Wednesday, June 29, 2011

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Arnoldo García

The segregation of bodies, the segregation of minds

When I started reading Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement, by Farzaneh Milani, there were what seemed countless explosions in my imagination and brain and body about how we as writers of color, Xicanos/Xicanas, Mexicans, Purépechas, Latinas, even Hispanics, or whatever you want to call yourself, have been segregated -- to no avail. Yet we are the mainstream: our stories, musics, and other experiences expressed are just ours and those who have ignored them and continue ignoring them will not know what hit them when their country becomes also ours in word and in colors.

Take note U.S.A., this is what América sounds like too: On page 29, Farzaneh Milani writes, "Sex segregation has had a powerful impact on Iranian literature.... has shaped the language, the themes, the plots and the systems of literary representation used by men and women over the centuries." And the good words over the bad swords take off even deeper from here on end.

There have deep structural political, social, economic and their corresponding cultural devastations worldwide. The current Arab and Middle East Spring, the massive uprisings and movements toppling old regimes is linked to us in many and varied ways. The U.S. had a "Migrant Spring" that opened its new season in 2006. Millions of undocumented migrant workers, their families, communities and supporters took to the streets demanding a change -- that has yet to come. However, the massive movement that continues growing in dissendence and dissoance, changed the political landscape of the U.S. forever. Undocumented people are everywhere, including U.S. citizens whose rights and dreams are being foreclosed, unemployed, and privatized. The future of workers and poor people, communities of color looks more and more like the undocumented, the "illegal." Words can become destiny.

War, Not Swords has given me a new and unfolding understanding of the relationship and impacts and influence over those who've marginalized my writing and stories, acting as if there is no genre or branding is available, unless they make sense to their markets, er I mean readers. If Syracruse University Press can get their readers to pick up this exciting work, then they should be able to see our work as not just for colored people who've gestated and given birth to the rainbow, when suicide was never enough to ake anyone understadn our words aching to be heard by everyone.

A whole new world of understanding of what I as a writer of color, a bilingual, truly multinational/multicultural/multiracial, writer, communities-based organizer face every time I write:

The segregation of our bodies has leavened a stinking segregation of the mind. Words Not Swords can become another salvo in our struggle for equality in body and in language, in desire and in voice. I want to struggle for peace, justice, human rights, with non-violent, non-humiliation strategies and words.

How have women writers, and just plain women, under the veil, in explicit patriarchy-dominant systems, fared? How has beauty, gender, nationality, eros, sex, sexual identity, race, ethnicity, the land, the natural world, urban globs of humanity -- how have they been shaped, kneaded really, under sex segregation -- and racial segregation? And now, increasingly so, citizen/immigrant segregation?

This tome is a must read to have a better grasp of what's at stake in Iran and how we're in the U.S. linked to Iran. From the three hikers, two of which continue languishing in a Tehran prison, to the trauma of their wars against Iraq, the deepening threats of U.S. and Israeli attacks and the endless war in the Middle East that doesn't seem to let up.

Women in Iran have been a force for social transformations at their own speed. Chicanas, Chicanos, Latinos, undocumented migrants, queers, African Americans, Mexicans, Indigenous peoples' struggle to recover their lands -- we share or create similar spaces to those being described and sur-veiled in this new and exciting word venture. Uncannily, here in the U.S. one of the main obstacles we face as writers/organizers/people of color is increasingly less or even racialized freedom of movement: in body and in words. SB-1070 in Arizona, the anti-immigrant, racial profiling law, has made our bodies, our Mexican-Indian-Black-Brown-queer-non-white bodies, the target. Biopolitics at its worst; whenever countries have resorted to bio-politics, they have resorted to war: war on ideas, war on difference, and eventually war on those whose ideas, bodies and differences are the carriers.

The last 160 years worldwide have been the same: upheavals and reorganization, re-combinations of nation-states, who is the People, the chosen race, the master race. This war or struggle over land, resources, labor power, ideas, culture, industrialization leading to atomization and nuclearization, least since 1848, has been a disaster for the world. And the natural world is in upheaval too: the ice cap over the north pole has an opening; one of the largest "wildfires" is raging across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas -- growing by 20,000 acres over night. Restoring humanity to her place in the natural world has been at the center of this major, global shift. Women really will be the determining human force that will shift this battle in our favor, where possibly men with guns (one of the main problems!) will be a thing of the past -- although it will take several generations for this to happen.

So here read this new set of words, Words, Not Swords to sharpen our tongues and our steps for a different world tomorrow. Women of the world, unite! You only have men-chains to lose!


This is a preface to a book review to be done later after finishing reading Words, Not Swords; with the caveat and certainty that I will change my thinking and my body in the process.

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