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Thursday, December 23, 2004

THE HEAD OF DE SOTO 

FROM THE NOVEL: CRIES FOR A VISION BY JACK RANDOM.

Tohocua burned with a fire that would never cease. He hated the invaders from across the great waters with a passion that refused to abate in time. Even now that the conquistadors had been driven from their lands, now that their heads rested on stakes, eyes open to the celebration of their defeat. Even now, the memory of Umpiqua, a massacre of old men, women and children, burned in his soul. Even now, he remembered the horror in his daughter’s eyes when he rescued her from De Soto’s camp in the stealth of night.

For seven moons before this day, he carried the death of his wife from the black robe disease, the killing of his sons in battle, the abduction and rape of his daughter in a heart too heavy with grief. It was not enough to kill these men, not enough to cut off their heads, not enough to burn them at the stake or dismember their bodies. No torture yet invented could satisfy his need or the need of his people for revenge.

Tohocua had himself witnessed the conquistadors’ excess on the battlefield. Sword against spear, steel against carved wood and stone, they pressed their advantage with a brutality unknown to the people of the mounds. They enslaved the men, raped the women, killed the children and humiliated the chiefs.

All of the conquistadors – Cortez, De Leon and De Soto – had scorched the land from Florida to Mississippi, leaving behind a vast trail of destruction and disease. They were a plague upon the earth and now, at long last, the plague was vanquished.

As leader of the seven tribes, Tohocua sat on his throne atop the tallest of seven earthen mounds in a forest clearing beneath a sky of a million stars, his body still aching for Spanish blood, his heart pulsating with righteous indignation, crying out for still more vengeance. With a wave of his hand, he acknowledged the people below and they roared their approval at a shooting star, a sign of the gods, as a thousand drums pounded in unison, sending forth a reverberation that shook the trees, boiled blood and raised hot spirits in the victorious night. Five hundred warriors, their golden skin still glistening with the sweat of battle, danced around blazing fires, flames reaching to the heavens.

Tohocua gave them what they longed to see with their own eyes, thrusting before them the head of De Soto, himself, still encased in the silver crown of the Spanish cock, the headdress of the conquistador. It was a sickening sight, almost unrecognizable for the disease that marked it with sores and stole what little color it once possessed, yet the people were satisfied and rose as one in a deafening roar. This was the proof they required that the evil ones, the fearless warriors with coats of steel no arrow could pierce, the white eyes with fire sticks and strange dark magic, the shameless ones who killed everyone and everything they could not use or possess, the monsters were finally dead.

He held the trophy out to the warriors who had joined together to track and fight this powerful foe, who defeated and pushed him from the continent. He heaved it into their midst where the strongest battled for the prize, for the honor of being the one to stake it and light the fire that would burn the darkness from the mind, the heart and the memory of the people.

Surely, the enemy would never return. Surely, when the survivors told what happened here, how the tribes united against them, they would no longer venture into the land of the Mound Builders. Surely, the Great Spirit would deny them passage. Surely, they would recognize that the balance had tipped against them. Surely, they were not so bold, so full of themselves that they would march again into the cauldron of destruction.

On the one occasion when Tohocua spoke to the Conquistadors directly, he told them that the only way to defeat the people that belonged to the land was to kill them all.

He felt the presence of his daughter at his side, her body warm and her eyes aglow in firelight. He brushed her silken hair from her golden cheek and remembered the girl she had been. She was a woman now. The Spaniards made her a woman before her time but they could not take from her the spark that was her own. They could not kill her spirit.

She had her mother’s eyes and, like her mother, she was groomed to one day take a seat in the counsel of elders. Perhaps she would fulfill her destiny after all. It warmed his heart to see her come alive. In her eyes resided the hope of all her people. In her eyes, as the head of De Soto was engulfed in flames below, the future revealed itself in slow moving, flowing, changing pictures. As the celebration erupted, drums pounding, fire and dance, singing, feasting and laughter, Tohocua saw the truth and it changed his heart to stone.

He saw the white man’s boats with towering white sails emerge on the eastern horizon in hundreds, then thousands, then too many to count. He saw them transformed into titans of steel with smoke billowing from chambers of fire. He saw the invaders swarming over the land like a cloud of locusts, blocking the sun and choking the earth. He saw the forests reduced to barren landscapes. He saw rivers of fire and skies thick with poisons. He saw his brethren spirits of the forest – deer, elk, mountain lion, bear, beaver, hawk and eagle – hunted for their skins, for feathers and for sport. He saw the people walk the western trail into the dying sun, heads bowed, ravaged with hunger and disease, their spirits broken. He saw them captured and held like the white man’s spotted cows, whipped, chained, beaten and forced to march the long path to the land where death awaited. He saw once proud warriors and women with white painted faces and others hiding in the shadows of the sacred mountains. He saw himself alone on this same earthen mound, only now it was covered in tall grass and he was chief to no one.

The earth rumbled and the vision was shaken from his view. He looked to the skies where dark clouds swallowed the moon and blocked the stars. The people stopped dancing, singing, celebrating, the drums stopped pounding, owls halted in their silent flight, cicada stopped chirping, and even the fireflies stopped flying as a fresh new wave of dark silence washed over them. The people turned to their chief, expecting some reassurance, a show of defiance and strength, but the chief had nothing more to give. He had seen tomorrow and it left him dumb.

A clap of thunder and rain buckled from the clouds and the people broke for shelter. Tohocua reached for his daughter’s shoulder but found no one in her place. The earth crumbled beneath his feet and blood red clay swallowed him to the waist. Through his daughter’s eyes he saw her running through the trees in endless circles of fright, chasing echoes, following shadows and reflections, her fear building with every step, with every bog and hollow, searching for the way out, searching for a tunnel of light, searching for her father, her fearless chief, searching for her people and a way of life that no longer existed.

The people cowered behind boulders, in caverns and caves, beneath rotting wood and fallen leaves, hiding like corpses in shallow graves. Everywhere the black robes, the twisted shamans of the conquistadors, wandered the earth and wherever they walked, death followed.

He heard his daughter scream but he could not answer. His heart in his throat, he could not cry out. He heard her torment but the earth gripped his legs, swallowed his body and he could not move. He heard her struggle followed by silence, followed by dead cold empty silence, and still he could not move.

[Editor’s Note: To date, the only successful occupation of a foreign land is that of the Europeans in North America. That it was achieved by genocide is undeniable fact.]

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Monday, December 20, 2004

HONOR & IRONY 

By Jack Random


In a world gone mad, where fools are crowned king, we honor the dishonored and shower integrity with scorn.

We are living in an age when audacity, hypocrisy and obstinacy are elevated, through the miracle of media spin, to the highest honors while simple honesty, integrity and courage are qualities deserving only scorn and those who possess them must be brought down a rung on the ladder of prestige.

We have witnessed a dual assault on the characters of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and the chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Based on nothing more than conjecture, innuendo and connections so nebulous they invite comparison to Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, an American congressman calls for the head of Kofi Annan. When the congressman is joined by a chorus of neoconservative war criers and their media consorts, the motive comes into focus. At a time when it still mattered, the Secretary General spoke the words that virtually every member of the international community (including Tony Blair) knew and accepted but few dared speak: That the American invasion of Iraq was in violation of international law.

In the blood stained eyes of the White House and the neoconservatives who actually run the ship of state, that was an unforgivable crime. It had everything to do with blood for oil and absolutely nothing to do with oil for food. Like mafia thugs working an extortion sting, if they cannot get to you directly, they will get to your son. If they cannot build a substantial case, they will settle for dragging you through the mire.

They may yet have their way with world’s most prominent diplomat. They desperately need him to lend an air of legitimacy to the upcoming election in Iraq. If Annan withstands the latest round of pressure, he will secure his place in the annals of integrity.

By all accounts, the White House failed to uncover incriminating or even compromising evidence to encourage Inspector ElBaradei’s resignation. It is apparent that the inspector is as honorable as he appears. The question dutifully avoided by American media is: By what right and authority can the White House eavesdrop on the communications of a high-ranking United Nations official? If this is a measure of America’s regard for the United Nations, then perhaps the United Nations should seek a more gracious host.

The inspector’s real crime was being first in a long line of officials, diplomats and analysts to expose the blatant fallacies of Colin Powell’s Security Council charade. It does not matter that the facts have thoroughly vindicated the inspector. It does not matter that he was right and that it was his sworn duty to say so. He failed to play ball at the behest of the most powerful nation on earth and that is intolerable.

Against this backdrop, we were treated to a spectacle so absurd it threatened the mind with immediate arrest. Our president, in a display of unwavering mendacity, bestowed the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on a conqueror, an emperor and a fall guy.

When General Tommy Franks (how many Tommy Boys can we stand?) took the podium at the Republican National Convention, he lowered the bar for military officers by becoming a blatant partisan. General Franks was the commander of a great army that disarmed its third rate opponent before it attacked. There is a story that his advance to Baghdad was so swift it foiled a CIA operation to loot the Iraqi treasury and plant convincing evidence of weapons of mass destruction (was that the “slam dunk” DCI George Tenet was counting on?) but that is of little consequence. General Franks stood up to a virtual consensus among military experts that the force was too small to secure and occupy Iraq. It does not matter that he was spectacularly wrong; he played ball with the White House and that is what garnered him the nation’s highest honor.

Paul Bremer, Washington’s man in Baghdad for thirteen memorably catastrophic months, played the part of the little emperor, replete with neocon suit and brown desert boots. He disbanded the Iraqi army, erected a sixteen-foot wall around the Green Zone, brought in Starbucks and McDonalds, and alienated every tribe, sect and party in Iraqi politics before taking the long ride home. What are the accomplishments of Emperor Bremer other than survival behind the concrete walls of America’s fortress in downtown Baghdad? Did he win the peace? Did he establish order? Did he capture the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? Did he ease the tensions that threaten to rip the nation apart from within? No, if Paul Bremer had done nothing at all it would have been better than what he did; moreover, it could not have been worse. Nevertheless, the little emperor delivered the White House line with a straight face and for that he has cheapened the Medal of Freedom.

Former Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet: What more can be said that has not already been? In the buildup to war, those of us who observed with keen eyes were astounded at how frequently and forcefully the CIA spoke out against the administration’s Iraq policy. That is in fact why the agency was subsequently purged. It was George Tenet himself who debunked the Iraq-al Qaeda connection in defiance of neocon directives. It was Tenet who testified that an invasion of Iraq would only increase the likelihood of chemical weapons being employed against us. It was the CIA, under Tenet’s leadership, that cast doubt on the dubious claim of Iraqi nuclear weapons. George Tenet got it right but he yielded to White House pressures in the last hour, issuing the now infamous “slam dunk” statement and taking his appointed seat behind Colin Powell at the Security Council disgrace. The former DCI was honored for the act of selling out and, in so doing, betraying his country’s best interest for political expedience.

Is there no end to the credulity this nation is required to suffer under this administration?

We are asked to believe that our president is not the befuddled fool he so convincingly portrays. We are told that he is cagey like a fox. We are told that it was not so much Karl Rove but the Dubya, himself, who orchestrated the strategy for retaking the White House. He is not to be held accountable for the disaster in Iraq, for the decline of the dollar, for the mounting debt, for the exportation of the middle class, or for the massive fraud and disenfranchisement campaign in Ohio and elsewhere. No, he is only accountable for sticking to his guns, for arousing the righteous indignation of religious zealots, and for stubbornly clinging to policies that have consistently failed.

For that, and not for any greatness of character, policy, strategy or initiative, the president was accorded the “honor” of being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Thus, we may conclude that audacity is without bounds and Orwell was far too modest in projecting his vision of a future world.

Jazz.

NOTE: FOR AN ARCHIVE OF JAZZMAN CHRONICLES SEE BUZZLE.COM.

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