Archive for the 'colonialism/imperialism' Category

Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap

Karen Salazar at a rally in response to her firing

cross-posted at Feministe

Yesterday while listening to Democracy Now! I heard about Karen Salazar for the first time. She is a high school teacher who was fired from her position at a school in LA because her curriculum was too “Afrocentric” – instead of, you know, the usual Eurocentric curriculum that’s delivered to American students on the daily. From a letter by Salazar posted on the Vivir Latino site:

I am being fired because I am trying to ensure that my curriculum is relevant to my students’ daily lived experiences, and in the process, create a space for them to be critical of Eurocentric society and curricula that only serve to reinforce their dehumanization, subjugation, and oppression …

I have been observed in the classroom and evaluated by administration over a dozen times (almost twice a month) this school year, whereas in comparison, most teachers are observed and evaluated 1-3 times per school year. The evaluations claim that I am creating “militancy” within students, promoting my personal political beliefs, and presenting a biased view of the curriculum. It has also been implied that I have been teaching students “how to protest.”

Three weeks ago, things began escalating when I was again observed, and in his evaluation, the administrator accused me of “brainwashing” my students and “forcing extremist views” on them. The class had been reading a 3-page excerpt of the Autobiography of Malcolm X (an LAUSD-approved text, of which we have several class sets in our school bookroom), in which Malcolm describes the first time he conked his hair…My contract is being terminated because according to the principal, I am “indoctrinating students with anti-Semitism and Afrocentrism.” The anti-Semitism accusation comes solely from the fact that I have an Intifada poster hanging in my classroom (a symbol of support for a free Palestine), and the Afrocentrism accusation comes from the fact my culturally-relevant curriculum reflects the demographics of my students, though I am surprised I am not being accused of Raza-centrism as well.

Needless to say, this shit is disgusting. And of course, as Democracy Now! reports, it’s not an isolated incident:

In 2006, Jay Bennish, a high school teacher from Aurora, Colorado, was briefly dismissed because one of his lectures was deemed “anti-American.” On the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, Deborah Mayer, an Indiana schoolteacher, was fired after telling her class, “I honk for peace.” A federal appeals court in Chicago upheld the school’s decision last year and ruled public school teachers do not have the constitutional right to express personal opinions in the classroom.

But this isn’t just about expressing personal opinions; it’s about the restrictions imposed upon teachers who may wish to counter the so-called history in most history books with information that actually reflects the many cultures and histories that make up this country – histories that often don’t make the United States look so swell.

Continue reading ‘Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap’

cross-border bullying

U.S. Border Patrol agents on the Mexico-U.S. border are apparently the frequent targets of rocks, bricks, and bottles hurled over the reprehensible walls and fences on the border. Their response? Firing tear gas and pepper spray canisters, which are wide effect weapons, into the neighborhoods of shanties where innocent people are just trying to survive. From the AP/NY Times article:

Esther Arias Medina, 41, fled her shanty in Tijuana with her 3-week-old grandson last week in the midst of an attack. The boy had begun coughing, Ms. Arias said, after smoke seeped through the walls of the three-room home, which she shares with six others.

“We don’t deserve this,” she said. “The people who live here don’t throw rocks. Those are people who come from the outside. But we’re paying the price.”

Witnesses in Ms. Arias’s neighborhood described eight attacks since August that involved tear gas or pepper spray, some that forced residents to evacuate.

The Border Patrol claims that they have to protect themselves from these “attacks,” but come on – is the collateral damage worth it? I know that these rocks and bricks can really hurt someone, but frankly, I can’t seem to work up much sympathy for pinche Border Patrol agents. Hell, if I lived on the other side of one of those damn walls and had to look at those american brutos every day, I’d probably be throwing stones at them, too. Yeah yeah, individual agents aren’t necessarily the bad guys, yadda yadda, fuck that noise. They’re the little bully agents of the biggest bully of them all, a country that owns the lion’s share of the responsibility for the economic conditions that created those shanty towns in the first place. It’s really a David and Goliath type situation, even right down to the weapons of choice:

Mexico’s acting consul general in San Diego, Ricardo Pineda Albarrán, has insisted that United States authorities stop firing onto Mexican soil. Mr. Pineda met with Border Patrol officials last month after the agency fired tear gas into Mexico. The agency defended that action, saying agents were being hit with a hail of ball bearings from slingshots in Mexico.

Now, the US claims that the Mexican authorities aren’t doing anything about the rock-throwing and that they therefore need to act to protect themselves, but isn’t it weird that they can just fire into another country like that? Much less with chemical weapons that are banned from use in warfare? (Funny, huh, that tear gas and pepper spray can be used fairly indiscriminately for civilian law enforcement but can’t be used in an actual war.) I mean, it’s not like Border Patrol can just plod on into Mexico and start fucking shit up; why, then, are they allowed to fuck shit up from this side of the border?

United States officials say the new tactics may spare lives. In March, an agent shot and killed a 20-year-old Mexican man whose arm was cocked; that fatality occurred in Calexico, Calif., where attacks with stones have soared. And two years ago, an agent fatally shot a stone thrower at the San Diego-Tijuana border.

“Hey, Mexicans, wouldya stop complaining already? We could be shooting you instead, you know!” Just… wow.

ACTION ALERT: Support the Khalil Gibran International Academy

Monday, August 20, 6pm
NYC Department of Education
Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street
Between Broadway & Centre St. in Manhattan
Subways: 4, 5, 6, N, R, W, M, J, 2, 3, A, C

This is fairly short notice for this alert, but I want to really encourage folks to show up Monday afternoon for a gathering in support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a soon-to-be-opened NYC public school that will focus on Arabic language and culture (for folks unfamiliar, many NYC public schools have foci like this, cultural or otherwise.) The school has been the subject of racist and anti-Islamic attacks from many conservative pundits and media sources, as in this NY Sun article and an edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes that was written up over at Media Matters. However, the school has been under especially harsh attack since Debbie Almontaser, now ex-principal of the school, came under fire from such sources for not condemning a t-shirt created by an organization that is unrelated to the school. Since then, Almontaser has resigned from her position, stating that she “became convinced yesterday that this week’s headlines were endangering the viability of Khalil Gibran International Academy, even though [she] apologized.”

The t-shirt, which reads “Intifada NYC,” was created by a NYC community organization, AWAAM: Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media. The group’s mission states that it “provides comprehensive leadership opportunities in community organizing, art and media skills to young women and girls … to empower a generation of young women with the community organizing and media skills necessary to act as leaders within their communities, which have endured increasing hardship in recent years.” On Democracy Now! last Monday, Mona Eldahry, founding director of AWAAM, said this about the t-shirt’s origin and meaning:

Now, “Intifada NYC” is not a call for terrorism, as they say. It’s not a call for violence or, if I could quote one of the publications, “Gaza Strip uprising in the Big Apple.” “Intifada NYC” is a term that, you know, we developed maybe two, three years ago in the years since September 11th. Basically, for myself — everybody interprets it differently — but for myself, I feel, as an Arab woman, as a Muslim woman and as a woman of color, pressure from two sides … on one hand, from the community discrimination — from the outside, I mean, you know, discrimination on the streets — and then from our own communities, you know, we’re told, you know, “Be careful. You know, don’t — you know, don’t go to demonstrations. Don’t be too outspoken, you know,” you know, especially when we were young …

“Intifada” means “shaking off,” you know, so shake off these pressures that we’re feeling, both from the other side and from our side. You know, we have to speak out. And if we don’t speak up for ourselves, who will?

This clarification of the literal Arabic meaning of intifada is what got Debbie Almontaser into so much trouble. Essentially, both she and AWAAM are coming under fire for owning their own language and for refusing to allow it to be constrained to which others wish to limit it. A recent editorial in the New York Post gives this definition of the word: “terroristic assault and murder, undertaken by Palestinians against Jews in the Middle East.” (No mention, of course, of the terroristic assault, murder, and oppression of Palestinians by Israel.) The editorial then calls Almontaser’s explanation of the Arabic definition of intifada “malarkey.” Because apparently, the editorial staff of the New York Post deems itself more qualified to give the definition of an Arabic word than an Arab-American speaker of Arabic. And although it may be true that the word is most often associated with Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation, such a definition even leaves out the many non-violent elements of those struggles, including “civil disobedience, general strikes, boycotts on Israeli products, graffiti, and barricades.”

The repression, stamping out, robbing and perversion of language and cultural identity have long been important tools of colonialism, imperialism, and racism. Right now, it is in the interest of conservatives, racists, warmongers, and anti-Islamic people to promote only those perceptions of Islam and Arabic culture that support american wars and policies of aggression and imperialism in the Arabic world, as well as the oppression of Arabic people in this country. The Khalil Gibran International School is coming under attack because it will not promote the prescribed view of Arabic history, culture, peoples and languages; it’ll actually strive for a fair and complete perspective, one which will go counter to one that props up war and oppression. The attacks themselves – calling the school a “madrassa” (another Arabic word twisted by the media and conservatives) that will serve to “groom future radicals” – continue to promote the twisted view of Arab people, assigning sinister, violent, and anti-american motives to the mere study of Arabic language and culture.

The preservation of language and culture is threatening to american hegemony, to american imperialism, and to american racism. African languages were quite literally beaten out of Africans in slavery; Native languages and culture were wiped out with their people. Today, “Welcome to America, now SPEAK ENGLISH” is a popular t-shirt slogan, Latino kids are suspended from school for speaking Spanish in the halls, and travelers are stopped from boarding planes because they’re wearing t-shirts written in Arabic:

So the security officers and the JetBlue officers at that time told me that wearing an Arabic T-shirt and coming to an airport in the US is like going to a bank while wearing a T-shirt that reads, “I am a robber.”

And a principal can be forced to resign because she makes the mistake of defining a word in her own language, instead of allowing her language to be defined for her by those who do nothing but malign her culture.

Intifada NYC, indeed – for there’s a whole lot of bullshit to be shaken off.

Mi Puerto Rico

My dad called me up earlier tonight and told me to switch on channel 13, which is PBS here in the NYC area. I thought he was trying to tell me, yet again, that In the Life, a lesbian and gay news show, was on; my dad loves to tell me about every single remotely gay thing he sees, watches, or hears about.

But this time, he was calling to tell me about a film that was on, Mi Puerto Rico. I’m really glad he called me about it; it was an excellent film, all about issues of cultural and political identity in Puerto Rico, centered around US colonialism and the question of Puerto Rico’s political status. While presenting all sides of the debate, the film had what I thought was a decidedly independista slant, which, of course, I greatly appreciated.

I’m sad I didn’t get to watch the whole thing from the very beginning, and am tempted to get in on DVD. Only thing is, you can only get the DVD for either $295 from the independent film distributor, or for a $75 or more pledge to Thirteen, the PBS station here. Even though I really need not spend that sort of money, I’m so tempted.

If you’d like to watch it, are in the NYC area, and are the early riser sort, it’ll be airing again at 7:30am this Saturday.

Remind me never to even glance at FOXNews.com

For some clearly ridiculous reason, I decided to follow a Google News link to an article on the Faux News website. On their sidebars, there’s a video section. Three videos in a row had to do with immigration. I didn’t bother too look at any of them – I’m not that stupid, nor am I masochistic (well, at least not for that kind of pain.) But the titles and captions say plenty:

  • Border Disorder: A look at issues that drive many Mexicans to enter the U.S. illegally (sounds good in theory, but somehow I think there’ll be a whole lot missing about america’s culpability in creating those issues that drive immigration)
  • Get in Line!: Millions wait for a chance to legally come to the U.S. to work (Boy, how I wish the Native Americans could have issued that command to the white bastards who stole their land. Get in line, and then we’ll turn you away anyhow! Yeah, that’s how it should’ve been.)
  • and, the best of all: Border Garbage: Illegal immigrants blamed for trashing the border (WTF? They’re really digging for even more bullshit that they can blame on undocumented immigrants, aren’t they? I can just see the orders issued in the Faux News Pressroom – “OK, now go out and find everything that an illegal immigrant ever did wrong, and let’s make a video about it!”)

migraphobia

Today’s post title comes to you from this funny and smart animation by Mark Fiore, which I discovered by reading a great post of the same name by Junichi over at Poplicks. Check that blog out for good reasons why we should be thankful that the immigration reform “compromise” bill wasn’t passed (and hopeful that something that actual resembles justice does get passed in the end.)

Yesterday’s rally was actually one of the best, most fun, and most inspiring I’ve ever been to. When my girlfriend and I arrived at Canal and Broadway, the end of the protest was right there on that block – very impressive, though possibly also a partial result of the weird spacing that the police caused with their stupid penning tactics, now familiar to any New Yorker who has seen or attended protests in recent years. The going was slow but eventually we made it down to City Hall, lots more people still flowing in behind us even though we’d gotten to the protest pretty late.

Part of the effectiveness of the protest was that it was felt very focused – it really did feel like we were all raising a unified cry for justice and immigrants rights. The mood was optimistic and almost festive – yes, there was the gravity of the matters at hand and the anger and frustration at how immigrants are abused in this country, but there was also the high energy and high spirits of many peoples gathering together to fight for something that they really think they might get – that hope is really important and I think is often less evident at many protests.

Also, Latinos know how to make just about everything more fun than anyone else (hehe, sorry other folks, gotta have the Latino pride here.) Other than the Still We Rise march back during the RNC (which probably ties this one for Jack’s Best Protest thusfar), this was probably the most people-of-color-dominated protests I’ve ever been to. Even though me and my girlfriend (who is white) were lost in a crowd of strangers for most of the protest, I felt really happy and all warm and fuzzy inside, surrounded by so many proud Latinos, yelling “¡Sí se puede!” and “El pubelo unido jamás será vencido!” at the top of our lungs.

Speaking of that, though, the overwhelming number of Latinos at the protest made me pissed off at NPR’s local NYC coverage this morning, in which three people with white-sounding last names and american accents were interviewed. Like, come on, they must have worked really hard to find those few white folks swimming in a veritable sea of brown. (Yes, I know, it might’ve been a fluke, and I can’t really say for sure that those people were white or non-Latino, but still.)

One thing that was weird for me was the amount of american flag-waving going on at the rally. Maybe it was in response to the kind of bullshit criticism of the presence of other countries’ flags that I wrote about yesterday, or maybe it was all really genuine sentiment, but either way, there were tons of ‘em, everywhere. I’m not much of a fan of the american flag, since to me it can’t be anything but a symbol of the centuries of genocide, land theft, slavery, imperialism, and other assorted oppression that has been wreaked in the name of the good ol’ u.s. of a. And most of the protests that I attend are critical of the u.s. in ways that don’t seem to prompt a lot of flag flying. I know that immigration protests are a different story – the whole point is about people wanting and deserving to live in this country, so it makes sense that they should carry the flag as a symbol that they, too, are americans. But american patriotism, in any form and for any reason, still kind of icks me out.

On that topic, here’s a good look from the folks at Media Matters at the inanity, the bigotry, and the hypocricy being spewed by some conservatives over protestors carrying the flags of Mexico and other countries. One particularly obnoxious comment from Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review:

Well, aren’t there plenty of Irish flags at St. Patrick’s Day parades, and Italian flags at Columbus Day celebrations? What makes the Mexican displays more ominous is their hint of a large, unassimilated population existing outside America’s laws and exhibiting absolutely no sheepishness about it.

Hmm… now, come on, Richie, is that what really scares you about those Mexican flags? Let’s see… Irish and Italians… ethnic groups who used to be persecuted in this country but have now been well assimilated into the white ruling class. Mexicans… SCARY BROWN PEOPLE AUUUUUUGH! And look – they’re not just serving your food or cleaning your house – they’re all together! And proud! Empowered, even! Yes, for much of white america, I bet that’s a very frightening spectacle, indeed.

All right, back to the protest. About an hour or so of slow as molasses marching (thanks, NYPD!) we reached the point where speakers and screens were set up so that we could take in the speeches going on down by City Hall. We’d missed many of the speakers by that point, but two of the ones I heard – Roger Toussaint of the Transit Worker’s Union (who, in yet another travesty of “justice,” was sentenced to ten days in prison and $1000 for defending his workers’ rights) and a Filipina woman whose name I didn’t catch but who spoke before him (if someone knows who she was, please tell me!) – reminded us of something that I think many americans, especially those who are anti-immigration, tend to forget: america’s role in creating the conditions that force people to leave their home countries in search of a better life in this one. Democracy Now! provides this quote from Toussaint:

Everyone here should think long and hard about what is happening in America today. We have a government that creates immigrants by the millions and then mistreats them. I say the U.S. creates immigrants the old-fashioned way. If you have tyranny and oppression and famine and poverty around the world, you are going to have immigrants coming to the U.S. No wall is going to stop them. No fence with barbed wire on the Mexican border or no frozen moat on the Canadian border is going to stop them. It will just make it easier to arrest and brutalize them. We don’t need a wall. We need a new foreign policy, so people can make a decent living and live in peace in their home countries.

That’s crucial to remember: the u.s., along with other western powers (though I think that no one does it quite like the u.s. does), is directly culpable for the decimation of Third World economies and social structures. In turn, the u.s. is directly responsible for the tide of immigration, legal or not, to this country. Should we, as a nation, wring these countries dry for the profit of u.s. interests, then give a big ol’ fuck you to their people when, out of sheer desperation, they come to the u.s. for the only shot they think they’ve got? Apparently, there are lots of people out there who think that’s precisely what we should do. But anyone with a whit of decency and sense should, when presented with the facts, realize that such actions are irresponsible and morally inexcusable.

no one is illegal

let’s try that blog revival business one more time…

The current weather in New York City: sunny, not a cloud in the sky that I can see, 57 degrees.
Sounds like good weather for a protest. Soon as I am able, I’m leaving work and heading down towards City Hall for what will certainly be a massive demonstration of support for immigrants’ rights and condemndation of the racist, xenophobic, perhaps less obviously but still certainly homophobic, and just generally fucked up attitudes towards immigrants and immigration that pervade the US government.

It’s inspiring and exciting to see such a massive mobilization occuring in cities and towns across the country. I know that many years and countless hours of work have made such a mobilization possible. But in some ways it has this magical feel of coming out of nowhere, a popular uprising of people who may not share all of the same politics, philosophies, histories or ideologies but who are suddenly banding together to speak out against the disgusting legislation and its weak derivatives currently being considered and debated by the US Congress. (Well, not quite currently, as they’re in recess right now, but, you know.)

One thing that I’ve found unsettling, though, in listening to coverage about the protests thusfar, is this “good immigrant/bad immigrant” rhetoric that’s present in what some people are saying, protesters and organizers alike. This morning, while listening to NPR, I heard one woman speak about how Latino immigrants aren’t doing anything to harm this country, that they “love America” and just want to become good, hard-working Americans. Then I heard one organizer, speaking at one of the rallies, say something like this: “Nineteen people hijacked planes and participated in the 9/11 attacks, and not one of them were named Gonzales, Rodriguez, or Santiago. But you can bet that many of the people dying serving their country in Iraq are named Gonzales, Rodriguez, and Santiago…” so on and so forth.

I understand that much of this is in response to the whole immigration debate getting wrapped up in worries about “national security” – how the specter of terrorism seems to make allowances for all manner of discrimination, racism and xenophobia, and how countless immigrants are nonsensically made to suffer because of it. However, it definitely seems like a very bad, very problematic move to buy into this sort of dichotomy that pits “good” immigrants or “good” brown folks (here, Latinos) against “bad” ones (apparently people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent – because, you know, the actions of individuals become the responsibility, the fault, the burden of their entire race and religion.) Latinos, like all other immigrants to the United States, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and are entitled to certain rights and protections because they are human beings, not because they’re good, flag-waving*, American-loving immigrants. No one is illegal, no matter whether your name is Juan or Mohammed, Gonzales or Atta.

* And speaking of flag-waving, apparently you’d better be waving the right flag at these protests, because waving a Mexican or El Salvadorean or other foreign flag might be perceived as “a slap in Americans’ faces.” Apparently, some people were actually insulted to see flags of Latino countries being carried in the protests. It’s gotten to the point where some of the groups organizing these protests are actually asking people to bring American flags instead of their own countries’ flags, which is ridiculous to me. Why should immigrants – or any Latinos or other people of color in this country, frankly – have to kiss the collective ass of a country that’s been doing its best to treat them like total shit for centuries on end in order to “earn” their human and civil rights? It’s beyond me.

Also, the picture of the Mexican flag flying over the upside-down American flag that has Michelle Malkin and all the other conservatives frothing at the mouth – well, I’ve got to say, it warms the cockles of my little anti-American heart. Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest political tactic, but I can’t say that I disagree with the sentiment in the least.

Fuerza Bruta Imperialista: FBI abuse and intimidation in Puerto Rico

FBI agent sprays Puerto Rican reporter in the face with pepper spray

This is slightly old news, but still probably news that far too few have heard. On last Friday, February 10, FBI agents raided six private homes and one business in Puerto Rico in an attack of intimidation and repression against the Ejercito Popular Boricua (Boricua Popular Army). The raids were conducted under the pretense of a “terrorist threat,” though no arrests have been made. People’s homes were ransacked, and files, computers, and other belongings were seized from the homes and office.

When the press attempted to observe and record the raids, the FBI clashed violently with them, spraying many in the face with pepper spray, as in the picture above. The use of excessive force by the FBI has been widely decried, by media and journalism outlets and organizations, Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, and US congresspeople, who are demanding a federal investigation into the FBI’s actions.

Of course, the mainstream media is primarily spitting out the spin they’ve been fed by the FBI, saying that the FBI thwarted a terrorist attack. How, exactly, did they do that? By making no arrests and producing absolutely no evidence of any sort of planned attack? But see, the FBI knows that it doesn’t have to answer those questions. In our current political climate, one only need conjure up the specter of Terrorism to justify any excessive force, any civil rights violations, any complete and utter trampling of that worthless stack of papers called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

It seems to me like all the FBI has done is to continue their campaign of terror, violence and intimidation against those people and organizations who are trying to rid Puerto Rico of their imperialist, oppressive colonizers. These most recent actions are completely in line with the September assasination of nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios, comandante of the Ejercito Popular Boricua. The FBI (or Fuerza Bruta Imperialista, as I read on the Indymedia PR website) continues to crack down on the independence and nationalist movements in Puerto Rico with absolutely no regard for the civil rights of the Puerto Rican people, further driving home the US’s attitude towards the Puerto Rican people as second class citizens. Also reflecting that attitude, the FBI neglected to inform any Puerto Rican authorities, such as the governor or the island’s chief of police, of the impending invasions. As reported in the NY Sun article on the call for an investigation from US congresspeople,

“In our democracy, the most fundamental obligation of law enforcement agencies is to uphold the constitutional rights of citizens as well as to protect the freedom of the press,” the congressmen wrote to the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller. “Even in Puerto Rico, where the Bureau and its agents have a reputation for behaving as if they are above the law, the FBI is not exempt from these duties.”

If the US government is going to continue its colonization of Puerto Rico, shouldn’t it at least treat the Puerto Rican people as true US citizens, enjoying all civil rights and liberties therein? Oh, but wait, that respect isn’t even present on the mainland, at least not for people who have ideas or identities that the government doesn’t like, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect it to be present on the island, either.

All of this is frightening, infuriating and disgusting. It makes me really fucking angry. It also makes me reflect more on my own activism, the places where I devote my energy. Right now, I mostly do my work around issues facing queer and trans people of color. Issues that are obviously very important, both in the grand scheme of things and personally in my own life. But, more and more, I think that my struggle – or at least, a larger part of my struggle, my energy, my work – should be for the liberation of my people. Incidents like this only make that feeling stronger.

More info:

One of the most thorough accounts of the FBI invasions that I’ve found so far, from the Monthly Review Zine

Pictures from the FBI raids, from Indymedia Puerto Rico

An article from Prensa Latina about Puerto Rican Association of Journalists President Oscar Serrano’s challenge to the FBI to prove that journalists were breaking the law and that any force against them was justified.

more info from the UrbanGuerrilla blog

An account from Infoshop News

I was happy to see this article in the Swarthmore Phoenix (my alma mater’s newspaper), about the long history of political repression in Puerto Rico, right up to the FBI’s most recent acts.

Nothing new in The New World

The not-so New World

I’m really waiting for the Religious Right to flip out over the obvious immorality of this film – hello, pedophilia?
When white America comes out with a movie that prominently features Native people, you can’t really expect much good to come of it, can you? So, when I saw the previews for Terrence Malick’s The New World, I was appropriately dubious. Yet, I was also slightly intrigued, because even though I should know that the first line of this entry is absolutely true, the cinematography looked beautiful and interesting enough to make me wonder – maybe it’s not so bad?

Well, I’m glad that my brief moment of naivete didn’t drive me to go out and see the film (in fact, it didn’t come close), because it appears that it’s the racist, revisionist garbage that one would expect. Gabriel over at Modern Fabulousity offers a sharp and insightful take on the film.

Thinking about the film spurred me to learn a bit more about the history behind the incessantly sentimentalized story of Pocahantas, which brought me to the website of the Powhatan Renape Nation. They’ve posted a response to the Pocahantas myth as promoted by the Disney movie and countless other sources. I learned quite a few things from it – for instance, that her real name was not Pocahantas (a childhood nickname meaning “naughty one” or “spoiled girl”) but Matoaka, and that she was only 11 when her supposed romantic interest, John Smith, arrived in her land. Additionally, the whole thing of her saving Smith’s life was probably a total falsification. All of this being, of course, totally unsurprising, given the white man’s insistance on twisting Native history beyond recognition and to their own racist advantage. From the piece by Chief Roy Crazy Horse: “Of all of Powhatan’s children, only ‘Pocahontas’ is known, primarily because she became the hero of Euro-Americans as the “good Indian”, one who saved the life of a white man.”

Somewhat unrelated: upon finding the Modern Fabulousity blog in search of writings on this movie, I also found this amusing take on the “gay trend” in the Golden Globes:

Most Annoying Oscar Trend: The Year of the Gay. Expect to hear this repeated ad naseum, due to Brokeback, Transamerica, and Capote. But three films do not make a trend, people. You could just as easily call it the Year of the Country Folk (Brokeback, Walk The Line, A History of Violence and North Country), or the Year of the Effete Novelist (Capote, The Squid and the Whale), or, God forbid, the Year of the Overblown Literary Adaptation (Narnia, Constant Gardener, Pride and Prejudice, Memoirs of a Geisha, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Proof, Breakfast on Pluto, Brokeback, Munich). But I guess none of those have as much incendiary appeal as The Year The Queers Took Over The Planet And Held Your Children Hostage.