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.
Like many in the US, I normally consider myself a staunch advocate of free speech and against most forms of censorship. I agree with a previous US court of appeals decision that determined a Facebook “like” was constitutionally protected free speech. As a long-time anti-domestic violence activist, though, I am deeply concerned about the use of social media to harass and abuse others. A decision in favor of Anthony Elonis in Elonis v. United States, expected in summer 2015, will have potentially grievous implications for the safety of persons in abusive relationships.
Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife, Tara, and also later an FBI agent. He was sentenced to 44 months in prison. He utilized his Facebook page to issue a series of disturbing rants after his wife left him. “There's one way to love ya, but a thousand ways to kill ya, And I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, Soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts. Hurry up and die bitch.”
The American people tend to view the Republican and Democratic parties as near polar opposites, but this is far from true. Indeed, they are clearly more united on the fundamentals underpinning US society than they are at odds.
The heated legislative and political battles that characterize both parties, which are fought bitterly every two and four years in national elections and throughout the 50 states, are taking place within a much larger context of agreement between the right/far right Republicans and the center right Democrats.
We will touch upon this matter after discussing the recent trouncing of the Democratic Party in the Nov. 4 midterm elections, and posing this question: "Why are the Democrats so unpopular at a time when it was obvious that reactionary Republican obstructionism virtually paralyzed the political and legislative process?"
In 1988-1989, I taught at Humboldt State University in the redwoods of northern California. Before returning to the EPA in Washington, DC, where I worked from 1979 to 2004, I visited Carol van Strum in Tidewater, Oregon.
Carol, and her husband, a Vietnam War veteran, Paul Merrell, lived in a remodeled garage, the remnant of a huge house burnt in 1978. The burning house killed Carol's four children. She suspected that a killer employed by the industry set her house on fire.
The president she served, the president she married and the president she might become constitute the unfolding story arc of Hillary Clinton's life - an evolving narrative that will continue to capture the attention of the entire world. What does her very public trifecta-in-life tell us about the kind of world leader Madame Hillary might become? There is plenty to ponder over the span of these phases in Hillary's life, not the least of which is what can be reasonably inferred from her relationships?
If you're a questioning thinker, then you'll likely accept also that gender introduces a complex dynamic - a so-called "third-wave" feminism. A pent-up social movement that's not completely dissimilar to the movement that elected the first African-American president in 2008.
Black people cannot afford to be numb to the growing instances of police killing unarmed young black women and men in this country.
Jamala Rogers, a longtime human rights and racial justice activist with the St. Louis based Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) hit the nail on the head when she labeled the Grand Jury Report by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch “Hurricane McCulloch.” To those who demanded an indictment be brought against Darren Wilson, that is certainly what it felt like.
If the Grand Jury “No True Bill” decision was a hurricane, then the resistance in the streets currently sweeping the nation is disaster relief.
On 28 November 2014, a white, allegedly right-wing terrorist fired over 100 bullets at government buildings in the heart of Austin, Texas, before trying to burn down the Mexican consulate. USA Today indicates that the shooter, 49-year-old Larry Steven McQuilliams, likely had anti-government motives. According to Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo:
Between about 2:20 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. CT, McQuilliams fired at several buildings in downtown Austin, including police headquarters and the federal courthouse. He also tried to torch the Mexican consulate using several small propane cylinders, but the fires were put out before the flames could spread.
Another solidarity protest was staged in downtown Seattle on December 1 to demonstrate against the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters held signs memorializing Michael Brown who was killed by police officer Darren Wilson.
At 6PM a rally was held at Westlake mall near the giant Christmas tree and across the street from the traditional holiday carousel. While the carousel's sound system played cheerful Christmas songs ("A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight…") angry protesters held a rally outside the mall. Police and security closed down the mall before the rally and Seattle riot police gathered on the ground floor.
More than anything, the Public Health crisis of the Ebola virus underscores the need for a universal model of healthcare that covers the health needs of all. Failure to provide needed health care to some quickly jeopardizes the health of all. Past president of the American Public Health Association Dr. Walter Tsou observes, "One out of every seven Americans are uninsured and the Affordable Care Act specifically exempts immigrants from obtaining insurance." Those who cannot access health care when they feel sick are at risk in a health care crisis, even as they place others at risk.
An Ebola-like crisis accentuates the fragmented piecemeal nature of US health coverage and access. Americans are stuck between a rock and a hard place - some forced to buy insurance that they are unable to use because they cannot afford high deductibles and copays.
We are able to split the atom and fly to the moon, yet we have difficulty living in peace with one another. Peace should hence be at the forefront of education and human existence.
A new horizon is on its way; one of hope, dignity and peace. Humanity's suffering and war and conflict-time experiences could pave a way to sustainability, interconnectivity and people's harmonious coexistence. Is this a utopian dream? This is hardly the case, as if we are to survive as one human family; we must come together and live in peace.