In this episode of Pointing Left with Serena Blaiz, UCO students seek to have the school declared a sanctuary school for undocumented students. Also, Susan McCann looks at some elections coming up in early 2017 for Oklahoma City and a special election in House District 28.
Song: No one is illegal, by David Rovics.
Theme music: Oklahoma Blues by Watermelon Slim, used with permission.
This is Serena Blaiz with a quick point from Pointing Left Media.
It’s Memorial Day, a holiday that may be the most blatantly mythologized and hypocritical one we have in the US. It’s ostensibly designed to honor those who died fighting our wars. In reality, today, it’s about big sales at the stores and barbecue in the back yard. If war dead are mentioned at all, it’s to (falsely) claim that they died “fighting for our freedom.” Which 99.99999% of the time is a big load of corporatist propaganda, designed to encourage the impressionable young to sign up to take a chance on becoming war dead themselves. Better to just focus on sales and BBQ than promote that, in my opinion. Col. Smedley Butler said it best: War is a racket. (more below the video)
What later became named Memorial Day began right after the end of the Civil War, that much is not in dispute, but the other details are debated. Here’s the story I like, and I got this info from African American Registry, aaregistry.org, and Wikipedia.
In mid April 1865 — and this is just days after the war was officially over, remember — former slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, wanted to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. When the fighting stopped, they dug up the bodies and worked for two weeks to give them a proper burial as gratitude for fighting for their freedom — in this case, literally true. With the task completed, on May 1, nearly 10,000 people marched, sang and celebrated. The event was covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers.
Who were the participants? About 3,000 Black school children newly enrolled in Freedmen’s schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops, Black ministers, and White northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to be placed on the burial field, on land that is now a park. Years later, the celebration would come to be called the “First Decoration Day” in the North.
David W. Blight, a lauded historian who specializes in the slave era, described the day like this: “This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”
The concept that the population must “remember the sacrifice” of U.S. service members, without a critical reflection on the wars themselves, did not emerge by accident. It came about in the Jim Crow period as the Northern and Southern ruling classes sought to reunite the country around apolitical mourning, which required erasing the “divisive” issues of slavery and Black citizenship. These issues had been at the heart of the struggles of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
To truly honor Memorial Day means putting the politics back in. It means reviving the visions of emancipation and liberation that animated the first Decoration Days. It means celebrating those who have fought for justice, while exposing the cruel manipulation of hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members who have been sent to fight and die in wars for conquest and empire.
We best honor the war dead by making sure there are no more such sacrifices — on either “side” — to memorialize in the future, by ending war forever, as an idea or practice.
Here in central Oklahoma, there’s an organization dedicated to that pursuit: The Center for Conscience in Action. Full disclosure: I work with CCA. We work to oppose war through education, resistance and empowerment. We are the state chapter of War Resisters League, and a member of World Beyond War and the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth. You can find out more at centerforconscience.org. Join us, donate, spread the word.
Don’t let “honor war dead” continue to be corrupted into “honor war.”
The Quick Point podcast is part of the Oklahoma Activist project. If you have a quick point to share via this podcast, go to oklahomaactivist.com and sign up to become a contributor.
Produced under a Creative Commons license. 2016 Oklahoma Activist.
It’s a very appropriate day to start this new Pointing Left Podcast series, because the Oklahoma Legislative session for 2016 has ended (called sine die) and while the session involved lots of foolhardy efforts and unfortunate decisions, two things were being loudly celebrated by me and other progressive Okies:
No additional abortion restrictions!
SB1552 was vetoed by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and other attempts to restrict women’s right to control their own bodies were stopped. Thanks go to the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood — especially their lobbyist Tamya Cox — and the many women and allies who called and wrote, and walked from office to office at the Capitol. A special shoutout to my own Republican State Senator, Ervin Yen, himself a doctor, who despite being anti-abortion, voted against 1552, calling it “insane.” It’s nice to see some of those folks do have a limit to their misogyny.
In related news, just after news of 1552’s demise came down, I got an email from Julie Burkhard of Trust Women. She said:
May has been a stormy month for those of us defending reproductive rights in the Midwest.
Oklahoma legislators passed and then Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed SB 1552, which sought to put doctors in handcuffs for performing abortions. Some lawmakers used the clinic we are opening early this summer in Oklahoma City as a political weapon against the governor, saying we would not have expanded access in the Sooner State if she had signed the bill.
Oh, how wrong they were.
Our plans have never hinged on politicians. Rather, they are tied directly to our mission: to open clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decisions about their health care.
I hope to spend the next few weeks focused on moving forward and not responding to those who do not trust women.
2. Bathroom bill — and other anti-LGBTQ bills killed
Freedom Oklahoma had an extraordinary legislative advocacy record this session — they stopped every single bill that sought to discriminate or target their community — over a dozen. Many of these were defeated early in the process, but director Troy Stevenson and his team knew better than to relax and countered a really ugly effort to punish transgenders. Kudos to Troy and folks like Paula Sophia Schonaeur and Brittany Novotny for all they did under extreme pressure. And a very personal comment: I am so glad that the days of Lesbian and Gay organizations keeping our bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters at arms length is past us. Shows you how long I’ve been around, I guess. But now we are one queer community and have each others back! Yay!
3. Okay, three things: Today is Sally Kern’s last day to demean and torment LGBTQ people (and their allies)
In this case, at least, I support term limits! Many of us will be celebrating this milestone tonight in OKC and the world is welcome to join in spirit.
4. What the hell, 4 things!
Health care administrator and average Oklahoman Andy Moore almost single-handedly started and built an incredible movement of grassroots citizen advocacy called Let’s Fix This, bringing hundreds of first time or inexperienced citizens into the lobbying business to deal with this lazy ass, no good, morally compromised majority in the legislature and. These newly active folks didn’t get everything they wanted, but believe me, they were noticed and made a difference because things could have been even worse for public education without their work and repeated visits to the Capitol en masse. Next year they will be even stronger and a real force to be reckoned with.
5th thing — real quick — record number of first time candidates running for the OK leg to kick out the dunces who can’t or won’t do the job. Primary June 28, election day Nov. 8. Vote like it matters, because it does!
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Change Oklahoma and Oklahoma for Bernie hosted a progressive candidates forum on May 17 at the Moore Public Library. 130 attended the event and 15 candidates participated (listed below). From the event announcement:
Change Oklahoma and friends invited every Democratic candidate (with an opponent) running for the Oklahoma House or Senate from either Cleveland or Oklahoma County. We hope to get a feel for who they are and where they stand on the issues.
Scroll for select photos from the event. For the full album of photos by Serena Blaiz, visit her Google Photos album.