Friday, September 02, 2005

Let's Call It Genocide

In the wake of Katrina, I am watching another American genocide.

What else can you call it?

Scientists have warned of impending disaster, yet the government only saw fit to cut vital funds that could have reinforced the levees; all monies go to fund military adventuring and corporate gain.

What else can you call it?

A mandatory order to evacuate comes without any support to do so. This isn’t such a problem for many folks—if they need to get out they can get in their cars / SUVs or get a ticket out on a plane and split. But what if you don’t have a car, or an SUV—let alone a plane ticket? What if even if you did have a car, where do you go when you have no money to actually stay anywhere once you get away? In this scenario, who’s left?

What else can you call it?

No massive coordinated relief effort from the government for days and days—no food, no water, no sanitation, no way out. I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that the Federal and State Governments are thinking that these folks are expendable. There are more than 15,000 people left in New Orleans alone, without food or water for Christ’s sake—not to mention the thousands of people left in small towns and rural areas in Mississippi and Louisiana. And without potable water and food they will die. And the governor of Louisiana & president of the u.s., agree that there should be “zero tolerance” for looters. There are orders to shoot to kill folks "looting". What's the difference between looting and taking what is necessary to survive? So, just try and steal some water, soda, chips, anything you can get your hands on because your family has had nothing to eat or drink for 5 days and has been living on a rooftop, or bridge span in 90-degree heat and they are dying--those government forces dispatched aren't there to help you, they are there to shoot to kill, protecting the property of stores (who are insured, after all). It is the american way.

I am outraged.

I feel powerless to give real and tangible aid where it is needed most – 2,700 miles away.

I feel that the most I have been able to do is shake my tiny fists and emote— swell, that will help.

I am not a new critic of this political system, and the resulting administrations. And yet, in the past couple of days, I feel like all of the criticisms that I have spouted for many years about the government not being concerned with the welfare of the common people has been underscored, bolded and italicized in a most macabre way. I think that sometimes, I would rather be wrong.

The negligent disregard for human life that has been shown by those in power is nothing less than criminal—indeed, it is genocidal.

So I shake my tiny fists, I pace agitatedly around the building, I cry, I rant and I rage

And then I recommit myself to the struggle to challenge white privilege, to end classism, racism and sexism.

And I scream as loud as I can “NOT IN MY NAME!!!” It is not my will that my taxes are drained into the ever quickening quagmire of Iraq, leaving the u.s. strapped for relief and rescue resources. The u.s. spends over $5,500,000,000 (yes that’s $5.5 Billion) each month in Iraq—where it comes down as bombs and bullets, bringing death to folks that I have never met and hold no quarrel with. It is this same u.s. that allows (forces?) nearly 1/3 of the population of New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi to live in poverty, because a handout to Halliburton is good for the country’s economy, but a handout to desperately poor people somehow or another is thought to erode character.

Is any of this making sense?

What do you call this if you don’t call it negligent homicide of thousands?

What do you call this if you don’t call it genocide?

Bang Head Here!

My little corner of the world looks out on to a thriving community radio station—it’s my day job, it’s a way of life.

One of the coolest things about this little community radio station is that it is volunteer powered. 450 volunteers create the programming and run the business, coordinated by 10 paid staff.

I am one of the few paid staff; I talk with scores of volunteers, members and listeners every day. By and large, this is the best thing in the whole world—who doesn’t love to talk with brilliant and passionate people about current events, music and art? And then there are weeks like this… weeks when some folks seem a bit less brilliant.

Take this evening, for example. I was talking with a friend at a gathering of volunteers at a pub—nice Euro-American woman, very progressive, good organizer, volunteer and active member of this station. She was complaining that a program that she valued aired in the middle of the day, a time that she is usually not able to listen to the radio. She suggested that it move to an evening spot so that she and “working people” would be able to listen it. I ran through my standard explanation of how it was scheduled (at a time that very little locally produced programming had to be displaced), and added that I had received several calls from working people who loved being able to listen to it while they were at work. She replied that she isn’t able to listen to it at work and went on to ask: “Why not put it on at 7 PM?”

7 PM weeknights just so happens to be the time that the station airs programs collectively known as “The Soul Strip”, a concentration of diverse music programs created by and for African Americans. The shows range from R & B, soul, jazz, hip-hop, rap and the occasional gospel song or two. They also, often, include community news, information and commentary.

I quickly said “I don’t think that that is such a good place for it either, it would displace “The Soul Strip”. I guess that I was hoping that hearing this, she would remember what was airing at 7 PM, know how important that strip of programs is, and pursue another course. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. What did happen was my friend told me “Well, yeah, I just turn the radio off then anyways.” She went on to tell me that people would listen to the new program during the evening. I pointed out that in fact, people are listening to the Soul Strip shows, and that people are listening to the new program on in the middle of the day. My friend re-iterated that she always turns the radio off at 7 PM, another volunteer (also Euro-American) overheard this and agreed—he always turns it off at 7 too.

Questioning white privilege is the responsibility of every Euro-American. That I was hearing from two bright, progressive Euro-Americans who are also friends made me want to first, slap my own head, and second, bang their heads together—I wanted to say, “Gee, mighty whitey of ya.” I wanted to say, “Excuse me, but have you heard what came out of your mouth?” I wanted to say, “Can you explain to me why you should judge what is culturally relevant programming for a community to which you don’t belong?” I wanted to say these things and more… but I didn’t.

Instead, I settled for something more like “You need to realize that when you turn your radio off, others turn it on”.

My Euro friends looked a little confused, and I took my opportunity to escape to another corner of the pub and tipped my pint up.