October 30, 2014

What else is life really for?

GUEST: Ashley Malloy, who has traveled to many campuses playing the part of Rachel Corrie in the theater production of the same name, talks about art, idealism, and her next performance at Vassar College on Nov 2.

We asked Ashley whether it was hard to play the part of Rachel Corrie. 

She replied that as an actor, she can't separate herself like that from someone she is playing. Ashley lives Rachel Corrie on stage, and goes through her discoveries, disappointments and fears. 

"I have also learned a great deal from her," Ashley said. "I am more political ... and more dedicated to social change."

I had a similar experience just watching the play. The horror is always there in her room, which is the set of My Name is Rachel Corrie. But there is pride too, that this nation could produced someone as dedicated and fearless as she was. Is it the innocence of youth? The idealism that fades as we go through life? But it is there, and white hot, in the words she leaves us. We can do what is moral and right in our lives. 

What else is life really for?

See the play when it comes to a campus near you.

-Sunday, November 2 in Poughkeepsie: ”My Name is Rachel Corrie,” live production starring Ashley Malloy, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm in Rockefeller Hall, Room 200, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Ave. 

October 23, 2014

Could the empire just melt away?

GUEST: Amy Dalton, an activist from Rockland Co, talks about the work of the Stony Point Center in combining locally sourced food with social justice issues, including their farm to table gala on Oct. 26.

Amy is part of an intentional community that has decided to use homegrown foods to finance its social justice initiatives. Gary and I asked questions about food justice in the Hudson Valley. Can the rich just buy their way out of eating poisoned food, while the poor are left with all the unregulated products that come out of Big Ag? In an era of privatization, the wealthy buy organic while the inner cities get pesticides and GE produce.

Perhaps intentional communities organized around food are a way to fight back. Maybe they are they the beginning of a regionalized breakaway from the corporate state? Could the empire just melt away someday like the Wicked Witch of the West, leaving thriving mini communities in its place?

Amy and millions like her around the world are experimenting with post capitalist social orders.  The conversation covers growing kale and driving veggie cars, but the vision is all about the replacement of a system based on murderous exploitation. 

October 16, 2014

We can transcend hate and learn to love

GUEST: Tarak Kauff, local activist and board member of the national Veterans For Peace, talks about his trips to Ferguson and the fight against racism in America.

"While holding a sign that said 'YOU ARE KILLING US' on one side and 'DON'T SHOOT' on the other, Sister Dragonfly approached a Ferguson officer and attempted to make eye contact. She implored him to look at her, and when their gaze connected, she asked, 'Why do you all hate us so much?' The officer responded, 'I don't hate you, ma'am.' She replied with 'I don't want to hate you, I'd rather hug you.' And when he said, 'Then hug me,' she promptly put her arms around him, and they embraced whole-heartedly for nearly a minute." 

Our guest, Tarak Kauff, describes this emotional moment when a black protester and a white policeman, an Army veteran, decide not to hate each other and embrace. Are we on the left so focused on the racism of police officers that we discount the possibility of any change in their behavior? Young military volunteers went to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they sometimes did terrible things to innocent civilians. Are these men and women beyond all hope of redemption? Or as a young man said at the Winter Soldiers Testimony in Washington, DC, "I was a monster once, but I am not that monster any more." 

As Tarak tells the story of this picture, he recounts what a young veteran said to the same police officer a few minutes before. "We called Iraqis 'sand niggers' and I don't want to be part of that racism over there or here in Ferguson." Veterans overcoming racism together. 

Gary and I had a good discussion after Tarak's interview. His point was that racism always has an underpinning of financial exploitation. Common people get caught up in the racial hatred, but they are always being manipulated by the capitalist system. 

I agreed, but wanted to look at racism as a moral issue as well. Whites and blacks, working together, can overcome. We can transcend hate and learn to love.

October 10, 2014

"Apartheid" isn't a nice word for Vassar students to be saying

GUEST: Yasmeen Silva, senior at Vassar College and member of Students for Justice in Palestine, talks about human rights and freedom of speech on campus.

Yasmeen was such an interesting guest to have on Activist Radio. She had experienced all the ups and downs of Students for Justice in Palestine last semester, and was willing to talk about it.

Mondoweiss provedes a good view of how Vassar's president clamped down on SJP for supposed lack of curtesy on campus. Then there was a graphic posted by a member of SJP that may or may not have been anti-semitic. The SJP organization did not post the graphic, but again received a warning letter from President Hill.

Yasmeen was able to see this in a larger context (it's happening on campuses all across the country). She also didn't pull any punches when it came to criticizing an educational system that puts alum contributions above the intellectual pursuit of the truth. Of course, the whole debate is about running a college as a business, and selectively encouraging points of view that bring in the most cash.

Making campuses comfortable for Zionists is good for business, insuring that alums don't get angry. There is even enough money left over for ever increasing administrative salaries. Left out is the ability for students and faculty to have an open debate about whether Israel was justified in killing 500 Palestinian children during the recent slaughter in Gaza. Big money trumping the pursuit of truth all across America's colleges and universities. 

And "apartheid" just isn't a nice word for Vassar students to be writing or saying.

October 9, 2014

The gift of being able to do the right thing

GUEST: Kathy Sheetz, human rights activist and member of the first boat to break the blockade of Gaza in forty years, talks about her amazing journey and what it meant for future attempts to free Gaza by sea.

We all have things that we are proud of. The selfish things don't seem to last. They all involve taking from someone else, the system that we have had thrust on us by a rapacious and inhuman form of capitalism.

Jewish citizens of Israel lead prosperous and productive lives on land that they have stolen from the Palestinians. Not content with taking most of the Palestinian homeland, they simply want it all. The barbaric blockade of Gaza, the thousands of Palestinians in prison, and the sinister racism in the West Bank are all part of the apartheid treatment of people that Israel wants to get rid of.

The joy of resisting apartheid only comes by taking chances. Israel is a murderous regime, and sailing a boat through its blockade is to risk one's life. But the joy of doing something you know is right transcends these risks, and our guest, Kathy Sheetz, will always have that gift in her life. She wouldn't brag about it during the interview. All she said was "Many people have traveled this road." But she didn't deny it either.

Danial Berrigan told a congregation in the Hudson Valley several years ago that "God gives us the gift of being able to do the right thing." Accepting that gift affirms our humanity, and gives us joy.