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Cognitive Dissonnance (Resolved)

Posted by Rick · May 3rd, 2004 · No Comments

Tonight, as I was taking a break from studying the incredibly fascinating (not) world of Property law for my final examination in that subject tomorrow, I tuned in to C-SPAN 2. (Yes, I hear you now, “You call that a break?”)

Minister Louis Farrakhan was speaking.

Brace yourselves. This will not be a short post.

On April 27, 1991, I attended a meeting downtown in Fresno, at the New Light for New Life Church (formerly Rock Fellowship) at 2139 Stanislaus. The flyer that had brought me there was titled, “The Truth Rolls On.” This was “a message by Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad” (may he rest in peace), who was “Special Assistant to Louis Farrakhan.” The subject was supposed to be “What is the State of the Black Community?” and “How Much Time Do We Have?” Doors opened at 6 p.m. As possibly the only white guy there — there may have been others, but I didn’t see them — I was a little late getting in. As innumerable African-Americans streamed past, casting wary glances my way, I was busy being frisked and my backpack containing my college books that I’d carried with me when I got off the bus, having come from California State University, Fresno, was emptied and searched.

I found this amusing at the time. I did not find it offensive. But I could not help remember the circumstances that had brought me there. For given the way some of my African-American friends reacted to Muhammad and Farrakhan, African-Americans were far more likely a threat to the Minister than me.

Earlier that day, I had been standing with a good friend, Eric, a musician who frequently played his saxophone near the fountain at CSUF, was a great guy (smart, talented and considered by the gals to be attractive) and consequently attracted attention, when a young woman walked up. Her name escapes me, but she was a beautiful African-American gal who was partially blind and deaf.

I say she was partially blind because she held out a flyer to Eric and began talking to him. It was clear that she didn’t realize she’d just interrupted our conversation, because she not only appeared not to have heard me talking, but she never looked in my direction. I can only assume she couldn’t hear me.

The poster was for the aforementioned meeting. She clearly — and I’m sure for completely pure reasons — wanted Eric to attend. For his part, Eric’s distaste for the idea was about as plain as it could be. I said, “I might like to go.”

This is how I know she was deaf. She continued looking and talking at Eric as if nothing had been said. I repeated, “Where is it? I’ll go.” And still there was no response. That is, there was no response until Eric said, “He’ll go. I have no interest in that mess.” (Or words to that effect.) She finally acknowledged my presence with a look that can only be described as abject disgust, or disdain. I’m not sure which. Clearly, whatever Eric had, I didn’t.

She did, however, reluctantly give me a flyer.

That night, about midnight, after walking home from the meeting, I wrote the following:

One of the things you learn when you study philosophy is how to recognize the form of things and not just the specifics of the content. But you don’t have to be a big-time philosophy-type to recognize the form of hatred and bigotry in the words of Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad, special assistant to Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Virtually everything he said and every rhetorical move he made in a speech Saturday night at the New Light for New Life (formerly Rock Fellowship) has been said before by people like Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, William Shockley, and countless white bigots before and after. All that’s necessary is to substitute every occurrence of the word or words used to designate African-Americans for words used to designate Caucasians and every word used to designate Caucasians for words used to designate African-Americans. For example, “Blacks are genetically and intellectually inferior to whites,” becomes “whites are genetically and intellectually inferior to blacks.”

White people because of a contingency of history (they managed to steal the invention of gunpowder from the Chinese and use it to violent ends) brutally attacked and mercilessly exploited non-whites. (Minister Muhammad didn’t say this, but it is a fact of history.) In order to be able to justify — at least to themselves — and to continue this mistreatment of other human beings, they used rhetorical devices to pervert the reality of both the present and, more importantly, the past. They stripped non-whites of their humanity and reduced them, in spite of significant archaeological and living evidence to the contrary, to a status slightly above (some) animals, and labeled them “savages.” They had already transmogrified the various gods worshiped around the world into One God, and made him White, and they perverted translations of the ancient religious documents to further justify their crimes. Furthermore, they told each other horror stories about the habits, proclivities, attitudes, barbarianism, murderousness, poisonousness, craftiness, shiftiness, laziness and treachery of African-Americans just in case any Caucasian was accidentally born with his own brain and might be inclined to see things as they really are instead of the way the White Exploitative Capitalistic (sorry for the redundancies) Establishment said things are. Everything good and acceptable is associated with white — the white-hatted cowboy on a white horse, “white” lies, etc.; everything bad or unacceptable is associated with black — black-hatted cowboys on black horses, black heart, blacklist, etc.

Minister Muhammad said all these same things. Almost. Here’s the “big difference” in his message: Whites barely crawled out of caves where they were busy having sex with dogs and other hapless creatures; they are the lowest form of human; they are mutant blacks, because everything came from the “triple blackness.” G-d is black, having created Himself from “triple blackness.” He ordains that everything shall come out of “triple blackness.” The Scriptures of the Bible contain prophecies of America enslaving the African for 400 years, after which time G-d will call them out of their slavery. Incidentally, the King James Version of the Bible is a perverse revision ordered by a homosexual king (Muhammad is virulently anti-gay) to “close up,” or conceal, the truth of G-d from the people. For every twisted myth the whites ever used to oppress and decimate Africans and African-Americans, Minister Khallid had a complimentary version about the white folks living in “the United Snakes of America.”

In response to a question I asked about the blanket indictment of anyone with white skin, the minister’s response was two-fold:

  1. Not all rattlesnakes have venom in their sacs. However, if one falls into a pit of rattlesnakes, it would not be prudent to stop and check the venom sacs of each snake before deciding whether or not that particular snake should be avoided. This is a handy and emotionally-provocative simile. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a difference between falling into a pit of rattlesnakes and finding oneself born into the middle of a country containing human beings of an artificially-differentiated group. In the one case, a member of the genus Homo falls into a pit of members of the genera Crotalus or Sistrurus. In the other, Homo sapiens sapiens finds him or herself falling into a group of…Homo sapiens sapiens. Crotalus will probably bite, because it doesn’t like being trapped in a pit with large mammalian creatures. Homo sapiens sapiens has to invent artificial distinctions based on external characteristics like skin color — we could use eye color, hair color, or curvature of the distal phalanx of the thumb — to create and stereotype groups to lavish with loathing.
  2. If a man breaks into your house, carries you away, rapes your wife and daughters, and continues by force to expropriate, oppress, and abuse you, when you become powerful enough to take back your house, you don’t say, “I know you did all this, but I have control now. Would you like one of the rooms? Would you like that other one, too?” You don’t forgive, forget, and attempt to live in harmony with such a man. Another handy and emotionally-provocative simile. However, as with its predecessor above (1), the implications drawn by Minister Khallid are fallaciously achieved. It is certainly true what he says here. The idiocy of sharing with the (white) man in the example goes without saying. However, imagine the story this way: A man breaks into my house, rapes the female members of my family, oppresses and abuses me. Let’s call this man “Davis.” Finally, I become strong enough; I retake the house. I kill Davis. Three months later, my friend, Eric, comes to me and asks if he can stay in one of my rooms. Now, Eric is my friend, but Eric kinda-sorta, at least a little bit, looks like Davis. What do I say? What do I do? The point of this is that Eric is not Davis, even if he looked almost like Davis’ twin! And I know Eric is my friend! Nevertheless, if I follow Khallid Muhammad’s line of reasoning, I’d be a fool to help Eric by letting him in my house.

To recognize the form of Khallid Muhammad’s talk does not require a deep philosophical thinker, trained to abstract away from content. Hatred and bigotry sit right out front staring all interested and disinterested parties straight in the face. All sense of humanity is thrown out to the wind. The message is lupus est homo homini: man is a wolf to man. In the world of wolves, the one with the strong jaw, the big teeth, the fierce disposition lords it over the others — until such time as another wolf comes along with a stronger jaw, bigger teeth, and a fiercer disposition. Or maybe the wolf just gets lucky and steals gunpowder from the Chinese.

The worst thing Minister Khallid’s message teaches is that there was nothing wrong with the fact that whites stole Africans from their home and brought them to America. There is nothing wrong with the fact that millions of Africans died in the squalorous holds of slave ships. There is nothing wrong with the fact that whites systematically destroyed the culture of Africans. There is nothing wrong with the fact that whites perverted the histories of African-Americans. There is nothing wrong with the fact that whites tried to take away the soul of African-Americans the way they took away their names. Might makes right.

This is the message of Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad. It is a violent, angry, pathetic, diseased message which has existed since time immemorial. In itself, the disease is color-blind: it strikes people of all complexions.

Tonight, as I listened to Minister Farakhan speaking, I was struck for approximately 99% of the time that he spoke by how eloquent and accurate and well-chosen his words regarding the current Bush Administration’s activities with respect (or, should we say, “lack of respect”) to the rest of the world were. And I experienced massive cognitive dissonance for what seemed like at least 15 or 20 minutes, as I listened to him. I thought, “This is a message America needs to hear.” And, I confess, I thought, “How is it that it’s coming from this person?” Farakhan spoke eloquently, forcefully and plainly about the threat of the neo-conservatives. He quoted from a document which he said would be available on his website. (If any readers are still with me, and you find it, feel free to post it in comments to this entry.) It was, he said, signed by Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and numerous other “neo-cons” who are now “serving” our country as government officials. It made it clear — long before George Bush was elected — that they intended to not only take over Iraq (that was only their first target), but to reshape the Middle East. In fact, they were going to reshape Islam to make it more submissive and compatible with American goals.

I could not believe this guy who appeared to be making so much sense. I kept asking myself, “Okay. When is the other shoe going to drop?”

And then, bam!, my cognitive dissonance evaporated as a tiny water droplet struck by lightning.

To anyone else what came next would have been the very definition of “non sequitur.” But, alas, I’d seen this form of what passes for “logic” in the Nation of Islam (not to be confused with Islam, the religion) before.

The reality, Farrakhan said, was that this was all the fault of Israel.

Oh, well. Why should I be surprised at the incapacity of Louis Farrakhan for rational thought? I had already experienced this when I tried to talk to his friend (on whom he turned his back when the white people asked him to do so), Khallid Abdul Muhammad, in 1991. Both men were/are so driven by hate as to overwhelm their otherwise obvious intelligence and eloquence; they could almost, but just not quite, construct a logical argument. So long as their hate could be restrained, they could, did, do sound human and sane.

But in the end, they are no different than the neo-cons against whom Farrakhan railed tonight on C SPAN 2. Hatred twists and damages their brains. And as Farrakhan noted of the neo-cons, they care not what destruction this wreaks upon a nation which would otherwise benefit from their skills.

A mind, indeed, is a terrible thing to waste. More’s the pity when rather than merely wasted, it’s warped.

Categories: Politics-In-General · Social Issues


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