Posts Tagged Debra Sweet
If you read only a bit of this post, make it the following paragraph, and then buy your ticket here. Revolution newspaper asks and answers:
“Why go to this film premiere? Simply: It’s by far the most important thing people could be doing that day–it’s dealing with the most important thing there could be–because it’s about the real possibility of bringing into being a radically different world, where all this madness, all the oppression and injustice, all the abuse and degradation that is so much a part of life now, would be done away with. If anybody can think of anything more important than that–let’s hear it!”
My personal invite to you is based on what’s possible, and necessary, and what’s true.
Often, people ask me why I haven’t quit trying, in discouragement, to change the world, or even to just stop the crimes of the US government through a mass movement of people, as supporters of World Can’t Wait are working on. The challenges are obvious, and I am aware of how rare – much too rare — it is to refuse to give in.
Part of the answer to why I’ll never give up is that I’m continually outraged, and don’t accept this as the “best” of all possible ways the world could be. I came of age in the 60′s, amongst the struggles of Black people, women, people around the globe struggling for justice and liberation, which set the stage for being a rebel.
More significantly, I saw the possibility of a much better society because the largest country in the world then was socialist – The Peoples’ Republic of China. The most vibrant, scientific, inspiring propagators of revolution internationally were the revolutionary communists who came out of that worldwide movement. At the center of that ferment was Bob Avakian, BA, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Cornel West introduced BA in a recent interview as “one of the few coming out of the 60′s who never sold out, he never caved in, he never gave up, held on to his forging of a rigorous, scientific analysis of the objective realities that are driven by a revolutionary love – because he has such a deep love for poor people, oppressed people, all around the world.”
I heard him speak late last year. BA made an extremely deep-going call to get with the movement for revolution, calling out the crimes of the imperialist system, envisioning how society could be, outlining the strategy to work through the huge challenges in how to get there. He said something that has stuck with me, and I’m paraphrasing here, that if you see all those horrors, and you know it doesn’t have to be that way, why would you not want to be working and struggling to end this? He talked about the need to confront reality, looking at the horrors this system creates, continually, and then applying science to transform the contradictions to create a whole different world. That resonates with me. You can get more, right now, from BA by listening to an interview with Michael Slate on KPFK, where he went into these points.
Avakian and the RCP are leading a movement for real revolution, with a Constitution for the Socialist Republic in North America, (draft proposal), which aims to bring about a:
socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.
Hearing BA in BA Speaks: REVOLUTION-NOTHING LESS! in a theater with hundreds of others on the road to discover what can be done to end this madness and bring about the emancipation of all humanity is something I invite you to join me in doing. What could be more important?
This trailer is playing at the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem, where the film will premiere Saturday:
The film is simultaneously premiering in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in addition to Harlem. Details and tickets here.
Zelda Gatuskin, Co-Chair of AHA’s Feminist Caucus and President of Humanist Society of New Mexico presents Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait with the Humanist Heroine of the Year award at the AHA National Conference in New Orleans June 9, 2012:
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The World Can’t Wait flier, “U.S. Wars on the Middle East: Wrong Because They Cost So Much? Or are they Just Wrong, Immoral, Unjust, and against Humanity’s interests?” written by Debra Sweet, was included as an article in this edition of this independent publication.
Reading the news, I think about how those of us working toward a more just world need to understand the complex factors shaping the world as it actually is. The “Arab spring” brought so many millions to political life, bringing hope and the sense of new possibilities.
At the same time, I’m reading about how the future of the Yemeni people is being decided by the United States government, after they aided Saleh in these months of brutal repression, and as they negotiate a successor to Saleh who will meet their requirements. I read of the demands of women and youth in Egypt, pushed aside as the Muslim Brotherhood moves to solidify its power through strengthening Islam in Egyptian law, thereby undermining the great ambitions of those who rose up in Egypt. I read, infuriated, that Barack Obama ordered the use of unmanned drones by the U.S. in Libya, to attack Qaddafi forces “burrowed into urban areas” with “less threat of collateral damage.” Oh, like in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
This is a world crying out for fundamental change! To get a deeper understanding of the reality we confront in working for that change, World Can’t Wait and The Platypus Affiliated Society are sponsoring An Urgent Exchange: U.S. Empire, Islamic Fundamentalism Both Deadly – Is There Another Way? this Wednesday, April 27 at 6:30pm at Tishman Auditorium at The New School in New York City. We are bringing together New York University professor and poet Sinan Antoon, Iraqi visual artist Wafaa Bilal, Laura Lee Schmidt of Platypus, Revolution writer Sunsara Taylor, and Gregory Wilpert from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation to engage in this very timely question:
“If you are troubled about the state and direction of the world…if you are repelled by both the arrogant assertion of empire by the government and leaders of the U.S. and the fanatical backwardness of Islamic fundamentalism, what should you be doing?”
I am very much looking forward to this exchange, as a beginning, and opening, of this very crucial question,which we fun into all the time. This is a real question and problem in our work to stop U.S. support for the illegitimate, unjust, immoral occupations which most of the anti-war movement avoids, or does not even recognize. As I invited the speakers, I told them:
We sense there’s a lid on response to these crimes from people within the U.S. who don’t want the U.S. endangering the world, but who see the growth of oppressive Islamic fundamentalism, and fear strengthening it.
World Can’t Wait has a mission of stopping the crimes of our own government, to be sure, the greatest of which is its brutal destruction of whole countries where a majority practice Islam, and the targeting, imprisonment and political repression of Muslims here in the US. However, in the U.S. there are many people who don’t like what their government is doing around the world but are at least partially swayed, silenced and paralyzed by the argument that if the US is not in [Iraq] [Afghanistan] [Libya] [Yemen] [and the list grows] the people, especially the women, will have it somehow “worse” than under U.S. occupation.
Fundamentalist Islam is not the only challenge to U.S. empire, but political Islam is currently the main organizational and ideological challenge to U.S. empire and military domination. I talked with Malalai Joya recently, who says the Afghan people have 3 enemies oppressing them: 1) U.S. occupation; 2) Taliban; 3) fundamentalist warlords. She refers to the United States as the “godfather of Islamic fundamentalism in the region” and argues that the occupiers should “get lost” so that the Afghan people can deal with domestic oppressors, while pointing out that Afghan women are in a worse situation since the U.S. occupation began.
Our intention in organizing such an exchange is to hear from people who DO think there is a “good solution” for those caught between brutal foreign occupation and Islamic government. Our approach is not to throw up our hands, saying “there is no good solution,” but rather to seek solutions that would be in the interests of humanity. Hearing those ideas will in turn stimulate people to see beyond a simple polarity of U.S. empire or Islamic government, both of which currently reinforce each other.
A World Can’t Wait supporter wrote me with the concern that:
“The nature of the topic is extremely dangerous to discourse in this country. Wait until Fox News gets ahold of this! I can see it now ‘pick between a US occupation or Alqaeda.’ THAT’S what this meeting implies to the public!”
The point of this exchange is that people should not have to make that choice. If we are serious about providing space for people in the world to find alternatives, if we want to send the strongest possible message to the rest of the world that there are people in the U.S. who don’t support U.S. occupations, and want to see people find another way to set up society than a theocratic regimes, then keeping discussion at the pitifully low level it is at is much more dangerous than not having it.
We will be filming and audio taping the exchange. I believe it will strengthen our determination to oppose U.S. empire, and give us ways to talk to people, many of whom think that the U.S. is a force for good in the world through its military.
There’s a longer story to be written here, but for now I’m glad to put this off because there are contemporary heroes making immediate contributions to stopping the current wars, and we are busy defending them and digging into what’s coming out every day in the leaked US cables from Wikileaks. So, today– the brief version of what happened to me 40 years ago, tomorrow…
I was an activist in my high school years, for which I got a series of awards, leading up to receiving the Young American Medal for Service of 1970, annually given by the US President. I learned of that in June, 1970, while I was at The Hague in Holland, attending the World Food Conference, as part of a rag-tag US youth delegation. We had just disrupted a US event there with an anti-Vietnam war protest, “embarrassing” the ambassador and getting us nearly booted. At first I thought the letter from The White House must be a joke, but no, the Department of Justice had called my parents, and was trying to set up a date for the family to come to Washington.
My immediate response was “hell no…I won’t go! Why would anyone take an award from a war-monger like Richard Nixon?” I was conflicted, ambivalent, and irritated to be put in that position. As the months went by, and the event kept being re-scheduled, I thought I might get to skip it. But suddenly, on December 3, 1970, me, my family and friends were flown to Washington. We were escorted into the office of the Attorney General John Mitchell where there was small talk. In shuffled J. Edgar Hoover, and the whole strange experience got very real, very quickly.
Back into the limo and up to the door of the White House, into the Blue Room with what seemed to be the entire world press corps and a million cameras. For the kids getting the awards? No, because this was the first time the press had gotten to see the (well-hated) Nixon in months. I still didn’t know what to say. Then Richard Nixon made it easy. He went on a rant about how these kids are the “good” ones, they’re not out protesting, they’re for America. I thought, with my 19-year-old brain, “Oh no, you just slandered my generation. We are about changing the world, and taking it away from people like you.”
The drill was a simple hand shake with Nixon, present the medal, pat the kid on the arm, smile for the cameras. I was the last of 4 recipients, and it was almost over, when he grabbed my hand. What came out of my mouth: “I can’t believe you’re sincere in giving this award for service, when you’re killing millions of people in Vietnam.” We weren’t miked, and I spoke quietly. Nixon, despite make-up, turned completely white, and stammered, “We’re doing the best we can.” Then he pivoted, looked at his watch, muttered something about an appointment, and walked out.
J. Edgar Hoover, standing right behind me (another factor that oddly made me more bold than I knew), patted me on the arm, and said — I swear — “that was lovely, dear.” Everywhere else in the room there was chaos. The press saw Nixon’s reaction, and some caught the word, “Vietnam.” I was interviewed for hours, the planned White House tour was cut short and we were hustled out. Being back in the day when there was no 24-hour news cycle, this was front page and main story on the networks.
The fact that someone got right to Nixon (before he was Tricky) and, however naively, confronted the leader of the “Free World” was a confirmation that the system was vulnerable. We got lots of mail, some just addressed to “Debra, Madison, Wisconsin” from people who were truly moved, and in a world hostile to the U.S., some of it was thanks from people in other countries. We also got death threats, and attention from not very undercover agents who immediately rented the hotel room next door, followed us around D.C., and later investigated my wonderful, supportive, parents.
The back story: I went to high school in Madison, Wisconsin, about a mile from the University of Wisconsin, close enough that during the students’ 1967 Dow Chemical protests against the use of napalm in Vietnam, tear gas drifted into the windows. I sought out that story, and wrote a paper at 15 against the war. Because Freedom Riders came back to the UW from the South and built an organization, Measure for Measure, to support Fannie Lou Hamer and the struggle against Jim Crow, I had a range of freedom fighter “movement” role models, including Mrs. Hamer, who stayed at our house. Because I knew them, and was in college near Chicago, I heeded the call to tour the shot-up apartment of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, the Black Panther leaders who were killed in their beds December 4, 1969 by Hoover’s FBI and Chicago police. A few months later, I was part of the largest student strike ever, in response to Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the killing of students by the National Guard at Kent State and by the state police at Jackson State.
All these experiences taught me about who had power, and who was oppressed, exploited, lynched and killed, and formed me further into someone who was “for the underdog.” I sought more, and began to shape a life focused around a different future for humanity.
Right after the Nixon experience, honestly, I was embarrassed for not having seized the moment with a brilliant speech, and for not really having risked a thing in my protest. But as a few decades have gone by, I’ve come to realize that, through an accident of history, it was good thing that I was part of puncturing the legitimacy of the Nixon presidency, as Dan Ellsberg, Vietnam veterans and student protests, and the Watergate scandal would continue to do.
In writing this, I looked up Nixon’s daily schedule for 12/3/70, and found that immediately afterward, he met with his press secretary; then called Hoover and Mitchell. There was turmoil in the Oval Office. The next day Hoover wrote Mitchell, saying essentially, “why the hell didn’t we investigate more carefully? She was from Madison! This will never happen again.”
Unfortunately, that kind of protest hasn’t happened enough since then. Cindy Sheehan, a TIME magazine Face of the Decade this week, stands out for challenging Emperor Bush, leaving him naked, and I don’t want to leave out the couple who streaked through the 2004 inaugural with anti-war messages; thousands have been arrested trying to deliver the antiwar political messages.
In the wake of four major WikiLeaks this year, all instructive as to the rules of engagement of these imperialist occupations, the basic injustice of the so-called “war on terror,” and all completely against the interests of humanity — provided you stop looking at everything through “American” eyes — there is no better time than now for mass, visible, protest against all this.
I so know the world can’t wait, and am so glad to be involved with the World Can’t Wait. This is all really needed, now!
I was with a small group of protesters today at the new Army Recruiting Center downtown near Ground Zero. Two police cars were called by the recruiters; apparently holding signs saying “Don’t Enlist! Resist!” and handing out hundreds of flyers seemed very dangerous.
A young German literature student stood for a long time, offering help from afar, and asking why people in the US are so quiet about the war. Just then a woman pushing a baby stroller sped by, took a flyer, and said that the recruiters have been open for weeks already — “where have you been?” I had to ask where she had been if it bothers her so much.
400 people took flyers in an hour, dozens of people thanked us, 4 cops glowered at us, 3 self-described ex-Marines screamed at us. The Marine recruiters down the street started sending their guys in dress uniforms to strut up and down the block, so we went down there for awhile, discussing with two new recruits why they were joining. “To keep America safe.” “Because I can learn discipline.”
Elaine Brower told them about her son’s two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, with the Marines. “You’re just going to be killing people there. How is that going to make anyone safe?” She ran it down. They got more and more quiet. After 20 minutes, the Staff Sergeant pulled them back inside, under orders not to engage with us.
We’ll be back on Chambers Street Wednesdays at noon. No doubt this will all get more interesting, and important a thing to be doing.
On Saturday, December 12, 2009, an antiwar rally was held at Lafayette Square Park by the White House. Speakers included Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Chris Hedges all speaking out against the recent escalation of troops into Afghanistan and against Obama’s wars. This is my speech.
worldcantwait.net Contact: (866) 973-4463 Debra Sweet
Anti-War Group Accepts Wisdom of Nobel Prize Award
Obama War Escalation Speech Convincing: War = Peace
The U.S. organization “The World Can’t Wait,” having organized weeks of protest against President Barack Obama’s escalation of troops to Afghanistan, said today:
We’re surprised to learn President Obama will be traveling to Oslo, as it was our understanding that he had given his Nobel acceptance speech at West Point on December 1. The speech, echoing 8 years of George Bush’s justifications, and stating his aim to ‘win’ the war was enough to convince us that aggressive war means peace.
We hope the Nobel Committee is satisfied that the increase of U.S. troops to Afghanistan is enough to merit the prize, given their statement in October that “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
We concur with the Nobel Committee that doubling the size of the prison at Baghram airport, setting up “black” detention sites, and stepped up counterinsurgency in Helmand and Kandarhar provinces, are outstanding examples of the kind of “cooperation between peoples” it cited in awarding Obama. And Obama’s commitment to international diplomacy is only underscored by his administration’s refusal to take the military option off the table towards Iran, and by enacting the largest military budget in world history.
To those cynics who point out that Obama is now Commander in Chief of two pre-emptive wars widely considered to have been launched in contravention of international law, we point out that while General Stanley McChrystal publicly demanded 80,000 more troops, Obama pledged an increase of only 30,000. And, now, Secretaries Gates and Clinton have made the strongest assurances that there is no date or plan to withdraw them.
To those who cringe at the use of un-manned robot drones on the sovereign country of Pakistan and fear that killing civilians will only make more people hate the United States, we remind them that the hundreds of innocents are being killed by a commander who won the Peace Prize. So shut up.
To those who find some irony in the prize being awarded on December 10, International Human Rights Day, and are concerned that Obama, who promised to close Guantanamo, has released fewer detainees than the Bush administration, and has revived the military commission trials decried by the world, we remind you that this President is committed to the rule of law. Remember, as former Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice said, “If the President does it, it can’t be against the law,” and quit your whining about international law and standards.
Further, we are encouraged and gratified to learn that the Committee has decided to rename its Peace Prize in honor of George Orwell in coming years.
Those who reject doublespeak, are invited Thursday, December 10, to join the War Resisters League & World Can’t Wait at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza (East 47th & 1st Avenue) marching down 42nd Street to Times Square Recruiting Station with symbolic coffins, in an anti- war protest as President Obama receives the Peace Prize.