Friday, October 22, 2010

Huey Newton, and Revolution

"The only revolution worth fighting for is a humane revolution." (Huey Newton)

Been thinking about Huey, since the last post. If you're not familiar with the story, he was murdered August 22, 1989, by a guy named Tyrone Robinson, described by local police as being a drug dealer. Shot down on the streets of Oakland, in the neighborhood where the Black Panthers were born a couple decades before, an ending to his journey which pleased his enemies profoundly.

But I think the bullets were just an implement of the despair that gradually filled the space where hope had been—they were the foul dust left in the wake of the Panther's crippled dream, that carried Huey from this earth, along with numberless others of several generations of black men since. Whether they have become "property" of the prison industrial complex, or whether they lay stupefied in a back-alley or a crack-house, or whether they reside now in cemetaries, their stories are so many and so common that we grow not just inured to them, but wearied by them, persuaded by our fear and our ignorance to look the other direction, while they circle the drain of America's porous consciousness.

Their real killers, and his, are the constructors of that despair, and they laugh at these ideas. Roll their eyes. Believe this. I have seen them up close, have been regarded as one of their own. They have the empathy of a lizard for a fly, the pity of a snake for a field mouse. Despair is what they do. They exert their wills using every means at their disposal, exploiting insecurities, animal discomfort, and fear. When that doesn't work, they imprison. And when that doesn't achieve the desired effect, they murder.

Huey Newton overcame tremendous obstacles in his life. The racism he experienced did not deter him, but made him stronger. Not knowing how to read after graduating high school did not prevent him from teaching himself, and eventually achieving a PhD. The occupying army in his neighborhood, and the profiteers they served, did not stop him from serving his community, from teaching others to hope. The government whose professed principles he believed in, but which was in reality owned by the profiteers, turned its darkest nature against him. They subverted those principles to destroy him, causing him to look still deeper into his character, and to refine the greatness that lived in him, creating an alloy probably unlike anything he had imagined, going in.

The long night beginning with the escalation of the war in Vietnam has taken its toll on all of us, even those who did not live through it. It haunts our national life, has wrecked our faith in our institutions, and from our resulting apathy has created the space the corporatists have needed to undo the New Deal, program by program, idea by idea.

They like to point out that Huey had human failings, and especially, that he was addicted to drugs. Maybe that's so, I dunno. The 80's were tough, and the spirit of Reaganism deadening, stifling. It was a decade defined by greed, and by apathy, and maybe that's what broke Huey's heart. He could handle everything else, did not fear confrontation and struggle, and did not shirk from the imperatives of his beliefs. But the turning away—from the possibilities of promises finally realized, inward, to the insular, and to the materialistic—maybe that was too much.

Yeah. The video is an interview with this Humane Revolutionary from jail, talking about his ideas. It'll give you some notion of who he was, in case you don't know.

"You can kill my body, but you can't kill my soul. My soul will live forever!" Those were Huey's last words, looking down the barrel of Robinson's .45.

And I, for one, believe it. The idea of a forever without Huey in it is simply unacceptable.

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