It was the luck of the Irish that brought the sun! :) Or something like that. As I mentioned, below for your perusal are photos from the super progressive, super awesome St Pat’s for All parade in Sunnyside, Queens. I joined the fantastic NYC chapter of Veterans for Peace (check them out here) and other activists to show some support for Bradley Manning and other anti-war causes. We handed out 100s of cards about Bradley’s whistleblowing, and reception was so positive that I started asking supporters if they wanted to get more participatory. The majority of this album showcases fellow believers in truth posing with one of Clark Stoeckley’s “vinyl on vinyl” records-turned-message – so popular was this bit of art, that I did not recover it before I went home :)

 

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This representative of the Vatican (sorta) thinks that Bradley is an ethical dude. That’s right, like St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, this cleric urges us to drive the snakes out of Washington. And to defend the Post Office – two worthy causes indeed.

 

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The RMO supports Bradley! I am so grateful for the positive reception I got from this band of musical revolutionaries when I asked if they’d like to take this picture. We agreed that anyone who wanted to could participate, and 90% of the band proceeded with an immediate “hell yea!”

So as you can see, an epic time was had by all, and this was just a Sunday in Queens. Imagine how much fun the June 1st rally at Fort Meade will be? You know you want to be there. All the cool kids are going. For real. :D

much love,

Keia

UPDATE:

A brave soul who witnessed Bradley’s testimony somehow secretly recorded the audio of it – this done in violation of the very restrictive and secretive rules of the court – and leaked it to the fantastic Freedom of the Press Foundation. They have released it to the world at large on the afternoon of March 12th. Please check out the full audio and selected snippets here, and also watch below for a well-done introduction:

Actually, there is embed code given on the FPF’s site. Let’s attempt this:


Oh it works! Excellent. There you go, my friends, no excuses! Lend this patriot your ears.

~*~

BRADLEY MANNING SPEAKS TO THE WORLD

But will we listen?

Does it matter to America that this young man’s ethics could not stand it? Does it matter that he wanted the public to understand the immorality, the dehumanization, the oppression, the pure horror of the warzone he lived in? Does it matter that he judged his own actions, made thoughtful decisions, and has now accepted responsibility for those decisions despite the irrefutably politicized mockery of justice that has been his (1000+) day (s) in (not really) court?

Does it matter that two icons of gatekeeper journalism, two monoliths that are supposed to stand as a bulwark between America and the injustices of our government, have crumbled so far that they would have probably asked said government *permission* to publish the documents, if they had even accepted them – does it matter that they would not even take a young soldier seriously enough to consider accepting them in the first place?

Should America even take ownership for its actions – just like Bradley did – its actions that have perpetuated the complete demolition of two nations, the extended air bombing of several more, resulted in monumental loss of life? Should America just try to move on after a decade of world-shaking ineptitude? Should we just keep talking about “hope and change” while our government adds names to the kill lists, targets for the drone strikes, personal e-mails and phone messages and tweets to the hard drives of searchable material at the NSA?

….does one passionate young woman ask too many rhetorical questions?

Bradley’s statement is monumental. If you’re roughly my age, you will read this in a history book in 50 years. For now, we have the indefatigable, incredible Alexa O’Brien to thank for recording the whole thing verbatim over the hour or so it took Bradley to read. Read it here, if you dare to open your ears to the words of a patriot:

http://www.alexaobrien.com/secondsight/wikileaks/bradley_manning/pfc_bradley_e_manning_providence_hearing_statement.html

History will judge Bradley Manning. It will also judge you and I – it will judge whether we stood up for ideals, ethics and morality when these were in danger.

And so it goes without saying, that every bit we can stand up today will matter 1000 times tomorrow.

~*~

June 1st is the Saturday to mark your calenders for. That is the international day of action the Bradley Manning Support Network has called on for the world to protest the official start of Bradley’s trial. There will undoubtedly be events at many places – but I’d like to urge you all to start planning now to travel to Fort Meade that day.

No official word yet, but I am hoping to work with some folks to coordinate buses from major urban centers. There are 1000s of people in this nation that support Bradley (I just signed a “thank you” petition that could not have been started earlier than Thursday with 16,400+ signatures – gathered in 2 days!) – and so with a little organizing I see absolutely no reason why we could not get 1000s of people to this event.

In the meantime, Vets for Peace of NYC will be representing for Bradley and the anti-war movement in the 2013 St Pat’s for All Parade in Queens on Sunday. Barring anymore truly torrential rain, you can expect some photos from that, for I will be there :)

much love,

Keia

Hello everyone! I am currently sitting under a large pile of blankets, and can finally feel my toes again! Why were my toes numb before? Because 100 of my friends and I were out in yesterday’s most unpleasant weather to show some solidarity and support to PFC Bradley Manning in Union Square, New York City. To see other articles I have written about this all-around awesome soldier, please check here and here.

Quick summary: Bradley has now been incarcerated in PRE-trial confinement (please note correction from a previous post) for over 1000 days. All of those motion hearings he’s been attending over the last year are just to set up the actual trial. As of this posting his true trial is set to start in June, which means Bradley will have spent over one thousand, one hundred days in prison without being actually tried for a single crime.

Think about all you’ve done in the last 1000 days. Now think about not doing any of it as a result of living in a jail cell for over two years of your life. Bradley’s pre-trial confinement is now the longest span of time a US soldier has been imprisoned without trial in US military history. His case is the most complicated and probably already one of the most famous. And his supporters are also some of the most hardcore I’ve met! :D

Check below for some videos of our rain-soaked gathering. Good highlights to note are an especially somber performance of the amazing play Bradass87, a moving speech by Veterans for Peace activist Bill Gibson, a moving speech by World Can’t Wait activist and director Debra Sweet, and an especially unique puppet performance piece by puppeteer extraordinaire Kevin Augustine. Also, it’s possible you might catch a certain Keia running around with pictures on string. These are from the I Am Bradley Manning online photo petition, and if you’re reading this and haven’t contributed your photo yet, please do so!

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Small Post Script:

It has come to my attention that the Bill Keller New York Times newspaper article hoax, which I had a pretty sour opinion on and wrote a post quite critical of a while ago, was not actually done by Wikileaks. In fact, Wikileaks was the first entity to be “punked” by the article, long before the rest of us were. So, I do owe Wikileaks an apology for resting my criticism at their feet. Please consider this it.

Further, I’ve been lucky enough to have a little discussion with the folks who actually were responsible for the prank. While I think it would be disingenuous to take down the actual post, because my opinion hasn’t exactly done a 180 – I will admit that talking to these folks about their aims for the prank in the first place has nuanced my opinion greatly. Moral of the story: one’s opinion is always evolving. Please note that as I travel through my political life, the posts you see here are dated and do not always reflect my most current opinion on an issue. If you’re ever surprised or disturbed or just plain curious about why I think what I think when I am writing a particular article, *please* make an effort to hit me up and ask about it. Just as likely as not my opinion has evolved due to new input. Even more likely, it could evolve due to yours!

While major themes, like my support for Bradley Manning, for example, are not really going to change, complicated issues always necessitate attention paid in a nuanced, complicated way. In particular, asking me my opinion on Wikileaks will STILL elicit a somewhat different answer every day, depending on my mood at the moment. If you’re looking for black and white up-votes or down-votes, you just won’t find them here often. I suggest you try Reddit :p

Put that on your cushion and meditate on it, my friends. :)

much love,

Keia

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[Liberty Plaza during it's heyday - fall of 2011.]

(Keia’s note: So I’ve been so busy lately that I am not going to be able to completely finish this post for several weeks. However, gonna put it up anyway and fill in the gaps as I get a chance. I have several unfinished posts collecting dust in this blog – maybe filling in a little at a time is a better writing strategy than all-or-nothing, yes?)

You gotta love us English majors. Our skill set is so delightfully impractical, but when there is a use for it, it’s really handy. :D

Why do a survey of Occupy literature? Well for one, I have not written about Occupy in a while, even though I have been paying attention to the major twitter accounts and occasional news article. A long time ago (on this very blog! – among other places) I had been cautioning folks to remind themselves once in a while that the Occupy movement would be growing and evolving into something distinctly unique from the large scale, highly visible movement that wowed everyone in 2011. Real social movements – and we’re talking “real” as in the type of shit that actually changes society permanently and over the long term – take their sweet time figuring out what the hell to do with themselves.

A lot of occupiers have been annoyed lately by certain mainstream news outlets and pundits’ tendency to pronounce the Occupy movement “dead.” I feel bad about this, because getting irritated by comments like that basically legitimizes the opinion of those saying them – and most people who talk about the Occupy movement, in the past, present and future, do not have even the tiniest iota of a clue. Not about Occupy, and certainly not about the evolution of social movements in general.

Occupy established itself too quickly to be “dead” one year later. Even if there were not still many Occupy associated groups running around doing activism – and there are – large scale social movements leave a mark that influences subsequent politics a lot. One way to judge a movement’s impact on society is to see what folks are writing about it – hence this survey.

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[I feel like some people have forgotten how much political diversity the movement was founded on. Pictured here: a minority opinion, and debate on said opinion. This happened a lot, and it was good.]

But a second, more important reason I feel like it’s a good time to touch on this topic is because a lot of evolution has already happened to Occupy. Though its not fair or relevant to judge any of these changes as good or bad, some of them have been steering the movement away from the big-tent style generalism that made Occupy so accessible and visible in its first few months. This opinion would perhaps not be shared by those who are still working hard to propel the movement forward. But I think its essential to explore the idea a bit, explicitly as a part of – not as some accessory to or commentary on – the process of the evolution of Occupy. More simply stated: I want my comments to be viewed as those of a participant, as someone who has been an Occupy activist, but who also has a very love/hate relationship with this important movement.

Battling inertia is one of the toughest aspects of activism, not least because inertia in a social movement is completely natural – unavoidable in most cases. Flatly, you can’t bring thousands of people out to the streets every weekend, or even once a month without necessary momentum. 3-6 months, which is about the time that Occupy had as a highly visible movement in its infancy, is a really good run. Sometimes it saddens me that people gave each other higher expectations in those early months – as fun and motivating as it is to talk about the “revolution” all the time, throwing that word around creates goals that just cannot be met in a year or even longer. There is a lot of waiting time, planning time, frustration time, and etc that a movement has to drag itself through in order to get back to the marches that block intersections for miles. And someone’s got to keep pulling things along.

Those folks that are still manning the twitter accounts and doing conference calls and updating websites for Occupy are doing some of the hardest – not to mention least rewarding – work that a social movement demands of its participants. I admire them enormously, while also entertaining a strong suspicion that their politics are far left-wing of mine. Anarchism, a political philosophy I have long had really mixed/uncomfortable feelings about, seems to be the “ism” of choice of most of the hardcore activists who keep the gears of Occupy turning. I have a moderately educated guess that this is why recent rallies, protests and even twitter statements have been a lot more politically specific, and let’s face it, appealing to less of the 99% at large.

The last Occupy associated event I went to was one of the Black Friday Walmart demos (photos & video here if you care to browse :D) – which was highly collaborative (in this case with labor groups), a strategy I have said again and again is essential if we want to keep Occupy important to society at large. So there are plenty of folks out there still associated with the movement that don’t think (forgive me) it should just settle into the new platform for anarchism in America. Not to be Captain Obvious, but this latter option would be my least favorite for Occupy. I hope it does not happen. In my small way, I am working to prevent it from happening.

Hence a literature survey. I want to remind us all what Occupy was born as – most of the books written about it have expressed a huge sense of inspiration, joy, excitement, and forgive the tired stereotype, but even hope. And again, I think I understand better than most activists that this spirit of intense positivity can co-exist perfectly well with the hardships and inanity of activism. It is hardly ever about feeling good – but the most good you feel is when a set of ideas finally blossoms into the public sphere and gets serious consideration, visibility, discussion. That’s what happened in the first months of Occupy, and the whole left was buoyed by it. That’s what they wrote the books about. Thus, those ideas are the ones I think we need to remember when we think about what made this movement unique and powerful.

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[The spiritual aspects of the camp in Zuccotti. 2nd fact often forgotten lately: spirituality was an integral part of the movement. It was always one of my favorite parts.]

So lots of important people have written important and interesting things about Occupy, and the following list puts together most of the more mainstream (and a couple less so) texts I’ve found so far. I use the word “mainstream” in this context to mean only “widely accessible.” So these are books you could find and read relatively easily. They’re certainly not books that the mainstream media or pundits or politicians or commentators or village idiots or whatever will probably have encountered. Again, none of those folks have much to say that’s of value to the movement or to activists at large.

Have I read these books? The answer is: most of them. Some of them I do not have access to because the only way to get them that I can find is to buy them, and I don’t have the budget to do that in every case. As a librarian, I know all the ways to potentially find them at a library, and have done so to the fullest extent. Actually, it’s not uncommon for contemporary political texts to be inaccessible at public libraries – I’d have to get these interlibrary-loan from an academic one, perhaps, but that too proves difficult for the newer volumes.

Finally, some are not out yet, but I am going to blurb these anyway, just so you are aware they’ll be easily accessible soon. Besides for the volumes not out yet, these are presented in no particular order. ………..

Dreaming in Public

Occupy (Chomsky’s edition)

The Occupy Handbook

Drawing Occupy Wall Street

This Changes Everything

Networks of Outrage and Hope

From Cairo to Wall Street

We Are Many

Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America

Occupy the Future

Occupying Political Science

My opinion on this movie should not surprise anyone. If you’ve ever read this blog, it should be somewhat, *ahem*, obvious. I am going to save savvy readers the paragraphs I could take to deconstruct all the problems I have with this film as politics, and as art.

I am also going to save readers that might look for some “balance” or “objectivity” in my opinion the trouble from seeking such things in a post where you just won’t find them. If you want me to give Zero Dark Thirty a “fair,” or perhaps “unbiased” review, I think you’ve missed one of the primary boats that the folks that made it are trying to sail. It is not – no matter who squawks to the contrary – meant to invoke the words “fair” or “unbiased” from anyone’s mouth – the filmmakers are banking on this movie’s controversy. Their seven, eight figure payoffs depend on the emotional discussions this film was literally made to generate.

Don’t go seek civility where none is meant, where none is offered by those that hold power. Don’t expect a neat tennis match of a debate that some in the mainstream world want all politics to be – a simple bouncing back and forth from one sanitary square box of an opinion to the other, on and on. Some of us just weren’t born to praise Caesar – especially when he attaches tacit government endorsement to the decade’s most inaccurate portrayal of issues surrounding the War on Terror. A spade is a spade, and propaganda that lies about history in order to cash out on people’s misguided ideas about what “patriotism” means is, guess what….

Yup. Propaganda. And from this woman’s perspective, utterly disgusting. On so many levels. From the just plain morally corrupt to politically dangerous. And I do not particularly feel the need to explain to you why I think so. I’m not going to break it down step by step, I’m not going to bus in pages of citations from legal professionals and reputable journalists and civil liberties experts. I will offer a few actual reviews of the film from experts and journalists that have followed issues surrounding the War on Terror far more than I – people that can hash out some of the major intellectual themes I could elaborate on: Glenn Greenwald and Jane Mayer and Peter Maass and Adam Serwer and Michael Tomasky – clicking on any of their names will lead you to these articles, if you’re interested.

And if you really want to have my deep disturbance at this movie backed up by some folks less blunt than I about politics, then please click here. Said link will lead you to a letter sent to the Sony Pictures Corporation from 3 US Senators – Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin, and John McCain. It is, to understate its tone quite severely, absolutely damning. I am in awe of the guts it took to put these words on paper, in public. “You [makers of Zero Dark Thirty] have a social and moral obligation to get the facts right.” Hell yes.

Finally, lest my brusque honesty has not yet shocked you – I have no plans to, nor will I ever see this film. This will probably be one of my only “Politics in Film” installments where I have not viewed the film I am writing about. Gotta problem with that? Shortly: There’s enough being said about it that I can read the whole plot and characterization and tone online without actually endorsing the thing with money.

More importantly, let’s put it this way: if I ever meet anyone involved with this film, I will have a problem looking them in the eye without crying. Honest, in-public, unashamed tears – that is how emotionally floored I am that this film is being praised as some great work of art or some politically relevant look at recent US history.

So it isn’t worth the emotional hardship of actually watching the thing. I am honestly not sure I could keep myself from losing my lunch during the torture scenes. (Even Senator John McCain has said it made him “sick” to watch it. I do not mean to reiterate his opinion, but his outspoken rejection of this film has really been so encouraging. My longtime respect for Senator McCain has been justified over and over.) I’ve spent a lot of my life wondering how so many people are capable of watching films that depict such a high level of violence without needing a barf bag next to their chair. At first I used to think it must have been my problem – now I am under no such unfortunate assumption.

So anyway, if you’ve bothered to read this far without clicking away from your intense disagreement with some aspect of what I just said, congrats! We’re free to get to the beefy part of this post: why society is rewarding this movie, how to deal with that fact, and how to repair some of the wounds being inflicted on America as a result of that fact.

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I think the primarily problematic assumption here – the underlying theme lending Zero Dark Thirty its legitimacy – is the idea that its patriotic. Somehow, this particular portrayal of events – 9/11 being lined up next to torture next to Osama bin Laden next to more torture – allows Americans a window into the deeds our government (embodied here by solely the CIA, by the way – not any of the average infantry soldier that usually personifies duty-to-country patriotism) does to maintain our greatness as a nation.

It’s hard not to forget the random outburst of flag-waving in the street that happened when it was announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. A lot of frat boys were excited that night; many a “Amurrica F*ck Yeah!” was shouted. But to mistake this enthusiasm for patriotism is, in my opinion, an insult to all the people who have blood, sweat and tears in the game of doing what really gives most people a sense of pride in our nation.

The people that died for our country as a result of the War on Terror did not do so out of some jingoistic, popcorn fueled, 2 hour long circle-jerk vision of what patriotism or duty-to-country means. Devotion to country isn’t something you do to feel good about yourself. You don’t get maimed or tortured or traumatized so that you can talk about it later, or so that some0ne can stick a flag on your experience and label it for the evening news. You only sacrifice what it takes to go to war if you believe you are going to protect your family, neighbors and friends. It’s sacrifice without a payoff, without a profit margin, and for most people, without a political message.

And so no fictional endeavor can ever truly capture the concept of patriotism, especially one that bludgeons its audience over the head with tropes and tired conventions. So when talking to people who praise Zero Dark Thirty for its “patriotism” – you can start by asking them: “Is that really what soldiers are dying for? Some ra-ra stadium sense of vengeance?”

The second problematic assumption that Zero Dark Thirty pushes is so inanely and ceaselessly repeated that I almost feel stupid highlighting it in this one instance over any other place I see it, but none the less:

The millions of foreigners that have died in the wars born from the War on Terror – the majority of them having died innocent of any crime whatsoever- did not perish because they were evil, one dimensional, cackling villains that just woke up one morning hating this country’s “freedoms.” The dead children whose last view on the world were their families’ blood all over the ground probably could not have pointed to America on a map, much less held an opinion that would have made them dangerous to you or me. All of the men detained at Guantanamo, all of the countless civilians blown up in Iraq by our side or others, the 1000s of drone victims in Pakistan and Yemen and elsewhere - Zero Dark Thirty is offering you one word to describe them: terrorist. If the film had to put that word into a sentence, the sentence would be “It’s unfortunately necessary to torture these terrorists.”

Is it this movie’s job to get beyond racist stereotypes? Should we expect it to invest in even the slightest iota of character development? Do the filmmakers have a duty to present their brown-skinned characters as multifaceted and complex? Well, it is “art,” after all. Rich white people are going to be bending over backwards to present Zero Dark Thirty with shiny awards. The filmmakers do not seem to take any of these questions seriously, and as a result one has to wonder just what the academy will be awarding.

And finally, our third assumption, and this one is the hardest to combat because despite my sole screechy voice to the contrary, it is a popular cultural myth: that the killing of bin Laden in specific – i.e. the act of assassination as a choice over all the myriad of options that could have been used to bring him to justice, was the morally (nevermind legally) correct thing to do. Zero Dark Thirty opens and closes with this idea – there is no evaluation, no thought given to the matter. It is the unequivocal gospel truth in this film. Again, this one is not so debated even in real society. It is a political “truth” that few people seem to question, even from the left – and for that precise reason I think it deserves some attention.

Osama bin Laden was not some Satanic bastion of inhuman evil who’s crimes put him above the consideration of the law, who’s crimes were so uniquely sinister that his death has to be raised to the level of pseudo-religious national holiday. He was a political terrorist – an extremist who did horrible, unacceptable things – that modern society has the appropriate legal structure to condemn and punish.

Putting all discussion of the film aside, there is absolutely no good reason why the event it is based off of should have happened in the first place. On the contrary, legally dealing with the perpetrators of crimes against humanity is one of the most mature and politically important functions any sort of government (national, or international) can take on. There is a reason that the allies decided to have Nuremburg Trials at the conclusion of WWII instead of taking all the Nazis out back and shooting them. There and then was a conflict, and there were crimes that – forgive me for offending anyone’s “patriotic” sensibilities – made 9/11 look random and politically isolated.

Imagine if, at the conclusion of WWII, some allied general had said, “Let’s just fly a late night helicopter run and blow the hell out of ‘em – I’m sure that will provide lots of closure for the fifty million+ victims’ families and friends. Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it! Justice done, folks!”

Doesn’t that just sound like it would provide boatloads of politically useful, peacetime promoting legal structure on which to rebuild society after a devastating war that robbed everyone of a moral compass? That solution would really provide a sense of order and true security that all the other violence that society has been overloaded with couldn’t, huh? ….No? Sarcasm alert not beeping yet??

…the Allies did not think so either. There was no time and no appetite for such trite, mindless ego massaging as seen in Zero Dark Thirty. War – true war – is not something that anyone has to turn on a TV or radio or consume media to experience. Our parents and grandparents remember a time when war was the thing that happened as you walked down the street every day, when you talked to your neighbors, when you went to the store to buy groceries, and when you got a draft notice in the mail. 

One of the reasons why our government needs films like Zero Dark Thirty is because the average citizen’s only connection to this huge, impersonal behemoth of a “War on Terror” is monetary. We all pour huge amounts of taxpayer money into this, but beyond that, we do not participate. We do not feel its effects in our everyday lives. We barely interact with anyone that does.

Thus, we don’t tend to know much about it. There’s very little information offered by the media and especially our government as to why it’s important – mostly because we don’t ask very often. Questions like “what specific strategies are helping us to win this conflict?” or “what are the ethics of what we’re doing?” or “when do we intend to conclude it and be done already?” just do not occur to people.

So perhaps its really no wonder that society is raising up a travesty like Zero Dark Thirty - maybe that level of political discussion is exactly what we are used to, that we prefer even. Because if we can believe in the intense moral nihilism that Zero Dark Thirty offers, we don’t have to face or think about or deal with the true costs of war.

~*~

I promised above that there would be a “solutions” section to this post. I feel like most of what I think we should do is self-evident. Reject propaganda, promote the facts and actual history, and educate people about what our country does overseas in detail. Keep informed enough so that when something as manipulative as Zero Dark Thirty appears in popular society, you will have the ability to refute the problematic ideas with sophistication.

Also, there can never be enough promotion of the idea that our society needs to let go of violence as a solution for both local and international issues. 60s pop culture was right – it is just not the answer. The more people that are willing to assert this, and how often they do will equate directly to folks abandoning the need for ultra-violent films at movie theaters – and maybe even the need for ultra-violent wars in real life.

One can hope, at least.

 

Much love,

Keia

Hey all! Long time no blog posts. I attended my first large demo in a while, once again with the wonderful and extraordinary Occupy Guitarmy! Guitarmy attended a solidarity protest along with members of Occupy Wall Street, The Retail Action Project, Align NY, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and a couple of different unions at the Walmart in Seacaucus NJ. We were there to support Walmart workers who chose Black Friday to go on strike!

Why strike, you ask?

Walmart’s labor practices are bad for workers, bad for communities that have a Walmart in their town, and bad for the American public. It’s been this way for years, but this year 1000s of brave associates decided to organize and fight for their rights. They walked out today to demand livable wages; racism-free, sexism-free and homophobia-free work spaces; fair treatment by their fellow workers and the company; and recognition of their right to be respected as valuable human beings, not just faceless labor. For more info from the strikers themselves, please check out the website of OUR Walmart, the organization providing logistics and support for strikers.

I have compiled some fun photos and even a small video of this NJ local action :D They are in chronological order, and include Guitarmy members and other awesome activists I met. Scroll down to check it out:

And also, here is a video of some of the musical performances :D :D :D

[So imagine you wake up tomorrow morning to find *that* happening in your backyard. Having trouble? That's right, my American Horatios, there are things more horrifying than dreamt of in our meager philosophy.]

So in my library we get a lot of newspapers every day – and always interesting are the days when every headline is the same. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and even a local paper – all were predictably yet still painfully shocked at the death of our Ambassador to Libya. Dismay at the anti-American protests in other nations – which as I type this are still spreading – was also represented at length.

Most unfortunately predictable was today’s (Thursday’s) header of USA Today: “They hate us!” it proclaimed. As if it just happened this morning, all this hatred. Every paper lining up behind one another to communicate how shocking it is that somehow, this Arab Spring that we were in love with all last year has suddenly “turned against” our self-titled greatest democracy on the planet. As if the Arab Spring was ever with us – or remotely cared to notice us – in the first place.

Before I go on my little rant, I want to make it clear that I am not dancing on anyone’s grave here. I am not placing my soap box over the bodies of the dead – I feel horrible about the tragedy of well-meaning State Department folks – people braver than you and I – being killed in such a disturbing context. I feel as bad for them as I do for every soldier and civilian, American and not, that has been sacrificed on the altar of our “democracy building” in the Middle East. I don’t know how heavy the scales have to get before the government realizes how many lives they’re wasting so senselessly – but then again, perhaps “sense” has never been the point…

(I am also aware, btw, that there are headlines coming out now that the deaths may have had nothing to do with the protests – but the protests in themselves speak volumes as to general public opinion of the USA in Libya (and elsewhere) at the moment – and its the American reaction to that opinion that I want to talk about here.)

That said, this episode illustrates a really important lesson about interventionist war that I have been trying to communicate to people ever since the NATO bombing of Libya – because that’s the context that has unsettled everyone so much. The papers, the MSM TV machine – everyone’s working the propaganda overtime to make you think, “Well how could these folks in Libya hate us so much after we liberated their goddamn country? The hell’s wrong with these people?”

If you agree with the above statement, best stop reading right here, because to be really quite crass – I am about to tear that sentiment a new youknowwhat. It is so intensely, monumentally disturbing to me that the same type of myopic attitude that baffled a good portion of this country for the duration of the Iraq War is still alive and well in so many political circles – including the left!

In case you’ve been asleep for the last couple of decades, let’s take the case of Libya in summary: for years and years we supported – politically and economically – a brutal dictator. Arbitrarily, especially from the ground level, local perspective, we decide all of the sudden that we don’t like this dictator anymore. In truth our change of heart has to do with increasing paranoia that the region that used to be our own private sandbox is now *gasp* gaining political power of its own – and we’re still too high on the fumes of the Cold War Era to deal with this in a mature way. So we tell everyone, especially ourselves, that we’re siding almost randomly with one faction of this conflict and dropping bombs on the other for “humanitarian” reasons.

We drop some bombs and go home, stop talking about the actual humanitarian crisis the millisecond our military intervention stops. Said crisis marches onward, instability in the country reigns supreme, and then – and then, shock of shocks, an action long viewed as a sign of intense disrespect in this region of the world ignites a big protest. And its never really been just about Islam, or the USA’s misunderstanding and disrespect of it – one video, cartoon, whatever, is just the tiny vessel into which all of the misunderstanding, disrespect and intense abuse we have inflicted on these lands over decades is poured. And there is no vessel big enough for all the sins of the past – so the anguish flows everywhere – in  the streets of Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and perhaps even elsewhere.

I am not sure if I have ever blogged about non-interventionism before. Despite my intense dislike of the concept, I am not a strict non-interventionist – I believe, for example, that it will continue to be necessary in the future for coalitions of nations to intervene to stop genocide and other crimes against humanity. But I want to emphasize the idea of coalitions here – entities like the UN, or in the cast of the Middle East the Arab league or African Union – because the only way intervention works is if the intervening parties do not have any self-interested motivations for invading a country. In fact, having a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship with the nation violating human rights is the best context for an intervention to be really successful.

I cannot think of a single example where the USA has staged an interventionist war in the way stated above. On the contrary, we only invade a country for our own interests, be them oil or imperialism or one man’s Daddy complex – whatever our motives, they are almost never include a true sense of altruism or respect for human rights. Now these motivations are wrong for so many moral and ethical reasons that I am not going to list them here, but they’re also tactically disastrous – because the locals will always understand our true purpose on a very basic, gut instinct level. Not only are the flames of war literally rising from their backyards, but on top of the humanitarian crisis they all sense that we are lying to them and to ourselves. And so of course there is going to be hate – and our shock at this hate, our willing acceptance of the lie that is literally sitting on their doorstep with a big machine gun on its hip – only confirms what these folks in the Middle East suspect: that we’re clueless as to their real needs, and that we will sacrifice as many of them as necessary to meet our own.

That fact could scare someone enough to strap a bomb to themselves, or start to see those that do in a sympathetic light. And thus the battle of this century, the never-ending “War on Terror” self-perpetuates on and on, because our actions themselves become the biggest producer of terrorists.

In this context, I am absolutely 110% non-interventionist as far as the USA is concerned, and I think the whole peace community should take up this song and dance. No exceptions, no whining on the news about dead children in one country as children die in another – or our own, for that matter – unless and until we respect the fact that human rights are universal, and that our economic or power interests *never* trump them. There are many ways to save dying children in any country, but it takes work to learn them and it takes putting aside our own selfishness as the best and first step. The USA should never make a difference in the world only to make itself look good or feel better.

And when Americans can truly wrap their minds around this concept, then we can talk about certain kinds of interventionism as policy.

Where we stand now, we get to watch Libya burn and worry about it when our flag is thrown into those flames. It’s been fun so far, huh? -_- …

Anyway, despite this bad news,

much love,

Keia