All posts by T. Mayheart Dardar

What Maketh a Man?

Monday morning is here, dawn has broken over the home of the brave and the land of the free. As those first shafts of sunlight creep westerly across the nation they illuminate, one after another, the flags that have risen to half-mast on this, another day of national mourning. The refrain is all too familiar to us now as we come to grips with the body count from the latest mass shooting. On this particular day after we confront the results of back to back slaughters that left over thirty people dead in the space of just over twelve hours this weekend.

As familiar as the carnage has become so too has been the familiarity of the rhetoric that follows the bloodshed. Politicians, pundits, and citizenry quickly fall into their ideological camps and point their collective fingers in a dizzying array of directions. This is not to discount every point of view but rather it is acknowledging the lack of genuine discussions and concern from many. Solutions are looked for, proposed, demanded, or ignored depending on the political leanings of those articulating the problem.

What is obvious by now no matter the denials from some quarters is the reality that this country is in the midst of a domestic terrorist problem. Radicalized white men have taken upon themselves to express their vision of manhood through violence and destruction. They see the world through a lens colored by hate, bigotry, and misogyny and have been convinced that they are some sort of ordained agent of change.

This particular social dynamic has been labelled as “toxic masculinity” by many and has become both an analytical tool and a catch phrase to describe the brutality and cruelty that has become so prominent in recent years. The deindustrialized United States of the 21st century has spawned a generation of men facing harsh economic realities of a consumer society, a world vastly different from the one in which they grew up in. For communities of color the lack of economic opportunity has been a way of life but for white America there has always been the promise of an “American dream” which is now out of reach for a growing segment of young white men. This inability to prosper strikes directly at their masculine self-conception and contributes to this implied toxicity.

None of this excuses the violence and hate but we would be remiss to not honestly examine and attempt to understand the forces at play here. There are those that refuse to even breach such subjects, proclaiming that what we call toxic masculinity is “the reason your ancestors weren’t eaten by wolves.” Any critic of this hyper machismo is seen by some as an attack on men in general and an attempt to weaken the gender by the forces of feminism. The make America great again mentality would hearken back to the mid-20th century example of the male ideal John Wayne whose character in the film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon says, “Never apologize and never explain–it’s a sign of weakness.” This then is the paradigm we seek to understand, what maketh a man? What is the parameters of the masculine ideal and how does the perception of that ideal relate to the barbarity on display in the mass shootings that continue to plague this country.

Beyond the economic realities of the 21st century there are also the new frontiers of media and culture that are defining this age. Masculinity must be elucidated in a world of increasingly less human interaction where the borders between fantasy and reality are becoming blurred and undefined. Those that seek to blame the rise in mass shooting on violent video games are simply looking for a convenient scapegoat and lack any statistical proof when we compare America to other nations who consume the same media and do not produce the same dire side effects. What is of real concern is not the violence of the games per se but rather that men are consumed by the games themselves and spend an inordinate amount of time “living” within them. Online communities can foster this escapism going beyond simple entertainment and enabling the avoidance of true maturity. Groups such as incel, self-described “involuntary celibates” turn their social awkwardness into a movement that avoids responsibility and growth in favor of victimization. This movement and others have been a part of the cruel dynamic that has fueled the continued carnage.

So today we have an image of manliness that is inextricably linked to violence. Open carry laws give us the pleasure of going to our local Walmart with our neighbor who feels the need to shop for groceries with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder. Ironically the statistics tells us that the number one danger he faces is not a robber but rather another white guy with an automatic rifle slung across his shoulder. Any attempt to identify or deal with these skewed male ideals is seen as attacks on American virility and a weakening of masculine resolve. So we hear ad nauseam that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun; the only way to prevent violence is with more violence.

There is another path, there are better examples of masculinity than John Wayne who was neither a cowboy nor a soldier but somehow became a cultural icon by pretending to be both. It is possible to be virile, manly, and strong without becoming aggressive, abusive, and insensitive. The theatrics of sports such as MMA have overshadowed the Martial Arts at their foundations. The arts, not so much the sports, produce individuals that can break bricks with their bare fist but simultaneously hold themselves to creeds that promote courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and an indomitable spirit. An example of this version of masculinity can be found in the life and writings of the Karate Master Gichin Funakoshi.

Sensei Gichin Funakoshi

Born sickly and premature in late nineteenth century Okinawa he was raised by grandparents who made sure he was schooled in classical Chinese literature and introduced to the practice of Karate-Do which at the time was taught in secret because of the prohibition by the occupying Japanese authority.

An overview of his life; Martial Arts master, father of modern Karate (bringing it from Okinawa to mainland Japan in the early 20th century), founder of Shotokan Karate (one of the four major schools), grandfather of Taekwondo (two of its founders were Funakoshi’s students), and author of some of the arts foundational textbooks. From such a resume we would imagine a fierce fighter with an intimidating persona in the mold of Steven Segal or Jason Statham. The real person we find in the pages of his autobiography (Karate-Do My Way of Life) is quite the opposite.

Funakoshi recounts a story of being accosted by a young would be robber while in his later years. Doing his best to defuse the situation proved to be unsuccessful when the culprit swung his umbrella at his head. Funakoshi, at eighty years of age, ducked under the swing and grabbed the assailant’s testicles and held him till a patrolman came along minutes later. He includes the story not as a boast but rather as a disappointment over which he expresses shame because he was not able to resolve the situation without offensive action.

These were not just the sentiments of an elder teacher, and earlier account in the narrative describing Funakoshi as a young Karate novice in the company of several other students who are confronted by a gang who seemed intent on confrontation. A fight is avoided because of the guidance of their Sensei who defuses the situation and prevents his student from depending on simple violence even though they were more than capable of defeating the more numerous opponents. Here too Funakoshi expresses regret, thankful that his Sensei had prevented them from using their martial skills on “untrained men.”

Among the many teachings and precepts left by Gichin Funakoshi are that there is no first strike in Karate, we should void self-conceit and dogmatism, and that Karate should be an aide to justice. These and other teachings are the foundational truths that mark the martial artist and indeed the man himself. This is the counter narrative to the ideal of aggression and violence being hallmarks of masculinity. Funakoshi was as, or more, capable of inflicting harm than most but found balance in his compassion and humility.

The term Martial Arts itself is a misnomer to a great degree. The term budo is translated into English as the “Martial Way” or the “Way of War” but a more accurate translation would be the “Way of Stopping Violence” or of making peace. This current propensity of so called toxic masculinity is nothing new, the realities of instant prolific communication has merely heightened its exposure. On a governmental level the two main responses to confrontation are war or sanctions that aim at crippling foreign populations. There has always been a department of war/defense but never one whose chief aim is peace.

Again, I do not believe we have the current epidemic of mass shooting because disaffected young white men are watching too many violent movies or are playing too many violent video games. What is at the root of this however are young men who loose themselves in the fantasy that those and other mediums reinforce? This ideal male that stretches back to John Wayne, Dirty Harry, or the like has ingrained itself within our culture and finds life today through the rhetoric of Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh. It is the mentality that says that the rugged individual, properly armed, can survive the apocalypse when history has taught us the opposite; it is the community of connected people that has the strength and tenacity to make it through. It is not our ability to knock down our opponent that makes us a man but rather our desire to reach down and pick them up.

Identity Politics and the Politics of Identity

A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

A constant cry from the far right on the subject of immigration usually contains the sentiment that “they” need to come here legally and when “they” come “they” need to learn English, suppress their culture of origin and become American. It is not a new sentiment but rather a question that has been asked in one form or another for over two centuries; what is American, what defines the identity of its citizenry?

As imperial America grew and expanded in the nineteenth century and cast it eyes and efforts towards the annexation of Mexico the great southern intellect and orator John C. Calhoun rose in the US Congress to address this very issue of what exactly comprised the American character and identity.

The next reason assigned is, that either holding Mexico as a province, or incorporating her into the Union, would be unprecedented by any example in our history.  We have conquered many of the neighboring tribes of Indians, but we have never thought of holding them in subjection, or of incorporating them into our Union.  They have been left as an independent people in the midst of us, or have been driven back into the forests.  Nor have we ever incorporated into the Union any but the Caucasian race.  To incorporate Mexico, would be the first departure of the kind; for more than half of its population are pure Indians, and by far the larger portion of the residue mixed blood.  I protest against the incorporation of such a people.  Ours is the Government of the white man.

— John C. Calhoun, speech on Mexico (January 4, 1848)

Here, in the early 21st century, so many suffer from an ahistorical perspective and fail to understand that the issues that divide and inflame us are not recent revelations but rather the cumulative results of centuries of injustice. The entrenched battle lines over the issues of race and identity that dominate today’s headlines are a continuation of a struggle that has at last reached its endgame.

Consider a recent tweet by the writer Josh Jordan claiming that newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was, according to a Gallup Poll, “underwater with every demographic group other than women, minorities and younger voters.” By implication what Mr. Jordan is telling us is that older white males are “every demographic group” or at least the only important one. Would it be too much of a stretch to see the continuity of thought between Mr. Jordan and Mr. Calhoun?

Despite the protestations to the contrary there still remains a virulent strain of white supremacy permeating the fabric of American society. Though not always a demographic reality the political power structure of the United States has always propagated rule by a white, Anglo-Saxon, predominantly male elite. In addressing this issue it is at this point we would start lamenting the election of 2016 and its results but as the above quote illustrates these thoughts and attitudes pre-date Mr. Trump.

Through two centuries American hegemony has maintained its preferred racial superiority with strategies of genocide, slavery, and oppression. In the early years of the republic the fledgling empire was surrounded and outnumbered by indigenous nations and imprisoned slaves yet it was able to perfect white apartheid rule. Despite the rhetoric of the equality of all people proclaimed by the sacred texts of democracy there has always been a struggle for actual equality by the voices from below.

This struggle has, over time, produced small victories but has had little success in breaking the structural barriers that maintained the political imbalance. The drama of American political theatre has played out through most of the 20th century presenting itself to the world at large as the shinning city on the hill while hiding its compromised core behind the curtain. The smoke and mirrors perpetuated the illusion of freedom while masking the reality of continued repression.

Unfortunately for those satisfied with the status quo the 21st century has dawned with a radically changing reality. Demographic projections tell us that America will become “minority white” by the year 2045 with non-whites, at that point, making up over 50 percent of the population of the United States. As referenced above, the early years of American existence mimicked this demography but political power was then vested in its white minority and that power dictated the parameters of American identity.

Beyond a historic population shift the 21st century carries forward a political revolution that has fought its way through the turbulent years of the 20thcentury. The question, indeed, is not the particulars of the 2040 or 2050 census but the extent of influence the centuries old struggle for civil rights has on the foundations of American political power. The question of our time will be, will the state dictate who we are or will the true nature of the citizenry be reflected by the state?

While politics have become a proverbial three-ring circus this question of identity lies at the root of the chaos. As the bifurcated government struggles across an ideological divide that seems unbreachable conservatives and liberals seem to have firmly planted their flags. A cursory examination could ascribe this current conflict as a continuation of the arguments of political dogma that has been a feature of party politics since the elections of 1800. Unfortunately, again, for the fans of the status quo this century will give credence to the Bob Dylan lyrics, “Times they are a changing.”

On the conservative side there is a substantial portion of the population that can be described as ideological heirs to our illustrious Mr. Calhoun. For those who marched at Charlottesville in 2017 or stand in support of politicians like Donald Trump and Steve King the question of American identity in the 21st century is not a question at all. To this faction of the U.S. electorate the historic White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant identity should still be the standard of our time. While there may be some softening around the edges the core of this demographic will remain steadfast till they are supplanted by a younger generation.

On the political left there is the claim, with some substantiation, of inclusivity. The democrats of today are the party of multi-culturalism and racial tolerance but there are questions about the extent of their political philosophy. For some historic perspective we need only consider the greatest icon of liberalism, Martin Luther King Jr. When Dr. King expressed his dream and marched for voting rights he had the support of the progressives of his day but when he went on to condemn the illegal and immoral war in Vietnam or the economic disparity in communities of color he quickly became anathema  to the same democratic leadership.

Through the progressive Obama administration the democrats continued the Bush “War on Terror,” tacitly approved political coups in Honduras, Egypt and Brazil, destabilized Libya and Syria, and set deportation records that devastated the immigrant community long before the arrival of Donald Trump. While Obama professed a liberal ideology the world continued to be on the receiving end of conservative policies that further destabilized the Middle East and Central America expanding a refugee crisis that has now engulfs the western world. This was the political reality that caused many to question the moral foundations of the left and dampened the enthusiasm for the 2016 Clinton campaign.

All of this brings us to the here and now as we move inevitably forward towards the 2020 Presidential election. More than a question of choosing a leader to carry us to the quarter century mark this election will be a referendum on the question of American identity. The election of this county’s first African-American president in 2008 and the fallout from that which contributed to the election of Donald Trump in 2016 has laid bare the racial and ideological divide and now demands an answer to the question, what is the quintessential American identity?

Are we destined to continue this century perpetuating the cold rigidity Nietzsche warned us of, taking our identity from a state that proclaims freedom and justice while its policies produce and support death and oppression? Will “American” continue to be a synonym for political power and the tyranny of that minority or can it at last reflect the true nature of the majority. Can we, as a people, come to terms with the idea that concepts such as universal health care, a clean environment, and an educated populace are not a radical move towards socialism but rather a fulfillment articulated by admittedly flawed men who coined noble sentiments such as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

If this experiment in democracy is to continue then it must shake off the shackles of kleptocracy, patriarchy, and imperialism embracing the ideals that have been claimed for over two centuries but never implemented. In fact we need to even move beyond that characteristic of American identity that embraces the notion of American exceptionalism. We, as a people, will become truly exceptional when we embrace the ideal of being human with the dignity and compassion that is inherent in that identification.

The Persecuted

I recently had the interesting experience of sitting in on a fundamentalist Christian sermon in a small church in southeast Louisiana. The text of the pastor’s sermon was drawn from 2nd Thessalonians, a Pauline epistle exhorting young believers of a fledgling congregation. The emphasis taken from the block of scripture this Sunday was Paul’s encouragement to his flock in the face of persecution. After setting the narrative in motion the preacher sought to establish an analogy between the persecuted 1st century church at Thessalonica and the 21st century church in America and Western Europe.

It was at this point that my mild disinterest was replaced by enraptured attention. Here was a subject that had stymied me for some time now; I had listed for years as various spokespersons for the religious right sought to portray the western church as an institution under attack by various political and cultural forces of a secular society. My confusion came, time and again, from an inability to see examples in the real world that matched the rhetoric I continued to hear from the pulpit.

Every local grocery store and chain department store I’ve shopped at here, in the American southeast, has some sort of selection of bibles and or books on Christian living. Every Walmart has these as well as at least one rack of Christian-themed T-shirts and Sweatshirts. For the DYI decorator Hobby Lobby offers a myriad of items to emphasis your faith in almost every holiday except, of course, if you’re Jewish in which case you’re given a couple feet of shelf space featuring Hanukah decorations at years end. Added to all this is the preponderance of satellite and cable channels available to the faithful every day of the week.

I honestly could care less about the availability of Christian swag, obviously the capitalist system has proven that a profitable market exists for Jesus paraphernalia; the lack of a preponderance of Jewish and or Muslim commentaries and accessories could be as much a sign of population demographics and markets as it could be of prejudices and discrimination. What troubles me more is that, in spite of this economic and cultural reality, the ecclesiastical message continues to portray the church as a victim of secular persecution. Despite open congregational doors across the nation we are to believe that the Christian faith of western nations is under threat. With these factors in mind I quickly became engrossed by the promise of this sermon that at last I would learn how, exactly, Christianity was in danger from a godless world.

“Did I understand” the pastor questioned “that today in western countries such as Canada or Netherlands a Christian can be put in jail for ten years because of their faith?” Unbelievable you say, such were my thoughts upon hearing this until I heard the  explanation that followed. According to the preacher the crime of faith Christians are getting charged with is hate speech. Herein is the crux of their argument, the rights of Christians to “profess” their doctrines has been hindered.

As the homily continued I did as the talk show host Joe Madison recommended and listened with the “third ear.” What I came to understand is that the fundamentalist Christian belief that the Bible is the uncompromised word of god supersedes, in their view, any secular social or legal constraint. If their interpretation of the bible condemns, for example, homosexuality then they see it as their “right” to discriminate or condemn what they consider a “sinful” behavior in any way they see fit.

Any attempt to deny the Christian faith a position of preeminence in culture and society is labeled by fundamentalist as persecution. It is this desire of dominionism over the politics and customs that drives the 21st century church of the west and frames the portrait of victimization. The principle of freedom of religion is proclaimed but the constitutional right to freedom from religion is ignored or repressed. While a large portion of the religious right supports Trump’s call for the erection of a wall to separate the United States from Mexico they actively strive to tear down the wall that is meant to separate church and state.

Ironically, as they rail against the other, the fundamentalist elements of the Christian faith have much more in common with the fundamentalist elements of what they consider heretical ideologies than they do with the secular and humanist in their midst. Fundamentalist Muslims, Hindus, and Jews also seek to control the politics and cultures of their states just as our pastor desires here in America. Any attempt to limit religious belief from becoming public policy is seen as genuine persecution of Christianity and a harbinger of the end times which, interestingly, brings the fundamentalist joy because it foretells their apocalyptic vision of the future.

This is a faith that does not encourage striving for a better world but rather it is a faith defined by what it opposes. Man, in their worldview, is born into a sin debt and the only path to a better world is through a door for which only the church has the key. In fundamentalist theology, of any faith, the keepers of the keys should be the regulators and rulers of society. While the rhetoric of the “war on Christmas” may sound ridiculous to worldly ears it belies a foundational struggle about the structure of world civilization.

Political Nuance

“The trouble with socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

This was the text of the bumper sticker adorning the old Chevy pickup in front of me in traffic today. As fate would have it, it was actually the second anti-socialist bumper sticker that I would see during my daily commute. The odd, coincidental nature of the two messages got me thinking about the nature and content of political expression these days and more specifically the lack of depth of those expressions.

While I am hesitant to be overly judgmental of Mr. Chevy experience has taught me that he likely would have difficulty explaining to me the difference between communism, fascism, and socialism. He likely has little or no concept that there are socialist governments that produce things such as universal healthcare, free college tuition, and progressive environmental policies and have made no efforts at global domination.

Here in the rural south such anti-socialist sentiment is, of course, not usual and I cannot lay all the blame on the drivers’ lack of political education. Beyond this region there is a portion of the American public at large that is woefully deficient in basic civics, misunderstanding not only foreign political philosophies but also the structure of their own government.

This is not a new reality for us, reducing true political nuance to catch phrases such as the expression of Mr. Chevy. We have heard these from “Just Say No” to “Make America Great Again” and everything in between. All of these exclamations are presented as succinct answers when, in fact, they leave much more unsaid and unexplained than they enlighten. Their appeal is to the emotions and not to the intellect encouraging us not to look too deeply into our political belief systems. I’m sure my fellow drivers’ fundamental disdain for socialism would not include any efforts to curtail his police and fire protection or his Medicaid and Medicare which are decidedly socialist programs.

Politicians are more than willing to play into these tendencies, offering simpleminded solutions to complex problems that they know are insufficient but that play well in media sound bites. On the right this strategy is usually all too easy to spot. A factory worker with two kids, a mortgage, and a car note loses his job because the business automated or outsourced his position. To call out the actual cause would put a republican politician at odds with the corporate interest that are a major funding source to his party. Instead said politician expresses some vague claims about the unregulated immigration system and connects unemployment problems to a supposed porous border.

For conservatives it has been an effective strategy as they use simplistic political stances such as “pro-life” to drive wedges into the American electorate. This action plan has produced results such as senior citizens who reliably vote for a party dedicated to taking away their Medicare and Social Security because they feel a moral obligation to oppose abortion. There is no examination on the policies that advocate defunding things like early childhood nutrition programs, medical care for poor or underserved children, or educational programs for children and youth. They simply look for the pro-life label and vote accordingly.

We would be remiss, however, if we did not admit to the prevalence of similar policies and tactics on the left. As we approach the midterm elections of 2018 the catch phrase of the democrats is “Vote Blue no matter who.” This dovetails with the rhetoric of progressive pundits that continue to castigate any non-republican that did not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. They have no compunction about telling those that cast their ballots for a third party candidate that they effectively voted for Donald Trump. The Green Party and the Russians, we are told, are responsible for stealing the election.

The discussion of the hacking of DNC emails centers on the duplicity of the Russian hackers and avoids any discussion of the substance of those emails. There are no serious conversations about the machinations of the democratic political establishment to assure that Hillary Clinton and not Bernie Sanders would be the party nominee. The dialog is always anti-Russian or anti-Trump (admittedly both are well worthy of criticism) and not on the qualifications are lack thereof of the democratic candidate.

We are told to forget the body of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler whose body washed up on that Turkish beach in 2015. A victim of the Syrian conflict, he epitomized the thousands of dead and displaced children that can be partially blamed on the regime change strategy perpetuated by the Obama administration. This was a part of the foreign policy initiatives that included the deposing of the democratically elected President of Honduras, the destabilization of the Brazilian government, and the destruction of Libya. The fact that these actions were enthusiastically carried out by Secretary of State Clinton is irrelevant. We are to simply “Vote Blue no matter who.”

Am I saying that in the end the Trump administration and the Obama administration are the same or that this is some kind of zero sum game?  Of course not. There is no ignoring the regressive goals of the Trump presidency, the flagrant personal greed and self-aggrandizement, or the disregard for any semblance of democratic principles. What are we to make, however, of a more palatable democratic administration that continues to funnel millions into the armed forces of Israel and Saudi Arabia which in turn sacrifices the lives of more Palestinians or Yemenis? Is it a simplistic equation that exchanges thousands of dead Muslims for a possible Supreme Court Justice? Were the record deportations under President Obama the price paid for the implementation of Obama Care?

So the hard questions are avoided or ignored and we follow the lead of Mr. Chevy and adorn our vehicles with our catch phrase political philosophies. The simplistic logic is always that we republicans are better than you democrats or we democrats are better than you republicans. You don’t have to look any deeper or apply any nuance as the answers are simple; the republicans want to make the rich richer at the poor’s expense, the democrats want to take your hard earned money and give it to lazy immigrants or any one of a thousand arguments that reduce issue analyzation and political discourse down to digestible soundbites.

The truth is that life is complicated and none of those easily digested slogans adequately elucidates the complexity of our world or the thoughts and motivations that drive it. We should not be able to look at the body of young Alan Kurdi lying dead in the surf and separate it from the policies of regime change or the body of Tamir Rice on that Cleveland playground and not understand why Colin Kaepernick took to his knee. No amount of flag waving or anthem singing can erase the blame or wash the blood away.

If I could have a real conversation with Mr. Chevy I would tell him that properly implemented socialist programs could assure him universal healthcare, low cost education, and a cleaner environment. Unfortunately he will likely continue to hold to those simple sound bites; real honest political dialog won’t fit on his bumper sticker.

Regime Change and Capitalism

Regime change, both the term and the strategy it describes, has become all too familiar to those who follow the machinations of U.S. foreign policy. Enshrined in the lexicon of our 24 hour media I would not hesitate, however, to say that most people do not dwell on the historic implications associated with its applications. As the current administration proclaims nations such as Venezuela, Syria and Iran to be targets for regime change it would be worthwhile to examine how this weapon of American hegemony has been deployed by previous administrations in previous centuries. While 21st century politicians still offer an exalted claim to the promotion of freedom and democracy an honest examination of this policy readily points to a more base inspiration.

In 1953 the democratically elected secular government of Iran, under the leadership of Mohammed Mossadegh, sought to nationalize the oil reserves of their country. This brought them into conflict with the interest of the British and American fossil industry which in turn influenced their respective governments to actively instigate a coup. The Mossadegh government was overthrown and a repressive government under the Shah was installed preserving western access to Iranian oil.

The following year, 1954, the leftist Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz instituted an agrarian reform law which gave peasant and indigenous farmers access to land being horded by foreign interest such as the United Fruit Company. Refusing to lose access to their ill-gotten gains the United Fruit Company petitioned their contacts in the U.S. intelligence community and within months a CIA directed effort produced a coup that violently deposed Arbenz.

The pattern is easily discernable, regime change was the tool readily made available to the interest of western capital to insure access to foreign resources. In these cases any attempt to nationalize those resources for the needs and desires of the people who rightfully owned them was met by the considerable abilities of agencies such as the American CIA or British MI6 which easily overwhelmed those governments and installed more capitalist friendly replacements.

Looking at these two examples there are many who will admit to the moral short comings of these policies but will at the same time excuse them on the grounds that this was a time when the world was engulfed by the Cold War. The struggles between the western powers and the communist east produced, they would say, many regrettable but necessary sacrifices. But was regime change a Cold War tactic or does its roots lie deeper in the American historic reality than they care to admit? Is it an essential weapon for the promotion of freedom and democracy as America continues to argue or is it, as it appears in 1953 Iran or 1954 Guatemala, a key component in the engine of global capitalism? To find our answer let us look beyond the ideological conflicts of the 20th century to the earliest expansions of the American republic.

In the latter years of the eighteenth century the Creek leader Alexander McGillivray played the interest of the American, British, and Spanish colonial powers against each other to further the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Creek Nation. His successful maintenance of Creek autonomy was severely threatened soon after his death in 1793 by a series of treaties between the Creeks and the Americans that encroached on Creek territory.

Creek society also began to unravel as opposing factions divided over the growing political, cultural, and economic influence of the United States. The Lower Creek towns, enamored with the perceived advantages of white society, sought to restructure Creek society to the Euro-American model allowing an increase of American settlers and traders into their territory. The Upper Creek towns, led by the Red Stick movement, sought to preserve what they considered the virtue of traditional Creek existence.

From an American position the Red Stick movement was a hindrance to their expansionist ambitions. The Federal Road first established in 1805 as a route through Creek lands between Washington D.C. and New Orleans and its expansion in 1811 allowed for an increase of settlers and commerce. The adoption of white farming practices and land owning customs amongst the Lower Creeks gave the Americans a greater degree of access and control to the Creek economy.

When the conflict between the Upper and Lower Creeks expanded into a full-fledged civil war it was of no surprise where the sympathies of the Americans lay. The culturally conservative Upper Creek towns and the traditionalist Red Sticks were determined to hold the line against the increased incursions into their homeland and sought to suppress the growing influence of the United States expressed through the Lower towns. To this point the Americans sought to use merchants, agents and traders to leverage their power in favor of the Lower towns but the escalation of hostilities offered a more direct route to what we would come to call regime change.

In July of 1813 a band of Red Sticks travelled to Pensacola to obtain weapons, ammunition, and powder from the Spanish Governor. On their return trip the band was intercepted by an American militia unit initiating what would come to be called the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek (relating to the location of the skirmish, Burnt Corn Creek in modern-day Washington County Alabama). The short-lived minor battle resulted in few casualties on both sides but precipitated an expansion of the conflict that quickly became the Creek War (1813-1814).

When it ended on March 27th 1814 at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend the Red Sticks were decimated and the United States was in a position to dictate the future of the Creek Nation and the Creek people. The compliant Lower Creeks and the defeated Upper Creeks were signatures to the Treaty of Fort Jackson which ceded over 21 million acres of Creek land to the United States.

Overshadowed by the greater conflict of the War of 1812 between the United States and England the Creek War was relegated to the status of minor engagement. Lost in the midst of the historical narrative are not just the details of the battles but more so the repercussions of its outcome. The millions of acres of prime southern agricultural land taken from the Creeks as well as millions more taken from the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Seminoles, and other southeastern peoples would be essential to the establishment of the American capitalism system.

Southern agriculture, King Cotton, was built in the decades following Horseshoe Bend, the Seminole Wars, and the Trail of Tears on stolen land by the forced labor of enslaved Africans. This was the endgame of the American support for the Lower Creeks and every other political manipulation that produced compliant “Medal Chiefs” that supported the assimilative policies of U.S. leaders from George Washington to Andrew Jackson.

Cotton would grow to become over sixty percent of American exports prior to the Civil War and was crucial to every aspect of the American economy from New England textile mills to New York City financial institutions. The power of the southern slave states grew expediently prior to 1860, to say that slavery was the cause of the Civil War would limit our understanding of the nuances of American politics in the mid-19th century. It would be more accurate to say that the threat of disruption to the Union, more specifically the economy of the Union, was the casus belli for northern politicians while in the south it was the threat of losing the economic advantage that came with the institution of slavery.

Lincoln himself would state in a letter to Horace Greeley in 1862 that, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it”. While he had issues with slavery, advocating at one point the expulsion of freed slaves back to Africa, his loyalty was to the United States and its economic empire. The system that dispossessed Indigenous Peoples from the land and brought Africans here to cultivate and exploit it was, in the end, the system both sides sought to perpetuate in one form or another.

Regime change is simply one of the many tools used, whether two centuries or two weeks ago, to perpetuate the supremacy of capitalism. Despite all claims that it is the only path to a democratic utopia history shows us that it has an insatiable appetite to consume and destroy. There are times when it would seem to bring a level of prosperity to the marginalized but those usually short periods are the exception and not the rule. The nature of the system is predatory. Like the faiths of the ancients it requires a blood sacrifice.

Slavery ended in 1865 but within a few years the southern planter aristocracy was allowed to regain political power and the former slaves and their descendants were made to endure a century of “Jim Crow” oppression to keep them available as cheap labor for the southern economic recovery. Any just reparations such as “40 acres and a mule” were lost with the death of Reconstruction in 1877.

For poor whites the post-World War II boom years gave rise to an economically stable middle class because of the labor needs of industrial capitalism. To fuel the expansion of growing businesses such as the automotive and fossil fuel industries the economic elite was forced to pay higher salaries and submit to higher taxes on themselves. This transitional period lasted over three decades till the pendulum swing was manipulated to catapult in the opposite direction.

Offshoring and outsourcing are the mantras of global capitalism as it stretches beyond any nationalistic restrictions. The sweatshop worker of the 21st century has replaced the 19th century slaves until they themselves are able to be replaced by the ultimate labor force, automation. While political factions fight over the crumbs that fall from the tables of the economic elite the gap between the top and the bottom grows at an accelerating rate. Regime change still rears its head from time to time to keep selected regions politically unstable and unable to protect their resources from the avarice of the financial predators.

It is no accident that countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain unstable while multi-national corporations continue to reap massive amounts of profits from the exploitation of its mineral wealth. The threat to the economic monopoly France enjoys over its former colonies in West Africa by the pan-African efforts of Muammar Gaddafi was the chief impetus for the 2011 regime change in Libya that cost him his life. In places such as Syria and Venezuela it is always prudent to remember the mantra “follow the money” and not be distracted by any patriotic rhetoric.

Since 2016 the American left has sought to recast itself as the resistance, fighting the fascist, imperialistic, pro-industry policies of the Trump administration. While there is no white-washing (excuse the pun) the repugnant nature of the 45th President of the United States we must not lose sight of the reality that Mr. Trump is not the cause, rather he is the end result of rot that lies at the heart of American politics. While a President Barak Obama was much more palatable to the senses it was the Obama administration that gave us the regime change in Libya in 2011 that made it a failed state and is still flooding Europe with refugees. It was the Obama administration that allowed regime change in Honduras bringing to power a government more compliant to global capital but oppressive to its own population. Now a haven for criminality its population, fleeing violence, adds to the asylum seekers at the southern border.

The economic system that allows multi-national giants such as Apple or Westinghouse to pay little or no taxes but has no money or political will to feed its hungry children or fix its failing infrastructure will not change with the next election or any that will follow. Both political parties in America are beholden to the dictates of global capital; the system is biased and corrupted. If there is a silver lining to the Trump administration it is that the insidious nature of capitalism is finally laid bare for all to see. The quid pro quo of Sheldon Adelson, the pro-Israeli billionaire, opening up his checkbook to Trump and the Republican Party just prior to the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem leaves little doubt of the true nature of the post-Citizens United political reality.

While the mechanics of regime change has become much more sophisticated and complicated since that hot July day on Burnt Corn Creek in 1813 the overall goal has remained the same, make the world safe and profitable for the needs of capital. As the reach of industry has become global then so has communication enabling poor and indigenous people around the world find allies amidst there struggles. The same fossil fuel corporations that pushed Houma People off their lands in coastal Louisiana in the 1930s are the same corporations that are polluting the homelands of Cofan and other tribes in Ecuador in the 21st century. The tactics used against pipeline protesters in South Dakota were perfected by the Israelis against Palestinian protestors in the West Bank and Gaza. Hope may lie in the common interest amongst the Wretched of the Earth in true resistance and in their ability to frame the conflict as the anti-imperialistic struggle that it truly is.

On Guns

I grew up as the child of a small Houma Indian community in south Louisiana. My father was a hunter, trapper and commercial fisherman so my early years were spent at his side observing and learning those life-ways. In our household a gun was just another tool with which we put food on the table.

My first experience hunting was with a single-shot 410 shotgun with which, as a youngster, I brought home my first meal, a fat little marsh hen. In that experience was embedded one of the most important firearm lesson my dad would teach me. While I had friends who would use an occasional, non-eatable, seagull or blackbird for target practice my dad was emphatic that “if you kill it you eat it!” Waste and wanton destruction was a cultural faux pas that was unacceptable.

It is this background that always foreshadows my contemplation of the gun debate that has been so prevalent in America these past couple decades. I consider my observations on this charged political oratorical struggle to be somewhat non-partisan. I’ve been a registered independent since I signed my first voter registration nearly forty years ago. As an indigenous scholar with definite anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist leanings I do not fit squarely into either of the two political polarities. From this position issues are judged on merit, I would hope, and not as democratic issues or republican issues.

My social media feed today contains opinions across the spectrum from the friend who remembers fondly the bygone years when high schoolers had gun racks in their pick-up trucks to the social activist who wants to end private gun ownership this minute. They are, of course, entrenched in their respective political parties and leave little room for the possibility of common ground.  If there are to be solutions found it would seem that a first step would entail a lowering of those party flags. Unfortunately, it seems that with every incident, with every mass shooting, the flags go up, the bunkers are strengthened, and the doors are closed.

On the right, once you get past thoughts and prayers, we are pointed in the direction of mental illness or violent video games while the left calls out the corrosive influence of the NRA. This, of course, does not imply that there is some sort of both sides do it equivalency but rather speaks to the fact that both camps have now stock, pre-loaded responses ready for the revolving news cycle.

I feel forced to question the assumptions and interpretations of the gun rights advocates. Statistics tell us that mental illness is responsible for 5 percent or less of gun deaths in the United States. Further, it is understood that mental illness affects men and women somewhat equally yet the perpetrators of mass shootings are predominantly male. As to the influence of violent video games, these also exist in countries such as Denmark or Japan yet they have somehow escaped our mass shooting epidemic.

While I understand fully how the continued carnage in our classrooms inspires a passionate call in some to eliminate private gun ownership I cannot fully acquiesce to the idea as a solution. On the practical side we live in a nation of over three million guns; we are 5 percent of the world’s population yet we own over half of the world’s guns. If the sale of guns were outlawed today, this dynamic would not change for some time. Change, especially political change, has and always will be incremental at best. Fair, just, or infuriating, it is a reality we are forced to live with.

Added to this is the actuality that in America today money is considered legally to be speech so that now organizations such as the NRA can pour millions of dollars of gun manufacturers’ speech into the pockets of politicians to influence or obscure the issue. By equating money with speech the debate is skewed and any attempt to find a democratic consensus is curtailed.

An honest, personal perspective; I don’t see how giving up my shotgun or hunting rifle, if I care for and use them responsibly, could curtail or reduce needless gun violence. I feel like giving up these tools with which I can feed my family or enjoy recreationally would be patently unfair or unjust. While, at the same if I am asked or legislated into giving up my right to own a semi-automatic assault rifle I would wholeheartedly agree. My experience in the Armed services with the M-16 more than demonstrated to me its impracticality as a hunting weapon and its lethality as a weapon of war.

For those who feel that they need an assault rifle to stand against a potential tyrannical government I remind them that said tyrannical government possesses weapons such as tanks and hellfire missiles in abundance. A personal AR-15 is little deterrent to the most powerful army on earth. If we want to be truly safe from a tyrannical government, a vicious drug gang, or any imagined threat we should put all our efforts into securing a government that is ruled by its people and not by its corporations or special interest groups. When over 80 percent of the U.S. population supports common sense gun regulation yet the debate remains stymied in a political quagmire there would seem to be a fault in the political foundation.

If these common sense regulations only result in a 5 or 10 percent drop in mass shootings are not those lives worth the effort? I know there are those that proclaim that any legislative restrictions will lead eventually to confiscation. To that argument we have but to point to District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the right to individual ownership of guns. If you agree or disagree with the decision, it is still the law of the land and the government is obligated to it. Besides the reaffirming of those 2nd Amendment rights it did, also, reaffirm the government’s right and duty to regulate that right. You can have a rifle or pistol but you can’t own your own personal cruise missile.

Democracy is a matter of trust; can you trust your government to defend the right to own a gun while at the same time restricting the type and capacity of said weapon for the greater good of all? Or do you feel like all that stands between you and tyranny is your AR-15? Is this withholding of trust worth the price paid in blood for the anarchy it produces?

Rotten to the core

We’ve all heard this story in one form or another. A person finally convinces themselves to go see their doctor for some innocuous but persistent problem. Their hope is for relief from a quick injection or a round of pharmaceuticals. Sadly, for our protagonist, it will not be that simple or easy. The seemingly benign symptoms mask a hidden carcinoma lying unseen in some forgotten region of their body, the mostly tranquil surface masking a concealed decay deep in the core that denies a healthy foundation.

It’s a sad story and for our purpose here, an analogy for a truly sad reality. It’s a tale buried deep in the American narrative, anathema to the patriotic rhetoric of our times. The connection for our analogy might not be immediately apparent but bear with me here for a few paragraphs and I think we may come to the same conclusions.

Our analysis begins here with the current controversy over the Alabama senate race and the Republican candidate Roy Moore. Mr. Moore, a self-described Christian conservative who sacrificed his position as an Alabama Supreme Court Justice on a stone monument to theological supremacy. Unfortunately for his current political ambitions the transition from state to national politics shinned exponentially more light on his professions of righteousness. It would seem that Mr. Moore’s predilection for under-aged girls was a not so well hidden local secret that has become a national issue.

Coming on the heels of the Harvey Weinstein revelations and following the election of the “grab them by the genitals” Commander-in-Chief the Moore controversy quickly became another chapter in the ongoing purge of predatory misogyny. To those on the right of the political spectrum the possibility that a secure senate seat is at risk seems to be more salient than the election of an accused child molester. To some on the left this represents another battle in the conservative “war on women.”

Of course, the misogyny highlighted by all these revelations is not confined to democrats or republicans, as the recent disclosures about Senator Al Franken make clear. Men behaving badly is not a partisan issue, neither is it a recent phenomenon. Patriarchy lies at the heart of civilization and in the bastion of western democracy, the United States of America. Let us not forget that America existed for almost one hundred and fifty years before women were even afforded the right to vote.

While our discussions range from Bill Clinton’s oval office indiscretions to pictures of Congressman Joe Barton’s junk we have to remember the historical context. While the beloved founding father who penned the immortal “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;” seemed to have no compunction about fathering children by his slave. Despite the proclamations of freedom and liberty there existed a dark backdrop of bondage and suppression.

As marginalized segments of America’s population raise their voice in opposition to the repressive policies of the current administration their calls for justice are a continuation of an aged narrative. The plight of African-Americans highlighted by Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick stretch back to the failure of Reconstruction, the quest for equal rights for women began long before the struggle for Women’s suffrage, and the basis of the protest at Standing Rock lies in the lack of America’s commitment to the treaties it signed with the Indigenous Nations of North America. The seemingly healthy facade of “We the People” belies the marginalization of those people that exist outside of the white, landed power structure that enshrined those words.

For those on the left of the political spectrum the danger lies in believing that the only solution comes with a “D” following its name. Their reasoning declares that women would be so much better off if America had elected its first woman president in 2016 instead of their first orange one. While it is, of course, obvious that the serial sexual abuser-in-chief is a worst case scenario for America’s female population we should not give an easy pass to his opponent.

As the head of Obama’s State Department Hillary Clinton bears a great deal of responsibility for the failed states that resulted in Libya and Syria because of their regime change policy. While I care deeply that the gains in healthcare afforded by the ACA remain in place and that Planned Parenthood’s assistance to poor and marginalized women in the United States continue unhindered I cannot forget the bodies of women and children that washed up on Mediterranean beaches as a result of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy.

I know the refrain well; the only option of our political duopoly is to choose the “lesser of two evils.” We are quick to declare this the price worth paying for our democracy, not giving a thought to how the Syrian mother who lost her children beneath the waves or the African man who now finds himself sold into slavery in Libya might feel. Can we decry the republican America-first mantra without also being honest about the duplicity inherent in the majority of the democracy and freedom rhetoric?

So what’s the answer? In a phrase, I don’t know, but what I do know or believe is that it has to start with leaders who are more dedicated to principals instead of politics. If we are going to lambaste the republican attempt to take away healthcare where is the legitimate proposal for healthcare for all? If we criticize conservative militarism where is the serious legislation to slash defense spending? If we really believe that Black lives matter where were the voices of the liberal elite when 12 year old Tamer Rice lay dying in the snow in Cleveland? In a word, honest, let’s have an honest conversation on what it will really takes for this to be a safer world for women and a better world for all of us.


Here in south Louisiana we are, to a degree, surrounded by levees. For those not familiar with them, levees are manmade earthen barriers that are designed to protect the inhabited areas of the region from rising waters and storm surges. They are not a new strategy, historical accounts tell us of levees being erected by the first European settlers to the area three centuries ago. European styled settlements were always challenged by the climate and ecology of the bayou land.

Levees, locks, canals, and pumping stations are all modern manifestations of this centuries old effort to live against the ongoing pressures from the environment. From another perspective this reality reflects a philosophical ideal of living in opposition to the natural flow of existence. In this sense levees stand as a physical manifestation of this philosophical principle of standing against while, for millennia indigenous peoples here in what is today Louisiana have lived in a state of coexistence with their surroundings. The ebb and flow of life dictated the life-ways of the people of the land and ordered our existence.

Most of my life was spent in Plaquemines Parish (in Louisiana counties have retained their ecclesiastical designation as parishes), which stretches from just south of New Orleans to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Growing up in the southern portion of the parish, levees were a constant part of my physical surroundings. In 1969 we lost our home in one of the small Indian settlements “outside the levee” to hurricane Camille and upon our return took up residence inside the hurricane protection system.

For the next thirty-five years my life would evolve within the protections of those earthworks that surrounded my hometown. High school, marriage, and the birth of my children would all take place in the confines of the same south Louisiana settlement. From my front yard looking east you could see the great ships passing in the river, if you looked up that is. The inhabited land in southern Plaquemines within the levees is on average about 15 feet below sea level and only the levees keep out the Mississippi River to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west.

And so it was, for those thirty-five years that despite numerous storms and hurricanes the levees kept us safe and dry. Within the shadows of those man-made dikes the community survived and prospered in spite of nature’s seasonal upheavals. The U.S. Corps of Engineers had constructed a defacto barrier between the manufactured world I lived in every day and the reality of the ecosystem that surrounded us.

This all came crashing down on August 29th 2005 when hurricane Katrina came to call. Her thirty foot storm surge rolled ashore to challenge our hurricane protection walls that had stood for over three decades and our protection was found wanting. Two or three major breeches were all that was needed to put my home and the homes of my neighbors underwater. On that day we learned that no matter how much time, money, and effort is put into levee construction they are not, on their own, a permanent solution for the security of at risk communities.

During those years before 2005 as the real levees grew in high and breath the vibrant marshlands outside them deteriorated as the avarice of 20th century economic development devoured them. From the inside there is a false sense of security that grew with each year that passed while the forces of coastal erosion raged on. Since the 1930s Louisiana has lost over 2000 square miles of land, but since 1969 we were “safe” inside the levees.

I think about that lesson as I contemplate the metaphorical levee that surround us just as those physical one did. We don’t recognize them as levees but they are artificially constructed barriers that seek to shield us from the realities that exist outside of them. They exist in many forms and in many areas but they all have in common a foundation based on a constructed reality. And as we do with the physical ones, we need to set our sights on what is transpiring outside our figurative levees.

Ironically it is again in New Orleans, the focal point for physical levee failures in 2005, in which the failure of a philosophical barrier transpires in 2017. In the last few months all eyes have turned to the Crescent City as several century old monuments dedicated to the long defeated Confederate States were removed from their positions of prominence. Battle lines erected between those who supported the administration of Mayor Landrieu and his removal directive and those who opposed him in the name of heritage and history exposed the fallacy of many of the accepted views on the status of race relations in the city and in the state.

Race relations stand as a levee constructed over decades and giving us the sense of security based on the idea that we have not fully attained equality but we are “headed in the right direction.” The barrier is well known though not readily recognized for what it truly is. We are taught about the progress we’ve made, reminded about the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the election of Barack Obama all of which assures us protection from a social and civil system based on discriminatory statutes and traditions. We have the ability within this levee to realize the great American creed that all men are created equal.

But here in New Orleans within the levees, both physical and metaphorical, stood those statues dedicated to the battles and heroes of the Confederate States of America. For decades they have stood in counter distinction to the civil rights struggles that have transpired in their shadow. As the controversy over their existence reached its recent crescendo one could not help but wonder about the world that has transpired under the shadow of Robert E. Lee’s statue in the now oddly named “Lee’s Circle.”

To the defenders of the Confederate statuary these are memorials to a particular part of the city’s three centuries of history. The monuments to Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, and the Battle of Liberty Place commemorate the men who stood for a noble, though ill-fated cause and attest to heritage and not hate. The War Between the States is framed as a conflict over state’s rights and the issue of slavery is greatly minimized. These noble men fought in what their generation would call The War of Northern Aggression and their memory should continue to be honored.

In truth these shrines were erected in honor of an insurrection that sought to tear apart the nineteenth century United States of America to maintain an economic system that depended on chattel slavery to survive and prosper. No less a voice than Alexander Stevens, the Vice-President of the Confederacy, would declare in 1861 that slavery was the cornerstone on which the Confederacy was founded. This fact is reinforced by the succession proclamations of the individual states and stands in opposition to the modern defenders of these particular monuments and their view of history.

So the question asked in New Orleans, and increasingly across the south is this, can we have both a fair and just society and memorialize those who fought to prevent such a society from coming into existence. The answer for over a century in New Orleans has been yes and with that yes a levee was constructed that sought to protect both sides but in reality only fostered a false sense of peace and progress. From inside this levee we struggle to understand recent events in places like Ferguson, Missouri and movements such as Black Lives Matter because we’re shielded from the reality outside our protected system.

In truth the conflict over slavery and race has never truly been settled in this country, Appomattox Court House was not the final word by any means. When General Sherman tried to implement his famous “40 acres and a mule policy” he understood as the military victor that to assure that victory he needed to dismantle the white power structure of the south and give the former slaves an economic and social step-up to real equality. That effort continued sporadically through the Reconstruction Era but ended when Federal Troops were withdrawn from the former Confederacy in 1877.

The century of discrimination, lynching, and Jim Crow that followed made the Civil Rights struggles of the 20th century inevitable. The just and equal society that was paid for with the pains of the Civil War and built by Reconstruction policies was abandoned for economic and political expediency. The controversial monuments of recent news reports were erected at the end of the nineteenth century more as testaments to the survival of the antebellum power structure than to bravery of Confederate leaders. Indeed the Liberty Place Monument specifically commemorates a violent insurrection instigated by the Crescent City White League against the duly elected Reconstruction government in 1874.

None of these historical realities are addressed within our metaphorical levee so the turmoil that transpires outside their protective heights is misunderstood or ignored. When protesters raise their hands for justice or broach the age old subject of reparations there are many who are indignant or confused. Were not these issues resolved in 1865? Surely they were settled by the events in and around 1965? Why such controversy over flags and statues?

So the levee failed and the reality it held at bay came flooding in. Those flood waters swept down monuments despite all the protestations and cries for the preservation of ‘history.” But for those who cheered the removal the question is do they understand that the waters are rising on them also. If they believe that simply removing monuments will rectify centuries of injustice and assuage liberal guilt they are as oblivious to the historic realities as the confederate flag wavers.

Just as hurricane protection is dependent on the restoration of the ecosystem outside the levees so too is societal protection dependent on the restoration of truth outside our walls of ignorance. Repairing historical inequities depends on our acknowledgement of the historical realities of race and race relations in the United States. From inside the levee there were those who saw the election of America’s first black president in 2008 and thought we had arrived at true equality while today in 2017, outside the levee, we see the body of Philando Castile and know that we have “miles to go before we sleep.”