From FreeWill Astrology by Rob Brezsny

Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter for this week includes great horoscope for my fellow Aquarian teachers out there, as we hone our own craft, refine our methods, chop wood, carry water, and become better teachers and better historians, even whilst living in COVID conditions.  We are in solidarity with early feminists like Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910).  Huzzah!

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): No American woman was allowed to earn a
medical degree and practice as a physician until Aquarian-born Elizabeth
Blackwell did it in 1849. It was an almost impossible feat, since the all-
male college she attended undermined her mercilessly. Once she began her
career a doctor, she constantly had to outwit men who made it difficult for
her. Nevertheless, she persisted. Eventually, she helped create a medical
school for women in England and made it possible for 476 women to
practice medicine there. I propose that we make her your patron saint for
now. May she inspire you to redouble your diligent pursuit of your big
dream. Here’s your motto: “Nevertheless, I’m persisting.”

My Grades Will Not Be Instruments of War — Howard Zinn

Zinn’s decision to not report his male students’ grades to the Selective Service System is one eloquent moment in the history of educators who defied the grading policies of those allegedly in charge (Thanks to Rethinking Schools for republishing this gem, which scholar Robert Cohen found in the archives at NYU, where Zinn’s papers are kept!)

Source: My Grades Will Not Be Instruments of War — Howard Zinn

From Teaching Tolerance: A New Short Doc on Indigenous Slavery | Classroom Videos

Source: Teaching Hard History: American Slavery | Classroom Videos

I was a little dismayed to note that among the “best” things that happened to me today was learning about the extent of indigenous slavery, which was more prevalent in the New England colonies than African slavery until 1720!  But it’s the truth!  This beautifully produced, 12-minute documentary is a suitable conversation starter for ANY classroom where the history of slavery, or themes of inequality are talked about.

My Grades Will Not Be Instruments of War — Howard Zinn

Zinn’s decision to not report his male students’ grades to the Selective Service System is one eloquent moment in the history of educators who defied the grading policies of those allegedly in charge (Thanks to Rethinking Schools for republishing this gem, which scholar Robert Cohen found in the archives at NYU, where Zinn’s papers are kept!)

Source: My Grades Will Not Be Instruments of War — Howard Zinn

The Battle of Cable Street

Today (10/5/2020) is the anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street in London, a historic antifascist counter-insurgency, described below. This memorial photograph and short essay were shared by DSA comrade, Christian today. Solidarity!

Today is the 84th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, when a 100,000 Londoners stood against 3,000 fascists (the so-called “blackshirts” of the British Union of Fascists under the command of Oswald Mosley) and 6,000 cops. The fascists deliberately chose the East End of London as a rallying point for their march, as it was home to the largest Jewish community in the UK at the time. In and around Cable Street antifascists – communists, anarchists, Jews, Irish immigrants, dockworkers, trade unionists, and more – held the streets & intersections, erected barricades, eventually forcing the march to end early. 150 people were arrested and 175 injured, but the power of the working class rising in revolt against fascism would help eventually lead to the dissolution of the BUF & the prevention of Britain from siding with (or at least passively abiding by) the fascist take over of Europe.

How to Become an Antiracist Parent – Multicultural Kid Blogs

Learn how you can progress from being only an inclusive parent to an antiracist one, and how to be an antiracist role model to your children.

Source: How to Become an Antiracist Parent – Multicultural Kid Blogs

Here is a great interview with Dr. Ibrahim X. Kendi, whose book, How to Become an Antiracist Parent was featured on Multicultural Kid Blogs.  Normally, as the blog’s title suggests this site has a bunch of resources for parents raising children across various language and cultural backgrounds.  But this is the first time I’ve seen an up-front conversation about racism on the site (I might have missed one, just saying).  So, Kudos to Multicultural Kid Blogs for inviting Dr. Kendi to have this conversation.

Connecting It with Palestine or Breakfast with Mordechai Vanunu

I’m having to create a sort of “educational autobiography” for the class I am helping teach this fall. I’ll post the slideshow presentation I’ve been working on to go with it sometime soon. I bring it up because I’ve been thinking about several of the moments from my political education when I might have come away more conscious– more “woke,” in the naive sense– or “radicalized,” as Atlantic contributor Derecka Purnell put it in a recent discussion hosted by Haymarket Books. I have had a few of these moments. Certainly, over a decade living outside the U.S. as a white, cis-male, English-speaker from a middle-class Protestant background has been eye-opening.

Before moving to Hiroshima, Japan in 2008, at the age of 24, I had only left the southeastern U.S. a handful of times. The first time was a month-long stay in Australia accompanying my father, who was a software engineer. The second and third were Caribbean cruises with my high school band and my family. The fourth was my junior year at Duke University with the student Christian congregation I was active with there. A group of us went on a 10-day “study pilgrimage” to Jerusalem, Israel, and parts of the West Bank including Bethlehem. We read scriptures of the Abrahamic faiths, including Gnostic books, and other historical texts that would shed light on the pre-Biblical and indigenous cultures of the so-called “Holy Lands” of Israel and Palestine: the West Bank and Gaza. We also read United Nations pamphlets and and informational booklets distributed by Amnesty International about the political history and ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region. But nothing could prepare me for what we would see in East Jerusalem– 30-foot concrete barriers sprayed with “Bush built this wall!”– a reference to then-President George W. Bush’s support for the barrier variously referred to as, “Apartheid Wall,” or “Security Fence” on TV (depending on your news source).

I was there in the days before the election of Mahmoud Abbas as President of Palestine in the wake of Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004. On two memorable occasions I witnessed Israeli Military harassing civilians in East Jerusalem. One old woman, wearing a head covering and carrying a grocery bag was chased down a hill away from a section of the concrete wall that had been built down the center of the road in front of a small convenience store in a suburb. On another occasion, near an entrance to the Old City, a handful of armed Israeli soldiers passed through the crowded market street brandishing their assault rifles and shouting for people to get out of the way. I was obviously witnessing a kind of bullying. But this was not the schoolyard. These bullies had the full force of two of the world’s most brutal imperial armies to back them up.

Near the end of our “study pilgrimage,” my fellow pilgrim-students and I had the opportunity to stay with a group of Bedouin people in the Negev desert. The Bedouin are a nomadic indigenous group who are among the lesser-known victims of American-Israeli policies in the region, as their camel- and goat-herding lands are further and further reduced, polluted by, among other sources, nuclear waste from the Dimona nuclear reactor and the Negev Nuclear Research Center.

I remember very vividly the troubled night’s sleep I got in that tent out in the desert. The midnight walkabout. The perfect darkness of the land illuminated only by starlight. These people, our hosts were not Muslims, nor Christians, nor Jews, but had a complex of beliefs and traditions all their own. Yet they were drawn in to the cycles of suffering produced by Israel’s policies just as deeply and consequentially as their Muslim and Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters. They represented to me the margin of the margin of the margin of society.

I was having a crisis of faith because I felt that Christianity in the forms I was used to it being practiced, simply offered no answer for the Bedouin or the Palestinians I was meeting and interacting with; there was only a desert purgatory, no state, no rights, just poor landless people brushed to the side again and again. I think I saw my religion then more truly than I had to that point, as an instrument of the pain and oppression that I had ostensibly come on this pilgrimage to learn how to begin to eliminate in the first place! WTF!?

***

I don’t remember the exact timing– It may well have been the very next day– when one of our group leaders leaned over to me and said in a hushed tone at breakfast, “That guy over there is Mordecai Vanunu, the Dimona whistle blower!” I had no idea who Vanunu was at the time. I humored my group leader who seemed kind of starstruck, and followed her over to chat with my breakfast tray. Vanunu, a political prisoner, I later learned, for leaking proof of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, had just finished serving the last year of his original 18-year prison sentence, but had essentially been placed under a kind of house-arrest on the campus of St. George’s College, where I was staying with my group from Duke.

Photo of Vanunu (center) with Ali Kazak, a Palestinian diplomat and Anglican Bishop Riah Abu Assal. I was honored to meet both Vanunu and Bishop Abu Assal around the time this photo was taken.
(2005, by Ali Kazak on Wikipedia)

He was a quiet man, an Israeli convert to Christianity, who seemed desperate to escape Israel and go to work at a university somewhere– “maybe M.I.T.,” I remember Vanunu offering. But Vanunu remains in Israel, a prisoner of conscience, as identified by Amnesty International, denied even the use of a computer or mobile phone since 2015, according to wikipedia.org.

Vanunu was and is a symbol for me of a powerful and powerfully human revolutionary praxis, one which does not rely on religious fervor alone for fuel and inspiration, but which is equally sourced in empirical knowledge of the grave dangers and environmental impacts posed by even the so-called, “peaceful,” nuclear programs like Israel’s. And Vanunu has more or less stoically endured his harassment, imprisonment, and torture, including a brutal 11-year stint in solitary confinement!

Martyr is a highly politically charged word these days with religious extremists of all stripes dominating the mainstream narratives of history unfolding in the Middle East. Indeed, as a student of these issues, and an official graduate of my own “study pilgrimage” I have often avoided such words as means of avoiding miscommunication or deepening felt division. Righteous and peaceful as his actions were, Vanunu must have imagined the consequences he would face; and yet he acted. I see Vanunu’s bravery and conviction, matched daily by comrades in prison around the globe, those prisoners of conscience who are denied their right to free speech, to free movement, and to associate freely with whomever they choose, as equivalent to those of the martyrs and chivalrous knights and crusaders who populated my moral imagination from such a young age.

Mordechai Vanunu is nothing if not a powerful symbol of the consequences of empire run amok: American and Zionist Israeli empire in all its brute force. His story is a painful reminder of the injustice of prison as an institution, and states’ use of violence to silence dissent. When our paths crossed in early 2005 at St. George’s College in Jerusalem, it seemed like a coincidence. But the ensuing fifteen years have shown how central social justice activism, especially nuclear non-proliferation, would become in my personal consciousness and in my professional life as a teacher.

I have only just recently made my way back to the Imperial Core, the United States, after twelve years abroad in Japan and Canada, and this first experience of radicalization, the beginning of my grasp of the problem at the root, as Professor Angela Davis has it, of the cruel habit of Empire: Capitalism.

Going Native

Indians, the original possessors of the land, seem to haunt the collec­tive unconscious of the white man and to the degree that one can iden­tify the conflicting images of the Indian which stalk the white man’s waking perceptions of the world one can outline the deeper problems of identity and alienation that trouble him….Underneath all the con­flicting images of the Indian one fundamental truth emerges-the white man knows that he is an alien and he knows that North America is Indian-and he will never let go of the Indian image because he thinks that by some clever manipulation he can achieve an authenticity that cannot ever be his.

-Vine Deloria, Jr., “American Fantasy”

I’ve begun reading Huhndorf’s book, which I found somewhere I think through the UW library. It’s a nice pdf of the full text of the book. Something tells me I’ve read part of this book before, specifically the chapter that covers The Education of Little Tree and the Asa / Forrest Carter Hoax. But for now, I’ve only listened to the introduction and part of the first chapter, which deals with the combined spectacle of some important mass entertainment events like the American Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia.

Decolonizing Historical methods are still so new a topic to me that I really feel like I ought to become more familiar with in the next months both on my own in individual study or through courses at UW. One introductory course that I am taking for my program has only one reading listed on the website so far, but it’s a doozy: Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s classic, Decolonizing Methodologies. So, I went ahead and ordered that one. I think I’ll do a quick skim and short write-up here if I have time. And then, over the course of the term, I’ll be able to grapple with and or digest this one at greater length.

For now, I’ve done a rough rendering of this pdf into a simple text format which my mac will read back to me at what I’m finding is a mostly intelligible speed and cadence.