From the January-February 2017 issue of News & Letters
ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL CRISES
Nobody knows about the lead poisoning emergency in Northwest Indiana—even though Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, just became Vice President and recently refused to declare an emergency there. East Chicago is a disaster zone, people are being poisoned every day, but they can’t afford to move away. Pence just repeats the familiar lie that we don’t know that the lead will harm these people.
The ideas underlying the blocking of the Dakota Access Pipeline have been powerful enough to inspire thousands of veterans to head to the Standing Rock area to protect the water protectors from the police who serve and protect the exploiters. Some of those veterans are heading to Flint, Mich., to revive attention to the poisoning of the majority Black population there. Other battles have been inspired, such as the Two Rivers camp in Texas opposing the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. This is on and we are not going away.
In July 1976 the late Lakota columnist for News & Letters, Shainape Shcapwe, wrote movingly on a struggle similar to one taking place over the Dakota Access Pipeline. She wrote of Canadian Native activist Nelson Small Legs, who committed suicide to protest the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. He wrote: ““I give my life in protest to the present conditions concerning the Indian people of southern Alberta…in the hope of a full-scale investigation into the Department of Indian Affairs corruption…and the divide-and-conquer tactics present on each reservation….My suicide should open the eyes of non-Indians into how much we’ve suffered….I give up my life in protest to the Canadian government for its treatment of Indian people for the past one hundred years.” Nine hundred people attended his funeral.
Now that headlines focus on Donald Trump’s endless outrages, support for this multi-faceted struggle is essential. Native struggles against capitalist exploitation are grounded in a strong vision of a human-based way of life in harmony with the natural world, a concept that all of us need to internalize.
Susan Van Gelder
Victory at Standing Rock? I hope so. This movement organized itself, built its own community to meet human needs, material and spiritual, with purpose and meaning. I hope it continues. What seems one day like the impossible turns out the next not to be; like the Fight for $15 which passed in some cities. We set our own limitations on ourselves when we are solely pragmatic and think: “That could never happen,” or when we try to be too reasonable, see it from the other side as if that’s the fair-minded position to take. This new era doesn’t have to be the end of history. Still, I’m not sure Trump won’t totally undo the struggle over the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Defying the first real snow of the season on Jan. 8, hundreds of New Yorkers, mainly women, rallied outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Noho district of New York City to denounce proposed federal assaults on Planned Parenthood. The incoming administration’s attack dogs, especially Paul Ryan, announced their plan to totally defund the organization, which currently receives around $500 million in federal funding through Medicaid reimbursements—none of which is used for abortions. It is used for contraceptives, pap smears, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, etc. The First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, City Council speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, and others addressed the crowd. After the rally, people went into Planned Parenthood’s offices to write letters and call Congress demanding the organization stay well funded.
The Dec. 2 “Ghost Ship” warehouse fire which killed 36 young people (see “The Ghost Ship Fire,” Jan.-Feb. 2017, N&L) took place near where I live. It situates the encroaching inferno of capitalism’s disintegration.
We can take the easy road and bring charges against the landlord; blame the couple who were underground promoters of an alternative living arrangement; or fault the city inspectors who couldn’t keep up with the backlog of complaints against blight. We can ask why the residents of the warehouse chose to live there. (One said, “It was either there or sleep in the streets,” which is where I find dozens of tent encampments strewn across Oakland on my drive to work.) As capitalism’s crisis deepens, it reveals a tinderbox waiting to fuel the fires next time.
This should also serve as a reminder that the “new” Trump era is also a recapitulation of Reaganism’s trickle-down economics and crony capitalism, restructuring and deindustrialization. Retrogression continues unabated. It is the real “Ghost Ship” from the past haunting the present.
ON MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY
My Dream is that one day one will not be prosecuted for feeding a homeless person on the streets of Raleigh and that one will not be charged for putting up a tent for a refugee on the streets of Paris. What a world we live in, where helping a poor and a needy person is a crime.
Faisal R. Khan
The nature of the “revolution” sought by Trump and flunkies was clear from the contrast between Black Lives Matter protests and community meetings on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, plus actions like the blockade of the Valero Memphis Terminal to oppose the Diamond Pipeline, on the one hand; and on the other Trump’s urge to erase the very history of the civil rights movement, shown in his Twitter attack on Rep. John Lewis.
My heart breaks for the millions of people who are covered by the Affordable Care Act who will soon find themselves without healthcare. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME, on the party that claims to be “PRO-LIFE” who are obsessed with fetuses and don’t give a damn about those already here. I am so sickened by this.
I can only pray for some humanity to prevail over greed as the Republicans destroy the Affordable Care Act. The power they have over the quality of life and death for 20 million people is obscene. I am lucky to be healthy: the insurance plans I was offered came with a $5,000 deductible. Who can afford that? We have too many insurance companies making big profits. Everyone should have the same insurance, from the President on down to the next one born. Only the government can achieve that, if it’s done right.
The link between climate change and suicide reinforced my fear that suicides in the U.S. are bound to increase under Trump—not just because of anticipated cuts to mental health treatment, but because of the political-social-economic climate. Within days of his election suicide hotline calls spiked, particularly for Trans teens and adults. The effects of racism, sexism and homophobia aren’t easily mitigated by mental health treatment, though that’s important. Fighting to reclaim our own dignity and worth and that of others is crucial in this new era, every bit as important as fighting for resources. We fight for everything at once because we are whole human beings, not divided parts.
TRUMP AND THE ELECTION
Donald Trump’s choices for his cabinet are revealing. Tom Price, his choice for Health and Human Services, is so extreme and openly against women controlling our own bodies—including opposing healthcare coverage for birth control and abortion. We can look forward to The Donald nominating anti-women judges to the Supreme Court and other courts. In the past, abortion-access groups such as JANE arose to fight lack of access to legal, safe abortion.
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, will be attacking women instead of defending us from violence. He falsely denied that the “pussy-grabbing” that Trump bragged about constitutes sexual assault. That is why women came to his Senate confirmation hearing with posters bearing the Justice Department’s definition of sexual assault—which includes Trump’s self-declared actions
In November Republican authorities halted Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s recount of Michigan’s votes. But endemic problems were revealed while alleged “voter fraud” was non-existent.
In Detroit, a large number of voting machines malfunctioned, delaying and discouraging voters. Poll workers misinformed voters: telling a blind woman that she could not have help to fill out her ballot; telling voters to “choose Hillary”; and another poll worker was on hold for 45 minutes trying to correct the voting list, as the woman she was helping was clearly not dead. Half of the ballot boxes’ contents did not match their accompanying records or were improperly sealed.
These revelations will fuel cynicism, especially among youth who think “My vote doesn’t count.” It can reinforce their understanding of how broken the electoral system is, an understanding which needs to develop into concrete visions for a new, human society.
North West Detroit
I could not believe how the #pussyhatproject took off. You could see them at every demonstration in every country—knitted hats, most of them in shades of pink, made to look like little cat ears. The point was to let Donald Trump, and everyone else know, that women will not stand for being belittled, for being groped, and especially for Trump reducing women to objects for his pleasure.
What Dunayevskaya called a “crisis of a nation that transformed the cheap, egotistic, self-centered con-man into ‘a social type’” is now a total crisis as that “social type” has the reins of a national security state and a military capacity of absolute destruction and everything short of that. The gamut of Republicans who denounced Trump as a “dangerous con-man” are now lined up behind the winner. Already, Trump’s pure voluntarism in international affairs, violating a half-century of protocol by directly calling the leader of Taiwan, shows no regard for the fact that China is a nuclear-armed behemoth and an economic powerhouse.
I’ve just learned the name of the U.S. military base on Diego Garcia, one that was built after brutally removing the people who lived there (see “LALIT confronts colonization of Diego Garcia,” Nov.-Dec. 2016 N&L). It is sickeningly and inappropriately named “Camp Justice.” No wonder those who fight against it like LALIT only call it the U.S. base and never use its disgusting name—a name that shows no justice at all, but only a racist colonial arrogance. The U.S. and Britain should be ashamed, but anointing a base with that name—a base that caused so much pain and misery and whose land was acquired in such an inhuman and brutish manner—reveals that the U.S. and British governments are incapable of such an honest emotion.
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