SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Aug 11

Losing Inquiry in the Public Sphere

By John A. Gronbeck-Tedesco, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Debates following the actions of Edward Snowden continue to spread globally. They range from applauding mass data release in the name of a healthy democracy to designating his activity as treasonous and possibly punishable by execution. Snowden joins the ranks of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange in our Age of WikiLeaks that turn such John Wayne moments of political defiance into ripe reassessments of the democratic project. For professors of the liberal arts, these developments also make for difficult discussions that can prompt cause for concern. What becomes readily apparent is that, in classrooms that function as open spaces of curiosity and debate, many students now voice their doubts regarding freedom of privacy and the right to inquiry in the public sphere.

Often, students are able to wrap their minds around the belabored, violent history of American democracy. Topics on slavery, women's rights, and civil rights are digestible, in part, because they are safely quarantined in the past. That was then. Americans fought; justice prevailed; society improved. But to bring up the modern day, to ask about today's American democracy, the status of our own "freedom," is to delve into murkier territory. Snowden, Assange, and Manning beget different reactions. Some see hyper-data collection as an invasion of privacy and thus WikiLeaks as part of the new checks and balances necessary for a healthy democracy. Others cry foul and charge that such breeches ultimately risk injury to American freedom and that thieves must be punished. Overwhelmingly, young people are suspect of both vast data mining and its release into the public domain. But more often than not, they are hesitant to find out what WikiLeaks and similar sites might reveal. They are fearful that merely to connect to such a site will earn the government's attention. “Don't they track you?” they often ask. “I don't want to go on a list,” they say.

The US media coverage of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, with its contentious debates and ideologically-fueled opposing narratives, provides a host of artful illustrations of all that’s wrong with political talk-shows airing on major TV networks in the US. One such example is a short YouTube video I have recently come across.

This excerpt from The Sean Hannity Show features a heated argument between the show’s host, the pro-Israeli Mr. Hannity and his guest, the pro-Palestinian Mr. Yousef Munayyer. Hannity’s question to Munayyer, which dominated the exchange, was “Is Hamas a terrorist organization?” Hannity’s insistence on receiving a straight yes-no answer and Munayyer’s refusal to reply in these terms led to insults (“Which part of it you can’t get through your thick head?”) and to an atmosphere of adversity, disrespect and contempt.

Bishop McNeill is the Political Coordinator for the Center for Freethought Equality where his work focuses on achieving equality by protecting the separation of church and state and the civil liberties of secular Americans. McNeill has been involved in politics from a very young age. He started by watching his father seek election as a County Commissioner in the Fayetteville, North Carolina area during the early '90s. Outside of politics, McNeil has worked as a Project Coordinator and Development Director for non-profit organizations. McNeill graduated magna cum laude from Fayetteville State University in 2011. A lifelong skeptic, McNeill has been an outspoken atheist for the past 8 years.

Aug 08

God's Final Interview

By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Creative Writing

"So, it's...You?"

"It is I."

"Wow. God. Wait a minute---should I be bowing, kneeling? I..."

God interrupts. "What do your warriors say? 'At ease,' son."

"OK. Thanks. So...I...made it?"

"Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? In Israeli prison, of course!," was the title of an article by Jo Ehrlich published in on Dec 21, 2009. That was almost exactly one year after Israel's concluded a major war against Gaza. The so-called Operation Cast Lead (December 27, 2008 – January 18, 2009) was, till then, the deadliest Israeli attack against the impoverished strip for many years.

Ehrlich was not in the least being belittling by raising the question about the 'Palestinian Gandhi' but responding to the patronization of others. Right from the onset, he remarked: "Not that I'm in any way playing into the Palestinian Gandhi dialogue, I think it's actually pretty diversionary/racist. But sometimes you have to laugh in order not to cry.."

Aug 08

We Won't Forget Wisconsin

By David Swanson, War Is A Crime | Op-Ed

A new film called Wisconsin Rising is screening around the country, the subject, of course, being the activism surrounding the mass occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol in 2011. I recommend attending a planned screening or setting up a new one, and discussing the film collectively upon its conclusion. For all the flaws in Wisconsin's activism in 2011 and since, other states haven't even come close -- most have a great deal to learn.

The film tells a story of one state, where, long ago, many workers' rights originated or found early support, and where, many years later, threats to workers' rights, wages, and benefits, and to what those workers produce including education in public schools, were aggressively initiated by the state's right-wing governor, Scott Walker.

Recently obtained videos which have been exposed to the public show corrections officers using extreme force on incarcerated people suffering from various forms of mental illness.

Footage of one such video (shown below), taken in September of last year and later obtained by The Colorado Independent through an open records request, shows a team of corrections officers using force on Isaiah Moreno, who had been suicide watch at the Denver City Jail.

Aug 07

Toledo Sips of Life in Iraq

By Mike Ferner, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Toledo, OH – Ironically, although this city is affixed to the shore of a Great Lake, we’ve given a new meaning to what a “dry” town is.  We learned it’s one thing to go without beer; quite another to go without water.

For three days, some 500,000 people in northwest Ohio avoided almost all bodily contact with water coming out of a faucet.  No drinking, cooking, dish-washing, teeth-brushing.  Boiling made it worse.  Bathing was OK except for small children, pets and those with compromised immune systems.  

These are the emerging voices of a new generation of anti-war Jewish Americans, the millennials, those who reached adulthood around the year 2000. They are opposed to Israel’s ever escalating war in Gaza and the unending Occupation. They protested at the headquarters of the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) in Washington, DC. The JFNA supports Israeli military actions, and says it does so in the name of all Jewish Americans. Which is not how these millennials see it. “Not in Our Name” was the message and this film tells you a part of the story why.

Mr Enav's prominently displayed July 15 P-S article seems to suggest that that bully, Gaza, is hitting poor Israel below the belt. Writing from Jerusalem, Enav reports on a single (foiled) Hamas drone attack. Like many mainstream commentators on the latest Israeli invasion of Gaza, Enav ignores key realities.