Thursday, September 25, 2014

Highly High

Matt Schauerhamer, one of the police officers involved in the Darrien Hunt shooting, wrote a strange article in the Crossroads Journal equating the Rastafarian Movement with the drug culture and consequently with evil.

Schauerhamer's article contrasts people who dress like cowboys, a thing he sees as a good image, with those dressing like Bob Marley, a thing Schauerhamer sees as a bad image. The juicy meat of the article is the following:

Having George Strait’s greatest hits on your iPod doesn’t mean you’re a cowboy. However, if your child is listening to Bob Marley’s "Kaya," is wearing a Bob Marley shirt with Bob Marley on it smoking a joint, has a Bob Marley poster in his room, and is wearing a Rasta hat (red, yellow and green), it is highly likely your child is highly high. If they have Rasta colored anything, it is a good bet your child uses or hangs out with drug users.

The article brought up an interesting point. Living here in Utah, I know very little of Rastafarian beliefs beyond the popular image in the media. Rather than ragging on the Saratoga Springs PD, I decided to spend the day researching this belief.

This quote comes from a BBC piece on the Rastafarian beliefs:
Rastafarians believe that God makes himself known through humanity. According to Jagessar "there must be one man in whom he exists most eminently and completely, and that is the supreme man, Rastafari, Selassie I."

This idea is quite Platonic. Plato's theory of forms would imply that there is a man who best represents the ideal form of humanity. There have been branches of Christianity that held that Jesus was the ideal form of man.

Rastafarian beliefs, like many other belief systems, runs back to ancient Israel but are manifest through the modern figure: Haile Selassie I.

Haile Selassie I was born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikal. He became "Emperor of Ethiopia" in 1930 with claims to be part of a dynasty reaching back to King Solomon and Queen Makeda (the Queen of Sheba). The term "Rastafari" is derived from the title Ras and Haile Selassie's first name "Tafari."

Haile Selassie, himself, was a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church which is a branch of the Coptic Christian Church.
Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia in December 1934. The smaller and poorly equipped Ethiopia maintained a strong defence but eventually fell in 1936 after which Selassie became a strong leader against fascism and the use of chemical weapons. Haile Selassie was immensely among African Americans in the United States.
Haile Selassie returned to Ethiopia in 1941 marching under the banner of The Lion of Judah after which he set forth on a variety of progressive reforms such as the end of slavery. Haile Selassie was an advocate of collective defense and sent troops to aid the allies in the Korean War, but was also both anti-colonialist and a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement.

Attempts at land reformed and progressive taxation failed. In the 1970s, famine took the lives of 40,000 and Haile's Selassie's regime soon fell to a Marxist revolution in 1974. In an event called "Black Saturday" a radical group called The Derg executed 60 members of Ethiopia's imperial government and declared the end of the Solomonic Dynasty. Haile Selassie died a year later after a prostate operation. The Soviet backed Derg ruled Ethiopia until 1991.

In the various articles I've read bout Ras Tafari, he sounds like a great man who stood against slavery, who stood against fascism, who stood against colonialism, and who stood against communism. The people who admire Ras Tafari have a great role model.

The Rastafarian Movement took hold in Jamaica a half world away from Ethopia, but I could see a people watching Haile Selassi thrilled with a fairly consistent campaign for human compassion and social justice.

To hear the highly bigoted Matt Schauerhamer from Saratoga Springs, Utah labelling the admirers of Ras Tafari as drug dealers make my skin crawl.

Ras Tafari clearly played a central role in defeating Fascism and in the stand against Communism. Living in intellectual backwash of Utah, I am left wondering why I haven't heard Haile Selassie held up as one of the great leaders of the last generation.

Now, my progressive professors were for the Communists of Ethiopia. So they would despise Haile Selassie. He was a member of the Coptic Christian Church which is reviled by the Western Churches. They would ignore the man. My Mormon professors held that people with black skin bear the Mark of Cain and should be reviled. The mainstream media and Hollywood generally associate Rastafarian with reggae music and drugs.

Personally, I dislike the monarchy and I am suspect of anyone who holds titles, especially titles like Duke, Ras or Emperor. Beyond that, the history of Haile Selassia shows a person who played a vital role in standing against tyranny. I have a very strong admiration of members of the Coptic Church who've stood against some of the worst tyrannies of the modern age. If you are a Rastafarian; I applaud you for having a great role model. Wear your colors proud. I would hold your role model over the polygamists Joseph Smith and Brigham Young any day.

No comments: