Monday, November 30, 2015

Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, Arundhati Roy, and John Cusack Share a Real Conversation

WOW! This is a powerful and illuminating piece that includes a conversation among several of my great heroes. I am grateful! And as Arundhati Roy reflects, "The world is a millipede that inches forward on millions of real conversations. And this, certainly, was a real one." We need more real conversations! It is my belief that there is a yearning and aching in our hearts and in our world for each and every one of us to find our inner courageous seeker of Truth and feed and nourish and attend to our inner Truth-teller. And then find our voices and more and more and more - Speak Up! Which is the other direction from the cultural norm to shut up, shut down, shut out.... which can manifest, paradoxically, in all the outward symptoms of fear and hatred that are tragically so normalized in America. May we lower our tolerance for fear and violence and propaganda and polarization and increase our capacity to care, to be conscious, to be courageous, to tell the truth, and to act from our hearts and our higher wisdom. Bless all the courageous ones who light the way by their example. May we listen and shed our apathy and come together to birth this new world, that is indeed possible. It is up to us. ~ Molly


The Indian novelist recalls an extraordinary encounter in a Moscow hotel 
with the NSA whistleblower

Arundhati Roy with Edward Snowden and John Cusack
Arundhati Roy with Edward Snowden and John Cusack. Photograph: Ole Von Vexhul
The Moscow Un-Summit wasn’t a formal interview. Nor was it a cloak-and-dagger underground rendezvous. The upshot is that John Cusack, Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam war) and I didn’t get the cautious, diplomatic, regulation Edward Snowden. The downshot (that isn’t a word, I know) is that the jokes, the humour and repartee that took place in Room 1001 cannot be reproduced. The Un-Summit cannot be written about in the detail that it deserves. Yet it definitely cannot not be written about. Because it did happen. And because the world is a millipede that inches forward on millions of real conversations. And this, certainly, was a real one.
What mattered, perhaps even more than what was said, was the spirit in the room. There was Edward Snowden who, after 9/11, was in his own words “straight up singing highly of Bush” and signing up for the Iraq war. And there were those of us who, after 9/11, had been straight up doing exactly the opposite. It was a little late for this conversation, of course. Iraq has been all but destroyed. And now the map of what is so condescendingly called the “Middle East” is being brutally redrawn (yet again). But still, there we were, all of us, talking to each other in a bizarre hotel in Russia. Bizarre it certainly was.
The opulent lobby of the Moscow Ritz-Carlton was teeming with drunk millionaires, high on new money, and gorgeous, high-stepping young women, half peasant, half supermodel, draped on the arms of toady men – gazelles on their way to fame and fortune, paying their dues to the satyrs who would get them there. In the corridors, you passed serious fistfights, loud singing and quiet, liveried waiters wheeling trolleys with towers of food and silverware in and out of rooms. In Room 1001 we were so close to the Kremlin that if you put your hand out of the window, you could almost touch it. It was snowing outside. We were deep into the Russian winter – never credited enough for its part in the second world war. Edward Snowden was much smaller than I thought he’d be. Small, lithe, neat, like a house cat. He greeted Dan ecstatically and us warmly. “I know why you’re here,” he said to me, smiling. “Why?” “To radicalise me.” I laughed.
We settled down on various perches, stools, chairs and John’s bed. Dan and Ed were so pleased to meet each other, and had so much to say to each other, that it felt a little impolite to intrude on them. At times they broke into some kind of arcane code language: “I jumped from nobody on the street, straight to TSSCI.” “No, because, again, this isn’t DS at all, this is NSA. At CIA, it’s called COMO.” “It’s kind of a similar role, but is it under support?” “PRISEC or PRIVAC?” “They start out with the TALENT KEYHOLE thing. Everyone then gets read into TS, SI, TK, and GAMMA-G clearance... Nobody knows what it is…”
It took a while before I felt it was all right to interrupt them. Snowden’s disarming answer to my question about being photographed cradling the American flag was to roll his eyes and say: “Oh, man. I don’t know. Somebody handed me a flag, they took a picture.” And when I asked him why he signed up for the Iraq war, when millions of people all over the world were marching against it, he replied, equally disarmingly: “I fell for the propaganda.”
Dan talked at some length about how it would be unusual for US citizens who joined the Pentagon and the National Security Agency to have read much literature on US exceptionalism and its history of warfare. (And once they joined, it was unlikely to be a subject that interested them.) He and Ed had watched it play out live, in real time, and were horrified enough to stake their lives and their freedom when they decided to be whistleblowers. What the two of them clearly had in common was a strong, almost corporeal sense of moral righteousness – of right and wrong.
A sense of righteousness that was obviously at work not just when they decided to blow the whistle on what they thought to be morally unacceptable, but also when they signed up for their jobs – Dan to save his country from communism, Ed to save it from Islamist terrorism. What they did when they grew disillusioned was so electrifying, so dramatic, that they have come to be identified by that single act of moral courage.
 Roy with (from left) Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden and John Cusack. Photograph: Courtesy of John Cusack

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Jack Kornfield: The Heart Is Like a Garden

The heart is like a garden.
 It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. 
What seeds will you plant there?
- Jack Kornfield

Tara Brach: The More We Look Through the Eyes of Wisdom

Imagine you are walking in the woods and you see a small dog sitting by a tree. As you approach it, it suddenly lunges at you, teeth bared. You are frightened and angry. But then you notice that one of its legs is caught in a trap. Immediately your mood shifts from anger to concern: You see that the dog's aggression is coming from a place of vulnerability and pain. This applies to all of us. When we behave in hurtful ways, it is because we are caught in some kind of trap. The more we look through the eyes of wisdom at ourselves and one another, the more we cultivate a compassionate heart.

- Tara Brach 

Michael Parenti: The Protection of Property and Wealth

The close relationship between politics and economics is neither neutral nor coincidental. Large governments evolve through history in order to protect large accumulations of property and wealth.

- Michael Parenti 

Michael Parenti: For Your Thanksgiving Consideration

May we know and own and heal our past, which is the only way to not continue 
to repeat the horrific tragedies, destruction, oppression, violence and more 
which plague us today. May we look at the horror and not turn away.
May we care that much. May we be that brave.
~ Molly 

The lives of indigenous peoples in North America ("Indians")---from quality of diet and medicine to individual freedom---were superior to the pinched, unwashed, dour lives transported from Christianized England. The Europeans were far more practiced than the "Indians" in dealing with syphilis, gonorrhea, small pox, typhoid, and bubonic plague, not to mention hangings, slavery, prostitution, religious wars, witch hunts, and inquisitions. European superiority registered in a few devilishly crucial areas, specifically the technologies of firearms, armor, and oceanic transport. The Native Americans had no desire to embrace the religiously oppressive, mean-spirited, acquisitive life of the colonizers. They lived comfortably free from any ruinous impulse for massive wealth accumulation. Labeled as "savage beasts" by the invaders, they actually behaved in courteous and kindly ways---that is, until they realized what they were up against.
The indigenous peoples were subjected to heartless butcheries, beginning with the slaughter of the Arawak (a.k.a.Tainos) of Hispaniola in the 1490s. By the 1630s "our Puritan fathers" were launching attacks against the Pequot tribe, massacring hundreds of men, women and children. The meager number of survivors were sold into slavery in the West Indies. In the 1680s, in the Chesapeake tidelands, there came another wave of mass killings. This was followed by two long centuries of merciless wars across the entire continent, ending with the treacherous slaughter of Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890. 
Estimates of the native population of America prior to the European conquest vary from twelve million to eighteen million, composing more than six hundred distinct tribal societies, speaking over five hundred languages. But after four centuries of warfare, massacre, disease, and dispossession, the original population was reduced by over 90 percent, a holocaust whose magnitude remains largely unmatched and unrecognized today. Whole tribes were completely exterminated or whittled down to scattered numbers. In this way the "Wild West" was "tamed" and "settled." 
Today the Native American population has grown back to about 2.9 million, including Native Alaskan and Hawaiian peoples, and additional hundreds of thousands of "mixed race," out of a total U.S. population of some 310 million. Native Americans are also referred to as "Amerindians", "American Indians", or simply "Indians" in the United States. They are officially designated as "Native Americans" by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Indigenous peoples of Alaska were popularly known as "Eskimos," a term that is still in use. They are more properly referred to collectively as "Alaskan Natives." (For some strange reason, many progressives in the United States refer to all Alaskan Natives as "Inuits," even though the Inuit are only one of the Native Alaskan peoples, along with the Aleut, Alutiiq, Athabascan, Iñupiat, Cup'ik, Haida, Tlingit, and Yup'ik. Calling all of these Native Alaskans "Inuits" would be like referring to all Native American Indians as Cherokee.) 
Along with the destruction of Native Americans came the expropriation of native lands. "Speaking with forked tongue, the U.S. government broke all of its 600-plus treaties and agreements with various indigenous nations," Brian Willson reminds us. The native peoples were slaughtered with merciless deliberation and forethought so that their lands might be taken. The lands were not stolen as an afterthought. From the very beginning, the primary goal was not extermination but expropriation, not killing the natives per se, but grabbing the land and the fortune that comes with it: great and glorious expanses of farming lands and plains, mighty forests, green pastures and meadows with wild fruits, powerful rivers, wild herds and plentiful game, pristine waters, bays, lakes, fisheries, and inlets, beautiful hills and majestic mountains, deep ravines and vast deposits of rich minerals---all in unmatched abundance. 
In quick order, the hostility felt toward the Native Americans took on a fury of its own. They were seen as "red devils," "wild dogs," "blood thirsty savages," and "heathens with souls consigned to hell." As the saying went: "The only good injun is a dead injun." So with most imperialist invasions, the victimized are depicted as victimizers. The heartless destruction of the native population is justified as an act of rectitude and self-defense against subhuman moral inferiors. Racism swiftly becomes the handmaiden of economic exploitation and imperialism.

- Michael Parenti, 
Excerpted from Profit Pathology and Other Indecencies, pp. 13-14

Michael Parenti

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Jon Kabat-Zinn: An Ongoing and Significant Risk

 Dying without actually fully living, 
without waking up to our lives while we have the chance, 
is an ongoing and significant risk.
The little things? The little moments? 
They aren't little.

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

The Thanksgiving Myth: Reflecting on Land Theft, Betrayal and Genocide

By Sarah Sunshine Manning, The Hampton Institute | Op-Ed

(Image: "First Thanksgiving", Brushed Border, Cracked Texture via Shutterstock; Edited: LW / TO)(Image: "First Thanksgiving," Rolled Ink Texture, Cracked Texture via Shutterstock; Edited: LW / TO)
As Thanksgiving approaches, many schools throughout the U.S. are making preparations for the standard, and all too cliché, Thanksgiving Day lessons, and fairy tale-esque Thanksgiving plays.
And more often than not, the school Thanksgiving activities are largely based on what ultimately amounts to myth, created to serve the imaginations of the dominant society, and simultaneously functioning to erase the tragedies of Indigenous nations.
The myth usually goes a little something like this:
Pilgrims came to America, in order to escape religious persecution in England. Living conditions proved difficult in the New World, but thanks to the friendly Indian, Squanto, the pilgrims learned to grow corn, and survive in unfamiliar lands. It wasn't long before the Indians and the pilgrims became good friends. To celebrate their friendship and abundant harvest, Indians in feathered headbands joined together with the pilgrims and shared in a friendly feast of turkey and togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving. The End.
From this account, the unsuspecting child might assume a number of things. Firstly, they may assume that pilgrims merely settled the New World, innocently, and as a persecuted people, they arrived to America with pure and altruistic intentions. Secondly, children might assume, and rightfully so, that Indians and pilgrims were friends, and that this friendship must have laid the framework for this "great American nation."
So, what exactly is the harm in this school-sanctioned account of history? Understandably, the untrained eye may not notice the harm in such a myth, as most Americans are victim to the same whitewashed lie as the rest, and dismantling a centuries-old myth certainly does prove challenging.
But the first lesson for educators and adults to digest is the fact that this narrative is egregiously whitewashed and Eurocentric on many levels. Moreover, it is a lie, which serves to rob American children of valuable historical lessons.
Truth be told, this beloved lie was packaged solely for nationalistic consumption when, following the bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Back then, Americans were desperately in need of unity and inspiration. Hence, the myth of the first Thanksgiving was born to inspire and unite.
Beyond the myth, and the seemingly good intentions of Abraham Lincoln (who actually despised Indians) the actual story of pilgrims and indigenous people went down much differently.
As a social science educator, I strongly advocate for the unabridged study of human history; for the many valuable lessons imbedded in the stories of our past. Changing any story, essentially, means short-changing American society from some extremely valuable lessons - lessons that function to plant the seeds of social consciousness and humanitarian evolution.

No War, No Warming – Build an Economy for People and Planet

Despite the ban on Protest in Paris, we will be there to raise our voices against war, racism and pollution profiteering. We stand in solidarity with the countless victims of recent violence in Paris, Beirut, and Mali, as well as their families and loved ones.

The It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm delegation of over 100 frontline leaders from climate impacted communities across the US and Canada, including the Arctic, united under the slogan: No War, No Warming – Build an Economy for People and Planet. We stand against the criminalization of the defenders of Mother Earth and the illegitimate criminalization of protest, in particular during the COP21. Civil society, popular movements, indigenous movements and society in general have the right to raise their voices in dissent, especially when our futures are being negotiated. The voices of Indigenous peoples, youth, women and frontline communities need to provide guidance in these negotiations, now more than ever.
Climate justice seeks to address much more than greenhouse gas emissions, but the root systemic causes of climate change itself. Climate justice is about social and economic justice, and how democratic, peaceful and equitable solutions, not military violence, best serve the interests of humanity. The fossil fuel economy is a driver of this multi-faceted crises facing the world: causing resource wars; polluting our air, water and land; creating illness and death to people and of ecosystems; privatization of nature; economically exploiting Indigenous communities, communities of color and the working poor; forcing mass migrations; and, depriving millions of adequate food, access to water, housing, healthcare and healthy and safe employment.
As part of a global climate justice movement, we oppose the bombing of Syria. Over many decades we have witnessed that Western militarism has only increased the instability of the Middle East and other regions. This militarism abroad has also escalated the military complex at home in the United States, where communities resisting the industries causing climate change, have been heavily policed and targeted by police violence.
Our delegation is made up of grassroots leaders from Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian and working class white communities.   We know first-hand the violence and repression of state racism that exploits tragic moments like this. We reject rising Islamophobia and racism across Europe and North America, as well as the scapegoating of migrants and refugees. The global community has a human rights responsibility to refugees fleeing violence and fleeing for their lives. The roots of the Syrian crisis are linked to climate change, and those seeking refuge because of drought, repeated bombing, and the lack of humanitarian support from world governments.
We are in solidarity with undocumented peoples, migrants and people of color facing repression, raids, and police brutality in France and Europe. We know that people of color face extreme violence within and because of colonial States. We support our comrades in this time as we know they face even more racism, attacks and nation-State violence. We call for continued support for these communities and their organizing efforts. Understanding that our struggles are inextricably linked through globalization, militarization, and neo-liberalism, stemming from a long history of colonialism.
Taking action on climate is a essential to global stability and peace. Peace also includes the need to have peace with Mother Earth. Our movements are aligned across issues of migration, climate, human rights and rights of Indigenous peoples, Earth jurisprudence, jobs and housing.   We are calling on world leaders, and President Obama in particular, to move toward inclusion over exclusion, renewable clean energy over pollution profiteering, cutting emissions at source over carbon trading and offset regimes, and peace over militarism.
We are inspired by the tenacity and humanity of people around the world, and we will continue to mobilize for Paris and to use our love, creativity and solidarity to make our presence known and felt. The protection of Mother Earth, as we know her, and our collective survival is at stake.

Rep. Mike Honda: We Cannot Allow Hateful Acts To Drive Us Into Misguided Action

As the rhetoric around the plight of thousands of Syrian war refugees gets more extreme by the day, California Rep. Mike Honda, who was raised in a Japanese-American internment camp, delivers a forceful moral call for compassion and for adhering to our country's principles.

"I was raised in an internment camp and know firsthand how that dark moment in our nation’s history led to repercussions tha
t have resonated over the years.

"I am outraged by reports of elected officials calling for Syrian Americans to be rounded up and interned.

"We simply cannot let the extremist perpetrators of these hateful acts of violence drive us into such a misguided action. For it is when we allow these criminals to lead us down a dark path, away from our principles and ideals, that we as a country suffer."

Read his entire column here:

More Cities Celebrating ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ Amid Effort to Abolish Columbus Day

For the past 81 years, Americans have celebrated Columbus Day on the second Monday of October. That won’t change this year, but a growing number of cities are seeking to abolish the traditional holiday and replace it with a day that acknowledges and celebrates the millions of people who were already living here when Christopher Columbus arrived.
This year, the recast holiday known as Indigenous Peoples Day will take place in at least nine cities across the United States, including in Albuquerque, N.M., Anadarko, Okla., Portland, Ore., St. Paul, Minn., and Olympia, Wash.,according to the Associated Press.
Last year, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to change the federal Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day, making it the second major U.S. city after Minneapolis to adopt the change, according to Reuters.
The holiday’s new designation follows a decades-long push by Native American activists in dozens of cities across the country to abolish Columbus Day, and they have had mixed but increasingly successful results, according to the AP.
The next community to consider the change is Oklahoma City, where local leaders are scheduled this week to vote on a bill implementing Indigenous Peoples Day, according to NBC affiliate KFOR.
“This is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time,” Sarah Adams-Cornell told the station last month. “The fact that our country, our state and our city celebrate this holiday around this man who murdered and enslaved and raped indigenous people and decimated an entire population.”
In cities that have implemented a new holiday, activists described the change as the first step in a larger effort to reclaim a more accurate telling of history. For those communities, parades celebrating Columbus ignore a violent past that led to hundreds of years of disease, colonial rule and genocidal extermination following the Italian explorer’s accidental trip to the Americas, according to the AP.
“For the Native community here, Indigenous Peoples Day means a lot,” Nick Estes of Albuquerque, who is involved in planning the city’s Indigenous Peoples celebration scheduled for Monday, told the AP. “We actually have something. We understand it’s just a proclamation, but at the same time, we also understand this is the beginning of something greater.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Martin Luther King Jr.: Our Nation Was Born In Genocide

Our nation was born in genocide.… We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. 

—Martin Luther King Jr.

For Thanksgiving: Reflections On An Indigenous Perspective

This morning, on Alternative Radio with David Barsamian, I heard an amazing woman speak for the first time. 

I am always a bit shaken when I realize that I have been in the dark about more of my own personal shadow or our collective shadow. Sometimes, initially, I want to just go cry. There is this grief... I sometimes also feel exhilarated. WOW! -I am learning something new, connecting dots that I hadn't connected before in quite this way! Yes! Sometimes this takes me into territory that is painful or scary or may touch into my individual shame or the collective shame many of us carry. While that is not fun, the greater part of me wants more to know than to shrink away and say, No, I won't go there. I say, YES, I will go there! And I am inspired by this new person who is shining a light on a new pathway, a new piece of my journey that I get to take - yes, I get to take! - as part of my own unfolding and expanding and becoming less ignorant and a little bit more awake. 

Of course, this is certainly about more than just me. This is also about my beautiful grandson, Oliver, and this world that I am leaving to him and to my sons, Brian, Kevin, and Matt. And that each of us are leaving to all beings. May we bring healing to ourselves and others!

Meanwhile, there is this amazing woman, Roxanne-Dunbar-Ortiz, who I heard speak this morning about another perspective, an indigenous perspective. Including the indigenous perspective related to Thanksgiving. It is not that this topic is new to me. But I was able to let in more than I have before. And my heart broke open. I am so grateful! That my heart can break open!

And I am getting her book and speaking up now, spreading the word about more of what matters. Could you imagine if each and every one of us made a commitment to try, several times a week or maybe daily, to speak up about what matters?! What an antidote to all the mindless - as opposed to mindfulness - distractions and violence and untruths and half-truths and narcissistic BS that permeates so much of what we hear day in and day out. Let's change that!

This piece is needed, I believe deeply needed for this day that many of us celebrate as Thanksgiving... without much deeper thought or awareness as to a larger picture, and the larger picture behind that, and on and on. This piece is for all native peoples. 

And it is also for us all. Because we are all connected. We are all related. And we all need healing. We all need to heal the past that remains unattended, and through the violence of that great silence and neglect, lives on in the present causing harm to be perpetuated. We need to Wake Up. 

And then maybe Thanksgiving can become something different, something greater than it has ever been before.

All My Relations ~ Molly

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
An Indigenous People's History of the United States

The history of the United States is a history of settler colonialism—the founding of a state based on the ideology of white supremacy, the widespread practice of African slavery, and a policy of genocide and land theft.

Cases of genocide carried out as policy may be found in historical documents as well as in the oral histories of Indigenous communities. An example from 1873 is typical, with General William T. Sherman writing, “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children … during an assault, the soldiers can not pause to distinguish between male and female, or even discriminate as to age.

Euro-American colonialism, an aspect of the capitalist economic globalization, had from its beginnings a genocidal tendency.

The systems of colonization were modern and rational, but its ideological basis was madness. 

How then can the US society come to terms with its past? How can it acknowledge responsibility? The late Native historian Jack Forbes always stressed that while living persons are not responsible for what their ancestors did, they are responsible for the society they live in, which is a product of that past. Assuming this responsibility provides a means of survival and liberation. Everyone and everything in the world is affected, for the most part negatively, by US dominance and intervention, often violently through direct military means or through proxies.

Jodi Byrd writes: “The story of the new world is horror, the story of America a crime.” It is necessary, she argues, to start with the origin of the United States as a settler-state and its explicit intention to occupy the continent. These origins contain the historical seeds of genocide. Any true history of the United States must focus on what has happened to (and with) Indigenous peoples—and what still happens.” 


“A must-read for anyone interested in the truth behind this nation’s founding.”—Veronica E. Velarde Tiller, PhD, Jicarilla Apache author, historian, and publisher of Tiller’s Guide to Indian Country.
“This may well be the most important US history book you will read in your lifetime.”—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams