Immediately after the Civil War ended, Southern states enacted “black codes” an early version of systemic, state-sponsored discrimination and racism meant to confine and control Black people who had just gained their freedom. Today, we continue to see the erosion of basic human rights and civil liberties of people of color and poor people through coded practices and policies.
A friend of mine is talking about trans veterans at a national anthropology conference.
He asked me to write a statement in response to the result of the 2016 election. This is it:
An open letter:
De Oppresso Liber. To free the oppressed. Nous Defions. We defy. Liberty and justice for all. My country has long claimed to be THE symbol of freedom and democracy across the globe. We have always espoused these lofty ideals.
Here we are.
I was never a patriotic “true believer” but gods I thought we were better than this. In spite of losing the popular vote our electoral system is poised to emplace a man who campaigned on the promise to restrict the human rights, civil liberties, and bodily autonomy of black people, Muslims, immigrants, and queer people of all stripes. We have elected a man who is staffing his cabinet with openly white nationalist figures like Stephen Bannon.
David Duke, the KKK, and the actual American Nazi Party are holding victory parades and celebrations for our new president elect.
I want to say I don’t recognize my country. But I do. The thing is, when I was a child I did believe that we were the good guys. We were the greatest country in the world—freedom was what made us different from every nation across the globe. Then again, in those days I was a male-assigned child who went to church 5 times a week and only ever got into trouble for bringing my bible to school and preaching to my classmates. To say I was naïve is an understatement. The scales fell from my eyes very quickly.
When one of the faithful raped me for 5 of my first 10 years of life, it was somehow MY shame to bear rather than his. My father convinced me not to press charges because once people knew I had been raped, he said, I could never take that back.
I learned that words and actions rarely aligned. The church sign always said “All are welcome” but the church bylaws, which were updated in the 1990’s by the way, still forbid members of the church from even being party to interracial weddings. My dad “didn’t approve of black people” as if they somehow chose their race and threatened to disown me if I ever brought home a black girl. My family fears that gays will “convert” good little Christian children.
My country kills unarmed black children but takes white mass murderers into custody and buys them cheeseburgers. In my country a man with a gun can harass, stalk, and kill a child and claim he feared for his life, but a black trans woman who accidentally kills her meth-addled neo-nazi attacker with a pair of scissors from her fashion design class will go to prison.
No, I absolutely recognize my country. All straight cisgender white Christian men are created equal. The rest of us are to be dominated, subjugated, incarcerated, or deported. Or otherwise “protected” from choice and bodily autonomy. The toxicity of whiteness and Christianity and masculinity is a swift current that swept me into the teeth of a war I never believed in. I did terrible things for a nation that refuses to acknowledge my basic humanity, and I will never be able to wash that blood off my hands. In special forces our motto was De Oppresso Liber—most often paraphrased as “to free the oppressed”. Our direct action teams appropriated the motto Nous Defions—We Defy—from the French resistance in World War II. To me they are more than just buzzwords. I took them to heart. I recognize that America is an oppressor to people of color, women, queers, and the disabled. My transgender status and my womanhood do not negate my status as a warrior, and I recognize president-elect Trump and those who back him as the same dark forces my grandfather battled in the 1940’s. I recognize my country for what it is—an empire built by slaves on the bones of natives—but I still believe in what it could be. I know what side of history I will be on. My America is diverse, without the divisions encouraged by those who would put so-called state’s rights before human rights or federal protections for them. My America has skin that is red and black and brown, not just white. My America is queer and fat and femme. My America is Atheist and Jewish and Muslim. My people are disabled and incarcerated and undergoing “reparative therapy”. I still believe in one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. For ALL. And I say to Trump and Pence and Bannon: We defy you. WE DEFY. Nous Defions.
Alana McLaughlin, former staff sergeant, United States Army
It is still in the lap of the gods whether a society can succeed which is based on ‘civil liberties and human rights’ conceived as I have tried to describe them; but of one thing at least we may be sure: the alternatives that have so far appeared have been immeasurably worse.
Canadian civil society groups are bringing their challenge to a contentious new anti-terror bill to an international audience: a key United Nations rights body in Geneva.
Opponents of bill C-51 will use a periodic review of Canada’s international rights obligations this week by the UN human rights committee to voice a laundry list of concerns related to the anti-terror legislation and other national security issues.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and Amnesty International Canada (AIC) are among the groups that will plead their case before the UN panel.
“We want to ensure the human rights committee is aware of a fairly long list of serious, and we would say worsening, human rights concerns,” said AIC secretary general Alex Neve.
“There’s a bundle of issues related to national security, even before bill C-51 came along.”
I suppose one day these artifacts will be strewn in some wasteland. Civilization will end, like Egyptian civilization ended, like Greek civilization ended, like one day, all civilization will end. And in the ashes, these are the artifacts we leave - these kind of judgments, these kind of attitudes. Extraterrestrials picking through the trinkets left behind. What kind of people will they think that we were?
Russell Brand (His personal video towards the scrutiny of Bruce Jenner)
(b. 1956) is a human rights activist from the African nation of Malawi.
She is the founder and first director of the Civil Liberties Committee, the
first human rights organization in the country. The group has been heavily
involved in the referendum and general election that led to the end of the
dictatorship and establishing of a democracy in Malawi.
She is a devoted campaigner for women and children’s rights, and offers
counselling, advice and legal aid to disadvantaged groups through CILIC. She is
also one of the founding members of HRCC, a human rights consultative forum.