Tag Archives: indigenous peoples

Bloody Kansas

TW: racism, nativism, heterosexism

In the past few months, the southern Great Plains have become something of a flashpoint in US politics, although not with the level of violence seen prior to the US Civil War. Recently, the issue hasn’t been whether Kansas should enter the union as a free or slave state, but rather over whether the validity of indigenous governments and populations in Kansas and Oklahoma supersedes or is subject to the (White-dominated) Kansas and Oklahoma state governments.

In Oklahoma, the issue has come to light as a result of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes’ joint government choosing to recognize same-gender marriages, leading to three widely reported marriage. Through the sovereign tribal government, the members of those marriages are entitled to federal marital benefits. At least, they should be, but Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern has insisted otherwise, arguing that it is “sad” that the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes’ laws don’t “recognize what 75 percent of the voters of Oklahoma declared” which conveniently missing the point that as a sovereign tribe, Oklahoman law is moot. Technically speaking those tribes are “domestic dependent nations” which are only subject to regulation by the federal government – as a sort of quasi-vassal to the United States, not Oklahoma or any other US state.

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(The most recent couple to marry under the auspices of the tribe, Jason Pickel [L] and Darren Black Bear [R], from the above link.)

In an odd way, the quarrel isn’t actually about marriage law, since Oklahoma is not (and neither is Kansas) a state that is among those refusing to recognize the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That granted same-gender couples federally-guaranteed marriage rights and at least within US military contexts full-faith-and-credit, meaning that their marriage under (say) Massachusetts law will be recognized in federal offices across the country. Oklahoma is not behaving in the manner seemingly reserved for states that previously attempted to secede (and, Indiana, the odd one out). The matter that Kern is working with to further her heterosexist opinion is her (inaccurate) belief that Oklahoman law should at least to some degree determine the laws of sovereign indigenous governments within the territory of Oklahoma.

This past Spring, something similar rocked Kansas, where Kansas State Representative Ponka-We Victors, an indigenous woman, responded to anti-immigrant rhetoric by stating that she saw the Whites who dominate Kansas state politics as “illegal immigrants” who had jeopardized the way of life for indigenous people across the continent. In short, she flipped the script and challenged the White, Kansan Secretary of State to prove his validity as a state official within the context of him using devaluing language, like “illegal”.

In the southern Great Plains, it seems that over the course of the past year many prominent political figures have begun challenging the unusual legal status of indigenous governments – both from the perspective that they may be more valid governments than the states set up by (primarily White) settlers as part of American expansionism and from those who view those state governments as more valid than tribal ones. Things may be changing in that corner of the United States in a way that might force all residents of the US to rethink the odd legal status of indigenous peoples and their political rights within our borders.

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Violence is multifaceted

TW: racist criminalization, cissexism, transmisogyny, forced displacement of indigenous people

I mentioned this late last week, but one of the key things to remember is how violence and inequality can be expressed in so many different ways. This past week was a fairly blunt remind of this with three separate incidents throughout the Americas – which show that a government’s intervention or non-intervention in a situation can be violent, and that violence is by no means the exclusive property of governments.

In New York, a child was handcuffed and subject to police interrogation for multiple hours. You’ve probably already realized it, but the child was, of course, Black. Likewise the alleged crime, which all indications point towards him not having committed, was stealing $5 that a fellow elementary student dropped on the ground. I tag a lot of things as “racist criminalization“, meaning the way a person’s race can make police and other authorities more likely to perceive them as criminal or their actions as more severely criminal than they actually are, but this pretty much takes the cake.

South of there, in Charlottesville, Virginia, the police are refusing to organize searches or assist community efforts to find Sage Smith, who has now been missing for two months. Again, Smith is Black, but beyond that, she’s a transgender woman. While her race might make her seem to be a more plausible culprit, her gender identity is apparently a plausible reason to particularly ignore her likely status as a victim of kidnapping or murder. This sort of refusal to intervene as police and provide services that are expected is common when it comes to violence against transgender women, which has lead to what many are calling an epidemic of transmisogynistic attacks.

Even further South, in Brazil, the government has essentially ceded control over a mega-dam project in the Amazon to private interests, which won’t be held responsible for the ensuing environmental impacts and 40,000 indigenous people who will be forcibly relocated by the dam. The Belo Monte dam threatens the most politically marginal populations in Brazil, and again the government is refusing to intervene with regulations that are already on the books. You can sign a petition asking for Brazilian President Dilma to review the decision to approve the project, here.


(Indigenous protesters against the project in 2011, from here.)

In short, there’s a lot of violence in the world, and only some of the time is the issue that the police or other governmental figures have intervened where they shouldn’t. Much of the time, protections are selectively enforced, primarily to protect the enfranchised, leaving many diverse groups, from transgender women to indigenous peoples, without recourse should private enterprises or actors harm them. Any effort at establishing actual equality between those who are cisgender and transgender or indigenous and non-indigenous needs to acknowledge both of these dimensions of violence.

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Give thanks

TW: military coups, ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples, political killings

I am thankful that I live in a country with democratic norms that are strong enough to prevent military coups.

I am thankful that at least one country that is not so lucky has at least a chance of improvement on that issue.

I am thankful that the United States is neither assisting the military regime nor treating them as a legitimate government, as we have done before throughout the region and previously in that country.


(“In the Freedom Party, the people are the ones that choose (the presidential nominee)” – originally from this excellent Spanish-language overview of the current politics of Honduras.)

I am hopeful for Honduras today.

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Bryan Fischer on LGBT* people, and what it all means

TW: eugenics, conversion therapy, kidnapping, state toleration of violence, criminalization of homosexuality

I have to confess, I saved this last day of Bryan Fischer week to cover the crown jewel of Fischer’s hatred for humanity – his well-documented bigotry against the LGBT* community. I chose that partly because it’s better known, compared to his worrisome advocacy for similarly second class citizenship being applied to many other social groups – namely women, non-Christians, and people of color. But I’ve also set up Bryan Fischer week this way because rather than the perfect example to start with, his attitudes towards LGBT* people are reflective of so many different hostile narratives he has towards people other than himself.

On Tuesday, I covered Bryan Fischer’s support for controlling the sexual behaviors of various groups whether by general social forces or direct government policy. The basis of his argument involved broadcasting abilist fears of the Muslim community (as genetically inferior because of alleged inbreeding) and advocacy for dehumanizing sexual policing of especially Black women and Latinas (as he claims they produce too many children). All of his analysis rests on what are little more than rehashed eugenic arguments. Similarly pseudo-scientific arguments crop up in his more pedestrian anti-LGBT* spiels, as Fischer has claimed that LGBT* people are produced by Freudian or Malthusian psychological processes and can be unmade by extremely damaging conversion (or “Ex-Gay”) therapy. The primary difference between Fischer’s proposed policies for disabled, Muslim, Black, and Latin@ people and those for LGBT* people rests with his belief that the supposed psychological roots of LGBT*-ness can be canceled out, as opposed to the genetic roots of those other groups’ supposed inferiority (which can only be contained).

Yesterday, I looked into the fig leaf Bryan Fischer put over his strict boundaries for people he classifies as female. Although he claims to accept people’s right to accept or reject his categorization of them, he consistently misgenders transgender men and concern trolls women he claims are endangering their femininity. This shows that his openness to allowing other people to step outside of the narrow classifications he offers them doesn’t actually exist. There many other segments of the LGBT* community – namely those who identify with one of the less commonly professed permutations of masculinity, femininity, both or neither – who are obviously at risk for the same contempt. Likewise, it seems inevitable that part of performing those gender identities, in Bryan Fischer’s eyes, involves sexual and romantic attraction towards people he deems appropriate. So, his statements are also a threat to people with sexual orientations Fischer does not endorse. Of course, the corresponding hostility he expressed towards female politicians as walking contradictions are mirrored in statements about LGBT* public servants. In speaking of Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan, who was rumored among conservatives to be a lesbian at the time of her confirmation, Fischer lamented,

We simply should not elevate to the highest court in the land people who are known for engaging in sexually abnormal behavior which would technically make them felons in a quarter of the states over which they will have jurisdiction.

After showing a stunning misunderstanding of the outcome of the Supreme Court case Lawrence v Texas and how federalism in the United States works, Fischer continued on to claim that an LGBT* justice would be biased in favor of LGBT*-friendly legal arguments. Naturally, he openly admits wouldn’t be a concern for a cisgender and straight justice being prejudiced for what Fischer refers to as “sexual normalcy and natural marriage”. Clearly Fischer has picked out the terrain he deems acceptable for LGBT* people to work within, and having a say in judicial processes is not part of it.

On Monday, I wrote about how Bryan Fischer views state-sponsored and religiously ordained violence as an acceptable means of normalizing his religious beliefs and social views. Acceptable targets seemed to include other residents of the United States who belong to different cultural traditions and seemingly any other people in the world against whom there’s something of a casus belli. It’s easy see Bryan Fischer as pushing an analogous case of state-tolerated if not state-sponsored violence against LGBT* people. Fischer took advantage of an unusual custodial case to grandstand on the issue of queerspawn people’s existence, essentially stating that such people should be forcibly assimilated into straight parentage, even if against the wishes of their parents or they themselves. On children born into such families, Fischer explained,

Given the direction our society is headed, and its willingness to sacrifice children to the god of sexual perversion, Lisa Miller may not be the last mother who needs a modern version of the Underground Railroad to deliver her child from evil [presumably meaning LGBT* parenting]”

In no part of the analysis does the will or security of the child enter the equation and the government’s capacity and duty to remove children from dangerous homes is pretty quickly dismissed. As Fischer finishes this article raising these broader points and bringing up additional custodial battles involving at least one LGBT* individual, he effectively advocates for himself and like-minded people to have the ability to enact mass violence against alternatively structured homes with the toleration of the government. But Fischer doesn’t simply want to erase queerspawn from existence through assimilation – he also supports criminalizing homosexuality. He’s said before: “This is the purpose of the law: it’s for the lawless and disobedient to engage in homosexuality – it’s perfectly appropriate for that kind of behavior to be against the law.” He’d clearly like to enlist the state in his campaign of violence against LGBT* people. Just as he views it as a quite literally sacred duty of the military to convert or kill Muslims.

The lesson I draw from Bryan Fischer’s beliefs and his limited but enduring popularity in certain circles is that there are still powerful forces in the United States that legitimize extremely violent and coercive attacks of many different social groups. And while it’s very much a common view to present these issues as independent – that women’s rights are distinct from Muslim’s rights – it’s very difficult to say that if you delve deeply into the discussion. These narratives are flexible, and the hostile arguments Bryan Fischer applies against some social groups, he frequently applies against others. Beyond the far too often forgotten force of intersectionality between many social groups – that, for example, the security of indigenous people and equal rights for disabled people are potentially equally important to a disabled Native American – there’s also a common theme of similar arguments being applied across categories. If the struggle of any specific social group is for something more than acceptance of their specific people, but rather a clear disagreement about what kinds of social and political attacks are reasonable, then solidarity is key.

Occupy Oakland solidarity protest - 'Oakland + Cairo are one fist'
(These might be the only political statements that can effectively challenge the Bryan Fischers of the world. Originally from here.)

The claims Bryan Fischer makes about the validity of violence against LGBT* people and against the Muslim community are rooted in the same understanding of how government should operate and what its goals should be. Both need to be challenged in tandem to make progress against the underlying problem: a fascistic belief that mass violence is legitimate when aiming to shore up the “correct” moral order, which for Bryan Fischer is explicitly Christian, cisgender, and heterosexual, among other traits.

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This is the third of four posts as part of Bryan Fischer Week, in which I hope to lay out that Bryan Fischer is among the worst human beings on the planet, a terrifying influence on the United States’ body politic, and a threat to the security of a sizable chunk of the country’s population

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Bryan Fischer on racially-imbued religious bigotry

TW: islamophobia, coercive conversions, US military occupation, “manifest destiny”, demonization of indigenous cultures

The past decade has been a windfall for all of the members of the “clash of civilizations” crowd, but radio show host and frequent political commentator Bryan Fischer really takes the cake. His statements on the subject of potential and actual US occupations of Muslim-majority countries make Ann Coulter seem sensible. His main argument is that the United States should cleanse the world of the totally homogeneous Muslim population, by conversion or force:

if we want to see freedom come to those darkened, benighted lands, we should be sending missionaries in right after we send in the Marines to neutralize whatever threat has been raised against the United States. So we say to them, look, if you don’t want our missionaries, fine, that’s your choice, we’ll take our missionaries and our Marines, we’ll take them home, but we’re gonna let you know we have no hesitation about returning with lethal force if the forces in your country threaten us again. This time it’s Marines and missionaries, next time it’ll be Marines and missiles.

This would be the same “reasoning” behind US military contractors putting biblical quotes on sniper scopes.


(A reference to Corinthians II 4:6 which discusses Christians being God’s light on earth, on a contractor-produced scope used by the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Originally from here.)

You’ll notice, in this narrative how there’s only three overlapping options the US can take with Muslims: occupy their countries, coercively convert them, and eradicate them with the incredible might of the US military. All of those potential approaches share the trait of effectively erasing Muslim people from existence either by making them something other than Muslim or by killing them. Fischer likewise speaks of Muslims as living in some distant location which the United States has every pretext to invade for no reason other than their Muslim identity. So how does Fischer feel about Muslims in the US? He thinks we should ban immigration of Muslims, since they’re so utterly politically dissonant:

Islam, all the values in Sharia law, are absolutely, fundamentally contrary to all of the values and freedoms that we cherish in the West, and so I’ve suggested we need to rethink whether we can afford any more Muslim immigration into the US, whether we can afford to have more mosques built [in the United States…]

Of course, this incompatibility is rarely explained in terms other than a vague affiliation between all of the millions of Muslims in the world and terrorism. For instance, Fischer complained that a vaguely-Muslim-friendly event which roughly coincided with Eid (the celebration at the end of Ramadan) which was in mid-September, was insensitively close to 9/11. Unless all Muslims everywhere constantly apologize for what one small segment of the world’s Muslim population has done, Fischer can’t view any of them as compatible with his country, and consequently has repeated talked about bans on Muslim immigration.

Fischer’s still not content with a draconian ban on a specific religious group immigrating. He explicitly wants to reduce their quality of life in the United States – ostensibly to facilitate conversions or repatriations. On his program, he’s aired guests who have argued that if Muslims don’t like being banned from, for instance, serving in the military, as Fischer’s advocated for before, “they can go back to where they came from”. This sort of argument for second class citizenship is about more than military service, as Fischer’s called for the revocation of Muslims’ rights to be free of a religious test to be Presidentto be free to build properly zoned mosquesto express their faith publicly, or even basic First Amendment rights. There’s a couple of indications too, that Fischer doesn’t want this to just be a passive process of mass discrimination, where new mosques aren’t built and new Muslims don’t arrive or convert, but where his prayers for the destruction of mosques are answered.

While he had the propriety to mask his prayer for the destruction of mosques as something God would (vaguely) do, Fischer has been quite clear on how he views Anders Breivik’s massacre of 77 Norwegian liberals for their toleration of Muslim immigration. Fischer labeled the violence in Islamic terms, calling Breivik’s logic “jihadist” – so even a violent islamophobe is rhetorically understood as “Islamic” in some sense. In spite of his criticism of the use of violence, however, he admitted that in his opinion, “[m]uch of his [Breivik’s] analysis of cultural trends in Europe and the danger created by Islamic immigration and infiltration is accurate“. So he views violence as uncouthly “Islamic,” but legitimizes the motives for doing so among his listeners – both shielding himself from culpability, equating political violence and Islam, and rationalizing political violence against Muslims and tolerant non-Muslims.

Discontent with only chanting “ASSIMILATE, ASSIMILATE” at Muslims the world over, Fischer also levies this garbage at Native Americans. Aside from the standard racist view of Native Americans as a uniform and monolithic group, he has popularized a lovely “compassionate conservative” sentiment which erases the experiences of discrimination for many Cherokee among other Christian converts:

“[Native Americans] were, virtually without exception, steeped in the basest forms of superstition, had been guilty of savagery in warfare for hundreds of years, and practiced the most debased forms of sexuality […] The native American tribes ultimately resisted the appeal of Christian Europeans to leave behind their superstition and occult practices for the light of Christianity and civilization. They in the end resisted every attempt to “Christianize the Savages of the Wilderness,” to use George Washington’s phrase […] Many of the tribal reservations today remain mired in poverty and alcoholism because many native Americans continue to cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition instead of coming into the light of Christianity and assimilating into Christian culture.

The original post at the American Family Association has since been taken down, but Right Wing Watch still has their excerpts up, as well as a clip from his radio show where he reiterated these points. What prompted this racist rant, of course, was the inclusion of indigenous as well as Christian invocations at the funeral service in the wake of the shooting of Representative Giffords, which killed six attendees to the public event she was speaking at. As with Muslims building mosques or having imams that shared opinions, any non-Christian viewpoint expressed in public in the United States is treated as a target for assimilation by Fischer. He states in this rant, Native Americans “rejected Washington’s direct counsel to the Delaware chiefs in 1779” at which Washington told them, “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ.” This refusal apparently “morally disqualified” all indigenous people from sovereign control of their own land, in Fischer’s own words.

It’s irrelevant to him that other Native American tribes responded differently and faced the same waves of violence and disenfranchisement. The forced assimilation and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population of the United States, according to Fischer, is a justified and inevitable result of some Native Americans’ non-compliance with Fischer’s brand of Christianity, which to him is the greatest sin. He’s content to judge a diverse population for the actions of the few, provided it allows him to appeal for coercive mass conversion to Christianity.

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This is the first of four posts as part of Bryan Fischer Week, in which I hope to lay out that Bryan Fischer is among the worst human beings on the planet, a terrifying influence on the United States’ body politic, and a threat to the security of a sizable chunk of the country’s population

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The Obama administration officially needs to buy a calendar already

TW: political killings, marginalization of and violence against indigenous peoples, military coups

I mentioned late last week the unfortunate anniversary of the US-backed 1973 Chilean coup which coincided almost exactly with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration that the United States is a clear force for global liberation. What I left out of that discussion was the later American support for the brutal regime, namely the apparent complacency between at least one US-based bank and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in hiding illegally obtained funds which he intended to access after fleeing Chile. While the US government armed and otherwise assisted his violent take over of the country, its role in the 2005 probe which uncovered the bank’s unsavory deal was a bit of a fig leaf. Although it didn’t exactly correcting the past mistake, it at least made some gesture of reparation. No domestic suits were filed, but the revealed information assisted prosecution efforts in Chile.

A few years later, then presidential candidate Barack Obama would deliver a rather impacting speech on flaws in the United States’ policies with regards to Latin America, saying:

From the right, we hear about violent insurgents. From the left, we hear about paramilitaries. This is the predictable debate that seems frozen in time from the 1980s. You’re either soft on Communism or soft on death squads. […] The person living in fear of violence doesn’t care if they’re threatened by a right-wing paramilitary or a left-wing terrorist; they don’t care if they’re being threatened by a drug cartel or a corrupt police force. They just care that they’re being threatened, and that their families can’t live and work in peace. That is why there will never be true security unless we focus our efforts on targeting every source of fear in the Americas. That’s what I’ll do as President of the United States.

And yet, his administration just refused to extradite or permit domestic legal cases against the former Presidents of Mexico and Bolivia, who are charged with killing or permitting the killing of civilians who held opposing political views. This from the administration that justified the assassination of multiple targets (sometimes US citizens) in other countries often with little or no involvement of the territories’ legitimate governments. Evidently, jurisdictions only exist for other countries.

The case against former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo has been widely publicized, with The Economist and Bloomberg News both fairly explicitly calling the Connecticut-based civil suit a sham, potentially motivated by historic political rivalries. Given the dissolution of the same case against Zedillo in Mexico amid accusations that the plaintiffs were fabricated evidence, it’s necessary to not reject these claims outright. That being said, declassified US intelligence shores up the claims that Zedillo and his government either exhibited criminal negligence of government-trained paramilitaries, deliberately used them against Zapatista-supportive civilians, or did both.

While Zedillo’s and his administration’s culpability in a 1997 massacre could arguably have been adequately examined in Mexican courts and this case is only a shameful circumvention of double jeopardy restrictions (common to both Mexico and the United States), the case is much clearer against the former Bolivian President. Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada has been charged by Bolivian courts with legally condoning violence against indigenous protesters, which left 60 dead and at least 400 injured. As the current Bolivian government sees those protests as being legitimate opposition to efforts to erase the social and economic viability of indigenous communities among other groups which then faced excessive police violence, he has been charged with genocide. He has not stood trial for this actions anywhere, and the request of the Bolivian government is for him to be extradited so he could stand trial there, rather than a suit being brought to him in the United States.

(Left, police violence against protesters in Bolivia, October 2003. Right, protests for the extradition of Former President Gonzalo “Goni” Sánchez de Lozada, June 2007.)

Earlier in President Obama’s term in office, Human Rights advocates, many of them based in the United States, were optimistic about the possibility of Obama’s new commitment to reducing all forms of violence in Latin America driving an extradition of the former Bolivian president, now six years after the killings. Last Tuesday, however, his administration’s Department of State made clear that extradition was not an option for either of these former heads of state. Again, this statement was made on the anniversary of the US-backed Chilean coup in 1973 – showing a hint of ignorance or malice in the policy decision. As with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks, the timing could not have been worse, let alone the substance of her statements or the State Department’s release.

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The Republican Party doesn’t “do” facts, present or future

TW: climate change denialism, marginalization and erasure of indigenous people

I’m feeling unwell, so I’m going to keep today’s post short and sweet. You may have watched last night as Romney said, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet; my promise is to help you and your family.” The sarcastic deliverance of the first portion of that line was, of course, met with thunderous applause. Even if you didn’t directly hear the speech, you may have already hear some of the liberal responses to it, including Chris Hayes’ warning that that piece of Romney’s speech and the audiences response would “be in documentaries as a moment of just ‘what-were-they-thinking’ madness.”

The irony, which is mainly being reported in the British press at the moment, is that two days prior, the arctic ice sheet reached a historic minimum in terms of size. This is not only a pressing issue rather than, as Romney seems to imply, a trivial issue disconnected from the well-being of Americans, but it’s a pressing issue because of its current impacts – on Americans at this very moment, and even in years past.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post noted that increasing difficulties faced by indigenous communities in hunting game and fishing force them to rely on imported foods, which are often not only less nutritive, but prohibitively expensive. Likewise, an extensive study from earlier this year noted that “[c]hanging water levels, fish movement patterns, and weather conditions all create challenges for local harvesters to meet [indigenous Alaskans’] subsistence needs.” The thawing of the Arctic is negatively impacting the food security of many Alaskans at this very moment.

The only way Romney and the Republican Party can be so woefully misinformed as to believe that the effects melting and rising oceans are not already impacting American families’ quality of life is that they either willfully ignorant or willfully callous. They only explanation is that they have dismissed the years of reporting on how climate change is harming Alaskans, particularly indigenous Alaskans, or that they have dismissed the problem as primarily affecting people of color that they do not see as “real” Americans. Given that not one but two other speeches at the Republican National Convention repeated the lie that Obama has stripped welfare of its work components, there likely answer seems to be that both an ignorant denial of reality and patent racism are prompting one major political party to embrace horrible policies.

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