THE BELOVED CYNTHIA McKINNEY
A White Ex Cop Speaks Out About a Georgia Congresswoman
Michael C. Ruppert
© Copyright 2006, From The Wilderness Publications, www.fromthewilderness.com. All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted, distributed or posted on an Internet web site for non-profit purposes only.
April 11, 2006 1000 PST (FTW) - ASHLAND -Cynthia McKinney is a friend of mine. Until the day I die she will be a friend of mine. More than that, she will be a role model and an inspiration that I don’t ever expect to be equaled, let alone surpassed. Full disclosure.
Out of several dozen Op-Eds, news reports and commentaries on the now-infamous so-called “cop-slapping” event of March 29th, I haven’t seen a single one that, from my perspective, got it right. So right up front, let me say that if I am forced to look at this one snapshot incident, divorced from context and history, then yes, my very good friend messed up. It shouldn’t have become as big a deal as it has and she bears some responsibility for that. But if I look at the event as part of a continuum of the life of congress, or the life of this nation, and (no less importantly) of the life of this woman, things look and feel a whole lot different.
The virulent, spit-dripping, white, racist commentators from Boortz to DeLay and the oh-so-PC and dainty black Democratic pundits, columnists and pols who pick Cynthia McKinney apart—pretending to defend her while putting her black butt on the E-Bay auction block for November—are actually allies. They both want her to go away. They both want the issues that have come too close to public recognition in this case to go away. Leaders from left and right, black or white, cannot bear the thought of actually looking deeper at what happened with Cynthia McKinney and what it means.
Let me give you an historical hint. As a rule wars, are generally started over big events, (e.g. the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Pearl Harbor, North Korea’s Army Crossing the 38th parallel). Revolutions are generally started over less memorable things (e.g. “Let them eat cake,” a tea tax, some government troops opening fire on unarmed demonstrators). People of all colors and political persuasions understand that underlying both wars and revolutions are monstrous icebergs of unresolved inequity. So it is with Cynthia McKinney. And it is her hairdo (new or old, take your pick) that now sits atop an iceberg that both right-wing whites and bought-off blacks would like to go away.
I have walked the halls of Congress with Cynthia McKinney maybe eight to ten times. I have walked into and out of the Cannon and Longworth house office buildings with her. I have walked to hearings in the Rayburn house office building with her. I have walked the underground tunnels from one of those office buildings directly to the edge of the House floor and its anteroom with her. I can tell you one thing for certain because I have seen it and I have felt it. Cynthia McKinney and her staff get treated differently from just about anyone else on the Hill. It’s subtle, but so is the taste of dirt when it’s in your mouth.
Between 1974 and 1977, as I prowled the streets of “The Jungle” in South Central L.A. (in uniform and later as a detective and undercover narc) I knew little about being human. The Jungle is the place where “Boyz in the Hood” and Denzel Washington’s “Training Day” were filmed. I was a good cop, a very good cop. I didn’t have any sustained personnel complaints. My rating reports were always “outstanding.” The law-abiding citizens by and large trusted me when they saw me. My liberal education at UCLA had at least partially sensitized me to a world that seemed impossible to understand—a world that scared me just as much as it enticed me with its opportunities for heroism, peer recognition, and self-acceptance. My father had been a war hero and I wanted to know if I was cut from the same cloth.
I was known for being aggressive; eager to embrace danger; a budding, brilliant investigator; and an unmatched report writer. I was a “hard-charger” as they called it in those days. Perhaps the best role model I had as a cop was a black LAPD Captain by the name of Jesse A. Brewer who also taught me about leadership, friendship and loyalty.
I didn’t need to beat up innocent people because the streets where I worked were full of guilty people: robbers, burglars, heroin dealers, wife beaters, rapists, and car thieves. I was on the streets (and not far away) the night the Symbionese Liberation Army were roasted like marshmallows after making the mistake of trying to shoot it out with my brothers in blue. We were all men in those days, no women. I was on the streets for months before and after the time when every LA cop had a fear of making a routine traffic stop and facing an automatic weapon, a rocket launcher, a bomb, or a Molotov cocktail. Tense times.
For several years I averaged between 20 and 30 felony arrests per month—good arrests. Who had time to go after innocent people just because they were black? Also in those days, I also used the word “nigger” about 15 times a day. It was the culture. It was my ignorance. In the 1970s, LAPD reports used the official word Negro to describe African-Americans and before I joined LAPD in 1973 I had seen or talked to only around 20 black people in my whole life: maids, taxi drivers, bellmen—you know “colored people.” I talked like those around me talked. I thought it was cool.
As front-page stories in the Herald Examiner described me in 1981, I was “… a white kid from Orange County in a blue uniform sent to a black ghetto.”
The one thing I could not understand for about fifteen years after that was the maybe half-dozen different black men who had approached me in futility and rage, tearing open their shirts and looking at me with absolute sincerity as they said, “Shoot me. Go ahead, shoot me. I got nothing to lose.” They meant it, and it mattered not at all what the last incident was that had taken place before they snapped with that sublime mix of rage and complete despair. A lifetime of inequalities, social and economic; injustices, past and present; and frustrations, ever present; had pushed those men beyond their breaking point. It took me a while to get to that point, but I got there too, and now I understood something about being black.
Through two decades of 12-Step work, intense spiritual effort and personal therapy I have seen my errors, felt genuine remorse, and made my amends. One of those amends came in 1996 when—in a face-to-face confrontation with a CIA director—I challenged the same government I had once protected for smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine into the United States, where much of it was intentionally routed to the inner cities.
Since then, and on more than one occasion, Black America, and black individuals in America have saved my life. No one rushed to take a bullet for me. No, what was done for me was to give me acceptance, support, friendship, a meal and some soul. You can do a lot with a little bit of soul.
Among all of the African Americans I know—and there are many—Cynthia McKinney stands head and shoulders above the rest. Screw her hairdo; It’s the woman’s mind and heart that need to be considered here.
Flash forward a couple of decades from the late 1970s.
It’s now 2000 and my little newsletter From The Wilderness is steadily growing as we look at issues like US Government covert operations in Colombia, death squads, the global drug trade, the prison-industrial complex, drug money flowing into Al Gore’s presidential campaign, PROMIS software and a then little-known company named Halliburton. My friend Al Giordano of the Narco News Bulletin brought Cynthia McKinney to my attention. I emailed her and she responded almost immediately.
There was an immediate friendship. Cynthia McKinney was the first member of congress I had met (about 15 at the time) who actually seemed to be a human being who actually gave a hoot and who actually comprehended all the government criminality people were talking about. She responded to emails. She took phone calls. She actually cut checks from the Treasury to subscribe to FTW. She bought our videos and reports and…she read them. She handed them out.
She asked questions and didn’t pretend to know everything. She read. She listened. She understood.
And then came 9/11.
There are millions of Americans who still have major unanswered questions about the attacks of September 11th. Some are wives, husbands, and children of the victims. Some, like me, are investigative journalists. Many are just average people who could never swallow the galactic inconsistencies of the government account and who have refused to succumb to pressure for conformity. Cynthia McKinney was the one to ask “What did the Bush administration know and when did it know it?” about the scores of detailed warnings received by the administration in the months before the attacks. Contrary to one account from a black commentator recently, she has never retracted that question.
For that question, she was tarred and feathered in the press. From her long-standing support of Palestinian rights and objections to Israeli strong-arm tactics in the occupied territories emerged a new double-edged motive to remove her from congress at all costs. Cynthia McKinney was an un-American, anti-Semitic supporter of terrorists!
An Oreo black candidate named Denise Majette emerged as lots of money poured from the coffers of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) funded not only a hate campaign against McKinney, but in support of her opponent as well. Illegally, thousands of Republican voters crossed over to vote for the Oreo in the primary while the seat stayed safely Democratic, and all were quietly relieved when Cynthia didn’t even make it to the general election.
Cynthia McKinney will tell you that I and the entire 9/11 movement stayed with her loyally throughout her two-year imposed vacation. And I believe she will tell you that it was in part because we organized fundraisers for her and kept her name out there that she made it back—to everyone’s surprise except ours—in 2004.
Cynthia McKinney had been the only member of congress to ask real questions about 9/11. And she didn’t stop or forget when she got back either. More than that, she continued to do—no matter what—the things that her conscience bade her to do as an African-American woman who is anything but a racist (unless you want to refer to the human race). In hearings she questioned Donald Rumsfeld about the multitude of wargame exercises I had identified in my book Crossing the Rubicon. She asked repeated questions about 9/11 in repeated hearings and no one on the Democratic side backed her up when her questions were brushed aside, ignored and forgotten. She also kept up her support for the rights of the oppressed everywhere and she didn’t change one single note of her sheet music or its cadence.
She held the only hearing on Capitol Hill where investigators, authors, and families questioning the official version of 9/11 had a voice. She invited me, Wayne Madsen and Ray McGovern to act as questioners at that hearing, and she was the only member of congress to sit through that hearing.
She was there for the victims of Katrina and Rita who fled as refugees to Atlanta last fall. She was there to protect black culture and black history through her Tupac bill. She was there for her constituents and for all of the disenfranchised, battered, demoralized, and desperate Americans of all colors who had come to see her as “the politician of last resort.”
Almost every armchair pundit (left or right) who has criticized Cynthia McKinney has told only part of her story.
When she was returned to congress, her party, overlooking well-documented procedure with a number of historical precedents, refused to give her back the seniority to which she was entitled. In terms of committee assignments, instead of being a six-term senior member of her committees, she was a freshman. This placed her last on the list of questioners, last in terms of pecking order, last in terms of recognition, and last in terms of agenda setting. She was denied her old spot on the House Foreign Relations committee. She was moved further and further away from the coveted and influential title of “ranking member” that she should have been approaching. Should the House revert back to Democratic control this year she might have even chaired a committee. God forbid!
They did throw the Negro woman McKinney a bone in the form of a nicer office than before (the only place where her true seniority was recognized). “Here bitch, drive this Cadillac and shut up!”
While House Democratic leadership under Nancy Pelosi of California has been brutal to Cynthia McKinney, the treatment afforded her by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has been equally despicable. Not only did the CBC not fight for McKinney’s legitimate seniority, it also seems that they have taken pleasure in snubbing her. Solidarity my ass.
One anecdote paints the picture pretty clearly.
Last fall, after I had acted as a questioner for two panels sponsored by McKinney at the CBC’s annual convention, I was surprised as she handed me a ticket to the CBC formal banquet. This is a big annual event and I sat just a few tables away from John Kerry. Howard Dean was a few tables past Kerry. More than a thousand people, dressed to the nines, filled a crowded ballroom.
Cynthia was a no-show and it didn’t take long to figure out why. As every black member of Congress was introduced by seniority, starting with the Honorable John Conyers of Michigan, Cynthia McKinney’s name was saved for last. Even the Congressional Black Caucus could not recognize a sister’s seniority and service, not even when it wouldn’t have cost them a thing.
Where was Cynthia during that dinner? She wasn’t there. She was off violating a direct order from Nancy Pelosi not to attend a massive anti-war rally on the Mall. She was standing with Cindy Sheehan. She was giving a speech denouncing the war in Iraq and the Bush administration. She was doing her job. I sat at McKinney’s table next to my ad hoc dinner partner Kathleen Cleaver, weeping over the insult on McKinney. Not once since have I seen Cynthia McKinney even flinch over it.
I have watched Cynthia McKinney quietly and gracefully endure monstrous insults, sleights and provocations that I could never keep silent over. I have watched the world wait for a misplaced burp or worse from her and I have watched her refuse to take the bait on at least fifty occasions.
Are revolutions started because those in revolt rise to offered bait? I think not.
In the case of Cynthia McKinney and the Capitol Hill Police officer, I, like the rest of those reading this story, have not seen what happened. There may be a tape that will surface at some point as we wait to see whether a grand jury will indict her on idiotic charges of assault. I don’t know whether the Capitol Hill Cop was white or black, young or old, a rookie or a veteran. I wish it all hadn’t happened and I’d bet Cynthia feels the same way.
But then again…
THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT OF MY LIFE
In the spring of 2004 as I was arranging a speech and fundraiser for Cynthia McKinney in Los Angeles wherein we visited a small local museum of the civil rights movement. It was only about two miles from where I had once worked. Pictures of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy triggered painful memories for me. As I stood transfixed looking at a picture taken circa 1965 of an LAPD black and white with two helmeted officers wielding batons high above their heads in a street fight with blacks, Cynthia McKinney walked up and stood beside me. Quietly, so that only I could hear she said, “That’s what you used to do when you used to be white.”
John Kennedy and even Dwight Eisenhower were forgiven for having affairs. Bill Clinton was forgiven for a dozen crimes. Ronald Reagan was forgiven for everything. Who will dare call it justice when and if Cynthia McKinney is not forgiven and approved of for being real? There is an easy way for most people to avoid reaching their limits and the risk of being embarrassed. The first rule is: don’t do anything risky. Don’t stretch the envelope.
With 2,400 American KIA in Iraq, with the US economy ever-shrinking for the poor and middle classes, with US government corruption reeking like a rotting Elephant in the African sun, with voting rights being violated in a gentrifying and whitening New Orleans, with the crimes of 9/11 not only unsolved but covered up by both Democrats and Republicans, there would seem to be many reasons why the envelope needs to be ripped apart a bit.
I have little hope for it now. All the “just get along” folks seem to be winning the day and my friend Cynthia McKinney has some big choices ahead for her. I and many others will be doing all we can from around the country to get her re-elected again this year if that’s what she asks.
But let me say this clearly: If Cynthia McKinney wants to start a revolution over a cop who touched her, or anything else, I’ll welcome it and I know damn well which side I’ll be on.