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Category Archives: History

Dear Chris,

thanks very much for your thought provoking video. i’m an English teacher hoping to use your poetry in my English Literature course this coming semester. i’ve taken the liberty of editing your text for punctuation, grammar, and spelling and to make it conform more closely to the spoken word of your video. Please find my transcription below:

Peace,

rob

Black Does Not Equal Fear

Complete transcript:

George Zimmerman: (edited 911 call)

Hey, we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy… this guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around and looking about.

Dispatcher: Did you see what he was wearing?

GZ: Yeah. A dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He’s here now, he’s just staring…

Chris Beasley:

I am black.

Do you fear me?

Is it from what you’ve heard

Or what you see?

I wear sweatshirts, Polos, and white Ts,

But it’s not my clothes that indict me.

It’s not my actions, education, or personality;

It’s my nose, my lips and my ancestry.

Why does my skin speak louder that the words I say?

We don’t assume all whites are Timothy McVeigh.

If I plead the fifth and don’t add to my case

I can’t escape your ideas of my race.

It’s ok to infer, conclude, perceive.

As long as we know what we deduct can deceive.

Admit you could be wrong,

Cause you don’t know me.

That’s all that I ask, I’m begging you please.

If I have a ball you clap and cheer,

But outside the game you quiver in fear.

I see purses clutched closer, doors lock as I pass,

Words laced with curses. No wonder we clash.

Justice in court

Will always fall short

If we don’t begin to take a fresh start.

The judge tried to exclude race. That’s a fact.

But the jury could not forget that Trayvon was black.

No need to see race and then pick us apart

Cause we all look the same when we stand in the dark.

Now judge me simply by my diction.

Hear my emotion and conviction.

I want to enlighten not divide.

I want respect for your life and mine.

If fear is the cause, that’s something we share.

And fear is caused from not knowing what’s there.

So, like President Obama, let me be clear:

I’m a black man,

And I’m not going anywhere.

I’m part of some gangs you’ve heard all about.

I’m an Aggie alum,

And a proud Eagle Scout.

Entrepreneur starting a career.

I will identify myself so you’ll see there’s nothing to fear.

The idea of being black has been twisted so much.

We’re said to be savage, ghetto, and ratchet,

Threatening, and lazy, and sitting on our butts.

And those that know me still seem to judge.

You call me white cause I’m none of the above.

I’ve been called black, and I’ve been called white

Based on what you believe, neither is right.

I am Chris, one of a kind.

So don’t judge me by your experiences but by mine.

And I’m inclined to tell you, I’m not alone.

In moments like this we all can be strong.

Let our voices be heard. Let them relish the sound.

Cause how can we move forward, if we all stand our ground?

After that verdict, the value of my life seemed bleak.

What are my chances if they demonize me?

So we fear for our lives, to a certain extent,

But this video is our self-defense.

Chris Beasley, July 2013

A lot happened in 2011. People around the world were affected to a greater or lesser degree by what occurred. i was struck by an, at times, overwhelming sense that i could not do anything to affect change or to help those working for change either here in Sohar, Oman or in the streets of the cities and towns around the world where people are trying to make a difference. In the end, i decided i could, in my small way, bear witness to what was happening and work towards small positive changes that i think i can impact. i would ask that you consider joining me in my New Year’s resolution.

Every year, Jamie Mackinnon, a friend from my Cuso Nigeria days sends out a “Noel News” missive. This year he opined,

“Historical analysis seems to show that, over the millennia (beginning with the rise of the state) and more so in recent decades, violence has been declining globally, and the dignity of the human individual (as seen through the prism of human rights) has been increasing.”

As i read that i reflected on 2011 and what i had witnessed either in real life or through the words and pictures of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. i decided i had to beg to differ with Jamie. i feel that violence is increasing, partly because, at 7 billion and counting, there are more of us human beings around and partly because we are becoming inured to violence, both casual and causal. Violent action and rhetoric are, it seems to me, constantly being ratcheted up in attempts to hold off change and secure the status quo.

Here in Sohar we experienced the worst aspects of the Arab Spring when a citizen was shot and killed as he photographed the nascent movement for change. my workplace was closed for a week while our students demonstrated for change. 

In Cairo twitter friend Mona Eltahawy had her left arm and right hand broken by military security forces while they sexually assaulted her. Mona writes of her experience in detail here.

Also from Cairo came this graphic image of a woman being singled out for gross abuse by the military. She was in the streets demonstrating for an end to rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. If ever a picture told a thousand words this was that occasion. The full story behind the picture can be read here. What is not told is the story of the Coptic Christian who attempted to save this Muslim demonstrator from the beating she was getting. He ended up being shot in the knee for his efforts.

In North America the quotidian use of violence against peaceful, non-violent demonstrators is best summed up by this now infamous picture of one sworn to protect and serve disabusing all and sundry of his role in life. Violence has become banal and utilized indiscriminately by authorities around the world to either maintain their power or the status quo. TIME magazine’s Person Of The Year issue featured The Protester; very fitting but the cover story missed several important protest actions in the MENA region and elsewhere.

If one thing has become crystal clear it’s that money talks. The upcoming election in the USA is up for grabs to the highest bidder. Occupiers are slowly changing the focus away from the 1% who control the pocketbooks to the 99% who should be controlling the streets.

At this time and place in my life i’ve decided that i can best effect change by watching how i spend my money. Going out on the streets while i have four kids in school isn’t a good idea. i won’t be able to help them if i’m occupying the inside of a jail cell.

As my New Year’s resolution i’m revisiting and renewing several of my long-standing consumer boycotts:

Nestlé because they are still illegally promoting their infant formulas as better than mother’s milk. i’ve been boycotting Nestlé ever since i was working in Nigeria in the late ’70s and i heard of their deadly practice which actually leads to mothers in developing countries inadvertently killing their infants. Maggi is also a Nestlé subsidiary and should be avoided like the plague.

Union Carbide since 1985 because they still haven’t paid full reparations for the Bhopal disaster.

Shell Oil since 1988 when i first started buy petrol/gasoline for their ongoing lousy environmental record in the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria.

i’ve been boycotting Kraft the longest, since 1973, when i attended a Perth County Conspiracy concert. Band members railed against this food processing behemoth which consistently twists the arms of its supplier farmers in its pursuit of profit. There are better quality foods from a host of other more socially responsibly producers.

McDonalds ever since i worked there in 1974. They serve a product; they do not serve food. Nutritional value? Forget it.  Working there, behind the grill, was eye-opening and disgusting.

Just two days ago i decided to add Chik-fil-A when i discovered that they are promoting homophobia. Not that there is any chance of my ever darkening their doors as my wife Kim and i decided to become vegetarians over a year and a half ago. It was, plainly put, the right thing to do, for ourselves and the environment. Meat production utilizes far too much resources.

So while you may feel there is nothing you can do there is. Occupy your wallet, spend your money where it won’t hurt others. Support a political party or politician whose views you agree with. Late last year i finally became a registered member of a Canadian political party despite never being either able or allowed to engage in the Federal political process through the ballot box in my home and native land. i’m now a proud member of the Green Party of Canada and will do what i can, from a distance, to see that we gain more seats in Parliament.

Stephen Harpy, his policies and his politics are the greatest threat to the Canada that i knew and loved growing up in the ’50s and ’60s. So i’ll rage against him and his, in this blog, on twitter and on a ballot if i’m ever allowed to vote as a non-resident Canadian citizen.

No i’ve not changed my stance on controlled substances nor did i find myself afoul of the law here in Oman. i had a 2.3 cm long vesical calculus (stone) lodged in my bladder caused apparently by a slightly enlarged prostate. The stone was causing discomfort and haematuria (blood in urine).

So i spent five days in Sohar General Hospital recently. It was an adventure i would sooner have avoided but, apa boleh buat? (What to do?). Went in last Friday evening for pre-op observation and to ensure that i did not eat or drink anything in the half a day before the procedure.

Dr Joseph, a urologist, told me he would remove the stone and possibly remove my prostrate if need be, the decision for the latter would be taken “on the table”. Saturday morning i woke up to find breakfast waiting for me (the catering staff hadn’t been told i shouldn’t eat). i was a good lad and avoided eating.

i was wheeled into the OR at 11:25 and a spinal was administered. i noted three young trainee doctors there to observe the procedure, i figured why not? i train teachers so why not let student doctors observe me being worked on?

crushed bits of my bladder stone after removal

A green curtain was put up and Dr Joseph entered quietly and immediately got to work. He told me later that the stone was difficult to remove as it was large and the center was very hard.

While he was in there he decided to do an endoscopic resection of my prostate because he felt it was what had caused the stone in the first place. So i’ve kept most of my prostate which is good.

While resectioning my prostate the good Dr found many small stones which he also removed (the smaller bits in the above photo). Then came the insertion of the catheter. This was painless as i was still under the spinal despite already being able to move my feet at this point. The anesthesiologist had done a wonderful job of estimating how much to give me so i would feel what was going on.

After a very short while in the recovery room i was wheeled back to the male surgical ward where i spent the next few days hooked up to a drip into my bladder to help wash the wound. The removal of the catheter was a totally new experience that doesn’t bear repeating. i was rather amazed at how long it was… 30 cm of the 40.5 cm length had been inserted up my yazoo. When the nurse took it out he told me to take a deep breath, i ended up having to take two deep breaths. The coins are the same size as a quarter dollar.

So now i’m supposed to take it easy for the next several weeks, no straining, lifting or bonking allowed… apa boleh buat?

What did i learn? Well Pete Townsend’s “hope I die before I get old” dictum wears thin after fifty. i’m thinking i’m definitely no longer “young” so i guess i must be getting old or at least older. i’ve also learned that good medical care is priceless. The surgeries cost about OR630 (you do the exchange). Gary, my American colleague said it was a fraction of what it would cost back in the States. my employer provided healthcare should cover most or all of it. Alhumduillah!

i’ve also learned that there are stark differences between Omani culture and ours. Kim’s students couldn’t understand why she wasn’t at the hospital all the time this week; she told them she had to work. Omani families in their hordes descend upon the hospital when one of their members is ill, some even staying over night. Kim came once a day while i was recovering, during the posted visiting hours. It was more than enough.

Queen Elizabeth II rocks! On Thursday July 14, 2011 she met The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, during an audience at Buckingham Palace, London. She made her position on the current Malaysian political scene very plain, for all to see, by wearing bright yellow clothing during her audience with the Prime Minister.

Yellow is the colour of choice adopted by the popular anti-corruption Bersih (clean) campaign in Malaysia which last weekend attempted to hold a rally sanctioned by the Malaysian Agong (King). Queen Elizabeth is the head of The Commonwealth, of which Malaysia is a member. No doubt Najib will see the Queen’s sartorial shade selection as a slight and will seek to withdraw Malaysia from this august group of countries which help each other in times of need.

It is obvious that good Queen Bess is supporting her fellow royal the Malaysian King in his support of Bersih. After all royal families are becoming an endangered species.  It is also patently clear she is 100% behind the people of Malaysia and wanted to get into the P.M.’s face.

She made her point and made it loud and clear in canary yellow! As a citizen of another Commonwealth country i feel moved by QEII’s bold statement and will make sure i wear yellow when i visit my Malaysian family this summer. God save the Queen!

The new Make It Stop (September’s Children) video by Rise Against is a visual, visceral very vocal attack on bullying and homophobia. They may be from the Windy City but they sure aren’t blowhards. The lads have something to say and they say it poignantly and powerfully.

Excellent material that could easily be exploited by teachers concerned with bullying. The three sub-stories which make up the narrative of the video can easily be utilized as writing stimuli. This is perhaps the hardest hitting and socially/politically strong video since Linkin Park’s What I’ve Done was released in 2007. (btw if anyone is interested i’ve done an analysis of this video, edit by edit).

Stylistically the song continues a theme of asking rhetorical questions that has long stood the test of time (remember Black Eyed Peas Where Is The Love). This could be another avenue to look at when discussing the lyrics.

A while ago i posted a comment on the internet about Mark Boal’s recent Rolling Stone Kill Team article about a group of US troops in Afganistan who had started killing unarmed civilians for fun. i was appropriately appalled and expressed indignation in sufficient amounts to convey how i did not condone that type of killing.

However i really didn’t get it; i didn’t understand what made them do what they did. Recently i watch In the Valley of Elah. i was disturbed by the film and actually watched it twice over two days just to make sure i understood everything and the motivation of the soldier who killed his comrade in arms. Watching the movie and reflecting on it i was able to draw a link between the inhuman actions it portrayed and those discussed in the Rolling Stone article.  i was able to figure out how adults can be transformed into inhumane killing creatures. Their training has changed a lot over the years as Gwynne Dyer mentions in a recent comment piece in the Winnipeg Free Press. Soldiers are not trained to think, they are trained to kill, and to follow orders; without question.

The recent execution of Osama bin Laden is a case in point. we now know he was unarmed, that he apparently did not surrender but made a threatening gesture: perhaps a raised middle finger… What ever it was the Navy Seal with his finger on the trigger perceived it as a threat and waxed Osama. End of story. The training took over.

Somewhere along the line we have managed to forget “Thou shalt not kill”.

The one thing i am glad about is that i’ve managed to convince my oldest son that he has other career options aside from joining the Canadian Armed Forces. The last thing i want happening is he becoming another statistic in Afganistan.

Following events in Libya from a distance and listening to the political discourse surrounding the dire situation one can only wonder, worry and pray that the remaining citizens of that country will soon be rid of their dictator. Recent statements from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the UN Security Council make it very clear that no real action will be taken aside from alternately verbally urging and condemning Loony Tunes Libyan leader Muammar Ghadaffi to stop killing his citizens.

Listening to political pundits discuss the situation via various media a theme has arisen repeatedly. Commentators suggest the UN is impotent. Obviously our UN representatives need to “man-up” and take some political viagra so that the UN can insert itself into this egregious situation. If they go in without Ghadaffi’s permission will it be political rape? i don’t think so. He and his son are the only ones still suffering from delusions of grandeur. The citzens of Libya will welcome UN peacekeepers with open arms.

Libya needs blue helmets. That is the real blue pill that needs to be prescribed for this situation. Our leaders need to take action before more of our Libyan brothers and sisters become statistics. You need to contact your politicians/leaders and the UN and implore them to take action before Ghadaffi’s crimes against humanity shred the Lions of Libya.

i read with interest that today is the United Nations World Day of Social Justice. How apropos especially given all the people around the world striving for social justice, freedom and dignity in their lives.

i’m really wondering at what point the international community steps up and takes action when a member state systematically denies civil rights to its citizens and how many people have to die in the streets of the world’s cities before politicians take note. Do we need situations reach  Darfur and Bosnia levels before we take action? Where is the international Peace Keeping community when supposed leaders of nations are hanging on to power by brazenly killing their populations (and blaming foreign agitators and journalists)?

i would sooner see blue helmeted UN peacekeepers in the streets than dead and dying.

The blood on the streets of Egyptian cities isn’t even dry yet the naysayers and doubting Thomases are already coming out of the wormwood. What Khalaf Al Habtoor’s op-ed piece in today’s Gulf News lacks in accuracy it gains in paranoid delusions.

Al Habtoor initially praises the “young, educated” people who started the ball rolling by calling for a public demonstration on January 25th. He fails to mention that Asmaa Mahfouz, the vlogger who originally posted the call to rise up, is currently under virtual house arrest having been warned that if she goes out she’ll be taken by security services. He also does not discuss that Wael Ghonim, the blogger who started the We are all Khaled Said facebook page, is currently being detained by secret police at and undisclosed location and is presumably being tortured.

Al Habtoor correctly states that Mubarak has “maintained stability” but he does not detail at what cost: hundreds, if not thousands, of political dissenters imprisoned; rampant corruption and a hugh disparity in income distribution. The climate for foreign investment he “cultivated” is one which investors knew they only had to pay a 20% cut to the powers that be.  Al Habtoor disingenuously claims that Mubarak wasn’t aware that those around him were enriching themselves. This is laughable. Recent conservative estimates put the value of his family’s wealth in land, investments and cash at over US$40 billion held in offshore holdings and secret accounts.

While he does detail the recent evidence of lawlessness in Egypt, Al Habtoor does not properly accredit it to Mubarak, a dictator clinging to power with the only tools he knows: police brutality and overt violence directed at peaceful demonstrators. That Mubarak withdrew police off the streets and simultaneously emptying four prisons is indisputable. At the same time bands of thugs (many with police identification or poor people who admitted to being paid the equivalent of US$75 by NDP party hacks) came on the scene and chaos erupted. This was not a coincidence.

It is also not a coincidence that the military were brought in once the police had been beaten off the streets. Unfortunately for Mubarak they lacked the stomach to do the dirty work that he wanted them to do. After several days of watching the protests, however, they effectively turned a blind eye and deaf ear on the NDP thugs and secret police who tried, once more, to defeat the citizens of Egypt and silence the journalists there to record history in the making.  This resulted in the over 48 hours of unparalleled bloodshed on the streets on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.

Ridiculously Al Habtoor states that Mubarak “immediately responded to protestors demands”.  Either Al Habtoor has problems with short-term memory or he wasn’t watching events on the ground in Egypt over the past 13 days. Mubarak only spoke to the Egyptian people from the secure confines of his Presidential Palace on the morning of Day 5 of the popular uprising. By then the initial demands were a thing of the past. Having endured days of attacks by thousands state security police, countless rounds of tear-gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition the ante had been seriously upped: the Egyptian people demanded his immediate ouster. Al Habtoor claims Mubarak has fulfilled their demands. This simply is not the case. Changing one crew of thugs for another is hardly the sweeping constitutional and legal change that Egyptians are demanding. They want basics freedoms and dignity: the rights to assemble, freely associate and elect a democratically representative government. Under the current one party state and constitution they get no such guarantees.

Al Habtoor claims the youth uprising has been hijacked. He fails to flesh out his accusation with any names or substantiation. He insinuates that Islamic fundamentalists will be out to suborn what ever democracy comes out of the revolution. He states that the Muslim Brotherhood should be excluded from the political equation. He fails to realize that in a democracy everyone is equal: everyone has one vote. Halas.

Tellingly, Al Habtoor calls the ignition of democratic ideals in the MENA region a “contagion” and warns of it spreading. He then uses the royal “we” when discussing what he does and doesn’t want. One can’t be sure who he is referring to but it’s probably himself and the rest of the well heeled board members of the Al Habtoor Group since his essay was originally posted on his company’s website the day before being published in the Gulf News. i’m sure the spreading of democracy in the region’s collection of paternalist autocracies shakes the very foundations of their privileged positions.

At the end of the day what matters is not what Al Habtoor wants but what the people of Egypt want or don’t want. It is patently obvious that they want a new constitution, one that allows fundamental freedoms recorded in the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. The current Egyptian constitution needs to be torn up and a new one written. It is also patently obvious the Egyptian people do not want Mubarak. A return to stability will be best engendered by Mubarak’s immediate departure to one of his posh properties elsewhere in the world.

An update: the soldiers were gone this morning from their posts in the guard-towers at the Sultan’s farm. And so was the Sultan. He was visiting his farm hence the soldiers i’ve learned.

An interesting point to make about this is that Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said uses his own nationals to protect him. A far cry from Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam who has hired a company of Gurkas (the fearsome Nepalese mercenaries with their razor sharp kukris) to protect him, his palace and strategic tele-communications sites around his small Sultanate on the north shore of Borneo. He either doesn’t trust his own troops or knows they couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

On news related to security there was a front page article in the newspaper yesterday about how the Omani government security agency managed to uncover an Emirati spy ring working in the country.  Omanis are amazed at the very mention of politics in the local newspaper let alone on page 1.  The same newspaper has been running a small article with a picture about goings on in Egypt on page 7. The growing popular uprising is being termed it a “critical time”.

Meanwhile, the UAE Govt in Abu Dhabi has disavowed any knowledge of the actions of their spies in Oman.  Good morning Mr. Phelps!