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 “racism”

esaeleR sserP adirolF – issoR moT

From Satirificated Press Wire:

.drawrof gnivom si etats taerg siht taht desaelp si tnemnrevog adirolF ruoY

.etsaw ot enog ,gnol os rof ,evah secruoser niatrec taht dezingocer evah eW

.secruoser eseht ezilitu ot redro ni seicilop gnitnemelpmi era ew ,yhw si tahT

.sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS rof sesnecil gnitnuh gniussi nigeb noos lliw adirolF

“.elpoep kcalb” sa ot derrefer ylremrof erew sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS

.tsep a deredisnoc gnol seiceps a fo gnitsevrah eht wolla lliw sihT

.4102 ni detnemelpmi eb lliw ,yrevals sa nwonk ,margorp wen a ,noitidda nI

.ytilitu dessecca-nu ylremrof fo erutpac eht rof wolla lliw siht ,niagA

backward horseimages

.snoisiced truoc suoirav yb elbissop edam erew segnahc esehT

.gnitov no noisiced truoC emerpuS eht saw eseht fo tnatropmi tsoM

backwardsledimages

.snoitcele ni etov sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS tel ot deriuqer regnol on si adirolF

.srezilitu laitnetop sserppo regnol on nac sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS ,eroferehT

.elbissop stimrep gnitnuh edam snaidirolF sikamibab sunamuhimeS xis ,oslA

.ssecorp eht detidepxe tsael ta yeht ,rO

backwardsFlorida_in_United_States.svg

.snur selttikS egavas fo raef ni evil ot decrof eb regnol on lliw snaidirolF

.sgniht rehto gnomA

.erehwyreve snaidirolF rof modeerf drawot pets taerg a si sihT

-Tom Rossi

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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.

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Interview with a Blogger – Kymberlie Ingalls

Roger Ingalls has been authoring on this blog for just over a year now, and through his posts, you’ve learned his philosophies and hopes for the world.  But who is the man behind the words?  Here, in this exclusive interview, we learn more about the wizard behind the curtain.

I asked Roger what the most important advice is that he’s ever received.  “When in doubt, fake it. This advice came from Mr. Davis, a high school teacher and it got me through many a tough circumstance. As a leader, you’re expected to be the guiding hand in most, if not all, situations but the problem is nobody knows everything. So you have to fake it to instill confidence in your team. In reality, very few people will challenge you because they’re either scared or lack confidence themselves. However, faking it should be used as a last resort tool and not as a primary game plan.

Roger agreed that books are a most important influence on us as a society.  “I can’t choose just one because they’ve both taught me so much.”  He responded when asked to name his favorite.  “The first book was written 2500 years ago by Sun Tzu called the Art of War. The second book is titled Competitive Advantage by Michael Porter. Both books teach strategy and tactics with one being from the perspective of war and the other from business. They’re both great reads for people wanting to develop competitive thinking skills.”

Having survived decades in the competitive hi-tech industry of Silicon Valley, then transitioning in to blue-collar ownership, how has he survived this downtrodden market and economy?  “Adaptability or willingness to change. If we don’t. we become obsolete. The sure way to gain advantage over a foe or competitor is to change because they will always be one step behind.”

Everybody has a hero, and Roger is no exception.  “Muhammad Ali.”  He goes on to explain: “He was strategically the greatest fighter of all time. He studied his opponents and adjusted his boxing tactics accordingly.  He overcame racism and fought the U.S. government when his beliefs were attacked. He became a great humanitarian and is the most recognized person in the world.”

Roger has touched on religion often in his writings.  I asked him what he considered to be the good, the bad, and the ugly.  “Religion is good for discipline. But it also teaches inflexibility and squelches thinking outside the ‘good book.’. In western cultures, those who routinely practice the three original monotheisms (Judaism, Catholicism and Islam) are the hardest and the most devoted workers. Religions that promote discipline through routine are synonymous with a good work ethic. The down side of this is a lack of understanding of different cultures and religions.”  He paused, seeming to reflect upon his own past.  “Sometimes straying from one’s path is the best plan.”

To sum things up, I asked Roger to give us the world in a nutshell.  “We are a naïve society. Immersed in greed and the belief that Earth has an endless supply of resources to fuel an economic system based on perpetual growth. In the back of our minds we know this is not possible but few of us are willing to step up and say so. It’s a tough situation because the whole world now follows this economic agenda.”

“Only the inevitable collapse will force a change.”

Can Fantasy Be A Vehicle For Social Change?

I believe passionately that writers of fiction can ply their craft to help effect positive social change and offer a platform for values and principles. The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale both reflect this and I have a series of books focusing on social issues in the US (all based in San Francisco) beginning with Unwanted Heroes which will be released by Three Clover Press later this year and highlight the way we treat war veterans and the homeless.

I was delighted when Kaitlyn Cole from Online Universities shared a list that their faculty had put together entitled: 50 Best Novels For Political Junkies.

Kaitlyn wrote: “True story: Some of the best political novels aren’t explicitly about politics. Yes, some of the books on this list deal directly with governments and politicians, with laws and the ways they’re made or abused, and with the peril and promise inherent in every governing body. But some of them use adventure, parable, or satire to subtly explore our political system with a depth that wouldn’t be possible any other way.”

Great point and relevant to those of us who write political fiction. But how about fantasy? Is there room to use our elves and dwarves to promote social injustices or causes? 

Over the last three summers I was blessed with the amazing experience of writing three fantasy novels together with now 13-year-old son. While I have read a few fantasy novels, I had no idea about the “rules” of the genre.

Writing with my son, however, compelled me to include moral issues such as racism, dictatorship and freedom, as well as the values of friendship and inclusiveness. I was writing for my son and there are plenty of swords, quests, elves, dwarves etc., but as I watched him read and listened to his feedback, I waited for his comments about such issues and derived huge satisfaction when he brought up issues.

In setting my goals for an exercise at Author Salon, I wrote:

“I have seen the impact of the Harry Potter series and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series on my son and his friends. I want to help shape the landscape of the next generation’s imagination and maybe even the society they strive to create.”

 My lack of knowledge regarding fantasy leads me to ask the question: Can fantasy offer a vehicle to discuss political and social injustice? I would love to hear your answers.

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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 http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

“Stand Your Ground” Justifies Trayvon Martin’s Actions, Not George Zimmerman’s – Tom Rossi

The Trayvon Martin “controversy” is at conflagration level this week. In case you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll give you the quick version of what was already a short story.

Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, was returning to the house of his father’s girlfriend in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. He was carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of the candy, “skittles.” George Zimmerman, a (some say “self-appointed”) neighborhood watchman followed him, called the police and got into a scuffle with Martin and ended up shooting him.

In the aftermath, Zimmerman (who was not dressed in any sort of security uniform) claimed to have been defending himself and therefore was not arrested by the police.

Zimmerman followed Martin. Then and only then, some kind of confrontation occurred. The only reasonable way that Florida’s “stand your ground” law could be applied in this situation would be to say that Trayvon Martin was in fear for his life – as he was the one being followed. That would have given Martin the right to use deadly force to defend himself.

But Martin didn’t have a gun, so he defended himself with his fists, it appears. Then Zimmerman shot him. Zimmerman single-handedly decided that Martin was a criminal. And as a self-styled vigilante he chased Martin, confronted him, and killed him.

This seems the most simple case to me. There’s really not much more to say. However, just as in the killing of Oscar Grant, race has become the center issue. Let’s hope that, this time, the cries of racism (though they may well be accurate) don’t drown out the simple circumstances that make it clear that this was an unjustified killing.

Is racism a factor in this case? It’s all over it. Zimmerman singled Martin out because he was black. The police immediately asked on the phone if he was black. And the police appear to have accepted “self-defense” without any question because Martin was black, even though they had clear knowledge that Zimmerman was following him, possibly even running after him.

George Zimmerman is guilty of murder and, in my opinion, it was clearly a hate crime. Nonetheless, it’s the Sanford police department that should be charged with racism. After yet another incident like this, it’s no wonder so many people of color have no faith in the rule of law in this country.

-Tom Rossi

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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.

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The American Left Part 2 – So What’s Important and What To Do?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a critique of the American Left. I think these criticisms are valid and I stand by them completely. However, my own negativity has sunk into my brain and made me realize that I have only said half of what needs to be said – and maybe the less important half.

Here’s the other half…. or at least a decent start.

I was not specific about what I meant by “teammates” and our failure to accept them – and the consequences. I also complained that we have no coach, and yet I offered hardly a word of direction or encouragement myself. So let me say a little more about why we need to work together, and then I’ll do my best to say how we might start to do it.

Right now, we have many groups striving to be treated like human beings, or like human beings of equal stature to the almost mythical “great white male”. Of course this really refers to a very special class of white male – a class to which I do not belong.

Some of these groups represent different races, religions, or even ages, body-types, or sexual preference/status/identity. And let’s not forget the other class that is being thrown under the bus these days – workers. Some workers are members of unions, others are not. All are being downgraded in our economy. The worth of the American worker is at its lowest point in decades. Teachers and police officers (among others) are being “asked” (forced) to make sacrifices in order to avoid raising taxes on the rich by 3% or taxing corporations at all.

Each of these groups fights for recognition as “real” Americans and “real” human beings – and rightly so. But their fragmented, uncoordinated attacks on the status quo have made moderate gains on a time-scale measured in decades. This is because of a simple and obvious fact: when group A fights for group A, and group B fights for group B, each group is small and almost powerless. They have even been played against each other at times.

Aren’t all of these groups really fighting for the same thing? Don’t we ALL want to be treated like human beings and not animals nor robots? Don’t we all want fairness? Don’t we all want to live in peace, without fear of prejudice? Don’t we all want not to be stepped on by the police, nor by corporations, nor by our government? Don’t we all have a reasonable expectation that we should be able to provide food and shelter for our families? Don’t we all want the security that comes from our own hard work? Don’t we all want some assurance that our children and our grandchildren will live in a decent world with drinkable water and breathable air?

Then let’s work together!

Let’s get started. Today, I want every one of you to go out of your way to shake hands with someone different from you, but who might be a potential teammate in the battle against the status quo. Smile. Ask a question about his or her job, family, opinion on catsup vs. mustard, the weather, whatever! These people are your teammates. None of them is perfect and none of them is exactly like you, nor do they have exactly the same goals or abilities. Great! We NEED lots of different kinds of people.

Next, we need to break free from the superficial games that our elections have become. We can no longer vote for or against someone because of the way he or she looks, because he or she smoked a joint a couple of times, nor even because he or she cheated on his or her spouse. These things are irrelevant. And we can’t be scared off by the anti-tax boo-birds. Nobody is talking about raising taxes on the middle class… NOBODY! We cannot be scared back into the status quo! We need to send a shockwave through our election system… We are here, and we won’t be screwed anymore!

I’m not nearly qualified to serve as this team’s coach. But maybe this team will have thousands of assistant coaches, and I’ll volunteer for one of those jobs. We all just need to keep it in our minds that, together, we can improve the situation of each and every one of the aforementioned groups – and each group will do BETTER FOR ITSELF as part of a larger team than it ever would on its own.

The mixed bucket of crises that we have all faced and are facing has bred a fair amount of fighting and blaming within our team. The opponent is not within. Let’s focus our efforts. Together, with some reasonable changes, we can have comfortable, secure lives in a sustainable world. It’s easy to see how a unifying set of principles could incorporate the goals of groups concerned with the issues of race and gender and such. It might prove more difficult to create a unified philosophy and calls-for-action which combine these types of issues with the imperative of managing our planet and its resources sustainably, but the potential is there and it must be done.

As it now stands, the resources of our country and of the world are being stolen from all of us and used up at a phenomenal rate in order to enrich those who are already very, very wealthy. The fight for the rights of minorities, or women, or whoever will be meaningless if most of us are living (and dying) in extreme poverty in the middle of a colossal toxic waste dump.

The process of taking our resources (unless we can slow it down) will further oppress those who are already oppressed. We’ve seen, recently, how crises are used to justify increased oppression of the lower and middle classes. We must re-prioritize PEOPLE OVER PROFITS. We must reject the lie that profits benefit everyone. It may have once been true in this country, but no longer.

If we can advance this simple set of principles, we will all benefit.

That black man, that white woman, that Chicano, or that Vietnamese woman standing behind you at the grocery store is probably your teammate. That “hippie,” that nerdy-looking scientist, or that artist sitting near you on the train might have some ideas you would be interested in – or might be interested in some of yours. Meet these people. Start talking. Start a movement.

-Tom Rossi

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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.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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The Left – Cohesion or Division?

Some recent controversy around my posts on feminism and flag day have served to re-focus my mind by reminding me of an important mission that remains not only unfinished, but largely untouched.

This mission is untouched because it is dangerous. Why is it dangerous? Because it involves the risk, the heavy risk, of turning one’s own “teammates” against him (or her). The team I’m talking about is known as: The American Left.

Why does the Left have so little power in the United States, when the Left (in its many forms) is so strong in other, “advanced” countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Italy, Japan, and even (despite what we’ve been told by the media lately) Germany? Well, many have commented on the fact that the American left is splintered, un-cohesive, and disorganized. But I think it’s much worse than that… I think we are self-destructive – we undermine our own interests and our own “team.”

Few of us on the left are “team players”; not only does this team have no coach, but there’s no way it will ever accept a coach. In fact, all too often we do not accept each other as teammates. We want to play on a team made up of clones. You want the left to look just like you; I want it to look just like me; some guy standing on the corner at Haight and Ashbury wants it to look just like him, and so on.

Some people (men and women) think feminism is the most important thing and everyone should agree. Some think that it’s the environment. Some think it’s racism. Some think it’s nuclear (not nucular!) weapons, and so on and so on. Each of these (and many I didn’t mention) are very important. But none of them is, by itself, so important that the others should take a back seat or just “realize” that my issue is more important and more urgent than yours.

It’s true that I see an order of importance to some issues. The examples are not important here. What is important and urgent is that we play like a team. Let me tell you about another team – a team that had a coach, but still faced similar problems…

Herb Brooks was the coach of the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team. Before the competitions began, he faced many difficulties with the team, many off the ice – politics, divisiveness, questioning the mission and the methods, etc. He later said that he united his team – against him. He punished them with brutal physical drills. He toyed with their heads. He picked on popular players, even humiliating them at times in front of their teammates.

Why would a coach do such crazy things? Because that was all that was left. His team would never have believed in themselves enough to challenge Romania, much less the Soviet Union. And if they didn’t believe in themselves, they wouldn’t work together as a coherent team. Without team unity, they would not have accomplished anything. To be certain, making your team hate you is a technique that is only appropriate under the rarest of circumstances. Those circumstances may not apply to the American Left, but the lesson does.

As does another innovation that Brooks made: he hybridized two distinct styles, combining the best elements of the North American (at the time still pretty much completely Canadian) style hockey with the best of European style. He called it “American Hockey” and it was brilliant.

Before you get bored with my hockey stories, I’ll get to the point. This is exactly what liberalism, as a social/political movement, needs to do: combine our strengths and leave out our weaknesses. But just as importantly, we need to stop shunning those with the guts to challenge our assumptions and our dogmas (dogmae?). Herb Brooks turned the anger and resentment he deliberately generated into the seemingly impossible – a U.S. Gold medal in ice hockey and a defeat of the “unbeatable” Russians.

His crazy techniques built and focused the energy of his players. They united by fitting the pieces of the puzzle (players’ different talents and abilities) together and they showed the Russians something they hadn’t seen in years – a team with not only the skill, but the will to defeat them. They did this by making their differences into strengths.

Liberals also face an “unbeatable” opponent: the American corporatocracy.

We need a shift in our (the Left’s) internal criticism. Instead of picking each-other apart because of mismatches in our styles of liberalism, we should analyze our positions, our philosophies, and our principles for coherence and consistency. We should debate and play “devil’s advocate” in order to ferret out weaknesses in our ideas.

Our tendency to see problems is a good thing; that’s how we are so sure that our government and maybe our culture need improvement. But we turn that same microscope on our cohorts and colleagues – and often in ways that are far from constructive. We crush criticisms of our sacred cows – both from outside and from within. Some of us seem to wake up in the morning, go out and actively search for the day’s first sign of sexism, racism, or whatever “ism” we’ve chosen. With this mindset, it doesn’t take long. And if that first example comes from one of “us”, then we turn our fierce ire on that person. Reveling in our own superiority and purity.

In this process we often engage in intellectual cowardice by refusing to even discuss our positions, our snotty attitudes making it clear that our righteousness is so obvious that the other person must be an inferior idiot not to see – no, not to SHARE – our point of view. This is where cowardice turns to tyranny as we actively suppress the words of others who we deem as imperfect liberals.

This internally divisive practice does not help any of us to achieve our goals. Through these actions we become THEM – the haters of those with different thoughts, principles, or ways of living. I do not accept this as my creed. Although I may get snotty, defensive, offensive, and critical myself at times, I vow to work with my teammates to create a better world for all of us.

-Tom Rossi

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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.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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Go Giants – SF Pride

Now I know that those of you who have supported the Giants through thick and thin regard people like me with disdain and I actually respect that. Here I am, a relatively new transplant, fresh off the boat, and the first time I attempt to absorb myself in the true essence of American culture, the Giants win the World (excuse me – US) Championship, and there I am strutting around the city with my Giants T-shirts and scarf.

What a Moment!

Truth is, my wife (also very community conscious) and I were enthralled by the Giants during the season as we saw that what was pushing this team on (apart from considerable talent) was an amazing team spirit, an all-for-one-and-one-for-all attitude, and a handy propensity to ignore the stats and the commentators who read too much into the aforementioned stats.

Having already celebrated winning the championship six months ago, why bring it up now? I believe that a team should reflect its town and its supporters. San Francisco is a unique city, excuse me – City – and so are our Giants.

I am proud that the SF Giants have decided to be the first professional sports team to endorse the “It Gets Better” campaign, which began as a response to a spate of bullying young homosexuals culminating in a tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers back in September.

The Giants made their decision after receiving a petition signed by over 6,000 Giants fans and will produce a video to support the campaign. The sports world remains a macho and often homophobic and racist environment. One of my favorite soccer players, Thierry Henry (a black man), endured monkey sounds being made by a small segment of opposing fans when my team played in European games. Recently, even one of the all-time best NBA players was caught making an anti-gay comment.

I am proud that the Giants have made a stand. You win in sports by never compromising on your commitment to win, by never giving  an inch. This is the only way to deal with racism and homophobia and who better to lead us than those who understand what it takes to win.

Today is Harvey Milk Day, a commemoration of the life of Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California and who was assassinated for being gay. It is a fitting day to come together as one City, one baseball team, one community.

Harvey Milk sitting on the SF Board of Supervisors

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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).

Ganja Grannies Get the Pokey

Say it isn’t so grandma! Did you get thrown in the pokey for growing marijuana?

Last Friday, two senior grandmothers—one 72 years old and the other 65—were busted for growing cannabis in their home. With bail set at $100,000, they are still behind bars. Are women of this age going to jump bail and high-tail it across the border? I don’t think so. Set bail at a reasonable level and let these ladies go home.

At what point do we just make this stuff legal again? Twenty-six million Americans smoke marijuana frequently and a whopping 100 million Americans admit to smoking pot at some point in their life—that’s one third of the US population. More people use cannabis on a regular basis than drink green tea.

Cannabis has been part of humanity as far back as man has been documenting history. How long has it been used, 10,000 years, 50,000 years? No one really knows but man and cannabis have probably evolved together for quite some time.

Why, after thousands of years of use, was cannabis made illegal 80 years ago? Two reasons: Big Business and racism. Dupont introduced synthetic material which had to compete with the sturdy hemp fabrics. To eliminate his competition, Mr. Dupont pushed his political friends in Washington to make the cannabis plant illegal. In addition, Hearst Paper Manufacturing produced paper goods based on timber that came from Hearst’s vast land holdings—Hearst wanted to eliminate paper made from hemp. Hearst Publishing used their media to promote horror stories about marijuana, “The Crazy Mexican Weed”. During the Great Depression, Mexicans were racially targeted for taking jobs from whites and the marijuana law was a key tool for deportation. Corporate greed and racism were the driving forces behind criminalization.

Isn’t it time to stop criminalizing benign human behavior? Clearly, a significant portion of the population does not believe that the use of cannabis is a crime. Adults of all ages smoke pot and now we even have grandmothers grow it. It’s safer than alcohol, safer than cigarettes and has medicinal value; what else does this plant need to do…back flips?

It’s time to stop the madness. Do we really need a multi-billion dollar prison industry to lock-up people for doing something that’s been legal for eons? Let people be people.

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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