Tuesday, August 08, 2006

No Body Move, No Body Get Hurt

At least a half dozen times over the last two weeks, I’ve found myself outside with a helicopter or airplane flying overhead. Growing up on military bases, this is nothing new for me, and normally I don’t even notice. What has made these instances stand out, however, is my increased consciousness about what helicopters and airplanes overhead mean for people all around the world these days. The absolute privilege that I enjoyed in those moments, while out for a jog or sipping a late-night beer on the back porch of a friend, has felt shameful.

Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Katrina, Latin America…they’ve all got me thinking about moving…

Israel has repeatedly called for all Lebanese civilians in the Southern part of the country to evacuate. Those remaining have been subjected to indiscriminate war in the form of ground assaults and bombing from the air. Their homes, businesses, and land have been bombarded at all hours, with seemingly very little rhyme or reason as to who gets targeted.

Twice in 2004, the U.S. military laid siege to the city of Fallujah, Iraq. In the second siege, the U.S. military, in preparation for the effort, ordered all Iraqis that were not military-aged men to evacuate the city. Everyone who was a military-aged man was forced to stay. The city then became a free-fire zone, as anyone who ventured outdoors was deemed a “combatant.” Thousands were killed during the operation.

Similarly, an evacuation order was given to the citizens of New Orleans in the days prior to Hurricane Katrina. Those New Orleanians who remained were subjected to martial law, dying by the hundreds while the State could manage a military response aimed at stopping looting, but would not organize itself to adequately address the food, water, shelter, and mental health needs of its people.

In Lebanon, Iraq, and New Orleans, the State and the media essentially blamed those who were left behind for the fate that befell them. Like anywhere else in the world, the majority of the people left behind in these situations are those without adequate means to evacuate. Without cars, money for buses, planes, cabs, etc., travel in emergency situations becomes next to impossible. Similarly, working class and poor people often have the most complicated lives, tending to extended family networks, less safety, and not often able to just pick up their homes and leave.

In Gaza, one of the territories where Palestinian people have been relocated to and concentrated in under the ongoing Israeli occupation, people have not even been given the benefit of an evacuation order. The borders of their territory have been sealed off as Israeli forces move in and wage war on the civilian population in order to root out military resistance by Palestinian militias. Palestinians were not even given the chance to move.

Immigration to the United States from Latin America has expanded exponentially in the last 10-15 years. Most of the these immigrants have come from countries whose populations and environments have been torn apart by U.S. funded wars (i.e. El Salvador, Nicaragua) or by U.S. lead economic restructuring (i.e. Mexico). They come to the United States because the ways that their people have been making a life for themselves for centuries is becoming next to impossible because of Yanqui imperialism. When they get to the United States, they face more exploitation in fields, construction sites, and kitchens of our economy. Then, the Right and the popular media condemns them for coming in the first place and blames them for problems that have existed as long as this country has existed. Their movement is constantly scrutinized.

In all of these situations, the people left most vulnerable are working class and poor people, especially women and children, who have less options because of family responsibilities, restricted choices, and less employment (and lower paid employment) opportunities.

If the United States, Israel, and others end up invading Iran and Syria, or using nuclear or conventional weapons dropped from airplanes to avoid the inevitable American bloodshed that invasions would cause, the same people are going to be the ones most affected: those left behind. People with resources are just more mobile.

Ultimately, this is true politically as well. Those of us who don’t sit in the halls of power often feel like we can’t move, like our moves don’t make a difference. We go to scream and our tongues sit still. We want to shut the system down, and our legs won’t budge. Our pens go limp and our best weapons lay useless. We’ve begun to believe that we don’t matter. Our political paralysis is the biggest weapon in their arsenal.

And they don’t even need a helicopter to deliver it.

It’s time to make moves y’all.

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