Monday, June 10, 2013

Ben Jealous’ “Truth and Reconciliation” proposal needs work

Ben Jealous recently made a call for a "Truth and reconciliation commission" on democracy Now! I have also thought that we should consider what I refereed to as a possible "Truth and education commission;" however I thought it should be considered carefully and that we should also review past "Truth and reconciliation commissions" and perhaps revise them as well and learn from their mistakes.

Past "Truth and reconciliation commissions" may have been accompanied by conditions that were too extreme and included Constitutions that give corporations certainly long term protection that they might not have deserved and these should be revised. Some of these conditions may have been made without all the knowledge that the people might have needed to make decisions and some of this knowledge may have come out during the commission or after it but they would still be committed to some of the conditions. Some of this should have been subject to renegotiation when they had the information they needed to make these decisions. To decline to do this would be similar to negotiating under unreasonable duress.

Glen Ford has also raised some legitimate concerns in the following article.

Ben Jealous’ Obscene “Truth and Reconciliation” Proposal by Glen Ford

NAACP president Ben Jealous wants to start a “truth and reconciliation” process in the U.S. – before political prisoners are freed, while mass incarceration devastates Black families and communities, and when Blacks are murdered by the state every 28 hours. Jealous’ “talk of reconciliation is an obscene diversion from reality.”

NAACP chief Ben Jealous hasn’t taken a position on Assata Shakur, the exiled former Black Panther who President Obama’s FBI has elevated to Domestic Terrorist Number One – despite the fact that the grandmother has spent the last 29 years living peacefully in Cuba. Yes, Jealous knows that Shakur was a political prisoner before her escape, charged in the 1973 death of a New Jersey policeman. He told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman that he thinks the NAACP will have to take a position on Shakur’s case at some point, and that he also feels for the families of the cops who died in New Jersey and in the Brinks robbery, in New York, in 1981. Jealous says he’s most interested in healing the nation from the effects of what he calls “politically motivated violence, on both sides.” What’s needed, he claims, is a kind of “truth and reconciliation commission.”

Ben Jealous’s clear reference is to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, convened in Cape Town, in 1996, by a multiracial cast of notables led by Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Commission’s powers were limited to granting amnesty to perpetrators, or offering rehabilitation and reparations to victims. The hearings were quite controversial from the very start, and ultimately produced no political consensus among the races that justice was served. Complete article at Black Agenda Report

I wouldn't go so far as to refer to Ben Jealous’ “Truth and Reconciliation” as Obscene but Glen Ford still has some legitimate points. Proposal The South African "Truth and reconciliation commission" did reduce the violence that was going on at the time and it did produce some degree of reconciliation but it came at a long term cost which they should not be committed to indefinitely since they agreed to it without adequate information to make important decisions. the Obama administration is still unwilling to discuss it and they continue to take activities that indicate that they aren't sincere about real reform; this includes the imprisonment of a large number of minorities that don't have adequate opportunities to participate in society and the economic system. In many cases these minorities are being imprisoned with a lower standard of proof than many Caucasians; and even when they aren't they often don't have the same opportunities so in some cases they inevitably turn to crime due to the fact that they can't get by otherwise.

The government continues to let white collar criminals off the hook without much if any scrutiny even though a close look at them would indicate that they often target those with the least amount of political power including minorities. They also continue to conduct activities related to civil rights of Africans as well as other minorities, some at the state level others international, including stop and frisk, disproportionate profiling of minorities, drone strikes, indefinite detentions and many other things.

Any formal "Truth and reconciliation" or "education commission" should be accompanied to an end to these things and most importantly if they involve some degree of immunity or promise of leniency for those with political power they should also offer this to those without and they should let those go that have been imprisoned on trivial basis. This should not involve conditions that virtually gazetteer that once we go through a "Truth and reconciliation commission" and it becomes clear that the most powerful people in this country have been looting us blind that they get to keep the loot they've been stealing from us. It should allow for some consideration of compensation although it might not be unreasonable to provide some guarantee that they won't face death penalty or perhaps long prison sentences without reasonable consideration for their cooperation. It is unlikely that they would cooperate if they were only going to face excessive punishment or what they consider excessive punishment; however many of those in power should be very cautious when they continue to advocate for strict punishments, including the death penalty, of those without political power, since in the event of real reform those positions could be turned around against them.

There are many other things that should be considered before agreeing to formal conditions for some kind of "Truth and reconciliation commission," this include the possibility that some of the "progressives" presented by the commercial media, including Ben Jealous, avoid discussing some of the most important issues, perhaps to avoid being shunned by the commercial media. However there is one important thing that Glen ford seems to have overlooked; what Ben Jealous said was, "some sort of truth and reconciliation commission" or that "can start a conversation about a truth and reconciliation commission." I would consider this quite reasonable as long as the conversation isn't controlled by the commercial media and the political establishment along with some of those that they consider acceptable "progressives."

In order for this to work, ideally it should be taken out of the hands of the commercial media and put into the hands of a much more diverse segment of society where many more people can participate. this would mean that people like Glen Ford and many others should have their chance to express their views before a long term agreement is put in place.

This discussion can't happen quickly and rushing into a formal "Truth and reconciliation commission" would be foolish and it could potentially lead to a "Reconciliation and Capitulation Commission" as Glen ford fears if it is done without input from a diverse group of people and adequate efforts to address their concerns. This is why I initially indicated, in my "Truth and education commission;" post, that even without a formal "Truth and reconciliation commission" we can continue to expose as much information as possible, and fact check them without conditions.

The recent disclosures about the "Prism" program are a clear sign that they aren't prepared to cooperate in a formal "Truth and reconciliation commission" now and it also indicates that they haven't adequately fact checked this program which is supposedly a new disclosure. this is clearly not true since the "Prism" program seems to be identical or almost identical to the ECHELON program which was exposed years ago. a closer consideration of this will almost certainly raise more doubts about the government as well as the people reporting on it as if it is news which I will go into more in a follow up post.

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