Tuesday, December 31, 2013

poem: gravity




Thich Quang Duc

sat down in Cholon

and burned himself

on a busy street


sat down

doused himself in gasoline

and burned

on a busy street

and people went on

his body charred

about their business



but the world stopped

sitting in flames

a regime tumbled

sit ting


something to nothing

that a people

consumed


might live

Monday, December 30, 2013

True names: Seminoles repelled US aggression at Lake Okeechobee



William Katz has done important work on the alliances between slaves and Native Americians, particularly in the South. Even the second Civil War of Lincoln and the Union against indigenous people has long been a) a subject of deliberate or what I call Founding Amnesia and b) its perpetrators like John Evans - Evanston, Mt. Evans, Evans Blvd., Evans professors - lionized. And the earlier role of the Pequot massacre in the founding of Harvard (May 1637) and massacres of Native Americans in the origins of other Ivy League schools has just been excavated in Craig Steven Wilder's Ebony & Ivy. See here and here on the failure of many reviews, though seeing the role of slavery, to take in the Protestant/Methodist murder of native americans.

But American aggressions in the South, the frenzied murderousness and slave hunting of Andrew Jackson and Colonel Zachary Taylor (Taylor here praised in a false tale about Lake Okeechobee by Lincoln) and the determined resistance to it are another large and hidden piece of the story.

****

The unlucky hit of a cannon ball on an ammunition dump at "Fort Negro" (an American name - one might name all the forts of the US army Fort White People or Fort KKK - and except for the vast role of black Patriots in the Revolution - see my Black Patriots and Loyalists - and the Union army against slavery - would not be wrong) killed many. But the heroism of sharpshooting Seminoles, who drove back Zachary Taylor's large invading force on Christmas, 1837, has been deliberately buried, miscast utterly, as Katz shows, as an invader's victory (h/t the Zinn project and Steve Fisher).

***

This independent black and indigenous community was able to obtain and practice with the latest weapons and take out the invaders. Throughout America's history, even as a colony of Britain, there are laws against slaveowners taking blacks to "Indian country"; fear of escape of slaves and unity with indigenous people mark the American "experiment" in colonial (subversive of the limited attempt at self-) government - see Lerone Bennett, The Road Not Taken here.

Great efforts were also made to limit the weapons indigenous people could buy. Governor John Evans of Colorado relied on shooting off his big guns - see here - and all American governors took Native American leaders to Washington to see the big guns in Washington and the endless numbers of Americans and soldiers...

***

That the fetishism of weapons down to nuclear arms and drones reveals the core of American "foreign" policy, has been "America," is a sad and understated theme in American history and public life. We can see it today in the horrific agitation of the Democratic Senators Menendez, Schumer, Booker, Gillibrand, Coons and Blumenthal for aggression against Iran - to rule by weaponized conquest, even though this is futile, counterproductive and fiercely resisted by ordinary people...- against their own President (see Peter Beinart here who suggests that everyone write to/call her Senator...).

***

What the US government did against indigenous people is what it is doing just recently in Iraq - see "Why Iraq is 'Indian country'" here.

***

But the Seminole alliance of blacks and native americans and their use of weapons against the invading army shows a different historical possibility. Some Seminoles, just like Sitting Bull, were never conquered. Had native americans allied together, had they found further allies among blacks and whites, had they acquired better weapons, the American advance - the relentless ethnic cleansing - might have been halted. America might then have become a much more decent place.

***

But there are too many nonwhite bodies, murdered and buried across the Continent or in the case of some 20,000, ghoulishly uninterred in the Smithsonian - see here - for this to be anywhere near true now. It is an aspiration for a multiracial America to be decent, not yet a reality...

***

In addition, Florida was a place of freedom for escaped blacks who taught the Seminoles, who had left Georgia, knowledge of rice growing they had brought with them from Senegambia and Sierra Leone. This is the story of a great independent republic, based on the alliance of the oppressed, striking out for freedom. Katz has written an important book on this, Black Indians: a Hidden Heritage.

The theme is worthy of much further scholarly work and, as Katz emphasizes, public celebration. It is time for these stories to be unearthed and find their true names.

***

Note a minor error in the article: that the Creeks oppressed the Seminoles does not yet make this "ethnic persecution." One should spell out an analogy of ethnic cleansings to tribal wars (usually not nearly so bloody and "exterminating," usually not accompanied by a visceral ideology) if there is one.

***

"Christmas Day Freedom Fighters: Hidden History of the Seminole Anticolonial Struggle
December 23, 2013

By William Katz

For the photograph, see here.

Attack of the Seminoles on the blockhouse. Image: WikiCommons.

On Christmas day 1837, 176 years ago, the Africans and Native Americans who formed Florida’s Seminole Nation defeated a vastly superior U.S. invading army bent on cracking this early rainbow coalition and returning the Africans to slavery. The Seminole victory stands as a milestone in the march of American liberty. Though it reads like a Hollywood thriller, this amazing story has yet to capture public attention. It is absent from most school textbooks, social studies courses, Hollywood movies, and TV.

This daring Seminole story begins around the time of the American Revolution when 55 “Founding Fathers” broke free of British colonialism and wrote the immortal Declaration of Independence. About the same time, Seminoles—suffering ethnic persecution under Creek rule in Alabama and Georgia—fled south to seek independence. Africans who had earlier escaped bondage and became among its first explorers welcomed them to Florida.

The Africans did more than offer Seminole families a haven. They taught them methods of rice cultivation they had learned in Senegambia and Sierra Leone, Africa. Then the two peoples of color forged a prosperous multicultural nation and a military alliance ready to withstand the European invaders and slave catchers. The Seminoles were led by such skilled military figures and diplomats as Osceola, Wild Cat, and John Horse.

This alliance drove U.S. slaveholders to sputtering fury. They saw Seminole unity, prosperity, and guns as a lethal threat to their plantation system. Here was a beacon that enticed escapees and offered them a military base of operations. Further, these peaceful communities destroyed the slaveholder myth that Africans required white control.

And these armed black and Indian communities lived a stone’s throw from the southern U.S. border. The U.S. Constitution of 1789 embraced slavery and protected slaveholder interests. From George Washington to the Civil War, slave owners sat in the White House two-thirds of the time, were two-thirds of speakers of the House of Representatives, two-thirds of presidents of the U.S. Senate, and 20 of 35 U.S. Supreme Court justices. With the support of their Northern trading partners—merchants and businessmen, and the politicians who served them—slaveholders were able to direct U.S. foreign policy.

Slaveholders and their allies kept up a drumbeat for U.S. military intervention in Florida, and in 1811 President James Madison authorized covert U.S. invasions by slave-catching posses called “Patriots.” Then in 1816, General Andrew Jackson ordered General Gaines to attack the Seminole alliance and “restore the stolen Negroes to their rightful owners.” A major U.S. assault began on hundreds of people living in “Fort Negro” on the Apalachicola River. As U.S. Army Colonel Clinch sailed down the Apalachicola he wrote: “The American Negroes had principally settled along the river and a number of them had left their fields and gone over to the Seminoles on hearing of our approach. Their cornfields extended nearly fifty miles up the river and their numbers were daily increasing.”

When a heated U.S. cannonball hit Fort Negro’s ammunition dump, the explosion killed most of its more than 300 defenders. The survivors were marched back to slavery. Then in 1818 General Jackson invaded and claimed Florida, the United States “purchased” it ($5,000,000) from Spain in 1819, and sent a U.S. army of occupation for “pacification.”

But suddenly the U.S. faced the largest slave revolt in its history, its busiest Underground Railroad station, and the strongest African/Indian alliance in North America. The multicultural Seminole forces carefully moved families out of harm’s way from 1816 to 1858 as they resisted the U.S. through three “Seminole Wars.” Today many Seminoles still claim they never surrendered.

In June 1837 Major General Sidney Thomas Jesup, the best informed U.S. officer in Florida, described the danger posed by the Seminole alliance: “The two races, the Negro and the Indian, are rapidly approximating; they are identical in interests and feelings. . . . Should the Indians remain in this territory the Negroes among them will form a rallying point for runaway Negroes from the adjacent states; and if they remove, the fastness of the country will be immediately occupied by Negroes.”

Then on Christmas Day 1837, 380 to 480 Seminole fighters gathered on the northeast corner of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee ready to halt the armies of Colonel Zachary Taylor, a Louisiana slaveholder and ambitious career soldier. He was building a reputation as an “Indian killer.” Taylor’s troops included 70 Delaware Indians, 180 Tennessee volunteers, and 800 U.S. infantry soldiers.

As Taylor’s huge army approached, Seminole marksmen waited perched in trees or hiding in tall grass. The first Seminole volleys sent the Delaware fleeing. Tennessee riflemen plunged ahead until a withering fire brought down their commissioned officers and then their noncommissioned officers. The Tennesseans headed home.

For the photograph, see here.

Seminole Chief Osceola (1804–1838). Image: WikiCommons.

Then Taylor ordered the U.S. Sixth Infantry, Fourth Infantry, and his own First Infantry Regiments forward. Pinpoint Seminole rifle fire brought down, he later reported, “every officer, with one exception, as well as most of the noncommissioned officers” and left “but four . . . untouched.” That Christmas Day Colonel Taylor counted 26 U.S. dead and 112 wounded, seven dead for each slain Seminole, and he had taken no prisoners. After the two and a half hour battle the Seminoles took to their canoes and sailed off to fight again.

Lake Okeechobee became the most decisive U.S. defeat in more than four decades of Florida warfare. But after his survivors limped back to Fort Gardner, Taylor declared victory—“the Indians were driven in every direction.” The U.S. Army promoted him and he later became the 12th president of the United States.

For the image, see here.

John Horse, leader during the Second Seminole War. Image: Black Past.

Lake Okeechobee took place during the Second Seminole War that took 1,500 U.S. military lives, cost Congress $40,000,000 (pre-Civil War dollars!), and left thousands of American soldiers wounded or dead of disease. Seminole losses were not recorded.

The truth of Lake Okeechobee remained buried. When President Taylor died in office, in Illinois Abraham Lincoln memorialized him on July 25, 1850. “He was never beaten,” Lincoln said, and added: “. . . in 1837 he fought and conquered in the memorable Battle of Lake Okeechobee, one of the most desperate struggles known to the annals of Indian warfare.”

A century and a half later noted Harvard historian and author Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote in The Almanac of American History: “Fighting in the Second Seminole War, General Zachary Taylor defeats a group of Seminoles at Okeechobee Swamp, Florida.” Some textbooks such as Holt McDougal’s United States History (2012) now reference the Seminole Wars. However they classify them not as anticolonial struggles, but as minor impediments in “Manifest Destiny’s” triumphant march.

The United States needs to face its past. Americans of all ages have a right to know and to celebrate the freedom fighters who built this country, all of them. Our schools, children, teachers, and parents deserve to learn about a daring Christmas day that has been too long neglected and distorted.

—William Loren Katz is the author of Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage, and 40 other books on African American history. His website is www.williamlkatz.com.

This article was adapted from Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage."

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"And I only am escaped alone to tell thee"



For a poem about Ama Adhe, see here.

***

Ama Adhe is a kindly old woman, dressed in traditional Tibetan clothes. She has large hands in which she holds red prayer beads. Her face and gestures are fabulously expressive. She is devoted to the Dalai Lama, and took up his injunction to speak of her experience. She speaks with compassion even for the Chinese, an achievement to rival that of Nelson Mandela.

***

For Adhe(Ama means mother)’s sister was married to a leader of the Tibetan resistance to Chinese conquest in the mid-1950s. He and many others were captured and murdered. To intimidate others, they were hung in front of many people. Or as in the case of Adhe and her brother-in-law, his brains were blown out spattering her...

***

The women mainly gathered information and helped with supplies; the men fought.

At 26, she was initially jailed for three years among three hundred women in a remote area of China. and later for another 24 years.

***

In her first three years, the prisoners were jammed into narrow cells and fed a glass of corn soup during the day. They were not permitted to go to the bathroom and the stench of feces and urine, from a pot in the cell, surrounded them. They ate the leather off shoes.

They died, “slow, slow.” She looked into their faces, unable any longer to make expressions. She wished to join them herself but somehow didn’t.

***

As Ama Adhe speaks of her friends - one by one, they died - she cries.

***

She was the last one left "And I only..."

***

In her subsequent 24 years in prison, her jailers provided some Tibetan steamed bread. She worked in a prison garden, so there were always some vegetables on which she could survive.

***

Following the initial genocide (some hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million Tibetans died in the late '50s and early '60s), the Chinese authorities have adopted a form of more ”ordinary” jailing.

***

The Chinese finally released her. She came out of Tibet in 1988. She is not “an educated person.” The Dalai Lama asked her to speak the truth about her experience and she does.

***

Mao mobilized a mass peasant guerilla war against Japanese imperialism. The Japanese, according to Chalmers Johnson, Peasant Nationalism in China, murdered some 20 million people in three provinces of North China in the winter of 1940-41. Mao’s guerillas were fish that swim in the sea of the people. The Japanese leadership sought to “drain the water.”

***

Apparently, having resisted Japanese aggression and genocide (Chiang Kai-shek, the American-supported “President” also spent much time trying to defeat the Communists), the Communists turned and used the same brutality on minorities. These policies contradicted Mao's "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People" which he himself might better have pondered.

***

In Tibet, mirroring the Japanese toward the Chinese, there was also racism toward indigenous people. A Tibetan emperor, a Dalai Lama, had once run China. Tibetans were then led by a warrior class, who, in stereotype, brandished swords. Apparently, the weaponized, occupying army is still instilled with this image, even of "violent" monks. For the resistance, for instance in 2008, is, for the most part, nonviolent noncooperation. See here, here, here and here. The stereotype for all those who fire big guns is defied by the evidence of the eyes...

***

That after victory, the Chinese Communists chose to held up the mirror to Japanese invaders toward indigenous people, largely unarmed comparatively speaking, in a bloodletting in Tibet is a particularly sorry comment on this attempt – in some ways noble, the Communists did facilitate, to a considerable extent, the liberation and participation of women in China, the results of which I saw in my class last summer of which women were half, a contrast to India as well as the Tibetan community, as will as the rising up of poor people – to build a better society.

It was natural among Chinese scholars today to ask my wife to give three lectures on American photography of birds and her own, as well as for me to give a course on great power realism and democracy.

***

But like that of Nineteenth Century (and earlier) immigrants to the United States, to commit mass murder against ordinary people and then pass it off as “progress” is a bizarre form of deception and self-deception.

***

The energy and determination of the Chinese people, I discovered in Liaoning, despite many difficulties, is very hopeful. They have the possibility, which much of the US political establishment fights against, of pioneering green energy along with the Germans. The Chinese government seeks to further this, installing cap and trade as an internal policy this year. See here.

But until the ethnic cleansing is stopped and the words in the Chinese constitution about minorities mean something - the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way" offers the Chinese, too, a path - this brutality will be the main reason China is feared and isolated in the world (in important ways, this issue is parallel to that of Israel and the Palestinians).

***

To achieve a decent future, however, massive civil disobedience inside and outside Tibet is needed. See here. The Tibetans, whom Ama Adhe is one powerful voice for, are determined. Only this and a new Tibetan spring (the uprising in 2008 is promising) will give life to the Middle Way. One mistake the Dalai Lama makes is to endorse no strategy of action to achieve it, for neither the Middle Way nor independence is possible without Tibetan action.

***

If the Chinese leadership does not wake up (they are, for example, comparatively awake about green energy), a Chinese spring may have to accompany this, something very possible over the next decade or so.

***

Ama Adhe has published a book with an American co-author recording her tale. She has travelled abroad some. But her body, now at 80, feels the weight of the imprisonment, the torture (she lives, with her husband, nearby the room she spoke to us in).

***

The students who are with me are mainly silent, having listened to her story. There is little to be said for her torturers (that communists did this creates a pattern, perhaps as deep as Stalin’s, of fear and revulsion).

***

And yet she has the grace and compassion, wanting the restoration of Tibet, to have a decent settlement with the Chinese. Her way of being offers enormous hope - like Mandela’s – see here and here.

***

For the Chinese, too, would benefit from accepting the Middle Way (the Chinese regime is widely feared in the world primarily because of its brutality toward the Tibetans – see here).

***

At 26, Ama Adhe was a poor, not educated woman. She wrote a book with the aid of a coauthor. See here. In it, she mentions a prayer which has long moved her:

“If I carefully examine all the beings, distinguished and lowly, who lived in the past, I find that now only their names remain. And of all the beings who are living now, every one of them will someday pass away. Since my present status, house, relatives, friends, possessions, and even this body must all pass away without remaining for long, to what am I attached in this dream-like present? A good life that is truly meaningful is always difficult to find, and even when found is impermanent and will quickly be destroyed like a dewdrop that clings to a blade of grass.” – A prayer of the lama Tsongkhapa’s Essence of Nectar (134).

***

But it is Adhe's spoken words, her being, which is particularly powerful. May the world, including the Chinese government, listen...


Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Himalayan Journey, part 2


For part 1, see the poem here.

At 13, Yeshi journeyed with his older brother secretly across the Himalayas. Their father, a monk, had had the whole family listen to broadcasts of the Dalai Lama who gives wonderful talks on compassion and other matters. Their father would have been frightened had they told him they were going. So they went one day to another village and never came back.

***

The family gave them up for dead. It was 6 years before they could get in touch again...

***

They were in a group of 47, crossing the mountains in winter. The group divided in two so the Chinese soldiers would find them less easy to spot and shoot, They might also have been imprisoned. Ama Adhe who also spoke to us is the lone survivor of 300 prisoners, all women…See here.

***

The guide from his village did not know the way. He sort of knew. It was snowing and cold. They journeyed far into the mountains, but he had to go back to find the path, come back and lead them out. The wind was so cold it made it impossible to breathe. They buried their heads in the snow, separated by a little cloth, where the breathing was frozen but possible.

***

They could hear the wolves howl. They were the last prey up on the mountains in the winter…

***

It got so cold Yeshi lost awareness for 24 hours. The time is just gone.

***

A young woman lost some of her fingers – they turned green – in the cold. But having listened to an old man who did divining, they went down to a clearer place to wait. The guide came back. He got them on a better path (it was not as long once he knew the way through, though hard). And they all made it alive.

***

Yeshi could go to school for the first time in Dharmasala. That, too, was hard (the Chinese say they do much for the Tibetans economically and they do provide some affirmative action scholarships for a few, but this was quite a while after the Revolution and even after Mao; nothing reached Yeshi and many others). That first day, he sat when others stood, was lifted to stand when others sat, a thoroughly embarrassing and confusing experience. But he loved learning and has come far (he has very good English and a fine spirit of compassion).

***

I have heard such stories, archetypical ones, about the flight from slavery in America, the journey following the North Star, bare feet torn and bleeding (See my Black Patriots and Loyalists…)

***

I have heard such stories about great indigenous leaders like Sitting Bull, refusing to speak with the predatory American army after the starvation and killing and hanging of the Santee Sioux in Minnesota as well as the John Evans administration/US army massacre at Sand Creek. Sitting Bull eventually took his followers to Canada. After much heroism – his warriors having taken out the man of massacres, George Armstrong Custer (he who murdered Black Kettle and his wife, still seeking to make peace 4 years after Sand Creek, in yet another winter massacre along the Washita River in today’s Oklahoma in 1868) – Sitting Bull, too, was not supported by the “grandmother’s government” (Queen Victoria) and had to come in finally in South Dakota.

His was a powerful story of resistance, however, with enormous courage. Sitting Bull was murdered by the US army at Wounded Knee in 1890.

***

Tibetan Buddhism is alive in Dharmasala (there are many monks here and many others who listen to the Dalai Lama) and Ladakh and other places in India as well as in far settings like the United States. The seeds are spreading. Read Donald Siegel, a leading neuropsychologist, on neuroplasticity and how the brain works, recommending learning to meditate – Mindsight - and you will realize how far Buddhism has gone into science. The Dalai Lama is, of course, an enthusiast for the thought that science and Buddhism go together – some scientists may have to become more psychological to see, but Siegel’s 25 year pioneering work on the physical brain and healing is a startling example, and this thought is, in this interesting and surprising way, being borne out.

***

Marxists historically have had little interest in psychology/psychotherapy, Marcuse and some others excepted. But the Dalai Lama is in this respect a contrast. For Buddhism is hardly consumed with the endless striving for wealth that makes hungry ghosts like Paul Ryan crave even the food stamps of poor children.

In addition, the Dalai Lama was also an enthusiast initially of the Chinese Revolution – read his autobiography Freedom in Exile – and still an egalitarian.So the Chinese saying that they are the modernizers and Buddhism backward is false.

***

The Chinese constitution both promises fair and autonomous treatment to minorities and demonizes the “slave system” in Tibet. But after 60 years, that the policy toward Tibetans is ethnic cleansing by force and little more is clear.

***

The Chinese Constitution (as recounted in a recent government White Paper) says:

“In China, equality among ethnic groups means that, regardless of their population size, their level of economic and social development, the difference of their folkways, customs and religious beliefs, every ethnic group is a part of the Chinese nation, having equal status, enjoying the same rights and performing the same duties in every aspect of political and social life according to law, and ethnic oppression or discrimination of any form is firmly opposed. Unity among ethnic groups means a relationship of harmony, friendship, mutual assistance and alliance among ethnic groups in social life and mutual contacts. To achieve such unity, the various ethnic groups are required to, on the basis of opposition to ethnic oppression and discrimination, safeguard and promote unity among themselves and within every particular ethnic group and the people of all ethnic groups should, jointly and with one heart and one mind, promote the development and prosperity of the nation, oppose ethnic splits and safeguard the unification of the country. The Chinese government has always maintained that equality among ethnic groups is the precondition and basis for unity among ethnic groups, that the latter cannot be achieved without the former, that the latter is the logical outcome of the former and a guarantee for promoting ethnic equality in its true sense.

…Discrimination against and oppression of any ethnic group are prohibited."

***

But this promise has been erased by the vision of “feudalism,” never true of the Dalai Lama, and licensing Chinese greed for minerals, settling Han Chinese into Tibet (now perhaps 8 million to 6 million Tibetans) and ethnic cleansing

***

The Dalai Lama was Vice-President of the National People’s Congress until 1959. It is Mao and his successors' depravity on this issue which has prevented China from seeing the wisdom of a a different course – a genuine Middle Way – and removing this bleeding wound (they treat other minorities in a similar way) to China’s standing in the world.

***

The Constitution, as reiterated in a 2011 Government White Paper, continues, in a partly true at the time (though with some awful phrasing about a supposed primitive system], but fundamentally self-undermining vein:

“Some areas were in society under the serf system, some under the slave system and some even in the later period of the primitive system. The mass of the minority people in these areas were vassals of big feudal lords, nobles, temples or slave owners; they had no personal freedom and could be sold or bought or given as gifts by their owners at will. In Tibet the Thirteen-Point Law and Sixteen-Point Law formulated in the 17th century and used for more than 300 years, divided the people strictly into three classes and nine grades: the people of the upper class were big nobles, Grand Living Buddhas and high officials, the people of the intermediate class were ordinary clerical and secular officials, junior officers and stewards of upper class people, and the people of the lower class were serfs and slaves. According to these Laws the value of the life of a top-grade person of the upper class was measured by the weight of his body in gold, while the life of a lowest-grade person of the lower class was as cheap as a straw rope. However, the people of the lower class exceeded 95 percent of the total population of Tibet. It is obvious that without the reform of the backward social and political system in minority areas the various equal rights of minority peoples stipulated in the Constitution and the law could not be realized.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese government adopted different measures to institute democratic reform successively in the minority areas at the will of the minority of the people in these areas, and completed the reform in the late 1950s. This reform abolished all the privileges of the privileged few--feudal lords, nobles and tribal chiefs--and the old system of exploitation and oppression of man by man. As a result, tens of thousands of the minority people won emancipation and personal freedom and became masters of their homelands and their own destinies. The democratic reform which took place in Tibet in 1959 eradicated the feudal serf system marked by the combination of government and religion and the dictatorship of nobles and monks, thus tens of thousands of serfs and slaves under the old system got their personal freedom and became masters of the new society.” See here.

***

If the Chinese had actually carried out such policies (their views are a self-satire at this point), why would 124 people have burned themselves for the restoration of Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama? Why would there have been a big revolt in 2008 and continuing forms of resistance from Lhakar (“White Wednesdays”) to tearing down the flag poles in Amdo when the authorities ordered Tibetan families, as part of a supposed Patriotic Education Campaign,to display Chinese flags? See here, here and here.

***

The soldiers are ordered to shoot the “dangerous” monks and nomads protesting nonviolently (non-cooperating…). They have the image of the Imperial Tibetans of old, springing out, brandishing swords…

But even this phantasm would be no match for Chinese weaponry. And the racist orders, hallucinations, defy the evidence of the eyes.

***

If this story were remotely true, why would the Chinese government have to rule fragilely through brute force (violence in Hannah Arendt’s sense) and torture? Why would children like Yeshi have crossed the mountains along with many even younger to be raised in Dharmasala collectively (when under 5) and with adoptive parents through the wonderful Tibetan Children’s Village (the TCV is raising some 17,000 children)?

The whys are many, the answers silence…

***

The Dalai Lama is perhaps to the left of Chinese policy which has facilitated considerable inequalities though not ones that yet dominate the government. Intelligent Keynsian anti-cyclical policies are still possible in China, as opposed to the permanent American depression as Larry Summers has now rightly named it – see Paul Krugman here and here and Summers here) and with regard to the science of the brain and psychotherapy (in America, fancy psychiatrists use drugs some of which probably make people literally out of their minds – I suspect this is a factor in some of the mass shootings. The big pharma companies are not anxious to have the story investigated, the government not appropriately regulating them but they possessing the government.

Siegel’s work as a therapist and the horror of drug therapy is quite a contrast. Science too, ironically, is with Buddhism and not its violent persecutors.

***

China is lucky compared to the Soviet Union and the United States that it is not collapsing from imperial competition, bases abroad, and militarism (the US military with 1280 bases in 177 countries just beat back cutbacks in its trillion dollar budget…)

In the next twenty years, the Chinese Communist party might lead a successful economic development with an emphasis on green energy and outcompete the decadent United States (the Republican blowhards who don’t believe in global warming – what hurricane in New Jersey? What unheard of storm in the Philippines? What polar ice caps - and the high Himalayas - melting? Getting Koch brother shekels for turning in the human species have made science and knowing anything the opposite of American “politics”.

The Chinese cannot breathe without making their cities green as I saw in Liaoning and Beijing this summer. Beijing has an electrified bus system. Over 25 years, the Chinese could conquer economically and break out of their isolation to the good of humanity. They might make Germany wake up economically – they have strangled Europe in this new depression – and America ecologically (Barack knows better and has done some good things, though look out about the Keystone XL pipeline where only protest holds him back from evil).

***

Their one child policy – I taught 25 wonderful students in Liaoning last summer – has led to each family, in a Confucian culture, devoting themselves to their single child. Patriotic yes and with reason – the American imperialists are, to this moment, actively belligerent (with arms and threats) against the Chinese. It is not the Chinese who have waged war in Mexico and Canada or have military bases on Staten Island, for example (as the US in Korea and over the Chinese border at the Broken Bridge at Amdong and Vietnam, or in Taiwan).

***

But no parents want to lose a child, let alone an only child. Here is a policy that makes the Chinese, including leaders, less willing to take aggressive action. Even in the Korean war, China drove the US back and restored North Korea, but then stopped; similarly, in their border war with India, they conquered up to their claims about the border and stopped. Chinese policy outside China is hardly fearsome…

***

One may believe the mainstream American account or use one’s eyes.

***

But the Chinese government's ferocious ethnic cleansing of Tibet is the single thing that makes them now a pariah in the world and obstructs this vision. And the assertion within China that "we can do anything just as the US did in Manifest Destiny, the wave of genocides, toward indigenous people across the country" – is a powerful and foul example of how the Communist Party can both do evil and destroy itself and the Chinese people. Militarism in China and burning coal could go a long way to finishing off the human species in this century – the world will not sustain 7 billion people with that Chinese and, of course, American contribution.

The Chinese rulers are like the Israeli government doing ethnic cleansing in the Occupied Territories (Israel was begun in ethnic cleansing, too, as Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, shows). But the age of mass exterminations and imprisoning others on bad lands or in exile, while taking the land for “settlers” and forcibly achieving a Founding Amnesia (my friend Doug Vaughan has written to me that these are, more aptly, Founding Lies and of course, they are, and yet as Nietzsche tells us in Beyond Good and Evil, my mind tells me one thing, my pride tells me another – and before you know it, even some powerful people, those or their minions in charge of specific acts of evil have memories that don't work – see here, here, and here). China will never be a great power while stories of the journey to freedom like Yeshi’s are ordinary, while people burn themselves in protest.

***

I also met John Gaudette, an international human rights lawyer and my former student here; he is working on a case where a woman burned herself in public, shouting Free Tibet as she died, and the Chinese authorities demanded the family say she had committed suicide from a private despair. They have now tried her husband for murder for a mere three hours and sentenced him to death.

The Tibetan Committee on Human Rights and Democracy is working on this case, internationally….

***

One other way in which communism was and is viciously anti-modern in China is in the widespread use of torture and murder in prisons, the eschewing of any decent system of law. Please remember: lynch law was characteristic of the American south, 49% of the people on death row today are black, and the U.S. held 25% of the world’s prisoners very recently – see Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow - before any one gets too high on the American system of injustice. But the aspiration is often better.

***

The Dalai Lama has held out a Middle Way to the Chinese Communists. There is a possibility for them, still, to take it. But that would require creativity and learning of a sort, which while not impossible, is harmed by intense, gut racism. Tibetan resistors, though not the Dalai Lama, were supported against the Chinese regime by the CIA until 1971 – Nixon's rapprochement with Mao. Independence from Chinese brutality has been hard for Tibetans to find friends for except among the ordinary people who hear these stories.

***

Yeshi’s story is an archetype. He and others have gained gifts of compassion from immense suffering. May they bring to the world – they are already doing so – the healing it so requires…

Friday, December 20, 2013

Poem: counting



The woman

in a chupa

from the high mountains

wrinkled smile

ate the leather on shoes


the cold

as her friends

one by one

Ama they call her


the stench

took them



until one

remains

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The renaming of a Jacksonville High School


A Jacksonville High School named for the author of the Fort Pillow Massacre where wounded and captured soldiers, mainly black, were murdered, has been renamed.

***

The Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the Civil War condemned that massacre, committed by the South, in 1863 and, unusually, the Sand Creek massacre, committed by the Union, in 1865.

***

But this is no "old" racism. To defy Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and against student sentiment, the United Daughters of the Confederacy chose the name.

***

Congratulations to the citizens of Jacksonville who conducted a fierce campaign to make the obvious, decent and hopeful acceptable...

***

Evanston, Evans Professors, Evans Blvd., Mount Evans - is it now time to reconsider celebrating the author of Sand Creek?

***

"Victory: Jacksonville activists win name change for Nathan B. Forrest High School
School was named for KKK grand wizard"

From: Fight Back! News
Date: December 16, 2013 at 10:36 PM EST

By staff

Jacksonville, FL - With more than 50 activists and community members present, the Duval County School Board voted unanimously, Dec. 16, to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School. The historic vote by the school board comes at the end of a six-month campaign by the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition (JPC) and other forces to drop the local high school's racist namesake.

"We have to change the name of this school because this city can no longer honor a slave trader, war criminal and grand wizard of the KKK," said Richard Blake, a Teamster and member of the JPC who spoke at the school board meeting before the vote. "The heritage of Nathan B. Forrest is not our heritage - it is that of the oppressor."

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti began the school board meeting by sharing the board's findings in polling the community about the name change. A poll conducted last week by the school board at Forrest High School found that about 64% of the student body favored changing the name. He then made a recommendation to the board to change the school's name, which was approved by every board member.

Paula D. Wright, one of the school board members who spoke out in support of the name change, said, "We talk about what's in a name. A name does matter because it can service the foundation of how we think of ourselves and how we move beyond the particular place we're in at the time." She shared with the board and the audience her own story of attending school and receiving second-class treatment as an African American student. "This moves our entire city towards equality and justice."

The campaign to rename Forrest High School drew hundreds of community activists together, who attended forums, gathered petitions and protested the school's racist name. More than 160,000 people signed an online petition at change.org started by Jacksonville community activist Omotayo Richmond. The JPC spent months gathering more than 2000 hand-written community surveys, which overwhelmingly showed support for changing the name. Supporters of the name change also brought their energy and arguments to several town hall forums called by the school board, which pressured the board into changing the name.

Forrest High School, named after the infamously racist slave trader and Confederate general Nathan B. Forrest, received its name in 1959. The United Daughters of the Confederacy chose the name as a stunt to protest the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated all-white schools throughout the country. To advance their racist agenda, they ignored the students' vote to keep the school named Valhalla High School.

The name Nathan Bedford Forrest is a blunt reminder of racist hatred, violence and terror. Forrest was a brutal slave trader, ordered the infamous Fort Pillow Massacre, and led the KKK. At Fort Pillow, Forrest’s troops executed hundreds of captured and surrendering Union soldiers, most of whom were African American, which Forrest bragged about in his military dispatches. The Daughters of the Confederacy chose the name to intimidate courageous African American civil rights activists, many of them teenagers, struggling for freedom.

"Tonight was a historic blow to the racism of the Deep South," said Fernando Figueroa, an activist with the JPC. "The neo-confederates who spoke in favor of Forrest saw the writing on the wall. We're building the freedom struggle in Jacksonville star by star."

When Forrest High School opened in 1959, it was an all-white, segregated school. Today, 54% of the school's approximately 1800 students are African-American.

Jason Fischer, another school board member, concluded his remarks in support of the name change, saying, "We need to make today about honoring the future, which is our children."

(h/t Mike Kowalski, Jake Terpstra)


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Poem: Metacomet



And the pious

cut off heads

boiled down the skulls

looked at the teeth the sockets

catalogued meticulous

ran their fingers

the pious

craniometricians

bright face to the world

Manifest

red fingernailed

Aryan

birds of prey

pious


hidden collection

in the Smithsonian

Monday, December 16, 2013

The racism of the Washington football team


Native Americans and their allies are pushing Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington football team, to change its name. A few weeks ago, I attended a very good rank and file demonstration in Denver about this, followed by one in Minnesota. See here and here. Major civil rights organizations and the ACLU are now joining this battle.

***

Mr. Snyder should realize that the name is equivalent to Nazi derogations of Jews. Given the massacres and desecration of bodies - the Smithsonian holds 20,000 unburied skulls, see here - there is no distinction to be made.

***

He - and we all - should work to make such names sink into oblivion.

***

Over 200 Civil Rights Organizations Call For Washington, DC Football Team To Change Its Name
Published on DEC 13, 2013

In a unanimous vote, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has joined the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Oneida Nation, and numerous media outlets in taking a stand against the name of the Washington, DC football team.

The Leadership Conference is the nation’s premier civil and human rights coalition representing more than 200 diverse national organizations. Today, members passed a resolution calling upon the Washington, DC team “to change its team name, and to refrain from the use of any other images, mascots, or behaviors that are or could be deemed harmful or demeaning to Native American cultures or peoples” and notes that using this slur as the team’s name “cannot in any reasonable way be viewed as honoring the culture or historical legacy of any particular Native American tribe or individual.”

The resolution also urged state, local, and federal governments to “to end any preferential tax, zoning, or other policy treatment that could be viewed as supporting the franchise as long as it retains its current team name.”

The NAACP, National Council of La Raza, American Association of People with Disabilities, the ACLU, National Organization for Women, and the Anti-Defamation League are just some of the organizations represented by the civil and human rights coalition.

In response to the unanimous support of the resolution, Jacqueline Johnson Pata, Executive Director of NCAI, remarked:

“By recognizing the ongoing disparagement of American Indian and Alaska Natives and asking the NFL to change the name of the DC franchise, the Leadership Conference reconfirms its commitment to fighting for equal rights for Native peoples. Passing this resolution at their annual meeting further proves that LCCHR is fully behind this work and NCAI is proud and happy to have them on our team.”

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Sand Creek Healing Run


Patricia Calhoun wrote an important account in Westword of the Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run this year, emphasizing the words of Otto Braided Hair of the Northern Cheyenne, Henry Little Bear of the Southern Arapahoe and Joe Big Medicine of the Southern Cheyenne - both tribes were driven out of Colorado by the massacre envisioned by Governor John Evans, see here, here, and here, and perpetrated by Col. J.M. Chivington - Alexa Roberts of the National Park Service, and David Halaas, a director of the Colorado History organization previously and an important historian of these events.

***

Among the runners were members of the University of Denver Committee which is writing about Evans's role in the massacre and preparing acknowledging events at the University starting in January and lasting over the next year. I could not come because I am in Dharmasala, India with students doing service learning in the Tibetan community. Tibet has been ravaged by China in a comparable way to what the US government and army did across the country and in the second Civil War - the war of ethnic cleansing against indigenous people by the Union in the West, 1862-76 - which accompanied a war against genocidal bondage by the Union to prevent the secession of slave-owners and free the slaves.

***

The theme of the run is to heal the land. Calhoun makes a powerful point about the reemergence of eagles, and as Otto Braided Hair says, the power of prayer. I visited the Memorial, isolated from Denver but one that every one should visit, with the University of Denver and Northwestern committees this past August. What happened there is chilling. See here.

No decent University or democracy can arise without a recognition and remembrance of this horror (so the name of Evans professors of which I am one, Mount Evans, Evanston, Illinois, Evans, Downing and Sheridan Boulevards inter alia, all need redress. The US army today lives off the symbols of indigenous people, including the weaponry (Tomahawk missiles, Apache helicopters - the only kinds used by Israel in its similar oppression in the Occupied Territories - and the like). So an officer before the American aggression in Iraq spoke to soldiers of this as "Indian country." See here.

***

In addition, the run glaringly contrasts with the conduct of the Colorado History Museum - describing a slaughter of tribes who had done their best to make peace with Governor Evans, see here, as a "collision," a little like describing Hitler's death camps for Jews, communists, union leaders, gays and slavs as a "collision." After refusing three requests from tribal representatives to meet, officials at the Museum at last met with them but closed the exhibit. Months later, the exhibit is still closed. One must hope that by the 150th anniversary, Colorado History will open a more intelligent and acknowledging exhibit...

***

"The Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run honors the past, but is heading for the future
By Patricia Calhoun Thursday, Dec 5 2013

For photographs, see here.

Shortly after sunrise on Thanksgiving morning, we spot the eagles a few miles from the site of the Sand Creek Massacre, standing sentinel over the rolling prairie where more than 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho — most of them women, children or elderly men — were slaughtered by volunteer troops led by Colonel John Chivington on November 29, 1864. Our caravan just passed the town of Chivington, today a ghostly reminder of a time when this man was celebrated, then turned off on Chief White Antelope Way for the eight-mile drive to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, the only federal site dedicated to a massacre, where the fifteenth annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run will soon begin.

The run got its start in 1999, the year after President Bill Clinton signed into law a bill that would help set the stage for the creation of the site — but long before the actual 2007 dedication ceremony. The late Lee Lone Bear — who'd been with a group of tribal representatives that went to Washington in 1998 to meet Clinton, made the president wait and then commiserated with him on the "tough times" he was facing — had the idea for the healing run, which would be a "ceremony that would heal the land, heal the spirits that were stuck there." But the run wouldn't end on the banks of Sand Creek, where the tribes had camped in the fall of 1864, certain that they were living with a promise of peace from Territorial Governor John Evans and under the protection of the U.S. government. It would go all the way to Denver, along the route that Chivington's troops took as they headed to that frontier town, carrying body parts of the natives they'd slaughtered. The run would "clean the area, the path all the way to Denver, to help if any spirit is along the way," remembers Otto Braided Hair, a Northern Cheyenne who was on that first run and organizes the event today.

For the first four years, the healing run was only open to Native Americans — though Bill Dawson, the rancher who owned the property where the massacre site was located, came out to greet the runners that first day...wearing an Army topcoat. And he came out every year after that. By the fourth year, Braided Hair remembers, Dawson told the tribal members that "you guys changed me." And that wasn't the only change, Dawson said: "You know, I'm starting to see animals around here again." Land that had been dead was coming back to life.

After that year, the run was opened not just to members of the tribes — the Northern Cheyenne, Southern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho and Southern Arapaho that had resulted when their ancestors who survived the massacre fled to Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana — but to anyone who wants to participate in the healing.

And the eagles watch over it. It is a sign.

***

There are signs all around the Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site, some of them natural, some manufactured. The oldest of those, a circa 1950 stone marker commemorating the "Sand Creek Battle Ground," is on a hill overlooking the actual site of the massacre: sacred ground that's now off limits to the public. It is on this hill that the runners and other supporters convene, as Braided Hair urges them to "gather up closely, remember our ancestors and what happened here in 1864." Braided Hair, who has traveled 800 miles from the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana, acknowledges members of other tribes who have traveled almost as far to be here — Hopi, Navajo, Yaqui — and explains the ceremonial painting, cedar blessing and pipe ceremony that will precede the run. "The Cheyenne, we believe individuals have spirits, people who have passed on have spirits; the paint protects the spirits from bad things. It's possible the spirits of the old people are here. We want them to recognize us. We want protection. We want the creator and spirits to recognize the things we're doing," he says. And he wants them to hear the prayers: "An individual prayer is strong, more individuals is stronger, many people is strongest."

There is still much to pray for. "We've accomplished a lot," Braided Hair says, "but we have a long way to go." He's not just talking about the 180 miles between Sand Creek and Denver. He's talking about "issues we're facing at home: alcohol, drugs. Things that prevented some people from getting to the run." And he's talking about the hard work in the year ahead, before the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre. "We're thinking about our ancestors," he says. "We're thinking about our future."

The National Park Service knows how far they've gone — and what a long way there is still to go. In 1998, the NPS — which already operated Bent's Fort to the south — joined with the tribes and the State of Colorado to help create the national historic site. "And all that time the National Park Service and the tribal reps worked together hand in hand," proclaims Braided Hair. In the applause for site superintendent Alexa Roberts, there is a backhanded slap to other officials who have not been as sensitive to what is still a very raw wound.

"Here's the place the U.S. caused a great tragedy," Roberts says, "then takes responsibility to manage the place where we will never forget." Today, the NPS has three missions, she tells the group: "to honor those killed here, to honor those in the present generation, and to the future." To that end, she says, "we're trying to create a research center that will be in Eads. It is a global story; it is a story about humanity."

And there are more stories. Henry Little Bear is representing the Southern Arapaho; his great-great grandfather, Mixed Hair, survived the massacre. "That's why I'm standing here today," he says. His great-grandmother, who was born in 1885 and lived until 1966, passed the stories she'd heard from her father to her grandchildren, who told them to Henry Little Bear. And now he's telling them again. "This place has a haunting spot in our hearts," he says.

Joe Big Medicine is here representing the Southern Cheyenne; his grandfathers were killed at Sand Creek. He's been part of the run from the beginning.

Together, the tribal representatives gather to sing the White Antelope song, in honor of the chief who was killed just down the hill.

And then, after many admonitions to be careful, the runners circle the Sand Creek Battle Ground marker four times and head off toward Eads, which may be the future home of a global research site but today is closed up entirely except for the Kiowa County Fairgrounds building where the National Park Service employees will serve a Thanksgiving dinner to those on the run.

Healing takes many forms.

*********

Unlike that first healing run, and a few others over the past fifteen years, the 2013 run will not cover the full 180 miles. Not on foot, anyway. That first year, the runners risked their lives on highways; now cars will take the runners along the busiest stretches.

Many of those runners are children who've come from the reservations. They run in half-mile and mile intervals, between van rides, taking turns carrying the Northern Cheyenne flag (the girls) and the eagle staff made by Lee Lone Bear (the boys). Vanessa Braided Hair, now 29, has been running since the very start; this year she drove a vanload of kids down from Lame Deer, Montana. Kaden Walksnice has been running for the past seven years; last year, he organized a group of students — Blackfoot, Flathead — who came down from Missoula. This time, he took the bus up from Albuquerque, where he's now in school. One year, he remembers, he ran seven miles straight without even knowing it, while singing a prayer song he'd been taught by the elders.

On the second day, the actual anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, this relay of boys and girls makes it fifty miles, running from morning until dark on the back roads of the dusty plains, Pikes Peak to the side, Denver ahead. They're running for their past. They're running to their future. They are the future.

*********

On the last day of November, the runners gather at Riverside Cemetery on Brighton Boulevard in Denver, between the train tracks and the South Platte that brought so many settlers to a land where once just the tribes gathered, to again be painted and protected. And again Otto Braided Hair greets those who have come out, a crowd that now includes professors from the University of Denver (which is studying Evans's role in the Sand Creek Massacre), Methodist representatives (who are doing the same regarding the church's role in the massacre), historians, more tribal representatives and even more runners. "We appreciate your support on this last day of our healing run, which is dedicated to Captain Silas Soule," Braided Hair proclaims. Soule, who is buried at Riverside, but also Lieutenant Joe Cramer: "They were at the Sand Creek Massacre, they didn't participate, they didn't shoot. They witnessed the massacre, then provided affidavits," he says. "If not for them, there might not be any Cheyenne and Arapaho here today. If they had done what they were ordered to, there might not have been any Cheyenne and Arapaho who survived."

And without their letters, there might not have been any Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, former Colorado state historian David Halaas, now a consultant with the Northern Cheyenne, tells the gathering. Soule and Cramer were so outraged and shocked by what they'd witnessed on November 29, 1864, that they wrote their commander, Major Edward "Ned" Wynkoop, asking him to use his influence. He did, and those letters led to two congressional investigations and an Army hearing that determined "the so-called battle was a slaughter of women and children and old ones," and officially declared a massacre 149 years ago, says Halaas. "No other battle of the Civil War was investigated like Sand Creek." Even so, only one perpetrator was punished: Territorial Governor John Evans, a Methodist who'd founded the forerunner of the University of Denver with Methodist minister Chivington that year, was removed from office after committee members branded him the "biggest liar" ever to come before them.

Soule was punished in a different way. "He knew his letters would make him a target," Halaas says. And sure enough, in April 1865, when he was serving as provost marshal of Denver, which was then under martial law, Soule was shot dead at the corner of 15th and Arapahoe streets; his assassins, although known, were never brought to justice. And then those letters disappeared, "lost to history."

But in 2000, when the next step in the move to create the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site was stalled in Congress, a woman appeared at the Colorado Historical Society and told Halaas she'd found some old documents; she wondered if they were worth anything. Buried in the trunk were the Cramer and Soule letters. Two weeks before the Senate hearing on Sand Creek, Halaas sent them to then-senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who read the letters aloud on the Senate floor. The bill passed; the site was a done deal.

Halaas tells this story over the clatter of a train. But then silence: another sign.

Braided Hair leads a traditional warrior song in honor of Cramer and Soule: "You are gone today, but the people remember you."

***

At 9 a.m., the Denver Police Department escort lines up to take the runners along Brighton Boulevard to the corner of 15th and Arapahoe, where a plaque commemorates the spot where Silas Soule was killed. Then the runners — sixty or seventy strong — turn up 14th Street and head to the State Capitol.

Standing a mile high on the Capitol steps, Braided Hair thanks the DPD for its help — just as he's thanked everyone who's supported the run, from the people who prepared the meal in Eads to the manager of the Comfort Inn in Limon, where the runners stayed. He thanks the representatives of the tribes who have gathered here, and again names the nations represented. The list has grown to a dozen.

Roberts congratulates the runners on behalf of the National Park Service. "You're an important part of history, but an important part of the future, too," she says. "The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is the same." Elicia Goodsoldier reads a proclamation from the City of Denver welcoming the runners to Denver; Ernest House, head of the Commission of Indian Affairs, reads one from Governor John Hickenlooper, dedicating November 28 through 30 to the Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run. "Cheers for Colorado," Braided Hair urges.

Across from the steps is a century-old monument to the Civil War battles in which residents of what was then the Colorado territory fought. The list includes Sand Creek. Back in 1998, even as the move to create a federal site commemorating the massacre was gaining momentum, there were demands that Sand Creek be removed from this list of Civil War battles. Joe Big Medicine argued against pulling down the monument, saying, "You'll be changing history if you tear it down," he tells the crowd. Instead, he pushed for a plaque explaining the massacre on the side of the monument that is there today, another sign of the times.

"Remember, we're healing the site, healing the land," says Braided Hair. "We're doing it for the ancestors, victims, survivors, descendants — those who can't be here today."

"History is not dead," Halaas says. "Sand Creek is not dead. The Arapaho and Cheyenne have not gone away."

And they'll be back in force next year, for a healing run that commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.

***

A few blocks down from the Capitol is History Colorado, which included Collision, an exhibit dedicated to the Sand Creek Massacre, when it opened in April 2012. But even before the building made its debut, members of the tribes were concerned about its contents and sent letters to History Colorado asking that the exhibit not be opened until their concerns were addressed. Instead, Collision opened on schedule, and it took three rounds of letters and, finally, a story in Westword before History Colorado agreed to consult with the tribes on the exhibit's contents — the least controversial portion of which was devoted to the healing run. While those consultations took place, Collision was locked up tight, a sign explaining that the exhibit was closed for tribal consultations.

Those consultations are now under way, and the tribes are considering the memorandum of agreement that has emerged from the discussions, considering how they want their story told. In the meantime, the exhibit remains closed off, with no sign at all of what was once there. But the tribes remember."






Friday, December 13, 2013

Layers of Nonviolent Tibetan Resistance



Monday we heard Rashi, an Indian woman, speak powerfully of an international resistance movement organized by Students for a Free Tibet. She was the second woman speaker we had heard. Outside Kerala, India is still an extraordinarily patriarchal and, in this respect, ugly society; Tibet, too, is patriarchal. So women have to watch out even more than in America – like an earlier version of America and perhaps worse. Protests against, for example, gang rapes and murders as in Delhi in December 2012 - see here have been resisted by, for the first time, a mass uprising - a kind of Indian spring last year - and increased reporting of rape.

***

Rashi had heard Ama Adhe, a Tibetan woman who survived a torture as long as Mandela’s (Palden Gyatso’s was 37 years, perhaps a record…). She was the one survivor in a group that initially was several hundred women. Her story moved Rashi to take on this fight as her own for the long haul (one can on moral and democratic and internationalist grounds feel that stopping this kind of oppression is vital to a decent world). She has had to answer questions from relatives and friends: “Tibet is another country. What does it have to do with us?“

One of the themes she takes up is how the "globalization" of Chinese products is rooted in ethnic cleansing in Tibet: the lithium in lithium batteries, the radiation from Chinese uranium production and nuclear explosions in high Tibet – radiation travels… - copper and the like.

But most importantly, Rashi spoke of the international resistance organized by students for a free Tibet to the Intercontinental Hotels, which plan to open the "Lhasa Paradise" in 2014. She organized a protest in Delhi of a small group of people, coming into the Intercontinental separately, demonstrating, confronting the manager and then another group staging a die in out front. Other protests have taken place in London and New York.

***

In addition, Canadian mining companies, like Nixon, Hunter Dickinson (Continental Minerals) and China Gold, prey on Occupied Tibet. The mining ravages the environment parallel to the Keystone XL pipeline in Canada. The efforts of indigenous Canadians and all of us against the pollution of aquifers on which Americans depend for water in Nebraska and surrounding states or against global warming from tar sands – see here and here - and of the Tibetans and their allies are part of the same struggle.

***

On Tuesday, I heard John Gaudette, my student, an international lawyer and an intern at Tibetan Committee for Human Rights and Democracy, talk about Chinese crimes against humanity in Tibet. He underlined that Apple, through its subsidiary, Pegatron group, refuses to hire Tibetans and Uighurs in China. See the China Labor Watch report released in July discussed below in the Tibetan Youth Congress post. On August 7, the Tibetan Youth Congress organized protests at Apple stores in New York, New Jersey and San Francisco. See here.

But since lithium is also used in Apple computers and i-phones, Apple commits the triple crime of occupying Tibet (there is no autonomous regional government of the sort specified in the Chinese constitution) and fostering Han settlers/ethnic cleansing, preying off Tibetan property – the Tibetans get no share in the lithium proceeds, no autonomous regional government of the sort specified in the Chinese constitution - see here - and discriminating through Pegatron, its subsidiary, against Tibetans. Two poets, Kelsang Jinpa ("Garmi" or "the Blacksmith") and Lungpo Nyukthog ("the fool with pen") were imprisoned in Tibet for pointing out the contradiction with the Chinese constitution as well as with Lenin. (h/t Nyinmey). Adding the first two crimes would raise the deeper issue of freeing Tibet or, alternately, a Middle Way (serious Tibetan regional autonomy in China).

***

At Foxconn, an Apple subsidiary in China, 14 workers jumped off the roof to their death in 2012. Working conditions for Apple are not good for Chinese workers as well as Tibetans (there is a common interest in defeating racism as part of fighting for improved conditions.

But protest, including a show on “This American Life” with Ira Glass, lit a fire under Apple which suddenly (and rightly) became concerned with Corporate Social Responsibility and put some pressure on the Chinese government.(h/t P.B.)

Apple would be a very good target for a deeper protest about Tibet as well as discrimination…

***

In speaking with our group, both Tsundue and Tenzin Jigme, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress, emphasized the militant resistance inside Tibet. After the fierce uprisings in 2008 in which many Tibetans, having kept to themselves against Chinese beatings and surveillance, came into the streets (2,000 murders by the Chinese Occupying Army and police, 5000 imprisoned). The Occupiers then launched a “Patriotic Education Campaign.” This amounts to the suppression of any sign of Tibetan culture - hence the force, inside Tibet of Lhakar (“White Wednesdays”) - or any sign of acknowledgement, affection or admiration for the Dalai Lama.

***

Part of the “Patriotic Education Campaign” is a demand for Tibetans to put up Chinese flags on top of their rickety "modern" houses (often, the ones built to resettle the nomads while stealing their lands and minerals, the Chinese version of the American reservation/concentration camp system for indigenous people in the 19th and early to mid- 20th century).

***

In Amdo and Khom (part of Tibet, but renamed by China), many people broke the flag poles to not display the flags. And people banded together to defend the mountains, to block the mining (note again: their protest was not necessarily against mining, but against Occupation and the stealing of Tibetan resources without any voluntary sharing arrangement).

***

This internal resistance among Tibetans, along with self-burnings and Lhakar – see here and here – are the driving force of the international resistance among the far flung Tibetan community (both Students for a Free Tibet and the Tibetan Youth Congress have many many chapters). Some 98% of Tibetans live in Occupied Tibet.

Vigorous, nonviolent, international resistance coupled with internal struggle and the flourishing of the exile Tibetan community in Dharmasala and Southern India puts constant and increasing pressure on the Chinese government to grasp that its ethnic cleansing and contempt for law – parallel to the United States or Canada or Australia toward indigenous people or to Israel toward the Palestinians – is also tremendously self-destructive for China. Eventually as Students for a Free Tibet underlines (they have a wonderful t-shirt to this effect), the cost will make even the stubborn Chinese Communist Party take note.

***

For one can have pride in the decency of what on does rather than the current Chinese “pride” in racism and ethnic cleansing. How does this differ, as colonizers, from the horrific "pride" of Western and Japanese imperialists carving up China before the Revolution?

***

Even some of the wonderful students I had last summer at Liaoning University demonized Tibetan monks who supposedly brandished their orange robes against Chinese guns. Perhaps the stereotype in Chinese minds is that Tibetans have swords (rooted in an earlier warrior and imperial past in Tibet) and are violent – and so the army and police shoot and torture Tibetans and shut their eyes to the fact that the resistance is nonviolent.

But even someone deluded by the Chinese press might simply ask themselves: how does nonviolent resistance get portrayed as dangerous among an occupied people and how do the guns and torture of the forces of “Order” and Occupation get reimagined as something reasonable?

***

The Dalai Lama, who initially allied with the Chinse Communists (was Vice-President of the National People's Congress until 1959), thinks Buddhism and Marxism are consistent. Treated decently – by Marxian standards, the sort spelled out by Lenin and even Stalin on the national question and Mao, in "On the correct handling of contradictions among the people" - the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans could have become a great ally of the Chinese. Instead,it has taken a great blindness, racism, and greed to create a circumstance where Tibet now lives as an undying symbol of Chinese brutality and crudity, started with the revolutionaries led by Mao and now, just the ugliest aspect of the new authoritarian Chinese capitalism.

***

China could become powerful economically, pioneering green energy, and save itself and the world from global warming. Its government often intervenes in the economy – providing construction jobs or an electrical bus system in Beijing or subsidizing solar windows on the homes of farmers – in a way that avoids the permanent depression into which the United States and Europe have now entered (Larry Summers gave a recent, powerful talk about his). The main Keynsians out to save capitalism from the degradation of stealing food stamps from poor children to support the ultrarich are…in China (Obama also expressed a hope to do something about this last week).

***

So China is already pursuing, to some extent, a green development strategy (and since many wear face masks in China to limit the pollution as I saw vividly in Liaoning, that this is a life and death matter is pretty obvious to the Chinese…). But China’s lawlessness, its barbarism toward Tibet and Tibetans, confirms its international isolation (what America imposed on it during the Cold War). It has only North Korea and Pakistan for allies, at this point though it buys favors from other governments, notably in Africa. The Chinese were elected to the UN Human Rights Commission, a farce analogous to the Bush-Cheney prominence in the UN (“torturers r us”) as well as Obama talking human rights while having no hearings about official American war crimes (for instance, Assad, whom the US almost made war on recently, tortured the innocent Canadian engineer Maher Arar, who had been "extraordinarily rendered" by the CIA from Laguardia, in a coffin size cell for 10 months...).

***

But Chinese cruelty toward Tibetans is repulsive. So the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way offers the Chinese a way out of isolation internationally, if they are wise enough, over the next 10 to 15 years, to take it.

But only international pressure from below will force them to move in this wiser direction. Parallel to the International Boycott and Divestment Movement about Palestine, perhaps we should focus not only on Intercontinental but on Apple….

***

From the Tibetan Youth Congress:

"TYC demands Apple investigate charges of discriminative hiring policies against Tibetans in Chinese factories Phayul[Thursday, August 01, 2013 10:29]

DHARAMSHALA, August 1: Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest pro-independence group in exile, has expressed outrage at accusations of discriminative hiring policies against Tibetans adopted by Chinese factories supplying products for Apple.

In a release on Wednesday, TYC said it was “deeply concerned” at the reports of labour rights violations and urged the California based Apple Inc. to “seriously investigate” the accusations.

China Labour Watch, a US based labour rights group, in an investigative report detailing labor violations in three factories of Pegatron Group, a major supplier to Apple had revealed at least 86 labor rights violations, including 36 legal violations and 50 ethical violations.

The report accused Pegatron of "discriminatory hiring practices" including refusing to hire members of China's so called ethnic minorities including Huis, Tibetans, or Uighurs.

“Apple is one of the largest companies in the world and we believe that Apple must hold their subsidiaries responsible to their company’s principles,” newly elected TYC President Tenzing Jigme said.

The group further demanded that Apple enforce strict guidelines and regulations to ensure that the factories in China that produce Apple products are not discriminating against Tibetans, Uighurs and Huis.

In a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, TYC noted that the company must take serious actions against any violations of their principles as an Equal Employment opportunity provider and Affirmative Action Employer.

The group reminded Apple that in doing business with China, the global company has a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that the government of China and its subsidiary factories are treating others with respect and dignity.

TYC further announced that its chapters across the world will petition Apple to make changes to their policies and hold their factories accountable. The largest Tibetan group has also laid out plans to organise protests at Apple Headquarters and stores to ensure that their demands are heard by Apple.

Pegatron assembles products including the iPhone 4, iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 for Apple.

China Labor Watch in its report said the majority of Pegatron production employees worked 66 to 69 hours a week, far above China's legal limit of 49 hours. It said pregnant women sometimes were required to work 11-hour days, more than the eight-hour legal limit, and employees were pressured to falsify time cards to conceal the violations.

The report found violations including discrimination against women, excessive work hours, poor living conditions, health and safety problems, and pollution."

***

"Apple CEO Tim Cook: Stop Racial Discrimination against Tibetans at Apple factories in China

Petition by
 Tibetan Youth Congress 


To: Timothy D. Cook, CEO, Apple Headquarters

I am outraged to learn of the discriminative policies being practiced at Apple's factories in China. The US based China Labor Watch has published an investigative report detailing the labor violations of three factories of Pegatron Group, a major supplier to Apple. Investigations revealed at least 86 labor rights violations, including 36 legal violations and 50 ethical violations.

As reported in the media, the group has accused Pegatron of "discriminatory hiring practices," including refusing to hire members of China's so called ethnic minorities including Huis, Tibetans, or Uighurs as stated under the factories hiring restrictions.
Apple is one of the largest companies in the world and I believe that Apple must hold their subsidiaries responsible to their company’s principles. It is clear from the recent reports that China does not care about moral ethics and values. Therefore, I urge Apple to enforce stricter guidelines and regulations to ensure the factories in China that make Apple products are not discriminating against Tibetans, Uighurs and Huis. In doing so, Apple will set an example to businesses as well as governments around the world that human rights must be respected and that discrimination of any kind should not and will not be tolerated. If Apple is committed to diversity, and truly believes that it is an Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, it needs to take serious actions against any violations of these principles.
Tibet has been illegally occupied by China since 1949. Over 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a result of this invasion. Since 2009 over 120 Tibetans have set their bodies on fire and sacrificed their lives for their nation. I believe that China’s brutal policies of oppression, racial discrimination and the denial of freedom to Tibetans have driven them to Self Immolate themselves. In doing business with China, Apple has a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that the Chinese government and Apple’s factories are treating others with respect and dignity.

I am deeply concerned however, I have faith that Apple will do the right thing and make necessary changes to the working conditions and practices at their factories in China so that Tibetans and others will be treated equally. I look forward to Apple taking a stand.


Stop Racial Discrimination against Tibetans at their factories in China
Sincerely, 
[Your name]" here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Poem: Himalayan journey



If you are the last prey of wolves

if the wind is so icy you fall to the ground

last prey

to breathe through a cloth in the snow

if the air is so white you forget

last

a whole day


led by a guide who doesn’t know

prey

into soaring peaks

doubles back

and crevices



what wonders of China

have eluded you?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Video: my talk at Northwestern



In the video here, I mostly answer astute questions from Gary Fine's classes at Northwestern (h/t Heather Menefee and Kang san Lee). See also here. Gary, a fellow Evans professor who has led the protest against naming an award for an "exterminator"\ethnic cleanser, asked a devil's advocate question to the effect: oh, you're just talking down America. Quite the contrary, to name the truth is to speak for what is decent and perhaps even hopeful in America. In a democracy, there is no peace to be made with genocide. With Langston Hughes' "America is not America to me," a multiracial America, rejecting ethnic cleansing and carrying out the Bill of Rights (and of course, taking on capitalism and its consequences) will be...

Friday, December 6, 2013

“The fiery invisible sword of nonviolence”


Tenzin Tsundue is a Tibetan activist and poet. In 2002, he unfurled a red Free Tibet banner, along with dropping 500 leaflets, from the top of the building in which the Chinese delegation led by Premier Zhu Rongji on a visit to India, was housed (see his “Why I’ll Climb More Scaffolding and Towers” in his book of poems Kora). He soon had a whole floor of Chinese faces staring out at him…

Tuesday morning he spoke with our group doing service learning in Dharamsala. He wisely asked everyone for a brief account of who they were and what they hoped to become.

***

His parents had escaped Tibet with the Dalai Lama. They survived in India as construction workers bringing their children (he was one of 6) to the sites while they worked. He reported the experience with adult eyes; we have all seen such children (even our group, in our brief time in India, have seen them).

***

Tsundue has lived always as a refugee. His homeland is over the mountains. He once, as an adult, walked to Tibet by himself, was arrested, tortured and eventually deported by the Chinese government.

In Kora, he writes

“Refugee

When I was born

My mother said

you are a refugee.

Our tent on the roadside

smoked in the snow.”

***

Tsundue was initially in the Manali Kulu School. The teachers taught him he was Tibetan. His parents could not raise the six children and gave Tsundue and his sister to the school which looked after them. Tsundue has always, since a child, had this sense of a purpose outside himself (including himself also): to restore Tibet.

***

Tibetan patriotism, Tsundue rightly says, is from within. There is a real Tibetan community here: there are no Tibetan beggars, no homeless in Dharmasala…

One has to experience Pakistan or India, even the long train ride to Dharmasala with mothers and tiny daughters reaching out, crippled people moving with their hands along the floor begging amidst the constant sale of chai – the hawker returning with his calls every 10 minutes from 4:30 AM on - and an almost bazaarlike movement of vendors through the railway cars to take in the pain of this, to feel the force of Tibetan commonality, egalitarianism….

***

Tsundue recognizes the danger to Tibet of the Chinese settlers. More than half the population (6.5 million) is now Han, compared to some 6 million Tibetans.

To be "modern" is to have a toilet and the Chinese build little houses to settle\cordon off the nomads and the yak herders. Tibet is very high, many Chinese have a hard time living there; the government occupied Tibet primarily to gain the minerals – they have nuclear projects there, poisoning the environment, as the Dalai Lama warns in his 5 point program (Freedom in Exile, p. 247) and copper mining and mining for lithium for batteries – as well as seizing the land.

The parallels to ethnic cleansing of indigenous people in the America particularly in the West, are striking. Tsundue also drew parallels to indigenous Canadians, Australians and Palestinians...

***

Every time we buy a cheap Chinese product – and Reaganism meant the destruction of US manufacturing and its flight to China – we are all part of a "globalization" including the ethnic cleansing of Tibet. As an act of solidarity, it would be good to boycott these products and protest the subservience of state leaders to money and power. David Cameron has provided recent examples of truckling to China for trade – greeting a Tibetan delegation about human rights by proclaiming “Tibet is part of China,” being criticized for dishonor and fecklessness, then visiting China and saying nothing on the issue.

***

The women, 18 to a room on triple bunks, working 6 days a week or the 14 men and women who threw themselves from the roof at Foxconn (an Apple subsidiary) in 2010 are also harmed by this "globalization."

***

Tsundue underlined how the now settled nomads join the "globalization" of television, become disoriented, lose themselves…

***

The Chinese build little houses for the Tibetans and get them in debt for rent. Often, the promised government contribution to the rent is not forthcoming. The Tibetans are thus forced into new ways of life, dishwashing for the men, prostitution for some of the women (women who escape across the Himalayas are now going to school and finding their own way). It is a life of despair. The Chinese advertise themselves – sometimes deceive themselves like the “English” American settlers - as providing a “gilded” reservation for the Tibetans, “modernizing them” as General Sherman and John Evans and Teddy Roosevelt liked to say, but with the wheel of debt-slavery, with this grim life, not so much….

***

Tsundue lives as a poor Tibetan, outside the world of consumerism. He has four simple outfits, two for hot, two for cold. He wears a distinctive red bandana until Tibet is free.

There is a story told of him by Tibet Writes (a group of writers) that he was on a train to Delhi and someone stole his worn sneakers. He walked barefoot to the Temple where he was to speak. “They must have needed them more than I,” he reported.

***

Tsundue is one of the fierce children of the Dalai Lama as Pankaj Mishra puts it. He is torn between honoring the fathers who fought for Tibet and pursuing nonviolence. One of the poems in Kora, “Betrayal,” captures this tearing as does the powerful prose story named “Kora”:

“Betrayal


My father died

defending our home

our village, our country

I too wanted to fight

But we are Buddhist

People say we should be

peaceful and non-violent

So I forgave my enemy.

But sometimes I feel

I betrayed my father.”

***

Loyal to the Dalai Lama in the deepest way, Tsundue still writes of the Dalai Lama’s nonviolent nonaction. The Dalai Lama has an enormously wise (for the Chinese, too) strategy of pursuing a genuinely autonomous region within China which preserves Tibetan culture. He is as much a political ruler/leader of the Tibetans as a leader of a nonviolent movement. He has used this power of his political authority, against resistance, to create the democratically elected Tibetan parliament and a charter for a future Tibet in which it can overrule the Dalai Lama, a step toward preserving and developing the people beyond all Chinese attempts to demonize him as a "splittist"…(h/t Dolma Tsering Teykhang). He has also, as Tenzin Jigme, leader of the Tibetan Youth Congress, suggested, been a beacon of nonviolence, someone who created the community of Dharmasala - we have just visited the Tibetan's Children's Village for 1,700 children separated from their parents or orphaned and gaining nurturing, a modern education and an education as Tibetans - from nothing. The care for children is as striking for the future of the Tibetan community as concern for the old and the absence of beggary. The Dalai Lama is also a beacon for protest against a Chinese regime unrestrained by law or decency...

So the point that His Holiness is not a Gandhi or King or Badshah Khan in organizing resistance (facing an even harsher enemy, from exile) is a relative one...

***

For one can get tortured and murdered in China for wearing Tibetan clothes, any assertion that one is not “Han.” One way that the Chinese revolution was unMarxian and regressive compared to the West - it, of course, liberated Chinese farmers, particularly women, created literacy, initially fought capitalism, and liberated the Chinese nation - was in its lack of respect for the rule of law and the at least formal treatment of each person with minimal regard and fairness. Note that this standard is often violated towards the poor, particularly the nonwhite poor and immigrants, in the West (that is what capitalism is).

But the Chinese army and party are inheritors of the emperors whom thy tried to displace, see my poem "Frogs" here - and what they have done to the Tibetans, just as what the United States army did to the Native Americans, is unspeakable. I had not fully taken in the decadence of the Chinese regime in this respect until I had focused on Tibet; these practices make the Bush regime’s copying\adoption of Chinese methods of torture in Iraq - the SERE program composed by the bizarre "psychologists"/war criminals Mitchell and Jesson - and its secret sites particularly appalling….

***

The Dalai Lama has accepted or mostly not spoken against many forms of resistance which Tibetans undertake. He has warned sometimes of resistance from Nepal which fought the Nepalese army (Nepal, too, taking Chinese aid, has become fiercely repressive toward all Tibetan clothing, freedom of speech, flags, protest...). He has not urged specific nonviolent steps in action, and has spoken sadly of and tried to deter self-burnings, a nonviolent, final and desperate form of protest, though he rightly underlines that the cause is Chinese oppression.

***

But there has now been a change again in the Tibetan movement. Forces had been gathering for a resistance on behalf of an independent Tibet, perhaps undertaking violence. Tsundue strongly represents Tibetan independence rather than the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way, in the recent film “The Sun Behind the Clouds." But among the former political prisoners and their relatives in Go Chu Som (their organization), they had a democratic debate and vote, and the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way position won out. The new leadership represents this position, and is proud of coming from a genuinely democratic vote from below, something that does not happen in creating the "positions" of, for example, hierarchical mainstream American political parties and similar groups.

***

In addition, Tsundue gave the most striking account of Lhakar. Lha is the Tibetan word for Wednesday, kar is for karpo – white. It is the “life day” in the Tibetan astrological calendar of the Dalai Lama. In Tibet, people started to wear Tibetan clothes (a woman was locked up for this) as a special prayer for the return of the Dalai Lama.

Tibetans mourn their exile (or oppression) on New Year’s Day but celebrate each Wednesday. Everyone wears Tibetan scarves, a sign of purity, a celebration, and a “cost-effective” measure Tsundue joked, too. For the 2008 rebellion in which Tibetans had stood together against Chinese oppression had resulted in 400 deaths and 5,000 jailed. But Lhakar is a collaborative movement in which everyone speaks Tibetan, dresses Tibetan and stands out against the Chinese occupation, ethnic cleansing and pseudo-modernization.

It is also not as “costly” as the self-burnings (they had seemed to me to accomplish more for the Tibetan resistance internationally than to Tsundue…).

***

Wednesday Konchok Tseten set himself afire in Amdo province, Tibet (China excludes this from "the Tibetan Autonomous Region"), leaving a wife and two children. The Chinese authorities arrested the woman and perhaps will try to frame her for murder to avoid his words for a free Tibet and for the return of the Dalai Lama. Tseten was the 122nd person to burn himself.

At 6 pm in Dharmasala, there was a vigorous march, singing, a spinning of prayer wheels - khorlo - and then a candlelight vigil at which Tsundue spoke powerfully of compassion and on the nonviolence of the act - it contrasts markedly with the suicide bombings of civilian members of the oppressor regime which are often evil and help only oppressors - and the significance of the gathering. No one could have given words to this more powerfully…

For vivid photos of the gathering to which we all went, see here and for a previous post on self-burnings here.

***

The Chinese attempt to repress Lhakar desperately. They have augmented the number of soldiers and riot police in Tibet. They reveal hourly the fragility of their power, their uncertainty, their reliance only on violence (I use here Hannah Arendt’s distinction between collective power and the isolated violence of tyrants). They are like the Catholic and Protestant churches who stole Native American children and tried to “civilize” them by starving them and forcing them to become other, to become “American.”

***

Lhakar is, as Tsundue wonderfully says, “the fiery invisible sword of nonviolence.”

***

These words transform, to some extent, the heritage of the fathers which Tsundue evokes in "Betrayal." They work with the grim power of violence in this world which, as Adrienne Rich rightly tells us, glares out from the word: nonviolence. Gandhi's satyagraha or the English noncooperation is thus a better word, preserved from the fire of this tension about violence.

It memorably renames Gandhi's nonviolence of the strong.

***

I asked Tsundue about whether America, which has long become a country of “dishwashers and prostitutes” and many other kinds of wage workers and is heading further in that direction, did not also have other possibilities. I mentioned resistance, shown by the anti-Iraq War movement of which I was a very happy participant, and Occupy. In response, he told us of taking part in the international candlelight vigil in February 2003 with his friends and several international people in Dharmasala (I was in one in Denver, also part of a global human chain of resistance). I found this report thrilling.

***

Tibet needs but does not have state allies. It can rely only on its own strength and its attractiveness among ordinary people. Many Tibetans once fought, with CIA “support,” against the Chinese government. These are the violent heroes and fathers of some of Tsundue’s writings. Their cause, Tibetan independence against Chinese oppression is just, even if the CIA's purposes are nefarious or imperialists (the Tibetans would have had to have been the genuine socialists, as the Dalai Lama is - see Freedom in Exile, pp. 90-99 - to make the Chinese government, starting with Mao, realize, instead of betraying, its aspirations (The Chinese government could paint resistance and even the Dalai Lama as violent, to some extent, because of the CIA...).

***

With the rapprochement of Nixon and Mao in 1971, however, the CIA sold out the Tibetans. It is one of the reasons why Tsundue – and the Dalai Lama – emphasize the inner spirit of Tibetan resistance. Noone will carry the victory of the Tibetans but the Tibetans.

***

Many Tibetans look to America with hope (they have the feeling of many would be immigrants…). And in this case, for its own reasons, America has actually stood a bit for human rights (it also did so with the Miskito Indians in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas, but equally for the restoration of an American sponsored dictator like Somoza or his avatars…).

Ordinary Americans often fight from below against injustice and occasionally succeed against these powerful interests – drive governments, despite themselves, sometimes to do decent things. But Tsundue’s point that Tibetans must rely on themselves (also one of Mao’s good points about China once upon a time) is deeply true.

***

What is strong and radiant will gain support from people across the world as Tibet has.

***

Tsundue spoke fondly of Gene Sharp’s writings on nonviolence – Sharp made a transition from being part of a nonviolent antiwar and civil rights movement to becoming "transpolitical," promoted by the US government and the CIA. Tsundue's praise is a genuine honor for Sharp. Tsundue's friends translated Sharp's work - perhaps From Dictatorship to Democracy into Tibetan.

But Sharp never spoke against the war in Vietnam, in Iraq, or the potential aggression against Iran, and has paid a terrible price, psychologically I think, for his transition from A.J. Muste's secretary and Korean War resistor to advocate of nonviolence only where it serves the CIA. Still, his work goes beyond particular American-supported/limited movements, and can be used for better purposes...

***

The Tibetans are a spiritual people, one of great heroism. I have learned from Tsundue’s words about “the fiery invisible sword of nonviolence.”