Mass Amnesia Makes Americans Forget the Story Behind May Day
Thursday 26 April 2007
May Day: The holiday of the workers. In days gone by, when men, women and children often worked 10 or more hours a day, seven days a week, May Day was an assertion on the part of wage-slaves that they were sovereign human beings with control over their own lives and destinies. They celebrated the day with marches of tens and hundreds of thousands throughout the world.
May Day was an expression of the international solidarity of the working class. "Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains," was not just a slogan. It was a battle cry in the war between classes. Their marches and rallies, with fiery speeches, impassioned poetry and stirring anthems, gave them a sense of their collective strength. It was an act of defiance of the combined forces of employers and public authorities. Often their gatherings were brutally attacked by police or thugs with clubs and guns.
Many of us have grandparents or great-grandparents who participated in these observances. Few of us acknowledge or are even aware of this inspiring part of our family histories. We Americans suffer from mass amnesia of the remarkable and some times glorious history of workers' struggles for liberty of expression and social justice. Who now remembers May Day?
Although not often taught in American history classes, May Day originated in the United States during the campaign for an eight-hour day. The Knights of Labor, the nascent American Federation of Labor and various anarchist groups designated May 1, 1886, for nationwide demonstrations for the eight-hour goal. An incident which occurred several days later in Chicago made this the beginning of a global workers' movement. Following a clash between strikers and police in which several workers were killed, a protest meeting was held in Haymarket Square.
When police attacked the gathering, a bomb was thrown, killing several officers. In the trial of anarchists (who were not accused of the bombing, but for advocating violence) which followed, eight were found guilty and four subsequently executed. These "Haymarket martyrs" quickly became revered heroes of labor movements throughout the world.
With this tragic episode in the class war in mind, the International Socialist Congress meeting in Paris in 1889 designated May 1, 1890, as an eight-hour holiday to be observed by workers in all countries. An increasingly conservative Samuel Gompers and AF of L had by the mid-1890s distanced themselves from May Day and embraced the legally sanctioned Labor Day, which was observed the first Monday in September. Coming from radical backgrounds, Finns, Slavs, East European Jews, Italians and other immigrants found their cherished May Day opposed not only by capitalists but often by American workers as well. Despite being denounced as "foreign born reds," they kept the torch of May Day idealism burning for another generation.
The response of the "bosses," political and economic, was twofold: to allay the anger of the workers, measures were taken to ameliorate the worst abuses of the capitalist system; while extreme repression was used to silence the most vocal and active labor advocates. The case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian anarchist immigrants, electrocuted on Aug. 23, 1927, following a blatantly biased trial, is the most heinous example of the latter.
However, the ideal of May Day had already been shattered by the collision of international solidarity of the "proletariat" with the fervid nationalism resulting from World War I. Patriotism trumped class consciousness, and millions of workers killed each other in the name of the fatherland. Meanwhile, the Bolshevik Revolution which appeared to fulfill the vision of a collective republic turned out to be a Trojan horse in the socialist camp. The Leninist-Stalinist regime proved to be a ruthless dictatorship presiding over state capitalism. Among the earliest and most passionate opponents of Communist Russia were socialists and anarchists whose comrades were being liquidated by the Bolsheviks.
The aspiration for the unity of workers was shattered by these developments.
In the United States, the Great Depression of the 1930s did not usher in communism but the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which saved capitalism and laid the basis for a welfare state.
May Day was hijacked by the Soviet Union with its displays of military prowess in Red Square. The association of May Day with Soviet Communism has given it a bad name to this day.
In this age of globalization, when workers are pitted against each other, across oceans and continents, we have returned to conditions of pitiless exploitation of human beings. If greed ever was constrained by patriotism, it certainly is not today. The quest for profits knows no inhibitions by national ideologies or loyalties. Yes, we are involved in a class war, a war of oil companies, the military-industrial complex, the corrupted political institutions, against the workers and consumers.
We, the American working people, remain beguiled by symbols, the flag, the Fourth of July, the Thanksgiving turkey. It is time to revisit May Day in the spirit in which it was conceived over a hundred years ago. Only an international labor movement can hope to match the prowess of the amoral trans-national capitalist system. Freeing ourselves from the sordid history which stained the banner of May Day, we need to raise a cleansed, purified standard on which is emblazoned once again: "Workers of the World Unite!"
Rudolph J. Vecoli is professor emeritus of history and former director of the Immigration History Research Center University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Wealth, Color, and Secrets
Poverty is too often blamed on the victims suffering from it. Poverty is a financial disease that’s endemic to almost all economic systems. The reason for this, at least in our win or lose economy, is that to win, that is to get elected, takes a LOT of money. To get this money, candidates have to court (a polite word meaning “kiss up to”) big sources of money.
People with money expect a return on their investments. They invest in politicians. They get what they pay for.
I know: this is “the greatest country in the world, or else”—I mean, “...or what?” to quote Bill Clinton, among others. Yeah, it just about is. From what I can see, though, there are other countries with more equitable distributions of resources. We say “assets,” now. Like “assets” are what it’s all about… Never the less, wealth in America is unevenly spread out, and the government helps keep it that way. And manages to convince those with and without money that it's their own responsibility. Check out the book Oprah's been hustling, "The Secret," because that is more of the same.
A look at 'The Color of Wealth'
© Indian Country Today October 17, 2006. All Rights Reserved
Posted: October 17, 2006
by: Jerry Reynolds / Indian Country Today
WASHINGTON - A multicultural history of American wealth - that is the billing given ''The Color of Wealth,'' a socioeconomic textbook of 300-plus pages, divided among chapters on American Indians, Latinos, blacks, Asian-Americans and European-Americans. Tellingly, the chapter on European-Americans is subtitled ''White Advantages in Wealth Accumulation.'' The chapters on the minority groups are variations on the theme of obstacles to wealth and what it takes to overcome them.
Meizhu Lui, of United for a Fair Economy, and Rebecca Adamson, of First Peoples Worldwide, two of the book's five co-authors, explained why those remain dominant themes for people of color in presentations on Capitol Hill and at Olsson's bookstore Sept. 26.
''We looked at African-American wealth in 1958 and 2004,'' Lui said, ''and we found that in 1958 African-Americans made about 55 cents to the white person's dollar. And by 2004 it had risen only three cents, to 58 cents for the white person's dollar. Now, the civil rights movement made it go up for a while, but then it came back down. ... We calculated that at that rate of speed, it would take 362 more years to reach income parity with or between blacks and whites.''
Disparities in net worth are also pronounced, Lui said.
Americans have always had easy explanations for minority poverty, often involving alleged behavior factors such as laziness, unmarried motherhood and debt brought on by irresponsible spending. Lui used an anecdote of J. Paul Getty, one of America's first oil millionaires, to dismiss the mythic discredit poured on the poverty of minority groups. Getty revealed his ''three little secrets'' for getting rich, Lui said: work hard, rise early, and find oil - or in other words, get lucky.
Getty's message was that without luck, you can do everything else it takes to get rich and still not get rich. Lui, though, was pointing out that without the property unmentioned by Getty - without the asset, land that yielded the oil - even luck wouldn't have done it. The larger message here was that people of color have been deprived of assets they owned, or on other occasions excluded from owning them, throughout U.S. history.
''The Color of Wealth'' provides detail for the proposition that lack of assets is the main reason for the wealth gap between white Euro-Americans and people of color. But in the presentation version, the case was Adamson's to make. As founder and president of First Nations Development Institute for 25 years before tackling global indigenous land and resource issues with First Peoples Worldwide, she has made Native assets her lifework.
Government policy makes a difference, she said on Capitol Hill. Current socioeconomic policies are devastating all low- to moderate-income people, she added. ''But what we have seen is that good policy can create fair, equitable societies and economies. What made this country great was the Homestead Act in the 1800s, because people were allowed to own land for the first time. ... Having not been an aristocrat and born into wealth, they for the first time ever had an opportunity at assets, ownership, property ownership on their own. ... If you weren't Native American, you did get a chance.''
The Homestead Act, among many other measures, dispossessed Natives. Even so, Adamson said, Indians and Alaska Natives own 5 percent of U.S. surface land today, making them the largest private landowners in the country. Considered altogether, their properties vie with Alaska, California and Texas in terms of land mass. The minerals and fossil fuels in their earth, the board feet in their forests, the natural resources on their lands are the assets of wealth. ''How could we be the poorest people in the United States and own this amount of assets? ... It's deliberate government [policy] ... The action is so misguided, and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on the intention. I think in some cases, there was clear intention to give some to a group, and to aggrieve other groups. But by and large we were operating under a democratic republic that was looking at the future of the country. And these policies that got put into place - the Homestead Act, the veterans [GI] bill, the federal housing administration - these were good things for the average person. The way the Social Security Act was drafted was good. That was a safety net.
''They always had a group that got excluded, no matter what.''
A timeline the co-authors unscrolled showed the measures Congress has taken to weaken the asset holdings of brown-skinned people. Exhibit No. 1 for Adamson was the termination initiative in the 1950s, when the federal government decided it would not recognize a series of tribes with large timber holdings. They offered money in return for lands that reverted to the government once it revoked the tribes' federal recognition, and with it reserved rights to lands and resources.
Termination has been abandoned as federal policy. The co-authors urged lawmakers to visit the same fate on policies that favor assets for any one interest group at the expense of another.
''The Color of Money'' can be purchased at www.thenewpress.com. Other online outlets include the United for a Fair Economy Web site, www.faireconomy.org.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Hunter S. Thompson—
We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world-a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us... No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we'll kill you. Well, shit on that dumbness. George W. Bush does not speak for me or my son or my mother or my friends or the people I respect in this world. We didn't vote for these cheap, greedy little killers who speak for America today- and we will not vote for them again in 2002. Or 2004. Or ever. Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having all this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid little rich kids like George Bush? They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill "gooks". They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are racists and hate mongers among us-they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis. And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them. Hunter S. Thompson 1939 - 2005
I don't know why, since just about everything else was tried. Miners in New Mexico hid a cannon, invited local Indians to a feast, and then fired the cannon into the group of Indians. Poisoned food was given out in other cases. Groups of white men, soldiers and volunteers, would sneak up on Indian camps and open fire... While soldiers often behaved in ghastly ways, at times they ended up protecting Indians from murderous white gangs.
Here's a link to a letter written by Jeff Amherst about using infected blankets... It's maybe circumstantial, but some circumstantial evidence is very persuasive—like when you find a trout swimming in your milk...
May Day May Day!
more specimines of hypocritus americanus
Deseret Morning News, Thursday, April 26, 2007
Utah County GOP delegate links illegal immigration to Satan
By Deborah Bulkeley
Deseret Morning News
The devil is sticking his pitchfork into the nation's immigration politics.
At least that's what one of Utah County's Republican delegates thinks.
Don Larsen, a district chairman, has submitted a resolution equating illegal immigration to "Satan's plan to destroy the U.S. by stealth invasion" for debate at Saturday's Utah County Republican Party Convention.
Referring to a plan by the devil for a "New World Order ... as predicted in the Scriptures," the resolution calls for the Utah County Republican Party to support "closing the national borders to illegal immigration to prevent the destruction of the U.S. by stealth invasion."
In part, the resolution states, "There are ways to destroy a nation other than with bombs or bullets. The mostly quiet and unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nation the way open warfare does but is all the more insidious for its stealth and innocuousness."
hypocritus americanus: Tom DeLay
Which leads me to Tom DeLay, a fine example of hypocritus americanus:
By Andrew Conte
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Democratic leaders are acting like traitors by opposing the Iraq war, and President Bush must answer with a toughened stance, former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Monday.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "are getting very, very close to treason," DeLay said in a meeting with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
"We have people dying," he said. "Not just our soldiers, but innocent citizens dying in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of these evil people, and you have your elected leaders making these kinds of statements that embolden the enemy. It's unbelievable."
Reid said yesterday the Democratic-controlled Congress would push legislation within days requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq beginning Oct. 1, with a goal of completing the pullout six months later. He said Bush is in "a state of denial" over the war.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Genocide in America?
A man named Blair made some interesting comments about genocide, in reference to some earlier posts about Sand Creek, Aravaipa Creek, and other massacres of Indians by Euro-Americans. Blair's post is going to be reprinted below my rap.
"Genocide is a crime of intent." Yes—but did the Turks deliberately set out to kill all the Armentians? If they didn't, then there wasn't any Armenian genocide, right? Genocide is defined as offing a specific ethnic/religious population. According to Blair, since there wasn't any specific national policy to liquidate all Indians, then there wasn't any genocide. That's interesting. At Sand Creek, the command was to kill all the Indians, including children—"nits make lice" is a famous statement of that era. That command was given by a member of the U.S. military; in terms of national policy, Sand Creek may not have been "genocidal" by Blair's terms. Maybe "ethnic cleansing" sounds better, but the outcome was the same: the intent was to kill all the Indians encountered. The same thing happened at Aravaipa Creek/Camp Grant: the idea was to kill all the Indians encountered—but that was simply an act of private citizens, so, I guess, it wasn't genocidal. Then the murders in Darfur or Rwanda weren't genocidal either because there were no specific orders from on high.
"The only good Indian is a dead Indian," according to General Phil Sheridan, U.S.A..
The question of genocidal wars between Indian nations before the European conquest, isn't settled by Blair's fiat. We do know, beyond reasonable doubt, that wars of extermination between Indian nations were stimulated and often encouraged by the European occupiers. To say the Indians have always fought each other to the death, intending to utterly destroy the other nation is bullshit, pure and simple. All that is is an attempt to excuse what happened here after the conquest: "They did it first!" Sort of the Laurel and Hardy Theory of History—"Now see what you made me do?"
Population figures? If it hadn't been for diseases, the Pilgrims, among others, would not have been able to settle; much of America was depopulated, that is, vast die-offs happened, not because of inter-tribal warfare (or God's planning for the future America), but because of introduced diseases. Read the early descriptions of the bodies and empty villages by the first Euro explorers. FWIW, Peru suffered massive die-offs of European diseases long before the 18th Century—in fact, before Pizarro. Can disease be a co-conspirator of genocide? I think so. As far as the "infected blankets" go, smallpox would have killed millions and millions of native people regardless of how it got to them. There was no immunity conferred by past outbreaks. It was the same with measles or any other Old World disease.
Blair has given us the standard argument that what happened here was what happened everywhere else, so therefore what are Indians whining about. Yeah. Let's get a grip and become good Americans, forgive and forget.
I think I'll go barf.
My name is Blair. I am posting anonymously because my Google password doesn't seem to be working.
Genocide is a crime of intent. No mainstream historian agrees that Europeans intentionally used smallpox as a biological weapon against Native Americans. Smallpox was a global contagion that orginated in Africa and killed up to 500 million people around the world. The smallpox pandemic that did the most damage to Native Americans orginated in the Valley of Mexico around 1780 and spread north along traded routes to the Pueblo villages along the Rio Grande in New Mexico. Plains Indians trading with the Pueblos took the virus home with them. From the plains, the virus spread west over the Rockies and east across the Mississippi. Most Native Americans who died of smallpox never encountered a white man.
All the smallpox blanket myths but one have been debunked. Still at issue is a letter written by a British colonial official in which he suggested British soldiers might give smallpox infected blankets to a New England tribe. The letter exists, but there is no evidence that the British soldiers followed up on the suggestion. Even if all the smallpox blanket myths were true, they would have had little impact on the spread of a virus as infectous as smallpox.
The Euopeans settlers were also deathly afraid of smallpox, which decimated towns and wiped out entire families. Smallpox vaccinations were not available in the United States until June 1800, but the public was almost as afraid of the vaccination as they were of the disease. By 1830, the federal government established a smallpox vaccination program for Native Americans, something it would not have done had it been intent on genocide.
Combat between Native Americans and whites produce far few casualties than most American assume. From 1511, when colonists first arrived in what is now the United States, to the closing of the frontier in 1890, about 16,349 people died from atrocities committed by Native Americans against European Americans or by European Americans against Native Americans. About 9,156 people died from atrocities perpetrated by Native Americans while 7,193 people died from atrocities perpetrated by whites. This works out to just over 29 whites a year and just over 22 Native Americans. These figures are hardly genocidal. (By comparison, about 200,000 died in four years of fighting during the American Civil War.)
Some people compare Native American reservations to Nazi death camps, but the Native American population on reservations grew dramatically while the population of Nazi concentration camps shrank dramatically. For example, the Navajo grew from about 8,000 in the 1860s, when they were first forced onto a reservation, to about 250,000 today.
The smallpox pandemic and epidemics killed between one to two thirds of the Native American population, about the same percentage of the European popluation that perish during the “Black Death.” It took the European population nearly four centuries to recover from the bubonic plague; the Native American population of North America rebounded to about its pre-Columbian level in less than two centuries.
The Native American tribes waged genocidal warfare against each other prior to and after the arrival of the Europeans. The purpose of this warfare was to exterminate or drive rival tribes for their lands. As a percentage of population, casualites were higher than during the European wars of the 20th century. To offset their combat lossess, Native Americans tribes practiced polgyamy and raised children captured from other tribes as their own. Today, the Native American population is much larger than it was prior to European contact, in part because the Europeans stopped inter-tribal warfare.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Communique #1 of Unitarian Jihad
Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.
Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!
People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to ... you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.
We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.
Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.
We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.
We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.
Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he's pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee.
People of the United States ! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, and Virginia Tech
A Native Perspective on Virginia Tech Headlines
Thursday, April 19, 2007
By Kat Teraji
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee, Deep in the Earth, Cover me with pretty lies - bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Didn't we learn to crawl, and still our history gets written in a liar's scrawl. They tell 'ya "Honey, you can still be an Indian d-d-down at the 'Y' on Saturday nights." - lyrics to "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," written by Buffy St. Marie
"The worst shooting rampage in American history…" "Massacre and Mourning, 33 die in worst shooting in U.S. History," and "Rampage called worst mass shooting in U.S. history." "What first appeared to be a single shooting death unfolded into the worst gun massacre in the nation's history." You've seen and heard these headlines and reports all week as the media provided non-stop coverage of the tragic shooting of 33 people at Virginia Tech University on Monday.
"The worst in U.S. history…" Really? It is certainly the worst shooting on a college campus in modern U.S. history. But if we think it is the worst shooting rampage in U.S. history, then we are a singularly uneducated nation.
"I can't take one more of these headlines," said Joan Redfern, a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe who lives in Hollister. We met at First Street Coffee to talk while we scanned Internet stories. "Haven't any of these people ever heard of the Massacre at Sand Creek in Colorado, where Methodist minister Col. Chivington massacred between 200 and 400 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, most of them women, children, and elderly men?"
Chivington specifically ordered the killing of children, and when he was asked why, he said, "Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice."
At Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, the U.S. 7th Cavalry attacked 350 unarmed Lakota Sioux on December 29, 1890. While engaged in a spiritual practice known as the "Ghost Dance," approximately 90 warriors and 200 women and children were killed. Although the attack was officially reported as an "unjustifiable massacre" by Field Commander General Nelson A. Miles, 23 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for the slaughter. The unarmed Lakota men fought back with bare hands. The elderly men and women stood and sang their death songs while falling under the hail of bullets. Soldiers stripped the bodies of the dead Lakota, keeping their ceremonial religious clothing as souvenirs.
"To say the Virginia shooting is the worst in all of U.S. history is to pour salt on old wounds-it means erasing and forgetting all of our ancestors who were killed in the past," Redfern said.
"The use of hyperbole and lack of historical perspective seems all too ubiquitous in much of the current mainstream media," Redfern said. "My intention is not to downplay the horror of what has happened this week in any way. But we have a 500-year history of mass shootings on American soil, and let's not forget it."
This is only the most recent mass shooting massacre in a long history of mass shootings in a country engaged in a long love affair with firearms and very little interest in gun control.
Let's not forget our history and the richness of our Native roots. While spending time on the 1.5 million acre Hopi Reservation in Arizona, I met families living in homes they have occupied for over 900 years. On the surface, it looks like a third world country: you will observe many homes without running water, travel unpaved roads, and notice that there are no building codes. But sitting in a Hopi home being served a delicious lunch cooked by a proud Hopi working mother, I experienced so much more: the continuity of a long and deep heritage, a sense of the sacred, an artistic expertise, and wisdom about many things that remain a mystery to my culture.
Most of all, may we never forget all those innocent civilian men, women, and children who lost their lives simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, just as the students happened to be this week in Virginia. May we always remember the precious humanity of these students, but may we also never forget the humanity of those who lost their lives simply for being born people Native to this country. ..
Escalation = 33% Rise in U.S. Casualties
Bush is a delusional liar. He deserves to be impeached. He needs to be impeached. So does Cheney. Then they need to be placed in the courts for judgement.
American Troop Fatalities are Up 33 Percent. Since the escalation was announced on January 10, 2007, American troop fatalities have risen by 33% averaging 3 per day as opposed to 2.25 per day during 2006. [Iraq Coalition Casualty Count]
Overall Iraqi Casualties Rose 10% Between February and March. Although civilian casualties are down in Baghdad, according to a recent military report, from February to March the number of dead and wounded nationwide, including civilians and members of Iraqi and American security forces, rose 10 percent. [NY Times, 4/11/07]
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
thought for the day....
Bend Community Action Team...terminated?
A number of local "Community Action teams"—"CATs"— were founded, in Madras, Sisters, up on the Warm Springs Reservation, Bend, and elsewhere. They were under the shade of an umbrella organization, the Central Oregon Partnership. Grass roots groups fighting poverty. Rah. Working within their communities, they were going to identify, develop strategies, and work to reduce local poverty. Sort of semi-autonomous, as I understood it... Perhaps I was mis-informed. I serve on the board of directors for the CAT here in Bend; we were just notified we were terminated because the Partnership wants to renegotiate the structure of the organization.
Bureaucracies are strange entities, though—they grow and grow...and become sort of self-perpetuating, almost for their own sake alone. Bureaucracies may start to serve a community but eventually the community comes to serve the bureaucracy. So it would seem.
Down the road came something about regional solutions to poverty. Well, yes, a lot of our poverty is regional. The declines of ranching, farming, and the timber industry affect all of central Oregon, from the Columbia River to the California border. Most of the state's economic history is powered by extractive industries. Boom-and-bust cycles are indigenous to our history—to all of the western states, really. Many causes of poverty are beyond either local or regional. They are part and parcel of a national economic attitude that finds cheap labor necessary to high profits. Thanks to the globalization of capitalism, this attitude is becoming world-wide.
The Central Oregon Partnership has gained a great deal of control over the various CATs, because regional issues are seen as the most expedient ways to reduce poverty.
Actually, poverty is caused by the lack of money, when you get right down to it. Almost all of the foundation money goes to salaries, wages and not into the poorer segment of the population. This is part of Long Term Solutions. Most of the money that is not spent on employees of our regional organizations, will find it's way into the hands of employers.
The idea of a group of grass roots organizations fighting poverty has slipped off into the ether. Now it's a centralized organization run by professionals, it would seem.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
An article from the Globe and Mail, about a Canadian training counter-terrorism training manual, that links American Indian and Canadian First Nations groups along with outfits like Hezbollah. I think the power-holders in both Canada and the U.S. are pretty paranoid these days—at least more paranoid than usual. Maybe as badly frightened as they were during the Nixon administration. What bothers me about all this is that the governments have so many more tools to use when it comes down to oppressing dissent—vast databases, electronic surveillance, CCTV cameras all over the place, metastizing no-fly lists, more militarized police, and the one and only Patriot Act.
Time to dump that article. I can scare myself without a lot of help, thank you.
A little lighter material in another piece sent to the trash. An article about the police in Pullman, WA, raiding an apartment, guns drawn of course, because the landlord had seen a grow-light in a closet. The tenants were growing tomatos. Luckily, no one was shot. I don't know if the cops seized the tomato plants or not.
A third piece about the growing racism toward people of color—any color, other than white. No shit. Growing racism. Hard to imagine, isn't it?
Oh hell, I think I'll just listen to some Albert Collins blues, courtesy of KLCC over in Eugene.
Keeping Your Hand on that Plow
But here's some inspiration:
Sacco and Vanzetti
by Howard Zinn
The following is an excerpt from Howard Zinn's new book, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, published earlier this year by City Lights. For Howard's upcoming speaking schedule, see the City Lights Web site: http://www.citylights.com.
Fifty years after the executions of Italian immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti, Governor Dukakis of Massachusetts set up a panel to judge the fairness of the trial, and the conclusion was that the two men had not received a fair trial. This aroused a minor storm in Boston.
One letter, signed John M. Cabot, U.S. Ambassador Retired, declared his "great indignation" and pointed out that Governor Fuller's affirmation of the death sentence was made after a special review by "three of Massachusetts' most distinguished and respected citizens-President Lowell of Harvard, President Stratton of MIT and retired Judge Grant."
Those three "distinguished and respected citizens" were viewed differently by Heywood Broun, who wrote in his column for the New York World immediately after the Governor's panel made its report. He wrote:
It is not every prisoner who has a President of Harvard University throw on the switch for him..If this is a lynching, at least the fish peddler and his friend the factory hand may take unction to their souls that they will die at the hands of men in dinner jackets or academic gowns.
Heywood Broun, one of the most distinguished journalists of the twentieth century, did not last long as a columnist for the New York World.
On that 50th year after the execution, the New York Times reported that: "Plans by Mayor Beame to proclaim next Tuesday 'Sacco and Vanzetti Day' have been canceled in an effort to avoid controversy, a City Hall spokesman said yesterday."
There must be good reason why a case 50-years-old, now over 75-years-old, arouses such emotion. I suggest that it is because to talk about Sacco and Vanzetti inevitably brings up matters that trouble us today: our system of justice, the relationship between war fever and civil liberties, and most troubling of all, the ideas of anarchism: the obliteration of national boundaries and therefore of war, the elimination of poverty, and the creation of a full democracy.
The case of Sacco and Vanzetti revealed, in its starkest terms, that the noble words inscribed above our courthouses, "Equal Justice Before the Law," have always been a lie. Those two men, the fish peddler and the shoemaker, could not get justice in the American system, because justice is not meted out equally to the poor and the rich, the native born and the foreign born, the orthodox and the radical, the white and the person of color. And while injustice may play itself out today more subtly and in more intricate ways than it did in the crude circumstances of the Sacco and Vanzetti case, its essence remains.
In their case, the unfairness was flagrant. They were being tried for robbery and murder, but in the minds, and in the behavior of the prosecuting attorney, the judge, and the jury, the important thing about them was that they were, as Upton Sinclair put it in his remarkable novel Boston, "wops," foreigners, poor workingmen, radicals.
Here is a sample of the police interrogation:
Police: Are you a citizen?
Police: Are you a Communist?
Police: Do you believe in this government of ours?
Sacco: Yes; some things I like different.
What did these questions have to do with the robbery of a shoe factory in South Braintree, Massachusetts, and the shooting of a paymaster and a guard?
Sacco was lying, of course. No, I'm not a Communist. No, I'm not an anarchist. Why would he lie to the police? Why would a Jew lie to the Gestapo? Why would a black in South Africa lie to his interrogators? Why would a dissident in Soviet Russia lie to the secret police? Because they all know there is no justice for them.
Has there ever been justice in the American system for the poor, the person of color, the radical? When the eight anarchists of Chicago were sentenced to death after the Haymarket riot (a police riot, that is) of 1886, it was not because there was any proof of a connection between them and the bomb thrown in the midst of the police; there was not a shred of evidence. It was because they were leaders of the anarchist movement in Chicago.
When Eugene Debs and a thousand others were sent to prison during World War I, under the Espionage Act, was it because they were guilty of espionage? Hardly. They were socialists who spoke out against the war. In affirming the ten-year sentence of Debs, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes made it clear why Debs must go to prison. He quoted from Debs' speech: "The master class has always declared the wars, the subject class has always fought the battles."
Holmes, much admired as one of our great liberal jurists, made clear the limits of liberalism, its boundaries set by a vindictive nationalism. After all the appeals of Sacco and Vanzetti had been exhausted, the case was put before Holmes, sitting on the Supreme Court. He refused to review the case, thus letting the verdict stand.
In our time, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were sent to the electric chair. Was it because they were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union? Or was it because they were communists, as the prosecutor made clear, with the approval of the judge? Was it also because the country was in the midst of anti-communist hysteria, communists had just taken power in China, there was a war in Korea, and the weight of all that could be borne by two American communists?
Why was George Jackson, in California, sentenced to ten years in prison for a $70 robbery, and then shot to death by guards? Was it because he was poor, black, and radical?
Can a Muslim today, in the atmosphere of the "war on terror" be given equal justice before the law? Why was my upstairs neighbor, a dark-skinned Brazilian who might look like a Middle East Muslim, pulled out of his car by police, though he had violated no regulation, and questioned and humiliated?
Why are the two million people in American jails and prisons, and six million people under parole, probation, or surveillance, disproportionately people of color, disproportionately poor? A study showed that 70% of the people in New York state prisons came from seven neighborhoods in New York City-neighborhoods of poverty and desperation.
Class injustice cuts across every decade, every century of our history. In the midst of the Sacco Vanzetti case, a wealthy man in the town of Milton, south of Boston, shot and killed a man who was gathering firewood on his property. He spent eight days in jail, then was let out on bail, and was not prosecuted. The district attorney called it "justifiable homicide." One law for the rich, one law for the poor-a persistent characteristic of our system of justice.
But being poor was not the chief crime of Sacco and Vanzetti. They were Italians, immigrants, anarchists. It was less than two years from the end of the First World War. They had protested against the war. They had refused to be drafted. They saw hysteria mount against radicals and foreigners, observed the raids carried out by Attorney General Palmer's agents in the Department of Justice, who broke into homes in the middle of the night without warrants, held people incommunicado, and beat them with clubs and blackjacks.
In Boston, 500 were arrested, chained together, and marched through the streets. Luigi Galleani, editor of the anarchist paper Cronaca Sovversiva, to which Sacco and Vanzetti subscribed, was picked up in Boston and quickly deported.
Something even more frightening had happened. A fellow anarchist of Sacco and Vanzetti, a typesetter named Andrea Salsedo, who lived in New York, was kidnapped by members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (I use the word "kidnapped" to describe an illegal seizure of a person), and held in FBI offices on the 14th floor of the Park Row Building. He was not allowed to call his family, friends, or a lawyer, and was questioned and beaten, according to a fellow prisoner. During the eighth week of his imprisonment, on May 3, 1920, the body of Salsedo, smashed to a pulp, was found on the pavement near the Park Row Building, and the FBI announced that he had committed suicide by jumping from the 14th floor window of the room in which they had kept him. This was just two days before Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested.
We know today, as a result of Congressional reports in 1975, of the FBI's COINTELPRO program in which FBI agents broke into people's homes and offices, carried out illegal wiretaps, were involved in acts of violence to the point of murder, and collaborated with the Chicago police in the killing of two Black Panther leaders in 1969. The FBI and the CIA have violated the law again and again. There is no punishment for them.
There has been little reason to have faith that the civil liberties of people in this country would be protected in the atmosphere of hysteria that followed 9/11 and continues to this day. At home there have been immigrant round-ups, indefinite detentions, deportations, and unauthorized domestic spying. Abroad there have extra-judicial killings, torture, bombings, war, and military occupations.
Likewise, the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti began immediately after Memorial Day, a year and a half after the orgy of death and patriotism that was World War I, when the newspapers still vibrating with the roll of drums and the jingoist rhetoric.
Twelve days into the trial, the press reported that the bodies of three soldiers had been transferred from the battlefields of France to the city of Brockton, and that the whole town had turned out for a patriotic ceremony. All of this was in newspapers that members of the jury could read.
Sacco was cross-examined by prosecutor Katzmann:
Question: Did you love this country in the last week of May, 1917?
Sacco: That is pretty hard for me to say in one word, Mr. Katzmann.
Question: There are two words you can use, Mr. Sacco, yes or no. What one is it?
Question: And in order to show your love for this United States of America when she was about to call upon you to become a soldier you ran away to Mexico?
At the beginning of the trial, Judge Thayer (who, speaking to a golf acquaintance, had referred to the defendants during the trial as "those anarchist bastards") said to the jury: "Gentlemen, I call upon you to render this service here that you have been summoned to perform with the same spirit of patriotism, courage, and devotion to duty as was exhibited by our soldier boys across the seas."
The emotions evoked by a bomb that exploded at Attorney General Palmer's home during a time of war-like emotions set loose by the violence of 9/11-created an anxious atmosphere in which civil liberties were compromised.
Sacco and Vanzetti understood that whatever legal arguments their lawyers could come up with would not prevail against the reality of class injustice. Sacco told the court, on sentencing: "I know the sentence will be between two classes, the oppressed class and the rich class.That is why I am here today on this bench, for having been of the oppressed class."
That viewpoint seems dogmatic, simplistic. Not all court decisions are explained by it. But, lacking a theory that fits all cases, Sacco's simple, strong view is surely a better guide to understanding the legal system than one which assumes a contest among equals based on an objective search for truth.
Vanzetti knew that legal arguments would not save them. Unless a million Americans were organized, he and his friend Sacco would die. Not words, but struggle. Not appeals, but demands. Not petitions to the governor, but take-overs of the factories. Not lubricating the machinery of a supposedly fair system to make it work better, but a general strike to bring the machinery to a halt.
That never happened. Thousands demonstrated, marched, protested, not just in New York City, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, but in London, Paris, Buenos Aires, South Africa. It wasn't enough. On the night of their execution, thousands demonstrated in Charlestown, but were kept away from the prison by a huge assembly of police. Protesters were arrested. Machine-guns were on the rooftops and great searchlights swept the scene.
A great crowd assembled in Union Square on August 23,1927. A few minutes after midnight, prison lights dimmed as the two men were electrocuted. The New York World described the scene: "The crowd responded with a giant sob. Women fainted in fifteen or twenty places. Others, too overcome, dropped to the curb and buried their heads in their hands. Men leaned on one anothers' shoulders and wept."
Their ultimate crime was their anarchism, an idea which today still startles us like a bolt of lightning because of its essential truth: we are all one, national boundaries and national hatreds must disappear, war is intolerable, the fruits of the earth must be shared, and only through organized struggle against authority can such a world come about.
What comes to us today from the case of Sacco and Vanzetti is not just tragedy, but inspiration. Their English was not perfect, but when they spoke it was a kind of poetry. Vanzetti said of his friend Sacco:
Sacco is a heart, a faith, a character, a man; a man lover of nature and mankind. A man who gave all, who sacrifice all to the cause of liberty and to his love for mankind: money, rest, mundane ambition, his own wife, his children, himself and his own life.. Oh yes, I may be more witful, as some have put it, I am a better babbler than he is, but many, many times, in hearing his heartful voice ring a faith sublime, in considering his supreme sacrifice, remembering his heroism I felt small, small at the presence of his greatness, and found myself compelled to fight back from my eyes the tears, quench my heart throbbing to my throat to not weep before him-this man called chief and assassin and doomed.
Worst of all, they were anarchists, meaning they had some crazy notion of a full democracy in which neither foreignness nor poverty would exist, and thought that without these provocations, war among nations would end for all time. But for this to happen the rich would have to be fought and their riches confiscated. That anarchist idea is a crime much worse than robbing a payroll, and so to this day the story of Sacco and Vanzetti cannot be recalled without great anxiety.
Sacco wrote to his son Dante: "So son, instead of crying, be strong, so as to be able to comfort your mother.take her for a long walk in the quiet country, gathering wild flowers here and there, resting under the shade of trees.But remember always, Dante, in this play of happiness, don't you use all for yourself only.help the persecuted and the victim because they are your better friends.. In this struggle of life you will find more love and you will be loved."
Yes, it was their anarchism, their love for humanity, which doomed them. When Vanzetti was arrested, he had a leaflet in his pocket advertising a meeting to take place in five days. It is a leaflet that could be distributed today, all over the world, as appropriate now as it was the day of their arrest. It read:
You have fought all the wars. You have worked for all the capitalists. You have wandered over all the countries. Have you harvested the fruits of your labors, the price of your victories? Does the past comfort you? Does the present smile on you? Does the future promise you anything? Have you found a piece of land where you can live like a human being and die like a human being? On these questions, on this argument, and on this theme, the struggle for existence, Bartolomeo Vanzetti will speak.
That meeting did not take place. But their spirit still exists today with people who believe and love and struggle all over the world.