Part 13: My Friend the Devil
Before proceeding with the Prodigal Son's Return to America, we need to pause to consider what caused this radical change in Cleaver. Many will say it was simply a tactic to get back to the US: since the Left would not help him, he switched to the Right, following Malcolm's dictum of "any means necessary." The revolutionary puritans would argue getting in bed with the enemy is over the top, yet did not Muslim women prostitute themselves in the Battle of Algiers? The Shia say tell your enemy anything he wants to hear to achieve your objective. I will say that Cleaver was, among other things, suffering from exile-itis, an inflammation of the heart from homesickness. Baldwin talked about how Richard Wright's exile caused him to become detached from his roots. Exile is a wretched psychological state that only those who have done so can fully understand. Of course Cleaver's state was more complicated than simple exile. As I noted in an earlier section, his MO was to have an experience then critique it to the max, so maybe he was indeed exhausted from revolution, then after revealing its contradictions, had the sincere need to move on. Did not Amiri Baraka change from socalled cultural nationalism and electural politics to Communism? Everything must change, as the song says, although some changes are more radical than others. In terms of Communism, he had studied it long and hard in prison, then experienced it first hand from Cuba to China, North Korea, Africa and Europe. Certainly after the fall of the Soviet Union, we must admit Cleaver was not all wrong. And as we see with the ANC in South Africa, Communists have the ability to suddenly switch sides to become super capitalists:private planes,Swiss bank accounts and European women.
If the reader has not already found this narrative disgusting, I'm afraid what follows will not be pleasing, especially to the radical brothers and sisters. I will only try to tell the truth as I recall it. As far as Cleaver being a sellout, I heard Dr. Ben (or was it Dr. Clarke) say, "If they paid me enough money I would sell out too." I don't know how much Cleaver was paid, but in the end, he rejected all his benefactors and the feeling was mutual when they realized they could not control this mercurial personality.
Of course the election of Obama is something Cleaver would have been proud to see since embracing America is what he came back teaching.
On the other hand, there are now a plethora of Cleaver-minded politicos that echo some of the right wing ranting that Cleaver came home espousing, such as support for the US military (Haki Madhubuti) and other conservative items, especially from black Republicans such as Michael Steele. In short, much of Cleaver's post-revolutionary philosophy might fit in perfectly with the present Post-Black era.