The saying “the chickens have come home to roost” means what goes around comes around or its payback time. In 1963 Malcolm X, in answer to a question about the assassination of President John Kennedy, said that Kennedy’s death was a case of “the chickens coming home to roost.” It was payback time for Kennedy’s failure to stop the violence against blacks during the Birmingham demonstrations when police used police dogs, police clubs, and fire hoses to brutalize defenseless black women, children, and even babies.
Malcolm X was also angry upon hearing that the late President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, had in Alabama told Southern newspaper editors that they must acknowledge the gains of moderate Negro leaders in order to counter Negro extremists, especially the Black Muslims.
Years later this same phrase was used by a professor at the University of Colorado referring to the suicide bombings at the NYC Twin Towers on 9/11, 2001.
In both instances there was a public outcry with many calling for a strict censure of the messenger.
No one is applauding the death of innocent people or the assassination of a president. However, expressions such as “the chickens have come home to roost,” or the Spanish language equivalent that “Todo se paga en esta vida,” which literally means that we pay for everything in this world — nothing comes free. They are moral lessons.
Reaching back into Christian ethics, you could say that if you sin, you pay for it.
In this context, one can understand Malcolm X’s search for a meaning to the assassination of Kennedy or even why someone would be so angry to kill innocent civilians. I recently applied the saying to immigration in Europe where white Europeans are panicking over the arrival of millions of people from their former colonies seeking a better life. The truth be told, every misdeed that you commit as a person or as a nation comes back to haunt you.
Likewise the history of slavery, racism, lynching, imperialism, repatriation and the internment of the Japanese as well as the atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945 have formed the attitudes toward us.
During the Central American Wars of the 1980s millions of Central Americans migrated to the United States, their hunger and search for stability had no borders. As a result of NAFTA, Mexican migration was accelerated, e.g., U.S. export of subsidized U.S. corn alone displaced more than one million small Mexican farmers. Everything we do in this world has consequences, and ultimately, as the scripture says, we pay for our sins.
Latin Americans don’t hate the United States because they are envious of them; they hate them because of a history that most Americans are ignorant of. In 1959 Fidel Castro gave a famous speech that many Americans applauded without knowing what he was talking about.
It began, “PEOPLE OF SANTIAGO, COMPATRIOTS OF ALL CUBA. Our Revolution … will not be like 1895 when the Americans came and took over, intervening at the last moment … Nor will it be like 1933, when the people began to believe that the revolution was going to triumph, and Mr. Batista came in to betray the revolution, take over power, and establish an 11-year-long dictatorship…. The Revolution Begins Now…”
Perhaps, if we had listened to what Fidel was saying our relations with Cuba would have been different. In 1898 we dramatically entered the war against Spain and took credit for Cuban Independence. Cuban rebels had been fighting for independence for a half century, and they were cast aside.
The United States ignored the pleas of the independistas. The Apostle of Cuban Independence, José Martí was so disillusioned with the U.S. that he wrote a letter condemning U.S. imperialist designs, warning “I lived in the monster, and I know its entrails…” His words were prophetic and three years later the U.S. just walked in and made a separate peace with Spain that gave the U.S. Puerto Rico and the Philippines and made Cuba an American vassal.
Most Americans know very little about the C.I.A’s overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Guatemalan peasants. That is why Castro reviewed the history of betrayals vowing that “the revolution begins now.”
History would be much different today if we had kept our promises after World War II, and proved that we were indeed fighting against racism and for a democratic world. Instead, we used our forces to maintain European hegemony in the world. U.S. forces after the surrender of the Japanese in French Indochina rearmed the Japanese to hold the region until the French could reestablish control. The result was the Vietnam War and colonial wars throughout the Third World that broke out because of broken promises.
If African-American and other minorities would have been granted equality during and after the war, it would not have been necessary to have sit-ins, civil disobedience and urban riots or a need for Malcolm X to have made the reference to “The chickens have come home to roost.”
Similarly Mexican Americans and other Latinos have suffered a history of discrimination and inequality that has marginalized and forced them into ghettos and inferior schools. Urban violence is a result of the betrayal of dreams told by liars to people desperate to believe them.
Why do people want to come to the United States in the first place? They want stability, they want peace. But, you don’t create peace by creating a drug market and stupid policies that abet poverty and drug dealing. Our drug policy is decaying the soul of the Latin American people, from Colombia through the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. There will be consequences. In the end, we will pay for our sins, and “the chickens will surely come home to roost.”
This all brings us back to the present. The United States is in the Middle East because it wants to remain the player. It wants the region’s oil. It has vital interests in Israel. Giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, and looking at the situation objectively, can I in good conscience believe Barack Obama or John Kerry when I so vigorously opposed George Bush and Dick Cheney? What Bush/Cheney told us about weapons of mass destruction has been proven a lie. With even less proof, Obama and Kerry claim that Bashar Hafez al-Assad gassed his people, and they want us to believe them because they say “trust me.”
There is an old Arab saying, “the friend of my enemy is my enemy.” Do we honestly believe that we are winning the hearts and minds of the people in the Middle East and Africa by killing their children with bombs dropped from our drones? Think. My wife still remembers the name of the person who killed her grandfather on her birthday years before she was born. What distinguishes us as human beings is that we remember. The memory of those that we maim makes it inevitable that the chickens will someday come home to roost.
Rodolfo F. Acuña
Monday, 2 September 2013