The Silence of Our Friends

Monday, March 26, 2007

Asking A Favor

Recently I've been involved in a private discussion about privilege and how people are blind to their own privilege and tend to deny that they have any. White people can easily see that people of color are disadvantaged in our society, but they don't automatically see that this gives them an advantage relative to those people of color. The same goes for male privilege at the expense of women. On a couple of occasions over the last month I've been surprised when it's been revealed to me, or I have concluded on my own, that I am blind to privilege as an American/Canadian. (My nation/tribe has Jay Treaty rights, I am able to live and work in either country and have.) We are socialized early on to believe in American Exceptionalism, or nationalism. The belief that we are better than everyone else in the world; the belief that everyone wants to be like us; the belief that everyone would live in the US if they could. This is not patriotism. Patriotism is the belief that your country is the best...for you, but not necessarily for everyone else. You still can see that others might believe that their country is the best...for them. Americans have a hard time getting it through their heads that just because two things are different doesn't make one bad and the other good. That is what makes it easy for them to say and believe stupid things like, "They hate us for our freedom" or "They're just jealous of us".

Since I have become more aware of my own colonialist and imperialist thought patterns, I have been picking it up everywhere and seeing how it is subtly dropped into the discourse in many ways and quite often. This morning on our local news there was a news story about a Palestinian child in a video singing about her mother who was a suicide bomber. I can't find it on the website for that station but it's the same story here at The Daily Mail. what caught my attention was the commentary between the anchors. They were basically saying, This is what we are up against. These terrorists are irrational animals. They don't value life and teach their children to hate. There was no context given for why a mother might be this desperate or angry. No mention of the daily violence and terror Palestinians must live with, and no mention of the dismal and hopeless situation they find themselves in. It is dropped into the discourse in this way in order to make it more palatable to Americans for us to invade Muslim countries and kill them randomly.

Before anyone gets wound up and says I am advocating for suicide bombers, stuff it. I am advocating against dehumanizing Palestinians and for the violence to stop on both sides. As long as it is ok for Israel to blow the crap out of Palestinians then they will continue to blow the crap out of Israelis. Americans must also stop dehumanizing Muslims and it is not ok for us to blow the crap out of them and we will not irradicate terrorism until we learn this basic lesson. The more of them that we displace and kill and steal from, the more that those left behind will want revenge.

Now back to my own colonialism/imperialism. One of the ways I can think of to fight this is by reading international news and blogs. I want to see how other countries cover news stories and politics. One of my favorites is Progressive Gold and one of the favors I am asking is for you to add them to your blogroll or rss feeder. They pick up stories that American blogs miss and the writing is excellent. I am amazed that they aren't more widely read since they have been around forever, or at least as long as the big American blogs. I think part of it has to be due to xenophobia. They're furriners, can't possibly be as good as murrikan writers. The other favor is that my readers leave a comment promoting your favorite international blog(s) for me to add to my blogroll.

I was especially interested in this post at Progressive Gold: US Military Lawyer: Bush’s Military Commissions Are Kangaroo Courts. we need to be reminded that many of those in Gitmo are there because of paid informants. One could make money by pointing the finger at someone and calling him a terrorists with no other evidence to back it up. It is possible, and likely that many are there because of personal disputes and vendettas between neighbors. This is why having constitutional protections is so important. I know that I don't want innocent people in prison for no other reason that someone wanted to pocket some loot and be rid of a rival.

The posts in the past week about the New Bedford raid and in the past months about T. Don Hutto are related. Immigrants rounded up without their families knowing where they are, without access to attorneys and left in limbo in horrible conditions.

The same goes for this post over at the Unapologetic Mexican: America's Secret Police. This one is about spying on American citizens who are lawfully congregating and disseminating information. Their only "crime"? Not being loyal Bushistas. This leads up to the jailing of 1800 protesters at the Republican convention in NYC. Without phones to call family or attorneys, left in cages outdoors to sleep on dirty oil covered asphalt without even a blanket.

In the comments there I left a link to Alternet: Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs'. This is about a contract for Halliburton to build detention centers supposedly for a massive influx of immigrants. Another program is guidelines for the Army to run civilian labor camps. First, I don't believe these detention centers (PRISONS) are for immigrants only. I think they would like to declare martial law and round up "enemies of the state", who just happen to all be anti-Bush and question the status quo.

The thread that joins each of these articles and blog posts is that the Bushies have no compunction against suspending the rights guaranteed to Americans and foreign nationals alike within our Constitution. What they are doing at Guantanamo Bay, what they are doing at T. Don Hutto, what they did at the Republican convention, this could easily happen to you. Don't blow it off thinking that the government wouldn't hold someone without charges and without evidence because it is already happening. And like Ralph Isenberg said in my last post, "If we do this to foreign nationals, it's going to be us next." They already do. They have already taken their tentative steps towards imprisoning Americans without charge and without evidence, those rounded up at the Republican convention can attest to that, and so can Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi. Don't think you are safe because you aren't a "terrorist" or "illegal alien".

8 comment(s):

Donna, I'm going to think more on international progressive blogs, but one source I often turn to is The Guardian, because even if it's a national newspaper and thus highly susceptible to spin, it is a progressive paper and (I find) often provides an interesting contrast to NYTimes or WaPo -- particularly when it comes to furriner issues.

Not terribly origina but thought I'd toss it out there in any case. Off to add Progressive Gold to the roster...

By Anonymous petitpoussin, at 3/26/2007 11:46 PM  

As far as international blogs there are two that I love.
She doesn't post very often, but when she does it's always interesting. She's done a lot of grass-roots activist work and now has a government job. Particularly worth noting - commentary about ways in which feminists can work with the social justice arm of the Christian church. Given how advesarial the relationship between feminism and religion often is in the West, it's great to see another possible view.
Based out of Malaysia. Mostly humor, but they slip in plenty of political insight too.
I second the nod towards The Guardian. As far as traditional news media goes it doesn't get much better than The Guardian, and their standards of accuracy are very high. The South China Post is a good paper in terms of covering Asia.

By Blogger Cassandra Says, at 3/27/2007 1:22 AM  

Great post Donna. I love how willing you are to be vulnerable about such touchy topics. American exceptionalism is the shocking truth and one I frankly didn't recognize until embarrassingly recently. The links I want to share are these:
Link TV International News, check out the show "Mosaic" news from the Middle East. Also Watching America With Translated Foreign News Available NOWHERE Else In English. And Finally Neo-Resistance A blog by an Iranian woman,"...looking at objects from multiple perspectives." These sites are all valuable resources to me and I'm adding "Progressive Gold" to my blogroll, thanks.

By Blogger HopeSpringsATurtle, at 3/27/2007 2:01 AM  

Wow, praise indeed, thank you, Donna.

I think we're not widely read because well, I'm not exactly a respecter of persons, not afraid to curse and I hope not afraid to point out when the kool kidz of progressive blogging get a bit up themselves.

Why not? I have nothing to lose, neither revenue nor some spurious credibility.

I'll be looking at the links you and your other commenters have suggested; since moving to Wordpress we have a bit more blogroll space to play with and I need to update more often. With blogs I'm like Johnny Five: more input always required.

By Blogger Republic of Palau, at 3/27/2007 7:07 PM  

nice idea!

here's two more sites:

By Blogger Arcturus, at 3/29/2007 7:37 PM  

& for nightly listening:

By Blogger Arcturus, at 3/29/2007 7:39 PM  

First, I want to thank everyone for the links. I did spend the past couple of mornings surfing them and they are what I am looking for. I'm just horrible about updating my blogroll, but it will get done!

RoP, I think I was a little too flippant when I said Americans don't read Progressive Gold because of Xenophobia, because I don't think it's that. I think it's because many are only interested in American news and International news that directly affects Americans. That's not too surprising since I would think that worldwide people are like this, and prefer news that is about their country and what is directly affecting their country, but will know more about America because we've got our fingers in everybodie's pie at one point or another!

I think I revealed a little bit of that myself, because the International links I was looking for are especially those that reveal what others think of us. "No , no, enough about me. It's about you. So, what do y-o-u think about me?" LOL (That's why my favorite link was Hope's Watching America).

Again, thanks very much for the links!

By Blogger Donna, at 3/30/2007 12:13 AM  

Donna, I think that American privilege functions in similar ways to white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, class privilege etc. in that it's about the privileged people framing all the issues in terms of their own experiences/issues, and assuming that no other way of experiencing the world exists. Like, for example, the conflicts about Jessica Valenti's book, which isn't even available outside the USA, taking for granted that all participants in the conflict are American and have access to the same consumer goods.

But of course, I live in a country that's benefiting from alliance with the USA, and the privilege that confers is something to account for too.

In zooey's post on the problems with an America-centred analysis is also really good.

What kinds of benefits does living in a first-world country that's a member of the "coalition of the willing" confer on us, even as poc who are marginalised within those national contexts?

By Blogger Fire Fly, at 5/23/2007 9:42 AM  

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