Tag Archives: human rights

Alliance charges Chicago police crimes before UNHCR

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression
Submits Document on Police Crimes to UNHRC

For information contact Frank Chapman (cell 312-513-3795) or Ted Pearson (312-927-2689)

In December 2012, the Chicago Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression (CAARPR) submitted a document to the UN Human Rights Commission that was approved for consideration in Geneva in March, 2013. The document describes the torture and murder of civilians by police officers. In 2011, 23 people were killed by police officers, 80% of whom were African American.[i] The Alliance document can be found here: http://www2.ohchr.org/English/bodies/hrc/docs/NGOs/15-USHRNetwork_ChicagoAllianceAgainstRacist_and_Political_Repression.pdf

The CAARPR has addressed city and state officials on several occasions. The issue of police crimes and police torture is becoming an increasing pandemic nation-wide. The Alliance is trying to have a Civilian Police Accountability Council elected that will have power to prosecute police officers who commit crimes.

This may be the first time ever that the issue has been brought up internationally. Frank Chapman, Chairperson of the CAARPR Organizing Committee to Stop Police Crimes, said “We are making history by having this document reviewed by the UNHRC, and are making huge steps in the campaign for CPAC.”

Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town with Mike Sanders, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Our Town is sponsored by HORA USA, at http://www.HORAusa.com. HORA is an evolutionary meditative practice for the whole body and mind. Take the next step in your personal evolution at http://www.HORAusa.com.

Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And if you have a cause to champion, please let us know as we work to become the grassroots support network for Chicago Activists and community organizers.

Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. And check out the weekly food pairings for our featured beers with innovative and original dishes by Chef AJ Francisco. Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., http://www.glunzbeers.com

Rachel Corrie, the bias of facts and when truths become lies

Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of a young woman standing in front of a tractor which was bulldozing a home. The bulldozer operator ran over the woman. The cause of death was described as “by pressure on the chest (mechanicalasphyxiation) with fractures of the ribs and vertebrae of the dorsal spinal column and scapulas, and tear wounds in the right lung with hemorrhaging of thepleural cavities.” Authorities later cleared the operator of any wrong doing…100604_Rachel_Corrie

These are the facts of Rachel Corrie’s death 10 years years ago. They are facts, but I have purposely left out other facts to illustrate a point. I have said in this forum that facts are not truth, and even truths can become lies when filtered through the bias of the human heart. A collection of facts may be truth or through omission, facts can absolutely portray a lie. That is what I did with the first paragraph. There are fcts. Keys facts are omitted to illustrate a point.

When human rights-all human rights-regardless of religion, nationality, gender, sexuality and race fails to be the stndard upon which all things are judged in society, judgement is at the mercy of arbitrary and ever changing filters.

Through news, nationalism and even religion, the words Palestine, Gaza and Palestinian takes on a much different dimension. All too aften they evoke images perpetuated by governments and media. But even images evoke a certain bias, but those biases become our individual crime against real truths about humanity. Those biases weaken us against the purveyors of war and violence and division and hatred. It draws us among their ranks.

The bulldozing of homes becomes the regrettable response to a nation and people who feel eternally victimized and besieged by Gazan and pPslestinian terrorists. This is the narrative promoted by those governments and their media. Is that the truth, however? It is, arguably to some, but when held against the standard of universal human rights, that assumed truth becomes a lie.

Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old college student from Olympia Washington and others went to Rafah Gaza where she was killed in 2003. An Israeli court denied, despite video and eyewitness testimony that the bulldozer drove over Corrie, concluding that she was “struck by a hard object, most probably a slab of concrete which was moved or slid down while the mound of earth which she was standing behind was moved.”

A witness, Joseph Carr, recalled that the “bulldozer driver and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, the driver continued forward, which caused her to fall back, out of view of the driver. He continued forward, and she tried to scoot back, but was quickly pulled underneath the bulldozer.” corrie7

A British activist, Tom Dale, also witnessed the incident. “Rachel could not have been more visible: standing, on a clear day, in the open ground, wearing a high visibility vest. On that day, she had been in the presence of the Caterpillar D9 bulldozers used by the Israeli army for some hours. She was standing in front of the home of a young family which was under threat of demolition by a bulldozer. Many homes were demolished in such a way at that time, and Rachel was seeking to protect her friends, with whom she had lived.
Whatever one thinks about the visibility from a D9 bulldozer, it is inconceivable that at some point the driver did not see her, given the distance from which he approached, while she stood, unmoving, in front of it. As I told the court, just before she was crushed, Rachel briefly stood on top of the rolling mound of earth which had gathered in front of the bulldozer: her head was above the level of the blade, and just a few meters from the driver.”corrie_bulldozer_1852647_610x438

Corrie spent time with Rafah municipal workers who were struggling to repair a well damaged by Israeli bulldozers. It was one of two wells that accounted for more than half of the drinking water to the city in the desert region. The damage to the well resulted in severe water restrictions to the city. The Israeli’s routinly fired on workers attempting to repair the wells. Israeli soldiers frequently fired on homes as they were being bulldozed, resulting in some 240 deaths, including 78 children. Israeli regulations require that armored personnel carriers direct the bulldozers to their targets. An Israeli officer later testified that Corrie and others had tried for hours to stop the demolition, which took place under his command. Though it may be argued the bulldozer operator may have lost sight of Corrie at some point, it is clear that the Israeli army who was directing him knew she was there.

This piece is not about Israel or Palestine, or necessarily about Corrie, but rather the weight each of us brings to news stories. When we a hear descriptive word, what is the assumption and bias that we bring to that word? How do each of us come to the words Israeli, Palestinian, Jew, Muslim, Activist, Student, Gaza? There is a history in each of those words, and that history bears an undeniable weight upon each of us. But are we slaves to that history, or do we have the will and ability to challenge those histories? Are we filters for the news and the propaganda of governments, or are we judges of them? And as judges, what is the standard? Is it tribal loyalties, or human loyalties?

Given that, how might you have come to this story? I might have written the first paragraph this way:3876b419e4b1b7a9ce3e0635ce1c5bc8

Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of a American activist Rachel Corrie who attempted to stop the illegal bulldozing of an innocent Palestinian pharmacist’s home. Samir Nasralla was forced to flee from the home with his family to join some 17,000 Palestinians made homeless this way between 2000 and 2004. The land was being cleared for Israeli settlements. Despite being acknowledged by the bulldozer operator, the woman, wearing bright orange safety vest and appealing for mercy on the family with a bullhorn, was run over twice by the bulldozer. The demolition proceeded despite the dying woman still laying on the ground nearby. The cause of death was described as “by pressure on the chest (mechanicalasphyxiation) with fractures of the ribs and vertebrae of the dorsal spinal column and scapulas, and tear wounds in the right lung with hemorrhaging of the pleural cavities.” Authorities later cleared the operator of any wrong doing…

Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town with Mike Sanders, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Our Town is sponsored by HORA USA, at http://www.HORAusa.com. HORA is an evolutionary meditative practice for the whole body and mind. Take the next step in your personal evolution at http://www.HORAusa.com.

Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And if you have a cause to champion, please let us know as we work to become the grassroots support network for Chicago Activists and community organizers.

Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., http://www.glunzbeers.com



WHEN: January 3, 2013, 12:30 P.M.


Father, Jose Landaverde from Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Catholic Mission wants to know why the U.S. President, Mr. Barak Obama can have a new law for “Hardship Waivers” to by pass congress and reduce the stay of immigrants who are forced to return to their countries of origin for U.S Citizens who have immigrant family members who have been deported to reduce the time for immigrant visa reapplication to as little as a week in some instances for individuals who over stay their visa and are given 3 years before they can apply for a 6 month overstay and 10 years for a one year overstay on their visa application, yet our President does nothing on the deportation of the 11.1 million undocumented which face the same problems and risk of being murdered to save their lives and grant them access via a Moratorium on the deportation.

Are the lives of human beings in the world equal in value or are immigrants worth more to the U.S. government when they are with families of U.S. citizens? What are you doing to be compassionate to human beings throughout the world Mr. President? Are you trying to get foreign born people murdered?
In God’s name we ask that you immediately have a Moratorium on the Deportations to save lives, and reunite families!

Contact: Fr. Jose S. Landaverde 773-512-8015

This post courtesy of the Occpy Chi Press Team

Update on American Political prisoner Jeremy Hammond

On December 3, attorneys for imprisoned activist Jeremy Hammond filed a motion in New York’s Southern District Court demanding that Judge Loretta Preska recuse herself following last week’s revelation that her husband, Thomas J Kaveler, as well as his firm, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, were among the government-named victims in the December, 2011 hack of Stratfor (to which Hammond is accused of participating).  The attorneys filed a motion for a new bail hearing.  During Hammond’s November 20 hearing Judge Preska notified Hammond that if convicted on all counts he faces 37 years-to-life in federal prison for his alleged role in the hack.

Thomas J Kaveler is an employee of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, a current Stratfor client and associate, and moreover was himself a victim of the alleged hack (Kaveler’s Stratfor issued user ID is 234103). Court reporters have confirmed to The Sparrow Project that, Judge Preska was made aware of the published connection between her husband & Stratfor and that her husband’s Stratfor-related information was published by Wikileaks, they went on to indicate that Preska was aware of the connection long before the November 22nd communique. Moreover, Preska indicated that this personal connection to the Hammond case “would not effect her ability to be impartial.”   

For your use we have published a recap of Thursday’s press conference by Hammond’s supporters on our website http://www.sparrowmedia.net/2012/12/jeremy-hammond-press-conference-video/.  We have also published statements of support from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Christopher Hedges, Bhopal activist Saif Ansari, and Yes Men cofounder Andy Bichlbaum each of these are also available for excerpthttp://www.sparrowmedia.net/2012/12/jeremy-hammond-press-conference-video/  

The Sparrow Project will be collecting statements of support for Jeremy Hammond and posting them for free use below. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Chris Hedges, as well as other prominent activists and journalists have joined the call for a fair trial for Jeremy Hammond. Statements of support can be emailed to info@sparrowmedia.net


Send Jeremy a letter, postcard, or even a book (needs to be mailed directly from publisher or seller like Amazon) to help brighten his day while incarcerated. Letters & books can be mailed to…

Jeremy Hammond 18729-424
Metropolitan Correctional Center
150 Park Row
New York, New York, 10007

You can make a credit card donation to Jeremy’s legal defense fund (controlled by his family) via wepay.com at THIS LINK

With this simple online tool you can donate one tweet (or Facebook post) a day to our efforts. The Sparrow Project will publish statements of support for Jeremy (like the ones below) from influential figures. Your donated posts will help us widen the audience that is exposed to this important story. Simply visit THIS LINK and click donate!

Lastly, we have published a high-resolution video for your free use in television segments, audio excerpts, or for embed on your blogs & websites.  We would love for you to tweet, embed, or share this video with your audience!  Simply visit THIS LINK http://vimeo.com/54656359 or click on the image below.  A download of the full resolution (1920 x 1080) segment for use on TV is available HERE.
If you have any questions feel free to email me or give me a call at 631.291.3010
All the best,
Andy Stepanian

Dear Palestine…Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Palestine and all our Palestinian friends, happy birthday to you!

Don’t agree with the post-Republicans about why they think Susan Rice shouldn’t be Secretary of State. The reason she shouldn’t be is for the sad nationalistic and racist display yesterday during the vote on Palestinian statehood, which was long overdue. There, that should tick off the Left and the Right.

Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck every Sunday 8-9am only on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT am820 and streaming live for the Revolution and Beer segment, as Brian and I sample the Craft Beer of the week with the Our Town gang, and run down the grassroots calendar for the week. If you’re tired of talk, talk, talk radio, this is do something radio. Get involved.

Year of the Vagina: Autumn 2012

Please join me in celebrating the year of the vagina, autumn 2012. Please no jokes about party favors or  furry hats. And though I doubt it would happen, and I can only imagine the floats, a parade would be awesome, especially the feminist marching bands playing melissa Etheridge, Ani Difranco and Garfunkel and Oates songs. We could make Todd Akin, the ardent feminist Tea Party Republican candidate for Senate, grand marshall.

Banners strung across broad and sunny boulevards could carry his visionary message of hope to women, “…from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Of course those madcaps, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan jokingly chided old Todd about that line, kidders them. Heck, the rest of the Republican party and their media were in on the gag too, pretending to be outraged and all, especially since they passed some 500 plus bills against women and women’s health since the 2010 Tea Party revolution. Even attempting to pass more restrictive legislation against women’s bodies that very week. 

And that Paul Ryan. What a kidder. He actually co-sponsored a bill with the Todd-ler restricting abortion as an option even in cases of rape and incest, because hoestly, what school girl wouldn’t be honored to have an older relative’s child? Stop kidding around. That bill would force the girl, or woman to prove it was a legitimate rape, because we all know women falsley accuse good god-fearing christian white men…oh, what’s that? The justice department says that almost never happens? Well, who can believe the government, unless they are about to wage war on say, a country that never attacked us for weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist?

 And Mitt, the would-be king of the madcaps on the Right, he’s jumped right into bed on these issues, reversing his 2002 pro-choice position to his current pro-life assertion. Now that is the mark of a master jokster, which you can tell just by looking at the guy. He is a wild man. Remember the gay kid back in school that he assulted, just for being gay? And he’s said that he would get rid of Planned Parenthood if elected. Hil-arious!

And speaking of pranks? How about invasive state enforced ultrasounds for women considering abortion. Stop! Oh, my side, Ouch! You’re killing me, or at least women…

So call, email and write Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney. Call them out on their little gag. Demand that they proclaim love for vaginas, a true and deeply spiritual love, with respect and reverence that they should all be free and that their owners get to make the decisions: and hint, the owners of those vaginas are not the men who claim  or invade them as if they were another hill or middle eastern oil producing country to be conquered and occupied. 


21 days in May: An Occupy Novella, part 2

Chicago was adopting something of a siege mentality as the NATO summit and protests loomed ever closer. It certainly wasn’t the protesters dialing up fear and concern. There had been in recent weeks a purposeful effort to intimidate the population, painting the protests as dangerous and the authorities as protectors. The effort began slowly in February and by the end of April had grown to a near fever pitch. The authorities, state, local, Federal and private corporate interests would manage and stoke that fear with their propaganda wing at FOX, CBS, ABC and even the so-called liberal MSNBC.

It began with leaked reports that downtown businesses would be hiring increased security for the protests, the reports punctuated with images from unrelated riots in Seattle some years earlier. Then came near panicked interviews with police officials clamoring for emergency funding from a cost-overridden city hall to make sure the police all had expensive new protective riot gear. Commuters would be subject to search and trains could be diverted or stopped altogether for “security concerns.” Boats in the harbors would be prohibited as the city became an armed camp. Then, at the end of April the fear was raised to insidious levels, first with front page headlines that downtown Chicago was now considered a “RED ZONE,” and that heavily armed federal agents in riot gear would be guarding strategic  buildings. The next day the local CBS affiliate published a “leaked” memo revealing how Red Cross officials in Milwaukee were preparing for the possible evacuation of Chicago in the event of an insurrection during the NATO summits. No one, in the media at least, questioned the rationale or what possibly would cause a city of eight million to flee en masse, not to the suburbs, nearby Joliet or Gary Indiana in such a catastrophe, but 90 miles North to Scott Walker’s Milwaukee Wisconsin. 

Angelo studied his smartphone, tapping on an MSNBC story emailed to him overnight. His eyes moved across a stunning headline that left him even more conflicted about his part in all this.

  “…agents have arrested five people who were plotting to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, Ohio… Douglas L. Wright, 26, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on April 30 on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce. Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23. Charges are pending… of Hayne, Stafford and Baxter, there were claims that they were affiliated with Occupy Cleveland, which moved swiftly Tuesday to distance itself from the bridge plot… after “we awoke to the news of the arrests,” coordinator Johnny Peskar, 22, told msnbc.com… “We don’t need any implications in this nonsense,” Peskar said… Occupy organizers had seen a few in the plot hanging around earlier events, but their actions were “autonomous,”

He set down the phone and went to the long mirror by the door. Six years in special forces and 4 more as a military contractor with a for-hire firm had placed him is some odd and morally questionable circumstances, but none more than this.  This mission left him awake nights, praying for the respite of nightmares in sleep instead of the nightmare he was living.

He still looked like a college kid, and could pass for his early twenties. Angelo had let his dark brown hair grow long, nearly to shoulder length. His clothes were rough and urban and worn. His cover was a simple one, which was always the best-less to remember that way. Facts and dates were mixed or altered should anyone go prying. He looked the part well enough, but there was something else.

The mission was taking a toll. He appeared haggard and exhausted, which did not lend themselves to a successful mission. But what of the mission? In Afghanistan in a beard and local garb, Angelo passed sufficiently to infiltrate a Taliban group. He tracked a FARC leader in Columbia for  six months without being detected, and was able to worm his way into a Mexican drug lord’s inner circle. Never before had he been asked to spy on fellow Americans, which was bad enough. But this, this mission…

Angelo glanced at the paper he’d been slipped the day before at the protest. He had never seen the contact. The man came and went like a ghost. Now he found himself balanced on a fence, weighing ethics, morality and salvation. They were an operative’s worst obstacles. He thought of the mission once more as he went to the sink and poured a chemical mix over the paper, dissolving it almost instantly. He washed it down the drain with water and recalled the headline from Cleveland that morning.

Nineteen days and it would all be over. Nineteen days and the mission would be complete. Nineteen days and the nation would be forever changed. Angelo steeled himself and nodded resolutely. In the end he made it about the money. He’d made  a shade over a million tax free as a military contractor-the ultimate welfare scheme he sometimes mused to colleagues. Another half million would be deposited in an off shore account for him following a successful conclusion of the mission. Other missions were for country, unit or to bring down truly reprehensible people, but this would have to be about the cash, and that would have to suffice.



The train, bus and three block walk to he and Eva’s bungalow on Chicago’s Northwest side left Jack beaten. Eva wasn’t home yet with Jeffrey. The house was still and comfortable and peaceful. He practically collapsed onto the chair in the front room. He still had on his jacket and hat. The shoulder bag was in his lap, as if he’d striven for that chair with his final ounce of energy.  Morris, their lumbering Boxer/ Boston Terrier mix, normally a pest for attention, seemed to understand well enough. He sort of flopped to the floor at Jack’s feet and laid his head across one shoe with a heavy sigh.

The family still wasn’t completely settled into the place, and a daunting list of projects left Jack all the more spent. The phone rang, and he hardly had the energy to lift it, let alone answer. He hit the speaker key and let it go to voice mail

“This is Jack, lean Left,” came his recorded message. After a short pause Angelo from Occupy replied.

“Hey, Jack, wanted to know if you could get together later. I have something I need to discuss with you. You’ve got the number. Call me back.”

Jack sighed and  let the phone fall to his leg. He’d been meaning to get back into the movement, especially now as the NATO summit neared. He liked Angelo, at least what he knew of the kid.  Every movement attracted its share of oddities; Occupy, Socialist groups, anarchists, The Tea Party, and certainly the Ron Paul devotees. Angelo seemed like a normal fellow, well informed and adjusted and, for as much as Jack could tell, passionate about the cause. He thought about Sarah as he lifted the phone and found Angelo’s number. As it began to ring at the other end, he was already crafting his sincere apology to her.

“Hey, Angelo, its Jack,” he began. “Brutal day at work, sorry I couldn’t pick up before. Still want to get together?”

Staging a Novel: Vision versus Art

I am better than two thirds through a working draft of The Last Man, with a goal to stage it within the next year. It is interesting re-envisioning something like a novel for theater. There  are the mechanical aspects for one. The novel takes place in my head, moving among expansive and detailed scenes and vistas. In the novel there are shocking battles among the sewers of   futuristic city, chases along city avenues, the great rubbish archives, the Arctic seascoast with the massive city skyline, the Dante-esque breadth and madness of the Reclamation center, the final battle there, and the open sea. It is easy to fling readers through those other worlds,  but the  stage is far more intimate. It draws far greater barriers limiting those huge and complex vistas, focusing the story upon the characters and dialogue.

The novel describes a world in which a single corporation controls the planet with an iron fist, rummaging in each “associates” thoughts as a means of ultimate control: SENTINEL SPIES, SECTION-21 PUNISHES, THE CORPORATION DECIDES. Production is the imperative. Those who do not or cannot produce any more are “reclaimed” from society. Race, religion and individuality have been eliminated, as relics of a so-called chaotic and unproductive past. In this constructed illusion of racial homogeneity, a black child is born. Studied by the corporation as a means of future prevention, the child, now a man, is put on trial.

The main character in the book is a man. As I began the script, I was still intending a man in the part. Then something truly revolutionary occurred. Last Christmas I wrote and produced my first play “Occupy My Heart: A revolutionary Christmas  Carol,” with  an amazing cast and a hot-shot your director. The play received national media attention and saw standing room only audiences for its limited run.  All of the cast from that play went on with their own projects. One of then,  a stunning and gifted African American actress named Donier Tyler, was giving a performance back in March that showed this amazing depth of power. Watching her that night, I had a revelation.  

By then the novel had just been released. As I was watching Donier, I was suddenly struck that The Last Man, not only could, but should be a Black woman! as the subtext of the novel is to assail systems of power and oppression, casting a black woman, a strong black woman in the role seemed the ultimate realization of the story. Last night, rehearsing a scene that Donier and I will perform at an Art show on April 28 here in Chicago Donier found her Black woman’s voice for the piece, bringing a stunning dimension to the work.

What I discovered was that we all live deep within assumptions and paradigms. We understand other perspectives and experiences from the bottom of those assumptions and paradigms. Throughout, from the novel to the stage, the work was intended to escape the assumptions and paradigm of growing up as a white male in the society. It continues to be an exploration and a catharsis about the limits of my own experience.

The story is changing and evolving in ways I could hardly have imagined. What emerges I think is the space between creator and audience, and how what we create remains only ours until we realease it to the world. From that moment, it ceases to be ours. It becomes community. It becomes a negotiation between our assumptions and paradigm with and against those of others, hich may well be the real power of art.

The Black on Black violence myth and Trayvon Martin

It isn’t that racists are for the status quo, but that the status quo is by nature racist by supporting systems resulting in oppression. Mythology created by assumptions, outright fabrications or lazy intellectualism is the cornerstone for those systems, creating the cultural foundations for oppression arising from the pressure and imperative of the so-called status quo.

If that sounds overly precise and academic, it was meant to be. Given the lawyerly and subversive tactics of true racism today, those opposed to it must be as precise as possible in their opposition. But once that mythology takes hold and becomes “common knowledge,” challenging those assumptions can become monumental. The mythology surrounding the Trayvon Martin case is telling.

The status quo culture is constructed to undermine and negate issues and events exactly like the death of Trayvon Martin. Think of a river with momentum more than will. Diverting the river becomes an incredible, often impossible task. The river resists change, in favor of its own blind momentum.. The river that is American culture reflects the dominant power, which is primarily money and commerce, but also historically and primarily white and male. It is not racist on purpose, but most definitely racist in structure as it eschews or erases the individual nature of minority groups. Can’t picture it? Walk into any IKEA and feel your individuality erased as you become quite purposely an identity-less consumer. Now imagine an entire system, 24 hours a day, in every direction you turn designed to erase your individuality.

On yesterday’s Thom Hartmann show, Hartmann, a progressive talk show host, did not challenge a statement by Alan Korwin from gunlaws.com, in which Korwin wanted to know why everyone was so concerned about Martin but “there wasn’t a single story about 70 other black men killed” in black on black violence over the same period.”  This has been the loud and forceful narrative from the Right, and has gone all but unchallenged from the Left.

The nightly news and newspapers routinely carry these stories. Indeed, especially in Chicago, the Right passionately describes inner city violence to assail Obama’s, Jesse Jackson’s and other civil rights leader’s credibility. It isn’t that no one is reporting on those stories, but rather, no one is paying attention anymore. Life for life, all of those whose death receives only peripheral attention are equally as important as Trayvon Martin. All of their circumstances should be equally shocking in a better world. The importance of Trayvon Martin lies not in the context of those other tragedies, but rather of the supreme injustice with which his death was handled in the media and by the authorities.

That the status quo culture and media were so quick to negate that injustice points to the dangerous and inhuman momentum of the river. That millions were able to rise up and lend their voices to a cry for justice, and divert that river, even a little should be cause for hope. It should give us hope that it can carry the culture towards the ocean and greater truths, rather than allow it to die polluted in its mad run to the desert.

The Twenty Year Siege-Part 2

Eleven thousand five hundred forty-one red chairs. There were eleven thousand chairs arranged from curb to curb down Titova Boulevard in central Sarajevo. I enjoy theater and could have swelled at such a display if not for the terrible symbolism behind the display. Eleven thousand red chairs to memorialize the eleven thousand Sarajevans killed during the war. I still recall those days, the morning after a battle or following an attack. The siege hit civilians the hardest. And for the cynics-and there are scores- even among those fighting from the beleaguered trenches around and within the city, most were civilians pressed into a desperate 31/2 year fight to protect their families, save the city and maintain what feeble supply opportunities could be found to sustain the slowly strangling city of 300,000.

Ana. My Ana, was a child of 15 when the war began, still struggling with her own identity in the best of times. Fifteen. An age filled with the naive but eager assertions of emerging adulthood, but imbued and tethered deeply to the innocence, curiosity and vulnerability of childhood. And so she was thrown into the ultimate construction of human cynicism and cruelty, emerging in the incongruous and unsatisfying strangeness of adulthood and something called”the end of the war.”

I won’t call it peace. Peace is a fraud. It is not the end of war, because wars do not end, except for fools and politicians. war only changes character. The dead are still dead. The scarred and still forever scarred. Only the character of war changes, receding as embers to a half buried fire to smolder in the hearts whom it has affected or ruined. 

She cried all day Friday, lamenting and commiserating with friends and family back in Bosnia or scattered by the aftermath of war around the planet to strange and foreign cultures.  There was rage and sorrow, but mostly the injustice of what had been stolen from them. These modern accoutrements of Skype and Facebook make it more immediate for those commiserations and lamentations, but are only bandages to unalterably wounded souls. Ana’s friend Alma in Sarajevo summed it up succinctly, “I feel as if the devil was sitting on my shoulders all day.”

When I climbed aboard that Lufthansa 747 back in 1993, the siege was already better than a year old. I still did not know “my” Ana yet. Nor would I for another year.  I did at least realize that I was temporarily departing a home in Chicago for a war, and that if I made it home from the war I at least had a home and friends, a job and a culture to return to. war, that war, its true implications on personal levels was still very much an abstract, just as it was for all those watching 30 second sound bites and out-of-context reports on the nightly news.

I would never face the rationalization of choosing a new homeland because mine had been destroyed. On holidays, such as this one I would never longingly recall family holidays and reunions that will never occur again, because of those lost or refugeed across the planet. I would never search soulfully for purpose or justice or rationale to the fate that robbed me of my innocence, my dreams or my right to a life unaffected by what amounted to a meaningless tantrum over real estate that swept into cycles of vengeance and ultimately left much of that land unusable for centuries for millions of landmines.

The sun was setting as my plane lifted off from O’Hare that September evening back in 1993. The  future was unknown to me, but I was charting, at least in part my own fate-arrogance in the face of what was happening all across Bosnia. I understood that well enough, but would soon come to find that fate is hardly our own. As I gazed  at the photograph of those 10,000 red chairs in Sarajevo Friday, knowing the faces and names of a good many of those whom each empty chair recalled, that realization became all too apparent.

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