Home' Greymouth Star : June 25th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Thursday, June 25, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1876 - At the Battle of Little Big Horn, Sioux
Indians led by Chief Crazy Horse rout the US
7th Cavalry led by George Custer, who dies
with his company of 264 men.
1950 - Korean War begins with North Korea’s
invasion of South Korea.
1953 - In a famous British criminal
case, John Christie is sentenced to
death for killing six women.
1967 - The Beatles perform their
new song All You Need Is L ove
during a live international telecast.
1968 - British comedian Tony
Hancock is found dead in a Sydney
hotel room after committing suicide.
1976 - Death of Johnny Mercer, US
songwriter and actor who wrote lyrics for
award-winning songs like Moon River.
2006 - Australian actress Nicole Kidman and
country singer Keith Urban marry in Sydney.
2008 - Q ueen Elizabeth II strips Zimbabwe’s
President Robert Mugabe of his knighthood.
2009 - Michael Jackson, the ‘King of Pop’, dies
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Tsar Nicholas I of Russia (1796-1855); Lord
Louis Mountbatten, English naval commander
and statesman (1900-1979); George Orwell
(born Eric Arthur Blair), British author (1903-
1950); Sidney Lumet, US film
director (1924-2011); June L ockhart,
US actor (1925-); Eddie Floyd, US
singer (1935-); Carly Simon, US
singer (1945-); Tim Finn, NZ-born
singer (1952-); Anthony Bourdain,
American chef and author (1956-);
Ricky Gervais, British comedian
(1961-); George Michael, British singer (1963-) .
“ We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst
inventions of humanity: romantic love and
gunpowder.” — Andre Maurois, French
“All the nations will be gathered before Him,
and He will separate people one from another
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the
goats. “ — (Matthew 25.32).
last night, 45
people agreed on a
which should prove a multi-thousand pound
money-spinner for the Civic Centre project.
The scheme? — A Queen Carnival.
Such events are not uncommon here, some
half dozen have been conducted at various
times before. D uring the war in a three-month
period a Queen Carnival netted £12,000.
Hopes are held that the scheme launched last
night will surpass this mark.
“ But,” as the Mayor Mr F W Baillie said, “if
the carnival is to be a success it will need the
whole town’s support.” He warned that a lot of
hard work would be encountered. The carnival
would probably take three months.
Speaking near the multi-thousand pound
Wanganui River bridge of the Paringa-
Greymouth highway this morning, the District
Commissioner of Works, Mr D B Dallas
revealed that Knights Point has been selected
as the point for the opening of the Haast Road.
Knights Point was first advocated as the
opening site some weeks ago by Mr Dallas.
It is a high bluff overlooking the sea with a
background of lush bush. “But,” confessed Mr
Dallas this morning, “yesterday misty rain hid
the sea from view. It is hoped such conditions
will not prevail on H-Day, November 6. ”
Knights Point is two and a-half miles north
of Breccia Creek — the main divider between
northern and southern work gangs. Yesterday
when Mr Dallas visited the area he was
confronted by seas of mud and slush. In fact a
Landrover in which he was being driven could
not reach Breccia Creek.
uFood for thought
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Right now a hand-picked group of
worthy citizens are hard at work spending
$26 million of our money. They are doing
so at the behest of the Prime Minister,
John Key, who decided, a few years back,
that what New Zealand really needed
was a new flag. At the same time, but a
lot further back in the decision-making
machinery of State, a diverse collection
of top-ranking military officers, senior
bureaucrats and politicians are engaged in
producing the 2015 defence white paper.
As part of the flag-changing exercise, New
Zealanders are being asked what they
stand for. The much lower-key consultative
exercise for the defence white paper needs
God, please defend NZ
he massacre at Emanuel
Episcopal Church in
Charleston, South Carolina,
was more than an assault on
one black Bible study group.
It was an attack on a basic foundation of
black history and culture.
The AME denomination is of critical
significance in the history of black
Americans. Indeed, as religious institutions
go, they do not get more significant.
Attacks on it are effectively attacks on the
very fabric of black American life.
The United States has been here
before. We have been in that place where
black churches were burned or bombed.
Where four little black girls died and
their mourning parents contemplated
incalculable losses amid cries for
Indeed, this massacre in the Emanuel
AME Church, the oldest AME in the
South, will likely take its place in history
alongside the 1963 bombing of the 16th
Street Baptist Church in Birmingham,
Alabama, a brutal attack on the civil-rights
movement. Many African-Americans also
find it difficult to disconnect this assault
from recent instances of white police
officers killing unarmed black men or the
stunning racial disparity in the United
States judicial system, in which one in
three black men can expect to go to prison
over his lifetime.
This violence all emanates from the same
stew of racial hatred that is churning the
cauldron of right-wing media outlets and
extremist internet sites.
The attack on a Bible study group,
however, appears to be about far more
than simply killing black people. For many
African-Americans, the attack against
a storied AME church is an attempt to
virtually erase black history and culture.
African-Americans’ growing fear has
been, in part, stirred by a belief that
far-right conser vatives are engaged in
dog-whistle politics. Consider, even as
minority voters helped build the national
majority that elected and then re-elected
President Barack Obama, Tea Party rallies
were marked by signs demanding “Take
Back O ur Country. ” Republican attempts
to overturn the Voting Rights Act and
institute voter IDs are viewed as efforts to
restrict black voters. The Confederate flag
flying on the South Carolina Statehouse
grounds cannot even be lowered to half-
staff except by a supermajority of the State
legislature — even as South Carolina
grieves for the nine people killed in
One AME sur vivor has reportedly
said that the gunman told the black
parishioners, “I have to do it. You rape our
women and you’re taking over our country,
and you have to go.”
The captured cellphone images of white
police officers killing unarmed black
men also provoke fears among African-
Americans. How do you explain, many ask
after seeing the videos, when pressure is
applied to the throat of a man repeatedly
pleading, “I can’t breathe,” or when a boy
with a toy gun is dead
just 12 seconds after
a police officer alights
from his patrol car, or
when eight shots are
fired at the back of a
fleeing man in North
Yet the Charleston
brazen. The Bible
study group was
doing what black
Americans have been
doing in church for
hundreds of years.
They were partaking
in the rites and rituals
that have sustained
in a world that often
seemed filled with
hate, in a space that
has been one of the
principle means of
black freedom and
one of the surest ways
black life. The killer
sat quietly for almost
an hour, according to
one sur vivor, perhaps
even listening for a
while, and then began
arguing with the
group before opening
rich in history in
its own right, also
belongs to the far
larger history of
AME churches in the
United States. Much
of that history has to
do with the fight for freedom, resistance
to racial tyranny and the struggle for social
Richard Allen established the AME
Church as an autonomous denomination
in 1816, having first organised a “Free
African Society” during the revolutionary
era to help meet the material needs
of Philadelphia’s slave and free-black
population. Allen, born a slave in 1760,
purchased his freedom in 1783. He
modelled his pursuit of personal liberty
on the American colonists who sought
independence from Britain. He used his
faith in the ser vice of black people, whom
he called “a people long forgotten.”
The result was a religious institution
that ser ved as a beacon of freedom when
most black bodies were still in chains.
It now has an international reach and a
membership of nearly 8 million people.
The sociologist and civil rights activist W
E B Du Bois recognised the magnitude of
Allen’s accomplishments, citing his church
as “one of the greatest organisations in the
world.” Allen is still known as “freedom’s
The AME church developed out of one
dramatic incident. In 1792 Allen and a
small band of blacks walked out of
St George Methodist Episcopal Church
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in defiance
when the congregation sought to enforce
racial segregation in its new building. In
the 18th century, racially separate churches
were uncommon, but racial segregation
within congregations was becoming the
order of the day. The black parishioners
had been dragged from the church while
they knelt before the altar, which had been
re-designated for the exclusive use by
the white members of the congregation.
So Allen and his co-religionists bolted
and organised Bethel African Methodist
Episcopal Church, the “Mother Church”
of all AME churches.
Since its founding, Bethel AME has set
the terms for black churches’ priorities —
theologically, socially and politically. It
originated the “activist ” black church that
works for social justice, racial equality and
civil rights. Celebrated black leaders have
been nurtured in its tradition, including
Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, social
reformer Reverdy C. Ransom, theologian
James H. Cone and Vashti Murphy
McKenzie, the first female AME bishop.
Emanuel AME church stands as a
powerful example of this tradition. Its
entire history can be viewed as a struggle
for justice. It, too, was born from defiance,
when the black members of Charleston’s
Methodist Episcopal church walked out in
1816 over a burial ground dispute.
Under the initial leadership of Morris
Brown, the congregation, though facing
near-impossible odds, ser ved the black
community of Charleston valiantly. The
church’s defining moment came early in
its history. In 1822, one of its co-founders,
Denmark Vesey, a free-black abolitionist,
was discovered to be plotting a slave revolt.
Vesey had planned to kill all white slave
owners, free the slaves and sail off with
them to the black republic of Haiti. The
scheme was thwarted and Vesey and 34
of the slave rebels were hanged. White
authorities burned Emanuel to the ground
and outlawed all black churches in the
state, forcing the congregation to meet in
secret until after the Civil War ended in
The massacre at Emanuel AME occurred
a day after the 193rd anniversary of the
Vesey slave rebellion.
Emanuel AME Church will sur vive and
remain faithful to its storied tradition of
fighting for social justice and freedom.
Yet black fears about safety continue to
increase. This is based on far more than a
belief that far-right white anxiety is alive
in America, and it is armed.
African-Americans confront militarised
police forces - equipped with surplus
Defence Department weapons usually
associated with occupying forces - that
regularly deem black and brown bodies
to be a threat. Federal, state and local
authorities support a legal system that uses
racial profiling, leading to a large disparity
between people of colour and whites in
terms of arrests and death sentences.
The one sure way for ward now is the
realisation that it is racism not “blackness”
that needs to be eradicated in the United
States. We can only hope that the killing
of the nine black church members of
Emanuel AME will galvanise the country
against racial extremists just as the murder
of four little black girls in the bombing
of the 16th Street Baptist Church did in
Only then can the nation be true to its
Wallace Best is a professor of
religion and African-American studies at
Princeton University. He is the author of
“ Passionately Human, No Less Divine:
Religion and Culture in Black Chicago,
1915-1952” and is now working on a book
about the religious thought of the poet
Langston Hughes. The opinions expressed
here are his own.
Assault on black life
to know what they will fight for — and
It is a great shame that the same
quantum of resources currently being
poured into the flag-changing exercise
have not been devoted to determining
what goes into the defence white paper.
Certainly a country’s flag is (or should be)
a powerful symbol of national identity.
As many old soldiers are quick to remind
us, it is the object under which tens of
thousands of young New Zealanders
marched off to war in 1939. And it is
still the object we drape over the caskets
of the fallen as we pipe them off our
ageing Hercules transport aircraft and
into the care of their grieving families.
It would, however, be foolish to equate
the symbolism of war with war itself.
Deciding how our nation should be
defended, and by whom, is surely as
worthy of intense public debate as the
colour of the flag they fight under?
A Government white paper is, as its
name suggests, an attempt to come
at important public policy from first
principles. It should be a statement of
fundamental intent; the starting point
from which we collectively determine
to set forth. What then, are the first
principles of a New Zealand strategy for
The first big question to ask must surely
be: Who will defend us?
This is not as naive as it sounds, because
if your answer to that first question
is: “a defence force made up of New
Zealanders”, then you’re immediately
faced with a whole host of other
questions. Should that defence force
be large and conscripted, or small and
professional? Should it operate on the
assumption that New Zealand will be
fighting its enemies alone, or as part of
coalitions of allied forces? If it is the
latter, then how much of our national
sovereignty are we willing to forfeit in
return for the military assistance of larger,
richer and more militarily formidable
The second big question to answer is:
How shall we fight?
Should we attempt to equip ourselves
with the most sophisticated and effective
military technology in order to repel
enemies attacking us from any quarter
— land, sea or air? Or, should we build
military proficiency in only a limited
number of areas, relying, once again, on
more powerful allies to supply the full
array of military options?
The acquisition of full-spectrum military
capability would entail the reconstitution
of the RNZAF’s fighter-bomber
squadrons, along with medium- and
short-range surface-to-air and surface-
to-surface missiles, a submarine force and
naval vessels at least equal to the task of
apprehending Patagonian tooth-fishers.
The other alternative is to build a
resistance-style defence force, based upon
a universal people’s militia, ferociously
schooled in the strategy and tactics of 21st
century asymmetric warfare.
The latter option would be by far the
cheapest option — a not unimportant
consideration. Indeed, the third big question
is: How much are we willing to pay?
The answer, historically, is “not very
much”. Certainly, a defence force capable
of defending New Zealand unaided, using
conventional military weapons, would be
eye-wateringly expensive. Taxes would
rise and our welfare state would shrink.
In the absence of a slavering, swivel-eyed
existential threat, it is, therefore, very
difficult to see the average voter ponying-
up for a Swiss or Israeli-style defence
force. Equally unlikely is the prospect of
New Zealanders suddenly becoming the
South Pacific’s answer to the Viet Cong
or Islamic State.
All of which leaves us in the position of
Blanche D uBois in Tennessee William’s
A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche
relied upon ‘the kindness of strangers’.
New Zealand’s security depends on the
kindness of her ‘friends’.
Bluntly speaking: once a colony, always a
colony — with or without a new flag.
Chris Trotter is a left-wing media
People hold hands as they pray while they take part in the morning service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
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