Monday, February 13, 2006

Reality check via Monica Benderman

Christian Peace Group Charged Over Gitmo Vigil (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile, the US government has served legal papers to seven members of a US Christian group that held a vigil outside the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The group, Witness Against Torture, held a five-day march to the prison in December. Around 500 prisoners are being held at Guantanamo, most without charge. The seven members each face up to 10 years in prison or a $250,000 dollar fine. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights said: "I find it extremely hypocritical that Washington is investigating this group for the 'crime' of traveling to Cuba. The U.S. government is flagrantly violating even the most basic norms of human rights -- such as indefinite detention without charges, denial of fair trials and, most importantly, torture."

C.I. noted this today and noted the sense of outrage many of us are feeling. Sunny (my assistant and friend) asked me about that today. I'd just finished a session and she said something along the lines of "You have to read this!" but there wasn't time until lunch. You should also check Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.'s "A note to our readers." Guantanamo Bay was one of the issues C.I. raised and if you're confused about the "outrage" many of us are feeling, think about the fact that Gitmo began a holding pen for suspects in January 2002. It's now February 2006. Four years later.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941, we interned Japanese-Americans beginning in 1942. It was shameful. As I'm remembering my history, we began releasing large numbers in 1994 and in January of 1945, we ended the program officially. (The camps stayed open for those still trying to figure out where to go -- people lost their homes. They were pulled from their lives and homes for the "crime" of their heritage.) That's shameful and embarrassing to our history. The fact that it was "only" three years makes it no less tragic. But in the case of our current shame, we've already surpassed the three year mark. Do we learn nothing from history?
For those who've forgotten, our government's response to concerns has been that everyone's being treated fairly and if you don't believe it, check it out. The seven facing legal charges did just that.

Are they going to indict Bully Boy? He "incited" any action:

""You're welcome to go down yourselves ... and tak[e] a look at the conditions," Bush said."

So that's part of the outrage. Another part, an important component, is that this issue isn't being taken seriously in the corporate/mainstream/generic media. In ten years, when we're all disgusted by this section of our history and looking back, it needs to be noted that the mainstream media didn't cover this. Every month or so they might do something noting the administration's position. They didn't note the protest that led to legal charges. They never left the "safe" area. It's been four years now, at what point do they get real?

You think this is "esoteric"? It's very real to the people being "detained" who've not had a day in court but are "prisoners" no matter how often the mild term "detainee" is used. It's not just Guantanamo. Note the next item.

Report: US Aiding Construction of Morocoo Prison (Democracy Now!):
In other news, the London Times is reporting the US is helping Morocco build a new prison for terror suspects near the capital of Rabat. The prison would be run by the Moroccan secret police, the Direction for Security of the Territory -- known as DST. Several human rights groups have accused the DST of torture. Morocco is thought to be one of the key partners in the CIA’s rendition of detainees.

Short of repeating myself (and screaming inside my head), I have nothing to add to that.

So instead of banging my head against the same wall twice in one night, I'll note another topic.
I always assume every reader who reads this site is coming here via one of the community sites and that we're all on the same page. However, a reader wondered why I take Saturday and Sunday off?

I don't know that I truly do. Most Saturday nights/early Sunday mornings, I'm am helping out with The Third Estate Sunday Review. I see that site as an online magazine, if you're new to it. This weekend, I offered input of same form (I doubt it was "huge" or "helpful" input) on the following pieces:

Editorial: What Are They Saying, What Do They Mean?
It's all White
On playing the fear card
Cowardly Journalism Review (Parody)

I had no input on TV Review: On the lack of layers" which was written by Ava and C.I. who write all the TV pieces for The Third Estate Sunday Review -- and they do an incredible job on them. So I am participating on some level on the weekends, just not at this site.

The reader who wrote in pointed out that I am taking Thursdays off. That is true. But I'm not taking Thursdays off to kick back and relax. I'm working on Thursday evenings. Bless C.I. who will compose an entry no matter what -- on the road, at home, in an airport lobby, you name it -- but I'm not that dedicated or devoted and I have no trouble setting clear boundaries on what I will give and what I won't give in terms of online contributions.

Again, bless C.I., The Common Ills is an incredible site and the community that's sprung up around it, of which I am a member, is amazing. But I don't think lightening strikes repeatedly and I also don't think I have C.I.'s gifts. I think I have enough in me to do what you see online and that's about all.

This all started when I filled in for Rebecca at her site Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude when she needed some time off. I was happy to do that. I was nervous as hell and on the phone with C.I. from the first entry. But I did what I did, good or bad, and during that time also started helping out with The Third Estate Sunday Review, which Rebecca does so I was filling in there as well.

I didn't know how long I'd be substituting and I believe it came to five or six weeks. I don't believe I did anything "ground breaking" or even mildly amusing during that time. I'm proud that I was able to alert some people to the case of Kevin Benderman. But Rebecca's readers and community members were very supportive and gave me motivation and encouragement for which I'm very thankful. A number of them, though eager for Rebecca to return, didn't want me to just skip off into the sunset. Mike didn't either and he led the write-in campaign to request that I start my own site.

I don't know what I'm doing to this day. I'm always suprised when an e-mail comes in from a visiter who's never heard of any of the community sites but still stumbles across this site. In my offline life, I'm busy like most people are. Besides my work, I also do volunteer work with a group of young females. In addition to that, I enjoy spending time with my friends and dating. Now C.I. can go days with little to no sleep but I can't. For those who may be wondering, it was that way in college as well -- C.I. being able to go without sleep. I tried to keep up back then for a week by ingesting large doses of No Doze and it wasn't pretty. (C.I. is a natural insomniac and doesn't need to ingest anything to stay awake.)

So this is pretty much what I can manage. The process, such as it is, involves Mike and I talking on the phone at some point during the day before we do our entries. We go over the headlines from the day's Democracy Now! and choose two that we agree should be noted, then we write about that. Why Democracy Now!? Mike loves the show.

I started to type "seriously" but that actually is the reason. I love it as well. It's rare that I'm able to listen to a full episode. But I do attempt to each day at lunch. They do wonderful work and deserve massive attention for what they do. So we both note them at our sites. Maybe someone sees something here and thinks, "I should check it out"? Maybe someone is just aware it's out there? (Most people coming here are aware of the program and were before I started my site. The community promotes Democracy Now! heavily because we believe in un-embedded media.) Or, if nothing else, the links help its rank online?

Remember to visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's take. I think that if we're both having bad days (which we do), the two of us combined may actually make a single point. Hopefully, most days we do more than that. Three e-mails have noted my "boyfriend" Mike. Either assuming because we work on our sites together, we must be a couple or that I'm the female Woody Allen? Mike has a girlfriend. Her name is Nina and she's smart, sweet and attractive. I'm many years older than college student Mike. Thanks for the vote of confidence; however, we are just friends.

Mike also has a mother. He has a father as well; however, Trina has her own site, Trina's Kitchen, and I'd urge everyone to visit it. It's a once a week site. Trina will offer some of her opinions on the week's events and share a recipe. Trina is a wonderful person. Mike's father as well. I got to know them when we all went to DC for the September peace rallies and march. When Trina learned that I was spending Thanksgiving with C.I. (as I frequently do), she made a point to invite me to spend Christmas with her family. She, Mike, the whole family are wonderful.

If you're new to this site and are wondering, "What about your own family?" My family consisted of my parents and my brother. My parents died when I was young and my brother, who was 18 when our parents died, took on the task of raising me. We are very close but, having made his money in the financial industry, he spends most of his time in Europe. (He visits frequently but holidays aren't "our thing." Apart we can get through them, together we both go into dark moods -- thinking of our parents.) For those who are new, I met C.I. through my brother and C.I. met Rebecca through me. We go back many years. (Rebecca would say "too many years.")

So hopefully that clears up any confusion.

"Vigil for solider draws two sides: Veteran serving time for refusing to deploy" (Katherine Tam, The Olympian):
About two dozen activists, including eight from Olympia, called Saturday for the release of a soldier imprisoned here for refusing to deploy to Iraq a second time.
The activists held a banner that read "Free Kevin Benderman from Fort Lewis Brig" over the Interstate 5 overpass at DuPont near the military installation while drivers honked from below.

"He served in the military very faithfully and went to Iraq," said Wally Cuddeford, who was in the Navy for a year and a half. "The military, instead of honoring the service he has given to his country, is locking him up."
Benderman was deployed to Iraq from March to September 2003. He filed for conscientious objector status in late 2004; his application was denied. Conscientious objectors are morally opposed to war.
Benderman was to leave for Iraq again in January 2005, but he refused. He was charged with desertion and intentionally missing movement for not boarding the plane for Iraq when his unit left. He was found guilty of the second, lesser charge and sentenced last summer to 15 months in prison. He is serving that sentence at Fort Lewis.
Many activists at Saturday’s vigil said they have never met Benderman, but they support his right to be a conscientious objector. The group included veterans and those who have never been in war all from Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma.

Again, Kevin Benderman is someone we need to be aware of. Monica Benderman is doing her damndest to make sure that he's not forgotten or overlooked and I think the least we can do is support their efforts. If you are a regular at this site, you know about them. If you don't, I'm using something from a column Monica wrote for a "reality check" tonight (instead of a peace quote).

"Reality Check" (Monica Benderman, "How to Stop a War," Common Dreams):
Three years ago we were spending time together, every moment we could, building the type of relationship we would need to survive the unknown we were about to face.
It was our choice -- going to war. Based on the information we had, and knowing that we don't take our commitments lightly, we knew that we would face this duty to country together -- the commitment we had made. Kevin to defend the constitution, the country and all that it represented as a volunteer in the US Army, and me as the one who would take care of everything that was ours while he was away.
Iraq happened.
Can you truly understand what it feels like to watch in the darkness as your husband, loaded with weapons, chemical antidotes and somber anticipation, boards a bus to an airfield where he will board a plane that will take him to war? For those of you who have never been there -- please don't say you understand. You never will.
The feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming -- but you have to be strong when you realize that as much as the motive seems to be a duty to country, what it comes down to is that your husband will do anything to keep you safe -- so the country benefits from the love you share.
The months of finding creative ways to take care of this man who has volunteered to deprive himself of everything that home and our way of life gives us simply because he has enough love in his heart to want to keep what he cares about safe, are months you live on the edge, but also with a strength that can only come from that love, and from a greater being who does understand. Who gives you what you need because it is the love that this greater being respects, and the support that the love gives for standing by someone who has made the choice to live by what they believe.
War is wrong. Taking the life of another simply because their choices are different from yours, is never right. But believing in something based on the knowledge you have is not wrong, and standing beside someone you love because you support their commitment to what they believe, will never be wrong.