Saturday, June 23, 2012

Two Activists, Two Questions

I am fired up about my July 1 evening book event/discussion with the activists in Flagstaff AZ. Just from a few phone calls and emails, I get the sense that the scene in Flag is intensely alive: Native American activism, AE911truth, Marx reading groups, Pine Pride marches, and a new boutique cafe called Sundara (which is hosting us all on July 1).  

Sundara is so snazzy - here is a picture of it!


 When I met organizer Alissa on the phone, she spoke of the recently deceased activist professor Joel Olson, and the Repeal Coalition.....and I thought the whole world should know about this stuff. So here is a quick interview- two questions for Alissa from me, and then vice versa, Alissa asks me a couple.

 Sander: So, tell me more about the Repeal Coalition?

Alissa: The Repeal Coalition is an organization committed to repealing over 60 anti-immigrant laws and bills that have been passed or considered by Arizona politicians in the last few years. This organization demands the repeal of all laws - federal, state, and local  - that degrade and discriminate against undocumented individuals and that deny US citizens their lawful rights. They demand that all US citizens - with papers or without - be guaranteed access to work, housing, healthcare, education, legal protection, and other public benefits, as well as the right to organize.  Their strategy is to build a grass roots organization that can repeal these laws, change the national debate on immigration, and expand the freedom of all people. The repeal coalition is dedicated to the idea that every one should have the right to live, love, and work wherever they choose. In my opinion, this is the type of issue that is directly related to the fall-out after 9/11, when the culture of xenophobia really exploded. For some reason (maybe our close location to the US/Mexico border) Arizona has jumped on the xenophobia band wagon with extreme zeal - we've struggled with SB1070, which has made national news and ignited heated debates throughout the country, our state, and even the world. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and others have led the way in enforcing these racist laws, and subsequently our state has been bitterly divided between those who support such heinous and hateful policies and those who think there has to be a better way to live together in harmony.

Sander: Who was Joel Olson?

Alissa: Dr. Joel Olson was a tenured professor at Northern Arizona Univerity and a beloved member of the Flagstaff community. He worked tirelessly with the Repeal Coalition most recently, and in his past was dedicated to such groups as Cop Watch - which he founded in Phoenix. He was a punk rocker in his younger years and a radical thinker his whole life. At NAU he was a member of the of the Political Science department and taught classes on Marx and Race Theory, among other topics. He was a great inspiration to his students and almost every one he met; his luminous personality, radical viewpoints, and benevolent intentions won the hearts of those who had the opportunity to hear him speak even once. His death was sudden, shocking, and devastating to his family and our community. At his public memorial the Repeal Coalition and other community members marched through downtown Flagstaff in his honor and came together to agree that the best way to honor Joel's memory is to continue the good work to which he was so selflessly devoted.

Alissa: Here are a couple for you. Ideally, what do you want to see happen, politically, in the US in the next decade?     

Sander: Ideally, a huge wave of common sense, a big paradigm shift, happens, in which we suddenly all have an "Ah Ha" moment as a society - we begin to realize that the wasteful expenditures of all our national treasure on war, on bailouts, on the culture of violence and secrecy are immoral, and flat out impractical. We may have to get there through a painful crisis, kind of like the one that we are in right at this very moment. We are soaking in it! But my message is that the pain and suffering can be cleansing, can be shattering, and out of the death, comes new life.  

Alissa: What is the most profound moment you've had in the context of 9/11 research and activism?      

Sander: Well, I am writing you from the Library in Shreveport, Louisiana, where in 2007 I confronted an FBI agent, Steve Hayes. He was literally vibrating with rage, barely suppressed. He had been involved in the meetings, suppression and eventual silencing of 9/11 martyr Dr. David Graham. At that moment, I realized just how desperate the US Federal War Machine was to cover up the truth about 9/11. They are desperate enough to kill patriots and peace makers who naturally stood up for decent simple virtures like honesty and truth.

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