An Outsider’s Meditation on the Brexit

It’s official, the UK. will withdraw from the European Union. Article 50 will be triggered and the withdrawal process can take up to 2 years, so by 2018 – the UK will forever be severed with the EU. As a casual but interested observer from across the Pond, I’ve followed the campaign with some degree of regularity. I read the opinion and pieces from the Leave and Remain camp to see what where each side stood and why, and excluding the really bigoted views from the UKIP and others such as Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan from the Daily Mail; I can relate and understand the issues each side present even if I don’t agree what’s being said.

When David Cameron said in 2013 he will put it to the British people via referendum to decide whether to Remain or Leave in the EU after he attempts a series of negotiations which will give some power and concessions back to the U.K., I thought it was foolhardy and risky. He was tempting fate and putting his political future on the line for something that can go either way. Political leaders should only put a referendum to a vote when they are sure of the result and more importantly, it’s a result the political party in power wants. Cameron was under pressure from the far right, some Tory voters have defected to UKIP because of the the U.K. relationship with the EU, especially on the issue of immigration, migration and a perceived lack of control of UK’s borders. UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, can be described as a more toned down version of Donald Trump. He is against immigration, EU migration and has engaged in similar dog whistling racism of the silent majority (white British people). Farage is a proto-fascist who is unapologetic for his views, who thinks all of the ills that plague the UK can be traced to EU migrants, immigrants and Muslims. David Cameron has dismissed the UKIP as a lot of “fruitcakes”, “loonies” and “closet racists”. Farage didn’t mind being called a fruitcake or loony (because he is), but he took umbrage at being called a racist and demanded an apology from Cameron, which he refused to give.

As soon as it became clear that the Leave side was triumphant, Nigel Farage gave three separate speeches to three separate reporters on the BBC (yes, I stayed up and watched the live results) and he does sound a bit looney and fruitcake-y, especially when he immediately backtracked on how he’ll give the 350 million GBP savings to the NHS every week when UK leaves the EU (the supposed savings per week from withdrawing from the EU).

The Referendum interested me because the tone is, in some ways, mirroring the political discourse in the US. We have Donald Trump, another proto-fascist, who wants to build a wall on our southern border to prevent Mexicans from coming over (and make the Mexican government pay for it), ban all Muslims and deport all illegal immigrants (which number from 10-12 million). Trump’s supporters ate this up, Trump, like the UKIP have convinced the disenfranchised working class of America that if we just kick out all the brown people who are here to steal your jobs and Muslims who are terrorising our neighborhoods, everything will be fine again. One difference is while Donald Trump doesn’t use dog whistling racism to bait his voters – he uses outright racism and bigotry, the UKIP at least attempt to look civil on the race baiting front.

Like many observers, I thought the EU Referendum was just one big expensive political stunt, something Cameron must do because it was his re-election promise, to let the British people decide their future and to stem the bleed of voters over to the UKIP side; and ultimately, the Remain will win, everyone will come to their senses in the 11th hour and realize what a huge mistake it was to even contemplate leaving the EU. Cameron also negotiated on behalf of the British people to get some concessions from the EU, a good rundown of that list is here in this link. Whether the so-called concessions gained were genuine and enforceable or just the same words rewritten in different jargon and legalese, that’s for the British public to decide. But what can’t be denied is the EU isn’t too keen on offering the UK too many concessions because they need to keep the Southern European members who have huge sovereign debt in line. If UK gets concessions, the governing body of EU is afraid that everyone else will begin asking for them too – especially the troubled members like Greece, Spain and Italy. And it’s fair to point out, from the point of view of the EU; the UK, from the outset already enjoys a lot of perks that other member states don’t enjoy. The UK isn’t part of the Schengen Agreement (free movement zone), which does give UK some control over its borders (if not total control) and because they aren’t part of Schengen they do not have to take in any refugees in Europe if they don’t want to (and they haven’t). The UK did not join the common currency so to a large degree the Bank of England still has control over its own currency and economy and London is one of the financial centers of the world, after New York and Hong Kong, so they enjoy a lot of perks the other European member states don’t.

While the British Right mounted a serious and often ugly campaign for Leave, the Left, in my view, didn’t put in its strongest effort. Though David Cameron himself was for Remain, he’s got no credibility with the working class and the Left. He is seen as a politician who espoused a view that suited him, not the British public. Business and political elites of course want to remain in EU, they have business and political interests. Those on the Left want to remain in the EU for worker and union protection, environmental protection and they are pro-immigration. The Labor Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in my view, made a fatal mistake when he said “I am 7 out of 10 for EU”, which shows some doubt. The Labor Party and the Left was just riding on hope that the British public just won’t vote themselves out of the EU, even if the EU isn’t perfect and leaves much to be desired.

The irony here is there is a lot that needs improving in the EU. It’s a bloated bureaucracy where a lot of the leaders making decisions on behalf of 28 nations soon to be 27 aren’t elected. They enjoy huge salaries and perks for sitting up in Brussels and telling people what to do and how to run their countries. The tentacles are far reaching, from legitimate things such as protecting human rights in members states, to worker’s rights, protecting unions and the environment, free movement of labor but they also interfere in the laws and legal system of each member state which most find off putting. They’ve also not done a good job at running the economy at large. The single currency, if one is honest is nothing short of a disaster. The weaker southern European economies have been in a recession for the past 8 years with youth unemployment at 50% and they also bear the brunt of the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. The unelected decisionmakers are not very good at decisive decisions regarding the economy at moments of crisis. They just kick the proverbial can down the road. But a lot of these very tangible issues with the EU were not emphasized, debated or discussed at large. The one that is emphasized over and over again, is the free movement of people, or immigration and economic migration from within the Eurozone and how that ultimately harms Britain. The Leave campaign made it appear that all these migrants come to UK, sponge off of the generous welfare state and free health services without contributing to it. This is the most often repeated trope for fascists. Immigrants (illegal or not) come to rich countries just to sponge off of law abiding taxpayers. They are here to take and not contribute. When in fact study after study shows that immigrants, regardless if legal or not, is almost always a net contribution.

So the lessons to be learned from the Brexit are:

  • Don’t bait the bear. It’ll bite. Especially an hangry one (hungry and angry).
  • Where there is vast inequality, don’t count on the common sense of the public to prevail. When there has been generational poverty due to bleeding of jobs from the union busting days of the Thatcher years and globalization and the neoliberals have patronized these people instead of helping them, don’t expect them to be sensible or loyal to the Labor Party, they’ve no reason to be.
  • When the prime minister who is from the elite circles of British society, who comes from a rich family, who married an even richer one, decides to enact brutal and painful austerity and cuts across the whole of the UK even in the most economically deprived areas but cut taxes for the rich and say “we are all in this together” and everyone spits out their afternoon tea; no one will believe a word he says when he says it’s best for the national interest to Remain (even if it’s true). It’s like Hillary Clinton demanding loyalty from previous Democratic party voters.
  • Use race baiting and hateful language and expect it to not resonate with an angry and disenfranchised working class. Cameron described the migrants of Calais as “swarms” of people desperate to reach the UK and declare asylum to again, sponge off of the the British taxpayers.
  • Holding a referendum and being economical with the facts for people to educate themselves with. Boiling down the debate to a few lightening rod talking points. Remain: all bigots and racists and ignoramuses, Leave: only the rich and business elites and lefty luuvies.

There is now talk of Scotland holding another Referendum for Independence from the United Kingdom since every constituency in Scotland voted to Remain and Scotland will on its own apply for EU membership. There is talk of reunification of Ireland because Northern Ireland chose to Remain as well and the Republic of Ireland is already a member of the EU, making Northern Irish nationalists very happy.

The Brexit Referendum was a nice distraction from the dismal state of affairs in the US for 24 hours. While I understand the huge repercussions for the working people of Britain, it was nice for the US to not be on the most messed up and confused list for 24 hours.

Father’s Day

It was Father’s Day this past Sunday. The day passed without much to do or great fanfare. The children greeted their dad and my husband’s Father’s Day wish was to be left alone to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals, which I obliged. It’s fair enough. For Mother’s Day, more than any celebratory brunch at an overpriced restaurant, what I’d really like is to be child-free for one day to do whatever I please; read, watch TV uninterrupted, going to the spa for that long overdue massage or hanging out with my girlfriends, all of which will more preferable than getting up early, getting dressed, getting children dressed and paying for an overpriced brunch, elbow-to-elbow with all the other diners. I will appreciate these brunches again when my children are the ones footing the bill and I just have to worry about getting myself ready before getting there.

This uneventful Father’s Day gave me time to think about my relationship with my departed father. Our relationship was loving, warm but distant. He was absent for a large part of my childhood and we only got to know each other when I became an adult. Like many children of the 80s, my parents divorced while I was very young and as a result of that divorce, a physical and emotional separation with my father resulted. Like many fathers before and after him, my dad was a father when it was convenient for him. I’d be economical with the truth if I presented him any other way and at this point in my life, an honest examination of events in my life is what’s needed.

When I say convenience, I don’t mean that he’s an inherently selfish person who fit me into his schedule instead of making time for me, but as events unfolded, that’s what ultimately happened. Convenient for my father would be when we all lived under one roof and my mother got the ‘domestic’ side of things sorted, which is our domestic help cleaned our house, cooked our meals and a nanny to look after me while they were at work. My parent’s primary concerns were running their business and looking after me. After my parent’s divorce, ‘convenient’ took to mean when we all lived in the same city, which was rare. As his work took him all over Asia, I settled with my mother in the United States and I could probably count on one hand how many times I saw him before my 18th birthday. On the same note, when he retired in the late-1990s and moved to Florida full time, it was also when picked up our relationship again and it lasted through his death.

When my dad died and I looked through his papers and belongings, I discovered that he kept every card I drew him, every letter I wrote him, even letters my mother wrote him (usually discussing me). I read some of the letters I wrote, besides the appalling penmanship the letters revealed a child who missed her father. When I got angry with my mother, which was often, I’d write to him pleading with him to take me away to come live with him. I’d write in excruciating detail about how miserable my life was and how if he just came and got me to live with him, it’d make it all better. He never fell for it. Many absent fathers make up for that absence by being the ‘Disneyland parent’ where every few years and they swan-in at the eleventh hour of some crisis and tries to be the hero and save the day and before you blink, he’s gone again. Now I can appreciate he’s never undermined my poor mother like that. Being a single mother is hard enough, the last thing she needs is her ex-husband to swan-in every few years and make it even harder for her.

I accepted my father’s absence like I accept all other unpleasant situations in life: begrudgingly. I never thought it was my fault or that I was inherently unlovable and that’s why he stayed away. I always knew he loved me. I felt it, but in his own distant way, in the only way he knew how. I also instinctively understood that him loving me doesn’t always translate to him making time for me in his very busy travel and work schedule. Not having a father around in my formative years reinforced two things, two opposite things: having a father involved in children’s lives is very important and I felt his absence deeply, but not having one wasn’t the end of the world either. Whatever ‘daddy issues’ I may have, it could have easily been replaced by any other issue if my dad were around.

Father’s are held to a different standard. And I don’t think I would court too much controversy by saying that standard is usually much lower than that of a mother. Why do we go around over-celebrating, offering endless praise for the few excellent and exemplary fathers that we know of, those men who devote themselves unfailingly to their families are worth their weight in gold – for the precise reason that there are so few. Family life while enriching can be stressful. It requires people to put aside their desires for the sake of their children – something that may come easier to women for the simple reason that it’s harder for a woman to walk away from her maternal duties than a man. Men have walked out on their families all the time to search greener pastures. It may not be another woman, it could just be he wants his old life back, the unencumbered life without children following at their heels.

The writer Christy Wampole wrote in ‘Fathers who leave and fathers who return’:

Some strange centrifugal force tugs the souls of fathers away from the center, away from home. Many resist. A few probably don’t even notice this pull, too distracted to obey it, or, in the best case, caught up in watching the germination of the little humans that bear their DNA. But the pull is real and takes two primary forms: departure and suppressed longing. There is a reason fathers need time alone, a reason their space in the house is more sacred and inaccessible than other spaces. That is where they temper and store their longing.

In Christy Wampole’s case, her father was a meth addict she later found out, so his “need” to “leave” explained itself. In fact she justified her father’s drug use as a way of “simulat[ing] leaving. Their odd centrifugal force lets the body stay in one place as the consciousness goes on a voyage, quitting those unbearable feelings and faults.” It’s essentially the lesser of two evils, he’s at least physically here but while high on drugs, his mind gets to be elsewhere. She speaks of a father’s “longing” to break away from the ball and chain of family life as something that can’t be helped and that space where he longs for his previous life in Shangri La as “sacred”.

While her father was drugging and trying to ultimately leave his family (which he eventually did when she went off to college), it was her mother who held down the fort. In her piece honoring her mother, she describes the relationship with our mothers as “irrational” because of the sacrifices that are required of her, which cannot be understood or comprehended until we become a mother ourselves.

There is a reason that a mother’s love, in its purest form, is visceral and even violent. This same reason explains the volatility of relationships with our mothers and why they often don’t make sense in logical terms. The reason is this: We are doomed by the nature of biological cycles to never be able to thank them enough for having facilitated our existence. For reasons I’ll explain, there exists a permanent deficit of appreciation toward our mothers.

What’s not explored in great detail in her two essays is why mothers and fathers behave differently. Mothers are “irrational” in their love – a word choice I disagree with – because she’s usually the only person in charge of her family. The weight of the world is literally on her shoulders, especially in her case where her father was a meth addict. Simplistically speaking, without considering external factors such as family court that could make life difficult for fathers;  fathers can walk away from his family in ways a mother never could. Biology doesn’t allow it, society doesn’t allow it,  the guilty conscience doesn’t allow it. Even when a mother does walk away, she’s wracked with tremendous guilt and shame. Society will never let her forget that she walked out on her children. Society forgives an errant father but not a neglectful or a bad mother. Conventional wisdom says having ‘a bad father is better than having no father’. Errant fathers at times are seen as amusing, larger than life, eccentric, great characters, great fun, even if they lack in the dependability department, because the assumption is the mother will pick up his slack. But when the mother is the slack in this equation, pity pours in from every corner. Everyone pities the motherless children. Fatherless children? They are a dime a dozen.

Many studies have been done on the importance of having a father, the influence by the mere presence (which implies he need not do much while he’s there) of a father in the home can contribute to the wellbeing of children tremendously. Divorcing couples are counseled to not exclude the father from their children’s lives. Even if the father is less than ideal, it’s good to have him around than not. The results of these studies definitively prove, except for in cases of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, having the father of your children around is better than not, even if he gets on your last good nerve.

And with that, let’s celebrate the fathers in our lives.

From Orlando to the UK: The Toxic Political Discourse

The assassination of Jo Cox shocked not only the United Kingdom, but the world. Jo Cox, a British Member of Parliament for the Labor Party was murdered on Thursday, June 16. The murderer shouted ‘Britain First’ (a right wing neo-Nazi group who are pro-Brexit) as he shot and stabbed her to death. Besides being a terrible tragedy to her family, her two small children, her constituency, the British Parliament – it is a low point in politics. This was a political assassination. This was not just the work of some lone, deranged, anti-social, mentally unstable individual. Her murderer, Thomas Mair was part of a neo-Nazi, right wing group in the UK – he is seen posing with them in photos, who are against immigration, banning refugees and in general wants to keep Britain for Britons only.

Just a few days before, on June 12, forty-nine people were gunned down in an Orlando nightclub Pulse, it’s an LGBTQ club, the shooter Omar Mateen, besides being an obvious homophobe and therefore targeted members of the LGBTQ community, is allegedly to have ties to ISIS, Al-Qaeda, he was also a closeted gay man and some reports even say he had links to Hezbollah too, the Lebanese Militia who are in a mortal fight with ISIS in Syria. To this day, the public have not heard the 911 call placed for this mass shooting, no security camera or cell phone footage have been released showing what happened before, during and after the massacre (how did Mateen get in the club? How did he get by the bouncer? What did he do after he got in? How did he get in with an assault rifle dangling off of him since they are too large to conceal? How did he carry that much ammunition on him without getting thrown out of the club?). The public has been forced to believe what’s been told to us by the Corporate Media. The FBI and other authorities have access to information but the public don’t. The public, rightly so, has a million questions, but anyone asking the more pointed questions are accused of being insensitive during a difficult time. In other words, the public discourse on the worst mass shooting in America, has been politicized and conversations policed.

The only things we know for sure are Omar Mateen was born in New York City, he was 29 years old, son of Afghani immigrants who came to this country over 30 years ago. He is a Muslim. He was a follower or sympathizer of ISIS and finally, he was a radicalized Muslim, which means he’s a terrorist. The words ‘radicalized’ and ‘Muslim’ are on some sort of loop repeat, it gets tossed out every few sentences from whoever is reporting at the moment. For those that are slightly more objective, they work the mentally illness angle. Mateen was Afghani descent, a radicalized Muslim, a terrorist AND he was mentally ill.

The assailant of Jo Cox is a middle-aged white male, loner, with a history of mental illness. This is how all the headlines read when news of Jo Cox being gunned down and then stabbed and kicked to death in broad daylight was reported. The ‘T’ word (terrorist) was not uttered. As more information filtered out, it turned out that he wasn’t really such a ‘loner’ as there are photos of him posing with members of Britain First  – so he did get out of the house to socialize. His neighbors reported him being helpful but that he largely kept to himself and never talked about politics. The reaction was “you would have never thought he’d do such a thing.”

The actions of Thomas Mair are the actions of a terrorist. He gunned down and stabbed an innocent woman in broad daylight, he knew that she was a Member of Parliament, she was targeted for her progressive politics and her ‘In Campaign’ for the Brexit. After he shot her three times, he proceeded to stab her and kick her until an ambulance came. This is the definition and actions of a terrorist, yet the media was reluctant to call him one. The western media has associated the word ‘terrorist’ to mean ‘Muslim’.

The mental illness angle is concerning as well. There is already enough shame and stigma attached to mental illness sufferers. The majority of mental illness sufferers are not violent, they only person they harm is themselves. Next, exactly which mental illnesses Omar Mateen and Thomas Mair suffered from was never clarified. Mair ‘allegedly’ suffered from OCD and washed his hands many times a day. Being OCD doesn’t make one violent. The words ‘mental illness’ is being tossed around like a blanket term for mentally disturbed people who commit violent acts. Being mentally ill doesn’t automatically absolve people of their moral judgments, it doesn’t mean one no longer knows right from wrong just on the account of having mental illness.

In the case of Thomas Mair, it’s being reported as an isolated incident, an antisocial loner who decided to attack a progressive Member of Parliament. It wasn’t politically motivated and it’s not nothing to do with the Brexit campaign. That he targeted a vocal MP with a progressive track record, who helped get the bill of accepting unaccompanied Syrian refugee children passed and is part of the ‘Stay’ campaign screams political assassination. Jo Cox represents everything on the British right hates: pro-immigration, pro-EU, wants UK to accept asylum seekers and refugees, against cuts to public services including the NHS. Outside of politics campaigns for an end to violence against women and is a strong supporter of the Palestinians.

Omar Mateen, the fact that he was a Muslim and the son of Afghan immigrants is enough for the corporate media and authorities to announce that this is an act of Terror, it’s Islam waging a war on the liberal values of the West – which incidentally, the normally conservative Fox News jumped on this bandwagon too. They are usually the ones gay bashing and condemning LGBTQ people as immoral. But for the sake of ratings and getting Donald Trump elected president, they’ll be fake-tolerant to LGBTQ people in the short term.

The actions of Omar Mateen are the actions of a terrorist – not his religion or ethnicity. His hatred are his own, his homophobia are his own. Mateen, in the dead of night, went to a prominent gay nightclub in Orlando with an assault weapon and proceed to kill 49 people and injured scores of others. It is his actions that make him a terrorist, not his religion or race. His possible associations with radical Islamist groups are important but to this day we don’t really know exactly what his associations are, is he part of Al-Qaeda? Did he pledge allegiance to ISIS while at the same time being a closeted homosexual and fights for the Hezbollah at night? No one brings up Thomas Mair’s religion or which church he belongs to. He is just some ‘loner’ with ‘mental illness’.

In the US, the Republican Party, over the past 50 years has flirted with, openly and surreptitiously, with the extreme right. It has flirted with racism via the back door. Nixon’s ‘The Silent Majority’ – which refers to the majority of mostly white ‘silent’ Americans who are not participating in Anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, those who do not support rapid Civil Rights reforms and the resulting social changes, especially the integration of public schools; these poor white people – the majority of them really, have been bullied into silence by the 1% of loud, liberal, anti-America people. They’ve been bullied into silence because they don’t want to be called racists for raising legitimate concerns about all this unpatriotic activity (anti-war protests) and rapid social change (integration). It is these people in which Richard Nixon asked for support for his candidacy as President of the United States and he won. Everyone at the time as they do now saw it for what it was, dog whistling racism. Donald Trump has revived ‘The Silent Majority’ meme for his presidential campaign but Trump’s silent majority are the people who are anti-immigration who don’t dare say for fear of sounding xenophobic and racist; but there is one difference, the anti-immigration crowd isn’t silent, cowering there in the corner (neither were the original ‘Silent Majority).

Ronald Reagan followed it up with ‘memes’ such as the ‘welfare queen’ – the black single mother who deliberately has a lot of children with the sole purpose of claiming welfare. He busted the air traffic controller’s union and thus began a precipitous increase in general union busting activity by business and corporate elites. He marginalized AIDS sufferers and by extension the LGBTQ community in the 80s by simply refusing to utter the word AIDS or even acknowledge it was a problem. Reagan shut down state operated mental institutions instead of properly funding them and staffing them with qualified mental health professionals, the people this hurt the most are the poor and marginalized.

Bill Clinton enacted criminal justice reform which gave rise to mass incarceration of black and brown people, Hillary Clinton referred to underage offenders as “predatory killers who need to be brought to heel”. People of color, especially black and brown people have been criminalized by the system on the account of their race. Post 9/11 – a new group of people and a whole religion has been added to the list, Muslims and Islam. It became acceptable even encouraged to surveil, spy on, engage in casual snooping on our Muslim citizens. All Muslims, as a foreign policy, in the name of national security, are fair game. Anyone who attends mosque is suspect, especially observant and devout Muslim men. Muslim men and women cannot go anywhere and not draw attention and hatred. Opposition to the invasion of Iraq is considered unpatriotic, in fact any dissenting opinion of the foreign policy of George W. Bush was considered an act of treason. With much of the Middle East and North Africa experiencing conflict and instability, Donald Trump has proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the country, even those who are American citizens traveling abroad may not return to the US if they are Muslim. The Republican Party has not repudiated the platform, they didn’t exactly adopt it, but they didn’t repudiate it.

The election of President Obama, our first black president should have been seen progress, progress in the right direction, but this sent the the right into an existential meltdown. Birther conspiracies started left and right – which was led by Donald Trump at one point. The right wing members of the Republican party convinced themselves that Obama was not a legitimate president, as he wasn’t born in this country so they don’t need to accept his authority. Obama is here to take their guns away. Obama is a socialist, and when that didn’t work Obama now became a ‘Hitler-type’ of dictator – without understanding that one can’t be a socialist or communist and be a fascist at the same time.

The liberals aren’t blameless either. As jobs disappeared and towns fell into disrepair and ruin, the liberal elites on either coasts didn’t help the disenfranchised either. They sat there in their comfortable air conditioned offices and made fun of poor southerners as ignorant and stupid, with missing teeth and talk in funny accents – perhaps best encapsulated with a comment uttered by Obama to a group of donors in 2008 “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Obama specifically was referring to small town Pennsylvania, but that sentiment can be applied across all the disenfranchised people in America. Obama was right about the anti-immigrant bit, the immigrants are the least of the reasons why their jobs are gone, but he’s wrong about the “trade” part. It is because of free trade that these people don’t have jobs and have been economically disenfranchised. Free trade isn’t ‘free’, it’s paid for with the jobs of the American working class.

Politicians cannot contribute poison and toxicity in the political discourse and not expect someone to act on them. The UK is experiencing similar growing pains. They have a big decision to make on June 23 to see if they will Leave or Stay in the EU. The debate for staying or leaving have turned toxic; the debates have broken down to mutual accusation and hatred. Those who propose staying are the business elites with business interests in the EU, they are unpatriotic, anti-Britain, they want EU migrants and refugees to flood their borders and take their jobs and live in Britain indefinitely and sponge off of the generous NHS and welfare system. The Leave campaign are painted as racists, xenophobes, neo-nazis and ignorant people who don’t understand how commerce and business works. Not many have put aside their biases and talk about the real issues which pertain to leaving and staying. There are real and legitimate concerns about unregulated immigration and migration which do not devolve to xenophobia and racism. There is legitimate concern of the disenfranchised British working class and how to bring about gainful employment for them and would leaving or staying contribute or hinder that effort. There is a gain and loss list of leaving and staying and a constructive debate should discuss are the gains really worth the losses, are there unanticipated losses or gains that have been overlooked? These are all legitimate questions that need to be asked, without all the toxic side noise.

As in the United States, we haven’t had a real debate on immigration, on what to do with undocumented immigrants who’ve been in this country for most of their lives, race relations, institutional racism, police brutality and how it relates to institutional racism, the gender gap in pay, LGBTQ rights, the income inequality where the top of 1% have taken all the gains from the ‘recovery’ (very dubious application of this word) from the recession. Why we need a single payer health plan and not this convoluted bureaucracy called Obamacare. Obamacare is fine for the short term but the long term goal should be a single payer health care plan. Jobs lost to NAFTA and other free trade agreements need to be replaced with jobs with similar quality and compensation. Those “bitter people” who cling to their guns and bible have a very good reason to be bitter, dismissing them as a lot of toothless ignorant hicks isn’t going to make the problem go away. The political discourse have not discussed any of these issues in a manner that is inclusive of all perspectives and points of views.

Donald Trump is busy building a wall and deporting Mexicans and banning Muslims from entry into the US to talk about much else. Hillary Clinton is playing the gender identity card in all of her discussions about issues so any disagreement results in a charge of sexism if you are a man, or if you are a woman, then you “don’t support other women” and according to some, there’s a special place in hell for that.

We may finally elect a woman for president and I can’t feel the joy.

For as long as I can remember, it was my dream to see a woman become the president of United States in my lifetime. When I opened my third grade history book, all I saw were stern looking, powdered haired, aging white men as our presidents. The only notable exception in that array of white men was President John F. Kennedy, who was the youngest president ever elected, who was elected by the slimmest margins ever and was a Roman Catholic. We were all supposed to cheer the fact that an Irish Catholic was finally elected president – against all odds –  never mind the fact that his father Joseph Kennedy Sr. was a millionaire and bought the presidency for his son. Regardless, Kennedy broke the barrier of needing to be a WASP in order to become president. It didn’t sit right with me at the third grade and it doesn’t sit right with me now. What was obviously missing from the line up of presidents was a black president and a woman president or a combination of both. It was so glaring that it was screaming at me from my history book, even in the 1990s.

I came of age during Bill Clinton’s presidencies. It was when I first became aware of politics, feminism and equality. Hillary Clinton was a First Lady like no other. I admired her. She refused to stay home and bake cookies and dared to say it out loud. I liked that. It appealed to my nascent feminism and that girls should (not just could but should) aspire to more than finding a good husband, having babies and making his favorite meals. Life for a woman is more than keeping her man happy and that women are not to invest all of her happiness and emotional well being in her marriage and family. Even when she was just First Lady, it was obvious who our first female president might be should we get the opportunity to elect one.

That opportunity has arrived, fifteen years after her husband left the office of the presidency of the United States; Hillary Rodham Clinton, barring any serious missteps in the general election, will be our next president. She will be our first female president after 44 men have come before. But I do not feel the joy that I expected to feel.

Hillary Clinton almost got the nomination eight years ago, she missed the nomination so narrowly. I supported her over Barack Obama, I was with her. I felt suckered punched to the stomach when she lost the nomination. It was so close. Back then, I just wanted any woman to be president, I never really looked into her donor contributions, her large speaking fees from Wall Street, her connections to Wall Street, Walmart and other criminal organizations. Her underhanded campaign against Obamainciting racism and Islamophobia was something I overlooked as part and parcel of running a contentious campaign. The glaring mistake which cost her the nomination is her ‘Yes’ vote in the senate for the invasion of Iraq, whereas Obama voted ‘No’ and he took that to the bank with him.

Since those 8 years she’s served as Secretary of State under President Obama’s first term in office. The invasion of Libya and the killing of Muammar Qadaffi destabilized the region. Libya is now a failed state, the arms cache and chemical weapons that was in Libya made its way to Syria, which are now being used by US proxies. She is for the removal of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria for the sole purpose letting Israel have nuclear monopoly in the region and to break up the Hezbollah, Iran and Assad alliance. She instigated and supported a proxy war between the Gulf States and Syria, and as a result, today, half of the Syrian population have been internally and externally displaced. Her military adventurism doesn’t just end there, she supported the right-wing military coup in Honduras, which has seen the country descend into a lawless land where activists are being killed left and right.

At least 174 LGBT persons have been killed in Honduras since 2009. According to Global Witness, 101 environmental activists were murdered between 2010 and 2014, including Berta Cáceres, a fearless environmentalist who fought for indigenous land rights and who was assassinated in her home in March. In 2014, Cáceres  called out Clinton for her role in the 2009 coup, saying, “We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it. It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, ‘Hard Choices,’ practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country.”

These are the actions of war criminals. The fallout from these actions are nothing short of genocidal killings. Iraq, Libya, Syria and Honduras all had legitimate governments in place before US intervention or invasion. The disastrous vote in for the Iraq invasion was not a one time lapse of judgement, intervening in other countries for the sake of United States national interest (which include a whole host of questionable and immoral things) and the interest of our oil rich Gulf allies and her own personal self interest is her modus operandi for foreign policy.

Hillary Clinton considers herself a feminist, and “women’s rights are human rights”. She claims to have spent her career in public service advocating for women and children, but which women and children? Only certain American women and children? Do Central American women and children not count? How about Mexican women and children? How about the Palestinian people? Libyan people? Syrian people? Iraqi people? The Honduran people, especially now after the military coup of 2009 life has become impossible for most people to live there. Are these people not included in her umbrella of activism? Are the lives of Iraqi, Libyan, Syrian and Honduran women and children less valuable than those of American ones? How can anyone call themselves a feminist when she is friends with someone who thinks that it was “worth it” that 250,000 Iraqi children died as a result of Western sanctions. The Western sanctions imposed on Iraq by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright didn’t bring down Saddam Hussein, he was brought down by an armed invasion by US forces with far superior military equipment. When did collective punishment of civilians for the actions of one dictator become an acceptable moral choice? Hillary Clinton’s unwavering support of Israel, who have brutalized Palestinians for 70 years all on the phony premise of ‘security’ and preventing another Holocaust when Israel is the one that is carrying out the ethnic cleansing. How can that be justified?

In the domestic sphere, President Bill Clinton passed NAFTA, which hollowed out the American middle-class when factories moved their operations to Mexico or South East Asia to avoid dealing with worker’s unions. Small Mexican family farmers lost their farms to large scale industrialized farming thus precipitating a migration northward to the United States. The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 eroded the safety net for the poorest of Americans, most of which happen to be people of color. His criminal justice reform bill oversaw the largest increase in mass incarcerations of people of color, with Hillary Clinton referring to underage offenders as “predators” needing to be brought “to heel” – like a dog. This is to justifying giving children adult sentences in adult prisons. These are the actions of her husband, but she supported them and advocated for them at the time.

This time around Hillary Clinton has structured her campaign not on her positions on the issues or her past record, because they are terrible and untenable when compared to Bernie Sanders, but the campaign is all based on identity politics. Vote for me because I am a woman and I represent women’s issues and issues concerning minorities – but I get to pick which issues and which minorities are important. And if you happen to be a woman and not support me then you are not supportive of women in general. According to the same friend that felt it was acceptable that 250,000 Iraqi children died under Western sanctions, there’s also “a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” If there’s indeed a special place in hell for such things, I’d imagine Madeline Albright would already have a place there since she subjected the mothers of those 250,000 Iraqi children to untold grief and pain. The woman card in this campaign has been used to justify every attack and criticism, especially those that came from the direction of other white men. When Bernie Sanders didn’t quit his campaign yesterday, one of Hillary Clinton’s surrogates (Hill-bots) Amanda Marcotte wrote a piece in Salon that Bernie Sanders is “coasting on male privilege”. How this argument is logical or how it pertains to anything, I’ll let the readers decide. It’s also slightly hypocritical since Hillary Clinton also took her campaign to the Democratic Convention in 2008 where she formally released her delegates.

In 2008 where I felt hopeful and euphoric at the idea the Democratic nominees for president was a woman and a black man, and ultimately we got our first black president. I felt that something really good was about to happen, even though we were in the depths of a really bad recession. There is usually a wide gulf between expectation and reality and the reality is President Obama fell short of a lot of expectations and was a big disappointment in many areas. But for a brief moment there, there was great hope, great expectations and progressives felt that there was a chance at real change. Eight years later, when there is finally a viable female candidate for president. I can’t get excited about it. Eight years ago, I was ready to settle for any woman for president, now I want the right woman for president, a woman I can vote for and feel good about casting my first vote for America’s first female president. In my view, Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t the right woman.

To all of her supporters, I congratulate them. I wish I could feel an ounce of what they feel and jump on the Hillary for President bandwagon, but I am going to have to sit this one out.

Dad of Stanford Rapist Brock Turner: “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. “

There are many things people shouldn’t do when they are angry: write an angry ranting email to the person you are angry with. Call the person you are angry with and unload on them. Depending on who that person is the consequences will have a sliding scale effect. It’s probably not wise to operate heavy machinery, attempt to cook dinner over a fire stove and handle knives or drive a car when one is angry. We might need to add ‘do not write blog entry when one is angry’ to the list of things to not do when one is angry.

I’ve no idea where this post will take me. It could just be an ambling rambling series of thoughts, incoherent sentences strung together. But one thing is sure. I am angry, very angry at this miscarriage of justice and how a rich white boy Brock Turner got a slap on the wrist for assaulting a woman while she was unconscious.

Brock Turner, a 20 year old sophomore at Stanford University, has just been convicted of sexual assault. The woman he assaulted is a 23 year old woman accompanying her little sister to a college party, she drank too much, blacked out, ended up behind a dumpster outside of the building and was assaulted by Brock Turner. She had no idea how she got there, she could barely walk. She tried looking for her sister and couldn’t find her, she even called her boyfriend and left him a voicemail to say she lost her sister and that she had drunk too much. The voicemail was incoherent, slurring, her boyfriend tried to call her back and couldn’t reach her. She doesn’t remember doing any of these things. She was three times above the legal limit and couldn’t remember a thing. She was rescued by two Swede graduate students who was cycling by and saw Brock Turner on top of a woman who wasn’t moving. They went to yank Turner off of the victim and as Turner (who was also drunk – twice above the legal limit) tried to run away, one of the guys chased him down, beat him and waited there until the police got there so he could be apprehended. One of the Swedes got so upset at the scene that he started crying.

The DA’s office released the victim’s powerful 7000 word victim impact statement in its entirety, in which she describes in horrific detail of what had happened to her, what she had to go through not just with the actual assault itself, but what the criminal justice system put her through to collect evidence so that the DA can try their case, only then to be put on the stand herself and be asked personal, intrusive and invasive questions about her personal life. Please read it. It’s hard to get through but it is exactly what domestic violence and sexual assault victims go through when they report their crimes and choose to press charges. They are violated over and over again. So for those ignoramuses who blame or question victims for not following through or not reporting the crimes committed against them yet have the nerve to complain about rape culture, read this and read it carefully and you will know why.

What the perpetrator’s criminal defense lawyer put her through on the stand was in its own way, violating her all over again. She was asked about her life, her sex life, was she promiscuous (but in a matter of fact, non-judgmental way), what did she eat, what did she drink, what her general ‘habits’ were? Meaning is she prone to just dropping trou at every boy she meets. Never mind the fact that this woman is in a long term relationship. In short, she was legally slut-shamed for the purpose of the perpetrator getting his ‘day in court’ or what they call ‘due process’. The cherry on top is when Brock Turner testified in his own defense that it wasn’t some criminal sexual assault he carried out, they had ‘met’ that night, spoke, talked, danced, even flirted and he got consent for all of those things, never mind the fact that his victim couldn’t remember any of it. She could barely stand up, but he didn’t help her maintain upright and get her to a chair and get her a glass of water or find her sister, no he took her outside behind a dumpster and assaulted her. But it was all a big misunderstanding, he was drunk, she was drunk, he swears she consented. No one can really remember, so who cares?

The case also revealed a disgusting legal loophole, if the victim, as in this case can’t remember what happened to her, her account of events won’t count in court. Since she can only remember what happened before the assault and after assault (on a stretcher going to a local hospital to get herself examined) and not during; the official account of what happened during the assault can only come from the perpetrator, which in this case is Brock Turner. This means he can make up any story that will get him off. Since she can’t remember a thing, he can say she consented even though she wasn’t in a position to consent.

Brock Turner was convicted by a jury on three felony charges. His sentence should have been a maximum of 14 years in state prison, the prosecutor recommended 6-10 years in prison because he was a first time offender. The judge decided to give him a 6 month sentence, 3 years probation and to be registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life. With good behavior he could be out in three months. Brock Turner’s father Dan Turner wrote a disgusting defense of his son:

As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan 17th and 18th.  He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile.  His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear and depression.  You can see this in his face, the way he walks, his weakened voice, his lack of appetite.  Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself.  I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn’t be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice.  Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist.  These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways.  His life will never be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.  That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.  The fact that he now has to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life forever alters where he can live, visit, work, and how he will be able to interact with people and organizations.  What I know as his father is that incarceration is not the appropriate punishment for Brock.  He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan. 17th 2015.  Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.  By having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results.  Probation is the best answer for Brock in this situation and allows him to give back to society in a net positive way.

So much about this case makes me angry. But nothing makes me see red more than a rich middle-aged white man, making excuses for his spoiled entitled son after committing one of the most heinous crimes in the world. Dan Turner reduced the crimes of his son into “20 minutes of action” which will tar him for the rest of his life. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? What about his victim? What about her life?

And this: “He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan. 17th 2015.” So sticking a foreign object into another woman while she’s unconscious is not an act of violence? Then what exactly do you call that?

And the final salvo – “Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.” So the problem is sexual promiscuity not that his son is a rapist. One more time, Brock Turner took an incapacitated victim outside of the building, took her behind a dumpster, she was unconscious, he undressed her, inserted foreign objects in her body; she woke up on a stretcher on the way to a hospital. She was confused on how she got pinecones and pine needles and other foreign objects on her and inside of her. Her underwear was missing. The next day, she got to read about herself in the news. An intoxicated unconscious woman was assaulted by a college freshman. She was found half naked from the waist down, curled up in a fetal position, blacked out. If those 2 Swede graduate students didn’t find her, there’s no telling what else could have happened to her. The fact that Brock Turner ran away from the scene because he was being chased by intimidating ‘big’ guys doesn’t point to his guilt according to Turner’s attorney. Turner was being randomly assaulted by big men while having sex and he was running away from that, not that he was raping an unconscious woman.

This is what rape culture looks like. It’s being kept alive by shaming and silencing the victims. It’s a grand conspiracy starting with the institutions which are supposed to protect the victim. In this case, the police, prosecutors and investigators did their jobs and according to the victim, they all treated her with dignity and respect, or as much dignity as the situation would allow. She was still subjected to microscopic scrutiny of her body and personal life. And if the perpetrator is a rich white boy on a swimming scholarship to Stanford University, and the judge in this case, Aaron Persky also went to Stanford University and was the captain of the lacrosse team, to the judge, this type of behavior from student athletes is normal — the perpetrator gets a 6 month sentence plus probation. And boo hoo he needs to registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life which according to his father is unfair.

Like all white privileged misogynist pigs, the fact that the victim drank too much became a point of focus. If she drank too much to remember, how can she be so sure she was assaulted? Because 2 other men on bicycles found Turner raping her, called the police, ambulance and it was confirmed she was raped. The defense spent an extraordinary amount of time analyzing just when she became too drunk to remember anything because only then does the criminal culpability of the defendant count. Even if she was semi-upright, slurring her words, making silly faces and was saying “yes” to everything that was being asked of her, she consented and the defendant isn’t responsible.

One of the most often repeated phrases by legal scholars is “the law is dispassionate and colorblind” (the color being green), because of its dispassionate nature, it’s how justice is won in courts. Cases are won by holding dispassionate trials, the facts or evidence presented to the jury  and they will determine the outcome and based upon the outcome, the judge will determine the sentence. Except it’s all bullshit. The law isn’t dispassionate, it certainly isn’t color blind. In rape cases and even murder cases, the victim is often put on trial. For rape cases, the victim may be too traumatized to speak out. For murder cases, the victim is dead and cannot defend itself. OJ Simpson got off murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend because she was put on trial. She was a slut, Ron Goldman just happened to be there, she dared to move on to other relationships after her divorce. The fact that she was a victim of domestic abuse during her marriage and that OJ Simpson continued to stalk her after their divorce, and maybe that’s the reason for her divorce hardly made any difference – OJ was never convicted of domestic abuse and even if he were, most half decent defense attorneys can get prior convictions thrown out and OJ had the best defense team in the country. In the Brock Turner case, it was the victim’s fault too. She drank too much, she can’t handle herself and ‘miscommunicated’ her desires to the opposite sex so she got assaulted. She shouldn’t drink so much if she can’t handle herself. Never mind that Brock Turner admitted that he wanted to “hook up” with someone that night and he admitted to having an erection but it was because it was cold not because he had other nefarious ideas in mind.

Brock Turner and his father Dan Turner epitomizes male white privilege. Brock Turner is attending an elite university on an athlete’s scholarship, he was a star swimmer so says every single news report on this case. His father immediately hired a high dollar defense attorney to defend his son, when it would have been better to plead it out, since the evidence and facts in this case is irrefutable. But it’s also his right to put on a dog and pony show to get his charges and sentence reduced or acquitted, except in this case the jury returned the right verdict they were not persuaded or intimidated by a powerful expensive defense attorney. It was the judge that was dirty.

It does not stray far from people’s minds if the defendant in this case wasn’t a rich white boy but a middle class or even rich black or brown boy, how the results would have been different. A black or brown defendant would get the book thrown at him, as it should be for all rape convicts. That the worst thing which will happen to Brock Turner is being registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life, which is really a minor inconvenience, his parents will find him a job, he’ll finish his degree, if he can’t find anyone to rent an apartment to him, mommy and daddy will step in, but his victim is scarred for life.

Currently, the judge in this case Aaron Persky is facing a recall campaign led Aaron Persky is facing a recall campaign led by a law professor at Stanford University. Now if there’s only a national database where we can put the names of corrupt judges and lawyers on there so that no one will hire them and that their reputations will tarred for life – will there any be real justice for the victims. The judge in this case had the opportunity to carry out justice for the victim, all the other branches of the criminal justice system did their part, but he chose the fraternity instead.

 

The Whitewashing of Muhammad Ali

Since the death of the Greatest One and as tributes pour in from all over the world, one trend is emerging and it’s disturbing. Muhammad Ali’s legacy is being whitewashed. His once anti-establishment politics have been retooled to fit the current narrative. His black separatist politics have all but been airbrushed out and what remains are the innocuous universally accepted place in history of being a ‘Civil Right’s Leader’ in the vein of Dr. Martin Luther King. Platitudes pour in from all over the world and all sides of the political spectrum lauding his ‘bravery’ yet they don’t seem to know exactly which acts of bravery they are talking about. That he’s being lumped together John Lewis, a sellout to Hillary Clinton, is dishonoring Ali’s legacy.

For some in the establishment, the fact that he was a Muslim has been reduced to a footnote, caving into the virulent Islamophobia. Ali, converting to Islam was just one of those things he did when he was young, it didn’t really mean that much in the greater context of his life–no–being Muslim meant everything to him, that was his life. His life changed when he became Muslim, he refused the draft on the basis of conscientious objection because he was Muslim. He changed his name after he became Muslim. And then there is the odd dead-naming of Ali. Upon his conversion to Islam in 1964, he has asked everyone to refer to him by his new name Muhammad Ali and to not refer to him by his “slave name”. Tennessee State Representative wrote in a tweet, which he’s since deleted (another coward):

In this short tweet, he mentioned his “slave name” which is blatant disrespect and that he failed to enlist in the US military. The representative from Tennessee must be confused about the facts. Ali didn’t fail to enlist. He refused to enlist. Ali didn’t dodge the draft, he refused the draft. People who use their money and status as protection to dodge the draft (such as former presidents Bush Jr., Clinton and Donald Trump) suffered no consequences for such cowardly actions. Ali suffered all the consequences for refusing the draft. He had to pay a $10,000 fine, which is a lot of money in 1966, he was sentenced to prison for 5 years but after successful appeals, his conviction was overturned. His world championships were stripped away, his passport was taken away, he was banned from travel, he was banned from competing at the prime of his career. He was routinely ‘bribed‘ by the government to recant and will be given cushy gigs in the army for doing so:

Ali was given every opportunity to recant, to apologize, to sign up on some cushy USO gig boxing for the troops and the cameras, to go back to making money. But he refused. His refusal was gargantuan because of what was bubbling over in US society. You had the black revolution over here and the draft resistance and antiwar struggle over there. And the heavyweight champ with one foot planted in both.

The government wanted the thorn that is Ali out of their sides. If they could get Ali to recant, apologize and serve in the military doing some non-combat cushy job (one where he won’t have to shoot Vietcongs), it would quell the antiwar movement. But again, Ali had no quarrel with the VietCong…no VietCong ever called me N—–.”

For those that dodged the draft – many of them white upper and middle class boys, they usually made up an excuse as to why they couldn’t serve. The Vietnam War draft disproportionately affected black young men, who didn’t have the means and connection to dodge the draft. And Ali repeatedly pointed out, the government was sending black boys to shoot and bomb the Vietnamese all to protect the land they stole from the American Indians.

After his conviction in 1968 and after the death of his dear friend Malcolm X (of which they had a falling out over the Nation of Islam that never healed), the Nation of Islam abandoned him as well, he begun to give lectures on college campuses about resisting the draft and the antiwar movement in general:

I’m expected to go overseas to help free people in South Vietnam and at the same time my people here are being brutalized, hell no! I would like to say to those of you who think I have lost so much, I have gained everything. I have peace of heart; I have a clear, free conscience. And I am proud. I wake up happy, I go to bed happy, and if I go to jail I’ll go to jail happy.

From this short excerpt, Ali was happy to be a one man revolutionary. It didn’t matter if other people organized around him or not. Ali refusing the draft is more than just resisting white supremacy asking him to go kill the Vietnamese, it’s for his conscience as well. He had “peace of heart” which is a rare thing in those turbulent times.

Through FBI snooping and wiretapping, we find out that Muhammad Ali and Dr. King had privately formed a close friendship (to avoid the scrutiny from The Nation of Islam). In 1967, Dr. King came out in opposition of the Vietnam War as well, citing Muhammad Ali as a reason, realizing that the fight for civil rights and freedom for black people cannot be extricated from the morality of the Vietnam War. To fight for freedom for black people in America but then put on a uniform to go and bomb a small and poor nation under the false guise of fighting for their freedom is incongruous and hypocritical, what’s worse, the soldiers are carrying out the crimes of the white government for them.

Ali’s activism isn’t confined to United States. He spoke out against the apartheid government in South Africa, which the United States supported because it’s opposition the ANC (African National Congress) was deemed a communist group. He spoke out against the CIA installed, American puppet dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko. Ali spoke out against Israel in support for Palestinians. He also wanted to spread the message of Islam. His activism and sense of justice came from his religion:

I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.…

For those of us who came of age in his physical decline (which happened before his old age), we see him as a trembling warrior ravaged by Parkinson’s Disease, no doubt from all those blows to the head and body. He first lost his mobility then his ability to speak. When he lit the torch for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, many radicals believed he sold out as the Olympics is a horribly saccharine, commercial and bourgeois event and riddled with corruption. I disagree. Being a sportsman was one of the many manifestations of his life. He was a sportsman before he was an activist. He was also a gold medalist in the 1960 Olympics. Sports along with activism was a huge part of his identity. Being a sportsman, when you strip away all the politics and identities behind it, is a test of your physical and mental strength and how you find out your true self within that context.

The whitewashing of Ali started long before his death. When became a Muslim under the leadership Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, a lot of civil rights activists then denounced the move, many believed that people should rally behind Dr. King as one movement, the Christian based non-violence movement which calls for integration with white people. The Nation of Islam was against integration, they were for black separatism.

Every fight after his name change became incredible morality plays of the black revolution versus the people who opposed it. Floyd Patterson, a black ex-champion wrapped tightly in the American flag, said of his fight with Ali, “This fight is a crusade to reclaim the title from the Black Muslims. As a Catholic I am fighting Clay as a patriotic duty. I am going to return the crown to America.”

But Ali’s public antiwar stance pleased the peace activists which at the time consisted of mostly white people:

“It was a major boost to an antiwar movement that was very white. He was not an academic, or a bohemian or a clergyman. He couldn’t be dismissed as cowardly.”

–Daniel Berrigan

The establishment, instead of admitting that the Vietnam War was an evil and dirty war and its ultimate goal is to expand Western Imperialism in Asia, they accused all who opposed it as cowards, who were afraid of Vietcongs, who didn’t want to fulfill their patriotic duty and fight for their government. When Ali declared his refusal to be drafted, the antiwar movement was still a nascent fringe movement, ran by a few left wing radicals or ‘commie sympathizers’ as the government would all them.

Other black civil rights leaders such as Julian Bond may have their qualms about Nation of Islam but they were proud that Ali was sticking it to the government and called them out on their lies and motivations for the Vietnam War. Muhammad Ali dared to say what others daren’t, he had the courage to accept the consequences of his beliefs. If Ali did end up going to jail for resisting the draft, it is my belief that there will be protests and riots like we’ve never seen before.

For those of us who has only seen him as a frail old man, we have dig the history archives to read about his radicalism. His pride in being unapologetically black and Muslim. Those who say in their tributes that he transcended ‘race and religion’ which is code for they didn’t matter is again insulting him. Muhammad Ali was black and he was Muslim. He had no desire to transcend them.

And for the last time, his name is Muhammad Ali.

 

 

The “Greatest One” – RIP Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74, it’s a huge loss for the world, not just for Americans. Muhammad Ali transcended borders and boundaries. Born Cassius Clay Jr., he became Muhammad Ali upon his conversion to Islam and left his “slave name” behind. He took his faith seriously and adhered to the tenets of Islam – specifically to its message of peace and justice, which with our recent ‘wars on terror’; we forget that Islam was originally a religion of peace and justice. It still is a religion of peace, justice and tolerance. But we’d hardly know it as virulent Islamophobia is now the foundation for foreign policies in the West. Islamophobia has been used to justify much bloodshed and killings all in the name of national security. How hard it must have been for Ali to watch this and not be able to speak out about it due to his diminished physical health. This was a man who refused to be drafted into an unjust war on the account of his faith.

He was one of the world’s greatest boxers but that is not what he will be remembered for. He will be remembered as a man of integrity, who freed himself by following his conscience and a man who kept to his principles even at great personal and financial loss to himself. He saw himself as more than just a great boxer, that was just a title. He used his fame and achievements to fight for civil rights of the downtrodden all over the world.

Watching his old fights with my father on grainy videos, I didn’t know a left jab from a right hook or any of the maneuvers he did in the ring. I was bored to tears by boxing. I watched to indulge my father and listened to him enthusiastically comment on the fights. I took his word for it that he really was the greatest boxer in the history of boxing. Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing in his prime because he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War based on conscientious objections on the account of his religion:

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.

And Ali mopped the floor with the establishment when he said ““I ain’t got no quarrel with the VietCong…no VietCong ever called me N—–.”

With this one sentence, he articulated the racist, hypocritical and genocidal intent of the United States government. The US government was sending black men (and white men) to bomb the Vietnamese Communists, all in the name of freedom, freeing the Vietnamese from the oppression of communism, but black people in America are being “treated like dogs.” After winning his Olympic gold medal, he wanted to grab some food in a ‘whites only’ restaurant, they told him “we don’t serve n—– here.” He tossed his gold medal into the Ohio River.

Muhammad Ali was the worst nightmare for the establishment. While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought to work with the establishment (white supremacists) and stage nonviolent protests to end segregation and Jim Crow and kept his message based on the Christian religion of forgiveness and compassion. Ali had no such compunction to speak politically correctly when it came to matters of racism or the Vietnam War. The war was unjust, it’s a phony war, fighting a phoney non-existent enemy, the real enemy is at home. The enemy is white supremacy, not Vietnamese people trying to resist Western Imperialism.

Muhammad Ali’s achievements are many, but his boxing championships don’t feature near the top of what he’ll be remembered for. He was the greatest because he chose peace and freedom over fear of the US government, who stripped his titles and banned him from boxing in his prime boxing years. To Ali, freedom meant following his own conscience. He made his religion, controversial then as it is now as the impetus for his activism. He will not “disgrace” himself or Islam.

Despite all his bravado in and out of the ring, declaring himself to be the greatest baddest (and at times best looking) human being ever, he never lost sight of who the real number one is: “God gave me this illness to remind me that I’m not Number One; He is.” 

Rest In Peace.

 

Calling for the boy’s parents be held accountable in the name of wildlife preservation is racism.

So Harambe died, we all mourned him, the boy that crawled into his enclosure isn’t seriously hurt – we are moving on. This incident hopefully becomes a teachable moment for everyone. Pundits have given their two cents, whether it’s to support of Harambe, the zoo, what this means for wildlife, we were over it. Time to move on to the next non-catastrophe and distract ourselves from the real issues.

People seemed to have moved on from the zoo taking the decision to shoot Harambe; how the enclosure was improperly built and they’ve also moved on from the death of Harambe itself by leaving lovely flowers and notes at all the gorilla statues in various zoos across the country. But there is one area where people will not let go and that is the little boy’s parents, specifically his mother. She has gotten most of the vitriol in the situation because it was her who made the frantic 911 call, but his father was with them at the zoo as well. There is now a change.org petition called Justice for Harambe, which essentially calls for the parents of the little boy to be prosecuted for endangering the gorilla. It’s just around 7000 signatures shy of its 500,000 target. At least half a million people want to see the parents of the boy prosecuted and social services investigate the family on how a tragic accident at the zoo could be a result of something more going on at home. According to the petition it states:

We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life. We the undersigned feel the child’s safety is paramount in this situation. We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation. We the undersigned actively encourage an investigation of the child’s home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death. Please sign this petition to encourage the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services, and Cincinnati Police Department hold the parents responsible.

The petition starts out by saying that this petition isn’t from the point of view of racial bias and it’s out of genuine concern for the child gorilla, on how such a thing could happen if the parents were doing their jobs properly. And that it’s unfair to blame the Cincinnati Zoo, a most venerated institution which has provided education and entertainment for families for this tragedy. The fact that the enclosure didn’t do its job and ‘enclose’ the area properly is just an insignificant detail.

The creator of this petition Sheila Hurt, presumably, is a white woman, since the mentioned she was hurt by the “vilifying” “race baiting” comments, especially on cable news channels as she had no such intentions. Her sole purpose is to seek justice for Harambe – an ape, and to see just what kind of home that child is raised in for it be allowed to fall into a gorilla pit which caused the ape to be shot and killed.

That white people, especially affluent white people have a strange affinity and love for animals is well known. It’s one of the ‘crazy’ things white people do. Taken at face value, it’s a quirk, a source of amusement to care about one’s dogs, cats, horses or wild animals over that of their human family. The Queen of England is known to prefer her horses and corgis over her human companions, even her family. It’s a nine decade long running joke. When three of her four children’s marriages all blew up in the same year, after each one of them told her that their marriage is kaput, her response was to to take her dogs out for a walk. I can’t quite blame her.

I am a animal lover myself, to the exclusion of humans. It’s also a running joke amongst my family and friends that “I hate people” and I love animals. And after having 2 children, this sentiment still holds true. I still prefer the company of animals over people on most days. The reasons are quite obvious. Humans, simply put, can be deplorable. Animals are just as they are, simple, honest, pure, and for those of us who have experienced trauma at the hands of humans, animals are a great source of comfort.

But – and this is a big but, even for the most deluded animal lover, most of them do not sacrifice the life of a person especially a child for an animal. Loving animals to the exclusion of humans and sacrificing the life of a human child for an animal is not a zero sum situation. The life of an animal is not more important than a human, especially not a child.

The truth of the matter is that this is a black child. There is a certain stereotype in this country about the dysfunction of the black family. How they are usually headed by a single parent, usually the mother, though not the case here. That a black family is usually poor, and poverty causes them to parent differently, they have different ‘standards’ for their children than that of a middle class white family. That their parenting standards are lax because they are more concerned about keeping a roof over their heads and food on their table than to worry about personal conduct or discipline. The description in the change.org petition screams this kind of bias: “We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation.” It is Sheila Hurt’s way of saying black people don’t know how to raise their children, that’s how a four year old wandered off and fell into the gorilla enclosure. It’s the parent’s fault, not the zoo’s fault, she says “it is upsetting that people vilify the Cincinnati Zoo, an institution that has done so much work in trying to turn the tide against extinction in several critically endangered species.”

While many have come out in support of the the little boy’s parents, there are those who just won’t let this drop, like Sheila Hurt. She wants social services to look into this family not out of concern of how a trip to the zoo almost got a child thrashed to death by a 400 lb gorilla and social services to make sure the boy is getting all the medical help and therapy he needs;  but how the parents let this child fall into the enclosure and where and what were they were doing to allow this to happen. Accidents happen all the time, even the most careful of parents, it only takes two seconds or less for something to go horribly wrong. People do not appreciate the one and half to two seconds of error in judgment until a rambunctious child is presented in front of you. Accidents involving children are plenty, the most tragic ones are the times where a toddler or infant was left in a hot car because the parent forgot to drop their child off at daycare or they thought they did, but because they were rushing and wasn’t paying attention. Or that children drown in a backyard pool because the supervising adults turned their back for five seconds.

The emphasis on getting ‘justice’ for Harambe the gorilla, and the little boy saved from Harambe’s aggression happens to be black and the level of harassment his family is getting for the unfortunate accident is starting to make people uncomfortable and hackles are being raised. This an ape we are talking about. A beautiful animal no doubt, an endangered animal, an animal bred and kept in captivity so that it doesn’t go completely extinct, for it to die it its prime is tragic, but it’s an ANIMAL. The excessive outpouring of grief and protest coming mostly from white people and the repeated calls to hold the child’s parents accountable for the animal’s is a passive aggressive way of saying the little boy’s life matters less than that of an endangered gorilla because he’s black.

If this child was white; people, strangers would send flowers to the parents, people would bring food, a casserole maybe. People would check in on the child, to make sure he’s not traumatized or permanently damaged. All their families, friends, neighbors, strangers they just met would go on cable news to pledge their support to the parents and that this was an unfortunate accident. Up until now, very little concern has been shown to the boy but there’s a hysteria about how a gorilla was killed because of his parents’ lack of proper supervision. All the people calling for his parents to be held accountable, including Sheila Hurt, has not once inquired on the condition of the boy, except to say that his general home environment must be unsafe. Is Sheila Hurt so lacking in her imagination that she can’t foresee a scenario where a four year old might wander off and do what he’s not supposed to do? Is this scenario so unimaginable for her? Or anyone else who are calling for the parents to be held accountable?

This is not crazy white people loving their animals more than their own kids, or crazy white people leaving an inheritance to their dog. I am that crazy white person who loves animals more than people never would I waver for one second or have second thoughts after the fact of saving the life of a human over an animal. This level of aggression to a child’s parents and disregard for the boy’s well being in favor of a gorilla is open blatant racism. Sheila Hurt is the same kind of person that would set up Go Fund Me pages for killer cops of black men like Darren Wilson. When Go Fund Me pages and local fundraisers were being set up to assist killer cops, there was no uproar from middle class white people. They were not there to protest this outrage, to shut down the fundraiser or to obstruct it. They took the standard position of ‘everyone has their day in court’ even if it was plain as day that these cops killed their suspects in cold blood.

The boy’s parents doesn’t need white animal lovers to pour boiling scorn on them and shame them at every turn. The boy’s parents are already beating themselves up everyday, for putting their son in danger, for causing a star attraction at a zoo to get killed, for all the fuss made. We as parents are generally mortified when our children make the wrong kind of spectacle in public, when they kick up the wrong kind of fuss is the stuff of parent’s nightmares. The boy’s parents, on top of all the shame and embarrassment need to feel relief that their boy is safe, thanks to the quick action and thinking of the zookeepers.