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 begin this reflection with a personal note. When the Euromaidan protest movement erupted in central and western Ukraine in December of 2013, I had a discussion with a Canadian political scientist about the opposing, "Anti-Maidan" movement. He made condescending remarks about the people who came to Anti-Maidan in Kiev from the regions of eastern and southern Ukraine - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizzhia, Kherson, Odessa. He followed a popular narrative of the pro-Western, "democratic" Ukrainian media - these people were brought to Kiev by the Party of Regions in an old Soviet style: "Get on the train to Kiev or you will lose your jobs."
Somehow, these people were a priori deprived of even a chance of having their own opinion, their own agency. What are you talking about? These people, according to many Ukrainian media, are Downbass (a play on words, referring to Down's syndrome), kolorady ("beetles" or "roaches," referring to the black-orange colors of the Georgian ribbon, symbol of Soviet victory in WW2, which are similar to the colors of the Colorado potato beetle, a widespread insect pest in Ukraine), slow-witted Sovky (from the word "Soviet" - a sarcastic, pejorative name people for those who are nostalgic for Soviet times), slaves who will obey whatever their Party bosses tell them to do.
As an American writer, I often examine the story of our nation for emergent archetypes of US identity. Several are terribly embarrassing for a citizen of conscience: the Couch Potatoes of Consumer-Capitalist Society, the American Gladiator of War-Rage and Bigotry, the Avaricious and Appalling Wall St. Tycoon.
Yet, one plucky character threads its way stolidly through the story of the US, challenging the apathy and atrocities of other archetypes, marginalized in the media, misrepresented in history, proposing itself as an audacious, eternal figure in the identity of this nation: the Activist, linking arms with fellow citizens and striving for change. Flawed and heroic, with blind spots the size of Texas, with imperfect vision yet awe-inspiring determination, this character has appeared in many millions of Americans of all races, genders, sexualities, classes, faiths, creeds, and ages.
On the evening of Saturday, February 21, a group of activists and allies took to the subway in Chicago to make some noise about this week’s election and the much discussed reparations ordinance. The ordinance, which would provide care and compensation to individuals tortured by Chicago police under Jon Burge, will not be on the ballot, but the man who has prevented it from getting a hearing before the City Council will be: Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The majority of the City Council supports the ordinance, but in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago, such details aren’t really relevant. Emanuel has never seen police torture victims, or other victims of police violence, as a political priority. Given this mayor’s overall treatment of communities of color – shuttering dozens of schools and clinics in black communities – his failure to prioritize the safety and dignity of those most affected by police violence is unsurprising.
The Federal Aviation Administration, bowing to persistent corporate and congressional drone caucus pressure, has [ issued further regulations on February 15 facilitating the commercial and governmental flight of small (under 55 lbs.) domestic drones. The FAA, charged with keeping our airways safe, is opening wider the door to the multi-billion domestic drone industry...impairing both our safety and our civil liberties.
The drone industry is drooling. Like their military counterparts, commercial drones are being rushed off assembly lines with insufficient quality control. With drones crowding the air, crashes and collisions - accidental and otherwise - can and will happen. And not only on the White House lawn.
It's hard to imagine celebrating nuclear war planning, but that's what was on the agenda at Hill Air Force Base, near Ogden, Utah last Thursday, Feb. 12.
At an official awards ceremony, there were prizes for "top performers" at the base including Team of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and Key Spouse of the Year. Base commander, Col. Ron Jolly, said, "The Airmen here see the big picture and know that it is ... about providing support to Team Hill."
The religo-fascist Islamic State's penchant for beheading opponents and innocents, and its intentional burning to death of a Jordanian pilot captured after his jet was downed is, of course, horrific, as is its slaughter of prisoners, the torture and murder of fellow Muslims and others, and its abduction and violation of women. Most recently, IS released a video showing the beheadings by its militants of 21 Egyptian Christian immigrant workers in Libia.
"Over the past several months," according to Stratfor Feb. 12, "the Islamic State has released videos documenting the executions of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi prisoners of war. In one of the videos, the group forced prisoners to dig their own graves and to kneel on the edge before shooting them.
Like so many bloated Hollywood movies nowadays, America's wars may bomb, but they always produce their own sequels.
Look at the latest news from Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars have persisted for more than a decade, with several re-releases to include "surges" and repeats. The latest from Iraq is preparations to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS, which promises a repeat of the level of destruction visited upon Fallujah in 2004. In this there are echoes of Vietnam: in Mosul, we may have to destroy the city to save it.
The murder of three American Muslims at a University of North Carolina condominium on Tuesday, 10 February, was no ordinary murder, nor is the criminal who killed them an ordinary thug. The context of the killings, the murder itself and the media and official responses to the horrific event is a testimony to everything that went wrong since the United States unleashed it’s long-drawn-out “war on terror”, with its undeclared, but sometimes declared enemy, namely Islam and Muslims.
Horrific as it was, the killing of a husband and wife, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, by homegrown terrorist, Craig Stephen Hicks, is the kind of violence that can only fit into a greater media and official narrative, which designates millions of innocent Muslims, in the US or across the world as enemies or potential terrorists.
February 18, 2015, Washington D.C. - Today, the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR) vacated former Guantánamo prisoner David Hicks’s conviction in the military commissions for providing material support for terrorism. Hicks was the first prisoner to be convicted in a Guantánamo military commission and a party to CCR’s historic Supreme Court victory in Rasul v. Bush, which established that Guantánamo prisoners have a right to access U.S. courts to challenge their detention. Today’s ruling comes in the wake of an en banc decision by the D.C. Circuit, Al Bahlul v. United States, which held that material support for terrorism is not an offense triable by military commission.
“We are very happy for David. Today’s decision is a powerful reminder that he committed no crime, he is innocent of any offense,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Wells Dixon. “David Hicks can now be truly free of Guantánamo.”
It seems that the news is always full of, well, bad news, such as the long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The seemingly intractable war between these two groups has gone on for decades. Too often, all we see in the news are stories of new rocket attacks, new bombings, new assassinations, and implacable hatred.
But that is not the whole truth. In her book, From Enemy To Friend, Rabbi Amy Eilberg reports the existence of a different reality. She informs us of “The Bereaved Parents Circle,” which is an organization that brings together families from both sides who have had loved ones killed by the other side. She attended one of their meetings. Two men spoke: Rami (an Israeli) whose 14 year old daughter was killed in a terrorist attack while buying school supplies and Mazen (a Palestinian) whose unarmed father was riddled with bullets by Israeli soldiers for no reason. Each told his story.