Message From Madeline to Donald: “You are Bullying the People”

See also at Common Dreams

This is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water — Donald Trump, INDEPENDENT, September 29, 2017.

This is a three-part photo essay accompanying an article by Stan and Paul Cox, titled ‘Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria.’

Superpower Neglect: There’s Something About a Neighbor (part 3)

The United States government would rather have us remain silent about who we might meet with and talk to in Puerto Rico about Hurricane Maria, the destruction it caused, and how the mainland responded…


IMG_5171…such as always-smiling Fela Suren who says she’s “80-something.” She wasn’t in her house when Maria made landfall, but was staying with a friend. She said she started screaming “Ahhhhhhh!” when the hurricane struck, and she doesn’t wish to see anything like another Maria ever again. She laughs and adds that she wants to go to the United States…


IMG_5188…or remain silent about Fela’s undrinkable green tap water that she says she only bathes with…




…or the papaya and gandules trees that she planted in her yard…


Untitled 3…or this montage of her roofless, destroyed home that includes a makeshift bedroom in her kitchen with the boarded window…


IMG_5175…or the pods from her gandules trees that lie strewn about on the dirt and that she sweeps off with her pink broom and breaks into a broken white cup to cook with and eat…


IMG_5202…or, maybe while she sits, waiting for people from the church that “adopted” her to come and put new windows into her unfinished home…


IMG_5158…or this inside-out-home with a sign that says ‘No Toque’ (Do Not Touch), because of the mistaken belief that “FEMA is coming…”


IMG_5248…or this Maria-brush-picket-fence…


IMG_5060 (1)…or this photo of then-young, now-96-year-old Juana San Miguel with her mother Evarista Diaz and stepdad Alfonzo Cruz…


IMG_5057…or about our guide and translator Madeline Flores Tenazoa (left), Juana San Miguel (center), or Victoria Febás…


IMG_5061.jpg…and the fact that Juana, who will turn 97 this May and worked in a garment factory for 30 years, never missed a day’s work in her life; or that Victoria worked for the government as a nurse, and they both live on social security and are two of the elderly people who are the majority in Sierra Brava. “We have good neighbors here” says Juana. Both of them live by themselves, and neither of them drive or have a car. “Almost all old people here,” says Madeline. “Every time they [the neighbors] check if they need something” from the supermarket, or any other help…


IMG_5074…or that Victoria, who, framed by portraits of her family on the wall behind her, can be seen here, smiling, wearing her beloved chihuahua Lindita on her right wrist like an oversize bracelet, and with her left hand holding a photo of her son, Ramon, who, like Wilma’s son, Juan Carlos (see part 1), serves in the United States Army…


IMG_5070…or the sticker next to the rippling wall-paint showing signs of water seepage, that says ‘There’s something about a soldier.’ Madeline tells us that Victoria’s neighbor, who was living across the street, had to leave because he, like many, couldn’t find a job in Sierra Brava. She said that he did a lot for Victoria. If she needed anything from the supermarket, for instance, she only had to cross the street and ask him and he would bring whatever she needed. But now she has to wait for her daughter to come from San Juan to go to the supermarket. “There’s something about a soldier” works great in the U.S. mainland where cowards make the rules and young citizens like Ramon who fought in Afghanistan serve and die for them. But in the island territory of Puerto Rico, “There’s something about a neighbor” rings more true…


IMG_5229…or this piece of land where Madeline’s grandmother’s old house stood. “My grandmother [was] born here…When I came [to live here] I was only 11 days old, and my grandmother was living here with her mom. We had [two] big trees here,” says Madeline, and the day that Maria struck, they fell and “broke the house in two pieces.” Her cousin — who had bought the old house — was here during Maria. When the house was destroyed, Madeline says “my grandmother went crazy… she told everybody she needed to come to see [for herself] what happened, and she started crying! crying!… the house is not the same, now it’s a new house… she say I passed all my life there, and my dad died there, I saw mama die there…” (La Plena, Puerto Rico)


IMG_5098…or about Madeline’s grandmother, 78-year-old Milagros Colón, whose home in Sierra Brava was also destroyed by the hurricane. Madeline tells us that “the tree fell [through the roof] and the water came inside from the river and she lost everything. They [FEMA] came, but my grandmother she doesn’t speak English. How’s she gonna talk with him. How?” Later, “they send the letter [saying] you qualify only for $400, but what’re you going to pay [for all that was destroyed] with $400? Madeline says that the tree was on Milagros’ bedroom side of the house and when it fell, the bedroom window came crashing down on her grandmother’s bed. “Thank God she wasn’t here! [when it happened.] I was in the United States, but I called my grandmother [and told her] you please don’t stay in the house. My uncle lives in an apartment on the second floor.” She says Milagros wanted to stay but Madeline insisted “you can go [there], you need to go!… She says she feels the consequences [of the disaster] now,” a year and a half later…


Untitled 4…or about what many Puerto Rican’s felt about Donald Trump’s hurricane-response behavior. “If you see what happened when Trump came, and, he laugh, everybody laugh, with the paper towel. Ah, you can get this [paper towels], like… this?! You can clean your nose with this, but how I’m gonna to repair my house?… A lot of people were like ‘ha! ha! ha! oh, this is funny!’ It’s not funny. You are bullying the people.” Madeline alludes to Donald putting bully words in peoples’ mouths. Especially the children. “We need to repair everybody’s [houses]…he’s the first man [she laughs] and you do this with the people?…when the hurricane passed, a lot of kids’ parents [couldn’t] buy clothes again. They can’t buy backpacks, notebooks… and a lot of kids go like, ‘oh, your mom can’t buy you this? I have this!’…We need to stop. But it’s the same when you see in the news the government behaved the same with us! You try to tell the kids, ‘you need to stop [bullying]’, but they see the news, they see stuff in Facebook and they want to repeat…”


IMG_5250…or of this tough little tree in Central Aguirre that’s hanging on to precious life through the few roots that Maria spared it…

Madeline ends with, “A lot of people come from the United States and other places, want to see the water and they want to go to eat next to the water and they say oh! this is so beautiful, but when the hurricane passed? it wasn’t so good for the people.” And how — now that the 2017 Hurricane Maria doesn’t make the news anymore — she, and others, believe that people “over there” (in the mainland) “say ah! maybe the people they got everything again. No. No. No. They need… five years more to come up. If everything continue like this? maybe 10!”

Please click on links below for part 1 & 2:

Superpower Neglect: Casting Shadows, Still (part 1)

Superpower Neglect: A Theater of Injustice (part 2)

“Maria! Maria! Nos Destruyó Maria!”

See also on CounterPunch

Maria! Maria! nos destruyó Maria! (Maria! Maria! it was Maria that destroyed us!) — Socoro Rolon, Sierra Brava, Salinas, Puerto Rico, February 5.

This is a three-part photo essay accompanying an article by Stan and Paul Cox, titled ‘Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria.’

Superpower Neglect: A Theater of Injustice (part 2)

Socorro is right. Maria did devastate Puerto Rico. But it was the U.S. government that spent more than a century rendering Puerto Rico vulnerable to such a disaster and then failed to mount an adequate recovery effort.

The detritus of superpower neglect is something to behold. But no matter how much we residents of the mainland are trying to ignore it, the stillness of that detritus is screaming at us…


IMG_5046…through the once-driven cars and lived-in houses that line Sierra Brava’s empty streets…


IMG_5051…and the brightly colored, destroyed hopes, and the half constructed grey hopes that lie side by side, waiting, waiting for FEMA…


IMG_4970…the teachers who lost jobs when nine area schools closed down, and the overwhelming desire of some of their students not to stay in Puerto Rico… (mural detail, Parque AA De Salinas, Puerto Rico)


IMG_5161…through an open door of one of these schools where a homeless person or family and their belongings appear to be taking shelter…


IMG_4971…the kids who saw all that rain start falling on September 20 and wanted to go out and play in it, not knowing what horrors would follow. One day… two days… one week… two weeks… one month… four months with no power, no water, and the sinking realization in their little hearts that something terrible has happened. And today, every time the power goes out they get hurricane flashbacks, and no school psychologists to talk with… (mural detail, Parque AA De Salinas, Puerto Rico)


IMG_5221…through a small used-to-be clinic in La Plena, where one doctor used to show up once a week, and which now looks like a clinic out of a Dr. Seuss book with cactuses growing on the roof, and comején (termites) on the outside wall eating up whatever is left of the little structure. Not a Seuss any child would like to read…


IMG_4972…through the words of 30-year-old Madeline, a mother of 2, and our short-term neighbor, guide & translator, who grew up in the neighborhood of Sierra Brava and knows everybody there: “The men go to work in the United States, but the women stay here with the kids. You see? The family suffered and we don’t know how [all] this is going to come up again. We’re trying but… Mommy stays with the kids, but where’s Dad? Oh, Daddy needs to go out, to the United States to work. And we got a lot of family here like that. It’s only Mom in the house. Daddy needs to work, Mama don’t find nothing here and… the parents separate… (mural detail, Parque AA De Salinas, Puerto Rico)


IMG_4939…and a mural chronicling Puerto Rico’s salseros, on the wall of the abandoned Teatro Coqui that includes an inscription in which a deity of the Santeria religion declares, “I, Elegua, order it: take out the drums!!… (mural painted by Salinas artist Osvaldo Dowell Colón)


IMG_5039 copy…on the blue plastic tarps draping roofless houses in incomprehensible capacities…


IMG_5089…through the larger-than-life figure of Orlando Guzman Vasqez who turned 74 last month, and the knee that he broke when he fell from his roof while trying to fix it (when he got tired of waiting for help with restoration): “I born over here. This is my grandfather’s house. I have the papers for the house. My father is still alive. He’s 98 years old. He lives in Connecticut… I worked in the United States for 40 years, in New York City, in construction… I lost everything in the house. The furniture, television, everything. They don’t pay me nothing for nothing inside.” But, he says, having a roof over his head is better than nothing. “I gonna try to finish this with the money I collect, It’s not enough money.” Asked if he might get fed up and go back to New York, he said no, because it’s too expensive to live there. He pointed to his mango tree. “It’s cold over there. Over here when I’m hungry I eat the mango and drink some water, and that’s it…”


IMG_5053…through Socorro’s house that she can’t live in. Socorro tells us that “everything was destroyed by the hurricane and just stayed the same way…”


IMG_5138…She told us, “You can’t live here, look at how it is, we are living up there. Total destruction… Look at the house, it is destroyed… everything got wet and that’s why it was destroyed, we used to sleep there in those old mattresses over there, and everything was wet… nothing could be saved…What can I do? Just keep going until God knows when, what else can I do?… We were helped by FEMA for the rent, but FEMA didn’t help with the interior and the other things. So, we signed up for a plan called Renace (Rebirth.) Renace came four times to check the house, and they said afterwards the house couldn’t be fixed. I have a letter they sent, and it said the house was in bad condition. The house is still like that… We have been paying what we’ve been able to, because FEMA doesn’t help anymore… My husband is sick…


IMG_5143and I have a sickness in my ears, and he had a stroke. I can’t do more than I’m currently doing. What am I supposed to do?… The hurricane, it destroyed, destroyed half the world over here. It took the street, and didn’t spare anyone… My husband and I went to the refuge. We were astonished because we couldn’t take anything with us. When we returned we found total destruction. We went back to the refuge, but since my husband had a stroke, I returned to the house, and we stayed though it was destroyed, we did what we could… I had to sleep on a table. It was a small bed, and everything was wet… So we have that house with a check that FEMA gave us, but they didn’t help anymore afterwards, and what we get from Social Security isn’t much…”

At this point, her neighbor Raul Garay stopped by. Seeing us, he told her, “It’s about time they showed up!” Maybe he thought we were FEMA. He told us in English, “Socorro means ‘Help me!’ That’s the translation… Socorro… HELP!”

As we left, Socorro said, “Maria… Maria it was Maria that destroyed us… Thank you for coming.”


IMG_4928And for that day, the curtain fell on the theatre of superpower injustice. (Teatro Coqui, Guayama, Puerto Rico) 

Please click on links below for part 1 & 3:

Superpower Neglect: Casting Shadows, Still (part 1)

Superpower Neglect: There’s Something About a Soldier (part 3)

“Living Here and Not in the Street is Worth Gold”

See also at Countercurrents

Living here and not in the street is worth gold — Wilma Miranda Ramos, Sierra Brava, Salinas, Puerto Rico, February 8.

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017. One and a half years later, many of the island’s more than 3 million U.S. citizens continue to be forgotten and ignored by the federal government.

Earlier this year, Stan Cox and I stayed in the Sierra Brava neighborhood of Salinas, Puerto Rico for three weeks. We spent part of that time documenting the post-Maria situation there.

This is a three-part photo essay accompanying an articleby Stan and Paul Cox, titled ‘Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria’

Superpower Neglect: Casting Shadows, Still (part 1)

IMG_5023Salinas is like an upside-down ghost town with signs of the destruction of the 2017 Hurricane Maria still casting shadows on shuttered clinics…


IMG_4976…on the outfield wall of the local ballpark, Parque AA De Salinas, which is filled with beautiful potraits of Puerto Ricans. This weighlifter appears as if bearing the burden of superpower neglect while symbolizing the strength of community spirit…


IMG_5129…on the lives of the locals, like Wilma…


IMG_5115…their empty streets…


IMG_5146…their now drought-ridden river Río Nigua, which during the hurricane was overflowing the banks…


IMG_5180…a flowering mango tree, seemingly leaning to shelter a broken, abandoned home…


IMG_5183…a lifeless splash of brightly colored, abandoned toys…


IMG_5127…on the face of Wilma’s pensive 4-year-old grandson Xander Martinez, who regularly suffers from mold allergies…


IMG_5079…on Wilma’s broken blue & grey home, leaning to one side, and a pretty blue & silver wind chime hanging on the front door…


IMG_5124…on her broken ceiling and the patchwork of daylight shining through the blue plastic tarp that does not prevent rain from pouring in…


IMG_5132…on her kitchen with the defunct light fixture…


IMG_5120…on her wobbly floor with patched-up cracks and Xander’s yellow shoes…


IMG_5136…on Wilma, and the wall behind her with a photo of her son who lives in Hawaii and serves proudly in the United States Army…


IMG_5269…on this fading photo of Wilma’s daughter Jomarie and son Juan Carlos…


IMG_5068…on fading superpower justice… (Maria scribbled on the wall of Victoria Febás’ home, a resident of Sierra Brava) 


Untitled 3…and on Wilma’s beautiful handwritten testimony that reads, in part:

…On that early morning of September 20, 2018, Puerto Rico dawned completely destroyed, leaving people like me with nothing. I am still living in the same place. I have a stitched-together roof, but as I have nowhere to go I’m still here by the grace of God. The people and I standing in lines to get water, food, and ice—it was really incredible that I survived it, and also waiting for the arrival of the lights for months, enduring the mosquitoes, the heat, is unforgettable.

I am one of those who did not obtain help to fix the house. I am living in it because I am not the owner of the house I’ve been living in for six years, and without documents I could not obtain help to repair it. Staying here in these conditions is not easy . But since I have my daughter and grandson of four years here with me, living here and not in the street is worth gold. I hope my guardian angel arrives soon…

please click on links below for part 2 & 3:

Superpower Neglect: A Theatre of Injustice (part2)

Superpower Neglect: There’s Something About a Neighbor (part3)


The Salina Resistance

18221937_292257831219234_2110641379747075536_n (2)
Donald: Hey, Roger! You agree with me, don’t you, that the climate thing is a Chinese hoax and that Obama and Iran founded ISIS? Roger: Sir, let me just say that it’s been proven: I agree with you 97% of the time!

PersistThe Salina Resistance is part of the Indivisible Movement, and we resist the Republican assault on civil rights, on economic rights, on the Earth, and on decent, respectful relations with human beings around the world @salinaresist.

IMG_3198A bland ribbon-cutting ceremony turned very quickly into an impromptu town hall, minus signs, I might add, as seen in this picture where a cop asks one of our fellow resisters to put it down. Friday, Feb. 24, 200 E. Iron Ave., Salina, KS.

ScanI tried multiple times to ask Marshall a question regarding immigrant rights, but he continued to evade my immigrant’s eyes, so I sent this letter to the Salina Journal.

photo credit: Big Bluestem Rapid Responders, McDowell Creek, KS.

“Protesters gather in front of Rep. Marshall’s Salina office,” Salina Post, March 23, 2017. 

“The gathering was put on by the Indivisible Movement, according to Christopher Renner, a demonstrator from Manhattan. About 35 people from Salina and neighboring communities came to Marshall’s office, located at 200 E Iron, to express their concern with Marshall’s support of President Trump’s bill…..Participants urged Marshall to “vote no.”

IMG_3218Our group’s first meeting, April 8, 2017.

IMG_3227First District Congressman Marshall’s HQ, Salina, Kansas, April 10, 2017. @RepMarshall says Salina, the “capital” of his district, isn’t on his recess “listening tour.” So, we decided to have our own town hall and invite him.

IMG_3228“Town hall REJECTION,” Salina Journal, April 11, 2017. @RepMarshall will visit 9 towns that add up to half our population but not us?

“Without a doubt, he [Roger Marshall] will be back in Salina to do ‘another’ listening tour stop, but his dance card is already full on this tour.” — Press secretary for Marshall, Eric Pahls.

“We have an administration, and apparently a Congress, that seems hell-bent on turning back important regulations about the air we breathe and the water we drink, and that’s another part of the urgency [for a town hall meeting in Salina.]” — David Norlin, The Salina Resistance.

IMG_3234“Congressman Marshall met with anger, tears, at Junction City town hall,” The Daily Union, April 14, 2017.

“The Congressman was also confronted with comments he made in a March 3 article in STAT — a Boston Globe Media publication — in which Marshall said ‘just like Jesus said, the poor will always be with us. There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.'”

“Klugasherz, who returned to the mic as a constituent, recited the quote verbatim, then was brought to tears as she looked Marshall in the eye.”

“‘I grew up in a family that was extremely poor. My family benefitted from SNAP and EBT benefits,’ she said. ‘I probably would not be standing in front of you today had I not had those … The problem is that people in poverty, much like you all know, are not there by choice. And the rhetoric that we use to describe these people in poverty — that they’re feckless, that they’re broken, that they want to be there — is nothing but damning to the help we are trying to provide these people … what will you change to ensure that that rhetoric is no longer used?'”



Salina, April 27, 2017 – Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend, announced Thursday he will hold a town hall meeting at The Salina Chamber of Commerce on May 9, despite failing to commit to a Salina event during his recent listening tour.

The announcement came the same day The Salina Journal reported that Salina Resistance, a group affiliated with the Indivisible network, invited Marshall and Kansas senators to a citizen-led town hall scheduled for June 1.

Salina Resistance set the People’s Town Hall to converse with representatives in Washington about matters of concern including health care, the environment, and the national budget.

On the campaign trail, Marshall said, “You can’t successfully deliver more than 5,000 babies and not listen to people.” Salina Indivisible group notes that 88,000 Kansans voted against Marshall in November who are not being addressed or consulted by the congressman.

The group is disappointed that Marshall has opted instead for a meeting under his design and control, one held at 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, making it difficult for working people and parents with school-age children to attend.

The Salina Resistance’s June 1 event will proceed as planned as an authentic forum for discussing the issues, Marshall or no Marshall.

“We’re happy we could nudge him into starting to make good on his campaign promises. It’s just sad that he only did so out of fear of embarrassing news coverage. But that’s what Indivisible understands: politicians care more about bad press than about representing the people,” group member James Talley said.

The Salina Resistance’s People’s Town Hall is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 1 at the Salina Ambassador Hotel, 1616 W. Crawford St., Salina.

Meanwhile, since Marshall doesn’t support the federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions….

20170430_100129….some of us from The Salina Resistance board the bus for the April 29, People’s Climate March in DC to resist Marshall’s climate agenda.

“The simple fact is nobody cares more about the land and the environment then the Kansas farmer. Instead of allowing bureaucrats to dictate policy, Congress needs to protect farmers, fishermen, hunters and those generating energy from an unruly Environmental Protection Agency.”— Roger Marshall.









Our interactive Peace Spiral was part of PCM’s Circles of Resistance art project, where folks reached out to a friend or a fellow marcher, and shared their, or their community’s stories, struggles, solutions and visions for a better tomorrow. These nested spirals called for pairs of people to approach from opposite sides, meet in the center, share their stories and walk past each other following each other’s steps back to the exit. 

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“Major flooding across southeastern Missouri led to three deaths, more than 100 evacuations and 135 rescues across the state over the weekend.” The Weather Channel, May 2, 2017. These pictures were taken on Sunday, April 30, from the bus window on our way back from the historic DC march, emphasizing that our fight for climate justice has only just begun.

RogAndDon@RepMarshall insults voters @ Salina t-hall. Says we wrongly think we’re mad @ him. We’re really just mad at Brownback. Also sore losers.


FullSizeRender 2“Marshall fends off health care questions,” Salina Journal, May 9, 2017. Watch vimeo of town hall here.

“Marshall Meets Large Salina Crowd.”, May 9, 2017.

18301549_1006552249480504_3825464313072715940_n“A few of us went to protest Kansas’ first district congressman Dr. Roger Marshall as he arrived to read to Head Start kids at Heartland school in Salina, Kansas.” Ron Fent, The Salina Resistance.


18402934_1006552252813837_5099414987853267606_n“Land Institute founder and President Emeritus Dr. Wes Jackson told him to distance himself from President Trump while he had a chance.” Watch vimeo of protest here.


People’s Town Hall comes June 1, 7:00 pm to Ambassador Hotel, Salina, KS

Congress members invited, not yet accepted

The Salina Resistance, a local grassroots organization affiliated with the national #Indivisible movement, has renewed its invitation to the Kansas Congressional delegation, including Representative Roger Marshall, Senator Jerry Moran, and Senator Pat Roberts, to attend a People’s Town Hall. The event will be held Thursday, June 1, 7:00 p.m., during a Congressional District Work Period, at the Ambassador Hotel, 1616 W Crawford, Salina. The group is inviting constituents, wherever they live in Kansas, to come and let their members of Congress know their wishes and demands.

Thus far, the Congressmen have refused to attend or answer, at a time when critical issues are being decided far from the people they represent. Three chairs will nonetheless be reserved for the members, and a record of their constituents’ wishes will be made available to them.

An open microphone will insure opportunities for anyone to speak, each with a 4-minute time limit. Some constituents already plan more creative statements of their concern, including music, poetry, art graphics, and others.

Anticipated topics include among others health care; education; military buildup and costs; agriculture; climate; women’s rights; non-discrimination; economic justice; racial, ethnic, religious diversity; and immigration. Estimated time frame is 7:00-9:00 p.m. Those interested can check in at

March 8, 2017, Yet Another Day Without a Dalit or Adivasi Woman

See also at CounterPunch

We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, [Dalit and Adivasi women], disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.

–Statement from Women’s March’s Unity Principles, with my addition in square brackets.


we are one red (1)In today’s India, there are women who win some and lose some while others lose some and then lose some more.

Babasaheb Ambedkar once said, “Caste is not just a division of labor, it is a division of laborers.” On March 8th, 2017, International Women’s Day and A Day Without a Woman when we wear red in solidarity, let us also raise our voices in support of the daily struggles of our Dalit and Adivasi sisters, who are victims of the Hindu caste system. The fates of all Indian women are intertwined, so let us remind ourselves that casteism—a form of racism because it discriminates on the grounds of a person’s birth and descent—still determines a woman’s place in society. India is not just a land of gender inequality; it is a land that sanctions the division of women. Until and unless we purge caste from our hearts, our struggle can never be one.



Out of the Shadow of Caste and Into Our Consciousness

Nobody is me. There are many like me. My life has no worth in my country’s or the world’s popular consciousness and my violators roam freely. I am a Dalit, an Adivasi, and no upper-caste hands hold signs with our names.

I live and die and am reborn in their shadow. This soil was once my fertile soil and I walked upon it. Now their collective usurpation has replaced it with climate change and concrete. And I lie upon it, my feet pointing up at their mind’s gods, waiting to be recognized as a victim of their discrimination. My hands’ actions contradict my dignity and humanity. These are not my arms, but some upper-caste’s other two arms. A mechanical bonus pair, like the Hindu goddesses. A surplus, to be manipulated any which way. My fate is as old as the Hindu scriptures that gave me these wretched arms, and their usurpers have evolved. My once-sympathetic shudra comrades, born of purusha’s feet are now the post-1990s neo-brahmins that stomp on my assertive words of equality with neo-violence.

I show up sometimes as the spirit of unity and solidarity in Declaration of Empathy petitions, but I am still the more than 300,000 defeated hearts of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which failed to recognize me as a victim of descent-based discrimination. Maybe my place is at the back of those ‘I Am’ signs, scribbled in invisible ink: Nobody is Me. There Are Many Like Me.

How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe’s Path, from the Caribbean to Siberia

How the World Breaks_ARC cover

Tuesday, July 12 is the publication day for How the World Breaks, a book by Stan Cox and Paul Cox that tells the stories of people and communities around the world who have had to confront (un)natural disasters. I travelled to a few of these places with them, and pen & inked these maps tracking the stories. The maps appear in the book. For more on the book see the How the World Breaks blog.


A world in violent reconfiguration doesn’t fit on any one map. How the World Breaks charts the fault lines and storm fronts of our turbulent present through ten remarkable stories spanning five continents.

Maps_Page_11Fire Regimes: Australia and Siberia
In October 2013, the Blue Mountains burned. . . .

Maps_Page_06Leave It Up to Batman: The Philippines
Two months after the strongest storm landfall ever recorded, Judith Buhay stood on a balcony at the point of impact, overlooking her community. . . .

Maps_Page_08Neighbors to the Sky: New York City
Disaster survivors can try to restore their world as it was on the day before, or they can hit fast-forward, attempting to speed over the rough patch to a better tomorrow. . . .

Maps_Page_01Grey Goo: East Java, Indonesia At 5:00 a.m. on May 29, 2006, an eruption of water, steam, and thick grey mud emerged from a rice paddy in Porong subdistrict. Nine years later, the eruption had slowed but the mud showed no sign of stopping. . . .

Maps_Page_04Foreshock, Shock, Aftershock: L’Aquila, Italy
Nothing complicates disaster quite like blame. . . .

Maps_Page_03Atlantis of the Americas: Miami, Florida
“When I started this job, people kept asking me, ‘Why do we have so much flooding now?’ and I said, ‘Well, there’s just one problem: the whole city’s four feet too low—that’s all!’” . . .

Maps_Page_09The Absorbers: Mumbai, India and Kampala, Uganda
In booming cities like Mumbai and Kampala, the roots of vulnerability run fiendishly deep through the landscape. . . .

Maps_Page_05Keeping the Lights On: Montserrat, West Indies
The big trucks covered in grey dust rumble through a grey landscape, over the top of a lost city, to a grey pier. . . .

Maps_Page_12“We Do Things Big Here”: Greensburg, Kansas and Joplin, Missouri
It’s obvious as soon as you reach the only traffic light in Kiowa County, Kansas, and take a turn south off U.S. Highway 54: there is something different about Greensburg. . . .

Maps_Page_07When Mountains Fall: Uttarakhand State, India
The Ganges River begins as four chief tributaries, and the four chief tributaries spring from four glaciers atop the Himalaya. . . .

Broken Green

See also at CounterPunch

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFarmer couple, Manohar and Mamta Mohale, December 26, 2011, Amla village, Amravati District, Maharashtra, India.

As the Narendra Modi government turns 2 today (May 26, 2016), here’s something to reflect upon.

We consumers wake up every morning and allow ourselves to be manipulated by the ideology of monoculture imprisoning various facets of our daily lives—what we think, what we eat, where we shop, what we drive, what we recycle, the euphemisms we choose, who our enemies are, whether the quinoa we buy is labeled non-GMO and/or gluten-free, which of the lesser of the two evils to vote for in the next election and so on and so forth. When we look at the bigger picture, however, our eyes tend to glaze over, forcing us to trip over our small focuses.

The continuing agrarian crises in India is just one of the more recent costs of our monoculture lifestyles that somebody else is paying for with their lives, and that has resulted in over 302,000 farmer suicides since 1995. This reality, just like the hundreds and thousands of dead and dispossessed Muslims and the subsequent creation of ISIS as a result of the United States’ response to 9/11, is perennial. For these folks, monoculture spells debt, displacement, drought, death.

A couple of bee stings won’t make us too uncomfortable, but imagine being bombarded by a whole hornet’s nest like tiny drones piercing our bodies; that would most likely kill us, horribly, slowly. That’s how it is for most of the world’s “sufferers” (a term a Dalit friend used to describe the planet’s shock-absorbers.)

These suicides in India are taking place not so much among food-crop cultivators but among cash-crop farmers, or those that produce what we line our closets and urban appetites with—cotton, sugarcane, groundnut, vanilla, coffee.

The former Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, and author of “Everybody Loves a Good Drought,” P. Sainath, has pointed out that although unpredictable seasonal rains play a part in contributing to this suicide epidemic, it is mainly factors driven by state policies—issues such as “debt, hyper commercialization, exploding input costs, water-use patterns, severe price shocks and price volatility”—that are at the root. Drought only adds another layer to this endless cycle of shock after shock from which farmers can see no way out and feel totally abandoned, experiencing a numbing loss of self-reliance.

This year’s union budget has been declared ‘pro-farmer,’ as has the promise of doubling farm incomes by the year 2022. What that really means is that the budget and the future of agriculture is really more pro-agri-business friendly, not pro-farmer, and that someone living far, far away from India’s countryside will make money….a lot of it, but it will not be the farmer. In fact farmers in India are still waiting for the Modi government to deliver on its 2014 BJP poll campaign promise of increasing the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce.

This perennial, someone-else’s-lifestyle suffering stems from our non-participation in the bigger scheme of things. Our yet sleeping ability to raise dissent needs badly to wake up–now, to mobilize and take over the corporate czars that are currently monopolizing globalization, or maybe globalizing monopoly. I’m not sure.

This spring everything is lush and green in Kansas where I live, but I know somewhere in India, everything, including the green, is broken. Through climate change as well as debt, the global economy is killing farmers. At the same time as I am enjoying this wonderful spring weather, a devastating heatwave has descended upon the subcontinent. A new temperature record has been set: 124 degrees F. Countless lives have been lost during the heatwave, including many farmers. 

While most of us will go to bed with a full belly (for many, it’s one full of non-GMO quinoa), the farmers of Vidarbha will continue to sleep on beds of non-MSP cotton, their walls lined with gunny sacks full of last year’s unsold toor (split pigeon pea) crop, their bellies empty, and their thoughts full of suicide.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA31-year-old Sandeep Godse from Kodpakhindi village, block Zari, Yavatmal District, Maharsashtra, India, committed suicide on December 9th, 2011. This photo of his father Pandurang Bapurao and brother Nitesh was taken on December 27.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere once sustainable food crops like jowar (sorghum) and toor (split pigeon pea) dotted India’s countryside, broken green glass bangles—a sign of widowhood—are sprouting and sparkling from parched, cash-crop fields.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn many instances women in rural india are forced to mortgage their gold, including their mangalsutra (auspicious wedding necklace) in order to settle farm debts. In fact, many women farmers too have taken their lives, but we never hear about them. This mangalsutra infused with turmeric and tea water is made with Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds. “Since 2005-06, the amount written off as duties on gold, diamonds and jewelry comes to over 4.6 trillion rupees. More than 13 times this year’s allocation for ‘agriculture and farmers’ welfare.”—P. Sainath.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADecember 26, 2011, Amla village, Amravati District, Maharashtra, India. Gunny sacks full of last years toor (split pigeon pea) harvest which never made it to the market because of the low price being offered for it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADecember 26, 2011, Amla village, Amravati District, Maharashtra, India. Cotton harvest stacked under beds.

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and Broken Green

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy is a series that brings to our dinner tables some meals that expose the extreme consequences of neoliberal policies that are wrecking the planet, and the daily lives of many around the world. The type and quantity of each ingredient used and the presentation of a meal is determined by choosing key statistics and points that are embedded in the issue being conveyed and converting that to a measurement or meal design. Indeed, there may be a dish or two that are just outright inedible, or taste somewhat strange, with an ingredient or two out of whack. But that’s intentional.

Today’s meal design Broken Green and the ingredients come to you from our farm and restaurant Discomfort Farm, where it’s all unnatural.

Broken Green tent card copy 3Discomfort Farm restaurant tent card design.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABroken Green Salad. Green bangles are traditionally worn by a married woman in India, and when her husband dies she will often break them in mourning. Broken green bangles are the main ingredient in this salad recipe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tiny plant you see in the top left hand corner beside the harvested broken bangles for Today’s Special meal is a sorghum volunteer, and it’s telling us something, if we listen to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAManoj, Albia and Baadal goofing around, December 26, 2011, Dorli, Wardha District, Vidarbha, Maharashtra, India.


Shubh Ratri (goodnight)

The Lid’s Off the Petri Dish (Includes a packaged meal)

See also at Countercurrents

Version 2Trumpapatti Orange is the New Orange, Machaironi and Cheese Lukewarm Dinner, box design, gouache and pen and ink on paper, 2016.

East Meets Worst

Back in 2014, Narendra Modi’s slogan in his ultimately successful campaign for the prime ministership of India was Achhe Din Aane Wale Hain (Good Days Are Coming.) His party—the right-wing BJP—somehow won a majority on its own with an unprecedentedly low vote share of only 31%.

That victory has ejaculated blobs of orange rage with RSS (BJP’s parent organization) and its hindutva-heavies at the core. They’re hurriedly quashing any voices or actions of assertion and inclusion that might raise their heads anywhere along the spectrum of students, Dalits, Muslims and other minority communities, across the country and in occupied Kashmir.

At the same time and closer to home, Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is making its rounds and mobilizing a previously non-organized political support base. Meanwhile, the #NeverTrump establishment is ignoring the possibility that thanks to them, someone even more mainstream and dangerous than the current orange-coiffed frontrunner might end up as strangelovian commander-in-chief.

There’s a common pattern in the histories of the two countries that birthed these two candidates with such similar sounding, thoroughly hollow campaign slogans. Hollow, because our histories are also populated by generations of the excluded. So what Trump and Modi really meant to say was, Make America Great Again But Not for You, and Achhe Din Aane Wale Hain Magar Tumhare Liye Nahin.

Look at the slogans as club sandwiches. Think of the slice of bread at the bottom as the colonial times that set things in motion; the meat in the middle as the neoliberal period and its trail of destruction, layered with today’s increasingly unsettling leanings among certain sections of the population toward hate, nationalism, nativism, hindutva, and evangelical extremism; and the top bread slice as Islamophobia. Bite into one of these sandwiches and you begin the process of digesting the weight of the two ominous campaign slogans . . . and heeeeerrrrre’s Johnny.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMachaironi collected from hair, thair and everyhair.

Malice in Trumpistan

In their 2012 book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, Political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote that the Republican Party is essentially broken and that it has drifted radically in the direction of “an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme.” In an October 2015 interview, ‘Republicans Gone Wild,’ Ornstein told Francis Wilkinson that, “A few months back, Barney Frank said to us that perhaps the next book we do should be titled ‘It’s Even Worse Than It Was When We Said It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.’”

So, how bad is it? Trump’s support network is built on middle aged white, blue-collar working class Americans. Many of them are gun-happy, nativist, extremist evangelical Christians who have all along been left out of the neoliberal profiteering agenda. They’re driven by a sense of isolation, fear and hatred, with many of them dying in large numbers from gun suicides, alcoholism, and drug (predominantly opiate) addiction. Barbara Ehrenreich, founding editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, also refers to them as the “Dead, White and Blue.”

These folks flocking to Trump rallies in the primaries need someone weaker than themselves upon whom to vent their anger and frustration, so they’re turning on other minorities—women, immigrants, Latinos, blacks, Sikhs, Muslims, etc.— with Trump cheering them on, labeling his followers with a Nixon-era term “The Silent Majority.”

The only difference is that the humans making up the so-called Silent Majority have not yet processed the reality that in the bigger scheme of things, and in the designs of the moneyed, corporate and powerful elite, Trump included, they have always been a part and parcel of the shock-absorber generation. The GOP front-runner is just using their vulnerability to his own narcissistic advantage. In fact, Trump is so narcissistic that he even interrupts himself.

One supporter said, “I mean, it seems like we really go overboard to make sure all these other nationalities nowadays and colors have their fair shake of it, but no one’s looking out for the white guy anymore,” and that they suffer from “reverse discrimination.” The hands that are holding up the signs that say, ‘All Lives Matter’ are perhaps projecting their own newfound white angst, and this anger seems to be misdirected toward others like themselves instead of our presidential candidates and the whole political system in general.

And, amidst all that’s unfolding around us, Ehrenreich is so right to add that “it’s easy for the liberal intelligentsia to feel righteous in their disgust for lower-class white racism, but the college-educated elite that produces the intelligentsia is in trouble too…..Whole professions have fallen on hard times.”


Malice in Modistan

An interesting parallel mutating in the shadows of Achhe Din and Make America Great Again is how this smorgasbord of hate, rage, fear, dissent, rallying shouts of Jai Bhim….Lal Salaam, and clamor for equality and justice among the various shock-absorber generations of various hues and levels of poverty and isolation are playing out in relation to each other and their place in history. In both countries, those in power have preyed upon and monopolized resources and communities both within their own borders and outside them. And in both countries, some oppressed communities have, in turn, preyed upon those who are even more oppressed.

Since there is nothing whiter than white and nothing more upper-caste than upper-caste, almost everyone under the ideological grip of whiteism or casteism is feeling some sort of social/political/economic isolation, with many acting against their own self-interests and taking shelter, even participating in, their leaders’ violent and greedy machinations at a local level, and in the most disturbing ways imaginable.

Annihilation is a loaded word, its meaning depending on who applies it, when, and to what end. For example, the Native American population of what is today Trumpistan were annihilated by the imperialist Europeans, and those who survived were relegated to reservations. In the years that followed, annihilation was augmented by racism, McCarthyism, xenophobia, islamophobia, wars on terror, wars on women, bigotry, and anti-immigration.

But annihilation has another side. Arguably the most legitimate grounds for it were laid out by one of India’s most radical thinkers, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who in 1936 wrote a seminal speech that delivered a deadly critique of Hinduism. Titled Annihilation of Caste, it was meant to be read to a mild, upper-caste, reformist Hindu group. But they never heard him deliver it, because they found its contents too “unbearable.” Perhaps because it held a mirror too close to their upper-caste souls.

In Modistan, my ancestral invading Aryans, and subsequently the disciples of Brahmanism, co-opted the land’s indigenous population, furthering the slow, deliberate annihilation of a people’s mind, body, and spirit, sowing the first seeds of casteism and exploitation.

In the process, they have instituted a different kind of “reservation”: a kind of affirmative action system that puts a semantic twist on the Native Americans’ history, “reserving” government jobs and publicly funded colleges for disadvantaged groups—positions through which the “beneficiaries” can expect to effect exactly no change. But those Aryan policies didn’t just drop out of thin air. They were put there in place by design.

With the ever-evolving (and revolving) exclusion that the ideology of casteism entailed, with the horrific and hurried violence of the RSS regime that’s being carried out today, we come full circle, to a place unfamiliar to Westerners who still regard Hinduism as an oasis of nonviolence, yoga and vegetarianism.

Most Hindus believe that we are living in Kali Yuga: the “End Times”, when Shudras (the lowest of the four castes, India’s version of Trumpistas) perceive that they have access to some power and assertion and bring on a clash between the haves and have-nots that results in universal destruction.

The lid coming off this petri dish has exposed the implosion of a system driven by imperialism, racism, casteism, religious extremism and capitalism, with more and more of the world’s species, people of all shapes and sizes, hues, and gender affiliations, waking up to find themselves included in the exclusion pile. What happens next is anybody’s guess.

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and Trumpapatti Orange is the New Orange

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy is a series that brings to our dinner tables some meals that expose the extreme consequences of neoliberal policies that are wrecking the planet, and the daily lives of many around the world. The type and quantity of each ingredient used and the presentation of a meal is determined by choosing key statistics and points that are embedded in the issue being conveyed and converting that to a measurement or meal design. Indeed, there may be a dish or two that tastes somewhat strange, with an ingredient or two out of whack. But that’s intentional.


The box-meal featured here that’s designed around our off-the-spectrum politics is called “Trumpapatti Orange is the New Orange” (the brand name) Machaironi and Cheese Dinner with Modi Keshar Sauce. And, here are some quotes that inspired its design:

“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. All the muslims have to go!”
“Rs 5 lakh reward for cutting off Kanhaiya Kumar’s tongue, Rs 11 lakh for his life.”

“We worship Lord Ganesha (Ganapati.) There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”—Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.

“But [Modi’s] hair style, which used to go sideways, went slicked with straight-back comb-over on Thursday….A politician seeking to make a name for himself should create a characteristic hair style and stick to it for the rest of his life.”

“I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather. I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again….We need unpredictability in this country….but, I have a good chance of winning. I don’t want the enemies and even our allies to know exactly what I’m thinking….You know what, we’re checker players and we don’t play well….wouldn’t it be nice if we could surprise them and knock the hell out of them….That was the beginning of China, that was the beginning of India, when India….by the way, India is doing great. Nobody talks about it. And I have big jobs going up in India. But India is doing great.”—GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

“The latest budget speech perpetuates a chronic blindness to basic social needs. Children are not mentioned at all and nor are (say) nutrition, social security or maternity entitlements.”

The Sanskrit word for hair is kesh, and saffron is kesar.

Version 6



The Face of Mother India

See also at Countercurrents

poster3gouache on paper, 2016

“My face today is the face of the fight in Bastar”, said Soni Sori recently. An Adivasi mother, school teacher and a member of Bastar Aam Admi Party, Sori was attacked with what was termed, “acid like substance” by unknown assailants in Chastisgarh on February 20.

In her recent statement, Sori went on to say “we want azadi from the government oppression, from the way we are targeted by the state. We cannot sleep peacefully at night inside our houses. There is always this fear that we will be picked up by the CRPF men and framed as naxals.” Her past is full of such violent assaults on her body and spirit.

The attack on Soni Sori is emblematic of what’s happening to her beloved forests of Chhatisgarh and her Adivasi brothers and sisters, many of whom are still languishing in jails for no justifiable reason.

The democracy-like substance being rubbed here and there on the Indian countryside, its peoples, birds, animals, is slowly morphing into a giant, dark ash-pile, sinking right in the heart of mineral rich Mother India. But she’s not giving up. This mother India is never still. She is always moving. Fearless. The coward state and its cronies will stop at nothing in their efforts to crush Mother India and her fearless mothers and daughters. But she still moves protecting her soil, her forests, her endangered wild Buffalo, her Hill Mynah, and all the living creatures. This is her Memorandum of Understanding with our dying planet.

Jatiindia: A Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future

See also at Countercurrents

The title for this series of painted flags, Jatiindia, is my name for the country of India, a nation of jatis (castes). India still practices this worst form of social exclusion in the world, now more violently than ever in this neoliberal age.

The flag design:

The saffron color of the top bar symbolizes long-existing casteism, now made more open and feverish by resurgent hindutva politics.

Blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here honors all of India’s oppressed people.

The bottom green bar symbolizes India’s ecological foundations, which are endangered by the ideology of neoliberalism and defended by our Adivasis and other oppressed people.

The circular image in the center of each flag signifies a target viewed through a weapon’s saffron (indicating right-wing nationalism) crosshairs.

The series moves between the past and present, bringing forward some of the targeted faces of resistance who have challenged the stagnant ideology of exclusion in The World’s Largest Hypocrisy: Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Christians, occupied Kashmiris, India’s northeasterners, and others who have been caught for the longest time between the old and the ever-mutating new—between the dogmas of religious scripture and state-sponsored terrorism.

The first flag of this series depicted Rohith Vemula, the 26-year-old son of a landless Dalit mother, who hanged himself in a student hostel room on January 17th, 2016. Many in India have referred to his death as murder, because it encapsulates the continuing struggle confronting a cross-section of the country’s oppressed.

Vinay Sirohi with his wifeVinay Sirohi with his wife, acrylic on paper, 2016

Jatiindia: Vinay Sirohi, Shaista Hameed and Danish Farooq, Lingaram Kodopi

On November 11, 2015, the day of Diwali (a major Indian festival), 22-year-old Vinay Sirohi, a contract worker at the Keshopur Sewage Treatment Plant in New Delhi suffocated to death, stuck in a narrow pipe. Officials said that “he was not wearing a safety helmet, face mask or even gumboots.” “No foul play behind death,” said one cop. The question to ask here is whether a face mask, helmet and gumboots would have been enough to insulate Vinay from death by suffocation, much less from the ravages of Jatiindia and human sewage intervention. There was no foul play involved? Really? Can’t we see that the “foul play” is systemic and was already in place in a country where the occupation of manual sewage scavenging is still the order of the day, despite it having been outlawed by Jatiindia’s Parliament?

Shaista Hameed and Danish FarooqShaista Hameed and Danish Farooq, acrylic on paper, 2016

With close to 700,000 security forces stationed within its borders—one Indian soldier for every 17 to 18 residents—Kashmir is home to the most densely militarized and the most under-reported occupation on the planet today—far from our collective well-intentioned consciousness. Since the tension in the region returned to armed struggle in the early 90s, and with “boots on the ground” controlling almost every aspect of the daily lives of the Kashmiri people, the Indian state has extended its tentacles into institutions like the judiciary, media and bureaucracy, completing its grip on the country. This has directly resulted in more than 70,000 deaths, enforced and involuntary disappearance of more than 8,000 people, reports of more than 6,000 unmarked mass graves, and continuous extra-judicial killings, torture and rapes.

Around the same time as the JNU movement took center stage in the country’s right-to-dissent arena, on February 14th, 2014, the 22-year-old recent graduate Shaista Hameed and the 19-year-old engineering student Danish Farooq were killed by security forces. Shaista and Danish were among a crowd protesting the killing of a local youth who died resisting occupation.

Lingaram KodopiLingaram Kodopi, acrylic on paper, 2016

While we seldom see or hear news of murders like those of Danish Farooq and Shaista Hameed, some of us are now being forced to witness other, more visible atrocities like that inflicted on our Adivasi mother and school teacher Soni Sori—perhaps because there is only so much that can be hidden. But it puts her no less in the target sights of Jatiindia than Vinay, Farooq and Shaista, or for that matter, her journalist nephew Lingaram Kodopi, who along with Sori has spend most of his adult life exposing the scandal of resource exploitation in the states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand. The price of such exploitation has included deforestation, the uprooting of indigenous populations from their land, the burning and razing of their homes to the ground by police and paramilitary forces, the torture and rape of people both outside and inside jails, and a long, long list of other dehumanizing tactics by the state and its corporate allies.

Occupation and exploitation are the names of the corporate-hegemonic power game. Silencing dissent and resistance at all costs keeps Jatiindia shining with targets old and new.