Ten years ago today was the first morning of the Iraq War, after the "shock and awe" kickoff the night before with bombs and cruise missiles raining down on Baghdad. Remember that? On this special occasion it's appropriate for me to look back on what that time meant for me (It's kind of astounding how little attention this anniversary has received, both in the media and amongst friends' social media posts. I may be just too busy this week to look hard enough, or maybe there's a lot of collective amnesia).
The importance of that time as a turning point in my life really can't be overstated - and I don't mean this simply as a sort of standard, progressive narrative, in an anti-war activist hand-wringing way, lamenting the many ways in which the Iraq War and the Bush Administration were a terrible move for the worse for the U.S. and for the world (of which I agree there are many of those ways). What I have in mind is more personal: simply put, the leadup to the war in early 2003 was a profoundly radicalizing experience for me, which led me for the first time to really get involved with Indymedia, and also led to me starting to see myself, and act as, a citizen journalist, and perhaps most important Read more>>>
In the wake of the amazing and incredibly moving revelation on the part of award-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas (who has written for the Washington Post, Huffington, the New Yorker, and many other news outlets) that he has been an undocumented immigrant living illegally and in fear in the U.S. for 18 years, and the hypocritical media firestorm that has erupted around it, I'm reminded that I still haven't finished blogging about the excellent book about immigration myths, "They Take Our Jobs."
A couple months ago I summarized some major points and passages from the first half of the book. Now I'll finish the job:
- "Conquered peoples have historically been more marginalized, and more reluctant to give up their cultural heritage, than voluntary immigrants."
- "From the outside, it may look like Latinos are not learning English. But what's really happening is that as one generation learns English, new Spanish speakers are arriving. At the same time, more Latinos are speaking both languages than has historically been the case for European immigrants. They learn English without giving up the Spanish."
- on the general trend from colonized peoples moving from subsistence production to wage labor, "People who had formerly produced most of what they consume now produced for others and used their wages to consume goods imported from the metropolis."
- "Not surprisingly, people with other options tend to avoid the most onerous ones. Employers then find that they can't fill their positions, and the government helps them to import workers who have fewer options."
- "Colonialism sets up a system in which colonized peoples work for those who colonized them. This system is not erased after direct colonialism ends. Rather, it evolves and develops."
- "Pundits and politicians demand a solution to the immigration 'crisis.'... With so many well-placed voices talking about a crisis, people begin to feel there really is one... Perhaps the pundits and politicians who are spending so much energy whipping up this immigration scare are trying to distract us from some other, more pressing, national - and global - issues."
- "... guest worker programs by their very nature create a group of people who are not full citizens, and who are easily exploited and abused."
- "[P]eople who lived in areas with very few immigrants were much more likely to have negative views of immigrants than people who lived in areas with high concentrations of immigrants [according to a Pew Foundation study]... This suggests that for many people, anti-immigrant sentiments come less from personal experience than from outside sources."
- "Immigration is a humanitarian problem... what is needed is a humanitarian solution - one that redistributes the planet's resources more equitably among its inhabitants, and one that respects and nourishes traditional peasant lifestyles."
- "Population control becomes a method for preserving white dominance."
- "In societies divided between haves and have-nots, the haves often see eliminating the have-nots as the solution to inequality, rather than redistributing resources."
- On border security myths:
FBI stats: in 2000, no international terrorism incidents inside the U.S. 8 domestic terrorism incidents.
In 2001 there were 12 domestic, 1 international (9/11)
- all but 4 of the 9/11 attackers were in the country legally.
A study of 48 "militant Islamic terrorists" who committed crimes in the US found that 36 of them were in the country legally... 17 were either permanent residents or naturalized citizens.
- "There is just no logical relationship between border security and the prevention of terrorism."
- "[C]urbing US military agression would probably be the most effective way to achieve a global reduction in attacks on unarmed civilians."
- On "the rule of law":
"Rosa Parks broke the law when she refused to move to the back of the bus. Harriet Tubman broke the law when she fled slavery and helped to create the Underground Railroad." "The law was designed not to allow certain groups of people to have the rights that others enjoy."
- "What they really want is to be treated like Cubans. Cubans don't need to wade the Rio Grande or walk the Sonoran Desert."
- "People have been moving around the earth every since they stood upright millions of years ago."
- "As long as [neocolonialism] keeps resources unequally distributed in the world, you're going to have people escaping the regions that are deliberately kept poor and violent and seeking freedom in the places where the world's resources have been concentrated: in the countries that have controlled, and been the beneficiaries of, the global economic system that took shape after 1492."
- "Some migrants leave their homelands for fun, adventure, or curiosity. The vast majority, though, leave because they have no alternative. They leave their homes, their families, and their loved ones as a last resort."
- (Chomsky quoting Eduardo Galeano): "The precarious equilibrium of the world depends on the perpetuation of injustice. So that some can consume more, people must continue to consume less. To keep people in their place, the system produces armaments. Incapable of fighting poverty, the system fights the poor."
This afternoon i've expended (not wasted, but, used, when I should have been working) a bunch of time reading tweets and blog posts and news articles all about the case of Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks and alleged rapist of 2 Swedish women, and the larger meta-issue of the people standing up to defend Assange and attack his accusers, like filmmaker Michael Moore and MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann. There have been so many great feminist blog posts about this, and tons of backlash on Twitter against Moore using the hashtag #MooreandMe. I won't go into the details myself but will just link to this excellent and concise little summary on the Feminist Frequency blog, which has links to a bunch of other blogs and stories that you can delve into. The last link there is to another blog that deftly explains at the end where we're at now, specifically for Olbermann and Moore (and I've sort of written the same on Facebook, though not as well), but also in general for anyone who screws up with these kinds of tricky issues that involve opression and power and social conditioning:
They have the opportunity to apologize. Because being a good progressive? Is all about fucking up.
If we’re ever to break the myth of the flawless progressive hero — a myth that is unproductive, a myth that breaks hearts — we need to start learning how to recover from mistakes. Because they happen; casual racism, sexism, rape apologism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ageism, classism… Those things happen because we were taught to make them happen. Now we need to teach ourselves to stop them. Sure, we need to expect more. But expecting more doesn’t mean expecting perfection, the first time, every time. Expecting more is about making mistakes, being called out, engaging and learning from them. We learned that shit in pre-school.
So Moore and Olbermann should just fess up and say they're sorry. They didn't think it through quite enough. I don't think they went into it wanting to apologize for rapists. They were blinded a little bit by a focus on other issues, and on the fact that they're white men in a patriarchal rape culture society. They made a mistake. They should have said that yesterday. But they can still say it now. I hope they do. I hope when I make more stupid boneheaded white male mistakes, as i surely will at some point, I'll recognize it fast and apologise right away like they should have. Read more>>>
A letter to the editor I just sent to the Tucson Weekly:
In your November 25th issue you allow Leo Banks to tilt at his same old windmill again. How many more times do we have to be subjected to the same old hyperbolic sob story? Every one of Banks' articles, which you insist on putting on your cover several times a year, can be summarized quite easily and uniformly: "poor, poor, yet noble, rancher-folk, their lives made so hard and dangerous by the nasty brown people coming over the border and the feds who let them! oh let's wring our hands and shed a tear for the once-beautiful and now ruined cowboy borderlands!" But these people aren't real cowboys (Ask Chilton, for instance, what his day job is and if he doesn't lie to you, he'll admit he's a banker), and the land has already been largely ruined by the emaciated animals that they insist on grazing there despite the unprofitability of such a hobby.
Furthermore, ask TPD to draw a map of assaults in the Tucson city limits and you'll no doubt get a bloodier and longer list than you provide for this latest Banks tirade. And never a mention of the root causes of the phenomenon, that the smugglers and undocumented immigrants (or "illegals" as you so hatefully call them) are out there in the deadly desert and mountains because right-wing politicians put them there with border policies that started in the mid-90s, and with trade policies that started in the 50s or earlier.
Does it ever occur to you that the credibility of your paper drops every time you print one of Banks' one-sided rants? The only people that take him seriously are the ignorant, right-wing nutjobs that already believe the alarmist narrative he's pedalling, and i would think that your readership is surely slanted more toward the opposite side of the spectrum. The young and hip club-goers and artsy folk who actually use your rag (admittedly only to check movie times and read the comics) know that Leo Banks is a racist blowhard, not a real journalist. So why bother with him? I guess because he's a friend of yours, part of the TW old boys' club? And nobody else will give him a job? Oh yes, and because that's a way to get people like me to pick up a copy, get annoyed, and contribute our eyeballs to your theoretical ad impressions count. That's the name of the game, I guess: Controversy, hate, and sensationalism sells. But take heed - I and all the smart people I know in town are less and less likely to frequent your pages, with every Banks screed we see. Read more>>>
I've long been making this same criticism but this is so well done and so forceful and eloquent that I just have to slap it up here on this blog. enjoy.
Related commentary here: http://imagine2050.newcomm.org/2010/06/09/border-cities-are-safest-in-na...
The message U.S. Border Enforcement seems to be sending is that Read more>>>
I heard about the National Geographic Channel's new series "Border Wars" a couple weeks ago and upon looking at its webpage knew that it would be complete crap - basically another "Cops" but focused exclusively on latinos in the southwest. It comes at a surprise that it would be on this channel, but after Fox launched its own fear-mongering "Border Patrol" program last year it seems logical that other networks would want to get in on the act, considering the depth of xenophobia in the U.S. audience.
This past week roughly (depending on how you count it) marked the 10 years since the start of the Independent Media Center, as part of the seemingly sudden outpouring of anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, anti-globalization activism that erupted in Seattle during the WTO ministerial there. The IMC was really a part of that "movement of movements": there, a small group of media activists put into first serious use a new web platform called "Active" in November 1999 that allowed anyone to report on what was going on in the streets of Seatle and otherwise. The idea and the tools and the energy spread like wildfire and in a few years there were about 200 local IMC collectives and sites around the world. Read more>>>
In the November issue of Harper's, the title story, "Final Edition," by Richard Rodriguez, is about "the twilight of the American newspaper." He makes a touching and saddening case that we are truly losing something important to our social fabric with the recent closure of so much daily print media in this country. He is persuasive in arguing that a lot of the fault lies with the newspaper industry itself and the greedy corporate entities that run it.
However, one of the most compelling points is a paragraph toward the end of the article: Read more>>>
I am so angry and frustrated about what's happening in the Twin Cities this week. Not at the cops - no, they're just doing what's to be expected of them. If you're surprised by their response to the protests, you've been deluding yourself about the state of civil liberties and freedoms in this country for the last 4 years, at least.
No, what I'm irritated about is all the wasted energy and resources and passion being spent by activists and independent journalists. Imagine all the other places and causes that could be aided by all that attention and effort. Not only protesters and reporters, but all the other 'support' for the protesters. For instance, this fragment from an indymedia report about some street medics from Portland who went to the DNC and RNC protests:
...we treated hundreds of injured people and took into our care an unexpected number of activists with additional health concerns, both related and unrelated to the events, plus tended to people with various illnesses as well as some difficult cases with chronic conditions.
We treated injuries from pepper bullets, pepperspray, beatings, strangleholds, clubbing, cuts, scrapes, bruises, handcuff injuries, exhaustion, dehydration, heat illness, exposure to the elements, asthma attacks, psychological emergencies, and some serious medical emergencies.
That's so sad. It's great that those medics were around, but all of those injuries could have been avoided! They're all completely pointless problems caused by the decision to be out there on the streets getting beat up by cops!
What if those activists, medics, and indy journalists all descended on a place that really needed their help, like Juarez for instance? They could escort women at risk of rape and murder to and from work, give medical care to them and their children, and make news reports about what they see. They could act as human shields when the police or army show up to abuse citizens. They could refuse to smoke any pot that comes from Mexico and they could form a posse to take down small time narcos and document the violence of the cartels.
That is just one example. They could also be in New Orleans helping people there in the aftermath of Gustav. There are numerous projects and causes available.
But instead these people go somewhere where they'll make absolutely ZERO positive difference. None of the people there for the convention, the replublican delegates and what not, are going to have their minds changed or swayed. Others out in the world might be, but they'll never see it because the mainstream media will never show it. And just as many might be swayed the opposite way, with all the reports of caltrops in the streets and broken windows. More bad press for anarchists and activists in general. So these people are not only doing no good, they also CREATE their own crisis because the cops of course respond as usual with extreme force, and then the activists expect to be helped and supported. Selfish, privileged dimwits, why didn't you people stay home so the medics wouldn't have to waste their time bandaging your meaningless wounds? So the videographers wouldn't be wasting tape on your sorry asses?
It's just so sad and maddening. And I saw it all coming. It wasn't rocket surgery to predict.