Front Cover: American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism by Henry A Giroux
(City Lights/USA 2018)
American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism by Henry A Giroux is a collection of essays that aim to shake up Americans to the growing threat of Trump’s authoritarianism to America’s democratic institutions. The author observes that “while the United States under Trump may not be an exact replica of Hitler’s Germany, the mobilizing ideas, policies, and ruthless social practices of fascism, wrapped in the flag and discourses of racial purity, ultra-nationalism, and militarism, are at the center of power in Trump’s United States.”
As defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary, fascism is “an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.” To examine the echoes of fascism under Trump, Giroux refers to Robert O Paxton’s nine “mobilizing passions” of fascism described in his work, The Anatomy of Fascism (2004). These include:
sense of overwhelming crisis;
subordination of the individual to the group;
belief in victimization of one group to justify violence;
dread of group’s decline;
call for a purer community;
authority of a natural leader;
supremacy of leader’s instinct over reason;
beauty of violence and efficacy of the will for group’s success; and
right of chosen people to dominate others without restraint.
Front Cover: Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine by Remi Kanazi [Haymarket/USA, 2015]
My Poetry Corner June 2019 features the poem “Nothing to Worry About” from the poetry collection Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine (Haymarket Books, 2015) by Remi Kanazi, a poet, writer, and organizer based in New York City. Born in 1981, he is the son of Palestinian refugees who fled Palestine during the Nakba of 1948 when the state of Israel was established. In this collection, he not only addresses the Israel-Palestine conflict, but also examines racism in America, police brutality, US militarism at home and wars abroad, Islamophobia, and more.
In “Nakba,” the opening poem of the collection, Kanazi shares his maternal grandmother’s story of fleeing from her homeland, living in exile, and not being able to return home.
she was scared seven months pregnant guns pointed at temples tears dropping stomach cusped back bent dirt pathways leading to dispossession
For Palestinians worldwide, Nakba, which literally means “catastrophe,” refers to the period 1947 to 1949 when Zionist colonizers ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians and destroyed 531 villages.
Palestinians leaving a village in Galilee after the creation of Israel in 1948
Photo Credit: Aljazeera [Reuters]
Kanazi grew up in a small, predominantly white town in Western Massachusetts where he assimilated American customs. During his teenage years, he learned more about Palestine, but, as the only Arab family in town, he avoided contentious debate. In 2001, four months before 9/11, he moved to New York City.
After Kanazi attended his first Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, in 2004, he was inspired to begin writing spoken word poetry. Based on his own receptivity, he realized the potential of using this medium to share his political thoughts with the young generation. Continue reading →
My Poetry Corner May 2019 features the poem “the woman is a construction” (a mulher é uma construção) from the poetry collection, a uterus is the size of a fist (um útero é do tamanho de um punho), by Angélica Freitas, a contemporary Brazilian poet and translator.
Born in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, in 1973, the eldest of four siblings, Angélica Freitas began writing poetry at the age of nine, but her journey to finding herself as a poet took a long and circuitous route. Her discovery, at the age of fifteen, that she was gay made it difficult for her to fit in with her peers. Bullies found her an easy target. At nineteen, following her father’s death, she escaped to Glasgow with a Scottish girlfriend. After six months of washing dishes and cleaning restrooms, she returned to her family home.
Opting to study journalism at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Freitas moved to the capital, Porto Alegre, where she remained after graduation. There, she could be invisible. In her poem, “the pink book of the foolish heart,” she recalls:
I had a girlfriend
with super powers
and when I walked beside her
I was also invisible
In 2000, an unexpected acceptance as a trainee with OEstado de São Paulo newspapers led Freitas to the metropolis of São Paulo. She confesses that she wasn’t a good reporter, but that the experience exposed her to other realities of life. After four years of suffering to write with the rhythm of a daily newspapers, she left them for a slower paced work schedule at a telecommunications magazine. A career in journalism, she came to realize, wasn’t for her. What she desired above all was to write poetry.
Her life changed on a Saturday in 2005 when, during a period of depression, she decided to attend a poetry workshop conducted by Carlito Azevedo, a poet from Rio de Janeiro. Two years later, under his mentorship, she published her first collection of poetry. That same year, she moved to Argentina where she lived for two years with her girlfriend. For the first time, she became part of a feminist group. Living among them made her question her own condition as a woman. On her return to Brazil, she moved back to her hometown to work full-time as a poet and writer. Continue reading →
In Owen Jones’ recent interview video with Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam criticises the political ‘left’ as having been perpetually dishonest about what economic action is required to mitigate the climate breakdown and what cultural changes this will necessitate. He contends that the ‘left’ have become so embroiled, so entrenched in the (conceptually politically right-wing) neoliberal ideal they are unable to conceive of human life “in anything other than cost-benefit, materialistic terms”. Their proposed resolutions have therefore assumed that market forces are enough to tackle climate change: business as usual WILL work, it just needs tweaking! They were wrong, whilst Roger is correct: The ‘left’ – the supposed political guardians of justice and equality – have fundamentally failed to realise that at the very heart of any suitable action to mitigating the climate breakdown requires a redefinition and restructuring of our society and economy. Just like all life on this…
April 22nd is Earth Day 2019. The theme this year –Protect Our Species – aims to “educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.” Other goals include achieving major policies to protect these species, building a global movement that embraces nature, and encouraging individual actions to adopt a plant-based diet and stop pesticide and herbicide use.
Since the loss of the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago, our planet now faces the greatest rate of extinction due to human impact on their habitats. Learn more about What is driving this process of extinction?
All is not yet lost. We can slow the rate of extinctions by working together to build a united global movement of consumers, educators, religious leaders, and scientists to demand immediate action.
For too long, we humans have placed ourselves above and apart from our planetary web of life, ignoring the interconnectivity of all life forms. To drive national and global economic growth, our species continue to mistreat, exploit, and destroy non-human life. Do our cities have to burn like the Notre Dame Cathedral for humankind to finance and take swift, decisive action to do what needs to be done?
These fears and frustrations [President Trump’s failure to build a wall], heightened by U.S. Census Bureau projections that white people will no longer be a majority by 2044, helped propel hate to a new high last year. The total number of hate groups rose to 1,020 in 2018, up about 7 percent from 2017. White nationalist groups alone surged by nearly 50 percent last year, growing from 100 chapters in 2017 to 148 in 2018. But at the same time, Trump has energized black nationalist hate groups — typically antisemitic and anti-LGBT organizations — with an increase to 264 from 233 in 2017. Overall, though, the great majority of hate groups are those that despise racial, ethnic or religious minorities and they, unlike black nationalist groups, have a firm foothold in the mainstream.
My Poetry Corner April
2019 features the poem “Fault Lines” from the poetry collection, Fault Lines, by Kendel Hippolyte, a
poet, playwright, and director. Born in the Eastern Caribbean Island of St.
Lucia in 1952, he lived in Jamaica in the 1970s, where he explored his talents
in writing plays and poetry. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1976 at the
University of the West Indies Mona campus, he returned to St. Lucia.
Four poetry collections have followed his first publication in 1980. Fault Lines – published by the UK publisher, Peepal Tree Press, in 2012 – won the 2013 OCM Bocas (Caribbean Literature) Prize for Poetry. In 2000, he was awarded the St. Lucia Medal of Merit for Contribution to the Arts.
Since retiring from teaching theater arts and literature at the Sir Arthur Lewis College (1992-2007), Hippolyte focuses on raising public awareness and contributing to solutions of critical social issues. A major Caribbean tourist destination, the island nation of an estimated 165,510 inhabitants (July 2018) is vulnerable to global capitalism and its ills of consumerism, drugs, crime, and violence.
In his poem, “Paradise” (from the same collection), the poet laments in Caribbean English: “Every time this tourist ship name Paradise come dock in the harbor / you does realize we never going to make it.”
In “Fault Lines,” the collection’s titular poem, Hippolyte invites the reader to look beyond the natural beauty of the idyllic, island nation to the underlying fault lines that rupture its communities.
The lines appear on sidewalks and on streets just recently resurfaced,
on bridges and on buildings, the creases, cracks, accumulation;
the fractures of a thin, brittle civilization aging prematurely.
For those of us who live along the geological fault lines on Earth’s surface, as in the Caribbean and in my home state of California, the fissures or cracks are warnings of mounting pressure beneath our feet. So, too, the fault lines that divide us. And there are many such lines, such as inequality and rising white nationalism.
The hand of something dying scrabbles these last messages everywhere,
a harsh cuneiform trying to break through surfaces into our understanding.
But we can barely read that ancient language now, of earth writing itself.
Yet, the poet says, we are blind to the signs everywhere of our undoing. We have failed to learn from the errors of past civilizations.
We walk between the lines, fill in the blank telling cracks, deconstruct, if need be,
our crumbling edifices breaking out in fault lines from trying to contain what we’ve become.
We humans have a way of creating alternate realities that fit our narratives about who we are as a species.
The hand is writing too on faces – lines of bewilderment, fear, guilt;
other unfinished lines trail off, coagulating red on bodies left as messages,
torsos punctuated with the exclamation marks of knife wounds, full stops of bullet holes;
final sentences marked on faces of those who used to be too young to kill or to be killed.
The imagery here is powerful. These are no longer cracks on our sidewalks, streets, bridges, and buildings. These are self-inflicted wounds, especially to our young people who die in mass shootings and in our war zones.
Something is desperately writing a threnodic poem to us, hoping we will read
the lines appearing on the sidewalks, streets, bridges, buildings, bodies, faces. But
we do not read – and what hope for a poem, like this one, struggling to translate,
with nothing but words, these dark fault lines of our disintegration into poetry?
Hippolyte makes clear that this is a poem of lamentation for a species that refuses to see the myriad “dark fault lines” that herald our disintegration as communities and nations. He holds out little hope that his poetic words would awaken us to action.
When the fault lines finally rupture and dislocate the earth beneath our feet, would it be too late for humankind to change its ways?
“Thanks to President Trump’s
leadership, the United States is pursuing trade policies that are more
favorable to American workers,” said Ambassador Lighthizer. “In just two years,
we have significantly re-written major trade deals with Korea, Mexico, and
Canada. We have undertaken dramatic new enforcement efforts to stop unfair
trading practices by China and other countries.”
President Trump has kept his promise made during his electoral campaign to renegotiate NAFTA. On November 30, 2018, the three trade partners signed theUnited States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which will replace NAFTA. It’s now up to Congress to approve or reject the terms of agreement.
In her article, “The Battle Over
NAFTA 2.0 Has Just Begun,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s
Global Trade Watch, warns that “if progressives don’t engage strategically to
improve the pact, the consequences could be devastating [for both workers and
To date, our Dealer-in-Chief’s
strategies to reduce our trade deficit has not shown results. Based on the U.S.
Census Bureau foreign trade statistics released on March 6, 2019, here’s a
look at U.S. trade (goods only) in 2018 for our top three trade partners—China,
Canada, and Mexico—that account for 44.9 percent of America’s total trade,
valued at $1.9 trillion.
America’s trade war with China is not over.
Our success or failure matters. China is our Number One trading partner with 15.7
percent of total trade (imports & exports), valued at $659.8 billion. Trade
teams from the USA and China are now in their eight round of negotiations. Judging
from the import figures for 2018, our ten percent tariff on select Chinese
imports have not yet had any effect, when compared to the previous year. U.S. export
values tell a different story. Our farmers and ranchers continue to bear the
burden of China’s retaliatory tariffs on American produce.
China Imports increased $34.0 billion to $539.5 billion Exports decreased$10.1 billion from $130.4 billion US-China Trade Deficit increased $44.0 billion to $419.2 billion —representing 47.7 percent of total trade deficit for all countries
After China (15.7%), Canada (14.7%) and
Mexico (14.5%) rank in second and third place, with total trade valued at
$617.2 billion and $611.5 billion, respectively. In 2018, trade deficits increased
for both Canada and Mexico, when compared with figures for 2017.
Canada Imports increased $18.5 billion to $318.5 billion Exports increased $16.3 billion to $298.7 billion US-Canada Trade Deficit increased $2.2 billion to $19.8 billion
Mexico Imports increased $32.5 billion to $346.5 billion Exports increased $22.0 billion to $265.0 billion US-Mexico Trade Deficit increased $10.5 billion to $81.5 billion
After decades of trade policies that have favored multinational and transnational corporations and gutted American manufacturing jobs, we cannot ignore the terms of our trade agreements that would impact our industries and livelihood. We can no longer expect more and pay less. This comes with a high price tag.