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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nicholas Powers ploughs under pandered politically-drawn rhetoric

U.S. neglects its own
America deserves a vote “but we need a whole lot more,” Powers says
Editing by Carolyn Bennett

Powers pens a terrific article whose substance deserves more than an edited excerpt so I urge you to read the entire piece in The Indypendent. It reaches beyond superficial rhetoric and offers critically reasoned historical context, underlying conditions bearing on contemporary consequences. Here is some of Nicholas Powers’ “Red, White & Bang.”


Powers begins with friend Frankie, caught in a crossfire as are U.S. Afghan/Pakistani civilians.

Frankie: Rolling up his sleeve, he tells Powers, “I was shot six times”

Powers: When Frankie peeled back the gauze, I saw holes in his forearm as if he had been stung by a giant metal insect. [He asks:] “What the hell … “What happened?”

Frankie: “Kid from Brownsville running down the street, shooting wildly at another kid … I was in the doorway and got hit. None of the bullets struck an artery or a bone. Someone was looking out for me.”

owers continues the narrative from the start of the conversation with his friend, Frankie.

“In a parked jeep, a light came on and I saw Frankie, my scruffy neighbor. He told me of being on the stoop when a boy ran up, firing his gun at any moving thing, how bullets punched his body, how he prayed for life as blood gushed from his limbs.

“Frankie rolled up his pant leg and showed me a crusted hole in his calf. I grasped his hands and said, ‘I am so thankful you are alive.’


We knew people had been shot on our block; but in order to go about living, we numbed our minds to the risks. And it wasn’t hard.

“The young men killing each other were locked in their own world — you just had to step around it; but every once in a while, a gunman shot so wildly, so carelessly that a shell pierced the invisible walls between us and them.

“Studying Frankie’s face, I remembered kicking a soccer ball with him and loosening the fire hydrant so kids could splash in the water. We stared at each other as I repeated ─

I am so thankful you are alive. 

U.S. neglected
Further into his article, Powers brings together seemingly parallel realities. Gun toting youth do not exist in a vacuum or rise from nothingness without connections with historical contexts and contemporary conditions.


“Oppression, when internalized by its victims for too long and too deeply, eventually becomes their culture. So it struck me, on the night that Frankie told me about the shooting, that as I walked up Nostrand, I heard a group of young men around an open car rapping along with 50 Cent: ‘We rolling, whip stolen, AK loaded, I’m down to ride tonight. We smokin’, straight locin’, locked and loaded, somebody gon’ die tonight.’

U.S. endless
Global violence 
Wikipedia note: Bedford-Stuyvesant is made up of four neighborhoods: Bedford, Stuyvesant Heights, Ocean Hill and Weeksville. Nostrand Avenue is the main north-south thoroughfare. Colloquially known as Bed-Stuy, Bedford-Stuyvesant is a neighborhood in the central portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

I thought to myself,” Powers continues, “with all the guns and rage and nihilism here, you just might [follow the rapper’s philosophy]. And I thought, we on the left don’t address crime for what it is, a violent form of street-level capitalism.

“On the way to the bar [the Vodou Lounge to catch the presidential debate], I kept seeing Frankie’s bullet wounds in my mind like a giant photograph. My friend almost died; he almost died, I kept repeating it.

And who was seeing the invisible victims of violence?

Who was peering beneath the tragic headlines of mass shootings to see the cities being hollowed out by the multiplying voids of our dead teenagers?

 U.S. Neglected
Who was willing to speak about their deaths?

Pandered politically expedient, empty promises
Narrowly drawn rhetoric

“Finally, I entered the Vodou Lounge and everyone was staring at the TV as President Obama and Mitt Romney debated. In the cross-fire of their words was a white college student named Jeremy. The candidates tripped over each other to promise him a job. Obama said, ‘… [T]here are a bunch of things we can do to make sure your future is bright.’”

hetoric post-inauguration, post-Newtown ─ Powers continues his narrative. “The bar was nearly empty; I sat with a beer watching the State of the Union address. Obama tensed his mouth ─

‘In the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun … More than a thousand.’

“The presidential election had come and gone, washing over us like a giant wave of noise. And I was relieved Obama won. I didn’t share the view that a Romney victory would galvanize people into protesting. It was to me an admission of a lack of vision on the Left, by those who see having a common enemy as the only thing that can move the masses.

“What about a common vision?” Powers asks, and answers:

I looked out the window and imagined a neighborhood with midnight basketball to absorb the energy of youth whose homes were falling apart. 

Or taxing Wall Street and creating whole new job sectors?

So much of the violence in these streets is read as simple personal violence and not as the effect of the violence of capitalism.

U.S. neglect
“How can an economic system dominate the earth, make exchanging labor for money as the principal way to meet basic needs, and then not be able to provide full global employment? It is the contradiction grinding in our world.

We are surrounded by ads for a life we can’t afford and are told that no other world is possible.

“When can we get a federal buyback program that lets people sell their guns, while shutting down the gun factories and melting the steel into solar panels?

“[The president], squinting his eyes, talked of a young woman named Hadiya Pendleton.

‘Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration; and a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.’ 

“[The president] called for sensible reforms such as a universal background check, a ban on assault weapons and laws to reduce the number of bullets in ammo cartridges,” Powers recounts.

“I nodded, all very sensible,” he says.
Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton stood and applauded as President Obama “demanded that the House and Senate allow for a vote.” His voice rising in rhythmic rhetorical flair: “‘They deserve a vote. …  ‘They deserve a vote.’

Yes,” Powers rejoins: “We do deserve a vote. But we need a whole lot more.”

Sources and notes

“Red, White & Bang” by Nicholas Powers, February 21, 2013, Issue #184,

The Indypendent

The Indypendent publishes articles that look at news and culture through a critical lens, exploring how systems of power — economic, political and social — affect the lives of people locally and globally.

Founded in 2000 as the print project of the New York City Independent Media Center, the multi-award-winning Indypendent is a New York City-based free newspaper and online news site. Its print edition is published 13 times a year on Mondays.  The website is updated daily along activity on Twitter and Facebook. http://indypendent.org/about

The Nicholas Powers' article appears in the February 20-March 20, 2013, edition of The Indypendent.

Chicago Tribune, February 12, 2013

“Two reputed gang members were out for revenge from a previous shooting when they opened fire on a group of students in a South Side park last month, killing 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton in a heartbreaking case that has brought national attention to Chicago’s rampant gun violence, police said.

“Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, were each charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm in the Jan. 29 attack that also left two teens wounded.” http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-02-12/news/chi-hadiya-pendleton-charges-20130211_1_area-central-police-headquarters-gang-members-rival-gang


Bennett's books are available in New York State independent bookstores: Lift Bridge Bookshop: www.liftbridgebooks.com [Brockport, NY]; Sundance Books: http://www.sundancebooks.com/main.html [Geneseo, NY]; Mood Makers Books: www.moodmakersbooks.com [City of Rochester, NY]; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center: www.enlightenthedog.org/ [Buffalo, NY]; Burlingham Books – ‘Your Local Chapter’: http://burlinghambooks.com/ [Perry, NY 14530]; The Bookworm: http://www.eabookworm.com/ [East Aurora, NY] • See also: World Pulse: Global Issues through the eyes of Women: http://www.worldpulse.com/ http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire http://www.facebook.com/#!/bennetts2ndstudy


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