Islamaphobia, gender phobias and immigration issues persist in 2012

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By: Jason Lydon/TRT Columnist-

As 2012 begins, I am afraid. No, I am not afraid of the ridiculously misinterpreted Mayan prophesies of the end of the world. I am afraid of our government. I have written before about Tarek Mehanna, a young Muslim man who has been under attack by the government for supposedly aiding terrorists. After a trial that played on the fears and prejudices of jurors in a culture of Islamophobia, Mehanna has been found guilty on all counts. The injustice here is a continuation of the behavior of the FBI in its attacks on Muslim communities.

Mehanna stood up to the violence of the FBI, and he has suffered because of it. This outrage cannot sit comfortably inside of us, we have a responsibility to use our voices and our bodies to stand up and act! While Muslims are the current target of the FBI, they have gone after many communities before and will go after even more in the future. OutHistory.org is currently collecting and distributing sources about the history of the FBI and “homosexuals,” be sure to learn your own history as you form opinions on what is happening today.

At the close of 2011, Breanna Manning (incorrectly referred to as Bradley; she identifies as a woman), the accused source of U.S. war crime intelligence leaked to WikiLeaks, has finally begun her pre-trial hearing. Manning is accused of leaking a video that showed U.S. soldiers killing a journalist and other civilians in Iraq as well as information about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Manning is currently incarcerated in a men’s prison as the pre-trial hearing continues, which is overseen by a commanding officer, not a judge. At times during her incarceration, Manning has been held in solitary confinement, stripped naked, and denied access to any of the people who care for her. It took the advocacy of international human rights organizations and local activists to finally get Manning transferred to more humane confinement. I am afraid of what is going to happen to Manning, if she did leak this information, she is a hero, and should be celebrated rather than subject to possible life imprisonment or even the death penalty. Our movement’s inability to see her as a transgender warrior causes me great sadness. She needs our love and support; we cannot allow her to be cast aside. These things scare me.

I also turn my eyes to the current state of affairs with our immigration system. Communities of color, immigrant communities, are under attack by ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The impact on LGBTQ undocumented immigrants is particularly heinous. A recent ACLU lawsuit details the experience of a transgender woman locked up in a Corrections Corporation of America-owned detention center at Eloy in Arizona. Mike Riggs, of Reason.com, wrote an article about the experience of Tanya Guzman-Martinez. Of the litany of abuses she experienced, one was particularly horrendous. According to the ACLU lawsuit, Guzman-Martinez was forced to watch one of the CCA prison guards, Justin Manford, masturbate and after he ejaculated into a cup, he forced her to drink it. He was prosecuted for “attempted unlawful sexual contact,” and sentenced to time served, two days in jail. As our government gives more and more power to ICE and private prisons, this scares me.

However, Mark Twain tells us that “courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” The self-help writer Susan Jeffers has popularized the slogan, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Possibly most importantly, Audre Lorde, black feminist/poet/revolutionary, wrote, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” As we enter this New Year I am aware that I am afraid, and I imagine that many others around me are afraid for similar or different reasons. We live in a culture that thrives on fear. We can make different New Year’s resolutions this year, though. Rather than simply commit to going to the gym, calling family more, or eating more vegetables, let’s commit to mastering our fears and dare to be powerful. I am afraid of my government, but I am in love with humanity. We have such incredible potential to be greater and more beautiful than the manipulative violence we must consistently navigate through. In 2012, may we have resolutions rooted in love and strategic action. Tarek Mehanna stood up for his community, Breanna Manning spoke the truth, Tanya Guzman-Martinez fought back.

May we have as much courage as these people in the year we’re beginning.