by Robert Jensen
In a world of spin, no one expects truth from corporate executives or the politicians who serve them, but many of us hold out hope that in the classroom and sanctuary we can engage one another honestly in the struggle to understand the world and our place in it. So, while Iâ€™ve had my share of squabbles with schools and churches over the years, I remain committed to them as important truth-seeking institutions.
As a university professor who has recently returned to church membership, I have a lot riding on those hopes, which is why it was particularly disappointing in recent weeks to be scheduled for speaking engagements and then abruptly canceled by a Catholic diocese and a private high school in Texas. In both cases, some people in the institutions were eager to have me share my knowledge and experiences, only to have the leadership give in to complaints from conservatives.
My disappointment wasnâ€™t personal -- Iâ€™ve been rejected enough to be able to roll with these punches -- but about a concern for the future if the institutions we count on to create space for dialogue are so easily cowed. The problem isnâ€™t that I lost chances to speak, but that everyone lost a chance for engagement.
The first cancellation came from the Diocese of Victoria in September. Staff members organizing the annual â€œConference for Catechesis and Ministryâ€ asked if I would lead one session on media coverage of the Middle East and another on strategies for speaking with children about war. I signed on immediately, grateful for the opportunity to discuss these important issues.
Why Do "They" Hate Us? Is It Somehow Connected To The Way We Cut Off Their Limbs With Chainsaws?Add a comment
Before the 9/11 attacks came along, I used to work with groups trying to get the U.S. to stop funding Colombia's right-wing paramilitaries. The pretense, of course, was we were funding the Colombian military in their heroic struggle in the War on Drugs. The reality, that the paramilitaries were run by the Colombian government to murder anyone to the left of Elliot Abrams, is finally being acknowledged....
It's difficult to overstate the level of human depravity exhibited by the paramilitaries. One of their favorite techniques is to kill people with chainsaws:
"The Chainsaw Massacre is not a film in Colombia," said government ombudsman Eduardo Cifuentes, referring to the April 12  paramilitary massacre in Alto Naya, 650 kilometers (404 miles) southeast of [Bogota]...
It left some 128 people dead, including 40 in Alto Naya, according to official reports quoted by Cifuentes in an interview with AFP...
Around 400 paramilitaries took part in this "caravan of death" against civilians accused of supporting leftist guerrillas, Cifuentes said in his Bogota office.
"The remains of a woman were exhumed. Her abdomen was cut open with a chainsaw. A 17-year-old girl had her throat cut and both hands also amputated," said the ombudsman...
"A neighbor pounced upon a paramilitary that was ready to shoot him and took his weapon, but unfortunately he didn't know how to fire a rifle. They dragged him away, cut him open with a chainsaw and chopped him up," a witness of the massacre told El Espectador daily.
I once attended a lunch with a Colombian union official. He said the paramilitaries would generally warn people like him of their intentions, by visiting them and cutting their sleeves or pants where they would later cut off their arms and legs if they didn't flee the area. Less important people didn't get warnings.
This year we're giving Colombia approximately 600 million dollars for these appealing activities. The biggest upswing in aid came during the last years of the Clinton administration. What's really neat is the paramilitaries are actually the ones controlling most of the cocaine trade in Colombia. In other words, as part of the War on Drugs, we're giving massive aid to some of the world's biggest drug dealers.
If past experience is any guide, the people mentioned in the above article as investigating this (e.g., Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro) have maybe four weeks to live.
SPECIAL BONUS DEPRAVITY: I once worked for a right-wing corporate lawyer who had (1) a massive cocaine addiction and (2) a Colombian maid who'd been a kindergarten teacher until she fled. I often felt he should have made the connection explicit by telling her, "Look at me! I can destroy your country and your life using only MY NOSE!!!"
Of course, in the long human tradition of utter indifference to those less powerful than you, he knew neither that she'd been a kindergarten teacher nor even that she was Colombian.
Hooray for Hollywood!
(And a Reply to the FARC)
On a November 9, 2006, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army, (FARC-EP) sent an â€œOpen Letter to the People of the United Statesâ€. It was specifically addressed to several Hollywood producers and actors (Michael Moore, Denzel Washington and Oliver Stone) as well as three leftist academics (James Petras, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis) and a progressive politician (Jessie Jackson). The purpose of the open letter was to solicit our support in facilitating an agreement between the US and Colombian governments and the FARC-EP on exchanging 600 imprisoned guerrillas (including 2 on trial in the US) for 60 rebel-held prisoners including 3 US counter-insurgency experts.
FARC-EP: Terrorist Band or Resistance Movement?
Contrary to the US government position characterizing the FARC-EP as a â€˜terrorist organizationâ€™, it is the longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world today. Founded in 1964 by two dozen peasant activists, as a means for defending autonomous rural communities from the violent depredations of the Colombian military and paramilitary, the FARC-EP has grown into a highly organized 20,000 member guerrilla army with several hundred thousand local militia and supporters, highly influential in over 40% of the country. Up until September 11, 2001, the FARC-EP was recognized as a legitimate resistance movement by most of the countries of the European Union, Latin America and for several years was in peace negotiations with the Colombian government headed by President AndrÃ©s Pastrana. Prior to 9/11 FARC leaders met with European heads of state to exchange ideas on the peace process. Numerous prominent business leaders from Wall Street, City of London and BogotÃ¡ and notables like Queen Noor of Jordan met with FARC leaders in the demilitarized zone during the aborted peace negotiations (1999-2002).
Under heavy pressure from the White House, particularly its leading spokespersons, the right-wing extremists like the notorious Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and, John Bolton, the Pastrana regime abruptly broke off negotiations and in less than 24 hours sent the Colombian Army into the demilitarized area, in an attempt to capture the FARC leaders engaged in negotiations. The â€˜surpriseâ€™ attack failed but did set the stage for the escalation of the conflict.
by Jason Miller
We have reached the deplorable circumstance where in large measure a very powerful few are in possession of the earth's resources, the land and its riches and all the franchises and other privileges that yield a return. These positions are maintained virtually without taxation; they are immune to the demands made on others. The very poor, who have nothing, are the object of compulsory charity. And the rest -- the workers, the middle-class, the backbone of the country -- are made to support the lot by their labor.
-- Agnes George de Mille (granddaughter of Henry George), New York, 1979
'Fast Food' serves a lot to chew on" (San Jose Mercury News)Add a comment
"It's a whopper!" (Edmonton Sun)
"Beefing Up 'Fast Food Nation' (Washington Post)
"Mistake on a bun" (Toronto Star)
'Fast Food Nation' bites off too little as a drama" (Seattle Post Intelligencer)
'Fast Food Nation' serves up revolting food for thought" (Los Angeles Daily)
"Linklater spoon-feeds audience 'Fast Food Nation'" (Reno Gazette-Journal)
"Order of 'Fast Food' difficult to stomach" (Boston Herald)
by Seth Sandronsky
The recent election win of an incumbent and centrist GOP governor in California over his Democratic rival by double digits might suggest that the political status quo is alive and well. Is this gubernatorial landslide a triumph of centrism in the face of left and right extremism? Have California voters spoken and returned to their market-friendly roles as tame workers and faithful consumers? Such views might be off the mark.
Consider the coalition actions of union professors and students in the California State University system. An estimated 1,500 of them rallied at the systemâ€™s board of trustees meeting in Long Beach on November 15. Two dozen of these protesters locked arms in a sit-down action in front of the trustees, bringing to mind the black freedom movementâ€™s fight to end racial segregation in the 1960s.
What is happening that propelled CSU professors and students to demonstrate this way? Part of the answer is their discontent with rising class size (50 students and up) and student fees, plus six-figure senior management pay that continues after these managers have left the system (also called â€œgolden parachutesâ€).
â€œThe first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: â€˜If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?â€™ But ... the good Samaritan reversed the question: â€˜If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?â€™â€
Martin Luther King, Jr.
â€œThe truth shall set you free? Maybe. But first the Truth must be set free.â€
Wole Soyinka, Nigerian playwright, educator.