Saturday, December 03, 2011

Poet Vargas poem to video. Student Loans to default. Vets to Occupy.

by Rudy Ch. Garcia

Richard Vargas poem to video

We received this news from Latino poet Richard Vargas, whose poetry has appeared on La Bloga as recently as this week in Sedano's Tuesday Floricanto post:

"I have the honor of a graduate film student taking one of my poems and turning it into a short film. it's only a couple of minutes. When someone uses their art to interpret what you created, it is beautiful and powerful, a wonderful way to wrap up the year. – RV

So, go here to see "a creative montage about earth through a Chicana's eyes" by Viridiana Martinez. As a non-commercial website, La Bloga believes that aspiring artists' work deserves consideration.

About Viridiana Martinez: "I am a senior majoring in Digital Filmmaking and Video Production at The Art Institute of California - Sunnyvale. I am in the process of making my Senior Project and I am in dire need of your help. My project is inspired by a Chicano poet, Richard Vargas. This project will show consumerism through the eyes of a young Chicana watching people lose respect, not only for others but our mother earth. This will be shot in the places that are dear to my heart such as Monterey county, San Benito County, and Santa Cruz County.

"I hope to create a positive impact and desire to change the world we live in now. The world we are all citizens of, because no matter where you live, earth is our home and if I am not able to reach my goal, my video might be cut short in length and not be entered in film festivals. This project will happen one way or another; this is a project that has a place in my heart and on my grade sheet. I need this in order to graduate."

Richard Vargas received his MFA (with distinction) from the UNM Creative Writing Program in 2010. He has two books published, Mclife, 2005, and American Jesus, Tia Chucha Press, 2007. He was recipient of the 2011 Hispanic Writers Award at the Taos Summer Writers' Conference, and a community scholarship from the 2011 National Latino Writers Conference. Vargas was also featured last summer on National Public Radio's All Things Considered / Summer Sounds. He currently resides in Albuquerque, NM., where he edits and publishes The Más Tequila Review. You can visit his website here.

No mataron al Occupy movement

When city and state governments and enforcement officials decided to try to shut down Occupy sites across the country, and the world, they might have unintentionally given new surprising life to Occupy. You can't blame the structure that enforces the 1%'s privileged status. They believe Occupy has more potential than many of us of the 99% do. Here's two new aspects that reveal something of how seriously the 1% look at Occupy.

1. Sign the Student Debtors' Pledge of Refusal

From New York: "Early Monday afternoon, a group of faculty and student organizers unveiled the Occupy Student Debt campaign from the southeast corner of lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park.

"As part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the national Occupy Student Debt campaign asks that borrowers default on their student loan payments after one million individuals have similarly signed the debtors' pledge.

"Since the first days of the Occupy movement, the agony of student debt has been a constant refrain," announced Andrew Ross, a professor at New York University, to a crowd of more than 100 assembled in Zuccotti Park. "We've heard the harrowing personal testimony about the suffering and humiliation of people who believe their debts will be unpayable in their lifetime."

Checking today, there were just over 2100 signatures collected. How long before it gets anywhere close to a million? Will it be primarily Anglo college students from Calif. and New York who pledge, or will it spread into the fastest growing segment of the population, the Chicano/mexicano/latino communities? Vamos a ver.

Here is the text of the pledge:

"As members of the most indebted generations in history, we pledge to stop making student loan payments after one million of us have signed this pledge. Student loan debt, soon to top $1 trillion, is poisoning the pursuit of higher education. With chronic underemployment likely for decades to come, we will carry an intolerable burden into the future. The time has come to refuse this debt load. Debt distorts our educational priorities and severely limits our life options.

Education is not a commodity and it should not be a vehicle for generating debt, or profit for banks. Education at all levels--pre-K through Ph.D.--is a right and a public good.

* We believe the federal government should cover the cost of tuition at public colleges and universities.

* We believe that any student loan should be interest-free.

* We believe that private and for-profit colleges and universities, which are largely financed through student debt, should open their books.

*We believe that the current student debt load should be written off.

In acknowledgment of these beliefs, I am signing the Debtors’ Pledge of Refusal."

La Bloga is posting this for news and informational purposes only, since Homeland Security might consider endorsement to be some form of terrorism or sedition. But possibly like many of you, I know that my daughter's $30k of student loans might make it impossible for her to have as fulfilling of a life as she might have, much less ever get out of debt or own a home. If you're wondering the same, visit the Debtors’ Pledge of Refusal page.
There are also categories for signers who don't owe loans to support those who do.

2. The War on the Home Front

And if you think the Occupy protestors ranks are nothing but a bunch of ex-hippies, neonihilists or deadbeats, and you haven't joined or supported them yet, then maybe you can't imagine how the 1% felt when they saw this coming down the street [and they weren't even armed]:

It was a beautiful, sunlit fall morning when the patrol, many in camouflage jackets, no more than 40 of them in all, headed directly into enemy territory.

Their ranks included one sailor in uniform, three women, and a small child named Viva in a stroller. Except for Viva, all of them were vets, a few from the Vietnam era but most from our more recent wars. 

As they headed for Wall Street, several carried signs that said, “I am still serving my country,” and one read, “How is the war economy working for you?”

Many wore Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirts under their camo jackets, and there was one other thing that made this demonstration unlike any seen in these last Occupy Wall Street weeks: there wasn’t a police officer, police car, or barricade in sight.

As they headed out across a well-trafficked street, not a cop was there to yell at them to get back on the curb. 

In the wake of the wounding of Scott Olsen in the police assault on Occupy Oakland last week, that’s what it means to be a veteran marching on Zuccotti Park. Scott Kimbell (Iraq, 2005-2006), who led the patrol, later told me: “Cops are in a difficult position with vets. Some of them were in the military and are sympathetic and they know that the community will not support what happened to Scott Olsen.”

Just before Broad Street, a line of waiting police on scooters picked up the marchers, for once feeling more like an escort than a gang of armed avengers, while media types and photographers swarmed in the street without police reprimand. 

Suddenly, the patrol swiveled right and marched directly into the financial heart of the planet through a set of barricades. (“Who opened up the barrier there?” shouted a policeman.)

It was aiming directly at a line of mounted police blocking the way. In front of them, the march halted. With a smart “Left face!” the platoon turned to the Stock Exchange and began to call out in unison, “We are veterans! We are the 99%! We swore to protect the Constitution of the United States of America! We are here to support the Occupy Movement!”

Then, the horses parted like the Red Sea, like a wave of emotion sweeping ahead of us, and the vets marched on triumphantly toward Zuccotti Park as a military cadence rang out (“...corporate profits on the rise, but soldiers have to bleed and die! Sound off, one, two...”) 

The platoon came to attention in front of Trinity Church for a moment of silence for “our friend Scott Olsen,” after which it circled the encampment at Zuccotti Park to cheers and cries of “Welcome Home!” from the protesters there. (One of the occupiers shouted to the skies: “Hey, police, the military’s here and they’re on our side!”)

If you don’t think all of it was stirring, then you have the heart of a banker. 

Soon after, veterans began offering testimony, people’s mic-style, at the top of the park. Eli Wright, 30, a former Army medic in Ramadi, Iraq (2003-2004), now on military disability and Viva's dad, parked her stroller when I asked him why he was here.

“I came out today to march for economic justice," he responded. "I want a future for my daughter. I want her to have an education and a job. I served seven years for our country to defend our constitution only to see it being dismantled before my eyes. I think it’s time for vets and others to stand up and fight back.” As for two-year-old Viva, “This,” he said, “is the introduction to democracy that she needs to see.”

As a matter of fact, amid the tumult, Viva was soundly and peaceably asleep. 

Joshua Shepherd, in the Navy from 2002 to 2008, told me that, during those years, he came to realize "it wasn’t about protecting anyone, it was about making money.” Now a student, he was holding up a large poster of his friend Scott Olsen. He had been with Olsen when he was hit, possibly by a beanbag round fired by the police, and had flown in from San Francisco for this march.

“It’s important that the people at Wall Street know that we support them. For the life of me I’m not sure why the police escalated the way they did [in Oakland], but the powers that be are threatened. Income disparities have never been higher and they want to keep it that way."

"It’s my intention to raise my voice and say that’s not right.” 

T.J. Buonomo, 27 and unemployed, a personable former Army military intelligence officer, told me that he had come up from Washington specifically for the march.

“Seeing what happened to Scott Olsen made me feel like we had to stand up for Americans getting their democracy back. If this country keeps going like this, we’re going to look like Latin America in the 1970s.” 

Of course, as with so much else about Zuccotti Park, there’s no way of knowing whether these vets were a recon outfit preparing the way for a far larger “army,” possibly (as in the Vietnam era) including active-duty service people, or whether they were just a lost American patrol.

Still, if you were there, you, too, might have felt that something was changing in this country, that a larger movement of some kind was beginning to form.

Go here to read the entire article.
[excerpted from]


Lastly, check out Manuel Ramos's post yesterday for the contest and the Fluffy Iglesias DVD that goes to the winners; he has two to give away.

Es todo hoy,



Chanda @ Disordered Cosmos said...

What happens to the credit of the people who default? Will students saddled with loans end up even more disproportionately screwed in the credit market after signing this petition?

Anonymous said...

Chandra--who knows? Here's from the FAQ on their website:

"If pledgers default, won’t it ruin their credit scores?

"Mass default is already occurring, with or without this initiative. Because debtors simply cannot pay, default rates are rising rapidly, boosting the exorbitant profit margins of lenders. Rather than suffering the consequences in personal isolation and without recourse, this initiative gives debtors a way to publicly express their predicament, and to collectively contest the outcome."

Besides, at this point it's just a pledge.


Anonymous said...

Rudy, we've never met, but i wanted to thank you for plugging Viri Martinez's film (based on my poem) on La Bloga. Much appreciated.