Playwright, clown, musician, and mensch Colin McLaughlin has invited friends over this evening to do a collective reading of his new play, Jailbird, about Eugene Debs. Colin asked me to read Debs’ famous statement to the judge at his trial for sedition, which includes the following: “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” May Colin’s retrieval of Debs eventually spread light and spark determination all over the U.S. and beyond.
Within a short period of time there will be no Jewish workers in Israel. The Arabs shall be the workers; the Jews shall be the managers, inspectors, officials, and policemen and mainly secret service men. A state governing a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners is bound to become a Shin Bet state, with all that this would imply to the spirit of education, freedom of speech and thought and democracy. This corruption, characteristic of any colonial regime, would be true for Israel. The administration will be forced to deal with the suppression of an Arab protest movement and the acquisition of Arab quislings. We must fear that even the army and its officers, a people’s army, will deteriorate by becoming an occupation army, and its officers, turned into military governors, will not differ from military governors elsewhere in the world.
Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Israeli philosopher and scholar
Quoted in George Baramki Azar, Palestine: A Photographic Journey
Vietnam veteran Wayne Smith: We were broken. I had so much anger and pain. I was crushed. I left like I had blood on my hands. I resisted calling the Vietnamese gooks and dinks, but near the end of it I found those vulgar words would come out of my mouth several times; I had contempt for myself. How could I have been so stupid and foolish to believe this country? How could I have been so foolish to think that I could really save lives as a medic? How could I really make a difference in the face of so many catastrophic injuries? Read the rest of this entry »
What can we do to affect the events that are to come? First, we must not make the mistake of placing trust in the government. The large upsurge of antiwar sentiment can be an effective device for changing national policy if it is sustained in continuing mass actions across the country. Otherwise the administration can ride out the storm and continue as before to systemically demolish the society of South Vietnam and Laos. It is difficult week after week, month after month, to sustain a high level of protest against the war. American society becomes more polarized and the true, familiar Nixon emerges in the person of Mitchell or Agnew, as the threat of repression becomes more real, it will be hard to maintain the kinds of resistance and protest that the Vietnam catastrophe demands. As the reports of massacres and automated murder becomes routine, the impulse to respond by violence may become more difficult to stifle, despite the realization that this can only have the effect of bringing the mass of the population to “ignore resultant atrocities.” Continued mass actions, patient explanation, principled resistance can be boring, depressing. But those who program the B-52 attacks and the “pacification” exercises are not bored, and as long as they continue in their work, so must we.
–Noam Chomsky, “After Pinkville,” At War with Asia, 83-84
You are the voice of people with adhesive tape across their mouths
This is no time for literary criticism.
Nor for attacking the gorillas with surrealistic poems.
And what use are metaphors if slavery is not a metaphor,
If death in the river of the Dead is not a metaphor,
If the Squadron of Death is not?
–Ernesto Cardenal, from his Epistle to Monsignor Casaldáliga
Dom Pedro Casaldáliga
photo by Mev
So, this month, in addition to reading Dorothee Sölle (superb!)
I am also reading a lot of Nawal El-Saadawi
Egyptian novelist, physician
Thorn in the side of patriarchy
She reminds me of you
You both remind me
of the Quakers’ enumeration
of three states of being
and constant difficulty
“You cannot be creative in a system that is very unjust, like the system we live in, unless you are a dissident. Because when you are creative you are for justice, for freedom, for love. It’s by nature like that. You feel that you want to do something. You cannot accept injustice. You become angry, if this injustice is happening to you or to others. If you are walking in the street and you see children who are begging, beggars, who are starving, they are dying of hunger, what do you do? You become furious. You want to change the system that created this hunger. You discover it’s not national only, it’s international.”
–from novel-in-construction, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris
Noam Chomsky, Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America& the Struggle for Peace, South End Press, 1985
The real victims of “America’s agony” are millions of suffering and tormented people throughout much of the Third World. Our highly refined ideological institutions protect us from seeing their plight and our role in maintaining it, except sporadically. If we had the honesty and moral courage, we would not let a day pass without hearing the cries of the victims. We would turn on the radio in the morning and listen to the voices of the people who escaped the massacres in Quiché province and the Guazapa mountains, and the daily press would carry front-page pictures of children dying of malnutrition and disease in the countries where order reigns and crops and beef are exported to the American market, with an explanation of why this is so. We would listen to the extensive and detailed record of terror and torture in our dependencies compiled by Amnesty International, Americas Watch, Survival International, and other human rights organizations. But we successfully insulate ourselves from this grim reality. By so doing, we sink to a level of moral depravity that has few counterparts in the modern world….
This 1985 analysis was quite important for me; in fact, it precipitated an intellectual conversion, as it provided a coherent view of the political world in light of my experiences with Sanctuary, Witness for Peace, and the Pledge of Resistance. Read the rest of this entry »
Later I became very involved in writing. I really enjoyed that moment of writing. People would pass around my sentences. That was a feeling I never had before. It was like a bullet out of the gun.
I always have an attitude. Even if there are no plans, I have an attitude. Perhaps I answered imprecisely before, saying that I am just a person. I am actually a person with an attitude.
Expressing oneself is like a drug. I’m so addicted to it.
I don’t really care that much about if I want to be more successful or less successful in art, because I never think life and art should be separate. What’s life if you don’t have conversation and joy and anger? Read the rest of this entry »