I created GlobalGrind a few years ago for moments like this. Lupe Fiasco, one of the great poets of his generation, made some comments that didn’t sit well with a lot of people, when he called President Barack Obama a “terrorist.” I decided to reach out to Lupe to give him a platform to further explain why he felt this way and discuss the overall state of our country, our politics and the world.
This is a transcript from our conversation.
Me: Lupe, it is good to speak with you. I heard there was a lot of talk about the comments you made a few days ago about the President, and I wanted to give you a chance to further discuss your thoughts. I respect you as an artist and a poet and I think your opinion is important to the national discussion on where our country is going. I kinda understand that some of our foreign policy has been very hurtful and sometimes we do things that are not conscience. I didn’t really think that Obama was any more aggressive about our business interests or America’s interest in terms of the foreign policy then of the previous President, and in fact, I believe there have been changes under this administration that have been really good, like his speech in Cairo or ending combat operations in Iraq. So I just want to get clarity on your words so I can send them out there and that people understand because America in the past has made some horrible choices. Our footprint on the necks of people around the world is not really understood by the American public. When you think about 300,000 or whatever number of innocent Muslims we killed in Iraq, or when you think about some of the choices we’ve made that have hurt people but we only count our dead in Iraq. We don’t count theirs. We don’t know the amount of Islamophobia the country exudes and we say things like “we’re going on a crusade” and these things are scary…What do you think?-
Lupe: America was based on a hypocrisy and what we had done is basically an extension of that hypocrisy. I think that the Constitution was a hypocrisy in the sense that the same way you look at somebody like Glenn Beck as a hypocrite. On one level I agree with a lot of stuff that Glenn Beck says — this is to give you context for me and where my statements come from — I agree with the ideals that he speaks about when he talks about family values and when he talks about taking care of your own community. He talks a really good wholesome kind of game. The problem is, he’s not talking to anybody but white people. It’s really just the intention and the context of it. So there’s a certain level of hypocrisy that exists in America. And it started back from the Constitution and all the people who wrote the Constitution and everything that they put in there it was good game, but all those people had slaves. The majority of the people had slaves or were sympathetic to slaveholders or were direct recipients of money from slavery and things like that and had businesses that dealt with plantations and people that had slaves. There’s a certain level of hypocrisy that existed from the inception of this country all the way up until today and we’re really just facing the remnants.
Lupe: My issue and what I try and do is expose that hypocrisy but expand the conversation to make it honest. To make the conversation honest so it speaks to everyone so people become educated to those things. So for me it boils down to everything that America does. It’s foreign policy is very hypocritical, it’s very backwards. We don’t count the other bodies, for us the war is one-way. And they’re not even wars of attrition, not even honest wars. They’re not wars that were like wars that were fought 200 years ago or wars that were fought a hundred years ago. These are wars that are based on business. These are wars that are based on “let’s build these drones and we gotta try this technology but we need to make sure it works so we need to at least kill X amount of people so we can prove the value of this particular project that we spent 40 billion dollars on,” so to speak. And you multiply times how many things are going through the Pentagon military industrial complex.
So when I make the statement about Obama being a terrorist it was funny because somebody had did it … on one of the blogs or one of the news pieces or one of the internet sites that actually ran with the story or re-put it out, one of the people in the commentary related the whole situation to Osama bin Laden right? And Osama bin Laden was the unquestioned head of Al Qaeda, he was the mastermind, he was a financier, he was a politician, he orchestrated things for al-Qaeda and what have you, but Osama bin Laden wasn’t a suicide bomber. He wasn’t a soldier. If he was a suicide bomber he would be dead, because his first mission there would be no more Osama bin Laden. Other than the time that he spent in Afghanistan, as far as we know he was never the one running in to the supermarkets shooting people, he was never the one running into the mosque shooting people, he was never one at the roadside setting up IEDs, he didn’t fly the planes into the buildings or anything like that. He was the mastermind, the financier and what have you. And some instances the way al-Qaeda is set up there’s certain things that Osama bin Laden probably didn’t even know about that was occurring all throughout the Middle East, all throughout North Africa and in the U.S. as well. So he’s a terrorist even though he never really did a terrorist act.
Lupe (con’t): So they related it to Obama and they said well Obama is kinda in the same light. Every President before him and every President that comes after him that still pushes aggression first. Whereas Obama never killed anybody. Him himself. He doesn’t know how to fly a stealth fighter. He never piloted a drone from a hundred miles away and dropped a bomb on a wedding or a birthday party. But at the same time too he should receive the same amount of credit for those actions of the people that are under him and the organizations that he heads. He should receive the same credit and the same title that Osama bin Laden gets. What’s the difference between somebody walking a bomb in strapped to their chest into a wedding full of innocent people or a bomb coming from a stealth fighter two miles up and coming into the roof into a wedding full of innocent people? What’s the difference? At the end of the day you’re killing innocent people. So for me it’s — and that’s from somebody else that was from somebody spectating and commentating on the situation. So as long as they can inspire things like that then I feel that it’s a just and a real honest and critical conversation that we’re having right now. It’s inspiring this type of thought, for people to start thinking critically about what’s going on. I can sit out and fully — ya’ know if it was in a political context and we sat down and had the real political discourse and I went and quoted all of the books I read and documentaries I’ve seen and the knowledge and the numbers and the statistics that I have — I can explain why, what, when and where to a tee. But in the state that we live in and the way the media’s run and the way the internet works I’m at the mercy of the soundbite and I’m at the mercy of the attention span of 140 characters on Twitter and things of that nature. I think there’s a certain level of hypocrisy that this country was founded on and I’m just kinda trying to find out the effects of it now. If that makes any sense?
Me: The idea of these promises we founded this country on and to the extent that you want to make a more perfect Union, this dialogue has to be had. If we have foreign policy that is driven by corporations in some cases and sometimes it hurts innocent people and we could’ve made choices that are more compassionate then your dialogue is necessary and maybe your soundbite is how the dialogue begins for some people. Are you concerned that having this discussion is gonna affect your career?
Lupe: Um … yeah! (laughs) but I don’t think it’s gonna be in a negative way because I’m thinking ten steps ahead. I’m not thinking … I’m thinking of the effects of this, who this is gonna speak to, who’s gonna react to it, who’s gonna be against it, who’s gonna be for it. But I’m already thinking 10 steps ahead. I’m already thinking about and already have in place the — Fox News, Bill O’Reilly just did a … he just called me a pinhead on his show last night for the remark and lied and said that he reached out to get me on the show.
Me: What I was saying is I think what occurred with Fox News or whoever else is gonna try to use this as ammunition against Obama for whatever the political purposes are.
Lupe: Or whatever the GOP candidates or what have you, right? Use it as another sound bite alongside Obamacare to just put the hoopla up in the midst. And I think what happened was is people once they start to do that and they Google who I was and then they see the context of why the question was even asked in the first place was based off the song “Words I Never Said” then it’s “Oh if we put this dude on, everything that he talked about is gonna come out and he’s really talking about us too.”
Me: Can I say something that I hope will put it in context? Because I don’t think your career is at risk at all. I mean you have music, you’re a poet you say things that are on your mind and people applaud you for them and they’re truthful and they listen to them more intently. Most of the people who buy your records are progressive thinkers and will listen to you but let me put it in the context of, and you see if it’s ok. What I believe is that what you’re saying is American foreign policy is in many cases pushed by corporate greed, pushed by abusive lifestyles to make everybody continue to be comfortable and sometimes exploit innocent people across the globe for the betterment of the American public.They think betterment, you know most times we don’t need the shit we fight for. I don’t care if it’s the shit on the ground, the cell phones, or if it’s the oil or gold or whatever it is we’re stealing or taking from other countries.What you’re saying about American policy is that everybody should be first more educated so they can push their politicians to make better choices a and stand up to the kind of sideways rap they can give us while they do sometimes really hurtful things. Americans are not aware of the hurtful things that are done “on their behalf.” But for the record, you’re saying that American foreign policy has always been, and more recently more and more been, whether it’s the lobbyists or the corporations or the business interests or the support systems that make this government stand on this legs. You would say that you may not like Obama, but the alternative is worse. Cause you know that I have proudly supported this President and I believe in him and I want people to be inspired to vote. I have to go out and work my ass off to make sure that a foreign policy that could be more disastrous than George Bush’s is not implemented and more people are not abused — if we got a Sarah Palin or a Michelle Bachmann or a Mitt Romney … damn. Is that a fair assessment?
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR PART II