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“But What Can I Do?” is written and recently published by Xan Joi, a self-proclaimed radical Jewish and white lesbian anti-racist womonist/feminist. It is an inspiring communiqué aimed at creating a common, shared knowledge base from which to foment individual and collective action dismantling patriarchy, racism, war, misogyny and creating the kind of society we want all to thrive in!
Since 9/11, Xan has driven over 400,000 miles in her veggie-oil powered box truck, all four sides of which are mobile billboards emblazoned with large, pointed anti-war, anti-violence, pro-peace, pro-empowerment missives.
Xan shares her stories of interactions and understandings with both the ‘choir’ and the ‘other. Her wisdom and expertise have grown out of over 60 plus years of experience and activism.
Today, as we collectively face the threat of impending annihilation this time of our entire planet and not ‘just’ a race, land or a country ,and as we reel from the results of the last presidential electoral college appointment, many people are feeling the intense pain of ‘waking up’ and the critical need to engage in some kind of action.
“But What Can I Do?” offers answers to that very question.
When 9/11 happened, “I KNEW our ‘just go shopping’ president was going to direct us to war IF we didn’t act promptly and fiercely”.
Thus begins the tale of my 400,000 mile journey through every state in the union (except Hawaii and Alaska) and includes my experiences and perspectives surviving as a female, a single mom, a lover of womyn, an anti-racist womonist/feminist, a daughter and granddaughter of refugees from Hitler.
As I would engage with people along my route, as we somberly discussed the impending vengeance that quickly morphed into actual u.s.ofa. war against other human beings not even involved in 9/11, as we delineated the ever-present and growing ‘wrongs’ within our country, our conversations almost always culminated in the query “But What Can I Do?” often accompanied with the same helpless gesture of shrugged shoulders, imploring eyes, and upturned palms.
And so in 2013, with the crumbling of the anti-war movement coinciding with the election of our first Black president, I had the time to set aside for beginning this book.
Prior to 9/11, I considered myself to be a radical womon who was very well-informed, well-read, conscious with my eyes-wide-open, standing tall, speaking up for those silenced, confronting bigotry wherever it reared its ugly head; a womon who proudly touted and treasured my level of awareness and comprehension of what was happening in our country and why. But little did I know that, like the rings of a six thousand year old Baobab tree, I had many, many , many more stratum to uncover and incorporate into my grasp.
For example, I knew that we were a war-mongering country but I didn’t know that all but merely 17 of our 400 plus years of existence we have been at war against someone. Nor did I know that we have attacked, bombed and/or occupied at least 130 countries in our world. I knew we had built an empire that was ruling the planet but I did not know that we have around 1000 military bases – that we know of – around the world.
I knew that our capitalist lifestyle was destroying Mother Earth but I did not know that our military is the number one consumer of fossil fuels on earth and that our country is the #2 consumer of fossil fuels on earth – even though we have less that 5 percent of the human population living here.
I knew that racism existed and that it was intentionally and intensely utilized to justify genocide of Native peoples and enslavement and genocide of African peoples but I didn’t know how, after the Civil War, racism has been perpetuated first by the 13th amendment and institutionalized in our prison industrial complex, and then sustained through Jim Crow and ‘now’ the New Jim Crow and through every institution in our country.
I knew that misogyny has the deepest roots that run through thousands of years through many ‘civilizations’ but I didn’t know the womyn of Afghanistan made up more than half of their legislative body and were the overwhelming majority of doctors in the 1970’s.
I begin this journey by confronting two of the major failings or ‘successes’ of this country that we have to face and untangle:
1) Most of us do NOT know the true history of the United States – we don’t even know the truth about what is presently happening, let alone what took place in the past
2) But we DO know a lot of lies, myths, propaganda about who we are and how we became this way.
I dissect the great “american dream” powered by racism, misogyny, war that is seemingly embedded in our DNA prior to conception or shoved skillfully down our throats to grow with us: a dream that I call the “amerikkkan nitemare” – for it is a nitemare for those of us who are often unthinkingly but deeply committed to frantically pursuing and attaining it.
But it is even more of a nitemare for those human beings targeted and robbed if not murdered in order to provide it for us, not to mention the resulting blows destroying Mother Earth as well.
I identify the ways in which capitalism is so skilled at obfuscating the connections between our origins, our lifestyles, the conditions of our country and resulting impacts on our world. For we as part of the earth’s humans MUST be disconnected from these impacts causing the deprivation and suffering of 85 percent of people on the planet in order to engage in and continue our quest for the amerikkkan nitemare.
Making connections not only allows us to question our lifestyle but also to change our lifestyle which in turn changes our community and then our country. Making connections also enables us to develop and institutionalize a real solution and not just changes that further reflect and perpetuate our empire’s power, exploitation and dominion on earth.
I then share how I came to realize that the question “but what can I do” which inspires the title of my book is only half of the question most of us are asking. The other half centers around our “blank checks of inaction” we give ourselves to not do anything or at best, not enough.
In other words, we are often really asking “but what can I do, if I have enough time? ….if it doesn’t cost me anything or too much, like my job, my family, my life? ….if I have nothing better to do that weekend?”
I talk about our need to make two immediate paradigm changes in our country: 1) we MUST end all forms of violence against another human beings, whether it is the violence of war, of misogyny, of prisons, of racism, of poverty – all of which are basically white and male violence. And 2) we MUST know that it is unconscionable to have more than any other human being on the planet.
I delve into the very beginning of dissecting and dismantling both racism and sexism, for without the total destruction of both of these isms directing our institutions, society, and individuals, change is and will continue to be extremely difficult as well as dangerous for those targeted and dominated by either but especially by both.
At the beginning of 9/11, our supreme court appointed president declared we amerikkans need not sacrifice, not even our shopping sprees but encouraged us to continue gorging. One of the most important stories I share in this book is about sacrifice, specifically the sacrifice of one First Nation community in order to ensure the survival of her people. My conclusion is that the necessity for our current ‘sacrifice’ is not really a sacrifice but a reclaiming of our humanity.
The book concludes with many specific actions and suggestions for actions for change, some of which you may already be incorporating into your lives, others you may want to strive for. This is by no means a comprehensive list nor even the best list available. I solicit and welcome the ideas and strategies from others. As we know like everything else we do in life, it will take a community working collectively to revamp our country and to redirect our society into creating the just and loving environment we want to exist and thrive in.
Read the book : But What Can I Do? And start incorporating the actions and suggestions you read about!
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