No More Civil/Wars

Three months into the new age, three months under Trumpism. In my communities, I’ve watched the effect on peoples’ bodies. Felt it in my own. In February, I had anxiety of a degree I hadn’t experienced since I was 20 and coping with flashbacks from assault. I have some practice in handling stress and nervousness, as I fairly frequently push myself to do things that are outside my comfort zone when it comes to organizing and political work. I’d felt pretty strong through the transition into this administration, probably due to the honor of spending inauguration in DC supporting the It Takes Roots delegation. During the Women’s March, Catalyst helped coordinate security for the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance and I got to experience that massive march alongside those fierce and committed leaders. I think that buffered for me in some ways the horror of transitioning into the formal admission of Trump and his cabal into government. But it’s really hit, and I know how overwhelmed many of us are feeling. At the same time that seeing how politicizing and mobilizing Trumpism has already been on hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, a lot of us are really struggling to hold it together.

Among the people I work with, many of whom are directly targeted by the policies and values being advanced by Trumpism, I see the strain. Most of us are functioning in some sort of survival mode. In whatever ways our bodies learned to take care of ourselves at younger points in life, the survival strategies that got us through to today have kicked in hard with this experience of collective threat. Some of us are a bit frozen, others in perpetual hypervigilance ready to fight or flee, some of us shaping ourselves to appease.

At the same time, this situation isn’t new. For so many people, being directly and overtly attacked by the state/by the right wing/by their neighbors has been the experience through generations. I remember stories passed to me second hand after the great flooding of New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina. When the water drained, the city reappeared from below as a post-apocalyptic landscape. And Black and indigenous residents reminded those of us who like myself had been raised to expect our own survival: for them, for generations, they’ve known that they were never supposed to survive. That the apocalypse was not new, the fight for survival was not new.

What is War?

Part of the fear of this moment is this question “When is Trump going to get us into a new war?” But we’re already in them.

I don’t mean solely Iraq, although we just rounded the corner of the 14th year of that war in almost total silence. I don’t mean only Afghanistan either, the “good war” of my generation. I don’t even mean just the Korean peninsula, where our military occupation has provoked decades of resistance from Koreans.

The lines have long been blurred on what constitutes a war.

U.S.-led forces are now regularly bombing schools and hospitals in Syria. We do not seem to understand that in this country. We do not take any accountability for the hundreds of migrants who disappered in the Mediterranean yesterday fleeing the warzones we created, empty dinghies found of a type which is always packed with 100-200 people.

What is a “war on Islam” other than a propaganda campaign inciting violence at home and bombing campaigns abroad? Another organizing strategy based in racism used to advance some peoples’ agenda of domination? Why aren’t Christian Zionists being called out, who will expose the Christian right wing for its role in global misery and its aspirations of dominion?

What constitutes a war versus a concerted and politically motivated attack on a particular population? When Black people in the U.S. Speak of a war on Black people, what would it take to believe them? What’s an alternative vision of this country in which Black communities are not relegated, as a surplus labor force who no longer creates profit for CEOs from their labor in shuttered factories and automated fields, to the social control structures of mass incarceration and mass voter disenfranchisement?

What constitutes a war on poor people?

On women?

On people with disabilities?

On gender variant and trans people?

Does it have to be waged by the state? Overt or covert?

If the vote this afternoon repeals the ACA, and 24 million people lose healthcare in order to increase profits for a small handful of other people, how is that not warfare? War meaning politics done by other means. How much will we let them get away with because we’re invested in politness, civility, “doing things the right way and lawful way,” or because we can’t bring ourselves to look this hideous situation in the face. That this actually is structural violence. That people will actually die because of this. Some of them might be my family, might be my sister who is currently in cancer remission but reliant on county services in an area where she can’t afford housing but can’t afford to move away from their healthcare. Some will be people with disabilities or chronic illnesses who already know that they’re considered disposable because capitalism defines your value based on your relation to money-making activities. Cutting maternal and newborn care? Sure, fellas, that’s definitely how to make a country great.
I mean, sure, the ACA is flawed and we actually need something significantly better. But the people trying to replace it with the World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017 (actual name of an earlier version) don’t want something better. More and more I think we need to name what they are doing as war.

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54 people arrested this Wednesday protesting attack on healthcare

I’m scared of what’s ahead. I looked at the photo of the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” the re-named Tea Party, of 25 white male lawmakers in a room scheming about how to dismantle healthcare, and cried from fear and anger. Something about that image drove it home. I called Congresspeople today through the automatic phone connect that SEIU set up for people to enter their zip code and be connected to representatives. The Congressional reps it connected me to were all planning to vote no already, and were all women. Women who support/are voting for repeal are a whole different topic, let alone the Tomi Lahrens and Kellyanne Conways of the world. White women’s history of aligning with slaveowners, both figuratively and literally, is its own subject and a repeated cause of much opportunity turned to tragedy. May this moment bring us finally towards something different, as the lines are being laid so starkly about whose agenda turns towards life and whose turns towards violence.

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Republican “Freedom Caucus” discusses how to remove maternity care from healthcare bill

 

I’m scared of the backlash misogyny taking hold. I don’t think I’ve felt so deeply before the level of actual hatred, not just disdain, that they have. I mean people who were assigned male at birth and socialized as boys into men, cultivating and weaponizing this level of hatred and brutality against people assigned female at birth and/or living as women, girls, gender variant, trans or queer. It’s chilling me in a way I am not used to. I’ve lived my life so cushioned from violence by my race and class privilege, even as a queer and gender variant person, even as someone raised female and marked by harassments, bullying, and assaults as well as the daily soul-wearing grind of casual misogyny and every time my worth is undermined because of my gender. But this is different.

 

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“Handmaid’s Tale” costumes protesting Texas anti-choice bill

I’m scared of the backlash white supremacy that is metastizing under Trump’s care, with white supremacists including Sessions and Bannon implanted into seats of power. The backlash to the ground gained by the Movement for Black Lives’ successes over the past three years in finally beginning to shift some cultural values in this country to put back on the table the demand that Black lives do indeed matter, including Black trans lives, Black immigrant lives, Black disabled lives, Black women and girls, Black elders, Black incarcerated people, in fact all Black lives. Anti-Black racism is so foundational to this country’s DNA, and to how capitalism has evolved here, that of course this powerful challenge to the dominant logic of the US has provoked a regressive and vicious response.

I’m scared that the right wing is intentionally moving us towards something in effect like a civil war, although they’ll brand it to suit their purposes. Their whole shtick is built on divide-and-rule schemes. Their interests are protected by turning us against each other. Those of us who have so much more in common with each other, and who are providing much of the foundation of their empire-building.

And they’ve enlisted so many people in their project. Not just in supporting the global wing of the project, justifying and executing wars of conquest and profit on the other side of the world, but enlisting the ground troops here.

My organization Catalyst Project works with white people to build up anti-racist practice in majority white organizations, faith communities, groups, networks, communities. Since before 9/11, we’ve been talking to white people around the country about the smoke-and-mirrors approach that keeps white supremacist power structures intact. One key myth about US racism is that “the racists” are those white power fringe characters like the KKK. Or that racism is embodied in and exemplified by poor white Southerners. It’s been a highly successful device to keep eyes off people in power enacting policies which differentially target people of color, and to keep us focused on racially biased interactions with someone on the street instead of the structures that maintain white supremacy. So we pushed hard on politically active white people to go beyond focusing on the Klan.

Over the last couple years, we’ve gotten more and more requests for support from people organizing to protect themselves and their communities from white supremacist vigilantes and militias. As the Tea Party rooted itself in the body politic of the US, and particularly as Trump’s campaign dropped the bar to floor level for permitting atrocious behavior, the resurgence of a whole wide ecosystem of “white nationalism” is creating increased danger.

Catalyst is often asked to provide safety teams for events, marches, rallies, direct actions, conferences. Usually these events are part of work against militarism, police violence, war, and white supremacy. In 16 years of providing security in many different contexts, the most aggressive and violent people I’ve had to deal with have been Zionists who on many occasions have physically attacked people, hitting, choking, slamming heads to the pavement. It’s been very rare that we’ve dealt with people who are armed with more than a pole. This is changing. The danger level is rising as reactionary white nationalists/supremacists feel increasingly emboldened. Much ink was spilled lamenting the fires set at UC Berkeley last month to refuse a platform to Breitbart troll Milo Yiannopoulis, but very little discussion of the Milo supporter who shot in the stomach a Milo protestors who was de-escalating a confrontation outside the Seattle tour event. I saw almost a dozen people stabbed in their torsos last summer when we gathered to deny a platform at our state capitol to an assortment of white supremacists convened by Matthew Heimbach and his Traditionalist Workers Party. Those wounds were intended to kill, and they targeted people of color.

I grew up a punk in the midAtlantic in the 90s, which means I’ve dealt with racist skinheads my whole life. There were ebbs and flows in their public activities, but they’ve always been a factor in my world. I spent several years back and forth to Germany in the early 2000s, learning about their migrant justice and antifascist work to cull lessons for the work I was doing in California trying to build white support for migrant and refugee leadership. My approach to transformative change is grounded in traditions of revolutionary nonviolence. Yet spending time with my German peers, who had grown up with and sometimes inside antifa traditions, moved me to a deeper understanding and respect for the role of physically preventing neo-Nazis from taking public space. Now is the time for those lines to become common sense. No, of course you can’t go around whipping up hatred to get into office/make money/feel temporarily better about yourself. No, it’s not acceptable to organize towards an ethnosupremacist nation-state/eugenic elimination of people with disabilities/country without abortion access/mandate electric shock torture for transgender people/”war of civilizations” against all Arabs and Muslims. We need a new hegemony (common sense). It’s going to take some pushing and discomfort and peoples’ willingness to grow, be curious, question their assumptions.

I work at a ranch. Many people there I quite like and get along with just fine, although we may not share politics. I heard more concern from several of them about the Milo melee in Berkeley than I heard about the dozen people in Sacramento who were almost killed by white supremacists, let alone than I hear about the constant murders of Black trans women. It’s not popular in the populace to put your body between neo-Nazis and a microphone, even if they’re trying to recruit people to their vision of a white ethno-state. We continue glorify World War II as the good war, where our boys fought the Nazis. But just as we shut down the stories of veterans coming home, in order to keep them from tainting our national storytelling (as we have done to the veterans of every war since), we are strangely unwilling now to support the idea that our task is to firmly cast out organized white supremacy. Uproot it from our neighborhoods, our unions, our VFW halls, our churches, and certainly our government.

When a Florida finance director court employee can say about the state’s first Black state attorney that she should be tarred and feathered and hung from a tree, in the state with the highest rate of lynchings in the era before mass incarceration, that’s a gauge. Yes, I’m scared of civil war. I’m scared of how willing people are to do violence to each other. And I try to remind myself of exactly that history in which Florida holds some awful distinctions. This has happened before and people have resisted, strategized, loved each other, fought back, won gains.

This time period feels like something new and terrifying to me. That fear knocks me off center at least once a day. I cast my thoughts to the future and wonder if it’s a terrible mistake to think about having a child. I’m deeply grateful that over this past decade my mentors, coaches and peers have helped me learn good tools for re-centering on what I care about, what impacts I am trying to have and what values I want to organize myself around. Reorienting around what’s important to me, sometimes many times each day, keeps me grounded even when I am not feeling very hopeful.

 

 

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Ida B. Wells: journalist, activist, liberation movement leader

While it’s true that there are unique and specific factors about the moment we are in, and some massive historical responsibilities meaning that if we fail in our task it will be pretty irredeemable– including the window that is closing in which we must deal with climate change—- it’s also important for people like me, who are newer to the fear of annihilation, to put this in context. To look to communities that have experience and practice in dealing with hopelessness, with how it feels to have the people in power hate you and wish you dead. I look at the Freedom Caucus and it’s hard for me to understand how they can hate us so much, like they must to be moving forward their legislation. But many people in the country have that capacity that I am trying to build. The capacity to understand, name and face the reality we’re up against, the people moving an agenda that considers us disposable at best and sees many of us as threats to their continued accumulation of wealth and power. I am looking particularly to Black histories and leaders like Ida B. Wells’ anti-lynching leadership to fortify my soul and learn better strategies. To indigenous peoples’ steadfastness in the face of attempted genocide, from Standing Rock to Palestine.

 

 

Franz Fanon said “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”

Our generation’s mission has been thrown into sharp relief. For that I am grateful. And as the lines in the sand become more clear, possibilites increase for broader alliances. We need to place a new set of values at the center and ask ourselves what becomes possible if we organize our society around life-giving activities and life-supporting priorities? And then, together, work to build that. We’re doing it. We’re making the road as we go down it. It’s a scary road right now but there are many ancestors at our backs, and generations ahead calling for us to fulfill our task. With so much at stake, we need to get less civil and more civic.

Terrified and Hopeful.

 

A week and half into 45’s regime/President Bannon, here’s a few thoughts on some bones we all seem to be chewing on:

Is it a coup? Are they actually just bumbling unqualified idiots creating a mess?

They are holding reins of power with tremendous destructive potential, and what will determine our future is less their in/competence than our non/compliance. If we look at our own recent history, we know none of this was whipped up spontaneously for the last election cycle– this is a new stage of a long-term plan.

Is it defeatist to talk about fascism?

This is a headscratcher for me. I think the only people who are not being in some way mobilized at this point are people who either still believe (even unconsciously) that they will not be affected, somehow; people who are refusing for a variety of reasons to look at what’s happening; and people who believe that Trump’s agenda will benefit them (the vast majority of those folks are wrong, and a very tiny handful of them are correct).

This is the time to call things what they are. To name and face our fears. To start with whatever small acts of bravery build our muscles for more. The only sure defeat is to turn away.

How are we going to keep up when things are so bad?

Did you go to or see photos or videos from this past weekend’s airport actions? Could you feel the energy? It’s still rippling through me, and through the country. I took the streets with seventy thousand people in Seattle in 1999 to shut down the World Trade Organization, rallied against detentions of Arab, Muslim and South Asian men after 9/11; shut down San Francisco’s Financial District for two days against the 2003 invasion of Iraq; I marched with millions in this country against the heightened attacks on immigrants in 2006; and in all those years participated hundreds of smaller political events and actions.

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I have never felt anything quite like this weekend. There is something different beginning to happen. When a Google engineer who is writing some smart assessments of the White House tells you to worry about “resistance fatigue,” I question if he has had the experience of people feeling their collective power in direct action and how that transforms peoples’ lives. Turns us from subjects to agents of change, creates communities, teaches you skills and hopefulness and brings you into new kinds of nourishing relationship with others, with yourself, with the future.

Yes, we need to pace ourselves. We need to be longdistance runners. To value and interweave all the different kinds of roles people can play here. Everyone has different contributions to make, including people who can’t physically blockade an airport or turn out to an evening meeting. Let’s heroize all the ways people are brick and mortaring walls of resistance to these assaults from the Trump regime. That includes everyone who sent food to the airport occupations. People who stayed home to take care of kids. Sick folks who recruited their friends to go help with safety teams at the airport. The paralegals who stayed up all night doing research. Disabled folks who are mentoring and sharing their political insights and strategic thinking. Teachers helping their students understand and contextualize what’s happening. Parents and non-parents fighting Blackwater Betsy’s (DeVos) nomination and all the other hellscape cabinet appointments. Friends talking to each other about how they can get together to turn their outrage into action. Teenagers organizing school walkouts. Introverts pushing themselves to make those calls to representatives. Folks up all night strategizing about how to expand sanctuary cities as real 21st century safety structures. Rural folks who are holding it down against the Klan, 3%ers and other white supremacist militias. Organizers who are holding down the many facets of long term work that is about us continuing to build alternatives, put them into practice, to bring our many YESES to life because that is the beauty behind this giant NO we are saying to Trump and Bannon and their cronies.

What about all the ways even our protests are so messy and complicated and difficult?

Yes, they are. Messy indeed. People show up at rallies where we’re basically fighting the onslaught of white nationalism– wrapped in American flags. With signs saying “We’re all immigrants” that are waved in the faces of people descended from enslaved Africans stolen from their homes, in the faces of indigenous people still fighting cultural erasure and material genocide, in the faces of people who are economic and political refugees. And the reality is that a lot of white people who wave these signs are descended from settlers, people who came to colonize and forcefully take over, not to immigrate and settle cooperatively in someone else’s land.

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Yes, we are complicated and contradictory. Yes. I have spent over a decade trying to keep alive an antiwar movement in this country, that had already dropped totally off the radar of the majority of the population by the time Obama took office. I am no stranger to the frustration of the US population’s radio silence about our years of bombing Yemen, our years of collusion in the unutterable tragedy and human rights catastrophe that Syrians are trying to survive.

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But yesterday, among ten thousand people demanding that detained travelers from Muslim majority countries be allowed out of San Francisco International Airport, I took that as hope. Yes, what we need is to weave that passion and outrage into a broader movement that also comes as fierce to stop our bombs falling on Yemenis at home as we did to say let them in. But this now feels more possible rather than less. We can let our frustrations eat us alive, or we can move towards possibility and make tactical and strategic choices. Alicia Garza’s recent piece on “Our cynicism will not build a movement. Collaboration will.” says it all.

Similarly, I’ve spent almost 20 years working with other white people on getting more of us involved in racial justice work in ways that are more effective and accountable and bold. I am just not shocked to see the level of white entitlement that is expressing itself in these uprisings. The critiques of the Women’s March replicating old destructive patterns of second wave white feminism? Yup. The behavior of some white folks at SFO yesterday that was disruptive enough that a city official who is tracking infiltration of social justice movements asked me about it… and honestly, I thought it was just some garden variety thoughtless, entitled white behavior expressing internalized racism. Because that behavior can look a lot like infiltration, and have similar disruptive and damaging effects, we have to take it seriously and not dismiss the need for those of us who are white to keep taking responsibility for bringing along our cousins. Just like we still got a long ways to go on rooting out internalized patriarchy, classism, ableism, homo&transphobia, and other systems of divide & rule that got their hooks in us.

But it’s just not shocking to me that this is happening. What was shocking to me was the sheer numbers of white people present, many of whom seem pretty new to being politically active. People who if I’d seen them grabbing pizza on Valencia street, I’d have read as bros, tech jerks, hipsters, whatever…. who were coordinating food dropoffs to protestors Saturday night. People carrying handmade signs with their own families’ stories of entering this country, including those with refugee stories.

And remember that this upsurge of white people becoming more politically aware and active did not start in reaction to Trump- it began to swell two years ago. This is another gift to us of the resurgence of Black Liberation movement in this country. Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black Lives’ organizing is what sparked the biggest influx of white people waking up into political work that I’ve seen in my short lifetime. So yes. Humans are messy. Now we roll up our sleeves and get to work together.

 

Is is hyperbolic to call this fascism?

 

Let’s look at the definition below provided by the US Holocaust Museum. Do your own assessment.

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Disobedience to fascism is our alleigance to life and love.

I love you all. I’m so terrified and hopeful. While Bannon takes over his shadow presidency, while customs agents continue to detain Muslim and Arab families despite the court-ordered stay, tens of thousands of us flooded the airports all weekend and forced the release of our people. I’ve never seen anything quite like the particular boil of energy, commitment, and care during these last two days that we held SFO. Thousands of people riveted to a commitment, converging around a political center held with skill and fierceness by women of color who are the longtime organizers whose leadership is exactly what we need at this crossroads. If we are going full tilt into fighting this apocalypse machine, I am so deeply grateful to be in it with all of you– and more of you every day. It’s not too late. Let’s do this. Bring your friends.

 

above photo shared by Leslie Mac, all other photos taken by Brooke Anderson/Stills of Our Stories & Struggles at the January 28-29th SFO direct action to release the detained families

Blood & Treasure. Memorial Day and Moral Injury

 

For me as a kid, Memorial Day was a three-day weekend, first and foremost. Vaguely a holiday, but I was always unclear about this designation. Even growing up with a veteran father in a household where war was never far from the surface, I don’t remember thinking much about what this “holiday” was intended to accomplish. I do remember not knowing what the celebratory vibe was supposed to be about.

My lifetime has corresponded with this arc of contradiction: the percentage of people enlisting in the military has dropped while militarism has crept deeper into our culture, domestic institutions and economy. Danger, danger, danger.

Half of one percent of the population serves in the military now. This allows for a tremendous siloing of some of the most direct impacts of military service, particularly war. I specify these separately because for so many people, whether or not they see particular types of combat, their experience of being in the military is life transforming and often deeply traumatizing. You don’t have to deploy to be raped by your commander; to directly participate in executing civilians by drone strikes; to be forced to march to cadence of “Blood makes the grass grow, kill kill kill!”

So when a tiny percentage of people return to civilian life after these experiences– having been trained into military culture, but nobody gets trained out of it– we have an isolation problem. Not just the gap so many veterans experience of feeling like nobody else can understand their experience, and that the only community where they’ll ever feel a sense of belonging is the military, even for those who come out of the military vehemently antiwar and critical of militarism. The other danger here is that the toxic impacts are loaded onto certain peoples’ bodies, while other people– the ones who pull the real triggers, the Congressional and Presidential triggers that call for these ways– get to insulate themselves.

Maybe you’ve heard this term “moral injury” in the last couple years. The taboo of talking about the unseen wounds of war has been chipped away slightly over the last five years. As the relentless work of people like Iraq Veterans Against the War and other partners in the Right to Heal campaign forced open cracks in the mainstream media about the crisis proportions of veteran suicide, deployment of wounded troops, and the breadth of post-traumatic health crisis, you may have finally started hearing that veterans are killing themselves at the rate of about one person every hour.

People speak about ‘the cost in blood and treasure’ of wars. The blood we measure tends to be in the units of bodies of people who we claim as “our own.” Even that counter (up to about 6,000 now in Iraq and Afghanistan) is not on the public radar anymore. The largest sum in blood is paid exponentially, with no monument, by the people living on the lands we’ve torn apart. More cost is paid by the families, children, and friends of service members. And the interest is paid by

The cost in treasure is another matter. Treasure, if we are speaking here of not just the literal oil and mineral treasures of these rich lands, includes the reach for global control and all the profits which empire seeks to amass and contain. But just in dollars, these wars can only net whatever profits they gross minus whatever the warmakers are forced to pay out.

Reparations? Healthcare for wounded veterans? Well, that would cut into profits.

Profit depends on denial. Denying that these wars, commonly understood now to be based on lies, warrant reparations to the people of Iraq, of Afghanistan. To Yemenis, Somalis, Pakistanis, the people we bombed last night and are already bombing again this morning. Denying our responsibility to clean up the messes we made, from the burnpits and depeleted uranium that are already immiserating the next generation, to the political chaos our figureheads are maintaining.

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U.S. military celebration of the atom bomb with a cake

Denial that veterans’ suffering is due to their experience in the military. Sure, the VA is indeed the closest thing this country has to socialized medicine, and some peoples’ experiences in the system are stellar. Still, veterans are dying while on the waitlists for care they never receive, for disabilities denied, dying from inadequate and incompetent care. If the VA can reject a claim, if they can blame everything that you’re suffering on “pre-existing conditions” that have nothing to do with your time in the US military, then they aren’t liable.

And the easiest wounds to deny are the invisible ones. Psychological, emotional, spiritual.

This weekend, the volunteer counselors and organizers of the GI Rights Network convened for their annual face-to-face. For over 20 years, the GIRN has run a free hotline to counsel service members on their rights. The Network began as a resource to conscientious objectors, to support dissent from within the ranks. They field all kinds of calls, and get people information about their rights and options in order to empower them to take as much control over their lives back into their own hands and away from the military that tells them they have no rights, agency, or power.

In a discussion about moral injury, someone asked how we differentiate between PTSD or PTI, and moral injury. To me, this seems to provide an interesting gauge showing, in 2016, where we are at in our evolution of understanding the damages done to invading soldiers by participating in occupations.

What we call “symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress (Disorder)” are the responses of a person’s psychobiology (your body in its entirety, sometimes called body-mind to name that our intellect, self-awareness and emotions are part of the body) to being in situations where your body experiences significant threat to your survival and integrity. Those symptoms commonly include things like hypervigilance (you’re constantly wired and alert for any possible threat), or getting rapidly enraged or terrified by a situation in which that response might seem disproportionate. All these “symptoms” are natural self-protective responses that bodies make. When we walk around carrying unhealed trauma, when our bodies have never gotten to process these experiences of mortal threat, those self-protective responses are in the driver’s seat. These responses are seated in our body, experienced physically and emotionally. They are a sign of a body whose survival instincts are intact. Even though PTS drives some to suicidal ideations or suicide attempts, the PTS itself is a response that comes from health.

What we call “moral injury” is the psychological and spiritual response to transgressing one’s own values, ideals, breaking some codes of basic human conduct. This is my friend who realizes over 3 tours in Afghanistan that he was a farmer being sent to kill farmers, who comes home and tries to reconcile what he’s seen and done with years of activism, and eventually kills himself. This is the person working on drone operations who is handed a piece of paper explaining he’s been responsible for killing 200 people and something fundamental changes for him in that moment. This is many soldiers of WW2, coming home from “the Good War,” so many of them unable to talk about participating in atrocities or their objection to the war, because its narrative of heroism and triumph over evil was so absolutist. These are the veteran antiwar organizers who don’t believe that they are personally worth healing because they’ve done such terrible things they can never be redeemed no matter how much they work themselves into the ground opposing war.

There is a gray area between moral injury and post-traumatic stress injury. We find that in the tension between individual experience and community experience.

Moral injury, by its nature, cannot be divorced from its social context. It is about transgression of what is acceptable, about feeling that you’ve violated some fundamental rules of human conduct. The social context is what sets those codes. When is killing other humans acceptable? When is acceptable when their backs are turned? From the sky? When is killing children acceptable? In the US, we do not engage as a society in real value-setting discussions. Answers to these questions are declared at press conferences, in soundbites, are packaged in candidates’ platforms who calculate that talking about killing “terrorists’” families will make them more electable. Stages are set through political and financial calculations. No wonder so many veterans use their GI Bill to major in philosophy, if they even survive the crisis of meaning that so many of them go through while in the service.

And here, again, domestic militarism is eroding our collective humanity. We want to overlook the impact of hyper-realistic first person shooter video games on the malleable brains and value-sets of adolescents. And then we hear that drone operators turn on music so they can shoot real humans on the other side of the world to a metal soundtrack.

Moral injury is a sign that the core of someone’s humanity is intact, as PTS symptoms are a sign that someone’s basic survival instincts are still thriving. But PTS is not filtered through socially constructed values. It is a biological response. Moral injury is experienced by people who have been betrayed and used, used to be the frontline executors, the cannon fodder, and the scapegoats for wars they did not create. And at the same time, moral injury is about people understanding their own agency, their own participation in death and destruction.

We could ask why all of us in the US are not feeling some level of moral injury for our culpability in these wars that are now older than some highschool students.

If Memorial Day was about taking collective responsibility for the awful cost in blood and treasure of these imperial wars, that would be a step towards healing. So many veterans I know do not want to hear “Thank you for your service,” today of all days. What we need is to take responsibility together for healing all of the wounded, caring for the families of all of the dead, ending these occupations and setting right what we’ve wronged, and turning as a nation away from the next chapters of this same old shit that our current front-runners want to plunge us into.

Superheroes on Every Bus: Poetry, Power, and Humility

for Audre Lorde.

In the words of Sonia Sanchez:  We will improve this earth in your memory

Have you ever tried the practice of looking at everyone you see and imagining how they look to the eyes of someone who loves them? A friend of mine mentioned this years ago and I snapped up the practice. Public transit is the place I do this. I love this practice for so many reasons. One is that it gives me a way to practice recognizing and honoring everyone’s importance, each individuals’ place, and remembering that all those strangers have people who love them. It also regrounds me in the practice of love that is far deeper than someone making you feel sweet and warm and desired and cared for– in other words, love that’s all about how you make me feel. I was first introduced through bell hooks to M. Scott Peck’s definition of love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth,” and hooks has eloquently explored the keystone of life: that love is a verb, action.

When I ride the bus in San Francisco, I also often try on the assumption that any random person on that bus could be someone whose work in the world I’ve heard about but never met, some absolutely amazing everyday superhero. On days when the glow of the world is pretty dim, this helps rekindle the magic of the daily. It’s also true. And doing this on the bus in particular reminds me of how often those superheroes are among the people whose gifts and magnificence is most systematically overlooked and marginalized– poor folks, immigrants, Black and Brown teenagers, elderly people of color, particularly women and queer and trans and gender nonconforming people.

There are a lot of superheroes who ride buses. But that’s not the point.The essence of this practice, for me, is how would you treat each person if you assumed them to be someone who you would want to show respect? 

The first time I was at a demonstration with the legendary Yuri Kochiyama, I remember feeling nervous and exhilarated. I mean, Yuri Kochiyama! It was during the so-called “special registrations” mass round-up registrations of men of certain ages from certain demonized countries, the year after 9/11. Yuri was there with other Japanese and Japanese-American activists with direct and family experience of the Japanese internment camps during World War 2, saying “never again for anyone.”

But I wasn’t sure at first whether the person I thought was her was really her or not, this elderly woman, and had to ask a friend to confirm. Because I wasn’t sure what her face looked like. I’d seen old pictures, but didn’t know how she looked then. 

I can match so many more names to faces of actors (and have a lot of feelings about this) than I can of the superheroes who change our world.

This morning, I got up at 5 am to fly across the country. When I finally climbed into a van taking me from Hartford CT to Amherst MA tonight, I was toasted. I climbed into a back row, said hello to the person sitting in the row in front of me, we chatted about the weather for a minute. She mentioned it being so cold here, having just come back from the Virgin Islands. When we dropped off the only other passenger, I asked if she was still cold and would like my seat, which was directly over the hot air vent. I had a half-conscious flash of remembering my practice as we drove on.

As we approached the stop we turned out to both be getting out at, she mentioned having taught at Hampshire 20 years ago, and I asked what was bringing her to UMass this weekend. Turned out she was on a book tour, and speaking at an event tonight, in fact, the same Legacies of June Jordan event I was heading to! “What’s your book?” I asked. “A bio/anthology of Audre Lorde,” she said. I may have flushed at how cool that was.

When we got out, I asked if I could help with her big rollybag, since we were heading the same way. As we walked, I asked her about the book and process of touring with it, apologizing at one point for asking so many questions since she was just about to speak. What an amazing thing, and imagine what the book events must be like! She said people had come who she hadn’t seen in decades. That Angela Davis and Assata Shakur had contributed to the book. That it was a telling of her life through fifty voices. Incredible.

I mean, Audre Lorde.

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Audre “ When I use my strength in the service of my vision it makes no difference whether or not I am afraid” Lorde

Audre “Your silence will not protect you” Lorde.

Audre “it is better to speak/ remembering/ we were never meant to survive” Lorde.

Audre “the masters’ tools will never dismantle the master’s house” Lorde.

Audre “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences” Lorde.

We checked in and parted ways to go get ready for the event. I looked up her name and started shaking. Dr. Gloria Joseph, Audre Lorde’s partner. I had just met Audre Lorde’s partner. Hoooooolllyshhhit.

Such holes in my knowledge of the world to not even know the faces of those who’ve shaped modern feminism, right? And in her case, that I hadn’t recognized her name. I say this not with shame, but with very critical look at what has shaped me and continues to influence things like whose faces I do/not recognize; where I’ve scrabbled together pieces of a more thorough education, and where I’m still drastically lacking. Which indicates how much more lifetransforming, inspiring, challenging and important education is still ahead of me. If like me, you didn’t know… check her out! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her book Common Differences. 

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Dr. Gloria Joseph

The event tonight was powerful. I was moved to tears multiple times. The moderator framed the closing hour of conversation, between Dr. Joseph and Sonia Sanchez talking about Audre Lorde and June Jordan, as two of the creators of Black feminism talking about two of the creators of Black feminism.

Dr. Joseph shared Audre’s thoughts about why she wanted this book about her life. How she wanted to be remembered in her wholeness. Her power, her stubborness, her playing with toys in the bathtub. That she wanted her life to be irresistible, to draw more people to her vision.

And she shared her own favorite quote of Audre’s: Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs.” (which you may also remember begins the brilliant film Pariah)

Sonia Sanchez spoke with grace and power, covering tremendous ground. She also posed this to us, entirely unrhetorically: At some point we’ve got to really answer the question what does it mean to be human.

So many answers to that question are found in collective struggles for social transformation, and in art.

Each time you love
love as deeply as if were
forever
only nothing is
eternal

-audre lorde

Tonight, about power, about poetry, about the saving grace that is Black women’s wisdom and spirit and fight.

I cried my way through hearing them talk about how much Audre Lorde believed in the necessity of poetry, the power of writing. When Gloria spoke of her partner she spoke of her in the present tense. They spoke of her spirit and I could feel how present she is.

When I was quite young and trying to figure a lot of things out about the world, and surrounded by Christians of various stripes, I remember the eerie feeling that God was like some cosmic surveillance camera, the idea that He was watching everything. I was in middle school when my grandmother died, and by then I’d pretty much rejected that type of God, but relapsed into wondering if now she was gonna see everything I did and might not want my grandmother to see. I didn’t have a friendly warm feeling about the idea of being watched over by spirits; the idea felt invasive and creepy, at best awkward.

Tonight I felt Audre’s spirit in the room and it gave me life.  Any other levels of how people experience the ancestors aside, there’s the absolute fact of how she is still igniting me and others through her work, her irresistible life, her absolutely living vision. Her presence is in the elemental power of poetry, in the communities of resistance and feminist scholarship and Black love that she built in and around it.

As the event closed,  I put my hand over my heart to feel warmth and to hold honor for Audre. I put my hand on my heart like I have never in my life done for a “national” anthem, and felt in my heartbeat, all heartbeats. Our differences that make us strong. How we are all needed, we are all beautiful through the eyes of love, and all of us need to be flexing our superhero powers to reshape this world.

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Audre Lorde and Gloria Joseph

The Wind is Spirit: The Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde book (available for preorder) declares:

THE BOOK ISN’T A BEGINNING OR AN END.  IT IS A CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF THE POWERFUL AND DANGEROUS AUDRE LORDE.

also…..

Audre Lorde’s a litany for survival

Revolutionary Hope: a conversation between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, 1984 (excerpt, rest is still unpublished)

What happens when Shock and Awe is no longer shocking?

Many people go about their daily lives in this country without awareness that we have been at war, without pause, for 15 years in Afghanistan, 13 in Iraq. I see friends on FB talk casually, seeking to construct some edgy hip snarkiness, about how they’d like to kill the people they encounter at their obnoxious job, on the other end of a service call, or on the street– for being so dumb, so annoying, so not worthy of air.  The body politic of this country has so deeply internalized perpetual war and the wasting of lives, which requires acceptance of dehumanizing others. Their lives are not worthy because ‘they’re annoying me, they’re brown, they live on top of resources or access we want, I’ve been told to be scared of them, they’re not as deserving or good as me.’ Even jokes are so revealing of how numb we’ve become, how cut off from our own humanity, being complicit in such mass death and destruction.

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Today is March 19th. This is the anniversary of the so-called “Shock and Awe” US invasion of Iraq. An Iraq that had already been bled for decades by the sanctions that killed over half a million children by 1995, about whose deaths Madeline Albright famously declared “We think the price is worth it.” If there was any doubt about the US’s sights on Iraq before 9/11, explain the “You can have food in exchange for oil” details of those sanctions.

Years ago, most people I talked to instantly recognized this date. Very few people remember this date nowadays. Political amnesia takes hold so quickly.

Do you remember the blogger from Baghdad who called herself Riverbend, an Iraqi woman who was in her 20s in 2003 when troops invaded her city? Her blog is still online. Read her last entry in 2013:

Ten years since the invasion. Since the lives of millions of Iraqis changed forever. It’s difficult to believe. It feels like only yesterday I was sharing day to day activities with the world. I feel obliged today to put my thoughts down on the blog once again, probably for the last time.

In 2003, we were counting our lives in days and weeks. Would we make it to next month? Would we make it through the summer? Some of us did and many of us didn’t. 

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“My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”

–vice president Dick Cheney on NBC, March 16, 2003.

Riverbend’s blog came to many peoples’ attention when she translated the testimony of Sabrine al-Janabi, a young Iraqi who courageously went public on Iraqi TV with her experience of abduction and rape by US-trained and backed Iraqi security forces.

Riverbend’s analysis of the deteriorated conditions in Iraq, the role of the US military proclaimed by its leaders to be on missions of liberation (remember how we were going to “liberate” the women of Afghanistan too?), and how racism shapes even reactions to the leadership of someone like Sabrine al-Janabi, fighting for her own dignity and for the self-determination of Iraqi women:


I look at this woman and I can’t feel anything but rage. What did we gain? I know that looking at her, foreigners will never be able to relate. They’ll feel pity and maybe some anger, but she’s one of us. She’s not a girl in jeans and a t-shirt so there will only be a vague sort of sympathy. Poor third-world countries- that is what their womenfolk tolerate. Just know that we never had to tolerate this before. There was a time when Iraqis were safe in the streets. That time is long gone. We consoled ourselves after the war with the fact that we at least had a modicum of safety in our homes. Homes are sacred, aren’t they? That is gone too.

And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation- are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse.

Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.

In addition to remembering Shock and Awe, look at Iraq today and see that people who have been attacked, occupied, and repressed are not victims. Look at yesterday’s weekly protest against corruption and repression and for democracy in central Baghdad:

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Learn about what the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq is doing about everything from conditions in their neighborhoods to fighting the Islamic State. Learn about the pro-democracy work of the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq, which includes the brave and vital organizing by workers in the oil sector. And check out the unique resource created by my dear Ali Issa, the book Against All Odds: Voices of Popular Struggle in Iraq (reviewed here), written and packed with interviews from Iraqis who you may not be hearing from elsewhere. 

And don’t think for a second that it’s not still our responsibility in this country to hold accountable the people who engineered this war, and to continue building towards a day when we can actually make reparations to a free, thriving, democratic Iraq.

These words are from Tomas Young, one of the first US Army veterans to come out against the war on Iraq. Tomas was paralyzed by a bullet in Sadr City in 2004, and came home from war an antiwar activist struggling with serious medical conditions for the rest of his life. He died a year and a half ago. But first, he wrote this open letter to Bush and Cheney.

“My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.”

Mardi Gras 2016: On Impermanence, Interdependence & Glitter

Ash Wednesday 2016

So love is always about accepting impermanence. Flying out of New Orleans tonight, I’m rising through a clear night sky watching the city, a rippled golden grid glittering between the black borders of lake, river, in the distance the Gulf. The chain of lights and flame of cancer alleys branching out along the Mississippi. This city will not be here forever. Few cities are as old as our records. This city is like no other and may not last this century. Loving New Orleans is a ropes course in loving hard and letting go. Fighting, celebrating & grieving. I’ve learned some of my most important lessons here.

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

-Mary Oliver (from In Blackwater Woods)

I learn so much in this place about interdependence. How people take care of each other, move as a collective body made up of parts each with important needs to be attended to. “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.” This framework is one that disability justice activists like the brilliant leaders at Sins Invalid are lifting up in critical ways, and one that I am constantly learning how to better practice.This afternoon, on the bridge over Bayou St John, I felt a flash of deep gratitude for all of those lessons. Even the pains. All the experiences that have brought me here. Heartbreaks included. On this bridge, the heart-center of my personal New Orleans geography, I’ve felt sharp delights of many flavors, felt my heart melt in love sweetness, and been bone-cut into fragments by terrible futility and rage. I’ve been my full human self on that footbridge over a little curling arm of lapping water in so many moments, in every season. Today, this slow afternoon, I felt grateful for everything that has made my heart wider and wiser.

Even in tiny moments, I notice my own shaping. Mardi Gras morning, I was about to put a granola bar in my pocket, and instead grabbed chocolate and mangoes so I’d be better equipped to share. My M.O. is more that I hoard and plan for how I can meet my needs, not trusting that when the moment comes either people will help make sure I’m taken care of too, nor that I’ll be able to hustle things together. So in my planning, I’m often less focused than I want to be on how to take care of all of us. I want to keep digging into my own practices and reflexes, reshaping my patterns towards more full participation in interdependent living, because the big picture version of these questions– how can I leverage race and class and citizenship privilege in order to reshape actual material conditions– is at the heart of who I want to be. In the meantime, how often do I not even notice my first impulse to is fortify my pocket with that single granola bar? So I look to who I can keep learning from.

This also tells me why I gravitate towards people who crackle with aliveness in a particular way that animates their relationships, people from whom I learn more ways to practice love as a verb. I know we are shaped deeply by our families, by regional and cultural factors, and other experiences. I have often felt more practices of interdependence when spending time in the South, and with friends who were raised working class or poor, and/or whose bodies have impairments that mean they have to navigate society (that’s set up for bodies that function within certain parameters) as disabled.  One poignant example for me, years ago, came when I had a terrible house/family breakup. All the friends who showed up in the hardest moments to help me move, hold me, toughlove me out of that space and land me in my new home, were all from working class backgrounds.

In New Orleans, people struggle just as humans do everywhere– especially in any community with high levels of trauma– to work out conflicting needs, including among people who love each other deeply. Of course. Humans always can fall short, make mistakes, hurt each other, be clumsy or rigid or scared or tired. But I’ve also noticed assumptions of meeting needs more collectively. Maybe this underlies the notorious difference in how Yankees and Southerners relate to a clock.  In my observation, “New Orleans time,” which is considerably less… punctual… than, say, New York time, often means you arrive at 8 instead of 7 because you went out of your way for someone else’s errand, because your neighbor needed conversations or a favor, because you were picking up someone who was busy finishing something for their friend’s kid. Things that happen all over, of course. But where I live, we rush or postpone those bits of interdependence in order to “get there on time.”

None of this is meant to romanticize the crushing conditions that require people to get very skilled at supporting each other, sharing life maintenance labor, and hustling to make things work. Many traditions constituting the specificity and vitality of New Orleans, like second lines/jazz funerals, are adaptations evolved to survive white supremacy.

But sometimes these adaptations grow the most gorgeous flowers  from that fertilizer bed of the stinkiest shit. Without fetishizing, or erasing origins in injustices, I want to bow my head deeply to the wisdom of this way of being humans living in social conditions. It’s everything capitalism directs us away from– knowing that we do better together, that our fates are intertwined, that there are no Others, that everyone matters, that we need to have each other’s backs, that your joys can be my joys, that scarcity is constructed and nobody deserves to/should be left out in the cold. I invite those of us like myself, who are less practiced in this due to buffering from race or class or other privileges, to make ourselves student practitioners of this most human art.

At dawn on Lundi Gras, under the rising new moon and  five planets visible in the sky, I got to be part of a powerful ritual. It doesn’t feel appropriate to share much of it publicly beyond some slides of my own experiences. The ritual took place in several locations, over a couple days, and began on that beloved bridge. I drew in red marker two lists on long strips of muslin: my intentions and hopes for this year, and what I want to release, end, transform. The marker stained my fingers red and I knotted the cloths around my wrists. As we biked to the next location, they fluttered like the plastic strips ponytailed off the glitter handlebars of cool girls’ banana seat bikes of my youth. So serious and so silly. Riding fast but easy through the park with some beloveds, little twitches moved through my muscles, tiny electrical impulses coming from the complex wiring of my body’s nervous system, little phantoms emerging to whirl their tiny dance, then dissipate. Whatever I let go of on that bike ride definitely helped clear out space for new things to enter.

And I hadn’t seen such a beautiful dawn since rising early on my 36th birthday in order to see the sun spill into the snowglazed wonderscape of Bryce Canyon.

When we ritually burned the strips of muslin inscribed with intentions and letting go, I watched my curls of cloth barely catching on the edge of the fire. If mine didn’t take, if it didn’t combust… I stopped myself from poking it in closer and trusted that the combined flames of everyones’ intentions would catch mine. And they did, burning together, turning cloth to ash.

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the astounding mural that was the perfect place

I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of such powerful magic. Ripples moved immediately.  Maybe that ritual was really why I was suddenly granted the window of time to come to NOLA for this Mardi Gras. The next day, we closed by the river in showers of glitter.Glory and fucking serious. I watched sun leaping up off the Mississippi through scintillating clouds of bronze, white, scarlet. By the Magic of Mardi Gras (this is a thing, actually), somehow I didn’t even get an eyeful, which would have probably cut my contact lens-wearing day abruptly short. The river was so high. There was magic that isn’t mine to speak of, ancestors who may well be watching over us all, wanting the successes of our best efforts at transformation, protection, breathing life into visionary futures. What I know is that we are powerful at a level untouchable by words, that we sound the depths of a multivalent world. What I know is that we need ritual, each other, nourishment to stay in long haul struggles for social transformation. And glitter. We need more glitter. Don’t worry, if it’s not your thing you don’t have to wear it. You just have to bathe yourself occasionally in other forms of delight and beauty (file under: lessons from queer culture and New Orleans). Culture is a tool for liberation.

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2016 Red Beans & Rice Parade: The Black Bean Party and Caribbeans for Black Lives ❤

I would be remiss not to suggest a few resources for folks who are less familiar with the Crescent City and its complicated cultural traditions like Carnival. (I was very mistaken on what Mardi Gras really is until corrected by Catherine Jones, one of my very favorite people and New Orleanians, whose Floodlines blog and other writing is indispensable)

Jordan Flaherty’s excellent book, also called Floodlines, offers stories and insights from the fight for post-Katrina New Orleans.

This recent piece by Katy Reckdahl on the Mardi Gras Indians covers a lot of ground.

The Neighborhood Story Project’s series of books gives you glimpses into the rich lives of different parts of the city.

This list is overly white, and more additions are very welcome.

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with my MG2016 boos, the chimera and the Loup-Garou

#ReclaimMLK: “Our Proneness to Adjust to Injustice”

 

(this is half a post…check back tonight)

I read an article yesterday that the single strongest predictor of voting for Donald Trump is not race, age, religion, political party or some of the factors you might have thought. Spoiler alert: It’s whether you are more devoted to order than to justice.

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom…”

Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.

We are living in a beautiful and terrifying time. A time of upheaval and ferment. Of right-wing extremism on the rise and real danger to human survival on this planet. A time of a renewed and youth-led Black liberation movement. Of social movements rising around the world, led by poor people, peasants, farmers and fishers and slum-dwellers, offering visions of how we could restructure societies and the globe around values of sustainability, justice and equity, demilitarization and cooperation.

 

We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.      MLK

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Today is the last day of #96hours of #ReclaimMLK. This is the second year of Black organizers around the country calling for a reclaiming of MLK’s commitment to revolutionary nonviolence and communities taking direct action against structural oppression. I’ll attach some gorgeous links and photos here later of what people have been up to, but it’s already been an inspiring call to up our commitment and our courage.

The defanging of Dr. King’s legacy is shocking. Organized outings to recognize his call “to service” are focused on picking up trash. I’d like to think that trash cleanups are in overt honor to the sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis in which King gave his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. But I’m not that naïve. The misuse of King, and the civil rights movement as a whole, is intended to discipline and redirect people away from actions which actually challenge our government or structural racism.

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The time comes when silence is betrayal. MLK

The night that a grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown, hundreds of us came together on the streets of Oakland. People convened to support and comfort each other, and to mount a response. We marched with rage at yet another round of excuses for why Mike Brown’s Black life didn’t matter, and to demonstrate a visible, strong response saying people committed to democracy and undoing ingrained white supremacy will not accept the legitimacy of kangaroo courts.

Some cars were surrounded by streams of people and forced to stop. I went to talk to a driver who looked panicky with a little kid in the backseat. For the next hour or so, until someone came to swap out with her and sat in the car while she took the kid home, I talked with her off and on. At first she was scared. I told her everyone was here because of a deep commitment to safety, and wanting all kids to be able to get home safe, including Black and brown kids. That I understood she wanted to keep her kid safe and so did I. And that we were here because Trayvon Martin just had a pocketful of Skittles and iced tea. Because Aiyana Jones was seven years old. Because real safety means ending racism. Her fear wound down as she watched people for a while and nobody threatened her, nobody came after her car or her child.

Then she was frustrated and angry and wanted to get home and get her kid home. I told her I understood that feeling, because I do. I’ve done a lot of security and de-escalation at different kinds of demonstrations and political actions over the last 15 years. In those situations, as in life, there is no ground to be gained by dismissing peoples’ legitimate concerns. I affirmed her desire to just get her kid to bed and not be stuck in this car when she had just been planning to get home. I asked her what she thought it might feel like to be Mike Brown’s mom. I asked her to be with us in spirit that when the lives of people of color are treated so cheaply, that we can’t look away and just continue to let business as usual proceed. I reminded her that people have for generations been trying all the avenues that she suggested were more proper– voting, policy, “dialogue,”– and here we still are.

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We are searching for leverage to make power holders unable to ignore us. The rebirth of a Black Liberation movement in this country is calling for investment in healthy, safe, empowered communities and a disinvestment from systems that continue the same structural violence challenged by Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement of last century.

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism [capitalism] and militarism are incapable of being conquered.  MLK

And let’s never forget…

that MLK came out explicitly against the American war on Vietnam, and against US imperial ventures as well as war as a means of resolving conflict. We should all revisit his absolutely stunning “Beyond Vietnam”.

or that, despite all the iconizing of individual male leaders, especially those who are brilliant preachers, what we are really paying tribute to is a movement. The achievements, collective visioning, frameworks and strategies developed by many unsung leaders. For all the memes with Dr. King’s face, we need a hundred more lifting up the Ella Bakers, Fannie Lou Hamers, Claudette Colvins, Aaron Henries (check out the incredible histories contained in “I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: the Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle”)

…. know that there are never just individual leaders of powerful movements, but people rotating through roles, different kinds of leadership, learning new things, risking, reflecting, and always always bringing in more and more people. Who will you bring in? Who brought you in? What can we do together, if we are always coming together with more and more people? How will you talk to people in your life who don’t understand why disrupting business as usual is sometimes necessary even when they find it frustrating or don’t think it makes sense? How can you use MLK’s legacy, someone who was once branded an agitator and dismissed as a just a troublemaker, to help make those connections for them?

Stars Falling: What David Bowie’s Death Left Behind, and Disposability

Around midnight last night, I heard David Bowie had died. My upstairs neighbor texted me about coming up for a mourning drink together, but I was already in bed. What a month we’ve had for losing creators. Complicated creators whose legacies are both brilliant and uneasy.

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This morning, I’m learning more about Bowie than I ever expected to know. I never sought out his history or image or stories. I’m one of legions who didn’t have a very deep relationship with Bowie’s music, and yet his artistry touched my life. People are allotting to Bowie as a gender pioneer some credit that is actually due to so many more, like generations of drag queens who have struggled to eke out a living while breaking gender territory wider than Bowie ever did. But it’s also true that the boldness of his vision contributed to all of us having more space for creativity, weirdness, gender fluidity, and brash experimentation. The power of the imagination is probably the greatest gift of humanity. And right down to his last song Lazarus, Bowie had a magic touch for making earwormy songs in a genre that doesn’t usually hold my attention. From the first mixtape a friend made me featuring Space Oddity, to my about-to-become-my-boyfriend’s band covering Ziggy Stardust at the Battle of the Bands in our highschool auditorium (boosting my crush to the next level), to that karaoke experience of being onstage realizing this was the looooong version of Rebel Rebel, to slapping Heroes in the last breakup mix I made… yes, I might not be a superfan, but I do love me some David Bowie (especially as the Goblin King). I’m so grateful for the lifeline he represented for many young freaks, weirdos, queers and gender pirates. I’m sad he died and it feels so sudden and weird, and f* you cancer.

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Then this morning I learned that Bowie had committed statutory rape, if not sexual assault. I’d never heard any of this before. I read the account from Lori Mattix, who describes Bowie “devirginizing” her in his hotel room when she was 14 and he was in his mid-20s. I read facebook statuses from friends grappling with how we react when we hear that a much-loved musician was a sexual predator.

How do we react when we hear that someone we love or think is special has harmed people? How do our reaction to celebrities shape the culture in our intimate communities? And how do we determine appropriate sexual mores across power differences?

David Bowie’s passing, and the resurfacing of these stories, is a moment to discuss relinquishing the politics of disposability and purity.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in a number of community responses to sexual assault that has occurred between members of the community. I’ve made decisions about how to navigate where people have felt pressured to hold silence to protect the reputation of prominent male leaders in social justice work (and also how to navigate where people make decisions about public shaming that I did not agree with). I’ve organized support for survivors, and I’ve worked with perpetrators. And in doing so, I’ve learned that it’s generally a false binary that doesn’t serve our longer-term goals to separate people into “survivors” and “perpetrators” as mutually exclusive categories. Those terms may work to describe peoples’ experiences in a particular situation. But it does not serve us to play out a good/bad dichotomy, shaped whether or not we acknowledge it by the underlying Christian ideologies infused into dominant culture. We are not all good, clean innocent people except for bad apple rapists (who were either ‘born bad’ or ‘went bad’ when they did this thing). And it does not usually serve a longterm goal of healthier communities to exile and punish people who have hurt someone.

Exile doesn’t repair harms done, heal what went wrong that allowed that person to inflict harm, and it doesn’t keep safe from repeat offenses anyone outside that immediate circling of the wagons. But even in circles of people who are actively involved in social justice work including challenges to the cancerous growth of policing and prisons, the exile-and-punish reflex is too often the only move people make. And an honest, deep look in the mirror reminds us that we all make mistakes, we all have the potential to seriously harm people, and many of us will create at least some significant hurts. Eventually there will be nobody left in the village, if our only response is to run people out of town.

Chasing damage around mends nothing.

I’m not arguing for a false equivalency that all harms are on the same scale. Nor am I equivocating that 25 year-old Bowie having sex with a 14 year old girl fan is acceptable because, well, we all hurt each other. But David Bowie’s death is bringing up a clear example of where two syndromes intersect: First, we like to put on a pedestal artists, leaders or icons who are major cultural figures, and then when they fuck up we think we must either plug our ears and ignore it (generally at the expense of whoever they hurt), or we need to shove them off that pedestal and reject their contributions. You’re a saint or a sinner. That shifts the focus onto defining someone’s essential nature, and away from the centrality of taking responsibility for your action.

As someone whose community could not handle it when I was sexually assaulted by an ex many years ago, I can empathize with the frustration of people who have tried unsuccessfully to hold accountable people they know. I lost friends, I was told I must be lying, and I had very little support at that time including from female friends who were too scared to believe that if this had really happened to me, it certainly could happen to them (for some of them, their hindsight has been 20/20, but at the time, their skepticism and inability to offer minimal support hurt like blazes). If they believed me, what would that mean about how they should interact with my ex? If they believed me, how could they continue loving and appreciating him? What did it mean about who he really was, and then what did that mean about who they might be or what might happen to them or what they might commit?

Most of them panicked, in different ways. We were young.There was too much to lose, too much discomfort and confusion. If our mutual friends had been able to imagine holding my ex accountable with love and firmness, maybe they could have imagined a path that could have both acknowledged the harm I experienced, made space to push me on where I’d contributed to a toxic relationship dynamic, and also given him the support to really turn and face his fear of what he had done. I can’t imagine how my last 20 years might have been different if the apology he barely managed had been followed by any attempt at all to repair. Long ago I stopped wishing for that for myself, and got my own healing independently. But I want this so much for others.

In retrospect, I have some gentleness and sympathy for my community at that time not having models we could look to, or even a basic understanding that there are ways– approaches, structures, practices– that we could have addressed the harm that had been done. Humans have been experimenting with restorative justice probably for about as long as we’ve been fucking each other over. But my community didn’t, although a few people really came through for me, which helped me save my life.

In my 30s, I tried to call in with love and concern a friend who I love very much for destructive patterns of sexual/romantic behavior. Years before, he had been called to accountability for sexual assault. His experience with honestly trying to fulfill what was asked of him to be accountable for his actions included becoming a target for pent-up rage and frustration at every man who has been unwilling to be accountable for causing sexual harm. Down the road, he was unable or unwilling to show up again when I challenged him on (spoiler alert: he bailed, and eventually we also lost our friendship. Additionally, the proclaimed feminist men who I asked for support all had their reasons why they didn’t think they they would be the best person to have these uncomfortable conversations with our mutual friend). I’ve seen too many versions of this.

When we call someone to account for their harmful behavior, we don’t need to handle them like they’re fragile. But we do need to treat them like they are human and needed. Within communities, we have to get more skilful at how to center the needs of the person who has been harmed without erasing the humanity or need for connection and healing of the person who did the harming. We’ve got to get better at treating people as if none of us are disposable, since that is so much of the internalized poison we’re trying to root out.

So when a famous musician is outed as a sexual predator, what do we do? It’s a different question when that person is in our circles, or if we’re simply responding from a distance to a celebrity. There are lines to be drawn, but I don’t have always clear formula about how and where, although some examples feel simple. I don’t believe in a safe berth for white supremacist bands to play shows, and deeply appreciate the community challenge mounted recently to Death in June’s show at the Elbo Room in San Francisco. I think sexual predators in particular, with patterns of repeat behavior, need to be publicly challenged when they are using a position of social power like being a much-loved musician to get access and influence over people they target. I’ve never questioned why people might change the station when R. Kelly comes on, or Chris Brown (did I already know about their histories of violence because it was more real-time relative to my age and generation, and/or because of the long history of reporting true and false sexual transgressions by Black men while holding silence for white men?) And now that I know the stories, I wouldn’t question people who don’t want to listen to Bowie. We all have gut level decisions about what we don’t want expose ourselves to based on associations with violence.

But the bigger question under all of this is the question of accountability. Mostly, we can set our personal filters to not listen to music made by artists who are fascists, racists, sexual predators, or whatever lines we choose to draw (sadly, if I got hardcore about screening out sexism, I wouldn’t have much music to listen to). We can embrace Bowie’s visionary qualities, love his records, credit his stage personas with having given us reason to live as young queers or gender nonconforming people, as so many brilliant people are noting today– while also assessing that there is no excuse for some of his behaviors. This could be a place to practice holding complexity. I have no judgement of people for whom that doesn’t work, and they find themselves completely turned off to him as an artist based on his behaviors and choices. For me, this moment of finding out about David Bowie’s history is an experience of holding contradictions in my shaking hands: my reaction to hearing gross stories about him, while also feeling sorrow at the hole created by his death.

 

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Whatever those personal choices we make about exposing ourselves to the culture produced by individuals with violence in their track record, I’m more interested in the personal choices we make dealing with people we know. I do not believe we will solve the casual acceptance of sexual predation, let alone epidemics of child sexual assault and abuse, or the overwhelming amount of violence based on sex and gender, with the dominant approach of rooting out predators to lock them up or punish them publicly. That doesn’t address where people are getting these behaviors, why they make those choices, or how to culture change so we are no longer brought up to either prey or shut up and be preyed upon.

People are not disposable. To me that means do not follow the logic of prisons, which says you have done a bad thing, become a bad person, must be taken away from the good people and caged. It means I don’t dispose of people who I love when I find they’ve committed sexual violence. As a survivor, this has meant more heartbreak, because make no mistake, it has sometimes torn my heart into pieces when I’ve chosen to continue holding someone close when I want to shove them away out of outrage, betrayal, frustration and fear. I have at times in my life chosen to be armored rather than vulnerable. That is a respectable and sometimes necessary choice. In those moments, there need to be other people in a community who can come to the front to take a turn working with those of us who are causing harm and need help understanding, acknowledging, making repair.

‘People are not disposable’ also means that we need to better love and protect each other. That means a whole package of how to better support people who have experienced sexual violence, and to take that epidemic seriously, but that’s another piece (or book, or life’s work) entirely. Regarding Bowie, nondisposability includes people in their mid-20s (whether or not they also have social cachet that ups the ante) need to refrain from putting the moves on 14 year olds. Lori Mattix describes her sexual encounters with Bowie as “so beautiful,” and says she doesn’t regret it. We can ascribe intelligence and agency to adolescents, and also hold the adults involved as responsible. I’ve been on different sides of this type of situation. I’ve done a lot of dating older people, including a year-long relationship with a 22/23 year old when I was 15/16. I think at the time I wanted to believe that I was exceptionally mature– that I was special. I do still think that most aspects of our relationship were much healthier than our age difference might imply. We built more emotional than sexual intimacy, and tried to be intentionally careful about the age difference. But in retrospect I’ll understand I wasn’t actually so exceptional or precocious. Was I a “victim”? No. Did I make the wrong choice? I don’t think so.

So, while I don’t jump to automatic judgment about age differences, in the specific situation Lori Mattix describes I can’t see Bowie as anything other than a predator indulging himself with a willing, barely high school aged girl. What’s even more disturbing to me is learning more about the widespread celebration of the culture that included “baby groupies.” I’m hearing a lot about how “it was a different time,” different mores, different things were acceptable. I’m sure it was. Lots of things have been deemed culturally acceptable at different times, and that doesn’t let people off the hook for participating or supporting harm. I learned last night about Bowie’s flirtation with Nazi imagery (which it seems like he renounced and then went on to actively advocate against institutional racism in the music industry). I hope we’re clear that many ideologies and practices may enjoy periods of popular acclaim without ever having been morally appropriate.

I also did some hanging out with rock stars as a teenager. A few times I kissed some of them. I also drew the line (and had to enforce it) there, because I was not interested in the sexual encounters that Lori Mattix was. It was a very minor part of my experience as a someone who was avidly involved in music in many ways. Even at the time, I felt the uneasy undertone that there was something weird about them even trying to kiss me, let alone get grabby. Even when I needed to assert my independence, my agency, and wanted to feel like I was older than I was, I felt the way I feel now- that is inappropriate on the part of the older men involved. And the aspects of broader culture that would make someone like William Tucker, who was precisely twice my age when I was 15 at a show he played in Philadelphia, think that grabbing teenage girls’ faces on stage was somehow not only acceptable but would add rather than subtract from his social cachet.

When I hear that many peoples’ reaction right now is to slut-shame Mattix and the other self-proclaimed “baby groupies,” I need to check myself that I have also done that.
I am arguing that it’s a dodge to focus this on the girls. Regardless of what Lori Mattix felt like she wanted in 1971 when she was 14, I’m judging Bowie and these other rocker dudes, not her. (FWIW, it was only ever male musicians who put the moves on me and every other former teenage girl I know)

There are many parallel dynamics in activist movements. Too often, it’s been older male leaders with a particular way they carry themselves in the world which is often labeled “charismatic” (I’ve seen a lot of other kinds of leadership styles I’d describe as charismatic, but there is a certain version of it that we all have seen get attached to particular men). And too often, the end results are younger female-socialized activists being overtly or indirectly edged out of movement work when their sexual relationship with this older man changes or ends. I’m so sick of watching this I could puke. And even with the sometimes less costly situations of the men who keep dating the same age women as they grow older. While I fully believe in the possible awesomeness, agency, maturity to fully consent (in ways a 14 year old is not developmentally ready to do), and compelling qualities of many female-socialized people in their mid-20s, I question what is going on internally for men who prefer to date at half their own age.

P.S.: I asked my source on 13 year old girls whether she thinks it’s ever possible for sex to be ok between a 13 year old girl and a man in his 20s. Her answer is a flat no. She says, being that age herself, she thinks the different between what those two people know and understand is too big a gap and the adult should know better. She didn’t describe the power dynamics of roles in the same way, which I’m still chewing on. Maybe she’ll want to chime in here in the comments section.

The gray area here isn’t whether or not it was appropriate given that Lori Mattix said she consented. It was Bowie’s responsibility not to call her into his bedroom. The grayest areas, in my experience, are about accountability when not everyone involved thinks the situation was a problem, but some of the participants were significantly negatively impacted.

I’m not suggesting there is a magic algebra for accountability, in which all variables can be assigned some universal value and then it can be solved for what to do. But I do know that if we can’t get better at handling intimate violence, sexual assault, and child abuse in our own communities, families and social justice movements, that we are not ready for transformation on a societal level. And we desperately need that transformation. Which means we have no choice but to practice holding this complexity, and acting from that place.

We are trying to do for ourselves wherever possible, rather than calling cops or courts (whose most reliable role is to escalate the level of danger in any situation involving people of color, undocumented people, and/or queer or trans people). We are trying to learn to build real community safety and are still getting stuck on this most fundamental place, where we want to sort out the bad people from the good, the perpetrators from the survivors, those who get to stay and those who have to leave. We’ve got to up our game because when communities come together, bump into each other, there’s a lot more conflicting desires and violence. There’s going to be guns, people trying to run each other out with ideas of who belongs and who is a liability, and the kind of territoriality than lives in our lizard brains when there’s not enough room at the waterhole for everyone. So in the meantime, we got to learn to deal with ourselves and each other when we do some rank business. And yes, don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sad not just that David Bowie is suddenly dead, but that of all the legacies he left, the one I’m up all night writing about is statutory rape.

 

 

Some transformative justice resources I love:

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence’s resources on Community Accountability

The Revolution Starts at Home

Creative Interventions’ Practical Guide to Stop Interpersonal Violence

And an article by Aida Manduley I really appreciated on this subject: David Bowie: Time to Mourn or Call out? A

The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time. -David Bowie 

Defeating the Soldiers of Misfortune

Malheur means Misfortune. Why does a river in Oregon have a French name?

In my work with Catalyst Project, I’ve recently been talking with an organizer from the Rural Organizing Project. ROP is a statewide community organizing project in Oregon. They emerged in the 80s as a grassroots response to the growth of rightwing racist militias, and are again playing a key role in organizing disinvested and struggling rural communities away from fascism. Catalyst has always appreciation for ROP’s work and have informally affiliated with them for almost 15 years. But this winter, we’ve been trying to figure out how to support the death threats and personal attacks on ROP for their visible role in challenging paramilitaries and white supremacy in Oregon. In the months before these out of state militia dudes showed up at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, ROP was already gathering together rural organizers from across the country to share and strategize together about confronting the dangerous rising tide of the Right.

The Malheur occupation has been about a tenth of my Facebook feed this week. Some of the best pieces I’ve seen:

“>statement on the occupation

  • About My Brothers In Oregon: Don’t Fall for the Okie Dokie” lays out the relevance of racism as a divide-and-rule strategy to Malheur
  • That rising tide of the Right is bigger than militias, but they are metastisizing in the Obama era
  • This is not the first time that disgruntled white ranchers have made common cause with other white men prepared to give their lives to keep brown people off a patch of land. Malheur is unceded Paiute territory, stolen in the late 1800s by ranchers, homesteaders, and the US Army. Today’s noveau homesteaders are even more explicitly white supremacist, like Malheur occupier/ anti-Bureau of Land Management/anti-Islam activist Jon Rizheimer, who rallied armed protestors against an Arizona mosque. These are the people who want to continue the tradition of “enclosing the commons,” privatizing land that was being used for the common good. Enclosures are a critical building block of how capitalism developed as an economic system (powerfully chronicled by many people including feminist scholars Silvia Federici and Maria Mies).

    Malheur vividly illustrates the intersection of anti-government pro-privatization activism with racism and entitlement. These people may be fringe, but their causes are central to the project of this nation. Malheur is Manifest Destiny 2016, just as much as the U.S. Empire of bases and military installations projecting power around the globe. So why is there so much laughter about #VanillaISIS?

    Timely and smart humor can be inspiring, disarming, soothing or illuminating. But all these so-smart articles and Twitter handles are so busy self-congratulating that they miss the point. What’s happening here isn’t outlier idiots who took their hunting rifles to a birding sanctuary to rail against the guvmint.

    Articles like the Concourse’s Jamokes piece, stating “these men aren’t scary, their guns are scary,” are just wrong. What’s scary is twofold: what they might do with those guns, and that they are responding to domestic disinvestment and neoliberalism by organizing working class white people into rightwing ideologies of individualism, racism, and militarism. They are speaking to peoples’ real, material needs as well as perceived socio-cultural needs, and clearly finding purchase. And it’s not because they’re idiots.

    Let’s get the obvious out of the way about jokes that make fun of rural people: in this country, this category is a mix-and-match of themes (stupid people with bad teeth, guns and dogs who marry their cousins, hate the gays, don’t read and lack “culture”) that aren’t hard to understand as deeply classist. These jokes function mainly to imply the superiority of the joker, who is often some combination of coastal, Northern, class privileged or more economically comfortable, and who wants to be seen as more socially evolved. This isn’t the caliber of humor that lays an expert blade to a tangled knot, or exposes what needs to be seen.

    What do we gain by dismissing this occupation, these men, this militia movement? This humor is leading us astray from the critical point, articulated by Arthur Chu in his article about this type of violence as quintessentially American: “Is it really any wonder, then, that America seems to have a recurring cultural problem with white men who feel they’ve been denied something they’re owed getting their hands on guns and seeking to get back at the world through violence?

    If our primary response to entitlement violence is to invent puns that mesh dog-whistle Islamophobia with rural images of classism (#Shania rule, #YeeHawd, #YallQaeda, etc), we fail to address the root causes of this situation (let alone addressing the ways that Islamophobia & racism and classism are real weapons, deployed in the violence of government policies as well as violence on the streets).

    Similarly, who does it serve to call them terrorists? Yes, these militia occupiers are clothed in the Kevlar vests of white privilege (camoflauge, in their case). They are shielded in how they’re labeled and treated by people with the power to legally kill or jail them. Instead of lobbying for more people to be called terrorists, let’s name what is actually happening. This is white privilege protecting their real bodies that the government is choosing to protect, even as they declare intent to undermine the Federal government (and possibly execute the local sheriff). Dena Takruri interviews several occupiers on this topic in her excellent AJ+ video, What if the Occupiers were Muslim or Black?

    The blatant racialized double standard between Malheur and the tanks rolling over the last couple years in Ferguson, Oakland, and towns near you is textbook white privilege. In this case, the privilege to have a Federal agency “work to resolve this peacefully,” rather than what we’ve seen for generations when Black or indigenous people occupy public, or even private spaces. That bombed (see: MOVE in Philadelphia) or shot out or starved out (see: Wounded Knee, Alcatraz). Even comparing Malheur to the coordinated state violence deployed nationally against the Occupy movement encampments shows where these fault lines lie. It reminds me of last year’s calm arrest of Dylann Roof, the young white supremacist who massacred Black churchgoers. Remember the police getting the kid some Burger King on his way to be booked? Remember how a few days before Malheur, a grand jury chose not to indict the officers who killed a Black child named Tamir Rice in Cleveland?

    As Paiute leader Jarvis Kennedy said, “If I was out there with a bunch of my guns and rifles and Native brothers, what would happen?” (you can also watch him tell the occupiers to “get the hell out of here, we want nothing to do with you.”)

    We can lift up this hypocrisy, and call out the political calculations behind whose lives and rights to protest are protected, without trying to popularize “terrorist” as a name for anyone confronting the government. That will not serve social movements which seek real change, which inevitably includes direct confrontation of unjust policies and practices.

    What if all the creativity going into two-word Twitter handles (that sh*t is hard! Concise, loaded jokes in fifteen characters?) could go into the real questions at the heart of Malheur?

    How do we scale up the scrappy efforts currently underway by grassroots organizations to meet the needs of impoverished, isolated rural communities, as well as working-class and poor urban communities? How do we diminish the appeal of groups like the 3%s, Oath Keepers, and other paramilitaries formations that are speaking to peoples’ fears and the hatred that has been manufactured over generations by people with an interest in distracting us all from whose hands are actually in our pockets? And compete with the real way they are speaking to the material needs of people who are struggling to get by and do not feel supported or valued?

    How can we deeply re-envision land stewardship, in a way that centers Indigenous sovereignity? That calls upon and nourishes the wisdoms of many different cultures in how to organize human populations to live sustainably in different ecosystems? What kind of national support might the Burns Paiute Tribal Council be interested in, to not only exercise their jurisdiction on this wildlife refuge occupation, but to have their rights restored to their traditional land?

    What is the response that we want to make to armed, hostile people who take over buildings to express their grievances? What does it take to organize real community safety for people like ROP organizers, who are literally putting their lives on the line, as they work county to county in a state where many people are undecided about where their alleigance lies? (and others are quite clear, as local sheriffs get on stage beside paramilitaries at their rallies)

    What is the deep work of healing that needs to happen for the people whose humanity is in such distress that they rally with guns at mosques, and how can we seriously engage that work while also prioritizing protection for the people they stalk?

    What are the questions it brings up for you?