Self-Determination and Self-Defense in Cherán, Michoacán
Published on January 4, 2013 in Michoacán
Photo: Juan Jose Estrada Serafin
On December 11, 2012, the US Justice Department announced that banking giant HSBC was immune from prosecution despite overwhelming evidence that they consistently failed to implement controls against money-laundering. Assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said: “Had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”
The entire banking system would have been destabilized?
The Department of Justice opted rather to charge HSBC a record-breaking 1.9 billion dollar fine, and ordered the bank’s activities monitored for five years. The 1.9 billion is equivalent to five weeks’ worth of HSBC earnings, in other words, a drop in the bucket. The saddest part of the story in the mainstream media, is the focus on money laundered and money fined, as opposed to lives lost and crime legitimized in one of the most grotesque admissions of complicity with organized crime in the so-called war on drugs. Basically what was announced to the world by the US Justice Department was that the money ran too thick, and the criminals were too powerful. The global economic impact of prosecuting a bank where the dirty money has been going, was too dangerous to risk. “Sorry kids, but we guess the bad guys win.”
In Cheran, Michoacan, Mexico the news of HSBC’s immunity from criminal prosecution and US sanctions comes as no surprise. Organized crime has been prevalent in the community since 2000. After a 2008 mayoral race that left a PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) candidate in office, illicit activity increased substantially. The community learned that organized crime is an integral part of local politics and economics everywhere. Cheran is a beautiful small indigenous Purepecha mountain community surrounded by precious forests, that knows the true cost of those profits laundered. Immediately after the 2008 mayoral race the community began experiencing the devastating effects of dog eat dog capitalism of which organized crime is only another part.
The illegal logging industry began to ravage the community’s most precious forests, which have been traditionally respected as a spiritual connection by the Indigenous Purepecha people to their territory. The logging began to look a lot more like pillaging and when community members began to attempt to defend their forests, they were met with a real life nightmare: the loggers were not only aided and protected by government agencies and local police, the entire logging operation was being coordinated by members of a major organized crime syndicate. [To this day I am told by community members not to name the actual syndicate in anything I write or say, or risk an almost certain death.]
The first community members who began to defend their forest were simply and quickly assassinated. From 2008-2011 the situation only became worse. Criminals charged protection to run even a small business in the community of Cheran. The forest was raped and terror reigned as anyone felt at risk. The city would become a ghost town by sunset. This is a reality confronted by too many communities in Mexico every day.
Murders, disappearances, kidnappings, the criminal amounts of illegal logging and the reign of terror came to a head on the early morning of April 15th, 2011. A group of women had begun quietly organizing in the days before an action to bring the ravaging of their town to a halt. On April 15th, with children and youth at their sides, the women rose up and attempted to detain loggers traveling through town. The loggers tried to run the women over and in response the community reacted as a whole, and began burning the loggers’ vehicles and began detaining the loggers themselves.
It is at this point that the community recognized the complicity of the local police when it was police officers who guided organized crime thugs to the place where the loggers were being held, in an attempt to violently release them. The community erected “fogatas” or bonfire barricades throughout town in order to prevent violence against community members. Within days the community decided that it no longer trusted any politicians from any political party or any of the local and state police. They began to organize for self-determination and self-defense and chose to return to their traditional Purepecha forms of self governance.
A general council of community elders was elected and commissions were formed in order to carry out the community’s logistical, social, economic, and political needs. Community members simply say that they referred to their history and referred to their elders in order to return to the way the community was organized before political parties, police, and organized crime existed. The general council is legally recognized as the governing body of Cheran, Michoacan today.
The community has maintained that they only have three demands: safety, justice, and the reforestation of their territory. They have actively been reforesting the entire region and take that aspect of their struggle very seriously, and remind us that for them protecting the forest is both a traditional and a spiritual obligation. Cheran does not believe that anybody will ever be able to bring them justice for their dead, disappeared, and displaced as a result of the conflict, nor do they expect anyone in power to understand the justice they seek for the forest. Today Cheran knows that justice is something that they will have to take care of obtaining on their own from now on. When it comes to safety, the world is able to see what it looks like for a community to take responsibility for its own safety through traditional indigenous forms of self governance and self-defense.
Shortly after the 2011 uprising began, community members state that the local politicians and the police simply exiled themselves in fear from the community, warranting no need to run them out of town. Community members took the local government offices, took police trucks, took the polices’ weapons, and put them all to use. Historically, Cheran had traditionally been “policed” or defended by members from the community. In a voluntary rotation members from each of the four “barrios” or neighborhoods would patrol the community for self-defense in what is known as the “community ronda.” After the uprising the general council made a call out for volunteers to participate in the community “ronda”, or community guard. Community members maintain that police are imposed by the government, but the “ronda” is a traditional way in which community members protect themselves and their community. Today the “ronda” is separated into two parts. The “ronda comunitaria” which is responsible for patrolling and protecting the community from within its borders and the “guardabosques” or forest defenders, which patrol the outskirts of town and deep into the forests in order to protect community members living in those more rural areas and in order to protect the forest itself.
Cheran is not the first community in Mexico to return to their traditional means of community self-defense, nor is it the first place in the state of Michoacan, nor in the indigenous Purepecha region. Other communities have engaged in similar practices of self governance and self-defense, and little by little more and more communities are seeing traditional self governance and self-defense as a viable alternative to corrupt politics and submission to organized crime. Recently council members from Nurio, Michoacan, a larger community and long time practitioner of self governance and self-defense, suggested that the entire Purepecha region should begin to organize a regional “ronda” that could potentially coordinate self-defense patrols on a regional level for the indigenous Purepecha people living throughout the state of Michoacan.
It is hard not to throw your hands up in the air in resignation when you hear about criminals such as HSBC being granted immunity from prosecution and sanctions, but it is even harder not to throw a fist in the air when you see indigenous Purepechas successfully overcoming organized crime, corrupt politicians, and big business by establishing models for self-determination and self-defense, on a community level.
Gender equality reduces violence
July 9, 2012 – 05:00
Gender equality in the family reduces the risk of violence by two-thirds, according to a new European study.
According to a new study, gender equal families experience less violence, fewer divorces and better health. (Photo: Colourbox)
“Gender equality has not been achieved in Norway, and we don’t have a gender equal ‘we’ versus a non-gender equal group of ‘others’,” said Professor Øystein Gullvåg Holter in his opening remarks at the fifth Nordic conference on men and masculinities studies held in Oslo recently.
Gender equality counteracts violence
Holter is referring to new figures from a large international survey that shows a clear correlation between the level of gender equality and the frequency of violence in a family. The study was first conducted in Norway on commission from the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion.
Holter and his colleagues designed a detailed questionnaire with hundreds of questions about gender and gender equality. Among these, the respondents answered questions about the conditions in the homes they grew up in.
The international survey is based partly on the Norwegian study.
“Both of these studies show that when the level of gender equality in the childhood home is high, the level of physical violence is low. This applies to violence against children as well as to violence between partners,” says Holter.
When the researchers presented their findings, the comment they heard time and again was “we already knew that!”
”But no, we didn’t know that before it was investigated. On the contrary, there has been an assumption in international research in particular that a demand for gender equality can increase the level of violence because men feel that they lose their power.”
“And the finding is dramatic: Gender equality in the home reduces the risk of violence against children by almost two-thirds. There is a clear, strong correlation across other variables such as level of education, divorce and bullying. Moreover, the correlation is just as strong among the young respondents as among the older ones,” the professor emphasizes.
Unknown for violence researchers
The study also shows that it appears violence mainly follows power – that is, the person in the family who makes the decisions is also the one who perpetrates the violence. In other words, it appears that violence is usually not caused because a person feels that he or she is not being heard.
“This means that if it is the mother who takes decisions in the home, it is the mother who is the main perpetrator of violence. This is why we need more knowledge about both male power and female power,” says Holter.
Øystein Gullvåg Holter is a professor at the Centre for Gender Research at the University of Oslo.
The study shows that being the victim of, or being a witness to, violence in the childhood home causes long-term negative effects with regard to a person’s health and to violence in a person’s current intimate relationship.
“Nonetheless, violence researchers know very little about the correlation between violence and gender equality, and there is a lack of research about this correlation except for our questionnaire,” Holter points out.
Things work better in gender equal families
“There is a widespread belief that gender equality involves attitudes, but gender equality also has to do with practice. If you ask people about gender equality, many would answer yes, they want to have it. If you ask more concretely and pointedly, you get a clearer picture of how people live.”
The study shows that many people feel more positive towards gender equality in the family and private life when it is a personal choice than to government policies on gender equality, such as quotas in the boardroom and parental leaves.
“We think it has to do with experience. Things work better when we are gender equal. Our figures show that respondents who were not very satisfied with gender equality in the home considered ending their relationship much more often. Surprisingly, this applies to both men and women.”
Men who feel “enough is enough” are also represented in the survey.
“It’s usually the same men who believe that there is ‘enough gender equality’, that there is ‘enough immigration’, and that the government is too involved in people’s lives. These three attitudes are closely linked. We have looked more closely at the men who feel like this. We didn’t find that they had any especially strong patriarchal profile, but we clearly saw that these men come from environments with a low level of education,” says the researcher.
Male power and female power
“I think we need to move away from the male-centred perspective that has pervaded masculinities research. There has been a belief that masculinity determines the degree of gender equality. We don’t know whether this is the case, and we should be careful about making that assumption.”
“We also need a critical spotlight on women’s power and women’s contribution, in addition to the studies of men’s power. I think this will lead to better theory and method development, and the field can then better participate in other broad discussions about democracy and welfare. And we need a more critical spotlight on gender equality as an ideology,” Holter concludes.
Reposting this content for justincase. Go read:
Posted on December 9, 2012
FASCINATING ARTICLE DEBUNKING MYTH THAT SINGLE MOMS CANNOT RAISE CHILDREN SUCCESSFULLY WITHOUT A FATHER-
I have recently come across a brilliant article written by Shelbi York- a student and activist. I am so happy someone has finally come out with research showing that a mom can in fact raise children without a man in the house. For years- every time a young adult gets into trouble of any kind- single moms are blamed-
“The broken home” theory has always annoyed me. Fathers do not determine if a kid will turn out good, or troubled. It is true that a child benefits financially from a second income in a home- but the actual relationship with a father does not contribute to how a child turns out.
Below is the article written by Shelbi– and I think it is a brilliant- truthful- research article. Thank you Shelbi– for shedding light on the truth that nobody will admit- Please read the below article and feel free to post comments on the comments thread-
Impact of Father Figures on Boy’s Future
Eastern Kentucky University
SOC 313 – Social Deviance
October 26, 2012
Determining whether or not father figures have an influence on a boy’s future is a question that is crucial in understanding the roots of juvenile delinquency. In a society where we always look for reasons and labels for others and their behaviors, the blame is often placed on the father and the role that he played in the child’s life. Determining the correlation between a father figure and the actions of the child when they are grown can help in determining whether delinquency occurs when there is a lack of fathering. Based on what society tells us, I would assume that there was a negative correlation between the two factors. By examining Shears, Robinson, and Emde’s “Fathering relationships and their associations with juvenile delinquency,” we can start to analyze this connection.
Jeffrey Shears is a researcher, Associate Professor, and BSW Coordinator at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the Department of Social Work. He has a PhDfrom the University of Denver. With his focus being primarily on family health, Shears does a lotof work concerning the family structure and delinquency in minors (UNC Charlotte). JoAnn Robinson is a professor and the director of Early Childhood Education Training in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut. She has a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University. She has a long history of researching families and young children in relation to the early impacts of intervention(Naropa University). Robert Emde is a retired Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of Denver. Emde has an impressively long list of affiliations as well as honors, awards, recognitions, and books that have been published. He has focused most of his work on early socio-emotional development and early preventive interventions (ZERO TO THREE).
Shears, Robinson, and Emde started out questioning whether a man’s relationship with his father affects the relationship that he, in turn, has with his child. This research team looked at “87 men who were identified as fathers or father figures by women involved in two Early Head Start sites in Denver, Colorado (2002:79).” Based on the interviews “about their experiences when their child was between 2 and 3 years of age (2002:79),” Shears, Robinson, and Emde discovered that a relationship did exist between the way a man was raised and how that affects how he raises his children. This is an important thing for people who work with children to understand when assessing the problems that a child is experiencing currently as well as the problems they will experience when they are in their adolescent years. The study could predict domestic violence as well as an antisocial attitude that would be projected to the child’s peers throughout life.
The researchers found that there was a “significant correlation (2002:84)” between how a man rated himself as a father and how attached he was to his child. That did not find an attachment between his self-rating and the involvement that he had in the child’s life. Based on this data, they determined that men with positive experiences with father figures generally felt as if they were good fathers with high attachments levels to their children. They also discovered that there was not a direct correlation between negative experiences with father figures and engagement in delinquent acts (2002: 84). The study also showed that the men who said that they had experienced high levels of antisocial behaviors indicated that they had low involvement with their child and rated themselves low as fathers. However, the men who did report high levels of antisocial behaviors did not indicated that they had any lower levels of emotional attachment to their children than those with lower levels of antisocial behaviors (2002:84).
As a society that is so concerned with labeling people, we often times want to blame someone else for the delinquent acts that occur. Often times when juvenile delinquency occurs,the blame is placed on the father figure (or the lack thereof) in the juveniles’ life. As we learned in class, Cesare Combroso was a firm believer that people are not born with free will and that they are instead subject to intrinsic biological propensities. He believed that some people are simply born with genetics that are predisposed to certain deviant behaviors (Matthews 2011). Shears, Robinson, and Emde’s research would certainly support Combroso’s claim. Based on the lack of evidence to show that negative experiences with a father figure affect a juvenile’s engagement in delinquent acts (2002:84), it seems to support the argument that the juveniles that commit these acts are genetically predisposed to do so. One can look at this in comparison to the data that shows the rates of juvenile delinquency occurring in children that come from single parent homes. It might be beneficial to analyze what other factors that were present in the home could have led to the delinquency of the minor since this study shows that the lack of a father figure does not necessarily present a link to delinquent behaviors.
This study agrees with Cooley’s theory of the looking-glass self. Cooley suggests that we define ourselves as individuals based on how we look at society. He believed that you never see yourself for who you really are but instead you judge yourself based on how you feel that society views you and how you measure up to what is expected by our society (Matthews 2011). By concluding that most men who reported having lots of instances of antisocial behaviors rate themselves poorly as fathers (2002:84) shows that society’s pressures on these men are often negative. It can be assumed that these men have low self-confidence based on the anti-social behaviors they admitted to having. This low self-confidence could have led them into believing that they are less of a father than someone with a better feeling about themselves. The standards for what makes a good father from society suggests that one needs confidence in order to be successful. These conflicting sides of what society sees and what the responder sees are a perfect example of Cooley’s theory.
The findings from this survey also can be easily compared to the Symbolic Interactionism Perspective. Symbolic Interactists view society as an ongoing process of social interactions in which people are constantly learning and evolving. They also believe that everything we learn, know, and believe is our own creation (Matthews 2011). SI’s would suggest that men would have negative experiences with their children if they had negative experiences with their fathers because that is all that they have been taught and all that they have learned. This experiment discounts this theory’s hypothesis by providing evidence to suggest that a man that has had negative experiences with father figures does not always have negative experiences with his children (2002:84).
In conclusion, based on the findings from this survey study, one can see that the role of a man’s father does not necessarily determine how he acts as a juvenile or an adult. This can be very crucial in debunking the age-old myth that single mothers are not as effective in raising their children as a child that has a mother and a father. While it is often a plus economically to have a male (or another income-earner) in the home, this study suggests that the lack of a male figure does not have a direct correlation to positive behaviors in the future. Based on this information, more research can be done to determine if this stands true for the general population or if it was only true for these low-income males.
Matthews, Austin. 2011. Lecture on Social Deviance. Eastern Kentucky University.
Naropa University. JoAnn Robinson. Boulder, CO: Naropa University. Retrieved October 22, 2012 (http://www.naropa.edu/academics/distance-learning/faculty/joann-robinson.php).
Shears, J., Robinson, J., & Emde, R. N. (2002). Fathering relationships and their associations with juvenile delinquency. Infant Mental Health Journal, 23(1/2), 79-87.
UNC Charlotte. 2012. Jeffrey Shears. Charlotte, NC: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Retrieved October 22, 2012 (http://socialwork.uncc.edu/directory/jeffrey-shears).
ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. 2012. Washington, DC:ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. Retrieved October 22, 2012 (http://www.zerotothree.org/about-us/board-staff/robert-emde-bio.html).
Mother, Mother’s Rights Activist, Wife, Child, Best Friend and Grandma. I fight for what is right and I stand up to Family Court Corruption. I wonder how long they thought it would be before I figured it all out?
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Dear snow day,
Learn transparency from your window. I came home in a drought, left
in a downpour. I neglected the garden because I was leaving, then
Decorum of the House
by Sarah Fox
“House Republicans prohibited state Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking on the floor Thursday (6/14/12) after she ended a speech Wednesday against a bill restricting abortions by referencing her female anatomy… ‘Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no,’ Brown said Wednesday. Brown’s comment prompted a rebuke Thursday by House Republicans, who wouldn’t allow her to voice her opinion on a school employee retirement bill. ‘What she said was offensive,’ said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. ‘It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.’ … Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, R-Midland, determined Brown’s comments violated the decorum of the House, said Ari Adler, spokesman for the Republican majority.” – Read the whole article.
Behind every dumb-ass Congressional jerk-off is an idea of God
in which God is a mystery His eyes filled with roses.
God’s mind a halo of fur. Menstrual orgasm. I’m told
that it’s beyond vogue to trim one’s pubes, regular guys
at Harvard were already doing it for Naked Ecstasy
Parties like 10 years ago. Must be beyond offensive—juicy clit-tickling
dildo—to the average asshole to find himself faced with an untrimmed
pussywillow, especially one lacquered bloody brown, or tangled
with yeast or who knows what kind of repellent
natural waste product. (The dumb-asses themselves are
such a product, you could say. Mucous discharge. You and I
could also say that not all assholes are men[‘s], just as
not all cocksuckers are women.)
Tags: Education, Kitzmiller, Religion, Science
Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District
Middle District – Pennsylvania
Eric Rothschild, Stephen Harvey, Thomas Schmidt, & Alfred Wilcox (Pepper Hamilton); Richard Katskee & Alex Luchenitser (Americans United for Separation of Church and State); Vic Walczak & Paula Knudsen (ACLU of PA)
In December 2004, the ACLU-PA sued the Dover Area School District on behalf of eleven parents who objected to the recent policy that required the teaching of intelligent design in biology classes as an alternative to evolution. We allege that intelligent design is stealth creationism and, therefore, teaching a religious doctrine in science class violates the Establishment Clause. .
The six-week trial concluded on November 4, 2005. On December 20, 2006, Judge John E. Jones II issued a blistering 139-page opinion in which he found intelligent design to be a religious view and not a scientific theory.
"I’ve found out why people laugh. They laugh because it hurts-because it’s the only thing that’ll make it stop hurting-of course it wasn’t funny; it was tragic. That’s why I had to laugh. I looked at a cage full of monkeys and suddenly I saw all the mean and cruel and utterly unexplainable things I’ve seen and heard and read about – and suddenly it hurt so much I found myself laughing" (Heinlein 289).
Blackwood, Gemma. "That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore" M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture <http://www.media-culture.org.au/0311/3-blackwood-that-joke.php>.
2012 Election “Republicans To Spend More Money Than God”
and they claim Obama (his super-PACs) is scrounging spare change out of the couch. Yeah right. Then they say it almost seems noble of him.
Tags: Fukushima, Nuclear Power, Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean Is Dying
How about the rest of the Pacific Ocean? What does the future hold in store for the largest body of water on Earth. One that circulates more water than any other ocean and possesses more coastline than all the others put together. The following headlines portend the future health of the Pacific, so all are encouraged to take serious notice.
Fukushima Daiichi Worker: Nothing can be done except to leak radioactive water! — Honestly feel that we are dumping massive amounts into ocean — Will spread all over world, reaching Hawaii and US soon
Radioactive Seawater Impact Map (March 2012), US Dept of State Geographer Image
The upshot of each of the preceding articles is that the Pacific Ocean is extremely vulnerable to the radioactive waste being dumped into her waters at Fukushima. Should another catastrophic earthquake occur, it could create a new and more complicated nuclear disaster scenario that is truly irreparable. Even without any seismic activity affecting the nuclear sites, the current state of affairs has taken for granted that the Pacific Ocean will become a nuclear dumping ground for decades to come. It has not been lost on us that such an inevitability appears to be the only practical expedient available.
We are truly saddened by the great loss of marine life and harm to myriad aquatic and shoreline ecosystems. As the nuclear radiation is exported around the Asian Ring of Fire, genetic mutation will begin to affect every form of life — from phytoplankton to whales, from seabirds to mangroves, from dolphins to krill. Everything that lives near the Pacific will be at risk to some degree. Anyone who lives, works or plays in or around the Pacific will be compelled to evaluate their relationship to this great ocean.
What have we done to Mother Earth by siting nuclear power plants in the most seismically active region of the world?!
What in God’s Creation can possibly be done to fix it?
Never in the history of humankind has the planet been confronted with such a grave set of circumstances. Fukushima represents all that can go wrong when scientific applications and technological advancement within a crude industrial context have gone awry. Unfortunately, given the many trajectories that numerous fields of technological innovation are currently on, Fukushima and the BP Gulf oil spill of 2012 may only be the beginning of a period of accelerating technospheric breakdown which will sweep across the planet.
The People’s Bishop
Monday, 07 May 2012 10:12 By Chris Hedges, Truthdig |
Retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard is detained by police after Occupy Wall Street protesters attempted to use a lot owned by Trinity Church as a camp site, in New York, December 17, 2011. (Photo: Ozier Muhammad / The New York Times)Retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard was arrested in Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza in New York City on Tuesday night as he participated in the May 1 Occupy demonstrations. He and 15 other military veterans were taken into custody after they linked arms to hold the plaza against a police attempt to clear it. There were protesters behind them who, perhaps because of confusion, perhaps because of miscommunication or perhaps they were unwilling to risk arrest, melted into the urban landscape. But those in the thin line from Veterans for Peace, of which the bishop is a member, stood their ground. They were handcuffed, herded into a paddy wagon and taken to jail.
It was Packard’s second arrest as part of the Occupy protests. Last Dec. 17 he was arrested when he leapt over a fence in his flowing bishop’s robe to spearhead an attempt to occupy a vacant lot owned by Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. The December action by the Occupy movement was a response to the New York City Police Department’s storming and eradication of the encampment in Zuccotti Park. Packard will appear in court in June to face the trespassing charge that resulted. Now, because of this second arrest, he faces the possibility of three months in jail.
Packard’s moral and intellectual courage stands in stark contrast with the timidity of nearly all clergy and congregants in all of our major religious institutions. Religious leaders, in churches, synagogues and mosques, at best voice pious and empty platitudes about justice or carry out nominal acts of charity aimed at those bearing the weight of resistance in the streets. And Packard’s arrests serve as a reminder of the price that we—especially those who claim to be informed by the message of the Christian Gospel—must be willing to pay to defy the destruction visited on us all by the corporate state. He is one of the few clergy members who dare to bear a genuine Christian witness in an age that cries out in anguish for moral guidance.
”Arrests are not arrests anymore," Packard said as we talked Friday in a restaurant overlooking Zuccotti Park in New York. ”They are badges of honor. They are, as you are taken away with your comrades, exhilarating. The spirit is calling us now into the streets, calling us to reject the old institutional orders. There is no going back. You can’t sit anymore in churches listening to stodgy liturgies. They put you to sleep. Most of these churches are museums with floorshows. They are a caricature of what Jesus intended. Jesus would be turning over the money-changing tables in their vestibules. Those in the church may be good-hearted and even well-meaning, but they are ignoring the urgent, beckoning call to engage with the world. It is only outside the church that you will find the spirit of God and Christ. And with the rise of the Occupy movement it has become clear that the institutional church has failed. It mouths hollow statements. It publishes pale Lenten study tracts. It observes from a distance without getting its hands dirty. It makes itself feel good by doing marginal charitable works, like making cocoa for Occupy protesters or providing bathrooms from 9 to 5 at Trinity Church’s Charlotte’s Place. We don’t need these little acts of charity. We need the church to have a real presence on the Jericho Road. We need people in the church to leave their comfort zones, to turn away from the hierarchy, and this is still terrifying to a lot of people in the church and especially the church leadership."
”Occupy," he went on, ”is a political movement. Let’s not be naive. But it also has a moral core. We are in the midst of a reawakening of a spiritual anthropology. All of the groups that have risen up, across the globe, have this reawakening. Those who took to the streets in the Middle East were not simply unsettled. They were called together because they had a connection with each other. Many, many people have reached a point where the only option left is to place their bodies, their beings, in a location where they can finally have some say and some control over their own lives. As Carne Ross points out in his book ‘The Leaderless Revolution,’ people have lost their agency; they have lost control of their lives. The only control many have left is the control of their physical being. They place themselves in locations where they can demonstrate that they no longer support current systems of power. If you don’t have any money in our political system you not only have no say, you don’t have any dignity. And the only way left to reclaim our dignity is to occupy, to reinhabit the environments that have been taken away from us."
Packard had been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza before. In 1985, once the humiliation of the United States’ defeat in Vietnam no longer stigmatized Americans who had fought in the war, New York City organized a ticker-tape parade for Vietnam veterans. The parade began at the memorial. And Packard, wearing his old jungle fatigues, was at the site 27 years ago along with thousands of other veterans.
In connecting events old and new, at times the bishop drew on language from his writings. "It was pretty much the same route, only in reverse from the route we marched on Tuesday night. It seems to me emblematic of the errant course taken by our nation. I stopped on Tuesday to rest at the same spot I had rested as a marcher in 1985. I’m probably at the end of God’s list of coincidental places from which to be arrested: church property on December 17th and now the memorial for my fallen brothers and sisters on May 1st. But it all makes sense to me. The memory of my comrades from one time meets with the insistent truth of new comrades. That clarity conveyed hospitality of space. I felt required to pass this continuity on, so I ignored the police instructions to leave the park."
I first learned Packard’s wartime story when I interviewed him for The New York Times a decade ago. He had been raised in a middle-class home in Long Island. He graduated from Hobart College in upstate New York, married, went to law school for a year and then heard ”the hoofbeats of my draft board." He enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam War and was sent, after basic training, to become an officer at Fort Benning, Ga.
”I was not reflective about it," he said. ”I liked the outdoors, being part of a troop, being a body in a platoon. I liked that feeling of corporate identity. I figured I knew the lifestyle."
It was 20 days after he arrived in Vietnam in 1969 that he led his first ambush. As he stood over the enemy bodies he viewed them with a disquieting lack of emotion.
”In the war movies you see soldiers vomit after they kill for the first time,” he said. ”I looked at those I had killed and knew it should have been overwhelming, but I felt only that I had accomplished my task. The Army trains you well to make you do extraordinary things under fire. There is no bravery on a battlefield."
The cries of the wounded North Vietnamese or Viet Cong soldiers after an ambush had to be swiftly silenced so he and his men could avoid detection. Compassion was a luxury they could not afford.
”I would throw area grenades at the wounded until they were dead,” he said. ”I remember in one firefight killing a man who crawled toward me with his legs blown off. It was not pretty.”
His first thought, once the shooting stopped—a thought he now finds strange—was how to tell others about the firefight. He began, in the minutes after an ambush ended, to give a coherency to the violence that took place around him, to make the chaos into a story, make it fit the movie running in his head.
He and his soldiers went through the pockets of the dead. Packard said he often found photographs, reminders that those he had killed had mothers, fathers, wives, children and lovers. The unit once discovered the picture of a young blond woman on a body, most likely taken from an American the North Vietnamese soldier had killed in an earlier firefight. Packard would collect the pictures he found on the bodies after each firefight and make a little pile on the ground.
”I burned the pictures I found, although no one in my platoon saw me do this, because I felt that I had in my possession tokens of the lives of those I had killed,” he said. ”I held in my hands something precious, something ultimate that I had taken away from another human being. I have often thought about trying to find the girlfriends or the parents of those I killed and write to say I was sorry.”
Packard was a tiny cog in the great wheel of industrial slaughter unleashed by the United States in Vietnam. Villages were put to flame. Water buffaloes were shot for sport. Civilians were machine-gunned from the air. Grenades were tossed down tunnels where often women and children huddled in fear. Second lieutenants called in airstrikes and artillery rounds that turned thatched-roofed villages into infernos. The American military held the power to give or take human life. And with this power Packard and those around him became sick and demented. The world was turned upside down. Life was reduced to a vortex of pain or fleeting ecstasy. Human life was cheap. The gratification of the moment was the overriding impulse. Killing. Dope. Bar girls. Lies. It was all the same package of deceit and manipulation.
Packard spent a year as an Army lieutenant leading platoons. He and his men killed in each encounter from 12 to 15 North Vietnamese, Viet Cong or perhaps Chinese mercenaries. They did it clinically. He said he stopped counting how many young men and boys he killed.
”But with about 30 ambushes and firefights you can do the math,” he said.
There was a part of him that liked to kill, that sought out the high of combat. War was at once revolting and deeply seductive.
”I violated the commandment ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill,’ " he said. ”Nothing will be gained by intellectualizing this. I killed other people. I took lives. It was exactly that. I became in Vietnam a professional killer. I was proud of what I could do. There are days when I meet with people, trying to do what is good for the church, for others, and think I am probably the only person here who has killed another human being.”
He received the Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for valor. He spent his last months in the Army teaching ambush tactics to Rangers. But he returned home shattered, ”hating the war.” He entered the seminary in 1971, not sure that he wanted to be a priest, ”to study the ethical and moral issues that confronted me in Vietnam.” And it was only then that he began to confront the war. He has repetitive nightmares.
In the dreams, he said, ”I had killed someone. No one knew about it. I was trying to hide my crime. I buried the body in a pile of leaves. I was terrified I would be caught.”
”Night is the worst,” he said slowly. ”Nearly all the ambushes I carried out in Vietnam were at night.”
”You get wrapped in cellophane so you can function in this world of war,” he said. ”Only much later, long after you come out, something pricks that cellophane and it all comes out. Then you pray. You pray, ‘Lord, forgive me for what I have done.’ And you pray to get out of this.”
Packard bears the weight of the war. His life is a form of atonement. He does not fear arrest or jail or defying police in the streets; he fears not doing what is right. He is determined to make amends.
”The important moments in my life came when I made basic connections," he said. ”I made a connection with a platoon that was powerful. The relationships you develop in a combat zone, the need to support your buddy, are essential for survival. You don’t care about national policy. You only care about the people you are with. The Army takes advantage of this. It trains you to think like this. The Army counts on bravery being reinforced by the urge to take care of your buddy. When I visited those wounded in the Iraq War when I was in Germany I would find some missing a leg below the knee. One Marine said to me that all he wanted was to get back to the guys in his squad. He was not going anywhere except to Walter Reed [Hospital], but this was the only thing he could think of. I tried to communicate the connectedness I felt among my platoon when I applied to seminary. I might as well have been speaking Swahili. The professor had no idea. When I had cancer I would queue up in the radiation line. Some people were huddled down in their wheelchairs. Others made a point of hobbling from person to person to talk. The people who connected with others were the ones who brought fabric and meaning to their lives. They joined their suffering and uncertainty with the suffering and uncertainty of someone else. And now I arrive at Occupy. And I again find this connection. I like the people within Occupy. They have their humanity on their sleeves. And compare this with my visits to Trinity Church. When I go to Trinity Church I have to make an appointment in advance with the rector. I take an elevator up to the 14th floor. And I ask myself when I am there, ‘Where is the connection?’ "
“Since you know so much about my healthcare, I was wondering if you could tell me how to handle my period since it is very heavy 4 days out of every month. What is the best product so I can have a productive day during these times or do you think I should just stay at home and call in sick or better yet quite my job since I can’t make my own decisions maybe I shouldn’t be working. What is your medical position on this issue?’’
- Just when you think there is nothing about the Catholic Church more horrific and disgusting than what has already been revealed …. "At least 10 teenage boys or young men under the age of 21 were surgically castrated "to get rid of homosexuality" while in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic Church in the 1950s.’ … The NRC Handelsblad newspaper identified Henk Heithuis who was castrated in 1956, while a minor, after reporting priests to the police for abusing him in a Catholic boarding home. …Evidence emerged on Monday that government inspectors were aware that minors were being castrated while in Catholic-run psychiatric institutions. Minutes of meetings held in the 1950s show that inspectors were present when castrations were discussed. The documents also reveal that the Catholic staff did not think parents needed to be involved. There are also allegations that Vic Marijnen, a former Dutch Prime Minister, who died in 1975, was linked to the case."