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.
My mother was fond of saying "if you want someone to hear you, you must first listen to them"—know them, understand the questions they are asking, and be sensitive to their concerns. If you do this, she would say, "you will be able to speak with people and not at them".
What happens when you don't follow this simple rule of communication was on display during the "In Defense of Christians" conference that was held in Washington from September 9th to the 11th.
If you're reading this, then you weren't for the War in Iraq. You protested, probably got arrested, sat in that filthy jail for four days while the cops mocked your beliefs, made lewd comments about your wife, called you a hippie because that's all they got in well-developed intellect of American authoritah. It is the sign of a sick country when the people worship authority. Cops are heroes. All soldiers are great. Even corporate CEOs are seen as having some kind of tribal wisdom. The optionless crucifixion is the real American religion. Every day we climb up on the cross of capitalism and say there ain't nuthin we can do. Eli eli lama sabacthani with two cheeseburgers and a coke. Chevy Truck staring at god. I'll get there someday cuz the lord jesus christ is my savior. I can do anything because I an American and we is saved. Do you accept? And meanwhile you're sitting on the goddamn train, or bus, or some increasingly disappearing public place where they have the temerity to come up to you and preach the word. The subtext of it all is that they are the real Americans. They are the ones who hold this country together despite Obamacare. They are the ones who work despite the lazy blacks, illegals and spoiled kids like you who never worked for nothing, but just bitch all the time. And you sit quiet, digging the Buddhism you been reading about, saying to yourself like a mantra that it's still America, land of a revolution where people like you fought and died for the human ideals that you are watching slip away.
How foolish Americans are, or rather, until a few years ago, we Americans. This writer himself got caught up in the greatest of all confidence games: The Two Party Monte! Using an embedded media, the ‘Two Party, One Party ‘political system (created by our Military Industrial Empire) keeps chugging along. Whether it is a Reagan or Clinton, a Bush or a Kerry, a Romney or an Obama, it matters not to the puppeteers who run things. They choose who the so called ‘field of candidates ‘ will be, and then most of the time let the suckers (we voters) make the final decision from Column A or Column B. Of course, sometimes, when the empire’s agenda is too urgent, they go ahead and fix the game a bit. Case in point the elections of 2000 and 2004. The movers and shakers decided that they needed a malleable dope in the White House sign off on what then followed: The illegal and immoral invasions and occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan. As if right out of a scene from Scorsese’s Casino, when the five Mafia leaders were discussing their puppet union leader Andy Stone’s future. Four of the dons stated how Andy was a good guy and could be trusted to not ‘flip ‘and turn against them with the Feds. They then all looked to the head of the commission, the fifth don, and he quietly offered: “Why take a chance? “ Soon after Andy Stone was murdered.
Part I - The Importance of International Law
International law is vital to the welfare of every man, woman and child on this planet, although the vast majority of them do not know this is so. The vital aspect lies in the fact that the universally applicable nature of human rights - which prohibit such actions as the use of torture, arbitrary arrest and detention while supporting freedom of movement, conscience, cultural rights and the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, among other things - has its primary foundation in international law. Examples of this can be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the various Geneva Conventions.
To understand just how important international law is to the universal application of human rights, one has to consider just how inadequate to this end are national and local laws. This inadequacy should come as no surprise. For hundreds of years now, the dominant form of political organization has been the nation-state. The most common sort of law is that specific to the state, and in the vast majority of cases, protection of rights under such law is reserved for the citizen. In other words, if you are not a citizen of a particular state, you cannot assume you have any rights or protections within that state’s borders. Worse yet, if you happen to be stateless (and the number of such people is rapidly increasing), you are without local legal rights just about everywhere.
"I guess I was hoping you might have something to tell me. I mean, I have a two-year old."
"Holy shit," I am thinking as I look at my young student, twisting her foot back and forth as she demands from me what they all demand from me--hope. In the past, I could spit something out like, "well, you are the light of the future," or "you are the new hope for the future" or "you get to create the new paradigm" (congratulations!!) or even more lame, "you always have the option to go to your local legislators" (please) but this time, nothing comes out of my mouth. Anyone that knows me knows I have no shortage of ideas and opinions but the words won't form in my mouth to comfort this beautiful new mother, my student. All I can get out is "well, uhm," as she sees her husband who has arrived to pick her up, the new baby in the backseat. She waves goodbye while I stand in place, mumbling like an idiot.
To the extent that the US public is newly, and probably momentarily, accepting of war -- an extent that is wildly exaggerated, but still real -- it is because of videos of beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
When 9-11 victims were used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9-11, some of the victims' relatives pushed back.
Now James Foley is pushing back from the grave.
The fossil/nuclear corporations have been given human rights but no human responsibilities. They’re about to gut our most crucial means of communication.
The workers should own the means of production and enjoy the fruits of the surplus value they create. This has been and continues to be one of the most radical economic demands reverberating from the working and middle classes since the 19th century. Its rationale is simple; a political democracy without democracy in the workplace is a half-formed social entity, one where half of life is lived for the enrichment of others without representation or proper remuneration. The working classes during the 19th century and into the first half of the 20th century saw any selling of labor as wage slavery. Even the pre-Civil War era Republican Party compared earning a wage to slavery, only being different in that one was temporary.
Beginning in the 20th century and continuing into the 21st century is an idea of democratizing capital within certain parameters of the present political economy, whereby workers could and should become owners of the businesses they work at. The model I am focusing on is known as the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and is one more tool the working class can utilize to reorganize firms' ownership structures along more democratic lines. It is a way to smash illegitimate authority and ravage the centralization of economic power, while acting as a fundamental break on autocratic decision-making, restoring power to the predominantly working-class majority and communities. It could also be accomplished by ethical human beings who own companies and no longer wish to espouse the crude arguments of eternal ownership, economic dictatorship and chasing ever cheaper labor.
On the eve of 9/11 2014, President Obama admitted, "Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat," adding:
We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That's why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge....
Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.