Tuesday, July 05, 2005

 

Mythologies

I took myself by surprise yesterday – the 4th of July. As I was starting us Punkt, walking around Berlin, I found myself wondering about all the souls around me. Who were their parents, their grandparents. Were they Resisters, were they Nazis, or are they new immigrants? Why are they here? After such cruelty and devastation – why are they here? And do they wake up each morning and painfully recap their nations brutal history?
When I got home I did just that. I remembered independence day by listening to an excellent presentation of speeches organized by Democracy Now from Howard Zinn’s classic work: A People’s History of the United States - preformed yesterday at the 92nd St. Y in NYC. And in my shock of wondering how the Germans cope, I saw how easily Americans forget that Independence was not for all – just a lucky few.

- Americans committed genocide when they crushed the Native American population and took their land.
- Americans enslaved, tortured and killed African Americans.
- American corporations were supported by a corrupt legal and military system which enabled them to wage war on the workers of our young nation.
- America killed, illegally, union members who spoke out for the rights of workers.
- This list could go on and on. These are early and domestic cases of America’s big lie, but I think you get the picture.

In particular, there was a speech given by Fredrick Douglas that seemed so terribly relevant to our current conundrum. The speech, given on Independence Day, 1852, revealed even then our nations propensity for white-washing the truth. Reveling in our independence from the crown, we too easily ignored that there were many people in our nation who were still not free – lacking free will, rights to property, rights to vote.

And it is in this myth that our nation “spreads freedom” through out the world. We have convinced ourselves of this rosy path, that our nation was chosen by some divine right and could do no wrong. Where everyone gets a shot at the good life. We are living in our own Eden. Fictional, sweet and rotten at the core.

Here is Douglas’s call and it will be mine too, for today:
“At a time like this, scorching iron, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

His conclusion, still so relevant:
“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

Monday, July 04, 2005

 

Independence Day


us Punkt is the distribution of red, white and blue crochet targets on site of political significance in Berlin, Germany. Berlin is in fact one huge sight of political turmoil (past and present) - but for today, while my fellow Americans eat hot dogs and set off fire-crackers I traveled to four different locations in Berlin to deposit my woolen S.O.S. The sights I chose are sights of resistance and sights of blind following - places of liberation and places of terror. Alexanderplatz, Max Engels Forum, Lust Garten and Bebelplatz.

Each us Punkt was deposited with a card addressed with this website, so the person who finds it might come here and read about the trouble my country is in. Contribute to my lists. Help inform me and others. A new Supreme Court Justice will be appointed, but not after the right destroys the filibuster. A woman’s right to choose will be taken away.

This is my woolen S.O.S.
Please send help.
us punkt

Sunday, July 03, 2005

 

Supreme...

I am writing today not about Germany, Berlin or my experience here – but about a world I am unable to disconnect from no matter how far away it is. I have continued to read the paper (or at least skim it) everyday – sticking to the NY Times, the Guardian and now a few German papers that are published on-line in English. A sporadic dose of alternative media, Democracy Now, Kunstler (to keep up with oil and economics) and some Public Radio out of Philadelphia – partly because it makes me feel nostalgic, and partly because I like how peculiar it feels to hear the traffic report on the Schuylkill Expressway while I am in Berlin.

The past few years in the states have been tumultuous. Terrorism, war, economic decline, attacks on social programming, the disintegrating wall between church and state, and just a general realization that the place I call home is on a dangerous path. The last two elections were gut-wrenching. I attended the anti-Bush rallies in D.C. after his first appointment – and cried (literally) for days after the second. How can so many people be so easily persuaded?

And after coming to terms with the fact that my participation in public protests were impudent gestures, I settled into “regular” life with the occasional uproar over the President's freight-trainer of alarming appointments. In fact, I did not realize you could find someone more sick than Ashcroft – but they did – Gonzales. This morning I rose to see that there was already speculation that he might be the nomination for the Supreme Court, replacing Sandra Day O’Connor. Nothing surprises me anymore. What is surprising is that according to a Times article on the front page today some conservatives are already protesting his possible nomination (I breathed a sigh of relief as I read the tag line). Unfortunately, these people seem unaffected by Gonzales’s lack of respect for the Geneva Convention, rather they feel his views of abortion are suspect (translation: he may not be willing to crush Roe). This week Spain legalized gay marriage with right of inheritance, adoption, etc., and we are still trying to take away a woman’s right to choose.

So I thought I might explain a few things, because it always comes back to this one decisive issue with Americans: Abortion.
The U.S. proclaims to be a land of religious tolerance. I do not believe in god. I also do not believe that to have an abortion is to kill. It is my right to define life, based on my own beliefs - as I mentioned, I live in a nation that practices a freedom of religion (which may also be defined by the lack of one). If you belong to a religion that objects to abortion, or otherwise believe abortion is wrong, than you have the right to that belief. You also have the right to not have an abortion. You can not, however, tell me not to have one. My beliefs are my own, my body is my own ,and you have no right to pass legislation to control either.

And since our President seems to be between a rock and a hard place, I thought I would do him the favor of writing up a proper job description for the new Justice:
The U.S. Supreme Court seeks New Justice – HE must be willing to revoke a woman’s right to choose, HE must be willing to allow the government to spy on its own citizens, HE must be willing to ignore the Geneva Convention and all other International law (particularly as it pertains to war), HE must be willing to suggest that torture is a good idea, HE must be willing to allow overtly religious monuments to be placed in civic buildings (Christian only please), He must be willing to accept financial donations from large corporations, HE must be willing to go golfing with “the boys”, HE must be willing to put the rights of large multi-national corporations ahead of the rights of workers, HE must be willing to appoint a President, and if HE is a she, SHE must be spineless and obedient.

It keeps getting worse. Our retreat to Europe has not managed to help me put my countries problems into better perspective. In fact, if your suspicions were that perhaps our want to be away was to line up a possible emergency evacuation in the near future, you were right. I am just one of the fortunate few that has access and education enough to make a quick get-away.

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