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 lost a long-time friend and mentor, John Judge, on April 15 of this year. The memorial held in his honor is worth watching in full if you were not among the 100 or so activists, artists, scholars, and dear friends (John has no living relatives) who attended. On the day I write this, December 14, he would have turned 67.
Every year on his birthday he invited all of his friends to dinner at one of his favorite Washington, D.C. restaurants. For several years that restaurant was Buca di Beppo, and I will never forget how he would end the night with a 'Hinckley Hilton tour' a few blocks away at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Connecticut Avenue NW explaining what really happened in 1981, when then-President Ronald Reagan was shot. Despite the frigid temperatures of mid-December, John would speak for more than an hour without pause, and his spellbound friends and supporters would listen without complaint or interruption. His most notable assertion was that John Hinckley Jr., despite popular wisdom, did not shoot the president and was actually set up to take the fall by then Vice President George H.W. Bush and his advisers, who were not happy with Reagan's decisions in office.
Hundreds of delegates from all corners of the globe descended upon Lima to be heard at a summit willing to listen to their struggles, hardships and success stories in confronting climate change in their respective regions. Activists and Environmentalists from the far reaches of the diverse Peruvian topography came to share their experiences in resisting transnational corporations and defending their Pachamama, or mother earth, sometimes resulting in the deaths of their compañeros. Organized panels and workshops were held throughout the week of December 8th on tracks with titles such as the Crisis of Civilization, Social Change and Alternative models of Social life to ones on Agriculture and Nutritional Sovereignty.
On the evening of December 24th a century ago, peace broke out in the most unlikely of places. In the blasted, putrid trenches of Belgium and France, soldiers fighting on the Western Front put aside their arms in what became known as the Christmas Truce. Although World War I was then only a few months old, there had already been a million combat deaths. Many soldiers were weary of the futility and horrific costs of the war, and thousands of them spontaneously stopped trying to kill each other.
The drama began on Christmas Eve, as German soldiers lit up their Tannenbaums (Christmas trees), put them on top of their trenches in view of the Allied troops, and began to sing carols. From there, full scale fraternization became widespread. Troops put down their weapons, climbed out of the trenches and met in no-mans-land to pray and sing and exchange greetings and gifts. The cease fire continued into Christmas Day during which the dead were buried, toasts were exchanged and soccer games played.
We are living and breathing history every day. Every demonstration, every march, every person that walks out into the cold winter to demand justice is in lockstep with those who have come before us. As such we continue to move forward because, quite simply, we have yet to see this ever-elusive "justice." In fact, history should remind people why we've engaged in a sustained movement: our collective outrage for the lives taken from us. Calls for us to hang our heads or go away are a slap in the face to the legacy of those, like Martin Luther King Jr., who were often criticized and jailed for what many decried as illegitimate agitation. We will not go away. We are committed to changing our collective destinies.
While we are often simply described as "protesters:;, we are in fact mothers, fathers, workers, sons, daughters. The families of victims of violence, both by police and others, have always been close to our heart. That's why we march, why we organize. We want justice first and foremost, not a continued cycle of blood. Mayor de Blasio and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who both support the racist Broken Windows theory of policing, purposely fail to understand that as they call for a suspension of protests - which are within our rights. Outrage does not go on suspension as long as those who've murdered us walk free.
The World Bank’s landmark annual publication, Doing Business, ranks countries around the world based on how well their regulatory systems serve narrow corporate interests. Typically this creates a global competition to lower public interest regulations, diminish environmental and social safeguards, and reduce corporate tax responsibilities.
There has been considerable pushback on this ranking system from civil society groups around the world. One of the critics, the Oakland Institute, invited me to provide an alternative business perspective on the Doing Business report at an event last October at the World Bank.
Wednesday was a day of great emotion for all Cuba and supporters worldwide of the Cuban Five, to see Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio step down from the plane, to be received by President Raúl Castro and their loving families and the Cuban people in celebration.
The day that we all waited for came as a wonderful surprise for its suddenness but in reality, the sense of freedom was in the air, as the movement for the Five's freedom was growing greatly in depth and size.
It isn’t until Episode 7 of the certified podcast sensation Serial, that listeners learn about the show’s silent partner. Quietly, and with little fuss, the University of Virginia Innocence Project has been looking again at the case of Adnan Syed since March 2014.
Serial’s presenter Sarah Koenig has taken listeners on a journey as she explores whether Adnan could have been wrongly convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Adnan and Hae were both 17-year-old high school students in Baltimore County when she was strangled on January, 13, 1999. Adnan was sentenced to 30 years in prison, largely due to the evidence of his friend Jay. Adnan has always denied his involvement in Hae’s murder.
It is December 19, 2014. It is as terrible a year as I have ever known. I wish only for the year to end as soon as possible. Right now, I’m sitting at the coffee shop of the town of Konstantinovka, Donetsk region. Outside the window, there are people in camouflage uniform with guns. I do not know for whom they fight, but they are so young that I would like to give them cocoa with milk and cookies. Maybe I will do that.
There are Christmas trees on sale in local markets. ATMs are still working, so people have come from the nearby villages early in the morning to get cash. And beautiful women lead their children by hand on the way to school. Time has sped up; shops are open from 6 am and I have a feeling that people are running fast to slip past the war…
After years of excoriating Congress for not legislating, Americans got a crash course Tuesday night about the mischief that can transpire when Congress actually fulfills its duties.
With both parties (for a change) committed to passing a spending bill by Thursday to avoid a government shutdown, the comprehensive legislation became a lobbyist's delight. These omnibus last-minute bills traditionally pass Congress with virtually no debate. And since Barack Obama would never veto legislation to fund the government over minor provisions, anything small snuck into the bill is as good as inscribed into law.
The culture of torture is The Voice, Dancing With The Stars, The PBS News Hour, Charlie Rose, Guggenheim, The NFL, NBA, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Fox, Hannity and Rick Steves. The culture of torture is the soundtrack of our lives, Spotify, YouTube, the apps that make us feel so free. We are not redeemed by the freedom of our expression. Turns out, the First Amendment is just a gateway drug to the high grade corporate dope.
The hallmark of our age is that we don't exist in the here and now. Everything we engage in - i.e. the media - is designed to distract us from it. Better put: to relieve us of its demands. The standard analysis of contemporary culture is centered on distraction. They, whoever "they" are, are always trying to distract us. They stick enough crap in front of us and we'll forget about everything. This doesn't fly. (Just because a girl walks by in a bikini doesn't mean that I'm going to wreck my car into the telephone pole.) The better analysis is that we have constructed a culture for the sole purpose of getting us off the hook. All the art, books, films, technology, grand expressions of our complicated souls are constructed to vindicate our passivity, make us feel like doing nothing is doing something. In a contemporary capitalist society, it's not religion that's the opium of the people, it's culture.