A guest post by Carol Lipton:
Phil Ochs penned the famous lyrics to “Love Me I’m a Liberal” about Malcolm X:
I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I’d lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me Love me, I’m a liberal
He wrote those lyrics to contrast the assassinations of Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. Medgar Evers, in the eyes of white journalists, was the “good Negro” who died a martyr, having marched for civil rights, while Malcolm X was the dangerous black man, the heretic who dared to expose the nature of American capitalism, and the collective delusion that we were a democracy for anyone other than white people.
The comment which most inspired the tidal wave of wrath in the media was his statement after JFK’s assassination that “the chickens have come home to roost”. Those words referred to what happened in Vietnam just three weeks before before President Kennedy’s assassination, which the world has now largely forgotten.
That was the November 3, 1963 assassination of No Dinh Nu, younger brother and chief political advisor of South Vietnam’s first president, Ngô Đình Diệm, and Diem himself, who were installed largely as the result of support by the US.
The coup was the culmination of nine years of autocratic and nepotistic family rule in South Vietnam. There was even a meme I recall seeing in newspapers: “no Nus is good news”. Numerous coup plans had been explored by the army before, but the plotters intensified their activities with increased confidence after the administration of U.S. President John F. Kennedy authorized the U.S. embassy to explore the possibility of a leadership change.
The generals initially attempted to cover up the execution by suggesting that the brothers had committed suicide, but this was contradicted when photos of the Ngôs’ corpses surfaced in the media.
When Kennedy was then assassinated on November 22, 1963 , Malcolm X quickly made the connection between US foreign policy and the potential inherent in that policy for a coup d’etat in our own country. It was a perspective that took into account the long and bloody history of CIA coups, from Greece in 1948, to the mass assassinations and coup that deposed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1963.
His statement that “the chickens have come home to roost” was no less in bad taste, or any more incendiary, than the hundreds of political cartoons penned by Charlie Hebdo. But as we approach the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s own assassination in February, 1965, nowhere do liberal pundits celebrate Malcolm X’s right to free speech, or his value to our society.
There was never was a je suis Malcolm, and there never will be. Phil Ochs was right.
CAROL LIPTON was born and raised in the Pelham Parkway housing projects, where she learned how to sleep pressed up against the wall in the summer. She was admitted to Music and Art High School on Art and Bronx H.S. of Science, and went to Science, a decision she had no control over. Largely self-taught in art, she began exhibiting and selling her watercolor paintings at age 14. Her favorite sports were punch ball, dodge ball, stickball, kickball, cycling, and Ringaleevio. She invented the first aerodynamic skully cap. Carol began playing piano at age 4 ½, and studied piano and music theory for 11 years. She was a professional musician and composer, playing the restaurant, bar and college circuit in D.C.
She went to NYU on an IBEW and Regents scholarship, where she graduated with Honors in philosophy and Political Science. She was co-editor of the poetry journal, and was a student strike coordinator in the aftermath of Kent State. After graduation, she led a cross-country 450-mile cycling trip through Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. She graduated from the Catholic University School of Law. She was a grants administrator for the Expansion Arts program at NEA, responsible for making decisions to community arts programs.
As a legal services fellow in Kentucky, Carol became an anti-nuclear activist, and co-produced a special for NBC on the Maxey Flats nuclear waste site. She has co-produced specials for ABC’s 20/20 on the militia/tax protest movement, and for NBC, on a Guatemalan political asylum claimant she represented through Human Rights First, where she trained under the late Arthur Helton. She consulted to the Haitian Refugee Center, where she handled an immigration appeal.
She has worked in public interest law, for Legal Services, and in private practice, specializing in consumer fraud, employment discrimination, bankruptcy, housing, and appellate litigation. She has been a member of the Appellate Division’s Assigned Counsel panel for 23 years, and is a member of the National Lawyers Guild.