Friday, September 16, 2005

I wanted to bake an American Flag Cake...

...for 9/11, but this will have to do.

I felt a little weird reading all of the 9/11 blog entries. I know that for better but mostly for worse, 9/11 has become this crazy cultural icon. Over the summer, some of my students from NYC talked about how it was upsetting that 9/11 and so-called "love" for NYC was being used as an excuse to support a president and a political agenda that was seriously hurtful to the people of New York and American cities in general. It's as if the perspectives of those who did not live in the tragedy, did not lose anyone to the tragedy and did not even hear any real first-person's perspective on the tragedy except for the canned media representations believe that their living room interpretation of 9/11 is more important than that of those who actually hard to work to get through the tragedy.

One of the folks at America Hates Us (which is awesome from the title to each grain of content) relates their experience of coming through 9/11 and the aftermath as the date comes again each year:

"Please Leave Us Alone"

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"It Was as if All of Us Were Already Pronounced Dead"

This Washington Post article describes much of what happened in the convention center last week.

It's pretty hard to read, especially the constant excuse to dismiss sitting idly by while other people are being hurt and dying. The scenes where the police toss water off of the car into the crowd and drive off and the one where they stage a rescue mission for two white women are pretty hard to believe. It kind of sounds like a comedy show about a fictional racist police force, except with real life corpses.

It helps remind me a few things about this tragedy:
1) I still think that people are having a hard time understanding that this wasn't a crowd of evil colored folks. This was a diverse crowd of American individuals. There were church-goers, loving mothers and fathers, nurses, teachers, grandmothers and gang members. Just like folks from any neighborhood.

2) The was a complete dehumanization of these Americans by the different levels of law enforcement. The police, national guardsfolks and other officials were super-scared to do their job and protect and communicate with their own citizens. Their excuses are crap. They were making choices based on their own cowardice at dealing with their fellow Americans and chose to let them suffer based on the fact that there wasn't a definitive order to save people. It's quite possible that this isn't unusual--maybe most Americans would do the same--stand idly by and watch their countrypeople die, but if so, it's a real bad sign. This resulted in utterly illogical behavior. I'm sorry, if you set up the same situation in any place in the country--people starving and being attacked--and then toss a few bits of food and water into the crowd because you are too scared to hand it out, you are going to get the same result, and you certainly aren't getting water to the people who need it most.

This tragedy has brought up a lot of heated talk about race in the mainstream discourse. I agree with people's argument that there was little intentional racism on the part of officials in their response. Much of the suffering was related to class rather than race.

But in this one instance, we saw the same problem we see on our streets everyday. Many law enforcement officials simply cannot deal with people of color. They cannot judge them independent of their race and they cannot empathize enough to do their jobs.

There won't be city destroying floods every month or year, but there will continue to be needlessly dead folks of color on a daily basis as long as we excuse our public servant's inability to deal with non-criminal, hard-working Americans who happen to have a darker skin tone.

Welcome to folks coming in through the link on the Washington Post Page. Hope you learn something and most of all, please share your insights through your own comments! Thanks!

The New Slavery

This dude Joe at Waiting to Die has a good summary of how he is getting fucked by his credit card companies.

Now, for just a second, I want you to consider this:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

What is that? It's the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

It's one of the more important ones too, given the ruling class in this country's utter affection for slave labor. I want to point out that the Amendment was not just a footnote to emancipation through the Civil War.

Needing slave labor, the South quickly shifted to "sharecropping". The newly freed blacks had no property since the federal government gave land back to the treasonous plantation owners and those owner simply instituted a new system of slavery in which blacks were "loaned" the same land that they had worked for generations as slaves and took a large cut of their production. They had to live in terrible poverty, but often any objections were met with lynching.

At around the same time, debt peonage systems were also instituted in the Southwest to enslave Latin America immigrants. Basically, they were loaned land and had to work that land until they paid off their debt or died, whichever came first. Usually death came first. Often landlords would increase the rent on the land to the point where it was not possible to pay off the debt.

You see, the thing to realize is that the affluent in this country have never gotten over their love of slavery--cheap labor is just too alluring to worry about issues like free agency and equal opportunity. What they have finally figured out is that it doesn't matter if you require people to do specific work or not; if you can merely ensure that all of the gains from their work go in your pocket, then you have successfully enslaved them.

Today we have two major forms of domestic slavery: We have the indentured servitude to banks and other creditors and we have the prison industrial complex. Internationally, we have also forced inflation in overseas markets so that in order to survive, folks in those areas must work as cheap labor for our corporations.

There's constructive responses I would like to see to this status quo. First of all, I want to encourage everyone to avoid being trapped in these systems of slavery. Don't have anything to do with high rate creditors, or be sure to only charge what you can already cover. Don't commit crimes, even if rich white people are committing them as well because let's face it, they aren't going to have to spend the rest of their lives in prison like you probably will.

Secondly, let's work our asses off to fix these inequities. The Bible forbids usury for a good reason--it's scary stuff. Let's update our definitions of "slavery" and "indentured servitude" to include the contemporary systems that have been developed by the exploitative upper-class in their newest attempts to spend others' lives to make themselves richer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

An account from two survivors of New Orleans

This has gotten a little coverage in the mainstream media, but it hasn't created the re-evaluation of law enforcement's role in the Katrina disaster that we might hope.
Here's the full account from Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky posted on Dharma Forest. (Thanks to C from the link!)

If you put their names into Boogle News, you'll find some of the other articles.

It fits together with the outrageous story linked by my girl at Angermis-management about the police refusing to rescue women who didn't succumb to their sexual harrassment.

I realize there might be a perspective divide on this story. I mean, some of us might still be in the "Police, those are the folks who serve and protect" crowd, whereas the rest of us have been getting this treatment since we've been able to go outside the house. Of course, neither story is utterly true, but one thing is certain--we've got a lot of work before we can be satisfied with the job law enforcement is doing in our communities.

I recommend getting in touch with your local Citizens' Police Review Board. If there isn't one, start one.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Looters will be shot!

Have you seen me?

For the fifth Sunday in the last seven, someone "looted" our Sunday Tribune. It was kind of a drag, since I really wanted to look through the job section and it's a pain to read online. Liz and I put up a sign in the hall to tell people to stop "looting" our newspaper. This is not the first time that this has happend in our 100% white Wrigleyville apartment building. Last year, we were sleeping on the floor because we were waiting on our futon matress that Liz had ordered through the mail. We finally got sick of waiting and called the company. They said they had shipped the mattress so we ought to talk to UPS. We called them and they said that someone in the building had signed for the mattress with an imaginary name and taken it.

Before anyone thinks that we are either crazy and want to kill people for stealing our newspaper or assholes for drawing a metaphor between our suffering and the situation in New Orleans, let me tell you what we were thinking. We don't even really care about being stolen from--I'm always the one who when my MD player (40 hours of income) was stolen, and my friends were mad, I just said, "I sure hope that whoever has it is enjoying it!"

I just think it's interesting how little perspective people have on what constitutes "theft". It's like they have no internal principles whatsoever, but have just been getting by on whatever they can justify and make themselves feel good with.

Here take this little test (go ahead and rank the answers and comment...PLEASE PLEASE, it feels like no one is reading...):

Rank in order the heinousness of the action:
1. Stealing a newspaper because you are lazy and don't want to go pay $1.75 for one and you don't care about your neighbors.
2. Taking a school bus to escape the scene of a natural disaster where there is no food, water or shelter and you have lost everything.
3. Overcharging the U.S. military for your services as a company.
4. Undertipping
5. Taking Pepsi and food supplies from a grocery store during a natural disaster where you there is no food, water or shelter and you have lost everything.
6. Forging a signature on a UPS receipt, and stealing a futon mattress to put in your $1000/month apartment.
6. Taking electronics and other items from an unoccupied chain store during a natural disaster where there is no food, water or shelter and you have lost everything.
7. Setting up a state legalized gambling system which preys upon the broken dreams of the poor working-class and their desire to be financially independent.

Ok, I'm starting to go a little wacko, but anyway, "Save a newspaper, shoot a yuppie looter who lives in my building!"

For me, I always think it's awesome to steal from people who have done little to earn what they have and have more than they could ever use and if you steal from someone super-poor and they die because of it, you might as well have killed them with your bare hands. When we define "looting", it's vital to ask "Why are you taking that?" and "Who are you hurting?" Instead of "What color are you?" and "How powerful is the person you are taking from?"

I'm not saying you should share my code of ethics when it comes to defining the severity of theft and what is "looting"--just that you should have some sort of logical code and that in society we should attempt to define those terms rather than just using them to benefit the ethnic majority rich folks and attack the poor.
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