Your Protest Should Inconvenience People

I know that just reading the title of this is going to be enough for some people to get angry over.  Try and read the whole thing before you decide that the thing to do is leave an angry comment.

Protesting is as old a tradition as America has.  We’ve been protesting since before we even became a nation, and there’s no chance that we’ll stop in the near future.  By now you all know the format of these articles.  So our first question is:

Why do people protest?

Now that’s an excellent question.  People can protest for a number of reasons, but it all boils down to this:  Something is happening that people don’t like, and they want to ensure that their voices are heard.

Why don’t they just call their Representatives?

That’s a great idea, but your question assumes that people aren’t doing that as well.  And they are!  In the wake of the inauguration of the 45th president of the US and the policy decisions he’s been making people have been calling their representatives so much that voice mails got filled to capacity.  Even emails started bouncing back as mailboxes also got filled to capacity.  That’s not even taking into account the Congressional Representatives that turned off their phones.  So what do you do when your Representative isn’t taking your calls?  Well, they’re supposed to turn up for Town Hall meetings to talk directly with their constituents concerning issues that affect them.  Except a majority of Republican Representatives didn’t show up for those meetings.  

So what can people do when their Representatives are actively avoiding them?

They can take to the streets and guarantee that their voices are heard.  They can, say it with me, protest!

But what are they protesting about?  They live in the greatest country in the world!

Let’s leave the statistics aside on how exactly America is #1.  America may be a great place to live for a lot of people.  It is not an ideal place to live if you’re a Person of Color interacting with the police.  It’s not if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community.  It’s not if you’re Muslim.  It’s not if you’re an immigrant.

So what are these people protesting?  They’re protesting massive amounts of systemic, societal injustice that is killing members of our community.  They’re protesting the dehumanization of PoC and LGBTQ people by the media and by many politicians.  They’re protesting a president who has mocked woman, immigrants, and various other groups.  They’re protesting a world that only views certain people as people.  They’re protesting a nation that makes claims at equality and that all people are created equal, and then fails to live up to that.  They’re angry and they have a right to be.  When Congress turns off its phones, the only recourse left to be heard is to march.

Why can’t they just protest like MLK Jr.?  

They are.  All these folk going out into the streets, marching, carrying signs, blocking traffic, disrupting your daily lives.  Even the ones breaking windows.  They are protesting just the way Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted them to.

No way!  MLK would never have blocked traffic or disrupted people’s lives.  He believed in non-violence.

Read this.

I’m going to bullet point it here too.

  • The Civil Rights movement caused massive economic disruption.
  • It was seen by many as ‘extremism’
  • Most people like Rosa Parks, who we celebrate today, were hated in their time
  • The average American hated the Civil Rights Movement and insisted it would do more harm than good.
  • The federal government put 19,000 troops on standby for the March on Washington.  It terrified them.

When Dr. King led the Selma March they took up entire roads.  They filled the entire width of the Edmund Peetus Bridge in Selma.  They blocked the whole road.

So yeah, Dr. King encouraged his followers to be non-violent.  He also never denounced a single riot done in the name of Civil Rights.

Wait, what?

Yeah.  On March 14, 1968, at Grosse Point High School Dr. King gave a speech in which he called riots “the voice of the unheard”.  Dr. King would never have used violent measures himself, but he understood that when you’re fighting for your rights, and your right to live as equals in a society that doesn’t see you as people, sometimes you have to make a statement they cannot ignore.  In a capitalist society such as ours, a good hit to the wallet is always felt.  That’s why the Montgomery Bus Boycott was so successful, that’s why Lunch Counter Sit-ins worked.  Dr. King preached civil disobedience.  When the law is unjust or immoral or unethical, break the law.  Legal and ethical are not the same thing.

But it’s Unamerican to break people’s property in protest.

That’s the most American thing ever!  In 1773, in protest of British tea taxes, colonists dumped 340 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.  They caused nearly $2 million of damage.  We started this country by making an economic statement of protest.

Ok, but blocking traffic is dangerous.  What if emergency services need to get through?

I could write a lot about that, but honestly, it’s already been done.  Emergency crews are always let through when protestors are aware that there is an emergency crew that needs to be let through.  These people are out there marching so that everyone can live a free and equal life.  Would they really be the type of people to block emergency vehicles?

People block traffic so that you will be inconvenienced.  So that you can’t help but notice.  Too many people don’t see problems until it effects them.  Well, we’re gonna make it affect you.


I’ve covered most of the questions I encounter in this discussion, but all these questions are smokescreens.  They’re distractions from the real question.

Why can’t these people just stay out of my way and protest quietly over in the corner?

Because then you’d have no reason to listen.

These people are out there protesting a system that is KILLING THEIR NEIGHBORS.  They are going to make damn sure that you hear us.  If that involves blocking roads.  We’re gonna do it.  If that involves Punching Nazis, we’re gonna do it.  If that involves being a nuisance and making your life more difficult, we’re gonna do that.

But even if we did protest in a way that didn’t inconvenience anyone, that didn’t block traffic or break anything, PEOPLE WOULD STILL COMPLAIN.

Colin Kaepernick protested by sitting during the National Anthem at an NFL game he was playing in.  So obviously he was seen on camera, on National Television doing this.  Who was hurt by that?  Whose life was made more difficult?  What was broken?  Nothing.  But the backlash was immense.

I’m going to finish this up by paraphrasing a quote from William Lloyd Garrison, and know that whatever criticism you have of protestors these days, this will be my response.

We are in earnest — We will not equivocate — We will not excuse — We will not retreat a single inch — AND WE WILL BE HEARD.

 

Listen Kids, Some Parts of Your Culture Suck

Sometimes people say certain words to me.  These words should not be said because they will make me angry.  Some of these words include:

The movie was better
I just don’t like dogs
Men’s Rights Activists have a legitimate case to make

But two of the worst sentences you can say are:

Well John, that’s just their culture.  You have to respect that.

No, I don’t.

Why do people keep insisting that we have to respect all aspects of someone else’s culture?  When did the liberal world get such a hard on for cultural relativism?

What’s cultural relativism?

So, cultural relativism is the idea that a person’s beliefs and activities should be understood based on the person’s own culture.  We shouldn’t judge other cultures for having ideas that are different than ours.  It was first put forward as an idea by anthropologist Franz Boas and was in direct conflict with the idea of ethnocentrism.  Ethnocentrism is the practice of judging the actions or values of another culture based on the values that your own culture has.

Well, ethnocentrism sounds like a bad thing.

Hey, it is.  Or it can be.  We’re always going to judge things based on our own views of right and wrong.  Cultural relativism goes right along with the idea of moral relativism.  Moral relativism is the idea that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.

This can become a huge problem as we become unable to judge or condemn problematic aspects of another culture because, say it with me, cultural relativism doesn’t let us.   Because it insists that you can only judge the morality of a culture from inside that culture’s own perspective. There are many examples of problematic aspects of culture.

In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive a car.  There’s no specific law which bans them from driving, but deeply held religious beliefs don’t allow it and many Saudi clerics argue that female drivers undermine social values.  

In many parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) happens on a regular basis.  This includes such procedures as removing the clitoris from girl aged infancy to 15 years.  There are no potential health benefits and lifelong harm that comes from all FGM procedures.

Many Middle Eastern communities still practice stonings.  Muslim women who are accused of adultery are stoned to death for their punishment.  In case you can’t figure out the definition of stoning, it involves having rocks hurled at you until you die.  Such events are especially prevalent in fundamentalist Islamic nations, like Syria under ISIS.

Turkey actively denies the Armenian Genocide and has a law on the books (called Penal Code 301) that makes it illegal to embarrass Turkey.  This law is most often cited in cases where Turkish citizens or Turkish-Armenian citizens call upon Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide.  Hrant Dink was a Turkish-Armenian journalist who was arrested multiple times under Code 301 and was eventually assassinated by a Turkish nationalist.

Turkey also allows, in some cases at least, honor killings.  These are murders committed for the purpose of restoring a family’s honor.  One case, involving a murder in Germany in 2005 recently concluded.

And there are dozens of other examples that I could list if I wanted to go more into this.  Many of those unfortunate cultural practices even happen in the US.  *cough* anti-Vaxxers *cough*

Wow.  Those all sounds like awful things.

They are!  Cultural relativism can be used to cover up human rights abuses and to hide people from the consequences of crimes.  All because “it’s allowed in their culture”.  So here’s a quick study guide for you kids.

Does any aspect of your culture call for the death of another group?
GET RID OF IT.

Does any aspect of your culture treat another group as a lesser person for any reason at all?
GET RID OF IT.

Does any aspect of your culture discriminate against anyone in any way at all?
GET RID OF IT.

I am all for cultural differences.  They make the world a richer and broader place.  However, some aspects of cultures are just plain wrong and they should never be entertained.  I’m looking at you, Southern States with Confederate War Memorials.  I’m looking at you, “Heritage Not Hate” proponents.  I’m looking at you, the Alt-Right.

Well John, it sounds like you want to just push your own cultural values on other people.  That’s imperialistic.

Wow, I don’t want to be mean, but just please stop talking.

So, you’re partially correct, I do want to take some key aspects of my own values and enforce them around the world.  Just one part though.  All people are people who deserve equal treatment and consideration under the law.  As long as your cultural practices don’t get in the way of that simple fact, I don’t really care what you do.  Do you want to go to Church on Sunday?  Fine.  Do you want to abstain from eating certain foods?  Fine.  Do you want to pray five times a day?  Fine.

There’s nothing wrong with those cultural practices.  There’s nothing wrong with like… 90% of all cultures.  I don’t expect everyone to live a life like I do.  I don’t expect everyone to share my values and to believe what I believe.  I do expect you to treat every single living person with dignity and respect and to accord them all rights and privileges that you would want for yourself.  If any part of your culture doesn’t mesh with that idea, then it’s not a valid cultural practice and I will fight it until it dies or I do.  Some parts of your culture just suck.  Police your values.  Police your ideas.  Hold people accountable to an objective morality.  All people are people and deserve equal treatment under the law.

The Boy Who Cried “White Racism”

Lately when I write these essays I continually mutter to myself “I can’t believe I have to write this.”  Here in America we have a strange and damaged relationship with the concept of race.  There are many topics that white Americans aren’t comfortable talking about.  We don’t like talking about slavery, we don’t like talking about Jim Crow laws, we don’t like talking about how African Americans and other minorities are still treated like second class citizens in many ways.  We don’t like to talk about problems that don’t affect us.  So we’ll talk about how ‘Immigrants are Stealing Our Jobs’ or we’ll talk about ‘White Genocide’, or we’ll shout from the roof tops about how ‘The Irish Were Slaves Too!’  I’m gonna address the issue of Irish slavery later.  First we’re gonna learn about the African slave trade and slavery in general.

What is a slave?

Well, dictionary.com defines slaves as: “a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another.”  The key word there, and the one we’ll want to pay very close attention to is ‘property’.  The type of slavery that Africans dealt with in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was specifically ‘chattel slavery’.  Under chattel slavery, slaves are treated no differently than any piece of property and they can be bought, traded, sold, or beaten at the leisure of their owner.

What’s the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade?

The Trans-Atlantic Slave trade refers to the slave trading routes between Western Africa and the Americas.  We can actually point to pretty specific years for the start and end date of this massive slave trading operation.  The first European man to buy a West African slave was Antão Gonçalves, a Portuguese explorer in 1441 CE, and Brazil was the last country to officially ban the slave trade in 1888.  In that span of years perhaps 10 million Africans were sold into slavery (in the US alone).  Not all of the slaves who were captured in Africa made it to the America’s though.  Altogether, for every 100 slaves who reached the New World, another 40 had died in Africa or during the Middle Passage.

But, slavery is over in America right?  So what’s the big deal?

Oh man, that’s… *sigh* ok.  Yes, the practice of keeping slaves in the United States has ended.  This is a legal fact.  Slavery officially ended, legally, in the United States when Congress ratified the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865.  So yeah, from that day on slavery was no longer allowed in the US.  That wasn’t the end of racism though.  We didn’t all get together in a big group hug and suddenly love each other.  Slavery had begun in the United States in August of 1619.  It didn’t end until 1865.  That’s 246 years of slavery in the US. 246 years of virulent racism.  246 years of treating Africans and African Americans like property.  246 years of dehumanization, of treating Africans as less than human.  246 years.  You think we’re gonna solve that in a day.  That’s not even something that we’ve solved today.

But it’s been…

152 years since slavery was legally ended, by a Constitutional Amendment.  Slavery in the US still has nearly a century on Abolition.  Following the ratification of the 13th Amendment Congress also passed the 14th, and 15th Amendments.  Both were designed to try and improve the political lives of African Americans.  The 14th defined a citizen as any person born in or naturalized in the U.S., overturning the Dred Scott V. Sandford (1857) Supreme Court ruling stating that Black people were not eligible for citizenship.  The 15th prohibited governments from denying U.S. citizens the right to vote based on race, color, or past servitude.  This didn’t stop many Southern States from passing what would come to be called “Jim Crow Laws”.

What are Jim Crow Laws?

Jim Crow Laws are the name given to the wide series of State and Local laws that sprang up following the Reconstruction Period which were designed to keep African Americans from voting and to segregate White and Black populations.  Some key examples include poll taxes and literacy tests.  Jim Crow laws also included those measures that segregated bathrooms, schools, and dictated to African Americans that they had to sit in the back of the bus.  Following the death of legal slavery in the US, racism continued as people still felt racially superior to African Americans.

But this all happened over 100 years ago.

Not even close.  Technically the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  Still, that was only 53 years ago, and it only states what’s supposed to happen legally.  It does nothing to change what’s in the hearts and minds of people.  African Americans are jailed 600% more often than white people.  Of a prison population of about 2.3 million people, 1 million are African American.  This isn’t because African Americans commit more crimes than white people.  It’s because even 53 years after the Civil Rights Act, the effects of racism still effect relations between the races.  African Americans, and indeed all minority groups within the US, are marginalized and in many ways still treated as second class citizens.  Read through the wikipedia article on institutional racism if you want to know more about it.  There’s still racism in this country.  Legal, institutional racism, that is keeping African Americans and other minorities in a lesser position socially and economically.

Ok, but what does any of that have to do with Irish Slavery?

Excellent question!  It has nothing to do with Irish Slavery, but everything to do with why people use Irish Slavery as their own personal “I’m not racist card”.

I don’t understand…

I know you don’t, you’re just an internal dialogue I use to order my thoughts.  You don’t really exist.  Allow me to share with you a very brief history of anti-Irish sentiment in Europe and America, and then we’ll get into the meat of “Irish Slavery”.

Why did you put quotes around Irish Slavery that time?

You’ll see!  Back in the early days of the 12th century Pope Adrian IV signed a Papal Bull giving King Henry II of England the power and authority to conquer Ireland and so bring the Irish Church under the authority of Rome.  This Bull was later ratified by Pope Alexander III.  Both Popes considered the Irish to be a rude and barbarous nation with filthy practices.

When Viking raiders came to the British Isles they took English, Irish, and Scottish slaves.  There’s nothing truly particular about the Irish in this instance.  The Vikings made anyone they could defeat and capture a slave or thrall.  The Irish were also among the first to settle Iceland, though they did so as slaves, and not freemen.  While the British Isles did have slaves, and Irishmen were enslaved, Britain was never a “slave society”  it was merely a “society with slaves”.

Still, the lot of the Irish was not an easy one.  Even Voltaire, the patron saint of liberal ideology thought the Irish were a savage and backwards people.  As Protestantism became a more and more powerful force on the British Isles, the Irish refusal to denounce their Catholicism also earned them the ire of the English.

We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the Irish as drunk and violent.  This particular stereotype grew out of Victorian Era England and the 19th century United States.  In media the Irish were often depicted with an ape like face and were considered an inferior race compared to Anglo-Saxons.

We also absolutely have to mention the Great Famine, also known as the Irish Potato Famine.  From 1845 until 1852 there was a massive blight on the potatoes in Ireland.  The blight struck most of Europe and there’s a great deal of debate on where the blight came from before it got to Europe.  Despite the presence of the blight all throughout Western Europe, the Irish were hit the hardest.  A large percentage of Irish citizens were utterly dependent upon the potato as a crop for a variety of reasons.  They also only had one variety of potato growing in Ireland.  The Irish Lumper.  So when the Blight hit, Ireland got hit hard.  By 1846 about 75% of their potato crop was lost.  It’s estimated that around 1 million Irish citizens died as a direct result of the Blight and there’s still fierce political debate concerning whether the famine, or more particularly the British response to the famine, constitutes genocide.

We also have to talk about the period of American and English history affectionately called the “We Don’t Want to Hire You, You Filthy Stinking Irishman” era.   Following 1860 there were a large amount of signs on shops and job postings in newspapers that came with the addendum.  No Irish Need Apply or Irish Need Not Apply.  So yeah, the Irish have had a rough go of it.  That much we can easily say.

So Irish Slavery is talking about the Vikings?

Nope.  That was just a historical example of a time when the Irish were enslaved.  No, the truth about “Irish Slavery”, and why I’ve started putting it in quotes, is that it didn’t exist.  It’s true that the Irish were discriminated against.  They were persecuted for their religious beliefs, they were subject to dehumanization, we didn’t even talk about what Cromwell did.  They were discriminated against for jobs and faced a long string of harmful stereotyping.  The Irish have had a rough history.

When people talk about “Irish Slavery” they’re not talking about the Vikings.  They’re referring to the 17th and 18th century tradition of penal transportation and indentured servitude that the Irish dealt with.  Indentured servitude was a pretty common system.  It was how a lot of people got to ‘the New World’ when they didn’t have the money for passage.  You have someone else pay your way over and then you owe them a contractual obligation of unpaid labor for a period of time.  Usually seven years.  The main difference between indentured servitude and slavery is, both the fact that indentured service is temporary, and that indentured servants were still considered people.  While the indentured servitude system could be abused, and many indentured servants faced very poor conditions.  No comparison can be made.

We also have to consider the modern context of this argument.  The “Irish Slave” myth is often summed up like this: “The Irish were enslaved too, but you don’t here us whining about it.”  What this is, is a gross distortion of history and just further racism against black Americans and descendants of African slaves.  To even begin to make the comparison between penal servitude, indentured servitude, and chattel slavery.  Is just plain wrong.  You know who trumpets the horn of “Irish slavery” the most?  White supremacists and white nationalists.  Ask yourself, are those really groups that we want to associate with?  But don’t take my word on the myth of the Irish slaves.  Read this.

The final nail in the coffin of “Irish Slavery” though, isn’t even that it doesn’t exist.  It’s the awful racism that Irish immigrants inflicted on Black people in America.  The Irish learned pretty quickly that they could increase their social standing by stepping on the backs of the only group white America hated more.  Free Black people.  The Irish worked menial jobs for less money than they should have.  Then once they had an Irish monopoly on menial labor, they could command any price they wanted to.  They also did everything they could to keep Black people out of their workforce.  The Irish knew that if they kept working alongside Black people they’d forever be painted with the same brush.  They did everything they could to maintain the system of slavery in the US.  In order to improve their lot in life they knocked Black people down and used them as stairs to climb up to the level of ‘being white’


So yes, we have to recognize that the history of the Irish people has not been a happy one.  They’ve been slapped around the British Isles and the United States for a long time.  They faced conditions of racial prejudice, job discrimination, famine and a potential genocide at the hands the British.  But you’re all missing the huge White Nationalist elephant in the room.  The Irish are white.  They may have started their journey in the US as third class citizens and indentured servants.  They may have faced all the discrimination they did, but Irish and Irish American culture has assimilated into the greater Americana.  They are such a huge part of the greater American culture that when St. Patrick’s Day roles around “everyone is Irish” (you’re not, but the problems of the American celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day will have to wait for another time).

So while the Irish are now part of the classic whiteness of America, African Americans are not.  They are still a marginalized group.  Their battles for their rights ended only a short time ago, historically speaking, and in many ways they still don’t have equal rights.  They endured being considered property for centuries, and are still fighting to be treated as full citizens.  They’re still fighting for reparations over the racial terrorism that they’ve faced in this country, beginning with slavery and not ending today.  So when you equate “Irish Slavery” with the actual horrors of African Slavery, you sound like a racist.  Don’t compare the two.

Words and how we use them are important.  Calling what the Irish dealt with “slavery” cheapens the slavery that Africans face and the slavery that still exists in our world today.  It’s important that we call things what they are, so that when we use words like slavery or genocide.  They mean what they are, and society feels the full impact of those words.  Not the lessened impact of the boy who cried “white racism.”

Schrödinger’s Immigrant

There exists a distinctly creepy dichotomy surrounding immigrants working in this country.  Specifically undocumented immigrants.  You’ll hear the politicians and the news spout one of two narratives.  Immigrants are lazy, good for nothing, and they’re a drain on the national economy.  Living off of government welfare. ORThey’re stealing jobs from hard working ‘real’ Americans.

Well gee kids, it can’t be both.  They can’t be lazy and living off the government AND stealing all your jobs.  The logic doesn’t make sense, and yet this twisted dichotomy is used constantly to demonize and dehumanize immigrants.  It’s classic scapegoat politics.  Our economic system is messed up, roughly 13.5% of Americans live below the poverty line or need some kind of government assistance.  We have a steadily widening gap between the working class and the 1% living on the top of our hard work.  As of 2007, 20% of Americans controlled 80% of the wealth in this country.  As of 2011, the 400 wealthiest people in America had more wealth than roughly 50% of the people living in this country.

We no longer live in a world where getting a college degree is a garniture of a good job.  We were told all our lives that we had to get good grades, so we could get into a good college and graduate with a good degree and then get a good job.  I’ve spent 8 years in higher education.  I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Secondary Education and a Master’s Degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.  I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on my education.  I work part time for $10/hr.  I enjoy my job, but it’s not a good one.  A good job should be defined as a job by which you can support yourself.  We were told that we would get good jobs with our degrees.  We were lied to.

“Since 1985, the overall consumer price index has risen 115% while the college education inflation rate has risen nearly 500%.  According to Gordon Wadsworth, author of The College Trap, ‘…if the cost of college tuition was $10,000 in 1986, it would now cost the same student over $21,500 if education had increased as much as the average inflation rate but instead education is $59,800 or over 2 ½ times the inflation rate.'”

Wages have been largely stagnant in their buying power since 1979.  Money is simply worth less.  The minimum wage is too low, our college degrees aren’t worth as much, and we go into debt earning them because we have to take out loans to even pay for the education that doesn’t deliver on what it promised us.  There’s something severely wrong with our economic system.  The old narrative of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is dead.  We don’t have the strength to pull ourselves up.  We don’t even have bootstraps anymore.  I’m a lower middle class, cis, straight, white man.  I have all the privilege in the world and I’m still struggling in an economy that cares more about profit than it does about the lives of people.

So why are we blaming immigrants for our problems?  Why can’t we face the harsh reality that the system doesn’t care about us?  Why do we need to invent a false dichotomy of lazy immigrants who can somehow still steal our jobs? Why don’t you ask the Nazis.  Why don’t you ask the Ottoman Turks?

On the subject of the Ottoman Turks: According to Elizabeth Hope Murray in the book Disrupting Pathways to Genocide:  ‘These people are so horrifically less.  They are the lowest of the low of our society.  They bring nothing of benefit to us.  Yet they still have wealth and education above that of the average citizen.  How then did this happen?  Clearly the only way such a servile and degenerate society could have achieved such a position of renown and power is by stepping on the backs of real Turkish citizens.’

The Armenians weren’t actually doing well economically either, the Ottoman Empire was is such a state of economic disrepair that no one was in a good economic state.  Still scapegoat politics were never required to make sense.  You just have to find a group and shout about them loud enough for long enough.

When dealing with the Nazis and their twisted dichotomy I’ll pull from two sources.  Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

From Mein Kampf: “If the Jews were alone in this world they would stifle in filth and offal…”.  

What Hitler is saying is that if the Jews were the only people in the world then nothing of note would ever get done.  Progress would stagnate and the world would slowly tilt off its axis.  The only reason the Jews have their technology and society is because they’ve stolen those things from other cultures.  The Jew though, says Hitler, is not just content to steal the cultural and technological advances from the rest of the world; they must drag the world down and poison them.  

“And so he tries to lower the racial level by a continuous poisoning of individuals.”  The Jews purpose in life was to poison the blood of all the higher races and drag them down to the level of barbarity.

Now for the Protocols (a source actually written as Tsarist Russian propaganda in 1903): The Jews, as depicted in the Protocols, control all the world’s wealth, so ultimately the governments of the world.  The Jews, with their sinister grip on power, would do almost anything to keep it.  “For this reason we must not hesitate at bribery, fraud, and treason when these can help us to reach our ends.”.  

For the Jews, nothing is too horrid or immoral.  They’ll do anything to keep their hold on power with no regard for basic human integrity or dignity. The power of the Jews does not just lie in the fact that the Jews control all the  world’s money though.  The Protocols claimed that the Jews believed that “our power lies in the chronic malnutrition and in the weakness of the worker…”.  

The working class was always the biggest and will always be the largest class and is always the most likely to lead a successful revolt due to its size.  The best way for the Jews to maintain their grip on power was to keep the workers in a state where they couldn’t possibly fight back.

Does any of this sound familiar?  The rhetoric might be a pale reflection of what Hitler or the Young Turks used in the past, but the message is still the same.  And the result will be the same unless we stop the narrative of these unbearably weak superhumans.  Immigrants cannot, repeat CANNOT, be lazy and then also be stealing your jobs.  The system is screwed up and was never designed to benefit the working class, but that’s not really the point of this essay.  Immigrants have, in many ways, become our Jews and our Armenians.  They’re weak and awful and give nothing to our society, only take like ticks and leeches.  At the same time they’re coming here and stealing jobs from hardworking Americans.  It’s just scapegoat politics to avoid addressing the real issue.  Our economic system was never designed to benefit you.  Immigrants are just a patsy that we can point at and say “See?!?  It’s not your fault that you can’t get a job and that you’re struggling to make ends meet!!!  It’s those dirty no good immigrants!”

You’re being lied to, and if the economy continues to decline, and the wealth gap continues to increase to the point that more and more people find themselves living in poverty, jingoistic men and women will use your pain to kill off a group they don’t consider to be real people.  A group they don’t consider valuable.  Recognize the narrative for what it is, a dehumanizing lie designed to allow the system to remain broken.

The Ethics of Punching Nazis, An Addendum

Every once in a while I poke my head into another “Nazi Punching” debate. I always see people using the same quote to indicate why we don’t have the right to punch Nazis.

“The right to swing my arms in any direction ends where your nose begins.

First of all, the first true recorded use of this quote, or something similar to it was during the 1880s in regards to Prohibition.

Here’s an excerpt from a speech John B. Finch gave in Iowa City in 1882:

“Is not this a free country?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have not I a right to swing my arm?”

“Yes, but your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

Here civil government comes in to prevent bloodshed, adjust rights, and settle disputes.

Jonathan Lighter, 1887 “A man’s personal liberty to drink whisky and support barrooms ends where the rights of the family and the community begin.”

Men like Jonathan Lighter and John B. Finch used this quote to demonize the inherent ‘violence upon the community and family values’ that was alcohol.

In our modern world people are using it to indicate actual physical violence. i.e., Punching Nazis in the Face.

I would then submit that the point of this quote, and a correct contextual usage of it, has nothing to do with physical violence. Instead it means that while this is a free country and you do have rights, your rights end at the point where they begin to infringe upon the rights of another.

So when Nazis begin spreading genocidal rhetoric and hate speech, they’re infringing upon the rights of others. Specifically the Right to Life, and the Right to a Pursuit of Happiness. The Nazis Right to Free Speech is now metaphorically hitting the nose of another person’s Right to Live Their Life Unmolested By People Who Want Their Ethnic Group Dead.

Punch Nazis.

North Korea: The Happiest Place on Earth, According to Government Propaganda

Every once in a while when reading the news I’ll see the words ‘North Korea’ and my first thought is always “Oh goodness, what have they done now”, because it’s never good news when it comes to North Korea.  Most recently there’s a story about North Korea firing ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, directly at Japan.  Still, despite how often “The Hermit Kingdom” appears in the news, the general public knows little to nothing about North Korea and the horrors that its citizens deal with day to day.  So I’m going to take this opportunity to answer some questions about North Korea, it’s history, and the genocide that they are waging against their people even now.

What is North Korea?

The Happiest Place on Earth!  According to Government Propaganda.

North Korea is a country on the northern half of the Korean Peninsula.  It’s capital is the city of Pyongyang.  It was founded in 1945, after the surrender of Japan in WW II, when Kim Il Sung took charge of the country after his return from exile.   When reading the Official Webpage of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, also known as North Korea), the discussion focuses on Kim Il Sung.  Saying that he came into the country when it was in the glory of its liberation (from Japan) and he immediately set out to improve the country and unite the peninsula under the flag of the Worker’s Party of Korea.  The website claims that the entirety of the Korean people elected Kim Il Sung, and that he was to be the people’s savior.

On having solved the problem of power, the Korean people began to carry out democratic reforms. So a number of democratic reforms were enforced. They were the laws on agrarian reform, on nationalization of industries, transport, communications, banks and so on, on labour, and on sex equality. At the same time various steps were taken for the democratization of judicial, educational and cultural affairs.”

North Korea has a policy of isolation so fierce that it’s called the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ by much of the outside world.  They want to keep the outside world a secret from their people, so that no one knows how bad they have it. However there is one point where North Korea stands and faces the rest of the world. At the border between North and South Korea. The North has guards set up in a formation that allows them to watch the South and each other to ward against defection across the border. Beyond that immediate Border Control Station, there’s what’s known as the Demilitarized Zone, or the DMZ. The DMZ is an area two miles wide that runs the length of the border between the North and South. Its filled with over one million land mines and lined with hundreds of miles of barbed wire fence. It is one of the most hazardous and dangerous places in the world. Few people who attempt to cross the DMZ survive.

Ok, so who’s the ruler of North Korea?

When the country was first founded it was Kim Il Sung.  He ruled from 1945 until 1994.  It was under his leadership that North Korea invaded South Korea.  It was his belief, and the belief of the Soviet Union, that Kim Il Sung was the rightful ruler of the entire peninsula.  Kim Il Sung built a cult of personality so strong that he is often venerated as a god by his people.

The Cult of Kim is so all encompassing that in the official record of the founding of North Korea and its victory over the Japanese there appear no other figures. In the whole of that history there are no names, except for Kim Il Sung. Everyone else who was involved in the victories of North Korea, and in helping Kim Il Sung with the founding of the country have either been simply removed from the history, or they’ve been killed.[1]

Egyptian pharaohs had this idea that each distinct pharaoh was a physical embodiment of the god Horus. This means that because each is an embodiment of the same god, each pharaoh, is every pharaoh. What this allows is for any pharaoh in history to claim all the accomplishments of his predecessors. So pharaohs who didn’t do much in their own time can gain notoriety and importance by claiming that everything that happened before their reign, was a feather in their cap. This is similar to what Kim Il Sung did in North Korea, except the god was Kim Il Sung. The pharaoh was Kim Il Sung. The hero was Kim Il Sung. The history is, Kim Il Sung.

To understand the state of things in North Korea it is important to first understand the men who have led the country, and how the people of their country viewed them. Many other personality cults gloss over various aspects of their leaders lives in order to pay more homage to the truly glorious aspects of their lives. Stalin and Mao’s cults left out those areas of their lives that weren’t important. The Cult of Kim left very little factual information in their stories. Large sections of the lives of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were romanticized or mythologized. Kim Jong Il was said to have been born under a rainbow, and Kim Il Sung’s actions as a guerrilla leader were largely exaggerated.[2]

The cult of personality to Kim Il Sung was constructed to be a scaffolding that would never fall. It was created so that the reigns of power could be passed cleanly to Kim Jong Il without any fuss. Other cults were able to be destabilized after the men they were built around died. The Chinese destroyed the works of Mao, and Kruschev was able to destroy the works and influence of Stalin. Kim’s cult was designed to be indestructible.[3] While the North Koreans were fighting their guerrilla war against the Japanese, Kim Il Sung and the Soviet Union were already building myths and legends around Kim Il Sung.  A cult of personality is based around turning one man into a legend and letting that legend infect the masses of people who you are trying to control.

After the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994. Kim Jong-Il was in power from 1994 until 2011 when he died.  He was then succeeded by his son Kim Jong-Un, who is still in power.  Though it does bear mentioning that Kim Il-Sung is the only President that North Korea has ever had.  Kim Jong Il was not the President while he was alive. He was named Chairman of the National Defense Committee, and Kim Jong Un holds the same title that his father did.

What type of culture do North Koreans have?

North Korea has set up a country and a people that are kept highly separate from the rest of the world. North Korea uses a utterly different calendar system than the rest of the world. It’s called the Juche system. Juche is not only a calendar, it is also the entirety of North Korea’s philosophy. They created this new calendar in 1997. The new calendar would start in 1912, with that being year one. The reason for this is, of course, because 1912 was the year that Kim Il Sung was born.[4] This makes 2017, Juche 105. Sometimes, the North Koreans will use the standard calendar system side-by-side with their own, but this is done sporadically, and as a strange courtesy to foreigners. Of course Kim Il Sung died in 1994. This was done posthumously to honor the man that the North Koreans see as a god.

The core tenant of Juche is also its translation. It means self-reliance, and this is the final goal of North Korea, to be an island that needs no outside help. One of the things that the Juche philosophy puts at the front of any policy making is the military. This is called the Military First policy, and it is seen in North Korea as the surest way to ensure juche.[5]

All of North Korea’s internal decisions come from the basis of their leaders being mythologized god-kings and from their Juche philosophy.  This caused North Korea to, at least on the surface, take a fiercely isolationist policy toward the rest of the world.

“Although the Juche idea seems to be deeply inherent to the North Korean mindset, the claim of self-determination is probably an illusion that is proven by the country’s dependence on economic support from China and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.”[6]

North Korea was created as a state that thought itself the finest country that has ever existed; it values, its face value of, self-reliance and doesn’t allow any information from the outside to come in. Worse is that there is very little information leaving North Korea that’s not an official statement by the government. For this reason there isn’t much known about North Korea on the street level except for what we can glean from the official stories, and those stories we can get from the few people who have managed to escape the country.[7]

Why would people need to escape the country?

Now that’s a question well worth the asking.  The short answer is Genocide.

Wait… genocide in North Korea?  Why haven’t I heard anything about this?

See the previous paragraphs about government information control.  We don’t call North Korea ‘The Hermit Kingdom’ as a joke.

At the beginning of 2014 the UN released a report on North Korea, detailing findings derived from intense investigation of the actions of the North Korean government. This report gave a long laundry list of North Korea’s abuses and then went on to explain and cite the how and what and where of it all. North Korea was accused of “arbitrary detention, torture, execution, labor camps, violations of freedom of thought, expression and religion, discrimination, abduction and forced disappearances, violations of freedom of movement and residence, and violations of the right to food and other necessities for life.

We’ll be tackling that list of violations out of the order that it was presented in, in order to categorize the violations to international law that North Korea has made. We’ll start with discrimination and violations of the right to movement and residence. This is perhaps the most basic violation, and one possessed of only a basic level of inhumanity. We start here because while these actions by the government are not genocidal in their own, they do begin to lay a foundation for genocide. The discrimination of North Korean society harkens back and is reminiscent of the old Indian caste system. In this system a person is born into a certain caste, much like someone in the United States might be born into the middle class. However, unlike the United States where a person can rise or fall out of their class, in India a person born into the middle caste will always die in that caste.

North Korea calls their version of this type of system songbun. Songbun is mostly hereditary and your membership to a certain songbun would influence, greatly, your career path, education, and whom you will end up marrying.[8] When the songbun system first began in the 1950s it split the people into three groups, which largely still exist to this day. Those groups were defined as hostile forces, neutral forces, and friendly forces. During a campaign of discovery by the North Korean government between 1957 and 1960 various enemies of the state were claimed to be discovered amongst the population. During this period around 2,500 people were executed.[9]

Those people who are considered enemies of the state fall under ten categories:

  1. Workers of complicated origin, that is, people who though they had become workers after Liberation, had formerly been entrepreneurs and officials.
  2. Former rich peasants.
  3. Former small or medium merchants.
  4. Former landlords, that is, people who before the reform of 1946 had more than 5 hectares of land.
  5. People who participated in pro–Japanese or pro–American activities.
  6. Former officials in the Japanese colonial administration.
  7. Families of people of good social origin who fled to the South during the war.
  8. Families of people of bad origin who fled to the South during the war.
  9. Chinese Koreans who returned from China in the 1950s.
  10. Japanese Koreans who returned from Japan in the 1960s.[10]

These people were not allowed to live close to the border or the coast, or the capital, or any major city. This poses significant problems for anyone who falls under this category because North Korea is a small country. So the only areas that fall under all of these restrictions were mountainous regions that were far out of the way. There are some ways to improve your songbun, for instance, exemplary military service can increase your social standing, but for some people your songbun can span generations.[11]

The UN report goes on to speak of many of the horrors that North Korea inflicts upon its people. Arbitrary detention of the North Korean people in prison camps, torture, and even executions. “In the political prison camps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide. The commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades.” A former inmate named Kim Eun-cheol described two instances of executions in the camp. One man, he said was killed for scavenging a potato, while another was killed for eating herbs.

The North Korean camps were modeled after Soviet gulags and were established by Kim Il Sung as a way of eliminating political opponents. According to reports from CNN the North Koreans fed their prisoners starvation rations and forced them to work ’til the brink of death. If the work was not done to satisfaction then rations were cut back even farther. The reasons for detainment are nothing that we would consider a crime, or that would be considered a crime in any country except for North Korea. Watching foreign DVDs or criticizing the leadership, leaving dust on the portrait of the Dear Leader were reasons. Every home was expected to have a portrait of Kim Il Sung and his mother. Once Kim Jong Il took over a portrait of his holy personage was expected to be in every home as well. These pictures were expected to be in pristine condition at all times.

Attempting to leave the country was also a reason for arrest. Most people who were arrested were given no due process, no trial, and no chance for appeal. They would be ‘disappeared’ and it was better that you never asked questions. Eun-cheol says that the two examples mentioned earlier were as good as dead before their executions from torture. Still he says, the guards used six to nine bullets for each man.

Another former prisoner named Jeong Kwang-il told of his arrest and torture. He had been arrested for having business dealings with South Koreans in China. The North Korean police force accused Kwang-il of illegal business dealings, and also of being a South Korean spy. Kwang-il denied being a spy. To this day he maintains that he wasn’t.   This wasn’t what the North Koreans wanted to hear, so for ten months he was tortured until he confessed to the crime of being a spy. One of the forms of torture that the North Koreans used was called pigeoning. Your arms would be handcuffed behind your back and chained so that they were lifted up into the air, forcing you into a bent over position. “If you are hung like that for three days, four days, you urinate, you defecate, you are totally dehydrated… [it] was so painful that I felt it was better to die.” Kwang-il was given so little food that his body weight halved.

Once a North Korean citizen has entered one of the countries infamous prison camps it is rare that they ever leave. It was possible for a person who was incarcerated for a minor crime to eventually be released back into society, but since 2007 there have been no reports of anyone being released from a North Korean camp. Both the guards and the prisoners were informed that anyone attempting to escape from a camp would be summarily executed. Indeed guards were told they would be rewarded for killing prisoners trying to escape, however attempts to escape had highly flexible definitions. A prisoner approaching the perimeter fence without authorization was reason enough, as was a prisoner separating from their group. In order to get those aforementioned rewards some guards would kill prisoners and then later claim that they had tried to escape. One guard killed five prisoners and then claimed that they had all tried to escape. It was later discovered by his superiors that he had lied, but the guard was subject to no punishment for his actions. He was merely transferred to another camp to keep morale among the guards up. Anyone who died in the camps was not treated with any sense of dignity. Once you entered the camps you were erased as a person. Bodies were not returned to their families, and were at most, buried in shallow graves by fellow prisoners.

The North Korean government doesn’t just limit its abuses to its own people. Anyone who enters the borders of the regime can be subject to gross abuses. In recent years two Americans were released back to the US after negotiations between the UN and North Korea. “The two Americans—Kenneth Bae, a 46-year-old missionary from Washington state sentenced to 15 years hard labor in 2013 for unspecified crimes, and Matthew Todd Miller, 24, sentenced to six years for “hostile acts” against the state—were released after secret negotiations that involved Clapper, the Swedish government, and North Korean officials.”

Perhaps one of the more heinous things that the North Korean government does is forced abortions and infanticide. This is a highly common occurrence for repatriated women, especially from China. Any women who is repatriated from a foreign country and returns to North Korea pregnant is assumed to have become pregnant via a non-Korean man. This flies in the face of the idea of North Koreaa racial purity. A former member of the SSD (North Korean Secret Police) described it in a way that would have made Hitler proud. For a woman to have a child who is not one hundred percent Korean is to be less than fully human. Not only is the child considered sub-human, but now the woman is as well for having carried it for any amount of time. “One witness saw guards take away the new-born baby of a repatriated mother at the Onsong County SSD detention facility. Moments after the baby was born to the mother in the cell – without medical assistance – guards put the baby in a bucket and took it away saying “the baby is not human” and “[it] does not deserve to live because it is impure”.

During the 1990s North Korea faced what is called by some people “The Great Famine”. Every single person who is not living on a farm in North Korea is eligible for government distributed rations through the Public Distribution Service (PDS). The PDS set a benchmark for what they thought would be an acceptable level of food rationing in 1955. This ranged from 900 grams of daily food for a heavy industrial worker to 300 grams for a child. By 1973 however this rationing lowered by 13 percent, and then by 1987 it lowered again by another 10 percent, then by 1992 it was reduced by another 10 percent. This put the rationed food below the level of what people could reasonably be expected to survive on. This would not be the last of the issues that the North Koreans faced in regards to their food shortages.

The North Korean government went on to use these food shortages to punish certain parts of their population. Four of North Korea’s provinces had PDS services suspended. This means that the people living in these areas no longer had access to their primary and possibly only source of food. Torrential rain and flooding in both 1995 and 1996 caused over 1.5 million tons of grain to be lost. Starvation became common in North Korea in general, but especially those areas that had PDS services suspended. The UN gathered large amounts of testimony regarding starvation conditions.

It’s as vivid as if it happened yesterday. In the 1990s, especially in Hamgyong region, the famine began in 1994. … in one day, 80 people from [my neighbourhood] died. So many people died that we didn’t have enough coffins so we borrowed [traditional burial boards] to give them burials. We didn’t have any wood to even give tombstones. That’s how many people died.

The situation continued to deteriorate through the 90s and by ’97 30% of food eaten was scavenged from the wild and by ’98 the PDS was only supplying 6% of the population with rations. At this point the issue is no longer the natural disasters that North Korea faced which depleted its available food rations. The issue became that the government, whose job it was to provide food to the citizens of North Korea, was deliberately withholding food from its people. The flooding wasn’t even the main source of the food shortages. There is evidence that North Korea was having problems before the flooding in 1995. Let us not say that North Korea made no efforts to seek aid for the problems it was having though.   Before that first round of flooding North Korea had asked Japan for aid, and Japan sent 300,000 tons of rice to the Hermit Kingdom. Still the PDS would always be in charge of who got the food and when. We have already established what the songbun system is and the drastic effects it has on the lives of the people. This system would affect the distribution of rations to the citizens of North Korea. Men, women, and children of a lower songbun would be the first to receive reduced rations or to have their rations cut off altogether.

However this is perhaps one of the worst things that the government did in the years of this famine and series of food shortages. As we know in 1994 Kim Il Sung died, and that Kim had spent all his time in office building up a cult of personality. “There were months of mourning and the equivalent of USD 790 million was spent for building his tomb and other monuments. The DPRK economy that was already in poor conditions hit the bottom.” Then during the reign of Kim Jong il, Kim was the largest single importer of Hennessey Cognac, had a fleet of cars and private planes, and one of the world’s largest DVD collections. During years where their citizens were starving, the leadership of North Korea was not using its funds to try and reduce the burden on its people. North Korea was spending money on the aggrandizement of the Party and the Dear Leader. There can be no question that the North Koreans knew that their people were suffering, food was rationed and distributed by a government agency.

The famine was perhaps the worst period in the lives of North Korean people. Estimates for a total number of fatalities are very difficult to come by. Foreigners aren’t often allowed inside the country, so most of our statistics are either best guess work, or based off of official North Korean statistics. As we know, those numbers can’t be trusted. Still, by taking the various numbers that sources give us we can a general number or at least a range. A Buddhist charity group working out of China called ‘Good Friends’ has interviewed over 1,000 North Koreans living illegally in China. They have based their estimates on those interviews. The organization estimates that around 3.5 million people have died from famine since 1995. This is a shocking statistic, if accurate. Pyongyang itself places the death toll at 220,000, but South Korea says that 287,000 people died just between 1995 and 1998. The US Congress, which conducted its own investigations, has cited a total death toll of two million people. This gives us a death toll range of 220,000 – 3,500,000.

This is a horrifically broad range, but any number in that range is not acceptable to a world that values human lives and dignity. Furthermore these figures don’t even take into account public executions, or deaths in labor camps. There is no real way to get figures for public executions. Amnesty International cites that 105 people have been executed in North Korea from 2007 to 2012. A South Korean newspaper however cited that in November of 2013, 80 people were executed in that month alone. What this tells us is that we simply can’t know how many people are dying inside the borders of North Korea due to the large amounts of secrecy and information control. As far as labor camps are concerned reports say that perhaps 200,000 live in labor camps in North Korea, and that some of these camps are larger than major US cities. The largest is called Camp 22 and it sprawls over 775 square kilometers. “According to the report, after a food shortage in 2009-10, Camp 22’s population shrunk to somewhere between 3,000 and 8,000 people from around 30,000 in previous years. Thousands of prisoners seem to have evaporated into thin air — perhaps via Camp 22’s crematoria.” What all this tells us is that there is no way to know the exact numbers of people who have perished under the reign of the Cult of Kim, but the numbers are large, too large to be allowed to continue.

Oh my… that’s sickening!  What’s being done about it?

Honestly?  A whole lot and nothing at all.

The North Korean government would give the outside world a picture of a united people. They would have us believe, in the words of old world watchmen that ‘it’s twelve o‘clock and all is well’. Now the international community knows that North Korea has problems. It faced famines, and most of its people live in squalor and poverty without access to adequate food or medicine. North Korea is also waging genocide against its people. Killing anyone who they consider an enemy of the state. The paranoia of the North Korean government does not reach the levels of the Khmer Rouge near the end of their reign, but we’ve seen the reasons that the North Korean government uses to kill their people. These are not reasons that equate with a proper rule of law. North Korea would tell us that they are acting within the confines of their laws and that they are merely dealing with criminals, as is their right as a sovereign nation.

However we have already seen the levels that the North Koreans will sink to for their cult and the image of their nation. Their aggrandizing of the Kim family has completely rewritten history. They have stripped names from the record and manufactured a world where Kim Il Sung won the entire war by himself. The North Koreans deny abuses in their country, calling it all lies, and any foreigner who enters the country only sees the North Korea that the government wants them to see. No one has made memorials to the people who died in The Great Famine. No one has made memorials to the people who have died in the prison camps. There are however, memorials to Kim Il Sung. There are statues and pillars and benches trapped forever in glass for Kim Il Sung. While the only memorials for the North Korean people live in the stories of those who have escaped and shared the horrors they witnessed and experienced with the world.

As we already know the UN created a report on North Korean human rights abuses, and have levied sanctions against the North Koreans. There have also been attempts of peace talks with North Korea, none of which have been successful. North Korea would have you believe that all tensions for those talks have been the result of the US. They mostly blame the sanctions that have further isolated North Korea from the rest of the world. In June of 2013 North Korea went before the UN and called for serious high-level peace talks between North and South Korea. They called for the removal of US troops from the Korean peninsula, and wished to discuss an easing of tensions, denuclearization of North Korea, and an end of the armistice in favor of a true peace treaty. While the Americans refuse to go back to the peace talks until the North begins to take sincere steps toward denuclearization. Both sides have concessions that they wish the others to make before peace talks resume, and neither is willing to bend on it. The North wants the sanctions to end, or at least the other member states of the UN to ignore the sanctions. The US has said that they will continue with those sanctions. The North blames the US for every tension that exists in North East Asia and maintains that its own country is blameless, claiming that all of their actions were geared towards self-defense. They include their nuclear missile program in this.

There can be no kind of reconciliation, justice, or reparations with North Korea at this time. The regime that put North Korea into the state that it is still in power. The Kim family is still running, or perhaps ruining North Korea would be the better term. While that regime is in power and continues its policies of iron fisted control there can be nothing like justice. There will be no apologies, and nothing that looks even remotely like justice can happen on that peninsula. Despite the UN report on North Korea there has been no word of any trial for human rights violations levied against Kim Jong Un and the North Korean government, and military intervention would not end well for anyone involved. So for now the situation in North Korea is at an unfortunate stalemate while people die and information is gathered.


[1] Paul French. North Korea: State of Paranoia. London: Zed Books, 2014, 75
[2] Paranoia, 73
[3] Paranoia, 74
[4] Andrei Lankov. North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea. Jefferson, N.C.:         McFarland &, 2007. 10
[5]  Paranoia. 45-46
[6] Karl H. Stingeder. Case Study: North Korea. Marburg [Germany]: Tectum, 2010. 20
[7] Case Study, 16-17
[8] DMZ, 66
[9] DMZ, 67
[10] DMZ, 68
[11] DMZ, 69

Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: It’s Magically Appropriative!

I probably should have written this one a long time ago.  JK Rowling first published a short story, called Magic in North America, on Pottermore in March of 2016.  The story is in four parts and ranges from the 14th Century to the 1920s (the time of the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).  This short story was followed up in June with a description of the four houses: Thunderbird, Horned Serpent, Pukwudgie, and Wampus.  Each of these four houses is named after a particular mythological creature from various First Nation myths.  Though, Ilvermorny was not founded by anyone from the First Nation.  So we’re going to delve into a number of problems inherent in the creation of Ilvermorny, both as a real place, and as a creation by JK Rowling, an author of no little skill.

When did the history of magic in North America begin?

Well the stories that Rowling wrote about magic in North America begin with the 14th century, the 1300s.  However, genetic research conducted in 2008 suggests that human beings crossed over into North America using the Bering Land Bridge about 16,500 years ago.  Where there are human beings there will be magic.  I think it safe to assume that the history of magic in North America began with the history of humans in North America.  The earliest records available of First Nation societies is from around 10,000 BCE.

What is ‘The First Nation’?

Well there really isn’t one.  First Nation refers to the indigenous people who were already living on this continent at the time of First Contact with Europeans.  Though there is no one single overriding culture that the tribes share.  So while Rowling refers to ‘the Native American community’, there wasn’t and isn’t one.  Generally they are referred to as Native Americans, Indigenous Americans, or sometimes Indians.  Indians is generally considered an offensive term, and it’s not one that you should use in your day-to-day life.  There are 566 federally recognized tribes in the borders of the United States.  Each with its own culture, many with their own language (there are 175 distinct languages still remaining).  According to Rowling, while it took Muggles until the end of the 15th century to “discover America”, wizards had known about it for a long time.  Magical travel, like brooms and Apparation allowed an international wizarding community to exist long before there was an International Muggle one.  Rowling mentions that among the First Nation people some witches and wizards were accepted by their communities as helpful, while others were shunned and thought to be possessed by malevolent spirits.  She makes special mention of skinwalkers.  This is our first real problem.

Why is it a problem that Rowling mentions Skinwalkers?

I’m going to assume that people reading this are going to want to know about skinwalkers.  Too bad.  The Navajo don’t talk about it.  The Navajo belief in skinwalkers holds a deep and powerful place in their culture and it overlaps a huge part of everything they do.  It’s not a scary story that you can spoon feed to kids.  It’s not something you tell around a campfire to frighten your friends.  It’s just not talked about with outsiders.  If you know anyone who is Navajo.  Don’t ask.  Don’t ask.  Just, do not ask.

Rowling casts skinwalkers as simply Animagi who were demonized by their communities and legends sprung up around them.  When asked to clarify Rowling stated that there were no skinwalkers in her world.  They were just a story Muggles came up with to demonize Animagi.  Well damn Rowling.  That’s messed up.  This is a real, living, marginalized culture that has felt the boot of Western imperialism for centuries.  You can’t just waltz in, rewrite the stories of ACTUAL PEOPLE, and then use them for your own purposes.  You’re taking a culture and misrepresenting it.  You’re stealing the First Nation people’s right to their own narratives and making it all about White Europeans.  Don’t do that.  For the love of Dobby, don’t do that.

For more information on this topic, and how Rowling has appropriated and misrepresented First Nation culture in part 1 of her four part short story, please read this response by Dr. Adrienne Keene.

When and how was Ilvermorny founded?

Oh man, Rowling wrote a pretty good deal about that.  I could give you the run down, but honestly, you should probably just read what she wrote.

Basically Ilvermorny was founded by an Irishwoman in her home, teaching two young boys she had saved from a Hidebehind.  A Hidebehind is an interesting piece of American folklore.  It’s a nocturnal creature that stalks its prey and eats their intestines.  It was often cited as the reason that early American loggers failed to return to camp.  With those two boys and a muggle named James she met in the woods, the school was started.  It was Isolt, James, and the two boys, Chadwick and Webster, who named the four houses of Ilvermorny.  Thunderbird, Horned Serpent, Pukwudgie, and Wampus.  Each with their own stories and characteristics deemed most important, in the tradition of Hogwarts.

What are those creatures?

They’re all myths and stories from First Nation cultures.  According to Rowling each of the four Ilvermorny houses represents a different part of the ideal wizard.  Thunderbird being the soul, Horned Serpent being the mind, Pukwudgie being the heart, and Wampus being the body.

Thunderbirds are part of the stories of many tribes, including the Sioux, Arapaho, Wichita, Ojibwe, Salish and various other tribes in the Midwest, Plains Region, and Northwest Coast.  Stories concerning Thunderbirds vary from tribe to tribe, though there are some points of agreement.  Thunderbirds are huge, according to many Northwest Coast tribes it is large enough to carry of a killer whale the same way an eagle would a fish it had caught.  The beating of their wings is said to be the cause of thunder.  Some tribes see them as sacred forces of nature, while others see them as powerful, but ordinary members of the animal kingdom.  One story in particular has a Thunderbird stealing a young boy with the intent of eating him.

Horned Serpents are mythological freshwater serpents that can be found in myths all over the east coast of the United States and in Canada.  Tribes associated with the Horned Serpent include the Blackfoot, Abenaki, Micmac, Cheyenne, Fox, Iroquois, Cherokee, and various others.  They are described as huge, scaly, dragon like serpents with horns and long teeth.  They are said to have supernatural powers such as invisibility, shape-shifting, and hypnotic powers.   If a human defeats them, or helps them they are said to grant them mystic powers as well.  It is from the horn of a Horned Serpent that Isolt and James make a wand from one of the boys.  Horned Serpents were venerated as gods or spirit beings by some tribes.  During her travels around North America Isolt apparently meets a Horned Serpent, which likes her for some reason no one can fathom, and even speaks to her.  This is another problematic part of Rowling’s American Magic, Isolt is our very own Mary Sue.  She’s a special White European girl who swoops in and is somehow instantly liked by sacred First Nation myths.

Pukwudgies are part of Wampanoag tribal stories.  They are small, only 2-3 feet tall.  They resemble humans, with enlarged ears, fingers, and noses.  They are said to have smooth grey skin.  They have the following abilities and characteristics: They can appear and disappear at will.  They attack people and lure them to their death.  They are able to use magic.  They have poison arrows.  They can create fire at will.  According to myth Pukwudgies originally tried to help humans, but it always backfired, so the Pukwudgies turned to harassing and tormenting the humans instead.  Burning villages, kidnapping children, and luring people into the woods to kill them.  Despite this penchant for violence and mayhem, and apparent hate for all humans.  Rowling has Isolt rescue and befriend a Pukwudgie.  She saves him from a Hidebehind.  The very same one that she saves the two boys from years later.  She names her new Pukwudgie William, a good classic European name so out of sorts with the context of the Wampanoag tribe that I just laughed out loud.  William later saves Isolt and her new school from her estranged, racist aunt.  He is also described as curmudgeonly.  What should have happened is that the Pukwudgie should have killed Isolt and the story would end there.  Wouldn’t that be great?  We wouldn’t have to rewrite First Nation myths to fit the narrative of the British.  Well, too late, that’s half of American History, but still.  The only heart the Pukwudgie is going to represent is yours after he rips it out of your corpse and eats it.  Rowling says Pukwudgie house favors healers.  THEY SHOOT POISON ARROWS AND LIKE TO KILL PEOPLE.

The Wampus is a creature that has many stories surrounding it.  One of those stories, from the Cherokee Tribe, is of a young woman who followed the hunters of her tribe out on their hunt to see what they were doing.  She watched, huddled in a mountain lion skin, as the told sacred stories around the fire.  When she was discovered, the medicine man on the tribe cursed her into a horrible half-woman, half-cat creature that wanders the forest, howling and wishing desperately for its body back.  In Rowling’s story concerning Ilvermorny she mentions Isolt watching a number of wampus kittens play.  There’s only one Wampus.  One horrible hybrid of woman and mountain lion spawned by magic.  Wampus hair is apparently a core for American wands.  There’s only one Wampus.  You can’t take a young woman, cursed for her transgressions, and make the fluffy kittens.  You don’t get to rewrite a tragic myth of the Cherokee and make it cuddly.  Rowling describes it as a panther like creature that is very fast and nearly impossible to kill.

So what’s the problem with Ilvermorny?

Well for one thing, the Great American School of Magic was founded by a European.  Not one of the First Nation people.  Then members of various tribes came to find Isolt because they just had to learn about her fancy wand magic.  Cause European wanded magic is so much better than poor wandless First Nation magic.  EXCEPT, Rowling has previously explained that wandless magic is terribly difficult, and that only a few European wizards (like DUMBLEDORE) could do it.  She also says that the First Nation people EXCEL at wandless magic.  So why would they want to learn from Isolt and her wand magic, when they have their own perfectly valid magical tradition that has been around for thousands of years?  I dunno. Why, in the Real World, did we round-up First Nation children and send them off to boarding schools?  To strip them of their culture and assimilate them into Western Values.

It’s the age-old narrative of Western Imperial Colonialism.  Western, Anglo-Saxon ideals are the best and everyone else should learn to be just like us.  There’s nothing wrong with two cultures coming together and learning from each other, but the narrative that exists in the history of First Nation people and Europeans is one of genocide, forced cultural assimilation, forced sterilization, and cultural appropriation.  Was it necessary to make the American School of Magic, the premier institute for American Magic, founded by a European?  Why couldn’t it have been founded by the Iroquois Confederacy?  Or the Crow Nation?  Or the Osage Nation?  Or the Sac and Fox Nation?  Why an Irish woman?

In creating Ilvermorny JK Rowling has subverted First Nation mythology and rewritten it for her own purposes.  She has perpetuated the idea of Western Exceptionalism.  She has whitewashed the history of magic in America.  Placing Europeans at the forefront of the creation of an American Magical Society.  She’s rewritten American History exactly as it happened in our world.  Except with magic.  There is not a single good point of American and First Nation shared history.  When given the opportunity to shine a spotlight on an American magical culture, why on earth would you ever choose a European as your star?

I’m disappointed.  As a historian and as a lover of the original Harry Potter series.  I’m disappointed and frankly a little angry that Rowling apparently did no actual research on the history of First Nation people in America.  Representation is important.  How cultures, and ideas, and people are represented in fiction affects how people see them in the Real World.  These aren’t cultures that Rowling made up.  These are real cultures that have been marginalized since the first white foot stepped of the boat.  It hurts to see a childhood hero marginalize them again.