Saturday, January 24, 2009

some sweet verse

Came across this great piece by Vi Ransel. I hope we hear more from this forthright poet.

(or The Sting)
by Vi Ransel

The deal white Americans
made with their leaders
allowed them the luxury
of feeling racially superior.

But they didn't read the fine print.
The deal gave leaders the option
to get rid of American labor
by outsourcing production.

While they'd benefited from the methods
used to keep Black Americans down,
they never thought their leaders
would take it and turn it around.

They're learning too late
being white's not enough.
They've been conned out of America
and they set themselves up.

It was never about color.
It was just business. Capitalist business.
But white Americans won't admit it
'til it's too late to fix it.

"It's not personal, it's just business."
Michael Corleone (The Godfather, Part I)

Friday, January 23, 2009

clumsy attempt to invent a real pro-life movement

Media clumsiness reigns, although we'll see how long the Los Angeles Times keeps this photo up which basically contradicts (or at least severely problematizes) their headline. The headline reads "Anti-Abortion Marchers Hope Obama's Listening." For good measure, the teaser beneath the headline reads "Thousands in Washington commemorate Roe vs. Wade and speak up against the president's position on abortion rights." The event the Times is covering is the anti-abortion "march for life" that conveniently coincides with Obama's innauguration this year. There, in the midst of a couple of visible pro-life signs was a very firm NOW sign saying "Keep abortion legal." The sign-holder, apparently a "Lisa King of Washington, D.C.," is identified by name. There is no mention in the artcle of any pro-choice demonstrators. Nor is there any critical reflection in the article concerning demographics or numbers (eg, the consistent pro-choice majority in the U.S.). Instead, there is a tone that strongly suggests the Times, like the rest of the mainstream media, is more interested in generating controversies that imply overwhelming conservative opposition to an Obama presidency. In this case, they betrayed themselves with a photo...or perhaps a photographer (Carolyn Cole, also of the Los Angeles Times) and page editor betrayed the unreflective tone of the article by Ben Meyerson. My friend Jimbo would call this a journalistic "fail." I call it great fun.

Monday, January 19, 2009

An Urgent Plea from Parents' Circle

I thought this was worth posting. It's from the latest update on the Parents' Circle web site:
We, the Palestinian and Israeli Members of the PCFF, Bereaved Families Supporting Reconciliation and Peace Make This Urgent Appeal;

To those who can make a difference to the daily reality of the Palestinian and Israeli people

To those who know that the negotiation of a cease fire is not enough and that it would only mean a temporary hiatus until the next round of killing

To those who understand that freedom of movement and the right to an independent and viable state for the Palestinian nation is a basic requisite for solving the conflict

To those who understand that Israel's need for security is legitimate and that without it, no solution is possible

To those who care about both peoples

To those who only care about one side

We implore you to force all sides to sit around a table and find a way to stop the never ending cycle of violence so that finally we can live with a permanent sense of safety and dignity, which every nation deserves.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thoughts on Gaza

For Israel and Palestine to live in peace, whether as one whole state or two, they need an entirely new kind of leadership. Both of them, and us too, to better accomodate solutions grounded in an authentic desire for peace, and the resources necessary to guarantee Palestinian self-sufficiency and Israeli security.

Most activists and academics seem obsessed with the blame question, their anger towards whichever other side blurring their anger over the existential question of the conflict. This doesn't make sense to me. When we witness our friends or family fighting, we try to stop the fight first. Of course, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one side or the other is going to seem alien to us. That's precisely why we should turn to organizations like Parents' Circle, groups of Israeli Arabs (haven't read the new Newsweek article on that, but I intend to soon), and, where possible, Palestinian critics of Hamas.

Those defending the Palestinian leadership (I'm talking Hamas in the Gaza context) need to acknowledge the reality that many ordinary Israeli citizens live in fear of terrorist attacks. They need to accept that reality even though there are some words in there uncomfortable to discourse-leftys. They also need to distance themselves from violence against innocents--or at least admit that they favor it so we can mock or ignore them. (I'm not talking about understanding the root of such violence. We need to do that, but we can do that without favoring it politically or tactically. It's precisely the break away from such violence that will distinguish the successful, creative Palestinian leadership I am wishing for.)

Those defending Israel's military campaign have already lost the ability to sincerely wish for a nonviolent solution to the conflict. Even if Israel is merely retaliating, to defend retaliation--particularly when it results in such a higher death count than what it retaliates against-- is to renounce one of the core principles, and arguably the core political implication, of New Testament ethics; it is to distance oneself from one of the few genuinely consistently successful political strategies of the 20th century. And it admits, without explicitly bothering to do so, that the dead three year-old boy, the sobbing mother, and homeless people who have done nothing more than live within the borders of misleaders, are all acceptable byproducts of Israel's decisions. That last one puts Israel's supporters precariously close to where the most cynical --or mentally unstable-- Palestinian leader may be found.

I want leaders in Palestine, Israel and America, not misleaders. I don't care whether the solutions forged are secular, spiritual, material, financial, capitalist or socialist. I want the adults to grow up so the children can grow up. You won't hear the mainstream media talking much about misleadership, at least in a thematic way. Corporate media is too bound up in the fate of its subject matter to be able to imagine or predict a Gandhi or Martin Luther King. As long as we let media sensationalists, weapons makers, and religious fanatics set the tone, mainstream public discussions will fail.

Alternative media is another story. As long as progressives are willing to listen to both sides, our fora may be the key to finding common ground. I'll be moderating a debate between Professors Jason Steck and Stephen Zunes on Saturday, January 24 on Shared Sacrifice Radio, on the subject of Gaza. My role in that debate will be one of neutral moderator, so nobody should worry about whether my personal feelings about the issue will bleed into any of the questions. But if anyone wants to suggest questions to ask our opposing scholars, feel free to send some my way.