“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”
- George Orwell
With the reported discovery, attempted capture and assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the recent terrorist attacks in Boston, questions left lingering in the shadows since the terrorist attacks on the US on 9/11/2001 have once again stepped into the light. Questions that have not been answered and that haunt us not on a conscious level, but on a subconscious level. Questions like what lead to the US 9/11/2001 attacks. The exploration of those questions leads to other questions about American foreign policy and hegemony. Those questions lead to who and how are the terms “terrorism” and “terrorists” reshaped and to whose benefit. Those questions open up a whole new round of examination and each level of inquiry seems to only lead us further down the rabbit hole.
i was living in Harlem when the attacks took place. i watched the television news cameras trained to the aftermath of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center and thought it to be a horrible accident. When the second plane hit it became clear that this was an attack of epic proportions. Whoever planned this knew that with the first plane hitting there would speculation as to what happened, judgement would be withheld on whether or not it was an attack or an accident. In the process of trying to figure out what happened, every available camera would be trained on the World Trade Center and when that second plane hit all the hope of a horrible accident would be drained from us and there would be no doubt that this was an attack.
The second plane hitting the World Trade Center just a few minutes after the first would change the world. In the moment that second plane hit, the US would experience the fear, vulnerability and insecurity that is common place around the world due in large part to US foreign policy. This is a lesson that the US never heeded when Malcolm X commented on the assassination of President Kennedy with his famous “chickens coming home to roost.” The same can be said of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. The terrorism sponsored by the US to achieve its own dominance in the world was coming back to haunt us. What kind of terrorism? The Iran-Contra Affair that lead to the crack cocaine epidemic in the US. The overthrow of governments who put their own interests ahead of US interests. The backing of dictators who put the interests of the US ahead of the interests of their own country. The use of torture in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo and other CIA black sites around the world. The karma laundry list goes on and on…
In the years following those attacks i struggled with the questions of defining “terrorism” and “terrorists” and how those terms are defined and by who and to what benefit. This is the question that you chase down into the rabbit hole. It was something that would not leave me alone because these were terms that i was already wrestling with in terms of the way US political prisoners and prisoners of war (PP & POW) are treated. People like Oscar Lopez Rivera, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Leonard Peltier, Sundiata Acoli, Herman Bell, Marshall Eddie Conway, David Gilbert, and many others who had decided that they couldn’t stand by and allow US hegemony to exercise its will over Puerto Rican, African-American and Native American Peoples. They stood up in defiance to US empire within its own “borders” and in doing so their actions were often labeled as “terrorism” and they were often labeled as “terrorists”. With these recent terrorist attacks on the US the definition of these words “terrorism” and “terrorist” changed.
Within the zeitgeist of 1970 – 1980 the terms “terrorism” and “terrorist” didn’t hold the same kind of weight that it does in a post US 9/11 world. The US government and corporate media had refined and redefined “terrorism” and “terrorist” to now encompass anyone who disagreed with the American empire. The US was drawing a line in the sand and it couldn’t be more clear than when President Bush declared “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists”. The US government and the corporate media had now found a way to compress all dissent to American Empire by expanding the definition of “terrorism” and “terrorists”. As an added bonus this new refinement of the definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist” now seemed to remove any doubt that the actions that US PP & POW’s were accused of, convicted of and were serving incredibly long sentences for, were anything but “terrorist” actions and that they couldn’t be anything but “terrorists”.
In the days, weeks, months and years following those attacks the supporters of members of the Black Liberation Army, Weather Underground, American Indian Movement and Puerto Rican separatists groups languishing for three and four decades in the US now had to fight to keep them from being categorized in this new expanded definition of “terrorism” and terrorist”. We were saddled with the responsibility of having to explain that they were not terrorist’s, because their actions were not acts of terrorism. They were freedom fighters who fought against US oppression.
This issue of “grandfathering” in US PP & POW’s was one that led me to the writing of my film MACHETERO. It was this expansion of the terminology of “terrorism” and “terrorist” in the post US 9/11 attacks that inspired me to make a clear delineation that would exclude US PP & POW’s from the new “terrorism” and the new “terrorist” definition. The film takes a stand against including US PP & POW’s within this all-encompassing and ever-expanding terminology. In trying to get people to think about how and who defines these terms i needed to stay away from the US 9/11 attacks because they were so polarizing so i used a different approach to begin a dialogue that would get people to think outside of the parameters that were being defined within this post US 9/11 zeitgeist.
The issue of US imperialism in Puerto Rico is an issue that unfortunately most people don’t know about. Oddly enough it was the fact that many people didn’t know about the colonial relationship that the US has with Puerto Rico that allowed me to bring up the issues of how and who defines “terrorism” and “terrorist” in a kind of hermetically sealed bubble that could possibly circumvent post US 9/11 polarization. Within that hermetically sealed bubble these issues could spark a potential dialogue that could safely allow that to re-think the issues of 9/11/2001 while at the same time educating them on the US colonial relationship with Puerto Rico.
Now that the issues of terrorism and terrorist are on the minds of many once again i invite you to explore some of these issues through the prism of my film MACHETERO…
MACHETERO opens in New York City for a one week limited theatrical run.
WED. JUNE 12TH – TUES JUNE 19TH
CLEMENTE SOTO VELEZ
KABAYITO’S THEATER (2ND FLOOR)
107 SUFFOLK STREET
NY NY 10002
(BTWN RIVINGTON & DELANCEY)
TICKETS $10 http://machetero.bpt.me
SCREENING TIMES • 1PM • 3PM • 5PM • 7PM • 9PM
F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street.
Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.