Category ArchiveHuman Rights
Well perhaps it is due to the following insanity in the form of an utterance by the official Tibetan Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli:
“Such a person who basely splits his motherland and doesn’t even love his motherland has been welcomed by some countries and has even been receiving this or that award,” Tibet’s Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli, told reporters during the congress. “We are furious,” Mr. Zhang said. “If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world.”
Wow, so vitriolic and idiotic at the same time. The arrogant assumption that Tibet is China, predicated on an invasion by Mao, and a cultural revolution that eradicated history for a billion people, seems to fly in the face of any reasonably intelligent human being with access to the internet and an interest in history. But there’s more of course; consider this:
“He should resolutely abandon his Tibetan independence stance and activities,” Tibet’s governor, Qiangba Puncog said. “But in my opinion, some of those activities are actually escalating and setting a lot of obstacles for further progress.”
Has that ring of a made man, you know like Tony Soprano, telling you to just shut up and “forgetaboutit”. “It’s a done deal, Tibet is China, so shut your trap!” And, I suspect most citizens of the US would prefer it that way. Why??
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On my experiences at the Big Summer Classic at Camp Zoe in the Ozarks of Missouri—part deux…
I left off mentioning the lack of access to substantive and reliable information sources (either through limited technological means or simply unknown to them), as expressed by the attendees of the Big Summer Classic (BSC). Heaven forbid that some of these folks (kids) would read blogs or review source materials on the internets. I could only imagine that for many of the parents of the attendees watchingamerica must be perceived as the most evil and communist (Stalin and Mao rolled into one) of sites, daring to present anti-US propaganda from furren gummints.
Among those willing to challenge and acquire the best sources, the keys to a larger world-filled library, I particularly remember a couple of students from Ole Miss in Oxford, MS, and a half dozen from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, all of whom stopped me over the course of the weekend to get more references.
I will not mention their names, but I will offer some anecdotal referents. The couple from Ole Miss approached me late (early in the morning) after the show on Sunday to discuss their needs. Approached may not be the correct word, more like cornered my old tour buddy (also our tour bus chauffeur) and myself in the back of a vending booth, and pulled out paper and pens and had us try to write down URLs and other site resources for them.
They had also agreed to visit one of our Otter Clan projects (a massive rebuilding program of homes on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi) and needed that contact information. They really wanted to do something powerful, creative, active, and good, and when they made their requests in the most beautiful Southern drawl eva, I could not even begin to say “later.”
The University of Kansas contingent was led by a young woman graduate student, who had grown up in the Midwest, but had been able to attend a prestigious East Coast university.
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This week, the UN General Assembly is in session in New York. AS is tradition, numerous heads of state show up and give a short speech. Bush updates his target list; Chavez gives one of his flamboyant speeches; and some who would never get a visa if it weren’t for the UN take the opportunity to engage American audiences.
One of those, in case you haven’t read the papers or watched the news for some time, is Iranian president M. Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is not a moderate person; all that’s left of his political persona - which started out as part challenge to the Iranian establishment, part re-invigoration of the Iranian revolution - are a sharp reactionary turn domestically, and very public enmity towards the United States and Israel internationally.
Now it happens that the last time Ahmadinejad was in New York, Columbia University was going to invite him to speak, but canceled on short notice, caving to right-wing pressure. So they tried again this time, and stuck to the invitation. However, Columbia President Lee Bollinger apparently felt the need to do something to avoid losing donations and decided that he would greet Ahmadinejad with the standard litany of accusations, dressed up as questions. Echoing the standard neo-conservative talking points, he accused Iran of “being a state sponsor of terrorism”, having said that “Israel should be wiped off the map”, and “fighting a proxy war against the US” (in Iraq).
Some other accusations, regarding the oppressive policies Iran engages in against women, homosexuals and political dissidents at least had the advantage of being correct.
So far, I wasn’t surprised; anyone who knows Bollinger’s penchant for intellectual cowardice - signified by his acquiescence in the witch hunt against Columbia’s own Middle Eastern Studies faculty some years ago - wouldn’t wonder if Bollinger had made similarly aggressive remarks when Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan visited in 2005 (you can watch his exercise in sucking up here); or if Bollinger asked about death squads and torture in Iraq when President Jalal Talabani spoke the same year. Of course he hadn’t!
However, I was amazed by the reaction to Bollinger’s boorish behavior. Apparently, I am told, Bollinger is a hero. A hero of free speech; a hero of liberal American academia; someone who “speaks truth to power”. I suppose that’s what heroism is in this modern age: dropping bombs from 30,000 feet; lambasting invited speakers if and only if it is sure to get you brownie points with the ruling class; baiting people with ammunition so you can shoot them in the head.
The true heroes are the women demonstrating for their rights in Iran; the independent thinkers challenging the stifling intellectual climate there without falling into the role of “native informers”. They, after all, are risking a great deal. On the other side of the line, challenging dominant discourse in the US doesn’t, for most of us, risk incarceration. It is all the more disappointing when those who have a platform - like the president of a major university - use it to bravely stand up to the powerless.
Yesterday, the Decider paid a visit to New Orleans. You won’t be surprised to hear that he “delivered a message of hope”. More grating, he claimed “[Katrina] didn’t effect the spirit of a lot of citizens in this community”. Both in Washington, and in Louisiana, political games are being played.
Meanwhile, the rebuilding of New Orleans is turning into an exercise in ethnic, and class, cleansing. Many of the people who lived and worked in the city are still housed in trailers - as reported here (YouTube clip). What Americans don’t know, and what they must know, is that many Black people are not being allowed to return to their homes in New Orleans:
Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing “Blackwater” badges: “Try to go into your home and we’ll arrest you.”
See more details at Greg Palast’s blog, where you will also find clips (such as the YouTube one above) and info on the not-to-be-missed investigative documentary, New Orleans: Big Easy to Big Empty.
Bush got one thing right, though: the people’s spirits have not been crushed. People like Kawana Jasper are fighting for a future in New Orleans.
(Many more testimonials can be found at Voices from the Gulf).
And we can help. We can pressure politicians to have public housing in New Orleans reopened. We can throw whatever small weight we have behind the Gulf Coast Civil Works Project that envisions hiring the citizens on the Gulf Coast to rebuild their city, instead of shuffling more money to large contractor who import sub-living wage labor to do the work.
Social Darwinism actually predates Darwin, Herbert Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” several years before Darwin published The Origin of Species. Spencer was more Lamarkian than Darwinian, actually, but “Social Darwinism” was the fittest catch phrase. Add the broth of 19th Century racial theories, and you have a truly toxic brew. Stephen J. Gould has suggested that an opposition to Social Darwinism was behind William Jennings Bryan’s opposition to biological Darwinism, and I find it plausible though there are those who disagree Gould’s suggestion would mean, among other things, that Bryan got another bum rap from history.
One of the funny-but-also-sad things I sometimes see are the bumper magnet decals that show a Darwin fish being eaten by a Jesus fish, seemingly suggesting that the car owner doesn’t believe in Darwinian evolution, but does believe in “survival of the fittest,” i.e. Social Darwinism. Certainly that is a general attitude from a good many people on the Right. Dog-eat-dog society, but let’s not consider the natural world as anything other than divinely planned. Well, that’s okay; dogs were intelligently designed.
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Affirmative religious support for gay marriage is apparently extraordinarily novel even for educated citizens. This I learned when I engaged a 50-something lawyer from the San Francisco Bay Area over the issue on my flight outbound from Oakland to Boston to participate in a panel entitled: Gay Marriage: Moving from Tolerance to Affirmation. When I told him that I and other panelists, as part of the progressive faith movement, were presenting a Christian pro-gay marriage moral and religious case, his reply was “I didn’t know there could be such a thing.”
This got me to thinking both about the very real and unnecessary divide between religious and secular awareness and of the silence or tacit agreement of even mainstream religions as to the abuse of the civil rights of gay people.
Some political and legal headway has been made. The state of Massachusetts, for instance, has extended the right of gay marriage, yet theological and moral conviction in favor of gay marriage has been largely absent. This was to change in a small but mighty way as, for two hours, in February 2007 in front of a modest audience, six panelists attempted to join consciousness and conviction across ideological and belief traditions and confront Christian-in-name intolerance on its own terms.
Rev. Anne Fowler, from the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, talked about her work within and outside the church as a straight person to support the inclusion of gay people in the institution of marriage. Pam Werntz, a gay Episcopal mininster, related how her own marriage brought her into community with others in a way that she could not have imagined had she not been extended the right to marry. Justin Lee, the founder and executive director of gaychristian.net, an online gay evangelical Christian community, waxed practical about the need for religiously inclined gay citizens to have an ability to connect rather than be alienated from faith.
The other three panelists, Gina Farag, myself (Zeus Yiamouyiannis), and Otis Gaddis, III had coordinated a foundational and progressive moral and religious argument based upon certain observations and premises.
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[being a continuation of a meditation begun earlier]
Parable #2: Benjamin Rush and Yellow Fever
Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic of 1793 was the largest in the history of the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 4000 people, nearly 10% of the entire population of the city. In late summer, as the number of deaths began to climb, 20,000 citizens fled to the countryside, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other members of the federal government (at that time headquartered in Philadelphia).
Into this stark landscape stepped a hero: Benjamin Rush, physician, public figure, signer of the Declaration of Independence. He mobilized medical efforts, orchestrated the construction of makeshift tent hospitals, and personally oversaw the treatment of hundreds, if not thousands of the stricken. He gave the city hope, when others offered nothing but stoicism, or despair.
His treatments were as heroic as the man himself. He favored bleeding, to the point of anemia, for a host of ailments, including Yellow Fever. To counter the “buildup of yellow bile,” he prescribed, calomel (mercurous chloride), as a purgative, and jalap, a powerful laxative. These sometimes caused his patients’ hair and teeth to fall out.
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Q: What’s worse than the death of your child?
- A: Your child dying in an unjust faux-patriotic charade of a “war” founded on fear-mongering lies and calculated deception.
Q: What can make your grief over this unbearable loss even worse?
- A: Having the perpetrators of the tragedy use your child’s death as an excuse and justification for the deaths of countless more people’s children.
- A: Being told that by demanding accountability from the people who caused your child’s death, you are dishonoring his life and everything for which he stood.
- A: Having your fitness as a parent and spouse questioned, flayed, dissected, and ultimately dismissed before a national television audience.
There are of course a lot more answers to that second question, and Cindy Sheehan endured all of them with strength and dignity and an unshakable courage. She did not start the anti-Iraq War movement, but she certainly lit a fire under it by forcing it into the pages of newspapers across the country and onto prime-time TV network news. Her stance in Crawford, Texas heightened the visibility (and therefore increased the support) of groups such as Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace (of which Sheehan is a founding member), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (formerly Operation Truth).What happened there in Crawford gave people across the country a nucleus around which to rally. It finally forced the beginning of a real national discussion (if not a debate, exactly) about the US invasion of Iraq: Why did we go there in the first place, and why the hell are we still there now? Prior to Sheehan being in Crawford, the pundits, the corporate media, and with a few notable exceptions, the politicians, had been successful in seeing to it that this discussion never took place on a national scale.
For all the good that came out of the protest in Crawford, I feel that strategically a golden opportunity was lost.
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Up until 1970 i used to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the very merry month of May, with the rest of the Californios. After that, it became just another day in another month, a post-fourth of May acknowledgement of that dreadful moment in US History. Well in honor of all of those killed by our governments’ evils, i propose that we accept lists of the top-ten, alltime, worst, governmental administrations in world history. Bushco clearly has moved into the top spot in the US pantheon, but is it so horrible, so corrupt, so imperiously evil as to even garner a nod in the top-ten all time on the planet; and by what do we measure that dark force’s influence??? The candidates are nearly unlimited, even if we just stick to the 20th century. But buried deep in the minutiae of history’s dustbins and rubbish piles are some real winners spread across the continents. For example, i might consider Pizzaro more vile than Pinochet, but another would take Colombus over Cortez. Richelieu or Torquemada? I might consider Rove vastly more evil than either Bush or Cheney?? Go have fun with this one, while i research my fabulous ten and post later today.
So I was listening to National Petroleum Radio as Oaktown Girl calls it the other day and heard the news that once again, the never-ending debate over abortion had been ratcheted up a notch due to a recent Supreme Court decision. Nothing sets my teeth grinding like that topic, except possibly driving behind very slow drivers from other nations on Beacon Ave. South in south Seattle when I’m late. I’m late a lot… But I digress.
The never-ending debate over our unwanted children is how I consider the abortion issue. Viability, pain thresholds, visible proof of life, murder, God, responsibility, God, did I mention teeth grinding? I feel the blood pressure rising in my temples just thinking about it - that happens way too much nowadays too - and I’ve come up with my own solution to the issue of our unwanted children. ‘Cause that’s what we’re talking about. Children their parents don’t want. We’ve got a lot of live ones in that category.
Not just in the US. It’s a global, human issue. Unwanted progeny.
Another National Petroleum Radio article a few days later described the living conditions of children in orphanages in Russia. Painful stuff, if you care about kids. Children left tied to cribs, fed, but not changed, not interacted with. Literally left to rot. Better off alive or dead? That’s the real question, isn’t it?
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