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Speak Up, or Someone Else Will Speak For You

1. The Sound and the Fury

“Even the [Native Americans] will have to live under Shari'a. We will take them tubeteikas [Central Asian caps, worn in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan], we will build mosques for them, and we will live with them according to the laws of Allah.”

—Abu Kholidi Kulobi, Islamic State fighter

Let’s be serious, folks. Does anybody really think that the Islamic State is coming to your reservation to recruit or kill Indians?

If Abu Kholidi Kulobi does, perhaps he should meet the Kurdish Women fighters of the Yekineyen Parastina Jin (YPJ.) These women warriors helped to rescue the stranded Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar in Northern Iraq and push ISIS fighters out of Kobani, a place ISIS was trying to make a statement but failed. Heavy metal/anarchist site CVLTnation posted a story by English reporter Gareth Watkins on the Kurdish National Council and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) establishing a society where armed Islamist feminists essentially run things. This feminist-anarchist enclave is located in Rojava, a district in the intense border area of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. We all know that this is Kurdistan but geo-politics have kept the Kurds from forming an independent nation for centuries. The plight of the Kurds (and their fighters known as the Peshmerga, “those who confront death”) mirrors that of Native Americans when it comes to dealing with these conflicting jurisdictions, our own sovereignty and control of resources (land, oil) while constantly dealing with other people’s border issues to keep our own people safe and healthy.

Maybe Abu Kholidi Kulobi hasn’t learned from the YPJ because he’s too busy executing foreign fighters who became disillusioned with ISIS and were trying to flee back home, or anywhere, away from these maniacs. The brutality, the meager rations, the abuse of young females, and mass executions have worn down the idealism of these foreign fighters, who upon arrival are offered a chance to wear a suicide vest or to fight. Of course most choose to fight and eventually look for a way out of the insanity.

2. Real Satire Isn’t So Stupid

Charlie Hebdo (the French satire magazine) should create some new graphic art detailing these facts and get them out to potential recruits in Europe who still think joining the ISIS jihad is cool. It would be a far, far better thing to do than the insulting cartoons that led to 14 deaths in Paris on January 7th. Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons were not really funny; they were mean, silly and stupid, and some have called them racist. At Charlie Hebdo they knew what they were doing, they had taken personal precautions and had police bodyguards. Satire is a very rich French tradition, they had Moliere, Voltaire and Montaigne after all, but they also had Sarte, deSade, Ducasse and Rimbaud, guys that went off into some weird realms of ecstasy, shame, darkness and brilliance. The French also revered Jerry Lewis (I guess for satirizing authority figures) but he’s not funny to me since I learned how he exploited the behaviors of people with disabilities. Christianity has a long bloody history as a religion, and France being Catholic, Charlie Hebdo could’ve satirized the history of all religions simultaneously. Now that President Obama has brought up “The Crusades,” it would be a good time for an illustrated history lesson. Since France now has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, Charlie could’ve thought to act inclusively; but satirists make fun and the crazy will kill.

The world saw the national demonstration of emotion and the international march for support of Charlie Hebdo, but here’s what the world didn’t see: the young students who didn’t want to follow those demonstrating support for this alleged humor that students thought was racist and irresponsible. Authorities were adamant that the populace should support the “freedom to satirize”— or is it merely the freedom to make fun of other religions? It’s hard to tell, for us and for these young people who were not free to make up their own minds. The French authorities say the populace needs to support the ideals of the French Revolution—liberty, equality and fraternity. But the poor, unemployed, immigrant and Muslim communities do not feel welcome, respected, valued or part of the Republic. They do not feel that these ideals are put into practice on their behalf, and so they become targets of both the police and fresh bodies for the jihadists.

3. Jihad: It’s the American Thing to Do

“Home grown terrorists” is the current buzz term, but we all need to realize that “Young Americans” have also been raised with the ideals of revolution, liberty and freedom—and can become “radicalized” by our own Western myths. When they see American ideals corrupted at home and overseas, especially against Muslim populations, or whomever they have empathy for, they can become further “radicalized” by violent imagery and the desire “to go help.” Western media constantly point out that ISIS is brilliant at using media to recruit potential young jihadists, but it’s exactly the same here with violence on television, movies, video games and recruitment for own law enforcement and military. The ultra-violent reality of ISIS attracts marginal types, and we’ve seen disturbed people in the United States, Canada and Britain who are entranced and encouraged by violent images.

4. L’etat, C’est … Quoi?

Charlie Hebdo has been skewering French political figures and Christianity for years. It’s been fined for anti-Jewish cartoons and nearly shut down. What Charlie Hebdo represents is freedom and liberty, but not fraternity and not quite equality, and what it did was perceived as racist and dehumanizing in some quarters. The narrative we hear from “the Arab Street” is that the Western world is at war with Islam, and such dehumanizing propaganda is part of war. Native Americans have suffered this too, and some consider the Washington Redskins pejorative a continuation of that racist history. While there is concern about rising anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, nationalist right wing parties in Europe, we see the same thing here: politicians promise jobs and economic stability but instead push austerity measures on citizens while pushing profits to shareholders, and donations to politician’s campaign funds.

All this fighting over free speech – corporations can purchase all the free speech they want for political campaigns – while citizens’ voices are being shut down everywhere. Satire is, or ought to be, sophisticated but look at all the inane, unsophisticated claptrap coming from extremists here in this country. They act proudly uneducated, they talk about burning/banning books and whole religions, and they wage proxy wars against women, children, “others” and the environment. They campaign against immigrants and the homeless, they are in denial about science and history, and they complain they are losing their Christian identity as a nation.

5. Speak, or Someone Else Will Speak for You

Charlie Hebdo did not do the “civilized” thing of self-censoring, so as not to offend sensibilities, but they made a statement—an inelegant, oversimplified and ultimately dangerous statement. We self-censor all the time because it allows society to act as if nothing criminal is being done behind the scenes, don’t upset the apple cart, don’t rock the boat, don’t throw out the baby with bathwater, don’t mess with my social security check, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. We have invented so many terms to mask the facts and cover the smell of corruption. We are being censored daily as corporate-consumer crimes are being covered up, and we keep eating it up as food, entertainment, or some other commodity that we can’t live without.

Charlie Hebdo thought it was making a statement about Islam, but the real statement concerns our own self-censorship. It’s our own silence that lets things slide so far. When we don’t speak out against the powerful machine, it simply makes voices like Charlie Hebdo and Abu Kholidi Kulobi all the louder. Neither of these fringe elements are addressing what’s happening at the center to all of us. We are being watched, tagged, filed, stacked, and inspected, to be graded for consumption or advancement or tossed aside as mulch. George Orwell was not only right-on with 1984, but with Animal Farm, too. Might as well take in Soylent Green and Citizen Four while we’re at it.

Alex Jacobs, Mohawk, is a visual artist and poet living in Santa Fe.