03/09/17Words As WeaponsInternational Women’s Day
Words As Weapons

I spent my International Women’s Day speaking at two shows in Fargo North Dakota about the most important woman in my life: my mom.

I told the story of how my parents met as a result of my mother being a renegade as a teenager and breaking rules at a dance. And then years later, when she was disrespected by a principal while working as a schoolteacher, she decided to get pregnant, quit her job, and have a child instead of continuing to work for an oppressive school administration. Cue little Greg being conceived and brought into this world in an act of defiance against authority.

My mom is a woman of strength, creativity, empathy and courage. She has always been an example for me of what is possible when you combine heart, voice, and passion. She inspires people in all walks of her life, me especially.

When I think of International Women’s Day, I think of powerful leaders, inspired mothers, devoted daughters, dear friends, sensitive healers, allied comrades and clear visionaries.

My mom is all those things and more, and tonight I send love to her from across the country in Fargo ND.

03/04/17Words As WeaponsWhether ten people or a thousand
Words As Weapons

It’s hardcore. And this means that you turn it on and give it everything you’ve got, whether you’re playing or speaking to ten people or a thousand. And so often the nights with ten people yield some of the strongest connections and lasting friendships in the long run. People want connection. They want meaning. That’s why they are here. And they can smell from a mile away the bullshit of someone just going through the motions.

If, and it’s the huge if, regardless of the number of people in the room, you’ve played it like it was the last show of your life, then the night is going to resonate no matter what.

Being on tour with bands that just get it feels like we’re a collective force of passion and intensity which is unbreakable. Tonight was Franklin Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis. Maybe fifteen people at the show. In a huge empty space. And it was perfect. This was a night that’s echoing for me all the way into the morning now.

It’s hardcore. And when it’s right, whether ten people or a thousand, it feels like the world is ours. It shakes us down to our bones.

(Great Reversals onstage here killing it, followed by my spoken word set, followed by my dear friends Steven Muczynski, Mike Moynihan, and their immense band Hollow Earth to close out the night)

 

03/01/17Words As WeaponsSpoken word tour with Hollow Earth!
Words As Weapons

Tour starts tomorrow in Chicago!  I will be doing the first two weeks of this tour, up until the Seattle show, with the exception of Kelowna (which I am working on rescheduling for myself for April or May) and Vancouver (same deal there).  I had to fly away from tour due to a commercial speaking engagement coming up for me.

STOKED to see friends!

 

 

Words As WeaponsEvery Human Has Rights shirt now available
Words As Weapons

A benefit shirt has been posted for One Hundred For Haiti which speaks to the ideas in this blog…

Available now: a benefit shirt for One Hundred For Haiti and our friends the Hardcore Help Foundation (HHF) in Europe.  The result of a brainstorm between Rico of the HHF and me one day at Ieperfest in Belgium while we were sitting around talking about how we could collaborate.

“EVERY HUMAN HAS RIGHTS” printed on 100% cotton, fair trade shirts.

17 euros plus shipping and available from the Hardcore Help Foundation online store.  And USA friends have no fear: shipping rates from Europe are far less than when we ship stuff TO Europe from here…so please order with wild abandon and be stylish as well as helpful for the work we do.

01/31/17Words As WeaponsOur “mountainish inhumanity”…
Words As Weapons

Amidst the shock doctrine surrounding us and the confusion of this first Trump week which has us all understandably scrambling, I am committing to making time for educating myself and looking back on history to see how our features and traits have descended through time. These features and traits are the tendencies which are being used and manipulated to have us respond the way we currently are. What is our humanity. What does it mean. What negativity in each of us has prevailed over time. Where does our fear originate and why. What is it in ourselves and others that causes us to act the way we do.

Five hundred years ago, in May of 1517, an anti-immigrant riot broke out in London. The general population had been swept up into a crazed frenzy out of fear of losing jobs and social status to foreigners.

That tells us something about us: that five hundred years worth of time has passed yet society creates similar conditions. It tells us about our willingness as people to pinpoint an enemy. And about our psychology as we deal with that enemy. This isn’t restricted to the Trump followers. It’s within all of us: the tendency to define a threatening other and declare them the reason for our ills. This comes out of fear of losing our significance and needing an enemy. We would be wise to explore this in each of ourselves as we berate the fascist Trump and his handlers Steve Bannon because it could be tomorrow that we ourselves are triggered to respond in the same way that the crazed anti-immigrant contingency is currently praising Trump for the idiotic concept of protecting us by closing our borders. We need to continually fight and yet continually reflect at the same time.

I’m reading Shakespeare’s account of Thomas More standing and delivering his impassioned speech to the angry London mob in 1517. He pleads with them to consider their “mountainish inhumanity”.

Listening in on history we see how little has changed over five hundred years. This above all else this morning concerns me.

“Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.”

– The Book of Sir Thomas More, Act 2, Scene 4

01/26/17Words As WeaponsHow Trump Will Trick the World
Words As Weapons

Trump’s idiotic doublespeak on ABC tonight about how Mexico will be paying for the wall can be translated this way:

He will be taking money which would have been used in aid packages from the USA to Mexico to build the wall. Then, without any money changing hands he will be able to say that Mexico “paid” for the wall. Problem solved.

For the record, every person I met or talked to in Mexico over the last couple weeks thinks Trump is a fool. They hate his wall. They hate him. They have no interest in paying for the wall. They are human beings. They are not worker slaves the way NAFTA defined them twenty years ago. They are people with dignity.

Best quote of the last couple weeks, and I heard variations on this repeatedly from different people in different cities across Mexico:

“You can build walls. We can build tunnels.”

01/25/17Words As WeaponsIn less than a week…
Words As Weapons

In less than a week…

— Dangerous and unpopular pipelines of questionable economic value to the US become a priority. Coincidentally, Trump has a financial interest in these projects.

— An executive order to begin rolling back the ACA, which will negatively affect the markets and leave millions unable to get health insurance.

— The abject dismissal of the largest public protest in American history.

— Confirmation that Trump will never release his taxes, despite repeated promises to do so. Although 65% of Americans want his taxes released and 200+K have signed a White House petition, the administration claims that people just don’t care.

— The first volley in an assault on women’s reproductive rights and women’s health in this country and abroad.

— Outright and obvious lies from the press secretary about crowd size to protect Trump’s fragile ego during perhaps the most embarrassing, “Baghdad Bob” style press conferences in modern American history.

— The notion of “alternative facts” is promoted by the highest levels of our government.

— A hiring freeze for federal workers (except the military!) based on the demonstrable lie that the government has seen a dramatic expansion in recent years.

— A federally funded investigation into the baseless claim that there were more than 3 million illegal votes cast against him, all to protect his fragile ego. (But not a word about Russian interference in the election, which our intelligence agencies have agreed upon.)

— Bans against communicating with and sharing scientific data with the public for agencies concerned with the environment and climate change.

— Continued threats against the Constitutionally guaranteed free press.

(written by David M. Russell)

– In addition: begins motion on building a wall against Mexico, taking funds from aid to Mexico to cover the idea that “mexico will pay for the wall”. Their aid package will be decreased so it will seem like they paid for it.  This, while homelessness is on the rise and the infrastructure of the USA (bridges and roads) needs support and immediate attention. What a waste of resources.

01/02/17Words As WeaponsMexico Greg Bennick / Rene Espinoza 2017 “Counterintelligence: Spoken Word / Listening Tour”
Words As Weapons

GREG BENNICK / RENE ESPINOZA
COUNTERINTELLIGENCE SPOKEN WORD / LISTENING TOUR of MEXICO 2017
www.wordsasweapons.com
https://www.facebook.com/fuerzabooking

Like the rest of the world, I was shocked at the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. Trump promotes racism through his anti-immigration policies and his promise to build a wall “and make Mexico pay for it” (regardless of whether or not he ever follows through with that plan). Racism and xenophobia are only two of multiple aspects of Trump which are threatening to human rights.

Trump being elected has empowered white supremacism in the USA. This means gun wielding border patrol patriots who will now feel even more protected as they shoot first and ask questions later. Trump is surrounding himself with people in his political cabinet who will help him achieve a goal of a stronger white America.

My idea was this:

• Since intelligence in a post-truth world is invalidated by emotional reaction to nonsensical misdirections: Trump’s tweets and so on, the more we react, we embolden the enemy. Burning an American flag for example provides propaganda tools for the opposition to use against us. We need to be thinking clearly, locally, immediately, openly, and calmly about strategy, and not reacting. The intelligence we need is counter to that information which is presented to us, not in line with it. We must burn our own course through this new era of thoughtless propagandizing.

• The idea: I would come to Mexico for the two weeks prior to the election (the 7th or 8th of January through the 21st which is the day after the inauguration)

• I would do a spoken word tour of Mexico (hardcore / punk shows, community centers, any gathering place) and spend 20-30 minutes each night speaking and sharing perspectives, then one hour each night LISTENING. Rene Espinoza of Fuerza Booking who would be promoting the tour would be with me helping to translate, compiling notes with me, and offering critical perspectives as a Mexican currently living in Mexico. We would be listening to local people describe their perspectives on Trump, on racism, on immigration, on NAFTA, on the economic conditions in Mexico….and what can be done about all of this.

• At the end of the tour, Rene and I would compile notes from each night and put it all together – in English and in Spanish – an action guide which would tell everyone in ALL of the cities, the ideas of all the other cities and share thoughts on what people are feeling and how they are thinking of reacting to this new political era.

We asked promoters across Mexico: is this tour a good idea, would it be useful or helpful, and do you want to participate? Everyone said “YES”.

These are the tour dates, and for more information contact Rene Espinoza at Fuerza Booking Mexico https://www.facebook.com/fuerzabooking

January 8th Tijuana w/Rats in the wall @ Bad Brew Bar
January 9th Hermosillo @ MiniBona/january 10th Culiacan @ Cafe Marimba
January 11th Durango @ mr ink /january 12th San Luis Potosi @Politica en el Bar
January 13th Guanajuato @ Bar Fly
January 14th Ciudad de Mexico @ Foro Bang Bang w/Xibalba
January 15th Guadalajara @ Foro Independencia w/Xibalba
January 16th Queretaro @ Cafe Grease Burger w/We believe
January 18th Gomez Palacio @ Secundaria Tecnica Maria del Refugio Zerchute de Padilla
January 19th Monterrey
January 20th Ciudad de Mexico @ Foro Alicia w/Madball

– – – – – – – – – –

Como el resto del mundo, estaba impactado por la reciente elección de Donald Trump a la presidencia de Los Estados Unidos. Trump promueve mediante sus políticas anti migratorias y con su promesa de “construir una barda y hacer que México pague por ella” ( se esto real o no) RACISMO.

El racismo y xenofobia son tan solo dos areas los cuales Trump promueve, violando de esta forma los derechos humanos.

Trump al ser elegido le ha dado poder a grupos que promueven la supremacist de la raza “blanca” en los Estados Unidos. Esto significa que los patriotas protectores de la fronteras ahora se sentirán con mayor derecho disparar primero y luego hacer preguntas. Trump esta rodeándose de personas en su gabinete que lo ayudaran su meta de construir América blanca.

Mi idea es la siguiente:

– desde que la inteligencia en el post-verdad a sido invalidada por reacciones emocionales a argumentos sin sentido tales como lo son lo siguiente: Trump con sus tweets busca generar reacciones de nuestra parte, entre más caso hagamos a este tipo de situación más poder estamos otorgando poder al enemigo. La quema de banderas por ejemplo provee herramientas a quienes nos oponemos para utilizarlas en nuestra contra.Debemos de pensar de manera inteligente con claridad, localmente, de forma inmediata, abierta y con tranquilidad sobre las estrategias que utilizaremos para contra restar los efectos generados por esta elección. La inteligencia que necesitamos deberá de ser contra restante a lo que se nos presenta y de ninguna manera debemos alinearnos a esta misma. Debemos de forjar nuestro propio curso de acción en esta era propaganda sin sustancia.

– La idea es la siguiente: visitar México durante las dos semanas previas a la toma de la presidencia ( 8 -21 de Enero)

– Llevaré acabo una gira de la platicas ( dentro de la escena Hardcore/punk, centros comunitarios, y cualquier otro tipo de puntos de reunión) y pasar entre 20-30 minutos cada noche conversando y compartiendo puntos de vista con los asistentes a las pláticas y escuchar a estos mismos. Rene Espinoza de Fuerza Booking estará promoviendo la gira ayudará traduciendo, compilando notas conmigo, y ofreciendo puntos de vista críticos como un mexicano que reside actualmente en este país. Escucharemos los puntos de vista de las personas de cada ciudad sobre Trump, con un enfoque en el racismo, políticas migratorias, el TLC, las condiciones económicas del país y lo que se puede hacer respecto a esto.

– Al final de la gira, Rene y yo compilaremos las notas que tuvimos después de cada fecha en las distintas ciudades, desarrollando una guía de acción la cual le comunicará al resto de las ciudades del país, las perspectivas e ideas sobre lo que las personas opinan y como se está reaccionando en esta nueva era política.

– Comentamos a varios promotores sobre la idea de realizar esta gira si sería útil y podría ayudar en algo, y si les gustaría ser partícipes estos nos dijeron que SI.

Estas son las fechas para la gira para mayores informes contacta a René en el siguiente sitio web:

www.facebook.com/fuerzabooking

January 8th Tijuana w/Rats in the wall @ Bad Brew Bar
January 9th Hermosillo @ MiniBona/january 10th Culiacan @ Cafe Marimba
January 11th Durango @ mr ink /january 12th San Luis Potosi @Politica en el Bar
January 13th Guanajuato @ Bar Fly
January 14th Ciudad de Mexico @ Foro Bang Bang w/Xibalba
January 15th Guadalajara @ Foro Independencia w/Xibalba
January 16th Queretaro @ Cafe Grease Burger w/We believe
January 18th Gomez Palacio @ Secundaria Tecnica Maria del Refugio Zerchute de Padilla
January 19th Monterrey
January 20th Ciudad de Mexico @ Foro Alicia w/Madball

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.

img_1881

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.

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