living through the unveiling

things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.

people have been detained at our borders, people are being deported, people are being sent away from the US. we are making plans with the people we love about what to do in case they get stuck outside these borders or sucked out of these borders.

there are white supremacists, overt white nationalists, in office at the federal level, people who don’t hide their feelings of supremacy.

there are climate change deniers, people who seem to think what we do has no impact on the earth, being appointed to have oversight of our US relationship to the earth.

people with no experience or even apparent concern about the majority of human beings are being appointed to oversee how we are educated, how we are housed, everything about how we live.

it certainly feels like this is worse than what we have been experiencing from our federal government. i say feels like because, as a radical, i am not certain that that’s true. In fact, i’m pretty sure that it’s not true.

at no point in my adult life have I seen the government make the necessary decisions about climate, take real leadership to turn and face the changes we have to make in order to survive. everything has been woefully incremental. we have been facing climate apocalypse for some time now.

police, and military, are, and have been, armed racial profilers filling modern day slave cages, upholding imperialist lines of power. black people have been in the streets saying we are not paranoid and we are not criminals – there’s something rotten in this nation. indigenous water protectors have been telling us there’s something rotten in this nation. our comrades in the global south, in Muslim nations, all over Latin America have been telling us there’s something rotten in this nation.

our history is bloody with governments who have faced our interventions, whose borders have moved, whose people have died if we didn’t like how they looked, how they prayed, if they didn’t want to support our economic interests over their own.

our borders are littered with the bones of those who were not only not welcomed, but hunted down by militia, left with no water in the desert. in most cases, those people have come from the same places that our interventions destabilized.

and I live in Detroit, where we have lived under emergency management for years. in the corruption of the city we have seen overwhelming displacement and overwhelming denial of services to people who are just trying to live, raise children, be a part of this place.

so why, now, does it feel like this?

why can’t we sleep, why are we in extreme patterns of drinking, smoking and numbing? why are so many of us in pain as our bodies try to keep up with the news? why are so many of us in a panic all day every day (and those that aren’t sound like they are in denial or rocking unearned hubris)?

perhaps the number one privilege of being an American is our narrative. we have a story that covers all of our wretched behavior, that makes us exceptional regardless of what we do. we’ve gotten lost in that story. we have believed that the beautiful princess wanted us for our virility, the apple was a nutritious offer from a frenemy, Oz was a magical city and that we are a benevolent, caring nation that really loves all of our differences, our democracy, our global nature. that we were almost there, to that place where we can know we are better than this.

as a nation we have quietly turned away from any numbers that seemed to make a counter argument about what we were up to – the suicide rates of trans people, the number of bodies along our southern border, the increasing rate of C-sections, sterilization and fibroids amongst women of color and poor women, the length of the existing wall, the number of people killed by our drones, the percentage of black people in prisons, the pace at which people of color are murdered by the state, the rising heat and ocean levels during this golden age of global warming. and so much more.

those of us who have shouted these numbers out, who have taken action in order to raise the attention of this country, have been called uncouth, negative, hyperbolic.

and we have been working in silos, each of us digging deep down into our own particular issues, our own particular numbers and making a case for why there’s a crisis.

so, what feels new is the unveiling; the heaviness is the increasing weight of the truth becoming undeniable as more people believe it.

right now, more and more of the truth of this country at this time is visible, left naked, made obvious. not only are each of us right about the particular crisis we have been holding, but others coming up out of their silos are right too – and the intersecting crises are massive.

now that it is plain to see that we are up against white supremacists whose plan for survival seems to be eliminating the majority of us, we no longer have the luxury of pretending we can change their minds with logic, or survive the pendulum swing of universal survival issues made partisan.

we have to be willing to engage in radical resistance and radical futuring.

because people are looking at us like, well, you were right, now what do we do?

we must increase our collective tolerance for truth. this means we must learn how to hold the full breadth of emotions we feel upon hearing the truth, and to keep listening, changing, taking action, learning. we must be willing to look at what actually needs to happen to address the truth.

we must deepen our connections to each other. there is no way the majority of us will survive this time if we continue working in isolation or in competition. we must meet at the intersections and lovingly figure out how to be in right relationship. we need the largest, and most authentic, collaborative efforts for justice and liberation that have ever been witnessed on this planet.

we must take the risk of leading. we must be willing to assert the solutions we believe in, to experiment with alternative ways of being human on this planet at this time. we must be willing to try out post-normative paths, we must be willing to say unpopular things.

we must divest. i am still trying to figure out what this looks like in real time. i know part of it is boycotts and buycotts and I am excited to see the lists of places we can stop putting our money and where to redirect it already moving around the internet. i know part of it is really being willing to stop financially supporting all of these things we so viscerally disagree with (#alternativetaxes).

i also think we need to learn to divest our attention from the circus in DC. i do not mean to ignore it or to escape it, but it’s not going to work to continue to spend the majority of our hours saying what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck to what’s coming out of DC.

i am grateful for those who have focused on tracking our resistance and our victories, that is really helpful. we must figure out how to get the information we need from the dying, antiquated present-day systems, and use it to continue doing the most radical work possible. we must put the majority of our attention where it can grow the next world.

not only are we the ones we have been waiting for, but this is the exact moment we have been shaped for. and even though it came so quickly, it has actually taken forever. but here we are, in this moment, the present moment, naked and messy and visible right down to our roots.

the veil never hid us from others, it only ever hid us from ourselves. now that more of us can see who we truly are, we must begin/continue to move towards who we truly want and need to be in order to sustain human life on this planet.

liberation is no small task – it is appropriately daunting for miraculous beings. it is a gift, to be given such undeniable purpose, such immense odds. hold each other tight, and let’s do this work.

is peter jackson an anti-zionist? (or, my review of district 9)

just watched district 9. before i went, i heard a variety of reviews, from “totally racist” to “comprehensive critique on humanity” to “awesome action flick”. all i heard was: aliens in slums outside johannesberg, and i knew i had to see for myself.

upon watching it, i could totally see how folks could walk away offended on a number of fronts. i have my thoughts on the film, but i first want to offer this series of questions as a guide to enjoying District 9, or at least complexifying your viewing experience:

1. given that the first essential foundational thing to remember about this movie is: it’s a hollywood alien movie produced by the guy who did lord of the rings, and written-directed by one of his protege (and not one of his African protege on the benefit-of-the-doubt chance he has those)…do you honestly expect an in-depth treaty on race, immigration, apartheid, militarism or even the IDEA of aliens?

2. when/if you watched lord of the rings, did you see it as an unsubtle manifesto against capitalism and racism via the metaphor of the ring (power) in the hands of white wizards, and that ultimately power used to control others is destructive in any hands? or did you just see hobbits and orcs and elves?

3. what comes to your mind when you see a forced slum situation where the visibly and/or culturally “different” population is treated like animals to be contained, detained, or eliminated? south african apartheid? jews in germany during the holocaust? ICE detention centers in the u.s.? gaza and the west bank in modern day palestine-israel? all of the above?

4. can you consider that, based on previous experience, indigenous people (in south africa, or the u.s., or canada, or ANYWHERE) might have a justifiably suspicious or close-minded reaction to a new population showing up on the scene? that is to say, what are the clear signs to differentiate between colonizer and immigrant?

5. are you able to acknowledge that mercenary forces and mystical belief systems exist in nearly every nation, of every ethnicity?


my opinion: this is an amazing, surprising flick. its gory, action-packed, and presents an analysis counter to the american norm in terms of immigrants (or “aliens”).

i didn’t go in expecting much in terms of the analysis, but i was really pleased to see the clear condemnation of militarized containment of a people (or in this case, a species with cognitive abilities on par with or beyond our own). also noteworthy was the highlighted hypocrisy of polite colonization, fueled by an unquestioned sense of superiority.

what i saw gelled with my own lived experience: in my lifetime i have seen people whose first language is not english treated like animals and children, regardless of their expertise, intelligence, kindness, humanity, or accomplishments. in my lifetime i have witnessed the work of mercenaries of all kinds, from all backgrounds.

the best and worst traits, beliefs and behaviors are present in every person, in every people, in every nation. the leaps and bounds made in this film left several people and nations vastly underdeveloped and underrepresented – especially the nigerians and the quiet south african whistle-blowing hero.

in fact, the low point of this film is the representation of nigerians, the only mercenaries called out by name and seen engaging in behavior that could easily be respected as culturally specific (eating something in order to take on it’s power), but through director neill blomkamp’s lens comes off as gross and ignorant.

that said, all of the african and white mercenary and military characters get dismissed as wrong, stupid, violent, misled, power-hungry and horrible. only the aliens show any signs of what we so casually refer to as “humanity”.

and ultimately, in this film, only the merging of human and alien is able to open the eyes of the person abusing power. i am the living merger between two historically abusive and abusing, battling, othered peoples. i sometimes wonder if anything other than seeing the “other” in our own families will make us realize that the only sustainable path forward is the one we walk together.

octavia butler offers us the wisdom that “change is god.” but even the most open-minded of us still tend to think almost entirely in terms of our little container, our living spaceship hurtling in orbit through space. how much change can we accept and still see the divinity of it?

that is to say – if a massive alien ship full of living creatures was hovering over your city tomorrow, and if the creatures inside were stronger than you, and you couldn’t understand them, how would you react? and to make it current – how do you react now to the changing population of your city, town, world? to the constant migration and flow of people, from causes both natural and man-made, which is a part of our human existence? how do you react to abuses of power by your own people, or nation? are you an active participant, or a taxpaying passive colonizer, torturer…are you polite, or afraid, or open?

this movie can be very much about today’s world, and the horrors we are inflicting on each other at this moment. it can be about our choice, to turn away from domination and turn towards listening.

i will say it is much more enjoyable if you resist an easy watch, and compel yourself to think as much as you can the whole time.