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.

Two hunger-striking Guantánamo Bay detainees have asked a US court to count them as ‘persons’ with religious free exercise rights, in the wake of a new Supreme Court decision extending those rights to US craft store chain Hobby Lobby.

The prisoners – Emad Hassan of Yemen and Ahmed Rabbani of Pakistan, both detained at the prison without charge or trial since 2002 – have this week asked the DC District Court to intervene after the prison's military authorities prevented them from praying communally during Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims.

Have you tracked the stunningly widespread shout-outs to "populism" — buoyed by libertarians, Tea Partiers, gun owners as well as progressive, socio-economic reformers? Beware any century-old, catch-all by which opportunists bludgeon some "elite," willy-nilly, that ends up stripping  "populism" of meaning except as a coded call to arms. And though fat cats get predictably bashed, how many self-declared populists deliver systemic proposals that threaten the powers-that-be? Not many. For years calling someone a "populist" was a swipe, and the left cringes when "populist" right-wingers especially militant Confederate-types, sound off — or when the GOP's latest "true American," Dave Brat, conquers the Cantor loaded with populist pablum.

Surprisingly, reviving the populist vision also surfaces for Democrats dreaming up their next ideal presidential nominee (a stretch for 'Wall Street' Hillary). Palin's demagoguery boasts a populist pulpit, though like everything else about her it's faked. More substantively, Jim Hightower the "Texas populist" walks the walk by nailing the opposition as "bosses, bankers, big shots, bastards and bullshitters," smug top dogs treating ordinary people as "nothing but fire hydrants." Occupy failed to develop follow-through but never veered from its steady taunt-the-rich, anti-elitism. Today, the most cogent "populist" scrutiny comes from the focused Warren-Sanders brigade, naming names and specifying strong penalties against renegade banksters.  

Jul 03

Creating Out of Crisis

By James Anderson, GA United | Op-Ed

My older sister, a friend of the family and I were driving on a bridge over Lake Ray Hubbard in Dallas, Texas, when the car tire popped.

Despite the jolt, my sister managed to get over to the shoulder of the road. However, the narrow shoulder was only wide enough for the car – not enough space for someone to change a tire.

Chris Crass is a longtime organizer, educator, and writer working to build powerful working class-based, feminist, multiracial movements for collective liberation.  He gives talks and leads workshops on campuses and with communities and congregations around the U.S. and Canada, to help support grassroots activists efforts. He balances family with his public political work and believes they are deeply interconnected, as both are about working to bring our vision and values into the world.

Throughout the 1990s he was an organizer with Food Not Bombs, an economic justice anti-poverty group and network; with them he helped build up the direct action-based anti-capitalist Left internationally.  Building on the successes and challenges of the mass direct action convergences of the global justice movement, most notably in Seattle against the WTO in 1999, he helped launch the Catalyst Project with the support of movement elders and mentors Sharon Martinas, Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martinez, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.  Catalyst Project combines political education and organizing to develop and support anti-racist politics, leadership, and organizing in white communities and builds dynamic multiracial alliances locally and nationally.

Jul 03

Flag Held Hostage… Circa 2003

By Philip A Farruggio, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

After viewing President Bush's recent speech to the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute, one realizes that life can imitate film. In Barry Levinson's 1997 satire, Wag the Dog, we laugh at how the 'powers that be' can manufacture a crisis to mask domestic problems, carrying a nation right into a war. In Norman Jewson's chilling 1975 film, Rollerball, we view a corporate-controlled state destroying the individual, and what once was history, to suit their agenda. Finally, in Harold Becker's 1996 film City Hall, the mayor of NYC, played by Al Pacino, gives the most rousing speech this writer has ever heard. Pacino's Mayor Pappas, attending the church service for a young black boy killed innocently during a 'cop and robbers' shootout, bellows to the congregation: "This city should be a palace where a society melds together in safety and harmony."

The Bush gang succeeded in stripping me of My Flag, or, at the very least, forced me into hiding it. I no longer display it in my windows, my lawn, my car, or on my lapel. Through the 'go along- get along' corporate-controlled media, they have made it 'their flag,' representing a different America than the one I have come to love and cherish. To paraphrase Mayor Pappas, they have taken over our palace. Recently, that wonderful 'no spin' Bill O'Reilly stated categorically on his show that once this war begins, he would not tolerate any dissent. We either 'go along' or become traitors. That is the mindset of the new Orwellian America we now live in.

Over sixty five million people in the US, perhaps a fifth of our sisters and brothers, are not enjoying the “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” promised when the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776.   They are about twenty percent of our US population.  This July 4 can be an opportunity to remember them and rededicate ourselves and our country to making these promises real for all people in the US.

More than two million people are in our jails and prisons making the US the world leader in incarceration, according to the Sentencing Project, a 500% increase in the last 30 years.

June 30, 2014, Richmond, VA – Today, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that victims of torture and abuse in Abu Ghraib prison could pursue legal claims for their abuse against private military contractors. The appeals court ruling overturned a lower court decision that had barred the survivors from suing U.S. corporations involved in the torture in U.S. courts.  U.S. military investigators had determined in 2004 that private U.S.-based contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) had participated in torture and other “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of detainees at Abu Ghraib, yet a district judge ruled that the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Shell/Royal Dutch Petroleum foreclosed claims arising out of Iraq. Today’s decision, by contrast, recognized that CACI could be held liable in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) for its role in the torture. The case, Al Shimari v. CACI International Inc., was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of four Iraqi men who were tortured at Abu Ghraib.

Jesuit missionaries in Peru constructed El Templo de San Pedro Apóstol church in the mid-1500s. They erected their Catholic temple atop Huari religious grounds called a huaca. The Huari were a pre-Inca civilization that once inhabited the area, which today still retains its Huari/Quechua name: Quispicanchi. The construction of the "temple" served to promote Christianity, and also to convert Quispicanchi denizens; construction ended in 1606. Today, however, San Pedro enjoys international acclaim as the "Sistine Chapel of the Americas." Luis de Riaño, a counter-mannerist student of the Roman painter Angelino Medoro, decorated the majority of the temple's interior. The beautiful mural paintings that span the interior walls are what earned it the "Sistine Chapel" nickname. By using pre-Conquest construction methods, which combine cane, straw and mud (rather than wood), the sanctuary was capped with a tall, polychrome ceiling. Some artists note that the ceiling takes after the Mudéjar, or Moorish style architecture. Located in the town of Andahuaylillas at just over two miles in altitude, the Andean building itself sits amid hundreds of acres of agricultural production and attracts tourism from all over the world. It mainly functions for religious reasons nowadays, but its revenue funds many social and economic development programs throughout Quispicanchi.

Jun 30

Dreaming Life?

By Phillip Farruggio, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

In Adrian Lyne's 1990 film Jacob's Ladder, what appears to be one man's reality is nothing more than a dream – horrible, twisted and strange. Can this be what is going on with all of us? The great Hindu sage Yogananda taught the eastern precept that this thing we call reality is nothing but a great dramatic dream that the higher part of our consciousness is having. We all are the writers, actors and directors of it. My friend Jay tells me that this is nonsense. He, being a man of utter truth and fact, feels that for the entire population of this planet to be having the same dream of reality must mean that this all is real. Who then is correct?

On June 20, the 221st Presbyterian Church General Assembly voted to divest $21 million USD from three companies complicit in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine — Motorola Solutions, HP and Caterpillar. Exactly one month before this historic vote, at a protest for political prisoner rights and commemorating the Nakba outside of Ofer Military Prison near Ramallah, two Palestinian children were shot dead by the Israeli military. 

When friends and family of one of the children killed heard about the Presbyterian Church USA vote to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation, they decided to show their plea for support for this overture by making a visual statement. And who best to make this statement than the next generation, whose future is severed by a segregation wall, detention of peaceful protestors, and wrongful killing and torture, never mind lack of access to freedom of travel, all of which are supported by the very same American companies - Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and HP - which the Church is invested in?