25 September 2017   Leave a comment

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho made the following statement to reporters today:

“Since the U.S. declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down the U.S. bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country”.

The statement ratchets up the harsh rhetoric between the two states, although the actual substance of the rhetoric remains opaque.  The US and North Korea have been in a technical state of war since 1953 since the Korean War ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty.  The two states do not even share diplomatic relations.  But the threat of shooting down US airplanes in international airspace is extraordinary.  Joseph DeThomas has written a superb essay on the risk of war for the blog, 38North, which outlines the heightened risks we now all face.

North Korean Airspace

 

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Nine brave young African-Americans were escorted to school under the protection of National Guard units who were following the 1954 decision of the US Supreme Court in its decision, Brown vs. the Board of Education, Topeka Kansas and ordered to do so by President Eisenhower.  The Governor of the state, Orval Faubus, had closed the schools in order to resist the order to integrate.  The integration of Little Rock schools was an important moment in the civil rights movement in the US.

 

 

But it was only a moment.  To be followed by other “moments”.  As athletes in the US take action to demand racial equality in the US today, it is worthwhile to remember other times in US history when athletes have taken a stand.  One of the most stirring moments was when boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, refused induction into the armed forces because of his opposition to the war in Vietnam.  Ali was similarly excoriated when he took he stand and he was convicted for the crime and stripped of his championship.  The Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971.  But Ali was clear in his beliefs:

 

 

 

Finally, in the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, winners in the 200 meter race, held their arms up on the podium while the “Star-Spangled Banner” was being played.

 

 

Wikipedia summarizes the protest well:

“On the morning of 16 October 1968, US athlete Tommie Smith won the 200 meter race with a world-record time of 19.83 seconds. Australia’s Peter Norman finished second with a time of 20.06 seconds, and the US’s John Carlos won third place with a time of 20.10 seconds. After the race was completed, the three went to the podium for their medals to be presented by David Cecil, 6th Marquess of Exeter. The two US athletes received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride, Carlos had his tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with all blue-collar workers in the US and wore a necklace of beads which he described “were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the Middle Passage”.  All three athletes wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges after Norman, a critic of Australia’s former White Australia Policy, expressed empathy with their ideals. Sociologist Harry Edwards, the founder of the OPHR, had urged black athletes to boycott the games; reportedly, the actions of Smith and Carlos on 16 October 1968 were inspired by Edwards’s arguments.

“The famous picture of the event was taken by photographer John Dominis.

“Both US athletes intended to bring black gloves to the event, but Carlos forgot his, leaving them in the Olympic Village. It was Peter Norman who suggested Carlos wear Smith’s left-handed glove. For this reason, Carlos raised his left hand as opposed to his right, differing from the traditional Black Power salute. When The Star-Spangled Banner played, Smith and Carlos delivered the salute with heads bowed, a gesture which became front page news around the world. As they left the podium they were booed by the crowd. Smith later said, “If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”

Protests invariably incite a negative reaction.  But the passage of time often vindicates those who were brave enough to take a stand.  It is unfortunate that these lessons are too often forgotten.

Posted September 25, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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