Stopping Bulldozers

A pacifist, which is what I am, can be the strongest resister, and pacifism the most defiant form of resistance. Same with language usage: I mix the old and the new to engage with a debate about protection, preservation, conservation, and respect of the “natural” world. I am aware of the problems these words carry in terms of implying complicity, because I am a poet rather than a speech writer. For me, because of this, poems can stop bulldozers. Not because they just say “stop bulldozer,” but because the intricacies of language challenge, distract, and entangle the bulldozer. I am using a semantics not of analogy, but of opposition. My words are intended to halt the damage—to see what shouldn’t be seen, to declare and challenge it.  

More from John Kinsella’s Vermin: A Notebook here

The ’60s Were GOOD!

Gary Leupp at Counterpunch:

Three years after McCain was shot down over Hanoi while on that bombing mission, [Bill] Ayers by his own admission participated in a bombing of a New York City police station, and went on to bomb the Capitol and Pentagon in the next two years. Each action came in response to a specific escalation of the Vietnam War. There were no casualties, and Ayers was never convicted of a crime. He denies that the bombings were acts of terrorism and points out instead that the war in Vietnam was a war of terror. (During this time, by the way, the 11 to 13 year old Obama was living in Indonesia and Hawai’i.)

Bill Ayers like many of his generation was a follower of Martin Luther King before joining the SDS then some of its spin-offs which (like many in the New Left) parted company with the doctrinaire non-violence they perceived as ineffectual. But consider his background. While studying at the University of Michigan in 1965, he joined a picket line protesting an Ann Arbor pizzeria’s policy of refusing service to African-Americans. (18 years later, when I studied at UM, such racist exclusion was unimaginable. How the world had changed because of people like Ayers!) He participated in a draft board sit-in, punished by 10 days in jail. He worked in progressive childhood education. These are the kind of rebellious activities that enraged the white supremicists (then far more respectable and mainstream than now), the kneejerk anticommunists, the reactionaries terrified by rock ‘n roll and the youth counterculture. But what’s there to damn here, for those who aren’t misled by a washed-up generation of racist uptight bigots?

People over 50 remember that period very well, and many much younger people view it with envy and fascination. After all, today’s youth listen to the Beatles, Stones, Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead, considering them their own. (We in the ’60s rarely listened to the music of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.) College students flock to courses on the ’60s, viewing that decade as one of turmoil, excitement, and progressive change. The verdict’s in: the war was wrong, segregation and all racism was wrong, sexism and homophobia were wrong—and the limited social progress as we’ve seen since the ’60s is largely rooted in the tireless efforts of the activists of that decade.  The ’60s were good!

Read the whole thing here

h/t wood s lot


Spoken word poet Sofia Baig will perform at Mississauga’s Muslimfest this weekend:

A spoken-word poet who refers to her voice as “my weapon” is to perform at this weekend’s MuslimFest for young people.

Sofia Baig, a rising star among Canadian Muslim activists, takes the stage Sunday at a two-day gathering intended to celebrate Islamic cultural expression.

“So pardon me while I rip the clip from my lips and throw – blow them away like ashes,” the 20-year-old Montreal poet recites in “My Weapon,” from her debut CD Daughter of the Sand to be launched at the festival.

“My mouth won’t ever cease fire,” she raps. “So load the clip and watch as they shoot out of my lips, rain hell on all of them. I want these words to explode and hit.”

Her message, she said in a telephone interview, is one of peace.

“(The poem) is telling people: Instead of picking up your gun, instead of taking your bombs and instead of shooting people, and killing people, and raping people, use your voice as a means to change the world in a positive manner,” she said last week.

“I’m not trying to propagate violence in any way at all.”

The fifth-annual MuslimFest, at Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre, is a youth- and child-oriented event organized by the Mississauga branch of SoundVision, a Chicago religious book and music company.

“Everyone is welcome,” organizer Taha Ghayyur, formerly head of Young Muslims Canada and now with SoundVision, said yesterday. Wider advertising is expected to boost attendance to 12,000 people from last year’s 10,000, he said.

The emcee and all five top-billed performers other than Baig are converts to Islam. One is the former David Wharnsby of Kitchener, now Dawud Wharnsby Ali, a singer of the Islamic religious song form nasheed.

Baig stands out as the only woman. Her father is Muslim from Pakistan. Her mother grew up in the Philippines of Spanish and Chinese parents, and converted to Islam upon getting married.

Baig never knew her mother’s family but saw her father’s relatives often. All were religious Muslims, she said, more so than her father, and they rejected her for her mixed race.

“When I was younger, there were times when I did feel there were racist comments thrown at me,” she said. “I felt very ostracized.”

Outside the family she felt accepted, she said, both in the francophone suburb of Châteauguay where she grew up and at Sacred Heart, the private English-speaking Roman Catholic girls’ school she attended downtown.

“I felt like I was one of them,” she said of her classmates.

But identity issues continued to trouble her and on Sept. 11, 2001 – when she was 13 – she chose to identify herself as a devout Muslim by donning a head scarf for school.

Over her parents’ objections, following the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, she chose not the loose-flowing Pakistani dupatta but the Middle Eastern hijab covering the neck, ears and hair. “It was like an ongoing struggle for me, being so diversely mixed,” she said, not fully able to explain her choice even now.

“What are you going to say to people, `I’m Pakistani, Chinese and Spanish, and I’m Muslim?’ You can say that, but if you don’t really know what that means to you, it’s just empty words.

“I didn’t want to feel empty.”

The Star

Women & Courage

Part of an interview with Isabelle Allende at the Women’s Media Center:

You are participating in Omega‘s upcoming Women & Courage conference. Why to you is cultivating women’s courage so important and timely right now?
Women have always been courageous. They are the bravest of the brave! They are always fearless when protecting their children and in the last century they have been fearless in the fight for their rights. The patriarchy has innumerable ways of confronting women’s courage. A recent example is how effective it has been in depicting feminists as witches and fueling a backlash of the Women’s Lib. Today millions of young women who benefit from the struggles of their mothers and grandmothers and would not give up any of their rights don’t call themselves feminists because it’s not sexy. They believe that feminism is dated. They have not looked around, they are not aware that today, in the 21st century, women still do two thirds of the world labor and own less than 1% of the assets; girls are still sold into premature marriage, prostitutions, and forced labor; women are forced to have children they don’t want or they can’t care for, they are beaten, tortured, raped and assassinated with impunity. In times of conflict, war, poverty or religious fundamentalism, women and children are the first and most numerous victims. Women need all their courage today, as they needed it before.

I belong to the first generation of older women empowered by education and health care. Never before so many older women have had so many resources. Our role as grandmothers is to protect young women and children, to work for peace in every way and at every level, and to improve the quality of life for everybody, not just the privileged. Our role is to dream a better world and to work courageously to make that dream possible.

As a writer and activist, what is your view of how well the media is doing its job? And how you do see the connection between the various kinds of media and the potential for human rights advocacy?
The media could do a much better job, that’s for sure, especially the media that targets women. Women’s glossy magazines, women’s TV series and programs, with few exceptions, are disgusting. Human rights? They couldn’t care less! Their message to women is all about consumerism, looking sexy and pleasing men in bed. And yet they have the potential to make profound changes for the better in women’s lives. In the rest of the media there are some great advocacy journalists and programs, but they are few.

If you could deliver one message to women today, what would it be?
Sisters: talk to each other, be connected and informed, form women’s circles, share your stories, work together, and take risks. Together we are invincible. There is nothing to be afraid of.

More about the “Women and Courage” Conference and an article about participants Isabelle Allende and Loung Ung here

Interview with Loung Ung

Who Will End the War?

John Halle on who will end the Iraq War:

In the wake of his furious denunciations precipitated by his pastor’s suggestion that the U.S. is anything other than a victim of terrorist violence, it should now be clear to even his most starry eyed acolytes that under an Obama administration the US. will remain the “leading purveyor of violence in the world today” as much as when Dr. King characterized it as such forty years ago.

That means, most notably, the U.S. Army will remain in Iraq doing what armies do: blowing up buildings, killing scores of people and getting killed themselves-financed by ever more extravagant deficit spending from the treasury.

They will continue to do so whether Senator “120,000 new troops”, Senator “obliterate Iran” or Senator “hundred years war” is installed in January 2009.

What this means for the sixty five percent of the population committed to ending the three trillion dollar genocidal fiasco is that whoever takes office will scale back and end U.S. occupation only under duress. He or she will need to be dragged kicking and screaming-by us.

Given this reality, the question for the movement remains what it has been since the failure of the huge antiwar demonstrations of 2003 and after. How do we communicate that we mean business? That when we say “no war” we mean no war.

What is to be Done