Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Guest Post: Sherri Mitchell, Penobscot, On The Role Of The Matriarch In Environmental Justice

Published March 26, 2017 by Native News Online with Editor’s Note: This guest essay was originally delivered on March 16, 2017 as the Women’s History Month keynote speech at the University of Maine by Sherri Mitchell.
Kwey, Aquanu. Hello and Welcome. N’daliwisi, Wena Hamu Kwasset, nejayu Penawahpskek, N’dilnabamuk Awesus nil Peanwahpskek, naka Kahkakus, nil Sipiyak. My name is Sherri Mitchell, I’m from the Penobscot Nation. My family is Bear Clan from the Penobscot Nation and Crow Clan from the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipiyak. N’leeda huzeu, n’dyin. I’m happy to be here with you.
Before we begin I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the ancestors of this land. Since we are in Wabanaki Territory, the ancestors who reside here are my ancestors. I ask that you all rise and join me in a moment of silence to honor their presence here.  Woliwon, thank you, please be seated.
Thank you for inviting me to be here with you tonight for this important gathering, to celebrate Women’s History Month. The very first International Women’s Day was on March 8, 1911. In 1980 President Carter established National Women’s History Week. Then, in 1987 Congress made that week a full month. Of course, we know, that every month contains women’s history. And, we know that women were influencing the course of history long before 1980 and even before 1911. Yet, it’s important for us to pause to think about the role of women throughout history, so we gather here tonight to pay homage to the women and to recognize their contributions to history, and to recognize their role in framing the movements that will shape our future.
We are at a critical time in our evolution, standing at a crossroads within multiple movements, all of which have the capacity to determine whether we move toward life or death. Since women are inextricably connected to life, the subject of matriarchy is not fringe to these movements, it is at the very heart of them.
I’d like to frame this exploration into the role of the matriarch in environmental justice by sharing some excerpts from my upcoming book, Sacred Instructions. The section that I want to share with you explores the role of women within our societies and looks at how that role has diminished and misrepresented by the patriarchy. This is from the chapter titled, Women are the Water Bearers of the Universe:
“As skejinawe apid, an Indigenous woman, I have been taught that the women nurture life into being; we are the creators of life and the protectors of the life that we create. We possess a unique magic. As women, we are able to call forth life, and cultivate that life in the quiet space below our hearts. Within our bodies, we hold an opening to the divine; a portal that allows souls to enter into this world. Because we hold life in that magical space between worlds, within our sacred heart space, we are also the keepers of divine intuition and heart-based wisdom. Thus, the teachings that we carry are essential for keeping our societies spiritually healthy and emotionally balanced.
Every life that passes through our womb is nurtured and developed in water; we carry the waters of life within us. Thus, we are also the water bearers of the universe. This is why women’s ceremonies are centered on the water, and governed by Uhkomee, Grandmother Moon.  These ceremonies are our way of acknowledging that the water within and around us is central to life.
As women, we are indispensable to the perpetuation, protection, and balancing of life. When the women are absent, when they are silenced or ignored, the heart-based wisdom needed to guide and balance life is also missing. This causes disharmony within our families and societies and disrupts the natural rhythms of life, which places us all in harm’s way.  The active participation of the women, within our families and within our social and political spheres is critical to the wellbeing of our societies and the continuation of life…

Unfortunately, the divine voice of the women has been missing from the public dialogue for a very long time. As a result, life has gone into disarray. 

And, the very building blocks of creation, including our life-giving waters, have come under attack.
Around the world, women have begun to rise up to address the many crises that have resulted from the suppression of the feminine. In this uprising, there are countless issues that are calling for our attention. But, there is one issue that is central to them all – the protection and preservation of life. The issue that is most critical to the preservation of life on this planet is the protection of our water. Every living thing on Earth is dependent on water to survive. If we hope to survive long enough to solve all of the other challenges that we face, then we have to ensure that the source of life is protected.
We have a finite amount of water on this planet and it is being destroyed at an accelerated rate. For the first time in human history we are taking water out of the water table, by injecting it beneath the bedrock through the process of hydro fracking.  In addition, we are continuing to promote dirty energy projects that contaminate our water from beginning to end – exploration, production, distribution, and the use of fossil fuels in our daily lives all lead to pollution of our water. We are also contaminating our water through large-scale agricultural practices, and diminishing its availability locally, through unchecked water extraction for the bottled water industry. As a result, the water that is required to support life is disappearing.

There are increasing areas around the world that are in immediate danger of running out of water. This poses a threat to us all, not just from dehydration but from escalating conflicts that erupt among those who are seeking access to water.

In light of that reality, here’s a side thought for us to consider – People don’t need oil to survive. Oil production is a purely profit driven market. However, every single life depends on water, human life, animal life, and plant life. All of the requirements of our continued existence are tied to the availability of clean water. Because our lives are dependent on water, we will do whatever it takes to obtain it. This means that the oil wars that we’ve seen in recent decades will pale in comparison to the water wars that will emerge if we don’t start taking dramatic measures to protect the clean water that we have, and to clean the water that we’ve contaminated.
The voices of the water bearers have been left out of the larger decision making process around environmental protection and regulation.  Therefore, the decisions that have been made by our government and industrial leaders have not properly weighed the consequences of those decisions against the value of life. 

In order to rebalance our relationship with life, the voices of the water bearers must be moved to the foreground, and their life creating, life protecting, and life sustaining wisdom must be honored and respected, and the destructive patriarchal narrative must be revealed.

The influence of the patriarchy has taken away the vital context in which the role of the women is held. In Wabanaki communities, we see this influence in changes to our language that have resulted from translation through the patriarchal lens. For example, the Mi’kmaq word, Nisqum, is the word used by the people for Creator. When the missionaries translated that into their own context they based it on their own world view, defining Nisqum as the Great Spirit, and identifying that Great Spirit as a male god. However, this interpretation is a complete reversal of the original meaning. When the word is traced to its root meaning in the language, it translates to “the one who holds all the eggs” which is the woman. In order to understand where we come from, we have to do the work of decolonizing our language and our stories. Our traditional stories set the framework for our belief systems, our values, and our principles. They provide the blueprint for how we engage one another, how we relate to one another, and how we interact with the world around us. To address the misrepresentations contained in these stories, we have to be willing to trace them back to their original form and address the patriarchal distortions that have been made.
Kluskap is a central figure in our mythology. In the stories captured by missionaries, and folklorists (like Charles Leland) much of the original meaning within these stories has been lost and they have been reframed in the colonial context of the translators.  In the original teaching, Kluskap is a twin paired with Mulsum. Originally, Mulsum was connected to the feminine, with the root word Mul being tied to the bleeding time of the woman. Over time, the colonial translations changed Mulsum from a woman to a man, and then labeled that man as the evil twin. They then shifted the stories, making Kluskap the hero and reducing Mulsum to a background role. In the translations, Klukap is given credit for creating the landscape and the animals, and for facilitating their evolution. He is even credited with creating human life. In these stories, Mulsum is all but absent. She has been eliminated from the narrative and denied her role in creation, just as the women are denied their role in creation within the Christian bible. According to Christianity, the woman has no role in the genesis of life. Instead, the story claims that she was created out of the rib of man. This story is not an accurate depiction of the life narrative, where life rightfully comes from the womb of the woman. Instead, this story represents the creation of the patriarchy, where women are removed from their central role in creation. The removal of the women from our stories has impacted our thinking and disrupted the natural balance within our communities.

All of our traditional Wabanaki teachings represent a mirrored balance between the men and women.

Our ceremonies provide a clear example of this balance, where the men’s ceremonies are simply an external reflection of the internal processes of the women.  For instance, the sacred pipe is comprised of two pieces, the bowl and the stem. The bowl represents the mother, the stem represents the father. The bowl holds the fire, which represents the life force. The stem is an extension of that life force and it transfers its power from the external world into the body, as the air is pulled through the fire to carry the smoke into the lungs. This mirrors the role of the woman. The woman holds the life force within her, and she transfers that power out into the world through the birth canal. She also transfers divine knowledge and heart-based wisdom out into the external world through her breath, in the form of words and actions.
The Sundance is a mirrored image of the birthing process, recreating the pain of labor. In the Sundance, the dancers breathe and pull, until their flesh is torn. In the birthing process, the women breathe and push, until their flesh is torn and a new life is created. In the Sun Dance, the men are dancing to gain connection to the divine by reversing the laboring process that carries life into this world. They are sacrificing their bodies for the creation of a new life for those that they love.
The sweat lodge represents the womb. In that ceremony, you return to the womb, to get closer to the intuitive, heart based wisdom that comes through the portal that opens between worlds during pregnancy. All the men’s ceremonies are a reflection and reversal of the women’s internal processes. These ceremonies externalize the internal processes of the women, so that the men can gain the wisdom that those processes naturally provide to the women.
In our tradition, the women are connected to the moon, representing the quiet, heart-based intuition that she carries. The feminine energies are internal and their power is demonstrated in the inner realms. The moontime is the woman’s most powerful time. This is when her body enters its own natural ceremony and she is most open to the divine, as the life force moves through her body. The moontime is connected to the night because it is symbolic of the dreamtime where communication is open between worlds. The men are connected to the sun, representing the active, external movement of the day. The masculine energies are external and their power is demonstrated through active movement out in the world. The roles of the men are designed to balance and support the roles of the women. The men protect and provide for the external needs of the people. But first, they must learn what those needs are by following the wise internal guidance of the women.

This balancing between internal wisdom and external action is key to balancing masculine and feminine energies within ourselves and within our world. It is also key to maintaining the balance of life on this planet.

This balance is missing in the mainstream society. Thus, the needs of the people have not been properly balanced with the needs of the rest of creation, and the larger society has become unhealthy and unjust, putting all of our lives at risk.
The way to change this reality is to change our perceptions. We have to look at the underpinnings of the patriarchy and withdraw our consent from its systems, both within the public sphere and within our own lives. This involves shifting our cultural values away from those defined by the patriarchy, such as holding power over others, seeking homogeneity, encouraging hyper competitiveness, and sanctioning excessive aggression. And, moving toward more spiritually and emotionally balanced behaviors such as empowering others, allowing others to be themselves, working cooperatively and collaboratively, and acting with more compassion and equanimity.
One of the traps in this shifting process is assuming that the patriarchy is simply a male issue. The ideas associated with the patriarchy have been engrained in us all. If we hope to unravel the patriarchy, we have to acknowledge that we have all been influenced by it and we have all been complicit in its continued existence.
The Patriarchy has been kept alive artificially for generations, despite being completely bankrupt, through our thoughts, ideas, and attachments to its imposed ideals. Yet, the patriarchy’s “accomplishments cannot compete with its disasters: climate change, racism, endless wars, and so on.” If we hope to end the disasters that the patriarchy has wrought, we must begin withdrawing our support from it, this includes changing the narrative that the patriarchy has carved into our minds. This requires us to honestly assess the many ways that our minds have been impacted by the cultural norms held by the patriarchy, and begin to change them one by one. Anti-apartheid activist, Stephen Biko, says: “The most powerful tool in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Therefore, the most powerful thing that we can do to end patriarchal oppression, is to free our minds from the shackles of the patriarchal mindset.”

The patriarchy is based on notions of property ownership that are framed in hierarchies of power. This inevitably leads to conquest behaviors that result in elitism, gross disparities in wealth and poverty, and the creation of illusory social caste systems.

These systems are marked by aggression and competition and distorted ideas of winning. This is clearly apparent in the emergence of hate politics that frames the modern dialogue. Within this system, being able to aggressively overpower or shut down an opponent, whether by physical force or linguistic witticism is viewed as winning. However, this outcome is only a win under standards of patriarchal conquest. The moment that we succeed in ending a discussion, dismantling an allied network, or eliminating someone from our movement, is the moment we have lost. When we engage in angry, aggressive diatribes that seek to dismiss or silence another we are simply engaging in acts of conquest, and thereby upholding the patriarchal power structure.
We do this because we have been taught to believe that might is right, and whoever ends up on top is the winner. We have bought into a mythology that tells us that a new system can emerge by simply replacing who’s on top and transferring power from the hands of one to another, for example transferring it from the hands of the men to the hands of the women. This is a fallacy. A simple shift in power will never eliminate the patriarchy. So long as the power that we operate under is steeped in patriarchal ideals, the gender identification of our leaders will remain irrelevant.

Matriarchy is not a gender role, it is a value based system that defines our way of being in relationship to one another.

Matriarchies are not the functional opposite of patriarchies. Whereas patriarchies are dominating  and founded in notions of power, hierarchy and exclusivity, matriarchies are egalitarian and founded on patterns of kinship, balance, and inclusivity. Kinship in this sense is not simply about familial connection, but the development and nurturing of relationships. Matriarchs are concerned with the creation, preservation, and protection of life. Therefore, they must take life into consideration in their decision making. Matriarchs are also concerned with the balance that exists within the structure of life, and must also consider how their decisions will impact this balance. They are also the guardians of the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of their families and societies. Thus, they must work to establish communal relationships that foster harmony, unity, and compassionate understanding.
A society that promotes aggression and domination, whether it be ruled by men or women, is patriarchal. To move away from this paradigm, we must be willing to honestly contemplate how the patriarchal mindset is influencing our thoughts, actions, and decisions, and then consciously move in a new direction.
One of the greatest challenges that we face in this move is revaluing the role of the matriarch and the offerings of the divine feminine. One of the most tragic losses caused by the patriarchy is the loss of value that is placed on the role of the matriarch within the larger society. Today, much of the power obtained by and exerted by women is firmly planted within the patriarchal framework. Aggression, domination, arrogant assertions of power and superiority are all viewed as symbols of strength. The ability to rise to the top of the ladder, within any given field, is viewed as success. These ideas are all a reflection of the patriarchal narrative.

A true matriarchal society brings harmony, compassion, and the wisdom of the heart. It creates, sustains, and nurtures life, and builds inclusive networks of reciprocal support and mutual respect.

The most important step that we will take in our collective movements is the step away from the narratives of patriarchal power. If we truly hope to elevate a matriarchy within our current movements, we must be fearless in our intent to elevate the value of true matriarchal characteristic within our own minds.  For many this move is terrifying. The notions of patriarchal power have been so deeply embedded into our psyche, and the systematic dismantling of true matriarchal power has been so pervasive that we can no longer see the true measure of authentic matriarchal power. Yet, if we look carefully, we can see that power all around us. None can doubt the true power of Mother love. It is fiercely protective and equally gentle and nurturing. A mother’s love is the most powerful force in nature. A mother’s guidance is crucial to the development of an emotionally healthy child. Therefore, the inclusion of mother love within our societies is crucial to the development of a healthy expression of humanity. If we hope to create a world that is more harmonious and balanced, a world that is just and equitable, then we must be willing to let go of the false power narratives of the patriarchy and begin purposely and consistently engaging and empowering the matriarchal narrative. This requires us to shift our value structures away from power and profit and move them toward the protection and preservation of life.
There could be no more vital role in the work of environmental justice than making this shift. Since patriarchal policy-making has been rooted in class and race divisions that cause disparate outcomes for the most disadvantaged populations, ending these disparities requires us to frame new environmental policies that put forth the life balancing ideals of the matriarchy.
Hope for a better world is grounded in the tireless commitment to create harmony, equanimity, and compassionate justice. This commitment is held in the heart of the Matriarch. Thus, the creation of the world that we hope for must be guided by matriarchal ideals and led by matriarchal movements.

The degradation of the Earth has gone hand in hand with the subjugation of the women and the denial of feminine knowledge. 

Therefore, the restoration of the Earth will be tied to the liberation of the women and the resurrection of matriarchal wisdom. In order for that restoration to occur, we must all take the role of the matriarch into our hearts and allow it to guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions. A key part of this process is reconnecting our hearts, minds, and bodies to the wild heart of Mother Earth.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes says:
“When women reassert their relationship with the wildish nature, they are gifted with a permanent and internal watcher, a knower, a visionary, an oracle, and inspiratrice, an intuitive, a maker, a creator, an inventor, and a listener who guides, suggests and urges a vibrant life in the inner and outer worlds.”
So, as we celebrate the historical contributions of women and acknowledge their unfolding role in our future, I ask you to join me in making a unified commitment to reassert our relationship with Mother Earth, the original Matriarch. Today, let us call forth the wildish nature that exists within us, and then use that inspired, visionary wisdom to begin creating a more vibrant life and a more just and equitable world, for ourselves and for all other living beings within creation.
Thank you so much for allowing me to be here with you today. Kci Woliwon, P’silde N’dilnabamuk.  For All my Relations
Sherri Mitchell (Wena’ Gamu’ Gwasit) was born and raised on the Penobscot Indian Reservation. She is an Indigenous Rights attorney, writer and teacher. She’s been an adviser to the American Indian Institute’s Healing the Future Program and the Spiritual Elders and Medicine Peoples Council of North and South America. Sherri speaks around the world on issues related to Indigenous rights, nonviolence, and the traditional Indigenous way of life. Sherri is the Director of the Land Peace Foundation, an organization committed to protecting Indigenous Rights and the Indigenous Way of Life.

Sherri also hosts the radio show Love (And Revolution) with sister activist Rivera Sun. You can listen to their many excellent podcasts from the show here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Looks Like The CIA Is On To Me LOL #CIAhacking

This is what greeted me when I tried to use my Instagram account @naturalguard yesterday. Of course when I see that an "Android located in Russia" tried to log in as me I don't think about Moscow, I think about the CIA ever since Wikileaks revealed that the CIA developed ways of leaving "Russian" fingerprints on hacks of email and social media accounts. 

Why would the CIA be interested in me and the Maine Natural Guard campaign anyway?

This is a rough draft of my costume for the "christening" of another mega expensive warship at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard on April 1. 

I'll be adding the logos of telecom corporations as Maine Senator Susan Collins was the swing vote this week in ending Internet privacy as we have known it.

The Portland Press Herald noted of the FCC rules that Collins voted to end:

The adoption of the rules in October by the Federal Communications Commission was bitterly opposed by major internet providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon Communications, which argued they would result in higher costs for consumers because they would reduce the opportunity to profit from the sale of precision-targeted advertising... 
Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark defended Collins’ vote in a statement to the Portland Press Herald, saying that the Obama administration’s “new so-called ‘privacy’ rule” had “created an inconsistent, confusing standard.” 
“This new rule put extensive restrictions on internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast..."
OpenSecrets.org details how much cash Collins has accepted to promote corporate interests over the years.

Energy & Natural Resources$181,963$103,333$78,630
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate$1,050,525$436,100$614,425
Lawyers & Lobbyists$638,769$128,250$510,519
Misc Business$593,250$320,000$273,250

Some of the other things I've shared this week on social media are typical of me, shining a light into the dark world of the Pentagon's bloated, polluting bootprint on the planet.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

I would love to think that it is the Natural Guard pledge that has me on the CIA's radar. 

This is a pledge that many dedicated activists have taken to connect the dots between militarism and environmental harm; a huge truth and the continuation of human life on Earth hinges on our understanding it. 

Naturally, corporate media hide it from view as much as possible, while dedicated alternative media reporters like Sarah Lazare do the investigative work that this true security crisis calls for. Her recent article "Trump Wants To Hand $54 Billion More to One of the World's Biggest Drivers of Climate Catastrophe" was information I shared widely. So maybe it's the demogague with bad hair's camp that tried to hack my Instagram account?

The two gangs of thugs vying for control in Washington DC are both deeply involved with Wall St. banksters, environmental destruction and military misadventure. I am no friend of either gang. 

I'll keep raising my voice as long as I can, and I vow to change my passwords more often so I can keep using the channels of communication -- while they last. This just in:

REVISED 3/26: A friend in the activist community just sent word that I appeared as a footnote in a comprehensive article from Demilitarize.org on Pentagon climate crimes and other environmental impacts. Now I'm thinking maybe that's why my @naturalguard Instagram account was hacked, because something I published in Counterpunch last year is a reference for this important, often neglected topic.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Budget For War Up, Food Down In U.S. Imperial End Times

View a detailed analysis of the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2017 at nationalpriorities.org

Now that we know the current regime's budget plans to accelerate robbing the poor to further enrich Pentagon contractors, maybe the U.S. public will begin to pay more attention to the cost of our endless wars of conquest. 

But, probably not.

Lately I've been examining the issue of young organizers' disinclination to focus on opposing militarism, and how their anti-imperialist approach might carry us into a better future. A skillfull young organizer in DC told me recently she had found plenty of young people willing to oppose wars and occupations. They just did not want to do so under the banner of the organization she had formerly worked for -- mostly old, mostly white, and very top down in operations.

I've also noted how women's march organizers and many others fronting for the Democratic Party have carefully avoided any mention of opposition to the empire's wars. 

An interesting analysis by Daniel May in The Nation this week nevertheless also avoided any mention of the role of the Democratic Party in silencing war dissent. May reached some of the same conclusions as young organizers I spoke with: the war machine is both everywhere on the planet and yet nowhere specific enough to be effectively confronted. 

It's corporate government that's the real disease, and endless wars are a symptom rather than a cause. 

The invisibility of war has been with us for a while now. I watched a music video  recommended by an 8th grader yesterday. "Hey Brother" depicted vintage televised war and had images alluding to PTSD and a military funeral. Some students thought it was about WWII because they are too young to know that that war, like the ones their country has been waging their entire lives, wasn't televised either.

Remember when Barack Obama said he wasn't against all wars, just dumb ones? That was before he won the Nobel Peace [sic] Prize, occupied Afghanistan and Iraq for eight more years, bombed Libya, and ordered thousands of drone strikes that killed thousands of innocent people. 

Now the demagogue with bad hair finds himself in the same bind: calling the war in Afghanistan a mess while campaigning, and then finding Pentagon brass pushing for escalation

Except the unpopularity of war makes Vietnam-era terms like "escalation" verboten; instead, government spokesmen prefer euphemisms like "surge" and "humantiarian intervention."

Why would Pentagon brass push for wasting more tax dollars on an unwinnable war in Afghanistan? Here's a quote from May's article that helps put their advocacy in perspective:

Raytheon, the fourth-largest military contractor in the United States and the world’s leading producer of guided missiles, received 90 percent of its revenues in 2015 from the federal government. In that year, Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy took home $20.4 million in total compensation. Among the large military contractors, this is the norm. In 2014, the CEO of Lockheed Martin—which received 78 percent of its revenues from the government that year—was paid a total of $33.7 million. In 2015, the CEO of Boeing, the second-largest government contractor, earned $29 million—and paid no federal income tax in 2013 [emphasis mine].
And, to bring this narrative right up to date, yesterday the demogague with bad hair nominated Boeing senior vice president Patrick Shanahan for Deputy "Defense" [ironic quotation marks mine] Secretary.

As the rich get richer and the poor sink into bankruptcy, war-fueled opioid addiction, and early death, who will effectively object? Of course the people in the countries being bombed and occupied will continue to raise their voices. An excellent example are the Youth Peace Volunteers of Afghanistan, whose Global Days of Listening project has for years been bringing truth to those with ears to hear it.

Survivors of the recent U.S. bombing of a mosque in Syria cry out, but who hears them? 
From Common Dreams: "Civil defense team members and people try to rescue people who were trapped under the debris of a Mosque after an aerial attack on a mosque during prayer in the Cina village of Etarib district of Aleppo, Syria on March 16, 2017.'  (Photo: ─░brahim Ebu Leys/ Anadolu Agency )

Families digging through the rubble in Mosul as they try but fail to free trapped relatives weep on camera, but who sees this? Those of who who try to do the work that corporate media will not do, e.g. sharing the images of war victims via social media, are scorned by comfortable liberals who don't want to face burned children over their morning coffee. One click blocks such truth from bleeding through into the reality they prefer. Which is marching around demanding environmental protection while ignoring the leading cause of carbon pollution worldwide.
From The Intercept: "Pentagon Denies Bombing Syrian Mosque, But Its Own Photo May Prove That It Did"  Boy walking through ruins after U.S. airstrikes hit a crowded mosque during night prayer in Al-Jiney village, Aleppo on March 17, 2017. Photo: Ibrahim Ebe Leys / Anadolus Agency / Getty Images 

There's nothing new about any of this. Until the war arrives on your shores it's easier to pretend that your elderly next door neighbor is literally starving because...capitalism is great! the Arab world hates us for our freedoms!..than to admit the war machine robbed her of sustenance.

Once people are hungry enough they may finally notice the real causes and effects at work here. Or, they may continue to be fooled by propaganda into voting against their own prosperity as they did in the 2016 election in the U.S. and the Brexit vote in the U.K. Ordinary people can't see the uber wealthy CEOs draining the nation's coffers to build still more weapons of mass destruction. Those yachts sail far offshore, and those private jets land at secluded private air fields.

All empires fall after reaching the stage of wretched excess we're seeing today: cut Meals on Wheels for the elderly while funding still more weapon systems. 

And also funding lavish perqs for the president's family that are characteristic of kleptocracies.

Can we claw our way back from this stage of history? Probably not. But we can band together to hasten the demise of empire, building relationships to sustain one another through the dark days ahead.

Consider the opportunity to come together with others  paying attention to the cancerous growth of militarism by attending "Pivot Toward War: U.S. Missile Defense and the Weaponization of Space," the 25th Annual Space Organizing Conference & Protest from April 7-9 in Huntsville, Alabama. Col. Ann Wright (U.S. Army retired, diplomat) will be the keynote speaker at this important international conference. More details here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Mind Control Via False Binaries

Mind control of the U.S. public proceeds apace. The current false binary dominating the airwaves is that you are either for Trump or against the Russian government. 

At least that was the false binary prevailing until the historic Vault 7 leak of CIA documents published by Wikileaks this week cast some doubt on the alleged role of Russian operatives in the recent election.

What has continued to mystify me is the stampede of liberals and progressives eager to vilify the nation with the longest thawing Arctic coastline full of fossil fuel reserves.

Every "resistance" or "indivisible" movement that has come down the pike lately has assiduously ignored the problem of endless imperial wars for control of fossil fuels, a clear sign of the Democratic Party at work.

I wrote to one of my state's leading peace and justice organizations after they promoted the Russian bad guys theory of political influence in a mass email this week: 

I am really surprised that the ______ is joining in the chorus about Russia. Why would jumping on this Democratic Party bandwagon be in the best interests of the peace and justice movement?

Perhaps some further reading on the subject would be useful. I recommend these as a good place to start:

Leading Putin critic warns of xenophobic conspiracy theories drowing U.S. discourse and helping Trump (The Intercept, March 7)

Trump and the Russian Conspiracy Trap (New York Review of Books, March 6)

Alert from Odessa, Ukraine (Organizing Notes, March 6)

The author of the blog containing the third link, antiwar organizer Bruce Gagnon, gave an interview to RT this week. His take:

I think there is a war between the ruling oligarchies in America going on right now in Washington. I call it the mob versus the mafia. Neither of them are good guys. Many peace activists and progressive people across our country are very confused and think they have to pick sides and support the Democrats who have lately been demonizing Russia in a kind of recycled version of red baiting. But what we really have to do is be critical of this growing military madness that this country is hell-bent on, no matter who is in office.

I continue to wonder how people got the idea that there are are only two sides and if you haven't chosen #1 then you must have, by default, chosen #2. The gender binary has been subject to critical thinking for decades now even as the forces of ignorance cling to their labeled bathrooms and tiny icons of females in skirts. There are a multitude of races, religions, even political parties (in other countries, that is). 

Here in the U.S., the use of mass media to elevate symbolic persons to celebrity status fuels the false dichotomy engine. 

The Green Party's 2016 ticket: Jill Stein for president and Ajamu Baraka for VP

To say that you supported neither of the two corporate party candidate but were instead supporting the Green Party candidates guaranteed that you would be torn to shreds on social media, branded a traitor or worse.

People I barely knew threated to "blame" me if the demagogue won the election. I think they were sincere in their delusion that he personified evil, and maybe they were right about that. But their corollary, that only one alternative could be possible, and therefore it is the antidote to evil, is ridiculously simplistic.

Time after time bouts of circular reasoning any spreadsheet would flag churned out the official line: There are only two possible winners of any presidential election. So if you support a third alternative, you are refusing to face reality: if you're not against the demogogue with bad hair, you're against us. Thus, you third party voters are the enemy.

Being a history major, I am reminded of bygone eras when any deviance from the official orthodoxy of whatever flavor of Christianity (or Islam or Buddhism) was prevalent resulted in ostracism at best, death by torture at worst. 

Now that one faction of the corporate deep state has temporarily prevailed over another faction, the false dichotomy machine has shifted to channeling our outrage into safe channels such as "Indivisble" and #daywithoutawoman. There's big money behind this effort and the corporate media play right along. 

After all, who else elevated the demagogue with bad hair to candidate status while the rest of the world looked on in horrified disbelief? The Democratic Party-aligned major media outlets gambled on the fact that our distaste for the demagogue would be strong enough to get us to hold our noses and vote for warmonger Clinton after she stole the nomination from faux populist Sanders. And a lot of people did hold their noses and vote for her, maybe even enough to win the election. Were the voting machines hacked? Was voter suppression sufficient to pull off the coup? Or did the Republican Party just play the electoral college like a boss? We may never know the truth.

Now we're facing a government full of ugly (as opposed to handsome) evildoers, an upsurge in white supremacists in positions of power, and isolationism that is taking an ax to human rights, the freedom to travel, and the freedom to live free of fear. The Environmental Protection Agency and public education for all are on the chopping block, along with the coporate giveaway package known as the Affordable Care Act.

Movement building is the order of the day, and the astroturf movements that front for the (temporarily out of power) other corporate party will vacuum up as much of this energy as possible. Depending on how many times they've been fooled in the past, real organizers may or may not fall for this.

Jason Rawn, an international peaceworker and youngish member of the #Zumwalt12 civil disobedience team targeting war profiteer General Dynamics, wrote in an email about his recent experiences with this phenomenon:

Anecdote from Maine People's Alliance event last Sunday: People immediately and enthusiastically ready to discuss fighting for Obamacare. But what about universal healthcare, something people were talking about that resulted in the Obamacare product? That was the original prize. But suddenly Trump is here, and so people are reacting to that, and the health care narrative battle cry becomes "Save Obamacare from Trump!" 
Bullshit message. Obamacare was a compromise, not the original prize anyone's eyes were on. Nobody was thinking, "Gee, I wish the government would require me to buy an insurance product." Much better message: "America can afford universal, single-payer healthcare! We want it!"

Some of us in the communications branch will gladly use the mass audiences assembled to deliver our subversive message:

There are more than two sides to a question. 

Job #1 for a citizen these days: find sources of real information, and act accordingly.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Women Ignore Legacy Of Opposing Wars And Militarism #daywithoutawoman

The Women's Peace Parade, New York City, 1914
Historically, women's movements were in the forefront of opposing wars and militarism. Theories of why this might be abound. 
Pioneering social worker Jane Addams and delegates en route to the Hague conference, 1915

Is it because women revere life and oppose violence as a way of death dealing? 
Vietnam war protesters

Is it because women revere life and know that resources diverted to guns are taking butter from the mouths of hungry children? 
Joan Baez, Mimi Farina and ????, 1968

Is it because women know that girls and women suffer most under conditions of war and in hypermasculine, militarized cultures? 

Is it because women revere life and know that wars are an environmental disaster for the future of life on our planet?
Canadian antiwar protesters, 2014

Now we have the regularly marching "resistance" to a viciously misogynistic demagogue with bad hair and his terrible cabinet and cabal of right wing advisors. Privileged women will be striking today in the U.S. while the many female workers who cannot afford to do so may show support by wearing red. 

I'll wear the red but, even though I am privileged enough to get away with skipping work for a day without a loss of pay, I won't be doing so. Why? 

Here's the long list of issues the organizers of today's strike have identified. What's missing from this list?

We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women - including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women - are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments. 
Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies. We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.
We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education. 
We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.
We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. All women should be paid equitably, with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave, and healthy work environments. All workers – including domestic and farm workers, undocumented and migrant workers - must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage.
We believe Civil Rights are our birthright, including voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability. We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  
We believe that all women’s issues are issues faced by women with disabilities and Deaf women. As mothers, sisters, daughters, and contributing members of this great nation, we seek to break barriers to access, inclusion, independence, and the full enjoyment of citizenship at home and around the world. We strive to be fully included in and contribute to all aspects of American life, economy, and culture.
Rooted in the promise of America’s call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin.  We believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.
We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed - especially at the risk of public safety and health.

The Democratic Party, which is behind most of today's organizing, supports every war that comes down the pike. They clearly plan to continue doing so. They can do it without me.

Women ignore wars and militarism at their peril. Whether it's out of false patriotism (check out the root of that word, my sisters) or fear of "terror" or even political ambition, this blindness is fatal. Without women's leadership to step away from the weapons and the gargantuan Pentagon budget and its carbon bootprint, life on Earth may be doomed. 

Arise, women, and stand for life instead of silently supporting endless war against your sisters around the planet. Withdraw your support from the war machine and watch it crumble.