Category Archives: Injustice

Copied from https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/12/07/spare-me-the-american-tears-for-the-murder-of-jamal-khashoggi/

Oh, and here we go again… Yes, it seems I never get tired of contemplating and pondering the level of criminal shamelessness that accompanies American intervention throughout the world, and its bald-faced lies to shrug off any embarrassing questions.

All an open-minded observer is left with is abysmal contempt for “Amerikkka” and the sincere desire that that pile of putrefaction will collapse upon itself soon… very soon. The following is what I have been trying to express in my own posts recently but Fisk is a professional writer and journalist, hence does a much better job, written and researched, than I could ever do.

My intent in posting such articles isn’t to instill guilt in Americans, Lord knows they already have way more than anyone can bear of that, but to provide much needed information and backgrounders.  With such information one can no longer ignorantly play the official social media game called “Let’s Blame Russia.”

Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

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Can I be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A “wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of Jamal Khashoggi.

US government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after 2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation was intended to end his life. Which it did.

A generation ago, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. In spook language, Khashoggi was merely “terminated with maximum prejudice”. If the CIA could sign off on mass murder in Vietnam, why shouldn’t an Arab dictator do the same on a far smaller scale? True, I can’t imagine the Americans went in for bone saws. Testimony suggests that mass rape followed by mass torture did for their enemies in Vietnam. Why play music through the earphones of the murderers?

But still it goes on. Here’s Democrat senator Bob Menendez this week. The US, he told us, must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable on the world’s stage”. The “action”, of course, is the murder of Khashoggi. And this from a man who constantly defended Israel after its slaughter of the innocents in Gaza.

So what on earth is going on here? Perhaps the “world’s stage” of which Menendez spoke was the White House – an appropriate phrase, when you come to think about it – where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has been no stranger. Yet when at least one recent US presidential incumbent of that high office can be considered guilty of war crimes – in Iraq – and the deaths of tens of thousands of Arabs, how come American senators are huffing and puffing about just one man, Mohammed bin Salman, who (for a moment, let us set aside the Yemen war) is only being accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of one single Arab?

After all, world leaders – and US presidents themselves – have always had rather a soft spot for mass murderers and those who should face war crimes indictments. Trump has infamously met Kim Jong-un and invited him to the White House. We are all waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to take up his own invitation.

Obama lavished hospitality at the White House on a host of bloody autocrats – from Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon – before we even recall Suharto, whose death squads killed up to half a million people; and Hosni Mubarak, whose secret police sometimes raped their prisoners and who sanctioned the hanging of hundreds of Islamists without proper trials, and his ultimate successor, Field Marshal-President al-Sisi, who has around 60,000 political prisoners locked up in Egypt and whose cops appear to have tortured a young Italian student to death. But Giulio Regeni wasn’t murdered in an Egyptian consulate. This list does not even include Ariel Sharon, who as Israeli defence minister was accused by an Israeli inquiry of personal responsibility for the massacre of 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut in 1982.

So what is this “clear and unequivocal message” that senator Menendez is rambling on about? The message has been clear and unequivocal for decades. The US “national interest” always trumps (in both senses) morality or international crime. Why else did the United States support Saddam Hussein in his attempt to destroy Iran and his use of chemical warfare against Iran? Why else did Donald Rumsfeld plead with Saddam in December 1993 to allow the reopening of the US embassy in Baghdad when the Iraqi dictator (a “strongman” at the time, of course) had already used mustard gas against his opponents? By the time Rumsfeld arrived for his meeting, more than 3,000 victims had fallen amid Iraqi gas clouds. The figure would reach at least 50,000 dead. Which is, in mathematical terms, Jamal Khashoggi times 50,000.

Yet we are supposed to recoil with shock and horror when Haspel – who might herself have a few admissions to make to senators on other matters – suggests that America’s latest favourite Middle Eastern tyrant knew about the forthcoming murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Does Menendez think that Saddam hadn’t signed the death sentences of thousands of Iraqi men and women – which, as we know from his later “trial”, he did – before meeting Rumsfeld? Or that Duterte, who has compared himself to Hitler, doesn’t sign off on the killing of his murdered drug “suspects”? Or that Suharto had absolutely nothing to do with half a million murders in Indonesia?

It’s instructive, indeed, that the thousands of innocents killed in the Yemen war, an offensive undertaken by Mohammed bin Salman himself with logistical support from the US and UK – and it doesn’t need Haspel to tell us this – hasn’t exactly left US senators shocked. Just another bunch of Arabs killing each other, I suppose. Starvation didn’t get mentioned by the senators emerging from Haspel’s closed hearing. Yet the senators know all about the mosque bombings, wedding party bombings, hospital bombings and school bombings in Yemen. Why no tears for these innocents? Or is that a bit difficult when the US military – on every occasion by accident, of course – has bombed mosques, wedding parties, hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?

No, the shock and horror and the need for full disclosure about the Saudis is primarily about Trump, and the need to tie him in to the cruel murder of a Washington Post journalist and US resident whose gruesome demise has been blamed by the American president upon a “vicious world”.

But there is something more than this, the appalling fact – albeit only a folk memory, perhaps, for many with scarcely any institutional memory at all – that 15 of those 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, that George W Bush secretly flew bin Laden family members out of the US after 9/11, that the Saudis themselves are heir to a blighted, rural, cruel version of Sunni Islam – based on the pernicious teachings of the 18th century Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab​ – which has inspired the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis and all the other killer cults whom we have proclaimed to be the West’s Enemy No 1.

Nailing Mohammed Bin Salman to a crucifix – a method of execution favoured by the Wahhabis – is an easy kill for US senators, of course. You hit the president and smash those unhappy historical details all in one fell swoop.

But don’t bank on it. Oil and arms are a potent mix. Old Abd al-Wahhab’s home is protected in a new tourist haunt in the suburbs of Riyadh. Come to think of it, the national mosque of Qatar – hostile to rapacious Saudi Arabia but another recipient of US weapons and a supporter of Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq – has a capacity for 30,000 souls, was built only seven years ago and is named after Abd al-Wahhab himself.

This is the dangerous world in which America and its allies now tread, disdainful of the thousands of Muslims who perish under our bombs and missiles and mortars – proxy-delivered by those we should distrust – ignorant of the religious currents which rumble on beneath our feet and beneath the House of Saud. Even the virtually useless information Haspel learned in the CIA’s “black centres” could have told senators this. If they had bothered to ask.

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Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

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On Communication and Patriotism

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

I’ve been “blogging” for a few years now, sometimes intensely, sometimes lackadaisically, but always as I see in retrospect, with intent to both, learn from others and express ideas they seem unaware of.  Some would call that teaching, but I am no teacher nor do I aspire to such a task. I’ve also been called a “contrarian” and in all honesty, that label, given to me by Frank Parker (https://franklparker.com/ – have a peek, there’s some cool stuff there!) does carry validity.  I’m not rejecting it even if often what is thought of as merely contradictory is juxtapositions of ideas to create “food for thought” for those too comfortable in their traditional niche of clubbish patting on back.

Blogging is all about communication. For the most part people share blogs between comfort zones having discovered that attempting to communicate across storm-tossed seas of divergent ideas is difficult and, without a great deal of skill in diplomacy, basically impossible.  When I engaged in social media like Facebook I encountered too many “Donald Trump” type Tweetering.  Ignorant comments by ignorant people. I gave that medium up on short order.

WordPress has a different quality of correspondents. Here you can express your own thoughts and even if they stand at odds with those of another blogger there is space to express, allowance for different opinions, at least most of the time. I, who carry a heavy baggage of non-conformist ideas, certainly do appreciate this rubber-matted sparring room.

That said, I had an unfortunate dialogue with a blogger recently that got me labeled as an “attacker” of another person.  Language problem? Perhaps, but I saw it differently. The issue was political and as with religion, most people exist on the cusp here, holding it together with barely restrained emotions.  I try to approach it from a wider pathway but current political events are carried emotionally and very personally. Political people seem to take any and all non-agreeing discussions as personal attacks even when obviously stated as facts used to clarify an issue, i.e., obviously totally non-personal.  The fact is, I’m not at all interested in personal aspects of individuals, at least not until they stand in my face and claim to be my leader or my master. Then I get very interested, very fast.

OK, let’s get down and dirty.  Most political discussions in this neck of the woods will be about America, Donald Trump, Russia, Vladimir Putin, with peripherals of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Israel and the sleeping dragon, China and Xi Jinping. Americans have their own personal understanding and misunderstanding of these things, based on which “fake news” media or social media they get their information from.  Few social medianites actually put their own boots on the ground to garner up-close personal information about the events they spout on about. In fact most of their “reporters” don’t either so in many cases the buffoon is right about his claims of fake news.

One thing for sure, with fresh air exceptions, is that “America” is declared a good place being vilified by crooked, dirty dealing bad hombres, particularly the current Satanic arch-enemy bogey man Putin.  Putin’s crimes have reached to the very gates of heaven.  But what has he done?  Oh, he has dared intervene with force to stop American-backed regime change in Syria and has put enough fear in the hearts of Zionists and Sunni Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia to prevent the planned invasion of Iran as proxies for the USA war machine and oil lobby.

That however isn’t Putin’s worst crime. His worst crime is that he is accused of interfering in US elections.  True or false? What difference can that make when the USA interferes in elections of sovereign countries all over the planet as a matter of course and when the die still won’t go their way, they concoct a reason for an invasion, or a regime change civil war.  History, folks, repeating and repeating history.

But Americans, like all good patriots, need to deflect the sins of their nation, military, international banking and corporate crimes and impute them on others. They need enemies, preferably of course poorly armed and less technologically advanced so as to suffer the least amount of casualties while inflicting the maximum amount.  Anyone remember the invasion of Grenada under Clown Reagan? Anyone know how big a country Grenada is? Anyone know what Grenada’s military strength consisted of?  Imagine a pack of wolves, say about twenty adults in the pack, planning an attack upon a field mouse’s nest. Surprise, the wolf pack won that “war” and the win filled its newspapers with glowing headlines.  Such heroism, it did them proud, that.

They also need a scapegoat for that imputation to work. Vladimir Putin, the front man responsible to “make Russia great again” in actual fact while the buffoon who claimed same for Amerikkka caused it to go in the opposite direction, just happens to be the right kind of guy to demonize. The propaganda has been rolling off the press full bore now for a couple of years at least and by now I’m sure if we looked closely, Putin has red skin, horns growing out of his forehead and a tail with a spearhead on the end. No? Put on your American Patriot Glasses or “APG’s issued by Homeland Security, then you’ll see it too. Don’t be of those left out of Amerikkka’s Vision.

What’s either sad, funny or amazing, is that most Americans are quite unaware they are participating in this war-mongering scenario, just as the German people were quite unaware at first that supporting Hitler would mean millions of them would die, after they slaughtered tens of millions of others, and all for naught.  Well, not exactly, their elites, just as US-based elites are currently doing, would make zillions from the various killing fronts, hiding and laundering those massive profits which they would then use to create ‘the new world order’ under the American Hegemon.  The German people didn’t know this, and neither do their current imitators, the American people. Why not? Because they prefer propaganda over history, that’s why not.

So I was attempting to explain this to a blogger who, I suspected, was aware of these things. But this person chose to ignore the big picture and focus on lambasting the White House buffoon and his family (deservedly so) and say nary a word about the 50% of total government income handed to the military to do with as it sees fit; to ignore the massive war crimes being committed with US weaponry and tactical aid against Yemen, Palestine, Syria, Lybia (yes, that’s still going on!), Iraq (yes, that too is still going on), in northern Africa (you name it, special forces will be in there destabilizing, creating chaos, blazing a path for multinational exploitation of remaining natural resources and enslavement of the work force), and of course Afghanistan (how old is that endless war again? Is it a war on terror, or on protecting the poppy fields? Hah!) I’m sure US military thought is looking at Pakistan also, and perhaps India… but these have nukes… Oh-oh… owie!

One could laugh at such military ineptness from the world’s most powerful military nation with the world’s greatest export of military arsenal, and the equal ineptness of its sidekicks in war crimes: Britain, France, Canada, and probably dribs and drabs of other benighted and equally stupid European Union members of the NATO coalition.  War is always good business, win or lose, for those who ‘fund’ them and provide the guns and who really rules Western “democracies” huh?

This is where it’s at. So I call that blogger a hypocrite for deliberately ignoring the facts of the matter and choosing instead to demonize Vladimir Putin and turn it all around, making it look as if it’s Putin who is fighting all those wars and the honourable peace-maker in all of this is the USA.  But before I made the call, this person had admitted to knowing these facts as well or better than I do.  I then felt justified in calling a spade a spade.  If you are stuffing your face with apple pie and I say that you are eating apple pie, I’m not attacking you, am I?

But I did not reckon with that mind-blinding sickness called patriotism.  ‘My country, may she be always right, but my country right or wrong.’  Indeed, that is the last cry of the patriot.  Truth, facts, reality, these must play second fiddle to my country’s right to be always “right” and all others who disagree, to be always wrong.  And woe to them if I decide they are wrong: I have the might to punish such temerity and the propaganda machine to make it all seem so legitimate.

Communication, then, must bow to the superior patriotic mind.

The pen is not mightier than the sword at all.  All the pen is allowed to do is promote and extol the sword or stick to making shopping lists.

 

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian DNA, Race, and Native Rights By Aviva Chomsky

Tomgram: Aviva Chomsky, Making Native Americans Strangers in Their Own Land Posted by Aviva Chomsky at 8:12am, November 29, 2018.
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[This is a kinda-sorta reblog, though it really is simply a copy and paste from the Tomgram website. I’ve done this before as I find no way to re-post this otherwise except with the posting of a link which, in my opinion for what it’s worth, isn’t good enough. I think that if I’m hoping someone will read something I find worth reading, I should offer the article, not just the link. Still, the link is there if you prefer reading it on their website, and it is an amazing website at that!  This article is about how “America” – the Hegemon – treats the defeated original inhabitants of these lands (Canada where I reside does NO BETTER, let me make that perfectly clear.]

Begin Tomgram article:  In the 1950s, I grew up in the heart of New York City and had a remarkable amount of contact with Native Americans. As you might expect, I never actually met one in those years. What I had in mind was all the time I spent at the local RKO and other movie theaters watching Hollywood westerns. They were, of course, filled with Indians, and in those films, we — and I don’t mean the 12-year-old Tom Engelhardt, but the blue coats, the stage coach drivers and their passengers, the cowboys, and the pioneers I identified with — were regularly ambushed by those Indians. In the end, with rare exceptions, the natives predictably fell as they circled the wagon train or stagecoach or attacked those cavalrymen, whooping and shooting their arrows. They went down, naturally enough, before the implacable power of “our” weaponry, “our” marksmanship. And here’s the thing: they deserved it. After all, they were attacking us. We never ambushed them. They, that is, were “the invaders” and we, invariably, the aggressed upon.

All of this came to my mind when, in the midst of the 2018 midterm election campaign, Donald Trump labeled as “invaders” a caravan of desperate refugees, including women and small children fleeing their violent, impoverished lands (which the U.S. had a significant hand in making so) for asylum or refuge in this country. And then, of course, he sent almost 6,000 military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect us (and twiddle their thumbs).

I was reminded then of that celluloid past because Donald Trump, who is only a couple of years younger than me and undoubtedly grew up in the same movie world, felt — I suspect — so comfortable lambasting those refugees as invaders exactly because the term fit perfectly the “history” we had learned in our mutual childhoods. His claim was, in fact, a twenty-first-century version of the way, in our youth, the history of this country was regularly turned on its head, making the desperate and invaded into the nefarious and invasive. And, in truth, even without the helping hand of Donald Trump, that version of our history has never really ended, as TomDispatch regular Aviva Chomsky shows today. Native Americans are still being treated as if they were the invaders in what was once their own land and, like that caravan from Latin America, slapped down for it. Let her tell you how what she calls the DNA industry and various parts of our government, local and national, have been working overtime to recreate, after a fashion, the movie world of my childhood. Tom

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian
DNA, Race, and Native Rights
By Aviva Chomsky

Amid the barrage of racist, anti-immigrant, and other attacks launched by President Trump and his administration in recent months, a series of little noted steps have threatened Native American land rights and sovereignty. Such attacks have focused on tribal sovereignty, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the voting rights of Native Americans, and they have come from Washington, the courts, and a state legislature. What they share is a single conceptual framework: the idea that the long history that has shaped U.S.-Native American relations has no relevance to today’s realities.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated event, Senator Elizabeth Warren, egged on by Donald Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts and his mocking of her claims to native ancestry, triumphantly touted her DNA results to “prove” her Native American heritage. In turning to the burgeoning, for-profit DNA industry, however, she implicitly lent her progressive weight to claims about race and identity that go hand in hand with moves to undermine Native sovereignty.

The DNA industry has, in fact, found a way to profit from reviving and modernizing antiquated ideas about the biological origins of race and repackaging them in a cheerful, Disneyfied wrapping. While it’s true that the it’s-a-small-world-after-all multiculturalism of the new racial science rejects nineteenth-century scientific racism and Social Darwinism, it is offering a twenty-first-century version of pseudoscience that once again reduces race to a matter of genetics and origins. In the process, the corporate-promoted ancestry fad conveniently manages to erase the histories of conquest, colonization, and exploitation that created not just racial inequality but race itself as a crucial category in the modern world.

Today’s policy attacks on Native rights reproduce the same misunderstandings of race that the DNA industry is now so assiduously promoting. If Native Americans are reduced to little more than another genetic variation, there is no need for laws that acknowledge their land rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty. Nor must any thought be given to how to compensate for past harms, not to speak of the present ones that still structure their realities. A genetic understanding of race distorts such policies into unfair “privileges” offered to a racially defined group and so “discrimination” against non-Natives. This is precisely the logic behind recent rulings that have denied Mashpee tribal land rights in Massachusetts, dismantled the Indian Child Welfare Act (a law aimed at preventing the removal of Native American children from their families or communities), and attempted to suppress Native voting rights in North Dakota.

Profiting by Recreating Race

Let’s start by looking at how the ancestry industry contributes to, and profits from, a twenty-first-century reformulation of race. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe lure customers into donating their DNA and a hefty sum of money in exchange for detailed reports claiming to reveal the exact geographical origins of their ancestors going back multiple generations. “Who do you think you are?” asks Ancestry.com, typically enough. The answer, the company promises, lies in your genes.

Such businesses eschew the actual term “race” in their literature. They claim instead that DNA reveals “ancestry composition” and “ethnicity.” In the process, however, they turn ethnicity, a term once explicitly meant to describe culture and identity, into something that can be measured in the genes. They conflate ethnicity with geography, and geography with genetic markers. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that the “ethnicities” they identify bear an eerie resemblance to the “races” identified by European scientific racist thinking a century ago. They then produce scientific-looking “reports” that contain purportedly exact percentages linking consumers to places as specific as “Sardinia” or as broad as “East Asia.”

At their most benign, these reports have become the equivalent of a contemporary parlor game, especially for white Americans who make up the vast majority of the participants. But there is a sinister undertone to it all, reviving as it does a long-discredited pseudoscientific basis for racism: the notion that race, ethnicity, and ancestry are revealed in the genes and the blood, and passed down inexorably, even if invisibly, from generation to generation. Behind this lies the assumption that those genes (or variations) originate within clearly defined national or geographic borders and that they reveal something meaningful about who we are — something otherwise invisible. In this way, race and ethnicity are separated from and elevated above experience, culture, and history.

Is There Any Science Behind It?

Although all humans share 99.9% of our DNA, there are some markers that exhibit variations. It’s these markers that the testers study, relying on the fact that certain variations are more (or less) common in different geographical areas. As law and sociology professor Dorothy Roberts puts it, “No sooner had the Human Genome Project determined that human beings are 99.9% alike than many scientists shifted their focus from human genetic commonality to the 0.1% of human genetic difference. This difference is increasingly seen as encompassing race.”

Ancestry tests rely on a fundamental — and racialized — misunderstanding of how ancestry works. The popular assumption is that each of us contains discrete and measurable percentages of the “blood” and DNA of our two biological parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on, and that this ancestral line can be traced back hundreds of years in a meaningful way. It can’t. As science journalist Carl Zimmer explains, “DNA is not a liquid that can be broken down into microscopic drops… We inherit about a quarter of our DNA from each grandparent — but only on average… If you pick one of your ancestors from 10 generations back, the odds are around 50% that you carry any DNA from him or her. The odds get even worse beyond that.”

In reality, such testing does not tell us much about our ancestors. That’s partly because of the way DNA is passed down through the generations and partly because there exists no database of ancestral DNA. Instead, the companies compare your DNA to that of other contemporary humans who have paid them to take the test. Then they compare your particular variations to patterns of geographical and ethnic distribution of such variations in today’s world — and use secret algorithms to assign purportedly precise ancestral percentages to them.

So is there really a Sardinian or East Asian gene or genetic variation? Of course not. If there is one fact that we know about human history, it’s that ours is a history of migrations. We all originated in East Africa and populated the planet through ongoing migrations and interactions. None of this has ended (and, in fact, thanks to climate change, it will only increase). Cultures, ethnicities, and settlements can’t be frozen in time. The only thing that is constant is change. The peoples who reside in today’s Sardinia or East Asia are a snapshot that captures only a moment in a history of motion. The DNA industry’s claims about ancestry award that moment a false sense of permanence.

While whites of European ancestry seem enthralled with the implications of this new racial science, few Native Americans have chosen to donate to such databases. Centuries of abuse at the hands of colonial researchers who made their careers on Native ancestral remains, cultural artifacts, and languages have generated a widespread skepticism toward the notion of offering genetic material for the good of “science.” In fact, when it comes to one DNA testing outfit, 23andMe, all of the countries included in its lists of the geographical origins of those who have contributed to its “Native American” database are in Latin America and the Caribbean. “In North America,” the company blandly explains, “Native American ancestry tends to be five or more generations back, so that little DNA evidence of this heritage remains.” In other words, 23andMe claims DNA as conclusive proof of Native American identity, then uses it to write Native North Americans off the map altogether.

The Ancestry Industry and the Disappearing Indian

The ancestry industry, even while celebrating diverse origins and multiculturalism, has revived long-held ideas about purity and authenticity. For much of U.S. history, white colonizers argued that Native Americans would “vanish,” at least in part through biological dilution. New England’s native peoples were, for instance, systematically denied land rights and tribal status in the nineteenth century on the grounds that they were too racially mixed to be “authentic” Indians.

As historian Jean O’Brien has explained, “Insistence on ‘blood purity’ as a central criterion of ‘authentic’ Indianness reflected the scientific racism that prevailed in the nineteenth century. New England Indians had intermarried, including with African Americans, for many decades, and their failure to comply with non-Indian ideas about Indian phenotype strained the credence for their Indianness in New England minds.” The supposed “disappearance” of such Indians then justified the elimination of any rights that they might have had to land or sovereignty, the elimination of which, in a form of circular reasoning, only confirmed their nonexistence as a people.

However, it was never phenotype or distant ancestry but, as O’Brien points out, “complex regional kinship networks that remained at the core of Indian identity in New England, despite the nearly complete Indian dispossession that English colonists accomplished… Even as Indians continued to reckon membership in their communities through the time-honored system of kinship, New Englanders invoked the myth of blood purity as identity in denying Indian persistence.”

Such antiquated understandings of race as a biological or scientific category allowed whites to deny Indian existence — and now allow them to make biological claims about “Indian” identity. Until recently, such claims, as in Senator Warren’s case, rested on the murkiness of family tales. Today, the supposed ability of DNA companies to find genetic “proof” of such a background reinforces the idea that Indian identity is something measurable in the blood and sidesteps the historical basis for the legal recognition or protection of Indian rights.

The ancestry industry assumes that there is something meaningful about the supposed racial identity of one of hundreds or even thousands of an individual’s ancestors. It’s an idea that plays directly into the hands of right-wingers who are intent on attacking what they call “identity politics” — and the notion that “minorities” are becoming unduly privileged.

Indeed, white resentment flared at the suggestion that Senator Warren might have received some professional benefit from her claim to Native status. Despite an exhaustive investigation by the Boston Globe showing conclusively that she did not, the myth persists and has become an implicit part of Donald Trump’s mockery of her. In fact, any quick scan of statistics will confirm the ludicrousness of such a position. It should be obvious that being Native American (or Black, or Latino) in the United States confers far more risks than benefits. Native Americans suffer from higher rates of poverty, unemployment, infant mortality, and low birth weight, as well as lower educational levels and shorter life spans than do whites. These statistics are the result of hundreds of years of genocide, exclusion, and discrimination — not the presence or absence of specific genetic variations.

Reviving Race to Undermine Native Rights

Native rights, from sovereignty to acknowledgment of the conditions created by 500 years of colonial misrule, rest on an acceptance that race and identity are, in fact, the products of history. “Native Americans” came into being not through genes but through the historical processes of conquest and colonial rule, along with grudging and fragile acknowledgement of Native sovereignty. Native American nations are political and cultural entities, the products of history, not genes, and white people’sassertions about Native American ancestry and the DNA industry’s claim to be able to reveal such ancestry tend to run roughshod over this history.

Let’s look at three developments that have, over the past year, undermined the rights of Native Americans: the reversal of reservation status for Mashpee tribal lands in Massachusetts, the striking down of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and Republican attempts to suppress Native American votes in North Dakota. Each of these acts came from a different part of the government: the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior, the courts, and North Dakota’s Republican-dominated state legislature. But all three rely on notions of identity that place race firmly in our genes rather than in our history. In the process, they deny the histories that turned the sovereign and autonomous peoples of North America before European colonists arrived in “the New World” into “Native Americans,” and imply that Native American historical rights are meaningless.

The Mashpee of Massachusetts finally achieved federal recognition and a grant of reservation land only in 2007, based on the fact that they “had existed as a distinct community since the 1620s.” In other words, federal recognition was based on a historical, not a racialized, understanding of ethnicity and identity. However, the tribe’s drive to build a casino on its newly acquired reservation in Taunton, Massachusetts, would promptly be challenged by local property-owners. Their lawsuit relied on a technicality: that, as they argued in court, reservation land could only be granted to tribes that had been federally recognized as of 1934. In fact, the Mashpee struggle for recognition had been repeatedly stymied by long-held notions that the Indians of Massachusetts were not “real” or “authentic” because of centuries of racial mixing. There was nothing new in this. The state’s nineteenth-century legislature prefigured just such a twenty-first-century backlash against recognition when it boasted that real Indians no longer existed in Massachusetts and that the state was poised to wipe out all such “distinctions of race and caste.”

In September 2018, the Department of the Interior (to which the court assigned the ultimate decision) ruled against the Mashpees. Recently appointed Assistant Director of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, the first Native American to hold that position, “paved the way for a reservation to be taken out of trust for the first time since the termination era,” a 20-year period from the 1940s to the 1960s when the federal government attempted to “terminate” Native sovereignty entirely by dismantling reservations and removing Indians to urban areas to “assimilate” them. The new ruling could affect far more than the Mashpees. Some fear that, in the Trump years, the decision portends “a new termination era,” or even a possible “extermination era,” for the country’s Native Americans.

Meanwhile, on October 4th, a U.S. District Court struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. This is a potentially devastating development as Congress passed that Act in 1978 to end the then-still-common practice of breaking up Native families by removing Indian children for adoption into white families. Such acts of removal date back to the earliest days of white settlement and over the centuries included various kinds of servitude and the founding of residential boarding schools for Indian children that were aimed at eliminating Native languages, cultures, and identities, while promoting “assimilation.” Indian child removal continued into the late twentieth century through a federally sponsored “Indian Adoption Project,” as well as the sending of a remarkable number of such children into the foster care system.

According to the ICWA, “An alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.” States, it added, “have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.” The Act gave tribes primary jurisdiction over all child custody issues including foster placements and the termination of parental rights, requiring for the first time that priority be placed on keeping Native children with their parents, kin, or at least within the tribe.

The ICWA said nothing about race or ancestry. Instead, it recognized “Indian” as a political status, while acknowledging semi-sovereign collective rights. It was based on the Constitution’s implicit acknowledgement of Indian sovereignty and land rights and the assignment to the Federal government of relations with Indian tribes. The District Court’s ICWA decision trampled on the collective political rights of Indian tribes by maintaining that the act discriminated against non-Native families in limiting their right to foster or adopt Native children. That rationale, like the rationale behindthe Mashpee decision, directly attacks the cultural and historical acknowledgement of Native sovereignty.

Superficially, the assault on Native voting rights may appear conceptually unrelated to the Mashpee and ICWA decisions. North Dakota is one of many primarily Republican-controlled states to take advantage of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling eliminating key protections of the Voting Rights Act to make registration and voting more difficult, especially for likely Democratic voters including the poor and people of color. After numerous challenges, a North Dakota law requiring prospective voters to provide a street address was finally upheld by a Supreme Court ruling in October 2018. The problem is this: thousands of rural Native Americans, on or off that state’s reservations, lack street addresses because their streets have no names, their homes no numbers. Native Americans are also disproportionately homeless.

In the North Dakota case, Native Americans are fighting for a right of American citizens — the right to vote — whereas the Mashpee and ICWA cases involve fights to defend Native sovereignty. The new voting law invoked equality and individual rights, even as it actually focused on restricting the rights of Native Americans. Underpinning such restrictions was a convenient denial by those Republicans that the country’s history had, in fact, created conditions that were decidedly unequal. (Thanks to a massive and expensive local effort to defend their right to vote, however, North Dakota’s Native Americans showed up in record numbers in the 2018 midterm election.)

These three political developments downplay Native American identity, sovereignty, and rights, while denying, implicitly or explicitly, that history created today’s realities of racial inequality. The use of DNA tests to claim “Native American” genes or blood trivializes this same history.

The recognition of tribal sovereignty at least acknowledges that the existence of the United States is predicated on its imposition of an unwanted, foreign political entity on Native lands. The concept of tribal sovereignty has given Native Americans a legal and collective basis for fighting for a different way of thinking about history, rights, and nationhood. Attempts to reduce Native American identity to a race that can be identified by a gene (or a genetic variation) do violence to our history and justify ongoing violations of Native rights.

Senator Elizabeth Warren had every right to set the record straight regarding false accusations about her employment history. She should, however, rethink the implications of letting either Donald Trump or the ancestry industry define what it means to be Native American.

Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts and a TomDispatch regular. Her most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Aviva Chomsky


The Tale of King Demarth

A short story,  by Sha’Tara

The old woman looked intently at the young girl at her knee as she sat by the smoldering fire of the hearth. Outside the wind blew and scraped branches against the stone of the cottage.

“Did I ever tell you the story of King Demarth of Ulmn?”

“No, you have not.”

“It is a very good story. Now I have to think for a minute or two, just to remember some of the details. You see, it’s an old story, handed down many generations in our family. So many generations…” she goes silent and sighs.

“Yes, now I can begin:

“Once upon a time, in a land far away there was a king called Demarth who lived in a mighty castle. He had many men-at-arms and over the years his father and he conquered the surrounding kingdoms and added them to their domain called Ulmn.

The king, therefore, becamd powerful and very rich. He was also a man who loved adventure. Often he’d go out into the countryside with only a couple of retainers, and sometimes he’d even go alone.

On one of his lonely rides one day he strayed farther than usual and found himself in a strange part of the land. He was no longer certain if this part belonged to his kingdom or not. As he pondered which way to go, his horse, a tall black war-horse, snorted and angled his ears forward toward what looked like an orchard. The king urged the horse forward and was suddenly hit in the head with a well-aimed green apple.

“Ho,” he cried. “Who is it dares to throw apples at the king?”

A young woman climbed down from a loaded apple tree and stared at the king and his horse. Then she slipped to her knees and bent her head.

“My lord – I thought thieves were in our land again. I have grievously offended you, take my life.”

The king bade her rise and he looked her over. She was indeed very beautiful, though dressed almost in rags and her red hair was unkempt and wild about her head.

“What is your name, girl?”

“Alnya” my lord, she replied.

“Do you have parents?” he asked her.

“My father was killed in the king’s wars before I was born. My mother lives in our cottage. I have two brothers much older than I. They work in the fields.”

“Take me to your mother, then – how far is it?”

“About a mile, my lord.”

He brought the great war horse near her, grabbed her and swept her in front of him on the horse. She gasped as they galloped to the cottage. Once there, the king asked for water, drank, then gave the peasant woman a purse filled with gold coins in exchange for her hospitality and her daughter to take back to the castle.

For you see the king had fallen madly in love with the beautiful and daring peasant girl and had decided to make her his bride. This he confided to her as they rode back to the castle beyond the great stone wall. She wept at the news but he did not understand nor did he enquire of the reason. Tears are affairs of women he’d been taught – best left alone.

I won’t bore you with the details of making this peasant girl into a courtesan, but she learned fast. She had her brothers brought to the castle to train for knighthood, and her mother came to live there as well. The farm was rented and kept in the family by the king’s law.

The gist of the story, my girl, is that Alnya had a lover before she met the king. She tried to forget him but one day he came even to the castle looking for her. They saw each other and she contrived to meet him. They swore love to each other and she promised to find a way to be reunited with him. Then she made him leave so that, should things turn sour, he would not be discovered. Despite their love, great was the fear in each of them.

Alnya decided to risk all. She went to the king and declared that she had a lover and wanted to return to him to be married to him, despite the certainty of poverty, or worse.

The king became very angry. You see, he too loved Alnya. And he had the power of his law to force her to marry him. He could even have the peasant lover thrown into his dungeons for life, or killed. He ordered Alnya away to her chambers and took his great horse out for a ride.

As he rode, he made a point of noticing everything that moved. The birds, animals and the people at their work or children at play. He stopped on a high, bare hill, dismounted and thought about his situation. His anger was abated now. He watched an eagle soaring high in the sky, then come down, lower and lower, suddenly swooping into tall grass and coming back up with a rodent in its talons.

How like that eagle I am, thought the mighty king. How easy it is for me, so high, to pounce down and just take what I want. Perhaps too easy. Perhaps I must suffer shame and defeat again, as I did when my wife the queen died in childbirth and I was left alone. Perhaps the happiness of others is of more importance to the mighty than their own. What is our purpose but to ensure the weaker are protected from injustice as well as from physical harm? How much the more from any injustice I myself would inflict upon them?

The great king mounted his horse and rode through the forest in silence, coming upon Alnya’s village. He enquired after a young apprentice smith he was interested in for the castle forge, so he said. He found the boy at the forge, working the bellows.

“Ah, my lord the king,” said the smith. “Please come in. Is there something wrong with your horse, a loose or missing shoe perhaps?”

“No my good man,” said the king. “I wish a word with your apprentice, Garthain.”

So the king walked a ways with Garthain, Alnya’s lover. Suddenly the king turned upon Garthain and pulling his long double handed knight’s sword from its diamond-studded sheath, said, “Kneel, knave, for you crave the king’s own betrothed and I must challenge you.”

Trembling, the young man kneeled. But he looked the king in the eyes and said, “I love Alnya. I always have. We were lovers when you took her away. You took my heart and desire to live when you took her then. So take that sword in your hand and strike me dead. May my head be the trophy you bring to her wedding bed.”

The king help up the sword and brought it down… gently upon Garthain’s shoulder.

“I knight thee in the name of God and the Kingdom. If it suits you now, find a horse and ride back with me to the castle. Indeed there will be a wedding this week, and indeed it will be that of the fair Alnya. But let it be said by all that she marries, not of duress or fear, but of love. When you are married, you may choose to live here in the village – with my blessings and gold for help, or you may join my knights at the castle, though I warn you it is a harsh life there.”

And so it came to pass that the king rose to be mighty and had peace in his land for as long as he lived. And though he did not have a love of his own, he had the love of an entire kingdom, to his dying day, and he was mourned greatly for he had been the best king anyone had ever known.

And thus, it was said long ago, should all the mighty behave towards those over whom they reign or rule.

And now this story is yours and in turn you must tell it to your children. Do not forget it, ever.

Denos

[a short story,   by Sha’Tara]

In the Imperium, all the way back to the “old planet” (Earth as some still call it) the Princedom, or Kingdom, or world, or planet, whichever happens to be the most convenient political handle of the times, of Denos is known for a single product: it’s agricultural output in terms of crops. Cereals grow on Denos as if the whole planet had been designed but for the purpose of growing them. Well, not too surprising as in many ways Denos resembles the Great Plains of the Americas of Earth, or the Steppes of the new Russian Empire. There are no mountains on Denos, just plains cut through by hungry rivers inhabiting deep canyons. The rivers feed large fresh water lakes which in turn feed massive cloud banks that endlessly circle the world and feed storms. There are no seas or salt deposits. Whatever salt is required for the health of Denos’ 1.5 million inhabitants has to be imported. All Denosians of necessity are vegans: there are no animals and no predators on the planet and what there is of insect life exists within the soils and takes care of its own balancing.

Why would people choose such a bleak world to establish a human civilization upon, one could well wonder. The obvious, of course, is that Delos did not pose any problem as there was no sentient life the first humans and their sensors could detect. The main point however was caused by the diaspora from the old planet. Overpopulation, despite Draconian laws to control births, led to other even more repressive forms of population control by the Hegemon, the global dictatorship under which all nations fell and to which all owed fealty. Gulags, prison camps, culling of undesirables and the encouragement of genocide had contributed to rebel forces of scientists, engineers, farmers, doctors and teachers to form underground associations and deep under the Ural mountains and some parts of the Rockies under what had been known as the state of Colorado, beyond the reach of the Hegemon police, laboratories and plants were built and from these came the first real manned space craft to shoot out beyond the solar system to discover new worlds where humanity could once again seek the freedom to express itself as it chose. As the Hegemon weakened and broke apart to become the Imperium, the diaspora was legitimized and hundreds of thousands of Earthians headed out into space. Thus one ship came upon Denos and the spacers discovered its potential. Permanent settlements were established.

It is winter now in the Western hemisphere. The plains, devoid of crops, stand out stark, grey and sere. Today a steady easterly wind blows through the stubble. In a field that stretches to beyond the horizon, sheltered by a massive combine being drained and serviced, to remain in the field until needed again for the next harvest, three men, or rather if one looks closer, a man, a woman and a youth who could be either male or female, are clustered by one of the giant back wheels of the machine. The man is smoking a kind of odd looking pipe; the woman and youth are sharing a meal packed in a bucket. Their break over, the three return to inspection, draining of fluids and cleaning of various parts of the combine. It seems obvious they are taking their task very seriously.

As they are intent upon their work a dark grey bank of clouds is rising from the north and spreading over the land. The sun disappears in the clouds and the youth calls out to the others, warning them, or asking them, about something. Both adults stretch themselves to stand looking upon the coming storm. The wind turns into a gale in a tween (the equivalent of 20 minutes on the old planet) and the three humans hunker down on the opposite side, using the big machine as temporary shelter. Their low-lying, mostly below ground shelter, or home, lies a good league away and they know there is no walking in this “norther”. It would pick them up and throw them about like ball weeds (imagine a tumbleweed, only three times the size) should they risk the open.

The howling of the wind over and around the combine becomes deafening. Dry lightning crackles, throwing lurid streaks of reddish glow over the flats, here and there igniting fires that flare, then die as fast as they are lit. Now one can understand why there are no trees either in Denos: the fierce winds would reduce any tree to kindling in minutes.

The woman yells over the noise, “What if it hits the fuel tanks, Jord?” The man shakes his head as if to say, don’t even think about it. In a lull from the violence and noise of the storm, the youth suggests they just ride the combine to their home and return it to the field once the storm is over.

“You know the law as does everyone, Keela. We are not permitted to use County resources for personal use. We cannot use the machine, not even if we had the mayor’s permission.”

“We will die here if we do nothing, dad… mom? I promise to drive the machine back to the field as soon as the wind dies down!”

They discuss the risks, which seem small, that they would be spotted with the machine. In a moment they are aboard and driving to their home as the storm redoubles its strength as if intent on blowing the combine over.

Sometimes in the early morning the storm finally dies down. Keela dresses and goes outside to drive the monster back to the field only to encounter five members of the local Guardia, two inspecting the machine and three coming towards her and the house. Keela’s fear causes her to fall to the ground to be picked up, manacled and thrown in the back of another machine. Soon she is joined by both her mother and father.

There is a trial, of course, let it not be said that these people have no understanding of justice, or that they do not have a proper system to administer such. Images are shown of the combine dwarfing the abode of the Tanners. They are read the law, at which point Mrs. Tanner begs for her daughter to be spared. “She had nothing to do with this, it was Jord and I who made the decision to use the machine to save our lives, please!”

The presiding “judge” sneers as he turns to the three member “jury” and says, “The evidence shows otherwise. The youth was observed and arrested as she went to the machine, thus she is as culpable of theft as her parents. Our guilty verdict applies to all three.”

“God, no! She is only fourteen. Have some mercy!”

“Sentence for theft of County equipment and resources: death by firing squad, to be carried out immediately. This hearing is closed.”

So, under a bright and calm day, near the flag pole where a red and black flag proclaiming a free Denos moves languidly, the three are executed and their bodies hung on poles as a warning to others. They will hang there until the winds of Free Denos tear off their flesh and scatters their bones to disappear in the soil.

By decree, the Tanners’ home and significant properties will be added to the County’s growing number of lands reclaimed from “criminals.” There are no prisons, on Denos.

Is there a Collective Unconscious and a Collective Dream?


[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara

(Introduction) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Collective unconscious (German: kollektives Unbewusstes), a term coined by Carl Jung, refers to structures of the unconscious mind which are shared among beings of the same species. According to Jung, the human collective unconscious is populated by instincts and by archetypes: universal symbols such as The Great Mother, the Wise Old Man, the Shadow, the Tower, Water, the Tree of Life, and many more.

Jung considered the collective unconscious to underpin and surround the unconscious mind, distinguishing it from the personal unconscious of Freudian psychoanalysis. He argued that the collective unconscious had profound influence on the lives of individuals, who lived out its symbols and clothed them in meaning through their experiences. The psychotherapeutic practice of analytical psychology revolves around examining the patient’s relationship to the collective unconscious.

Psychiatrist and Jungian analyst Lionel Corbett argues that the contemporary terms “autonomous psyche” or “objective psyche” are more commonly used today in the practice of depth psychology rather than the traditional term of the “collective unconscious.”[1]

Critics of the collective unconscious concept have called it unscientific and fatalistic, or otherwise very difficult to test scientifically (due to the mythical aspect of the collective unconscious).[2] Proponents suggest that it is borne out by findings of psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology. [end of Wikipedia introduction]


In a recent post I wrote about an interesting dream I had involving certain “symbolic characters” currently much in the collective mind: Donald Trump as president of the USA, his press secretary, KellyAnn Conway, and the White House represented by a “Black House” in the dream.

Since, I have met one other person who had a similar dream on or about the same time I did, involving Donald Trump asking for help. 

In the comments section of my article, Katharine Otto  ( https://katharineotto.wordpress.com/ ) wrote: “Sha’Tara,  Your dream has been working on me since I wrote the above, and I do indeed believe you are functioning as a catalyst. I believe Trump is also a catalyst, in that he is rattling so many cages, but he can’t control outcomes. The outcome (or outcomes) depends on how we as Earthians deal with the changes. We do have the opportunity to uplevel individual and group experiences, maybe with a little help from our more evolved, extra-terrestrial friends, whoever or whatever they may be.

Maybe in a group-dreaming mode, we can dream up some visions of the kind of society we would like to inhabit.

Is there a collective unconscious (or objective psyche) and could this involve a kind of collective dreaming involving those free-er minds no longer bound by belief systems as promoted by organized religion or atheistic scientific materialism?  That somewhere between these antagonistic extremes exists a subtle reality preventing extremism from totally destroying a living sphere; a reality that dreamers can access and input into, thus adding to its power to dampen or control volatile conditions brought on by excessive greed and predatory lust leading to insatiable appetites for the predators; fear and uncertainty for their victims?

The “Teachers” warned me time and again not to embroil myself into the physical struggle for balance in the worlds of religion, politics and money.  They cautioned me not to “take sides” by exercising my voting “rights” as all such moves reveal a sense of powerlessness on my part and a gloating on the part of the enemy. 

Recently I compared the political processes world-wide as a game of snakes and ladders.  “They” cast the dice, we walk the line only to rise, then fall in turn.  “They” are the gamers, we the pawns.  Thus it always was, thus it always will be, until perhaps, as Katherine points out, more and more of us are drawn into the dream, expanding that gentle realm until the extremes dry out from lack of food. What is the extremist’s food? Violence.

The lesson of non-involvement through detachment is harsh and apparently pointless.  The dreamers are the conchies or conscientious objectors, not just to war, but towards all forms of violence.  All violence is always, without exception, an extreme counter life force.  All types of competitive behaviour is based in violence, like it or not.  Is voting then a from of violence? Yes it is because it’s a competition, a vicious game.  It is a religion, the  support of one’s particular “household gods” in the hope that they will bring peace, or if not, then the defeat of the enemy, whatever and whomever that enemy is – in politics, religion or finance there is always an enemy and all of it results in competitive behaviour and that always results in victimization, suppression, oppression, marginalization and often the genocide of innocent victims.

Who is the enemy of religion, politics and finance? The answer is obvious: me, if I dare become an individual who refuses to offer innocent sacrifices on the altars of oppressive and oppressing “divinities”.  Me, the self empowered who dares enter into the collective unconscious dream and therein draw off power from death-dealing structures to engender new life.  From this place I am neither heroine nor victim: I just am. 

A Touch of Home

[a short story –  by Sha’Tara

“Beautiful day, huh?” The slim brunette in the sleeveless black pantsuit doesn’t even look at Steven as she pours the coffee into the ornate, obviously home-made mug and hands it to him, taking his “toonie”[*] and two quarters for payment. He waves the change and walks to the window, to the only small table left unoccupied. He sips the hot dark roast and scans through his paper.

As many experts at reading the once bulky commercial dailies will tell you, there’s a certain art to this, one I’ve never bothered learning. You don’t actually read news or stories. You go through it page by page taking mental notes of relevant items to get into later. You skip the fashion, cars and trucks, and entertainment or sports sections if these are not your thing. Later, during your next break or back at home, you attack the pieces you hope will hold your interest long enough to provide a “shift” or a time of forgetting.

“Mind if I sit here?” A tall man in a grey suit points at the only seat left in the entire Java Hut coffee house.

“Not at all.” Steven points to the empty rattan chair. “I don’t own the place although at the prices they charge here I should have shares in it by now.”

The tall man sits down, puts his paper cup down. “If you don’t like these prices why don’t you go to Tim Horton’s down the street?”

“And do line-ups? I value my time. Beside I like to be able to taste coffee, not just hot water and sugar.”

“Ah, the very reason I frequent this establishment. Interesting mug you have there. Your own, obviously?”

“You’re either a lawyer or an investigator, sir!”

The grey suit laughs. “I do a bit of both actually; lawyering and sleuthing that is. I have a traffic case at 11:00 today as a matter of fact. Can’t really discuss it, you understand. But that mug is fascinating. It has a story: I can almost hear it speak.”

“A touch of home, sir, uh, ah?”

“Sorry. Al. My name is Albert Delisle, attorney at law and at large.” He laughs again and extends a strong tanned hand, impeccably manicured. Steven extends his and the handshake is firm, almost too eager; the grip of a professional golfer.

Steven continues, “I’ve had this mug for twelve years now as of yesterday. My daughter Katherine made it in a pottery class she was taking as an extra-curricular activity in her last year of school…” Steven stops talking and holds the fading white odd-shaped mug with both hands, hands of a man old before his time. Tears begin to flow from his eyes and the lawyer touches his arm.

“Sorry to stir up painful memories my friend, uh… no, don’t tell me your name. You must be Steven Baillie.”

Steven appears shaken and startled by the mention of his name from someone he’s never met. “That’s right. That’s my name. How did you know…?”

The lawyer stops him. “Sorry to startle you as well as upset you. If you tell me the story of this mug I’ll explain how I know your name.”

“Ah, yes. Twelve years ago my wife Jean went to pick up our daughter Susan at school to take her shopping for a grad dress. On their way home after shopping a drunk driver ploughed into the mini van. His vehicle, an old Ford 4×4 was totaled but he was thrown clear and didn’t get a scratch. My wife, they said, died on impact. Susan lived for one month of pure agony afterwards but the burns were too deep… The only thing that survived from the wreck and the inferno of the mini van was this mug. She was bringing it home for me after cleaning out her locker.”

“I’m so terribly sorry sir,” says the lawyer. “The driver of the other vehicle, his name was Gerry Felton?”

“Yes. That was his name. But how can you know this, or remember these details after such a long time?”

“Research. The man I’m defending today is that same driver. He’s charged with running over an old woman crossing the street in the dark, killing her instantly. He was driving while under the influence of alcohol and a mixture of prescription drugs. These details are in your paper.”

“I know. That’s an article I’ve been reading every day for twelve years.”

[Note: a “toonie” is a Canadian $2 coin]