Saturday, November 27, 2010

THoT 3: Aaron Huey: America's native prisoners of war

Aaron Huey, photographer, spent some time with the Lakota people. Here he presents a chronological history of lies, broken promises, and war-ish aggression against the tribes cut against contemporary photos of the people and their communities.

In fact - and I had never considered this before - he refers to the reservations as "Prisoner of War Camps." Definitely worth a view. I'll have to watch again.

Beginning of transcript, courtesy of TEDX:

I'm here today to show my photographs of the Lakota. Many of you may have heard of the Lakota, or at least the larger group of tribes called the Sioux. The Lakota are one of many tribes that were moved off their land to prisoner of war camps now called reservations. The Pine Ridge Reservation, the subject of today's slide show, is located about 75 miles southeast of the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is sometimes referred to as Prisoner of War Camp Number 334, and it is where the Lakota now live. Now, if any of you have ever heard of AIM, the American Indian Movement, or of Russell Means, or Leonard Peltier, or of the stand-off at Oglala, then you know that Pine Ridge is ground zero for Native issues in the U.S.

So I've been asked to talk a little bit today about my relationship with the Lakota, and that's a very difficult one for me. Because, if you haven't noticed from my skin color, I'm white, and that is a huge barrier on a Native reservation. You'll see a lot of people in my photographs today, and I've become very close with them, and they've welcomed me like family. They've called me brother and uncle and invited me again and again over five years. But on Pine Ridge, I will always be what is called wasichu, and wasichu is a Lakota word that means non-Indian, but another version of this word means "the one who takes the best meat for himself." And that's what I want to focus on -- the one who takes the best part of the meat. It means greedy. So take a look around this auditorium today. We are at a private school in the American West, sitting in red velvet chairs with money in our pockets. And if we look at our lives, we have indeed taken the best part of the meat. So let's look today at a set of photographs of a people who lost so that we could gain, and know that when you see these people's faces that these are not just images of the Lakota, they stand for all indigenous people.

Friday, November 26, 2010

THoT 2: The Clarification

Note: This is both a clarification and an extension of yesterday's post, Thankless History of Thanksgiving.

I want it to be abundantly clear that my post yesterday was not a salvo in some War on Thanksgiving. I abundantly love this feast of abundance - as my girth can attest. I love spending time with family. I love turkey. I love tryptophan and naps. And sweet potato and pumpkin pies. And NFL games somewhere playing in the fray.

But history needs to be acknowledged in full. Too many of our friends and neighbors and cousins have suffered too long because we are too full of ourselves to acknowledge that we and our families have done and do bad things.

A friend found my last post to be too anti-Thanksgiving. Granted, the story within the story does seem awfully harsh. I do not, however, apologize for another writer's excesses (if that's how one wants to describe them as). If that's how Robert Jensen feels, that's how he feels. I have no qualms nor arguments therein. I also would not be angry with various indigenous tribes people who also felt a need to not acknowledge the Thanksgiving tradition in this country as some sort of benevolent or good remembrance. After all, do we recognize their fests, let alone their sufferings? Can one enjoy one without sharing the other?

I however, would like to talk about our history as a means of redeeming ourselves, rather than the lazy work of redemptive 'history' that's been making its way through the Great American Redemptive Mythos.

This, then, is my response to my friend:
If the blog comes across as anti-Thanksgiving, that is my error in message control. I'll have to check and edit then.

My intention, however, wasn't to butcher the day - one of my favorites - but to highlight a much-neglected context.

If I heard correctly, Winthrop hosted a second large Thanksgiving feast fifteen years after the initial one to thank God for their successful campaign against the lpcal tribes*. We need to tell our history straight. It needs to include both the inclusion and the exclusion, welcoming and murder, community and violence.

To do less is to do a disservice to our heritage and to neglect our current DNA as well as its majestic and horrible potential.

We can begin to remedy the situation by taking simple steps. Like spreading support for current laws to support current tribes, such as the H.R. 1385:


Title: To extend Federal recognition to the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe, Inc., the Monacan Indian Nation, and the Nansemond Indian Tribe. This Act may be cited as the `Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2009'.


There is a provision in current law that allows unrecognized tribes to gain recognition through appeal to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Source

Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 has hurt the Virginia tribes in their prior appeals to the BIA, according to the Washington Times. Tribe officials say the Act forced Indians to identify themselves as "colored" and led to the destruction and alteration of genealogical records. Source

Tribal proponents say the Virginia law amounted to a "paper genocide" and makes the bureau process difficult for the six groups, although there are some genealogical records that do exist and have been submitted to the bureau. Va. Gov. Tim Kaine called the vote "a major step towards reconciling an historic wrong for Virginia and the nation." Source

President Barack Obama has reversed from past presidents and pledged to support recognition of the Lumbee Tribe, which has sought federal oversight for more than a century. According to the AP, Obama has not said whether he will support recognition of the Virginia tribes. Source

*To be fair, preliminary research has not led me to believe that this story is true, either. Story revoked. Genocide, however, is true. And THAT story needs to be told.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankless History of Thanksgiving

Update: Clarification on any perceived anti-Thanksgiving bias and a chance for action here.

In looking to the United States' history as a nation of genocidal power over the original Nations (Native Americans, the Tribes, Indians, First Settlers), Robert Jensen asks how we can just so easily rub aside our murderous past? Especially as this murderous past is not *just* our past, but - I add - a part of our very current DNA.

How does a country deal with the fact that some of its most revered historical figures [Washington, Jefferson, T Roosevelt] had certain moral values and political views virtually identical to Nazis [in desiring all 'Redskins' to die]? Here's how "respectable" politicians, pundits and professors play the game: When invoking a grand and glorious aspect of our past, then history is all-important. We are told how crucial it is for people to know history, and there is much hand-wringing about the younger generations' lack of knowledge about, and respect for, that history.

In the United States, we hear constantly about the deep wisdom of the founding fathers, the adventurous spirit of the early explorers, the gritty determination of those who "settled" the country -- and about how crucial it is for children to learn these things.

But when one brings into historical discussions any facts and interpretations that contest the celebratory story and make people uncomfortable -- such as the genocide of indigenous people as the foundational act in the creation of the United States -- suddenly the value of history drops precipitously, and one is asked, "Why do you insist on dwelling on the past?"

This is the mark of a well-disciplined intellectual class -- one that can extol the importance of knowing history for contemporary citizenship and, at the same time, argue that we shouldn't spend too much time thinking about history.

Our past does not just lie in our past, but it is a part of our national character, and as long as we can spin it so that we are a benevolent and graceful people, then we can continue atrocious acts of imperialism and genocide throughout the world (what is The War on Terror if not a small-scale act of genocide being perpetuated against Muslims and Arabs?).

Jensen further:
This off-and-on engagement with history isn't of mere academic interest; as the dominant imperial power of the moment, U.S. elites have a clear stake in the contemporary propaganda value of that history. Obscuring bitter truths about historical crimes helps perpetuate the fantasy of American benevolence, which makes it easier to sell contemporary imperial adventures -- such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- as another benevolent action.
Very simply and close to home, how can we continue to live as if nothing horrible actually happened between the White structure of the US and the various indigenous tribes and nations? If we can come to grips with this, maybe then "illegal" immigration won't be such a bother*. To further this: how can we now go about and trivialize their histories by naming professional and collegiate sports teams after them? We profit from their misery and then offer that somehow we are "honoring them"? Imagine Henry Ford had killed my great-grandparents and all of their brothers, sisters, and cousins some eighty years ago because they were standing in the way of progress. And now his company wants to introduce the Dye brand of luxury cars?

If the Native tribes say that we are dishonoring them, than we should probably listen to them. If not, we are triply dishonoring them, first by the initial act of dishonor, then by not listening to them, and third by being racist enough to not consider their opinions about themselves as being even equal to our opinions of them.

But then again, isn't that what White Supremacy is? We know what's best? Our views of history are better than what actually happened? Is Rush Limbaugh now the Official Spokesperson for White History, then?

*As it is, many White opponents to immigration contend somehow that the European settlers had broken no laws in emigrating to what is now the US. I guess the universe doesn't have laws? Let alone, the Bible that they were supposed to follow? But this absurdity and logic FAIL demonstrates the reality that laws benefit those who write them. If only those Injuns had lernt to read and write some laws, then...

Monday, November 22, 2010

November Rain and Family Business

I'm just gonna be honest here: I don't care for this song. But the Mrs. Jasdye lurves it. So, here.

A couple extra points.
  1. I love my daughter's curious nature. A friend mentioned to me yesterday, however, that she never asks, "Why? Why? Whywhywhywhy??" like many kids her age. I think, unfortunately, she takes after her old man in this matter, always coming up with her own hypotheses and testing them out loud. This morning, for instance, while we were out in this tragic thunderstorm, she mentions that the cars (there're few of them on the road at this moment) are being so loud. I figure that she's talking about the thunder (after all, we've imitated sonic boom sounds while watching cars speed by near her school), and so I give her a real short (and hurried) lesson on physics. Lightning, speed of sound, etc. I'll have to go a bit deeper sometime when we're not running for our lives.
  2. My three-year old has had recurring pneumonia perhaps as far back as August, but at least since September. Jocelyn is undergoing a procedure on Wednesday (right before Thanksgiving) to remove her adenoids, shave down her tonsils (it's less hassle for a three year old. Only a three day recovery, rather than the seven days if they cut them off. As well, there's a 0.2% chance that the tonsils will come back.) and send down a bronchilscope to see if there's anything in her lungs that's been hosting the pneumonia. Please pray; the whole procedure is a bit scary to us - especially the sleepy-sleepy part. And the fact that she won't eat or drink during her recovery will drive me mad. Thanks for any and all warm words, thoughts, letters of support. We appreciate them all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sweet Home Chicago (Come On! Baby Don't You Want to Go?)

Chances are, if you're at all 1) a Chicagoan and 2) involved in local politics, you've heard of TIFs (Tax Incremental Financing). You also know that TIFs are a form of tax that are supposed to be diverted to help blighted communities (such as Lawndale) garner business interests and stay together. Of course, they're not being used for that purpose. They're largely being used to court big businesses that least need the incentives.

So, let's make it about retaining community. Sweet Home Chicago is a coalition of various community groups that advocate for affordable housing funding from TIFs.

The Sweet Home proposal:
Each year the city would dedicate 20 percent of TIF funds collected towards affordable housing. If this were in effect in 2009, $99 million would have gone towards housing.
Developments would qualify to receive funds if 50 percent of the units were affordable to households earning less than $37,000 for a family of four. In addition, citywide, 40 percent of the units created each with the dedicated funds must serve households earning less than $22,600 a year for a family of four.
For housing that is for sale, units would have to be affordable to families of four earning less than $60,300.
Please sign the petition for Sweet Home Chicago.
The ability to pay rent and stay housed comes before any other need of a community. If TIF (tax increment financing) dollars are meant to build and support blighted communities, there is surely no greater way for Chicago to use them than on affordable housing.

Affordable housing needs to be a priority. It is the long-term sort of investment that is too often overlooked for short-sighted, quick infusions of cash that don't sustain communities. We agree with other housing advocates and organizations that the language of the Sweet Home Chicago bill can ensure planning flexibility while still prioritizing affordable housing.

Please don't let this opportunity to ensure a place to live for Chicago's neediest citizens pass by.

This petition is to let the Mayor and Councilmen of Chicago know that, as negotiations on the bill move forward, the provision of affordable housing must remain a priority.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sometimes It Just Takes a While

Having a Palestinian Christian speak at my church earlier this week caused me to revisit my old views once again. Growing up in the Evangelical/Fundamentalist church, I was led to believe that Jesus was going to come to Earth again in a cloud of glory, take all of his people home to be with him and melt down the world. The state of Israel - and its relationship to its heathen neighbors - was key to this apocalyptic event.

To us, Israel was the chosen nation. Although most every Jew now rejects Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, at this future date, 144,000 (give or take a few) of them will magically accept him as the incarnate YWHW.

This was, as ridiculous as it may seem, how we viewed the world. We weren't trying to be offensive or cloistered from the world and reality. We figured it was the real reality. We thought we were following the Word of God. So if we were offensive, well, so was Jesus, right? Right? right?

Immediately after high school, I worked for a conservative Evangelical Christian school. Much of what I was taught about the Bible - including our end-times theology - was reinforced and given academic clothes at this school. But it was also there, while working my first days for a paycheck, that I first encountered a real, live Palestinian Christian.

I didn't think he was an enemy. Nor that his existence was in God's way - at least not initially. But when he told us that Zionism (the belief that the land of Israel belongs solely to the Jews) is false prophecy, I just thought he was just wrong. I couldn't grasp the idea that there were other ways of taking the Bible seriously that didn't coincide with my views.* When he shared that his people and he are living as refugees throughout the Arab and Muslim world, I thought that wasn't such a bad thing. After all, the important thing is that Jerusalem and the ancient promised land of the Bible was finally back into the hands of God's chosen people.

It would be another ten years before I really started considering other theological views. It would be some time after that the evils of mass displacement would really sink in. It would be some time after that wherein I felt burdened by the plight of Palestinians as a result of Zionism, as well as the plight of Arabs as a result of fear-mongering and shallow American jingoism. As I was slowly able to distance myself from my old worldviews and to see the resulting hardships that we Evangelicals pass on and exacerbate to those outside of our bubble, I end up apologizing quite a bit. And trying to forcibly change my friends' and family members' views on some of these subjects. Much to their chagrin.

All of this goes to say, it takes time to make a change in people's hearts - especially if they're convinced that their worldview is fundamentally correct. It takes a while to foster trust, to share not only our stories, but the stories of others who are likewise affected. It takes villages. It takes miles. It takes a lot to humble ourselves and hear what others are really trying to say. So why am I surprised, since I - of all people - am still learning?

*Whether that's as a result of teen-aged narcissism or fundamentalist thinking, I'm not sure that there's much of a difference, to be honest. Fundamentalism is, at its heart, a willingness to subject yourself to an extremely self-centered view of the world. The difference is that teenagers tend to think that they're self-defined (although their viewpoints are at the least informed by their cultural and familial contexts) and largely buck against authority. Fundamentalists are told what and how to believe and act and fall in line accordingly. There are figures who are trusted with immense and otherworldly authority in their sphere - it's just that those figures have to be within their sphere. Everybody else is treated with suspicion. So in that way, Fundamentalists are anti-authoritarian.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Unemployment Blog-a-Thon

Updated below

I was functionally unemployed for about two and a half years, starting just before the economic malaise that's affected just about everyone else around this country in one way or another. There are a few lasting effects from such a long period of unemployment and from the downturn in the economy. One of them is that - still - I have no full-time job. Little-to-no benefits. All told, I'm making about a third of what I was making before, if I'm lucky.

And a lot of other Americans (especially heads of household) are in the same boat. And, to be honest, things may not look up any time soon.

In fact, according to recent studies, there is one job opening for every five unemployed workers. Any which way it's sliced, 1:4 is not good odds.

And the fact that unemployment benefits are once again slated for debate in Congress (which has been acting awfully stingy at a time of crisis for middle and working class families, but can always seem to find ways of making more war) compounds the problem for this nation. Less money in the hands of those that need it leads to points of crisis. But as the Economic Policy Institute notes, extending unemployment leads to extra money floating around in the economy as well as extra jobs and extra hours for those who are currently working.

Extending the federally funded unemployment insurance extensions through 2011 would not only be a lifeline to the families of millions of unemployed workers, it also supports spending responsible for the existence of nearly half a million jobs. Furthermore, it would not only create new jobs, it would boost hours for workers who already have jobs. Both results would be welcome improvements because this recession has seen both job losses and cuts in hours for those with jobs... We find, using the CBO’s methodology, that the $65 billion spent on unemployment insurance extensions through 2011 would support 723,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

So what's to keep the US from extending the benefits? Perhaps the $65 billion price. So, single banks can afford to receive that money for use from the government, but spread out through millions of households on Main St.? Can't let that happen... Nevertheless:

The actual cost to the budget is far less than the sticker price of $65 billion. The 723,000 full-time- equivalent jobs created or saved means: (1) the government will bring in more revenue from the taxes paid on the wages earned by those who otherwise would not have jobs, and (2) it will spend less on safety net measures (for example, Medicaid and food stamps) related to unemployment. In other words, when jobs are created, it adds to government revenues and reduces government expenditures. Using a methodology described in Mishel and Shierholz (2010), we find that of the $104.7 billion increase in GDP related to continuing the unemployment extensions through 2011, some 37.4%, or $39.1 billion, will be recouped both in higher revenues, as more people and firms pay taxes, and in lower expenditures. Consequently, the effective cost to the budget of continuing the unemployment insurance extensions for a year is $25.9 billion instead of $65 billion.
Call your congressperson/reptile.


Seventy-three percent of voters want Congress to keep the extended unemployment benefits put in place to fight the recession, according to a new poll commissioned by the National Employment Law Project, and they don't care about the deficit.

With unemployment expected to hover above nine percent for the foreseeable future, nearly three out of four voters say "it is too early to start cutting back benefits for workers who lost their jobs."
Will the new Republican-led House (and Democrat-led Senate and White House) listen to the needs (and whims) of the American people? Or will they continue to push their so-called mandate (punishing the poor while rewarding the wealthy)?

Chicago Tuesdays: Hey, Do You KNOW That I'm Walking Here?

Though the new pedestrian crossing law passed during the Summer here in Illinois, you wouldn't know it if you walked out in traffic. Or watched tv. Or were a driver...

The old law:
When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

The new law (as the Chicago Tribune describes it):
Drivers must stop for pedestrians in all crosswalks — even those that are unmarked or don't have a stop sign or a traffic signal. The penalty for failing to stop is a traffic citation of $50 to $500. Fines vary by county.

If the old law led to confusion among drivers about when to stop (and few had been obeying even that law), the new law merely exponentially compounds that confusion because of a fundamental lack of communication about the existence of this new law and the non-existence of its enforcement. There are no road signs. There are no cops on stake out. There are no print, radio, tv, internet ads warning about this change. And the fines are - although a pretty sum to pay if not expecting it - not the most prohibitive. There is no dialog on this because so few people know about it, so I'd be foolish to expect a culture change anytime soon or even within the distant future.

About the only place where one can find mention of the new pedestrian laws are just a few newspaper articles. That's all the news I could find on this subject. But those few mentions have emboldened fellow walkers like myself. And, of course, almost get us run over in the process. Certainly cussed at. But definitely less safe.

A few questions:
  • Seeing how this law is very lax in enforcement, doesn't this give police more power to justify random stops, further complicating their relationships with the communities they're charged to serve?
  • Seeing as how Illinois is not the only state to have this new supposedly walker-friendly law in place (if not effect), how have other states educated and enforced this?
  • More to the point, how do budget-crisis states deal with the need to clarify and enforce this law?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Progressive Chicago: Miguel del Valle: Mayoral Candidate of the Week

Progressive Chicago: Miguel del Valle: Mayoral Candidate of the Week: "(Photo Source: Miguel Del Valle is probably not coming into the race as a front-runner..."

Pretty good critique of my top choice for mayor.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lazy Sunday Reading: This American Life - Crybabies

This American Life #415, "Wall Street: Money Never Weeps":

Ira Glass: How much whining and complaining are Wall St guys doing about the federal government now. Like this guy, Steven Schwartzman, is he an outlier?
Adam Davidson: My view is that he represents a much broader view and he's one of the few guys who has the guts to say it out loud... If I can use an odious and ridiculous comparison, [the complaining that he hears from high and low level Wall St employees] reminds me of Baathists in Iraq.
...The people who made money and were in power under Saddam Hussein.
High-level Baathists that I found in Iraq after the war... The group that had the most self-pity... were those people who made a fortune through the evil and illegal activities tof the Baathist regime and it feels very similar when I'm talking to people on Wall St. This self-pity combined with a total lack of reflection of how they had been such massive beneficiaries of a system that had been so bad for the country.
IG: And it continues to generate huge profits
AD: Pretty much every big bank that you can name - with the possible exception of Chase - would not exist today were it not for the gov. They are growing quickly and making record profits by some accounts. This year will be the biggest bonus year ever, for Wall St. Last year was the biggest before that. So, that bucket of activity - let's just call it The Bailout, although it was more than just the bailout - most folks on WS who I know feel, "That was just necessary. If we had gone down, the whole US economy, the whole world economy would've gone down. We would've had a Great Depression." I'm sympathetic to that argument. That being said, it would be appropriate for folks on WS to say publicly that their businesses failed. And something that they have always said they're against - government intervention - rescued them and made them get the opposite of what you're supposed to get in a capitalist economy - rewarded instead of punished for bad, risky behavior. I cannot think of any thing in the media or that I have directly heard that reflects any gratitude... Self-reflection is a very small part of what I hear.
IG: What about when they go in front of Congress, don't they say, "Thanks! You saved us, we just want to acknowledge what you've done."
AD: ... I can't think of a time that someone said, "My bank would not exist today. It failed because we took actions that led to our investors having no faith in us. But the government stepped in and because of that, we are making more money than we've ever made before."
IG: What about the workaday people, the analysts, the brokers, the traders, the mid-level people who make a lot of money... Are they grateful?
AD: ... I got a group of furious Wall St guys, getting together to figure out what to do about their anger at the president and the Democrats in Congress. And one guy said, "I swear to God, they're trying to destroy business in America... How do we fight the President?"... I gotta say, it was a pretty emblematic moment. I'm willing to bet you can go to any bar in Wall Street any night of the week and you can find someone complaining about all the different ways the president and government are harming Wall St.

[They got some audio from recorded conversations taken in a bar in Wall Street after the closing bell.]

Wall Street Guy #1: The government must have an enemy, because if they don't have an enemy, they are the enemy. So, Wall St. is the current enemy.
AD*: I can guarantee your bank would've gone under, your stock evaluation, your credit agency would've been out of business. All three of you would have been out of work [if the government hadn't bailed you out].
Wall Street Guy #2: What would you have liked for us to do?
Radio Woman: I would like to bail it out and I would like to walk into a bar in lower Manhattan and have one of you to acknowledge me and thank me for keeping your job.
WSG1: For what?
AD: How do you think you kept your job?
WSG2: Because I'm a smart person.
WSG1: Survival of the fittest.
WSG3: Because I'm smarter than the average person.
RW: Even if the gov't bails out your industry?
WSG3: I took advantage of the situation. 95% of the population doesn't have that common sense.

*Disclaimer: Yeah, I don't know who said what...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Powers of the Air

John 9:1-7 (NIV)
As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Fundamentalist, right-wing Christianity currently falls into the trap of asking, "Who sinned, this man or his parents? Why is he sick? Is the pre-existing condition his fault or his parents' fault? And if so, why should we have to suffer for others' wrongdoing?"

Jesus answered, "Don't worry about such questions. I make the healing and I revel in the healing." And then he healed the man.

Peter and his cohorts were thinking according to the rules of Blame-Game Theology - the same limited thinking that Job's friends used to justified his severe sufferings. However, over the course of the next few years, they came to slowly change their way of thinking and were soon healing the blind, mute, deaf, disabled without equivocation.

My people (evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians) are blinded and deceived by the powers of the air into believing that it's generally the fault of the victim that she is worse off than they are. It's not a Christ-trait. It's a human trait, a broken human trait. One in which we find ourselves so broken that we need to sabotage others just to feel better about our brokenness.

And even if they don't necessarily ascribe to the BGT (few that I know would cop to believing that), they believe that sin is individual and that everything needs to be focused on the individual or the family. Any good is done through individual charity, not structural change, according to this philosophy.

Which is very convenient for the powers that be. If we don't call the structures (the nations, the powers of the air) in to question, but rest all of the blame on the individual and his family, then there is no accountability for those who are directly responsible for the sickness. If the gambler alone is blamed for his failures to break free of his addiction, society doesn't need to quit making a profit from his addiction.

I wonder, however, if the writer of that gospel account didn't have this prophetic account in mind when :

Zephaniah 1:17
I will bring such distress on all people
that they will grope about like those who are blind,
because they have sinned against the LORD.

The question I'm asking is, How did they sin against the Lord? Was it through tripping old ladies? Was it through sexual deviancy? Was it by not paying their taxes? Were they playing with witchcraft? Did they sacrifice kitties?

Truth be told, it might have been any of those, but that's not what the passage hints toward.

verse 13:
Their wealth will be plundered,
their houses demolished.
Though they build houses,
they will not live in them;
though they plant vineyards,
they will not drink the wine.

and 18:
Neither their silver nor their gold
will be able to save them
on the day of the LORD’s wrath.
They relied on their abundant wealth. But it did not save them. They are blind to the needs of those around them, and so God will complete the picture.

Or they can choose to wash in the waters of the Pool of Shalom.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Reality of Denial

Slacktivist's post on global warming denialism has come at a time when I find myself at wit's end trying to talk to fellow White Christians about the facts of institutional and systemic racism (and our own implicit White privilege). What these two topics share is that the very truth of their existence are being called into question - yet they are both certifiable, identifiable, and verifiable scientifically-proven facts. Systemic racism is a fact, every bit as much as sexism is a fact, every bit as much as global warming is a fact, every bit as much as income inequality is a fact, or homophobia. Or Muslimaphobia. Or genocide. Or... pick your evil poison.

Denying these facts doesn't make it less so - it just proves that the denier doesn't know or want to know how to deal with something that may alter his or her existence in profound ways.
One could debate about the how extensive the damage is in these areas, vis-a-vis the claims by some of the advocates for change. And we certainly could argue about the ways to change the system*. But facts, those stubborn things, can't just be accepted or not. They are. How we interpret and classify the facts is open to interpretation, but not the facts themselves.

Likewise, it's a fallacy to believe that only liberals believe that racism (et. al.) is a continual problem. That's an unfortunately binary way of looking at the world. Racism is a real, fundamental problem. And the fact of its relentless existence speaks about the persistence of our continual tribalisms and how we (males, Whites, middle class, Americans, and/or straights) justify our superior standing under the line of thinking, "When we succeed, we do so because we're better." Rather, the truth is closer to, "We succeed in large part because society privileges us, and if we challenge those assumptions we were lucky enough to be born into, we may never succeed again."

That is, of course, a fallacy. There are a few with much, much power. The rest of us lack power -- as long as we remain divided by sex, race, class, sexuality, religion, etc. The rest of us are unaware of how we can be powerful - by uniting - and how powerful we can be by uniting.

* These should be the only things seperating conservatives, moderates, and liberals. But alas, there are many conservatives - and many of them Christians - who favor the system as it is and deny reality just to continue that system.