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Commentary: internationalism and post-September 11 activism.

THE RECURRENT THEME THAT REVEALS ITSELF IN THIS SECTION'S ESSAYS IS THE U.S. government's long legacy of suppression of debate and criminalization of dissent to facilitate its project of global capitalist expansion, its genocidal policies at home and abroad, and its repression of nonwhite peoples. In various ways, these writers demonstrate that the events of September 11, 2001, were used to justify an acceleration of government repression at home and abroad.

In "Legitimizing Empire," Usha Zacharias contends that the criminalization of dissent after September 11 was facilitated by the creation of a new imagined community, a homogenized community cloaked in the World Trade Center's burned flag, ignorant of its social history and oblivious to its bloody past. She names this "America's September 11 innocence"

and argues that it serves to protect and defend the government's racist, capitalist, and exploitative geopolitical missions. This includes passage of the "Patriot Act," the bombing of one of the poorest nations in the world, support for repressive regimes in the Philippines and Indonesia, and the justification of the slaughter of hundreds of Muslims by Indian Hindu fundamentalists, to name a few.

In the same vein, Michele Naar-Obed asserts that "this latest crisis is simply another manifestation of a government gone mad." Her examination of Jonah House, a community of faith-based activists dedicated to living out nonviolence and resistance to militarism, demonstrates how nonviolent struggle against the state is powerful, effective, and a necessary antithesis to its wholesale killing and destruction. As a member of this community, she writes, "we pour our blood on the weapons to expose their bloody purpose, demonstrating we would rather spill our own blood than shed the blood of another." The willingness of their members to suffer through the certainty of trials and imprisonment due to these actions attests to their dedication to nonviolent struggle and protest.

Jill Soffiyah Elijah delves into the government's repression of dissenters, including attorneys who chose to follow the Code of Professional Responsibility that mandates that they "not decline representation because a client or a cause is unpopular or community reaction is adverse." The indictment of New York lawyer

Lynn Stewart, who represented "unpopular" clients such as David Gilbert, Bilal Sunni-Ali, and Richard Williams, illustrates such repression. The paradox of this is clear: in an era when this country is vigorously trumpeting its dedication to freedom and justice, it is denying its people any semblance of these rights.

"Incommunicado: Dispatches from a Political Prisoner" is a first-hand account of one political prisoner's experience in the days and weeks following September 11. Marilyn Buck was held in solitary confinement and cut off from lawyers, phones, and her loved ones. Her poem reminds us of the plight of our political prisoners and of the necessity of speaking out, acting against injustice, and continuing our struggle.

TSEDEYE GEBRESELASSIE graduated from Brown University with a bachelors in International Relations. A former research intern for the California-based Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC), she currently works in the New York area.
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Title Annotation:IV. Human Rights Activism and the War on Terrorism
Author:Grebesallassie, Tsedeye
Publication:Social Justice
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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