Daniel Pipes: "America's Chickens are Coming Home to Roost"

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Mr. Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum. His website address is http://www.danielpipes.org. Click here for his blog.]

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, and Barack Obama's pastor since 1988, told his congregation in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001 that U.S. terrorism had precipitated Al-Qaeda's attack."We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards." Wright concluded that"America's chickens are coming home to roost."

That last phrase has a history.

On Dec. 1, 1963, immediately after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X responded to that event with the comment that,"Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they've always made me glad," prompting the audience, according to a newspaper account,"to loud applause and laughter." When, shortly after, Malcolm X explained his comment in an interview with Louis Lomax, his views closely anticipated Wright's:

I meant that the death of Kennedy was the result of a long line of violent acts, the culmination of hate and suspicion and doubt in this country. You see, Lomax, this country has allowed white people to kill and brutalize those they don't like. The assassination of Kennedy is a result of that way of life and thinking. The chickens came home to roost; that's all there is to it. America—at the death of the President—just reaped what it had been sowing

Malcolm X

Malcolm X's remark featured the next day in the New York Times ("MALCOLM X SCORES U.S. AND KENNEDY; Likens Slaying to ‘Chickens Coming Home to Roost'") and led not just to his being silenced by Elijah Muhammad, head of the Nation of Islam, but it contributed to Malcolm X being thrown out of the Nation of Islam altogether, and then to his becoming a normative Muslim. Through the decades," chickens coming home to roost" became one of his most famous remarks; it featured prominently, for example, in the 1992 Spike Lee movie, Malcolm X.

Comments: (1) There can be no doubt that Wright knows of the Malcolm X statement and, conscious or not, forty-five years later, chose to echo, repeat, and confirm it in the context of another new American tragedy. (2) In 1963, Malcolm X denigrated the president; in 2008, Jeremiah Wright is closely tied to a presidential candidate – not a sign of progress.

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More Comments:

Stephen Kislock - 3/15/2008

Why, should the U.S. be spared the pain that so many other people have felt at the end of the American Bayonet?

The U.S. God, is Mars, not christ....as some would have you believe.

The dollar, was the Power. But G.W. Bush with his MBA from Yale, today the Canadian Dollar is worth more than the Greenback.

Yes, the Roosters are crowing on our rooftops, all the Chickens have come home to roost.