage and not hate?”   Do you practice tolerance and love to only people of your own color or do you love all people regardless of color?  Why or why not?  What do you do to help fight racism and discrimination?  Do you think it is only a Black fight?”

Life is just beginning.   For some people anyway!

The facts cited below are from:  Center for American Progress

  1. While people of color make up about 30 percentof the United States’ population, they account for 60 percentof those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.
  2. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black mencan expect to go to prison in their lifetime.Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.
  3. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated.Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percentof those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.
  4. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates.The data showed that96,000students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.
  5. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison.According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.
  6. As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percentover the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented.While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.
  7. The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses.According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percentof regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.
  8. Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders.The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percentlonger than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison.
  9. Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color.An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Felony disenfranchisement is exaggerated by racial disparities in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denying 13 percentof African American men the right to vote. Felony-disenfranchisement policies have led to 11 states denying the right to vote to more than 10 percent of their African American population.
  10. Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectoryfollowing release from prison.Evidence shows that spending time in prison affects wage trajectories with a disproportionate impact on black men and women. The results show no evidence of racial divergence in wages prior to incarceration; however, following release from prison, wages grow at a 21 percent slower ratefor black former inmates compared to white ex-convicts. A number of states have bans on people with certain convictions working in domestic health-service industries such as nursing, child care, and home health care—areas in which many poor women and women of color are disproportionately concentrated.

Autobiographies from the Dead – Abdullah the Terrorist

For the next several weeks, my blogs are going to consist of “autobiographies” written by some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories will be told by the deceased themselves.  They cry out from the fields, rivers and graveyards to speak.  I have heard their cries.  They want me to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  This week, Abdullah will tell you the story of his life and death.

Abdullah the Terrorist

AbdullahMy name is Abdullah.  My name means “One who serves Allah.”  They will call me Abdullah the Terrorist.  I have killed twenty-five Jews, five Christians and of course myself.  They will call me a suicide bomber.  Calling it suicide is ironic since I did not want to die and neither did any of the thirty people I killed.

I am twenty-four years old and have recently graduated from Al-Azhar University in Gaza with a degree in Pharmacy.   My parents said that people will always need medicine and I could help many of my people with such a degree.  I had always wanted to help people and I thought of being a doctor but I did not like seeing blood.  Another irony, since I probably have not helped any of the thirty people I just murdered and now I am covered with their blood and my blood.  The blood of an Arab mixed with the blood of infidels.

I am not a fanatic.  I did not choose to do this act.  Never in my wildest fantasies did I think I would become a terrorist.  I am not the type of person who wanted to sacrifice themselves for a cause.  I certainly did not need thirty or forty virgins.  I had all the virgins I could want while I was in college.  How did I get to this place?  I should not be dead.  I should be enjoying a good career, a happy family and a long and prosperous life.

Father PrayingMuslim FamilyI was taught by my father and mother not to hate people.  I was the eldest son in a family of six.  I have two younger sisters and one younger brother.  My father was a well-respected business man with a small appliance store.  He had gone to college for two years but dropped out to help his father run a family business.   My mother is a stay at home mom who loves to read, sew, cook and take care of the family finances.  Both my mother and father are very devout Muslims.  My father always told me, “If you hate people, you are no better than the people you hate.”   So how did I become a “Terrorist?”

It began about a year after I graduated from college and after I had started working as a pharmacy assistant at a small pharmacy in Ramla.  The pharmacy was about an hour commute from my home in Gaza.  I had no problem getting a position there as I had never been linked to any anti-Israel activities.  One day, my father was visited by three men in masks shortly after my family had eaten dinner.  We were all told to “get lost.”   My father was given the following message.

“Allah has been good to you. You have a thriving business.  You prosper and your family prospers.  Over the years, nothing has ever been asked of you for your people and nothing has ever been given.  You take but you contribute little to the freedom of our country.  You are a Palestinian but you ignore the sufferings of your neighbors who are oppressed by the Jews.”

“What do you want of me” said my father.

“All we ask is that you speak to your son.  We want him to join us and help his people.”

“My son has his own free will” replied my father.

“Yes, but your son is also a Palestinian and all good Palestinians are expected to help overcome our oppression.  This is not a request.  It could go very badly for your family if you are on the wrong side here.  You are either with us are against us.  There is no in-between.  Speak to your son and explain this to him.”

“Are you threatening me?” said my father.

“We do not threaten.  We speak for the good of our people.  You have been asked nicely.  Please talk to your son and explain how it is to him.”

They left my father with the address of a meeting place for me to go to.

Later that week, my father came to talk to me about his conversation with the freedom fighters.  He told me what they had said.  He told me that he would not force a decision on me and that it was my choice whether to join them or not.  He said that regardless of my decision, he would stand by me and respect me.

Hamas visits AbdullahI would not dishonor my father and mother and family.  I decided to meet with the men whom he had talked to.  At our meeting, it was emphasized that I had a responsibility to my country as well as my family. Terrorist I was told that many of my friends were also freedom fighters and that I would bring great honor to my family by joining them.  I did not really have a choice.  There were no other options.  Thus, I became a freedom fighter for my country or in the West, I became a Terrorist.

terrorist meetingA few months went by and nothing really terrible occurred.  I continued working at the pharmacy by day.  At night, I ran messages around the town and other minor errands.  My family and friends continued on as before and to all appearances nothing really changed in my life.  Then one day, I was called to a special meeting.  Many of the upper level officers were there.  I had seen some of these men before but as a low level soldier I had never talked to them.  One older and very important looking man stood up and said:

“Abdullah, your time has come.”  Your country has need of your services.  You are the only one who can carry out this assignment.  It will require great bravery and great dedication to our mission.  Your actions will bring great glory and honor to your family.  You will be remembered by all of our people and the name of Abdullah will go down in history for your heroic deeds.”

My knees were shaking and I was full of fear but I answered “What must I do?”  I was going to become a real Jihadi.

Terrorist with bombThe next few weeks were full of instructions and operational details.   I often went between my pharmacy and a pharmacy in East Jerusalem to exchange products and some medicines.  On one of these trips, I would carry a package strapped to my chest.   I would probably not be inspected too thoroughly at the checkpoints since the guards were very used to seeing me come across.  They would usually just wave me through.  I did not have to use too much imagination to know what I would be carrying.  The entire apparatus that I had strapped to me weighed about twenty pounds.  It had a large cord with a ring on one end.  The other end of the cord was attached to a detonator.

My instructions were to go the pharmacy where I made my purchases and exchanges and simply act as I usually did.  I was to do this on a typical workday so as to appear that I was simply doing my job.  The time of day that I was to make the trip was between one and five in the afternoon.  It was thought that at this time of day, the pharmacy would be the busiest and there would be more Jews and tourists waiting for drugs or prescriptions.   I was to count the number of people in the pharmacy and note whether more or less were coming in.  If there were at least twenty five people shopping, then I was to yell out “Allahu Akbar” and pull the detonator.

The day started out like any other day in my life.  I rose at 7 AM.  My brother and sisters were all getting ready for school.  Mom was making breakfast for all of us and dad was doing some work on the internet.  I knew it was going to be the last time I would see any of them but I tried to act like nothing was different and nothing was going to happen.  We ate breakfast and I said goodbye to each of my siblings as they left.  As I went out the door, mom reminded me to take my lunch and I gave her a hug and told both my mom and dad goodbye.  I did not say farewell as I did not want them to be suspicious.  It was all I could do to leave my home knowing it would be the last time I would ever see it.

On the way to the pharmacy, I stopped at our headquarters.  Two men attached the weapon to my chest under my tunic.  The officer in charge asked me if I wanted to go over operational details one last time.  I said no and he asked me if I wanted to take anything for my nerves.  I again replied no.  I left for the pharmacy.  Once at my place of employment I went about my normal routine until 1 PM.  At that time, as I had planned, I said that I needed to go to Jerusalem to pick up some medicine and supplies.  This was a fairly usual procedure for me, so no one raised any eyebrows.

I passed through the check point with no problem.  I was greeted cordially by the guards who made some funny remark that I did not catch.  I guess I was too nervous to concentrate on any banter. I proceeded on to the bus which took me to the large pharmacy in East Jerusalem where I often purchased supplies.  I entered the revolving front door and was surprised at how many customers were either shopping or waiting to have a prescription filled.  I started to follow my instructions and count the number of people who were in the shop.  I stopped after I counted at least twenty five people who were there.  I knew it was time.  I took a deep breath and said a quick prayer to Allah.  I reached under my jacket.  I took hold of the large round ring.  I pulled it as hard as I could.  That is the last thing I remember doing.

**FILE2004** Paramedics take care of a victim who was wounded in a suicide bombing of an Egged bus no. 19 in Jerusalem. Eleven people were killed and over 50 wounded, 13 of them seriously. Both the Fatah-related Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. January 29, 2004. Photo by Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ????? ???????  ???? ??? ???? ???? ?? ??

Paramedics take care of a victim who was wounded in a suicide bombing of an Egged bus no. 19 in Jerusalem. Eleven people were killed and over 50 wounded, 13 of them seriously. Both the Fatah-related Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. January 29, 2004. Photo by Flash90
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I have never seen such mayhem and carnage.  Even in war movies, it is nothing like this.  There are no words that can describe the horror.  People are screaming and crying and pulling their hair out.  Body parts and blood are everywhere.  People are calling out names and looking through the debris.  People are fainting and others are vomiting.  Everywhere, people are weeping.  Ambulances, doctors and nurses are attending to some injured people while others are being carried out on gurneys.  I look for my body but I cannot find it.  People are cursing Allah and many are swearing retribution on my people.  I am wondering if this is Jahannam and I am in it.  Surely, I am not in Jannah.

“Did I do the right thing?”   This is the question that now torments me.  Did I help my people?  Was it worth the cost to other people? What have I now brought down on my country?  I need to find Allah and ask him these questions.  My soul will never rest until they are answered.

Time for Questions:

What is a terrorist?  What is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?  Do you think terrorism is ever justified?   Do you think terrorists might be just like you or I?  Are terrorists cowards or courageous?  What do you think of the comment that the American Revolutionists were considered terrorists by the British during the American War of Independence?

Life is just beginning.

The following deaths are attributed to US military Action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The toll of Iraq’s war dead covered by the report is limited to the early stages of the war, from March 19 when American tanks crossed the Kuwaiti border, to April 20, when US troops had consolidated their hold on Baghdad.

Researchers drew on hospital records, official US military statistics, news reports, and survey methodology to arrive at their figures.

Total war dead (Iraq) From March 19 to April 20

Between 10,800 and 15,100, with a midpoint of 12,950

Combatants killed (Iraq)

Between 7,600 and 10,800, with a midpoint of 9,200

Noncombatants killed (Iraq)

Between 3,200 and 4,300, with a midpoint of 3,750

Up to 15,000 people killed in invasion, claims thinktank  by Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington

Autobiographies from the Dead – Ed the Soldier

For the next several weeks, my blogs are going to consist of “autobiographies” written by some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories will be told by the deceased themselves.  They cry out from the fields, rivers and graveyards to speak.  I have heard their cries.  They want me to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  This week, Ed will tell you the story of his life and death.

Ed the Soldier

My soldier squadI was brave and loyal.  I gave my all for the corp.  I was taught to respect and obey authority.  Right or wrong, it was my job to follow orders.  I never questioned my assignments.  I never questioned my Sargent or my Captain.  As was said in the famous poem, “mine was to do or die and not to question why.”   I am looking now at my body and those of my nine squad members.  We had one medic, three guys with M-16’s, one guy with an MGL-140, one guy with a Barrett .338 Lapua Magnum, one guy with an MPIM/SRAW rocket, one radio guy or in this case a radio gal, Sarge our Squad Leader and of course me also carrying a good old US issue M-16 along with a bunch of grenades.

Iran_Iraq_War_Dead_SoldiersIt looks like my arms and chest have been shot full of holes.  However, I think it was the two bullets that caught me in my brain which finished me off.  My head looks like it was stuck in a meat grinder.  Most of my squad does not look much better.  There are a few guys minus heads, some missing legs and others missing body parts.  A good jig saw puzzler could not put us all back together again.  I can’t believe the number of bullets that hit us.  One minute we were joking around and the next minute it sounded like a Fourth of July celebration.  The difference being that we were the targets and the bullets and rockets were lighting us up instead of the sky.  What happened to our vaunted Intel?

recruitingI enlisted right out of high school.  I did not want to go to college and I could not think of anything else to do.  I went down to my Army recruiting office and was scheduled immediately with an appointment.  I did not have to wait long.  About thirty minutes later, a well-dressed very sharp looking soldier came out of an office to greet me.  “Son” he said, “You have come to the right place. We will fix you up so that you can serve your country and really make a difference in the world.  Do you want your parents and friends to look up to you?  Do you want to be get laid more than you could ever dream possible?  Do you want to be a real hero and not some phony cardboard actor hero, then just sign right here.”

“My boy, you have just saved the free world.  Welcome to the US Army.” 

After basic training, they said I had been selected for a tour in Iraq.  They said it would be easy soldiers with chidren 2duty.  It would just be some mopping up operations and nothing really tough.  The really tough stuff had been done months before.  And besides that, the “ragheads” could not shoot straight so we had nothing to worry about.  Each day we went out on patrol to a different village or a different part of the same village.  They all looked alike.  Some of the Soldiers with childrenlocals seemed friendly, but most just ignored us.  Kids would come over and ask us for candy or cigarettes when they would see us walking.  We were taught to trust no one but after a while you got to know certain kids and you would give them candy or sometimes some money.

The women really kept to themselves.  You hardly ever saw any on the street and if you did they were always covered from head to toe.  We were not allowed to have any alcohol as it is illegal in Muslim countries.  There wasn’t much to do all day long soldiers on reconexcept when we were on patrol.  Most of the fun we had was out in the villages.  We loved to play pranks on each other.  On one patrol, one of the guys had hid behind a wall and as we started to walk by, he threw a dummy grenade at us.  We scattered like rabbits and waited for it to go off.  After a few seconds, we could hear laughter coming from behind the wall.  We soon realized that it was one of our guys.  He was laughing so hard, it gave him cramps.  It took us weeks but we figured out how to get even with him.  I guess we were always really wound up when out on patrol, so it was not hard to find something to break up the tension.  Often it would involve shooting at anything that seemed sinister or menacing.

The Soldiers of Company F

The Soldiers of Company F “Blues Platoon,” 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, move forward, almost shoulder to shoulder, with live ammo while practicing team movement drills at an Advanced Close Quarters Marksmanship course at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, May 13. The ACQM course is meant to sharpen the Soldiers skills before moving north to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The day we got it was like any other day, nothing unusual about it.  It was bright, sunny and warm.  We had an assignment to check out a village that had been quiet for some time.  We were on foot patrol.  Ten of us joking and clowning around.  Some kids had just run by and yelled “Go home Americans” at us.  We threw some candy at them and laughed as they scrambled to pick it up.  As we turned the corner of a street, we saw some quick movement in a doorway and some guys running across the roof tops.  We raised our rifles to fire but it was too late.  The grenades and RPG’s burst all around us and then the AK 47 fire started.  We never had a chance.  There must have been about fifty of them.  We never thought that there were that many bad guys left.  One by one we went down.  I never even got off a round.

I can see them now.  They are picking over our bodies.  They are taking cash, weapons, armor and anything else of value.  The little kids are there too.  They are kicking us in the heads or what is left of our heads.  I even saw one kid who I thought was my friend (I gave him many snicker bars) come running up and kick me in my head.   He then took out his wiener and pissed on me.   It seems like a holiday for them.  They are all so happy.  Like one big celebration.  They are laughing and patting each other on the back.  I can hear one guy in English saying:  “I guess these fucking Americans will go home now.”  Another one replied:  “Yeah, home or Jahannam.”

I know I was supposed to be a hero.  I thought I was making the world safe for democracy.  Where did it all go wrong?  Looking down at our bodies now, it does not seem like we really accomplished much.  It looks like they would have been happier if we had never come.  I guess I might be a hero when my body comes back to Ohio.  I never got laid either.

soldiers in casketsI can’t hang around here much longer.   I can’t bear the sadness.  It is time to leave.  I was brought up as a good Christian.   I am sure that there must be a reason for all this.  My pastor said “God’s ways are unknowable.”   I am going to go find God.  I am sure he can tell me what this was all for.

Time for Questions:

Do we fight for the right reasons?  Do we simply fight the wars that our leaders tell us we should?  Do we question whether we should fight or negotiate?  Are we fighting wars for gold or for justice?  Can we be proud that we are the “land of the free and the home of the brave?”  Are we fighting for the rights of humanity or for our own National pride?  Do you question authority or do you simply go along?

Life is just beginning.

The following excerpt is from “War is a Racket” by Major General Smedley Butler.  General Butler was one of the most highly decorated soldiers in WWI.  He won two Medal of Honor and at the time of his death was the most decorated Marine in United States history. 

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.



Autobiographies from the Dead – Josh the Teenager

Each semester the Graphics Multi-Media Students select a global issue that is meaningful to them and then create a logo and infographic about their issue.

Each semester the Graphics Multi-Media Students select a global issue that is meaningful to them and then create a logo and infographic about their issue.

For the next several weeks, my blogs are going to consist of “autobiographies” written by some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories will be told by the deceased themselves.  They cry out from the fields, rivers and graveyards to speak.  I have heard their cries.  They want me to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  This week, Josh will tell you the story of his life and death.

Josh the Teenager

teen suicide by hangingThey are sorry now!  They are all weeping and crying.  They care more about me now that I am dead then they did when I was alive.  All I ever heard from Mom was her telling her friends how handsome I was and what I good student I was.  Bullshit!  The only time Dad ever talked to me was to tell me how well Robert (my brother) was doing in law school and why couldn’t I be more like him.

Robert was a real suck-up.  He is 21 years old and is forever gloating about his accomplishments in school and in sports.  The big shot was our high school football hero.  Dad spent all his time with him and never had any left over for me.  Robert was a four letter athlete and was in every league in town.  If he wasn’t getting A’s in school, he was getting medals and trophies for his athletic exploits.  I hated him.

I also have a sister Maria who is fourteen years old and the most popular girl in the high school.  That’s because she goes to bed with anyone who has a zipper in their pants, girls as well as boys.  Mom and dad think she is an angel.  She is the biggest slut in school.  My friends are forever making fun of me about her.  Like: “When can I come over and screw your sister?”

My father works for an investment firm as some kind of an analyst.  He makes good money but is always busy.  He probably invented multi-tasking and 24/7 work.  Anytime, I ever suggested doing anything together, his standard reply was:  “Great idea.  Let’s hold it for a while until I catch up on my accounts.”  I have been holding it for seventeen years and still waiting.  He can go to hell.  I hate him also.

My mom was some sort of a medical worker in the local hospital.  She did not like to cook or clean so we went out to eat a lot.  Twice a week, we had a housekeeper come in to do our laundry and straighten up the house.  Mom spent a lot of time at Robert’s ball games.  She also spent a lot of time shopping with Maria.  My mom liked to spent money on clothes and sometimes I could not decide whether Maria was the teenager or my mother was the teenager.  My friends all said that my mom was one hot MILF.

teen_suicide girl thinking about it.I am seventeen years old and a junior in high school.  I have a Facebook page and do lots of on-line stuff.  I hate school and I hate my teachers.  I hate most of the kids in school.  The majority of them are either jerks or snobs.  I don’t belong to any groups and I mostly hang around with one or two friends.  My father wanted me to play sports but I knew I could never be as good as my brother so why bother.  The teachers at my school treated me like I did not exist.  I was a B student and I can’t say I really excelled at anything.  Most of the time, I felt like a born loser.

I often thought of making a big name for myself by blowing up the school or maybe killing both of my parents and my sister and brother but I decided against it.  Not that I did not think they were good ideas but what if I screwed up?  My father was forever telling me what a screw up I was.  What if I screwed up my high school massacre?  What if I botched killing my entire family?  That would prove what a screw up I really was.  I decided that I could not risk it.  Safer to simply kill myself!

cd206d692c9e7c516d212dee1a3e-do-you-think-social-network-site-are-responsible-for-teen-suicide-and-cyberbullyI thought of shooting myself but that would be too messy.  I thought of jumping off a high bridge but that might not be fatal.  I had heard of too many people who had survived such falls.  I finally decided to hang myself.  I would hang myself in the closet at home.  That would be great.  They might not find me for a few days and they would be worried sick.  That would serve them all.

Anyway, I could be pretty sure if I killed myself at home mom and dad would be the ones to find me.  And sure enough they did.  The look on my mom and dad’s eyes was priceless.   There I was swinging from the clothes hook suspended by a leather belt which I had wrapped around my neck.  I had stood on a small step stool and kicked it far away so that I could have no second thoughts.  It was much less painful than I had imagined.  A few choking breaths, a feeling of swelling in my head and that was it.  Lights out!  I think I must have died about ten minutes after I kicked the stool away.

teen knife slashingI am hanging with my tongue and eyes bulging out.  My face is quite red and swollen.  I look rather pitiful.  There is a pool of piss on the floor under me and an awful smell coming from my pants. I suppose I shit myself when I died.  I am glad.  They deserve it.  I hope they are really sorry now for the way that they treated me.  I just wanted them to like me for who I was.  But no, I was never good enough.

It seems like our society is full of heroes and idols and celebrities and athletes and rich people and music stars and famous politicians.  I was a B person in an A society.  Nobody cared about me.  Nobody gives a damn about B people.  Not my mother, father, sister, brother or teachers.  I was not popular or smart or athletic enough to get the girls like the A guys got. The only girls that were interested in me were the losers like I was.  I went out with one girl once and that was my last date in high school.  We kissed a little but she got all agitated when I put my hand on her tit.  She asked me to take her home.  I was a loser with girls as well.

Well, now they will all be sorry.  Screw them.  I don’t care.  They had it coming.  I finally feel like somebody cares about me.  It only took my death before I really mattered to anyone.  I look forward to visiting my funeral service.  That should be funny.  I can imagine all the good things that they will say about me.  At last they will all be able to spend some time with me, even though I am now dead.

I am going to go look for God now.  I would like to ask Her why I was such a loser.  How come I did not get the brains or skills or something that would have made me stand out and be noticed?  Why was life so unfair to me when everyone around me seemed to get some sort of special treatment?   Maybe God will be able to tell me why I was a loser.

Time for Questions:

Can we spot potential teenage suicides?  Are we taking neglecting our teens?  What do we have to do to help decrease teenage suicides?  How does our culture contribute to the problem?

Life is just beginning.

Suicide (i.e., taking one’s own life) is a serious public health problem that affects even young people. For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4600 lives lost each year. The top three methods used in suicides of young people include firearm (45%), suffocation (40%), and poisoning (8%).

suicide warningsDeaths from youth suicide are only part of the problem. More young people survive suicide attempts than actually die. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9–12 in public and private schools in the United States (U.S.) found that 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reported creating a plan, and 8% reporting trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey. Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the U.S.

Suicide affects all youth, but some groups are at higher risk than others. Boys are more likely than girls to die from suicide. Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 81% of the deaths were males and 19% were females. Girls, however, are more likely to report attempting suicide than boys. Cultural variations in suicide rates also exist, with Native American/Alaskan Native youth having the highest rates of suicide-related fatalities. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9–12 in public and private schools in the U.S. found Hispanic youth were more likely to report attempting suicide than their black and white, non-Hispanic peers.  (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)


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