what it is ain't exactly clear

It's been quiet on my weekend job, a rare occurrence these days, so I've been clicking around and reading a lot. Here are some goodies I found for you on activism - and backlash - happening all around.

  • A new game: Six Degrees of Exploitation, staring Kevin Bacon as a spokesperson for Hanes. United Students Against Sweatshops have been dogging him around the country, trying to get the actor to back up his progressive words with some progressive pressure on the company he shills for.

  • Tree-sitters in Berkeley are being arrested and harassed, as they bring attention to a grove of old trees, which is also a Native American burial ground. The University of California, Berkeley plans to bulldoze the area to make room for a $125 million sports centre.

    I'm linking to the Common Dreams reprint, rather than the original in the San Francisco Gate, because the comments are more interesting (and less stupid). People are very quick to dismiss people who engage in these types of protest. But how many of us are committed enough to sacrifice comfort and safety for our beliefs?

  • Champion bridge players say, "We did not vote for Bush" and get in trouble for it. At the awards ceremony for an international bridge tournament, the champion US women's team held that simple written statement in the air. The United States Bridge Federation slapped sanctions on the players, including fines and suspensions. Note that the women didn't say "Bush is an evil dictator". They merely said "we didn't vote for him". Apparently that was too much. Richard Kim, writing in The Nation reminds us this is anything but an isolated incident.
    But take heart, the fabulous ladies at the center of this controversy aren't ready to make nice, and I'm glad they're putting up a fight. All across this country the common but courageous dissent of citizens is being censored and attacked. Anti-war vets calling for withdrawal from Iraq were banned from a parade in Long Beach, CA. High school students in Chicago are threatened with expulsion for staging a peaceful anti-war protest. More than a dozen anti-war protesters, fittingly wearing gags over their mouths, were arrested outside of Boston's city hall.

    And the list goes on. As individual incidents, each provoke a momentary pang of sympathy, a head nod, maybe an exasperated email to your bridge buddies. But taken as a whole, I suspect it adds up to a more disturbing picture--of a nation that went quietly mad, except for a few who spoke up and were ostracized for it; of a country where politics became so estranged from everyday life, that the ordinary expression of it was called treason.

    People are comparing this story to that of Tommie Smith and John Carlos - the US runners who raised the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics - but I'm not ready to tag bridge with my "activism in sports" label.

  • And finally, Barbara Ehrenreich on child labor slavery for The Gap. It's truly stomach-turning. Hopefully it's enough to make you stop shopping at The Gap, and to tell them why.
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