Add mixed messages to your site

Monday, December 29, 2008

Israel starts Another War: We in the West do Not Support it

Israel is bombing the Palestinian people in  Gaza City for the third straight day amid worldwide protests. Israel claims it is targeting Hamas, a group within Gaza that they have labeled terrorist.

Meanwhile, France, Britain, China, Japan, and Russia have all called for an end to the assault which has taken the lives of over 300 and has wounded 1500, including women and children. This air assault also targeted a university. Universities are not military targets in any understanding of warfare, nor are children. The Director General of the United Nations has called for an end to the violence and protests against the carnage are being held throughout the world

Israel is justifying the murder of hundreds by pointing to the death of one Israeli at the hands of Hamas and President Bush is supporting the Israeli attacks. Israel is mobilizing 6500 troops for a possible ground offensive against Gaza.

But both Israeli and Western citizens are critical of the Israeli offensive. Israeli newspapers are critical of the new war and Europeans and Americans have held protests throughout the West.
According to one Israeli reporter citing a Palestinian on the ground, "This assault is not against Hamas. It's against all of us, the entire nation. And no Palestinian will consent to having his [or her] people and homeland destroyed in this way."

According to another Israeli reporter from Haaretz newspaper, the recent bombing is motivated by a Zionist desire to "teach Palestinians a lesson." The reporter explains, "Israel has also always believed that causing suffering to Palestinian civilians would make them rebel against their national leaders." The reporter reminds  Israeli readers of the error of such an approach given history,"This assumption has proven wrong over and over." It has never worked.

But more importantly such an approach is morally wrong.  

Why is our country supporting such a war? We the American people do not support the bombing of civilians even if our leaders do. We did not support the bombing of innocents in Afghanistan, we protested the bombing of civilians in Iraq, we decried the bombing of civilians in Lebanon and we will protest this most recent outrage.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Heroes We Wish They Were: Obama, Warren, and Homophobia

I haven't been happy with all of Obama's cabinet picks but this week I was basking in the afterglow of having finally finished his first memoir, Dreams From My Father, and I was full of hope for our new president. He is an impressive writer and speaker, and his book is full of inspirational and reflective prose. He is brilliant, insightful, well-educated, and progressive on many issues. He may be the smartest president we have ever had and he certainly appears to be the most loving and peaceful leader we have had in a very long time. I was so busy patting myself on the back for campaigning for this remarkable man, I never saw Rick Warren coming.

Like many of his supporters, I am still reeling from Obama's decision to have an explicitly anti-gay pastor perform the invocation at his inauguration. 

Mr Obama, how did this happen?

I like the idea of a "team of rivals."  As a mixed person, I understand his desire to bring people together across difference. As a scholar, artist, and activist who has devoted my life and my career to teaching people to respect one another and to see shared humanity where  in the past they have only seen difference, I can well appreciate the challenges involved in trying to bring people of dissimilar views into dialogue. But I don't think hate is something we can agree to disagree on. 

Rick Warren has spoken out openly against gay marriage. Nothing spectacular about that. Everyone seems to be jumping on the anti-gay marriage bandwagon these days, but Warren actually compared gay marriage to pedophilia and incest. That constitutes more than a mere difference of opinion. It is bigotry. 

I think we need to draw a line when it comes to bigoted language. Why would Obama want such a person to represent him? I thought his message was all about hope and love and peace?

If Bush picked such a pastor gay people would not be up in arms about it. But it breaks our hearts when the candidate we thought was running on a platform of social justice decides to align himself with a person who speaks in dehumanizing ways about gay people.

Of course our sense of betrayal is bigger than Obama. It has to do with the expectations we tend to have for the rare political leader who seems to be ahead of his or her times. We think if a leader is enlightened on one issue then she ought to be enlightened on all the important issues. It shocks our sensibilities when we discover that they sympathize with oppressors of any kind. It eats away at our hope and adds to our mounting despair when we must consider the possibility that despite our patience, our struggle, and our suffering, we still cannot count on even the most forward-thinking of our leaders to stand up on our behalf, to cry injustice, to protect us from the hate-mongers as part of their larger campaigns to fight injustice.

We want Obama to be our King, our Kennedy, our Gandhi,.. our hero perhaps. We want him to fight for us, to recognize our rights, to include us finally in the panoply of humanity. Do we want too much?

After all, Gandhi was not the hero we thought he was when it came to women. He fought for the rights of men, not of humans. He treated his male servants better than he treated his wife and other women in his household. He argued in his autobiography that Hindu women were  made for serving men, that they had no objections to devoting their lives to the desires and care of men. He did not include women in his arguments for the rights of workers. His work against injustice did not include the injustices suffered by women.

Such revelations disappoint us when we discover them because great people like Gandhi, like King, like Obama perhaps, represent to us the existence, how ever rare, of leaders who can see beyond their times, men or women who are always somehow on the right side of history, who manage to choose always what is right over what is popular or expedient.

When Loving vs. Virginia was decided by the Supreme Court in 1967, 70% of the population of the United States were opposed to the legalization of interracial marriage (20% still do) but legalizing it was the right thing to do. In 1863, when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation the vast majority of the US population was opposed to freeing the slaves but it was the right thing to do.  In the 19th century when numerous women were granted the right to own property for the first time, it was done by judges in courts all over the country while the majority of US voters (suffrage was limited to men) were opposed to an expansion of rights for women. It was not popular but it was the right thing to do.

It is just a matter of time before gay Americans are granted all the same rights of citizenship that non-gay Americans currently enjoy. Heterosexuals engage in sex acts and romantic alliances that are currently more popular than queer relationships  but that doesn't make them more right. 

Homophobia is not right and history will redeem us.  But in the mean time, it is disappointing in the extreme that the man we elected to be our president does not yet recognize our rights. It is unfortunate  to discover that he fights bigotry in all its other forms but supports bigotry when it is aimed at gays and lesbians.

Gay and Lesbian Americans do not simply have a different view than homophobes. We do not, as Obama, has recommended, need to "agree to disagree" with anti-gay activists like Warren. Gay people and anti-gay people do not have a difference of opinion. They have a difference of power. The oppressed never just disagree with their oppressors. They are victimized by their oppressor's views.  And we know that Frederick Douglas was right when he proclaimed so many years ago that, "power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will." We are demanding an end to heterosexist oppression.

Those who claim to fight for justice cannot draw the line at gay rights, claiming to support the rights of workers, poor people, women, people of color, the disabled,  old people, and immigrants, but still refusing to fight for the rights of queers. As King put it, "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Mr Obama, as MY president, I hope you realize this sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Unanswered Questions: Terrorists, Bush, War, Workers, Blagojevich, Corruption, ...

1. Why is outgoing "lame duck" president Bush so busy? And why does he want to be in charge of the automakers' bailout so much?

2. Whose idea was it to send 200,000 security contractors to Iraq and who (besides Cheney) is profiting from this policy?

3. Are any of the suspicious things that Bush did during his eight years in office going to be investigated by the next administration? Will he be found to have committed a crime of any kind?

4. Is Obama just a very clever strategist or do his cabinet picks indicate he is less progressive than progressives thought he was?

5. Why do we still not know for sure what caused the 3 world trade buildings to collapse inwardly on September 11th ? i.e why hasn't the government been able to explain away claims by architects and engineers that the melting point of steel is 1500 degrees Celsius  and the maximum heat generated by a jet fuel in air is 1000 degrees C?

6. Why did five Al-Qaeda terror suspects held at Guantanamo decide to plead guilty to the Sept. 11th bombings on November 4th, the day Obama won the election?

7.  When is the Patriot Act going to be repealed and our civil liberties restored?

8. Why is my home state of Illinois the corruption capitol of the country? Gansterism is so old school, people!

9. Are there lots of workers (besides those workers striking for "Republic windows and Doors" in Chicago) in the country who have been fired and denied their federal law-guaranteed severance pay? 

10. If not paying your workers what you contracted to do and what the law says you must is a violation of federal law, can corporate execs who close their doors and fire all their workers without notice go to jail for that? Will they? Should they?

11.  Did the feds who wiretapped Illinois governor Blagojevich do so with a warrant or was this a patriot act-permitted tapping?

12. If 12 of his buddies had already been indicted why didn't Blagojevich think they were coming for  him?

13. Will Congress use the Congressional Review Act to reverse all thee last minute regulations being implemented by lame duck Bush (regarding among other things: the reductions of medicare reimbursements, regulations allowing doctors to refuse birth control to their patients,  environmental deregulations, and policies designed to reduce the protections for endangered species)?

If you have any answers, please comment below!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stop the Genocide in Darfur!

Darfur, Sudan
Kurds in Iraq
Nazi Germany

What do all these places have in common?

1. Genocide occurred in each of them.
2. In each case America had the means and the knowledge to be able to stop it.
3. In each case, we failed to act and let people die, sometimes even collaborating with the perpetrators.

Why aren't we stopping the genocide in Darfur? 
When will we learn from our past mistakes?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Real Deal in Iraq: Blackwater Contractors

So have you heard the news? 200,000 security contractors employed in Iraq by private corporations? More corporate contractors than US troops? Paid, armed, but not directly answerable to United States military or Iraq? 

American taxpayers are paying their salaries and they are making a whole lot more money than our soldiers.

Yes, really. 

American contractors like Blackwater and Haliburton (both under investigation for fraudulent and/or criminal behavior) have been making money hand over fist in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Corporations involved in this enterprise include the following: 
Aegis Defence Services- $292 million dollar contract
Blackwater USA- amount unkown, purported to earn largest profits
Erinys- $150 millions- their security guards make twice what American soldiers make
Halliburton- $12 billion in profits.

Are these contractors mercenaries? Are these companies just war profiteers exploiting the war for their own gain?

The American people need to know.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Obama's Cabinet: Walking the Talk?

Although I still have my reservations about some of Obama's picks- like that sexist Summers- and  Holder, I am now fairly impressed with Obama's commitment to diversity in his choices for his cabinet. 

Three women (Napolitano, Rice, Clinton), two African Americans (Rice, Holder), one Hispanic (Richardson). and two white men (Geithner, Gates). He also picked one Republican (I could have done without THAT much diversity but he is walking his talk). We are on the move.

And like Lincoln, he really is picking a team of rivals, including former opponents Clinton, Biden, and Richardson. Also his pick of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano might be good for immigration reform given the way Republicans have trashed her for being in support of amnesty. Nobody talked about immigration during the election. When are we going to stop calling human beings illegal? 

Once he appoints a Native American, a openly gay person, and a left progressive (like Kucinich) I will be happy.... but maybe I want too much?