MODULE 15: 2016-17

A Dallas Parking Lot (2016)

Another day, another massacre. This time, unusually, the victims are cops. And it wasn’t a random “kill everyone” scenario at all – the shooter was a trained sniper, a military veteran, and he only shot cops. He had problems with cops because so many of them keep killing people, especially Black people, with impunity. He said all that to police negotiators, before the cops killed him with a robot that was carrying explosives.

God’s Gift to the Caliphate (2016)

That, of course, being Donald Trump. Perhaps most especially on the day he announced that as president, he would ban Muslims from entering the US. This is when Islamic State started using him in their recruitment videos.

A Bus In Kenya (2016)

Men with guns pulled over a bus in Kenya, near the border with Somalia. They ordered everybody off the bus. Two people ran away when they were all ordered off the bus, and they were shot and killed. Everyone else stayed in front of the bus.

The men with guns then ordered the Christians to separate from the Muslims. Everyone on the bus knew that this meant the men were going to kill the Christians, once they determined exactly who they were.

Nobody moved. Nobody identified themselves as either Christian or Muslim. Nobody knew whether this refusal to cooperate with the militants would get people killed, or perhaps get everybody killed. Everybody knew how risky this situation was, but nobody spoke.

The men with guns left. This happened two weeks after Donald Trump announced that Muslims would not be welcome in his America.

“One Day In Kenya”

If Clinton’s A Progressive (2016)

During her race to become the Democratic Party’s candidate to run against Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton did her best to position herself to the left of Bernie Sanders. The performance was unconvincing to anyone familiar with her political record.

“If Clinton’s A Progressive”

Jill Stein (2016)

US democracy is rigged in many ways. One of those ways is how it’s set up to make it almost impossible for a third party to get very far in establishing itself. This is primarily because of the “winner take all” voting system, whereby the winner of a race is the one who gets the most votes – unlike in most other democracies, where if a party gets at least 5% of the vote, they’ll get 5% of the seats in the legislature, for example.

But there are third parties in the US, and one of them is the Green Party. The presidential candidate for the Greens for a couple of election cycles now has been Dr Jill Stein.

Mohammed Abu Sakha (2016)

The most well-known local circus artist in Palestine is probably Mohammed Abu Sakha, a young man from Jenin. One evening he was on his way to a concert in Ramallah, when the van he was in was stopped by an Israeli military checkpoint. They ordered him to get out of the van. He spent the next year in detention without charge in an Israeli prison.

“Free Abu Sakha”

Orlando (2016)

Another day, another massacre. This time a big one – the biggest, until Las Vegas, anyway. What made this man such a homophobe? How hard is it to be a gay man of Afghan descent, trying to figure out who you are, in the context of your homeland being bombed to rubble by the Air Force of the country you grew up in, the homophobic country where you are a self-loathing gay Afghan-American – with easy access to Islamic State propaganda on the internet, and easy access to all the rapid-fire weapons you can carry. That, and a confined space called the Pulse night club, was the formula necessary to result in fifty dead people in the course of one evening.


Standing Rock (2016)

The indigenous and other people who came together at the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota represented the biggest movement of indigenous people in the US in decades. Thousands came to be there with the local Water Protectors, as they became known. The resistance at Standing Rock changed many lives – though unfortunately not among the oil men and their political servants in Washington and Ottawa. The pipeline people were trying to stop was built – and, as people knew it would, it’s already leaking and poisoning the precious, scarce water of the arid region.

“Standing Rock”

Nauru (2016)

Omid Masoumali, a refugee from Iran, immolated himself. His partner, also an Iranian refugee, is still in detention. Nauru is a small tropical island with an environment long ago destroyed by an Australian mine, where the local people have a 90% unemployment rate, among other chronic problems. This is where Australia takes people who have refugee status – they get approved as legitimate refugees, but they still aren’t allowed in to Australia, the country they were risking their lives to try to get to.

“Leila and Majnun”

Fidel (2017)

One of original group of revolutionaries who began, fought and won the Cuban revolution, died. The US began the process of finally normalizing relations with this nation that the US has consistently been punishing economically and sometimes through state-sponsored terrorism over the course of the past 50+ years. That normalizing is currently on hold.

“Commandante Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz”

Portland MAX Train (2017)

Three men were stabbed by a sociopathic racist on a train in Portland, Oregon. The three men stabbed were speaking in defense of two teenage women of color who the sociopath was yelling at. Two of the men he stabbed died.

“On The Train”

Grenfell Tower Fire (2017)

A large public housing project – council housing estate in local parlance – caught fire and burned almost completely, all 27 floors, the total dead still unclear. The fire was so intense because the whole building had been wrapped in a flammable plastic called “cladding.” The main purpose of the cladding was to prettify the building. Because of constant budget-cutting and disinterest in the whole project of housing the public anymore, the government failed to maintain safety systems in the building. The fire was a direct consequence of austerity budgets in the post-Thatcher, neoliberal age of governance in the UK.

“Names and Addresses”

Housing Crisis (2017)

In Oregon, as in so many places, there is a housing crisis. Thousands homeless, and so many more just barely paying exorbitant and ever-increasing monthly rent or getting roped into impossible mortgages. In response, good people and organizations such as Portland Tenants United tried to do something about it in the form of a bill. But with each donation from the landlord lobby, the bill got weaker, until the point where it was totally worthless. It was a case of political bribery, simply demonstrated – totally corrupt, and totally legal. Most offensively to some people, the politicians the lobby bribed are all Democrats.

“Rod Monroe Campaign Song”

Rojava (2017)

The closest thing today to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s that drew so many left-leaning people to the cause of the Spanish Republic in the form of the International Brigades is the struggle in the region of Syria the locals call Rojava. Hundreds of people from around the world have traveled there, which itself is a challenge, and joined the ranks of the mostly Kurdish women and men who are defending their region against Islamic State and other actors in the chaos.


Charlottesville (2017)

The far right called a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to defend the Confederate monuments that many people would like taken down. People who don’t like white supremacists called a counter-rally. Local police failed consistently to keep the sides apart or protect those members of the public who were threatened or attacked by Nazis. One of those attacks, involving a car being driven into a crowd of protesters, turned deadly.

“Today In Charlottesville”

Famine, Flood and Fire (2017)

Climate breakdown is bringing us unprecedentedly faster winds, bigger storms, bigger fires, bigger floods. And, as has often been the case in the course of recent world history, famines are threatening the lives of millions in war zones in both Africa and the Middle East.

“Famine, Flood and Fire”

When the Shooting Ended (2017)

And we’ve achieved another record year for massacres. The reason they keep getting deadlier would seem to have something to do with the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, which has never been renewed.

Questions/thoughts for further exploration…

A Dallas Parking Lot (2016)

Was the sniper on the rooftop in Dallas a terrorist? Did he have legitimate grievances? Were they grievances that legal means had addressed? Did he fire indiscriminately?

God’s Gift to the Caliphate (2016)

What are the best recruiting tools for groups like Islamic State? US imperialism? Torture? Guantanamo? The Muslim Ban?

One Day In Kenya (2016)

Why did Muslim bus passengers risk their own lives in order to save the lives of the Christian passengers?

If Clinton’s A Progressive (2016)

Why did Hillary Clinton support the TPP up until the Presidential primary race? What made her change her mind?

Jill Stein (2016)

Is it possible for a third party to become a serious force in the US? Why does this happen so rarely in the US compared to most European democracies?

Free Abu Sakha (2016)

Why was Mohammed Abu Sakha arrested? What is the evidence against him? What is the impact on society of Israel’s policies of indefinite detention without trial?

Orlando (2016)

What drove this man to kill 49 people? Homophobia, self-hatred, intergenerational trauma, easy access to assault weapons, poor mental health care, or some combination of these or other factors?

Standing Rock (2016)

Has there been a long history of Native Americans being disproportionately impacted by eminent domain projects such as pipelines, railroads and mines?

Nauru (2016)

Is Australia a rogue state?

Commandante Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (2017)

If Fidel Castro was such a horrible dictator, why did so few Cubans leave Cuba in comparison with most nearby countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, etc.?

On The Train (2017)

What would you have done if you were on that train in Portland, Oregon? What should people have done differently, in retrospect?

Grenfell Tower Fire (2017)

Was the Grenfell Tower Fire a direct consequence of austerity budgets in England?

Bought and Sold (2017)

Is the Democratic Party more or less corrupt than the Republican Party?

Rojava (2017)

Is it possible for anarchists to accept air support from the United States?

Charlottesville (2017)

Is it easy to equate Antifa with white supremacists? How many people have been killed by anarchists in the US in the past 50 years? How many people have been killed by white supremacists?

Famine, Flood and Fire (2017)

What reasons are there to be optimistic about the prospects for humanity right now?

When the Shooting Ended (2017)

How many massacres might it take before gun control is implemented in the US?