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collective success

I recently had a few conversations that left me reeling. They reflected visions of success that, I realized, I rejected completely and absolutely. Viscerally.

This left me with the questions: Why did I reject that vision of success? And given that I rejected it wholesale, what was my own vision of success?

The answer is tied, in part, to the 150 or so books I’ve read since August of last year. Somehow, I couldn’t find the answer to these questions in pages. I had to find it in conversation.

We live in a world of finite resources. Some people are granted access to those resources; others are deprived of them. Generally, those who have access have military or other kinds of power legitimating that access. In short, they retain access by force. Read more…

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fighting for change

when i was in law school,
my brother-in-law
would sometimes
visit

when we’d go to
the grocery store,
i’d pay and then,
four times out of five,
the cashier (female
or male) would
reach to hand him
the change

“um, that’s hers,”
he’d say, routing
the change
back to me

more than a decade later,
i continue to get
the change consistently
when there’s no man around,
but often have to work for it
when there is

so, yesterday,
when i made a kind of payment
and the change was directed to
a male friend instead,
i went ugh, gah,
still?!

but i
was silent.
i just
did not
have it in me
to fight for change
right then

having never been
in a like situation
with this friend,
i wasn’t sure
what he’d do

and thus was glad
when he said,
“you should
give the change
to her”

it shouldn’t take a man to say it
for someone else to hear it,
but in those cases
where it does,
i am thankful
for the men
who will
and do say,
“i’m not
taking
her
change”

The could-have-been soul-kin of Anne Frank

I thought of Anne Frank while walking in the rain this morning.

I thought of how she might have lived, had the U.S. approved her entry into the country.

I thought of the final marches made by countless peoples Nazis deemed subhuman. Did each of those marchers know how few steps they had to walk in their lives? Or did they hold out some frail hope as they marched toward gas chambers that the worst was behind them?

I ached, but something in my heart told me I wasn’t only aching because of the past.

I turned toward the present, and my blood ran cold.

Over the weekend, I read further in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.

I learned that the image of Iraq I’d had painted for me by U.S. media when the U.S. invaded Iraq  was wrong. Far from being a backward country in need of re-creation, it had a rich cultural, artistic, and intellectual history. Its literacy rate exceeded that of many U.S. states.

Then the U.S. invaded and destroyed Iraq, obliterating its universities, museums, and faith centers in addition to ending–through torture and killing–countless lives.

I’d had no idea what–or whom–my country destroyed, nor how completely it did so to open new markets.

After World War II, many ordinary Germans claimed they had no idea what was happening to the people forcibly removed from their communities. Even those with concentration camps in their backyards professed shock upon discovering the atrocities perpetrated–and suffered–by people who’d once walked among them.

To focus very narrowly upon a single city or community might make disappearances merely curious.

Pulling back and taking a wider view, we can see from temporal and physical distance that people disappeared from many communities.

Focusing on any one, it is easy to say it’s not such a big deal some people disappeared.

It would, of course, be wrong, for what happened in any individual community didn’t spring from such community. What happened in each was symptomatic of a much greater ill, which can only be seen from further back.

(The earth seems flat while standing upon it. You must view it from space to see that it is curved.)

I wrote recently about the U.S.’s indispensible role destroying Yemeni lives by bombing Yemen and by cutting it off from desperately needed humanitarian supplies.

Those not killed by bombs are killed by slow starvation.

When I wrote, I was troubled and perplexed by my country’s brutal acts, as well as by my fellow Americans’ apparent lack of concern with the same.

U.S. attacks on Yemen and, once again, Iraq might not seem that disturbing taken as two completely separate sets of actions.

Viewing it that way is viewing it too narrowly, for the U.S. has recently bombed and otherwise attacked three other predominantly Muslim Middle Eastern countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Syria. (In the latter case, U.S. leaders roar for a no-fly zone they quietly acknowledge will kill countless civilians.)

Taking a slighty wider view, the pattern becomes even more sinister: The U.S. is also bombing two Muslim countries in northern Africa. Somalia is under U.S. attack, as is Libya, which was a true democracy until the U.S.’s Clinton-led  intervention a few years ago.

Having destabilized not only Iraq but many of its Muslim neighbors, my country destroys their paths to food, exit, and safety. It totals homes and livelihoods and then dooms entire regions by denying their people safe harbor here.

By Oxford’s definition of genocide, “the deliberate killing of large groups of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation (synonyms: mass murder),” U.S. actions have a name.

Ask some members of certain American contingencies and they’ll tell you we’re bombing Muslim countries because violent Muslims have provoked us to it.

In addition to being a horrifyingly broad overgeneralization, this acontextual view ignores how U.S. attacks have fanned the flames of extremism. In one recent Robert Kennedy piece, he explains how  U.S. Department of Defense “data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement abroad and terrorist attacks against the U.S.”

Indeed, Pulse Nightclub shooter Omar Mateen told a police negotiator, “You have to tell the U.S. government to stop bombing. They are killing too many children. They are killing too many women, okay.”

In a broadly bipartisan affair, my country has killed and continues to kill hundreds of thousands of Muslim families. To my heart, there is no difference between these families, Sikh families, Christian families, Jewish families, atheist families, or any other loving family.

I cannot stop my government from killing, but I can speak up that none around me may ever truthfully say, “I had no idea that was happening!”

To not know is one thing; to willfully not know, quite another.

As we go about our merry not-knowing, there is no telling how many soul-kin of Anne Frank we are destroying each and every day.

This 10/24/16 post transferred from L2SP 5/16/17

 

Power protecting power

daddy littler j

I am a white woman.

My gentle, articulate, Yale-alum husband is black. His blackness didn’t matter to me when we started dating, or when I discovered I was pregnant. I couldn’t really believe it mattered to anyone.

I’d seen otherwise long before July 19, 2013, when I tried to make people laugh while recognizing the limitations of misunderstanding their own experiences and insights as universal.

A police officer repeatedly shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014. I didn’t pay Mike’s death much mind until two months later, when I saw how many people were still protesting and “suspected it likelier I was uninformed than that they were delusional.”

One month later, I was no longer uninformed. I’d spent countless hours poring over news and watching devastating social media clips reflecting very different fact-sets than those set forth by policemen and their mainstream media spokespeople.

I discussed Ferguson with my then five-year-old son that day. “But they won’t shoot me?” Li’l D asked of policemen, punching me straight through the heart with his words.  Read more…

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