Cynthia McKinney tells it like it is
A Conversation with Gary S. Corseri
2012-02-23, Issue 571
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I grew up in New York City, and have travelled and lived in different parts of the world, including about 18 years in the “Peachtree State” of Georgia. For almost as long as I lived there, I'd heard of Cynthia McKinney — the first African-American woman to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives. To be honest, a great deal that I heard from the Mainstream Media was negative, portraying Ms. McKinney as a crazy shrew, an over-the-top black radical who questioned the official story of 9/11; opposed the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and, recently, in Libya; opposed Israeli policies, and supported Palestinian demands for statehood. About three years ago, I heard McKinney speak at a conference at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Instead of a crazy firebrand, I heard an intelligent, measured, if passionate, presentation of why she challenged US war policies.
When I returned to Georgia, I wrote a friend in the UK about my hope to interview McKinney. My friend related a story about the “Dignity” ship, carrying food and medical supplies to Palestine, in 2008, rammed by the Israeli Navy in international waters. McKinney was on that ship, and when it was rammed, she turned to my friend's brother and said, “David, I can't swim.” Nothing I had ever heard about McKinney revealed her character more succinctly. This is a woman willing to put her life on the line in support of her principles. Missing from the mainstream media depictions were the human and humane aspects of her character. The MSM has too-often portrayed the struggle for justice as irrational, or even fanatical. I needed to know more.
GARY CORSERI: Let's start with a big one… about the day that changed everything—9/11.
[And, for a sense of the very sharp way McKinney performed her duties — and the People's business – in the US House of Representatives, while on the Budget Committee, I recommend checking out this 9-minute 2006 YouTube video of her grilling Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, General Meyers, and Tina Jonas about 9/11 and related matters.]
In 2004, you signed the 9/11 Truth Movement statement, calling for new investigations of “unexplained aspects of the 9/11 events.” More than 7 years have passed since then. What would you say are some of the more egregious “unexplained events”?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: … How is it that the people of the United States can invest trillions of dollars in the military and Intelligence infrastructure—and it failed four times in one day? … That singular question has never been answered.
GARY CORSERI: Staying with 9/11. … Distorted as they have been by the Mainstream Media, your views have caused uninformed Americans to question your patriotism. In 2005, you held Congressional briefings on the official 9/11 Commission Report—
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Yeah. ... the only official briefing on that subject held on Capitol Hill, period!
GARY CORSERI: Well… The Atlanta-Journal Constitution editorialized that—
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Oh… you mean, The Urinal-in-Constipation !
[General laughter in the room. …]
GARY CORSERI: … They editorialized that—
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: You call them legitimate? I won't even legitimize them with a response! Whatever they say is bogus! You got another quote from somebody?
GARY CORSERI: No… well, hear me out.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: I'm not going to respond to anything they say!
GARY CORSERI: Well… you did, in fact, respond to an editorial they wrote when they editorialized that the briefings you were holding were to determine whether the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the attacks. That was their editorial! You replied…, but they refused to publish your response. …So… how did you respond? Can you tell us now?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Oh, I can't even remember back that far…, but, I think the record now reflects what Bush knew… and I'm sure that part of what I said is that I would never try to go inside George Bush's brain to see what's there!
GC: Too many maggots?
GARY CORSERI: So, your main question is, Where was our air force, why didn't they prevent it—
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: We know where they were. … The question is, Why didn't they follow standard operating procedures?
GARY CORSERI: And the other questions about buildings free-falling into their footprints… Building 7—
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Look… I spent last September '11 in the home of a woman who is afflicted with cancer… because she lived near the World Trade center. And all of that dust came into her apartment… and she had to clean it up. … She will never figure into any of the statistics about who has been affected—her situation will never count… but it counts to me, and to all of the other memebers of the 911 Truth Community.
GARY CORSERI: Let's explore another controversial issue linked to you. … Ms. McKinney, what does the number “88794” signify for you?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: That was the number that was assigned to me by the Israeli prison system when—on my second attempt to get into Gaza—I was kidnapped on the high seas in international waters and taken against my will to Israel and put in prison. … David Halpin, the UK physician, and I sat next to each other because the volunteers—the activists that were on the boat—were international and spoke different languages… so I sat next to the English doctor… and he railed, he railed, he railed as the warship came close to us…, then backed off…, then approached us again—very quicly and very quietly--in this cat-and-mouse game. … And he cursed my government… because it was with the assistance of the United States that those engines had been provided to the Israeli military so that they could do what they were doing to us.
GARY CORSERI: Did you join him in the cursing?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: No. … In fact…, I do a lot of apologizing! I can say this: In the struggle for human rights, I consider prisoner # 88794 a badge of honor that I've acquired as a result of what I have chosen to do to assert my own right to recognize the human rights and the dignity of other people.
GARY CORSERI: Let's continue with this theme of recognizing other people's human rights. … More recently, this past year, you were in Tripoli when NATO bombed Libya. What were you doing there… and can you describe that experience?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: I voluntarily went to Libya. … Any time the War Machine rolls—I have to oppose that! Libya was a special case, a personal case… because I had just been to Libya. … I had taken a delegation of independent journalists to go to Libya… because I did not believe the explanation that was given to the public about the necessity to bomb Tripoli and other cities in Libya. … While we were there… we experienced what “shock and awe” is all about. The individual who went to the UN with allegations of thousands dying at the hands of Colonel Gaddhafi and the Libyan government—when he was pressed to substantiate his claims, he couldn't.
GARY CORSERI: That reminds me of the allegations made against the Iraqis in Kuwait, back in 1990--that they were taking babies out of incubators and throwing them on the floor!
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: It's also a situation similar to that of the Cuban-American community congregated down in Miami… right after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 where we had a community of expatriates who were willing to unleash terror on their own country… and, a similar thing was happening in Libya… with the United States providing financing for these individuals willing to lie about what was happening.
This information is available on the Internet. Julien Teil interviewed the individual making these false claims at the UN. The interview can be found here. …It's on YouTube, as well. Julien also interviewed the woman at Amnesty International who had claimed that “African mercenaries” were supporting Gaddafi's repression of his people; but, when challenged—and this was all after the devastation—she admitted that it was “just a rumor.”
My colleague, David Josue, and I had been in Libya to attend a conference for Africans on the continent as well as Africans in the diaspora. And what the Jamahariya government had devised was a call to Africans in the diaspora who were unhappy with their treatment at the hands of white Americans or white Europeans, etc.—to come back home to Africa and to help Libya rebuild Africa and rebuild itself.
[Interviewer's NOTE: (from Wikipedia): “Jamahiriya” is a term coined by Gaddafi, usually translated as “state of the masses.”]
That was the purpose of this conference I had attended. … And it was at that conference that the Jamahiriya committed 90 billion dollars to help in the creation of The United States of Africa. … That would also include a million-person army for continental Africa to drive back the attempts of AFRICOM and others to occupy the African continent. … That was in addition to the proposal for a gold-backed dinar for all of Africa. … The daughter of Kwame Nkruma was at that conference; the son of Patrice Lumumba was at that conference… the grandson of Malcom X was there. … The atmosphere was electric with the idea of the re-building, the re-kindling of the movement that these African leaders—or their forebears—represented. Well… that was all put to an end by NATO's bombing.
[Interviewer's NOTE (from Wikipedia): The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) is one of nine United Combatant Commands of the United States Armed Forces.]
The attack on Libya was an attack on Africa! It was an attack on my aspirations as a person of African descent to have a free and independent Africa. That's what was attacked!
GARY CORSERI: I've never had as complete a picture of that. … I'd heard that Gaddafi wanted to set up a gold-backed dinar. … In fact, people like Ron Paul even talk about using gold-backed currency... so I've heard that as a rationale for what we were doing there—trying to prevent any challenge to the US dollar as the world's reserve currency. … But…, nobody has described the situation as completely as you have.
My final question on Libya is this: You have praised Colonel Gaddafi's GREEN BOOK and the kind of “direct democracy” advocated therein. Can you give us a brief lesson as to how that “direct democracy” differs from our “representative democracy”?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Our “democracy” is neither democratic nor representative! But… let's start with what the Jamahiriya means to me. … The only stake that I have is that I want to see a free and independent Africa…, but the type of government that Libya has should be determined by the Libyan people. I don't really have a say in that. … And I shouldn't have a say in how they dispose of their governmental form. … Therefore, it's inexcusable to ask another country to bomb your fellow countrymen if you really care about your country!
The Jamahiriya — which had the highest living standard in all of Africa--had free education up through the Ph.D. level; free health care; free utilities, subsidized—and free, if you were poor—housing; subsidized food; subsidized transportaion, including car expenses… and so, the necessities of life were paid for by the direct democracy known as the Jamahiriya.
Can you imagine…? I have a cousin who is $120,000 in student debt in the U.S. She has a Master's degree as a social worker. Now, if she had been born in Libya — she would have no such debt. … I went to a university outside of Tripoli and asked the students about their tuition fees… and the word didn't translate. I asked them about what they paid to attend the university. … It was $9.00 per year!
When I was in Congress, one of my allies was Senator Mike Gravel… and Senator Gravel's initiative is about “direct democracy.” He had been to Libya… and he supported the establishment of the revolutionary committees which was the way Libyans determined how they would use their oil money.
A question under discussion when I attended the conference there was whether the subsidies for gas/petrol or the subsidies for education would be increased! (In the US, under “austerity” measures, people are being told which programs will be eliminated or eviscerated; in Libya, they were voting on which programs would get increased subsidization!)
What I have said publicly is that what we have been seeing is the Israelization of US policy. You know… the only reason the Libyans took any interest in me was that someone in Libya, looking at their television, saw me having all these problems trying to get into Gaza… and they said, “We want to know her!” That's why I was invited to attend this conference on THE GREEN BOOK—to explain what I was trying to do in Gaza. And what I observed in Libya was the same kind of collective punishment I observed in Gaza. People supporting their own governments were being punished by outsiders who opposed those governments!
This is the kind of thing that happens in the absence of ethics in journalism. … Because… we don't have journalists in the Mainstream—I call it the Special Interests Press--to educate and provide information to citizens so they can make a critical analysis of issues. That is absent. … We need ethics in scholarship; ethics in journalism, as well. …The journalistic community has gone along with the kind of death and destruction that has been visited upon Libya… and so many other countries. We're setting up drone bases all over Africa… and people here don't even know… don't begin to understand.
GARY CORSERI: You've mentioned many potent issues, including the “Israelization of US policy.” I'd like to explore that, and also explore the theme of alliances—even unlikely alliances. …
In the 2002 election to the House of Representatives, people like your father and the editor and commentator Alexander Cockburn alleged that your defeat by Denise Majette was a consequence of out-of-state Jewish organizations and Jewish money working against you---
CYNHTIA MCKINNEY: That's not an allegation—that's a fact! I was informed that I had been targeted by the pro-Israel lobby by the media. … I read about it in the papers! … and the evidence is readily available. …So, the fact of being targeted by the number-one special interest lobby in the United States means that there is an engagement in every aspect of one's political life.
GARY CORSERI: Well, ah, let's tackle this head-on: Are you anti-Semitic?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Well, I'm, ah… I'm no more anti-Semitic than than any of the anti-Zionist Jews who I work with on an almost-daily basis to correct US policy. And, I would suggest that the real Semites are the Palestinians. And, therefore, I would suggest that I'm not anti-Semitic, but that there are people who are anti-human rights, and there are some people who are anti-peace, and there are some people who are pro-war… and no matter who they are, I will always be against that… because I. … You see what my… my button says?
(She points to a button she is wearing on her blouse). My button says, “I'm a peace-keeper” And, this one says, “War is a crime!”
GARY CORSERI: “Blessed are the peace-keepers. …”
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: When I was in Congress, I organized a press conference with organizations like “Jewish Workers for Peace,” “Not in My Name, Women in Black [www.womeninblack.org]— we had about ten organizations at that press conference… and it was fantastic.
That night, the Atlanta News criticized me for associating with “fringe Jewish elements”! Now… what's a “fringe Jewish element”? It was the Anti-Defamation League that was casting this aspersion!
Now, the Anti-Defamation League that I knew about is supposed to be a Civil Rights organization. But… the Anti-Defamation League, in practice, filed an amicus brief with five white racists to dismantle the district—my district!--that provided an opportunity for black people in the black belt of Georgia to have representation! Those are the people who sent me to Congress to represent them! … I stand on their shoulders, and I did my darnedest to represent them—and I was rewarded by the Anti-Defamation League filing an amicus brief and a lawsuit to dismantle that district and take representation away from those poor, black people.
GARY CORSERI: I can certainly understand your indignation. And I don't want to hammer this issue. … But, this is on Wikipedia… and, as one researches you—this is what one comes across:
About that election with Majette, your father, a former state representative in Georgia, stated that “Jews have bought everybody… And then he spelled it, “J-E-W-S. …” Now…, personally, I always make a distinction between Jews and Zionists—and you just did. … I try to distinguish between people who follow a religious tradition and those who assert a political-nationalist ideology. … And, ah… I think writers like Gilad Atzmon, for example, have been very clear about making that distinction in his recent work like The Wandering Who?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: I haven't read that, but—
GARY CORSERI: I haven't read it, but I've read about it—
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Gilad is coming to Atlanta this month —
GARY CORSERI: Is he? I'd like to meet him.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Yes. … You must come —
GARY CORSERI: I will! But, ah, anyway… do you think, in retrospect, you might recommend changing the terminology a bit-- just to broaden the dialogue and widen the base of opposition to inhumane practices?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Well… let me tell you something. … I want to talk to you about. … The first time my daddy got into trouble was when he said, “racist Jew.” And, I had a Jewish friend who was trying to smooth things over. And I asked her, “Is Jew a bad word? I didn't know “Zionist”—I didn't even know that word at the time… because… here's the thing: the Anti-Defamation League says that they represent all Jews—that's what they tell us. AIPAC, also. So… I didn't know that there was a word called “Zionist” until I became involved with the Betrand Russell tribunal on Palestine. … And there was a famous Jewish lawyer who was one of the leaders in that tribunal, and I went to him and I said, “Daniel, how does your family feel about your being in this tribunal?” and he said, “My family are anti-Zionist Jews.” And I said, “I don't know what that is!” I was 50-something years old, and I'd never heard the language! Now, of course, I've been exposed… and I'm more sensitive that there's a difference. … Now… I have marvelous Jewish friends… and I understand the difference between Judaism and Zionism. Whoever prays to whatever God is fine with me…, but, a political ideology is quite different. … I know I have a lot to learn when it comes to Zionism and Judaism. … I'm not very religious… but I am spiritual… and I'm very interested in people's beliefs… but, I'm more interested in the way people behave. … So, I would always say, Judge me on what I do more than on what I say. … And, I acknowledge that I can be wrong about what I say. … And, my father can be wrong about what he said.
GARY CORSERI: Thank you very much. … I think you've clarified that for a lot of people. Now… this idea of building alliances. … I'd like to discuss current events, namely, the Presidential election
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Um-ha.
GARY CORSERI: First, a re-cap: In 2008, disgusted with the Democratic Party, you were the Green Party candidate for president. That same year, you joined a press conference held by 3 rd party and independent candidates, including Ralph Nader and Ron Paul. The participants agreed on 4 basic principles:
1. An early end to the Iraq War, and an end to threats of war against other countries, including Iran.
2. Safeguarding privacy and civil liberties, including repeal of the Patriot Act, the Military Commisions Act and FISA legislation.
3. No increase in the National Debt.
4. A thorough investigation, evaluation and audit of the Federal Reserve System.
My question is this: If these different elements of Independent thought could come together on these 4 basic principles in 2008, why can't they unite behind the same principles in 2012?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: They can.
GARY CORSERI: Isn't it possible to conceive a party that speaks for the majority of Independents, that unites Independents? The 4 principles that united Independents then are still very much with us—and in many ways the dangers are greater—the possibility of war with Iran looms larger now, and there's the National Defense Authorization Act, as well as the other intrusions on privacy and civil liberties. More Americans classify themselves as “Independents” than as Republicans or Democrats. How can the varied strands of Independents work together to defeat the Republicrats?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: The answer to that question goes to the core of the kind of change we hope to initiate on a policy basis. … So… how do we do that? I think the first thing is that we have to be willing to talk to each other. We have to recognize that there's commonality despite difference. So… the thing that allowed Nader and me and Paul to come together is that we were at least willing to see areas of commonality. We should be able to do that across the political spectrum. And, in fact, when I was in the Congress, I was forced to do that. … As a Southerner, I — and as someone who had to get votes — not lose them — I needed the endorsement of a leader in the community… and he was a Klan member… and I had no choice. … I asked him for his support—and I got it! (After I sat there for over an hour and he described to me how “confused” the people were because of the way they judged the Ku Klux Klan to be racist!)
[Here, CM gives a strong, hearty guffaw!]
And… I sat there and found a place where we could have a meeting of the minds—and I did it!
GARY CORSERI: Related question then: I've been criticized because I wrote an article, about a month ago—“The Lion and the Ox” — praising Ron Paul's stance on ending the wars, ending the Empire, auditing the Fed. I also think his views on our antiquated, absurd and minority-punishing drug laws are far more enlightened than anyone else's —with the exception of 2012 Green Party candidate, Jill Stein's. Paul makes a distinction between Capitalism and Corporatism — an important distinction. Now, I'm not a Libertarian; I don't agree with “unregulated” Capitalism to the extent Paul and Libertarians do. But, I wonder: Given various points of convergence, how can the Green Party and Libertarians work together to overturn what we have in America today—basically, a one-party system, a Corporate Party system, abetted by corporate media?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Well, one thing is that the Libertarians and the Greens could join forces — kind of a united front. So… I'd like to see if those kinds of talks could get anywhere.
GARY CORSERI: A friend of mine suggested a Paul-McKinney ticket.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: That was your friend, huh?
GARY CORSERI: Well, you know… when I first heard that, I thought, “That's crazy!” But… I thought about it, and I thought, “Why not? We live in crazy times. …”
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Yeah… we do.
GARY CORSERI: I mean… look what we have to choose from: Santorum, Michelle Bachman, Hermain Cain, Gingrich, Romney--all these crazy people.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Every time there's a vote, it gets more outrageous, doesn't it?
GARY CORSERI: It does! Well… what do you think about Paul-McKinney?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Well… we're not there yet, so I don't have to think about it at all!
GARY CORSERI: Well.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Let me put it this way. … We do have overlapping constituencies. … So… it would be wonderful if the two circles could expand beyond their points of intersection. …And I'm not just talking about Paul. … I'm talking about people on the Left in general. … Because, there's no more Left and Right. It's only Right and Wrong now… and the old “Right” is Wrong… and the old “Left” needs to be more Right… does that make sense?
GARY CORSERI: Yes.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Yeah, because the Left is being co-opted. … So, the Left needs to be more Left!
GARY CORSERI: There needs to be a convergence where the Greens and the Libertarians can meet —
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: And the militia! You know… I have to deal with the militia, too. I'm from Georgia, right? They participate in the political system—to the extent that they do—and somebody needs to be talking to'em… because, ultimately, they're a part of the 99%. … And that's the gift that the Occupy Movement has given to us—they've given us a way to self-identify. Now we know—it's not about color, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation—all of those things. At the end of the day—if you're part of the 99%, you're part of us… and if you're part of the 1%--you're part of them!
GC: Related question: Okay…also about Current Events: this is about the Occupy Movement, then.
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Okay.
GARY CORSERI: We live in a Surveilance State. Our license plate numbers are routinely recorded; we're finger-printed for jobs, our Social Security numbers serve as National I.D.'s, our e-mails are monitored for “code” words or phrases, our homes are surveiled by satellite mapping systems of Google, Yahoo, etc. Those who protest, as in the Occupy Wall Street movement, are arrested, booked, and more closely watched. Now they have “records” that affect their employment. … My question is: how do we battle this pervasive system? Do you get discouraged? What do you do when you are discouraged? Who are your “heroes”? To whom do you turn for inspiration?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Do I get discouraged? Yes! What do I do when I'm discouraged? … find other people who are not yet discouraged!
Who are my heroes? Everybody! Everybody who has a tough row to hoe in life! Those are my heroes. Those are the people who give the most! When I was running for Congress back in 1992--for the first time—I was running to represent the second poorest district in Georgia… and, what I learned was that the poor people gave the most! The people who had… didn't give as generously as the people who didn't have! So… my first campaign theme was, “Warriors don't wear medals, they wear scars!” So… my heroes are the community and neighborhood warriors who have a whole lof of scars, a whole lot of dignity.
GARY CORSERI: I'd like you to talk specifically about what used to be called the Black Liberation Struggle. As a young, white man, I was inspired by the works of black writers like Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Leroi Jones (now called Baraka), Eldridge Cleaver, W.E.B. DuBois, and poets like Langston Hughes. Martin Luther King and Malcom X were inspirational leaders for all people; Rosa Parks was a woman of quiet, dignified courage. But, now, with the election of Obama, and with the prominence of people like Bill Cosby first, and Oprah Winfrey, the billionairess—the great struggles of the past almost seem quaint. What's your take on this? Who are the great black leaders today? What is the struggle about today?
[Note: There are 7 million Americans now under “correctional observation.” More African-Americans' lives intersect with our prison-industrial-surveillance complex than there were African-American slaves in 1850!]
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: You asked me who are my heroes. … One of my heroes is Glen Ford, who writes for The Black Agenda Report [http://blackagendareport.com/]. I view him as the most astute political observer of our times.
There's a whole lot of pundits who are in our faces every Sunday morning who think they are political observers…, but they are not astute! And they're also not independent. Glen Ford is independent, he's been through the wars and he has no special interests to kow-tow to. … He just wrote a piece… “Can the Proud African-American Progressive Legacy Survive Another Four Years of Cowing to the Corporate Servant in the White House?” That's strong stuff…, but right on point!
We have a situation now… it was the Black struggle that really defined morality in the United States. It defined the moral imperative. And the character of the country was measured by how well it answered the call of Black people for justice. But what happens when Black people stop asking for justice? I think you get exactly what we've got now—a President who is dropping bombs on Africa… which is un-thought-of; I mean, it would have been un-thought-of four years ago that Africa would be bombed—routinely! But it's a routine matter now that the United States Africa Command [AFRICOM] would actively establish itself and militarize the US relationship with Africa. AFRICOM represents a kind of US imperial occupation of the continent that we haven't seen since the days of outright colonialism of the Europeans. We are being told about issues that are “important”…, but we're ignoring the real issues that are important! Henry Kissinger said that he couldn't believe the amount of good will that was embodied in this president! But… what people like Kissinger don't “get” is that this president sits on top of the historic Black struggle that characterized the United States to the world! People around the world thought that Barack Obama characterized the New United States! But… far from it! A lot of people got tricked and fooled and now… as philosopher Michel Foucault has observed—the every-day actions of ordinary people actually entrap them in “powerlessness”. … So, to break out of your powerlessness, you've got to break out of your existing paradigm. So, as long as Barack Obama is representative of the existing paradigm, this is what we're going to get… because the existing paradigm is war and more war!
GARY CORSERI: How do we “break out”? How do we fight the Mainstream Media that's constantly projecting that paradigm and hammering it into our brains?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: The literature suggests that people have to be confronted with a “disorienting dilemma” that causes them to reflect on what they've just experienced.
GARY CORSERI: Cognitive dissonance?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: That's right. … Reflect on what you always assumed… and what you've been confronted with that contradicts your assumptions. … For some people, it was the murder of JFK; for others, it was the murder of Malcom; for others, it was the murder of MLK; for a whole bunch of others, it was the murder of RFK; and for some people who began to look and pay attention like me… it was the murder of all of them and then add onto it the murder of the members of the Black Panther Party—who were attacked by our own government.
You could say that for me, my first “disorienting dilemma” was when I realized that I was black. I realized that the world around me was not like me, and that it didn't value my black skin! That, for me was when I began to pay attention and wake up!
GARY CORSERI: How old were you?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Seven or eight. …You know… for some people it's religion, it's race, it's gender, it's, maybe, sexual orientation. … Everyone has their moment of reckoning.
I think, ultimately… it's about the love we have for humanity and how we see something is wrong and we have to stop it!
So… by the time I got to Congress… I had had my “reckoning,” and I had had my “break-out” moments, and I guess this gave me strength and vibrancy… and there were people who didn't like it. I wore my hair differently, I dressed differently from the other people in Congress. There was even a segment of the Capitol Hill police that didn't like that.
GARY CORSERI: What year was that?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: 1993.
GARY CORSERI: Wasn't there a much more recent incident with the Capitol Hill police?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: No, no, no. … It happened for twelve years! … Twelve years of harrassment from the Capitol Hill police! They considered it a “sport” to harass me! … It's available on the Internet… if you go to YouTube and you put in “The Last Plantation.”
GARY CORSERI: The infamous incident is when you apparently struck back at the officer who was harassing you. … Is that correct?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: The officer had no business putting his hands on me! … And I reacted like any normal person would react when being attacked by some great big, huge guy from behind! … This was a “hit.” It was a “hit”—a “sport”--for the white officers. You'll see if you go to that “Last Plantation” site that I had been targeted because I had written a letter of support for the Black Capitol Hill police officers.
GARY CORSERI: And this most infamous incident… that was the same day as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: That's right. … The Mainstream Media didn't want to lead with that indictment, did they? It was much more sensational and distracting to lead with the story of a black Congresswoman attacking a Capitol Hill police officer!
GARY CORSERI: You're a pretty brave woman, aren't you?
CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Everybody can be brave… they just need that break-out moment of recognition. … I've stood on some big shoulders. … As I said before — my campaign theme: “Warriors don't wear medals… they wear scars.”
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* Editor, teacher and writer Dr. Gary S. Corseri has taught in universities in the U.S. and Japan, and in public schools and prisons in the U.S. His articles, poems, fiction and dramas have appeared at Countercurrents, CounterPunch, InformationClearingHouse, CommonDreams, The New York Times, The Village Voice , and hundreds of other venues worldwide. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. His books include novels and poetry collections. He can be contacted at [email protected].
* This article was first published by Countercurrents.
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