The Silence of Our Friends

Friday, March 16, 2007


One of the very uncomfortable realizations I have come to is exactly how much I can identify with the Sofia Coppola Feminists and their solopsism. It's so easy to center yourself and your own difficulties and grievances, and much more difficult to see others and their suffering, and to do something about it. I won't pat myself on the back that I have taken the one step that so many other Americans can't even manage. I read blogs and read or watch news reports and am cognizant of the actions of our government that negatively affect people within our own population and overseas. The same goes for what other governments or international institutions do that impact people's lives. What distinction or praise do I deserve for sitting back and saying, "Tut tut, that's terribly sad."? What is that but as BlackAmazon describes of Sofia Coppola Feminism, "It is a feminism that demands an emptiness (real or invented) of reflection, instead replacing it with self involvement." How does my momentarily feeling uncomfortable actually help anyone or change anything? It's self involvement, it's a form of self deception if I even for a second believe that my knowledge without action is any better than someone else's ignorance.

Many of you already do so much. Some of what you do is difficult but much of it actually isn't. It's not that hard to make a difference. It's easier to sit back and feel helpless and make excuses.

Write: make yourself aware of what is happening in your world and blog about it so that others will be aware too. Your senators and congresspeople take your letters seriously. The editor of your local paper doesn't know the concerns of it's community if you remain silent.

Donate: find organizations that alleviate the suffering of people or push for legislation to do this and give what you can.

Volunteer: Your time is valuable to more people than yourself.

Organize: Going to conferences, joining political groups, and demonstrating with like minded people are all ways to make a difference.

What prompted this post? Both Plain(s)Feminist and BrownFemiPower have been blogging about the New Bedford round up of immigrants. My first thought was, "What difference can I make? I'm only one person with a minor blog!" And ***SMACK*** I hear BlackAmazon in my head saying, "Its helplessness as a feminist standpoint."

Enough. I may not have many readers, but you are here reading this. Between you, and me, and your readers, and their readers, and so on, we can make a difference right here and right now.

On March 6, 2007, there was an immigration raid on Michael Bianco Inc, a leather goods factory in New Bedford, Mass. 361 workers were detained, about half were flown to detention centers in Texas before DSS (Department of Social Services) officials in Mass could interview them about their family situations and whether they had children who would need care. Between 100-200 children were left stranded at school, daycare, or with baby sitters. At least 2 nursing babies had to be hospitalized for dehydration because their mothers could not be found.

Some facts:
State officials repeatedly asked to be involved in the raid to avoid the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded and were refused by ICE (Immmigration & Customs Enforcement). ICE is under the authority of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security). Heckuva job again DHS!

Of the nation’s 23 largest cities, Boston has the fifth “highest proportion of foreign-born residents,” according to “New Bostonians 2005,” a report by the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians. Here in the South End, nearly 23 percent of residents are recent immigrants — meaning that they were born outside of the U.S. Boston immigrants own more than 8000 small businesses and employ about 37,000 people. They generate more than $823 million in state and federal taxes. Some of them are here illegally. Arresting them and deporting them back to Haiti, the Dominican Republic or China — which are the homelands of the city’s three largest immigrant groups — solves nothing. As the New Bedford raid shows, such attempts at deportation have what we can only hope were unintended consequences.

Not only did Michael Bianco Inc have the one government contract that everyone knows about, for $83.6 million to make backpacks and safety vests for the Pentagon's Defense Logistics Agency, they also have a US Army contract for $138 million.

They manufacture high end leather goods for Coach, Timberland, and Rockport.

It is alleged that INSOLIA
(the owner of Michael Bianco Inc.) continues to maintain a workforce of which the majority are illegal aliens. It is further alleged that he intentionally seeks out illegal aliens because they are more desperate to find employment, and are thus more likely to endure severe workplace conditions he has imposed. It is alleged that these conditions include: docking of pay by 15 minutes for every minute an employee is late; fining employees $20 for spending more than 2 minutes in the restroom and firing for a subsequent infraction; providing one roll of toilet paper per restroom stall per day, typically resulting in the absence of toilet paper after only 40 minutes each day; fining employees $20 for leaving work area before break bell sounds; and fining employees $20 for talking while working and firing for a subsequent infraction.

Michael Bianco Inc was making huge amounts of money on it's contracts. The only reason to take advantage of immigrants is GREED. The owner and managers were arrested and within one day are back on the street. You see, they had access to lawyers and cash, unlike the immigrants.

Dear leader was greeted with protests in Guatemala concerning the raid in New Bedford. Many of the immigrants detained are from Guatemala. While there he lied, no surprise since it comes so naturally. Mr. Bush said he disputed "conspiracies" relayed by Mr. Berger [Guatemala's President] that children were taken away from families. Mr. Bush denied such accounts. "No es la verdad," Mr. Bush said, "That's not the way America operates. We're a decent, compassionate country. Those are the kind of things we do not do. We believe in families, and we'll treat people with dignity."

What can we do? From the South End News:

The solution is comprehensive immigration reform that allows those who are living here illegally to work toward legal status. On March 21, a public hearing will be held at the State House for a bill sponsored by South End State Rep. Byron Rushing that would change Massachusetts law to help immigrants obtain state services and legal immigration status. Kennedy is sponsoring a similar law in Congress. You can attend the March 21 hearing to show your support or write the committee in charge of the bill, the Joint Committee on Children and Families, to show your support. Meanwhile, you can contact Kennedy, U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Congressman Michael Capuano to urge them to pass immigration reform as quickly as possible.

If you wish to help those impacted by the March 6 raid on the Michael Bianco plant, you can send a check to the New Bedford Immigrant Families/Ninos Fund. Make the check out to the MIRA Coalition, 105 Chauncy St., Boston, 02111. Donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of the proceeds will be distributed by families impacted by the raid. The MIRA Coalition is also recruiting volunteers who can help drive family members from New Bedford to the JFK Building in Boston to attend legal proceedings. Call 617.350.5480 or visit for more information.

While much of this post has been writing about me and my feelings, I'm not fishing for compliments. I'll be disappointed if anyone says, "Oh poor baby, you're not that bad." because you'll seriously be missing the point. It's about all of us making a difference. If you already have places you are spending your time, effort, and money on. Woo Hoo! If not, or you have this unpleasant feeling, like I do, that you could be doing more I've given you some suggestions where to start. I'd be sooooooo happy if you all link to Plain(s)Feminist and BFP's posts on New Bedford for one thing.

Update: BFP has more! If you're one of those people who are thinking, but gosh, those immigrants are "illegals", they are breaking the laws and deserve what they get. Read her post. Sometimes the laws are immoral. Any law that doesn't recognize that we are all citizens of the world and deserve equal treatment, equal dignity, and equal respect is an immoral law.

12 comment(s):

you know, you just inspired me to do something as well--there are so many people who *don't* know how to organize and do grassroots basebuilding--when I get some time, I think i'm gonna start something on my blog about how to do the actual nitty gritty of organizing.

By Blogger brownfemipower, at 3/16/2007 5:48 PM  

The solution is comprehensive immigration reform that allows those who are living here illegally to work toward legal status.

Well that still strikes me as a half-measure - the very existence of an "illegal" status for humans, that exists pretty much for the sole purpose of pandering to the fragile insecurities of lower class racist voters and enabling the higher class racists to exploit those "illegal" people for their own personal gain, is pretty much a crime against humanity in my books, especially as it also goes hand in hand with forcing immigrant laborers to have to travel the life threatening routes across the mexico - america border.

Fuck that, talk about reforming how those statuses are meted out is a way to paper over the deep issue of the existence of those statuses in the first place. It's a DLC Solution in other words, which is by definition an oxymoron.

By Blogger R. Mildred, at 3/16/2007 8:55 PM  

That's what I mean to do BFP. Inspire people to believe they can do something more. I've been in some pretty intense pain for the last several days, which is why I'm always thinking me me me lately, but I don't need to be on picket lines, which would be impossible for me. There is always others things I could and should be doing.

R.Mildred, the laws are always on the side of the wealthy. They are free to move capital close to anywhere in the world to maximize it. Why can't labor also move it's resources anywhere to maximize it? It's that "illegal" status that makes them go underground and vulnerable. We've been brainwashed so that we see nothing wrong with the picture of capitalists having all the rights with no responsibility, and labor having all the responsibility with no rights. We need worldwide unions to stand up for our rights and the laws to balance the responsibilities.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/16/2007 9:30 PM  

Volunteering is so vital in so many ways. You'd be surprised at the valuable skills you have that orgs NEED - just because you have a 'basic' education, anything after that is a plus. non-profit orgs are usually short-staffed, underfunded and overworked. especially under neo-lib economic policies - these places are usually 'micro-managed' by the govt...

Yeah, go volunteer! I can credit volunteering to "saving" my life, seriously.

By Blogger AradhanaD, at 3/17/2007 1:25 AM  

I really wrestle with this alot too Donna. I'm not here to make excuses, but I think one of the problems with spending alot of time on line is that we learn about so many issues. Then we get feeling overwhelmed and helpless to solve them all. One of the ways I try to handle that is to work hard on the things I'm passionate about. For me, those things fall into two categoris: (1) urban kids and families and (2) women around the world. Most of my time, money and energy goes into doing what I can about those two issues. When it comes to other things, I've been thinking the last few months about the concept of "bearing witness." I read what I could that is on-line about the concept. Don't know yet what it all means, but I think there is something there.

I read a book about this time last year titled "Earth Song" by Susan Haden Elgin. The book is rather fragmented and disjointed, it is science fiction and takes place in a future similar to the one described in "Hand Maids Tale." The main story line is about a group of women who discover that listening to music cures hunger. They know that if they take this information to the public, the powerful will find a way to own and control music and the people will still go hungry. So they keep it a secret and apprentice themselves out as music teachers across the galaxy - knowing that hunger will not end until way past their lifetimes. So, in that context, I think about what being a music teacher means for me.

By Blogger NLinStPaul, at 3/17/2007 10:59 AM  

Thanks for this post Donna. It helps to know that others struggle with this. When the things most needed are thinks I can't give (money, volunteering), it's easy to slide into that pit of helplessness.

But you're right. There's always something one person can do.

By Blogger spotted elephant, at 3/17/2007 9:26 PM  

Donna, I'd like to echo bfp because your list reminded me of something I'd like to do, as I begin to imagine living beyond paycheck to paycheck -- make a list of Giving Places, organizations/collectives that really give and that I would like to give to. Your post reminded me of this. I have a few places in mind but I'd love to compile more, and it occurs to me that you and your well-informed, involved readers might have ideas as well. Keep an eye out at my place in the next couple of days.

So thanks, Donna, for the motivation. I hope you're feeling better.

By Anonymous petitpoussin, at 3/19/2007 1:31 AM  

My levels of direct engagement have varied wildly over time. Not worth beating up on myself.

The more one does, the more one learns & becomes aware of other pressing issues in this funhouse of horrors we all share.

Easy to be overwhelmed, which is why for me it has been important to be able to have some sort of framework to understand how it's all inter-connected - as antidote to "the bright light of ship-wreck".

& to know that sometimes your own actions will indeed inspire another, even if it's just to pick up the phone or write one more letter or check.

US Social Forum is in need of all sorts of help, from $$ to volunteers, in person or in one's local community

By Blogger Arcturus, at 3/19/2007 6:45 PM  

One of the very uncomfortable realizations I have come to is exactly how much I can identify with the Sofia Coppola Feminists and their solopsism.

Being a white woman myself, I understand the anger at white women having been able to get all of the attention but, really, "Sofia Coppola Feminism"? When did she identify herself as a feminist speaking for other women? Why are the films that she makes so much more solipsistic than those of Edward Burns or Noah Baumbach or a hundred other male filmmakers who are praised for making films about their personal experiences?

I guess it's hard for women to pass up an opportunity to tear down another woman for being successful, even in 2007.

By Anonymous Mnemosyne, at 3/21/2007 11:59 AM  

You have to learn to read more carefully, Mnemosyne. BlackAmazon is talking about Sofia Coppola characters, and how they remind her of a certain faction of feminists. So yes, if Edward Burns, or Noah Baumbach, or Ron Howard, or Steven Spielberg makes movies with characters that remind you of a certain faction of feminists, it would make just as much sense to say, "Edward Burns Feminists" etc. BlackAmazon and others on the thread at her place even say that we aren't sure if Coppola is making a statement about these people because she does make sure they are unlikeable and unsympathetic. So Coppola could very well be critiquing that part of our society too.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/25/2007 11:21 AM  

HI!Mnemosyne ,

I;m the author of the piece you've been on two sites, generally ignoring the principle and focus of the discussion to argue my post on a film critique about.

In niether place have you adressed any points, I make , you default to trying to bring in male figures as if the fact that their annoying an solipsistic absolves the filmaker I actually critique.

And you do it to derail help efforts geared towards abused women and kids.

But now your hitting my sorespots.

You're waving you r hand denouncing me as antiwoman while in the same breath showing no commitment to discourse and basically admitting in various places you neither read nor expressed any interest in the peace.

point two : My name is Blackamazon. I wrote it not kai not anyone else so if you would do me the favor of leaving my friends out of it thanks so much

It's 2007 I guess it's hard for an overindulged film student to take her head out of her own ass to be respectful of other's sites ideas an opinions.

You want to talk. Talk to me. Leave them out of it, or is your love of watery self indulged cinema so bad you long ago lost the ability to follow a thru line?

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 3/28/2007 7:28 AM  

there are so many people who *don't* know how to organize and do grassroots basebuilding--when I get some time, I think i'm gonna start something on my blog about how to do the actual nitty gritty of organizing.


BFP, I'd really like to see something like this -- sharing skills for activist organising -- for women of colour. I think it would really make a difference.

By Anonymous Fire Fly, at 4/09/2007 1:58 AM  

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