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.

I'll never forget the national outpouring of grief that erupted out of America after the Sandy Hook shooting. There was something so unsettling about it to me. Something so profoundly disturbing that it actually frightened me more than the actual shooting itself.

The thought has haunted me up till now. Why couldn't I just chorus my shock with the collective agony over the sadistic slaughter of such fragile innocence? Why couldn't I just join the searing contempt for the maniacal murderer who showed such callous disregard for the loved ones of those he killed? I was alarmed, sure. I mean Jesus, what kind of sick country supplies weapons used in the wanton bloodshed of children? Adam Lanza obtained his weapons that easily?

Sam Cooke, the famous American soul singer, sang a rendition of A Change Gunna Come that reflected much of the uncertainty and optimism of the US Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

It's been too hard living / but I'm afraid to die

Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky

It's been a long, a long time coming

But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Why is it that the same conservatives who so desperately want “big government” out of our lives are at the same time so darn eager to have officials involved in our urination? Despite major studies showing that suspicion-less drug testing is not an effective means of identifying or deterring drug use, state and federal officials continue to promote it.  That is true of both school-based drug testing and random workplace testing.

In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott (a Republican) attempted to require anyone seeking benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to submit a urine sample. No suspicion was required, nor was any previous arrest or conviction for a drug-related offense required. Being poor was the only suspicion needed.  Federal courts declared the program unconstitutional, although Scott spent nearly $400,000 fighting the court’s decision. And Florida spent $118,140 reimbursing the 3,938 TANF applicants who tested negative for drugs. Only 2.6 percent of people who were tested during the four months that the Florida program was in operation had results positive for drugs—a rate far lower than drug use among the general public. In fact, more than three times lower than the 8.13 percent of Floridians over the age of 12 who are estimated by the federal government to use illegal drugs. Tennessee’s program saw only one person out of the 800 who applied for assistance test positive.

In 1968, the Mannington Mine in Farmington WV owned by Consol Coal, caught fire, blew up, and 78 miners were buried, many likely alive.

In 1972, a Consol mine in Blacksville, WV, caught fire and 9 miners were buried (again, likely alive) when Consol sealed the mine off to stop the fire and save the coal.

I remember those well, having been involved in labor struggles as a working Teamster truck-driver back then with friends in the coal fields.

Aug 18

Ukraine: The Collapse of the Liberal "Left"

By Svetlana Tsiberganova and Translated By Peter Mikhailenko, Liva | Op-Ed

Many are surprised at how quickly Ukrainian society has fallen under the rule of aggressive chauvinistic propaganda and begun to live according to the principles of Orwellian dystopia: "War – is peace! Freedom – is slavery! Democracy – is the limitation of all rights! Freedom of speech – is silence! The victims burned and killed themselves![1]"

But I've realized that that, for some time now, there is nothing surprising about this. If we analyze the recent history of the "left-wing movement" of Ukraine, it is clear that these cynical principles are the very essence of Ukrainian nationalism. They are shared even among those who would not be expected to succumb to the chauvinist hysteria. Why did the "left" liberals go to Maidan? Why did Ukrainian nationalists under the flags of the EU screaming "Pro-Russians to the knives! Death to the enemies!" become, for them, "the people", while the population of the South-East, singing "Arise, great country!"[2] became sovky[3], "cattle" and "Colorado beetles" [4]?

Aug 16

Parents Mourn a Soldier

By Emanuel E. Garcia, SpeakOut | Poem

April in Paris
Or autumn in Schenectady,
For falling stars and moonlight
It's the same old smooth routine

No matter how we kneel
Or even if we topple in,
No matter how we rue
Our squandering

I flew into St. Louis on Saturday, August 9, to celebrate the birthdays of my mother and nephew and immediately learned about Mike Brown, a soon-to-be college student who was fatally shot by Ferguson police. As my community and I struggle to make sense of this recent murder, I cannot help but think of the structures of racism and violence in America and how they perpetuate police brutality against Black Americans. Police brutality is a national crisis, but the underlying structural violence - racism, economic injustice and militarism – is a national epidemic.

Disproportionality in police use of force against Black Americans persists and cannot be tolerated. An April 2013 report prepared by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement found that killings of Black Americans by "law enforcement, security guards and stand-your-ground vigilantes" have increased from one every 36 hours, in the first half of 2012, to one every 28 hours by the end of that year. This appalling statistic is rooted in structural racism that systematically excludes persons of color from opportunities and perpetuates negative stereotypes.

Aug 15

New Orleans’ New Civil Rights Leaders

By Bill Quigley, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Like many cities in the South, New Orleans has a proud history of civil rights leadership—along with an equally grim history of civil rights violations. That history is repeating itself today. The African American community is again facing economic injustice and abuse from law enforcement. But, this time, the immigrant workers who rebuilt New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina are also the targets of brutal civil rights violations. And those same workers are showing extraordinary bravery in fighting to end them.

In November 2013, I was proud to stand alongside immigrant workers and community leaders engaging in peaceful civil disobedience in New Orleans to expose a brutal program of stop and frisk racial profiling-based immigration raids called CARI (Criminal Alien Removal Initiative) which targets Latinos.

1. It's not a rescue mission. The U.S. personnel could be evacuated without the 500-pound bombs. The persecuted minorities could be supplied, moved, or their enemy dissuaded, or all three, without the 500-pound bombs or the hundreds of "advisors" (trained and armed to kill, and never instructed in how to give advice -- Have you ever tried taking urgent advice from 430 people?). The boy who cried rescue mission should not be allowed to get away with it after the documented deception in Libya where a fictional threat to civilians was used to launch an all-out aggressive attack that has left that nation in ruins. Not to mention the false claims about Syrian chemical weapons and the false claim that missiles were the only option left for Syria -- the latter claims being exposed when the former weren't believed, the missiles didn't launch, and less violent but perfectly obvious alternative courses of action were recognized. If the U.S. government were driven by a desire to rescue the innocent, why would it be arming Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain? The U.S. government destroyed the nation of Iraq between 2003 and 2011, with results including the near elimination of various minority groups. If preventing genocide were a dominant U.S. interest, it could have halted its participation in and aggravation of that war at any time, a war in which 97% of the dead were on one side, just as in Gaza this month -- the distinction between war and genocide being one of perspective, not proportions. Or, of course, the U.S. could have left well alone. Ever since President Carter declared that the U.S. would kill for Iraqi oil, each of his successors has believed that course of action justified, and each has made matters significantly worse.

Aug 15

The Ideal American Society

By Roger Copple, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

In this essay the author discusses seven divergent political and religious groups. In the second essay the focus is on why and how we should revise Article V, the part of the U.S. Constitution that tells how the constitution can be amended. Then in a third and final essay, the author shares his vision of the ideal U.S. constitution, which shows how 26 changes can be implemented to create the ideal American society and world. The author's proposed constitution is called the Third Constitution of the United States, created after the Articles of Confederation and the current Constitution.

There are many dystopian naysayers in the world who have given up on delimiting or changing the powers-that-be who are leading the world to destruction. But if enough people start sharing and promoting a precisely defined vision, these ideals will become a reality and not a utopian dream. Some of these ideals are already valued by others. The following three essays are an expression of a sustainable worldview that can save the world.