Guns and Dope: The Anti-Oppressant

“This is the reality of the War on Drugs; it is thinly veiled, and sometimes not, racism.”

From Patacelsus

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From Killer Mike’s music video “Reagan”

The Guns and Dope party: like most Discordian ideas and projects, it went nowhere fast. Also like most Discordian ideas and projects, it won’t go away. A good joke wants to be told, even if it can only make you cringe with how cheesy it is. That’s the punchline of the Guns and Dope party. It is a party that seemingly champions the interests of most Americans, and yet few have heard of it, and no one was interested it when it started. Since Wilson came up with the idea and then died (in what I’m sure are a series of acausal events, separated by like, at least a year or two, I’m sure…), new shit has come to light, man. It has no bearing on the Guns and Dope party I’m sure, since the party seems to be disinterested in asking a person to do anything so humiliating and debasing to human dignity as running for office. It might change your mind about the priority and centrality of some issues.

Maybe you’ll say to yourself, “Now who can argue with that? I think we’re all in debt to Patacelsus for stating what needed to be said. I am particularly glad that these lovely children are here today to read this article. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age.” But what do I know? You’d think you could share your love of a comedy without everyone you try to share that passion with taking it to a racist place somehow? But oh no. Every time I tell someone I like Blazing Saddles, suddenly I get put on blast with all the racist jokes. Like race was the only punchline to every joke in that movie. Gives me a fucking headache. I mean, I’m not saying that it didn’t have jokes that relied on the crushing racism of both the “Wild West” and 1974 America for its humor, just that it didn’t exclusively do that. Eh, never mind. I can be particular at times. Let’s get to it then; excuse me while I whip this out!

Not too long ago a writer for Gods & Radicals who calls himself Dr. Bones threw in a pretty penny on the matter of gun control, titled: The Liberal Desire for Gun Control is Going to Get Us Killed. I got all reflective-like, as if I’d had a memory in my brain knocked loose. That memory was The Mulford Act of 1967. A full year and some change before the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Mulford act was signed into law by Ronald Reagan (the actor?), who claimed that the Mulford Act “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.” You know, because having the police raid your home and murder you and your family for the crime of being black is naturally no hardship for a true patriot.

Now, most Federal gun laws legislate the manufacturing, transportation, and sales of firearms. This is not out of the ordinary because the power to regulate interstate commerce and all that crap is “constitutional”, if you go in for caring about that kind of thing. The Mulford Act stands out, as you may know if you read Dr. Bones’ articles and the links he attaches, was meant specifically to disarm the Black Panthers. Now, let’s be clear, these are the guys wearing black leather jackets and berets, not the Wakandan King. You can tell they’re serious too, because who else wears a beret with black sunglasses and a rifle but a serious mother fucker. I mean, without the beret, they would have just been weirdos with guns.

Why should one racist California law matter? Could you please stop referencing movies and get to the point? Where are you going with all of this? The answer is nowhere special. Well, the answer is stop and frisk laws; but also the answer is, no, I will not stop with the movie references, I get a big kick out of it and you’re just going to have to put up with it until I get bored and move on to cryptography puzzles.

So the next year after the Mulford Act was passed, the 90th U.S. Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was actually a response to the assassination of Kennedy, but it is the U.S. Congress, so a 5 year lag shouldn’t surprise anyone. How the fuck does racism fit into the Federal effort though? I could do the lazy thing and point out a Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership opinion piece that claims the GCA of 1968 is copied wholesale from Nazi laws banning Jews from owning firearms, sans the Jew part and all the provisions for licensing firearms and not outright banning them. But such laziness would be wrong. Instead I’ll just outright say that Politicians were afraid of an armed uprising in 1968 (the year Martin Luther King Jr. got killed, along with Bobby Ken), and that was the real thing that kept that 5 year lag from becoming an infinite lag. I wonder were the Congress got the idea to use gun laws to suppress minorities?

I mean, it was probably a bunch of Republicans in a Republican controlled Congress, right? Baeh! Wrong! In both House and Senate, Democrats had the seats. Not only that, but almost as many Republicans voted yea as Democrats in the House and Senate. Also, fewer Republicans said no than Democrats. Think about that a sec. Confused? Permit me to explain with much abbreviation and little detail. The Dems use to be the party of the Klan, and the Triangle fire flipped the bitch on the U.S. political spectrum. Want more detail? Read a fucking book!

Hey! Check this out!:

“( h ) I t shall be unlawful for any person—

“(1) who is under indictment for, or who has been convicted in
 any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term
 exceeding one year;

“(2) who is a fugitive from justice;

“(3) who is an unlawful user of or addicted to marihuana or
 any depressant or stimulant drug (as defined in section 201 (v) of
 the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) or narcotic drug as defined in section 4731 (a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954); (sic)

Now, if you didn’t want to read this legalese gibberish, I can tell you that it is the bill that will convert a state hospital for the insane into the William J. Le Petomane memorial gambling casino for the insane. Ha! No, it is a portion of the 1968 GCA. That part in bold seems kinda weird right? Well, to most it wouldn’t, if that most was America in 1968 (haha, like people in America read it, right?). It comes after the provision which states, “it is not the purpose of this title to place any undue or unnecessary Federal restrictions or burdens on law-abiding citizens with respect to the acquisition, possession, or use of firearms appropriate to the purpose of liunting, trapshooting, target shooting, personal protection, or any other lawful activity, and that this title is not intended to discourage or eliminate the private ownership or use of firearms by law-abiding citizens for” blah blah blah, you get the idea. The direct mention of Marihuana(sic) seems fishy to me though. So after looking up “liunting” (the best I could find was ‘linting’, which is ‘to walk around smoking a pipe’), I looked to see if any of the authors of the Mulford act moved up from state assemblyman or senator to U.S. Congressperson. Ha! No such luck. Just a whole bunch of dudes in the U.S. Congress and the California political class who all knew or were in the same circles as Nixon. Nothing to see here, move on.

So, no, I have no grand conspiracy theory for you about how this was all designed from the start. Just a bunch of rich white dudes that thought it best to specifically mention marijuana in a Federal gun control act. To be honest, it doesn’t matter if this was orchestrated conspiracy, the inertia of racist habit, or complete accident. The result is racism; and similar acts, enacted in the same era, were definitely meant to be racist. So it’s time for a hard subject cut; remember when Richard Dix came in here and tried to take over this town?

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. That is not a claim I’m making, and it probably isn’t news to anyone reading this. It is a quote from a Harper’s magazine interview of John Ehrlichman from 1994. Ehrlichman was Nixon’s domestic policy chief, so he’d know what he was talking about. Want to know the source of the War on Drugs? Nixon! Yes, all bad things eventually lead back to Nixon; in fact, I bet you could make a pretty good game of a variation of Six Degrees of Bacon, call it Six Degrees of Nixon, and see if you can connect a fucked U.S. law to Nixon in six associations.

Anyway, he goes on to say

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Oh wow, the 1968 Nixon campaign ran on a promise of fighting drug fueled mad-men and might have had an influence on an Congressional Act being passed that year, and was signed into law by a Democrat in October? Do tell, I’m so surprised. I’ve never even considered that a Democratic congress might pass a law to counteract the political rhetoric of Richard Dix, I mean Nixon (allegedly…).

This is the reality of the War on Drugs; it is thinly veiled, and sometimes not, racism. As well, it is about quashing political dissent; but mostly it has been about racism. I’ve seen the Left shoot down people that tried to drum up support for drug decriminalization pretty savagely. Because I guess, the “hard core” Left is against the government telling people what to do, except when it is about drugs, then the oppression is less important somehow (hopefully, if you still have some gonads and human blood in you, you’re saying to yourself that you don’t need anyone’s permission to get high, good!). But for many on the “Left”, Uncle Sam swiping your recreation options from you doesn’t count as important. And some of you fuckers probably wonder why the Left have a reputation of being such a joyless and humorous lot too, I’ll bet. Well, if you can’t get off your asses, to tell Uncle Same to fuck off, for the sake of getting high: can you be bothered to give a damn for the civil rights of black people? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So here we are, Stop and Frisk laws. Terry Laws are actually older than all this crap, by several decades. They have their origin in the efforts of the LAPD in the 1930’s to combat “crime”. Essentially they would flood an area where a crime had occurred and search anyone and everything. Of course this became the norm for black neighborhoods in the 50’s. New York made the words “Stop and Frisk” the unofficial name by passing a law of that name in 1964. Yup, Stop and Frisk, which definitely has targeted minorities in large proportion, was in place before the contraband laws were. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the supposed guardians of law and order have been holding on to Stop and Frisk tightly as they can, and use their tongues prettier than a twenty dollar whore to defend it.
So, not everything is coming up roses in California. We innovate a lot out here.

Unfortunately, that means this state comes up with a lot of grade A racism and the racists to legislate it. From Stop and Frisk, to Ronald Reagan, we have a problem with racism in California that most people pretend isn’t here. Even the Right pretends we’re a centrist liberal fuckhead bastion, all the while their Moses and Jesus, Nixon and Reagan respectively, both hail from California. These are the real problems in California, the ones no one really talks about on the grand public stage of approved public discourse, a.k.a. “news”. But never mind that shit, here comes Mongo!

Or as most know him, Donald Jiggle Jowl Trump. Nah, I’m just kidding, I just wanted to see the words Jiggle Jowl published. Actually, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who is so super into coming down on Marijuana (black people) that it gives his little weasel rigor mortis, is who I want to mention. I could say a mouthful about him, I guess, but instead I’ll use this time to say, “Instead of a weasel, why not an Ostrich?”

Yes friends, the Guns and Dope party only nominates the finest Ostriches to Congressional office, specifically because their, “mysterious and awesome dignity will elevate the suidaen barbarity long established there.” Yeah, I’m supposing Rhyd would like me to finish this with some insight on race, or law, or something. So here you go Rhyd, here’s your insight. The attempts to suppress minorities through laws has instead led to the majority of Americans having their lives ruined, lives ended, their property stolen by the government. It has resulted in wasted money, and in inane bullshit being spread far and wide. Everyone has had a shittier life because some rich fucks wanted to oppress a minority their feeble psychology associated with the scary stuff. The oppression of a few only results in the oppression of all. We either take care of everyone, or we can take care of no one. This is not a philosophical proposition being offered you, it is truth based on fact. I doubt this article stated the case for this truth from fact clearly, eloquently, or convincingly. But that’s ok, maybe someone better at this will read this and hopefully do better than me.

Of course, you’ll have the good taste not to mention that I spoke to you.


Patacelsus

mal1A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird.” When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.


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Note on Violations of Prisoners’ Rights

Fighting “against the genocide of black people, and its derivations, such as the prison enterprise which drives forward the process of African enslavement; outstanding in memory, history and in the bodies of black people in Brazil.”

From the political organization React or Die

English Translation Here

penitenciaria_almiro

Nota da ASFAP/BA sobre as recentes violações aos direitos dos presos.

Governo e agentes penitenciários devem resolver suas questões sem penalizar prisioneiras, prisioneiros e seus familiares.

“Art. 10. A assistência ao preso e ao internado é dever do Estado, objetivando prevenir o crime e orientar o retorno à convivência em sociedade.”

“Art. 12. A assistência material ao preso e ao internado consistirá no fornecimento de alimentação, vestuário e instalações higiênicas.”

“Art. 13. O estabelecimento disporá de instalações e serviços que atendam aos presos nas suas necessidades pessoais, além de locais destinados à venda de produtos e objetos permitidos e não fornecidos pela Administração.”

(Lei de Execução Penal, Lei 7.210/1984)

A Associação de Familiares e Amigos de Presos e Presas do Estado da Bahia (ASFAP/BA) atua desde 2006 no interior do sistema prisional baiano, amparando e apoiando prisioneiros, egressos e seus familiares. A ASFAP/BA é um núcleo avançado de lutas da Reaja Organização política e tem como objetivo lutar contra o genocídio do povo negro e suas derivações, a exemplo do empreendimento carcerário que tem como grande impulsionador o processo de escravização africana, marcante na memória, história e nos corpos de negros e negras no Brasil.

Este documento tem o objetivo de chamar a atenção de militantes do movimento negro e pan-africanistas, ativistas de direitos humanos, instituições de defesa de direitos humanos e demais cidadãos e cidadãs para o grave quadro de violação aos direitos das pessoas privadas de liberdade que vem ocorrendo no estado da Bahia.

Passado o Fórum Social Mundial com toda pirotecnia de intermináveis debates e até reprodução em 3D de uma cela de cadeia, apresentamos o drama real que precisa de uma ação prática para que os prisioneiros e as prisioneiras e os seus familiares não sofram violências e violações atualmente tão criticadas por instituições e mentes democráticas diante da prisão de uma personalidade muito conhecida no Brasil.

Mais uma vez, o Governo do estado da Bahia através de sua Secretaria de Administração Penitenciária, a SEAP, em desacordo trabalhista com o sindicato dos agentes penitenciários impõem uma série de limitações as pessoas presas e seus familiares. Vemos nitidamente , que além da pena estabelecida a cada uma das pessoas que se encontram presas, pratica-se a dupla punição e desvio de pena quando da negação de direitos garantidos pela Lei de Execução Penal, a LEP. Para além das restrições do que os parentes podem ou não levar para os detentos, permanecem e se agravam violações aos direitos dos apenados, incluindo-se aí abusos cometidos durante as visitas.

A Associação de Familiares e Amigos de Prisioneiros e Prisioneiras do Estado da Bahia, analisando a situação das unidades prisionais da Bahia, tem forte convicção que os poderes de Estado não cumprem suas responsabilidades previstas na LEP e ignoram também o documento da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) que trata das prisões e estabelece as Regras Mínimas para o Tratamento de Reclusos, da qual o Brasil é signatário. No item 20 do documento está expresso que a “administração deve fornecer a cada recluso, em horas determinadas, alimentação de valor nutritivo adequado à saúde e à robustez física, de qualidade e bem preparada e servida”. E ressalta que “todos os reclusos devem ter a possibilidade de se prover com água potável sempre que necessário”.

A qualidade da alimentação – constata-se inclusive comida em decomposição, além de carnes servidas cruas – é uma reclamação comum e permanente nas manifestações de parentes, tanto de unidades prisionais da capital, como do interior.

A possibilidade dos familiares prepararem e levarem refeições para seus entes queridos durante os dias de visita deve ser encarado como uma concessão estatal que ajuda a ressocialização do apenado, já que essa ressocialização como preconizado por lei é dever do Estado e da sociedade, sendo a família parte fundamental desse vínculo, além de levar em conta os hábitos culturais, das quais a alimentação é parte.

A restrição da entrada de alimentos associada as várias queixas quanto a qualidade das refeições fornecidas pelas unidades prisionais, o não fornecimento de água potável, a restrição a saída para atendimentos médico, odontológico, realização de exames e procedimentos, a opressão praticada por agentes penitenciários contra os familiares, articulado pelo sindicato que de forma justa busca do governo a ampliação de seus quadros e condições adequadas de trabalho, torna presas e presos o lado mais fraco da corda nesta luta por direitos. Isto não deveria ser feito retirando os direitos das pessoas presas e apostando no sofrimento de prisioneiros e na humilhação de familiares, mas numa mesa de negociação trabalhista com o próprio governador. Tudo isso, juntando-se as péssimas condições das prisões – celas superlotadas, unidades com limitações estruturais, falta de fornecimento regular de material de higiene e farda, falta de dentista e outros profissionais, falta de medicações, entrada de guarnição militar fortemente armada com brucutus e cachorros treinados para a abertura e fechamento de unidades prisionais, disparando balas de borracha contra os internos, além de spray de pimenta em celas já fechadas, entre outros – gera um ambiente explosivo fundamental para um projeto em curso de militarização ou privatização do sistema. O governo anuncia agora a militarização da educação em todo Estado, essa militarização já existe no sistema prisional sob o silêncio das instituições que deveriam zelar pelas instituições democráticas. Se ninguém se manifesta, nós falaremos e chamaremos a atenção para ver se a luta dos oprimidos terá tantos recursos como a prisão de quem dispõem de milhões em recursos para advogados defenderem seus interesses.

Em audiência pública organizada pela ASFAP-BA no mês de maio de 2016 familiares já pontuavam problemas com alimentação que agora se repetem. Diziam:

“Se antes essa situação era amenizada com mantimentos levados pela família em dias de visita, agora nem isso. A gente podia levar arroz, óleo, outras coisas que matavam a fome de nossos maridos e filhos. Desde o final de março, só deixam entrar três pacotes de biscoito por semana, uma garrafa de suco, ou refrigerante, uma carteira de cigarros por dia de visita, dois rolos de papel higiênico a cada duas semanas, lençol estampado (não há explicação do motivo de não aceitação de roupas de cama lisas), sabonete (desde que não sejam branco e amarelo – restrição igualmente sem explicação plausível) e duas garrafas de água”.

É importante frisar que esse quadro veio se agravando de 2016 para cá. O que agrava o quadro de violação a direitos básicos de prisioneiros.

Repete-se em 2018 as mesmas denúncias formuladas em 2016, com agravos de desrespeito, violência psicológica contra familiares, uso desproporcional da força policial e uma tática violenta dos agentes penitenciários de criar uma suposta operação de legalidade para disfarçar uma ação calculada de pressão contra prisioneiros e seus familiares, chamando a atenção do governo para seus interesses trabalhistas.

“Na revista, jogam fora nossa comida, ou nos obrigam a colocar num saco plástico, tudo misturado. Nos tratam como bichos e mesmo o que entra, não é suficiente para o almoço com nossos maridos e filhos”.

“Como eu vou comer e deixar ele (preso) com fome, ainda mais sabendo de toda a situação lá dentro?”

A preocupação dos familiares e de defensores de direitos humanos é com a saúde dos detentos, que recebem uma refeição contaminada.

Igualmente preocupante é o armazenamento de água da torneira em baldes – usada para banho e consumo. Como faltam água e luz com frequência nas unidades, os presos guardam água em recipientes abertos, favorecendo, inclusive a proliferação de mosquitos do Aedes Aegypti. Interessante ressaltar que dos 417 municípios da Bahia, apenas um (Mucugê) ainda não tinha registrado casos de dengue, chikungunya ou zika em 2016. Além disso, mais da metade das prisões baianas (no total 22) são antigas, têm mais de 10 anos de construção. A estrutura precária, a infestação de ratos e baratas, como relatado por familiares e a falta de higienização de caixas d’água só aumentam o risco de epidemias.

A saúde dos detentos é motivo de grave preocupação. Detentos com tuberculose e outras doenças infecciosas dividem cela com outros, ampliando o risco de contaminação. Demoram para receber atendimento adequado e quando são atendidos nem sempre tem as medicações que são prescritas. Os familiares tem que se desdobrar para comprar os remédios que garantam o tratamento dos presos. Muitos quando chegam ao atendimento tem que ser internados em hospitais em estado grave.

“O atendimento é precário. Antes, a gente podia levar remédio. Agora, até paracetamol tem que ter receita. Se alguém passar mal na sexta-feira, não levam para atendimento porque é dia de visita. Já vi presos vomitando sangue, outros urinando sangue, agentes carregando um detento que estava passando mal num carrinho de mão e também um outro morrer após uma convulsão no pátio”, relatou outra mulher.

Segundo ela, pelo menos dois cadeirantes estavam nesse presídio e dependiam dos companheiros de cela para tudo, como sair da cama e tomar banho, pegar as refeições. As direções das unidades, sem nenhuma base legal, também proibiram a entrada de adoçantes e outros alimentos para pessoas com diabetes e enfermidades similares. Para dificultar o ingresso desses produtos importantes para os portadores de doenças crônicas, só com receita médica, embora não exista nenhuma determinação no Brasil que exija receituário para venda de adoçantes em farmácias ou supermercados, por exemplo.

Um familiar de cadeirante relata que tem sido proibido de levar remédios e dietas, mesmo tendo relatório médico dispondo o contrário.

Há muito tempo a ASFAP/BA vem denunciando a precariedade no atendimento a saúde e nada muda, não existe uma base razoável de atendimento a saúde dentro dos princípios do SUS ou das diretrizes e protocolos do Plano Nacional de Saúde do Sistema Penitenciário.

Assim, estamos iniciando uma jornada de lutas por justiça e pelos direitos básicos de nossos familiares encarcerados e nossos próprios direitos violados uma vez que não somos criminosas e nem sentenciadas. As penas de nossos cônjuges e familiares não podem nos alcançar, estamos exercendo um direito de lutar pelos interesses de sujeitos cuja voz não tem sido ouvida e que vem enfrentando toda sorte de violações aos seus direitos.

Exigimos das instâncias do governo que tratam dos direitos humanos e da administração prisional que mais uma vez nos receba para tratarmos de assunto de nosso total interesse.

Solicitamos a Secretaria Estadual de Administração Penitenciária e Ressocialização, a Excelentíssima Juíza da Vara de Execução Penal, a Defensoria Pública, a Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil e a Superintendência de Direitos Humanos uma reunião conosco, familiares de presas e presos, para abrir este processo de escuta e participação que é princípio do governo do Estado da Bahia e estabeleçamos um diálogo.

Solicitamos aos movimentos sociais, acadêmicos, personalidades das redes sociais e organizações de direitos humanos solidariedade a uma luta justa que travamos.

Salvador, Abril de 2018.


ASFAP- BA/ Reaja Organização Política

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ENGLISH TRANSLATION

penitenciaria_almiro

Note from ASFAP-Bahia on recent violations of prisoners’ rights.

Government and penitentiary agents should resolve their issues without penalizing prisoners and their families.

“Article 10. Assistance to the inmate and the internee is the duty of the State, with the purpose of preventing crime and guiding the return to coexistence in society.”

“Article 12. Physical assistance to the inmate and the internee shall consist of the provision of food, clothing and hygienic facilities.”

“Article 13. The establishment shall have facilities and services that meet the prisoners in their personal needs, as well as places destined to the sale of products and objects permitted and not provided by the Administration.”

(Criminal Enforcement Law, Law 7,210 / 1984)

The Association of Relatives and Friends of Prisoners of the State of Bahia (ASFAP-Bahia) has been working inside the Bahia State prison system since 2006, protecting and supporting prisoners, detainees and their families. The ASFAP-Bahia is an advanced nucleus of the Political Organization Reaja ou Será Morta (React or Die) and aims to fight against the genocide of black people, and its derivations, such as the prison enterprise which drives forward the process of African enslavement; outstanding in memory, history and in the bodies of black people in Brazil.

This document aims to bring to the attention of black and pan-Africanist activists, human rights activists, human rights institutions and other citizens, the serious violation of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty in the state of Bahia [1].

After the Fórum Social Mundial (World Social Forum) with all the pyrotechnics of endless debates and even a 3D reproduction of a jail cell, we present the real drama that requires practical action so that prisoners and their families do not suffer from the violence and violations currently criticized by institutions and democratic minds in sight of the arrest of a very well-known personality in Brazil [2].

Once again, the Government of the State of Bahia, through its Secretariat of Penitentiary Administration, SEAP, in a labor dispute with the union of prison agents, impose a series of limitations on prisoners and their families. We clearly see that in addition to the punishment established for each one of the people who are imprisoned, the double punishment and deviation of sentence is practiced when denying the rights guaranteed by the Penal Execution Law, the LEP. In addition to the restrictions of what relatives may or may not bring to the detainees, violations of the rights of the prisoners remain, including abuses committed during visits.

The Association of Relatives and Friends of Prisoners of the State of Bahia, in analyzing the situation of the prison units in Bahia, is strongly convinced that State powers do not fulfill their responsibilities under the LEP and also ignore the United Nations document (UN) which deals with prisons and establishes the Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, to which Brazil is a signatory. Section 20 of the document states that “management shall provide each prisoner, at specified times, with nutritional value adequate to health and physical strength, of quality, and well prepared and served”. It emphasizes that “all prisoners should be able to provide themselves with clean water whenever necessary.”

The quality of food – including rotten food, as well as raw meat served – is a common and permanent complaint in the demonstrations of relatives at prison units in the capital and in the inland of the State.

The possibility for family members to prepare and take meals to their loved ones during the visiting days should be considered a state concession that helps the re-socialization of the confined person, since this re-socialization is put forward by law as a duty of the State and of society, the family being a fundamental part of this bond, in addition to taking into account the cultural habits which food is a part of.

The restriction of food intake associated with the various complaints regarding the quality of meals provided by the prison units; the non-provision of drinking water; the restriction of exits for medical and dental examinations and procedures; the oppression practiced by penitentiary agents against the family members, as articulated by the union that in a fair search for the government to expand their cadres and ensure adequate working conditions; makes prisoners the weaker side of the fight in this struggle for rights. This should not be done by withdrawing the rights of prisoners, betting on the suffering of prisoners, and the humiliation of family members, but instead at a negotiating table with the governor himself.

All this, together with the poor conditions of the prisons – overcrowded cells; units with structural limitations; lack of regular supply of hygiene materials and uniforms; lack of dentists and other professionals; lack of medications; entrance of heavily armed military force with brutality and trained dogs for the opening and closing of prison units; firing rubber bullets at inmates, and pepper spray in closed cells; among others things – create a fundamentally explosive environment as an ongoing project of militarization or privatization of the system. The government now announces the militarization of education in every state, this militarization already exists in the prison system under the silence of the institutions that should care for democratic institutions. If nobody speaks up, we will speak and call attention to see if the struggle of the oppressed will have as many resources as the arrest of those who have millions in resources for lawyers to defend their interests.

In a public hearing organized by ASFAP-Bahia in May 2016, family members already reported problems with food that are now repeating themselves. They said:

“If before this situation was mitigated with food brought by the family on visiting days, now we don’t even have that. We could carry rice, oil, other things that would satisfy the hunger of our husbands and children. Since the end of March, only three packets of biscuits per week, a bottle of juice, or soda, a pack of cigarettes per day of visit, two rolls of toilet paper every two weeks, printed sheets (there is no explanation for why not accept plain bed linen), soap (provided they are not white and yellow – a restriction also without plausible explanation) and two bottles of water.”

It is important to emphasize that this situation has worsened from 2016 to now, which aggravates the framework of violation of basic prisoners’ rights.

The same denunciations made in 2016 are repeated in 2018, about disrespect, psychological violence against family members, disproportionate use of the police force and violent tactics by prison agents to create a supposed legality operation to disguise a calculated action of pressure against prisoners and their families, drawing government attention to their labor interests.

“In the search, they throw away our food, or we are forced to put it in a plastic bag, everything mixed together. They treat us like animals and even what comes in is not enough for lunch with our husbands and children.”

“How am I going to eat and leave him (stuck) hungry, especially knowing of the whole situation in there?”

The concern of family members and human rights defenders is with the health of detainees who receive a contaminated meal.

Equally troubling is the storage of tap water in buckets – used for bathing and drinking. As water and light are often lacking in the units, prisoners store water in open containers, favoring the proliferation of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. It’s interesting to note that of the 417 municipalities in Bahia, only one (Mucugê) had not yet registered cases of dengue, chikungunya or zika in 2016. In addition, more than half of prisons in Bahia (22 in all) are old: built more than 10 years ago. The precarious structure, infestation of rats and cockroaches, as reported by relatives, and the lack of sanitation of water boxes only increase the risk of epidemics.

The health of detainees is a matter of grave concern. Detainees with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases share cells with others, increasing the risk of contamination. They receive delayed adequate care and when they are attended to they do not always have the medications that must be prescribed. Relatives have to work together to buy the medicines that will guarantee the treatment of prisoners. Many people who arrive at the hospital are admitted in serious condition.

“The service is precarious. Before, we could take medicine. Even paracetamol (aspirin) has to have a prescription. If someone gets sick on Friday, they do not take them to customer service because it is visiting day. I have seen prisoners vomiting blood, others urinating blood, officers carrying a detainee who was completely sick in a wheelbarrow and also another dying after a seizure in the yard.”

(As reports another woman.)

According to her, at least two wheelchair users were in this prison and depended on their cellmates for everything, such as getting out of bed and taking a shower, to eat their meals. The directions of the units, without any legal basis, also prohibited the entry of sweeteners and other foods for people with diabetes and similar diseases. Making things even more difficult, the entry of these important products for those with chronic diseases requires a prescription, although there is no requirement in Brazil for prescription for the sale of sweeteners in pharmacies or supermarkets, for example.

A family member of a wheelchair user reports that he has been banned from taking medicines and diets, even though he has a medical report stating otherwise.

The ASFAP-Bahia has long denounced the precariousness of health care and nothing changes, there is no reasonable basis for health care within the principles of SUS (Medicare) or the guidelines and protocols of the National Health Plan of the Penitentiary System.

Thus, we are starting a journey of justice struggles and the basic rights of our incarcerated family members, and our own violated rights since we are neither criminals nor sentenced. The sentences of our spouses and relatives can not reach us, we are exercising a right to fight for the interests of subjects whose voice has not been heard and who have been facing all kinds of violations of their rights.

We demand from the government action that deals with human rights and the prison administration to once again receive us to deal with matters of our complete interest.

We request the State Secretariat for Penitentiary Administration and Re-socialization, the Honorable Judge of the Criminal Execution Court, the Public Defender’s Office, the Brazilian Bar Association, and the Human Rights Superintendency a meeting with us, relatives of prisoners, to open this process of listening and participation that is the principle of the government of the State of Bahia and to establish a dialogue.

We call on social movements, academics, social network personalities and human rights organizations to stand up for a fair fight.

Salvador, Brazil – April 2018.


[1] Bahia:

was the first point of contact the Portuguese had with what became the Brazilian colony. Its capital, Salvador, was Brazil’s first capital. It’s now the city with the most African descendants outside of Africa (an estimated 80% of the population). Though difficult to cite precisely, Salvador’s port was one to receive the most enslaved Africans (Rio de Janeiro being second). Only in the second half of the 1700’s, almost one million Africans came to Brazil, half of which came to Salvador (the others to Rio and other parts of the coast). Of the almost 5 million total enslaved Africans that came to Brazil during the nearly 500 years of Colonialism, Salvador is undoubtedly the city most affected by this horrific event in history, a legacy and a reality that is still very much alive today.

The Northeast region in Brazil and the rural areas of Bahia are also known for severe droughts that lead to crippling poverty in the agricultural community and mass migration. Because of this, people from there suffer classist discrimination in the Southeast region of Brazil (Rio/São Paulo) when they go south looking for new opportunities. This drought is believed to be a result of an ecosystem destabilization caused by the deforestation of the Amazon forest (in the North of the country).

Bahia is incredibly culturally relevant to Brazil, as the birthplace of much of the cultural and spiritual practices that defines Brazilian identity today. It represents a large portion of the Brazilian population although it’s overshadowed by the Southeast due to their western influence and appeal (which is a blatant example of Imperialistic forces in the country).

[2] Lula:

A presidential candidate, Lula, that is certain to win if he runs for office this year, is to be arrested just before he gets a chance to be on the ballot. To many Brazilians this is representative of the failure of the Democratic system and evidence of a coup. To make matters worse, right-wing politicians and generals are publicly stating that if Lula somehow runs from behind bars there will be no choice but to issue military intervention.


ASFAP-Bahia / Reaja Organização Política (React or Die)

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An image of a wave cresting and beginning to break.

The Cresting Wave

“We’re all in a building that’s on fire, and most of us are wearing blindfolds. Spiritual practice helps us take the blindfold off. We’re still in the building, but if we can see, there’s more we can do.”

From Anthony Rella

An image of a wave cresting and beginning to break.My sitting practice had gone slack. I mean, I did it. I physically sat there. For twenty minutes, most days. But “I” wasn’t there. I’d be entranced with the fantasies and thoughts of my mind for much of the time. Each thought approached with its own urgency, its own need to be resolved NOW! None of which is new, it is the same tendency that has always needed tending. Yet I was not engaging with the practice of returning to presence as vigorously.

I’d withdrawn. I hadn’t fully realized it. First it was simply not watching the president speak. Then it was being selective about what articles I read. It was picking my battles, picking the causes I supported, and then noticing I’d not picked any in a few months. The eases of my privilege softened the urgency of it.

I was at a party of upper-middle class white people, culturally and demographically the same kind of people I’d grown up with in my adolescence, but most of who I’d never met before. We watched a slideshow presentation of the host’s recent trip to Dachau. She told us about all the different patches the incarcerated wore—including the Pink Triangle for homosexuals.

“There were gays back then?” asked an upper-middle class heterosexually married white woman. “I mean, people were openly gay?”

“Yeah,” I said. “There were transgender people too, but they were suppressed. Back then, there were openly queer people in the United States, too. But after an economic downturn there was a reactionary rightward turn, just like what’s happening today. They suppressed those people and erased our memories of them.”

She didn’t respond to that. This same weekend, the United States president’s administration sent instructions to the Center for Disease Control to not use seven terms. One of the words to be forbidden—people to be erased from memory—was “transgender.” “Fetus” was another, to erode sexual freedom and women’s autonomy.

It was a party. I was terrified. I felt another wave of this same historical movement cresting and these folks didn’t seem terrified and they didn’t know their history. They didn’t know the pattern to recognize it. Or maybe they knew it would break over someone else’s bodies.

The terror had been a slow heartbeat all year, coming into sharp focus and then fading into the background. After the election, the gods told me war was coming. I had dreams of violence and guns. Being fully unready to learn to use a gun myself, I decided to do some self-defense training. When I touched the tender edge of that terror, I would take a courageous leap forward and then back slowly into safety. A safety that isn’t really safe. A safety that is numbness and disengagement. But the party woke me up again. I wasn’t safe. People I love aren’t safe.

In my early days of taking up the Pagan path, so many of the books I read expressed an urgency with hope. Our modern lives were steering humanity toward destruction, they often said, but we have an opportunity to pull back, and these tools can help. Today, I almost feel a nostalgia for the moment when I still believed that. I don’t think humanity is doomed, but in my heart I feel we’ve passed the point when we could draw back. The fire has begun.

Now I think the work of humanity is to pass through the destruction and see if we can allow it to burn away what is sick and toxic and make room for that which is worth saving. Now my mind turns toward the descendants who will inherit the time of The Star, after the Tower has collapsed, where open space and fertile soil await. Those children will need much, and have great promise.

45’s presidency has definitely been an economic boon to psychotherapists. More than the president, however, the entire country’s political climate has woken up childhood defenses with a vengeance. It is absolutely about the people and events in charge, and you can also see the ways the client as a young person learned to deal with uncertainty, conflict, or problems in the family.

My own is that terror, reaching back to a childhood fear that if I didn’t “hold it together” and act as the emotional “rock” for my family, “everything would fall apart.” I wouldn’t be cared for, I’d be unloved. Being this “rock” meant being in some ways invisible, making sure others felt comfortable and at ease, especially at the expense of my own wants and needs. When there was a problem, I learned how to contort and bend myself rather than risk confronting the other people. This matured into a pattern of emotional self-denial, guilt, putting other peoples’ needs and comfort ahead of my own, feeling like nothing I ever did was “enough,” and then working myself until I felt total resentment.

This year I’ve been actively working to unravel that. Allowing this to run unchecked set me up for burnout and cynical withdrawal, which helps no one. Yet to unravel means reacquainting myself with the terror, facing it squarely, and not trying to “fix it.”

I need presence. I need practice to keep me returning to the world as it is. I picked up an old practice—counting my breaths, noticing the thoughts that rose between breaths, but staying with the count. Starting over if I got so caught up in a thought that I lost the count.

It is excruciating. And as I sit, bringing my focus to center and counting the breath, it occurs to me that when I practice, I must practice as though this is the most important thing in the world. More important than the thoughts that clamor for attention is this practice, making my awareness one with my breath.

After the election, an old friend and I had a conversation about her spiritual path. She had returned after a hiatus, experiencing profound and exciting openings while processing painful family trauma. We wondered about the value of spiritual practice in a time of political upheaval.

At the time, what I thought and said was: “We’re all in a building that’s on fire, and most of us are wearing blindfolds. Spiritual practice helps us take the blindfold off. We’re still in the building, but if we can see, there’s more we can do.”

There were gays back then?

For every god I worship, there is at least one person from every political orientation who will tell me why I shouldn’t worship them. The gods I worship are contested. People who care nothing about cultural appropriation, who would gladly extinguish all nonwhite people and strip their cultures for parts, also court these gods. I do not live in a world of clean rules and simple answers. I mistrust anyone who does. The gods come to me, and I give them offerings and praise, and we grow closer to each other. My service to them includes supporting the people of their lands of origin, in whatever ways I can. 

The Rider-Waite-Smith Five of Pentacles used to trouble me. The art of this card often contrasts opulent religiosity with violent poverty. Having grown up learning the history of the Catholic Church, I associated this card with religious plutocracy, exploiting the religiosity of the people to gild their lavish churches.

Having read the work of Dr. Bones and Sophia Burns, I have come to sense another facet. The Five of Pentacles is the relationship between philosophical belief and material practice. If that church is worth a damn, those people in the snow should know they can find warmth and shelter inside of it. It’s the Black Panthers serving free breakfast for children.

What material result does my spiritual practice offer? When is it about bypassing, and when is it about service?

I was marching with a group of Black Lives Matter activists. Hearing the call-and-response chants, I thought about ritual artistry. The march needed people willing to take the lead in the calls. Anyone could respond, and most people did, but only a few loud voices started the next call, ideally people who were leading the march. Without those callers, the energy of the group would grow slack. If the callers weren’t listening to each other, the chants fell out of sync, or different chants competed.

No one called in my little cluster, so I took a risk. I discovered, to my surprise, that I had a big voice. Knowing I was a white male taking up space in a Black Lives Matter march, I listened to what the other callers were doing and decided my service would be to amplify what they did. When my voice got tired, someone else took up the role. When their voice got tired, I took up the role.

“No justice!”

No peace!”

“No racist—“

Police!”

We marched in front of the police station. The cops were a few yards away, watching. All of my childhood defenses and middle class, Midwestern cultural training came to the fore. Don’t make them uncomfortable. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And that clearly conflicted with the role I’d taken on in support, to shout out “No justice!” and “No racist police!”

That was a moment when I had my practices to keep me in service. What we were doing was larger and more important than my individual comfort, and if I was unwilling to let the cops be uncomfortable I might as well stop marching altogether. I’d spent years developing my skills in setting aside the reactions of the moment and keep to the task.

In the early days of my meditation practice, a Christian acquaintance challenged me. “So, what, if your grandmother was dying you would just sit there and meditate and it would all be okay?”

“Well, I mean, if my grandmother was dying I would probably sit and talk to her. I might meditate on my own, but the whole point is so I can be there for her.”

Spiritual bypassing would be sitting in meditation while my grandmother dies. It would be taking off my blindfold and leaving the enflamed building while others burn, or saying, “The flames are all illusion!”

I love the gods, and I desire access to a deeper wisdom than the collective mind that created our dilemma. I need the tools that calm nervous systems, that build and sustain the bonds of beloved community. I crave the rituals that align us with the powers of the earth and nature. I want us to have the skills and powers that can’t be bought or sold.

As a child, the ocean was a place of play and relaxation. In my early days of Paganism, the ocean became a symbol of the powers of Water, Daring, Passion, and Emotion. Lately, it has become once again simply the ocean. Its ongoing cresting, breaking, and receding is the manifestation of the deep cycles that govern many things, including the spiral of history. I feel the mystery of the waves in my body.

My practice immerses me in the living world, in the time I have been given. To be here more fully than I ever knew I could be. To not shy away from the flames or the terror. To know deeply that there is something in me that will not be burnt.


Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and psychotherapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School and a member of the Fellowship of the Phoenix. Anthony has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. More on his work is available at his website.


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Occupations, Contrasting Responses, and Capitalism

Last January, a group of armed white ‘patriots’ overtook the Malheur Wildlife Refuge located on unceded Paiute land in eastern Oregon. They illegally occupied it for over a month in order to protest various grievances against the government, including the conviction of two ranchers who had set fires on federal land. They successfully drew attention to their cause, as well as their anti-government ideology, one that seeks to privatize “public lands” held by the federal government.

This ‘occupation’ took place 173 years to the month after the land’s rightful occupants were forcibly marched off the land to a reservation in Washington State. After 41 days. the occupiers were arrested and jailed on federal charges that included conspiracy and firearms violations.

Throughout the occupation, federal, state, and local law enforcement had adopted a hands-off policy, to the point of meeting with the occupiers and allowing them free rein of the neighboring areas without interference. This approach was a sharp contrast when compared to how law enforcement has historically treated Black armed militia movements, as well as leftist and anti-capitalist protest movements such as Occupy. Contrast was also painfully evident when compared to the issues highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, and the reality of how Black people are currently treated by law enforcement, armed or not.

Three months later, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe established a camp on reservation land in North Dakota in order to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This pipeline is to be built through Sioux land, and would directly threaten both water sources and sacred sites. The camp grew steadily over the next several months, and by late September there were thousands of resisters from all over the country camped across several sites.

Like the Malheur protesters, the Standing Rock protesters also maintain that the land in question does not belong to the federal government. They both also insist that the federal government does not have authority to control the usage of the land. But unlike the Malheur protesters, who tend to use ‘free market’ and ‘sovereign’ arguments to justify their right to public land, the Sioux’s argument is based on treaty rights and ancestral possession. Their claim to the land is not based on settler entitlement or capitalist ideology, but on the fact that it has always been their land, and that they have a sacred duty to protect it.

As the Standing Rock protests progressed and strengthened, the police repression intensified, and over the past several weeks there has been a series of brutalities and arrests. This repression built up to a law enforcement offensive on October 27th, where police used tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets in order to clear protesters from a specific area, arresting 141 people in the process.

On that same day, October 27th, the Malheur occupiers were found “not guilty” by a jury of their peers, cleared of all federal charges against them. The timing and contrast between the violence wrought against the Standing Rock protesters and the acquittal of the Malheur occupants exposed what many interpreted as a “flaw” in the system. Most focused on white privilege as the sole reason for both the Bundy acquittal and the disparities in treatment between the Malheur occupiers and the Standing Rock protesters.race-pull

Race is undeniably a factor in these disparities. However, in focusing solely on race, one fails to account for the role that capitalism and state power also play in the differing treatment, especially when it comes to state violence. In that regard, Standing Rock has commonality with Black Lives Matter: the level of repression experienced by both groups is not only due to both historical and current systematic racism by the police, but is also influenced by why they are protesting in the first place in relation to capitalism.

aaa

Ammon Bundy, the leader of the Malheur occupation, is the son of Cliven Bundy, a successful cattle rancher who grazes his cattle on unceded Paiute land in Nevada. His father has been engaged in a longstanding dispute with the federal government for well over two decades over grazing fees on land that neither party has a legitimate claim to. The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holds title to the land, but Cliven Bundy maintains that the land belongs to the state, not the federal government, and that BLM does not have authority to collect grazing fees. This specific stance is based on the one of the core beliefs of the sovereign citizens movement – the idea that the federal government has little to no authority and that local law supersedes federal law in most instances.

The dispute culminated in an armed standoff between federal agents and militiamen rallying behind Bundy’s cause over an attempted cattle seizure, an incident in which federal agents relented and returned the cattle. This militia ‘victory’ over the government strengthened and legitimized the Bundys’ movement, and empowered many of those who then went on to occupy the Malheur refuge. The recent acquittal of the ‘patriots’ who occupied the Malheur refuge further serves to legitimize their positions and ideology.

While the Malheur occupiers and patriot movements in the West position themselves as anti-establishment, heroes of the working man who is sick of government overreach, that does not change the fact that much of their beliefs and ideologies are aligned with those of the ruling classes and the State itself. They are in favor of privatizing and selling off public land in the name of profit, a position which is of great benefit to numerous subsets of business and industry.

If the patriot movement were to succeed in their goal regarding land rights, it’s not the working man who would benefit: rather, it’s big business. The growth of the patriot movement, and the increasing adoption of their ideology is of great benefit to all of those who wish to privatize the vast amounts of BLM land throughout the West for profit, whether it be cattle ranchers or mineral and oil prospectors.

Although the patriot movement pandersand widely appealsto the working class, the Bundys themselves have much more in common with the upper classes. Ammon Bundy may dress like a rancher, but he’s a businessman, owning several companies in Arizona including a car fleet. Cliven Bundy is also a successful businessman, and much of his wealth has been dependent on subsidies from the very government he opposes. Even before he refused to pay his grazing fees, the percentage he was paying the government was a fraction of the fees charged by owners of privately held lands.

Bundy benefits from the same types of corporate welfare that so much of the ruling class depends on to further inflate their wealth.

aaaaProfit is also central to the Standing Rock protests, but this time the protesters are not fighting in the name of profit but are instead indirectly fighting to impede it. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion dollar project that will then enrich the profits of oil companies for many years to come once it is completed. While the opposition to the pipeline is rooted in water rights and protections of sacred land, the protests themselves are a disruption of the capitalist machine and a victory would be an even greater blow.

To oppose the pipeline is to stand in the way of enormous profits, profits that benefit the State as well as capitalism itself.

Beyond the direct and actual economic impact, the differences in the overlying ideologies that frame the two scenarios also play a role. The patriot movement is a movement in favor of dismantling the commons in the name of profit. They seek the right to declare and enforce private property rights on land that theoretically belongs to the “public.” Their interests may be personal, but enclosing and selling off the commons is an essential function of capitalism.

Any and all attempts to protect or restore the commons is a potential threat to profits. Movements that fight for the commons are acting in direct contradiction with the needs and logic of capital. The indigenous-led movement opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline is explicitly fighting to maintain clean water and protect the commons on behalf of the people. They also speak of ‘sovereignty’, but the meaning of that for them is based in community and collective sustenance, as opposed to the ideology of individualism. The desire for profit is not a factor in their resistance. Their resistance is based in their very survival.

It is not just the physical and economic effects of the resistance that are a threat to capitalism. The collective power and shared values that tie the pipeline resisters togetherand the deepening of those values and connections over time as they continue their resistanceis an egregoric threat to capitalism in itself. This is true even when completely detached from the actualized impact of the protest, which also potentially factors into the disproportionate government response. As can be seen from the violence against the labor movement to the Black Panthers or Occupy, the modern State has a long and detailed history of enacting violence against and attempting to destroy movements that seek to dismantle capitalism and/or challenge the social order.

The contrasting values of the two areas of land are also an important factor in terms of the urgency of the state response. The Malheur refuge, while “valuable” for reasons related to environment and biodiversity, is not of value to capitalism in its current state as a federally protected area. The occupation of the property, regardless of who had been occupying it, was not affecting anyone’s profits on a significant level, as the land itself does not and cannot create potential income. The occupation of such a parcel may be an inconvenience for law enforcement and a drain on public funds, but its not a threat to profit or the capitalist machine as a whole – at least not at this point. But it is the very fact that places like the Malheur refuge cannot be exploited in the name of capital which is what the Bundys and their followers seek to change.

Unlike the lack of profit value of the wildlife refuge, the land in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline is indescribably valuable, especially to those who stand to profit of the building and operation of the project. In response to the growing protests, the corporations behind the Dakota Access Pipeline have been openly calling on the federal government to protect their “property rights,” calls which have been answered on multiple occasions in the form of police violence. The pipeline’s parent company stated that it was working with police in order to clear the camp just prior to the October 27th arrests.

The stark difference in the way that law enforcement treated the Malheur occupiers and the protesters at Standing Rock should not come as a surprise, but merely as a confirmation that the purpose of law enforcement is not to “protect and serve” the “people,” but instead to protect and serve the interest and the property of the ruling class. The more valuable any given piece of property is to either business or The State, the more violently it will be defended by that business or that state.

The response to the Standing Rock Protests taps into a much deeper wound, being the latest in a long and painful history of the federal government forcing Native people off their rightful land in the name of economic expansion and progress. It is a repetition of the very primitive accumulation and accompanying violence which founded the colonial settlement that became America. It is also the continuation of a struggle on the part of indigenous communities that has yet to cease since the first European contact.

bbThese disparities between how the Malheur occupiers were treated and the Standing Rock protesters were treated is not a result of a “flaw” in the system. If anything, what is being witnessed is that the system is responding so rapidly and so effectively that it can no longer mask its intentions or its contradictions. That exposure is in turn feeding an ever-increasing awareness amongst the masses as to how racism and state violence actually function. It’s also exposing the futility of reform.

Racism and private property rights are two of the most vital necessities in order for capitalism to function. Whether it’s Black Lives Matter bringing attention to police violence and systemic discrimination, or it’s the Standing Rock protesters bringing attention to illegal takings and the need to protect the commons, the police violence used against them will always be disproportionately severe when compared to those whose grievances and actions, even if illegal, do not challenge the interests or mechanics of capital.


Alley Valkyrie

alley-author

Alley Valkyrie is a social activist, writer, artist, and spirit-worker living in the Pacific Northwest. She currently divides her time between Portland and Eugene. Alley has spent the past several years working with homeless and impoverished populations in Oregon. She is also a freelance visual artist and photographer, and produces a clothing line called Practical Rabbit. She is a co-founder of Gods&Radicals.


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The Innocent Heart: Forging Tragedy into Justice

 

The Fable of the Child and the Dog

 

The Child:

I haven’t always hated dogs. When I was a kid we had this dog that I really loved, really sweet and gentle. We played all the time. She was really special to me. One day, out of nowhere, she snaps on me and bites my hand deep enough that I had to go get stitches. It was so bad that my parents went and put him down. Since then I’ve been terrified of dogs. I don’t get them. They look really sweet but you never know when they’re going to turn on you. I’d rather not have any dogs in my life, if at all possible.

The Dog:

I loved my humans but one day their baby grew up to be old enough to play with me. The child would grab my ears really painfully, pat me too hard, and pull on my lips. I would try to let the humans know I was hurting—I looked at them with my big open eyes, asking for help. They thought it was funny and laughed at me. When I growled or tried to get away, the humans yelled and told me to be still like a good dog. Finally one day I couldn’t handle it and I let the child know it had to stop. I bit him too hard. The humans were scared and angry, and they took me to someone who killed me. I hate humans.

Reflect on the stories above and how each version of the story feels to read. What judgments do you make about the characters in each version? Is there a clear victim in this story? A clear perpetrator? Do you feel that what happened to the child was just? Do you feel what happened to the dog was just? What does it mean if both versions of the story have equal validity, as well as equal bias? Who has more power in these stories?

The Dog lives in a world created by and for humans, cared for by humans who do not understand her language or appreciate her suffering. Her attempts to set boundaries read to the humans as disobedience; her attempts to communicate pain read as comedy. She can’t escape her conditions; she lacks the human hands and know-how that would let her unlock the doors. From the Dog’s vantage, it looks like the humans revel in their cruelty. Eventually, the only recourse the Dog has is to commit violence against the Child who loves her, but hurts her.

The Child in this story, on the other hand, experiences deep pain and betrayal when his beloved pet suddenly, bewilderingly turns vicious and cruel. This pain and betrayal, left unhealed, poisons the child’s psyche and becomes a barrier to him ever rediscovering the possibility of a joyful relationship with a dog. Though the Dog experienced the Child as a torturer, the Child lacked the insight to understand the Dog’s distress. The Parents, too, fail to apprehend the gravity of the situation and act to avert tragedy. They believe they are innocent and the Dog was not. The Child internalizes this lesson as well.

Moral Pluralism, Tragedy, and Innocence

Let’s acknowledge and then set aside the maligned notion of “moral relativism,” which should point us to looking at the cultural context in which an act was done, but has come to stand for (rightly or wrongly) an unwillingness to make moral judgments. Instead I want to consider the possibility of moral pluralism. Googling the definition of “pluralism” gets this: “a condition or system in which two or more states, groups, principles, sources of authority, etc., coexist.” This seems simple enough to help us look at the fable with the view that two different sources of moral authority may coexist and be in dialogue, that we can make judgments and also hold the possibility that a different judgment may have validity as well.

A practice of moral pluralism opens the possibility that what the humans did to the Dog was harmful, and what the Dog did to the Child was harmful, and any meaningful growth requires the inclusion of both these truths. We might go so far as to hold that both the Child and the Dog are innocent. Poet and mystic Victor Anderson, cited in The Heart of the Initiate, says, “How beautiful is the black lascivious purity in the hearts of children and wild animals.” He speaks to this purity in celebration of the feral state, of animal instinct as innocence itself. The Child and the Dog simply are what they are, acting in accord with their basic needs and desires for comfort and pleasure. The Child delights in playing with the Dog, but the Child also delights in the cruelty of his play. Amoral delight is a normal aspect of child development, part of the child’s process in learning morality. This Child is no different than the cat who tortures his prey. The Child and the Dog need the Parents to understand these desires at play and set appropriate boundaries so that all can coexist in harmony.

In this fable, the Parents also delight in cruelty, laughing at the Dog’s distress, but punish and inhibit the Dog from her instinctive efforts to find relief or communicate her displeasure. Harm was not intended, but harm happened, and if the humans do not take time to reflect upon the situation and accept responsibility for their part of it, then future harm could happen. We might imagine the upset and outrage the humans would feel if I were to come forward and say they had a role in the tragedy. Who the hell is this person to say it’s their fault? But when we move into shaming, blaming, and finding fault, we’ve begun to lose the expansive potential of moral pluralism. Moral pluralism offers us the capacity to acknowledge that everyone played a role in the tragedy. The feelings of hurt, anger, and betrayal of both the Humans and the Dog are valid and merit compassion and healing.

In my work as a therapist, my experience is that when people feel that the legitimacy of their pain is in question, we tend to become more rigidly hostile or defensive. When we feel that we are being met with compassion and understanding, that allows us to have space to consider having compassion and understanding for the other view. When we can see the merit of conflicting positions, then we truly have a hope of preventing future tragedy.

The Myth of the Innocent Victim and Evil Perpetrator

Moral pluralism is an uncomfortable discipline in a world with so much confusion and insecurity. I think many of us long for a simple moral framework upon which we can base a sense of confidence in who we are and how we live. One such moral premise is the notion that there are innocent victims and evil perpetrators in the world, and these are entirely separate people that we can identify and treat accordingly. If we looked at the fable through this lens, we might feel pressured to believe one story and dismiss the other—we’d fear that seeing the merit of the Dog’s story would be to say the Child “deserved” to be bit, or by having sympathy for the Child we are saying the dog “deserved” her treatment.

In a simple moral framework, “innocence” is a state of purity that is celebrated but fragile. Innocence is weighted with feeling, weighted with the pain of innocence lost. That feeling is used to manipulate us through the political use of “innocence.” A white 17 year-old wealthy male who borrows father’s car and causes a tragic accident has made “an innocent mistake,” whereas a Black 17 year-old male who is shot while walking home from buying candy at a local store is a “thug.” A 21 year-old white male who commits a deliberate mass shooting is referred to as a “boy” in the media, and his family gets interviewed to talk about his more sympathetic qualities. An 18 year-old Black male who is shot after jaywalking and stealing cheap cigars is referred to as a “man” in the media, and the articles about him highlight how he was “no angel.”

We see that “innocence,” is politically granted according to social position, not by life experience. According to the myth of the innocent victim, a person who is not wholly without sin or crime cannot be a victim. A criminal is marked as a separate kind of human being, if in truth they are granted any humanity at all. Thus anything done to stop or contain the criminal is considered justifiable. Only when the “wrong” person turns out to be a criminal does the discourse of innocence and criminality become confounded. Women who accuse respected men of rape and children who accuse beloved community members of molestation experience the dizzying reversal of the victim being put on trial. If their histories are not spotless, according to social judgment, then their victimhood is questioned. If the accused appears to be upright, then their criminality is questioned. The cognitive dissonance is intense. In the United States we aspire to a blind justice system that simply weighs the merits of the case and determines guilt or innocence, but in practice it is clear that media and bias shapes our expectations of what guilt and innocence look like.

When we divide the Innocent Victim from the Monstrous Criminal, we have lost the capacity for expansive moral pluralism, which could help us to address the real needs of actual victims and criminals who are all too human and complex. As a case manager, I have worked with a number of people convicted of criminal charges. The work taught me a number of things:

  1. The primary difference between a “criminal” and everyone else is that the “criminal” was caught while breaking a law, and prosecuted;
  2. Most “criminals” do not think of themselves as evil or desiring to harm others; and
  3. Even the most unlikable, unsympathetic person can be victimized.

The dilemma of the humans in the fable is the dilemma of people with privilege in the United States. Those in power support a society which is set up for us and people like us, such that we don’t even need to think about it—the people on TV look mostly like us, everything is written in our native language, buildings are designed for our bodies. We grow up with our own desires, struggles, and pain, and then someone tells us that our lives are causing harm to oppressed and marginalized people. We are confronted with voices and desires wholly different from our own, voices that challenge and question our deeply held sense of who we are in the world. The question is, will we buckle down and cling to one rigid pole of morality, or will we acknowledge what is legitimate about our perspective and open ourselves to the legitimacy of these other perspectives?

The fable draws upon the archetypal figures of Child and the Dog in part because these are emotionally charged. We project a lot of love, fear, joy, and protectiveness around dogs and children. Often it seems like harm to either is treated as a greater, more painful tragedy than the daily catastrophes that befall humans across the world. (Evidenced by the website doesthedogdie.com, which tracks movies with dogs in them and warns viewers about the dog’s fate, so that the viewers can be emotionally prepared.)

I want to acknowledge that comparing oppressed people with animals is part of a long tradition of dehumanization, but I think many of us at one point or another plays each of the roles during our lives: Child, Dog, and Parents.

For example, I grew up as a male in a fairly privileged White, middle-class family in the Midwest, and I have been the Child for much of my life. I graduated in a somewhat challenging job market but still managed to score livable wages until 2008, when my move to Seattle coincided with the Great Recession. I’d been working as a web content editor and networked before moving, but by the time I got to Seattle I was unable to find work in that field.

My income sunk from $20 per hour to $8.85 minimum wage as I could only find employment in the service sector, first as a gas station attendant and later as a Barista at a high-end fashion retail store. When I did my first holiday season, laboring physically harder for less money than I ever had for my corporate jobs, I overheard one of the customers telling her friend, “There is no recession in Seattle.” Later, when the Occupy protests were marching past our front doors, another customer (a similarly middle-aged, White, middle-to-upper class woman) stood by the counter while I made her drink, rolled her eyes, and said, “Aren’t you guys sick of this?” In that situation, I was the Dog.

She expected me to validate her perspective while I worked a job that paid me to be polite and professional to her. Occupy drew attention to the economic structures that put me in this situation, and I had a moral truth that I could not share without potentially compromising my job. And, again, this woman could not know, because she lived in a context set up to confirm her expectations and sense of self. If I’d spoken my honest perspective, I risked punishment and loss of the low wages I was getting.

Against the Rise of the Fascist

The weeks following the Daesh attacks in Paris in 2015 felt like the weeks following the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Anti-Muslim rage and xenophobia was treated as a legitimate political viewpoint by certain sectors of the media and political establishment, and even though the United States had executed near-constant military actions and warfare in the Middle East for the past fourteen years (and more!), certain politicians announced that the problems in the Middle East were due to our lack of military effort. On the other side were the people pointing out the sheer insanity of re-enacting the same patterns—causing the chaos and trauma that radicalizes people against the West, funding and training insurgents who become our next enemies.

In other parts of the United States, a Black Lives Matter activist was physically assaulted and called racial slurs at a political rally for presidential candidate Donald Trump, who suggested that “maybe he deserved to get roughed up.” In Minnesota, Black Lives Matter activists gathered to oppose yet another extrajudicial killing of a Black man by the police, and white supremacists opened fire, injuring five. According to several activists, when they told the police about this attack, the police responded with: “This is what you wanted.” The state-sanctioned murder of Black people, however, was exactly what Black Lives Matter opposes.

The common thread is that those in the positions of dominance and power—the United States, the police, a billionaire capitalist running for President—endorsed or permitted violence in response to assaults on their power. They justify this violence in part by portraying themselves as the victims who deserve protection from harm, that anything they need to do to preserve their power and reputation is necessary and all who oppose them need to be controlled. They dismiss the possibility that those who critique and oppose them may have moral truth that needs acknowledgment, as well as pain and anger that needs healing.

Like the humans in the fable, they respond to these assaults by suppressing the source of pain and confusion with violence. The popularity of Trump’s violent, chest-thumping rhetoric in Trump is part of this backlash. What attracts attention is not simply that he’s “un-PC,” which has always had a place in our culture (see the continued existence of the TV shows Family Guy and South Park), it’s that he is proud in his disrespect of women, the disabled, and people of color. He speaks to the resentment of privileged people who feel hemmed in by social change, those who feel their own anger and hurt are not being honored.

All of this, with the increase in visibility of white supremacists, suggests the re-energizing of the Fascist. The Fascist justifies any form of violence, tyranny, and oppression in the service of promoting the interests and well-being of the in-group, who are celebrated as somehow superior, moral, innocent people in comparison to anyone else. The Fascist will argue that certain skin colors and religious affiliations are intrinsically violent, evil, needing to be controlled—and even if we are the ones committing violence, selling weapons to the people who become our enemies, and blowing up hospitals, it’s all moral and ethical because we are protecting the “innocent” heart of our culture.

That simplistic morality ultimately harms us all. We need a concept of justice that acknowledges both victim and perpetrator have agency and personhood, but still does not excuse the crime. We need a wider lens that allows us to see how the West has participated in creating the toxic cultures that poison us with terrorism from without and xenophobia from within. We can condemn people for committing violence against citizens with the intent to foment chaos and terror, and we can recognize that our strategies of intervention gave those terrorist the training, means, and excuse to commit their acts. We can look with concern upon violent crime within communities and recognize how our systems of economic inequality and oppressive policing foster patterns of violence.

What is the world in which you want to live? Do you want a world of harmony, of fairness, in which everyone is treated with respect and shares love and joy? Isn’t that worth putting down the tools of violent control and shame and taking up the healing we so desperately need? Isn’t that worth considering a new perspective, considering new structures of governance and diplomacy that serves those goals instead of creating more trauma and misery? I’m not asking you to believe my view of things. I want us to listen to many voices, to consider many viewpoints, to acknowledge without silencing the discomfort of this, to acknowledge and honor the anger, confusion, and disorientation this brings. Let us rediscover the heart of innocence.

Anthony Rella

09LowResAnthony Rella is a witch, writer, and therapist living in Seattle, Washington. Anthony is a student and mentor of Morningstar Mystery School, and has studied and practiced witchcraft since starting in the Reclaiming tradition in 2005. Professionally, he is a psychotherapist working full-time for a community health agency and part-time in private practice.

Beyond Marriage Equality

By Tomás Ben-Sefis

queer as in fuck youPride season is drawing to a close and I’m left with lots of conflicted thoughts and feelings. This essay is an attempt to organize them into some coherence.

Recently I went to the gay pride parade in downtown Portland and was struck by the overwhelming presence of corporations and big businesses. The irony of Air BNB marching by while my city struggles under the boot heel of gentrification was not lost on me. I did not cheer for their employees. I did not cheer for the sheriff’s department. I was disheartened by all those that did.

A few weeks later the SCOTUS ruling filled up my Facebook feed with rainbows and ally cookies. Again I was disheartened. While I don’t want to begrudge people who want to get married, I feel that the “Love Is Love” campaign and similar campaigns are paltry and deny the true meaning of marriage as a transfer of material benefits. Why should these benefits only exist for a privileged few? Shouldn’t every person have a right to health care, to housing and other securities that marriage brings? And why should we have to get married to receive them?

So I ask, who is this movement for? It is a movement that has largely left out, queer, trans, bisexual, poor, people of color, immigrants, and disabled people. Do not forget how the Human Rights Campaign threw trans people under the bus and removed trans protections from the ENDA. Do not forget that marriage equality means that disability recipients who marry will lose those vital benefits. The marriage equality movement does not honor the diversity of our experiences, relationships or our belief systems.

The marriage equality movement is for the gay elite, for the monied White hordes of gay men and lesbians who are “acceptable “enough to warrant the rights straight people have had for so long. Marriage equality is an insidious assimilation strategy. So what then, does this victory mean for the rest of us?

I fear that the movement for marriage equality has eclipsed other more pressing issues facing LGBTQ people from a variety of backgrounds. The LGBTQ community is not as concise, Whitewashed and upwardly mobile as the HRC and other marriage equality organizations and “activists” want the majority to believe. We are not the same. We’re different, messy, diverse, resilient, and beautiful.

So many issues affect our communities: housing discrimination, police brutality, gentrification, employment discrimination, lack of healthcare, substance abuse and addiction, teen suicides, youth homelessness, immigration, deportation, incarceration. Do not believe for a minute that the AIDS crisis is over just because some people can afford PrEP.

What does marriage equality do for these problems? Nothing. Marriage equality activists and organizations have distanced themselves from these issues in order to be more palatable for straight society and the State. One can see the change in language when we talk about the history of gay liberation vs. modern gay rights. Now we are focused on individual rights (“freedoms”) rather than the liberation of entire communities.

Another example of this change is seen in the issue of police brutality and solidarity with other minority communities. Our movement has its origins in protesting police harassment and abuses against us. It was pioneered by trans women of color, the most oft quoted are Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson (may they rest in power), so why isn’t the LGBTQ community up in arms against police brutality? Where is LGBTQ solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement? Through all the murders of Black folks throughout this country on the part of police officers, I have seen deafening silence from the mainstream LGBTQ community.

I find this very troubling. We do not live single-issue lives, as Audre Lorde reminds us. Each person is a vast constellation of identities and we all face many different challenges. So why has our movement morphed into a single issue? I feel as though I must ask again, who is this marriage equality movement for?

I believe in more than marriage, and I will continue to work towards a more just society beyond capitalism and beyond marriage, where each person is protected and valued not for their productivity or legal status, but for their passions, their artistry, their contributions to community, their ideas, themselves.