Lacy MacAuley

Icon

a home for my pen, projects, and passions

Beware of Milo the Wounded Tiger

This piece also appeared on Common Dreams.

We should all have compassion for a wounded animal, but be ready for his bite

sumatran-tiger-2crx981ou8aqpmaz-2Milo Yiannopoulos is like a wounded tiger right now. I have pity for him, but I still know that, given the chance, he would gladly strike me down.

In just 48 hours, the right-wing joy ride of Milo Yiannopoulos crashed and burned. Over the course of just two days, in the aftermath of the release of videos showing Yiannopoulos defending pedophilia, he lost his gig as keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington DC, he lost his book deal for his upcoming book “Dangerous,” and then he felt compelled to resign as senior editor for the right-wing website Breitbart. Before his speaking gig was cancelled, I and other antifascist activists had planned to protest at his speech.

Many of us cringed through Yiannopoulos’ defense of pedophilia in two videos that emerged this week. One video shows an impassioned Yiannopoulos saying that it’s not pedophilia to commit a sexual act with a child who is past puberty. One video shows him carefully defending the identities of older men who abused children.

We also learned from the videos that Yiannopoulos is a survivor of child sexual abuse. We learned that when he was thirteen he was abused by a priest. Yiannopoulos, who has made a business of being hated, who has trolled Leslie Jones in the most racist way, who has attacked feminists and lesbians, who has violently opposed transgender people, who has called homosexuality a sin even while practicing it, and who has been at the center of vitriolic protests — this man was actually molested when he himself was just a confused child, when he was a teenager, well before the age of consent.

Somehow, Yiannopoulos makes a bit more sense now. His young heart was torn and his young mind was rattled. According to his words at his press conference on Tuesday, his parents had not found out about this abuse until this week. He had been carrying this toxic secret all this time.

Of course, we have to approach Yiannopoulos’ life experience with compassion. As a survivor myself of sexual violence, which I experienced as an adult, I know how it can turn life upside down. Like all abuse, if left unaddressed and misunderstood, it can create a gangrenous darkness in your heart. Maybe that’s what happened to Yiannopoulos.

Since he is a survivor, we must regard his horrible words as someone trying to process their own unexamined experiences. Yes, we should be sensitive here and be our better selves in respecting his experience.

But we should be careful of his bite. He is a wounded animal, and his work is still our enemy. We must still realize that his advocacy maintains rich white male privilege and explicitly throws everyone else under the bus.

If he is able to keep his following as a right-wing personality, he will still be pursuing his hard-right libertarianism and his protection of hyper-capitalism. He will still be making the most offensive racist statements under the sun. He will still be outraged that some women deign to fight for equality. He will still be trying to protect white male privilege with special college scholarships and other shenanigans. He will still be attacking safe spaces and trigger warnings and claiming that we are violating his free speech. He will still be criticizing lesbians and transgender people, and denouncing homosexuality while being himself openly gay. And he will still be masking his persuasive tirades as long trails of lewd jokes at the expense of everyone involved.

We must not forget that, if he is able to recover from this publicity crisis, he will spare nothing in going back into attack mode.

If his attack mode returns, we can expect that he will be back on his “free speech” kick. He announced this week at his press conference that he still wishes to go on a speaking tour of college campuses and other venues. He believes that his free speech is violated when we refuse to give him a platform — a platform to enable him to continue building momentum for violating other peoples’ rights.

No, acting in protest does not violate the free speech of people who wish to do us harm. We protest precisely because they have already spoken, and we have heard them, and we believe them when they say that they wish to violate our rights. That’s why stopping their momentum is noble and necessary.

Let’s be clear that Yiannopoulos never represented a free speech issue. He has a larger platform for his speech as he espouses his irrational and often self-contradicting rhetoric than most of today’s pundits.

We must stand ready to protest.

At the same time, I can’t help but wonder, what if schoolboy Milo Yiannopoulos had had access to a safe space on his school campus? What if he were in a place where trigger warnings were respected? What if his environment had been one of respect for people of color, women, people of different faiths, the LGBTQIA+ community, poor people, and anyone living on the margins? What if, instead of descending into luxurious escapist parties and elitist reverie, he had sought help from others in processing his feelings?

He’s done nothing but denounce safe spaces and trigger warnings. But if he actually had had access to them when he was younger, maybe he would have found a healthier way to process his feelings that didn’t involve concluding that pedophilia might have been okay, even announcing it on video. Maybe he wouldn’t have that dark place in his heart that descends into fascism. Maybe he wouldn’t think rich white males are superior. Maybe he wouldn’t be so afraid of losing control as his white male power slips out of his fingers, and balances equally into all of our hands, where power belongs. Maybe he wouldn’t be so threatened by a world in which he as a white male didn’t dominate the rest of us.

For me, the train wreck of Yiannopoulos’ life right now only illustrates why ultimately his hateful worldview is wrong. Every young person deserves safe spaces. Every survivor should find a world in which they can ultimately feel safe. Everyone should also be free and safe from having their rights violated by the right wing, who want the power for themselves.

If we all lived in a supportive world like that, maybe the right wing with its worldview of fear and competition, would gradually subside, leading to a world of love and collaboration. Maybe our hierarchies would gradually become less relevant. Maybe we would all learn to base our interactions on mutual consent, respect, and celebration of diversity.

Maybe that is what the right wing is afraid of in the first place.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Letting Nazis Speak is Not a Free Speech Issue

We resist fascists precisely because we’ve listened, we’ve heard them, and we believe their threats

richardspencer-conference-bw

When famous Nazi Richard Spencer starts building momentum for violating our rights, it is our duty to shut him down.

Do you believe in free speech? Me too. Do you protest when a right-wing thinker starts building momentum in order to violate your rights? I hope you do. After the right-wing media personality Milo Yiannopoulos was effectively shut down when he tried to speak in Berkeley, there’s been a lot of discussion on protection freedom of speech.

But there is a big difference between respecting the right-wing’s right to voice a point of view and letting them build momentum for their policies of hate — policies that actually will significantly harm immigrants, people of color, Muslims, women, the differently-abled, the queer community, the poor, and anyone living on the margins. They are attacking our right to exist. They have been heard for long enough, and now they are poised to do much more than just talk. Now, it is time to shut them down.

A new bill introduced this week in the Tennessee legislature, Tennessee’s so-called “Milo Bill,” would protect free speech and give students “the broadest possible latitude” to express themselves. That’s a good thing. Protection of freedom is what we need right now.

But don’t be confused. It is our right and duty to protest fascism. It is about stopping their momentum with our own momentum. It’s beyond freedom of speech. We resist fascists precisely because we’ve listened, we’ve heard them, and we believe them.

We heard and believed right-wing author Mike Cernovich when he said he supports a Muslim Ban, when he championed misogyny and rape culture, and all the times he insulted feminism. That’s why I and others with the DC Antifascist Coalition organized a protest at Cernovich’s event, the “Deploraball” in downtown Washington DC to celebrate the evening before Donald Trump’s Inauguration. Inside the event, Breitbart contributors, personal friends of Steve Bannon, misogynists, haters, and white supremacists brushed shoulders and held speeches. Outside, participants from all walks of life spontaneously burned pro-Trump paraphernalia, an American flag, and cardboard. The first person to start the fire, setting a red Trump hat ablaze, was reportedly the 11-year-old son of none other than comedian Drew Carey, Connor, who said, “Screw our president.”

We heard Cernovich, and we viewed threats like his as credible. The tuxedoed class at the “Deploraball,” they are coming for our rights. So we called a protest to put the attendees on notice. Everyday people, including 11-year-old Connor, responded by flooding into the streets with expressions of protest and rage. Yes, many of them wore the black masks of the antifascist, anarchist movement. No, we were not trying to silence anyone. We were protesting to defend our rights, to protect what we love, to celebrate diversity, and move toward a world based on love and inclusion, not policies of fear and exclusion. Inside the event venue, they were exercising their freedom of speech, but outside, we were building our own momentum, of protecting the people and communities that we love. Just eight days later, Steve Bannon’s Muslim Ban was signed as an Executive Order by Trump, and we protested again in a nationwide show of inclusion that helped turn the tide and overturn the ban.

When the right-wing comes for our right to exist, this is a bigger issue than their freedom of speech. This is about protecting our friends, neighbors, communities, family members, and ourselves.

We heard and believed Yiannopoulos when he said that he wanted to roll back rights for the LGBTQ community, including the rights of trans people, even though he is openly gay himself (while he makes undignified comments about lesbians and trans people and openly says that he is a self-loathing gay man). That’s why the transgender community of Berkeley, as well as antifascists, anarchists, and others, came out recently to protest Yiannopoulos, expressing the rage of the oppressed and getting his whole event shut down.

It turns out that Yiannopoulos, ever the troll, had actually intended to use his platform to publicly name undocumented students. He had already done similar stunts, including the time he had publicly singled out a trans student at University of Wisconsin to attack her with cruel laughter. The fact that protest actually protected undocumented students from being targeted is a clear example of the kind of support we need for each other. Protest protected these students. We all need to have each other’s backs in these dangerous times.

We heard and believed famous Nazi Richard Spencer, the head of a white supremacist organization called the National Policy Institute, when he’s said that he wants to make America white again. Spencer is now most famous for getting punched, and being the Nazi who sparked an “Okay to Punch a Nazi?” dialog in recent contemporary conversation. He supports a moratorium on all immigration from non-white or non-Europeans countries, called for a whites-only homeland, and has expressed support for forced sterilization for non-white people. He famously led a group in Nazi salutes, exclaiming “Hail Trump!” at a conference he organized in November 2016. That was the day after he yelled to a crowd, “Let’s party like it’s 1933,” referring to the year that Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany and immediately began suspending civil rights in the country.

While Spencer’s group was inside giving Nazi salutes in November, I was outside with about 500 fellow protesters. The DC Antifascist Coalition, of which I am a member, had organized two fun and feisty protests outside their gathering. Had we tried to shut down the event? Yes, absolutely. We had effectively rallied support across our city to get the restaurant Hamilton, across the street from the conference venue, to cancel their reservation for their event the evening before. This caused the white supremacists to scramble to a Maggiano’s restaurant on the outskirts of town to hold their event. (Maggiano’s later apologized for playing host and made a $10,000 donation to the Anti-Defamation League.) Their other weekend event went forward as planned, but we’d put a significant ripple in their plans.

Did I feel guilty about our getting the event reservation canceled, and possibly impacting the Nazis’ freedom of speech? The answer is no. Yes, freedom of speech is important. But these white supremacists, white men who have held the reigns of power in our imperialist, racist, colonialist society for centuries, they have had their chance to be heard. We’ve been hearing them loud and clear for long enough.

White supremacists don’t need to be heard any longer. They are gaining power, and they need to be stopped.

Just because the policies they advocate wage their violence and oppression through pen and paper, through signing laws that the police enforce with their guns, that doesn’t make them any less dangerous than an attacker with a loaded weapon. Right-wingers who build momentum for genocide, like Spencer does, should not expect that they can saunter into our cities, our universities, and our events, and not be resisted. What they are proposing is insidious, and we feel the danger.

After all, there will be no freedom for most of us if Cernovich, Yiannopoulos, or Spencer have their way. There will be an authoritarian capitalist government which protects a sexist, anti-queer, racist hierarchy. Incidentally, that is just the kind of world that Trump seems to be pursuing. They have no qualms in calling for deportations, de-funding women’s health care, calling for whites-only institutions, allowing sexual predators to go free, and enacting more laws that make the criminal justice system even more biased against black people, the poor, and the marginalized.

What is the worst that will happen to these right-wingers if we prevail? They will go back to their privileged lives of comfort and obscurity, and continue to hate the fact they they cannot dominate us. What will happen to us if they prevail? Unbearable pain and oppression.

With the stroke of a pen, they would gladly make life a living hell for most of us.

Do we just wait politely while full-scale Nazis like Spencer rise in prominence and proclaim that they would like to give our country back to “white men”? Do we allow them to build an authoritarian society, and wait patiently, just because they are using “speech” to do so? Do we repeat the actions of the “good Germans” who claimed the moral high ground while staying quiet, allowing Hitler to rise to a place where he committed atrocities, violated the rights of people in multiple countries, and murdered people? Do we ask our transgender friends and neighbors to sit calmly by as Yiannopoulos and others support enacting harmful policy that puts people back in the shadows? Do we accept Cernovich’s sexist policy? No, we resist them and we try to shut them down.

Mike Cernovich, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Richard Spencer represent the most extreme elements of the dangerous shift toward fascism and authoritarianism, and you may notice that these three right-wing speakers I am focusing on are all white men. Two are from rich, upper-class backgrounds and one is from a privileged Christian conservative family. Their voices have been privileged, celebrated, and amplified since before they were even born. All their lives, they have been heard.

We are not going to support their bully pulpit any longer. When they try to convene people around their agenda of oppression, we will resist them.

It’s not because we dislike free speech. It’s because we know exactly what they are saying, and they are trying to drum up support for policies that harm us. They’re dangerous. Therefore, resistance is a form of self-protection.

Filed under: Uncategorized

What Next? White Supremacists in Suits and Ties in Washington.

This article was originally published on Common Dreams, then posted to Occupy.com, to Mint Press News, and to Popular Resistance.

Fascists are coming out of the closet. They may have new haircuts, but their thinking is old and tired. That’s why we need you. Now.

Nazi salutes. White people demanding a white “homeland.” A speaker talking about how women like to be assaulted. Glowing remarks about Adolf Hitler. Reporters getting booed for asking tough questions. This was the scene inside a conference held at a downtown Washington DC government building this past weekend and at a local restaurant.

Demonstrators marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC on Saturday, November 19 to protest the racism and fascim of the far-right National Policy Institute.

Demonstrators marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC on Saturday, November 19 to protest the racism and fascim of the far-right National Policy Institute.

White supremacists drank champagne this weekend in our nation’s capital to celebrate Trump’s presidential victory. The mostly-male group, part of the “Alt Right” movement, wore suits, ties, and dubious smiles. I wondered if any of them also had white robes at home.

I was outside the building with a crowd of about 500 protesters. Our chants included, “Racists eating creme brûlée? You’re still the KKK,” and, “Fascists, we will shut you down.” We also chanted, “Love will prevail.” It was a diverse group of people from many backgrounds, identities, and ideologies. We held a dance protest on the sidewalk outside the restaurant hosting their meet-and-greet on Friday, after about 30 people protested inside the restaurant. We also occupied the street in an energized, spontaneous march outside of their conference on Saturday.

The conference was organized by the blandly-named “National Policy Institute,” a white supremacist organization that has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It featured many white guys, such as neo-Nazi “academic” Kevin MacDonald, anti-immigration writer Peter Brimelow, and the head of the institute, professional racist Richard Spencer. Also, former TV personality Tila Tequila.

The institute’s flashy, meme-heavy materials call for a moratorium of up to 50 years on immigration from countries that are not European or white enough. They promote forced sterilization, which they’ve creepily called “programatic” contraception for “positive, eugenic effect,” to deny people of color the choice to have children. Their might-makes-right approach blends with their sexist views of a patriarchal society. They hype a whites-only nation, so that no white person will need to see a person of color. Their materials discuss eugenics and false, debunked science that is supposed to show the genetic superiority of people who are white. Their website reviews books written by actual Nazis. This organization and its members are fully fascist, fully racist, and not hiding it.

If anyone were looking for overt signs that fascists are coming out of the closet, this is it. The white supremacists celebrated Trump’s victory last week, and are taking a threatening victory lap. We are living in a dangerous time when they feel comfortable enough to bring their ideology of hate straight into our government buildings. And now that they have “fascie” haircuts and aren’t using so many slurs, have acquired some minor graphic design skills, and are trying their best to dress sharp, they are getting profiled by news outlets from Mother Jones to Rolling Stone. News outlets such as Vice News to The Atlantic were present for the conference.

These white supremacists may have new haircuts, but their thinking is old and tired.

During the weekend conference, I had a cringe-worthy encounter with Spencer, head of the institute, and two other conference attendees. The three, accompanied by a small entourage, had burst out the doors of their Friday night event in the same way a gunslinging band of cattle thieves walks into a saloon in a cowboy movie. They were looking for a fight. What ensued was a ridiculous argument of sorts. They proceeded to call all of us communists (some of us were, some weren’t). They insisted that I was “self-hating” because I, a white woman, don’t want to live in an isolated whites-only world. They yelled over us, mostly, pausing only long enough to catch a phrase or two so that they could jump to their conclusions.

Richard Spencer, whose name is often accompanied by the fact that he has a master’s degree from the University of Chicago, was displaying tactics he likely learned bullying other children on the playground, not in his graduate classes. (I suppose news outlets think it is fascinating that he is a white supremacist with a college education? They didn’t pause to consider the credentials of the protesters outside. I personally could have referred them to several people standing with me with master’s degrees and two with PhDs.) After the three had yelled and yelled for several minutes, as playground bullies are inclined to do, they insulted the physical appearance of all of us, calling us fat, ugly, or both, declared that they had “won,” and walked away. We laughed it off, but it was an interesting encounter that only illustrated the brutal ideology of force that we are up against.

I had started organizing the weekend’s protests months ago with a small group of committed antifascists. None of us thought then that we would be facing a Trump presidency. None of us thought then that a person who was so openly racist and sexist could be elected. None of us would have expected that Steve Bannon, who has said that his website Breitbart has been a platform for the Alt Right, could wind up a close advisor to president. None of us expected this deplorable conference to be some sort of celebration of victory. But now, that is what we’ve got.

Now, more than ever, the Alt Right, the white supremacists, and the fascists, are coming out of the woodwork to try to gain currency in the policy circles in Washington DC.

And now, more than ever, we must stand up to oppose them.

Standing up to fascism means standing for a world in which we celebrate diversity. We embrace the awesome symphony of differences that make the world a beautiful, colorful, engaging place to be. We do not wish to live in a world in which all of us are the same, because that is not only oppressive, it is boring. We wish to live in a world of creative expression, openness, and support for each other.

The philosophy that the National Policy Institute promotes sounds to me like the worldview of an antisocial, insecure hermit. Spencer, who coined the term Alt Right, promotes separating people based upon their identity, as if he were sorting laundry. The worldview he articulates is one of genetic determinism. It is a view that says that people who identify as white have genes that are somehow better than those of people of color. Using previously-debunked science on IQ test results and racial identity, books promoted on the institute’s site claim that white people are more intelligent than people of color. An article by Spencer on his own site depicts white culture as embattled, and says that “white culture” should have “the right to maintain its traditions, culture, and heritage.” And, in his own words, Spencer proposes doing all of this by force.

I’ve never seen anyone in the Alt Right mention the rights of American Indians or previously-enslaved black Americans, who were unwilling participants in the “American experiment.” The Alt Right seems to feel threatened by the freedom of the people who they previously enslaved. They seem to ignore the rights of indigenous people who have borne the brunt of imperialist foreign policy, who by the way are often the ones who immigrate here.

I have also never seen any discussion of how many cultural contributions people from other societies actually made to the cultures that surround us in the US. The food, technology, entertainment, and other cultural practices that the white boys of the Alt Right grew up in have been a product of a cultural milieu of globalization for a long time now.

Their meat and potatoes? Those potatoes were originally indigenous to the Andes mountains. Their salt and pepper? That pepper came from south India via the Mediterranean spice trade. Their numbers? Invented by Persians. Their bluegrass music? Developed by African slaves and indentured Celtic servants. Their aspirin? A medicine adopted from American Indians. Their Fourth of July fireworks? China. Their corn? Mexico. And the list goes on.

It is a fallacy that “white culture” was developed in a vacuum in the first place. But Spencer’s organization wants to pretend that genes made our culture, not the interconnected reality that we all exist in.

But like the self-entitled white boys that they are, the Alt Right wants to make a grab for a country that they think they built, that they think they own. No. We immigrants, we women, we artistic culture-makers, we are the ones who built our communities.

And if racist imperialism weren’t enough, these white supremacists have plenty of sexism to deliver up. The movement has strong ties to the so-called “manosphere,” which holds the false, ugly notion that women actually want be dominated by men because of genetics. Many “manosphere” adherents don’t think a woman should have a right to divorce. When a reporter from The Guardian asked about the lack of women present at the conference this past weekend, the crowd booed. Then they cheered when Spencer responded with some comments about how women want a “strong” man.

Gross. He has also said, “At some part of every woman’s soul,” he said, “they want to be taken by a strong man.” What gives him this wisdom? He actually cited romance novels as evidence: “I’ve looked at a lot of romance novels that women read and I’ve noticed a distinct pattern,” Spencer said, according to The Guardian.

He also animatedly told the Rolling Stone, “I love empire, I love power, I love achievement,” and admitted to getting a “boner” when reading about Napolean.

So women, definitely don’t get stuck alone in an elevator with this person, especially if he has imperialist literature tucked under his arm. Or a romance novel that I am sure he is just looking at for research.

Womens rights are in a sad state of affairs in our country when the men who think they are qualified to make our policy — Trump, Bannon, and lurking predators like Spencer — don’t even show respect for a woman’s agency over her own body, let alone our agency in the government we are subject to. As a survivor of sexual assault and violence, I empathize with women who are triggered and bewildered right now by the state of our nation.

That is why we need to oppose fascism now. We all stand to lose our freedom if this hateful movement goes any further.

Their worldview holds that people have an innate fear of each other, especially those that are different, and that the politics of power are the only way. They believe that people should live in isolated communities in which everyone looks the same, acts the same, and has the same culture. I don’t think so.

I believe in the part of the human spirit based on love, inclusion, and acceptance. I believe in that impulse that all of us have, of compassionate curiosity towards each other. I believe in our shared humanity and our ability to find common ground. I believe that, in the end, we all want to live in a world of collaboration, not competition. I believe that we all want to live in a world of kindness, caring, and celebration of difference.

Many of us learned of the Holocaust and thought, “If I had been in Nazi Germany, I would have stood up against injustice.” Well, now is our chance to do that in the real world. All of us are needed to counter their fascist agenda. This kind of wild-eyed fascism will not go away by magic. It will go away thanks to you, your shoes marching for freedom, your voice speaking up for justice, and your words helping build political will. You cannot leave this to someone else. This is your problem too. Now is the time to get involved and start meeting in person to stand up for freedom.

After all, what did our cultural heroes Indiana Jones, Captain America, and Superman all have in common? They all fought Nazis. So be a hero, and join us.

Filed under: Uncategorized

enraged gunmen, inevitable outcome

Police violence and state violence inevitably lead to backlash. Killing will never bring peace, and I do not condone the politics of force, of the gun. But the horrible shootings in Dallas have been coming for a long time. My fellow people of conscience, how can we act surprised?

When so many black people are slain, and not one police officer is actually convicted of wrongdoing, people get frustrated. And in a society full of guns, no one is safe. Enraged gunmen are the inevitable outcome of unchecked state violence and militarization. We cannot act surprised that frustrated gunmen will retaliate.

The way to peace is not through more violence or militarization, but through more justice, equality, and love. Always.

Filed under: Uncategorized

spontaneous march to Congress

I was proud to be present for the historic filibuster on the Senate floor last night. I joined about 50 people who spontaneously marched all the way from the candlelight vigil in Dupont Circle, Washington DC’s historically LGBTQ neighborhood, to the Capitol Building. We marched through the party district of U Street, getting cheers from the revelers at Nellie’s a bar popular in the LGBTQ community. (Favorite chant: “We’re here, we’re queer, get these guns out of here!”)

Lacy Senate Orlando Gun Violence Demo 2 - Esquire

This is me at midnight after marching two hours to the Senate. (Photo: Esquire Magazine)

Then we went inside Congress and watched the filibuster in progress, with our rainbow scarves and with some wearing orange T-shirts that said “ENOUGH GUN VIOLENCE.” No mobile phones are allowed inside so I did not get nice photos of Senator Chris Murphy, but he was going strong the whole time I was present. I stayed until just after 1 AM. The filibuster ended at about 3 AM, and resulted in the Senate Republicans allowing a vote on a very watered-down gun control measure.

Lacy Senate Orlando Gun Violence Demo 1 - Esquire

And another photo of me taken moments later. (Photo: Esquire Magazine)

Esquire Magazine‘s Charles Pierce actually wrote about the filibuster. The veteran journalist expressed a very real and human frustration on gun violence. (The magazine also featured two photos, both showing me in the center from different angles. No idea why. I think they didn’t realize they were looking at photos of the same woman.) Pierce wrote:

“On Monday evening, there were mothers and fathers and loved ones of people who were killed in mass shootings gathered in the lobby of the United States Senate just after the United States Senate had disgraced itself, and many of them were holding onto each other and weeping, and there didn’t seem to be any point to wandering into their midst to gather quotes, and the question, “How do you feel about what happened today?” seemed obscenely trivial. So I stood on the fringes and watched these people and, for the first time in a very long time, got genuinely and deeply angry at a political event I was tasked to cover.” -Charles Pierce, Esquire Magazine

Of course, more needs to be done to stop the violence. Working toward equality and community empowerment are all important parts of the real solution. But Senate Republicans are now moving forward with a vote to take some extra measures on gun control, which is a good first step.

It’s hard to ban hate, homophobia, transphobia, or Islamophobia, but it is easy to enact more gun control laws and save lives. Hope we continue to see some action in this direction!

Filed under: Uncategorized

tears for orlando

Yesterday I was at the DC Capital Pride Parade, a day of celebration for the LGBT/queer community, and was given hope that we could all live in a world with less hate. Today, the news from Orlando has crushed my heart. The victims of this terror were those who are only seeking to live for love. The worst kind of violence that chills the soul. The solution, however, is never more violence, but more love.

13432370_10154196955756322_3540445356798227519_n

I’ve been struggling with the closeness of the these shootings. Feeling like I’ve escaped violence, in Turkey and the US, through sheer luck. The feeling of “it could have been me” is a bit self-centered, I know, but it is real and I am very rattled…

After the parade yesterday, I almost went out to party with friends afterwards, and would have been on a dance floor at an LGBT/queer club, but had a schedule conflict. That night someone attacked the community in another city. If this attack had happened in DC, it could have hurt me or someone I care about.

In Turkey, three terror attacks occurred in places that I had recently been, including two that killed tourists in Istanbul on streets that I had been on myself. One was in the city of Bursa the day after I was there. Another was on a street in the old town of Istanbul, a few weeks after I was there. Of course, one of the scariest moments in Turkey was when I was captured and detained by Turkish police for simply trying to attend a large, public rally with President Erdogan. Then there was the sexism, oppression, and violence towards women that I am still processing…

Am I invincible? Of course not. I know that when my time comes, I will go calmly to that light at the end of the tunnel… But I still have a song in my heart, and I do not want to die just yet… the nearness of all of it is just a bit much.

Love to all who are having a hard time like me processing and healing from all of this violence. I am with you.

Filed under: Uncategorized

no escaping risk – another bomb in Turkey

Another tragic bombing in Turkey. Today a car bomb shook the historic bazaar district of Beyazit in Istanbul, hitting narrow, ancient streets that I was walking in early May, looking for gifts for friends and relatives on my last full day before returning to the US. The bomb killed 11 people and wounded 36. Of course, my heart and thoughts are with the victims and families.

While in Turkey, I actively avoided tourist areas and traveled to populated areas mostly at off-peak times. I had an ominous feeling the day that I was on these streets, Monday, May 2, moving many times to avoid areas that could be targeted. But today’s bomb shows that, really, there is no way to escape risk. Even here in the US, the San Bernadino shooting proves that nowhere is totally safe.

Moving toward a world without terrorism is to pursue policies that empower communities, reduce inequality, and end state violence toward minority groups, i.e. the brutal war being waged against Kurds by the Turkish military with tanks, bombs, and aircraft. Desperate people lose perspective and commit violence upon the only people they can reach, other everyday citizens like themselves, who are mostly just trying to live decent lives.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Live in love, die in peace. We cannot end violence with more violence. There is a better way.

Filed under: Uncategorized

seed family culture

13233128_10154151689636322_2271892977762380115_n

Small walnut trees with an important history. Seeds smuggled into the country from Germany by yours truly.

In Germany last year I was given a wonderful gift by my cousin. She gave me walnuts from a tree planted by my great-grandmother, which stands tall and stately next to the stucco house in downtown Sprendlingen, built in the 1700s, which has been in my family for generations. I smuggled the seeds back to the USA and gifted them to family members.

My father planted his grandmother’s seeds, has eight saplings, and is now planning to locate the walnut trees in his yard in Virginia, USA. These little trees look healthy and happy.

This is the kind of seed-saving and seed-sharing that should be the family and cultural heritage of us all. Let’s plant the seeds today for living communities and living economies

Filed under: Uncategorized

healing from intensity

Intense experiences in Turkey are still being processed and cleared within my spirit. I have been back in the US for a week now. It has rained every day here in the Washington DC area ~ a soft, welcoming cleanse.

Growing, green. I am encouraging everything in my soul to bloom. Heads of oak trees are visible, emerging from the fertile soil. Water and sun is all that they need. Today I took some time away from the job search to rejuvenate in the wet forest, and be held in the arms of the nature spirits.

13173978_10154122130161322_8535264739923236955_n

Filed under: Uncategorized

powerful Syrian refugee moms

Mother’s Day solidarity with the powerful Syrian refugee moms I witnessed in Turkey. Many of these women have come through fire bringing only what they can carry, with fierce determination to protect their children and give them the best lives they can while living on the margins. Despite the adversity, these women do what they need to do to bring forward the next generation, which is humanity’s most important work.

13164244_10154115076771322_6196264779006517483_n

Filed under: Uncategorized

missing and not missing from Turkey

Home from Turkey for seven hours now, back in the Washington DC area. What I’m not missing and missing…

NOT MISSING
~ Right-wing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
~ Being asked why Americans like Donald Trump
~ Getting detained by police for simply trying to attend a free, open-to-the-public political speech
~ Sexism. Misogyny. Everywhere. All the time.
~ No toilet paper in bathrooms
~ Turkish Law, Article 301, which says that it is illegal to criticize “the Turkish Nation, the State of the Turkish Republic or the Grand Assembly of Turkey”
~ Witnessing the tired bodies of the math teachers, poets, and everyday people of Syria now living on the margins, doing the trash collecting and underpaid farm labor

MISSING
~ Beautiful, amazing Turkish friends
~ Activists who are committed to struggle and free speech under a government that suppresses dissent and centralizes control
~ The clever, bright eyes of the Syrian refugee children
~ Friendships that mean something, and last a lifetime
~ Neighbors who know their neighbors, visit regularly, and ask if there is something they can get for you at the market
~ The best food from one of the earliest “breadbaskets” in history
~ Fresh-squeezed orange juice, with oranges from the family grove, from a wandering street vendor
~ The feeling of being in an ancient trade nexus, where the descendants of the ancestors still practice their craft
~ Cobblestone streets
~ Sunset over the endless blue Mediterranean

In recorded history, there has always been, and shall always be, Turkey

Filed under: Uncategorized

mayday in Taksim Square

Yesterday I ran around Istanbul looking for protests with Önder Arslan and Jenna Pope. (Jenna has a long history of hardcore photography of radical action, including at İstanbul’s Occupy Gezi.) Here in İstanbul, there is a tradition of mass protests on May 1st, International Workers’ Day. Major clashes among protesters and police have been the norm.

But we found no protests. There had been a last-minute decision by most major labor unions to cancel the feisty marches and instead hold a calm, government-sanctioned rally in a faraway park. So only a few small groups held surprise actions, which were quickly and violently suppressed by the police. This resulted in the tragic death of labor union member, Nail Marviş. (Video link below.) Attacks by PKK and ISIS also took place in southeast Turkey yesterday, which resulted in the death of five police officers.

So we met no tear gas or water cannons today, and just walked and walked around the Taksim area looking for action, along with other reporters. I hope that Turkish activists and freedom-lovers are able to overcome this government repression, come together, fight, and win. İnşallah. “God willing.”

LONG LIVE PROTEST.

Filed under: Uncategorized

supplies for Syrian refugee families

Delivering supplies to Syrian refugee families in the Kepezaltı area yesterday, Antalya, Turkey, coordinated by the women of Antalya Helping Hands/IWA. Families happy to receive rice, oil, diapers/nappies, clothes, and shoes. So much more support is needed. But today, it’s nice to know that these families will not go hungry.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Atatürk’s children’s day

13076574_10154081209506322_7923277533043547778_n

Today is “National Sovereignty and Children’s Day” here in Turkey. Despite recent warnings about terrorism in tourist sites, downtown Kaleiçi, a popular historic district of Antalya, Turkey, was crowded all day with families of adorable children dressed in various costumes. Fireworks are visible tonight over the Mediterranean.

The holiday was founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, widely known as the founder of modern Turkey, to celebrate children and remember that they are the future. Most families buy the kids some ice cream and a balloon, walk around the city, and let the children enjoy the day.

In the past, some lucky kids got to join the Turkish Parliament for a day. But this year President Erdoğan’s party, AKP, decided not to allow many government celebrations, with the official reason being fears of terrorism and respect for the gravity of the armed resistance in the Kurdish southeast. Many observers grumble that Erdoğan’s real reason for not allowing this day as a celebration for children is that he wants to try to reverse the legacy of Atatürk.

Either way, it’s been a joy to join in this celebration for the children of Turkey, a reminder that the world that we are in is ours only for the briefest time

Filed under: Uncategorized

I was detained by Turkish police

International incident anyone? Today I was detained for over two hours by police in Antalya, Turkey, for attempting to enter a public speech by President Erdoğan. I waited with security for an hour outside the event, then was brought to a local police station, where I was questioned for about an hour. Don’t worry folks, I’m free and safe now!

13043569_10154078945521322_671881505300916925_n

A selfie in front of the spot where all the trouble began, the security checkpoint.

President Erdoğan gave a speech today at 2:30 PM at a sports arena in Antalya to mark the opening of “Expo 2016,” an international exhibition event that begins tomorrow at a giant outdoor fairground outside the city. The event was billed as free and open to the public. No tickets. No reservations. I was a bit worried about the risk of terrorism, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see a head of state like Erdoğan. I headed to the event, arriving about 30 minutes early as people began to flood in.

What happened was shocking. I approached the first security checkpoint, and the woman asked me to open my bag. I had traveled light, carrying just a small belt pouch with my camera and wallet, and another bag with my notebook, pen, and Turkish-English dictionary. The woman took out the dictionary, turned it over in her hands, and then asked (in German) what my name was. I answered. She called over another man who examined my passport, then took a photo of it. In the end, she nodded me through security.

The next security checkpoint was the problem. A woman patted me down and looked inside my bags. She took my pen (no pens allowed I guess), and then asked me for my passport. She looked at it a little while, then called over a plain-clothes security officer who examined my passport, took another photo of it, and asked me questions (“Why are you in Antalya? Are you traveling alone?”) He then walked me over to two important-looking men in important-looking black suits. After looking at my passport a bit more, they took yet another photo of it, then told me that I was not permitted to enter.

“Go,” they said. “Okay, why?” I asked. They would not give a reason, not even saying anything in Turkish. Again they said that I was not permitted to enter and told me to leave. The plain-clothes security officer walked me to the exit, past the crowds of people with their Turkish flags and scarves.

Standing outside this second security checkpoint, I stayed to watch as the general public streamed through security. You know, I had planned the whole afternoon for this, so I was in no hurry to leave. I wondered why I was barred. Were they keeping all foreign citizens out? Did I look too much like an activist? Like a terrorist? This is still a mystery to me. I did not see anyone else get asked for their ID. I saw a security officer take barely a passing glance at a woman carrying cola bottles which, had they been gas, would have been suitable for molotov cocktails. Others carried in giant water bottles. I wondered, what is this security process actually about?

I had been standing there for a few minutes when I decided to take notes on what just happened. (Luckily there were leftover pens on the ground from other hapless note-takers who were stripped of their pens.) A security guard and the same plain-clothes police officer walked over again. “What are you writing?” the officer asked. He then asked me several more questions. I was trying to struggle through a conversation in Turkish, when the guard told me to wait. She would phone another officer who spoke English.

I waited in the hot sun as the speeches began. More calls. More waiting. One more photo of my passport. Finally a friendly-looking officer bounced forward and shook hands with all of us and said, “Hello, how are you?” in English. Remaining polite, I asked simply why I was not allowed in. “They didn’t let you in because they couldn’t understand you, because of the language,” he said. I smiled and said, “You can see me. I am not dangerous. I just want to see President Erdoğan speak.” He laughed and said, “Yes I can see that.” He said that they had called President Erdoğan’s security detail. They would run my passport and then I would be allowed inside. He said that they would be here in ten or fifteen minutes.

No one from Erdoğan’s security detail ever arrived. Finally, after another half hour of waiting with the security guard and the plain-clothes officer, and more phone calls in Turkish that I did not understand, these two walked me to the edge of the security area. They shook hands with two plain-clothes officers from the local police station.

“They will bring you to the police station for passport control,” they said. I swallowed hard. “Am I being arrested?” I asked. (I quickly found the word for “arrest” in my dictionary: tutuklama.) “Yok,” was the answer. No, I was only being brought for “passport control.” I asked if I would be brought back here. They indicated that they just needed to ask a few questions, and then I would be brought back (I wasn’t). At that point, I was brought to a white, unmarked police vehicle.

I was brought to a room in the police station, I think the main office of the station manager. Four other officers were present. My attendant officer, a station manager type of officer, and two others who ran my passport information through computer systems and began looking things up about me. I asked if I could use the bathroom, and I was walked there and left inside a windowless little bathroom while the attendant officer waited just outside the door.

In between my dictionary, an officer’s phone translation app, and another officer’s fragmented English, a conversation continued along the lines of official questioning:

Why do you want to see President Erdoğan speak?
How long have you been in Turkey?
How many times have you been to Turkey?
Who are you traveling with?
What publication are you writing for?
Where are you staying?
Where do you live in the United States?
What is your US phone number?

Of course, as you, my friends and family know, my life is sort of in a transition point right now, and I’ve been working on a few little projects and mostly just living and learning. This is hard to explain to bullheaded police officers who may want to think I am a spy or something… or maybe worse, an Erdoğan critic?? But I answered their questions as well as I could.

At a certain point, after I had told the officers all about the writing I’d done while in Antalya for the G20 Summit in November, I broke down. No more Ms. Nice Lacy:

“I don’t understand why this is important. I only wanted to see the president of Turkey speak. Now I am here at a police station.”

I quickly looked at the clock. “Now it is almost 4 PM. Erdoğan is of course finished speaking. There is no speech. I want to go.”

At that point, the police officer who had been doing most of the questioning basically threw up his hands and left. They then offered me a coffee and walked me out into a little enclosed courtyard (surrounded by walls and barbed wire) while the other officers remained inside investigating me via computer.

At this point I was holding it in but felt like crying. I told the attendant officer, who had not let me get more than two meters away from him since I had gotten into the police vehicle, that I wanted to go and that I could easily walk or take a taxi. It was then painfully clear that I was being held against my will. After the officer looked something up on his translation app, I was told in English, “Okay, you must wait. These are standard operations.”

Finally, I was given back my passport. I was walked outside the front door of the police station, but still inside the security perimeter. I was hopeful that the end was near. I said, “thank you,” and shook the hand of the station manager, and said that I would just walk or take a taxi. I pointed across the street to a taxi stand with two taxis waiting. But then I was told that I was not yet free to go. I could not just be released, I had to be driven to my place of dwelling. Why? The first reason given was “Syrians. This is dangerous.” I again said that I could simply take a taxi. Then I was told several more times that I must be driven.

During the drive, the same three plain-clothes police that I had ridden with before were in an unmarked vehicle while they drove me toward the Kaleiçi area, where I am staying. Just after we had exited the station, one more plain-clothes police officer stopped us, leaned into the window, and asked “Why are you in Antalya?” I basically told him that I had answered that question about ten times already, and wasted no time telling him the short answer, in a not-very-patient tone of voice. He threw up his hands and said “Okay okay,” and left. As we drove away, another officer looked at me and offered a brief explanation: “He is boss.”

During the drive, the officers turned up electronica music while one officer hung his tattooed arm out the window, saying hello to friends he recognized. They also found time during the drive to hassle and tease a likely-homeless man who was collecting money from drivers through car windows. One officer spoke a little English and tried to chat with me about pop music and Raki (Turkish liquor), but I was not exactly in the mood to shoot the breeze. Finally, the drive was over and I made it home. The time was almost 5 PM.

Of course, I am now a bit worried that I will be a target for surveillance or other persecution by the local police. Friends here in Antalya have got my back, know the police system, and can find me if something happens, but I am still a little on edge. The police have all of my information and, well, police are prone to bad decisions, unethical behavior, and bully tactics.

This has been my little taste of “international incident” for the day. Adventures and misadventures…

Would it really have been so bad to let one small English-speaking woman in to see a politician’s speech in Turkish? (I haven’t yet looked up the speech but there is some information about it here: http://www.sabah.com.tr/…/erdogan-expo-2016-turkiyenin-en-b…)

I bet President Erdoğan didn’t have anything interesting to say anyway!

Filed under: Uncategorized

two sides, Turkish soldiers

The other day, the local mosque here in Antalya, Turkey, played a funeral message for a local soldier killed by the Kurdish resistance party, the PKK, on the eastern side of the country. The sad song was played intermittently throughout the day, and people stopped to listen.

It is mandatory for all Turkish men to serve in the military. Men over 20 must endure 12-15 months of military service, and they do not have the right to be a conscientious objector. The only way out is for men living outside Turkey who can pay somewhere from 4,000 to 8,000 US Dollars (almost as much as the median family income of 8,575 US Dollars).

That means that when the Kurdish forces commit “terrorism” (or acts of war, depending upon your perspective) against the Turkish military, it’s not a career soldier, but the boy next door who dies.

13015395_10154071326811322_5577340174512902096_n

This is me, taking a pic axe to the hard ground to plant cedar trees with the “Red Soldiers” soccer fan club in Antalya, Turkey.

A few days ago I planted cedar trees with the “Red Soldiers.” (Despite the name, they are actually a soccer fan group, not communists, though there are fascinating links between soccer hooligans and activists here in Turkey – for example, soccer hooligans were the actors in some of the memorable moments of Occupy Gezi in 2013.)

Two of the people also planting trees were an older couple with sad smiles. These two, I was told by a friend, lost their only child to the Kurdish forces some years ago while he was serving in the military. Their son had been a “Red Soldier” soccer fan. They come to the events because when they see the young soccer fans, the vigor and the glint in their eyes, they remember their son.

Another reminder that war is hell, for both sides…

Filed under: Uncategorized

“a normal school that is clean”

I visited a school for Syrian refugee children today here in Antalya, Turkey, with two phenomenal women with Antalya Helping Hands/IWA as they delivered clothing, books, toys, toilet tissue, and school supplies.

There were 150 precious children packed into a school had no electricity and crumbling walls. There are five tiny classrooms and perhaps ten underpaid adult staff, who have been giving all they have for the children. Everyone is thankful for what they do have, but it is a far cry from the normal life that they left in Syria.

“We just want a normal school that is clean,” is what one young student told me. She also told me that they get sick due to the damp conditions in the building. I was filming and interviewing for a modest project to come out soon, with the help of an interpreter who himself has seen death and disease, fleeing Syria with his extended family…

At the of the visit, the students gave me roses…

Filed under: Uncategorized

troubled shores of Mediterranean

Tomorrow, if all goes as planned, I’ll participate in a supply delivery to an unpermitted Syrian elementary school here in Turkey serving refugee children. The school is staffed by Syrian teachers and classes are in Arabic. Turkey has more refugees than anywhere else (three million of them), but refuses to teach refugee children in Arabic, insisting instead that they go to Turkish schools (after they get registered), where they cannot speak the language and where Turkish students and teachers discriminate against them. The result is that so many bright, amazing children have had their education replaced by trauma and stigmatization, and unofficial schools exist everywhere.

Here a sunset view from the troubled shores of the Mediterranean.

13015551_10154061080731322_6403886757870576906_n

Filed under: Uncategorized

change, far from home

Change does happen. Here in Turkey, where life feels on the edge of a knife sometimes. A new State Department advisory warns of potential terrorism in Antalya, where I’ve been most days. I am here until May 3rd. The political climate in Turkey is changing, and not for the better…

It was when I was standing at the Antalya airport on Saturday, speaking with a number of people offering services to German tourists, that the State Department advisory came out. The group was alerted within nineteen minutes. Responses were mixed. One German-born woman shrugged her shoulders and said, “They are always saying this.” Others from the team calmly asked nearby police to check two strange trucks that were nearby (which were harmless). Security was high for the rest of the day. Needless to say, I’m doing my best to stay away from large crowds or targets, and trying to stay safe.

I spent a little time last week in a room with the young parents of a three-year-old Syrian girl. She was running around the room and was fascinated by a little plastic book. But her father said that every time a plane passed overhead here in Turkey, she ran and hid under the bed. Even at her age, she remembered Syria, and the bombs.

Even as I’ve been here, President Erdogan of Turkey actually was in Washington DC speechifying. His bodyguards caused a ruckus when they pushed around protesters, stole their signs, and tried to intimidate reporters. That’s “freedom” according to Erdogan.

I am learning a bit of Turkish, eating too much amazing Turkish cuisine, and spending good quality time looking out at the Mediterranean, while working on some writing projects and trying to get a bit of good work done.

My horoscope for today says, “True to your usual form, you have demonstrated your aptitude for innovation by adjusting to certain unforeseen changes.” Changes are inevitable and I am trying to embrace them as I find myself so far from home.

Also, there is a new constellation in the universe, my newborn niece Ursa Helena Safley. A magical reminder that, when one believes in the basic convergence of good in all life, and the imperative of the forces of good, change is a thing to embrace.

Filed under: Uncategorized

threw myself skipping-stone

12963711_10154054018466322_2379050587844967718_n

In my darkest moment
feet shuffle with lightness
not weighed down
with history and meaning.
Can I finally learn a lesson,
rather than keep pouring this heart onto the pavement?
I will not pour my soul
onto the factory floor –
I will not compromise
In will remember that I am here
after having followed dog whistles
and rainbows – after shouting
out my heart so loud it cracked
the office windows of the elite…
after playing my dreams like a harp that crashed the party
– the cocktail party at the end of the world.

So, so far from home
But the choices made were to throw myself skipping-stone
across the water – like a Jesus who won’t drown.

My eyes search for anything familiar –
something to trust –
but they find only myself,
still asking the same questions
in front of the mirror.

Filed under: poems, Uncategorized

Lacy MacAuley ~ International Relations ~ Radical Dreamer ~ Justice Lover ~ Thought Dancer ~ Heart Writer ~ Divine Dakini ~ based in Washington DC

Lacy Tweets

Building a better world starts with just raising your voice.

If you stand for something, then stand up. Join us. You are part of the solution. lacymacauley@gmail.com