Powell To The People

My father was born in Charlottesville VA in 1925.  One of four sons they lived by meager means.  He joined the Army during the Second World War not to defend his country, but to defend what was his.  He told me growing up, “This country, this world, will give you few things.  Even the things you earn and deserve will often be withheld from you.  As an African-American born in the mid-twenties, this was more true.  Patriotism is fine but understand I don’t fight for my neighbors or other Americans.  They have husbands and sons that can do that for them.  I fight for that small piece of land with my name on it and the piece with my mother’s name on it.”  He would tell me if you watch your history, the government will give you nothing.  It has to be earned.  They seldom do things out of the goodness of their hearts.  They do things because of bus boycotts and protests.  They do things because of pressure.  They fight Civil Wars because Europe tells them they are barbarians for the antiquated practice of slavery.  The nineteenth century equivalent of, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  Most often, you will find obstacles to prevent your betterment and the successes you have will be minimized.  In the day, one drop of black blood would be enough to get you hung, today you can have 50% black blood and someone will be quit to point out that Tiger Woods and Halle Berry aren’t “really black” therefore dismissing their Masters Tournament and Best Actress wins.  Or expect to be told you have the job you have because they had to hire you, never mind you are qualified.  What they are really saying is without them you couldn’t have what you have and you owe them.  Remember, everything you don’t have is because they designed a system to withhold it from you in the first place.

When Michelle Obama said, For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback,” I knew what she meant.

After WWII, my father did a tour in Korea.  He eventually retired a Master Sergeant having served as twenty four years as a Drill Instructor.  My father thought Full Metal Jacket was a comedy and made him long for the “good ole days” of a “Man’s Army.”  This didn’t mean an Army without women… it meant an army where you could punch a soldier in the gut and not get reprimanded.  He used to tell me stories of Basic Training where he would make soldiers dig six foot ditches, toss a cigarette butt in it and have them bury it and then have another team dig it out.

That’s just how they did things then.

My father admired Colin Powell.  Like many black people, we take the accomplishments of members of our race as our own whether that be Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff or embarrassment of the guy who punches a fourteen year old girl in the face in front of his children in a McDonald’s for unintentionally cutting in line.  Colin Powell had a simple background and used his means to become the most powerful black man in the history of America as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (under Reagan) and Secretary of State (under Bush 43).  It’s been argued Powell, was America’s most successful black politician without having ever sought an elected office and even after his participation in the Iraq War, 75% Americans still viewed him favorably.

My father liked Colin Powell because when he spoke, it always seemed heartfelt.  He didn’t seem to tell you what you wanted to hear and there is something to be said for making people eat their vegetables and not placating their egos.  Powell didn’t seem to live in a world of Us vs Them and instead he lives where we all should… in a world of We.

Powell has long been the considered the most rational voice of the Bush Administration.  I remember when Iraq started and I was confused.  Everything they’d told us was about Afghanistan.  I got a bad taste in my mouth and told my friend Ray Pfriender, I didn’t understand what Iraq did.  He told me there were Weapons of Mass Destruction and I remember watching the Powell in front of the UN showing us the satellite photos and I thought, “If Colin says they’re there…”

Personally, I don’t think there were ever WMDs.  Ray will tell you the UN jerked around so long they had time to move them into Syria.  To me, it seems if you have WMDs on satellite then it should be someone’s job to watch that screen and know where they are at all times and not let someone slip them away in the dead of night.  They don’t record these feeds?  The other scenario is your intel(ligence) is completely wrong and we invaded a country who has never killed or threatened an American, overthrown its leader, killed thousands of Americans as well as Iraqis and thrown it into chaos because Saddam Hussein is a dick.  Either scenario reeks of incompetence.

Powell has gone on record as saying the decision to invade Iraq was made without his consultation.  You have to question the wisdom of invading a country when Colin Powell is in the next room and you neglect to run that past him.  I often wonder if he knew the data he showed the UN was inaccurate.  If they told him they’re 90% sure there were WMDs and he placed his bet and everybody knows the house always wins.

This past Sunday I watched Meet The Press with Tom Brokaw and when Powell prefaced his Presidential endorsement, I sat there with Natalie and her father Bruce, and listened to Colin Powell’s America.

It looks a lot like mine.

I believe there is a little heartbreak in his voice and I can hear McCain (as well as a few million Republicans nationwide thinking, “Et tu, Brute?”  I think Powell is a man betrayed by his party and it hurts him.  The same way McCain has this look of regret knowing the woman’s at his rally accusing Obama of being an Arab would be everywhere within the hour.  A look that he knows once you’ve riled up the villagers and they’ve gotten their shotguns, pitchforks and lit their torches… someone is going to pay.  That’s what lynch mobs do.

I won’t synopsize Powell’s comments because I won’t do them justice.  I’ll just say Natalie cried, I welled up and had he probably bought me at least three days of being in a good mood about politics and the state of my country. 

There will be people that will discredit this.  The FoxNews.com forums were littered with it.  It’s a black man siding with another black man… what did you expect?  This is because apparently white people have the skill and integrity to be open-minded and fair so when they vote for the white guy, it isn’t about race, it’s because he’s the better candidate.

My father was right.  As usual.

PS – I even felt the need to break out my Colin Powell GI Joe Jessica bought for me years ago for Christmas.


A Real America Hero

A Real America Hero


One thought on “Powell To The People

  1. A powerful blog, Jim.

    I have been and will continue to be jaded when it comes to any aspect of ‘politics’- we’ve talked about this. I just refuse to believe that anyone can reach an upper rung of politics by being clean.


    If someone can make a real change, if someone can serve as a genuine example of trying to do the right thing in a very gray world, THAT is someone I would want for a president.

    This is not good versus evil. This is two men that have rose to the station of vying for the position of leader of the most powerful country in the world. This is two parties clinging to, advertising, promoting the word most of America is convinced will be the one thing that will make everything all right: CHANGE.

    To some, however, that CHANGE is only ok if it is a CHANGE on their terms.

    To the candidates: Is your use of this word truly the way you plan to drive your presidency by, or just a pre-requisite catchphrase?

    How much do we truly want CHANGE? And how many people still fear it? How many people remain at the ignorant level of seeing this as a ‘black’ candidate and a ‘white’ candidate? How many people pathetically refuse to rise to an intelligence level where they can see the person below the level of skin color?

    And perhaps the most dreaded question of all that has to have taken up residence in the backs of the minds of the intelligent, thinking American- how many people are so incredibly terrified of a CHANGE such as this that they would become desperate enough to do something to stop it?

    I hope we never get to find out the answer.

    What’s right is right, and ignorance is never right.

    I resent ignorance. From those that were raised that way to those of a wealthier and possibly better educated establishment. I resent this establishment, and we should ALL know better. Most likely, some of us just choose not to.

    The saddest thing may be this: With all we’ve accomplished as a nation, with all the amazing things that we are capable of, why is THIS issue still a battle that we have to fight?

    With the power to change the course of a planet, why can’t we CHANGE ourselves?

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