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.
Via Edge Left:
Edgeleft is an occasional commentary from David Mcreynolds which may be resent or used in any way, without further permission
Obama and ISIS by David McReynolds
We can all agree that ISIS (or ISL) is a dreadful organization which has committed grievous crimes in Iraq, crimes which extend far beyond the beheading of American journalists to include mass executions of civilians.The problem is that, as always happens in these cases, there is a certain “selective outrage”, a kind of “willed amnesia” about our own role in such matters.
Let me leave aside ancient history such as Vietnam, and, just looking at Iraq, remind ourselves that the US supported Saddam Hussein for a long period of time, including his war against Iran which lasted nine years, during which he used poison gas against the Iranians with no comment from the White House. Or, after the first Gulf War, when Saddam had agreed to the terms of surrender and was withdrawing his troops from Kuwait, our planes machine gunned the retreating troops who, under any possible definition of the terms of surrender, should have had safe passage.
Then, the US encouraged an uprising among the Iraqis against Saddam, but provided no support, and stood by when Saddam slaughtered them by the thousands. Or perhaps to remember the massive loss of civilian lives in Iraq after our inglorious “Shock and Awe” invasion. Or the torture chambers we set up, photographs of which horrified the world.
Not all of the sins of America, taken together, justify the beheading of a single journalist – but memory may help us understand the roots of that horror.
Obama’s speech tonight went out of its way to chide Russia, at precisely the moment we need the help of Russia (and Iran) in dealing with ISIS. He stoked the old fires of the Cold War by reference to the troubles of Ukraine – for which the US is primarily responsible. And, most tragic of all, instead of offering some hope of ending the bloodshed in Syria, he is now going to extend further aid to one side in the civil war there, which will prolong and deepen it.
If ISIS is indeed the enemy, then, in Syria, the most natural ally is Assad, brutal as his dictatorship is. Let’s remember the US has relied on Syria before, as an ally against Hussein, and as a convenient place to send suspects we wanted tortured in the most professional way possible. This may well be, for the Syrians, a choice between Hitler and Stalin, with ISIS playing the role of Hitler.
The roots of ISIS are in part in Syria, where it has been a bitter enemy of Assad, and in large part now in Iraq, where it has made an appeal to the Sunni population. The Sunnis are the minority religion, but, under Saddam Hussein, they ruled Iraq. As a result of the US invasion, the Sunnis were driven from power and the government turned over to the Shiites (which have close ties to Iran). The US-sponsored government in Baghdad used its power to wreck vengeance on the Sunnis, excluding them from any share of power, and, in far too many cases, using control of the State to murder and imprison them.
Now the Sunnis have turned to ISIS for their revenge. And ISIS has used the weapons the US sent to the Iraqi army, which turned and fled, leaving behind their tanks and heavy artillery. The chances are good that more American aid will end in the same way – and the history of this is instructive. In the Chinese Revolution in the last century, Mao’s army equipped itself with the weapons the US sent to the Kuomintang. In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh’s army equipped itself with the weapons the US had sent to Saigon.
The one exception in Iraq is the Kurdish area. Contrary to media reports, the Peshmerga broke in their first encounter with ISIS – but they have a real stake in setting up their own territory and there is a good chance that, unlike the Iraqi army, they will stand and fight once they have caught their breath. (I feel guilty, as a pacifist, to even suggest aspects of military strategy and tactics – I am only trying to offer an analysis). It is true that a Kurdish “state” in Iraq will create new problems, but they are the one group that might prove a match for ISIS.
Meanwhile, one has to wonder why American intelligence was caught so totally off guard by ISIS and its sweep into Iraq. Just as our sources failed to alert us to this impending disaster , they may be over-estimating the power of ISIS, which will be subject to internal strains.
Meanwhile, missing entirely from Obama’s speech was any recognition of the dangerous role Saudi Arabia and Qatar have played in creating ISIS. If there is a hidden card in this deck, it is in the military and financial support these states gave to the Islamist forces in Syria – the very forces which evolved into ISIS. It is surely ironic that Obama and his advisers would go out of their way to chide Russia – which might actually be of help in dealing with ISIS – and remain silent on the countries which have played so ominous a role in creating the current problem. (Keep in mind that the funding for Al Queda came in large part from wealthy Saudis).
ISIS, dreadful as it is, is not a threat to the United States. It is part of the civil war which has emerged in Iraq now that the US has withdrawn. Massive bombing campaigns will not solve a problem which has its roots in the internal tensions and religious conflicts in Iraq. For diplomacy to have a chance, the US will need consultation with Iran, just as it needs to avoid deepening the civil conflict in Syria.
Obama’s speech failed to deal with the real problems. He seems unaware that the American Empire has ended, that while, like King Canute, he may command the tide to stop, the tides obey other forces over which the US has no control.
(David McReynolds is a former staff member of the War Resisters League, was twice the Socialist Party’s candidate for President, and served a term as Chair of War Resisters International. He is retired, lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side with his two cats, and can be contacted at: email@example.com. He was the subject of the dual biography by Martin Duberman: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds)
- Howie Hawkins: A Green Socialist for Governor!!!!!!!!!! (pardon my excitement!!!!!1!!!)
- Report from Gaza: Israel Launches New Offensive on Besieged Palestinian Territory in Crisis (Democracy Now, via Edge Left)
- “Genetic Determinism”: Highly Placed Mainstream Media Racists (The Centre for Research on Globalization via Talking Circles on Race & Racism)
- What’s the Role of Race in the New Economy Movement? (Yes Magazine via Talking Circles on Race & Racism)
- For Chrissakes, Don’t Leave a Kid Under 6 Alone in a Car (Jezebel)
The last article is also good advice for dogs, cats, goldfish, or any small helpless living beings of any species, really.
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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.
The International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, is observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone for humanitarian aid access. The day was first celebrated in 1982, and is kept by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. In 2013, for the first time, the Day was dedicated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to peace education, the key preventive means to reduce war sustainably.
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Upstate New York peace activists have been indicted and arrested (click for video) for resisting drone war crimes. You can support them by showing up at the trial and/or press conferences, and/or sharing information about what’s happened so that others will know about it and get involved.
Friday, January 3rd 5 pm and Saturday, January 4th 10 am
Fri. 1/3 5pm & Sat. 1/4 9am
(US Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark will be there Saturday)
The 83-year-old Rice has chosen to spend the final chapter of her life behind bars.
She faces a possible 30-year prison sentence on charges of interfering with national security and damaging federal property, resulting from an act of civil disobedience she committed in July last year.
Exhausted after hiking through the woods adjacent to the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., that once provided the enriched uranium for the Hiroshima bomb, Rice, along with Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed splashed blood against the walls, put up banners and beat hammers “into plowshares” – a biblical reference to Isaiah 2:4, “They shall beat swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Breaking into a sensitive nuclear facility to stage a protest, the three activists were prepared for the worst. “We were very aware that we could have died,” Rice said.