Sunday, February 28, 2010

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Days of Fear: A Firsthand Account of Captivity Under the New Taliban Days of Fear: A Firsthand Account of Captivity Under the New Taliban by Daniele Mastrogiacomo

This is a gripping account by a journalist who instead of getting an interview with a Taliban ("Qura'nic student movement") commander is abducted and held ransom by those he set out to interview. Daniele Mastrogiacomo, the author who tells his story in "Days of Fear: A Firsthand Account of Captivity Under the New Taliban," goes through incredible up's and downs, rationalizing and resisting, despairing and hopeful of achieving release, freedom.

Matrogiacomo shares his the roller-coaster emotions of his captivity that both paralyze and push him. One moment he is realizing he is getting what he wanted: an inside look at the Taliban. Another moment he is pleading for his life arguing that he is a journalist not a soldier and standing up, even if calm, against armed men while his hands are either tied behind his back or he is in cuff and chains.

"Days of Fear" can be read as expose of the "new" Taliban, of the mutual cruelty unleashed by U.S. occupation and war to dislodge an organized force hell-bent on living life, structuring and restructuring Afghanistan on relgious creed, a true monoculture that is a reaction to the privations, both real and ideological that we know as the economic, social, religious, cultural and political mores of the "West."

Mastrogiacomo meets Taliban men who are steeled, determined, cruel, pious, praying five times a day, capable of coercion, torture, solidarity and exaltation, laughter, happiness. British and U.S. troops, convoys, drones are always in the background, being avoided by what in reality is a guerrilla operations.This book comes at a good time, as U.S. military builds up pressure trying to dislodge and defeat the Taliban in their own strongholds.

Mastrogiacomo's story begins on February 26, 2007 and on this same day in 2010 the news reports that same impression: the Taliban are still potent, organizing resistance and fighting in ways that hadn't been seen before: suicide bombers.

Will our "days of fear" end with freedom and reunion with those we love and need to live fully? Or are we looking at a long war that is shaping what looks to be a long century of wars, depravities, natural world revolutions and deeper neoliberalism that will make the previous century look peaceful in comparison?

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where Are Our Migrant Farmworker Poets,
Our Dissidents?

The New York Times declared misty-eyed:
Bei Dao [was] sent to the countryside, where he spent 11 years working as a blacksmith and a concrete mixer, experiences that gave him a feel for multiple aspects of Chinese life. (American fiction and poetry could use more former blacksmiths and concrete mixers among its ranks. Albeit without the forced labor.)

When ignorance shows its white face, it hurts. We have many dissidents, farmworker, former blacksmiths, dry-wall builders, migrant workers, day laborers, queer, straight, imprisoned and formerly imprisoned, criminal, on welfare, whose families were impoverished or killed because of the demand for equality and/or the return of stolen lands and resources, decimista/improvisers of traditions. We have our dissidents, but the problem is they're not white, they usually don't speak Spanish or prefer to write or speak in English (although we all do) and are also translated compentently into English.

Farmworkers poets, Chicano, Mexicans in the U.S., abound. Indigenous poets, our original dissidents, have yet to be truly and profoundly recognized.

There's Alurista, a Chicano poet who saved America from monolingualist starvations. And legions after and before him.

Ana Castillo womanist novelist and poet.

Cherrie Moraga, a visionary poet, playwright and essayist, who weaves us all into a fabric of freedom and liberation.

Raul R. Salinas, who passed away recently, a "criminal," an inmate who became a writer, poet and political activist in federal prisons and was put on parole, literally, exiled to the U.S. Northwest after a group of intellectuals and educators led by trailblazer Tomas Ybarra and others demanded his freedom, recognizing his writing work. Salinas work was first published by Hellcoal Press while still in prison. Raul retrieved and helped make sense of the Indigenous connection among and between Chicanos and other Indigenous people.

John Trudell, Indigenous political rights activist and community leader, who paid a severe price for keeping our country aware of the contemporary and historical roots of land theft, forced removal and disappearance of entire Indigenous peoples and their languages, community and cultures, destroying but not erasing the memory and practices of sustainable human-natural world relations. And with him and us,

Leonard Peltier, sentenced to the absurd two-life sentences, the longest held U.S. political prisoner, who has become a great painter and thinker-writer, redeems us all when he wrote his memoirs, My Life Is My Sun Dance.

So, New York Times, we have plenty of blacksmiths, concrete-mixers, migrant farmworker, Indigenous free and imprisoned poets, our dissidents who speak for us, dream and collaborate with us for a different U.S. where poets are teachers -- not impoverished, not unpublished, not lost to our memory and histories. We may or may not ever be recognized. Yes we want readers and audiences, television broadcasts and evening talk programs, but to get these we have to change the country, the culture of possession and dispossesion and one for cooperation, collective and individual dreaming, freedom of speech with printing presses and www's.

A country is only as mighty and visionary as her dissidents and not from the weaponry, the generals, the armies and her presidents.