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 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.

The people fighting back in Ferguson are heroes, who deserve our respect, gratitude, prayers, and acts of solidarity. The people of Ferguson who are fighting back, in many different ways, have forced the country to look into the face of the enduring reality of the Black holocaust that began with the first Africans kidnapped and sold into the slave system. 

The choice everyone must make is whether or not we will be Hitler's "Good Germans" who tacitly gave their support to the Nazis and decried the animalistic Jews who fought back in Warsaw? Will we be the Slave Society's "Good Americans" who may have quietly and privately thought slavery was immoral but spit venom decrying the "irrational" and "counter-productive actions" of Nat Turner and slave uprisings from the 1600s-1800s? Will we be the well-intentioned, and often unintentional, defenders of violence who decry those who fight back when they are being assaulted? 

The nine-year-old CAFTA trade deal caused thousands of desperate children to flock to the US border seeking safety, Teamsters legislative representative Mike Dolan explained recently on the Thom Hartmann Show.

He calls them the 'CAFTA Kids.'

We have cultural narratives for the major moments in our lives: the first day of school, graduation, marriage, even pregnancy. These are the shared pictures of how things are supposed to be. More often than not these stories are based not only on huge assumptions about race, class and ability, but they are also out of touch with the messy reality of our everyday lives. That is incredibly true when it comes to the assumptions people make about pregnancy.

There she stands, a straight woman in a bathroom looking at the positive sign on the pregnancy test. She is smiling because she wanted to be pregnant and it happened right away. She debates whether to post it on Facebook. Her pregnancy rolls along and we see her in the doctor's office getting a sonogram. Everything looks great and her man holds her hand as they picture their future as parents. She is glowing in her hip maternity clothes, and aside from a little nausea and those darn cravings for pickles and ice cream, all goes well. Labor is a sweaty endeavor with a lot of screaming, but she has an uncomplicated birth and everything goes according to her birth plan. She heads home with her husband. She loses the baby weight in weeks. She may stay home, or maybe she is another plucky career lady balancing work and family. Of course, it goes without saying that she planned the pregnancy, has the support she needs, and is ready to be a parent. She has the prenatal and maternity care to manage her health and the means to take care of a child. They all live happily ever after.

Aug 14

Sixty-Seven Years of Pakistan

By Zulfiqar Shah, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Pakistan is now sixty-seven. Its history until now has been a history of the state versus its citizenry, particularly citizenry of non-Punjabi and non-Urdu origin. If a people's history of Pakistan is documented, it would become the voluminous account on the state crimes.

Pakistan was carved out of undivided India against the will of the Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun, Sikh and Punjabi Hindu majorities of their motherlands. The elections of 1946 were a kind of virtual referendum on the partition, in which the anti-partition Unionist Party won in Punjab; Congress won in NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa); the All India Muslim League (AIML) lost in Sindh, giving lead to Indian National Congress (INC) and Sindhi nationalist forces. Balochistan was autonomous with a bicameral parliament. Balochistan was occupied by Pakistani forces in 1948 as it was not part of Pakistan according to the British partition plan. East Bengal was the only state of India where AIML won; however they bid farewell to Pakistan amid heinous state crimes against humanity there in 1971. It is, thus, an untold truth that the idea of Pakistan was rejected by theSindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa provinces. Balochistan was not part of Pakistan in 1947 and Sindh rejected AIML in the 1946 elections, i.e. both aspired to reclaim the status of sovereign countries, which they lost after Britain's 1843 invasion. Sindh and Balochistan historically have remained sisterly sovereign countries. Together, they were a kingdom for centuries also. Sindhi, historically, form a significant population of Balochistan and claim Baloch identity. Simultaneously, Baloch are a significant population of Sindh and claim Sindhi identity.

During the Vietnam War, my mother, an otherwise sweet and compassionate person, said “they” (Vietnamese) don’t value human life like we do, suggesting that I be more comfortable killing them.  I never was comfortable with the idea of killing them, and so I didn’t. 

However, I still hear some people say that an “enemy” doesn’t value human life like we do.  Over the years, the enemy changes, but the refrain is the same: some people on "our" side believe that enemies think life is cheap and therefore expendable, to be easily sacrificed.  These same people in our society believe that we, and probably our allies, think life is sacred, and only sacrificed in freely chosen heroic acts. 

A US District Court judge today ordered that independent doctors be allowed into Guantanamo Bay to evaluate a long-time hunger striker whose health has deteriorated so much that there are now concerns for his life.

In today’s hearing for Syrian Abu Wa'el Dhiab - cleared for release from the prison since 2009 and on continued hunger strike over his ongoing detention without charge or trial - Judge Gladys Kessler ordered that two independent doctors be allowed into the prison to evaluate him. Those doctors will also testify, along with a force-feeding expert, at a hearing scheduled for October 6, about the medical effects of the force-feedings on Mr. Dhiab.