Thursday, August 17, 2017

War -- Whether Civil Or The War On Terror -- Fueled By Racism

Charlotte resident Cory Long, an elder care worker, practices self-defense by turning a white supremacist weapon against white supremacists.
All my blogging plans for summer are out the window. Describing the environmental harm caused by giving the Pentagon more than half the federal budget each year was my planned focus. Highlighting specific U.S. military bases abroad for the harm they do to the people and other life forms around them has also now moved to the back burner.

Because. Charlottesville.

"White Supremacists Rally Against Lee Statue Removal" by Emily Leahman, Patch May 15, 2017 

It's not the first time white supremacists marched on Charlottesville recently. May and July both saw them gathering their forces. Then this now infamous NRA video stoked the false narrative of violence on both sides. It essentially called on followers to "cut down the tall trees" a la Rwanda, and the convergence of heavily armed white supremacy forces August 11 and 12 in Virginia took things to a whole new level.

This month is not the first time that our corporate government made false claims about violence originating from anti-racist and Black Lives Matter folks.

But, it might be the first time that police were told to stand down in the face of white supremacist forces armed with torches, assault rifles and body armor terrorizing residents of a U.S. city. (Have police departments nationwide been infiltrated by white supremacists? You be the judge.)

It's certainly the first time that a U.S. president has deliberately stoked and fanned the flames of civil war.

It makes me think about all the racist wars I've opposed over the course of 60 years, and how the millions like me have slowly stood down  so that now the peace movement in the U.S. mostly looks elderly. And dwindling.

The Intercept "Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason -- They Remember The Korean War" by Mehdi Hassan
Photo: Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images
The Korean war my father volunteered for to begin six decades of occupation? He certainly experienced it as racist. And he came home a "n___ lover" according to his fellow soldiers stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia in 1955, where black people were still being forced to use separate drinking fountains and bathrooms.

Vice: "Vietnam had good food and beautiful women" Photo: Tim Page  

The Vietnam war I demonstrated against in high school? Super racist. (I could illustrate every one of these wars with political cartoons intended to dehumanize the targets of U.S. military aggression. But my goal is not to spread hate speech by repeating it.)

Uncensored History "Rape and abuse of Japanese women by American soldiers WW2"
Ongoing occupation of Japan I experienced as a young mother living in Tokyo? Racist against the Japanese (who I found to be, ironically, quite racist themselves against the Koreans they conscripted into labor and sex, and who remained in Japan as perpetual non-citizens).

Bombing and sometimes occupation of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Phillipines? Racist wars on brown children and their families trying to get to school or grow food or get married.

Threatening to drop atomic bombs on North Korea, which would also result in the devastation of South Korea (two countries created by white people partitioning the ancient kingdom of Korea at the end of WWII)? Racist.

Haaretz "Palestinian workers from Hebron at Tarqumiya Checkpoint"

Military "aid" to Israel to occupy and terrorize the indigenous population in Palestine? Uber racist.

A few of our imperial moves have been against white people, though. You can read here about the U.S. supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine in 2014, and police there standing idle while militias chased trade unionists into a building and then set fire to it.

But why confine the list to my lifetime?

The original sin of the U.S. founders was not enslaving African people. What preceded that stain on our collective karma was the slaughter of Native people of North America. Genocide based on race was the first step to white Europeans occupying and plundering a rich continent.

The U.S. Army still refers to enemy territory in whatever part of the globe they've brought their weapons to as "in country" which is short for "Indian country."

Slavery -- which continues to this day in conscripted prison labor that exploits people of color -- involves a lot of violence, including sexual violence (Thomas Jefferson first raped his slave Sally Hemings when she was 14 years old).

The first U.S. civil war was fought over slavery and other economic power struggles.

Reuters "A Sheriff's deputy stands near the toppled statue of a Confederate soldier in front of the old Durham County Courthouse in Durham, North Carolina"

The second will apparently be fought over whether or not to remove symbolic statues of the generals who fought to keep overt enslavement of Africans and their descendants as the law of the land. And the symbolic Confederate flag that flew over the slave states.

On August 19 we'll probably see the next battle, in Boston, a northern city with a long history of both vicious racism and resistance to it. 

Lots of white supremacists in and around Boston -- I'll include Maine here, once part of Massachusetts -- fly the Confederate flag.

I drive past the flag every day on my way to teach school in impoverished central Maine. I've attempted to get school administration to address students who fly the flag from their pickup trucks and, when I failed, I've addressed the students about this myself. Their response: just following family tradition, my grandpappy had the Confederate flag on his semi. It means we're rebels, not racists. Right.

A local business in the town where I do a weekly peace vigil was seen in the past displaying support for the racist "Indian" mascot of Skowhegan High School, and then recently had a truck parked outside all day flying the Confederate flag.

A sign of the times is that Charlottesville represents a turning point for many people, forcing them to pick a side on the notion of overt, violent white supremacy. (The polite kind that stayed quiet will now be consigned to the dustbin of history). Here's what the owner of Al's Pizza in Skowhegan sent as a response to my objection to flying the Confederate flag:
We did have a female employee who has had a confederate flag on her truck for several weeks, since buying the truck with her hard earned money. As owners and as a business we don’t support everything that the flag stands for and certainly don’t agree with how it’s been used recently throughout the country. That being said, we did support her right to display it. Given the tragic events in Virginia this weekend and the increasing turmoil around the entire country, we did make the decision, last night, to ask this employee to take down her flag while she’s at work.  
Let me further reiterate and clarify a couple of things. She had this flag on her truck for several weeks, it was not in response at anything that happened in Charlottesville this past weekend. She is not a white supremacist, she had chosen to display the flag as a tribute to her families Southern roots.  
As a long standing business and supporter of the Skowhegan community, we are not looking to put ourselves in the middle of a political debate. We prefer to focus on making really good food! We’re looking forward to continuing to do that for many years to come. Finally, our thoughts are with all of those affected in Charlottesville.  
Regards,Chad Partridge - Owner
I am not surprised by people who will continue to insist that they not be put in the middle of a political debate. White people in the U.S. have long hidden behind an amoral, valueless kind of "politeness" that precludes their discussing racism or wars on brown people. 

When my husband had the courage to announce a next day opportunity to stand with Charlottesville at a gathering of liberals celebrating political satire from years gone by, it was received with about the same reaction as a turd in the punchbowl: quickly averted gaze followed by rapid departure.

Waterville Morning Sentinel "Protesters on bridge in Skowhegan decry white nationalism" by Doug Harlow  Aug. 13, 2017

That's ok. My man knows the importance of being brave enough to take a stand at this point in U.S. history.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Farthest North Support For Charlottesville: Skowhegan, Maine

My Uncle Dale from Australia and Greg Williams in Skowhegan on Sunday, August 13. This is two days
after civil violence broke out when white supremacists beat and killed people in Charlottesville, Virginia because that city
voted to remove statues honoring Confederate generals who fought to preserve slavery.

I think our protest of white nationalist attacks in Charlottesville was the farthest north of many actions in Maine and the nation over the weekend.

Sad for the occasion but happy to see Tamar, Paul, Brian R., Greg, Linda, Fang, Grace, Abby, Amanda, Mark, Dale, Jeff, Carly, Finn, Connor, Chris, Marnie, and Brian P. with an out of town friend (sorry, I forgot her name) with me on the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge.

The story in our local newspaper by Doug Harlow and David Leaming of the Waterville Morning Sentinel was headlined: "Protesters on Sunday in Skowhegan decry white nationalism."

L to R: Tamar Etingen, Greg Williams, reporter Doug Harlow and Abby Shahn

Doug accurately quoted me as saying:

“The rise of the hate groups is also an effect of right wing propaganda stirring up discontented, underemployed people whose lives will not be better than those of their parents,” she said. “It’s an old strategy. Familiar.” 
Savage said she doesn’t dehumanize those marching with tiki torches because everyone is confused at times about events in their lives.

All of the photos are ones I took yesterday. The paint was still wet on the signs when we loaded them into the van at home. It was wetter still after the downpour that happened mid-protest where many of us piled into the van to wait out the rain. Lots of weather is par for the course when protesting in Maine.

My favorite unarmed civilian Mark Roman remembering 32 year-old Heather Heyer.
She was killed by white supremacist James A. Fields, Jr. who was arrested after
driving into a crowd of antiracist protesters in Charlottesville on August 13, 2017.

Journalists seem to want these protests to be about the demagogue with bad hair. So do many of the Democratic Party organizers (of which I am not one). Yes, the rhetoric issuing from the White House was better during the Obama years. But Black Lives Matter came about on Obama and Eric Holder's watch.

Allowing police to kill black people without being prosecuted to the full extent of the law has emboldened white supremacists in the USA.

They think their time has come. They are so wrong.

Did you know that in the last U.S. census 32% more people checked more than one box under race? White supremacy is destined for the dumpster of history. 

Many politicians seemed to recognize this, but the demagogue with bad hair stuck to his corporate government talking points: decry the violence on "both sides" [sic]. Corporate media toed the line as well, consistently referring to "conflict" rather than white supremacist militias assembling in a city and attacking its black residents while police stood idly by.

Charlottesville will be seen in retrospect as a turning point. Those who remain silent in the face of white supremacist hate talk and violence are now complicit. 

You can take action today by contacting Al's Pizza in Skowhegan which has an employee's truck parked in their lot displaying a large Confederate flag for hours at a time. Call (207) 474-3100 or facebook message at
While you're at it, ask them why they sometimes display window signs defending the racist mascot of the local high school.

Why focus on the Confederate flag? Here's a quote from the article about James A. Fields, Jr's teachers who knew that he was a neo-Nazi and worried that they did not do more to educate him when they had the chance:
[Derek Weimar] recalled how an African-American cheerleader was very uncomfortable having to ride in a parade being carried by a pickup truck with a large Confederate flag sticker.

Stick up for the cheerleader. Stick up for Native athletes who must play under a racist logo. 

Stick up for the kind of society that you want to live in.