The Recent History of GDP Growth, CO2 Emissions, and Climate Policy Paralysis, All in One Table-Runner

Stan Cox & Priti Gulati Cox

IMG_6441cross-stitch embroidered table-runner. Watch this video narrated by Piyush Labhsetwar

Note: I began designing this table-runner just before the COVID-19 pandemic blew up in the United States. In the time I have been embroidering it, rates of death and misery have soared while wealth generation and carbon emissions (the two subjects of this work) have ended their decades-long rise and have plummeted. A deadly virus is a terrible means of slowing greenhouse warming. Whenever we come out the other side of the pandemic, we must pursue a rapid, humane, ecologically sound, and guaranteed-effective course of action to drive greenhouse emissions down to zero. Here’s how

— P.G.C.

The color of money is the color of calamity

This table-runner illustrates, from left to right, the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from 1946 to the present. Each year is represented by two adjacent stripes: one in gradually deepening shades of green representing that year’s U.S. gross domestic product (adjusted for inflation) and one in increasingly intense shades of yellow-orange-red, representing CO2 concentration. 

There are nine shades for GDP and eleven for CO2, with shades indicating roughly equal intervals of increase in each. The shades of both types of stripes darken as the years go by, in accordance with the increases that occurred in both GDP and CO2. 

The shades of yellow-orange-red in the table-runner darken more and more rapidly as the years pass, illustrating how emissions of CO2 accelerated as industrial output and fossil-fuel use rose more rapidly throughout the world. The concentration of CO2 rose at an annual rate of about 0.8 ppm from 1945 to 1980; 1.5 ppm from 1980 to 1995; and 2.1 ppm from 1995 to 2019. (The United States accounted for almost 20 percent of the rise in atmospheric CO2 during those years.)

If two such numbers (“variables”) increase or decrease together over time, that does not prove that one causes the other to change. But growing economies do require growing inputs of energy and other resources and emit growing quantities of CO2. Thoughout the past century, anywhere you look around the world, GDP and CO2 emissions have risen (and sometimes fallen) together.

Increases in GDP and CO2 over the past three decades have had one easily identifiable cause in common: the reluctance of governments to curb the carbon emissions of the world’s largest economies for fear of slowing the growth of their own GDP.

Growth was non-negotiable

In the year 1700, the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere was about 270 parts per million (ppm). At the end of World War II, following a century of increasing fossil-fuel use, CO2 was up to 310 ppm.

Scan 1(1946 – 1960)

The increase accelerated gradually through the postwar years, without drawing much attention.

Scan 2(1961 – 1976)

Carbon dioxide concentration reached 339 ppm in 1980, but its rise still was not making headlines.

Scan 3(1977 – 1992)

By 1988, though, worldwide concern had grown to the point that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established to study the situation. That year, the CO2 concentration was 350 ppm (a figure that would become a climate rallying cry twenty years later when climate scientist James Hansen and colleagues concluded that a world “similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted” would become impossible unless CO2 is driven back down to 350 ppm or below.)

Scan 4(1992 – 2007)

In the decades since 1988, progressively louder alarms have been going off.

Scan 5(2005 – 2019)

But any serious efforts to curb emissions were stymied by a consensus among the United States and other governments that the only available course of action was inaction. They feared that if the world were to take effective action on greenhouse emissions, economic growth would be hampered. And to them, that was unacceptable. 

As the years rolled on, the accumulation of wealth proceeded on schedule with just a few interruptions, while greenhouse gases continued to accumulate in the sky above:

1992: At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is agreed upon. At the summit, President George H.W. Bush claims for his country the right to pursue uninterrupted growth, whatever the impact on the Earth. He infamously declares, “The American way of life is not up for negotiation.” That year, the U.S. GDP stands at $6.5 trillion; atmospheric CO2 has risen seventeen points over the preceding twelve years and stands at 356 ppm.

1997: The Kyoto Protocol is adopted. The U.S. Senate refuses to ratify Kyoto, with Larry Craig (R-ID) declaring that President Bill Clinton’s signing of the treaty is “the first time in history that an American president has allowed foreign interests to control and limit the growth of the U.S. economy.” GDP: $8.6 trillion, CO2: 363 ppm.

2001: Clinton’s signature remains on the Kyoto pact until midyear, when the newly elected president, George W. Bush, erases it, claiming that the treaty “would have wrecked our economy.” GDP: $10.6 trillion. CO2: 370 ppm.

2008: United Nations officials and economists propose a Green New Deal to pull the world economy out of the Great Recession. The UN Environment Program’s executive director declares, “The new, green economy would provide a new engine of growth, putting the world on the road to prosperity again.” U.S. GDP: $14.7 trillion. Atmospheric CO2: 385 ppm.

2015: The Obama Administration’s climate negotiators, fearful of constraining the nation’s economy, significantly weaken the Paris Agreement on climate. They successfully demand that a single word in the document be changed, so that the United States and other developed countries will agree that they “should” rather than “shall” undertake economy-wide quantified emission reductions. GDP: $18.2 trillion. CO2: within one-half part per million of 400.

2017: Donald Trump withdraws U.S. support from the Paris Agreement, saying, “This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States.” He uses the word “climate” only twice more in his statement, both times dismissively, while using the word “economy” or “economic” nineteen times. GDP: 19.5 trillion. CO2: 405 ppm.

2020: The COVID-19 pandemic leads to a worldwide contraction of economic activity, and energy consumption plummets. On Earth Day, the World Meterological Organization predicts that global CO2 emissions will fall by 6 percent that year, the steepest annual decline since World War II. However, the WMO also calls for a “stimulus package” to help the global economy grow once the pandemic is over—a move that would be sure to accelerate the rebound of CO2 emissions. At the start of the pandemic, GDP is $21.7 trillion, and CO2 concentration is up to 415 ppm.

In the forty-three years between World War II and creation of the IPCC, nothing was done about the slow accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, because governments didn’t recognize it as a problem. Through the following thirty-two years, however, emissions accelerated and catastrophe loomed ever nearer. Yet even with warnings flashing brighter orange and then deeper red, emissions were still left largely unrestrained. That failure resulted, and still results, from the single-minded focus of Big Business and its backers in governments worldwide on limitless wealth accumulation.

IMG_6425

 

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Stan Cox (@CoxStan) is the author of the new book The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can (City Lights, May 5).

 

Pattern for a Hand-Stitched Fabric Face Mask

If you would like a printout of the instructions please click on: face mask pdf 

For those of us who don’t have access to a sewing machine, below are step-by-step photo-instructions on how to make hand-stitched fabric face masks for yourself and your family and friends. Of course it takes longer to put one of these together, but in this age of COVID-19, it is becoming more and more evident that it is crucial for us to wear face masks whenever we venture out whether to go to the grocery store, or for walks etc. So here goes.

These instructions are for a small/medium size face mask that is similar to the sewing machine pattern published by Kaiser Permanente and fits most adults.

According to a recent Washington Post article “if a mask is going to be reused [like this one], it must be kept clean. Layers add additional protection, so three-ply is good.” Also, reports suggest that fabric ties are better than elastic. This pattern — which includes two variations — is designed with those specifications in mind. One of the masks uses three layers of fabric in the design, and both have fabric strips for ties.

 

IMG_6372These masks, as I said, are made using the same pattern. One of them (the top one) is made with muslin cloth in three-ply; and the second grey one is made with quilting fabric. Basically any tight-woven cotton fabric will do for these hand-stitched masks.

The step-by-step instructions given below are for the white, three-ply version. The grey face mask is made just like the white one, but without the third layer of fabric.

Materials needed include pre-washed cotton muslin cloth, a hand-sewing needle, pins, scissors, thread, pencil and ruler.

IMG_6382For the face mask:

  • One piece of fabric measuring 15 1/2″ x 7 1/2″, folded in half (7 3/4″ x 7 1/2″)
  • One piece of fabric measuring 7 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ (for the third layer insert)
  • Two strips of fabric for the mask ties, measuring 1 1/2″ x 36″

 

IMG_6300We are going to use a Running Stitch to assemble the mask to emulate a sewing machine stitch. This is done by first stitching in one direction like dashes…

IMG_6301… and then going back and filling the blanks between the dashes like so.

IMG_6302 In order to withstand wearing and washing, the seams must be strong, so 10 to 12 stitches per inch are suggested.

 

IMG_6319Start off by marking a 1/4″ seam allowance line on the 7 3/4″ x 7 1/2″ (folded) fabric with a ruler and pencil on the opposite side of the folded edge, and start making the running stitch all the way to the end.

IMG_6320Remember to back-stitch about 3-4 stitches at the beginning and end (like you see here) of the seam for strength.

IMG_6321Finishing the seam.

IMG_6322Finished seam.

 

IMG_6325Now make pencil marks about 1/4 inch deep at the four corners of the 7 1/2″ x 7 1/2″(insert) fabric.

IMG_6326Placing the 7 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ fabric along the stitched seam line and the other three sides of the 7 3/4″ x 7 1/2″ fabric, make small, two-stitch tucks…

IMG_6327… on the four pencil-marked corners to keep the fabric (third layer) insert in place, making sure…

IMG_6328… to attach the insert fabric only to one…

IMG_6330 … of the two layers of folded fabric.

IMG_6333After you’re finished, turn the fabric inside out…

IMG_6334… and flip it to the other side (the side that’s not attached to the insert. Now draw two 1/4″ allowance pencil lines along the two open sides of the fabric and stitch.

IMG_6335Now all four sides are closed. Trim any loose threads and straighten the sides.

IMG_6336With the seam side on top, measure up from the folded edge (bottom) and make pencil marks at 1 1/2″ (mark 1), 1 1/2″ (mark 2), 1″ (mark 3) and 1 1/2″ (mark 4), on each side of the mask.

IMG_6337Starting near the fold line at the bottom, create the first pleat by bringing the first mark to the second mark on both sides of the mask and pin into place. For the second pleat, bring the third mark to the fourth mark on both sides of the mask and pin that into place.

IMG_6338Now stitch the pleats down on each side…

IMG_6339… ensuring to make some extra stitches at the corner of each pleat for strength.

IMG_6340Remove the pins and turn the mask so the seam is on the top and pleats open toward the top of the mask. Mark 7/8” (mark 5) from the top pleat on each side.

IMG_6341Now pin the top pleat to the 7/8″ mark…

IMG_6342… on each side…

IMG_6343… and stitch the 7/8″ pleat down on each side. “This final pleat, according to the Kaiser Permanente pattern, allows the mask to cup over the nose and to hug the side of the face.”

IMG_6345The mask part is now done, and it’s time to attach the 1 1/2″ x 36″ strips of fabric, or straps, that will tie at the back of your head. I made the strips by joining two 1 1/2″ x 18 1/4″ pieces of fabric (like you see above), but you can skip this step if your fabric is long enough. Now mark the center of the strips and make a 1/4″ allowance seam line with a pencil a little over 3 1/2″ long. Also, on the mask, mark the center of the two short sides.

IMG_6348Now pin the center mark of the strip to the center mark on the short edge of the mask, right sides together…

IMG_6349… and stitch.

IMG_6350Fold the strip along the seam line…

IMG_6351… turn the mask around and fold another 1/4″ to the center of the strip…

IMG_6352….. and then double-fold the strip so you are enclosing the edge of the mask and the edges of the strip.

IMG_6353We will be closing the edges of the mask and the edges of the strip by using a hem-stitch. Start by attaching the strip from one edge of the mask to the other.

IMG_6354Press down and fold the rest of the strip in half to make a center line…

IMG_6358… and then double fold again bringing the two 1/4″ folded edges to the center line…

IMG_6359… and enclosing the strip like so.

IMG_6360Here again, at the armpit where the strips attach to the mask, you will make a few extra stitches for strength.

IMG_6361Continue in hem-stitch all the way down the strip…

IMG_6362…till you reach about 2″ from the edge and fold 1/4″…

IMG_6363… fold the strip…

IMG_6365…and close the edges. Repeat this on the other side and the remaining side of the mask with the other strip.

IMG_6367And your mask is ready to wear.

 

IMG_6368 2For the mask using quilting fabric, you fold the fabric in half, right sides together and stitch the seam on the opposite side of the fold just like you did for the three-ply mask.

IMG_6369Turn the piece so the right side of the fabric is facing out and press the seam (if you have an iron) or just press down like so…

IMG_6371… and you’re ready to make the pleats and attach the strips.

IMG_6374Remember to hand wash the masks after every use…

IMG_6384… line dry…

… and stay safe!

Update: To stitch a face mask for a child, use a 15″ x 5 1/2″ piece of fabric.

Climbing the Deadly Curves of COVID-19 and Capitalism

IMG_6241Rolled up on a leftover toilet paper tube, this image represents the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States from March 1 to 14, showing the cumulative number of cases known on each of the days in that period of time.

 

IMG_6243When rolled out on the Sidewalk Museum of Congress (SMoC) located outside 1st District Rep. @RogerMarshallMD’s office in Salina, KS, the cross-stitched image illustrates the disease’s exponential growth. It is 17 feet long. 

 

Each image shows one day’s increase in confirmed cases:

Scan

Scan 1

Scan 2It took me roughly an hour to cross stitch each three hundred squares. As it required more and more hours each day during the first two weeks of the federal non-response to COVID-19, it became evident to me that it was impossible for me to catch up with the spread of the virus as it thrived under the government’s mismanagement of the pandemic.

Scan 3

Scan 4But more than that, the monotony of playing catch-up revealed something much deeper about the curve of unchecked free-market capitalism that has always bent toward corporate greed and goes way way back and is much much longer than this latest trajectory of speedy injustice.

In other words, this image is perhaps timeless and can be applied to every other man-made disaster that preceded it and I would end up in the same position — unable to keep up.

 

Continuing to zoom out in order to capture each day’s new cases:

Screen Shot Mar.9

Screen Shot Mar.10

Screen Shot Mar.11

Screen Shot Mar.12

Screen Shot Mar.13

Screen Shot Mar.14The COVID-19 pandemic could perhaps be seen as mother nature — who can never be tamed — warning us that we need to slow down. If this isn’t the time to stop business-as-usual in its tracks and choose health care as a human right over profit care as a corporate right then I don’t know what is. And if this isn’t the time to embrace a general strike in defiance of the status-quo then I don’t know what is.

 

Climbing the Deadly Curves of COVID-19 and Capitalism

by Stan Cox

This embroidery work illustrates the exponential growth in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States from March 1 through March 14. The daily increase during that period ranged between 30 and 45 percent.

By March 14, it had already become impossible to embroider fast enough to keep up with the exponential growth in cases. The embroidered work, halted at that time, is 17 feet long. Had it been possible to continue for one more week, it would have reached 155 feet in length. In one more week, it would have stretched a quarter mile. 

Given the woefully inadequate testing that has been done in the United States, we can be sure that actual numbers of people infected with the novel coronavirus are several to many times the numbers above. Dealing with this huge and growing catastrophe will be a grueling and tragic experience.

Reverse Gears, Wrong and Right

In the absence of effective action or coordination by the Trump administration, state and local governments in hard-hit U.S. locations are adopting drastic measures aimed at limiting transmission of the virus—policies that only weeks ago would have been unthinkable, given their impact on local economies. And people everywhere are acting on their own, staying home and keeping their money in their pockets.

By throwing growth into reverse in all major economies, these governmental, collective, and personal actions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus have together accomplished what the Paris Agreement and other climate initiatives could not: a reduction in the rate of greenhouse emissions. This was no surprise. Past declines in economic activity, such as the worldwide financial crash and recession of 2008, also brought sharp but temporary emissions reductions.

This sudden, dramatic economic retreat is illustrating on a world scale the well-known, tight link between nations’ or regions’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and their greenhouse emissions. They rise and fall together.* 

The economic growth pursued in normal times by governments worldwide, like the increase in COVID-19 cases, follows an exponential curve. (The adjective “exponential” is too often misinterpreted as “really fast” when it actually indicates multiplicative, accelerating growth.)

While existing in a wholly different time scale—3 percent per year versus 30 percent per day for the virus—the kind of growth required to make capitalist economies happy is as dire a threat to humanity in the long run as the COVID-19 pandemic will be in the short run. 

An unmanaged economic decline triggered by a pandemic is of course a terrible means of reining in greenhouse warming. Many millions of low-income and marginalized Americans will endure horrendous suffering and hardship in the coming months. 

Once this ordeal is finally over, economic activity will be restored, but that should be done in a way that achieves health and economic security for every household in the country, without returning the national economy to its insupportable expansionary path.  

Now it has become apparent that Donald Trump, more concerned about the stock market than the death toll, wants the country to go back to business-as-usual by Easter. The goal, shared by many red-state officials, would be to steepen the curve, not flatten it, getting the pandemic over with quickly so the crippled economy can supposedly get going again.

The business-as-usual route, if followed, would cause unimaginable misery, creating a flood of critically ill patients by May-June, overwhelming the nation’s ICU-bed capacity 30 times over, and causing 2.2 million deaths. 

Fortunately, Trump won’t get his way. State and local governments will press ahead with policies to stem the pandemic. Most likely, the nation will become an unsatisfactory mosaic, as blue state governments continue working to flatten their curves (with no federal help) and red states allow their curves to steepen catastrophically. That will produce no national recovery from either COVID-19 or the economic meltdown for the next year to year and a half.  

Meanwhile, there is already a scramble to restore economic growth by, in part, rescuing ecologically ruinous industries (air travel, cruises, oil and gas). If, post-pandemic, growth is restored, emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other global-warming gases will return to their own dangerous growth trajectories. 

Exponential growth of 3 percent annually, if restored, would double the size of the world’s affluent economies within 25 years, supercharging global warming. (That will happen in the same decades during which the international scientific community says greenhouse emissions must be reduced to zero if catastrophic warming is to be avoided.)

The Curtain Is Ripped Away

Millions in the United States have been rendered especially vulnerable to the coronavirus’s exponential growth by steep declines in workers’ rights, the lack of economic security for low-income and marginalized communities, and, of course, the absence of a universal health-care system. These failures have resulted from the pursuit of exponential growth in private wealth for the affluent minority through exploitation of the majority.  

Both the virus and the economic impacts of efforts to contain the virus are laying bare the need for policies that shift economic power away from the owning and investing classes to the struggling majority and the public good.

It is often said of the suffering and destruction caused by hurricanes and earthquakes that there is no such thing as a “natural disaster.” The trail of sickness and death being left by the COVID-19 pandemic is likewise a highly unnatural disaster, a product of greed and exploitation. in the longer term, material resources and human labor must be directed not toward capital accumulation by the few but rather toward provision of basic needs and a good, healthy quality of life. 

A functional government in Washington, if we had one, could learn from this terrible episode that its primary goal can and must be to achieve economic sufficiency for all and excess for none while at the same time driving fossil-fuel extraction and use down to zero, by law and on a deadline. All of that will require redirecting the nation’s resources away from wasteful and superfluous production toward ensuring economic security and good quality of life for the nation’s non-affluent majority. 

Above all, COVID-19 has torn away the curtain of obfuscation and made the desperate need for publicly funded, universal health care and a robust public health system blindingly obvious. Amy Kapczynski and Gregg Gonsalves (professors of law and epidemiology, respectively, at Yale) recently wrote, “The Medicare for All component has been well mapped out, but less obvious, and just as crucial, is a new infrastructure of care. Envisioning a better, more just, and fairer response to coronavirus points us to what a new future would look like.” 

They continued: “Ten days ago we joined a group of experts in writing an open letter to our federal, state, and local leaders, setting out the vast range of responses that we need to quickly expand our social immunity and protect the most vulnerable. It highlights many of the things that we need to do, but also need to abstract from to bring about a new politics of care.”

Spain is nationalizing all its private hospitals. The U.K. government has announced a plan to pay 80 percent of wages of workers being laid off, to keep them in their jobs whether they can work or not. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is set to send big bailouts to Big Business while just nibbling around the edges of the hard-charging crisis that’s hitting ordinary people.

As our country stumbles its way through the pandemic, Lucy Diavolo, an editor at Teen Vogue, has compiled stories of groups and communities from all over who are moving ahead on a broad front to keep society functioning and prevent a humanitarian crisis.

Also check out the site It’s Going Down, a “digital community center for anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements,” which offers a wide-ranging list of mutual aid groups mobilizing across the country in the time of COVID-19. These efforts are focused on people who are incarcerated, immunocompromised, economically insecure, homeless, isolated, homebound, and/or needing access to food or medicines. They are proliferating across the country, and we all should jump in. That is the kind of growth we need now.

* Most “green growth” strategies depend on the assumption of rapid efficiency increases to reduce demand for energy and materials. But growth always undermines such efficiency gains. Improvements in the quantity of economic output per unit of resource input may impress at first, but they necessarily slow and eventually cease as they bump up against physical limits. As exponential economic growth proceeds, the material and energy resources required to support that growth will inevitably increase. See James Ward, Paul Sutton, Adrian Werner, Robert Costanza, Steve Mohr, and Craig Simmons, “Is Decoupling GDP Growth from Environmental Impact Possible?” PloS One 11 (2016): e0164733. The paper explains why the asymptotic efficiency curve becomes swamped by the exponential GDP-growth curve, concluding that “GDP ultimately cannot plausibly be decoupled from growth in material and energy use, demonstrating categorically that GDP growth cannot be sustained indefinitely. It is therefore misleading to develop growth-oriented policy around the expectation that decoupling is possible.”

Stan Cox (@CoxStan) is the author of The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can (City Lights, May, 2020).

 

Patterns of Occupied Palestine and Kashmir: Part 4 of Uncountable

Aaj Woh Kashmir Hai Mehkoom-O-Faqeer 

Kal Jise Ahl-E-Nazar Kehte Thay Iran-E-Sagheer 

(Today that land of Kashmir, under the heels of the enemy, has become weak, helpless and poor

Once known among the wise as Little Iran)

— Allama Muhammad Iqbal, poet and philosopher of Kashmiri origin, “The Poet who Introduced Language of Resistance in Kashmir,” New Frame, July 11, 2019

Border pattern includes the above couplet by Muhammad Iqbal from the book Armaghan-e-Hijaz (The Gift of Hijaz), in Urdu script

On June 14, 2018 two people representing similar struggles in two different parts of the world were murdered. One of them, 21-year-old Ahmad Ziad Tawfiq al-‘Aassi lived in occupied Palestine, and the other, 50-year-old Shujaat Bukhari lived in occupied Kashmir.

For almost half a century, Kashmir has been ruled from Delhi with the utmost brutality… Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi… are now passionate bedfellows, and Israeli “advisers” have been seen again in recent years in Kashmir renewing the close intelligence and security cooperation that dates from the early 2000s. The revocation of Article 370, which protected Kashmir’s demography by restricting residency to Kashmiris alone and, under a sub-section known as Article 35A, forbade the sale of property to non-Kashmiris, and the planned division of Kashmir into three separate Bantustan statelets, bear hallmarks of the Israeli occupation in Palestine.

—Tariq Ali, “Kashmir on the Edge of the Abyss,” NYR Daily, August 10, 2019

When it comes to heinous atrocities committed daily by Israel on the Palestinians, and  by India on the people of Kashmir, there is zero accountability. The vicious cycle of impunity enjoyed by these two occupying powers has deep roots in their respective exceptionalist ideologies: Zionism and Hindutva. As pointed out by the online news organization MEE, “Modi and Netanyahu quickly bonded in 2014 over their zealous objective to consolidate total and absolute power over their territories. They also recognized in each other the similarity of their ambitions to build supremacist democratic states with a single culture, a single race and a single nation.”

Cross-pollinate Zionism and Hindutva and you get Zionutva — a hybrid fantasy. 

The ultimate goal for Zionism is to slowly but surely establish a Greater Israel; for Hindutva it is to slowly but surely establish a Hindu Rashtra, or a Hindu nation-state. In the process, Zionutva will make second-class citizens of both the Palestinians in historic Palestine and the Muslims and other minorities in India and Kashmir.

This is all bullshit… They [Hindutva] are actually hiding a dark Hindu fantasy of destroying Kashmiri Muslims and reducing them to a minuscule minority so that they can always rule them and they will be enslaved. Overnight their identity, their dignity, their everything has been lost. Kashmir has a 5000 years history as a country, all that goes down the drain…

— Prof. Hameeda Nayeem, “The Protests in Kashmir That India Didn’t Want You to See,” VICE News, August 16, 2019

Zionutva’s a fantasy, because as Prof. Nayeem describes, there can never finally be a Hindu Rashtra, or for that matter a Greater Israel on this dying planet. Before that can happen, the doomsday clock will strike midnight. Israel and India, along with bipartisan support from the United States of America — all of whom have nuclear weapons — have made it clear that they will use their ill-gotten freedom and democracy to deny the occupied Palestinians and Kashmiris their freedom and rights to self-determination. And the people of Palestine and Kashmir for their part have made it even more clear that they will stop short of nothing but getting their Azadi (Freedom) from the occupying fantasies of Zionutva. Their resistance to occupation will continue till the end of everything, or Azadi, whichever comes first.

So who are these faces and places of resistance? These stone-throwers and their brothers and sisters; these children lined up in white shrouds; these women and their sons; these obliterated families; these olive orchards with occupier-felled trees; these warehouses full of rotting apples that never made it to the market because of Kashmir’s communication lockdown; these chests wearing PRESS vests who never made it home?

Or what about these pairs of Palestinians and Kashmiris who were killed by Zionutva forces on the same day, like journalist Shujaat Bukhari and protester Ahmad Ziad; these barricaded farmlands; these artisans of vanishing crafts; these martyred “militants”; these unmarked gravesites; these endangered creatures; these stolen streams, mountains, villages and neighborhoods; these prescient professors like Hameeda Nayeem; these old and young enveloped in a debris of memories; these everything that has been occupied? Slowly but surely.

I have a very profound belief that it is difficult to have peace in the Middle East without minimal accountability certainly for the largest crimes.

— Shibli Mallat, a human rights lawyer, Sharon’s Dark Past

portrait-3Border pattern includes Sabra and Shatila and the sentence “Sorrow is never forgotten” in Arabic script

Estimates suggest that between 750 and 3,500 Palestinians were killed in the Sabra and Shatila massacre between September 16 and 18, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The massacre was carried out by Phalange, a right-wing Maronite Christian militia with full support and coordination of the Israelis.

According to Shibli Mallat “hundreds of Palestinians were rounded up [and taken to the stadium in Beirut] under the supervision and control and with interrogation of the Israeli forces.”  A cameramen who was there filmed the scene and said that the interrogations took place after the massacre.

Border pattern includes Sabra and Shatila and the sentence “Sorrow is never forgotten” in Arabic script

According to Mahmoud Younis, a dental technician in Shatila, “the militia took us to the sports stadium and put us under the stairs. There were many women and children. Behind the sandbank Israeli soldiers were standing with Lebanese forces. They were together.” Mahmoud was only 12 when the massacre happened and lost his father, uncle, three brothers and three cousins.

18-month-old Ali, along with his mother Reham and farther Saad were killed in an arson attack carried out by Israeli settlers in the Palestinian village of Duma in the Occupied West Bank on July 31, 2015. Ali was burnt alive in the incident, while Reham and Saad succumbed to their injuries in the coming weeks. Ali’s brother Ahmad, now 9, suffered burns on 60 percent of his body and survived the attack.

In a 2017 interview with Al Jazeera, Hussein Dawabsheh, Ahmad’s grandfather said that “when Ahmad goes to take a shower he looks at his body and asks why is my body like that? What shall I do? Why did they do that to me?” 

Ahmed with his grandfather Hussein Dawabsheh. The border pattern for the portraits of Ali, Reham, Saad and Ahmed includes the pigeon that Hussein got for Ahmed, which he named after his mother.

“They,” the Israeli settlers, did this to Ahmad’s body because they can. They, along with Israeli Occupation Forces want to make an example of him, and Ali, and Reham and Saad, and other Palestinian families like them. Otherwise why would they make statements like this today and get away with it: “We will burn you as we did with Dawabsheh’s family?” After all, reports openDemocracy “Less than 9% of the settlers’ attacks committed against Palestinians as well as their properties are punished.”

Whether you’re a journalist or a protester or a farmer or an exporter of farm produce in occupied Palestine and Kashmir, Zionutva strikes you indiscriminately and with uninterrupted impunity. Take for instance these portraits of Shujaat Bukhari and Abdul Hameed Khan in Kashmir and Ahmad Ziad Tawfiq al-‘Aassi and Yusef a-Shawamreh in Palestine:

In a July 2016 BBC News article titled “My Kashmir Newspaper Has Been Shut Down, And I’m Not Surprised,” Shujaat Bukhari, a senior journalist and editor of the English paper daily Rising Kashmir, wrote that “for us these restrictions [imposed by an information blockade] are not new. Since the outbreak of armed rebellion in Kashmir in early 1990, media in the region has had to work on a razor’s edge in what is effectively the world’s most heavily militarized zone… Threats to life, intimidation, assault, arrest and censorship have been part of the life of a typical local journalist.” Two years after Bukhari wrote that article, on the night before Eid-ul-Fitr, he would become one of 19 journalists murdered in Kashmir since 1990.

Border pattern includes the key that symbolizes the Naqba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, and the right to return to their homes

On that same day, on June 14, 2018, in occupied Palestine, Ahmad Ziad Tawfiq al-‘Aassi would die of serious wounds to the head that he had suffered days earlier in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. His death would bring the number of Palestinians killed by occupation forces in the context of the Great March of Return protests to 126, including 2 journalists.

Border pattern includes the edible plant Gundelia

14-year-old Palestinian Yusef a-Shawamreh was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers on March 19, 2014, as he crossed the Separation Barrier to pick Gundelia from his family’s farmland that lies on the other side of the fence. According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Gundelia is “a thistle-like edible plant annually harvested at this time of year that serves as an important source of income” for the residents of the village of Deir al-‘Asal al-Foqa in the occupied West Bank where Yusef was from. “Shawamreh was shot when he and two friends… were going through a wide breach in the Separation Barrier.” There has been no justice for the killing of Yusef.

Border pattern includes Kashmiri apples

And Abdul Hameed Khan, a victim of India’s recent assault on Kashmir’s autonomy, tells us that “each year I export about 200,000 boxes of apples in the domestic markets across India. This year, because of the situation, farmers aren’t able to send their produce to market. They don’t know where to send it because communications lines aren’t working.”

Today is the second anniversary of the Intifada — the popular uprising of the Palestinian people. In the past two years over 800 people have been killed, and tens of thousands have been arrested. Because media coverage of the Intifada is incomplete and inconsistent it is difficult to know exactly what the situation really is in Occupied Palestine… Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid and the tear gas the Israeli military uses is made in the United States.

The Michigan Daily, December 8, 1989

15-year-old Ashraf Eid was one of those hundreds killed in the first Palestinian Intifada. There is no record of the day he died.

These faces look out at us from within the debris of these hollowed-out democracies and the uncountable memories of occupation.

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 3 of Uncountable

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 2 of Uncountable

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 1 of Uncountable

 

 

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and Leonard Peltier’s Thanksgiving Statement

(Includes a meal brought to you by Discomfort Foods)

I’ve been living on Custer Street in Salina, Kansas since the day I moved to the United States from India in 2000. At that time I had no idea who General George Armstrong Custer was and what he had stood for. Now I do.

On Thanksgiving Day I was in my kitchen here on Custer Street, and I received an email from Prison Radio that included Leonard Peltier’s “Thanksgiving 2019 Statement” read by Mumia Abu Jamal. So I listened to it as I was cooking our Thanksgiving dinner.

Typically, the type and quantity of each ingredient I might use in the presentation of a Discomfort Foods recipe is determined by choosing key statistics and points that are embedded in the story being conveyed and converting that to a measurement or meal design. But listening to the statement inspired me to turn the dinner I was already preparing—with our usual turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes and green beans—into a Discomfort Foods design. This time the discomfort element is to be experienced not through our taste buds, or the wonderful smells of the turkey cooking in the oven, or whatever. It comes from the words of Peltier in the voice of Abu Jamal—two people who are paying the heaviest of prices at the hands of white-freedom. That’s what makes any Thanksgiving meal hard to swallow. And should.

We associate Thanksgiving with the beginning of holidays and good eatin’—things we take for granted. Discomfort Foods challenges that. It isn’t just counter-comfort, It’s also counter-association, trying to replace grandiose associations—of our bloody history, of the present and of the future—with ones that are fact-based and justice-based.

Peltier’s statement:

The year of 2019 is coming to a close, and with it comes the day most Americans set aside as a day for Thanksgiving. As I let my mind wander beyond the steel bars and concrete walls, I try to imagine what the people who live outside the prison gates are doing, and what they are thinking. Do they ever think of the Indigenous people who were forced from their homelands? Do they understand that with every step they take, no matter the direction, that they are walking on stolen land? Can they imagine, even for one minute, what it was like to watch the suffering of the women, the children and babies and, yes, the sick and elderly, as they were made to keep pushing West in freezing temperatures, with little or no food? These were my people, and this was our land. There was a time when we enjoyed freedom and were able to hunt buffalo and gather the foods and sacred medicines. We were able to fish, and we enjoyed the clean clear water! My people were generous, we shared everything we had, including the knowledge of how to survive the long harsh winters or the hot humid summers. We were appreciative of the gifts from our Creator and remembered to give thanks on a daily basis. We had ceremonies and special dances that were a celebration of life.

With the coming of foreigners to our shores, life — as we knew it — would change drastically. Individual ownership was foreign to my people. Fences?? Unheard of, back then. We were a communal people, and we took care of each other. Our grandparents weren’t isolated from us! They were the wisdom keepers and story tellers and were an important link in our families. The babies? They were and are our future! Look at the brilliant young people who put themselves at risk, fighting to keep our water and environment clean and safe for the generations yet to come. They are willing to confront the giant, multi-national corporations by educating the general public of the devastation being caused. I smile with hope when I think of them. They are fearless and ready to speak the truth to all who are willing to listen. We also remember our brothers and sisters of Bolivia, who are rioting, in support of the first Indigenous President, Evo Morales. His commitment to the people, the land, their resources and protection against corruption is commendable. We recognize and identify with that struggle so well.

So today, I thank all of the people who are willing to have an open mind, those who are willing to accept the responsibility of planning for seven generations ahead, those who remember the sacrifices made by our ancestors so we can continue to speak our own language, practice our own way of thankfulness in our own skin, and that we always acknowledge and respect the Indigenous linage that we carry.

For those of you who are thankful that you have enough food to feed your families, please give to those who aren’t as fortunate. If you are warm and have a comfortable shelter to live in, please give to those who are cold and homeless, if you see someone hurting and in need of a kind word or two, be that person who steps forward and lends a hand. And, especially, when you see injustice anywhere, please be brave enough to speak up to confront it.

I want to thank all who are kind enough to remember me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for continuing to support and believe in me. There isn’t a minute in any day that passes without me hoping that this will be the day I will be granted freedom. I long for the day when I can smell clean fresh air, when I can feel a gentle breeze in my hair, witness the clouds as their movement hides the sun and when the moon shines the light on the path to the sacred Inipi. That would truly be a day I could call a day of Thanksgiving.

Thank you for listening to whomever is voicing my words. My Spirit is there with you.

Doksha, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Leonard Peltier Star.

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and an Impeachment

(includes a recipe brought to you by Discomfort Foods)

In February 2018 on Fox News, Laura Ingraham ended her interview with former CIA director James Woolsey by asking him if the United States continues to “mess around in other people’s elections.” To which Woolsey, as though tasting the tasty lie in his mouth, replied:

“Welllllllll aummmm yum yum yum yum yum… only for a very good cause, in the interest of democracy.”

The United States has been interfering in foreign elections since World War II. And our government’s foreign policy has always been about sabotaging other people’s lives and their environment in furtherance of its geopolitical interests. Policy has not been aimed at furthering a “good cause,” and it certainly has not been “in the interest of democracy.” 

For example, in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the Bush Administration and the EU pumped millions of dollars into Fatah’s campaign to ensure its victory. Fatah lost that election and Hamas won. And before the dust had settled on that defeat of US meddling, the Bush administration had already started making plans to overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government.

In a 2008 investigative article, Vanity Fair reported that it had “obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan [a Fatah strongman], and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power.”

The assault on Gaza has not waned. While we here in the U.S. were glued to our screens watching the first day of impeachment hearings looking into Trumpian extortion aimed at manipulating the 2020 election, news was coming in from Gaza of Israeli forces killing dozens including 7-year-old Amir Rafat Mohammad Ayad.  

Im-Peach-Mint Quid Pro Quobbler 

(This is an updated version of an old-fashioned recipe for peach cobbler) 

Quobbler filling ingredients:

1.687 cups warm water

4 teaspoons imli (tamarind)

1 teaspoon red chilli powder

4.375 cups, peeled and sliced peaches

1 teaspoon salt

Quobbler batter ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup milk

Served with:

fresh mint leaves

vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

(cooking directions at the end of article)

Why I chose these ingredients in their respective measurements for the recipe design:

1.687 cups water equals 81 teaspoons, which conveys the findings of the Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong, Dov Levin, who revealed that between 1946 and 2000 the United States participated in 81 “partisan electoral interventions” around the world. This of course does not include the country’s numerous coups and invasions.

The original recipe called for 3/4 cup granulated sugar. I substituted that with 4 teaspoons imli (tamarind) to convey the fact that this is the fourth impeachment hearing in the country’s history. I chose imli because the first two letters ‘im’ conveniently prefix peach; as a Hindi word, it symbolizes the United States’ own meddling in foreign elections past, present and future; and the imli fruit has a very sour taste, communicating the tart irony of today’s politics: that in the crimes under examination in the impeachment hearings, America finds itself a victim at home of the same kinds of crimes it has committed abroad.

4.375 cups of peaches equals about 70 tablespoons, which in the recipe conveys the roughly 70 years that the U.S. has spent interfering in other people’s elections.

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The sweet quobbler batter making up the base remains true to the classic cobbler recipe, except I substituted granulated sugar with brown sugar to emphasize how almost always it’s the non-white people of this world who pay the price for our government’s intrigues. While baking in the oven, you can see the base slowly enveloping the im-peach filling, much like the predicament of our own ill-gotten and directly threatened democracy that is being artificially held together by a fake sense of sweet freedom.  

What started off as Russiagate has quickly evolved into Ukrainegate, so I added a teaspoon each of chili powder and salt and a few sprigs of fresh green mint leaves to add a few more articles of tongue-twisting tastes to challenge the status quobbler.

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We had some friends over for dinner yesterday and I served them the quobbler for dessert as we played some gin rummy. And here are some reactions I got:

“It challenges the senses. Pushes you into unchartered territory. It doesn’t coincide with any expectations. Unfamiliar.” 

“The heat (from the chilly powder) creeps up on you. Metaphorically speaking, we keep going through this impeachment thing and it keeps getting hotter and hotter in your throat.”

Cooking directions: 

Soak the imli in the warm water for about 1/2 hour. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, squeeze as much of the pulp as possible out into the water. Pour the imli water along with the chili powder into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook (about 40 minutes), stirring occasionally till the sauce thickens and measures 1/4 cup.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Put the imli sauce, sliced peaches and salt in a saucepan and cook on medium-high heat for about two minutes, stirring. 

Cut the butter into small pieces and add to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place the dish in the oven till the butter melts. Remove from oven.

In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir in the milk till just combined. Pour this mixture into the baking dish over the butter and spread it evenly to cover the bottom of the dish.

Spoon the peaches over the batter and bake for 35-40 minutes. Decorate with mint leaves and serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. 

Enjoy during the remainder of the Im-Peach-Mint hearings with friends and family.

bon appétit!

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 3 of Uncountable

Two things in America create “bipartisanship”: support for Israel’s apartheid regime and support for endless US war and intervention around the world.  — Ali Abunimah, October 16.

It’s September-October and I’m sitting at my Sidewalk Museum of Congress (SMoC) studio outside Kansas’ 1st District Rep. Roger Marshall’s office embroidering portraits of the Palestinian al-Farra family, most of whom were killed by “Operation Protective Edge,” the 2014 Israeli assault that began on July 7 and lasted 51 days. 

Directly behind the spot where I’m sitting is Roger’s oh-so-patriotic-and-festive red, white, and blue window display that includes the word ‘FAMILY’ in all caps, Trump-style, positioned prominently in the center. What’s subliminal in the display is a preceding word, WHITE. 

 

IMG_5630The al-Farra family. An-embroidery-in-progress outside Roger Marshall’s office.

 

Our government policies past and present have done nothing to address and hold accountable the uncountable atrocities that have been carried out by Israeli Occupation Forces and Israeli settlers on the Palestinian people on a daily basis. It in fact continues to support the occupation politically, diplomatically, financially and through podium-words like these by Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, with which she claims that a two-state solution has been the “official policy of the government of Israel.”

It doesn’t matter whether my Representative is a Republican or a Democrat when it comes to policies of war, intervention and occupation. In that regard they are in fact one family, one party.

For me, this is a moment where you really have to say enough is enough. And where you have to search for the right words to convince those who have the power to stop this. — Jan Eliasson, U.N. deputy secretary general, Gaza crisis: UN & US announce ceasefire, the Guardian, July 31, 2014.

Not long after a ceasefire had been announced, the sound of an explosion and broken glass woke the sleeping al-Farra family at around 3:00 AM on August 1, 2014. They were one of six families who lived in a three-story house in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. According to a UN Human Rights Council report, “As neighbors alerted them that their roof had been hit and was on fire, the children were rushed downstairs and told by their parents to run out of the house in fear that a second strike may hit the house. In their pajamas and bare feet, the children and four adults ran down a narrow road in front of their house.” Members of the al-Farra family were barely 30 feet away from the house when another missile landed at their feet, killing nine of them and injuring two other family members including a 4-month-old baby who was wounded badly in the abdomen.

 

25 BasemI stayed inside to wake one of the children up. When I went out I found all my family either injured or dead… These criminals will never been brought to justice. All countries stand with Israel. They give us food and give Israel weapons to kill us. — Basem Abdel Malik al-Farra, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

 

26 LayanBasem al-Farra and his 6-year-old daughter Layan survived the attack. Basem says, “at the ‎beginning Layan was reluctant to go to school and still suffers psychologically.‎”

 

27 Abdel MalikThose killed included Abdel Malik Salam al-Farra, Basem’s 60-year-old father;

 

28 OsamaAbdel Malik’s 34-year-old son Osama Abdel Malik al-Farra;

 

29 AwatefBasem’s 31-year-old pregnant wife, Awatef al-Farra (The embroidery includes the bicycle of Abdel, Basem and Awatef’s son, in the rubble of his room);

 

30 Abdel RahmanBasem’s 8-year-old son Abdel Rahman Basem al-Farra…

 

31 Lujain… and Lujain Basem al-Farra, Basem’s 4-year-old daughter;

 

32 Nadeen16-year-old Nadeen Mahmoud al-Farra, Abdel Malik’s niece;

 

33 Mohammed12-year-old Mohammed Mahmoud al-Farra, Nadeen’s brother;

 

34 Yara8-year-old Yara Mahmoud al-Farra, Nadeen’s sister;

 

35 EmadAnd 28-year-old Emad al- Farra.

 

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “The commission received information indicating that one of the male family members killed in the attack worked for Hamas, but it is unclear what his functions were. He lived on the top floor of the house, which was completely destroyed, but had not stayed there regularly after the start of the conflict. He was among the group of people who were killed in the street by the second strike.”

When I’m out there at SMoC working on Patterns of Occupied Palestine, I display printouts of various Roger Marshall quotes next to me, like this one:

Hamas fires rockets from Gaza to kill innocent men, women, and children. In return, Israel hits terrorist leaders and operatives with precision strikes. No other nation on Earth would tolerate these hateful attacks. We must continue to support Israel’s right of self-defense. — Toadie-in-chief-for-Trump Roger Marshall, May 8.

Apparently, the killing of most of the al-Farra family was in Roger’s view a “precision strike.” I juxtaposed his comments with a counter-quote by a Palestinian victim of Israeli occupation like this one:

My heart broke every day my daughter was away… Why does Israel treat us like this? We are not affiliated to any political faction, we are just normal people. — Muna, The Electronic Intifada, June 5.

About three weeks after Marshall’s May 8 tweet I was embroidering a portrait of Muna’s 5-year-old daughter Aisha Lulu who was diagnosed with brain cancer in April. The Israeli military denied her family permits to accompany her to the hospital. She died on May 17.

So when Marshall tweets about Hamas killing “innocent men, women and children” and Israel hitting “terrorist leaders and operatives with precision strikes” he ignores these details: of the 2,251 Palestinians killed by occupation forces in the 2014 attacks, 551 were children and 299 were women; 142 Palestinian families, including the al-Farra family, had three or more members killed in the same incident; and Israeli deaths totaled six civilians and 67 soldiers.

Whether it’s the May attacks of this year, in which 30 Palestinians were killed, or the 2014 attacks, the victims are disproportionately Palestinian and the political rhetoric is always the same: Hamas is blamed for everything.   

Israeli strategy is collective punishment for the Palestinians and exceptionalism for itself. There are no citizen-winners here — not the Palestinians, nor the Israeli population, nor us Americans.

 

The al-Farra family

 

Jan Eliasson’s words convey the powerlessness of words when those in power choose never to be moved by them. In fact, they have very successfully exploited this resource like every other resource on the planet to their advantage and have created their own thesaurus. For example, 

terrorist: Hamas, resistance factions, protesters, refugees, innocent civilians

terrorism: Islam

Remember the words Benjamin Netanyahu spat out soon after the September 11 attacks? “It’s very good,” then correcting himself said, “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy,” meaning for Israel.

There are no “right words to convince those who have the power to stop” whatever the “this” is in the context of war, intervention and occupation—not as long as we allow the language of our public servants to occupy our political dictionary.

 

Embroidered portraits so far. Please go here and here to see part 1 & 2 of Patterns of Occupied Palestine.

Part 4 follows…

 

SMoC: Who Says Kansas Is Flat?

See also on LA Progressive

IMG_5556The Sidewalk Museum of Congress (SMoC) located outside 1st District Rep. Roger Marshall’s office at 200 E. Iron Ave., Salina, KS, 67401 is an anti-status-quo palette of dissent against the status quo of establishment politics and its allied mainstream media, and of elite museum spaces. This resistance space has every color and no logo. SMoC is the palette, the media, the planter, and the engaging (or not) audience harvester.

 

IMG_7800SMoC communicates through everything that enters its space — through chalk, through grains, music, signs, spoken-word, the homeless pedestrians’ footsteps, embroidery floss, poetry, @RogerMarshallMD’s office window display, car horns, the finger, the hand-wave, the passing freight train, empty glasses, the smells of the nearby flour mill, American Pie, climate, shadows, silence…

 

IMG_5539 copySMoC plants justice in opposition to arrogant white exceptionalism…

 

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IMG_5547 copy… and to the hypocrisy of ag-man Roger Marshall when it comes to the rights of meat packing plants and the market vs the rights of the meat packers who work in them, and other farmworkers.

 

IMG_8589 copyIt plants justice to the Representative’s vomit-inducing tweets such as “Another victory for the @realDonaldTrump administration and our increasing border security!”

 

IMG_4648 2It plants food justice through “discomfort food” and Crystal’s recipe design for American Pie inspired by her question “But what is America?” (recipe drawing by Crystal).

 

IMG_7751America is the land layered with European settler-annihilators that built slave farms on the mainland, whose children built plantations in fertile Central America, whose children built military bases on national parks in Arizona, built them on indigenous territories.

 

IMG_5608SMoC plants justice for the victims of U.S. domestic and foreign policies via songs like “Livin’ in the Wasteland of the Free” by Iris DeMent, as played by Alex and Isaiah…

 

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IMG_5607… and via Angela’s chalked-pink words “NO PEOPLE IN CAGES,” reinforced in blue a few days later by Abbi.

 

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IMG_5574It plants justice for the American citizens of Puerto Rico who still haven’t recovered from superpower neglect after Hurricane Maria…

 

IMG_7848 copy… and for the thousands of Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans who are fleeing to the U.S. from the ravages of decades of U.S. coups, intervention, CIA-backed death squads, economic policies, all of which have rendered their countries unlivable.

 

IMG_5606It plants the names of refugees like 21-year-old Alejandro Gomez Vasquez and 34-year-old Edyn Castro whose remains were found in Pima, Arizona. They are just two of thousands who have died in the deadly Sonoran Desert while trying to seek asylum in the U.S.

 

IMG_5594It plants justice for disoriented families, running, scattering from the roar and shadows of helicopters that are part of the U.S. border patrol’s inhumane Prevention Through Deterrence tactics; running in the night from rattlesnakes, from jumping chollas; running, holding non-reflecting black water bottles.

 

image1It plants justice for asylum-seekers through Piyush’s hand-written words and his “discomfort drink” Toppled Water Glasses.

 

IMG_5603It plants justice for the people of Flint, Michigan. Still. Through John’s spoken-word:

Dirty Water…

—by John E. Epic

Flowing from my tap

Dirty water

Quite toxic

It’s a tragedy, but no mishap

And I’m not drinking it.

Spraying from my shower

Dirty water

While politicians fill their pockets

Soon will be the hour

When we no longer take it.

Children drinking from the faucet

Dirty water

Lead blood droplets

Making ‘em sick and nauseous

and they shouldn’t be drinking it.

Underground pipes under my feet

Dirty water

Carried to impoverished streets

Purposely concealed ignorance

Ignored with apathy

This is what the next generation inherits

And I’m not drinking it.

Neglected planet getting hotter

Dirty water

Natured slaughtered

Dirty water

Future of fire

For our sons and daughters

Dirty water

Old white men behind false altars

Dirty water

Progress slowed by lobbyists and crooked lawyers

Dirty water

Subsided farming drains the well

Dirty water

Anger and hate begin to swell

Dirty water

Who is to blame

Dirty water

All of us should feel ashamed

Dirty water

For the guilt is owned by people with a  common name

Dirty water

Human beings are at fault

Dirty water

Our will has been sold and bought

Dirty water

And now we’re caught

Ashamed

Pointing fingers to blame

Rendering nothing taught

And soon

Half the world will be in flames

And flowing from my tap

Dirty water

Quite toxic

Not a tragedy or mishap

And I’m not drinking it

I’m not going to sit here

And take it

It is time

To right our wrongs

Heal our past crimes

To no longer prolong or continue to permit

The deconstruction of our planet

Dirty water

I’m not drinking it…

 

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Unfinished Portrait: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan

In these fourteen years since I first began work on this project, only Sheila Chandra’s words have stayed consistent: Is waqt hum jazbaat ke sagar mein hain aur sahilon ka kahin patta nahin. Is waqt hum… (At this moment we are in a sea of sentiment, and there is no shore in site. At this moment…)

Patterns of an Occupied Planet

A work that brings us face-to-face with some of those who have died in the US-led invasions and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unfinished Portrait, acrylic gouache, 2008 (continuing.)

The work so far has seventy-eight 12 x 12 x 3/8 inch panels painted in desert-camouflage colors to represent the first 344,926 people who have died in these wars.

Below is one of thirty-eight panels that is painted with 8,836 small dots representing faces of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani children (the tiniest dots you see), women, and men who have died in these wars. Together, these panels represent 335,768 faces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to the ‘Costs of War’ project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, at least 370,000 people have been killed by violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. This does not include the many hundreds of thousands more who have died as a result of the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure, and because of environmental…

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Was it a Thumbs Up Sign or a Finger Gun Pointing at Us?

See also on PINK TANK

I have to say it doesn’t take very long for Kansas’ 1st district Rep. Roger Marshall and his staff to feel like as though they are the victims of their constituents’ concerns and not the other way around.

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This time it started on Sunday, August 4 with some singing and chalking on Rep. Marshall’s sidewalk. The chalking included images as well as text such as

“Providing water to refugees is not a crime”

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“More mass shootings than days in 2019: 250 and counting”

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“‘I think the country is safer today than it was three years ago’ — Roger Marshall” (This was chalked the weekend of the El Paso and Dayton shootings.)

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A car drove by with people hanging their heads out and shouting obscenities and something about how “gun control won’t fix it.” And I thought to myself, they’re right. It’s not enough. The problem is much deeper and needs a cultural shift away from social, political and economic injustice as a whole.

 

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The next day, I went as usual to SMoC, my “Sidewalk Museum of Congress” studio, and just as I was getting ready to lay down my work mat, out of the corner of my eye I see a figure inside Marshall’s office come toward the door. For a second I thought the staff person was coming to talk to me, but nothing happened. Did she come to lock the door? Maybe she was intimidated by our chalking from the previous day, and when she saw me coming, was further intimidated and quickly locked the door. But I’m not sure.

Five minutes later my fellow-artist friend Rena joined me, and as she was laying her stuff out, I told her what I thought just happened. After a few minutes we decided to go in and submit a few questions we had hammering at our brains for Marshall about the recent mass shootings.

Marshall’s office has two doors, one of which is behind where I usually sit. It has an old curled up paper sign on it telling visitors to use the other door, around the corner. That’s the door that Marshall used to make a quick getaway, a year ago August 8, when we were protesting some of the same stuff we are today and demanding to meet him.

We haven’t seen him since. (Well, he did have a townhall meeting in Salina on April 20, but the local community access TV posted on Facebook saying “This is Easter weekend, so the crowd wasn’t large due to a lot of family activities around town this weekend.”)

Here Rena and I were again, our questions ready, my phone video on, and as we knocked on the door, Marshall’s staff person opened it and, seeing my phone, told me to please stop recording. I turned the phone off and we tried to voice our two questions for Marshall to a very defensive staff person as she typed them into her computer. Then we went outside to continue working.

Marshall's today

 

I am a native of India, and you know it’s a small world in which government policies affect minimum wage workers, day laborers, farmers, peasants and their families halfway across the globe when your own Kansas member of Congress makes it into one of your native country’s newspapers. The Hindu reported on August 6, “US Congressman Roger Marshall said once again, Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do with China, now in regard to their currency. ‘US producers, workers and consumers have waited long enough for an administration who would stand up to China. I’m thankful it’s finally happening,’ he said.”

Recent severe weather and market uncertainty have impacted Kansas farmers. So on the day that the Hindu reported Marshall’s thankfulness for the tariffs, we decided to write an all-caps message at SMoC using some Kansas crops —soybean, wheat, corn and sorghum. Rena came up with a good one: TRUMP HARMS FARMS.

As we started to fill our palms with the grains to plant them on the concrete, I thought I saw someone nearby taking our picture. Then he walked by us and disappeared around the corner only to appear a little later with Marshall’s staff person, who was smiling and shaking his hand. The scene happened very fast, and only I saw it; Rena’s back was to them. Then the guy got into his car (oddly, with Florida plates) and drove off. Almost immediately, Rena got an email from Marshall’s office regarding our questions (see below.)

We sat back down to continue with what we were doing, and a few minutes later a pedestrian wearing sunglasses just walked right into me, stepping on our “TRUMP HARMS FARMS” slogan-in-the-making and saying, “I’m sorry, I’m hard of seeing.”

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Seconds earlier, another guy in a passing car had blown his horn; Rena looked up at him and her eyes went dark. My back was to the street, so I was sitting there wondering what she’d seen when the guy in sunglasses crashed into me. (Here you see her watching, unsettled, as the car goes by.)

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As we tried once again to finish the work we’d come there to do, Rena told me about the driver who blew the horn. Gesturing with her hand, she said that she couldn’t be sure if it was a thumbs-up sign he’d given her or a “finger gun”.

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Fortunately, we had perched my phone on a little tree on the sidewalk to record the making of our grain slogan in time lapse. Rena patted the tree gently and exclaimed “Thank you tree.” (We had not been thankful for our phone experience inside Marshall’s office the previous day.) You can see for yourself part of the strange sequence of events that interrupted our SMoC studio work that day. Coincidence? Paranoia? What just happened?

One of my questions for Marshall the previous day was whether he still believed himself when he’d said, “I think the country is safer today than it was three years ago,” and whether he was ready to take that statement back.

This is the response we got back from his office while we were planting TRUMP HARMS FARMS on Marshall’s sidewalk:

“Thank you for stopping by Congressman Roger Marshall’s District Office in Salina, Kansas yesterday. This email is to advise that your opinion was filed with Congressman Marshall and our legislative team in Washington, D.C.”

My “opinion?” It was a question. Once again Roger the Dodger is living up to his reputation and ignoring his constituents’ concerns.

I shouldn’t have to go into my Congressman’s office with my video camera in hand to begin with. But let’s face it, I’m paranoid that in the shadow of whatever is left of our democracy, artists like Rena and me are an exposed sidewalk target.

Wouldn’t you be?

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SMoC diary to be continued…

Please go here to see a SMoC experience from October, 2018. By the way, the Republican campaign headquarters that featured in that incident is now a CBD shop lol!