Declaring War

“The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war…. Congress approved its last formal declaration of war during World War II. Since that time it has agreed to resolutions authorizing the use of military force and continues to shape U.S. military policy through appropriations and oversight.”1

Since 1942
our government has decided that
“war”
no longer need be declared.
War is bad.
We are not at war.
We merely “authorize the use of military force.”

And, oh, what force we have authorized!
We, the strongest military on earth,
with nearly 800 bases in over 70 countries2
who spend more on our military than the next 9 nations combined.3

How many millions of
bombs have been dropped
lands leveled
lives tortured, trammeled, taken
in our non-wars?

We are at war.
We have always been at war,
even if we don’t declare it as war
or if we declare it as war on an abstraction.

We are at war.
Not against terrorism
because war is terrorism
and our empire was built on terrorism
and terrorism begets terrorism.

We are at war
with nations,
with humans,
with life itself.

This is not a new war.
It is an escalation of an old war.
And I do not rest assured
by Congress’
oversight.

When you live
in the most powerful country on the planet
whose government designs death with impunity,
it is your duty to speak up for those who
do not live.

It is our duty
to call it what it is
and
declare war.

References

  1. https://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/history/h_multi_sections_and_teasers/WarDeclarationsbyCongress.htm
  2. http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21704817-presence-american-troops-foreign-soil-growing-more-controversial-go-home
  3. https://www.sipri.org/research/armament-and-disarmament/arms-transfers-and-military-spending/military-expenditure

Reflections Before the Greece Referendum

The last time I visited Greece was the summer of 2011. At the time, I was very politically naive (ignorant, really). I probably could have been classified as a liberal, a hippie-hearted humanist who always cared about social justice on some level but had no understanding of politics or the history of struggle. But the 3 months I spent in Greece that summer changed all that.

To make a long story short, I saw the encampment at Syntagma Square with my own two eyes, I lived through two transportation strikes, I fell in love with all the amazing street art and political graffiti in Athens, I visited the Polytechnic University and learned the story of the 1973 uprising against the junta, I talked to my grandmother about how the Nazis burned their village to the ground and killed my great-grandfather and many others from their village in WWII, I talked to my other grandparents about how they fought as Partisans in the civil war and were exiled to Russia, and I walked around every day in a country steeped in politics and a palpable sense of history–a history that birthed my own existence.

I returned to the U.S. in September, but decided to make a 5-day detour in Madrid, Spain first. There, I encountered massive open-air assemblies of everyday people discussing politics and economics–I would later learn that this was the “Indignados” movement. I think this is when I really began to connect the dots. I remember specifically thinking, “This is so cool! It’s too bad nothing like this would ever happen in the U.S.” Little did I know that as I was having that very thought, Occupy Wall Street had just begun in NYC. And less than a month later, I flew to NYC myself and joined the occupation in Zuccotti Park. I returned to Chicago after 3 weeks at OWS and threw myself into activism.

Now, four years later, it has all come full circle, and I’m organizing demonstrations in Chicago in solidarity with Greece, at one of the most critical moments in the country’s recent history. It feels like everything I’ve done in my life up until this point was merely a precursor to this moment. The personal and the political woven into a single fate.

I don’t know which way the vote will go on Sunday but the fact that the referendum is happening at all is already historic. Either way the vote goes, there will be major political shifts in response to it.

I hope that the OXI vote wins. I hope that the people of Greece stand strong against the fear-mongering propaganda. I hope that they remember their history, our history, of all that Greece has been through and all the times it has remained strong in face of attacks. Because a vote for YES is a surrender in this economic and psychological war that the European elites have waged against Greece. A vote for NO is a vote for dignity, democracy, and justice, not just for Greeks but for people all over the world. I hope the people of Greece know what the European elites certainly do: If Greece successfully pushes back against their neoliberal austerity policies and their undemocratic authoritarian structures, then others will be emboldened and follow suit. That is their worst nightmare–and our greatest hope.

Tomorrow, the people of Greece have the levers of history, and my heart, in their hands.

My thoughts on the Greek election

I hope that SYRIZA wins today. I have a lot of doubts and reservations about what they will do once in power but I believe their election is a necessary (if imperfect, partial, full of potential pitfalls) step forward. I hope that SYRIZA wins and I hope that the Left and the masses of people are prepared to hold them accountable.

I believe that, ultimately, Greece will need to leave the EU and the Eurozone if they’re ever going to reestablish any real economic or political self-determination, and it disappoints me that SYRIZA (or rather its “leadership”) has removed this from their rhetoric of possibilities, among many other rightward shifts. But that doesn’t mean that the chain of events following a SYRIZA victory might not lead to a Grexit anyway (via expulsion from above or via pressure from below). And of course an exit from the Euro would be merely the beginning of a long process of rebuilding democracy and moving towards revolution, as is true for so many of the decisions that would face a SYRIZA government. In other words, we are along way from where we need to be. The devastation of the past 7 years of “austerity” and economic terrorism on the people of Greece cannot be overstated.

I give SYRIZA my critical, qualified support because I understand that they are the only viable option right now with any intention to ease the suffering of the Greek people and provide an opening for further progress. But this support is qualified, with criticisms, because there is indeed much to criticize and much that could go wrong and the fate of the people of Greece is what truly hangs in the balance. SYRIZA is far from a tried and true tribune of the people. SYRIZA is a necessary and promising experiment in rebuilding the Left, in challenging neo-liberal capitalism, and it is an encouraging development, a positive response to the economic crisis. But the contradictions of the current period are too great to expect that things will go smoothly after a SYRIZA victory. This is a critical juncture in Greece’s history and I believe that no matter what happens tomorrow, there will be a lot of volatility in the coming period.

So I will hold my breath, as I hope for a SYRIZA win and the kind of volatility that precedes a flower bursting from its bud.

Radicalized: The 2-Year Mark

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The other day, I came across this piece of paper folded into a book I had decided to start reading again. Dated 10 Ιουλίου 2011, I realized it was exactly two years ago that I had been in Greece with my cousin Giorgo giving me a “Radical Athens Tour.” And I realized how unexpectedly significant this piece of paper now was to me, a symbol marking the beginning of what turned out to be perhaps the most transformative period of my life.

That hot day in July, Giorgo took me through the Exarcheia neighborhood of Athens, a base for radical activity in the city. There I saw the spot that 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was killed by police in 2008, which sparked massive riots throughout the country. We walked through Polytechnic University, where I learned the story of the 1973 uprising against the junta that ended in bloodshed. I saw the segregation of the city into rundown “immigrant neighborhoods” juxtaposed by shopping districts where Greeks sipped overpriced coffee. And then I got to witness history-in-the-making when we visited the ongoing encampment at Syntagma Square. That’s where I was handed this piece of paper—an open letter to the mayor of Athens from The People’s Assembly of Syntagma condemning the government’s violent repression of their encampment and their movement (among other indictments).

At the time, none of it really made sense to me. A bunch of people choosing to set up a permanent camp in front of the parliament building to protest? Bizarre. Having never learned the history of social movements, this was a completely foreign concept to me. If you would have told me at that point that three months later I myself would be part of a similar encampment in New York City, I probably would have laughed at you.

But the radical transformation I experienced that summer in Greece did not begin nor end with this tour of Athens. Living in a country that is going through such profound crisis and revolt, you are constantly steeped in politics. With each breath you take, you are breathing in the air of social change. No one living there can escape this, though many try to remain unconscious to it. Myself, I am an extremely open and sensitive soul who cannot shut my consciousness off if I wanted to, so every breath I took that summer impacted me profoundly.

I can’t say exactly what brought me to Greece that summer. I mean, I could give you the reasons I had stated at the time, such as connecting with my roots, spending time with family, practicing my Greek, traveling, etc. But those were reasons that I conjured up after the fact, to explain a decision that was really driven by an unexplainable impulse. I didn’t have a plan. I just bought a one-way ticket and went to Greece. At the time, I understood it as a quest for adventure and enlightenment. I had no idea that that enlightenment would take the form of political radicalization.

After two and a half months in Greece, still not aware of the transformation that was happening to me, I decided to stop by Spain before heading back to the States. Again, this decision was not politically motivated, it was motivated by my love of the Spanish language. But again, I found myself steeped in politics. In Madrid, I encountered the Indignados movement—though I didn’t know its name at the time. All I knew was that there were masses of people gathering in public spaces to discuss the future of human society. All of the talk about economics and politics outright was largely lost on me, but I could feel the importance of it in every cell of my body.

I got back to Chicago on September 19, 2011, two days after Occupy Wall Street had kicked off, I would later learn. It wasn’t until Occupy Chicago began about a week later that I heard about the protest in NYC. And that was when everything I had lived that summer in Greece and Spain crystalized. All the things that hadn’t made any sense to me before suddenly made more sense than I thought life could ever contain. It was as if I had spent the first twenty-eight years of my life merely observing a series of unrelated, unfortunate dots and then, in a single instant, a switch was flipped and an intricate, infinitely large truth was illuminated in the paths between the dots.

So I bought another one-way ticket, this time to New York City to join the encampment in Zuccotti Park. Three weeks later, I returned to Chicago and joined the movement here. Now, two years later, I am a full-fledged Activist committed to revolutionary social change with a number of significant experiences under my belt. From the NATO summit protest to the Chicago Teachers Union strike and the fight against school closings, from demonstrations in solidarity with Greece and against their neo-Nazi party the Golden Dawn to picketing my local alderman for his decimation of social services, I have essentially been going non-stop over the past two years, throwing myself into struggle at every turn.

I feel myself entering a new stage now, a more reflective period, as I attempt to make sense of the ups and downs I’ve experienced through participating in these struggles. Of course, I will continue to be involved in the movement (it’s an addiction really), but I hope to at least slow down a bit in order to process what I’m doing and who I have become. Finding this piece of paper was a good start.

Ignorance is Bliss

Especially when the truth is:

Your government is lying to you.
Your government is stealing from you.
Your government is the most powerful terrorist organization to ever exist.
You are an accomplice to the murder of millions of innocent lives.
Without these deaths, you would not have your comfortable life.
Yes, that is blood money multiplying in your bank account,
an indirect transfer of responsibility for a proportional amount
of the pain and suffering endured by those whose lives were sacrificed
at the altar of man’s most brutal quest for Empire.

Living in the belly of the beast, there’s no reprieve from this.

I know the truth.
So I can never know of bliss.

Question, Reflect, Create. Repeat.

When you read a news article or have a conversation with another person about politics (or life in general), make a conscious effort to reflect on your own mental processes as you do so.

Are you passively consuming what others say? Or are you actively engaging with the presented material? If you already have an opinion on a situation, it’s easy to make statements. But are you also asking questions? In conversation, do you voice your questions and doubts, or only your opinions and agreements? And what kinds of questions are you asking, whether aloud or to yourself or even subconsciously? What kinds of statements are you making? Are you just trying to defend yourself or are you really searching for truth? And are you trying to figure out WHO is right or WHAT is right?

No single human being has a monopoly on truth. The only way to get to truth is to examine multiple perspectives. Trust yourself to be able to analyze and synthesize information. Consider the possibility that perhaps your unique understanding may actually help move humanity collectively closer to Truth. And through a more accurate understanding of Truth, perhaps we will one day find or create the way to Peace.

Do not wait passively for truth to be revealed to you. Seek out answers for yourself.
Do not wait passively for solutions to appear. Create them yourself.