Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “activism”

Rape is a Crime. So is Silence.

Disclaimer: I am writing about a topic I know nothing about. I am a man. I have never forced myself upon a woman, never been forced, and it is a topic that I feel no one is talking about. I live in the progressive San Francisco Bay Area and I am experiencing a wave of shock at the three incidents I have heard about recently.

This is America…California…San Francisco…and it feels like I am living in a primitive or totalitarian society.

All three incidents (as much as I was told) involved women who reached a point where during the attack they went still, played dead, from fear that they could not stand more physical abuse and pain, or maybe for fear of their lives. They tried to mentally detach, to distance themselves from what was being done to them.

imgres

As far as I understand, this desperate survival act, compromised their ability to have the criminals who did this to them brought to justice. The fact that the physical evidence could have been from just having ‘rough (consensual) sex’ means that they are not believed that they were raped, and are often treated as sluts, liars, or unstable.

The fact that the women I spoke with were apprehensive about reporting the crime to the police is a terrible reflection of our police force. Why are they having to report this to a man, in a uniform, who symbolizes ‘power-over’? Do we not have enough women in the police force that it is standard procedure for a woman police officer to interview the (female) victim?

So this is a man’s world. Maybe, but here is California we are blessed with some amazing women in leadership. Where the fuck is Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and the other strong women leaders I look up to and admire? In my work, and the activism part of my life, I meet such incredibly strong, empowered women. Why the silence? Where are the men in power who have the responsibility to protect all citizens?

When I first came to California, a gay friend was explaining the fight to crush DOMA here. He said something like: It has to start here. California is a start-up nation, not only in hi-tech, but in social policy. If it can be done anywhere, California must lead the way to change.

imgres-2

That a person must walk around for the rest of his/her life with this crime eating away inside, constantly in a  state of hyper-vigilance, being a painful reminder every time someone close tries to be intimate with them, is a life sentence.

Bringing the rapist to justice will never erase what they did to the victim, but it might go some way to closure. At least there is not that haunting feeling that the assailant is still walking free.

If we are to suggest that America has any claim to moral and social leadership, if we are to preach freedom to the world, then we must eradicate this criminal act and the damaging silence that surrounds it.  

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, Ashbar – Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

The IRS “Scandal” – Tom Rossi

Bigger than the planet Jupiter! Heavier than the Sun! More important than World War II, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and Justin Bieber’s monkey problems, combined!

The “IRS scandal” is more in need of a cure than cancer. The Republicans and Tea Party types are pulling out their hair, running around in circles as if their hair were on fire, and screaming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Oh, how I’m enjoying the irony after years of hearing that environmentalists were “alarmists.”

beck_lederhosen_answer_2_xlarge

Not that this isn’t a serious issue, potentially. It would be pretty scary if the IRS could be used as a political tool. Just think of what that will mean the next time the pendulum swings back the Republican way. And, by the way, the same thing DID happen, in “reverse,” (and much worse) under the Bush administration. You can read all about it here.

But the key people at the IRS, at the time of the scandal, were either non-political appointments, or were appointed by President George W. Bush. For one thing, that tells me that they would be quite willing to tell us if they had been under pressure from President Obama to act in a certain way. But they aren’t saying that.

So then, one of two explanations must apply…

The first possibility is that these people at the IRS where doing their job. Who is more likely to cheat on their taxes than professed tax-haters? That’s one of the stated purposes of the Tea Party – activism against taxation. In addition, a tax-exempt entity must follow certain rules, among which being that any political activities undertaken must be in somewhat clear support of the group’s mission statement and, “We Hate Obama” is not an acceptable mission statement (nor is “We Hate Bush,” for that matter).

The second possibility is that this was the realization of a conspiracy against President Obama. The Republicans have been searching, waiting, and hoping for a “Monica Lewinsky” scandal that they could use to disable Obama’s presidency. People like Karl Rove don’t wait well. As one vulture said to the other, “Patience my ass. I’m going to kill something.”

smallMain_30_595

I actually think that the first possibility is more likely. The people who work for the IRS are very serious, boring, accounting-types. And the newer employees were essentially being tested on their ability to weed out those non-profit applicants that were pushing the rules a little too hard.

Some might raise a red flag, reminding us that big corporations and the super-wealthy get away with murder on their tax returns. This is true. But big corporations and the super-wealthy are powerful entities in this country. Powerful enough, in fact, that they don’t simply have to follow the law, they make laws. When they claim that they didn’t break any laws on their tax returns, they are mostly telling the truth. The corruption happened much further up the line. They have legalized their own tax cheating.

So, we have another hoax. And by “another,” I’m not referring to global warming which is, most unfortunately, real. I’m talking about things that supposedly prove a president is unfit to govern – things like the Lewinsky fiasco. This mainly happens because half of President Obama’s policies, like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (now known universally as Obamacare) are actually what most of the people want, while the policies that aggravate the left, like continuing the permanent war doctrine, are things the Republicans want. So there’s nothing real that they can complain about and get any traction.

tumblr_mh5k2jX94K1r1ct6ao1_400

So it goes. We are evidently incapable of having real discussions, in politics or in the media, about real issues. So we scream about haircuts and drinks of water and birth certificates, instead. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to seek some more intelligent entertainment. I think “Teletubbies” might be on the cartoon channel.

teletubbies_main

-Tom Rossi

___________________________________________________________________________

Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

___________________________________________________________________________

Hope Springs From The Youth

Last week I attended a meeting held by One Voice, a group made up of Palestinians and Israelis who are demanding an end to the violence and a sustainable, peaceful solution. One Voice is different from most dialogue groups in as much as they do not focus on dialogue with the other side, but with their own constituents.


“One Voice is an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward a two-state solution.”

One Voice began on the university campuses and is still primarily propelled by students. What amazes me and gives me so much hope is that there are many individuals involved whose lives have been impacted by violence and yet have chosen a path of peace.


The following video is a great 5-minute introduction to the movement. To steal one of One Voice’s sayings: Do you have 5 minutes to help end the conflict?

Today, more than ever, there is hope that the conflict will end. It is a hope based upon the millennial generation standing up and saying enough is enough. As one eloquent Palestinian, Bashar Shwaiki, told me: We are simply not willing to suffer the way our parents did. It is time to create a new narrative.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

 

Movies That Matter – Invictus

One of my defining episodes as a teenager exploring social activism was the anti-apartheid movement. I attended my first demonstration with them, asked people to sign petitions, and had a Free Nelson Mandela sticker on my pencil case. When people were asked to play their favorite song at the local youth center, I offered up Biko by Peter Gabriel.

I always get excited for the soccer World Cup. This year was different. It was not just for the once-every-four-years’ festival of my favorite sport, but the recognition of how far South Africa has come. In a world of hate, corruption, violence and extremism, South Africa is a beacon of what can be achieved.

The overthrow of a brutal, racist system did not spiral into the bloodshed and vengeance that so many feared. The brave and difficult decision to heal memories and move on are a tribute not only to Nelson Mandela, but to every South African who committed themselves to this part.

Invictus was a landmark movie. It is a fictionalized the true story of South Africa hosting the rugby World Cup, as they exited the dark ages of apartheid. In the year leading up to the tournament, the team comes together to be an example of unity that trickles down through society. In an interesting parallel, Mandela needs to deal with integrating his personal security detail with the South African police detail.

I am not usually much of an actor/actress observer, but both Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon are awesome in their roles. I was skeptical that anyone could possibly ‘play’ a man who is truly a living icon, a larger-than-life inspiration for me. But Morgan Freeman is terrific.

It might be a sign of age, but there is something urgent in wanting to share a historical period of time that you lived through and ensure that generations to come will never forget it. I feel this sense of urgency when I talk with Holocaust survivors.

Invictus helps to fill this role. I will buy the DVD, and will sit my sons down to watch it. They will enjoy the movie, as it is a great movie. And then I will share my own story with them, and try to pass on my memory to the next generation.

——————————————————————————————————-
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

Post Navigation

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: