Saturday, November 19, 2016

Notes From The Field: The Strategy Of Struggle

"We won't go back" rally at the capitol in Augusta, Maine on 11/18/16
"Love trumps Trump's hate" is the message on the sign partly visible on the left of this photo from yesterday's rally at the state capitol in Maine. About 50 people were in attendance and the dozen or so who spoke were, by and large, very young. So encouraging to this aging activist who was only able to be there on a work day due to a medical procedure early that morning (that's why I'm sitting down).

Two things I learned yesterday: 1) young people have been radicalized by the election of an avowed homophobe, misogynyst and white supremacist who publicly mocked a reporter with disabilities; and 2) there's a campaign to contact electors of the infamous electoral college -- which has been used to rig elections in the U.S. for generations -- to change their pledged vote before casting it on December 19. You can get the list of their emails to ask them yourself on this website:

I learned from this young mother whose son ran up to join her as I took her photo after she spoke.

Me: Are you proud of your mom?

Him: Yes.
Mom: I'm proud of him! He made his own sign for today.

A local tv news station covered the rally organized by college student Emma Donnelly. Their coverage completely ignored the real news, which was the strong presence and voice of young activists -- very young in some cases. Instead, the corporate "news" invited an old white man who supports Trump to disparage the protests sweeping the nation.

Hearing children speak from their hearts, stumble over their words and be less than eloquent at the megaphone while the audience was patient with their process left me feeling encouraged and hopeful about the silver lining in these dark, dark times.

I think we would all do well to be guided by the thinking of organizations that have been on the front lines during two Obama administrations. You know, the times when things were supposedly ok. Except for racialized state-sanctioned killings and environmental destruction all over the planet.

Black Agenda Report's Glenn Ford shared this wisdom on the BAR blog this week in a history minded post called "None Are My Presidents":

On November 6, after their annual march on the White House, the organizations of the Black is Back Coalition ratified a 19-point document that puts self-determination at the heart of the broadest range of issues confronting Black America: 
“Every central demand, every strategy of struggle, must be formulated with the goal of self-determination in mind. Otherwise, the movement will allow itself to be drowned in reformist schemes and projects that bind Black people even more tightly to structures of outside control.” The points range from “Black Community Control of Police,” to “Halting Gentrification,” to “Nationalization of the Banks.”
Now you may be thinking, isn't emailing the electors a reformist scheme? And wouldn't I in fact be implicitly asking them to vote for the odious warmonger that the Democrats nominated? 

Yes, and yes. But the email took less than five minutes to send. That's about as much time as I'm willing to spend on reformist schemes. I didn't want the warmonger, either, but the rise in hate language and hate crimes since Trump got enough electoral votes to be president is horrifying. 

Here's a facebook post from Shay Stewart-Bouley creator of the blog Black Girl in Maine:

BlackgirlinmaineNovember 14 at 5:01pm
Today I was verbally accosted in downtown Portland, ME by a middle aged white woman in a nice coat with cute lipstick. She looked like a basic middle aged white woman hence when she started speaking, I was caught off guard. I was standing on Fore Street, across from the Hyatt, catching up with an old colleague when this woman came up to us. 
Initially she asked what was this place? I assumed she meant the establishment we were standing in front of, so I said it looks like a bar. Then she pointed her gaze at me and asked me where was I from? From there she proceeded to ask me me where I lived? At that point, I realized that I was having a potentially racialized encounter and her next question confirmed it. She asked me where did the Blacks (her exact words) live in Maine because there was no ghetto here. She got louder as she repeated herself at which point the white man I had been with said, I think that is enough, these questions are not appropriate. She asked one final question, what would I do if she got aggressive with me? I told her this exchange is over and slowly backed away from her. 
She didn't hit me, she didn't call me a ni**er, but her words and her stance made it clear that she felt entitled to my space and that she had the right to ask me whatever she wanted to. 
My father in recent years has shared many details about his childhood in Blytheville, AR under Jim Crow. It wasn't that long ago in America, that a white person could come up to a Black person and demand that we give up our seats, call us ni**ers and do what they wanted with no fear. 
We are rapidly moving back to that place and while we sit around thinking about it and trying to work through our collective angst over Trump, there is a segment of white America that now feels emboldened to do what they want.

I have spent all afternoon thinking about what would have happened if I had slapped that white woman, given her boldness, I think she would have earned it. But a Black woman hitting a white woman is multi-layered and complex and frankly I am too busy for a visit to the local lockup.

The other thing that I have pondered today is that while I have been expecting backlash, I had a preconceived notion of what it would look like. Never did I expect it to look like a woman who I would do business with or look like a possible friend.

I am okay, as okay as one can be. Life goes on as does the struggle. But as the young folks say shit got real. America under Trump is about to be a place that many of us have never borne witness to and we need to acknowledge it.

Our system is beyond reform at this point. Only revolution will save us.

The U.S. has lost the consent of the governed. But look at all the love young people are bringing to our ongoing struggle. I stand (or sit if I need to) with them.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

#Trump = #Brexit ? I Guess We Should Have Seen This Coming?

My granddaughter's mother wants to bring a sign she created calling for peace and love to our weekly vigil on the bridge in Skowhegan. But she is afraid to bring her toddler to the spot where hateful language has been heard and threats have been made by supporters of president-elect Trump in recent weeks.

A reporter for the local paper wants to cover the story of our response to the election. Why us? Maybe the fact that we've been there, creating a public space for communicating about the political reality for years now, gives us some gravitas.

My neighbor Barry Dana, a chief of the Penobscot Nation, received a dozen answering machine messages at home this week calling him and all native people “scum bags” and mentioning one of his daughters by name. Maulian Smith is the leader of the ongoing effort to get Skowhegan Area High School to retire its racist "Indian" mascot. Authorities were called about the phone harassment and an investigation is underway.

But when will this family feel safe again? This begs the question of whether or not they felt safe before.

Maulian has reported nasty messages mentioning her own daughters -- young children -- from haters here in Maine. She often posts humorous dialogues between the two girls trying to make sense of what they see around them. One of them told her sister recently after seeing Trump on tv, He isn't white, he's orange."

In retrospect, the election of Donald Trump with his hateful rhetoric against Muslims, women, people of color, and homosexuals is best seen in light of Brexit. White working or unemployed people slipping from middle class to working poor are scared and angry. They are lashing out against the system that has so dimmed their prospects.

The British were surprised to wake up the day after a referendum to leave the European Union and find that the stoking of these fears by mass media had affected the vote. Such a vote is an attempt at communicating: Something is wrong here! Neoliberals, pay attention: your economic policies are crushing my family's dreams of self-sufficiency!

Nearly half the electorate in the U.S. simply did not vote in the presidential election. The majority of the half who did cast a ballot did so for another candidate.

But this doesn’t negate the fact that a sizable percentage of voters in the poorest areas of the U.S. voted for the candidate who has claimed he will force all Muslims to register as such.

I just took a pledge to say that I, too, will register as Muslim if this dark time ever arrives.

As a history major I always wonder what such people understand about the mass murder of Jewish people and others deemed undesirable by Nazis in the 20th century.
Source: The Free Thought Project
When you see a photo of water protectors in North Dakota with their number written on their arms by militarized police arresting them for standing their ground, does it call up memories of concentration camp inmates with tattoos? It does for me.

The best part of teaching history is sharing the many, many stories of those who stood up to fear and chose love and solidarity instead. The villagers of Chamonix, France hid hundreds of people fleeing the Nazis at great risk to themselves. The Danish people employed foot dragging and subterfuge to stall deportment of their Jewish population, allowing time for most to move to safety. Janusz Korcak, the Maria Montessori of Poland, went to the camps with his beloved children rather than leave them to face hate alone.

Dark times contain within them the possibility of bringing your own glimmer of light out from under cover and shining it for those most in need. That would be us, now. Let it shine.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Armistice Day For The War To End All Wars Now Used To Glorify U.S. Imperial Wars

June 8, 1972: Kim Phúc, age 9, near Trang Bang after being burned by napalm
(photo by Nick Ut / The Associated Press)
November 11, Armistice Day, was long since turned into a "patriotic" show of faux concern for veterans of the U.S.'s many, many wars. Children and teenagers have known nothing else, and they get the message loud and clear that "patriotism" is mandatory or else.

I want to share this moving poem by Veterans for Peace co-founder Doug Rawlings here. I have been pasting it in as the perfect comment on social media rah-rah "patriotism" around Armistice Day.

            for Phan Thi Kim Phúc

"Whatever you run from becomes your shadow."-- traditional

If you're a namvet, a survivor of sorts,
she'll come for you across the decades
casting a shadow in the dying light of your dreams,
naked and nine, terror in her eyes

Of course you will have to ignore her --
if you wish to survive over the years --
but then your daughters will turn nine
and then your granddaughters nine

As the shadows lengthen.

So, you will have no choice on that one night 
screaming down the Ridge Road, lights off,
under a full moon, she standing in the middle of the road,
still naked and nine, terror in her eyes

Now you must stop to pick her up, to carry her back
home to where she came from, to that gentle
village where the forgiving and the forgiven
gather at high noon. There are no shadows.

                                                          -- Doug Rawlings

The burnt children just keep piling up while the U.S. taxpayer funding it all looks to the flag and pretends not to see what wars are doing to our soul.

from Salon: An Afghan man holds up the body of a child that was killed during clashes between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Kunduz province north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. Authorities say a joint raid by U.S. and Afghan forces targeting senior Taliban commanders killed two American service members and 26 civilians. Afghan officials said they were still investigating the attack and its civilian casualties, some of which may have been caused by the airstrikes. 
(AP Photo/Najim Rahim)]
Afghanistan is the war the corporate party candidates ignored. But those whose babies are burnt by it are well aware of what 13+ years of U.S. military presence has done there. 

Napalm burns did not kill Kim, although they were expected to. She grew up and became a goodwill ambassador for UNESCO. In 1996 she had the opportunity to meet the pilot who coordinated the bombing of her village; she forgave him. 

Here she is with her family.

Kim Phúc survived her trauma but many of the U.S. soldiers who came home with moral injuries from their participation in the war in Vietnam went on to suffer from drug addiction, homelessness and suicide. Many veterans have reported feeling especially horrible when people call them heroes. Even if they were drafted as teenagers, their guilt is overwhelming, and they often have not survived it.

The only winners in war are the profiteers who make money from it. Why do you think corporate media outlets work so hard to make every child in the U.S. "thank" veterans?

Here's what little kids were coloring at my school this week:

The saddest thing is it's likely no one will ever teach them that November 11 was originally celebrated because it marked the end of a horrific war that devastated millions.

The war in Vietnam is now undergoing a similar revision of history as the baby boomers who lived its truth die off. Veterans for Peace has created Full Disclosure as a resource for those interested in knowing the truth. And, if you happen to be in Maine today, you have the opportunity to hear the story of a VFP member, Vietnam vet S. Brian Wilson, and his heroic work for peace in the decades since he lost both legs.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Bloodless Coup As Media Selects A New "Decider" For U.S.

I have been wrong before, but I called this one spectacularly wrong. I suppose Trump being anointed by the press a long while back should have tipped me off that there was a bloodless coup coming. 

Wall St. is freaking out and stock markets are tumbling. Looks like two factions of our shadow government are at war with each other, and the media won. Because, as we know, propaganda works.
My screen grab of the New Yorker magazine "most read" list from last week.

Will people eventually catch on that saying a candidate's name over and over helps build their brand recognition and significantly increases the likelihood that you'll wake up to find them voted into office?

My family in Australia wrote to ask if I had put in my application for immigration yet. I think younger people who are appalled by waking up to find themselves living in Hitler's Germany will be (already are) leaving in droves. That will make things even worse, probably.

It certainly now officially ends the hundreds of years when the U.S. was viewed as a desirable destination for immigration in order to pursue the American Dream. What's left of it, anyway. Health insurance premiums under the health insurance you're required to buy from powerful wealthy corporations is set to go up by more than 100% next year in some locations. Electing Clinton wouldn't have changed that one whit.

There will now commence much shaming of those of us who voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. 

My husband will be blamed for the coup in the same way that he has been blamed for years for supporting Ralph Nader for president in various elections. As if Maine was a swing state in the bizarre electoral college system. 

We will be vilified for "wasting" our vote or casting a "protest" vote. But guess what? It looks like Maine voters passed the first law in the nation for ranked choice voting. (Having our current odious governor rammed down our throats twice probably contributed a lot to that.)

If we had ranked choice voting, like other wealthy nations, the false dichotomy used to drive voters to the polls would evaporate overnight.

The person who should be most ashamed of himself this morning is Bernie Sanders. If he had not made the back room deal to galvanize idealistic youth into the Democratic Party fold and then abandon them to Clinton, he'd be celebrating victory right now. Instead of sitting in his brand new $650k vacation home on Lake Champlain wondering how he got there.

The silver lining for me is that maybe now all the numerous people who used to oppose U.S. wars when a Republican was in the White House will come back out of hiding. Eight years of Barack Obama killed the antiwar movement except for a few radicals like us.

Or as a tireless peace worker in Maine eloquently put it last night on facebook:

Join us, won't you?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Documentary Review: 13th #BlackLivesMatter And They Always Have

Art exhibit in Los Angeles entitled "Manifest Justice"
The documentary film 13th is streaming on Netflix currently, connecting the dots between slavery, lynchings, elections, and mass criminalization/incarceration of black people in the U.S.

The title of Ava DuVernay's examination of racial politics over hundreds of years comes from the amendment to the constitution that freed everyone regardless of the color of their skin. Oops, except criminals.

Statistics on arrests, convictions and incarceration -- even of minors -- did and do lean heavily toward people of color even though they don't apparently use more drugs or commit more violent crimes than white people. 

Demonizing an entire group via fear tactics promoted in mass media is an old trick. 13th has much to say about the role of the 1915 racist propaganda film Birth of a Nation, originally titled The Clansman (note: the K in Klansman came later.)

Sad that in the 21st century, with its vast amount of truth out there just waiting to be found, the trick still works to keep the wealthy protected from having to share with their fellow man.
Data chart here.

The U.S. now has 25% of the world's prisoners locked up. We lead the planet in incarceration. And, surprise! It is highly profitable. Not only to operate the prisons, but to steal the labor of those kept within.

The documentary leans heavily toward testimony by scholars and public figures interspersed with archival footage of the chained black men and boys who have built the roads, infrastructure and other wealth that white families continue to inherit. 

I'm not super interested in Barack Obama's crocodile tears about mass incarceration. 

Coming off eight years of doing next to nothing to stem the tide of prisons-for-profit or extrajudicial assassination of black people by law enforcement, one is reminded that subjection to slavery is not part of his heritage (his father was an economist from Kenya and his mother was white). But the filmmaker probably thought that celebrity spokesmen would help draw in audiences, and she is probably right.

Exploiting the 13th amendment's loophole for criminals has affected elections for decades as more than 2 million felons lost the right to vote. Many prisoners were convicted under draconian laws designed to get  "tough on crime" politicians elected by the fearful white voters who retained suffrage. 

Many prisoners were guilty of no crimes against persons or property. Their "crimes" of drug possession would be treated as a health issue in a truly civilized society.

The documentary does a good job of tracing the outlines of the war on drugs and its hideous effects, but it offers little in the way of solutions. The demonization of each black man, woman or child gunned down by police continues apace. 

Our prisons are full of fathers and mothers whose children are growing up without them. Those are the lucky ones that weren't just shot and killed.

The ongoing senseless cruelty of our government and "justice" system is what I'm actually afraid of. That, and the indifference of most of the people most of the time. This year saw the biggest prison strike in U.S. history, met with deafening silence from the corporate media. Big surprise.
source: The Intercept

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Standing Rock Corporate Media Blackout: Nothing To See Here? #NODAPL

Photo: Minneapolis
So this is a photo of 1,000 people swarming city hall in Minneapolis to demand that members of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office be recalled from the Standing Rock, North Dakota pipeline standoff. It worked, with staff and equipment now headed home.

The heavily militarized police and National Guard attacking water protectors in North Dakota are receiving scant coverage in corporate media.

CNN infamously only covered the effort by supporters to flood facebook with a million location check-ins to confound the use of that locating tool by law enforcement. 

Corporate media fell all over themselves covering this aspect of the story, most with cutesy headlines like "Why all your friend didn't suddenly head north."

Thank the goddess for facebook which gets a bad rap as the most sophisticated spying machine ever, one that gets you to do the work of spying on yourself. If it were not for social media platforms like it, I would receive precious little news of the historic standoff in North Dakota. 

Thank you, my facebook "friends" for all the informative postings. 

Here I will share just a few of the best.

Coverage of attacks in the water by a reporter on the scenes for The Young Turks.

But this got some corporate news coverage: the state capitol of North Dakota was splashed with oil and a message was left behind

Which is more dangerous, splashing oil on a building or running an oil pipeline through the heart of the watershed millions depend on for their drinking water?  

Which law is more powerful, that of government's owned and operated for the profit by frackers and pipeline builders? Or the natural law that says all life on Earth depends on access to water?