Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Formal Summons to World States by Indigenous First Nations and Peoples

From Bolivia Rising:

From the heart of South America, on this 12th day of October, 2007, the delegates of the indigenous first nations and peoples of the world, meeting in the World Encounter “For the Historic Victory of the Indigenous Peoples of the World”, to celebrate the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, hereby declare:

That, after 515 years of oppression and domination, here we stand; they have been unable to eliminate us. We have confronted and resisted the policies of ethnocide, genocide, colonization, destruction and plunder. The imposition of such economic systems as capitalism, characterized by interventionism, wars and socio-environmental disasters, a system that continues to threaten our ways of life as peoples.
That a new era is beginning, promoted by the original indigenous peoples, and bringing again times of change, times of Pachakuti, in the times of the culmination of the Quinto Sol.
Accordingly, the Indigenous Peoples and Nations of the world demand that the States fulfill the following mandates:

1. To construct a world based on the Culture of Life, in the identity, philosophy, world view and age-old spirituality of the original indigenous peoples, applying the aboriginal knowledge and skills, strengthening the processes of interchange and brotherhood among the nations and respecting self-determination.

2. To make national and international decisions to save Mother Nature from the disasters that are being brought about by capitalism in its decline, as manifested in global warming and the ecological crisis; reaffirming that the original indigenous culture is the only alternative means of saving our planet earth.

3. To replace the present models of development based on capitalism, commodities, the irrational exploitation of humanity and natural resources, the squandering of energy, and consumerism, with models that establish life, complementarity, reciprocity, respect for cultural diversity and the sustainable use of natural resources as the principal priorities.

4. To implement national policies governing Food Sovereignty as a principal basis of National Sovereignty, in which the community guarantees respect for its own culture as appropriate spaces and modes of production, distribution and consumption consistent with the nature of healthy pollutant-free foods for the entire population, eliminating hunger, because food is a right to life.

5. To repudiate schemes and projects for the generation of energy such as biofuel, which destroy and deny food to the peoples. Likewise, we condemn the use of transgenic seeds because it replaces our ancient seeding process and makes us dependent on agro-industry.

6. To recognize and re-evaluate the role of the original indigenous woman as the vanguard of the emancipatory struggles of our peoples in accordance with the principles of duality, equality and equity of relationships between men and women.

7. To adopt the Culture of Peace and Life as a guide for resolving the world’s problems and conflicts, renouncing the arms race, and to initiate disarmament in order to guarantee the preservation of life on this planet.

8. To adopt the just legal transformations that are necessary for the construction of systems and means of communication and information based on our world view, spirituality and communal philosophy, in the wisdom of our ancestors. To guarantee recognition of the indigenous peoples’ right to communication and information.

9. To guarantee respect for and the right to life, health and bilingual intercultural education, incorporating policies of benefit to the indigenous first nations and peoples.

10. To declare water to be a human right, a vital element and social property of humanity and not a source of profit. Likewise, to encourage the use of alternative energies that do not threaten the life of the planet, thereby guaranteeing access to all basic services.

11. To solve cases of migration between countries in a mutually responsible way, adopting policies of free circulations of persons in order to guarantee a world without borders in which there is no discrimination, marginalization and exclusion.

12. To decolonize the United Nations, and move its headquarters to a territory that dignifies and expresses the just aspirations of the Peoples, Nations and States of the world.

13. Not to criminalize the struggles of the indigenous peoples, or demonize or accuse us of terrorism when we reclaim our rights and advance our ideas on how to save life and humanity.

14. To release immediately the indigenous leaders imprisoned in various parts of the world, and in the first place Leonard Peltier in the United States.

The struggle is unceasing, we will continue our resistance until our time comes. We proclaim the 12th of October the “day of commencement of our struggles to save Mother Nature”.

From our families, homes, communities, peoples, whether in government or without, we ourselves are determining and directing our destinies, we ourselves are assuming the will and responsibility to live well that has been bequeathed to us by our ancestors, to expand, from the simplest and least complicated to the greatest and most complex, to construct horizontally and mutually, each and every one, the culture of patience, the culture of dialogue and fundamentally the Culture of Life.

Links and emphasis added.

A Worthy Cause

Winter Rabbit, who writes beautifully around the blogs about Native American issues, has asked us to come together to help a very worthy cause. Its the Pretty Bird Woman House on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota.

PBWH is a shelter that provides safe refuge for women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It is the only such shelter on the Standing Rock Reservation. Unfortunately, they have been the victim of vandalism to the point that the house was uninhabitable and they've had to divert women needing safety to shelters on other reservations.

They are trying to raise $70,000 to purchase a new building and you can help by making whatever large or small donation you can here. Surely we can help our sisters do this!!

Amnesty International has highlighted the need to help this program as part of their campaign to "Stop Violence Against Women."

Artwork from Tigana.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Dream of Trees

I think its time for some poetry. So here's one of my favorites from Mary Oliver:

There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quite house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world's artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.

I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?

Image titled "Lamentation and Resolution" from Larren Art.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Pachakuti Era

The Wiphala are the flags of the Andean First Nation's people. Each variation represents a different territory, or Suyu.

I found this description on the website The Aboriginal Andean Nations Council, CANO (or Consejo Andino de Naciones Originarias):

Each color owns a meaning. The Wiphala is not only a flag, but also the representation of the Lunar-Solar calendar of the Andean First Nations.

The Wiphala, present in every community event and ceremony, identifies the communitarian system of the Andes, based on equality, equity, harmony , solidarity and reciprocity.

Moreover, it is a symbol of the First Nations’ resistance, its use having been illegalized by the Republics, but nowadays it is floating in the wind like never before in the Andean First Nations Territory. It is another manifestation of the Pachakuti Era, the return to the Earth without evil.

So, the next time you see a news story about something going on in the Andean countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Agentina, Chile, or Columbia (what was once the Inca Empire), look for this flag and know that it represents people working for the Pachakuti Era:

In the early 1990's, tribal elders and shamans from the Andes began to share traditional teachings and healing practices that they had held secret since the Conquest. According to their legends, we are now in the Pachakuti Era, when Eagle and Condor will reunite and fly in the same sky. Eagle symbolizes North American culture, material progress, physical mastery, and the body; Condor symbolizes South America, Earth-based spirituality, and the heart.

From Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (page 209) by John Perkins:

Nearly every culture I know prophesies that in the late 1990's we entered a period of remarkable transition. At monasteries in the Himalayas, ceremonial sites in Indonesia, and indigenous reservations in North America, from the depths of the Amazon to the peaks of the Andes, and into the ancient Mayan cities of Central America, I have heard that ours is a special moment in human history...

The titles and the words of the prophecies differ slightly. They tell variously of a New Age, the Third Millennium, the Age of Aquarius, the Beginning of the Fifth Sun, or the end of old calendars and the commencement of new ones. Despite the varying terminologies, however, they have a great deal in common, and “The Prophecy of the Condor and Eagle” is typical. It states that back in the mists of history, human societies divided and took different paths: that of the condor (representing the heart, intuitive and mystical) and that of the eagle (representing the brain, rational and material). In the 1490's, the prophesy said, the two paths would converge and the eagle would drive the condor to the verge of extinction. Then, five hundred years later, in the 1990's a new epoch would begin, one in which the condor and the eagle will have the opportunity to reunite and fly together in the same sky, along the same path. If the condor and eagle accept this opportunity, they will create a most remarkable offspring, unlike any seen before.

From Warrior Publications

And finally, here's a short film with the same message. From the youtube descrition:

'Hope' is shaped around the knowledge and ideas of Willy Whitefeather, a man in his sixties of Cherokee ancestry, a fascinating storyteller, healer, survivalist and an individual of wisdom and heart. Using traditions and stories from Native American and world cultures, the film combines dreams, images and reminiscences from our collective memory to send a message of hope for the future. Now is the time to reconnect with Spirit, to recognize the effects of our actions, to evaluate the underlying causes of suffering and to reshape our life and our world into a harmonious one.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blog Voices This Week 10/27/07

I thought I'd do a second installment about news from around some of the smaller blogs - with a special focus on those by people of color.

I have to say that the story that gripped me the most is one from The Latin Americanist that I've already blogged about here. That's the one about Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa telling the US that they can keep their military base in Ecuador if he can build one in Miami. Gotta love a guy that can not only reframe the whole "US Empire" thing, but also do it snarkalishously.

Kyle over at Citizen Orange reflects on the defeat of the Dream Act and the courageous young people who worked so hard on it.

Amidst all of the stories of justice denied, it was great to learn that the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Genarlow Wilson, a young man who had been convicted of receiving a consenting "blow job."

Speaking of justice denied, Nezua tells us about Abdul Muneem Patel, a 17 year old who was sentenced to jail for "one charge of possessing a document likely to be useful for terrorism."

Over at Resist Racism we get a wonderful lesson on racimese.

The women of Document the Silence are asking us all to wear red on October 31st in memory of the violence against women of color that most often goes unnoticed and unreported.

Finally, I want to recommend a diary written by Madman in the Marketplace from over a year ago as we approach Dia De Los Muertos. This is perhaps some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read on the internet.

Today, in the spirit of Dia De Los Muertos, let us look away from all of that. Today, lets celebrate instead those who've fought dark times before, survived dark times before, PREVAILED in times that were much like what we face now.


THIS Dia De Los Muertos, remember their struggles, but remember their COMMUNITY. Remember that unlike the right, unlike the worshippers of division and death, we can look back with joy and fondness at people who sang and danced and loved and communed DESPITE their struggles, despite the exploitation, the hatred, the discrimination and fear. They formed communities, they formed unions, they formed sewing circles and barn raisings and volunteer organizations. They rallied with their neighbors, mended fences, found common ground with NEW neighbors different from themselves. It's easy to remember the nativists, the klansmen, the misogynists and gay bashers and jingoists and bundists ... but also remember that there were ALWAYS good people opposing them, forging bonds, talking and working together to build a brighter, broader, more inclusive future. While there were slavers, there were abolitionists. When other men jeered and sniped, remember there were women who reminded others that a woman was every bit the equal of a man and should have a voice, and there were sons who listened to them.

Celebrate the artists, the writers, the musicians and performers who forged bonds between different groups of people, who showed us all that it's okay to be different, that different can be wonderful and exciting. Remember that every time that culture tried to expand our ties, broaden our conversations, help us see the world anew, the authoritarian minded tried to silence them, ban them, attack them, but over time the artists prevailed. From the churches and the juke joints, the beer halls and the smokey bars, from the salons to the corner table at the Algonquin, from coffee houses to underground clubs ... we can remember fondly those who found beauty and strength in the everyday and in the sublime and IN EACH OTHER. THIS Dia De Los Muertos, read their words, sing their songs, dance to their tunes, enjoy their paintings and sculptures and their videos. Remember that no matter how loudly, how violently, how insistently those afraid of openness and sharing and difference and change tried to stop it, the songs got sung, the rugs got cut, the words got read.


The fight, the struggle, the great human show continues, and throughout history given time and perserverance it has been the cultivators, not the extractors, who have brought beauty, peace and prosperity to the world. Over the next couple of days, remember them fondly, and let those memories inform your choices as we face the struggles ahead.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rest in Peace Paul and Sheila

I still remember the day five years ago today. I was in our lunch room at work when a co-worker called to say that there had been a plane accident involving Paul Wellstone. I ran into my office and turned on the radio. It didn't take long to hear that both Paul and Sheila were gone. I cried the rest of the afternoon and for the first time I understood how people felt when Kennedy was assasinated.

The only difference was that, like so many Minnesotans, I had the opportunity to meet Paul and Sheila. Back in the early 90's, after he had been elected to the Senate, Sheila visited with me for the better part of a Saturday, learning about the non-profit I work for. And then Paul joined us at the end of the day. Shortly before that, Paul had lost a lot of friends in the Senate when he forced a roll call vote on a pay raise for Senators. Paul had opposed the raise and wanted our elected representatives to have to go on record with their support. Paul and Sheila set the money from the raise aside after it had passed and gave it to charitable institutions in our community. A few months after we met, we got a check from them. And when we were moving our offices a year and a half ago, I found a hand-written note from Sheila thanking me for the time we'd spent together. Its now one of my most treasured possessions.

This story could be told a thousand times over from other folks here in Minnesota. Paul and Sheila worked so hard in Washington. But they remained connected, in very real ways, with all of us here at home. We ALL felt like we knew them, whether we'd had the chance to talk face-to-face or not. I remember seeing them at a theater near my house. After the movie was over, everyone wanted to talk to them and shake their hands. Paul, ever the extrovert, ate it up and stayed long enough to connect with everyone. Sheila, much more of an introvert, just tolerated it all. But one-on-one, either would give you their full attention and let you know your voice had been heard.

There will never be another Paul and Sheila. And I miss them terribly...especially in these dark days. But I do often think that what would make them most proud is our work to carry on their legacy. And I'm certain that they would be proud of Pakou Hang. She was Deputy Political Director for his last campaign and is running for St. Paul City Council - election November 6th.

The legacy lives on.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lessons from Correa

I have become convinced that if we want to find courageous leadership these days, we might want to look south. I'm hoping to write a piece about Evo Morales, the current President of Bolivia, when I have a little more time to put it together.

But today, I found a wonderful story over at The Latin Americanist. It seems that the President of Ecuador, Raphael Correa, said that he is willing to continue allowing a US military base in his country if we allow him to establish one in Miami. Here's some bits on the story from Reuters:

Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa said Washington must let him open a military base in Miami if the United States wants to keep using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast.

Correa has refused to renew Washington's lease on the Manta air base, set to expire in 2009. U.S. officials say it is vital for counter-narcotics surveillance operations on Pacific drug-running routes.

"We'll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami -- an Ecuadorean base," Correa said in an interview during a trip to Italy.

"If there's no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil, surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States."

Correa, a popular leftist economist, had promised to cut off his arm before extending the lease that ends in 2009 and has called U.S. President George W. Bush a "dimwit".

Now that's what I'm talkin about! Maybe Correa, Chavez and Morales could start a consulting business to help US politicians learn how to grow a spine.

Someone notify Hallmark

I wonder if anyone notified Hallmark that this is Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. Seems like the kind of thing they could start a whole new product line around. I suppose that since, to a great part of the world, the other 51 weeks of the year are officially "Imperial US Corprotocracy Week" (no awareness campaign needed), we can give them this one chance to scare us all into oblivion.

James, over at Mahatma X Files, has the scoop on how Mr. Horowitz's latest "Klan rallies on Quaaludes" didn't go so well for him. Kinda warms the cockles of your heart that maybe this current generation of students is starting to wake up and smell the true roots of fascism.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Music memories

Years ago a friend and I went to hear Willie Nelson perform at the state fair. I'll never forget all of us in the audience kicking back, looking up at the stars and listening to Willie sing this song. I can still feel that moment when I hear it.

I think another reason this song moves me is that it speaks to past regrets and loves left unspoken. Sort of a universal thing for us humans I expect...all the ways we wish we had remembered to slow down and speak from the heart.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

On Wars and Borders

I hate filling out forms, especially the ones that limit me to checking off boxes for categories I don’t even identity with. Place of birth? Germany. But I’m not German. Ethnicity? I’m Vietnamese, but I’ve never been to Vietnam. However, these forms never ask me where I was raised or educated. I was born in Germany, my parents are Vietnamese, but I have been American raised and educated for the past 18 years.
On application forms when I come across the question that asks for my citizenship, I rebelliously mark “other” and write in “the world.”

These are the words of Tam Tran (far right in the picture above from USA Today) as she spoke of her situation in Congress and testified on behalf of the Dream Act.

Tam Tran's family fled Vietnam after her father spent time in a "re-education camp" due to his anti-comunist activities. They eventually lived in Germany, where Tam and her brother were born, and came to the US when she was 6 years old. The family applied for asylum here, but were refused. And Germany would not give them travel documents to return there. Since then, the family has been checking in with immigration officials yearly to receive work permits.

But the story doesn't end there. Three days after she testified, Tam's family (her father, mother and brother) were arrested as "fugitives from justice" and released only after Representative Lofgren intervened.

This story sent me to imagining a time in the future when those who are currently fleeing Iraq due to our shock and awful occupation there, will also be "world citizens" with no place to call "home."

The effects of this current war will not be over when/if US troops withdraw from Iraq. As with the Mexican War, the Vietnam War and all our other aggressions, we will be facing the issues surrounding our need for territories and hegemony in order to maintain our lifestyle and our borders. All while hundreds of thousands of families are left "homeless."

Oh, and goddess forbid these families ask to be recognized as human beings deserving of our attention...we will ruthlessly arrest and detain them as "fugitives from justice." We are truly living in Orwellian times when words like "justice" have been turned on their heads and not just stripped of their meaning, but used as weapons for the opposite of everything for which they once stood.

More on this story from:

Migra Matters
Citizen Orange

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Blessed Unrest

I find this video amazingly hopeful and want to spread the good word.

The speaker, Paul Hawken, is author of the book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming. I'd probably buy the book for the title and cover alone:

His reference to the burgeoning power of indigenous people all over the world is something that resonates in my soul. As Arundhati Roy said in the quote I posted a week ago:

But on a quiet day
if I listen very carefully
I can hear her breathing.


From Warrior Publications

Eagle and the Condor: a prophecy that when the eagle & condor meet it will signal a re-awakening of Indigenous Resistance.

On October 11-14, 2007 more than 500 delegates from indigenous nations across the Americas gathered in Vicam Pueblo in Rio Yaqui, Mexico, at the Gathering of Indigenous Peoples of América. To see pictures of the gathering, click here.


Check out the work of the Pachamama Alliance. What started out as an effort to assist the Achuar, an indigenous people living in the Amazon Basin of Southeastern Ecuador, has become a clarion call to all of us in the North. The Achuar have asked us to "change the dream of the North" for both our survival and theirs.

Blog Voices This Week

Over at Latino Politico (Man Eegee's blog) a few years ago Nanette started a tradition of a Sunday Blog Tour that James now carries on when he has the time. I thought it might be fun to start that tradition here and see how it goes. I'll try it this morning and if I have time on subsequent weekends, I might make it a regular effort. There is lots of amazing writing going on at smaller blogs, especially those addressing international issues and those focused on specific communities of color.

So, lets start out the tour with a look at a great piece at Latino Politico about the news that the materials being used to build the Great Wall of Amercia were actually made in China. Man Eegee gives us the "low down" on how this whole fiasco is wrecking havoc, not only on the human beings in the area, but on ancestral graves and the environment.

Nezua, over at "The Unapologetic Mexican" tells us more about the growing prison/industrial complex and a march that will be going on next weekend to protest one of the most egregious of these places in Texas, the Hutto Prison Residential Center near Austin.

If you'd like to learn more about this expanding prison/industrial complex, Xicano Power has a great diary from back in March about Privatized Prisons for Immigrants. Here's a quote to give you some idea of the scope and the "players."

By the fall of 2007, the administration expects that about 27,500 immigrants will be in detention each night, a gain of 6,700 over the current number in custody, according to a 2006 New York Times article. Who is going to cash in on this, and who is ultimately going to pay the price? Under the push of Bushes social Darwinism, with its "toughness" on "illegals" as its battle cry, the war profiteers in this home front is the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the Geo Group (formerly the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation) - the two biggest prison operators - and now Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton (the makers of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center) are enjoying the spoils of war. Analysts state, profit margins are higher at detention centers than prisons.

Back to the Unapologetic Mexian for a minute, I'd suggest you also check out an amazing diary Nezua wrote this week about Death in the Passing Lane. In it, he bares his soul about his journey growing up caught between his white and brown heritage.

Carmen D has a great diary over at "All About Race" addressing the growing proliferation of nooses and a rise in the regurgitation of racial hatred.

Jill, over at "Jack and Jill Politics," takes on a big story in the African American community this week, the one about Dr. James Watson, Nobel scientist, saying he was:

inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa because all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really.

Go check out the new digs for Citizen Orange designed by Nezua. You'll have fun just checking out all the cool stuff on the site. His focus is on Guatemala and immigrant issues.

Finally, just because I've run out of time, I'd suggest you take a look at a blog I recently found called Intercontinental Cry. It covers stories from around the globe about the struggles and rights of indigenous people. Fascintating place!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Balancing Outrage

Isn't the title a bit of an oxymoron? I think so. But if that's true, then we've just spent the last 6 years trying to find a way to live out an oxymoron. I wonder if others feel that way.

Here's a couple of things that kicked off my outrage meter today, but you could probably choose any day in the last 6 years and find multiple events on each one that would serve the purpose.

First of all, there is the general degradation of our personhood and dialogue that happens when our tv "pundits" are engaged in calling a presidential candidate a Vaginal-American. And no, I'm not a "Hillary-supporter." But that's not the point. This is an outrage to ALL women.

And secondly, there was the "man-who-would-be-king" smirking about World War III as if it was a joke on all of us. I know we're all used to this by now, but isn't that part of the problem? We've been hearing this kind of idiocy for 6 years now and, for our own emotional survival, we've had to ramp down the reaction.

There are days, when I think that this is all some evil plot to get us so wearied of outrage that the next step towards wherever crazy place they want to take us becomes all the much more easy to go. So in reaction, I want to ramp up the outrage.

And then there are days when I just can't take it anymore and I need an escape. The outrage feels like its poisioning my soul and I want to crawl into some cynical bubble where I don't expect anything better. But that is the end of hope, and I worry about going there.

I've been wondering the last few days how someone like Nelson Mandella kept his hope alive over all those years in prison; being powerless to change things himself while watching his people be degraded and massacred. I don't know that I understand how he did it, but in reading his biography, I know that he paid attention to those with whom he came in contact daily, including his jailers, and offered his heart to them. Perhaps that is his legacy to us today.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


To return to harmony...we must realign our gestures into those of dancers. We must become beings who do not wish to control life, but only to listen to its music, and dance it.

from The Great Cosmic Mother by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor

The Wuli Masters know that science and religion are only dances, and that those who follow them are dancers. The dancers may claim to follow "truth" or seek "reality," but the Wuli Masters know better. They know that the true love of all dancers is dancing.

from The Dancing Wuli Masters: An Overview of the New Physics by Gary Zukav

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Iraqi "Withdrawal" Plan

A recent UN report (click on "Statistics on Displaced Iraqis Around the World, September 2007) tells of the effects our "shock and awful" occupation has had on the surviving people of the country.

An estimated 60,000 Iraqis are being forced to leave their homes every month by continuing violence. As of September 2007, there were believed to be well over 4 million displaced Iraqis around the world, including some 2.2 million inside Iraq and a similar number in neighbouring countries (in particular Syria and Jordan) and some 200,000 further afield. Around one million were displaced prior to 2003. The ability of neighbouring states to handle such larger numbers is close to breaking point. In recent months visa restrictions have been considered which, if implemented, will result in Iraqis having greater difficulty finding a safe haven. UNHCR’s April 2007 Conference on Iraqi displacement focused attention on the huge humanitarian crisis developing in the region. Over the past year, Iraqis have once again become the leading nationality seeking asylum in industrialized countries.

And how is the US doing in taking in these refugees that we are responsible for creating? Yup, you guessed, we wouldn't want to worry our "beautiful minds" with all of that. While our "enemy" Syria has taken in over 1 million Iraqi refugees, the US has admitted a whopping 1,608 of the promised 7,000. All accounts are that it is the middle class of Iraq, the ones with the means to leave, who have done so. Here's a picture of why from a family formerly of Fallujah.

from Crooks and Liars

Monday, October 15, 2007


A sculpture in Derwent Water, Lake District, England.

A safe place for the children.

The Children of Lead

In honor of Blog Action Day and in keeping with my theme about Peru over the last couple of days, I bring you a short documentary about the situation of the people of La Oroya, Peru. Due to the copper smelting plant owned by Mr. Ira Rennert (the billionaire who also owns Hummer), the town, populated by 35,000 people, was identified in 2006 as one of the ten most polluted places in the world.

For more on this situation, visit Intercontinental Cry.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación

The significance of this information to me will be more apparent if you read the diary just below titled Faces from my childhood.

In June 2001 Peru's President Alejandro Toledo established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to explore the most violent conflict in the history of Peru. From 1980 to 1995 approximately 69,280 Peruvians were killed in a war between government forces and the communist rebels known as Shining Path.

In its final report the CVR points at Shining Path as the major perpetrator of human rights violations (torture, kidnapping, assassinations), with the Armed Forces in second place and Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement in third. The CVR also criticized the performance of the Catholic Church, especially Archbishop of Ayacucho Juan Luis Cipriani, of the Opus Dei.

Here is a quote about the Commission's work from its Chair, Salomon Lerner Febres:

We are convinced that a future of peace and democracy is possible and it is in our hands to make it come true if we identify everything that must never happen in our country again, never more subversive violence, never more a war among Peruvians, never more human rights abuse, never more indifference or silence before our countrymen’s misfortune.

There are occasions in which saying no is also a way to affirm. Saying no to injustice is, above all, a way to open the doors of reconciliation.
The Commission put together a photography exhibit titled Yuyanapaq (link to youtube of some of the photos) which means "to remember" in Quechua, the indigenous language spoken by most of the people who were victims of the violence. Here is what the Commission's web site says about the exhibit:

The images ...reconstruct the history of those violent years, thanks to men and women who, equipped with cameras, decided to register the diverse aspects of the complex reality of the manchaytimpu, or “time of fear”. Many of these images had been ignored or trivialized. The majority of the incidents and protagonists had gone unnoticed or had been forgotten. To recover them and bring them once again to our memory, or register them for the first time, is part of the struggle for truth and reconciliation in which we are immersed.
In 2005, a documentary film titled State of Fear: The Truth About Terrorism was released using much of the information gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. From the film's website:

State of Fear takes place in Peru, yet serves as a cautionary tale for a world engaged in a “global war on terror”. It dramatizes the human and societal costs a democracy faces when it embarks on a “war” against terror, a “war” potentially without end, all too easily exploited by unscrupulous leaders seeking personal political gain.

An unforgettable array of characters takes us down a troubling road peopled by perpetrators and victims, and bystanders who only watched as the horror unfolded. But it is also the story of courageous Peruvians who fought to maintain their democracy and defend human rights, and persevered in their quest for truth and justice.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Faces from my childhood

When my mother was in the hospital giving birth to me, my father was in the jungles of Peru, in the province of Huanuco, setting up a post from which to clear the rain forest, build roads, establish cattle ranches and evangelize the natives. When I was just a couple of months old, my mother, eighteen month old sister, and I joined him. I lived there the first few years of my life and then we moved to Lima, where we stayed until I was 7.

Like most people, I have very few actual memories of the first few years of my life. And its hard to distinguish what I do remember from the 8mm home movies that were made of us to send back to my grandparents in the US. I think it was pretty rough going for my mother and an attempt by my father to prove himself worthy to his boss, my grandfather.

As an adult, I've been so ashamed of this family history, that I've never wanted to talk to my father about what he was doing. I just wanted to put it in the past and move on. This last week I've decided to take my own journey and do some exploring on the internet to see what I can learn about the area and the people who live there.

From what I've been able to tell, the people are Ashaninka which means "a brother to all." They are described as fierce and independent in their struggles with the Spanish conquistadors and have since then had to deal with slavery in the rubber plantations, colonizers like my family, and the battles between the Peruvian government and the communist rebels known as Shining Path. Here's a few photos thanks to Bart VO:

I couldn't find much information about what is happening today specifically with the Ashaninka in the area where we lived. But I did find an article about the work to develop El Sira Communal Reserve.

From this report, I learned that the biggest threat to the people and the ecology today is the logging industry, which has now removed almost all of the mahogany and cedar trees from the area. Other threats include road building (mostly to facilitate the needs of the logging companies), gold mining, excessive use of natural resources (mostly overfishing and hunting) and unregulated agriculture. On the horizon is the threat from the big guns...oil exploration and drug trafficking.

I'll probably continue to look for information about the people and places that are the distant memories of my childhood. It finally seems important for me to look them in the eye as much as I can - but on MY terms, not my family's.

One place that might help with that is a very wonderful website I found along the way and have put in my blogroll so that I can check it out regularly. Its Intercontinental Cry, a blog dedicated to news and information about the global struggles and empowerment of indigenous people.

I can hear her breathing

I just watched a speech by Arundhati Roy titled Come September. Its over 44 minutes long so I don't want to embed the video, but if you haven't already heard it, I'd invite you to follow the link and watch it. She is speaking in September 2002 and begins by aligning herself with anti-nationalism:

Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.
Roy pays homage to the grief the US is experiencing on the anniversary of 9/11. And then she sadly and kindly says to all of us "welcome to the world" by recounting past Septembers and the griefs we so conveniently forget.

She ends her speech with words I have heard quoted before, but still bring tears of hope to me. I'll write them in the form of poetry, because that's how I hear them:

The time has come
the world has said.
Perhaps things will become
worse and then better.
Perhaps there is a small god
up in heaven
readying herself for us.
Another world is possible,
she's on her way.
Maybe many of us won't be here
to greet her.
But on a quiet day
if I listen very carefully
I can hear her breathing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Quote for the day 10/12/07

I just saw a video of Al Gore speaking today about receiving the Noble Peace Prize (what great news!!). He quoted an African proverb that I had never heard before and I wanted to note it.

If you want to go quickly, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.

And today, in honor of this great moment, this one's for you Al:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Comedians as My Link to Sanity

I wonder if you're like me and think we might be living in some kind of crazy alternative universe where the inmates have taken over the asylum. And perhaps that's why the only people who seem to be making sense these days are our comedians. I mean really, have you watched one of the so-called morning "news shows" lately? You don't have to take a digital trip over to the likes of Malkin or Drudge or Fox News to feel like your head is spinning with the crazies. Because,

while the current occupation in Iraq continues and Cheney has his sites set on Iran,
while the best Dems can do on healthcare reform excludes even legal immigrant children from coverage,
while the Dem-contolled congress gets ready to pass yet another bill approving spying on US citizens,
while global warming threatens to destroy the planet,
while the Supreme Court continues to uphold the concept of executive priviledge,
while New Orleans residents contine to either suffer at home or remain in the diaspora,
while we continue to legalize torture and strip habeus corpus of any meaning,
while our economy teeters on the brink of disaster, and
while one of the biggest "growth industries" is prisons for the marginalized in our society (be they brown immigrants or black youth)...

we get fed lines of dribble lately about the importance of the most inane "news" stories one could ever imagine. Frankly, sometimes I feel like I'm loosing my mind. And were it not for the blogs where I can touch base with other "crazy folks" and the television comics like Stewart, Colbert, Black, and Maher, I'm sure I'd be locked up by now. Here's a prime example of one of my links to sanity:

This is the line that sent me over the edge:

I'm not comfortable with any idea that can't be expressed in the form of men's jewelry. If it takes more than two cufflinks to say lost me. Now that's some funny (oh, but only because its so heart-breakingly true).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Quote of the day 10/09/07

We are molded as much by the histories we stifle as by the myths we create to exalt ourselves. Those who ignore the truth about their past are condemned to replicate, over and over, their crimes. The devastation in Iraq is the legacy of lessons unlearned, from the genocide of Native Americans, to slavery, to the Mexican war, to the invasion of Cuba and the Philippines, to Vietnam.

America's brutal cycle of imperial invasion and occupation is as enduring as the cultivated illusion of its goodness. And the first step toward breaking this cycle and exposing this illusion is facing our history and ourselves.

The Great Forgetting by Eunice Wong

h/t to Nezua

Monday, October 8, 2007

Smartypants meets the real world

Every once in a while I get blasted with the reality that I am, at heart, naive and entirely too trusting of people. Today is one of those days. I'm not bragging about being trusting, it has been a real problem for me on more than one occassion.

I expect that I've had the luxury of trust in that while growing up it was clear that I had all of the priviledges associated with whiteness and money. Every day of my young life, it looked to me like I could expect that the world was a just and honest place. Now, as I've grown up, I've learned that isn't true - but not usually in a real personal sense. So I continue to approach people thinking the best of them until I'm proven to be wrong.

I won't go into the gorry details, but today I learned that some people are not who I thought they were. It looks like their deception was calculated and not merely a misunderstanding. Lots of people are used to this kind of thing. I'm not. So it tends to rock my world a bit. But the old expectations are more deeply rooted than the few instances where they are proven wrong. So I know I'll go on trusting the best about people...til the next time.

It wasn't until I was in my 40's that I began to learn that this issue of whether or not you approach people with trust was something that played out very differently with different people. As we usually do, I thought everyone was just like me. As I began to understand the differences, it helped me tackle some of the relationship and communication barriers I had experienced along the way. For example, as I try to get to know a young African American man I work with who grew up in New Orleans, I don't take his occassional reluctance to engage with me personally. He learned VERY different lessons growing up. And since my line of work takes me in contact with police officers quite often, I can say with assurance that is NOT a profession I would have been suited to. Their profession and sometimes their lives depend on being skeptical and untrusting of what's on the surface. These are just examples of some of the lessons I've learned as I became aware of how we are all different in this one area.

Part of my commitment to trust is that the most beautiful gift anyone has ever given to me was to trust me with abandon. This gift came from a graduate school professor who helped me "re-birth" from my condition of trusting everyone but the one person I could rely on - myself. And it was his complete trust of everything that was core in me, and the invitation for me to do the same, that opened a new path in my life. Sometimes I toy with thinking about the courage it took for him to do that. He knew he might be disappointed the way I have occassionally been. And yet he gave it freely. It meant the world to me and I'd like to think that someday I'd have his courage and be able to "pay it forward."

Anyway, its hard for me to imagine approaching people with an eye towards how they might be deceiving me. Since it doesn't come naturally, it would take a lot of work. And its not as if the world is nicely divided up into those who are trustworty and those who aren't. We're all much more complex than that. The idea that there are "good" and "evil" folks is a big part of what's wrong with our culture these days. I think Alexander Solzhenitsyn summed it up very well:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

I'm certainly not willing to destroy my heart...or anyone else's. So I suppose you can just call me a "naive smartypants." Those are my true colors.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Economics of Growth

I am not an economist, nor do I play one on the blogosphere. But sometimes it takes someone from the outside to see through the groupthink that has developed in the bubble.

So here's my take on the end of empire:

If global warming doesn't beat everything else to the punch in bringing down the empire(and the fact that it was 90 degrees in Minnesota in early October yesterday sure rings a bell that something's on the way), then the limits of perpetual growth certainly will.

Our capitalistic system is all built on the concept that growth can be sustained infinitely - and that's a lie from the get-go. At home in the US, that means that the corprotocracy has to continue to sell us all on the idea that consumerism is god. We need to keep buying more and more in order for the "growth" model on which our whole economic system is based to succeed. If we ever say "enough" the whole thing comes crashing down.

And abroad, this means that our military/industrial complex has to control ever more expanding resources around the globe to fuel the growth in consumerism. If folks don't want to give us their "stuff", then we'll take it by force.

But make no mistake, the laws of nature will come into play someday. I don't think the US will ever give up its addiction to consumerism and growth voluntarily. But mother nature (ie, peak oil) or the people we so willingly exploit/kill/terrorize will put an end to it all. I think the former is more likely given the map above and the limits of people without access to resources to take on the overwhelming amount of force we can unleash.

Since all of this growth is based on the burning of fossil fuels, it looks like the neocons and corporatists may have figured this out already as is demonstrated by their obssession with the middle east. I think they are preparing to take it to the last stand as peak oil hits and the end of the growth model begins to threaten the house of cards they have built.

One way or another, this ponzi scheme we call our ecomomy will crash. I don't know if it will be in a couple of months, a couple of years, or a couple of decades, but the day is drawing nigh for the end of the empire.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

John Mellencamp on Jena

Apparently John Mellencamp, a white man from Indiana, lives in Jena too.

Here's what John says about the song on his web site:

I am not a journalist, I am a songwriter and in the spirit and tradition of the minstrel, I am telling a story in this song.

The story is not strictly speaking, about the town of Jena or this specific incident but of racism in America.

Sounds like Jena Mayor Murray R. McMillin is more upset about this video than he is about the idea of nooses in a "white" tree. 73rd virgin has the whole story over at Docudharma. Check it out.

My friend Pat

This morning I've been thinking about my friend Pat. A couple of years ago, she died of lung cancer. And I miss her.

Pat was a member of a book group I've been a part of for the last 8 years. She was the ultimate hostess and nurturer, always wanting to have us meet at her house for our annual "holiday" gala where she would treat us to a splendid table of food all decorated in the spirit of the season. We have a tradition of exchanging small gifts for the season, and Pat's were usually homeade. There would be baskets full of "goodies" she made, or mittens she had sewn, or flannel vests she had designed...with special attention to the uniqueness of each of us.

Pat was also an amazing listener. What I will always remember about her is that she would be listening intently as I was talking about something important to me. When I took a moment to pause, she'd say, "Tell me more about that." Always drawing you in and digging deeper into your essence.

This particular skill of Pat's was put to great use in her professional life as well. She was a psychiatric nurse who, when I met her, was the Director of the adolescent in-patient unit at a local hospital. She LOVED the kids, but struggled with the bureacracy at the hospital. A couple of years before she died, she left the job. She didn't know what was next, just knew she needed to make a change. One of her many pieces of wisdom that I hold dear to this day is something she said at that time: "The best retirement plan is finding work that you love." And she found her love, she was offered an amazing fellowship to work on her PhD. The woman was positively brilliant, and flourished in the challenge of digging in and learning all there was to know in her field.

Our book group has a tradition of going away together someplace "up north" for a weekend retreat in the fall. It was at the last retreat Pat attended that the picture above was taken. I just love that one of our members captured Pat in howls of laughter. She did that often, but not that much on that particular weekend. She was struggling with the cancer by then and in retrospect, I can see that she knew this would be her last retreat with us.

As we were loading cars to get ready to return home at the end of the weekend, an eagle was flying overhead. We all stoppped and watched for awhile. Pat was crying, but was captured by the beauty of it all. Six months later, she was gone.

Since then, we have gone on two retreats. Both times, we have been visited by an eagle flying overhead. And we know that Pat has stopped by to say hello.

This one's for you Pat:

Friday, October 5, 2007

What happened to Ciara Durkin?

Here is a story that needs more attention. From The Patriot Ledger:

Ciara Durkin was home on leave last month and expressed a concern to her family in Quincy: If something happens to me in Afghanistan, don’t let it go without an investigation.

Durkin, 30, a specialist with a Massachusetts National Guard finance battalion, was found dead last week near a church at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. She had been shot once in the head, the Army says.

Fiona Canavan, Durkin’s older sister, said today that when her sister was home three weeks ago, she told family members that she had come across some things that concerned her and had raised objections to others at the base.

‘‘She was in the finance unit and she said, ‘I discovered some things I don’t like and I made some enemies because of it.’ Then she said, in her light-hearted way, ‘If anything happens to me, you guys make sure it gets investigated,’’’ Canavan said. ‘‘But at the time we thought it was said more as a joke.’’

The family did not know what she was referring to, said Canavan, who lives in Quincy.

Canavan said that her sister was openly gay, but that the family had no specific reasons to think that had anything to do with her death.

From CBS News:

Initially the Pentagon reported that Durkin, part of a finance unit deployed to Afghanistan in November 2006, had been killed in action, but then revised its statement to read she had died of injuries "suffered from a non-combat related incident" at Bagram Airfield. The statement had no specifics and said the circumstances are under investigation.

Durkin had a desk job doing payroll in an office about three miles inside the secure Bagram Air Base. About 90 minutes after she left work last Friday, her family says she was found dead near a chapel on the base with a single gunshot wound to the head.
The family doubts suicide, pointing to an upbeat "Happy Birthday" voicemail Durkin left for her brother just hours before she died.

"I thought it was cute at the time," Pierce Durkin said. "Now it's priceless."

I've read a few other reports, but there's not much else to add, other than that Senators Kerry and Kennedy as well as Rep. Delahunt are pushing for answers. The army has told the family that it could take 3 weeks to 3 months before the autopsy is released.

My purpose in posting this is to get the story out as widely as possible and let Ciara's family know "we've got their backs" in this struggle to find the truth. Please feel free to copy and past this anywhere you have access.

Words Matter

Here are some words that I'm focusing on alot lately and would like to hear more often:


Get my drift?

Here's Daniel Beaty taking on a few of these words.

Now that's what I'm talkin about!!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rest in Peace

Alice Walker had to defend herself from fierce attacks after she wrote "The Color Purple." Mostly these came from folks who didn't like the fact that she was writing about a black man (she just called him "Mr.") abusing a black woman. I think it probably was difficult work to do, since it would very likely be used as fuel for racism.

But she explained, in her book of essays, "Living by the Word" that she carefully portrayed Mr.'s father as "light skinned" in both the book and the movie. Her point was that Mr.'s father was the son of a slave and a slave owner - a son of both the oppressed and the oppressor. All of this came from deep in Alice's soul where she battled for years to accept her own white great-great-grandfather, who had raped a girl of 11 and she bore him a son, her great grandfather.

Here are Alice's words in the essay:

We are the African and the trader. We are the Indian and the settler. We are the slaver and the enslaved. We are the oppressor and the oppressed. We are the women and we are the men. We are the children. The ancestors, black and white, who suffered during slavery - and I've come to believe they all did: you need only check your own soul to imagine how - grieve, I believe, when a black man oppresses women, and when a black woman or man mistreats a child. They've paid those dues. Surely they bought our gentleness toward each other with their pain.

And here's a poem she wrote about it all:

for two who
slipped away
my "part" Cherokee
(Grandmama Lula)
on my mother's side
about whom
only one
is known:
her hair was so long
she could sit on it:

And my white (Anglo-Irish)
on my father's side
(Walker, perhaps?)
whose only remembered act
is that he raped
a child;
my great-great-grandmother,
who bore his son,
my great-grandfather,
when she was eleven.

Rest in peace.
The meaning of your lives
is still

Rest in peace.
In me
the meaning of your lives
is still

Rest in peace, in me.
The meaning of your lives
is still

Rest. In me
the meaning of your lives
is still

Rest. In peace
in me
the meaning of our lives
is still


All of this speaks powerfully to me as I try to reconcile myself from the other side of this divide. I come from a family of means who have been in the thick of all that is wrong with our imperialist, warmongering, theocratic and racist culture. I want to find a way to say to my grandfather:

Rest. In peace
in me
the meaing of our lives
is still unfolding.

I want to find a way to heal that part of him that is also part of me.

The most beautiful blog post I've ever seen

Nezua over at The Unapologetic Mexican has an amazing diary titled One More Moment Before We Bomb that is full of amazing photos of people and places in Iran. I posted a couple of examples below to whet your appetite. But PLEASE click the link and go look at the whole thing. I promise you will be glad you did. Its just a little dose of reality to counteract the mindnumbing noise we are treated to daily.

And to top this off, I think the Iranian people must have some wicked sense of humor and spunk. How else would they have managed to respond to the demonization of their country and their leader by returning our favor and inviting GWB to speak at Ferdowsi University in Mashhad, Iran?

Think he'll accept the invitation?

Nah, neither do I.

UPDATE: Along these same lines, KrisC has a beautiful diary over at Docudharma titled Land of Golden Temples and Pagodas that provides us with a pictoral view of some of the Buddhist temples in Myanmar.

Join the Movement

Free Burma!

Click the picture and engage!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Food for the soul

I invite you to take just a moment, sit back, close your eyes and feed your soul.

Meanwhile, back at the war

While our media and politicians are obsessed with MovenOn, Rush and BillO, Iraqis say Basra quieter after British troop pullout:

Residents of Iraq's southern city of Basra have begun strolling riverfront streets again after four years of fear, their city much quieter since British troops withdrew from the grand Saddam Hussein-era Basra Palace.

Political assassinations and sectarian violence continue, some city officials say, but on a much smaller scale than at any time since British troops moved into the city after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Mortar rounds, rockets and small arms fire crashed almost daily into the palace, making life hazardous for British and Iraqis alike in Iraq's second-largest city. To many Basrans the withdrawal of the British a month ago removed a proven target.

"The situation these days is better. We were living in hell ... the area is calm since their withdrawal," said housewife Khairiya Salman, who lives near the palace.

Civil servant Wisam Abdul Sada agreed. "We do not hear the sounds of explosions which were shaking our houses and terrifying our women and children," he told Reuters.

And yesterday, the Senate passed Bush’s war funding request by an overwhelming vote of 92-3. Anyone wanna guess who the 5 are that didn't vote? Yeah, yeah, its not so hard is it? The ones who are running for president: Biden, Clinton, Dodd, McCain, and Obama. And the 3 who voted no: Byrd, Feingold and Coburn (R-OK)???

h/t to James at The Mahatma X Files

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Just because

Just because I love this song:

I don't know exactly what it is about this song, but it stirs something deep inside. Maybe someday if someone figures out what the hell they're talking about I'll understand its draw. There are whole message boards I've seen dedicated to trying to unravel the meaning of this song.

It was released in the summer of 1967, so I think that I associate the song with a time in my life when I was too young to intellectually know what was going on in the world around me, but I felt the tension to my bones. That's the funny thing about music, tastes, smells. They can completely bypass our logical thinking and take us back immediately and emotionally to a place and time that may have receeded from memory. Perhaps this is part of their power.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Republican with heart

Grab a hanky and watch this video of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.

Quote for the day

Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

Euguene V. Debs as he was being sentenced for violating the Espionage Act of 1917 for speaking out against US involvement in World War I by saying things like this:

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder...And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.

UPDATE: I'd just like to add that if you visit the wiki article linked above at Mr. Debs' name, you'll find that his conviction for exercising his so-called right to free speech was upheld by the Supreme Court. Just goes to show that this country has a long history of NOT walking our talk.

When it comes to the presidential race, are polls all that matter?

A little more than five months from the 2024 presidential election,  conventional wisdom  suggests that  Biden is losing . But according to ...