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Thursday, August 28, 2003  

The Mac-a-ro-nies mailbag

I was listening to an oldie but a goodie, Smokey Robinson's "Sweet Harmony," on my iPod, Titania, when I wrote this entry last night. Let's harmonize with some of this week's letters to the Diva.

  • Rebecca takes exception
  • Blogger Rebecca Blood wrote to say she disagrees with blogger Mark Bernstein's analysis of her goals as the proprietor of a weblog. She says issues of social change are important to why she blogs and that she doesn't consider herself a personal blogger exclusively. I wrote about Bernstein's review of Blood's book in "Whither the weblog?"

  • Richard offers advice
  • Composer and blogger Richard Einhorn of Tristero agrees with me about the iRock, an FM radio modulator, and offers some advice.

    I too was unimpressed with irock, but the batteries lasted longer. I now have an itrip from griffin technologies. It is trickier to use but has no batteries. Once you get it set up however, it works very well. The main tip is not to over or under modulate the output from iPod. About 70% total volume works well.

    And btw, it is quite a lot of fun to use the itrip cum ipod on any fm radio, not merely a car's.

  • Jeremiah paints me pink
  • My most determined recent correspondent has been a fellow who calls himself Jeremiah Black. Jeremiah says I am a dupe of Communists. He is perturbed by an analytical essay/book review I wrote about the Congo.

    I. Sun, 24 Aug 2003 20:53:36 -0400


    I just read your review on The Poisonwood Bible, and just wanted to add (before everyone gets too sentimental over Lumumba) that Lumumba was a Communist warlord who led the two year invasion and slaughter of the democratic Congo province of Katanga. He advocated and supported the massacre of the civilians of Katanga, and, with the help of a UN "peace keeping" force, was able to conquer and force the assimilation of Katanga (UN's Operation Morthor) back under Congolese rule. In a directive to the heads of the Congolese provinces, Lumumba wrote that they should use "terrorism, essential to subdue the population." Over ninety percent of the buildings bombed and shelled were strictly civilian structures with no military value. After protesting the attacks on ambulances, Mr. Georges Olivet of the Swiss Red Cross was murdered by pro-Lumumba UN troops as he traveled in a Red Cross ambulance. Upon his death, the murderous Lumumba was lionized by Soviet dictator Khrushchev; Khrushchev renamed the Moscow "Peoples Friendship University" the "Patrice Lumumba Friendship University." The history of the Belgian Congo stands as a testament to the moral bankruptcy of European colonialism. But rewriting history with Lumumba as a hero simply because he rightfully despised a despicable Belgium and was eventually murdered is a huge mistake. It's also worth noting that blood-thirsty Lumumba (like the blood thirsty Stalin) is still only spoken of highly in pro-Communist and anti-Christian (Katanga was a non-white Christian province) propaganda. And it's even further interesting to note that Kingsolver had Mumia Abu-Jamal, a malevolent copkilling terrorist, proof read her book before publication. (Since Mumia Abu-Jamal is neither Congolese or a literary figure, I can only assume that Kingsolver wanted to get the book's anti-white/anti-western tone right. But this is a personal conclusion.) Anyway, if you have the time and are still interested you might want to surf online for?a?list of historical inaccuracies in the book.

    Hope I didn't come off as rude; just interested in African history like you.

    Take care,
    -- Jeremiah Black

    II. Sun, 24 Aug 2003 22:10:13-0400


    I'm sorry. I don't mean to be rude, but your response clearly won't do.

    You complain that all anti-colonial leaders were simply dismissed as communists (true, no doubt), but then you casually dismiss the historical facts of Lumumba's murderous actions by saying there's nothing novel about my "perspective." This is not "perspective." These are concrete facts of history. I'm really not concerned whether he was a communist at all, nor am I offering "my perspective" on struggles between competing political systems. The fact is that Lumumba was a brutal murderer and oppressor of innocent civilians (incidentally, he destroyed an all black, native province). This fact of history has been unacknowledged, and needs to be recognized. Also, he was a communist, heavily backed by Moscow, but that's not particularly the issue. These are the facts. And for this reason Lumumba does not deserved to be lionized, even if he did oppose the evils of colonialism. He was not a hero, but an evil ruler who hated the evil European rulers who came before him. Also, it's ridiculous to believe that the only people who considered Lumumba a communist did so because they were sympathetic to white supremacy rule when the Communist Party, Khrushchev, and Lumumba himself declared him to be a communist. Ignore the communism, then, if it clouds the issue. Just please don't forget the important part: that Lumumba was a barbaric, murderous ruler who does not deserve to be thought well of by history.

    I was just firing off a friendly email as a fellow student of African history. I didn't mean for this to get heated, and I'm sorry if I conveyed to attitude that your review of the book was ignorant or poorly written. It certainly was not. My critique was more with the book itself which either failed to mention or distorted these important points. I think, in westerners' zeal to repudiate colonialism (itself a good thing), we tend to make a hero out of anyone who fought the colonialists. But this is a scholarly mistake. Lumumba was just as evil as Belgium, and as soon as he had power, was just as brutal to his fellow Africans as Belgium was to the Congo.

    - Jeremiah Black

    III. Sun, 24 Aug 2003 22:38:51 -0400


    Sorry to bother you, but I'd also like to point out that Lumumba was not a "leader of an anti-colonial movement", but that Belgium had already agreed to willingly give up and withdraw from the Congo. Lumumba was simply the next warlord to rule. He hated Belgium, of course, (who could blame him), but he was not leading an anti-colonial movement -- Belgium was already gone by the time he gained power on June 30, 1960. Belgium only came back to restore order after Lumumba began murdering his own populace and the populace of his neighbors. This is one of the historical inaccuracies in Kingsolver's book, and I can only assume that she chose to tell the history as if Lumumba threw the Belgians out because it makes for a better story. The novel is, after all, fiction, not biography. But it's still dangerous to portray Lumumba as some sort of peace lover, and I guess that was the original point I was trying to make. :)


    IV. Mon, 25 Aug 11:41:46 -0400

    Well, it's clear to me now that you've never read any Congolese history except The Poisonwood Bible, which was fiction, or maybe you got a very altered version from Marxist.com or some other website commited to making Lumumba a hero of the cause. The fact that Lumumba was brutally murdered seems to dominate your mind, and you seem somehow unable to consider him anything but a holy martyr. The fact is, that from june 30th 1960, to january 1961 (roughly 6 months as you stated), Lumumba was able to request 10,000 UN troops to back his invasion of Katanga as well as vast amounts of military equipment and weapons from the USSR. His written military orders still exist for posterity, and I believe I quoted from one in my inital email. His butchering of Katanga led to President Kasavubu (Lumumba was only prime minister) to dismiss him and install Mobutu (who actually ended up being more evil). Lumumba then set up a rival goverment in Stanleyville, until the new prime minister Mobutu had him captured, beaten, and shipped to Katanga to be murdered by mercenaries (most likley Belgian as you stated). Lumumba's supporters continued to fight the war against Katanga that Lumumba had sarted even after his death for another year and a half.

    I guess this is the danger of reading no history and only fiction. You mind is completely ruled by it, and you will never acknowledge any facts that interfere with the story you cling to, that perhaps moved you (rightfully), but that nevertheless contained many historical errors. That Lumumba was an innocent, Christ-like victim is simply not true. Please do not respond to this email, as it is obvoius to me that you couldn't be less interested in actual history. I was also disappointed about with the nasty tone your last email took, since I went out of my way to be friendly. But I guess that's what fundamentalist ignorance does to a person.

    -- JB

    Could someone send me a Soviet-era Russian flag? In the interest of harmony, ya know?

    5:07 PM