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"Forgiving, Forgetting, and Payoffs": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1988 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On the U.S. Navy shooting down Iranian airliner.

Digital ID



man001026. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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OCR transcription





Whenever I wish to sound like an "old timer" I preface a statement with; "years ago." Well, years ago there was a popular radio program— you remember radio—before television and before disc jockeys? Anyway, the program was called "The Shadow" and it had great plots, story development and a fantastic fade out that went something like; "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of man? The Shadow knows."
By now, I'm sure that we've all heard about the shooting down of the Iranian commercial airliner. We've been told there were 290 passengers aboard and all perished when the missile from the U.S. ship Vincennes, believing it was under attack, destroyed it and all aboard.
What does "The Shadow" and the Iranian airliner have in common? Maybe not anything at all. But I do know this, that even now, all these years since that program aired, we do not know what really motivates people to do things. When we were children and did something that we shouldn't have and especially when it resulted in something being broken or lost, our parents or somebody would ask; "Whatever possessed you to do such a thing?" our answer—our safe answer—was always; "I dunno." Often, we really wouldn't know and, every now and again, we would know but it wouldn't make any sense to us on closer scrutiny. The difficulty in understanding our own actions made and makes it all but impossible to fathom what "possess" others to do what they do. Perhaps before we attempt to try to figure out others we ought to try to figure out ourselves.
Sometimes that which we do is done intentionally and other times quite by accident. The results, however, can frequently be quite similar. In regards to an activity which results in the destruction of property or the
otherwise loss thereof, how others who are directly or indirectly affected
by such behavior is influenced by the presence or absence of intent.
This rather enlarged preface is a means of discussing the recent shoot-down of the Iranian commercial airliner. Everyone who has heard about it have had reactions to it. Here in the United States, it has dominated the news for the past several weeks. In many places reporters have taken to the streets to get the "common persons'" point of view. The questions are always the same; "What do you think of the recent shootdown by our Navy of the Iranian commercial airliner?" "Do you think we ought to apologize or anything?" "Do you think we'll go to war with Iran because of this?" The answers were always different; "I hadn't heard about it." "I think it was terrible." "Serves them right." "We don't have no navy. Do you know any black man with a navy?" "Yes I think we ought to forward a formal apology to the families of the deceased." "No I don't think we should. They never do." "Never apologize—its a sign of weakness." "I wouldn't be surprised if it meant war." "No it shouldn't mean war. We didn't go to war when they bombed our marines and they did that intentionally." "What we white man."
There has been all kinds of reports surrounding the incident since it occurred. One tells us that the plane was headed directly toward the ship that shot it down. We are told that several attempts were made by the captain to contact the plane to warn it off but that there was no reply. The plane was mistakingly identified as a fighter jet and when it was only four miles away, descending and approaching at a speed exceeding 400 knots per hour, the missile was fired. It was only afterwards that it was clearly determined to be a commercial jet and that there were alleged to have been 290 passengers on board.
There was another report that there was indeed a fighter jet shadowing
the commercial plane and using it as a means of getting within striking
range. No one ever really saw such a plane. Another report tells us that the plane was not descending at all—that it was probably climbing and, at the very worse, was levelled off. There was a report of military radio transmissions emanating from the plane and still another that the plane was not in the improper corridor it was initially thought to have been in.
We know that there was some surface fighting going on but what we don't know is why a commercial plane would be plying anywhere near a battle zone. Yet, with what we do know and what we can guess and when can hypotheziae and what we do not know, the one thing that is certain is the warship did not stalk the plane in search of civilians—including 66 children and 53 women—to destroy. However it happened, the chances of it having happened accidentally is much greater than the chances of it having been by design. Even at that, as the Shadow used to ask; "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"
The initial response of the Iranian government was to call for national unity in seeking revenge on the government responsible. So once again there is cause for alarm by many. Those who travel a great deal must now travel at their own risk because some terrorist is stalking Americans. They may find themselves in a car next to a car laden with explosives. They may find themselves on a Greek cruise ship with live grenades rolling around and bursts of machine gun fire erupting. As unlikely as it may seem, they may even be on an off shore oil rig that blows up for no apparent reason or a train that wrecks, a bus that turns over, under a roof that collapses due to plugged-up water drains, or ferries that go bump in the night. Who knows.
In each of the latter cases, whatever death and destruction caused would not be by accident but by design and the assassins identify their
groups and are eager to take credit for their carnage. They never apologize. They do not apologize because they do not care anything for those they hurt, kill or hijack. Line. They however, do expect such apologies from those they offend constantly. Absurd. Absurd but I understand their reasoning.
I understand it because that is what happens to us--black people—with many of our own fellow countrymen. They stalk us with the intent of humiliating, hurting, destroying our property or killing us. Apologies are rare and there are never reparations. They are upset if we are offended and even more so if we do not forgive them. On those rare occasions when we might be guilty of such infractions, they never forget and they never forgive. Ask Mayor Koch if you don't believe me.