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Take the Moral High Road


By Joseph F Kahn

ON THURSDAY April 4. The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson drew 5000 Harvard students and others to the Yard, exhorting them to choose the moral high road on the issue of apartheid, to shun rationalization and let their emotions dictate the terms for dealing with South Africa's parish regime. The reverend is famous for his disdain for those who use immoral means to attain their ends; he blasted President Bok for his paternalistic and tokenistic approach to aiding the oppresed Black South Africans, opting instead for what he calls the moral purity of complete divestment.

In a March interview with Melvin Reynolds, one of Jackson's top policy makers. The Crimson learned why Jackson had decided to visit various inner-city high schools on a drug-fighting campaign. Jackson, Reynolds told us, believes that unless our youth stop clotting their souls with LSD, our soldiers and our leaders will soon lose touch with purity and threaten our national security. Jackson, he said, has decided that moral purity is the only true base from which to grow.

And Reynolds also explained why Jackson avoided any direct challenge to Walter F. Mondale in the 1984 Democratic Convention, despite the latter's fear that Jackson might try to split the party. As Reynolds put it, "Jesse just took the high road" on such political issues.

Yes, Jackson likes to take the high road. But on March 11, when Jackson was arrested in front of the South African embassy in Washington, he delivered a short speech which he had planned before his arrest there. Jackson called for a boycott on Westinghouse Co. for its part in constructing the segregated African railway system. It so happens that during the same period, according to a report published by syndicated columnists Evans and Novak, his half-brother, multimillionaire businessman Noah Robinson, had written several rather threatening letter to Westinghouse in an attempt to capture a local transportation contract for his cement company.

A coincidence? Both Robinson and Jackson claim it is. But consider the fact that Jackson did not understand the Westinghouse connection. The Westinghouse which builds railways in South Africa is a British conglomerate, no relation to the American company at all. Out of the hundreds of American companies doing business in South Africa, some of which supply computers to aid the government in enforcing influx control, the backbone of apartheid, Jackson mistakenly chose to boycott Westinghouse, which has only 105 employees in the nation. One would think that the reverend would research a specific company thoroughly before he decided a boycott was necessary, especially since he is on the record as condemning all businesses which operate in South Africa and has called them all evil supporters of apartheid.

Moreover, consider that a similar "coincidence" occured during the '84 campaign, when Jackson called for a boycott on Coca Cola for their moral ineptitude in employee related issues. His half brother soon became the first Black distributor in Coke's history and earned the millions necessary to start his cement company.

More recently, Jackson embraced the impoverished farmers of the nation during a tour through the Midwest. And he boasted a new alliance between farmers and the poor during his Harvard speech. "We marched all night long with farmers, and farmers by the thousands marched behind Jesse Jackson in $80,000 tractors with Reagan/Bush stickers on their tractors; the rainbow will survive. That march in Minnesota said that the farmers can feed the hungry, but the hungry must save the farmers." Jackson's prescription for America's agriculturalists was "farms not arms." But Jesse failed to mention that since the days of the Populist Party, farmers vote conservative in numbers directly proportional to the rate of inflation; his Black-farmer alliance will only last as long as interest rates remain high and the money supply low. Farmers and inner-city Blacks share political ambitions only during rare periods of economic recovery. Jackson's move seems not a little opportunistic. Where's the high road?

JACKSON'S ARAB alliance has equally insecure roots. While the reverend now claims to repudiate the PLO, in 1984 he decried the extradition of a Palestinian terrorist for prosectution in Israel, where the terrorist had committed numerous crimes. Jackson also defended Andrew Young upon the latter's expulsion from the U.N. after meeting with a PLO member, and Jackson blamed the American Jews for Young's dismissal. The reverend accused Israeli Prime Minister Begin of being a racist, and was quoted as rebuking Americans for worrying too much about the Holocaust, while there are many other atrocities, such as the systematic murder of the Palestinian people, which he said are comparable to the Nazi regime and more current.

Jackson associates Blacks with Arabs, and in turn receives badly needed funds from the oil-rich nations. Historically, Blacks and Arabs have the natural alliance of the Nazis and the Jews; the Arabs sold Africans into slavery and greatly contributed to the South's ability to purchase slaves inexpensively during the early years of the British presence in the Americas. This Black-Arab association has plagued him in several instances, in his failure to praise the Israelis for the airlift of starving Black Ethiopian Jews form their barren homeland, in his now infamous "hymie" slur, and in his notorious alliance with Black Muslim leader and anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, Jackson's economic and political ties have led him into strange difficulties.

"We must fight for a value system, we must not put money above morals and economics above ethics," Jackson shouted to a roaring crowd in the Yard. "Rise up America, let the light of freedom shine, and nothing compromised to the lurking shadow apartheid. Rise up America, give our youth a reason to live. Rise up America, do justice, love mercy and walk only before our God. Rise up America, give me you tired, your poor, your huddled masses who have earned the right to breathe free. Rise up America, red, yellow, brown, Black and white. Rise up America, we're all persons in God's sight. Let's march together let's stand together. Let's go to jail together, let's live together, let's fight together. Freedom is now. Freedom in now."

JACKSON'S ORATORICAL skill is perhaps second to none in the public areas today. He moved even those considering themselves advocates of Harvard's current investment policy, with his calls for moral purity over financial and rational distractions. He asks us to "rise up," to forego those interests which run contradictory to our innermost sense of justice. President Bok was chastised by many for avoiding the Yard during the rally; he most likely stayed away because he realized a battle on Jackson's terms would result in a strike against the University administration. For Jackson's credibility lies not in his ability to dissect an issues and put it in perspective, but in his appeal to adopt a consistent moral outlook to public issues. He claims to take the high road on issues ranging from South Africa to affirmative action, and to leave Bok and others far behind. But the reverend's own record demonstrates a more opportunistic view. He takes the political high road when it comes to agricultural interests, he takes the economic high road when it comes to the Arab connection, and he takes the rational high road when it comes to his affiliation with Farrakhan and New York Jews.

Although he never explicitly states it, Jackson well knows that he relies heavily on the legacy of Martin Luther King. He refers to King at every opportunity, he emulates King on the podium. But he's nothing like King. King was moral, Jackson is political and opportunistic; he does not have the "moral authority" to illuminate Harvard's evil ways.

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