Bernie and the Bird.

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At an official peace gathering in Puerto Rico,  August, 14-15, 2002, hosted by Nobel peace Laureate Oscar Arias, event planners let go a cage full of doves. They went right for the lights — (or was it a wire loaded with fireworks?) and were immediately electrocuted, falling to their deaths.  We did our best to divert the attention of our twelve year old daughter, away from the rain of feathered carnage.

And the Endless War on Terror raged on.

You gotta let the birds make their own statements.

On January 8, 1959, a white dove  landed on young revolutionary Fidel Castro’s shoulder as he was delivering a speech to the masses, shortly after taking Havana.

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And now – the little bird came to join Bernie Sanders on the podium, telling him not to be afraid to stretch his vision of equality beyond U.S. borders. “Don’t be afraid to use the p word”  she whispered.

 

And then he wasn’t.

Sanders’ Truth-Speaking on Latin America is what is Exceptional.

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When Clinton  attacked Sanders for speaking out against the Contra war in Nicaragua in the 1980s, the Bay of Pigs in 1961 at the Univision debate March 9 she exposed an awful truth:

U.S. is not exceptional in its imperial role in the world.  What is exceptional is a mainstream party presidential candidate willing to speak historical truths.   

Sanders responded with a mini history lesson about CIA-supported coups  that overthrew democratically elected presidents Jacobo Arbenz, in Guatemala (1954)  and Salvador Allende in Chile  in (1973).  He could have also mentioned the  Obama/Clinton-supported coup in Honduras in 2009 which overthrew the elected president Manuel Zelaya.

Honduran President Zelaya, like Arbenz and Allende before him*, was taking steps to reign in foreign corporate control of the Honduran economy by endorsing the regional cooperative trade group ALBA. He was also considering bans on mining.

Honduras may seem like a hiccup, a sideshow for those considering a Clinton presidency. But this intervention signaled that under Obama/Clinton, the era of U.S. domination in Latin America would continue. For Latin Americans the coup and Obama/Clinton’s immigration policy — especially toward Honduran children fleeing the post coup violence —  is the same old same old U.S. imperialism.

When Hillary Clinton claims Kissinger — mastermind behind the overthrow of Allende —  as her mentor, Latin Americans know what she means. It is people in the United States who need the primer Sanders offered.

The murder last week of Berta Cáceres, environmental activist in Honduras, was a devastating reminder of the violence that is endemic in Honduras since the 2009 coup, where dozens of activists have been assassinated. It is this violence that has spurred the child refugees to travel solo to the U.S.

The U.S. detention and return of these children is …. “Criminal” is not a strong enough word.

Clinton  (and Obama’s) Honduras policy is not a hiccup, it is everything — an indication of a commitment to an imperial future that looks just like the bad old days.

In memory of Berta Cáceres  in support of other environmental, labor and feminist activists  in danger for their activism in Honduras; for the children of Central America fleeing violence; lets push Sanders and ourselves to continue to demand a future that is truly exceptional – a real break with the colonial past.

Photo by  International Business Times

*Arbenz took steps to nationalize the banana industry in Guatemala and Allende  took on U.S. copper and AT&T in Chile that the U.S. intervened to destroy democracy in these nations.   

Feeling Half a Bern in Iowa.

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Me and my partner took a weekend trip across the southern border, to escape city winter doldrums and indulge a morbid fascination with the political campaign, one week before the Iowa caucus.

We had a fun time. Saw wild turkeys and pheasants, pine trees encrusted in ice, black Amish buggies and white fields barely discernible from grey sky.

In Mason City, Iowa — a border town, off of Highway 35 ,in the flat central plains — there was little indication of the impending caucuses — one comment about the idiocy of Trump, one massive red lawn sign for Cruz. We joined hundreds congregated at the YMCA on Saturday morning. The contest on their minds was playing out by their youngsters on the basketball courts.

But in Decorah — another border town in the hilly east — the masses gathered at Luther College to see Bernie Sanders.  The crowd was clearly feeling the Bern; loving talk about single payer health care, free tuition, $15 minimum wage, expanding social security, a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure and renewable energy jobs and a promise to transfer priorities from mass incarceration to education.  They also cheered for choice, gay marriage, and equal pay for equal work.

The crowd spanned the age spectrum. The couple in their sixties sitting in front of me shouted out when he talked about people on social security trying to live on 13,000. “That is us!”

Bernie took on his detractors – those who  say he can’t win, and the naysayers who claim he is promising the moon but has no way to pay for it. For the latter he cited polls, for the former he promised to tax billionaires and the banks.

My partner was enthusiastic – picking up a lawn sign. I told him it might have to go on his proverbial side of the lawn — for now.

I felt half a Bern. I didn’t hear anything I did not agree with. I shared the relief expressed in people’s faces as they heard real problems and solutions from a politician who — as he said — thinks Americans like it when you don’t treat them like they are dumb. I was grateful not to be pandered to with patriotic pablum about American exceptionalism – rhetoric that Obama has made his own.
I was glad he mentioned race disparities in unemployment – but wished he had showed more courage with this white Iowa audience to push for police accountability. In a state that increasingly relies on immigrant labor for food processing industries, I wished he would taken  the opportunity to include undocumented people in his calls for equal rights.

Indeed, it was what he did not say that had me holding back.

Other than his vote against the Iraq war, there was no mention in his address about endless wars or military drones, or U.S. bombing hospitals. Indeed his social programs could all be paid for if we chopped the bloated pentagon budget. Why didn’t he say that? I know the weapons manufacturers and military bases in every state are even more capable than big pharma, oil and the NRA,in cowering politicians. But Sanders could role out a plan for turning weapons factories into water filtration and mass- transit manufacturing, without job loss, reversing FDR’s speedy transformation of domestic plants during World WAR II.

From my experience — talking to students and strangers on my 14 month bicycle trip around the U.S.— I found that across the rural/ urban, left/right spectrum people are sick of war. Heck, Obama knows that. “War weariness,” he calls it.
For the current President war-weariness is a problem, but for the next president, with a vision for a sustainable world, it could be a great asset, something to build on.

Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Bernie’s foreign policy acumen should be seen as an opportunity by his campaign, to shout back that with the former Secretary of State, we get more of what the world can not afford – more American super power bullying.

Look, it is not just that I want more. If so, I’d settle for the half glass. Reform is good for real people. But if Bernie’s domestic revolution stops at our borders, I fear it won’t work . We are one small vulnerable planet. The political borders we erect are not just artificial from a moral perspective. They don’t exist economically, climatificially, militarily. The United States has to adopt a global allegiance as we act locally, or we will all go down, destroyed by inequality, endless war,pollution and rising seas.

Let me repeat. Without a global plan, I fear Bernie’s domestic plan will go down as another beautiful list of empty promises. I fear only a fascist could fill the void that disappoint would elicit.
Unlike me, the crowd at Luther College in Decorah were as wildly enthusiastic about their candidate as midwesterners get. The post-rally conversation at the Water Street Cafe and Java coffee shop, were positively giddy. Given the Democratic and Republican alternatives, that is great news. Indeed the supporters of Bernie Sanders are the best part of his campaign.  That is why the corporate -owned media, here in Iowa and nationwide, have accelerated their anti- Sanders vitriol. They know they must put out the  Bernie fire.

As Sander’s said, “this is about more than me and my candidacy.”

Amen to that.

 

The Democratic (non) Debate on Foreign Policy

 

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As the United States and Russia expand their interventions in Syria and the presidential campaign heats up, the need for a transformation in the global polity in order to save the planet  — a point made by MLK (see above) almost 40 years ago and more urgent today —  is not being addressed.

While we fight for social justice at home, keeping the candidates feet to the fire with immigration, Black Lives Matter, 350.org and fight for $15 movements, we need to remember and remind those in power that without peace and global justice there will little progress at home.

Though the #Demsdebate was described in the mainstream media as a fight between Democratic Socialism and benign Capitalism, Bernie and Hillary’s agreements on foreign policy are a central problem for we, the people.

Naomi Klein is right to argue the times require a Change in Everything, including U.S. relations with the world. We need to demand a candidate with a global perspective, one who will tell the truth about the dangers of nationalism in the 21st century; one who understands that the issues we face internally have global consequences and global solutions.

I want a leader who will say out loud that the U.S. is the chief per-capita polluter, wealth extractor and weapons manufacturer. It is the power with the most military bases, billionaire investors, and corporate sweatshops. It is the greatest consumer of the world’s non-renewable resources.

The United States still has a prime role to play on the world stage but one that involves an about face: from world super power to global leader in redistribution of wealth and demilitarization, chief elevator of labor and human rights and prime mitigator of climate change.

I’d like to see a candidate who will prioritize education, not to compete with the Chinese but because education is a right of all children on the planet, a candidate who will oppose the TPP not just because it will hurt workers in the U.S., but because it will hurt workers everywhere, especially in the global south

A global capitalist economy that measures success by increasing consumption is destroying the ecology of mother earth. As chief global capitalist that buck stops with the United States. . I want a president who realizes that tackling climate change and global redistribution of wealth are one and the same.

If we elevate labor everywhere and dismantle the military industrial complex we will naturally slow migration streams, because we will be protecting the right of people to stay home. Then we can tear down our walls, open our borders; let Wall Street run a labor and environmental obstacle course to apply for a temporary visa.

There is much we need to do on the home front: tackle racism, homophobia, rape culture, gun violence, mass incarceration, crumbling infrastructure, health care, education. The candidates are talking about some of these things, but they are not telling us that we can’t do them without changing our global priorities. Remember how the War on Poverty got consumed by the war in Vietnam?

We need money for social justice at home, not Empire-building abroad.

The planet is small and connected. That’s not left or right. It’s our 21st century reality.