Thursday, June 19, 2008

urban riots - a thing of the past?

I watched Do the Right Thing again a few weeks ago. In some ways it seems very much the product of 1989 that it is (Rosie Perez's dance scene in the opening credits, Spandex biker shorts on every man, woman and child); in most ways it holds up very well. To borrow from Spike Lee, who will remember Driving Miss Daisy in 20 years?

The movie was not well-received by white critics at the time. New York Magazine recently revisited former NYMag columnist Joe Klein's notorious prediction that the film would spark riots among black audiences upon its release. Spike Lee remembers it not-so-fondly:

New York’s former political columnist Joe Klein and its former film critic David Denby had very strong reactions.
One of the big criticisms was that I had not provided an answer for racism in the movie, which is insane. And what’s even more insane is people like Joe Klein and David Denby felt that this film was going to cause riots. Young black males were going to emulate Mookie and throw garbage cans through windows. Like, “How dare you release this film in summertime: You know how they get in the summertime, this is like playing with fire.” I hold no grudges against them. But that was twenty years ago and it speaks for itself.
Klein's original article doesn't seem to be available, but this Time article from Richard Corliss titled "Hot Time in Bed-Stuy Tonight" is.
Everywhere, the film has polarized white liberals for whom Bed-Stuy is as exotic and unknowable as Burkina Faso. Some see Lee as the movies' great black hope; others tut till they're tuckered. A few fear that Do the Right Thing could trigger the kind of riot it dramatizes and perhaps condones.
I doubt white liberals were the only ones with opinions on the film, but they seem to be the only ones whose opinions were discussed in contemporaneous newsmagazine columns.

I don't know why it is but columnists never seem to expend much ink worrying about the "shenanigans" of white sports fans, for instance, these in Boston after the Celtics won the NBA championship on Tuesday (via).

Love of basketball causes drunken sports fans to riot--Richard Cohen or David Brooks better get on this alarming social trend right away ...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"Afghanistan is not our country any more"

Here’s a story I just read in the Toronto Star. To summarize:

On the highway to Kabul, one of the open-bed trucks in a U.S. military convoy in Afghanistan had been improperly loaded and its containing straps had been snapped, spilling munitions all over the road.

The Americans stopped traffic but didn’t bother explaining why. An ambulance carrying the victim of a motorcycle accident was caught in the jam, unable to pass. While the Americans threatened anyone who approached with machine guns, the victim was lying there dying.

The journalist who wrote the piece couldn’t watch this happen, so she approached the convoy. She was afraid she’d be shot, as this happens often to people who approach military convoys. One soldier at his turret aimed his machine gun at her, and another one came over to scream at her.

Finally, the soldiers allowed the ambulance to pass.

When an ambulance passes by on the street with sirens on and lights flashing, which happens often here in New York City, motorists and pedestrians are expected to get out of the way, no matter what. This is based on the principle that, however much a hurry you are in, if someone’s life is in danger, you will step aside and patiently wait for the vehicle to get through.

Our soldiers are supposedly in Afghanistan to protect Afghanis. If that is so, then why do they so often end up protecting themselves at the cost of Afghani lives? Our entire presence in the country is represented by this anecdote.

Here is what the journalist was told by her Afghani driver at the scene of the incident:

"This is why Afghans have come to hate Americans," said my driver, who works as an interpreter for ISAF and is a strong advocate of the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is not our country any more. They are our bosses. They treat us sometimes as if we are trespassing on our own land."

Is this freedom? Is this liberty? Is this democracy?

No, this is empire.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Citizen Orange

As I get lazier and lazier, I'm now just posting links to recent immigration-themed posts of mine over at Citizen Orange.

support the Uniting American Families Act

U.S. set to give Uzbekistan a free hand to repress its people

emotional trauma of splitting up families is long-lasting

one deportation: Armando's story


Also, read about Citizen Orange in the Chicago Tribune. The author doesn't seem to understand the sanctuarysphere, but it's not all bad.