Monday, December 29, 2014


Genocide. America.
Say those two words together, and often.
Never forget.
Massacre, America.
Say those two words together, and often.
Never forget.
Torture. America.
Say those two words together, and often.
When others claim American greatness
say these six words,
"Genocide. America. Massacre, America. Torture. America."
The facts are simple.
It is not a question,
nor up for debate.
When others claim we are exceptional,
recognize the hubris.
Recognize the lie.
Remember the dead men, women,
and children, their corpses
frozen on the snowy plain.
Wounded Knee. Dec 29, 1890.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Burn It Down

Burn it down.
Burn the stores.
Burn the signs.
Burn the banks.
and the thin blue line.

Burn the symbols. Burn the guns. Burn the cars.
Burn it til it's all undone.
Burn the prisons. Burn the courts. Burn the sentences.
It's a last resort.
Burn it down.
Burn the system. Burn the constructs. Burn the norm. Burn the insults.
Burn it til we all transform.
Burn the broken hardheartedness.
Burn the hate.
Burn it down.
The world can't wait.
Melt the chains.
Crack the seed.
Burn the binds that cinch the mind.
A monk once said, "A single spark, the whole forest burns."
Light it up.
Burn it down.

(in memory of MLK and Mike Brown gunned down in the streets of America.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lost Lessons on 9/11

Thirteen years have gone by. Thirteen blood filled years. The number of deaths perpetrated by the United States boggles the mind. The numbers of U.S. deaths, including the first responders dying of cancers and lung ailments, soldiers dying on the battle field, or soldiers killing themselves at home, pales in comparison to the retribution we have meted out across the globe- often to completely innocent victims of our self serving “justice”. Yet our President endorses more bombing, more destruction, and more death. On the thirteenth anniversary, with the carnage stretching from North Africa to Central Asia our President says, “ISIL has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.” He could very easily be describing us.

This time he assures us, it is different. Our service members are less likely to die because there will be no boots on the ground, (he then explains he is sending hundreds of advisers to Iraq). The method is not much different than the policy of murder we have carried out in sovereign countries during Obama’s presidency. We will bomb them. Innocent men, women and children will die. The weapon manufacturers will prosper. Our Congress members will continue to enrich themselves. Opposition to the United States will grow.

The President points to Somalia and Yemen as success stories in the war on terror. He does not mention the street protests embroiling the capital of Yemen as that country teeters perilously close to chaos. He fails to mention Libya, now a failed state after our intervention. Iraq and Afghanistan are spun as success stories now that the troops are coming home, but incredible levels of violence persist.

He claims we are safer because of these interventions and in the next breath says we are in mortal danger.

He says, “We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world.” He goes on to claim, “Our timeless ideals will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.” Though these contradictions make no sense we are asked to accept them, and support them to show our “united front.”

President Obama speaks of living in a time of great change, yet our policies remain mired in violence and coercion. The promise of “change” propelled Obama into office. And change we’ve seen. President Bush has all but vanished, painting paint by number self-portraits in his shower. Cheney’s got a brand new heart and it’s a perfect match, he hasn’t an ounce of added empathy, and he may be even meaner than before. Obama has also changed, his rhetoric morphing into the words of his predecessors. Like Bush, Clinton, the senior Bush, and Reagan before him, he talks of America’s goodness, our endless blessing, our timeless values, and our leadership in the world. He speaks of our pursuit of freedom, justice, and dignity as F-16’s and drones decimate people around the globe. In times of crisis you may find him on the golf course. In due time he may be painting watercolors as well, though for two more years he will paint with a broader brush, his color crimson and his canvas the deserts and gardens of Syria and Iraq.

In New York there is a new museum display, a 9/11 shrine for family members of those who died in the towers is now opened for public viewing. You can go online and do a virtual tour and zoom in on the thousands of personal notes for those who were killed. It is heartbreaking. The multitudes of notes cry out about loss, and memory, and love. I recognize this heartbreak descending across the globe and settling on every village we bomb. Every innocent we kill has loved ones left behind. The shattered lives of 9/11 now echo and multiply exponentially across the globe.
I did not see any notes that call for retribution or endless war. This is the call of our government. Bombing is not the answer. Violence is not the answer. Vanquishing is not the answer. Thirteen years teaches us.

The lessons were not lost on our government. They have proven time and again they simply are uninterested or incapable of pursuing peace. The lessons lost are lost on us, the citizens of America. We are asked to remember our values, but not how they have been abused. We are reminded of our personal goodness, but asked not to apply it to the state. We are reminded of our greatness, but not of our faults. We are told to look ahead and asked to ignore the current enrichment of a few at our expense.  

How much longer will we tolerate our government’s endless war? How much longer will we tolerate our failing infrastructure, our failing schools, our failing economy with our leaders promising a brighter future that never comes? How much longer will we tolerate our soldiers returning home only to kill themselves? How much longer will we tolerate the crushing of dissent with our ultra-militarized police forces?  The war on terror brought to our streets.

President Obama likens ISIL to cancer. And like a good doctor he warns us that risks are involved. But like a bad doctor, he never tells the patient that they have alternatives to the often-fatal treatment he provides. He never warns the patient their behavior contributes to the cancers spread. He never tells the patient that they can be a proactive, positive influence on their disease.

The President proclaims we “Uphold the values that we stand for — timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.” Lofty rhetoric aside, how much longer will it take Americans to recognize that it is our government who offers hate, divisiveness, and destruction to the world? How much longer will we accept the utter devastation of foreign peoples in the name of our freedom? How much longer?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Innocent in Gaza

The innocent of Gaza will never forget what is being done to them. In our ignorance we speak of non-violence. We debate the use of rockets. We call anyone who fights back a terrorist. We repeat, again and again, Hamas, Hamas, Hamas along with self-defense, self-defense, self-defense.

Some people in this world are entitled to self-defense. Some people are not.

What will we, in our ignorance, and from a great distance, ask of the innocents of Gaza? Will we ask them to forgive? To ignore? To pretend? Will we ask them, "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?" Will we ask them why they don't want peace? Will we ask them to cooperate? To negotiate? Will we ask them why they hate? Will we ask them why they fight? Will we ask them to forget?

Yes, we will.

Gaza is being reduced to rubble. Living, breathing, beautiful human beings, just dust and ashes now. We watch from a distance. We believe we are doing all we can, or we believe there is nothing we can do. We absolve ourselves. Like a cold bucket of ice water, our concepts bathe us in a soft light of self-satisfaction.

While Gaza burns.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Are You Still Alive?

i passed you on the street one day.
You stood in front of the rubble
Of your once beautiful house,
Your palms extended to the sky.

i sat with you at
Your child’s funeral tent.
We drank sweet tea, you told me
“Fares was the engine of our home.”
Just another boy,
Martyred in his bed.

i was with you, reaping
In the fields of Khouza.
i was with you in the Gaza sea,
The gunboats lit us up.

You called me brother.
You called me habibi.

i saw you on the battlefront,
a flower in your hair.

i was with you in the camp.
You had a message for America,
You said, “Tell your friends,
We are here in Gaza,
But we are not afraid.”
Mohammed, eight years old,
brave beyond his years.

Today, i saw a picture
Of a small blood soaked shoe.
And the Israeli occupiers
Are bombing homes again.

Today, i have but one
Question for you:
My friend,
Are you still alive?

A Message from Gaza by Intimaa Al-Sudoudi

DO Something!

Don’t let us- indigenous Palestinians- lose faith in YOUR humanity, because your silence is, literary, a crime against humanity. First, you have to consider that what the Sate of  Zionist Israel  is doing to us-Palestinians-, is apartheid by definition. Lynching our kids, uprooting our trees, destroying our houses,  killing our pregnant mothers, the medieval siege, the segregation wall and the nasty checkpoints are APARTHIED. Second, the current situation and the breaking news are showing that in each single spot there is a massacre; Gaza strip is a massacre, Gaza city is a massacre, and all Gaza camps are massacres.

Let me ask you a question! Why are you waiting? Children turned into hot, bloody pieces. Whole families have been slaughtered, and we are still waiting for you to wake up! We are fed up with your silence. We do not need a year or even another moment of your silence. We do not need another press release. We do not want you to condemn and deplore. What we need is a concrete action. Show us your humanity expel the devil out of your country because what is going on right now in Gaza is by your name and your governments  support of Israeli crimes that violate international laws.

Hello, I am sure that you heard that within less than three days  more than hundred Palestinian were murdered, and over six hundreds were injured, and the majority of them are kids and women. Hey, you! Don't close your eyes or give us your deaf ear.  Palestinians are not allowed to leave the Gaza Strip for urgent medication due to the imposed siege since 9 years and what did you do in all these years to stop this? How many decades do we have to stay in an open prison? Let alone the destruction of our houses, infrastructure, mosques, churches, schools, and hospitals. Have you not seen our loved ones turned into headless bodies, and dismembered corpses?! Have you not seen the murder of a fetus on his mother's womb?  How many decades do we have to die in silence while everybody is watching? Wake up!

We will not forgive your silence.  The children’s blood will always haunt your conscious.
Do not tell us that you are sending money, tents, and food! Shut the hell up! Do not tell me that you are going to post a solidarity statement on Facebook and Twitter!

Show us your anger, your rage, your humanity. Say no to the devil in your land. You’ve heard the children’s pleas haven’t you? You’ve seen Palestinian flesh, bones and blood scattered everywhere. True? What are you waiting for? More blood? We ask all of you, human beings, to go and protest against the Israeli embassy, look to them in the eyes and shout; stop Israel’s genocidal war, ethnic cleansing, collective punishment against civilians and innocent populace and end the horrific barbaric siege that is sucking our humanity.

Your actions matter, your rage can save Palestinian kids, and your support is your humanity.      

Message from indigenous Palestinian
Let me hear you as soon as possible,
There is an F16 hovering over my head,
Respond to the call of humanity,
Because Palestinians are human beings,
Exactly like your families.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Letter to a Friend as Gaza Burns

Thank you for your note. It is with a sick heart that i write this from my kitchen table. About 3 mos ago i made a vow to my partner that i would be here for her and not travel this summer as we prepare to move to Florida. i have already broken that vow once. i can not do it again.

It is incredibly difficult- i feel physically ill. Not because my presence in Gaza would solve anything, but only because what is happening to the people there is so egregious and so stunningly inhumane that i prefer to stand with them--- in a sense to reclaim my own humanity which is diminished every time a bomb demolishes a home. Anything less doesn't seem like enough. So i feel like i've failed, not just a small failure before me, more a universal failure----a failure without redemption.

For many days i have been besides myself with anger. Writing these words helps dissipate the violence in my mind and allows the incredible sadness of my being room to breathe. Unfortunately, it does nothing to stem the violence raining down on the people of Gaza.

i reach out to touch the beauty around me, my friend, my dog, the ocean, the blue sky and it sustains me for a moment, realizing it is a temporary panacea as the bombs (our bombs, my bombs) continue to fall far around the world. i recognize the people of Gaza have few moments to reach out as the unrelenting bombardment continues.

Last night they blew up the port and many fishing boats. They attacked a mosque (in this holy month of Ramadan), they attacked a hospital. They buried people in the rubble of their homes(as they have done everyday since the beginning of this onslaught). It is beyond my understanding.

When human beings, my friends, like the journalist (and a new father) Mohammed Omer write, "I don't know what else to say. I think we are going to die." And my dear friend Intimaa writes, "i am going to try to call my family. I hope they are not all dead." my spirit is crushed.

These are dark days.

May beauty sustain us. Love, Johnny

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The City of the Dead

The City of the Dead in Cairo is an ancient graveyard that for decades has been home not only to the dearly departed interred there, but for their relatives as well. The mausoleums not only house the dead, but one million family members who are some of the most marginalized people in Cairo. It is not unusual for generations of family members to be undocumented- without birth certificates or identity papers. Many never attend a school. To the government, these people are not only dead- they never existed in the first place.

In the run up to the first election since the military coup overthrew the Morsi government, Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made no electoral promises and guaranteed only one thing- that the going will be more difficult for Egyptians in the coming years.

In Cairo the pictures of Sisi are everywhere-from the shops in old Islamic Cairo, to the bridges over the highway, to the buildings downtown, they are plastered on taxis, donkey carts, and Mercedes automobiles. The slogans range from “Egypt is my mother and Sisi is my father” to “The Lord Jesus invites you to vote for Sisi in order to bring to an end the Muslim Brotherhood”, (when churches burn it may be important to remember this one).

It was most disheartening to see banners hanging high above Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the revolution. The place where Egyptians of every sort gathered and talked about change and what they hoped for their kids in the new Egypt- the Egypt they were imagining together. An Egypt free of the Mubarak regime and their cronies, free of the corrupt business elite, and free of the military’s influence over the government. Tahrir Square, whitewashed and sanitized like all the massacre sites around Cairo, holds no hint of the young people who gave their lives for their country and their dreams. They too never existed. In the center of the square sits a monument to the martyrs erected by the hypocritical coup government, defaced the day it was unveiled, today a tombstone for the revolution. All of Cairo is a graveyard, a new City of the Dead and Sisi’s visage looks down on it all.

Outside several polling stations around the pro-military Abassaya neighborhood the atmosphere was festive and the cult of personality that surrounds Sisi was in full bloom. The young men and women who spearheaded the revolution were visibly absent. Parents and grandparents, with children in tow, danced and waved flags, holding up their hands with the now ubiquitous dyed finger. They wore t-shirts emblazoned with portraits of Sisi, and sang along to the blaring sound systems and the honking horns. They posed for photos with policeman and soldiers—some of them undoubtedly responsible for the murders of their countrymen at Mohamed Mahmoud St, Abassaya Square, Tahrir and Rabaa and they voted for the man who orchestrated their deaths. The chants of “Down with SCAF” and “No to Military Rule” echoed deep in my heart, but the voices that raised this cry in the streets of Cairo and throughout Egypt have been murdered, imprisoned, or silenced with threats.

Early returns show Sisi winning the election against his only opponent, Hamdeen Sabbahi with 90% of the vote. Not one poster of Sabbahi adorns any walls in Cairo. He is invisible too. You see he lives in the new City of the Dead. 

The turn out on Monday was so low Tuesday was declared a national holiday in order to get the vote out, when that failed, voting was extended for an additional day. The news anchors of the state sponsored news channels, some with tears in their eyes, implored people to vote. 50% of the electorate turned out to vote in the real elections- the elected government Sisi overthrew. Preliminary counts of voter turnout on Monday show an anemic turnout of 6.5%. It will be difficult to claim a mandate of the people or even a legitimate election if this number doesn’t improve. As I sit writing this, pictures of empty polling stations around the country are crossing my newsfeed. Trucks circle the neighborhood with sound systems cranked up, exhorting people to vote. The City Stars Mall, the largest mall in Cairo has been closed and people are being told to leave and go vote.

This will not deter the Western election observers from declaring a “clean” election. This will not deter Obama from declaring Sisi the legitimate leader of Egypt and renewing the military cooperation that never really ended in the first place- just last month the U.S. delivered 10 Apache attack helicopters to the coup government- they will be used against the Egyptian people living in the Sinai. No US Congressperson will raise their indignant voice to remind the American people that Sisi, like Saddam and Gaddafi and Assad, has killed his own people and should be removed from power. Sen. John McCain will not stand with the protesters demanding the ouster of Sisi. Asst. Secretary of State Nuland will not be delivering cookies.

Protests have been banned and the crackdown has been harsh- estimates vary widely as to those detained. Wiki Thawra announced that 41,000 people have been detained, many without trials, or sham trails- some courts sentencing hundreds to death in a matter of minutes. Included in the arrests are (mostly local) journalists attempting to alert the world to the situation in Egypt. Most of the major Western media outlets have disappeared--- the aftermath of the coup is a lot less photogenic than the spectacle of the “Arab Spring”. Independent journalists are under threat, and largely absent. On Friday three anti-government protestors were killed and dozens injured and arrested in protests around the country (which went unreported in western media) by a police/military force that has killed thousands of citizens with immunity since the coup in July 2013.

So it will be back to business as usual in Egypt. The election will be hailed as a democratic success. The average Egyptian will continue to suffer with a lack of food, poor sanitation, poor infrastructure, terrible schools, and decrepit hospitals. Government employees, doctors, nurses, and teachers will continue to receive a pittance for their labor. Others will scramble to survive. The crackdown will persist. Thousands will remain in detention and more will die. Sisi will move into the palace. Exchanging his uniform for a business suit, he will take Mubarak’s place at the trough.

The revolution, once the hope of tens of millions of ordinary Egyptians and people throughout the world, is buried. But those who live in the new City of the Dead exist and they will not remain invisible forever.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New York City Mayor de Blasio Visits AIPAC

The new mayor gives a speech to AIPAC. In the speech, he said visiting Sderot, a city near the Gaza Strip especially moved him. Mr. de Blasio said, “If they wanted to have time for their kids to play, they have to be in a missileproof, bombproof play area, because you could not know otherwise if your children would be safe.”

Back on Election Day, John del Cecato, the de Blasio campaign's chief media strategist, said, "De Blasio will win because New Yorkers have not accepted that this tale of two cities needs to be our future." I have a different “tale of two cities” for the new mayor.

Fare's father stands in his son's bedroom.
 I traveled further west, to the village of Beit Hanoun in Gaza, where I met a young father whose 8 year-old son had been decapitated in his sleep by an Israeli missile during the “Pillar of Cloud” attack. Fares Al-Basyouni was 8 years old. The children of Gaza have no “missile proof, bombproof” play areas, and they are not safe from Israeli missiles even while they sleep.

Paraphrasing Mr. de Blasio, “You can’t have an experience like that and not feel solidarity with the people and know that they’re on the front line of fighting against so many challenges.”

I stand on the side of justice.

If pandering to AIPAC is the “progressive path” the mayor claims to be on he will be a massive disappointment to real progressives.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A New Exhibit at the Museum

On Jan 11th, the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, WAT opened a new exhibit at the museum of American History- an interactive exhibit denouncing the Guantanamo Prison Camp and calling on the administration to close it down.