David Bennion: November 2008 Archives

Acting from fear, stealing life

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My thoughts go out tonight to the victims of the terror attacks in Mumbai.  One upsetting aspect of these crimes is the selection of targets by nationality. 

When I see evidence of the dedication and resourcefulness of these young bombers brought to bear to kill other human beings, I think "what a fucking waste." 

You could have used your gifts, your energy, your life to bring life to others, to make other lives richer.  Instead, you brought death.  You stole life. 

Times like this call for personal and public affirmation of the principles of nonviolence to which Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. gave their lives.  Violence begets violence unless a conscious choice is made to break that cycle.

[Image: AFP]

Yerba Buena is a New York based Latin collective that has produced some very danceable music.

I first heard them coming over the speakers in a cafe in Fort Green, Brooklyn, and asked the waitress who it was. Later that day, I got both albums on eMusic.

The band's sound is hard to pin down, and it's magnetic. From Wikipedia:

Yerba Buena's music (as described by Razor and Tie, the band's record label) is a blend of African-rooted Latin music (Cuban Rumba, Colombian cumbia, Pan-Caribbean Soca, and Nuyorican Boogaloo) with hip-hop, Motown soul, Nigerian Afrobeat with a dash of Middle Eastern themes.

Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle investigates a new Texas administrative rule that seems part of the state GOP's scheme to turn Texas blue in the next 10 years:

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The Houston nonprofit executive was shifting weight in line at an Humble DPS office earlier this month, waiting to renew his driver's license, when he noticed a couple of people in front of him come away looking confused or exasperated.

When he got to the front, he understood why.

The woman behind the counter ran his name, Jose Villarreal, in her computer. Then, he says, she promptly asked him to prove his citizenship.

Villarreal was taken aback. He was born and raised in South Texas, in a little town called Orange Grove, and moved to Houston in 1976. At 61, he'd never been asked by DPS to prove he was here legally.

"One, I was mad. Two, I was humiliated," he told me. "Why should I have to justify my citizenship, when, as far as I can tell, we have three or four generations of Villarreals living on this side of the border?"

When he asked questions, a supervisor handed him a copy of a new Texas Department of Public Safety rule aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses.
"I read that over and said, 'This doesn't apply to me. This is for someone who's applied for citizenship,' " Villarreal recalled. "And they said, 'Well, the computer doesn't show you in here, so you're going to have to show a birth certificate.' "

... the new administrative rule ... was quietly adopted over the summer by the Public Safety Commission after lawmakers refused for years to pass it. ... the one thing the rule wasn't supposed to do is snag citizens. The rule specifically states, "If U.S. citizen, no documentation needed." That's a bit of a Catch-22 since, in some cases, the state can't tell if you're a citizen without seeing documentation.

Thumbnail image for Underground America.jpgI attended a dramatic reading tonight here in Philly of personal stories taken from a book edited by Peter Orner called Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives.  The book contains the oral histories of undocumented immigrants as told in recent years to the editors of the work.  The stories are real and all too familiar--they reminded me of the clients I work with each day.  The daily petty slights endured, the enveloping fear, the ambition, the scars, the regret, and the hope. 

From an LA Times review of the book from earlier this year, excerpted on the McSweeney's site for the book:

There are 24 stories documented here. Editor Peter Orner and a team of graduate students from San Francisco State University went looking for stories for Voice of Witness, which publishes "oral histories of people around the world who have had their human and civil rights violated." The storytellers hold many different jobs, have different reasons for leaving home and different expectations about U.S. life. Mr. Lai left China after officials found that he and his wife had violated the one-child policy. Saleem, 54, was summarily deported to Pakistan after Sept. 11. Roberto came from Mexico at 14; it took him 30 years to get a green card. "Everything we do is a crime," says a Mexican man called El Mojado. "You don't have papers, it's a crime. You buy fake papers, it's a crime." Elizabeth, an English teacher in Bolivia, came to the U.S. in 2004 to get help for her 8-year-old daughter, diagnosed with a severe form of arthritis. With no money, she slid through the American underworld, down the steps that so many of these people describe: rape, robbery, exploitation and a complete lack of credibility--no way to get help, and no way out.

Decades after arriving, many want desperately to go home and cannot. "I wouldn't make it back across," says Adela, a Mexican woman who has been here for 18 years and longs to see her family but doesn't dare leave her children. "No, there are too many that have died in the desert, too many who have drowned."
The book owes much to recently-deceased Studs Terkel, a pioneer of the oral history genre and a board member of the oral history series, Voice of Witness, of which Underground America is an installment. 

Orishas: Desaparecidos

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a los presidentes asesinos

a los responsables
de desaparecidos
pa' los que trafican con ninos
el culpable sabe de que hablo yo


To the assassin presidents
To those responsible
for the Disappeared
For those who traffic children
The guilty knows of what I speak

This week's musical entry comes from Orishas, a hip-hop group of Cuban migrants that combines rap en Español with a traditional Cuban sound.

From the group's Wikipedia page:

Orishas is a hip-hop group whose members had emigrated from Cuba. . . . The Orishas delved into a realm of music in which they challenged "Castro's ideal of a colorless society" and created a black identity that the younger generations could relate to. They tackled important and obvious issues that dark skinned Cubans faced everyday though the government refused to recognize.

. . .

The name "Orishas" refers to the set of deities worshipped in African-based religions that were brought to the Americas by slaves of the Yoruba people in West Africa. These religions, parts of the Yoruba mythology, include Santeria in Cuba and Candomblé in Brazil. These orishas, or deities, each represent a natural element (such as the ocean or leaves) and exhibit a human characteristic (such as motherhood or love). The choice of this name for the hip hop group is a way of creating a direct link between this band and the African diaspora. This link is evident in the lyrics to "Nací Orichas" and "I Sing For Elewa and Changó".

One of my favorite Orishas songs, Desaparecidos, is about the "Disappeared," the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people kidnapped and murdered by their governments in Latin America during the Cold War, from Cuba to Guatemala to Argentina to the DR. Anyone who believes the Cold War was relatively casualty-free didn't spend much time in Latin America while it was happening.

change.org blogging

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change_logo_72dpi.jpgSome attentive readers might have noticed a recent change in the Citizen Orange blogger lineup.  Some guy named "yave begnet" was replaced by yours truly without much explanation.

So here's a bit of explanation.  When the website Change.org relaunched about a month ago, I joined the site as the immigrant rights blogger.  I also changed jobs and moved to a new city around the same time, and the time seemed right to stop using my pseudonym, "yave begnet."  So that is why you've been seeing less of yave, and more of me.  It's less schizophrenic this way and less confusing to me, at least. 

So check out the new site, if you get a chance.  I'll still be blogging here regularly, but not quite as frequently as I have been for the past year. 
Slc_mormon_tempel.jpgBecause when one person's rights are disrespected, we are all diminished. 

Because we can no longer remain silent.

Because we stand at a tipping point in this, one of the crucial civil rights battles of our day.

Because we are not single-issue voters, nor single-issue human beings.

For these reasons and more, I chose to speak out today against those who would deny the basic right of marriage to same-sex couples.  I will no longer be associated, however tenuously, with an institution that fights to reverse such a historic civil rights achievement. 

Change will come.  It's only a question of when, and of how much damage the churches will sustain to their long-term viability in the process of publicly battling civil rights. 

More on how to take action here.
From the NY Times today:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- An airstrike by United States-led forces killed 40 civilians and wounded 28 others at a wedding party in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Wednesday. The casualties included women and children, the officials said.

The United States military and Afghan authorities were investigating the reports about the latest attack, the American military said in a statement, but it gave no confirmation of the strikes or any death toll.
By now, this is a familiar pattern.

The outlines of a cynical strategy emerge: deny, deny, deny for the first week or two until the story recedes from the front pages, then concede in bits and pieces until the story is broken up and defused over time and new distractions materialize. 
But this strategy only works if you stop blowing up wedding parties or villages every other month.
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