Monday, February 06, 2017

Shadowy hand holding a color slide with a reproduction of Bruegel's painting of the Tower of Babel.

A Statement Concerning Recent Events from the BABEL Working Group



We in the BABEL Working Group unanimously and unambiguously condemn the gross, discriminatory and inhumane policies that the current administration has tried to unilaterally force upon the American people without our consent, without a majority mandate, and without the backing of the legislative and judicial branches of our government.

We feel it is urgent to express our condemnation of the greatest executive atrocity that garnered the most attention and action last week: the #MuslimBan that disproportionately targets travelers, immigrants, and legal residents from several African and Middle Eastern, majority-Muslim countries. We further decry the kleptocratic favoritism being shown in this ban toward nationals from countries where the kleptocrat-in-chief has business ties; this, combined with the fact that no bans have been imposed on majority-Muslim countries not in the Middle East, like Indonesia, leads us to conclude that this ban is neither about national security nor is it even strictly about Islamophobia. Instead, we see this as a targeted, racist attack against persons of Middle Eastern and African origins for the political expediency of whipping up anti-Islamic furor in a white supremacist segment of the American population. And we absolutely deplore the administration’s willingness to enforce portions of this policy against the judgements of the courts with force of the Customs and Border Patrol that the executive branch has annexed as its own para-military arm of enforcement.

We in BABEL stand in solidarity with refugees, immigrants, and the protesters making their objections to this policy heard in airports and at direct actions across the U.S. We thank the ACLU and the countless lawyers, lawmakers, and translators who have used their time, energy, and influence to resist this action in every way possible, and who continue to resist it as it continues to be unlawfully executed. We affirm that our America is one built on religious tolerance and that the first amendment guarantees the freedom to practice one’s own religion--whatever it may be--in peace. We further affirm that this same amendment guaranteeing the freedom of religion also guarantees freedom from religion: the right to live one’s life without the state mandating any religious practice or adherence to a single religion’s ideals.  

We therefore also feel it necessary to denounce the administration’s attempt to create theocratic policies policing uteruses, sex, and sex organs. We believe that any attempt to regulate women’s bodies, female sexuality, access to women’s healthcare, and access to trans* healthcare, or to legalize discrimination against LGBTQIA communities in businesses, healthcare, bathrooms, or any institution is an infringement upon our first amendment rights to govern our own bodies according to the dictates of our own consciences. America is not, and never has been, a theocracy, and we soundly condemn any policy that attempts to govern the bodies of its citizens through mandates that are thinly-veiled morality legislation, backed by a very selective and corrupted Christian ideology.

The #MuslimBan does not exist in isolation. It is part of a larger strategy of demonization and dehumanization that are, at base, rooted in the white supremacy and misogyny openly practiced by several of the president’s closest advisors. We similarly find the GOP complicit in this administration’s efforts to dehumanize and defund vital services for various groups including women, veterans, educational institutions, and healthcare.

We condemn the politically motivated and haphazard fashion in which this administration seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act. First, the insistent efforts to repeal this law speak not of sincerely held political beliefs, but rather reveal political point-scoring and also a dangerous and profound misunderstanding of how the law works, and of how favorite elements such as the ban on pre-existing conditions is tied to the individual mandate. Second, without any coherent or viable replacement, access to healthcare for millions of Americans will be put into jeopardy. This will affect the poor and the disabled the most.
Further, although there have been no direct actions (aside from the Executive Order directing government agencies to work toward the repeal of the ACA) against People with Disabilities (PwDs), we are alarmed by what at worst seems to be contempt and at best seems to be indifference toward PwDs by this administration and by the campaign that brought it to office. We affirm that PwDs have the right to be fully participatory members of their communities and their government. This includes access to healthcare and to education.

The Wall is the grandest symbolic expression of the racist xenophobia of this administration and its supporters. It is symbolic, rather than practical since, even should it ever be built, it will not actually stop undocumented peoples from entering the country, though it may have disastrous environmental impacts for the non-human migratory populations that inhabit the border region. The function of this wall is to declare—first and foremost to Mexico, but also to the rest of the world—that the US rejects their peoples wholly and entirely. We condemn this literal division in the strongest terms as an act of supreme and craven cowardice, and declare our hearts and our homes open to those who have made long and dangerous journeys to arrive in this country along paths analogous to those our ancestors followed.

But further, we feel this is again not a specifically anti-immigrant policy so much as it is a racist policy that attempts to frame “Americanness” in terms of whiteness. We have seen this at work before, in efforts like the “Papers Please” Arizona legislation of SB 1070, which essentially legalized racial profiling and determined that anyone who “looked like” a potential undocumented immigrant, i.e. any Latinx person, could be stopped and asked for documentation of their legal right to be here. We would remind this administration that large portions of our country belonged to Mexico before the Mexican-American war, and many who are of Mexican descent are more native to these territories than the white Americans who tell them to “go back to where they’re from,” which, in many instances is and always has been California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas.

Given the administration’s clear white supremacist agenda, we would also like to affirm our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Though we have yet to see a specifically anti-black policy emerge from this administration, we acknowledge that black populations have been living under the same kind of heightened risk and increased oppression that many Americans are just now coming to experience or understand. We stand against police brutality, the characterization of black men as hyper-aggressive or black women as hyper-sexual, against misogynoir, the criminalization of poverty that disproportionately affects communities of color, and the school-to-prison pipeline that incarcerates black men and women at three times the rate of other communities, re-creating a kind of modern-day slavery in private, for-profit prisons.

We further condemn the administration’s attempts to divert the American people’s attention and even outrage toward one heinous policy while trying to quietly push forward other policies that will be disastrous for Native populations and lands. Greenlighting the Dakota Access Pipeline, in which Trump himself is invested, when the courts and even the Army Corps of Engineers have halted progress on it for both environmental and legal reasons, shows the administration’s blatant disregard for tribal sovereignty, U.S. treaties with indigenous peoples, and the rights of Native Americans to govern and protect their own land and resources--particularly when the chief kleptocrat and his capitalist cronies’ pocketbooks are on the line. We demand that the administration abide by the binding treaties that have been made with Indigenous Americans and recognize that privileging business interests over the lives of Indigenous peoples will be met with resistance. We are all well aware that the DAPL was moved closer to protected Native lands, threatening their water supply, because the white residents of Bismarck South Dakota did not want to live with the risk of contaminating their own water supply. Once again, indigenous people are being asked to give up their health, their land, their resources, their ancestors, and their relatives for the safety and enrichment of white people.

We affirm that Native Americans have the right to determine the risks they face from non-native business interests. They have the right to peacefully protest any action that endangers their lives, their land, or their resources. Their sacred lands and spaces are entitled to the same sanctity, honor, and respect we would allow to any Christian sanctuary.

We stand with Standing Rock and the water protectors.

Further, we stand with all those working on behalf of the environment to protect and conserve the same resources that sustain all life on this planet. Mni Wiconi. Water is life. We as humans need it to survive on this planet along with everything else. We acknowledge that human beings are one part of an expansive, interconnected ecosystem and that damage to any part of that system endangers the lives of the whole system--including human lives.

We affirm that climate change is real. We believe the 99.9% of climate scientists who all agree that climate change is real, it is upon us, it is caused by human activity, and if we do not take steps to immediately remedy our impact upon the environment it may lead to mass extinction and a planet that is largely uninhabitable for human life.

The administration’s outright refusal to understand the scientific process and denial of the reality of facts will not make that reality any less real. Moreover, failure to act on climate policy will disproportionately affect developing countries and will cause a massive human migration crisis that may contribute to global instability.

“Alternative facts” are not substitutes for actual facts that have been discovered, vetted, published, and agreed upon by the majority of the scientific community. We condemn the administration’s attempt to undermine the scientific community and we regard their lies as attempts to censor scientists whose research does not align with the administration’s misguided, profit-seeking, ideologically-driven alternate reality.

We support the National Parks and Monuments that preserve our traditions and ecosystems from destruction, ensuring the education, enjoyment, and enrichment of ourselves and our families for generations to come. We regard the seizure and selling of these lands as a theft from the American public.

We similarly support rogue government agencies and actors who resist the Fahrenheit 2017 attempt to gag all facts and data produced or transmitted by the National Park Services, NASA, the CDC, the FDA, the EPA, the NIH and countless other government entities that produce or aggregate data to understand and improve our world and human life in it.

We condemn the administration’s blatant attempts to create an under-educated, anti-intellectual, consumerist populace. We regard the threatened elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities as an attempt to shut down exactly the kinds of research and expression that foster free and critical thought, particularly within academia and the arts communities.

Finally, we believe that there is such a thing as a “public good,” a vague idea that insists that some things are good--not morally, not ethically, and not because of their use or exchange value, but because they add happiness, pleasure, ease, and aesthetic value to the experience of human beings. The public good is both the welfare of the public as a whole and the individual goods, services, or commodities that provide for the welfare of that public. We believe that the value of these public goods cannot be measured by any corporate (or civic) bottom line, but that they are nevertheless worthwhile investments of public funds because of their capacity to improve the lives of all Americans. We believe that all Americans should have equal unfettered access to public goods.

We believe that art, literature, science, technology, and information are public goods. We believe that housing, infrastructure, education, healthcare, childcare, and parental leave are public goods. We believe that the freedom to practice (or not practice) one’s own religion or spirituality without fear of violence or infringement of others is a public good. We believe that the right to exist in a public space without the threat of violence or removal because of one’s gender expression, identity, or sexual orientation is a public good. We believe that diversity and decolonization are also in the public good, making us as a society more humane, egalitarian, and empathetic.

As a collective of scholars, artists, independent thinkers, and activists, we affirm the public good of education, the humanities, and the arts as much as we affirm the good of science, research, and filling the coffers of human knowledge with new information and appreciation for the old. We are the rabble, we are the resistors and protesters, the deconstructors with our fists raised in defiance. But we are also the builders, the collectors, the archivists, the investigators, the detectives of history, the mystics, the visionaries, the utopians. Many of us are medievalists whose professional life centers around the investigation of the past and the affirmation of its relevance to our present moment. Never have we felt this to be more true than we do right now. We draw lessons as well as inspiration from the past and from imaginative histories and what might-have-beens. Our very namesake comes from the biblical story of the humans who were too cooperative, too productive, too good at building. They became a threat to the existing order and were thus knocked down, destroyed, and scattered in an effort to keep humans in their place, divide them, and make it impossible to achieve heaven on earth.

As BABELers, were are therefore poets, makers, creators engaged in an impossible but idealistic project that is always aimed at the ever receding limit above us. As a collective we seek for collaboration and radical inclusivity as we continue this utopian project of building an edifice in opposition to the existing powers that would prefer we remain divided and unable to speak to one another. We are profaners of the faith in money, in capital, in hierarchy, hatred and division. We believe in humanity. We believe in the future. We believe in our planet. We believe in science. We believe in art. And we will continue to create, to make, to build, to write, to rally, to cry out with a unified voice against injustice, division, hate, dehumanization, and the defiling of our habitat. We will continue to do this work not only for ourselves, but also for that public in whose name we create, we learn, and we educate.

1 comment:

Ray said...

I am sure that you all are aware that this happen in Germany in the 1930's- 1940's. I see no reason not to expect history to repeat itself in this situation. Thus, for all those lacking in historical knowledge of this time frame. I respectfully suggest that you inform said readers of it.The main reason being that the general public needs tl learn that The Muslim ban, was the first of many future so called bans against various groups tha put the Trump Administration and the Republicans at risk.
My own personal opinion based upon observation is that the Republican party upper administration as a whole worked in unison with the Russians to bring out the current election results. I base this upon the actions of the Congressional Republicans in their refusal to investigate Trump on his numerous conflicts of interest and Jason Chaffetz basically telling Trump he is above the laws. I also bring to point that numerous cabinet members have been appointed by the Republicans that have had numerous problems one of which either, very little vetting combined with Republican constituents non support.
It is apparent that the Congressional Republicans have an agenda that they plan to keep regardless of the opinions of their own constituency. I admit I am just a lay person that has been on this planet 60 years. To me this would appear to be nothing less the a political coup. is this a viable possibility?? It seems to me that it is and as a veteran I take this very seriously for I like all veterans swore an oath to protect the US Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic.
Please forgive my probably numerous grammatical errors but I felt these issues need to be addressed by those much more knowledgeable then myself.
Thank You all for what you are doing