Community and an ethic of resistance
the view from where I stand
Do you remember placing yourhand upon your beating heart, and speaking the words, " I pledge alliegence, to the flag, of the United States of America... ". Do you remember not knowing what those words meant, or even how to pronounce them? In fourth grade, I looked up the words in the dictionary, and from that day on I couldn't bring myself to say the words. It was during a time when my community was under attack from racist developers who were stealing our land and water, and who were always backed by the police. That became the red,white and blue for me. It was later that the Department of Energy tore my village apart by shipping nuclear waste through, and inducing a climate of fear and mistrust. The red, white and blue shone from the emergency lights. It is deadening to pledge alliegence to an abuser. To someone or something that will hurt you for their own benefit. I could no longer speak it, but I just had to stand there, because I couldn't physically withdraw from the political aggression I saw around me, and I was not mentally or physically equipped to fight back.
During the first gulf war, I saw trains full of army trucks heading west towards the ports, at least a few times a week. These were tools of destruction, just like the machines that were killing our watershed, but that would destroy communities in Iraq. Yet, these were built to destroy people, and not just their means of subsistence. I saw pictures of babys with their limbs blown off, mothers with life seeping out of them into oily sand, young and old men being gunned down for running. Genocide is too large of a horror for a person to understand. For me, that was no excuse to ignore it. I saw it around me every day, from the news to the parched reservations.
There is a deep untruth within this nation, as there has since the beginning. I am so angry, so angry to understand the betrayals that have made this country what it is. It is becoming clearer to more and more people, that what is happening now is what has ALWAYS HAPPENED, yet there is greater and greater acceptance among all kinds of regular people of the murder and arocity that accompany the US's deadly steps around the world. Bringing up the battles of the past is no longer seen as a process of learning and understanding, instead it is brushed aside as political rhetoric. The past has become encased in symbolism, so that only certain symbols are appropraite to bring up in the eyes of US culture: overshadowing all other such symbols are the twin towers.
As people, we all are in search of happiness. We're looking for sustenence for ourselves and our families, and to a limited extant, our larger communities. But in this climate of increasing fear and aggression by the state on all who fall out of the patriotic bandwagon, community relationships are breaking down even more than has already occurred. More than has been achieved by the state in the over 500 years of concerted effort. In concrete terms, community means material support of one another. The lack of community, the isolation of many people, leaves them voulnerable to any and all persecution, scapegoating, and starvation or illness when they fall through the cracks of an increasingly disfunctional state wellfare system. Yet politics in general chooses to ignore the obvious strengths of community building and remain investing massive amounts of time and energy into institutional reform and politics isolated from the daily struggles of most people, and the harrowing battles of the few communities left fighting the forces of dispersal. It is as though communities are INVISIBLE, just because they aren't politicians.
That leaves us with very few options. It is up to us, any and all people, to break apart the artificial segregation put on us by politicians and the political system to disempower us. It is past time to redefine our independence, and declare it to be the freedom for ALL people regardless of class, race, gender, political affilliation, creed, or sexual orientation. To declare this is to speak in words that those in power understand, and that means we must speak with our alliegences, our resources, and our relationships. We must have community support bases, to be able to withdraw our alliegence to the united states, we must stop supporting the government by cutting off our tax payments and the slavery known as military enlistment. For this to be sustainable, we must understand our relationships with one another and our impact upon this world.
Of course it would be ideal if this was well enough, and they let us alone. However, from past events, we know what to expect. The immediate repression of any such movement, as happened to the Black Panther Party when they began building free breakfast prgrams and health centers, as well as to the American Indian Movement and many other organizations, were carried out in a surgical military fashion, and were effective. We need the ability and the belief in defending ourselves. We need to be able to maintian and expand our autonomy, and this will be the real declaration. That we do define ourselves apart from the state, because the state is abusive to its people. We are currently the most UNFREE people in the world in terms of the amount of regulation in our lives, and this nation incarcerates a greater proportion of its citizens than ANY other nation. Slavery is no metaphor for what is occuring in the prisons, and it could be said that the rest of us, espeially the poor, the people of color, and the new immigrants, live in a minimum security institution, where one mistep over any line of regulation will land us in the next deeper level of incarceration.
Revolution is a scary word, as is war, death, pain, uncertainty. These are things that we shy away from by impulse, as though by avoiding paying attention to such things they are made less relevant or present in the world around us. People walk past other people, lying huddled, perhaps dying painfully on the sidewalk. Do we look down and see our sister or brother, or mother or father or child there? Do we understand that that which is causing pain all around us is the kind of oppressive institution that oppresses slowly, and certainly, until it has consumed each and every individual's life?
I had a very scary dream recently, in which I was in a deathcamp. I was surrounded by almost everyone I know, and as we filed into the shower room I would not let myself admit that I and all these other people might die together. It was as though I believed that the safety in numbers saying would protect me from what was quickly becoming clear. "Genocide can not, and will not happen to ME". A solid metal door was shut and locked behind us and there was a pause among all inside. We looked at one another and what remained unsaid became understood: we are about to die. People fell all around me out of mental anguish, lying on the floor and trying very hard to just give up. Trying to maintain some shred of dignity and identity, and reconcile that with the fact that we were about to be extinguished, like so many cattle in a slaughterhouse. I found myself using the emotional strength I have always known I have, to tell others, "I am not afraid of death, it is a dispersal of life and nothing more. I happens to all, and will be a relief." What happened next was that gas came flooding into the room, visible and nauseating. As the inevitability of death grew in people's minds, they relaxed and became unresistant to breathing the gas, to death. I remember thinking, "One breath and then another. I can handle this, and it will be over soon." And when the gas stopped coming in, and a armed guard opened the door, the half-dead people were completely unresistant to filing back out of the gas chamber and working, digging the graves of others. I myself reconciled this by a kind of fatalism, that "I am already half dead, and my body is worthless to me. I will die soon, and it doesn't matter what I do with it now." And when the guards escorted us back to the gas chamber, and we realized that the graves we had been digging were our own, the only resistance that we offered them was to remain dignified and as unfearful as possble. The effect of such mental "resistance" was of course an orderly coulumn of prisoners, walking one step and then another to certain death. I began thinking about my death, and decided that I must be holding hands, for mutual support, with an old friend, and a child I used to take care of. My family. I am holding onto love, onto digntiy, but life is slipping from my grasp. At least my last thoughts will be of my loved ones.
Again, the gas came rolling into the room, and again there was aquiescence. But suddenly I realized that I was angry, very angry about what was being taken from me and all the people around me. We weren't retaining the important things, despite our efforts at lessening our pain. Pain was the threat that was held over our heads that made us bow to this death that we had already reconciled ourselves to. I stood up, breaking my grasp on the people around me, and fought for my way out with the guards at the door. I knew that I fought for my life, and that I was also fighting for the lives of everyone else in that room, by showing them that it is worth the risk of pain to fight for life.
That was how the dream ended, and I do not know if I got past the guards or not. But I remember thinking about those whom I love who were not in that chamber, and that there are things worth fighting for, worth risking spilling my blood, or killing for. I remember thinking about how fighting against something only holds meaning if you know what you are fighting FOR.
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