“I ain’t got nothing against them Vietcong.” — Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali, the charismatic and controversial boxing titan, was given a fine farewell in an obituary tribute by Robert Lipsyte in the New York Times.
“Ali was the most thrilling, if not the best heavyweight ever, carrying into the ring a physically lyrical, unorthodox boxing style that fused speed, agility and power more seamlessly than any fighter before him,” Lipsyte wrote.
“An agile mind, a buoyant personality, a brash self-confidence with his fists, using a patter of inventive doggerel. He converted from Christianity to Islam, changing his ‘slave name’ of Cassius Clay to one bestowed by the separatist Islamic group, the Nation of Islam (‘Black Muslims’).”
Ali, who died recently at 74 of Parkinson’s disease, was three times heavyweight champion. But to me the most significant thing about him was his opposition to the Vietnam War and refusal to be drafted into the Army.
He was originally disqualified by the Louisville, Ky., selective service board because of his substandard score on a mental aptitude test. But he was reclassified 1A in February 1966 after a lower standard was established. He was now eligible to go to war.
But he balked at the mere thought of fighting in a war, telling a mostly hostile press that he had nothing against the Vietcong. To my intense sorrow, my all-time favorite sports writer, Red Smith of the New York Herald Tribune, wrote this ugly paragraph:
“Squealing over the possibility that the military might call him up, Cassius makes himself as sorry a spectacle as those unwashed punks who picket and demonstrate against the war.”
On the positive side of the press, however, broadcaster Howard Cosell defended Ali’s decisions. Cosell was responsible for keeping Ali on television during his forced interval from the ring, both as an interview subject and commentator during boxing matches.
In April 1967 Ali refused to be drafted and requested conscientious objection status. A lower federal court denied his right to both stances. He was stripped of his heavyweight title by the boxing commission. Ali did not box again for three and one-half years, losing precious years of his athletic prime.
The Supreme Court, after appeals crawled through the legal process, ruled on June 26,1971. It unanimously reversed the lower court.
The court of public opinion also finally came to Ali’s side, agreeing that the Vietnam War was one of the many unjust U.S. wars.
As for Ali the boxer, Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “He no longer had fights. He gave recitals.”
Give poet Elizabeth Alexander the last word. It’s called “Narrative: Ali,” subtitled “a poem in twelve rounds.” Just a few lines from round 12:
“They called me ‘the fistic pariah.’
“They said I didn’t love my country,
“Called me a race-hater…waited for me
“to come out on a stretcher, shot at me,
“hexed me, cursed me….”
The truth is Ali loved his country as anyone does who has the courage to shout out its wrongs.
OKINAWANS OUTRAGED BY SLAYING
The U.S. military has stopped partying on seedy Gate Street with its strip of bars and clubs because a 20-year-old Okinawan woman was recently murdered on the southern Japanese island. The woman’s decomposing body was found in a suitcase near the huge Air Force base.
Okinawans were outraged by the murder but it was hardly the first time they were angered by crimes, violence and noise from American personnel stationed at the Air Force base and the U.S Marine Corps Air Station.
An American military contractor, who is a Marine veteran, has been arrested in the killing.
Why the U.S. still has military bases 71 years after the end of World War II can only be explained by the sickening endless and boundless worldwide U.S. imperialism. Okinawa is still a U.S. colony.
Blame President Obama, the so-called man of peace, for a totally unjust display of military might in Okinawa.
VATICAN LEAKS AND STAGED TRIAL
The Vatican City constantly seethes with conspiracy, intrigue and mystery, always surprising for a supposedly holy place.
The latest to breech the wall of secrecy is a Vatican consultant, Francesca Chaouqui. She is accused of stealing and leaking confidential documents to two journalists who wrote tell-all books about Vatican mismanagement and corruption.
She is a scapegoat given a show trial by Vatican prosecutors in “Vatileaks 2” before being sent to jail for 15 years. Again the Vatican is trying to muzzle free speech and squelch embarrassing criticisms.
Vatican officials–incredibly–are calling the disclosures “a threat to its security.” What it really is: a threat to frequent embarrassments.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)