Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Hypocrisy Pie

                                   Image result for hypocrisy pie
Quoting from a former student who 'gets it':

"Day of mourning today. Neo Nazis are taking over this country. We're abusing and maiming peaceful protesters in Standing Rock. No one is giving a shit about the water in Flint. Hate crimes are on the rise.  Ya, fuck this country. Fuck Thanksgiving. Let it all burn."

I don't blame her sentiments and expression.  Right now, there is a lot of bullshit going on in this lovely American landscape.  And I'm sure if you're like me, your relatives have been banned from talking politics at the holiday meal this year.  With the alt-right/Neo Nazi/white supremacy movement growing and the shit that is happening at Standing Rock with Sioux native people is atrocious (but more on that in a minute).  Let's first talk about the shady history behind Thanksgiving.  Let's also think on how ironic it is that this year, as we do have things to be thankful for, we also have some major hypocrisy going on, especially when it comes to native people.

And know that a group called The United American Indians of New England see Thanksgiving as a 'day of mourning'.  Natives who participate in this long standing ceremonious ritual have put a KKK sheet on a statue of William Bradford.  They have also buried Plymouth rock because it is viewed as a symbol of bigotry and racism.  Kisha James, a 17 year old says that though she is proud to take part, she often lies about what she's doing because she doesn't want to explain why she is doing something different since doing what everyone else does (ie. eating a family dinner) is much easier to explain.  This year's organizers wrote this statement, "Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture...Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today."  This information is sourced from an article by Carla Javier from Fusion titled 'Why These Native Americans are Spending Thanksgiving Marching Marching and Mourning, not Celebrating'.


So truly, as you sit down at your family Thanksgiving table, please take a minute to think about the injustice and genocide that has happened to natives of this land.  The original story about Thanksgiving taking place in a beautiful New England fall with red and orange leaves in the backdrop while natives and Pilgrims sit down and break bread with each other, so to speak.  Well, that story is complete horseshit.  Just read Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, one of my favorite books of all time.  After reading this at age 16, my view of American history changed and suddenly I was interested in social justice and getting at the 'truth' of what happened in American history rather than the watered down version most children/teenagers get in school.

Little do people know, there were hundreds of tribes living and flourishing in North America before settlers came to decimate the population with disease.  Actually according to Loewen, there was not much disease in North America, prior to colonization/trade.  It all began in Southern New England when French and British fishermen introduced diseases like smallpox, influenza, and viral hepatitis.  In three years, 90 to 96 percent of the coastal New England native population was dead. Before this point, natives did not have a high amount of disease and it is believed this is because they actually bathed (unlike the European settlers) and practiced basic hygiene.  I'm sure when settlers arrived, they smelled like shit, literally (Loewen, 69)*.

So when colonizers came in full force, native populations were doomed.  Most of us know the story of how native populations were duped with blankets covered in smallpox and because of dips in population made it hard to fight off the settlers.  In fact, disease only helped the settlers take land (that wasn't there's) and sew the roots of this great, modern country of ours.  How fucked up is that?

I would say not as fucked up as what most likely happened during the first Thanksgiving.

Here is a video spelling out the myths about Thanksgiving:

Additionally, according to an article from 2010 on The Huffington Post by Richard Greener*, the story of romantic story of Thanksgiving started after World War I, a time when minorities (African Americans, Jews, immigrants) were being heavily discriminated against.  In fact, the 1920's and 1930's was a time in American history when Eugenics, the (fake) 'science' of racial theory took hold and gained much popularity.  By the way, Francis Galton, Darwin's cousin was the great genius behind Eugenics and it's this theory that fueled thoughts of Hitler and the Nazi party in Europe.  But I digress.

Back to Thanksgiving.  Loewen states, "Throughout the nation every fall, elementary school children reenact a little morality play, the First Thanksgiving, as our national origin myth, complete with Pilgrim hats made out of construction paper and Indian braves with feathers in their hair" (Loewen, 84).  Who doesn't remember doing this?  Tracing  your hand, and making a turkey?  Or singing 'Ten Little Indians'?  This kind of shit churns my stomach.

And actually, native people were celebrating a fall harvest festival/meal for years/generations. American didn't even consecrate Thanksgiving as the holiday we know and love until 1863 when Lincoln needed to promote patriotism and loyalty during the Civil War.  Pilgrims were left out of the story until the 1890's  (Loewen, 86).  Greener states that Thanksgiving occurred in 1637, and the governor of Massachusetts Colony, John Winthrop wanted to celebrate the safe return of colonial murders who had just killed over 700 Pequot natives in Connecticut.  They killed men, women, and children.  Actually, to this day a group called the United American Indians of New England meet at Plymouth rock to 'mourn'.  But what are they mourning you ask?  The loss of their culture, the decimation of their people and traditions, the rampant alcoholism and suicide that exists on most reservations.  But we all sit around eating pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes not giving much thought to this narrative.

 Now let's jump to 2016 to Standing Rock.  The problem is reminiscent of an issue in the 1970's that came up.  Wanting the natural resources under the land of the Pine Ridge Reservation, the US government go intelligent forces involved to hijack the land that the Sioux would not give up.  There was a standoff between FBI and natives and one, Leonard Peltier got blamed for shooting two FBI agents.  Read his book 'Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance' (a book I had students read in my literature of human rights class.)  I also recommend the documentary Incident at Oglala from 1992, narrated by Robert Redford (which you can buy on Youtube for $2.99).

Leonard Peltier is still in jail in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  He makes a lot of art, however.  I have been lucky to see one of his paintings close up.  But I digress again.  A similar story to that of Pine Ridge is happening right now at Standing Rock.  Laura Bassett wrote an article for The Huffington Post describing, again, the hypocrisy of what is unfolding at Standing Rock and Thanksgiving.  If you've been under a rock, there have been native and non-natives protesting the construction of an oil pipeline through native land.  I have had friends go to Standing Rock and protest.  I would too if I had the opportunity.

Last Sunday night, 300 protesters were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons while protesting in sub-freezing cold.  Around 26 people were taken to the hospital with hypothermia, eye trauma, internal bleeding, and severe head/limb wounds.  The arguments for the construction of this pipeline say that oil will be safely transported from North Dakota to Illinois.  However, it also costs $3.7 billion.  What you aren't being told is that this same pipeline will cut underneath the Missouri River only a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.  So not only would a treaty made in 1851 be broken, where Sioux native people were promised this land, but their water would also be contaminated.  I mean, the Flint Water Crisis is continually ignored so why not poison the water of natives living on Standing Rock Reservation?  We ignore the plight and poverty of American Indians every single day.

A friend just posted this: 
In case you may not have known: people are likely to start dying at Standing Rock-- if they aren't already:
The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council released this statement: “The physicians and tribal healers with the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council call for the immediate cessation of use of water cannons on people who are outdoors in 28F ambient weather with no means of active rewarming in these conditions. As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions.”
Not to mention continuous mass tear gas, rubber bullets, as well as stinger grenades and LRAND (Long Range Acoustic Device) for 3 hours
Law enforcement also shot down three media drones and targeted journalists with less lethal rounds.
National Lawyers Guild legal observers on the frontlines have confirmed that multiple people were unconscious and bleeding after being shot in the head with rubber bullets. One elder went into cardiac arrest at the frontlines but medics administered CPR and were able to resuscitate him. The camp’s medical staff and facilities are overwhelmed and the local community of Cannonball has opened their school gymnasium for emergency relief.
ND Office of the Governor: 701-328-2200.
Morton County Sheriff's Department:
701-328-8118 & 701-667-3330.
ND National Guard: 701-333-2000
202 224.2043 call the senator of North Dakota
Call often, please.

So while you are eating sweet potato pie and stuffing, please give a thought to what is going on around us.  We are living in scary times, and though I do not advocate getting up in arms about the intolerance and bigotry that has infected many an American mindset at the dinner table and get into a fight with Uncle Leroy about voting for Trump, I do advocate standing up for social justice issues.  Perhaps what we are seeing is the unfolding of karmic justice to America.  I think of the film Koyaanisqatsi, a film with no set plot.  It was made in 1982 and directed by Godfrey Reggio; it is visuals that have their own abstract plot set to music by Phillip Glass.  The title of the film translates to 'life out of balance'.
                                 Image result for koyaanisqatsi life out of balance

The visuals begin with cave paintings (assumed to be native drawings) and visuals of landscapes in America.  It quickly shifts to showing modern urban life (circa the early 80's) and you see how crazy and fucked up the arbitrary system we've built truly is.

The last piece of the film tells us that the word 'Koyaanisqatsi' is from the Hopi language.
The next sequence translates a Hopi Prophecy: 
                                    Related image  

I don't know what will happen to America, but one thing is for sure and that is our society's fabric is unraveling at the seams and we are literally starving/eating our own body's flesh.  Greed, power, ego has made our society Anorexic and Bulimic simultaneously and it is only time before our time is up.  
I'll leave you with this native quote/thought: 

                                Image result for when the last tree is cut down

   1. Loewen, James W.  Lies My Teacher Told Me.  The New Press: New York, 1995.
   2. Greener, Richard.  'The True Story of Thanksgiving'. The Huffington Post. 11/25/2010. (
   3. Bassset, Laura.  'On Thanksgiving Week, Native Americans are Being Tear-Gassed in North Dakota'.  11/23/2016 
   4. Javier, Carla.  'Why These Native Americans are Spending Thanksgiving Marching Marching and Mourning, not Celebrating'.  11/24/16. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fight not Flight

One of my former students (who I taught in MS) wrote the following at attending a peaceful protest at her university:

So grateful I had the opportunity to fight for what I believe in. It was not a pity party or a rage fest; it was about uniting against bigotry, standing up for each other, and not being afraid to be ourselves.
To those who are marginalized, I'm so sorry that there is so much hate in our country. I will forever have your back.
To those with privilege, thank you for using it to make sure our voices get heard, rather than speaking for us. 

#NotMyAmerica #NeverStopFighting #SiSePuede
She also took this video footage of the protest (seen and described above) at her university on the East Coast.


A friend of mine from high school (MN) wrote the following:

It's like that constant pain of a broken heart. Like the boyfriend that broke up with you before you thought it could ever really happen. I've never been so afraid to be Jewish before. We've come so far to have to be pushed so far back. I have constant fear for so many. I'm constantly questioning and wondering if there are truly this many people with such hatred, greed, and violence in their heart or has it been recently created. I fear for my friends; I fear for myself; I fear for our country. I keep hoping this is just a nightmare. I keep hoping the giant puppet master is going to cut the strings from Trump and put him back in the trunk. I don't want to see how this plays out for the next 4 years (Although, I've heard/read people are predicting he'll be assassinated before his term is up).

Another friend from high school (HP) wrote this:

The racism we see now will age out of the population. We're seeing the death throes of the ignorant white rural bubble. They're confused and angry. But the other portion of the population is getting bigger, white percentage of the population is getting smaller, and less racist. And hopefully the DEMs have learned their lesson and will go more populist next time, and not alienate their base. They'll get the Obama turnout back. I hate to say "things will get better" because that sounds like a cop out that everyone says, but yes the next 4 years are going to suck, we need to fight through them and hold out for the better future. Make sure the youth learn the right lessons and are not disheartened, that they learn what are the right ways to treat other people, that they don't get bullied.
A friend and former teacher of mine wrote this to me and I was touched:

I've been thinking about you since the news that we never before fathomed could become a reality actually became a reality. I've been reading your posts on FB (along with the many other messages of despair and utter disbelief) and thinking a lot about what you've said. Let me first and foremost share in those feelings. My sister is gay and living in M----- and my youngest (my -- year-old) is trans, so I have some very real fears and worries in front of me for not only my friends but my own direct family.

Sure, I would pack up and move to France tomorrow... my 2 children and I have French passports in addition to our American ones (though quite honestly, the French are a little behind the times when it comes to trans issues and they will be facing their own election this Spring that could be equally earth-shattering if Marine LePen is successful in putting forth her anti-immigrant/anti-EU agenda that she has been promoting for the past 10 years). But there is so much work to be done HERE and we are so needed. The responsibility falls on us now to change the world for our kids (and I know you have your own to consider too), to radiate love, patience, and dialogue to help us understand one another.

People need to know us, to walk in our shoes, to feel our pain and sorrows, and to extend the olive branch (as difficult that is when we are hurting and fearful for our future). I am still convinced that EDUCATION is the key too. We need to be able to offer a quality education for all our folks out there, and as a fellow teacher, I can say this with full belief in our youth: KEEP DOING WHAT YOU'RE DOING. Keep working with those kids that are changed for the better just from knowing you and knowing that you care about them and their success and that you believe in them. And continue to teach them that their voice matters, no matter what challenges will come their way.

Here are my thoughts for the day. I'm done being sad and scared. I'm prepared to fight. I'm ready to be an ally for anyone who needs it. There is a movement to wear a safety pin to physically display who you can trust in Trump's America. Sometimes there are false allies, and you are never sure who you can trust. I want to talk about an anecdote from this morning.

Earlier this morning, I was at Quick Trip. As I was walking in, I saw a 20 something young man and another young person who was presenting as gender fluid. This individual was wearing make-up and had earrings, a fashionable houndstooth trench coat and skinny jeans. It reminded me of being back in NYC.

ut suddenly, I was looking around waiting for someone to say something to this young person. I saw a few looks of apprehension but instead of minding my own business like I usually do, I was looking out for this person. They must have known I was 'on their team' because when I was getting ready to leave, they and the friend asked if I could drive them to a Sprint store. Normally, I would be suspicious but I thought about it replied 'well I have to get to work otherwise I would' and I meant it viscerally.

Something inside my head told me I had a responsibility to drive them to make sure they arrived at their destination safely without any incident of violence. Why, all of a sudden, do I feel responsible for other people's safety? These were strangers and my heartstrings were pulling at my conscious telling me I had a duty to help these people. I'm sure they made it safely from Quick Trip in the part of the city I was in, but something inside me told me that the new reality does not guarantee this anymore. All of a sudden I felt like a Harriet Tubman figure wanting to make sure these two queer individuals got their safety.

I have realized that if-out of Trump's hate spewing and all of the bigoted incidents that have happened across the nation in the past few days-love and solidarity results then we are better off as a society. If we all wear safety pins and take the pledge to become allies for each other: gay, trans, black, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, Jewish, immigrant, female, gender nonconforming, and all other fill-in boxes, then I welcome the new America. I am ready to fight for every single one of my disenfranchised brothers and sisters. The time to rise up and come together is now (more than ever). Fist raised in the air, this activist is self aware and ready to stand up for human and civil rights.

Safety Pin Ally movement

This is the revolution I have been expecting.  This is the revolution I have dreamt about.  Together, we fight.  Together, we are strong.  There is no us and them.  There is ONLY us!!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A New America


In 1938, my grandfather left Germany and got on what was most likely the last boat to America. He then turned around and fought against the country he grew up in. He didn't talk about Germany much but I grew up learning about what happened to him as he would tell me and my sister stories of how friends became bitter enemies.
When I was in graduate school, ten years ago, I had a series of dreams about what I fear is about to become our reality in America. In one of them, my grandfather was singing to me in German and told me to get my sister and get out of here. For a week, all of the dreams connected, albeit they were mixed up in a gigantic puzzle that I had to piece together.
I dreamt about prison camps and a militarized America where people were rounded up and never heard from again. Weirder still is that a good friend of mine had a similar dream at the same time, about hiding and being rounded up. I am not saying we will be like Nazi Germany or that our new POTUS is Hitler but I do foresee a very dark future for this country.
Should I heed my grandfather's advice and leave? The writing is on the wall; perhaps now is the time to pack my bag and get out of dodge before it's too late. An overreaction? I think not. I don't feel safe in a country where people vote for a man who is so bigoted that it seems like an uncouth joke. This, however, is no SNL skit; it's reality. America is racist, homophobic, chauvinistic, xenophobic, and intolerant of differences. The new norm is extremism and I know now more than ever that I am not welcome in the USA anymore.
God, take control because I fear this society is about to collapse and implode. God help us all!
I wrote that on the heels of learning that Donald Trump won the electoral vote and thereby secured his spot as America's next president.  Everyone said he would never get the GOP nomination, and then when he did, everyone said he would never become president.  But here we are.

Many of my friends are scared.  Why?  Because they are in one of the little boxes that lie far away from the land of privilege and security.  My friends who wear hijabs and pray in mosques do not know if they are welcome or safe from Islamophobic fueled violence.  My LGBTQIA+ friends are in fear for their lives not knowing if someone wielding a baseball bat is waiting around the corner.  Female friends are scared that they can be sexually assaulted or raped without getting any shred of sympathy or credibility to their objectified victimization.  Immigrants fear that they or their parents might be forced to go back to their country often leaving them returning to a life of hell on earth.  Finally, all of my friends of color worry about their safety every minute of the day but now it's tenfold.  Being followed in a convenience store or pulled over and frisked because of a burned out blinker will be at the bottom of the list of worries.  If Trump hasn't made it clear what his views are about diversity and his vision for this country, then you have been asleep.

The thing that is more frightening is the fact that already there have been attacks across the country.  There have been swastikas and racial epithets spray painted on walls.  A gay producer was attacked on a NY subway.  A Midwestern woman had her genitalia grabbed in a parking lot.  People are getting notes with words like 'faggot' and 'nigger' scrawled on them with a 'welcome to Trump's America'.  The crazies are running the show so now it is a free for all.  Every extremist lunatic thinks that he or she now have free reign to spit into the face of a stranger or yell obscenities because now their views are shared by the president elect.  Has society finally shit all over itself?

At the same time, however, there are protests happening in many cities across the country.  From Seattle to San Francisco to Chicago to New York City there are people just as pissed and scared shitless as I am.  And that gives me comfort.  There are hooligans out there with torches ready to 'burn the witch' but there are also still most of us saying 'this is not okay'.  I hope that the intellectual majority wins out and all of the vigilante activity taking place comes to a halt.  

I am going to leave this post telling you that I still have hope for a better future.  I don't want to come to the final conclusion that I need to flee because I don't feel safe.  I already have considered buying a firearm so that I know I am safe as a minority who can check off a few boxes.  I would like to think I still am safe.  The people who hate me, who want to see me die want me to cower in the dark.  I am going to fight and scream against hatred.  Love and light will lead me forward.  I will also ask that this blog be open to folks to share their stories about what's happening to them.  If you go to a protest or if you are a victim of a hate crime, I want you to share your story.  Together, we'll keep the candle lit and after everything, love will still win.  #lovetrumpshate

My Bias

The following piece is NOT written by myself.  It is written by TB Dobbs who lives in the Northeast:

I waited two days to post anything of substance about the election. I, like many of you, needed time to process and get over the shock of Tuesday night. My bias: I voted for Hillary on Tuesday.

It’s time to have a thought experience. For each thought, think about the group of people that I am referring to.

1. I’m a male who works a job that others in my community think I shouldn’t. My community tells me that the work that I do is important, but their support doesn’t go much farther than words in many cases. My spouse is scared that I won’t make it home safe at night because others in the community that I work in sometimes kills people like me. I’m scared for the safety of myself and my coworkers from the uncertainty of death and the destruction of my community from those who I think will kill me. Who am I talking about?
2. I had a job that didn’t provide much but allowed me to pay the bills and save a bit for myself and my future family. Due to economic factors, those jobs have evaporated and replaced with experiences that I’m told will make me employed in the future. However, after years, I haven’t seen an increase in pay (or lost all income) and I’m now scared of the future for myself and colleagues. Who am I talking about?
3. I used to be considered “different,” but I found a group of people who now consider me normal. I learned to survive in this group and to finally vouch for myself and those like me. But for the last year, a majority of the people around me—many of whom I thought I had close and sincere relationships with—now openly mock my way of life and assume that their way of life is broadly superior to what I had. I just want a place where I can feel comfortable being myself and to be able to live. Who am I talking about?
4. I voted for the candidate I feared the least because I was scared shitless of the candidate I feared the most. Who am I talking about?

Ignoring the fringes who have become a part mainstream due to a historically toxic mess of an election, many people who voted for either candidate—or third party—can use any of the above points to justify their vote. We’re left with this: a bitterly divided country where 80% of the electorate is scared about the uncertain future of themselves, their loved ones, and their country. Worst, they’re angry that the perceived “others” who to have devalued their life. I know I am. I know many of you are—liberal, conservative, moderate, whatever—are as well.

We can discuss the perils of false equivalencies and how your side is correct over my side—whatever they are. Or, we can realize that the only way that any of us survive the next two years is to talk and listen to each other. Console the ones who are scared and grieving. Discuss with those who voted differently than you. Support the ones who are trying to make the world a better place and are protecting those around them.

As for me, I am spending every waking moment over the next two years in research to figure out how we got here and how we can get out of this without leaving anyone behind. Everyone. If President-elect Trump becomes the President that unites all of us and makes the country a better place for everyone, then he truly would have made America great again and we all will be in a better place because of it. If not, I will do everything I can to rebuke the fear, hate, and malpractice by working to organize all to stop the bullshit. And if you see it, you need to never stop talking about it and organize the hate away.

Elections set the playing field. It’s up to us to figure out how to make it work or to change it. May God help us all.