11/22/16Words As WeaponsThe Players and the Played: Maintaining Focus Amidst the News
Words As Weapons

I contemplating posting all day yesterday about the need to ready ourselves for direct action against fascists after The Atlantic reported on two hundred white supremacists shouting “Sieg Heil” at a pro-Trump event (if you haven’t seen the video google ‘atlantic sieg hell trump’). I read one person say that these people need “a brick to the face”. That got me instantly riled up and ready to fight. But I held off with the post. Then I was going to post about backlash against college professors who have been seen as critical of Trump (google ‘rutgers professor psych eval’). I held off on that one too. Then, finally confused, I was going to post as I caught up watching The Walking Dead about the probable story-behind-the-story: the way that we react instantly to controversial news articles which seem to constantly appear before us and in doing so we forget about the deeper issues: screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-10-26-16-amthe methodical building of Trump’s vast pro-white, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, pro-military cadre around him; his belligerence with the press; his denying of critical environmental issues; his one hundred day plan; his economic conflicts of interests…and the political demographics in the USA and how they are moving, shifting, and what can be done about it.

We are being played. Not that the stories aren’t valid and worthy of rage, but in that we react with instant intensity and in doing so forget the bigger picture. We get involved in back and forth banter online in arguments about moments, instances, and spectacle. This dulls our proverbial edge. It makes us unable to think as clearly about the bigger picture. At least it does for me.

People like Steve Bannon know how to use the media and social media. Let us never forget that he is both a media expert, a white supremacist and Chief Advisor to the president-elect (and please let us not use the term ‘alt-right’ casually. ‘Alt-right’ = white supremacist). He knows how to work the public. We respond on social media with rage in an instant instead of being methodical planners ourselves and working hard to create the reality that we want. No one is going to hand it to us.

I see the constant flow of insane Trump stories as being the same as offers to eat pizza when I really want to be in better shape. Getting in shape requires constant steady progress, with maybe an occasional slice of pizza along the way. But devouring every slice spiral-tapoffered – and they will be offered daily – means less progress long term towards the most important goals. The stories are valid, in the same way that pizza is delicious (google ‘Sizzle Pie Seattle’) but the effect is the same: no amount of pizza is ever enough to satisfy the illusion of my hunger…and no amount of responding to news will ever satisfy the illusion that rage will remove Trump from the presidency.

While I do believe it would be an excellent idea for each of us to consider (just for fun of course…entertainment purposes always) the weight of a brick in our hands and how far we might be able to throw it if we ever had to, for the moment greater progress will be made through strategy, consolidation of ideas, meeting and sharing thoughts with others, refinement of tactics, self-education, and most importantly monitoring our responses to stimuli. That doesn’t mean be less angry, less critical, less forgiving of a racist rapist xenophobic president-elect and the follower/supporters of his developing policies. Instead it means making sure that we are simultaneously more methodical, tactical, continually strategic, possibly even simmering with anger, but continually in process, and maintaining our greater focus.

11/18/16Words As WeaponsA trans woman’s voice amidst a Trump world
Words As Weapons

1. Tell us about you, Amy? What do you value? What do you love?

I value a lot of different things! I will say I value being able to connect through stories and shared experiences. I guess in a lot of ways you can say I value being able to communicate with others, particularly about issues and and topics that had made you the person you are today. Aside from the human connection I seek in my life, I really love to be out by the water, particularly the ocean. There is something soothing and grounding about being able to see such a massive system contain life and be so much more complex than I could ever know. It makes my problems feel like they are going to be ok.

2. How has this election affected you?

Oof. Where to begin…well I would say that this election has definitely made me fearful. As an example, I have recently come out very publicly as a trans woman and I had this idea I had carried for many years that I was stuck to only being able to living out safely in large cities like Seattle. This troubled me because I was saddened by the thought that my own ability to live safely in my country was severely limited to this liberal islands that are few and far between.

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During the fall I had started to believe that maybe I was wrong. Maybe the bubble wasn’t as small as I had previously imagined it to be. This election, however, has me thinking I was right to feel like my safety as an out trans woman of color is limited to just tiny pockets in the country. It feels deeply discouraging and even within large cities I feel like it would be unwise of me to travel even to a big city alone, and this really stinks, you know?

3. What was life like before the election?

So I had just come out publicly this year, so for me I was really feeling like my life had been shifting in a lot of ways. The safety of being able to walk down the street at night started disappearing as my body began to shift more and I started dressing more comfortably. I started noticing people staring a bit long at me on the bus in the morning, some looking as if they were insulted. It’s a really rough transition to suddenly get attention that feels like deliberate rejection. I started experiencing and meeting folks that felt similarly and I’ve concluded that even within Seattle it is hard to be trans/queer (or basically just not fitting into a normative binary). This election has only heightened all this and it’s been so much shittier to just get to work for fear that those negative stares would turn into something more. I’ve been lucky enough that this has not been the case for me, but I’ve known people that have been less fortunate since the election.

4. What forms of solidarity and support make you feel safer in general and what forms might now post-election?

I gathered a lot of support and solidarity from many different places. One of these places are groups on places like facebook or instagram. We share encouraging articles to each other that give names to our identities, share particular places where someone may have experienced some form of discrimination. We also have groups to trade/sell/buy furniture, clothing, or services from one another and I love that because it also means that you are helping each other in some way.

Other ways are support groups around Seattle that I have leaned on heavily at times. One group specifically that has been and continues to be a tremendous help for me and many other trans folks is the Ingersoll Gender center. They essentially provide spaces where folks know they wont be discriminated against for their gender or how they dress. It also gives us a space to be able to talk about trans issues together, share difficult experiences we may have had, and lift each other up. They have been blessings and I don’t know if I would be where I am today without them.

Also, books. I love reading books written by trans/POC authors. They can be poetry or their own written experiences and I’m absolutely on them. The first book that I found to be so comforting for me was “Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation” by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. The book basically gives a voice to trans narratives and it really helped me see that I wasn’t alone. The last book I read that I loved was “Whipping Girl” by Julia Serano.

Lastly, I have about 2 friends that I talk to on a daily basis. They mean the world to me and are also trans/queer/non-binary. We support each other on big to small issues and I love them <3 Honestly, I feel that my call to action has been to get the attention of the folks NOT in queer communities to speak up. I would feel safer seeing more cis folks listening to our issues. More white men coming and leaning in to hear what we have to say. More people that are not from queer communities attending protests and supporting their queer neighbors. This would make me feel safer, personally. img_1680

5. What forms make you feel less safe or even undermined?

When white or cis folks are unwilling to listen to how this election makes us feel. When they would rather tell us why we shouldn’t be complaining before they’ve even heard our stories. Basically when they use their voices to drown out ours. I feel then that because myself or my community is not heard that we dont matter. This is exactly the same issue, but it feels even more pressing for them to listen because I feel so many policies and attitudes in the United States is determined to change in a really bad way if our voices are not heard.

6. What are you looking forward to in the future?

I would say I’m looking forward to using this particular part of our history and my experiences to speak up. I’m seeing now the power in making my voice loud and my experiences known, because I’m not just speaking for myself anymore. That’s powerful to me because it is a way I can help my community. On a lighter note, I’m super excited for maxi dresses this next summer.

To reach Amy, use the contact form on this page. All messages sent through the contact form with subject line ‘AMY’ will be sent to and read only by her.

11/16/16Words As WeaponsSo its been a week… (Commentary by David Grenier)
Words As Weapons

So it’s been a week.

In the simplest terms, what happened last week is that our side got out-organized by their side.

It’s still unclear if that’s because their side is naturally larger, was more organized, or more motivated.

The good thing is that a hell of a lot of people are getting active and engaged. There are street protests and people raising money for organizations that help those most likely to be effected by the Trump administration. There are people volunteering their time, and trying to figure out how to effectively organize.

There are a lot of folks who are discovering extraelectoral work for the first time.

We need to get more organized.

We need to join and build movements.

We need to build the strength to oppose Trumps agenda and the neofascist forces with an effective strategy.

For many of people, this means moving out of a comfort zone they’ve occupied their whole life. Most folks don’t even join a bowling league, never mind an antifacist cadre.

For many folks their whole life they’ve been told the only two ways to make change are voting in elections and shopping at Whole Foods (or whichever retailer most reinforces your ideological identity). Street protests, sit ins, strikes, literal fights with nazis, teach ins, workshops, and other organized resistance tactics are all really really new. Even the thought of going to any kind of meeting scares the fuck out of a lot of folks.

Everyone is handling this election differently. Some people are mourning and some people are organizing. Many folks are doing both.

One of the most important things we need to do is welcome new people to the movement, whatever part of the movement were connected to.

We need to stop criticizing people for not reacting the same way we are. For being too scared or not scared enough.

We need to understand that people will prioritize different issues. Some folks care about abortion rights and gay marriage the most. Some folks care about immigration and refugee rights the most. No one has infinite time and capacity to dedicate themselves 100% to every issue we face. So don’t get pissy with someone if your top priorities don’t match when we’re all on the same side.

We need to embrace a diversity of tactics. There is no one perfect tactic that is guaranteed to be effective with no collateral damage and that no one will find problematic. Some people will block traffic in street protests. Some people will try to disrupt businesses. Some people will wear a safety pin. Don’t do the enemy’s job for them by trying to quash all resistance that doesn’t take the exact form you think is perfect.

Some people who are new to the movement will have voted for Hillary. Some will have written in Bernie. Some will have voted third party. Some will not have voted. Hell, at some point some people who voted Trump may want to stand up and fight back. Fucking deal with it.

We need to accept that some new folks are not going to be “woke”. They might not have the cultural background to know the right words to use when discussing trans issues. They might not be as sensitive to disability issues. It is our job to either accept these folks for the good of the movement or positively educate them instead of attacking them or “calling them out” as an exercise in shaming and humiliating them.

In fact, many of the new folks will be the dreaded “white people” (or “Whypipo”) we love to mock. Maybe we need to get over that shit and realize constantly bashing white people or attacking newcomers over not properly being “an ally” doesn’t help build the kind of mass movement we need. Maybe we also need to give other people the same respect we want. We don’t get to call it a “microagression” when someone is shitty to us but “white tears/white fragility” when we’re shitty to somebody else. This isn’t middle school and we’re not trying to build the coolest clique of mean girls. This is antifacism and we need every single body we can get.

We have a chance to build a strong movement. It’s already starting to happen. The movement needs recruiters, not gatekeepers.

Let’s make it happen.

Words As WeaponsFight Fair, Fight Unfair
Words As Weapons

A registry for Muslims.
A call for deportations.
A white supremacist as Chief Advisor.
That feeling you have that things just aren’t right.

Believe that feeling.

Under no circumstances should any of the following post be interpreted as being for anything other than entertainment purposes only.

Ongoing discussion, debate, argument: yes. Continual self education: yes. Supporting local communities: yes. Standing with marginalized people: yes. Getting off the internet and into the streets: yes.

Fight fair. Fight unfair. Refuse/resist.

Click to find out more.

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11/15/16Words As WeaponsAll hands on deck…life in time of dissent
Words As Weapons

All hands on deck. All voices heard. Our president-elect just hired a white supremacist endorsed by the KKK as his Chief Advisor.

Refuse / resist.

The following are 198 methods of nonviolent protest.

Note: I neither advise, support, or suggest involvement with any specific item on this list. I am posting it for entertainment purposes only. Do with it what you will.

The Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion

Formal Statements
1. Public Speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public statements
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions

Communications with a Wider Audience
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting

Group Representations
13. Deputations
14. Mock awards
15. Group lobbying
16. Picketing
17. Mock elections

Symbolic Public Acts
18. Displays of flags and symbolic colors
19. Wearing of symbols
20. Prayer and worship
21. Delivering symbolic objects
22. Protest disrobings
23. Destruction of own property
24. Symbolic lights
25. Displays of portraits
26. Paint as protest
27. New signs and names
28. Symbolic sounds
29. Symbolic reclamations
30. Rude gestures

Pressures on Individuals
31. “Haunting” officials
32. Taunting officials
33. Fraternization
34. Vigils

Drama and Music
35. Humorous skits and pranks
36. Performances of plays and music
37. Singing

Processions
38. Marches
39. Parades
40. Religious processions
41. Pilgrimages
42. Motorcades

Honoring the Dead
43. Political mourning
44. Mock funerals
45. Demonstrative funerals
46. Homage at burial places

Public Assemblies
47. Assemblies of protest or support
48. Protest meetings
49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
50. Teach-ins

Withdrawal and Renunciation
51. Walk-outs
52. Silence
53. Renouncing honors
54. Turning one’s back

The Methods of Social Noncooperation

Ostracism of Persons
55. Social boycott
56. Selective social boycott
57. Lysistratic nonaction
58. Excommunication
59. Interdict

Noncooperation with Social Events, Customs, and Institutions
60. Suspension of social and sports activities
61. Boycott of social affairs
62. Student strike
63. Social disobedience
64. Withdrawal from social institutions

Withdrawal from the Social System
65. Stay-at-home
66. Total personal noncooperation
67. “Flight” of workers
68. Sanctuary
69. Collective disappearance
70. Protest emigration (hijrat)

The Methods of Economic Noncooperation: Economic Boycotts

Actions by Consumers
71. Consumers’ boycott
72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
73. Policy of austerity
74. Rent withholding
75. Refusal to rent
76. National consumers’ boycott
77. International consumers’ boycott

Action by Workers and Producers
78. Workmen’s boycott
79. Producers’ boycott

Action by Middlemen
80. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott

Action by Owners and Management
81. Traders’ boycott
82. Refusal to let or sell property
83. Lockout
84. Refusal of industrial assistance
85. Merchants’ “general strike”

Action by Holders of Financial Resources
86. Withdrawal of bank deposits
87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
88. Refusal to pay debts or interest
89. Severance of funds and credit
90. Revenue refusal
91. Refusal of a government’s money

Action by Governments
92. Domestic embargo
93. Blacklisting of traders
94. International sellers’ embargo
95. International buyers’ embargo
96. International trade embargo

The Methods of Economic Noncooperation: The Strike

Symbolic Strikes
97. Protest strike
98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)

Agricultural Strikes
99. Peasant strike
100. Farm Workers’ strike

Strikes by Special Groups
101. Refusal of impressed labor
102. Prisoners’ strike
103. Craft strike
104. Professional strike

Ordinary Industrial Strikes
105. Establishment strike
106. Industry strike
107. Sympathetic strike

Restricted Strikes
108. Detailed strike
109. Bumper strike
110. Slowdown strike
111. Working-to-rule strike
112. Reporting “sick” (sick-in)
113. Strike by resignation
114. Limited strike
115. Selective strike

Multi-Industry Strikes
116. Generalized strike
117. General strike

Combination of Strikes and Economic Closures
118. Hartal
119. Economic shutdown

The Methods of Political Noncooperation

Rejection of Authority
120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
121. Refusal of public support
122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance

Citizens’ Noncooperation with Government
123. Boycott of legislative bodies
124. Boycott of elections
125. Boycott of government employment and positions
126. Boycott of government departments, agencies, and other bodies
127. Withdrawal from government educational institutions
128. Boycott of government-supported organizations
129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions

Citizens’ Alternatives to Obedience
133. Reluctant and slow compliance
134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
135. Popular nonobedience
136. Disguised disobedience
137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
138. Sitdown
139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
140. Hiding, escape, and false identities
141. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws

Action by Government Personnel
142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
143. Blocking of lines of command and information
144. Stalling and obstruction
145. General administrative noncooperation
146. Judicial noncooperation
147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by
enforcement agents
148. Mutiny

Domestic Governmental Action
149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units

International Governmental Action
151. Changes in diplomatic and other representations
152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
154. Severance of diplomatic relations
155. Withdrawal from international organizations
156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
157. Expulsion from international organizations

The Methods of Nonviolent Intervention

Psychological Intervention
158. Self-exposure to the elements
159. The fast
a) Fast of moral pressure
b) Hunger strike
c) Satyagrahic fast
160. Reverse trial
161. Nonviolent harassment

Physical Intervention
162. Sit-in
163. Stand-in
164. Ride-in
165. Wade-in
166. Mill-in
167. Pray-in
168. Nonviolent raids
169. Nonviolent air raids
170. Nonviolent invasion
171. Nonviolent interjection
172. Nonviolent obstruction
173. Nonviolent occupation

Social Intervention
174. Establishing new social patterns
175. Overloading of facilities
176. Stall-in
177. Speak-in
178. Guerrilla theater
179. Alternative social institutions
180. Alternative communication system

Economic Intervention
181. Reverse strike
182. Stay-in strike
183. Nonviolent land seizure
184. Defiance of blockades
185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
186. Preclusive purchasing
187. Seizure of assets
188. Dumping
189. Selective patronage
190. Alternative markets
191. Alternative transportation systems
192. Alternative economic institutions

Political Intervention
193. Overloading of administrative systems
194. Disclosing identities of secret agents
195. Seeking imprisonment
196. Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws
197. Work-on without collaboration
198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government

11/09/16Words As WeaponsElection 2016: What Went Wrong
Words As Weapons

What went wrong tonight is that a disenfranchised and ignored America (and I won’t even try to compartmentalize them by “non college educated” or “rural” monikers etc because it’s too limiting to do so) who, starting after the American Dream post-WWII (where hard work yielded tangible life-enhancing results) began a long seventy year slide into futility and nothingness. They finally had enough. Hard work doesn’t any longer produce the realization of dreams. Their self esteem was cracked and broken by forces outside their control.

This is a demographic who continually saw their voices outshadowed by liberals who didn’t represent their values, and by establishment conservatives who only protected their own interests. People finally had it and wanted change. The republicans offered a radical (though sickening in basically every way) change agent. Democrats offered an establishment candidate, having pushed aside a radical (if wildly optimistic) change agent.

Donald Trump, a rapist fascist racist with no political experience whatsoever, showed up with a promise that spoke to the heart of the ignored masses: to make their lives great again. He offered real change. That promise is the one that the masses have felt was needed but ignored for the last seventy plus years.

And Trump then hammered his message home by speaking THEIR language, and by using a proven technique: he offered a psychological sense of defense from “others” who threatened to infiltrate and destroy the nation. These others, from Mexico, from abroad, and those differing others within the nation, threatened in Trump’s mindset and speeches to break the collective potential new-American sense of self worth by infiltrating and destroying the benefits that the Trump’s promise would otherwise bring.

Social scientists (google “terror management theory”) have shown that reminders of terrorism or death and threats to one’s personal belief system cause individuals to latch on to political candidates who promise safety through strength. Trump did exactly that with the ‘build a wall’ and terrorist language, and by adding Pence and his historical gay hate rhetoric. Their main constituencies were neither gay, Mexican, or so on. And so out groups were established.

Trump promised salvation from the past, hope for the future, and then through a commitment of an iron fist gave his word that he would defend that promise now. This is sociology and psychology combined and used for the worst possible personal gain. The saddest part is that the disenfranchised masses were and have been so upset that they were willing to put aside Trump’s rapes (in part because they themselves as citizens of fully fledged rape culture are so accustomed to rape and its language and actions that they don’t consider it an issue) and his other sickening negative qualities because the promise of a better tomorrow was far more important to them than hatred and issues affecting people who weren’t like them.

Trump’s inherent racism was actually an attractive quality to these voters. The nature of racism is to establish an out group and blame them for the ills of the world. Same psychology as before is seen here again: the threat, literal or perceived, by an out group who threaten our promise of a better future is soothed by supporting a candidate who offers to protect us from those others. This is true whether the voters felt uncomfortable about gays, foreigners, women, or any other “other” group the new leader established as an enemy. 

The charismatic leader who promises to destroy that other group is really promising to destroy that which threatens our concept of hope, our self esteem, and our future. Again it’s psychology used to enhance hatred through mass hysteria focused on everyone’s need for self worth regardless of the cost to other people.

What happened tonight is the perfect storm of history and psychology.

The next question is what to do next. My answer for the moment is this:

Fight hard, fight fair, fight unfair, fight relentlessly. Fight for compassion. Fight against hatred through your actions and words. Fight for what you feel is right. Speak out. Say something. Say it loud. Build local constituencies. Enhance representatives who truly speak for you, or who ARE you, while constantly remembering that no elected official will ever serve you better than you can serve yourself and your community. If we are silent now, we might as well roll over and die. And in doing so we will take the groups and individuals who are the focus of new-American hate with us. Now is the time to fight with our hearts and minds and voices and lives

The forces working against us are political, historical, and psychological. Tonight is just the beginning point. There is a long road ahead.

10/29/16Words As WeaponsInterview with Leslie James Pickering
Words As Weapons

Since the time he served as spokesperson for the Earth Liberation Front Press Office between the late 90’s to the early 2000’s Leslie James Pickering has been continually active as an advocate for the earth and the autonomy of its creatures.

He has recently been under government surveillance along with his family and business, being branded as a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI.  Here, in his own words, he describes his ideas, the background of his case, and discusses his upcoming speaking tour on which he will explore the nature of the claims against him and the implications they have for us all.

1. For those who are unfamiliar with you, your work as spokesperson for the ELF Press Office, and so on, can you give us an overview about who you are and why you’re you?

LESLIE JAMES PICKERING: I was just one of the young people drawn into the struggles for environmentalism and animal liberation during the 1990s.  I grew up here in Buffalo, skateboarding and listing to punk, hardcore and hip hop, and just soaking up all these ideas about how screwed up our society was.  I wasn’t into the American Dream thing so much.  My lesbian, counterculture aunt took me to a Bad Religion show in the 8th grade and things just kept snowballing.  At 15, I picked up some issues of Holocaust and Dressed In Black at an Earth Crisis show.  Those zines taught me about the Animal Libewegmans_surveillanceration Front, and I was completely won over.  At 16, I moved to SF with a potential future skateboarding, but I found something there much more compelling.  I hooked up with this group of people that were obsessed with getting arrested for protesting animal experimentation.  We were running around at night, climbing buildings with ski masks and radios… It was wild.  It felt like a calling or something.  At 17, I dropped out of school, left home and submerged myself in struggles for social justice.  I barely worked, got arrested a couple dozen times and was just doing whatever I could to fight for wilderness and autonomy.  I kept at it, and one thing led to another.  The Earth Liberation Front formed and started sending us their communiqués.  I guess I was just in the right place at the right time, but I also worked to put myself there.  My friend Craig and I formed the Earth Liberation Front Press Office, so that we could put all our energy into PR work for the ELF and better spread the word.  The ELF just blew up, became the FBI’s “#1 domestic terrorist priority.”  We were doing this crazy amount of national press and were getting regularly subpoenaed to federal grand juries and harassed and raided by the FBI…  Now I’m back here in Buffalo, have a family and we run Burning Books and the FBI’s saying that our bookstore is a front to form a 9-person eco-terrorist cell, and that I’m its “mastermind sociopath.”  For me, and a lot of our allies, this is just life.  We’re not looking to retire or anything.  Not expecting to get wealthy or appreciated.  We’re just in the struggle because that’s what you do.  When your people and your relations are being killed, oppressed and imprisoned, when the Earth is being ravaged like it is…that’s your calling.  You just find a way to answer it.

2. Why is everyone scared of Leslie James Pickering? 

LESLIE JAMES PICKERING:  Are they?  If the people in power are afraid of anything it’s being held accountable for the crimes they’ve committed against the rest of us.  Our movements threaten those kinds of consequences, but I like to think I’m a pretty nice guy.  I love my family, our communities and allies, the wilderness…  It seems silly to think that anyone would be afraid of me.  I am more than happy to be playing a role in this struggle, however.  There’s really nothing I’d rather do with my life.

3. What do you think has been the most important project or initiative you’ve been involved with?

LESLIE JAMES PICKERING: I’m always trying to figure that out, because I want to make the most of life and the future’s looking too grim to take lightly.  Asking that question was what moved Craig and I to form the Earth Liberation Front Press Office, and I think that was a pretty good project.  I’m really into Burning Books.  We’re working to build something solid that supports and legitimizes the struggle.  Its grueling work at times, but we need strong movement institutions if we want new and powerful formations to keep sprouting up.  The support work that we do for Seth Hayes, Jalil Muntaqim, David Gilbert and other political prisoners is important in the same way.  My support for political prisoners largely comes from my support of what they’ve contributed to the struggle.  How can we expect anyone to consider fighting today or tomorrow if we neglect our allies that are in prison for fighting yesterday?  I also see the more confrontational protests I got involved in early on as really important.  Learning is largely experiential, and those experiences shaped a generation of us that are still at it.  We really don’t have any time to waste.  Start a campaign.  Go to Standing Rock.  Throw yourself out there, follow your passions, but be smart.  The future is what the people struggle to make it.

4. Can you tell us why you are not a “domestic terrorist”?

LESLIE JAMES PICKERING: No, not really.  The way I see it, this is an international resistance movement against oppression.  I could try to claim to just be an activist who exercises free speech and other activities protected under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but what does that imply about our underground allies?  My work is a component of the overall struggle.  The goal is liberation, not to find an easy or comfortable way to simply voice a level of disseopenedandassigned02-01-2012nt.  If the Informal Anarchist Federation, ELF, ALF, Black Liberation Army, United Freedom Front, George Jackson Brigade, Weather Underground, AntiSec… are “terrorists,” then we should at least happy to be in good company.  There should be nothing new or surprising about being called nasty names by the system that we’re fighting for liberation from.

5. What is your upcoming tour about and what are the key messages you hope to convey?

LESLIE JAMES PICKERING: I’ll be showing a bunch of newly unclassified FBI documents and walking audiences through the 2-year attempt to frame Burning Books up on a fictitious eco-terrorism conspiracy.  Informants, federal grand juries and a wide array of
surveillance activities will be brought to light, detailing how repression works against our movements.  It should be pretty eye-opening.  It’s one thing to know about this stuff abstractly, but another to really see it up close.  I’ll emphasize how repression should be expected and needs to be resisted, but I’ll also stress how our own fear is the most powerful outcome of repression.  If you walk away simply afraid of the government, I’ve failed.  I got into this struggle because I was inspired by underground direct action.  The FBI focuses on our movements because we are so strong, because we have the potential to change the world.  My message is always that we can fight back.

6. When you consider the state of the world today environmentally, what are the issues you see as most dire (bonus question only if you have time: might you offer any ideas for how we can correct those situations?)

LESLIE JAMES PICKERING: There’s no time to waste when it comes to issues like the environment, police murder of people of color and incarceration, etc.  We already have plenty of examples of how we can fight and win.  We just have to start looking at them, and start acting on them much more intensely.  Whenever powerful movements sprout up, the state responds with repression and violence.  But it’s really our own apathy and fear that keep us down the most.  If we organize with the understanding that repression is an inevitable result of progress, and we really commit ourselves to the struggle, there’s nothing that can stop us.

 

LESLIE JAMES PICKERING – FALL 2016 TOUR SCHEDULE

7pm, Friday, November 4, 2016 = Artrage, 505 Hawley Avenue, Syracuse, New York – https://www.facebook.com/events/361648534181227/

7pm, Saturday, November 5, 2016 = Plainfield Co-op, 153 Main Street, Plainfield, Vermont

6pm, Sunday, November 6, 2016 = Dreamship Cooperative Community, 15 Boynton Street, Portland, Maine – https://www.facebook.com/events/347244938953207/

7pm, Thursday, November 10, 2016 = Wesleyan University, PAC 107, Middletown, Connecticut

5pm, Friday, November 11, 2016 = IWW Union Hall, 375 Smith St, Providence, Rhode Island – https://www.facebook.com/events/1117813588297496/

7pm, Saturday, November 12, 2016 = Democracy Center, 45 Mt Auburn Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts – https://www.facebook.com/events/1134358393324836/

2pm, Sunday, November 13, 2016 = WESPAC, 31 Mamaroneck Avenue, Suite 403, White Plains, New York

LEARN MORE AT: http://www.lesliejamespickering.com

 

10/27/16Words As WeaponsTour with Great Reversals…November 2016
Words As Weapons

Heading out on a five day spoken word tour in two weeks with my friends in Great Reversals. Hear me rant about our relationship with power/authority or our need for risk/connection, depending on the night. See you soon friends.

PITTSBURG PA November 10th:
https://www.facebook.com/events/740719986094316/

PHILADELPHIA PA November 11th with Toska and Pulling Punches:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1810231775902562/

BOONTON NEW JERSEY – November 12th with Hell Mary:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1778137169123860/

COLUMBUS OH – November 13th:
https://www.facebook.com/events/904335449697246/

DETROIT MI – November 14th with Bracewar, Bent Life, and Bitter Peace AD in Detroit:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1691888801130664/

Download the new Great Reversals record here for free:
https://gr8rev.bandcamp.com/album/mere-mortals

FOLLOWUP POST TOUR 11/15/2016

Just walked in the door after flying home from my spoken word tour with the passionate hardcore band Great Reversals: five excellent humans and truly sincere people.
 
So many people helped make this tour happen: in Pittsburg, Kristine Michelle Hayes is the embodiment of determination and courage. In Philadelphia, Andrew at Hydrogen Man Records put on a great show and Chris Striegel taught us how to eat in quantities that would kill a normal human. Paul Alan in New Jersey put on the only seven band show in history that ended early. Josh at Head2Wall Records in Columbus Ohio created a banger of a show which was a tour highlight featuring vegan Polish food(!). And Maxxwell Lange in Detroit managed to get 120 kids to come out to a Monday night show in a display of pure promotional genius.
 
So many bands to thank and for you to check out: Hell Mary, Northern Widows (like Nails on steroids), Pulling Punches, TOSKA, None Above All, Silence Equals Death (like One King Down for 2016), Bitter Peace A.D., Bent Life and so many more. Steven Muczynski lent us his van. Mike Moynihan took photos. I am forgetting key people I am sure. So many true friends.
 
Spoken word in the hardcore/punk scene is an exercise in honesty: getting out of your head, being present in the moment, and opening up as much as possible in front of strangers in new bizarre settings every night. Few things are more intimidating and as fulfilling. Thank you to everyone who interacted and engaged with ideas on what to do now that our future is entirely in our hands. Our heroes are dead. No kings or priests or leaders are coming to save us. Any hope is within each of our abilities to connect with and expand to others amidst insecurity and fear. Our communities, our world, and our lives depend on it.
 
See you next time, and there will be many more next times. xxx

gb-great-rev-tour-poster

09/23/16Words As WeaponsI see you. I am here.
Words As Weapons

I just had a truly genuine human interaction. I was walking from my loft to the train, about a mile or so. I usually take a back way, along the tracks, by some spray painted walls and broken chain link fences. Just now as I was walking that path, about fifty yards ahead I saw a guy in tattered clothes climbing out of the bushes. He was collecting his things on the ground. My brain went into “self protection” mode as I got close. I knew the pitch was coming. I was a few feet away when he stopped me. “Excuse me,” he said, launching into what I assumed was the pitch for money, “Can I ask you something?” I stopped and turned to him, “Yes?”

He immediately started in with the pitch, with the rushed cadence of someone who has been denied so many times and who knows they need to get all the important words out as quickly as they can. “Well I’ve been having a hard time and I’ve been staying out here and I am wondering…I don’t know what to do… if you could help because I need help and I was wondering…”

I cut him off, slightly impatient for him to get to the point so that I could catch my train. I was ready for him to finish the pitch so I could say, “No…I don’t have any cash on me, sorry my friend” and walk on. I said, “I do need to get to the train…is there something specific you needed?” I was trying to prompt the end of the interaction.

He took a deep breath and said, “Well I’m not sure if I should just stay out here again and walk around for a few days, or just go to jail and turn myself in because the drug of my addiction makes it hard to be around people when I try and stop. And maybe it’s not safe for them and I think I should just turn myself in at the jail or else just walk around and try to avoid people for the next couple days…….what would you do?”

There was no money pitch. He was literally just asking for advice. The look on his face was truly desperate, sad, exhausted. I took a deep breath too and my whole tone changed. My whole world changed. I told him, so I could establish common ground, that someone very close to me was an addict and that I wanted to hear more. The look on his face in that moment. I don’t have words for it. He realized he was being listened to.

He told me about his addiction and where he was in his life. We talked about options. We talked about staying away from jail because the police are not friends of African American men, the homeless, or the drug addicted. We talked about how he was doing everything right by considering the safety of those around him. We talked about how good it was that he was trying to get sober even if the path seemed impossible. We talked about places he could walk to downtown to ask about safe places to detox and hopefully sleep safely. It was one of the most genuine conversations I’ve been a part of in forever. I just hope it was helpful.

At the end of our talk I told him again that he was doing everything right by trying to get sober and to keep himself and those around him safe. He looked at me and said thanks and added, “I’m trying. I can’t do it alone.”

As I turned and walked away he was looking out across the tracks, considering his options.
This isn’t a post about me. It’s a post about all of us. Its a post about being so wrapped up in getting to a train, one that runs every five minutes, that I would have been willing to ignore and deny another human being who was in a desperate place, before he even had a chance to finish his first sentence and connect. How jaded have I become, and how self absorbed. I think about the greeting one encounters in Africa when a person will greet another by saying, “I see you” and the response to having that said to you is, “I am here”. Connection, at the most basic level. Seeing one another. Being here. And how simple it can be to reach across the closest of distances…that is…if we don’t make those distances so far by being wrapped up in our own seemingly-so-important absolute bullshit.

I see you. I am here.

My only regret is that I didn’t ask his name, the guy by the side of the tracks who is trying to get sober in a way that keeps those around him safe, and who was at the point where he was willing to ask for help from a total stranger. What a hero.

07/31/16Words As WeaponsThe masks we wear
Words As Weapons

I dropped out of college after my freshman year in order to study mask making and the theory of masks for a year with an absolutely brilliant theater performer in rural Connecticut named Larry Hunt. I spent a year watching him perform, learning his techniques as a mask maker, exploring what masks signify, seeing where they manifest in society and culture, and realizing how they can be used to shed light on what is hidden underneath the surface of what we present to the world.

LARRY HUNT

To say that Larry was a profound influence on me is the greatest understatement. Larry showed me what it meant to be a citizen of the world, a performer of the stage, and to combine the two together. Simply put, Larry Hunt was a genius. It was like he was five people in one. He was politically aware, deeply empathic, and had the ability to synthesize all that he felt and thought and saw into performances which left audiences speechless and inspired to transform their lives. I am as in awe of his abilities today as I was the first moment I saw him onstage as a teenager.

Larry Hunt used stage performances with actual masks that he would wear and switch to play various characters representing our emotions and inner feelings. He transformed the world he saw – politically and socially – into new language that everyone could understand by showing us our own faces. He asked everyone who saw him perform to reflect on ourselves and on the masks we wear and invited us to think about what they hide, and what they reveal.

Aside from what I learned from him, the lessons of which are continuing to this day, at the end of that year when I was clueless about what I wanted to do next in life, Larry inspired me further by suggesting that I move to Seattle to explore acting and study theater at Cornish College of the Arts. Because of his influence I went and auditioned and spent the next few years getting a fine arts degree and forming the foundation of what was to become the next huge section of my life in the Pacific Northwest.

When I heard late last night that Larry had died yesterday in Connecticut, I was stunned. Mostly because this was a man of the most incredible talent, yet one who few if any had heard of. He wasn’t an internet star. He didn’t have his own tv show. No national press will cover his untimely passing. He was just an artist. And I say that in jest. Just an artist. He was a creative revolutionary.

Most eulogy posts yield comments of people saying they are sorry to hear the news and hoping the writer is ok. My life has been far more than okay thanks to the influence of Larry Hunt. I hope that instead of sorrow that this post serves to have us all reflect on our masks. What version of ourselves do we present to the world and why? What do we hide? What do we reveal in the character we play for the people around us? How do our masks protect us? How would we be more loving, more passionate, and more alive if we were to strip away some of our masks, change them, or even add more in times of need? If we ask what we gain and what we lose as a result of the masks we wear, we might very well run the risk of leading more genuine lives.

Our masks – which convey our personality, our responses to emotions, our aggressions, our pride and ego and insecurities – protect, serve, inhibit and elevate us. Larry Hunt asked us to reflect on the masks we wear and on those worn by our leaders, friends, enemies, lovers and those around us. His message and legacy wasn’t that we should remove all masks but rather to understand them on a deeper level. If our mask is rage for example, might it not help us and the people nearby if we were to consider removing that mask if indeed pain and vulnerability were beneath it? We can ask ourselves questions like this about every emotion we feel or react to, and about every aspect of our personalities which we share and pride ourselves on.

Let’s have today and in fact every day be a reflection for us on what masks we wear, why we wear them, and who we are beneath them. A more honest interaction with the world and a stronger bond on a more genuine level with those around us await.

While we all wear masks, Larry Hunt changed lives with his. Underneath what he wore, he was a genius, a true artist, and a dear friend.

“Masked, I advance.”
– René Descartes

In memoriam, Larry Hunt.
November 6, 1949 – July 30th, 2016

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