Commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal: THE DEATH MACHINE

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Everything in the world has a rhythm to it, a wave frequency, so to speak, that shows its ebb and flow.

The same could be said of the American Death Machine, that scattered and fractured political tool of extinction that is so distinctly American, yet so continues to fascinate and disturb her European cousins, in France, in Italy, in Germany, and the U.K.

Why is this so? This is so because no European state presently practices the death penalty, and most have formally abolished it. From that perspective, learned after several generations without the gallows, the American appetite for death seems perfectly ghoulish to them.

They can not now fathom the specter of George “Dubya” Bush, a governor who has sent more people to the gallows than any recent governor in recent American and certainly Texas history. With his enigmatic smirk, and shattered syntax, “Dubya” may well be termed Guvna Death for his embrace of the American regime of extermination.

Texas has become emblematic of America’s dark passion for death. Yet, as ever, Texas has become an out-sized, larger-than-life, quasi-caricature of the American death culture, with a system that dispatches the poor, the African American, and the Mexican to the next world, after trials where lawyers have drooled in slumber while seated at the defense table.

Only in the Lone Star State could a so-called supreme court justice defend such a procedure, claiming that “the Constitution may guarantee a man a lawyer, but there is no guarantee that the lawyer be awake.” It is these kinds of “defenses” that have landed the poor on the gallows, the lineal descendant of the lynching tree.

These judicial opinions, like many similar ones across the U.S., are for domestic consumption, and for political consumption, and are not meant to be shared with a global audience. In the vacuumed silence of their absence from international review, one can make all manner of empty claims about the “rule of law,” or of the hallowed “right to counsel,” or of any other alleged constitutional “right.”

In truth, what kind of right can there be without the fundamental right to life? For poor people, facing the armed might of the state, to speak of rights is but to converse in a language that one side cannot speak in or decipher.

While the bourgeois and middle-class Blacks lament the flying of a Confederate flag in a Southern state, a long campaign of legal carnage takes place among the urban poor, under the American flag in courtrooms from coast to coast, daily.

Their fear lies not in the archaic symbolism of a dead Confederacy, but in the very real slaps and assaults on Black life and dignity, whether in the streets, in the stores, in police stations, and in the courts of the land. We have all been conditioned to look askance at the white hood and robes, while we are taught to look respectfully at the very same actor who wears a black robe, before the field of red, white and blue, and the Seal of the State.

Through her courts, and under her legal pronouncements, the legal structure implements a kind of new-age slavery, which exploits, not the labor, but the very lives, of Black men and women. It is this social factor that gives resonance to the very concept of the Prison Industrial Complex.

This nation would not exist were it not for the slave coffle, the Winchester, the noose, and the ghetto of social exclusion. The American Death System functions now as a modern reflection of the violent and nightmarish horrors that attended the birth of the nation. It is part and parcel of a machinery of fear, of pain, and of repression that lay in the seed of American nationhood.

For foreigners who yet marvel at this current wave of U.S. bloodlust, they need only study true American history.

©MAJ 2000

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