Remarks by phone on October 17, 2020, to Indigenous People's Day event in Washington, D.C., delayed from October 12.
There may be no more important place to mark Indigenous People's Day than Washington, D.C., the center of global weapons dealing, base building, and war making the leading hub of nuclear weapons production and environmental destruction, the seat of a national and imperial government that overseas colonies of second-class citizens on Caribbean and Pacific islands as well as in Washington DC itself, while keeping nearly 1,000 major military bases in over 80 other countries, a government that continues to abuse the remaining native people of North America, exploit the land to destroy the sky and poison the water, in a city that after decades of protest is willing to rename its professional concussion-inducing team as long as it can name it for warmakers.
And why is there a C in Washington DC, anyway? Because Washington claims the mantle of colonialism, empire, slavery, and genocide, and because it claims ownership not only of the United States but of the two continents of America, calling its people "Americans" and their single biggest public project the "Defense" department.
The mini-U.S. suburban paradises sprinkled across the globe as military bases are gated communities on steroids (and on Apartheid). Their residents are often immune from criminal prosecution for their actions outside the gates, while the locals are only admitted within to do the yard work and cleaning.
Foreign U.S. bases were not invented in 1898 the way text books tell our children. The United States had foreign bases prior to and built more during its war of independence from foreign occupying troops who raped and pillaged. The motto of the new nation was "Hey, that's our job."
Down here at the University of Virginia a giant statue celebrating George Rogers Clark doesn't just honor genocide but depicts it approvingly in a sculpted monument.
Every base built west of the mountains to advance the settler colonists was a foreign base. Every war was a foreign war. If you think that's ancient history, explain to me why every newspaper in the United States calls the current war on Afghanistan the longest U.S. war. They could not do that if they believed that Native Americans were human beings. Tell me why every newspaper in the United States will tell you that the deadliest U.S. war ever was the U.S. Civil War. They could not do that if they believed that Native Americans and Filipinos and Koreans and Vietnamese and Laotians and Iraqis and Afghans and the rest of humanity was human. They don't even include the deaths of the Native Americans against whom the United States was fighting wars during the U.S. Civil War.
Most teachers in the United States will tell you that the conquest of territory is a thing of the past, but U.S. military bases are on land all over the globe that it took by forcibly displacing people in Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Panama, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Korea, Okinawa, Guam, Diego Garcia, the Philippines, and numerous Pacific Islands.
We need to raise up Indigenous People's Day as a celebration of sustainable living and a movement toward a world beyond war. We also need to transform the upcoming holiday that the U.S. government calls Veterans' Day but used to call Armistice Day.
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November 11, 2020, is Armistice Day 103 which is 102 years since World War I was ended at a scheduled moment (11 o'clock on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 killing an extra 11,000 people after the decision to end the war had been reached early in the morning).
In many parts of the world this day is called Remembrance Day and should be a day of mourning the dead and working to abolish war so as not to create any more war dead. But the day is being militarized, and a strange alchemy cooked up by the weapons companies is using the day to tell people that unless they support killing more men, women, and children in war they will dishonor those already killed.
For decades in the United States, as elsewhere, this day was called Armistice Day, and was identified as a holiday of peace, including by the U.S. government. It was a day of sad remembrance and joyful ending of war, and of a commitment to preventing war in the future. The holiday's name was changed in the United States after the U.S. war on Korea to "Veterans Day," a largely pro-war holiday on which some U.S. cities forbid Veterans For Peace groups from marching in their parades, because the day has become understood as a day to praise war in contrast to how it began.
The story from the first Armistice Day of the last soldier killed in the last major war in which most of the people killed were soldiers highlights the stupidity of war. Henry Nicholas John Gunther had been born in Baltimore, Maryland, to parents who had immigrated from Germany. In September 1917 he had been drafted to help kill Germans. When he had written home from Europe to describe how horrible the war was and to encourage others to avoid being drafted, he had been demoted (and his letter censored). After that, he had told his buddies that he would prove himself. As the deadline of 11:00 a.m. approached on that final day in November, Henry got up, against orders, and bravely charged with his bayonet toward two German machine guns. The Germans were aware of the Armistice and tried to wave him off. He kept approaching and shooting. When he got close, a short burst of machine gun fire ended his life at 10:59 a.m. Henry was given his rank back, but not his life.
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