A Moment of Silence (2002) by Emmanuel Ortiz*Before I begin this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence in honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.I would also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence for all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, for the victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the U.S., and throughout the world.And if I could just add one more thing…A full day of silence… for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of U.S.-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.Six months of silence… for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a resultof a 12-year U.S. embargo against the country.…And now, the drums of war beat again.Before I begin this poem, two months of silence… for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa, where “homeland security” made them aliens in their own countryNine months of silence… for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin, and the survivors went on as if alive.A year of silence… for the millions of dead in Viet Nam—a people, not a war—for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives bones buried in it, their babies born of it.Two months of silence… for the decades of dead in Colombia, whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.Before I begin this poem,Seven days of silence… for El SalvadorA day of silence… for NicaraguaFive days of silence… for the GuatemaltecosNone of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.45 seconds of silence… for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas…1,933 miles of silence… for every desperate bodyThat burns in the desert sunDrowned in swollen rivers at the pearly gates to the Empire’s underbelly,A gaping wound sutured shut by razor wire and corrugated steel.25 years of silence… for the millions of Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.For those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore treesIn the south… the north… the east… the west…There will be no dna testing or dental records to identify their remains.100 years of silence… for the hundreds of millions of indigenous peopleFrom this half of right here,Whose land and lives were stolen,In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of TearsNames now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness…From somewhere within the pillars of powerYou open your mouths to invoke a moment of our silenceAnd we are all left speechless,Our tongues snatched from our mouths,Our eyes stapled shut.A moment of silence,And the poets are laid to rest,The drums disintegrate into dust.Before I begin this poem,You want a moment of silence…You mourn now as if the world will never be the sameAnd the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.Not like it always has been.…Because this is not a 9-1-1 poemThis is a 9/10 poem,It is a 9/9 poem,A 9/8 poem,A 9/7 poem…This is a 1492 poem.This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.And if this is a 9/11 poem, thenThis is a September 11th 1973 poem for Chile.This is a September 12th 1977 poem for Steven Biko in South Africa.This is a September 13th 1971 poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York.This is a September 14th 1992 poem for the people of Somalia.This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground amidst the ashes of amnesia.This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told,The 110 stories that history uprooted from its textbooksThe 110 stories that that cnn, bbc, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.This is a poem for interrupting this program.This is not a peace poem,Not a poem for forgiveness.This is a justice poem,A poem for never forgetting.This is a poem to remind usThat all that glittersMight just be broken glass.And still you want a moment of silence for the dead?We could give you lifetimes of empty:The unmarked graves,The lost languages,The uprooted trees and histories,The dead stares on the faces of nameless children…Before I start this poem we could be silent foreverOr just long enough to hunger,For the dust to bury usAnd you would still ask usFor more of our silence.So if you want a moment of silenceThen stop the oil pumpsTurn off the engines, the televisionsSink the cruise shipsCrash the stock marketsUnplug the marquee lightsDelete the e-mails and instant messagesDerail the trains, ground the planes.If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the windowof Taco BellAnd pay the workers for wages lost.Tear down the liquor stores,The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthousesand the Playboys.If you want a moment of silence,Then take itOn Super Bowl Sunday,The Fourth of July,During Dayton’s 13 hour sale,The next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful brown people have gathered.You want a moment of silenceThen take itNow,Before this poem begins.Here, in the echo of my voice,In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,In the space between bodies in embrace,Here is your silence.Take it.Take it all.But don’t cut in line.Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.And we,Tonight,We will keep right on singingFor our dead.*Emmanuel Ortiz is a third-generation Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish-American community organizer and spoken word poet. He is the author of a chapbook of poems, The Word Is a Machete (self-published, 2003), and coeditor of Under What Bandera?: Anti-War Ofrendas from Minnesota y Califas (Calaca Press, 2004). He is a founding member of Palabristas: Latin@ Word Slingers, a collective of Latin@ poets in Minnesota. Emmanuel has lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Oakland, California; and the Arizona/Mexico border. He currently lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” with his two dogs, Nogi and Cuca. In his spare time, he enjoys guacamole, soccer, and naps.
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From the Syracuse Peace Council: Drone Resister Sentenced to One Year in Prison Base’s Order of Protection Begs Judgement:
On July 10, grandmother of three, Mary Anne Grady Flores was sentenced to one year in prison for being found guilty of violating an order of protection. A packed courtroom of over 100 supporters was stunned as she was led away, and vowed to continue the resistance.
These orders of protection, typically used in domestic violence situations or to protect a victim or witness to a crime, have been issued to people participating in nonviolent resistance actions at Hancock Air Base since late 2012. The base, near Syracuse NY, pilots unmanned Reaper drones over Afghanistan, and trains drone pilots, sensor operators and maintenance technicians. The orders had been issued to “protect” Colonel Earl Evans, Hancock’s mission support commander, who wanted to keep protesters “out of his driveway.”
Mary Anne began her sentencing statement with, “Your honor, a series of judicial perversions brings me here before you tonight.” She concluded that the “final perversion is the reversal of who is the real victim here: the commander of a military base whose drones kill innocent people halfway around the world, or those innocent people themselves who are the real ones in need of protection from the terror of US drone attacks?”
The orders of protection are being challenged on many legal grounds.
Mary Anne had been issued a temporary order in 2012. The next year, she photographed a nonviolent witness at the base, not participating herself because she did not want to violate the order. The irony is that those who actually participated in the action were acquitted, while Mary Anne was charged with violating the order.
Even though the pre-sentencing report recommended no jail time, Judge Gideon sentenced Mary Anne to the maximum of a year in prison. As he imposed his sentence, the judge referred to his previous Hancock decision. He had stated then and insinuated now, “This has got to stop.”
In addition, Mary Anne was fined $1000 plus a $205 court surcharge and a $50 fee to have her DNA collected.
Her verdict is being appealed.
How you can help
- Send letters of support to Mary Anne Grady Flores c/o Onodaga County Department of Correction, PO Box 143, Jamesville, NY 13078.
- Mary Anne’s lawyer is appealing this case and financial support would be gladly accepted. Make checks out to Ithaca Catholic Worker (with Mary Anne’s name in the memo) and send them to 133 Sheffield Road, Ithaca, New York 14850.
- Help spread this Democracy Now link around: Grandmother Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison After Protest at U.S. Drone Base — and ask your local media to cover this situation. Write something yourself if you can.
These suggestions are amended from a Facebook post by Ellen Grady. She can be reached at demottgrady6 at gmail dot com for more information on upcoming trials and related support efforts.
Yesterday was July 4th. I admit I find fireworks (and crowds) overwhelming, and was relieved to be in bed with my wife and baby as the pyrotechnic thudding and loud, distant music did their thing.
But yesterday I felt what I’ve only begun to feel in the past few years, as my understanding of our country and the way we fit into the world has deepened: Pride. I feel proud to be American, and happy to be here. I love that I can be gay, and trans, and married to a woman. I’m bothered that there are still a lot of ways in which I’m a second class citizen but those are increasingly due to my status as an Earthling and a woman and a trans person and a vegan pacifist unaffiliated with any major religion, and not my status as an American. It turns out that 2013 is beginning to be a pretty good time to be queer in America. For the first time I’m really starting to feel like America doesn’t mind that I’m here, and maybe even values my family’s contributions to and presence in society.
Signal boost: Black people discriminated against in immigration reform (Article by Dr. Ron Daniels, Institute of the Black World)
Well, yes. But so should gun fans – and I think they should be more responsible for picking up the tab, than anyone else. That said, we live in America, where we all pay taxes equally (unless you’re “too big to fail,” and then America basically pays you to be here, because capitalism).
This morning I read an article in the February 25th issue of Tompkins Weekly, by Sue Henninger, called “Gun Control Foes Speak Out.” It reads in part… More