Category Archives: Nationalism

It Gets Better: Sanctioning Routine Violence

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Between the movement for marriage equality and the It Gets Better campaign, I’m just about ready to give up my membership in the LGBT community.

But I checked, and it turns out that I don’t have a membership card.

It’s not even about the smiling white faces inundating us with the message that all shall be well one day. That’s certainly annoying but it is the message that is dangerous. It serves to normalize political violence by telling us that it goes away as we get older.

Violence isn’t just a physical act. It is present in our cultures, institutions and meanings. Violence is political and politics is war by other means. Violence constitutes white privilege, unjust and unfair laws that target minorities, an immigration system that rips families apart, an economy where the rich get richer and poor get poorer, and every instance that the state creates and sustains categories of people. These are all acts of violence — violence sanctioned by the state through systemic racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism and colonialism.

Violence is another site where we see the production and reproduction of power. This violence is the power to omit historical narratives of the Other from state archives. It includes the construction of the subject / object, self / other, us / them that creates majorities and minorities, and subsequently omits dissenting voices and counter-narratives from official History. Violence is then, the entire disciplining and normalization of social behavior and existence legitimated by the hegemonic state.

It’s no wonder that the head of the state has his own it gets better video. Big Gay just came out in support of Obama and his re-election campaign, while he smiles and keeps waging war against our families en route his European pub crawl. I’m also sure Big Gay has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.

It is simple. It actually doesn’t get better for a vast majority of people. Lets start from there . You’ll learn to like it.*

*Shamelessly borrowing the quote from my new friend with the Montana Human Rights Network.

 

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Filed under Discourse Studies, Nationalism

The Death of Bin Laden: The End of An Era?

It’s official — for the first time in history, hordes of mostly white people rioted for May Day outside the White House.

And most of them were The George Washington University students who heard the news about the gathering on Twitter, Facebook and through word of mouth. For me, this was a great moment in social media and I had to be there to capture this moment since I live a few blocks from the White House. Many of my law school friends joined to see the spectacle.

People ran through the streets of D.C. waving their American flags. Capital Bikeshare was instrumental in making sure that those who lived further away had some way of getting to and from the White House especially since the gathering took place close to midnight with the Metro not in operation. Drivers honked as they drove by Lafayette Park. Gathered directly outside the White House, people chanted U-S-A U-S-A and sang the national anthem more than a dozen times into the wee hours of the morning.

But unlike the projections by mainstream media, I don’t believe that all the young smiling faces were really out there celebrating the death of an insidious figure.

Some were definitely frat boys from my university. Many others joined their friends in celebration as a study break. Many were Obama supporters proud that he had just trumped Donald and secured his re-election. And for most of us gathered out there, it was less about nationalism and more about an end to an era. It’s a symbol of closure and hope for better times ahead.

But can the country finally recover from it’s rampant fear and suspicion of the Other?

While Bin Laden is finally dead, so are thousands of civilians and soldiers. Our rights and liberties are at an all-time low and our fear of everyone that is different from us at an all-time high. Thousands have been ripped from their families and deported in the past 10 years in the name of national security. It’s time to put an end to this.

I would like the President to bring our troops home, rescind the PATRIOT Act and end racial profiling at airports. He won’t do that. I would like to carry my shampoo and lotion on an airplane and keep my shoes on at airports. That’s unlikely to happen.

We’ve given up a lot in these past ten years: our respect around the world, our civil rights and liberties and our beacon as a country that welcomes the huddled masses. And we’ve gained little in return. Last night was a celebration with the hope that the coming years will be different.

But it is up to us to make it happen.

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Filed under Nationalism, Politics

Fighting Against Women’s Oppression All Over Again

I’ve such a horrible case of déjà vu right now. Anyone else remember how the oppression of women in Afganistan was used as a polemic and rhetorical device to justify the occupation of the country and distinguish between “us” and “them?”

Of course, taking nothing away from this woman, my statement does not mean that Qaddafi and his troops are not horrendous and guilty. I’m just interested in how the crisis of women’s oppression has been used to justify war efforts throughout our history. We are so concerned about women’s rights abroad but not so much at home. A really good recommended reading is Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars.

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Filed under Gender, Nationalism

Japan On The Brink of Nuclear Disaster: Is It Time to Deconstruct Nuclear Threats Yet?

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dr...

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The nuclear fallout from Japan has reached my state of California. Reportedly, the level of radiation is not dangerous to the people of the West Coast so they do not need to take those iodine pills.

I’m plagued with a different question. Here’s a possible nuclear threat that no country has placed as part of their national security calculus of risk.

There are general opinion pieces on how the world needs to rethink nuclear weapons after the coming Japan disaster. Some newspapers have picked up on the historical memory of the first use of nuclear weapons, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that led to massive catastrophe. Others are struggling with why Japan chose to use nuclear power after the horrifying specter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Japan’s first nuclear disaster is not just a memory. The fact that the country is once again on the brink of nuclear doom should not be lost to memory.

The United States has never apologized for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and for its hand in the widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons. Most of the discourse ignores that the United States played a vital hand in the nuclear infrastructure of Japan and blames Japan for its use of nuclear power. However, Japan is facing nuclear disaster because the United States and Russia went down the path of mutually assured destruction during the Cold War rather than condemning nuclear power. They formed an exclusive nuclear club that continues to deny membership to the more “pariah states” like North Korea and Iran in the name of international security. While Japan has never been a part of that nuclear club, the fact that it has nuclear infrastructure has never become an international or national security concern until now.

Just imagine if it was North Korea or Iran who were faced with impending doom. The international response would be radically different. The UN Security Council would be up in arms. And yet, international security is not threatened by those “pariah states” right now. Any prospective threat comes from Japan, a country that is considered benevolent and right now, under the United States nuclear umbrella. Maybe we need to redefine the nexus of our security concerns and threat construction.

I’m not saying Japan is an inherent threat to international security. I’m saying that there is something very wrong about how threats are constructed using geo-political calculations, and how this construction actually endangers our security. Maybe a tsunami and earthquake need to figure higher up on our list of threats to human security than a nuclear Iran OR nuclear North Korea. And maybe the creation of nuclear waste and nuclear power should be every bit of a threat as a nuclear explosion.

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Filed under Nationalism, Political Theory

Pani (Water), Memory and Post-Colonial Identity

Miles from a place fondly called home,
a small plastic bottle of FIJI Water peers at me
through the doors of a convenience store,
teasing and tormenting, begging me to take it back.

I reach out fondly,
only to jerk my hand away.

They say it’s untouched by civilization,
They say it provides jobs,
They swear to carbon-free emissions,
Then why does my body break down in sobs?

Water that leaves my people dehydrated and dead,
Water that kills,
Water that props up an illegal military regime,
Who knew it could have so much power?

Your colonial thirst for a taste of my paradise,
Highly dense and hyper-sexualized,
Life reduced to an exotic merchandise,
The blood of my people actualized.

This plastic bottle is all I have left of a place I’ll never see
With some half-forgotten memories of a country that doesn’t remember me

A Winter Vacation in Chicago

Far away from any colonized setting, glittering and shimmering, sitting on a river of lights next to Lake Michigan, with brand name outlets, world-renowned tourist spots, historical architectural designs, the buzzing energy of a lively place that never rests, this is Chicago, as urbane and metropolitan as it gets in the United States. At first glance, the city does not resonate with any pain, tragedy, or buried untold stories; it seems like a great vacation spot and escape from my own traumatic life. The city, half-imagined, returns to me each night.

Caught in a snow blizzard, I hurry past someone carrying a sign that read “I am just homeless and hungry. God gives to those that give to others.” Almost instantly, blurred images of a distant past flash through my mind. Homelessness is a part and parcel of every city and suddenly, I am not away from home, on any sort of vacation. I freeze, unable to escape my reality. This is not history yet, it is memory—intimate, painful, joyful, personal and nostalgic. Jolted out of my consumerist shopping spree, I realize with strange awe that tragedy, violence, a sense of belonging are not stuck in geographical space; they come with us in our memories, our intimate personalization and self-definitions.

Shaking off the feeling almost instantly, I walk into a convenience store to get some water for my sore throat. Staring at me through the sliding glass doors is a bottle of water from the Fiji Islands. Face to face with my reality, I stand there gazing at the tiny bottle as my mind once again loads and runs a cinematic reel. Half-remembered and half-forgotten memories from another place and time, now encompassed by this beautiful luminescent blue bottle, conjures up an entire history.

It’s problematic to hold a bottle of FIJI water with such nostalgic tenderness and pride, especially since it is owned by an US company, and yet we do it. When I discussed this with a friend from Canada, she admitted that she went into a gas station on her way to Los Angeles and bought a bottle of FIJI Water, because it is a Kai-India (Fiji Indian) thing to do. I pay for the FIJI water bottle and hold it as if I am holding Fiji and the history of my people in my hands, and coincidentally, realize that even the rights to FIJI water is owned by an ‘Other’; I am holding colonialism in my hand.

Indentured laborers from India crossed the Kala Pani (Pacific Ocean) in the late 1800s to come to Fiji. They called themselves girmitiyas, derived from the English word ‘agreement,’ which referred to the labor contract, while the British called them ‘coolies.’ The girmitiyas were supposed to simply serve as a working population, but by 1970, not only was Fiji independent of British rule, but the now free descendants of the girmitiyas were a majority population. However, as the 1900s came to a close, many more Indians (more properly referred to as Indo-Fijians) once again crossed the Kala Pani to seek refuge due to ethnic tensions at home.

I drink every drop of the water in the tiny bottle. My thirst quenched, my throat feels better. But my eyes water up.

Real tears aren’t the ones that flow easily. They are the unshed ones hiding behind hooded eyelids, stinging with permanence. And my heart cries.

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Filed under Fiji, Nationalism, Poetry

Identifying MacroStructual Trends in Asian Economies

This post recognizes the error in assuming that all Asian countries are undergoing similar socio-cultural-economic processes and placing diverse Asian countries on the same trajectory of development.

That said, when identifying and ranking important macro-structural trends in Asia, one must keep in mind the larger context of modernity within which these trends exist. The Asian nation-states are facing the structural, economic and socio-cultural trends so particular to modernity, namely globalization, contradictions of nationalism, and security problems that originate from the wrestling with conceptions of identity.

Asian nation-states are wrestling with neo-liberal globalization in this era of deterritorialized production and virtual capital, and trying to gain more economic security through inter-economic cooperation and alliances such as ASEAN and APEC. One example of inter-economic cooperation is the call for a Euro-style common currency. Yet, a trend particular to capitalist modernity is the creation of hierarchies of race, class and gender, and uneven development that tends to alienate and marginalize internal populations. Coupled with this is the fact that the core powers of the U.S., Western Europe and Russia have a vested interest in keeping Asia as semi-peripheral and prevent it from initiating a common currency, which would pose a definite threat to the current economic order of things. Therefore, they encourage foreign direct investment and neo-liberal development, and the U.S. specifically depends on China and Japan to finance its trade deficit. However, with Asian states slowly coming out of their financial crisis and looking for security in this era of increasing globalization, the trend is definitely towards more economic cooperation and integration.

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Filed under Desi, Nationalism, Politics

Morons of the Week: Those Britons Who Voted for the BNP

In elections held 2 days ago, Nick Griffin and the far-right British National Party won seats for the FIRST time! All was celebratory in the BNP camp till he got pelted with eggs for his reactionary point of views.

The British National Party opposes what Nick Griffin calls the ”creeping Islamification” of Britain, supports voluntary repatriation of immigrants and wants to take Britain out of the European Union and NATO. It’s nativism 101 and it’s ugly.

Immigrant scapegoating is a sad answer to recession. It’s sadder when the spineless left and Labour Party serve to appease xenophobia rather than confront it.

As The Herald puts:

The way to tackle racism is to confront it, not appease it; to show consistently the benefits that immigrants bring to society; to point out that British history has also been a history of emigration; to work harder to achieve integration; and to recognise our own immigrant backgrounds.

Britain and all other countries face a fundamental choice right now. They can either accept that the movement of peoples between countries is and always has been part of the natural order, and is especially encouraged by neo-liberal policies purported by the G-8. Or they can join the BNP and the Nazi parties in embracing right-wing xenophobia and nativism as an answer to societal ills brought about by a system that benefits a few over many. Most would elect to walk the middle-line out of cowardice.

On a related note, here is the latest map of exploding hate groups in the United States.

This comment on the CNN blog wins quote of the week on blog:

There should be a “cute” little symbol centered on Washington. Until our country’s government recognizes all American citizens as equal, it will continue to serve as a paradigm for hate groups everywhere.

Amen.

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Filed under Immigration, Moron of the Week, Nationalism, Racism