The NBA's Etan Thomas
is the latest in a long line of sportsmen who have stood up for the truth.
Last weekend's anti-war protest in Washington had Thomas imagining the entire
Bush administration living in the slums of America. As he said: "I want
to drop them off and leave them there, let them become one with the other
side of the tracks, get them four mouths to feed and no welfare, have scare
tactics run through them like a laxative, criticising them for needing assistance."
the wide world of corporate sports produces an athlete with the
iron resolve and moral urgency to step off their pedestal and
join the fight for social justice.
A century ago, it was boxer Jack Johnson, flaunting, as WEB DuBois
put it, "his unforgivable blackness." In the 1930s, "the Brown
Bomber" Joe Louis and track star Jesse Owens took turns spitting
in Hitler's eyes, and Mildred Babe Didrikson continued to show
that a woman could be the equal - if not superior - of any man.
In the 1940s and '50s, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and the
Brooklyn Dodgers advanced the cause of civil rights through the
transgressive act of the multi-racial double play.
In the 1960s, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, David Meggyesy,
Tommie Smith, and John Carlos showed how mass struggle could ricochet
into the world of sports with electric results. In the 1970s,
Billie Jean King used a wicked forehand, and took to the streets,
to demand equal rights for women, and Curt Flood showed the labor
movement - and the bosses - how to go from crumbs to a bigger
piece of the pie. In the 1980s Martina Navratilova came out of
the closet and onto centre court, with her girlfriend on her sinewy
arm in plain view of all.
may just have a figure to join their ranks in the NBAs Etan
Thomas. Regular readers of this column will know that I have interviewed
the Washington Wizards' Power Forward on numerous occasions and
highlighted his views on everything from the death penalty to
the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. He is also the author of a book
of poems called More Than An Athlete.
past weekend, Etan made a play for pantheon status. Etan took
it to that Ali level, by delivering a blistering poetical speech
as part of the weekends anti-war demonstrations in Washington
DC. His contribution, which was played in its entirety on Democracy
Now!, is being hailed as "the best of the Day" in various
nooks and crannies of the blogosphere.
Here is the
transcript. Read and pass it along - it has the power to topple
all honor, thanks and praises to God for courage and wisdom,
this is a very important rally. I'd like to thank you for
allowing me to share my thoughts, feelings and concerns
regarding a tremendous problem that we are currently facing.
This problem is universal, transcending race, economic background,
religion, and culture, and this problem is none other than
the current administration which has set up shop in the
fact, I'd like to take some of these cats on a field trip.
I want to get big yellow buses with no air conditioner and
no seatbelts and round up Bill O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Trent
Lott, Sean Hannity, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Bush Jr. and
Bush Sr., John Ashcroft, Giuliani, Ed Gillespie, Katherine
Harris, that little bow-tied Tucker Carlson and any other
right-wing conservative Republicans I can think of, and
take them all on a trip to the 'hood. Not to do no 30-minute
documentary. I mean, I want to drop them off and leave them
there, let them become one with the other side
of the tracks, get them four mouths to feed and no welfare,
have scare tactics run through them like a laxative, criticizing
them for needing assistance.
show them working families that make too much to receive
welfare but not enough to make ends meet. I'd employ them
with jobs with little security, let them know how it feels
to be an employee at will, able to be fired at the drop
of a hat. Id take away their opportunities, then try
their children as adults, sending their 13-year-old babies
to life in prison.
show them working families
that make too much to
receive welfare but not enough
to make ends meet.
sell them dreams of hopelessness while spoon-feeding their
young with a daily dose of inferior education. Id
tell them no child shall be left behind, then take more
money out of their schools, tell them to show and prove
themselves on standardized exams testing their knowledge
on things that they havent been taught, and then Id
call them inferior.
soak into their interior notions of endless possibilities.
Id paint pictures of assisted productivity if they
only agreed to be all they can be, dress them up with fatigues
and boots with promises of pots of gold at the end of rainbows,
free education to waste terrain on those who finish their
bid. Then Id close the lid on that barrel of fools
gold by starting a war, sending their children into the
midst of a hostile situation, and while they're worried
about their babies being murdered and slain in foreign lands,
Id grace them with the pain of being sick and unable
to get medicine.
them health benefits that barely cover the common cold.
John Q. would become their reality as HMOs introduce them
to the world of inferior care, filling their lungs with
inadequate air, penny pinching at the expense of patients,
doctors practicing medicine in an intricate web of rationing
and regulations. Patients wander the maze of managed bureaucracy,
costs rise and quality quickly deteriorates, but they say
that managed care is cheaper. Theyll say that free
choice in medicine will defeat the overall productivity,
and as co-payments are steadily rising, I'll make their
grandparents have to choose between buying their medicine
and paying their rent.
I'd feed them hypocritical lines of being pro-life as the
only Christian way to be. Then very contradictingly, Id
fight for the spread of the death penalty, as if thou shall
not kill applies to babies but not to criminals.
introduce them to pigs who
love making their guns click
like wine glasses.
Id introduce them to those sworn to protect and serve,
creating a curb in their trust in the law. Id show
them the nightsticks and plungers, the pepper spray and
stun guns, the mace and magnums that
theyd soon become acquainted with, the shakedowns
and illegal search and seizures, the planted evidence, being
stopped for no reason. Harassment aint even the half
of it. Forty-one shots to two raised hands, cell phones
and wallets that are confused with illegal contrabands.
introduce them to pigs who love making their guns click
like wine glasses. Everlasting targets surrounded by bullets,
making them a walking bull's eye, a living piñata,
held at the mercy of police brutality, and then well
see if they finally werent aware of the truth, if
their eyes werent finally open like a box of Pandora.
show them how the other side of the tracks carries the weight
of the world on our shoulders and how society seems to be
holding us down with the force of a boulder. The bird of
democracy flew the coop back in Florida. See, for some,
justice comes in packs like wolves in sheep's clothing.
T.K.O.d by the right hooks of life, many are left staggering
under the weight of the day, leaning against the ropes of
hope. When your dreams have fallen on barren ground, it
becomes difficult to keep pushing yourself forward like
a train, administering pain like a doctor with a needle,
their sequels continue more lethal than injections.
keep telling us all is equal. Id tell them that instead
of giving tax breaks to the rich, financing corporate mergers
and leading us into unnecessary wars and under-table dealings
with Enron and Halliburton, maybe they can work on making
society more peaceful. Instead, they take more and more
money out of inner city schools, give up on the idea of
rehabilitation and build more prisons for poor people. With
unemployment continuing to rise like a deficit, it's no
wonder why so many think that crime pays.
this trip will make them see the error of their ways. Or
maybe next time, we'll just all get out and vote. And as
far as their stay in the White House, tell them that numbered
are their days."
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