Speakout is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. Speakout articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
Sixteen years ago, here in Boston on the afternoon of 9/11, we created the United for Justice with Peace coalition with the slogan "No More Victims Anywhere." The next day, as police in Boston swarmed Copley Square in search of the bombers and their associates, our quickly planned vigil was moved to Harvard Square in Cambridge. To our surprise, 700 people gathered there, silently and powerfully with our message "War is Not the Answer." We couldn't imagine that we'd be out here 16 years later in what may still be the early stages of an endless war.
The month before, I took a knee for Adalid Flores, who was killed by an Anaheim, California, police officer. He had been holding a cell phone. I've been taking a knee for someone most of my life, and things seems to be getting worse, not better, despite the prevalence of videotaped evidence and access to non-lethal weapons such as Tasers. No one enjoys taking a knee, because the killings and the beatings don't stop.
In March 1989, during the first intifada, members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) came together for the first time in the United States for an international peace conference, the Road to Peace. The late Edward Said, who taught at Columbia University, arranged for the conference to be held there, since it was illegal for Knesset members to meet with members of the PLO except under "academic auspices."
The idea of human uniqueness has taken something of a beating in recent years. The aptitudes and traits that we once thought were ours alone, setting us apart from other animals, have been discovered in other species. We've learned that tool-use is common among primates and crows, that dolphins and elephants display a capacity for altruism, that chimpanzees are capable of culture, that bees employ a complex communication system, that bonobos have sex for fun, and that pigs and elephants might mourn their dead. What are we left with?
I've long-wondered why an Indigenous consciousness exists among some Mexicans/Chicanos/Central Americans and other peoples from this continent, while not in others, considering that all are generally products of colonization? This phenomenon is often most stark when many reject the notion of celebrating a "Hispanic heritage" at the expense of subjugating their primarily Indigenous-African and mixed heritage. And a related question: Why did Indigenous Studies, counterintuitively, never develop as an academic discipline within Raza Studies, considering that Indigeneity is at its philosophical core?
We have all seen the reports on the rampant inequality in the world and within countries. According to Oxfam, the wealthiest 10 people now own more wealth than the poorest half of the world's population, and the richest 1 percent owns more than the remaining 99 percent together. Millions of people have to survive on less than $2 a day while a CEO in a finance company can earn millions of dollars a day. A CEO in the business sector today on average earns several hundred times more than his company's employees, and so on. From having declined during the post-war period up until the late 1970s, inequality since then has accelerated to today's obscene levels.
Many have watched horrified as the Trump administration escalated its attack on undocumented people. Some 800,000 young people, the vast majority of Mexican descent, will be affected by the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This and many of the other human rights violations committed by the current administration have led, by many measures, to an increase in anxiety, stress, suicides and depression.
Recent Russian war games in Belarus have raised fears in Washington that the "real" aim of the exercises is staging for a military incursion into Poland or the Baltic States. To reach such a conclusion, one must be ignorant of, or blatantly ignore, 20th century Russian and Soviet history, as well as willingly distort any sensible understanding of geography. The exercises' name -- "Zapad" in Russian -- means "West." Although any time "West" and "Russia" are mentioned in the same sentence, it is enough to frighten Western governments and media into doomsday rhetoric.
When the German transatlantic liner the St. Louis set off with 900 German Jews seeking refuge, it was 1939 and they were trying to escape what became one of the most despicable events in European history. Neither Canada nor the United States offered to help the people on this ship and it sailed on to Cuba. Seventy-eight years later, almost 400,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since the last week of August. In an ethnic cleansing led by the military, they have been driven out.
Current relations between the United States and North Korea are being painted as sudden, unprompted aggression against the peace-keeping beacon of justice that is the West, but this dynamic couldn't be further from the true historical lineage. Ambassador Haley's recent remarks, the rhetoric of the Trump administration, as well as an overwhelming animosity towards North Korea from the American public prompts an urgent need for context.