It feels like we have entered an era of turbulence.
On a personal level, my thoughts are about life-long LA educator, Sal Castro. He passed away a few days ago. How do you explain who he was to someone who never knew him? In a way, he was like LA Times journalist Ruben Salazar – the journalist that was killed in 1970 in ELA. Castro had a similar impact, but he did not die. He inspired a generation. Most people know of him through the movie Walkout! But if that’s how they know him, then in a sense they only know about six months of his life. Sal never stopped crusading for what some people call educational reform. We he really did was commence a campaign against educational apartheid. And that battle never ended.
In Tucson, we’ve been battling for seven years and Sal was well aware of the struggle there, in Arizona. He wanted to speak in Tucson when TUSD and the state decided that what he stood for was not welcome in this backward state. Still we invited him, but his health was already not in the best of shape. Two years ago, one of his brightest students, Paula Crrisostomo, came in his place. And she was banned from speaking not by one, but two schools in Tucson (Tucson High and Cholla). Still she spoke to my students at the University of Arizona. Her presence was powerful that year. After speaking to my students she went to one of the most chaotic school board meetings in Tucson’s history. The entire school board, the building and its surroundings were heavily militarized… And she was there in the middle of it all… 40 years after having taking part in a historic battle with thousands of students throughout LA schools, she was right in the middle of another historic battle, this time, in defense of Raza Studies
Sal was the essence of what it means to be a teacher. In some societies a teacher is the highest example of what it means to be a good human being. A teacher imparts knowledge, imparts wisdom and sets an example.
Soon, I will feel compelled to write about him. A little more about him. At the moment, I am like many, attempting to digest the significance, the impact, of his life and his death.
When I spoke about that we had entered an era of turbulence, I meant something bigger, or something beyond Los Angeles or even beyond this country.
Just recently, the Constitution Project (a two year study) found that the United States had engaged in torture. The previous administration suspended both the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. This of course is mind-boggling. Mind-boggling that the entire previous administration is not behind bars. There is no mystery. These politicians willingly ignored the law, and also, as collateral damage, sacrificed our rights for a false sense of security. And then you have the current administration, from day one, speaking about needing to move forward and not looking back (that’s a pretty ridiculous notion as all prosecutions of crimes and all judicial proceedings deal with the past). Failure to prosecute those that engage in torture is itself a crime. The previous administration willfully defied international law, and even U.S. law. They did not hide their intentions. What they said was that the law does not apply to this country. That was a unilateral decision. And worse the current administration has been complicit in this. The current administration’s policies, in regards to war and specifically the use of drones, is, as illegal as the previous administrations war activities.
But let’s switch gears. A generation ago dictators throughout the world, including on this continent, committed unspeakable crimes against humanity, including genocide. A generation later many of these same dictators and generals have now been put to trial. Truth commissions were not and are not good enough.
As we speak, one of Guatemala’s worst dictators, Efrain Rios Montt, the most genocidal dictator of them all, is currently on trial. This gives us hope, gives humanity hope, that while people that abuse their power today, though they may not receive justice tomorrow, in due time, the law will catch up to them.
If we uphold the law, it is difficult to see how virtually every member of the previous administration, at least high-ranking cabinet members, will not one day also be put on trial. The charge wouldn’t be simply enabling torture, but willingly criminally invading another nation under false pretenses. Lots of lives were lost in this criminal war. At least hundreds of thousands were lost, taken actually, under false pretenses.
As we speak, the nation is abuzz about several other incredibly important issues. For example the bombings in Boston. What does it mean? Foreign terrorists? Right-wing white supremacists? Right now we don’t know. What we do know is that the precedent that was set by the previous administration is that potentially we will again succumb to the false notion of security, this while once again, giving away and giving up our rights as human beings.
The other topic that has the nation abuzz is the Senate’s immigration proposal. It is scary. If anything, it is a document that criminalizes human beings, that seeks to make profit from that so-called criminality and above and beyond all, it seeks to dehumanize and make permanent, dehumanization, under the guise of reform. It is the road not to reform, but to apartheid. It creates a permanent underclass. The entire bill, all the proposals that have come forward and are yet to come forward all seem be advancing with the premise that Republicans or conservatives won the previous election. It is their vision that is being inscribed into law. And yet, does it really matter? The current president has been criminalizing, deporting people and breaking apart families at a greater clip than his predecessor. The Senate bill is the more liberal proposal that we will see. The house version will be bad and then the bickering will be intense. Then finally the president will sign something that will be anything but a human rights document.
Over the past few months, I did not actually disappear. I was involved in a very special ceremony. The end result, is that I finished my forthcoming book titled: Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl (our sacred maze is our mother). The book is about 7,000 years of maiz culture on this continent. It is about the daily relationship that many of us have with this sacred food.
For the next several months, I will be working on another book project, this one related to color consciousness, a project I’ve been working on for several years. Finally, I have been part of the process leading up to a historic conference this Fri-Sat at ASU West in Phoenix on the Doctrine of Discovery. It is an examination of the institutions and “laws” responsible for land theft and the loss of human rights on this continent, etc. Hope you consider going as there is still time.