Friday, July 29, 2016

Why Do People Post Online Comments If They Don't Want To Be Quoted?

Proud to stand with peace candidate Dr. Jill Stein in Portland, Maine.
I am being criticized all over the place this morning. My blog post about the alleged lack of racial tension in Lewiston has drawn lots of responses, including the demand from an online commenter that I remove her name and words from my blog. She has vowed never to comment on a post of mine again. As she is youngish, it's probably a good thing that she consider that once our words are out there on social media platforms like facebook, we should be prepared to stand by them. 

Which leads me to the words that I need to stand by this morning.

A political acquaintance in Maine, former ACLU executive director and Senate candidate Shenna Bellows, was offended by a comment I posted on her facebook share of a photo of herself with the Democratic Party's nominee for president. Here's the whole exchange:

The single issue of the racist wars the U.S. has engaged in for decades is only one of the many criticisms I would make of the Democrats' choice of a leader. There is ample evidence that it's not at all inaccurate to call her a warmonger, an epithet I would define as "a person who actively seeks opportunities to wage wars." And Shenna Bellows does not dispute this. She just doesn't like my choice of searingly truthful words.

I'm not sure that there is a more polite term for warmonger. Unless Democrats think it is Secretary of State? I am old enough to remember that this role in the executive branch of government used to be seen as that of the head of diplomacy. You know, someone who thinks that communicating and negotiating should be employed before killing selected dictators (formerly supported by the U.S.) that also lead to the "collateral damage" deaths of innocent children and other human beings.

Jeremy Scahill has coined the term "cruise missile liberals" for people who opposed war on Iraq when a Republican was in charge, but have given Democrats in the White House their approval for endless wars causing thousands of deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.

The long list of other reasons I think the Democratic candidate is odious would include her support for Israel's crimes against humanity, her promotion of the climate crime of fracking the planet, her misuse of the office of Secretary of State to promote U.S. corporate interests abroad, and her slavish obedience to Wall St. Remember when banks got bailed out and we got sold out? Democrats were in power for that turning point toward the darkness that lies ahead for us all.

Honestly I am not super wound up about her election fraud during the primaries. The DNC is a club that plays dirty, in office or out. It may present the cruise missile liberal face of our corporate overlords but the other side (the racist, xenophobic face) has no monopoly on corruption.

Finally, I will confess that I am not excited much less tearing up over the prospect of a female warmonger in the White House. Feminist values would include caring for the children of the entire planet, not clawing your way to the top of a violent patriarchy. 

I am supporting a woman candidate for president, the Green Party's Dr. Jill Stein. She has values I actually believe in, and I think she would appoint a great cabinet and be a real force for the healing that needs to occur in our nation.

As to the charge of my lack of civility in calling a warmonger a warmonger, and expressing regret that a politician I used to admire is proud of supporting her, I can live with that. I'd far rather be truthful than polite as the ship of state sinks. Our nation is in deep trouble and the prospects of continued life on the planet along with it. I am a child of the resistance to the Vietnam war, I was inspired by the courage of civil rights activists, and this anthem by Malvina Reyonolds has stayed with me for life:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Can A White Person Correctly Claim That There Is No Racial Tension In Lewiston? #mepolitics

This original post to facebook on July 26 caught my attention. I know the mom who posted it and have stood with Sass and her daughter Jade on the bridge to Lewiston during their monthly Showing Up For Racial Justice, central Maine vigil. 

I re-posted the photo with these comments:

Love the body language in this conversation where a high school girl crossed the street from a vigil for racial justice to talk with a counter protester. The man's sign reads: "There is no racial tension in Lewiston. Don't start any." My question: Can a white person know enough to make such a claim?

This reminded me of the controversy at Lewiston High School a couple of years ago when the principal took down a poster that said Black Lives Matter, plus the names of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others killed by police in other cities. 
"Lewiston students try to raise their voices, but protest interrupted" by Edward D. Murphy in the Portland Press Herald
 "This 2014 file photo shows Senior Kalgaal Issa, junior Chandler Clothier, junior Iman Abdalla and senior Muna Mohamed, who were among the Lewiston High School students who were asked to take down a protest poster inside the school in December 2014. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer"

I re-read the Portland Press Herald's coverage of that incident and found what had jogged my memory: the superintendent of schools, Bill Webster, claimed there were no "racial problems" at Lewiston High School.

A former student left this comment on the online version of the article:

This is white privilege in a nutshell: if a white person doesn't perceive racial problems, they don't have to. 

Nor, apparently, do they need to consult the people who might actually know from experience about racial problems in a school or city.

I know from experience that people will claim that another Maine high school where I teach has no racism because "everyone is white." This is not and never has been true. And there are plenty of incidents of overt racism. One student of color with an Arabic name saw bathroom scrawls such as "Kill the n-word (insert name of student here)." 

Another non-white student told a friend that he was called the n-word every day at school. Friend: "Why don't you punch them?" Student: "Because I would be punching someone every five minutes, and I would get in trouble." 

I overheard this conversation while eavesdropping during a field trip to a local posh college with visibly more students of color. Did that setting increase my student's comfort level enough to speak about it to a friend? Unknown.

And racism aimed at native people in Maine? Don't get me started, it would take all day to report on just the incidents I know of since I moved back to the state in 1988. Here's a very recent example from the facebook post of Maulian Smith who leads the campaign to retire the last "Indian" mascot in a Maine high school:

The rhetorical question in my re-post of Jade's conversation led to a long string of comments exchanged by a former student of mine, Rafik Khazikhanov, who has been the target of xenophobia many times himself, and a woman claiming there is racism in Lewiston -- against white people!

Michelle Luce wrote, "Somalians in Lewiston literally attack random white children, teens and adults walking down the street for no reason...the racial tension in Lewiston isn't between cops and black people. It's between Somalians who quite frankly act like animals and innocent white people. Cops aren't a part of it and it's not the black people of Lewiston fearing for their safety on a daily basis."

Her comment drew this response:

So Michelle is frightened. She feels this is an acceptable reason to claim that black people are not afraid. And that is white privilege in a nutshell.
My photo of Jade and her mom on the vigil on May 23, 2016
I hope to interview Jade about her conversation with the man in the photo and I will report back on that if possible. If anyone reading this knows the man holding the sign with the outlandish claim that there is no racial tension in Lewiston, I would appreciate knowing how to contact him for an interview also.

My photo of vigil organized by SURJ, central Maine in May, 2016.
Banner by the Artists' Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) of the Maine Union of Visual Artists.