It’s not about our safety…
The cover of the September Atlantic magazine blared a question “Are We Safer?” When I saw the title, I thought I might find out whether Americans are safer from the dangers to life and limb we face every day—safer from what, I thought? And then—who is “we?”
The article by Steve Brill didn’t answer those questions. It focused on dollars spent to deal with terrorism—an “on-going threat” undefined except that it originates with enemies who hate us and will terminate in catastrophic destruction somewhere in our midst. 1 The article quotes President Obama saying that on 9/11 Americans felt truly vulnerable for the first time because “nearly 3000 people were killed in the places where we live our daily lives.” A poll taken last December found that Americans are today more afraid of another terrorist attack than at any time since 9/11. This September, the FBI issued a bulletin warning that “ISIS extremists” would target sports and other public venues. Fox news cautioned listeners not to underestimate the “imminent threat” that terror poses. We get constant reminders that the US is a target; that each of us is threatened by “radical Islamists;” that 9/11 ushered in a war on our way of life. Home-made bombs planted by marginalized young men with foreign names provide evidence of that war.
If we look at the places where we in fact “live our daily lives” we aren’t faced with imminent threats, but fatal certainties—we die in huge numbers on the highway and from medical mistakes; at our workplaces; from exploding pipelines, chemical discharges, historic flooding, and unprecedented wildfires; from domestic violence and homicide become routine – to name only some of the risks realized. It may be that the “War on Terror” has a function other than to reduce the likelihood of Americans dying a violent death.
The warnings about terrorism can’t be about actual risk: various studies show that the annual risk of being killed by terrorists is one in 3 million. Attacks officially designated as “terrorist”” have killed fewer than 100 people in the US “homeland” since 9/11 (this includes the mass shooting in Orlando). We could compare the one-in-3-million risk of being killed by one of those “radical Islamists” to, say, the much greater—but still damn small—risk being killed in an accident involving a deer (one in 2 million) or drowning in the bath (one in 650,000). These risks provoke laughter not fear. They’re like the other statistic cited sometimes to highlight the irrationality of fear of terrorism: the risk of being struck by lightning far exceeds the risk of being killed by a terrorist.
We dismiss these comparisons because the level of risk is not the point. The point is that there is an “imminent threat” and the government says its measures will prevent that threat from touching us.
So, warnings about terror aren’t about risk; they’re more like part of a protection racket. Their purpose is to name and demonize an enemy. The fear these warnings generate is a tactic for marketing protection: for increasing government spending on surveillance and weaponry; for curtailing public activities; for enhanced policing; for gaining an audience; for amassing votes. Fear breeds suspicion and along with a willingness to give more and more power to the state to protect us from our enemies. On the government spending front, Homeland Security’s budget is unknowable, but some estimates put it at about $800 billion to date. Brill, ostensibly scrutinizing the usefulness of those expenditures concludes that $650-$700 billion of that amount made “us” “safer.” But consider how much safer we would be from actual dangers if even part of that $800 billion were directed to reducing preventable dangers.
Safer from what?
Safer from dying on the road? Homeland Security spent millions of our dollars on a first responder network that was foreseen to be superseded by technology. Another $400 million went for ID cards to protect us from potential jihadi drivers hauling hazardous materials. (The card readers never worked.)
Yet we are not safer from violent death in road accidents. In the 11 years since 9/11, more than 400,000 people have been killed in motor-vehicle accidents. The death rate for car miles driven is 1000 times higher than for miles traveled on municipal buses.2 Yet we routinely reject bonds to expand transit. Cell phones are a factor in over 21% of car crashes—yet their use has increased annually for the past 3 years.3 Poorly maintained roads contribute to a third of highway fatalities. Twenty percent of US roads are in need of resurfacing or reconstruction. Twenty-five percent of bridges are functionally obsolete. In 2007, a bridge rated as structurally deficient collapsed in Minneapolis, leaving 13 people dead and 145 badly injured. Approved road safety projects across the US go unfunded due to opposition to increased gas taxes. 4
Dying in a flood? Homeland Security gave New York hundreds of millions of dollars to reinforce the roofs of tunnels under the Hudson River. Someone sold the idea that a terrorist could place a bomb there and if that happened, it could breach a tunnel and drown thousands of people.
But we’re not safer from drowning and devastation due to actual floods. Every year about 200 people drown in floods5—with floods in recent years deemed to be historic 100- and even 1000-year events; climate change denial, anyone? Don’t even think about Katrina’s levees breached in 2005 leaving bloated bodies and widespread destruction behind, other than Superstorm Sandy in 2012 with 285 deaths; do we remember Colorado in Sept 2013, 9 dead, many dams topped; Arkansas-Tennessee tornado complex at least 34 dead, many more injured, homes destroyed leaving behind bare slabs and piles of debris, cell towers down. Texas-Oklahoma 2015, 19 drowned, entire blocks swept away in a year that saw 30% more extreme precipitation days. In Midwest storms of March 2016, 5 people dead, 3500 displaced; Bridgeport, West Virginia storms and hurricane winds in July of this year, more than 24 people dead. These are just a few examples. The list leaves out most of the—now forgotten—record-breaking flooding since 2001.
Dying in a burst of flame? Someone in New York raised the possibility that an exposed bit of pipeline on the Upper West Side could be subject to a terrorist attack. An explosion could have killed and injured many, and disrupted gas deliveries up the East Coast. Some of Homeland Security’s grant of more than $6 billion was used by NYC officials to encase the pipeline segment in a “protective shed.”
But we’re not safer from actual exploding pipelines. Back in New York in 2014, a gas leak in Harlem killed 8 people, injured 70 and destroyed an apartment building. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the City of New York had failed to repair a hole in a sewer line that it had known about for 8 years. Had the hole been encased or repaired, it wouldn’t have undermined the gas main and the main would not have exploded. In 2010 in San Bruno, CA another gas pipeline exploded, killing eight people and destroying a neighborhood. NTSB6 found various failures on the part of Pacific Gas & Electric caused the pipeline to rupture during a pressure increase—which would have been detected (likely preventing the explosion) if the federal government had not exempted existing pipelines from the requirement to do hydrostatic pressure testing.
Gas leaks throughout the US come in around 25-30 per month. While not all of those leaks jeopardize our lives and safety, many do. From a Wikipedia article on Kinder-Morgan, the parent company of more than 20 gas pipelines: “…since 2003 Kinder Morgan and its subsidiary pipelines have been responsible for more than 400 spills, evacuations, explosions, fires and fatalities in 24 states…” It is known that pressure testing older pipelines would make us safer, but the only beneficiaries would be the public.
Dying from breathing the air? In 2002 Homeland Security commissioned a program called BioWatch to alert us to bioterror attacks. Over the next three years, 24-hour sensors were placed in pedestrian areas in 36 cities. First, it wasn’t clear that the sensors could even detect a biohazard release. Second, the sensors had to be collected by hand and read at a lab, rendering their value as a warning virtually nonexistent. Homeland Security then gave out $200 million for “BioWatch Gen-3” a program to develop self-reading sensors: The project was cancelled as a failure in 2014.7 Nevertheless, Homeland Security people forge ahead because experts have “affirmed the viability of terrorist groups and violent extremists using bioweapons to cause death, suffering and socioeconomic disruption on a calamitous scale.” The original sensors, in place now for 11 years, have been maintained at a cost of $80 million annually for a total of $1 billion.
Yet the air we breathe is not safer. Each state east of the Mississippi accounts for the release of more than 35 million pounds of toxic chemicals annually.8 Between 1999 and 2008 (a period covered in a specific paper) 58,000 toxic releases were reported, with CO2 and ammonia releases tied to the most injuries, deaths and evacuations. In that period 13,000 people were reported injured. Preventable equipment failure was the most commonly reported contributing factor. For an example close to home, at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes in 2010, 7 deaths resulted from an explosion caused by cracks in outdated equipment.
Despite the threat to life and health, no agency collects comprehensive data on toxic emissions and fatalities. The Chemical Safety Board (CSB), charged with investigating chemical explosions, was recently reorganized after 5 years during which it succeeded in investigating only 11 of 241 incidents with fatalities. It had no reporting mechanism as required by the Clean Air Act of 1990.9 The CSB has 40 employees and a budget of about $12 million a year. They are no match for chemical industry giants spending millions annually to lobby congress in opposition to proposals that would make us safer from toxic chemicals.10
Who’s the “we” in “are we safer?”
Both the highly placed and the lowly among us may be similarly at risk for dying in an automobile accident, or a flood, or from medical errors… But in the US the likelihood of meeting a [preventable] violent death falls mostly on the men and women at the lower end of the income scale.
Women (mostly) at home are raped, assaulted, and killed by the thousands. 75% of domestic violence incidents target women, and likelihood does not vary by social status – all women are vulnerable. Between 2001 and 2012 the number of women murdered in a domestic violence incident totaled over 11,000. A collection of statistics by The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says that every 9 seconds a women in the US is assaulted or beaten. More recent data for Washington state shows 44 people killed in domestic homicides in 2014. On a representative day in that year, domestic violence programs served 1,930 people and turned away another 549 due to lack of resources.11
Men (mostly) at work die by the thousands. In 2001, 5,915 people were killed at their places of work – many more than the 2,996 killed in the World Trade Towers. Each year of the 2000s more than 5,000 people went to work and met their deaths; in the 2010s, the annual average dropped to 4,660. Men die mostly on agricultural, mining, construction, oil and gas sites. In many of the occupations listed, the deaths are preventable. For example, exposure to silica dust is fatal over time. A report by the National Council for Occupational Health and Safety in 2014 said 688 of the deaths from silica exposure each year are preventable – if only the government would adopt and enforce a known standard limiting exposure. (The report also observed that those at highest risk for silica exposure are Hispanic and immigrant workers.) If there is an enemy behind these statistics, he sits in the boardroom and maintains a status as untouchable.
Gun deaths (murder, accidental, suicide, police) accounted for over 300,000 fatalities since 9/11. 300,000! Half of those were murders.12 On an average day in America, 30 men are shot to death; Roughly 50% of those are black though they constitute only 6% of the population and many live in segregated neighborhoods with no political clout. More than 756 children were shot to death in 2015.
Homeland Security has provided $34 billion to state and local law enforcement13 via their “State Homeland Security Program” and the “Urban Areas Security Initiative” to buy military-grade equipment and technology and to pay for training needs related to acts of terrorism and catastrophic events. From 2012 (Sandy Hook massacre) to 2015, Congress held more than 25 moments of silence – and rejected all proposed gun safety legislation.14 As for the armored vehicles, assault weapons and combat uniforms now normal in police departments, they can make us less, not more, safe. In the demonstrable absence of terrorist armies, demonstrators become the threat and a suspect becomes the enemy. Police shot dead more than 950 men in 2015 – again a disproportionate number were Black.15 Police confront peaceful demonstrators in a militarized fashion, wearing combat gear and training automatic weapons on the crowd. A police officer’s claim to have felt threatened justifies the use of lethal force against even unarmed individuals. And that same claim that we are threatened justifies our lethal attacks on a mounting number of Middle Eastern countries.
These examples make clear that the purpose of the “war on terror” is not to make Americans safer. If that were the case, the government would be taking financial, political and social steps to address preventable fatalities related to the infrastructure that surrounds us, the air we breathe, the places we work, the supposed sanctity of our homes, the lethal consequences of segregation and income inequality, the militarization of our police forces.
The purpose of the “war on terror” is to produce an enemy sufficiently abstract, ubiquitous and menacing enough to justify the continuation and amplification of the US national security state. [See sidebar] Success in this effort depends on limiting the distribution of goods (material, educational, social) beyond the sphere of the elite, and efficiently controlling those thus disenfranchised when they resist. We can see the former in elimination of social programs, in the attack on public education, in the demise of unions. The latter includes the prison-industrial complex along with a growing private security industry and police forces equipped to treat communities as battle zones.
Our willingness to see “terrorism” as the enemy is essential to the success of this effort. Instead, we might realize that the threat to our lives and even our way of life is from the War on Terror itself. The reality is that the US has the resources to address the root causes of the violence that threatens us in our daily lives: homelessness, poverty, a shriveled mental health system, an educational system designed for competition rather than opportunity, replacement of wages by debt. To begin moving toward the first thing we have to do is to reject the phony “war on terror.” It’s a start.
1 The information about Homeland Security expenditures in this piece comes from “Are We Any Safer?” Steven Brill, The Atlantic, Sept 2016, p. 30 et seq.
2 Comparing the fatality risks in United States transportation across modes and over time Journal of Research in Transportation Economics, Vol. 43, Issue 1, July 2013
3 National Safety Council, 2015. Annual Estimate of Cell Phone Crashes, 2013 data.
4 Governing, “Gas Tax Increases a Hard Sell in States and Congress,” Alan Greenblatt, Feb. 5, 2016
5 Flood Safety Education Project
6 National Transportation Safety Board
7 Read the convoluted testimony by Homeland Security admitting this on their website: Lessons Learned and the Path Forward.
8 Industries in the remaining states also account for toxic releases but at lower annual levels
9 According to an article in the January 2014 USA Today, no one knows how often chemical accidents occur, because there’s no reliable and robust database. The National Response Center, a hotline run by the Coast Guard, takes reports of such accidents but doesn’t verify the details. So its data is wrong 90% of the time, according to an analysis of 750,000 federal records last year by the Dallas Morning News. (An amended version of the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed this summer.)
10 NRDC report, April 2013
11 Domestic Violence Fatality Review, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015
12 Bureau of Justice Statistics, May 2013; Pew Research Center, Oct. 2015 and Center for Disease Control Multiple Cause of Death Database
13 Center for Investigative Reporting
14 “15 statistics that tell the story of gun violence [in 2015],” Jennifer Mascia, Dec. 2015, posted on the website of The Trace.
15 Washington Post database on police shootings www.washingtonpost.com
Bethany Weidner lives on the Westside and likes to think for herself. Her liberal arts education taught her to reject claims that “that’s how things are” and her childhood years in Wasilla, Alaska taught her to be persistent.
The post Homeland Security’s protection racket and the phony “War on terror” appeared first on Works in Progress.
I heard Lucia Perillo read on a December evening at Orca Books in 2010. The following week Perillo was the featured poet at the Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute in Washington, D.C. To the handful of us seated in our metal folding chairs, she recounted her excitement when the Folger Shakespeare Library originally contacted her to share her favorite Dickinson poems with some of her own. But now as the freezing rain pelted Orca’s windows, she admitted she was nervous, worried about flying all that way and disappointing the audience assembled in the regal theatre for the annual literary event. She asked us to listen and candidly tell her whether we felt she was living up to what the Folger had invited her to do.
By then, Perillo was already an established, award-winning poet. Her debut collection, Dangerous Life, won the heralded Samuel Morse Poetry Prize in 1989. She received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 2000. And in 2010, Inseminating the Elephant won the Washington State Book Award and the Library of Congress’s Bobbit Prize on its way to being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.
Of course, that night at our independent bookstore, she was brilliant even in her slightly, less-polished, practice run. And although the intimacy of the evening should have encouraged me to treat her like the hometown Olympian she was, I felt just poetry-struck enough that I couldn’t walk the few feet to introduce myself, wish her safe travels, or at the very least thank her for coming out on a horrible winter evening to share her love of poetry.
In the next three years, Perillo received the Washington State Governor’s Arts Medal; her 2013 collection On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. While the effects of her multiple sclerosis, diagnosed in 1988, continued to limit her physical playing field, the former Mt. Rainier park ranger and college professor persevered using poetry to keep herself metaphysically in motion with her readers. I continue to be one of them.
The final lines of “Thinking About Illness After Reading About Tennessee Fainting Goats” remind me of that icy December night, remind me of all great poets’ enduring legacies, no matter the circumstances of their lives or deaths: “How cruel, gripes a friend. But maybe they show/us what the body’s darker fortunes mean–/ we break, we rise. We do what we’re here for.”
Lucia Perillo died at her home in Olympia on October 16, 2016. She was 58. Earlier this year Copper Canyon Press published her seventh collection of new and selected poems, Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones.
To gain deeper insight into Lucia Perillo’s poetic sensibilities, check out the blog she kept from 2002— years: “Lucia’s Anthology: Great Poems Known and Unknown”
Sandra Yannone is a poet, educator, and antique dealer in Olympia. She is a Member of the Faculty and Director of the Writing Center at The Evergreen State College.
Last month, our neighbors, the rank-and-file members and local officers of the Boeing Machinists union proclaimed a huge victory at the International Association of machinists (IAM) Grand Lodge convention in Chicago. They succeeded in amending the constitution of the IAM to include a members’ bill of rights. This is a historic big deal. The venerable union, formed in 1889, has hundreds of local unions in the U.S. and Canada that needed to be brought onboard. What transpired is an example of the resiliency and determination of the rank-and-file and local officers to take back their union.
IAM 751 represents over 30,000 Boeing workers in the Puget Sound region; its main headquarters in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle.
Delegates from IAM 751 set out to ensure that no international president will ever again have the power that former International President Buffenbarger wielded in 2013 when he colluded with Boeing management to strip members of their defined-benefit pensions. He arranged to renegotiate an existing contract two years before its expiration and fanned a Boeing campaign of fear that huge numbers of jobs would be lost if members retained those pensions. When members resoundingly refused, he forced a second vote abetted by dire forecasts from Governor Inslee and Boeing’s legislative toadies. Frightened members gave up their planned retirements by a slim margin in a January, 2014 vote.
I’ve appended a flier “Remember November” about the sellout published by the Rosie’s Machinists 751 Caucus, that was formed as a result of those events. (The name hearkens back to Rosie-the-Riveter from WWII.)
Most members were as astounded and angered as I was at the arrogant power of the international president. So, after the debacle, union members and new reform leadership spent months drafting a members’ bill of rights that they took to IAM locals around the U.S. and Canada to build support.
Buffenbarger had wide authority to negotiate with our bosses, schedule contract votes and even approve a contract proposal that members had rejected. The new bill of rights assures that only union members covered by a contract can approve or reject it; that local leaders will set when and where contract votes are held, and that only members covered by a contract can approve opening it up for early negotiations. It also prohibits the international from negotiating a contract with an employer without telling members.
The bill’s draft was discussed in the summer meetings of each of 751’s Local Lodges and then adopted in August. It’s not everything every member might want, but hits the issues of the forced vote in 2014.
Members are rightly proud at their accomplishment. Brothers and sisters told the local meetings that, while this does not bring back their lost pensions, it makes them proud and feisty for the future. You can feel the excitement in this message posted from Chicago by a Grand Lodge delegate:
“We, the 39th IAM Convention delegates from District 751 are proud to thank all of our Sisters and Brothers back home at District 751, in Seattle who worked so hard to get us here. We now have a membership bill of rights! This is our victory together: Every 751er who stood up and put their essence into this hard and sacred work! Those of us who devote our time, thoughts and souls into the betterment and support of the Labor Movement understand how much goes on behind the scenes. This is what true unionists do. We take our anger and turn it into historic action. We speak for those who are voiceless and we take action for those who can take and even those who just won’t… Our one reward is seeing someone else’s eyes open to the power of collective action and democracy. Stay strong, keep your head up, eyes on the prize and bask in the light of knowing you have a family standing behind you. we cower to no one!! forward together! Solidarity!”
Working class victories are so hard won that everyone should know of them. Here is the actual wording of the amendment for readers who are labor mavens:
IAM Membership Bill of Rights
(Adopted by the 2016 Grand Lodge Convention as modified by the IAM Law Committee)
Sec. 2: This constitution expressly preserves the following membership rights which shall be honored unless a District or Local Lodge successfully obtains dispensation for good cause shown:
Subject to legal requirements concerning impasse, no NLRA contract may be implemented without honoring the outcome of a vote of the members it covers.
Whenever practicable, contract negotiating committees must contain at least one member from the bargaining unit.
Subject to legal requirements, no NLRA contract shall be opened at other than normal expiration of duration without a majority vote of the bargaining unit members.
Once the union leadership at any level receives a request to bargain from a NLRA employer, the bargaining unit membership must be notified.
The date, time and location of contract vote shall be determined by District or Local leadership, taking into account the convenience and availability of the membership to participate in the voting process.
For more information:
Aero Mechanic newspaper, Vol. 71 No. 9 October 2016, and iam751.org
Henry Noble, IAM 751, retired
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Dear Friends, Family and WIP:
I leave for the US tomorrow, Sunday. I’ve been in Salonica just over a month. All my time here has been as a volunteer in the Elpida Refugee Center, working mainly in the communal kitchen or in the food distribution center.
A 14th century Byzantine scholar wrote that “No man will be without a homeland, as long as Salonica exists.” From the Ottoman welcome of the Sephardic Jews in the 15th century to the arrival of a million plus Christians from Asia Minor in the population exchanges in the 1920s, Salonica has been a place of refugee. As my friend Thanos, a Salonica native, said to me when I first met him, “No one is Greek here.”
After the Greek people helped 850,000 refugees escape US funded wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and cross borders to their dream of Europe farther to the west, the EU shut the door in early 2016.
Sixty thousand plus refugees got stranded in Greece and by now are hidden from view in a variety of official refugee tent camps, many of which are in northern Greece like the no-name camp I visited one day with 800 Kurdish people living in tents under an open corrugated metal roof.
The EU promise of “family resettlement” and “relocation” to other EU countries for those stuck in Greece is for the most part stillborn, as is the overwhelmed Greek asylum process. Neither the asylum process, nor resettlement/relocation are de facto EU policies.
The new EU policy is not just to keep war refugees in “transit countries” like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Libya, but to return them, embodied in the recent EU deal to exchange “aid” to Afghanistan for taking back 80,000 plus Afghans in Europe. There is even talk of returning refugees in EU countries back to Greece. A reverse smuggling business is beginning to blossom taking refugees back to Turkey via a land route through Alexandropolis.
With the national elections coming up in the Netherlands, France and Germany, no one on the right or left wants anymore refugees coming to Europe trying to escape the on-going, but quite profitable slaughter such as the US financed assault on Mosul, or the US financed Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen or the Russian/Assad bombing of eastern Aleppo.
Still, what about the 60,000 refugees stuck in Greece?
From my limited experience here, I would say their main emotion is anguish. Anguish from not knowing their fate. Anguish from an uncertain asylum process. As some of the refugees told me, these camps are worse than prison: at least in prison, you know when you are going to get out.
When I asked Turkish speaking Syrian refugees what they wanted in a new country, the first two things they said were: “Insanlik” (humanity) and education for their children. I know they don’t want to hear this even though they know it, but I think they can find that humanity here in Greece and specifically in Salonica.
Salonica has a Mayor named Yiannis Boutaris. He spoke recently at a World Affairs Symposium that I attended. He said that historically the current refugee flows were “not more dramatic than ever before” and that “the EU should be ashamed that it can’t absorb four or five million refugees.”
Mayor Boutaris also interrogated the sub theme of the symposium: “seeking stability.” He said dictatorships offer stability, but that if the city embraces the refugees with social stability it will work better than police protection.
I know that Greece has a 25% unemployment rate and, as another Greek friend told me, the new Gulag is forcing people and refugees not to work. I also know the Greeks’ Insanlik is being tested.
But still, the Mayor believes in the vibrancy of young people and I learned from my new Greek friends about all the social economic experimentation in Salonica that isn’t just about survival but also about new forms of self governance. Then I watched the young refugees, neatly dressed with their new backpacks, going off to Greek schools with their Arabic/ Greek dictionaries, and I had hope.
I left the women with some roses and I think I got a wave good bye. See you at home.
The post Letter from WIP’s foreign correspondent Dan Leahy returning from Greece refugee center appeared first on Works in Progress.
Evergreen Colleagues, and members of our wider community who are connected in a multitude of ways to the Evergreen Community, we have a problem.
Last week a student came to me. She wanted some help on an op-ed article she was writing. Because I have always seen her as bright, articulate and capable, I was eager to read her draft. The tone of her paper, about an arbitrary government imposed curfew that was negatively impacting her community, jolted me. It was very aggressive, filled with MF descriptives, multiple vindictives and wide flung accusations. When I asked her about the tone, she told me she was speaking in “her voice”. My response was “to whom”?
This encounter turned into a powerful teachable moment and the impetus for this letter. Writing is more than voice. Voice may get you in the door, maybe, for an interview. But having something to say and saying it coherently will get you the job.
An analysis of Evergreen’s Transcripted Academic Statements last January revealed that voice is the dominant accomplishment of Evergreen graduates but that ideas, organization and sentence fluency are less evident. This analysis might suggest why only 46% of The Evergreen State College students earn more than similarly aged HS graduates, six years after enrolling. (This figure is based on the assumption that high school graduates between the ages of 25-34 earn an average of $25,000 per year, and comes from the Department of Education website, College Scorecard.)
As I started to reflect on this issue of rewarding voice, at times, over content, I thought of another Evergreen incident in which two students disrupted a campus event to protest issues of campus safety. When given the opportunity to speak, they did not deliver an analysis, nor an action plan. No, they spoke boldly about their frustration. Some applauded them for speaking their voice and then the next day they were co-opted, because they carried no long term action agenda. There was no teachable moment.
Let me be perfectly clear. I am not blaming either student. I am blaming us as teachers. I am blaming the institution that thinks declining enrollment and retention is a marketing problem instead of a curricular and pedagogical one. I am blaming those that rest on the laurels of past innovations in curriculum structure and student evaluation and act, seemingly, without regard to evidenced-based knowledge of best practices and data on student needs.
What I am asking is for us to is “step up”, “recognize real’ and “and in the mean time, do no harm.”
If, as educators, we are going to be true to our mission to support and train thinkers, creators, social justice/liberating thought workers, and employed persons, we need to promote both expressive and communication skills. It is criminal not to teach our students to be masters of liberation rhetoric, logic and persuasion; creators of integrative synthesis; and producers of equity and inclusive excellence. Students pay tuition and eternally repay student loans. They need to get something for their money. The world is waiting for their life experiences, their contextual insights and perceptions. We need to be sure they are prepared.
Dr. W. Joye Hardiman is an Emeritus Faculty at The Evergreen State College
Olympia community groups drew about 300 people to an October 22 rally to oppose the Port of Olympia’s shipments of oil “fracking sands” to North Dakota. The material enables the extraction of Bakken oil. This is the oil destined for the Dakota Access Pipeline being blocked by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and of the oil trains being opposed by Pacific Northwest tribes and their allies. The rally’s theme was “Love Water, Not Oil: No Oil Fracking Sands at Our Port; Stand with Standing Rock and Quinault.” Grace Ann Byrd (Nisqually) welcomed the crowd to the territory of the Medicine Creek Treaty tribes, and the crowd faced the Salish Sea in an honor song for the sacred water.
Western Washington has three connections to oil fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in the Bakken Basin of North Dakota.
First, the Port of Olympia has been importing Chinese fracking sands, or ceramic «proppants,» used to prop open bedrock cracks in the fracking process, and loading it on trains to North Dakota. More than 3,000 1.5-ton sacks of proppants await rail shipment this month. The fracking of Bakken oil shale threatens the safety of groundwater with chemical wastes; women’s safety with huge “man camps;” public safety with exploding Bakken oil trains; and the safety of our planet from methane releases and carbon pollution.
A rally organizer, former Port commissioner Sue Gunn said, “We need to stand with Native peoples and their efforts to protect water, for our planet to have a future for our children and grandchildren.” Participants in the 2006-07 port protests (against Stryker armored vehicle shipments to Iraq) were recognized on stage, with the implicit message that direct action is again an option as the port contemplates new military shipments, and is also becoming complicit in a new “oil war” against Native American nations.
Second, the Bakken oil is transported back into our local area on trains. Since 2013, federal regulators have had growing concern about the volatility of Bakken oil, which has sparked large train explosions. Northwest oil terminals have been proposed to receive the growing number of trains at coastal ports.
The Quinault Indian Nation has led opposition to the proposed Grays Harbor oil terminal, which threatens the coastal treaty fishery and shellfish with an oil tanker spill. About 44,000 people in Grays Harbor County live in the oil trains’ “blast zone,” including 11,000 children. Treaty rights leader Billy Frank Jr. wrote on the day of his passing of the Quinault stand, “oil and water don’t mix, and neither do oil and fish….It’s not a matter of whether spills will happen, it’s a matter of when.”
Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp, also President of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, was among the rally speakers calling for Washington ports to be independent of “Big Oil,” and for the City of Hoquiam to not allow a new oil terminal to receive Bakken oil. Seattle community organizers Matt Remle (Standing Rock Lakota) and Millie Kennedy (Tsimshian) joined other drummers and singers from Quinault, Quileute, and other tribes to honor President Sharp, and sing the American Indian Movement Song. Tacoma resident Liz Satiacum similarly called on the Port of Tacoma to not allow a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facility, and invited the audience to attend a November 12 tribally-led march in downtown Tacoma.
Third, Olympia had already held six events to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the more than 300 other Native nations that oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline’s threat to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
In North Dakota, peaceful prayer vigils of the Native water protectors have been met with heavily armed police and private security, with militarized vehicles, helicopters, tear gas, and attack dogs. Olympia residents Marles Blackbird (Hunkpapa Lakota) and Lydia Drescher (Tongva) shared experiences in and communications from Standing Rock, and highlighted the spiritual nature of the struggle centered on the concept of “Mni Wiconi” (Water is Life).
Standing Rock is only the latest of the North American struggles that have taken on Big Oil. Powerful alliances led by Native nations, together with farmers, ranchers, fishers, and environmentalists, have defeated the Keystone XL pipeline, and several oil and coal terminals in the Pacific Northwest (most recently the Shell proposal in Anacortes, where the trains would go through the Swinomish Reservation).
We in the Northwest are not powerless in this fight. We are the chokepoint, the “thin green line” that Big Oil has to go through to reach the global market.
Local Choctaw slam poet Lennée Reid (https://mamamystic.wordpress.com/) described the power of unified people with two closing poems, including “One,” which begins,
We do not need 10 commandments
Just this one truth
There are no divisions we are one
One mind one body one soul
One life one planet just one
So this is my plea this is my cry
If you do not
tell you why
It is the ground
under my feet
And my eye in the skies…
For background information on Bakken oil fracking and the Port of Olympia, see
To get involved in possible direct actions, contact Olympia Confronting the Climate Crisis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on Standing Rock, see www.standingrock.org or www.sacredstonecamp.org, and on Quinault’s stand against the Grays Harbor oil terminal, see www.facebook.com/QINDefense
Zoltán Grossman is a member of the faculty in Geography and Native Studies at The Evergreen State College: http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz
Lennée Reid’s poetry can be viewed at mamamystic.wordpress.com
The post Rally opposes Port’s oil fracking sands shipments, stands with Standing Rock and Quinault appeared first on Works in Progress.
On October 18th, I listened to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! report from outside the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, North Dakota, where she was preparing to turn herself in on criminal trespass charges that the local prosecutor had switched to riot charges in the twenty-four hours before her surrender. I thought, All she is doing is illuminating the critical need for clean water. Why is this a criminal act? The judge ended up throwing out the charges.
As I leaned into my living room radio further to hear Goodman’s interviews with Native American activists from all over the country, I discerned that the protection of the Dakotas is about much more than drinking water and the fear of pollution. Since the sites slated for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) run through Native burial grounds, this resistance makes visible broken treaties and desecrations of Mother Earth. This stand at Standing Rock is about polluting the souls of the living and disrupting the souls of the Lakota dead.
And it begins with water—just as life begins in the water of our mothers’ wombs.
I grew up on the water, five hundred feet from Long Island Sound, and I live now in the crook of Puget Sound. To say that water orients and grounds me is an understatement. When I am with water, particularly vast bodies of water that expand well beyond my vision, I feel at home, at peace. And I know the difference, because for eight years I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, becoming acquainted with the peoples who have inhabited those landlocked, exquisite, golden prairies for centuries. The Great Plains felt like another country to me. The cities felt like small towns, and the towns like single streets, interrupting the farms spread as far and wide as my eyes could see, straining sub-consciously in search of water. I write a lot about the loss of life associated with water in the guise of maritime disasters, most notably the Titanic sinking of 1912.
For over two centuries, American journalists have reported on what citizens immediately needed to know to about their various communities. And for centuries, poets have too. In 1991, the groundbreaking anthology Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness offered a persuasive case that world poetry informed by the human experience of political unrest was a necessary part of the poetic landscape. At the time, the resurgence of formalism sparked a deep debate in American poetry with some literary critics equating the New Formalist movement with Reagan conservatism, a backlash against the freedoms associated with free verse.
Poet Carolyn Forché edited Against Forgetting from direct experience. Forché wrote her 1982 poetry collection The Country Between Us as she reported on human rights violations in El Salvador. In the anthology’s introduction, Forché described the numerous approaches poets employed to chronicle the unseen, the unwanted, the undocumented, all with the intention to bring critical, watershed world events into clear focus for posterity. Where the dominant culture turned a blind eye to injustice, Forché curated a compelling record of poetry’s ability to bear witness, to testify on humanity’s behalf.
Between poetry that is wholly personal or entirely political, Forché defined the poetry of witness as a third “social” space that is “a place of resistance and struggle,” reminding us, in fact, that a poem “might be our only evidence that an event has occurred; it exists for us as the sole trace of an occurrence.” Against Forgetting spanned the globe to document the Armenian genocide, repression and revolution in the Soviet Union, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the Shoah/Holocaust, repression in eastern and central Europe, and the fight for civil rights in the United States, among other human rights fissures. Over thirty years later in 2014, Forché and literary scholar Duncan Wu, extended the timeline and published Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500-2001; with no lack of global injustices at their disposal, the editors selected an entirely new complement of twentieth-century poets.
By Forché and Wu’s definition, the intentional coming together of Native peoples and allies to protect the water and future generations is a necessary site for poetry. Jessaca Ann, originally from Sitka, AK and a facilitator with the Port Angeles Racial Justice Collective (PARJC), is a Tlingit, queer, indigenous writer, artist, and activist. In September, she and two other members of PARJC travelled to North Dakota. Ann camped at Red Warrior, a part of the larger Oceti Sakowin Camp, located across the Missouri River from Sacred Stone and did most of her work with the developing Medic and Healer Council. Her poem “Weave” generates a litany of things observed in an attempt to give voice to the protectors’ profound experiences at the camp.
Of course, the poetry of witness does not always require an immediate physical presence. The force that drives poets is often a spiritual connection as with Afrose Fatima Ahmed’s “Body of Water” based on the work of Aaliyah Gupta currently on exhibit at CORE Gallery in Seattle. Ahmed’s two-part poem evokes “the conflicting ways in which we experience water; both as what drowns us and what revives us, as our connection with the Divine & also our separation from others. ‘Body of Water’ was written while I was watching, from a distance, the protests at Standing Rock. I was struck by how Black Lives Matter had to fight for air with Eric Garner’s last words, ‘I can’t breathe’ and now people from Flint, Michigan to Standing Rock are demanding the right to drink. Our access to the earth’s basic elements is being challenged and curtailed.”
I know something about how I write. I usually am not the poet of witness compelled to be at the site of resistance that we see in the sensory poetry of Jessaca Ann that places us with her at Standing Rock. And we need these imperative poets of witness.
I usually am not the poet of witness we see in Afrose Fatima Ahmed’s ekphrastic, lyrical allusion to immediate events from a far-away tributary. And we need these associative poets of witness.
As Carolyn Forché implores from her vantage point in Poetry as Witness: “When we read the poem as witness, we are marked by it and become ourselves witnesses to what it has made present before us. . . . Witness begets witness. The text we read becomes a living archive.”
The fact that I am writing an article about the poetry of witness specific to the events continuing to unfold at Standing Rock likely forecasts one of my own poems, more slow-cooked, studied, long after we know the outcomes that these current waves of water protectors on the Great Plains provoke. I look ahead to a time when I write that poem and beyond to a time when I am not needed to write that poem.
Sandra Yannone is a poet, educator, and antique dealer in Olympia. She is a Member of the Faculty and Director of the Writing Center at The Evergreen State College.
Body of Water
afrose Fatima ahmed
my body lies over the ocean
my body lies over the sea
my body lies over the ocean
so bring back my body to me
when i was small, i thought these were the lyrics and i never questioned their coexistence with the laws of physics. whatever “I” was was here, on this western shore, and my body? my body was elsewhere.
so bring back my body to me
absolution. the sinning of the sea slug. ablutions. the worship of water. absolutism. able-bodied as a sea animal.
how do we not experience ourselves as liquid? how is it that we believe we are so very solid? when there is water in every square unit of our skins? when original sin was committed for the juice?
when the heat & the honey are flowing through us constantly, cyclically, revolutions around our bodies which are not just clay & mud, they are not just dust to dust, but sea to radiant, illuminated, numinous, shining sea.
the sin of the modern world is the belief that we are all solid. and that we should be. that oceans don’t erect their own boundaries. they do. they do as salt imbues, eats away, corrodes at the edges.
we learned to dance by opening our mouths upward to the heavens raining sustenance on us. & we thought, if it is so easy to be nourished & nurtured, let’s move our bodies & wriggle & roll & twist our souls just a little bit. the dance of water. the joy of the deep.
let’s be all liquid. we won’t be exacting & count & cut to measure all the ways that we owe each other. let’s be Piscean. just for one early morning, i want to be a fish with you. flounder around in the oceans of origins & the seas of surrender. let’s go to school together. learn to swim as a set. mimicking each other’s movement.
holding the heart in our hand. holding it as humbly as we can. ask the goddess for grace & gentleness as we caress & cradle it, for lord, we do not know our own strengths.
i came to you. i came, closer & closer. you invited me inward, yielding, like the softest spots of jellyfish but with the antidote to your stinging. you didn’t close up as a sea anemone does. though i cut you with my fins, you stayed serene, tentacles waving in the watery winds. signaling me, a lighthouse at the bottom of the sea, guiding my ship into your port.
be with me. be with me. be one with me. bring me into yourself. hold me. hold all of me, even the parts of me that are holding you. wrapped around you. suckerfish. squid tentacles flexed. suction cups growing from our chests so we will stay like this. forever.
we must be our own mothers on this side of saturn’s return. our own fathers. siblings to our selves. we are the children born of our own bodies. flesh of our own flesh.
don’t leave me. please don’t leave me. when I am playing so many people to myself, sometimes it’s hard to see me. to see you. seeing you see me is enough to bring me back to life. back to myself. back to water.
bring back, bring back, bring back my body to me, to me.
we were all once fishes
in the womb
swimming these seas of ancestors
& distant futures
floundering about in oceans of origins
breathing in through our bellies
this body of water
how do you find the words
to describe something you’ve never seen before?
coffee + stew,
venison + buffalo,
beef, bones, potato, tobacco
split between lips
passed back and forth between strangers
fire smell on everything
NDN radio, a low rumble in the distance
un-shoed horse hooves, mud
the birds I can’t see without my binoculars
the crickets and coyotes
the wind and sky
—something else that brings two things together
that might otherwise not be joined.
The storm that hit Olympia over the weekend of the 14th of October was, per the weather forecasters, going to include 70 mph winds, flooding, and tornado warnings. After the storm had passed, local social media was ablaze with memes joking at the lack of damage in respect to what was predicted, including a ubiquitous photo of an overturned white plastic lawn chair, ironically captioned “We will rebuild.” While certainly not as devastating as some predictions, there was still extensive damage: 18,600 customers of PSE lost electricity. More extreme weather patterns occured off the coast of Oregon, with water spout sightings and a tornado touchdown in an Oregon beach town. A four year old child in Seattle was brought to Harborview Medical Center’s intensive care unit with serious injuries. For most of us with a constructed shelter (apartment and house dwellers), this storm seemed overblown by the meterologists.
But this isn’t the whole story: in the wind and deluge that wracked downtown, a crew was hard at work, coordinating an all-volunteer group to provide shelter to more than 150 local homeless. The First Christian Church (701 Franklin St. SE) that has been used as a temporary sheltering place for the homeless became a three-day-and-night operation, providing food, supplies and a dry warm spot out of the heavy rains for individuals and families in need. This was accomplished by Just Housing—a local movement that speaks, acts, and advocates for justice in housing and safe options for those without—and the compassion and generosity of First Christian Church in opening its doors and space to the city’s most vulnerable.
Earlier that week, Just Housing had actually been before the Olympia City Council with homeless community members asking the Council to address the inequity and suffering that our homeless people face on a daily basis as well the rising rents and shrinking work hours of those being pushed towards homelessness.
One woman shared how she had to “hustle” for hours beyond the 15 a week she was being scheduled at her job in order to make paper for herself and family. Another woman spoke of the piss pot that she used at night because the city did not provide bathroom access overnight and she didn’t want to urinate in the streets. A man shared that he had been ticketed and jailed for sleeping in a downtown business doorway, and then, because he could not pay that ticket price, was jailed for days. The Council responded well. Jim Cooper asked City Manager Steve Hall for statistics on how many people have been ticketed for homelessness, how many were fined and jailed, and what the burden on our justice system that was.
That was Tuesday. Thursday morning a request was made to City Council by Interfaith Works, Capital Recover Center, and the Family Support Center, among others, to open a suitable shelter space—possibly the Olympia Center. Just Housing would organize and provide experienced volunteers. That morning First Christian Church opened its doors as a shelter for the day and later stayed open all that night. The storm was off shore, and around 4pm, after exchanging of many emails, it was discovered that Steve Hall, despite support from a majority of the Olympia City Council, stated the city would not be opening the Olympia Center or any other a building to shelter the homeless during the storm. No other local, county or state governmental body stepped up to address the storm and protect those who would be left outside, defenseless against the weather.
Several core members of Just Housing then met with staff at First Christian Church and, after many hours of coordinating and planning, they were able to put together a shelter that would stay open until 5pm Sunday and for the Salvation Army to offer a place afterwards.
Cheryl Selby and Steve Hall both brought donations to the shelter; I did as well—5 trays of cup noodles, two cans of ground coffee, and four boxes of pastries. When I arrived, I parked on the opposite corner to the church property, and the rain was in full force. During the twenty seconds or so it took me to get my meager contribution unloaded, the heavy rain had soaked through both of my coats and I could already feel a chill seeping into my skin. Walking across the street felt like walking under a showerhead fully clothed, and the downpour obscured my vision. As I approached the building, a man in a worn black raincoat saw me and ran up quickly to take my load. Together, we briskly entered and I followed him through a large foyer full of chairs and tired people, and finally into a bustling kitchen. The place was crowded, and while there was comfort in the warmth and victuals being provided, the occupants had exhaustion in their eyes. They had a place to stay for now, for the weekend, but what would happen after this was far less certain.
When I returned to my car, I was cold, and wet, and grateful that I had a car to warm up in. That I had a place to go, to drive to, to be for as long as my job lasts. I do not want to imagine what it would be like out on the streets in this weather, in a world where people like me can afford to joke about a storm that could have been so much worse for the people who took shelter those nights had not the committed social organizations and movements stepped up to bear the burden the City could or would not. But they still live in a storm, a crisis, every day and night, rain or shine. This issue came into focus for me and others over the weekend, but it has been here this whole time and it continues to this day, this very moment.
So what do we do? We work together and we get involved. We need policymakers and powerholders to stand with or support those who have solutions to offer. And we need to remove punishments and systems that remove the humanity of those who have been left out on the streets. All Olympians deserve to be safe. We are all worthy of basic human needs. To understand the toll of stress and trauma that people without homes—or in danger of losing them—have expressed, is to understand that they need healing, they need opportunity, and they need it now.
Please contribute to First Christian Church: their facility needs some plumbing repairs due to the usage-related stress of having so many in that space for so long. They gave to the community in its time of need, and we ought to return the favor. :https://www.firstchristianolympia.org/give-online/
To get involved with the Just Housing movement, check them out on FB: http://www.facebook.com/JustHousingOly
Boudicca Walsh is a local trans activist and writer. She is a member of the Thurston County Progressives and head of Olympia for Transgender Equity.
Reflections on the last 100 hours
Earlier today at the emergency shelter we were anticipating a reporter and photographer from The Olympian coming in. Tyler Gundel was to be the point person for #JustHousing. And I said to her, “I know this is a dumb question. But how did this all get started again? I truly do not remember.”
Now that I’ve been at home several hours and gotten some sleep, I am beginning to recall.
It started as a conversation Wednesday night with some Just Housingorganizers at Bread & Roses, a #CatholicWorker House here in Olympia. In particular, it was the urging of Selena Kilmoyer, longtime Bread and Roses resident, longtime shelter volunteer/advocate, noted old lady always down for the cause. “We have a storm coming in, and vulnerable people outside,” she said. “What are we going to do about it?”
The next day, First Christian opened up, just for the day we were told. Mary W. Ybarra and Selena held it down together, while many voices and service organizations pressed the city or county to open a public building as emergency shelter, particularly Meg Martin and Danny Kadden of Interfaith Works, Shelley Slaughter of Family Support Center, Pastor Amy and the board at First Christian Church, and leadership staff at Capital Recovery Center (Josh Black, Jordan Morris, Ann Rider).
Despite majority support on city council to open a public building such as The Olympia Center, the city manager declined, and no local governing body came through for the vulnerable.
Seeing no one else step up, First Christian Church decided to open for the night (and eventually all weekend). #JustHousing took on the task of recruiting and organizing volunteers to staff what turned out to be a rapid-relief emergency shelter with a 24-hour kitchen and free supply store, thanks to the generosity of so many of you in the community.
Volunteers included individuals totally new to this scene, and of course longtime advocates from IFW Shelter, EGYHOP, Drexel House, CRC, CYS, PiPE and others.
We’ll be at First Christian until 5pm Sunday. Salvation Army will open for overflow shelter tomorrow night.
It’s been a heckuva 100 hours, but we all pulled off something amazing thanks to direct action, heart, vision, know-how, and our commitment to each other as a #BelovedCommunity.
I believe our local decision makers have some answering to do once this storm blows over. I also believe this event showed we can never depend on, nor defer to, prevailing authorities when it comes to keeping each other safe.
May we live to see the day when shelters are seen as an odd artifact of a less enlightened day, because we’ll all have realized that real, permanent, decent, safe housing is a birthright of us all, for the sole reason that we share this beautiful magical planet together and no one has more claim to safety and survival than another.
The storm is almost over, but the need for justice is not. We need you and your voice and your gifts, in ever-evolving ways.
Renata Rollins is one of the core organizers of Just Housing and a former downtown Olympia ambassador.
The charm of disgusting
According to a recent article in the Economist, Hillary Clinton “is reckoned to be the second most-unpopular presidential nominate ever, after her Republican opponent Donald Trump.” The historically unprecedented dislike of both candidates is illustrated in the case of Clinton by a recent pool among registered U.S voters, showing over 56 percent of white and non-white respondents answering ‘no’ to the question “Do you think Hillary Clinton is honest?” In the case of Donald Trump, his unpopularity seems to be generated by the insulting and incoherent remarks directed by the nominee to certain important electoral groups. Eliot Weinberger, in a humorous article for the London Review of Books, lists over forty categories of recipients of offensive attacks from Trump’s apparently well-supplied lexicon of vulgarities. Among these recipients—the reader must bear with me as we plod through the following long list—we encounter women, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Chinese-Americans, the modest, the peace lovers, the morally concerned, the logical, the educated, the non-violent, the gastronomically inclined, the humorless, the scientists, Gold Star members, and the mathematically precise, to name just a few. (For a full account, see Weinberger’s essay in the October 20, 2016 issue.)
The question that comes to mind is why Americans seem to be ready and disposed to cast their vote and choose one of these two questionable and disliked political characters as the leader of the country for the next four or more years. Although there are many possible explanations for the existence of this unique American political phenomena (deeply rooted sado-masochism, or a deeply rooted yet underdeveloped and misguided pragmatism), but essentially, it mostly has to do with the effectiveness of capitalist ideology and the consequent dulling of the political consciousness of the electorate through main stream media. As Heber Marcuse pointed out a few decades ago,
“ The total mobilization of all media for the defense of the established reality has coordinated the means of expression to the point where communication transcending content becomes technically impossible”.
Marcuse’s message is as gloomy as they come, but it seems to describe the submissive practices of self-alienation endured by the American electorate in the last decades. We have been charmed by a system in which disgusting candidates can be elected even as we despise them for good reasons. Yet a vote for any of them is aligned with the logic of the beneficiaries of the system and not with the logic of freedom-seeking human beings.
Ménage a Deux
The independence of the American electorate was lost in the late 1930’s as consequence of the weakening of the labor movement, which was betrayed by Roosevelt, along with the persecution and violent repression of socialist, communist, and Trotskyist organizations that until then had shown increasing power and organizational skills. By the year 1933, huge marches of workers were taking place demanding union recognition. According to the International Socialist Review, “in 1933, there were 1,695 work stoppages, twice the number of the year before, involving 1,117,00 workers, nearly four times than the previous year. In the year 1934, the figures rose still higher: 1,856 strikes involving 1,470,000 workers”. Workers’ strikes spread to Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Toledo, Minneapolis and other industrial cities in the nation. Most people voting today have forgotten—or more likely never knew—that in the 30’s, the American left was not only able to generate a wide mass radicalization, but also able to build a multiracial movement led by the Communist Party’s struggle both in southern and northern cities, including Birmingham in Alabama and Harlem in New York, fighting against unemployment, hunger, racism, racist hiring policies, and lynching. By 1937, according to the same publication, “a Gallup poll showed that at least 21 percent of the population supported the formation of a national farmer-labor party as an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. [This percentage rose to 32 in in both Wisconsin and Minnesota, where independent farmer-labor parties won important victories against the two major parties in the first half of the decade.]
This type of political scenario is hard to imagine under the current circumstances. Instead, we have been mentally and politically engulfed, decade after decade, by the social domination of the two party system, transforming ourselves into respectable zombies of liberal democracy unable to transcend the ménage a deux of Republican and Democrats.
Those who advocated voting for Clinton instead of Trump, often did so by using the poorly digested ‘lesser evil’ principle at its lowest common denominator. They show no signs of knowledge about the aforementioned significant political demarcations and instead have become conscious or unconscious proponents of the automatization of electoral behavior. They not only perceive the political panorama as a bi-partite dichotomy, but fundamentally assume that what is normal, or what is real, begins and ends within the two-party system, as if the political epistemology of capital is the only possible or desirable way to conceive the destiny of the nation and the world of politics. Also, while pointing to the differences between the two candidates, simultaneously they forget to acknowledge the deep questionable similarities between the two, mainly the corporative class interest they both represent and the birth mark of neo-liberalism contained in their platforms. Proposals coming from the “lesser evil” camp assumed as impossible other political agendas more in tune with the interests of the majority of people, as if we couldn’t imagine better political scenarios and more just forms of existence.
The examples mentioned above suggest that other types of political reality and different forms of political knowledge and political experiences have been possible in the past. Hence, there is no supernatural reason why the will of the people cannot put them in practice again. We must admit to history and take responsibility for falling under the spell of the mermaid songs of capitalism given voice by the two newest Republican and Democratic singers. Listening to this fatidic duet has clouded our thinking, diminished our political freedom, and made us deliver every four years the transformative energy of political progressive thinking to the dinner table of the Democratic Party, from Jessie Jackson, to the largest popular progressive movement of the last decades which agglutinated behind Bernie Sanders.
History, contrary to what many may think, does not teach anything per se. It is human agency and reflection upon historical events that can open up the possibility of learning from past mistakes. In the 2016 elections, we had the option to waste our vote by choosing one of the two candidates of the perennial parties, or to choose a different alternative that demonstrated our will and our capacity to transcend the current socio-political domination. A better society is possible if we persist in the forging of an independent popular revolutionary movement and culture. To paraphrase the Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci, our intelligence may suggest pessimistic perceptions of the present, but our will should be the source of optimism in the future.
Enrique Quintero was a political activist in Latin America during the 70’s, then taught ESL and Second Language Acquisition in the Anchorage School District, and Spanish at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He currently lives and writes in Olympia.
The post Two ways to waste your vote: The sublime illusions of Trump and Clinton appeared first on Works in Progress.
El encanto de lo repulsivo
De acuerdo con un reciente artículo en The Economist, Hillary Clinton “es reconocida como la segunda candidata presidencial más impopular en la historia del país, el primer lugar es ocupado por su oponente republicano Donald Trump”. Este desagrado sin precedentes de ambos candidatos se ilustra en el caso de Clinton, por una encuesta reciente conducida entre votantes blancos y no blancos registrados en los U.S.A; los cuales con un porcentaje de más del 56 por ciento respondieron «no» a la pregunta ¿Cree usted que Hillary Clinton es honesta? En el caso de Donald Trump, su impopularidad parece estar generada por los comentarios insultantes o incoherentes del candidato dirigidos a ciertos grupos electorales importantes. Eliot Weinberger, en un artículo político–humorístico para el London Review of Books, enumera más de cuarenta categorías objeto del bien suplido léxico de vulgaridades de Trump.. Entre estos grupos encontramos—el lector debe tener paciencia conmigo por la larga lista – las mujeres, los mexicano-americanos, afroamericanos, por musulmanes estadounidenses, chinos-americanos, los modestos, los amantes de la paz, los atraídos por la moral, los atraídos por la lógica, las educados, los no violentos, los científicos, los sujetos con inclinaciones gastronómicas especificas, los que carecen del sentido del humor, los miembros de “Gold Star”, los proclives a la precisión matemática, etc.,etc. Por nombrar sólo unos pocos. (Para una descripción completa, véase el ensayo de Weinberger en la edición de octubre 20, 2016)
La pregunta que viene a la mente es por qué los estadounidenses parecen estar listos y dispuestos para emitir su voto y elegir uno de estos dos cuestionables e impopulares personajes políticos como el líder del país durante los próximos cuatro o más años. Aunque hay muchas posibles explicaciones para la existencia de este fenómeno singular de la política Americana (un profundamente arraigado sadomasoquismo, o un pragmatismo sub-desarrollado y mal orientado pero igualmente arraigado) Pero en esencia, en su mayoría, este comportamiento electoral tiene que ver con la eficacia de la ideología capitalista y el consiguiente adormecimiento de la conciencia política de los electores a través de los medios de comunicación hegemónicos. Vale recordar aquí el señalamiento de Heber Marcuse hace unas pocas décadas,
“La movilización total de todos los medios de comunicación par la defensa de la realidad establecida ha coordinado los medios de expresión hasta el punto donde el contenido de una comunicación trascendente sea técnicamente imposible”.
El mensaje de Marcuse es tan sombrío como el que mas, pero describe con certeza las prácticas de sumisión y auto-alienación soportadas por el electorado de Estados Unidos en las últimas décadas. Hemos sufrido el encanto de un un sistema en el cual elegimos candidatos repugnantes a pesar de que los despreciamos por buenas razones. Sin contar el echo que un voto por cualquiera de ellos se alinea con la lógica de los beneficiarios del sistema y no con la lógica de seres humanos en busca de libertad y justicia social.
Menage a deux
La independencia del electorado estadounidense se perdió a finales de la década de 1930 como consecuencia del debilitamiento del movimiento obrero que fuera traicionado por Roosevelt, junto con la persecución y la represión violenta de socialistas, comunistas y organizaciones trotskistas que hasta entonces habían demostrado cada vez mayor poder político y grandes habilidades organizativas. Para el año 1933, enormes marchas de trabajadores tuvieron lugar exigiendo el reconocimiento de sindicatos y otros derechos laborales . De acuerdo con la “International Socialist Review“, en 1933, hubo 1.695 paros, el doble del número del año anterior, que implico 1,117,00 trabajadores, casi cuatro veces más que el año precedente. En el año 1934, las cifras se elevaron aún más: 1.856 huelgas con la participación de 1.470.000 trabajadores “. Las huelgas de trabajadores se extendieron a Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Toledo, Minneapolis y otras ciudades industriales de la nación. La mayoría de las personas que votan hoy han olvidado o, más probable es que nunca lo supieron – que en la década de los 30, la izquierda estadounidense no sólo fue capaz de generar una amplia radicalización de las masas, pero también fue capaz de construir un movimiento multirracial dirigido por la lucha del Partido Comunista, tanto en ciudades del sur como del del norte, incluyendo Birmingham, en Alabama y Harlem en Nueva York, en lucha contra el desempleo, el hambre, el racismo, las políticas de contratación racistas, y el linchamiento. Antes de 1937, de acuerdo con la misma publicación, «una encuesta de Gallup mostró que al menos el 21 por ciento de la población apoyó la formación de un partido agricultor-laboral nacional, como una alternativa a los demócratas y republicanos. [Este porcentaje se elevó a] 32 tanto en Wisconsin como en Minnesota, donde los partidos agricultor-laborales independientes obtuvieron victorias importantes contra los dos grandes partidos en la primera mitad de la década. «
Este tipo de escenario político es difícil imaginar en las actuales circunstancias. En lugar de ello, hemos estado mental y políticamente atrapados, década tras década, por la dominación social del sistema de dos partidos, transformándonos en respetables zombies de la democracia liberal, pero incapaces de trascender el ménage a deux de republicanos y demócratas.
La falta de respeto epistemológico
Los partidarios de votar por Clinton en lugar de Trump, a menudo lo hacen utilizando el principio mal digerido del “mal menor” en su mas bajo común denominador. Su actitud demuestra desconocimiento acerca de las demarcaciones políticas importantes antes mencionadas y en su lugar se han convertido en defensores conscientes o inconscientes de la automatización del comportamiento electoral. Ellos no sólo perciben el panorama político como una dicotomía bipartita, pero fundamentalmente asumen que lo que es normal, o lo que es real, comienza y termina dentro del sistema de dos partidos, como si la epistemología política del capital es la única manera posible o deseable concebir el destino de la nación y el mundo de la política. También, mientras que señalan las diferencias entre los dos candidatos, a la vez se olvidan de reconocer las profundas y cuestionables similitudes entre los dos, sobre todo los interés de clase corporativa que ambos representan y la marca de nacimiento del neoliberalismo contenida en sus plataformas. Las propuestas que vienen del campo de “mal menor” asumen que otras agendas políticas más en sintonía con los intereses de la mayoría de la población son imposibles, como si las masas no pudiéramos imaginar escenarios políticos mejores y más justas formas de existencia.
Los ejemplos mencionados anteriormente sugieren que otros tipos de realidad política y diferentes formas de conocimiento y experiencias políticas han sido posibles en el pasado. Por lo tanto, no hay ninguna razón sobrenatural para qué la voluntad popular no los pueda poner en práctica nuevamente. Debemos reconocer hechos históricos y asumir la responsabilidad de haber caído bajo el hechizo de las canciones de sirena del capitalismo hoy interpretada por los dos cantantes republicanos y demócratas más recientes. El escuchar a este dúo fatídico ha nublado nuestra forma de pensar, ha disminuido nuestra libertad política, y nos hace entregar cada cuatro años, la energía transformadora del pensamiento político progresista a la mesa de cena del Partido Demócrata. Desde Jesse Jackson, hasta el mayor movimiento popular progresivo de la últimas décadas, que se aglutinaba tras de Bernie Sanders.
La historia, contrariamente a lo que muchos pueden pensar, no enseña nada por si mismo. Son la agencia y la reflexión humana sobre los acontecimientos históricos los que pueden abrir la posibilidad de aprender de los errores del pasado. En las elecciones de 2016, tenemos la posibilidad de desperdiciar el voto eligiendo uno de los dos candidatos de los partidos perennes, o elegir una alternativa diferente que demuestra nuestra voluntad y nuestra capacidad de trascender la dominación sociopolítica actual. Una sociedad mejor es posible si persistimos en la forja de un movimiento y cultura popular revolucionario e independiente. Parafraseando al revolucionario italiano Antonio Gramsci, nuestra inteligencia puede sugerir percepciones pesimistas del presente, pero nuestra voluntad debe ser la fuente de optimismo en el futuro.
Enrique Quintero, un activista político en América Latina durante la década de los 70, enseñó ESL y adquisición de segundas lenguas en el Distrito Escolar de Anchorage, y español en la Universidad de Alaska Anchorage. Actualmente vive y escribe en Olympia.
The post Dos maneras de desperdiciar el voto: Las ilusiones sublimes de Trump y Clinton appeared first on Works in Progress.
The Chaplin-Thompson trial is scheduled to begin on October 11, 2016, at the Thurston County Courthouse. The Chaplin-Thompson family has requested that the community support them by showing up at court. Seating is limited, but overflow crowds will be accommodated in another room with a live feed. Check the Courthouse schedule for more information.
The Chaplin-Thompson family is also in need of wheelchair-accessible housing. At a recent community meeting, Crystal Chaplin expressed that the family is having difficulties finding a landlord that is willing to rent to the family due to the pending trial.
You can find more information about community meetings, court dates and how to contact the family through Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1207200192655064//
Call or email Jon Tunheim at the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office ASAP and request that all charges be dropped against Chaplin and Thompson: 360-786-5540 email@example.com
Sign a petition to get the charges dropped: www.change.org/p/crystal-chaplin-drop-unjustified-charges-fire-officer-ryan-donald-justice-for-andre-thompson-bryson-chaplin
Lt. Aaron Jelcick of the Olympia Police Department’s Shooting Review Board had four pages of questions for Officer Donald similar to those raised by WIP and the Olympia community. This is a summary of that document, including Jelcick’s hand-written notes of Donald’s responses.
The document is in three sections. The first concerned Donald’s training and knowledge of policy and contained ten questions. There are no notes as to Donald’s replies. Donald is specifically asked to explain how “life-threatening behavior” is defined.
Jelcick asks about the “force tools” Donald had with him that night and his training on the use of said tools. Donald was also asked to explain “force tools, tactics and timing” as well as “tactical guidelines on high-risk field interviews.” Jelcick inquired whether Donald had ever been “given direction or instruction about engaging with high-risk suspects without a backup.”
In the next section, Jelcick had over twenty questions regarding the call at Safeway and Donald’s first contact with Chaplin and Thompson. Only three have handwritten notes indicating Donald’s answers. Jelcick starts by asking Donald about what information he had going into the situation and whether he considered waiting for backup before making initial contact. Jelcick notes that when that contact was made, Donald had not turned on his overhead lights but had shined his vehicle spotlight on them. Donald was asked if he believed the suspects knew he was a police officer and to explain why or why not.
Jelcick asked Donald why he removed his handgun from his holster. His note reads Donald thought “he might rush me.” When queried whether he knew backup was on the way, Donald said yes. Jelcick pressed further, “Did you feel, based on the information you had from the Safeway incident, the suspect’s threatening behavior with the skateboard [only one had a skateboard, true?], the fact that they were bigger than you, the low light conditions, the fact that there were back-up officers en-route, and the lack of exigency/community safety risks, was it reasonable to try to detain these suspects without a back-up officer?” No answers are recorded.
Jelcick continued to be concerned about Donald’s safety, asking, “In your statement, you mentioned that you had prior knowledge that a skateboard could be used as a weapon, and that you know people have been killed by them. Why did you re-holster your firearm, leave an area of cover, and engage suspects who have displayed assaultive behavior and are armed with a deadly weapon by yourself?”
There are three more questions about Donald’s decisions before moving on to the final section entitled “2nd contact with suspects.” WIP is including the full text, including both questions and Jelcick’s handwritten notes recording Donald’s testimony.
Q: Why did you decide to run on foot to the area where the suspects entered the roadway instead of using your police vehicle to set a high visibility perimeter?
A: Thought I might lose sight of them when I turned my car around, I could have [note ends]
Q: What is your training on setting perimeters?
A: [space left blank]
Q: You indicated in your statement if you had another contact with the suspects that you believed they would assault you again. With this belief, why did you put yourself in a position where you might have another confrontation that would lead to deadly force, without having other officers that may be able to use less lethal force options?
A: I went to a position to set perimeter not to pursue them – thought [note ends]
Q: When you observed the subject wearing the dark shirt with the skateboard approximately 12 ft. from you why did you pull out gun and point it at him?
A: [space left blank]
Q: Did you consider any less lethal options at this point? If not, why?
A: He almost immediately stood up w/ skateboard over his head, I had no choice but deadly force.
Q: As the suspect in the dark shirt approached you with the skateboard raised, do you remember giving any verbal commands? If, so what were the commands?
A: Get on the ground, just get on the ground.
Q: How many times did you fire your weapon?
A: I don’t know.
Q: At what point did you stop firing your weapon?
A: When he fell on the ground.
Q: After the subject with the skateboard fell to the ground, did you consider him still a threat to your immediate safety?
A: No – not an immediate threat.
Q: At what point did you reload your handgun?
A: After suspect went down.
Q: At the time of the reload, did you consider transitioning to other less lethal force tools?
A: Yes – but I didn’t have time – and I wanted to be sure I would be effective.
Q: As the subject with the white shirt began to approach you, did you give verbal commands?
A: Yes. Get on ground, get on ground.
Q: Was the subject in the white shirt armed with any visible weapons?
A: No weapons.
Q: Did you consider using a less lethal force tool to stop the advance by the suspect in the white shirt? Please explain your answer.
A: Yes – but could not – not enough time – he was focused on my gun and I could not transition.
Q: Could you have retreated to a location of safety?
A: [space left blank]
Q: Why did you conclude that the suspect in the white shirt was going to try to disarm you?
A: Yes – he was focused on my gun and closing distance.
Q: Have you received training on firearms retention with assaultive suspects?
A: [space left blank]
Q: Have you had unarmed suspects advance on you with aggression before? If so, how did you respond?
A: [space left blank]
Q: Why was this advance by an unarmed suspect different from those incidents?
A: Never had a suspect get that close and continue to advance w/ gun out.
Q: Why did you use deadly force against the subject in the white shirt?
A: [space left blank]
Much of Officer Donald’s narrative centers around his fear of being assaulted by Bryson Chaplin hitting him with his skateboard. For supporting evidence, Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim pointed to what he says was similar behavior when Chaplin was at the Safeway on Cooper Point Rd. earlier that night. Stills taken from Safeway security camera footage and included in the Shooting Review Board binder do not support this accusation.
In his statement, Donald says that Chaplin raised the board over his head in an attempt to hit him with it. At no time in the Safeway video does Chaplin appear to make this motion with his skateboard.
At the 12:48 a.m. time stamp, footage taken outside of the store shows Chaplin swinging his board in a motion similar to that of a baseball bat, to the side, as opposed to over his head. There is nobody else in the frame when Chaplin does this. His motivation is unclear but it does not appear to be malevolent.
As Chaplin attempted to leave the store at 12:52 a.m., carrying a case of beer, he is confronted by Safeway employees Tammy Brown and Jason Gray. Chaplin throws the case of beer in the employee’s direction, where it hits the floor. Chaplin does raise his board at this time, but this action appears to be incidental to the beer being thrown. It is definitely not over his head in an attempt to bludgeon as described by Donald.
The post Did Bryson Chaplin use his skateboard as a weapon? appeared first on Works in Progress.
Each member of the SRB was given a sheet that contained the two questions they had been tasked with answering. Despite all five members having had reservations about Donald’s decisions, the Board was unanimous that he followed OPD policy. The following is their complete responses:
Question #1: Did the force used by the officer adhere to the policies of the Olympia Police Department?
Lt. Aaron Jelcick: Yes. All uses of force by Officer Donald were within policy.
Edward Prince: Yes, I examined all uses of force in this incident & they all comply w/ OPD policy.
Deputy City Attorney Darren Nienaber: Yes.
Officer Jason Winner: All uses of force evaluated on this review are within the policies of the Olympia Police Department.
Chief Steve Nelson: Yes. I believe Officer Donald used force due to the life-threatening actions of the suspects in this case.
Question #2: Did the actions of the officer precipitate the course of events that ultimately led to the use(s) of force? If so, were those actions reasonable and appropriate?
Lt. Aaron Jelcick: No. Officer Donald’s actions did not precipitate the course of events that led to the use of force, however, during the initial contact Officer Donald’s decision to reduce the distance between himself and the suspects increased his safety risk.
Edward Prince: No, however I believe Officer Donald made a tactical error by moving to the rear of the car which contributed to the assault in the first use of force. In my opinion all other uses of force stem from the first incident. Subjects were aggressive from initial contact when Officer Donald first made contact with them.
Deputy City Attorney Darren Nienaber: No. Due to the ambiguity of this question, this clarification is offered: going to the back of the car may have increased the risk of attack on him more than needed during their first contact with him.
Officer Jason [sic, should be effecting]: No, Officer Donald was affecting a lawful purpose during his initial contact with both suspects. Although his choice to place himself in closer proximity to the suspects on the initial contact may have contributed to him being assaulted – it only contributed in placing him in a proximity to the suspects that allowed them the opportunity to begin assaulting Officer Donald. Ultimately the use of force, however, was precipitated by both suspects’ assaultive behavior. The use of force, therefore, was in response to each suspects’ motions displaying life-threatening behavior.
Chief Steve Nelson: No, Officer Donald lawfully attempted to stop suspects in this case even though significant warning signs were present. After non-compliance with his verbal commands to stop were ignored. He approached both suspects to continue verbal commands but put himself too close to them tactically. They turned, lunged and grabbed his arm which precipitated the use of deadly force.