EMAIL PAGE ONE
COLUMN EIGHTY-ONE, JANUARY 1, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
IN DEFENSE OF AMIRI BARAKA
To Whom It May Concern:
I want to register my outrage at the slandering of Amiri
Baraka for alleged anti-Semitism, in his 9/11 poem 'somebody Blew Up
America". I find it very
troubling that the Anti-Defamation League evoked the tragedy of September 11th
and its impact on the families to race-bait and distort Baraka's poem and call
for his resignation. My father, Barry H. Glick lost his life in the World Trade
Center on the 11th. He worked for
the Port Authority of NY/NJ and was assisting a woman, paralyzed by asthma and
fear. Amina and Amiri Baraka warmly
attendeded my father's Shiva, the traditional Jewish mourning service, lifting
our spirits in that dismal time. Even as we mourn the loss of my father and have
not yet buried him, the ADL is using his memory and that of others lost in the
tragedy to pursue their narrow slander against Baraka, shamefully claiming the
banner "disrespect for lives lost on 9/11".
The ADL has historically preyed upon Jewish Americans'
legitimate concern for escalating anti-Semitism and anxieties related to the
Holocaust to validate its right-wing ideology.
Conflating criticism of the national polity of Israel (not its people)
and anti-Sharon opinion with anti-Semitism truncates the very wide political
continuum in Israel and represents a narrow?"you are either with us or
with the terrorists"'type political line.
Its willingness to use the charge of anti-Semitism to so casually dismiss
and shut down rational debate and discussion surrounding prominent Afro American
culture workers and political figures smacks of anti-Black racism.
Yet, this issue is neither about 9/11 nor Israel per se?it pertains to
the merit of a poem. It would have
helped if the ADL demonstrated an iota of literary analysis in their slander
instead of harping on a singular line, out of its poetic context.
In its rush to a judgment of anti-Semitism, the ADL misread
the strategies of the poem. 'somebody
Blew Up America? uses repetition'the repeating of the term "Who? 'to
posit a continuum of crimes against humanity to question the integrity of
America's "War against Terror". By
universalizing the demand??War against Terror? and applying it to the
history of anti-Black racist terror and Imperialist aggression world wide,
Baraka's work opens up discussion and frees up a space for contradiction and
dissent. "Who? does not
represent Jews?but a poetic field exploring imperialist aggression, fascism
and domestic oppression within the U.S and throughout the world.
Contrary to Gerald Stern's claim that Baraka introduces hate and
separation through his art, his poem brings contradiction into a mainstream
media discourse in which rational discussion and dissent are virtually absent.
The poem refuses to privilege one group of victims of violence over another.
It raises inquiries of prior knowledge of 9/11 as an appeal for more
democratic debate and access to information for the victims of 9/11. The poem
fulfills its role in asking questions. This
poem includes protest against historical
acts of anti-Semitism. The political subject referent of the oft repeated Who is the International ruling class?which is neither loyal to
caste, color, religion or nationality, only capital and plunder.
The contentious line in the poem in this context certainly does not read
as some sort of Medieval blood libel. Rosa Luxembourg, Liebneckt, and the
Rosenbergs, all mentioned in the poem are the complete antithesis of t the ADL.
These Jewish figures were murdered for their refusal to compromise with
the exact society/economic order that produces anti-Semitism and makes it a
viable ideology. The ADL's
problem is that it evokes Judaism to pounce on all forces (especially people of
color) challenging the stability of American ruling class hegemony, war, and
Israeli policies against Palestinians. Perhaps
the "Big Lie? referenced by the ADL is not Baraka's poetic endeavors, but
the ADL's willingness to misrepresent Baraka's work and plug it into its
fantasy construction of a singular "Arab World? that is homogenous and
somehow magically unified in its anti-Semitism.
It is this same reductive fiction of an "Arab World?, ideologically
unified that is being evoked to rationalize the up coming slaughter in Iraq.
Baraka has fulfilled his role as Poet Laureate by bringing national
attention to poetry and has successfully utilized poetry to introduce ideas into
the political public sphere.
Jewish literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin in reference to escalating European fascism wrote, 'that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins". I hope that the ADL might think twice in evoking the memory of victims like my father, for fodder in their hysterical crusade against one of New Jersey's greatest artistic and political assets. I also would encourage Governor McGreevy not to take one-sided, literary advice from bigots.
Jeremy M. Glick
* * *
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMN EIGHTY-TWO
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMNS
Blacklisted Journalist can be contacted at P.O.Box 964, Elizabeth, NJ 07208-0964
The Blacklisted Journalist's E-Mail Address:
THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ