FREEDOM RIDERS: IRAQ, IRAN and AMERICA etc.

We had truly exciting and wonderful showings of Facing Ali this weekend in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Driving back to the hotel after today’s 2 pm screening, traffic was way backed up along Wilshire Boulevard because of protests over what’s happening in the suppression of fellow protesters in Iran.

I just despise what’s happening in Iran, and the type of oppressive theocracy there. Protests against oppression (let alone killing) are always right—unless perhaps, if strategically, protesting is not the most pragmatic way to force popular reforms and avoid bloodshed. But how can one know for sure? Either way, the human spirit can only take so much oppression. It’s not an unknown force of ugliness—fundamental theocracy—in this inconceivable world, that’s for sure. In the end, freedom—whose definition is not always clear—will always be in the right.

I wish some other boulevards in LA and all over America were simultaneously blocked for what is happening and what has happened in Iraq since 2003. The civilian death count there is brutal, at least a hundred thousand (and this is the LOWEST estimate), not to mention over 4,000 American soldier deaths, and, officially, over 30,000 wounded. In addition, 4.7 million Iraqi citizens have been forced to flee their homes in a country of less than 29 million, split between Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees.

If Americans were to block roads everyday in protest of that massive tragedy, human and environmental, I wonder what would eventually happen to these protesters.

By the way, when I say tragedy, I mean tragic except for certain people and companies (and some Iraquis, to be sure)—for example these oil multinationals who are in there now getting what they want, at not too far off good old Anglo-Iranian colonial rates. Big Oil has, after all, since the beginning of the invasion achieved literally the greatest yearly profits of any business venture in history. Staggering to the soul. Blood for profits. Public subsidy (paying for the war), private profits.

FREEDOM RIDERS

This weekend I was honored by chance (chance?) to meet a wonderful man, Ralph Fertig, who teaches courses in social justice at USC. Ralph was one of the original Freedom Riders, groups of people who traveled on buses, from the North into the Southern States, protesting the treatment of blacks and fighting for civil rights. He was arrested at least three times in different states for his efforts, and had countless ribs broken in the process of incarceration. This was 1961.

Protesting under these sorts of conditions takes breathtaking courage. May the mass of people—sisters and brothers—in Iran achieve freedom of speech, or more freedom of speech, one of the greatest virtues of the west.

Lots and lots of love and solidarity—and may maximum peace and maximum freedom and maximum community all prevail,

Pete

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