Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Occupy Des Moines leaders thrust into spotlight"

Des Moines Register - Dec 31, 2011

"Occupy Des Moines leaders thrust into spotlight" by Regina Zilbermints

http://caucuses.desmoinesregister.com/2011/12/31/occupy-des-moines-leaders-thrust-into-spotlight/

 

It was a motley assortment of people.

 

A former Catholic priest. A few people who could reasonably be called

professional activists. A former Wells Fargo employee. A college

student.

 

The group of about 20 people who gathered regularly at a Catholic

Worker house in Des Moines — a small fraction of the 400 people who

attended Occupy Des Moines’ first meeting almost three months ago —

has been central in planning this week’s protests that have thrust the

small Occupy Wall Street offshoot into the spotlight.

 

The local protesters, primarily interested in what they believe are

income inequalities, include people attending their first protests and

those experienced in such actions.

 

This week, as presidential candidates rushed from one event to

another, members of the local Occupy movement showed up at banks and

campaign headquarters as they tried to get their message out. Some,

including Occupy leaders, were arrested for trespassing.

 

Frank Cordaro trained many of them. The former priest has been active

in anti-war protests for decades, even before he left the priesthood

in 2003 after 18 years.

 

He helped start the Catholic Worker community in Des Moines and lives

in one of the houses. He’s been arrested several times and refuses to

pay his fines out of solidarity with those who can’t.

 

Police know him well.

 

“Hey, Frank,” one said, shaking his hand when they stopped by the

group’s headquarters. “How many today, Frank?” another said as they

prepared to make arrests Thursday.

 

People who returned to Des Moines from both coasts for the week

remembered working with Cordaro years ago.

 

At a recent meeting, the group took turns introducing themselves and

saying why they were there.

 

“My name is Frank Cordaro,” he said. “I’ve been here 35 years. And

I’ve been waiting for you.”

 

Cordaro was the only person David Goodner knew when he moved to Des

Moines after graduating from the University of Iowa in 2009.

 

Goodner, a prominent, sometimes divisive, and usually respected figure

in the movement, attended his first demonstration in Washington, D.C.,

in 2002 to protest the impending Iraq war.

 

That was the moment he “went from a frat boy to a card-carrying

socialist,” Goodner said.

 

He became active in anti-war groups at the University of Iowa and left

Phi Kappa Theta soon after.

 

He said it was time to move on because he couldn’t agree with many of

his fraternity brothers’ support of the conflict.

 

After college he got a job at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

and moved into one of the Catholic Worker houses. He’s traveled to

both Columbia and the Palestinian territories to protest and

participate in protective accompaniment — essentially acting as

unarmed bodyguards for vulnerable citizens in the hopes that American

faces will deter would-be attackers.

 

Goodner, 30, also credits his Catholic faith with inspiring him. “The

Jesus I follow fed homeless, healed the sick, spoke truth to power,

marched into Jerusalem and kicked the money changers out of the

temple,” he said.

 

Goodner was arrested at a protest in November and when police searched

him, they found marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Three days later he

issued an apology, said he would no longer be a public face for the

group and vowed to enter a drug treatment program to determine whether

he had a substance-abuse problem. For about a month he stayed out of

the Occupy spotlight, still working behind the scenes.

 

He has since resumed appearing at public events, though has largely

let others lead the group’s “mic checks” and do media interviews.

 

Goodner met his partner, Megan Felt, five years ago when the two were

handcuffed next to each other at Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Cedar Rapids

office. Felt, who is eight months pregnant with Goodner’s child, is

“way tougher than I am,” he said.

 

Felt said she’s been arrested about a dozen times.

 

“So, not that many times,” she added. Three of the arrests have been

during the Occupy movement, including two this week.

 

She focuses her activism on South America, particularly Columbia,

doing everything from translating paperwork in Des Moines — she speaks

fluent Spanish — to traveling to Columbia three times to provide

protective accompaniment.

 

“It was logical to get involved because I do resistance work on a

daily basis,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this to

spring up.”

 

She uses the word “beautiful” a lot to describe the movement.

 

The 24-year-old with short hair is much quieter than Goodner. Others

often strain to hear her. But she has been at the front of protests

over the past several days.

 

On Friday, her mother, who traveled from Wisconsin after being

involved in massive protests there, insisted Goodner not let her be

arrested anymore.

 

Cordaro, Goodner and Felt have experience and have worked together

before. But in the past three months others without previous protest

experience have had a crash course.

 

Tony Tyler, 30, moved to Des Moines from Oklahoma a year ago for work.

He won’t say where he works for fear of repercussions there, just that

it’s a full-time job outside of politics or the financial industry.

 

“The movement is strong because of the individuals involved,” he said.

“Community groups seemed to affirm and join in, but the power lies in

individuals getting involved. That’s why it’s effective.”

 

Tyler said he’s never been involved in protests before, but has a

simple reason to get involved now.

 

“Economic justice,” he said. “It’s a simple phrase; it’s what I’m

passionate about.

------------------

 

Occupy Iowa Caucus web page: http://www.occupyiowacaucuses.org/

(515)423-0199

 

Des Moines Catholic Worker contacts for Occupy Des Moines:

Megan Felt - 515.991.1663 <megan.rae.felt@gmail.com>

Renee Espeland - 515.664.1326 <purpleclothlydia@aol.com>

David Goodner - 515.991.6357 <david.a.goodner@gmail.com>

 

Sri Lanka's Ghosts of War

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/31/opinion/sri-lankas-ghosts-of-war.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha212

 

December 30, 2011

Sri Lanka’s Ghosts of War

By NAMINI WIJEDASA

Colombo, Sri Lanka

THE Sri Lankan government’s defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers in 2009 ended a three-decade war that took tens of thousands of lives. But only now is the government beginning to acknowledge its huge human cost. Two weeks ago, a government-appointed reconciliation commission released a long-awaited report, giving voice to the war’s civilian victims for the first time.

From August 2010 to January 2011, hundreds of people appeared before the commission in tears, begging for news of their loved ones, many of whom had last been seen in the custody of security forces. A doctor spoke of how they managed to survive under deplorable conditions in places “littered with dead bodies and carcasses of dying animals.”

In October, I visited a rural school just 6 miles from Mullivaikkal, on the northeast coast of the island, where the army finally crushed the Tigers — an area still off-limits to civilians. The government says there are too many land mines to allow resettlement; critics say there are too many bodies in mass graves.

The classroom had a new roof, but more than two years after the war ended, its walls were still pockmarked with shrapnel, a window was shattered and the floor was cracked. Most students’ uniforms were discolored; many wore flip-flops and carried tattered bags. A 7-year-old with a deep scar across his back stared at me. A shell had landed while his family slept and his sister was killed, he told me in a thin voice.

One child after another spoke of injuries and deaths caused by shelling; of lingering wounds; of forced conscription by the Tigers; of poor widowed mothers; and of family members missing after being taken into state custody.

Since Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain in 1948, members of the island’s Tamil minority have insisted that they face linguistic, educational and employment discrimination from the Sinhalese majority, which controls the government.

The Tigers — a sophisticated, well-financed guerilla group that formed in 1976 and pioneered the technique of suicide bombing — sought to redress their grievances by violent means, with the goal of establishing an independent Tamil state. They routinely recruited child soldiers, killed Tamil dissenters and massacred Sinhalese and Muslims. In 1991, the group went so far as to assassinate the Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, for having sent Indian troops to Sri Lanka in 1987 to enforce a peace accord. The Tigers held out against the Sri Lankan military until they were decisively defeated in May 2009.

Some journalists called Sri Lanka’s final battle with the Tigers a “war without witnesses.” Aid workers were asked to withdraw from the conflict zone months before the government defeated the Tigers. Only handpicked reporters, mostly from state media, were allowed to embed with troops. Those journalists knew what they must not write, for fear of losing access. The others relied on organized tours that were meticulously choreographed by the army — producing sanitized war coverage with the gory bits tucked away. As a result, there was no outside scrutiny of the controversial war.

But that did not mean there were no witnesses. As the army attacked, hundreds of thousands of civilians were trapped in between. They were the Tigers’ “human shield,” and a source for forced conscripts, including children. They were also witnesses.

More than 950 people testified before the commission and nearly 5,000 submitted written statements. Survivors spoke of displacement, incessant shelling and morbid fear. The commission’s report depicts a country where the rule of law is crumbling and where abductions, enforced or involuntary disappearances, protracted detention without charge and attacks on journalists continue. It proposes depoliticizing the police, disarming illegal armed groups and allowing a more independent media.

While the commission makes sensible recommendations and exposes grave atrocities committed by the Tigers against ordinary people, it also demonstrates that government troops shelled no-fire zones in order to neutralize rebel attacks from within.

The report is a valuable document, but regarding the war’s terrible final weeks, it is largely an apologia for the army. The commission admits only that “civilian casualties had in fact occurred in the course of cross-fire,” and blames the Tigers for most of them. The commission asserts that the government was confronted with an unprecedented situation — a massive human shield — that left it no other choice but to respond as it did.

However, on three separate occasions the government declared no-fire zones, giving the illusion of safety to hundreds of thousands of terrified civilians who fled into them. The rebels also went in, set up their heavy weapons among innocent men, women and children and proceeded to attack the military with gusto. The army retaliated and large numbers of civilians were killed.

Sri Lankans no longer need to pretend that the army didn’t shell zones where civilians were encouraged to gather, or subscribe to the fantasy that no innocents died when shells landed on or near hospitals.

If Sri Lanka wants true reconciliation, simply blaming the Tigers is not enough. The government, and the country, must take responsibility for the dead, mend the lives of the survivors — whatever their ethnicity — and stop the vicious cycle of ethnic strife by arriving at a political solution that meets, if not all aspirations, most of them. Until then, the end of the war will not bring true peace.

Namini Wijedasa is a journalist.

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

 

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Slip-Sliding to War with Iran

http://www.readersupportednews.org/opinion2/289-134/9168-slip-sliding-to-war-with-iran

Slip-Sliding to War with Iran

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

29 December 11

ith the typical backdrop of alarmist propaganda in place, the stage is now set for a new war, this time with Iran. The slightest miscalculation (or provocation) by the United States, Israel or Iran could touch off a violent scenario that will have devastating consequences.

Indeed, even if they want to, the various sides might have trouble backing down enough to defuse today’s explosive situation. After all, the Iranians continue to insist they have no intention of building a nuclear bomb, as much as Israeli and American officials insist that they are.

So, this prospective war with Iran – like the one in Iraq – is likely to come down to intelligence assessments on Iran’s intentions and capabilities. And, as with Iraq’s alleged WMD, the many loud voices claiming that Iran is on pace to build a nuclear bomb are drowning out the relatively few skeptics who think the evidence is thin to invisible.

For instance, the recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s supposed progress toward a nuclear bomb was widely accepted as gospel truth without any discussion of whether the IAEA is an unbiased and reliable source.

In framing the story in support of the IAEA, the major U.S. newspapers and TV networks ignored documentary evidence that the IAEA’s new director-general was installed with the support of the United States and that he privately indicated to U.S. and Israeli officials that he would help advance their goals regarding Iran.

These facts could be found easily enough in WikiLeaks cables that the U.S. news media has had access to since 2010. Yet, the Big Media has ignored this side of the story, even as the IAEA report has been touted again and again as virtually a smoking gun against Iran.

This pattern of ignoring – or downplaying – evidence that runs counter to the prevailing narrative was a notable feature during the run-up to war with Iraq. It is now being repeated not just by the right-wing news media, but by the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and other centrist-to-left-leaning outlets.

The IAEA Cables

Thus, very few Americans know that U.S. embassy cables from Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA’s headquarters, revealed that the U.S. government in 2009 was celebrating its success in installing Japanese diplomat Yakiya Amano to replace Egyptian Mohamed ElBaradei, who famously had debunked some of President George W. Bush’s claims about Iraq’s supposed nuclear ambitions.

In a July 9, 2009, cable, American chargĂ© Geoffrey Pyatt said Amano was thankful for U.S. support of his election. “Amano attributed his election to support from the U.S., Australia and France, and cited U.S. intervention with Argentina as particularly decisive,” the cable said.

The appreciative Amano informed Pyatt that as IAEA director-general, he would take a different “approach on Iran from that of ElBaradei” and he “saw his primary role as implementing safeguards and UNSC [United Nations Security Council]/Board resolutions,” i.e. U.S.-driven sanctions and demands against Iran.

Amano also vowed to restructure the IAEA’s senior ranks in ways favored by the United States. In return, Pyatt promised that “the United States would do everything possible to support his [Amano’s] successful tenure as Director General and, to that end, anticipated that continued U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA would be forthcoming.”

For his part, Amano stuck out his hand seeking more U.S. money, or as Pyatt put it, “Amano offered that a ‘reasonable increase’ in the regular budget would be helpful.”

Amano also rushed to meet with Israeli officials “immediately after his appointment,” consulting with Israeli Ambassador Israel Michaeli and leaving Michaeli “fully confident of the priority Amano accords verification issues.” That was another indication Amano's IAEA would take a hard line against Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions while ignoring Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal.

Michaeli also revealed that Amano’s public remarks about “no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons capability” were just for show, designed “to persuade those who did not support him about his ‘impartiality.’” In reality, Amano intended to be anything but impartial.

Amano agreed to private “consultations” with the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Pyatt reported. The purpose was to hear Israel’s purported evidence about Iran continuing its work on a nuclear weapon, not to discuss Israel’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to allow IAEA inspectors into Israeli nuclear sites.

In a subsequent cable dated Oct. 16, 2009, the U.S. mission in Vienna said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded ambassador [Glyn Davies] on several occasions that … he [Amano] was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”

Amano also continued to indicate that he needed to hide his true intentions. “More candidly, Amano noted the importance of maintaining a certain ‘constructive ambiguity’ about his plans, at least until he took over for DG ElBaradei in December” 2009, the cable said.

In other words, the emerging picture of Amano is of a bureaucrat eager to please the United States and Israel regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Wouldn’t that evidence be relevant for Americans deciding whether to trust the IAEA report? But the Big Media apparently felt that the American people shouldn’t know these facts whose disclosure has been limited to a few Internet sites. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Debt to Bradley Manning.”]

Similarly, the U.S. press corps is now reporting the dubious allegations about an Iranian assassination plot directed against the Saudi ambassador as flat fact, not as some hard-to-believe accusation comparable to Vice President Dick Cheney’s claims in 2002 that Iraqi officials had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Petraeus’s CIA Fuels Iran Murder Plot.”]

Dangerous Cascade

There is now a cascading of allegations regarding Iran, as there was with Iraq, with the momentum rushing toward war.

Just as with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the U.S. news media treats Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a designated villain whose every word is cast as dangerous or crazy. Even left-of-center media personalities, like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, talk tough against Ahmadinejad, just as many “liberals” did regarding Hussein.

Also, as happened with Iraq – when harsher economic sanctions merged with a U.S. troop build-up, making an escalation toward war almost inevitable – tougher and tougher Western sanctions against Iran have pushed the various sides closer to war.

In November, Iranian anger at escalating sanctions and other hostile acts led to an assault on the British Embassy, which then prompted new European demands for a full-scale embargo of Iranian oil. As tensions have grown, the U.S. Senate tossed in its own hand-grenade, voting 100-0 in favor of hitting Iran with ever more stringent sanctions.

In turn, Iran has threatened to retaliate against the West's economic warfare by blocking the Straits of Hormuz, through which one-fifth of the world’s oil flows, thus driving up oil prices and derailing the West’s already shaky economies. That threat has led to even more bellicose language from many U.S. political figures, especially the Republican presidential hopefuls who have denounced President Barack Obama for not being tougher on Iran.

With the exception of Rep. Ron Paul, virtually all the leading Republican contenders including Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich – have signaled a readiness to join Israel in a war against Iran. Romney has farmed out his foreign policy agenda to prominent neoconservatives, and Gingrich has gone so far as to suggest a full-scale U.S.-Israeli invasion of Iran to force “regime change.”

As the U.S. news media and politicians mostly reprise their performances on the Iraq invasion in regard to Iran, the principal obstacles to a new war appear to be President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Both are said to privately oppose a war with Iran, which was not true of how President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld felt about Iraq.

Though Obama and Panetta have talked tough about “all options on the table,” the Obama administration slipped loopholes into the Senate’s anti-Iran legislation, to allow the President to waive Iranian sanctions if he deemed them a threat to national security or to the economy.

One intelligence source told me that Obama is playing a delicate game in which he must placate hawkish anti-Iranian sentiments in Israel and on Capitol Hill while he continues to seek a broader Middle East security arrangement that would include Iran in the mix. On Wednesday, administration officials sought to tamp down alarmist anti-Iran reports in the U.S. press.

Still, whether Obama can head off a violent conflict with Iran remains to be seen. As the presidential election grows nearer – and the likely GOP’s nominee hammers at Obama as soft on Iran – a preemptive Israeli attack or a miscalculation by Iran could make war unavoidable.

For its part, the major U.S. news media has done its best, again, to line up the American people behind another war.

  --


"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." MLK

 

Let Your Life Be a Counter-Friction to Stop the Machine

Let Your Life Be a Counter-Friction to Stop the Machine

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

I believe that we are coming to a crossroads as a nation.

Since 9/11, we’ve been traveling down a road bristling with guns, military technology, paranoia and fear.  Though most of our aggressive energy has been aimed outside our borders, there has also been a steady preparation for mass violence within the U.S. as well.  In the decade since 9/11, our national police forces have been armed with military hardware, and have trained extensively in riot control, with the results that we saw for the first time during the recent Occupy protests.photo: Saint Huck

In the peaceful town of Fargo, North Dakota, report Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz of the Center for Investigative Reporting, “Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle, and officers can don Kevlar helmets able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. And for that epic confrontation—if it ever occurs—officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret.”

Billions of federal tax dollars have been spent nationwide on this kind of military hardware for police, in the name of Homeland Security.

Security from what?  Security for whom?

Short of an all-out military invasion by a foreign force, which seems hugely unlikely, these weapons can only be meant to confront an insurgency within our own borders.

Are we thinking about a civil war, then?

Are these police being armed and trained to protect the interests of the 1% against the raging anger of the 99%?

A year ago it would not have occurred to me to ask these questions.  But obviously the Homeland Security crowd was already thinking ahead and planning for a time when such armor and weapons would be necessary to “maintain security” and “uphold law and order” on the home front.

Yes, they must have been aware, even as they were cashing in on our ignorance, that there would come a time when no more could be squeezed from the bottom two-thirds of American society.  When there would be so many homeless, so many poor, so many disenfranchised, that these people would feel they had no other recourse than violence, and nothing left to lose.

A new report by the National Center on Family Homelessness found that “more than 1.6 million children – or one in 45 children – are homeless annually in America. This represents an increase of 38% during the years impacted by the economic recession.”

I’m sorry, but that is just unacceptable in this country, which likes to think of itself as the wealthiest and most enlightened society on earth.

When you add up all the trials and tribulations being visited on the poor in this country–and “the poor” is a vast category that gets bigger day by day–and you weigh billions in Homeland Security anti-terrorism outfits for police against dwindling food and shelter for children–well, something just isn’t right here.  There’s something rotten in the state of America.

And yes, we are at a crossroads.

It may seem to some that I am over-reacting, but this is the way it feels to me: if we continue following along docilely on this daisy path that we’ve been led down by the architects of corporate capitalism, we are like the Jews of Germany in 1940, peacefully gathering our belongings and getting on that train to Auschwitz, or marching cooperatively out to the forest to be mowed down by machine guns into the mass grave.

We know enough now to know that the powers that be do not have our best interests at heart.

We’ve been sickened by their chemicals, and our health care system seems geared to treat sickness (at a profit) rather than to promote wellness.  Our oceans, air, soils and drinking water have been contaminated and rendered toxic. Our taxes have been used for guns and landmines instead of schools and social welfare.  Those who have gotten rich in this system have done so on the backs of the poor and those who cannot defend themselves: the natural world above all.

Are we going to continue down this path?

Or are we going to gather our courage at this crossroads, and strike off in a new direction?

A lot of people are asking this question now.  Over on the New Clear Vision blog, Charles Imboden suggests that the Occupy movement has ignited a renewed “commitment to direct democracy and shunning of ‘representative,’ republican forms of decision-making (so often susceptible to corruption and corporate influence) [which] can be further strengthened as the foundation of the egalitarian, ecological society.”

As one of my readers commented today, what would happen if they held an election and we just didn’t show up?

I don’t know if there is a way to cut ourselves loose from the federal government and its taxpayer-supported state terror apparatus.  Thoreau tried, back in the 19th century, and was promptly thrown in jail.

His letter from prison is worth re-reading today.

“Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men, generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority?

“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth—certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice …is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.

As we gear up for next year’s Presidential elections, we must take these wise words of Thoreau’s to heart.

But we must also be aware, as Thoreau certainly was, that there are other paths to take, outside of the machine.

We stand at a crossroads.  Each of us must make up our own minds, in our own time.

How much longer will we continue to docilely feed the machine our tax dollars, and march peacefully where they lead us?

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez teaches comparative literature and gender studies with an activist bent at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, MA and blogs at Transition Times.

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/30-3

 

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

 

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

 

Let Your Life Be a Counter-Friction to Stop the Machine

Let Your Life Be a Counter-Friction to Stop the Machine

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

I believe that we are coming to a crossroads as a nation.

Since 9/11, we’ve been traveling down a road bristling with guns, military technology, paranoia and fear.  Though most of our aggressive energy has been aimed outside our borders, there has also been a steady preparation for mass violence within the U.S. as well.  In the decade since 9/11, our national police forces have been armed with military hardware, and have trained extensively in riot control, with the results that we saw for the first time during the recent Occupy protests.photo: Saint Huck

In the peaceful town of Fargo, North Dakota, report Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz of the Center for Investigative Reporting, “Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle, and officers can don Kevlar helmets able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. And for that epic confrontation—if it ever occurs—officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret.”

Billions of federal tax dollars have been spent nationwide on this kind of military hardware for police, in the name of Homeland Security.

Security from what?  Security for whom?

Short of an all-out military invasion by a foreign force, which seems hugely unlikely, these weapons can only be meant to confront an insurgency within our own borders.

Are we thinking about a civil war, then?

Are these police being armed and trained to protect the interests of the 1% against the raging anger of the 99%?

A year ago it would not have occurred to me to ask these questions.  But obviously the Homeland Security crowd was already thinking ahead and planning for a time when such armor and weapons would be necessary to “maintain security” and “uphold law and order” on the home front.

Yes, they must have been aware, even as they were cashing in on our ignorance, that there would come a time when no more could be squeezed from the bottom two-thirds of American society.  When there would be so many homeless, so many poor, so many disenfranchised, that these people would feel they had no other recourse than violence, and nothing left to lose.

A new report by the National Center on Family Homelessness found that “more than 1.6 million children – or one in 45 children – are homeless annually in America. This represents an increase of 38% during the years impacted by the economic recession.”

I’m sorry, but that is just unacceptable in this country, which likes to think of itself as the wealthiest and most enlightened society on earth.

When you add up all the trials and tribulations being visited on the poor in this country–and “the poor” is a vast category that gets bigger day by day–and you weigh billions in Homeland Security anti-terrorism outfits for police against dwindling food and shelter for children–well, something just isn’t right here.  There’s something rotten in the state of America.

And yes, we are at a crossroads.

It may seem to some that I am over-reacting, but this is the way it feels to me: if we continue following along docilely on this daisy path that we’ve been led down by the architects of corporate capitalism, we are like the Jews of Germany in 1940, peacefully gathering our belongings and getting on that train to Auschwitz, or marching cooperatively out to the forest to be mowed down by machine guns into the mass grave.

We know enough now to know that the powers that be do not have our best interests at heart.

We’ve been sickened by their chemicals, and our health care system seems geared to treat sickness (at a profit) rather than to promote wellness.  Our oceans, air, soils and drinking water have been contaminated and rendered toxic. Our taxes have been used for guns and landmines instead of schools and social welfare.  Those who have gotten rich in this system have done so on the backs of the poor and those who cannot defend themselves: the natural world above all.

Are we going to continue down this path?

Or are we going to gather our courage at this crossroads, and strike off in a new direction?

A lot of people are asking this question now.  Over on the New Clear Vision blog, Charles Imboden suggests that the Occupy movement has ignited a renewed “commitment to direct democracy and shunning of ‘representative,’ republican forms of decision-making (so often susceptible to corruption and corporate influence) [which] can be further strengthened as the foundation of the egalitarian, ecological society.”

As one of my readers commented today, what would happen if they held an election and we just didn’t show up?

I don’t know if there is a way to cut ourselves loose from the federal government and its taxpayer-supported state terror apparatus.  Thoreau tried, back in the 19th century, and was promptly thrown in jail.

His letter from prison is worth re-reading today.

“Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men, generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority?

“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth—certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice …is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.

As we gear up for next year’s Presidential elections, we must take these wise words of Thoreau’s to heart.

But we must also be aware, as Thoreau certainly was, that there are other paths to take, outside of the machine.

We stand at a crossroads.  Each of us must make up our own minds, in our own time.

How much longer will we continue to docilely feed the machine our tax dollars, and march peacefully where they lead us?

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez teaches comparative literature and gender studies with an activist bent at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, MA and blogs at Transition Times.

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/30-3

 

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

 

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs