Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rachel Corrie

Last week (March 16th) was the 7th anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie, a 23 year-old peace activist crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while she was protecting a Palestinian home from demolition. The Caterpillar bulldozer just ran over her; no action has ever been taken to compensate the girl's parents or to condemn her cold-blooded murder.

I met relatives of Rachel at one of the many peace marches I attended a few years ago, either in DC or Boston. They spoke about Rachel's work, about the family's unsuccessful attempts to get vindication...

On the anniversary of her death, this year, there was a street-naming ceremony in a West Bank street in Ramallah. Although I am sure she always believed, in her heart, that the bulldozer would stop, she made that final sacrifice for her beliefs. And her family had sued Israel and was attending a trial that same week... but in the meantime, her killers have gone free, and even though she was a citizen of the United States, entitled to all the protections under the law, we remain silent.

Today I found an interview she gave two days before her murder:

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule
“That which is hateful to you do not do to another ... the rest (of the Torah) is all commentary, now go study.”

- Rabbi Hillel

If you want to revisit the demolition of whole cities by the Führer, just watch the Israelis tear down homes in the occupied territories. Watch people killed, wounded, jailed for marching for peace. Watch wholesale terror by the State of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a recent AIPAC conference waxed eloquent about Jerusalem, and about the building that was going on there 3000 years ago. If this is acceptable reasoning, then we need to give back all the land we took over from the native inhabitants, both in the US and throughout the world. We need to give back California, Nevada, Florida, Arizona, etc. etc. ad infinitum and most certainly ad nauseam, to the Mexicans, and give back Guantánamo to the Cubans.

In the meantime, we make harsh noises and then take them back, looking like nothing better than cheap whores before the master pimp. How dare the US and the EU stand behind the continuing outrages going on in the occupied territory? (But then again, we are occupying territories all over the planet, Iraq and Afghanistan being the latest on the list...)

The UN Human Rights Council passed 3 resolutions condemning Israel, but of course, they were opposed by the US and the EU. Oh, for an end to pusillanimous hypocrisy.

Back at the ranch, the right wing basket-case gun-toting crew is threatening anyone that does not agree with their view of the world... One 'gentleman' is urging folks to break windows, to throw bricks through them, and further urging his listeners to clean their rifles... So people who voted for health care reform have been threatened, their families have been threatened, but no one is picking these guys up and putting them away...

O brave new world that has such people in it...

The US and Israel, rogue terrorist states... Go pack that in your peace pipe and smoke it.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, ethical and social justice issues, etc., which constitutes a ‘fair use’ under Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Resigning from the human race

To say that I was sickened as I heard this report today (this is a former priest, who uncovered deliberate and well-hidden genocide, particularly of young children, as young as 2 years old, on the part of the Canadian government (the Mounties were the enforcers) and the various churches... This was in the late 19th and up to the middle of the 20th century; Christian mission schools 'educated' these children and killed them, exposed them to TB, raped them... hundreds of thousands of innocent young children... There is a documentary that I want to buy; it is going to be difficult to watch... And by the way, besides the fact that these aboriginal inhabitants of the Canadian lands were there to begin with, they were said to be incapable of owning land... they were just 'holding it' from the rightful owners (i.e. the invaders and colonizers). This may still be the law in Canada... Boycott the Olympic games!

Then I was listening to Nora Barrows-Friedman writing from Hebron, occupied West Bank, about Israeli military abducting young boys, beating them until they required treatment for internal bleeding... while holding the parents at gunpoint so they couldn't defend their child...

And earlier, or the night before, a special on torture, where a US high official (can't recall which one... it's all a blur... I was sitting on the couch with tears and rage and a total inability to comprehend...) asked whether it was necessary (as Cheney continues to maintain, unrepentant - which is the position of the Israelis and of the Canadians...) to crush or threaten to crush the testicles of a young boy whose father was being questioned... and I don't know what it is that we are, I can't say what we have become, because obviously we did it, again and again, and continue to do it to this day... I don't know of any animal other than the human animal that does these things...

Oh, I forgot... there is a common element... it's called greed. In Canada, they were trying to clear the land of 'aboriginals' so they could log to their heart's content. In Palestine, idem. And why, pray tell, are we in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of the other places we have invaded in the past, either through our own acts and deeds or those of 'allies' that have no commissions of inquiry to respond to?

To Mr. Obama, to everyone in his administration: It has to be repudiated. With regard to Israel, you can't keep saying that the ties between our country and theirs are unbreakable. They are committing unspeakable genocide. To Canada, own up and pay up. To France, with regard to Haiti, the same. And the list goes on.

Silvia, physically tired from difficult physical training, and emotionally exhausted from 'human' doings... I can't do this anymore. I want to emigrate to Jupiter or to Pluto... I don't want to be a part of this execrable human race...

Monday, March 8, 2010

The endless specter of torture

Link TV had yet another program on torture... Every time a torture exposé comes on I promise myself I won't watch this time, because it sickens me, makes me feel exposed and vulnerable and very very angry at the same time, as though I am somehow lacking because I let this go on, although I have been ranting about it for years and years, and it was the subject of some of my songs when I had gigs, in Crawford, Texas, and in DC and in the Poconos, and nothing came of it, none of my impassioned pleas for impeachment, indictment and imprisonment...

Here in this very bitácora are writings on torture, on the moral imperative of a nation that is governed by the rule of law, but we have decided to omit or disregard the reckoning, as if such horrors could ever be forgotten, never mind that we saw Japanese soldiers put to death for waterboarding during the 2nd World War, but ah, always different rules for the new Empire, even though the Emperor has no clothes...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

El día internacional de la mujer/International Women's Day

El día internacional de la mujer se celebra a través del mundo, si bien poca gente en los Estados Unidos lo conoce o celebra. Conmemoramos, entre otras cosas, la muerte de más de 146 obreras jóvenes en el fatídico fuego de la fábrica Triangle Waist que ocurrió en marzo de 1911. Sin embargo, los datos que nos proporciona la historia indican que esta celebración representa la historia de miles de mujeres (y hombres) en la lucha por mejores condiciones laborales y por el derecho a "pan y paz" o a "pan y rosas." No olvidemos nunca la huelga sexual de Lysistrata en la Grecia de antaño para terminar con una guerra, o a las mujeres de París marchando durante la revolución francesa exigiendo el derecho al voto, gritando a lo largo de su protesta, libertad, igualdad y fraternidad.

El 8 de marzo del 1857, obreras de fábricas textiles y de ropa declararon una protesta y huelga general en la ciudad de Nueva York en contra de salarios bajos y condiciones pésimas de trabajo. Buscaban que se les redujeran las horas de trabajo a 10 horas diarias, que se les pagara la misma cantidad que a los hombres, y que se les permitiera tiempo para amamantar a sus hijos. Fueron atacadas por la policía y obligadas a terminar la marcha, pero dos años después, también en marzo, establecieron su primer sindicato.

Hubo más protestas otros 8 de marzo en otros años. Por ejemplo, en 1908, 15,000 mujeres marcharon a través de la ciudad de Nueva York exigiendo menos horas de trabajo, mejor paga, y el derecho al voto. Ahora bien, el primer Día Internacional de la Mujer se celebró el 28 de febrero de 1908 en los Estados Unidos, luego de una declaración al respecto por parte del Partido Socialista Norteamericano.
En 1910, la primera conferencia internacional de mujeres fue celebrada en Copenhague por la Internacional Socialista, y en esa conferencia se estableció la celebración de un Día Internacional de la Mujer, en reconocimiento al movimiento global por el voto y los derechos de la mujer. A la conferencia asistieron más de 100 delegadas de 17 países, y la propuesta de que se instituyera un día internacional de celebración tuvo aprobación unánime.

En 1911, este día fue celebrado por más de un millón de mujeres y hombres en Austria, Dinamarca, Alemania y Suiza. Las alemanas habían escogido la fecha del 19 de marzo porque en esa fecha en el 1848, el rey pruso les había prometido a las mujeres el derecho al voto.

En marzo del 1911 ocurrió el fuego en la fábrica Triangle Waist. La firma Triangle Waist era típica de las fábricas o talleres explotadores de sus obreros en aquellos tiempos. A los obreros se les tenía encerrados como animales y se les obligaba a trabajar largas horas bajo condiciones peligrosas y poco sanitarias. En el 1909, ya había ocurrido un incidente en esa fábrica que provocó que los 400 trabajadores, en su mayor parte muchachas, se marcharan del trabajo en protesta. La Liga Sindical de Mujeres, una asociación progresista de mujeres blancas de clase media, había ayudado a las jóvenes obreras a formar piquetes y a protegerse de los criminales anti-laborales y de la provocación de la misma policía. En una reunión histórica en Cooper Union, miles de obreras textiles de fábricas a lo largo de la ciudad de Nueva York siguieron el llamado de la joven Clara Lemlich de que había que llevar a cabo una huelga general. Al final de la huelga se llegó a un acuerdo que estableció uno de los primeros sistemas de querellas contra los patronos. Pero muchas de las fábricas y talleres en la ciudad no tenían sindicatos laborales, porque en su mayoría empleaban a inmigrantes.

El sábado 25 de marzo de 1911, empezó un fuego en los pisos superiores del edificio Asch, en la ciudad de Nueva York, donde estaba localizada la fábrica Triangle Waist Factory. En pocos minutos el fuego en la fábrica había sido causa de la muerte de 146 chicas. Las puertas estaban cerradas con candados para que las chicas no pudieran irse antes de la hora de salida. Muchas chicas saltaron del noveno piso, para morir desbaratadas sobre las aceras de la gran ciudad. Esta tragedia cambió para siempre las condiciones laborales en la ciudad de Nueva York. Las chicas tenían entre 15 y 23 años, y eran en su mayoría inmigrantes italianas, alemanas, rusas e irlandesas. El edificio solamente tenía una escalera de incendio. Y no hay duda de que las puertas de salida estaban selladas con candados. Los dueños del edificio, Blanck y Harris, fueron declarados no culpables en un juicio que se les hizo por asesinato. Años después le pagaron $75 por cabeza a 23 de las familias de muchachas muertas que habían puesto una demanda civil.

A partir de este fuego, todas las celebraciones del día internacional de la mujer han incluído una conmemoración de las víctimas del fuego, muertes que realmente no tuvieron razón de ser, y que indican de nuevo que la avaricia conlleva resultados fatales. En 1975, las Naciones Unidas se unió a la causa, y ahora la celebración cuenta con su apoyo. Es de suma importancia este día para recordar todo lo que ha ocurrido, las luchas, las dificultades, los logros y victorias, y para poder determinar todo lo que aún tenemos que hacer antes de que nos podamos considerar como parte de un mundo justo y cuerdo.

El 2005 fue el año de la celebración de Pekín + 10. En el año 1995 en Pekín, las naciones miembros de la Comisión sobre el Estado de la Mujer de las Naciones Unidas se reunieron para crear pautas que permitieran medir el grado de progreso en cuanto al logro de la igualdad sexual. En Pekín +5, en el 2000, se reunieron de nuevo para revisar dichos logros y explorar las estrategias necesarias para acelerar el proceso de igualdad. En 2005 se celebró Pekín + 10 y las mismas naciones se reunieron en la ciudad de Nueva York para continuar la discusión, discutir el progreso y el trabajo que queda por hacer en asuntos como los derechos humanos, la violencia contra las mujeres y niñas, la salud, el trabajo sin paga, la pobreza y la diversidad de la mujer. El gobierno norteamericano, aislado por otros países, acordó finalmente firmar la Plataforma de Pekín y retirar una enmienda que había propuesto con relación al derecho de la mujer a servicios reproductivos. Esta es una victoria para la mujer a través de nuestro malherido planeta.

El Día Internacional de la Mujer es la historia de todas las mujeres en la lucha por una participación equitativa en la sociedad. En estos momentos en que más y más mujeres, tanto en los Estados Unidos como en otros países, viven en un estado cada vez mayor de pobreza, y continúan sufriendo de condiciones laborales de desigualdad, de discriminación sexual, de crímenes de violencia dirigidos específicamente contra la mujer, tenemos que unirnos como un ser indivisible para lograr que todos los habitantes de este planeta, sin importar su sexo, tengan los mismos derechos y tengan voz y voto en todo lo que les concierne.

El místico inglés John Donne dice muy bien que ningún hombre (o mujer) es una isla, sino parte del continente, y que la muerte de cualquier hombre o mujer nos disminuye, porque estamos envueltos con la humanidad, y por lo tanto, nunca preguntemos por quién tañen las campanas: tañen por cada uno de nosotros.
Silvia Antonia Brandon y Pérez
International Women's Day is celebrated throughout the world, and commemorates, among other things, the death of over 146 young female workers in the Triangle Waist Factory Fire of March, 1911. But historical data makes clear that this celebration is very much the story of the work of thousands of women (and men) attempting to obtain better working conditions and the right to "bread and peace," or "bread and roses." Let us never forget the sexual strike instigated by Lysistrata in ancient Grece in order to end war, or Parisian women's march on Versailles to demand women's right to vote during the French Revolution, to the call of liberty, equality and fraternity.

On the 8th of March, 1857, women from clothing and textile factories held a protest and general strike in New York City against low wages and poor working conditions. They sought a reduction of the working day to ten hours, equal pay for work done, and time off to breast feed their young. They were attacked and made to disperse by the police, but two years later, also in March, they established their first labor union.

More protests followed on March 8 in other years, including 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. However, the first IWD was observed on February 28th, 1908 in the US following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America.

In 1910, the first international women's conference was held in Copenhagen by the Socialist International and an International Women's Day established, intended to honor a global movement for women's rights and suffrage. The conference had over 100 women delegates from 17 countries, and the proposal for an international day of delebration was greeted with unanimous approval.

In 1911, IWD was celebrated by over a million women and men in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The date of March 19th was chosen by German participants because the Prussian King had promised the vote to women on that date in 1848.
In March of 1911 the Triangle Waist Factory Fire occurred. The Triangle Waist Company was typical of sweatshops of the day, in which workers were herded together and forced to work long hours under unsanitary and dangerous conditions. In 1909, an incident at the Triangle Factory had caused a walkout of its 400 employees. The Women's Trade Union League, a progressive association of middle class white women, had helped the young women workers picket and fence off thugs and police provocation. At a historic meeting at Cooper Union, thousands of garment workers from all over the city followed young Clara Lemlich's call for a general strike. A historic agreement was reached which established a grievance system. But many sweatshops, employing immigrant workers, were not unionized.

On Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Asch Building, where the Triangle Waist Factory was located, and within minutes the factory, locked by the owners so the women could not leave work, had claimed the lives of 146 girls. Girls jumping out of 9th floor windows to their death and the final carnage changed working conditions in New York forever.
The girls were mostly Italian, German, Russian and Irish immigrants, ages 15 to 23. The building had only one fire escape and there is no question that the doors leading out of the factory had been locked by the owners of the factory, who were later acquitted in a criminal trial for the death of the women.
All subsequent IWD celebrations commemorate the senseless death of these young girls. It was made official by the United Nations in 1975. It is vitally important as a day to remember all that has taken place, the struggles, the victories, as well as to take stock of all that must still take place before we can consider ourselves part of a sane, just world.

2005 marked the celebration of Beijing +10. In 1995 in Beijing, member nations of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women met to come up with guidelines for measuring progress on achieving gender equality. At Beijing +5, in 2000, they met again to review achievements and explore strategies to accelerate action. Beijing +10 in 2005 brought together the same member nations in New York to continue the discussion, to discuss progress and the work yet to be done in areas such as human rights, violence against females, health, unpaid work, poverty and women's diversity. Our government, after being isolated by other member countries, finally agreed to sign the Beijing Platform and to withdraw an amendment it had required concerning women's rights to reproductive health services. This is a victory for women throughout our beleaguered planet.

Thus, International Women's Day is the story of all women in the struggle for equal participation in society. At a time when more and more women, in the United States and other countries, live increasingly in poverty, and continue to suffer from unequal working conditions, from sexual discrimination and crimes of violence specifically directed at women, we must all stand together to bring about equal rights and an equal voice to all inhabitants of this planet, no matter their gender. We could rephrase Donne's meditation to include women: No man is an island, entire of itself; every (wo)man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. (...) Any (wo)man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in (wo)mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.