Category Archives: protest

Protesting Line-3 in the Twin Cities

“We have 10,000 lakes but do not care about the water that’s in them.”

Two things most people know about the state of Minnesota are the winters, and the number of lakes this state holds—10,000 to be exact. However, is it a lake if it does not have any water? Or worse if it’s contaminated by oil?

Two-thousand people decided to do something to prevent those two situations from happening to our state.

Those people included, “local elected officials, members of Treaty People Walk for Water who walked 256 miles along the pipeline route, and community leaders from across the state.”

These people in our community are protesting to stop the construction of the $3- billion oil pipeline plan called Line 3. This line is a 340-mile pipeline that travels up to Canada and breaks tribal sovereignty and overlaps on land that Indigenous people use to hunt and gather.

So, what’s the solution? To turn a blind eye and sacrifice our lakes or to find a solution that will ensure future generations to have a safe climate to live in.

There might not be an exact solution but there are actions we can take today that could change the outcome. If we turn a blind slide, we are inviting people to believe we do not care about the planet we live on or those who will occupy this place after us.

Things you can do right now:

Share, share, and share. Make sure the people continuing to express their voices in protest are being heard. Nothing gets done if no one knows about, and if no one is willing to work for it.

Get involved. Not only do you have the chance to attend protests to fight this battle, but the opportunity to inspire people in your community to do their part as well.

Resources to help you get started:

https://www.indigenousclimateaction.com/

https://www.stopline3.org/#intro

The Thing About Taxes

I will preface this by saying I am not well-researched in the areas of politics, national financing, or whatever actually goes into this mess, in the United States or elsewhere.

But I think it might be worth mentioning my thoughts on a few things, based on personal experiences, and some things I’ve heard that just… don’t make a lot of sense.

Taxes aren’t inherently bad.

The word “tax” in itself has come to have largely negative connotations–if you’re being “taxed” by something, you’re being weighed down or put upon. We have classic examples of people, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood stories, who abuse taxes.

In a truly ironic state of affairs, my dad is adamantly against any kind of raise in taxes, but he also works for the state of Minnesota, and part of our taxes are what pay his own wages.

But if taxes are being abused, for things like… oh, say, a giant wall, or a football stadium… then, yeah, I wholeheartedly understand the aversion.

I don’t think anyone is ever entirely sure what taxes are used for, but there’s obviously some mismanagement going on somewhere, and that’s the bad thing. Taxes themselves? They have some truly positive possibilities.

Let’s just, for the sake of imagination, pretend that a perfect world is possible. What should taxes, in a perfect world (and my opinion) be used for?

  • Protecting/conserving the environment
  • Researching and developing important new innovations in energy, transportation, and health (cure for cancer, anyone?)
  • Providing/maintaining a basic standard of health and well-being for everyone
  • Paying first responders, health professionals, and peace-keepers
  • Educating people well
  • Preserving culture by investing in arts, museums, libraries, archives, and community centers
  • Community improvements, like road construction, parks & rec, etc.
  • Providing some kind of safety net and/or rehabilitation programs for those who are  out of work and/or homeless. (This would include retirement, and being out of work due to an injury, veteran benefits, and other things of that nature, in addition to being in a bad situation for other reasons.)

Some people are really put out by the thought of providing for others. Which… I get, to some extent. At the moment, it’s hard to fathom providing for myself, let alone anyone else in the country–but that’s because a lot of things in “the system” are broken. They’re not being used the way they should.

If I had the peace of mind that came with guaranteed good health, the basic ability to learn the things I need to know without being in debt for the foreseeable future, and the reassurance that life as we know it wasn’t on its way to being toasted out of the Earth like a bad virus, I would happily give away a third or more of my income for the rest of my life.

In a perfect world, what would your taxes be used for?

What would you be willing to provide, to make your own life and the lives of others easier?

Dignity Granted by Survey?

Last fall I attended a rally in support of a protest over Washington’s NFL team name, “The Redskins.” I mentioned my attendance on my Facebook page and only two of my friends “liked” my post.

To be clear, I only have about 60 Facebook friends, but usually when I post something that reflects my values, I receive a dozen or so “likes.” I was disappointed—though not surprised—that posting my participation in the protest would garner less support than usual. It seemed to reflect the reactions to my stance on this issue in the “real world.” We, who are members of the mainstream American culture, can find it difficult to empathize with this issue. With the dominant narrative shaping opinion, matters of humanity and dignity can easily be overlooked.

Surveys

The majority of mainstream America, especially football fans, have expressed a strong desire to keep the team name the same. How do we know? Popular media outlets report on a multitude of surveys to let us know how unpopular a name-change would be. There is even a petition drive to keep the Washington “Redskins” name on MoveOn.org. It states that fans “are strongly against the name change,” and petition asserts three times that the Redskins name honors Native Americans.

But wait! Are the fans or team owners the best judge of which terms “honor” a group of people that are regularly disparaged by the larger culture?

Silencing a Legitimate Voice: A Parallel

I am not Native American. I have not experienced the stigmatized life that most Native Americans live. As a woman, however, I have experienced gender discrimination in varying forms for my entire life. I know when I am being heard and I know when my voice is being silenced.

The practice known as the catcall takes a variety of forms including one or more men calling out that a woman is sexy, whistling at her, or declaring by what method they would like to do her. The catcall is demeaning for most women.

If women were to point out that the catcall is offensive, would the media start a campaign featuring statistics of populations of men who wish to “flatter” women this way in order to legitimize the behavior?

Hopefully not in this day and age! Several decades ago, however, when women’s voices on this issue were finally becoming newsworthy, that is exactly what happened.

Amplifying a Less Relevant Voice

A survey conducted by WUSA9 and USA Today tallied more than 600 people over four days in September last year. Respondents were residents of D.C. and surrounding suburbs. “65 percent of all subjects responded they do not want the team to change its name.” The sample broke down as follows

  • 19% did not identify as sports fans
  • 53% were Washington fans
  • 28% were fans of another team

Sounds official doesn’t it? But these numbers are a distraction.

Rather than percentages of fan affiliation, let us look at the same study’s acknowledgment that “the majority … [found] the word ‘Redskins’ to be offensive in all or some context.”

Popular Opinion Can Justify Bias

Surveys such as these simply reveal a belief that the Native American view is not legitimate. Issues of dignity should not be left up to popular opinion. Especially if the opinions gathered are those who benefit from the imbalance.

Ignorance of the cultural foundations of oppression breeds arrogance and affords ensured privilege and a sense of entitlement to the dominant group. In contrast, humanity is given the opportunity to evolve when empathy rises to the surface.

As humans, we learn from our past behavior and bring that knowledge into our current responses. Isn’t waking up to our transgressions an opportunity to learn empathy and step outside the confines of self-satisfaction?

The Argument for Origins 

One argument to support the idea of “honor” in the MoveOn.org petition drive is the oft-cited intent of George Preston Marshall, the team’s owner in 1932. It is said that he renamed the team the “Redskins in honor of his head coach, William ‘Lone Star’ Dietz, an American Indian. This was done to honor Native Americans not offend them.”

Here, we have the dominant culture asserting control over “the truth” again.

Setting the Record Straight

In the CBS Local article, How Many Americans Think “Redskins” is a Slur, Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo gives us more to think about.

“Marshall had a reputation as a racist. He was the last NFL owner who refused to sign black players — the federal government forced him to integrate in 1962 by threatening to cancel the lease on his stadium. When he died in 1969, his will created a Redskins Foundation but stipulated that it never support ‘the principle of racial integration in any form.’

“And [Lone Star] Dietz, the namesake Redskin, may not have even been a real Indian. Dietz served jail time for charges that he falsely registered for the draft as an Indian in order to avoid service. According to an investigation by the Indian Country Today newspaper, he stole the identity of a missing Oglala Sioux man.”

Dignity for All

It can be difficult to let go of our understanding of how the world works. We have each invested in a foundation that we depend upon to know our place in the world. The foundation is reinforced by popular culture and reasserted by our belief that we mean no harm.

We have all, at one time or another, been hurt by those “who mean no harm.” Might we hope that they would be open-hearted enough to hear why it was so? Might we offer that same consideration to those who have had the courage to raise their voices?

By the way: The volunteers at MoveOn.org have placed a notice on the “Keep the Name” petition, stating that it doesn’t reflect the values of the MoveOn organization.

Revolutionary Communication: 1968 Paris Uprising Posters

Cook’s Choice- POST 5


My first sighting of Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster was at Barbette in Minneapolis. I routinely peruse billboards and I don’t think I hesitated more than five seconds before I unpinned it from the cork board, rolled it up and gently tucked it under my arm. I knew I had a treasure (and besides, there was more than one). The bartender noticed and I had to do a little sweet talking, but I still have that poster, among others. Not all of the posters I’ve collected are political, but it seems that some of the best posters in history have been either musically or politically oriented. 

“Return to Normal”

  
It’s widely acknowledged that the political posters from the Paris Uprisings of 1968 greatly define the genre. I was first exposed to this period of French history through the steamy film The Dreamers, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and set before and during the uprising. The posters shown briefly in the film piqued my interest more than the NC-17 content did, yet I could only find limited information, most of which was in French. Thanks to the Arab Spring and Occupy, the history of protest and protest art seem to have gained a lot of attention lately. There are all kinds of sources on the net and also a few beautiful new books dealing specifically with the poster art of this brief period.
 

“Be Young and Shut Up”

The uprising started with a small student protest and burgeoned into a 11,000,000 worker labor strike- 22% of France’s population at the time. They shut down the country and President Charles de Gaulle’s government was dangerously close to being toppled. You will often see de Gaulle caricatured as a large-nosed figure (see poster to the left). At the end of the protests, the National Assembly was dissolved and new parliamentary elections were held. The uprising forever changed France- all in two weeks!

“A Youth Disturbed Too Often by the Future”

The posters are the product of a group of art students called the Atelier Populaire (Popular Workshop). They took over the printing studios of their own university and cranked out an impressive volume and variety of posters in a remarkably short time. They switched from lithography to silkscreen because the prior method was too slow– the group often produced over 2000 posters per night. Most of the posters are monochrome, simple in design and direct in message. Posters were chosen by vote within the group and then posted nightly for the public to see current issues every morning. I will never again complain about how much work a social media campaign can be!

Although Occupy and these students share a common root (Situationist International), there is nothing vague about the poster messages of May 1968. They express anxiety for the future and distrust of authority and the press. They warn and inform of police brutality and call for for unity of the workforce and a better quality of life. They express that merely producing and consuming goods is not a good way to live and encouraged the viewer to believe that so much more was possible. They encouraged people to fight for change.

 

Atelier Populaire Mission Statement:
“The posters produced by the Atelier Populaire are weapons in the service of the struggle and are an inseparable part of it. Their rightful place is in the centers of conflict … in the streets and on the walls of the factories. To use them for decorative purposes, to display them in bourgeois places of culture or to consider them as objects of aesthetic interest is to impair both their function and their effect.”

Individual artists never took credit nor signed their work and long after these events had passed, the Popular Workshop refused to put any of the posters up for sale. I’m sure if these students had the media at the time, they would of been gods of Twitter and Facebook. Fortunately the media of the time left us a lasting and powerful record that is still relevant today. Despite the fact that the Popular Workshop would despise and discount me for a bourgeoisie, I would love to have just one of these posters prominently displayed in my collection. Ça, c’est dommage!  

To view more posters check out Art for Change.
To buy a book, see Beauty Is in the Street: A Visual Record of the May ’68 Paris Uprising

Tearing Our Eyes Out: What the "Springs" Have in Common

Blogging as Connected Writing- POST 2

Protestors in Iran during the Arab Spring

 I watched an animated video by Evegny Morozov called “The Internet in Society” that addresses how the internet may not help the cause of democracy. There were many things that struck me about this video, but in particular I was chilled by Morozov’s lecture point that currently in Iran, authorities are using the documents left online from the protests as evidence to crack down on the creators (bloggers, posters) and as tools to find the protesters depicted by re-posting pictures of individuals and encouraging people to turn them in.

It reminded me of Milan Kundera’s book/film “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” which takes place during the Prague Spring of 1968 when the Soviet Union and most members of the Warsaw Pact occupied Czechoslovakia to squelch liberal reforms that were taking place at the time. Kundera is Czech and lived in Prague during these historic events. A liberal communist and a patriot, he was deeply committed to Czech communist reforms along with other leaders such as Václav Havel.

Tereza, one of Milan’s main characters in the book, is a photographer struggling for inspiration and is deeply moved by protesters in the streets when the occupation begins. In frenzy, she shoots roll after roll of film and in the chaos, hands her exposed film to someone claiming to be a foreign journalist. The photographs are powerful- I have posted actual photos taken during this time period. With the exception of some suicides and incidents of self-immolation, protests were non-violent and there was no military resistance whatsoever.

Later in the story, Tereza is taken to a place where hoards of people are being interrogated in a large, open space by the occupiers. Scattered throughout the room, light boxes display the images she captured. The people in her photos are the people being interrogated. In Tereza’s photographs, each person is caught in a heroic and passionate movement or act of protest. In the room, the same people are beaten, injured, small and terrified.


 
Earlier in the film a public statement is made by Tereza’s husband Tomas (who seems to portray Kundera in his youth) asserting that despite lack of prior knowledge, people should be held accountable for the outcomes of their actions. He draws a metaphor that Czechs pandering to the Soviets should eventually claw their eyes out just as Oedipus did when their naïveté eventually and inevitably falls away.

 
When Tereza realizes the film she shot is being used as evidence, her hands fly to her eyes in horror of what her camera lens has revealed and the consequences her art has sown.

I still cannot look at the images from the Prague Spring of 1968 without getting tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart for the courage and obvious sense of mass betrayal and despair the Czechs collectively felt at the time of the occupation. When I look at Iranian protest photographs such as the women at the top of the page, I wonder if they are still alive. I wonder if any of the bloggers/posters in Iran or other countries like it, are feeling a sense of deep guilt or despair as a result of their online activism being used as evidence to punish those who dared to protest- that is of course, if these individuals themselves survived the subsequent response to their initial courage.

The media may change, but the tactics of oppressive regimes never do.