Cable News Network (CNN) did what they have not done since the transition of Michael Jackson – cancel several regular programmes to air life, the ‘celebration of life’ of a legend for several hours. Certainly, it fell short by several days of what the network did in the case of Michael Jackson. But it was still very satisfying I believe, to all who watched it across the globe. The ‘Queen of Soul,’ 76-year old Aretha Franklin had bowed out gracefully and the world’s number 1 television network sang along.
One is not sure of what was the most memorable activity of that August 31st, 2018 fiesta; was it the music from several celebrities or the messages, or the eulogies from celebrated voices including the first ‘black’ President of the United States of America (USA), Mr. Bill Clinton who was there with his ever-radiant wife, Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton? (Let’s never forget that Mrs Clinton missed the nation’s Presidency by a whisker and America and the world are the worse for it). Since this piece is about what has been widely regarded as a ‘controversial’ sermon, I should be permitted to pitch my tent with the messages, specifically one of them.
The sermon (or religious message) was delivered by Reverend Jasper Williams Jr., Pastor Emeritus of the Salem Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Among other issues, he asked whether indeed black lives matter when it is the blacks that slaughter their fellow blacks far more than whites do. He noted that when a white man, police officer or an extremist take one black life, there are demonstrations all over the country and beyond. Meanwhile, on the streets of the USA, dozens of young black lives are being wasted through gang wars and drugs sold by black drug merchants. No one organizes a march when blacks mindlessly slaughter blacks. We are told Aretha’s family found the address ‘offensive and distasteful;’ maybe they are not aware that Aretha was a civil rights activist and that reckless loss of black lives meant so much to her.
Let us for now forget that Steve Wonder, when he took the stage after the sermon, insisted that black lives do matter. It appeared at first hearing that his statement was a gentle repudiation of the sage, the Reverend William Jr. However, when Steve Wonder said, “Let’s make love great again” (rather than America as Donald Trump touts), it was evident that the great musician was on the same page with the revered Pastor. If humanity loves humanity, then all lives will matter, including those of animals in the wild that poaching may soon make extinct.
What Pastor Williams Jr. evidently was trying to put across at that most auspicious forum (Aretha, a civil rights activist certainly heard and loved that message) was that you cannot complain that someone is inflicting a tiny cut on you when you are notorious for inflicting life-threatening and gaping wounds on yourself. Ibibio elders in Nigeria tell us that when one finger is pointed at an accused, the other four-point at the accuser. And that when an individual says his house is ramshackle, the gods assist him by setting fire on the house. Blacks do not believe their lives matter; so, the gods assist them by telling them to slaughter each other. Imagine what Moses did; despite the trappings and juices in the palace of the Pharaoh, he killed an Egyptian to defend his brother Jew because to him, the life of every Jew mattered. Why would blacks not defend each other in a society that is so racist? If any group should adopt what was done in Australia decades ago (mass dumping of guns), it should be the black people in the USA. If they start, the gun lobby will collapse, and the slaughter would ebb and eventually end.
At the larger level, there are enough statistics to show that American lives were taken by ‘terrorists’ is a tiny fraction of the lives lost to gun violence in the USA. This in no way is meant to strengthen the arms of people who take lives for reasons they know are not acceptable even to themselves. The issue is that there are so many cases of self-inflicted wounds in the world today. Unfortunately, lawmakers and policymakers are not helping. In the USA, Congress appears emasculated by both the NRA and the Executive. In the Republican Party, anyone who is anti-Trump cannot hope to win even the primaries and Trump uses the fear of tampering with the Second Amendment to hold people captive.
There is self-inflicted wound when educated people are so incensed with being ‘left behind’ that they don’t mind cutting their noses to spite their faces. Thank God some Independents have had a re-think. But the so-called ‘Trump base’ – 36% are willing to mortgage their futures to retain their man in office. The ‘other’ 64% can do something. Imagine that in just one city, all blacks with guns agree and surrender their guns and let go by way of a bonfire. It should not be a surprise if whites do same, for the rationale behind gun ownership by many whites is to defend themselves and their families against possible attacks by blacks. So, if the threat is eliminated, whites may likely drop their guns. Imagine that such action went ‘viral’ and covered the 51 states. There will be no need for gun-control legislation and the nation’s students would concentrate on their lectures without fear. And the 2015 figure of 22, 103 suicides through guns would possibly be zero.
The outcome of such a revolutionary step would be unpredictable. One cannot be sure of how even the NRA would react; what everyone can be sure of is that Donald Trump would release a flurry of angry tweets, blaming Democrats for inciting the people against him. And the ‘fake’ press would be lambasted too.
Australia solved its gun violence through legislation following the 1996 murder of 35 people by 26-year old Martin Bryant who used assault rifle for the attack that killed several tourists and a woman with her two babies. Clifton Leaf writing in Fortune Health states that in 2015, only 32 homicides were recorded in Australia that has 24 million people while Chicago recorded 500 homicides from a population of 2.5 million people. Now that individuals can produce guns with printers, America must brace up for more mass murders given the lack of political will by Congress.
Take Moslems for instance. Other than Russia and its show of strength in Syria, which another nation in the world is targeting the lives of Moslems? Rather, how many days go by without a report of mass slaughter in Afghanistan and Iraq? The ‘strength’ of Boko Haram, is it not borne by innocent Moslems? See what Saudi Arabia did in Yemen recently, yet the power in Riyadh has bluntly refused to accept it was wrong; rather it continues to put up a stout defence, holding that the target were rebels who were part of the bus that conveyed those school children on excursion. What does it take to say, “We are sorry; this will not repeat itself?”
We see self-inflicted injuries in the USA as celebrated economists and notable Congresspersons and Senators defend the actions of the President of the USA despite the potential for long-term damage on the country and the world. With Senator John McCain gone, who else has the ‘liver’ to stand up to excesses and in defence of American ideals which the rest of the world look up to?
Self-inflicted wounds are so glaring when evangelical Christians are looking the other way as the President they support rides the tide of exposure of one immoral act or the other and goes unscathed. How can one explain or justify the uncritical defence of their protégée? What should the church expect of the new generation of their members in the age of Trump? If the church backs so many aberrations including separation of children and parents, which moral high ground will it stand to fight immorality and inhuman policies in the future? Should the cover-up in the Roman Catholic Church not be enough reason to choose revulsion on acts that are against the tenets of the faith rather than the crumbs from the table of White House which the evangelicals are enjoying today?
Daniel Cripe used statistics to analyze gun deaths versus homicides caused by terrorists. In 2015, number of gun deaths (recorded) stood at 13, 018 as against 44 homicides that were terrorism-related. What a gap! Mr Cripe noted that he could not easily obtain the data because the National Rifle Association (NRA) goes out of its way to block research on gun violence. But that is an association, a group of people whose ‘legitimate’ interest is to protect their businesses which employ probably millions of Americans and pay shareholders billions of dollars that can be ploughed back for more profits. It’s a win-win situation for a government that desperately waits for job numbers to be released every month while watching and gloating over the great leap forward of the DOW. But who loses? The voters of course, and particularly, those who wait to shout ‘black lives matter’ when a black man is felled by a trigger-happy white police officer while singing Amazing Grace when a black mows down a black.
We see self-inflicted injuries as countries of Africa continue to receive loans from China of which repayment is tied to unpredictable situations that will ultimately see those projects being managed by the Chinese, some for as much as 75 years following default on loan repayments. It is China’s strategy and its working, after all, the great Chairman-for-life recently announced a new $60 billion ‘investment’ package for undeveloped Africa. Thank God strident voices are rising higher against this new model of colonialism, including that of the revered Emir of Kano, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, one-time Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Self-inflicted wounds are there as janitors look the other while crude oil, a wasting asset, is pumped offshore without measurement and people whose communities cannot even contribute a bundle of brooms as natural resources are given oil blocks worth billions of dollars, yet they do not have the faintest idea how the blocks should be exploited let alone how the proceeds should be used in the interest of Nigeria. Imagine that several generations to come will have to work under a yoke placed on them knowingly by their forebears, for instance to pay back foreign loans or watch helplessly as foreigners rake billions of dollars from facilities on their land wrongly acquired via “long term collateralization.” It has been said that this is a new phase and face of neo-colonialism.
We conclude by recalling the “celebration of life” concept that kept millions glued to the television screens around the world on August 30th. In Nigeria, most departed persons are sent off via “celebration of life” even if there is nothing to celebrate. The family and relations go into huge debts to make an impression, each family trying to outdo the other as to which did the more outlandish thing or introduced a novelty. It is difficult to believe that people sell, sometimes the only plot of land they have just to carry out a ‘celebration of life’ for the departed yet still leave mountains of debt. Probably Christians and traditional religionists would borrow a leaf from their Moslem brethren on this? ‘Celebration of life’ that leaves in-coming generations in avoidable debt is a de facto self-inflicted injury.