WHO’S ZOOMIN’ WHO? “Decoding Deception in History and Politics”

Talking Drum: At Peace...Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters.  (An African Proverb)

Today’s international headlines read, “GADHAFI, LIBYA’S LEADER FOR 42 YEARS, IS KILLED.” But, reading between the lines of history’s ‘missing pages,’ you realize that there’s been a deeper backstory ever since Libya, the “Land of the Blacks,” its history and its politic, came into existence. Once again, I’m reminded of the article below written earlier this year, on another website:


When I heard of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s recent book, “Known and Unknown:  A Memoir” (Penguin Group Pub., Feb. 2011), instinctively, I thought of the “Queen of Soul” and how we celebrate our history within the art of deception that often flows in the wake of controversial events, like the seemingly onslaught of political memoirs in recent years.  Within the long shadows of Egypt’s crisis creeping in the background, I kept hearing Aretha Franklin’s“Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” playing in the back of my mind. Over and over and over, again, her sultry, middle-soprano voice was belting out: 

“Who’s zoomin’ who, take another look, tell me baby…  Who’s zoomin’ who… oh… Who’s zoomin’ who, now the fish jumped off the hook…  Didn’t I baby… Who’s zoomin’ who…   Guess you believed the world… Played by your rules… Here stands… Nobody’s fool…”

At least, those were the lyrics dancing in my head, as I reflected on Rumsfeld’s exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, televised on February 7, 2011. He felt it was “possible” that the decision on how many troops to send to Iraq was the biggest mistake of the war.  He added, “What you know today can help you unthink your thinking about tomorrow.  It can’t help you with things you were thinking about back then… Back then, there was reasonable confidence that he (Saddam Hussein) had these weapons.”

Yea, right… Is it possible that he actually believed what he just said? That’s what also played in my head.

I mean, that’s what I heard.  But, what I saw was different. Within the view honed by hundreds of career investigations, what I saw reminded me of the classic arrogance and stilted behavior sanctimoniously played out on the field of investigative interviews, numbering in the thousands, with folk from various walks in life, bent on twisting the realities of time and events. 

In addition to pardoning himself from any wrongdoing, Rumsfeld seemed to flick off the responsibility for the wartime mess in Iraq to others, including Retired Four-Star General and Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. At least, that’s what I saw on the stage of another nationally televised event.  I freely admit that my vision might have been somewhat clouded by the respect I still have for the war-weary but battle-proven General Powell. Frankly, I’ve always respected the reasoning of seasoned leadership that experienced making real-world life-and-death decisions with our nation’s most precious assets- the lives of our sons and daughters- as we advance the cause of freedom, as my son had once performed under his command, during Operation Desert Storm. It’s an admitted bias, surely, stemming from certain realities in my own life- not merely prejudice decidedly played out on the landscape of fiction and misinformation. 

Then, within the backdrop of this year’s Black History Month, 2011, and the political upheavals in the Mediterranean Basin– I pondered the kaleidoscope of illusions and twisted images attributed to ancient African civilizations, as well as the histories of the world- known and unknown. It was just another one of those unique moments, we all probably experience, when the circle of mirrors in our minds flash relentless images of the past, at warp-speed in front of our eyes, before our brains can even react. 

Since childhood, my family and close friends knew that I had a nagging penchant for seeking out the many “missing pages” of history.  I also attempted to quench this burning thirst when trying to make sense out of the nonsense behind the throes of school desegregation.  And, I still recall the promise made to fellow “soldiers” in the civil rights struggle, stating that that I could forgive the nightmarish mishmash of atrocities we experienced.  But, I swore never to forget their occurrence.  Social science clinicians suggested that experiences like ours, from the harsh realities of growing up black on the cusp of a segregated South, might warp our thinking forever, when applied to the uncharted challenges of school desegregation. Yet, I’m grateful for the blessing of such an experience which, later in life, has helped me to help others as I struggled to help myself. Simply put, these are the unapologetic facts and undistorted images in the life of many Americans- “character builders,” as my family would say.

The gut-feelings they provide are often instrumental in allowing one to dismiss the self-serving ruminations and attempts to encode history, by politicians and others, as probable lies and possible illusions, at minimum, or bold, politically motivated historical revisionism, at best. At times, even religion has been used in support of these attempted distortions, like certain passages in the Bible spun to justify the institution of slavery in the United States; and, like the Christian Cross of the Ku Klux Klan which supports the feeble-minded belief in racial superiority, genocide and anarchy, in my humble opinion, of course.

Over the years, other forms of deception behind the optics of the church often reminded me of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” following his 1963 arrest for marching in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, protesting the segregation laws I initially grew up with.  What struck me the most was his revelation of the frustrations he had with the church.  The letter pointed out that, “In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church.  There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” He said that many white churches, ministers, priests and rabbis of the South often misrepresented the leadership of the “freedom movement” and remained silent “…behind the anesthetizing security of the stained-glass windows.” Coming from an actively religious family, I thought about how the church often deceives itself- within the hallowed walls which housed those stained-glass window panes. 

Dr. King seemed acutely aware that black “pent-up resentments” and “latent frustrations” were heading for direct confrontations and violence with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and growing black nationalists groups, as well as more violent confrontations with unjust laws.  He felt that the black church was the buffer that kept black violence on the simmer and not boiling over.  This, I remember well from my own experiences and the attempts by black elders in the community to help many of us, already marked by the ugliness of school desegregation, to understand the immense nature of a movement much larger than the sum total of us mere grunt soldiers in the war on racism and unjust laws.  And, when I recall the challenges of my high school years, those desegregation years, as well as my military service, I’m thankful that there was a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I’m very much aware of how things could have been without the tactics of non-violent protest- a concept I had begun to believe was idiotic, at the time, but learned to appreciate its beauty and effectiveness, yet still refuse to turn the other cheek.

Today, I’m even thankful for something else I don’t fully understand- the reach, accessibility and change dynamics associated with the so-called social media.  Now retired from a world of high stress,a 24/7 on-call status and investigative interactions with a bevy of characters, personalities and nasty issues, I no longer require, nor desire, the immediacy of truncated, electronic sound-bite communications and contact with the fast-moving world around me.  At this point, I am not active with “Facebook.”  And, I do not “Tweet” or whatever it’s called.  But, I’m grateful for their impact on contemporary issues and those responsible for advancing the best of what America has to offer the world, like the real-time snapshots of history, unfolding within the complex, fuzzy images of our mind. 

By now, the image is also fuzzy of the 26-year old father and Tunisian vegetable cart vendor who, at 11:30 a.m. on December 17, 2010, doused himself with a flammable liquid, setting himself on fire.  It ignited public protest, riots and political upheaval around the Mediterranean and untold future locations in the world.   But, “Facebook” and “YouTube,” coupled with 24/ news coverage, e-mail communications and misty cell phone photos, might have helped Mohamed Bouazizi do what for centuries of protest could not do, in changing the face of political dictatorships- to advance the cause of freedom.  He died on January 4, 2011.  And, the rest is history- still unfolding within the kaleidoscope of time and today’s ever-changing international headlines..

History no longer belongs to the revisionists, nor the wealthy social elite or status quo.  Finally, it belongs to the people who, once tasting the nectar of freedom, refuse to be further pawns of deception, for history or politicians, Libya or the United States of America.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  Will the change dynamics and political winds, still blowing across the Mediterranean Basin, impact the way we see the history of the world- or, how we see ourselves?  Please let us know within the ‘comments’ section, below.  Thanks.  “Backstreet Djeli”  w.d.s.

(From previously posted blog @ rizingcubenterprises.com, 02/11/11)

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About William "Duke" Smither (formerly, pen name: "Backstreet Djeli")

William "Duke" Smither, author of “BACKROADS TO 'BETHLEHEM': Odysseys of the Maroon Warrior, in the Shadows of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” is a Frankfort Kentucky native; Richmond Virginia resident. Retired Public Utility Sr. Investigator and nuclear site worker, Married w/ 3 children and 6 grandchildren; U.S. Navy Viet Nam Era & Cuban Missile Crisis Veteran; Member of "Cuban Blockade Survivors" & The American Legion; B.S. Degree (Business Mgmt) w/ independent studies in Ancient African History and African-American History. Post-graduate studies in Criminal Justice Administration. Former Sports & Feature writer for the weekly Richmond Afro-American Newspaper, during Freshman year of college. Retirement activities include: Freelance writer, playwright, actor and director of faith-based community theater productions; founder of "Backstreet's Blog" ("Talking Drum Dialogues") at www.backstreetdjeli.com and contributing writer for "BlackPast.Org," the international, on-line reference center for African American History. His debut novel, “BACKROADS TO 'BETHLEHEM': Odysseys of the Maroon Warrior…,” is the first installment of a possible historical-fiction trilogy.