Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician. Her work has been published in Honeysuckle Magazine, Lilith Magazine, Catalyst, and Untapped Cities. She graduated from Barnard College in 2019 and lives in Brooklyn.
“A tree is best measured when it is down,” the poet Carl Sandburg once observed, “and so it is with people.” The recent death of Harry Belafonte at the age of 96 has prompted many assessments of what this pioneering singer-actor-activist accomplished in a long and fruitful life.
Belafonte’s career as a ground-breaking entertainer brought him substantial wealth and fame; according to Playbill magazine, “By 1959, he was the highest paid Black entertainer in the industry, appearing in raucously successful engagements in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles.” He scored on Broadway, winning a 1954 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical – John Murray Anderson's Almanac. Belafonte was the first Black person to win the prestigious award. A 1960 television special, “Tonight with Belafonte,” brought him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, making him the first Black person to win that award. He found equal success in the recording studio, bringing Calypso music to the masses via such hits as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”
Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Live)www.youtube.com
Belafonte’s blockbuster stardom is all the more remarkable for happening in a world plagued by virulent systemic racism. Though he never stopped performing, by the early 1960s he’d shifted his energies to the nascent Civil Right movement. He was a friend and adviser to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as the New York Times stated, Belafonte “put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that “he helped launch one of Mississippi’s first voter registration drives and provided funding for the Freedom Riders. His activism extended beyond the U.S. as he fought against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison, and advocated for famine relief in Africa.” And in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador.
Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Belafonte brought joy to millions of people. He also did something that is, perhaps, even greater: he fostered the hope that a better world for all could be created. And, by his example, demonstrated how we might go about bringing that world into existence.
The Atlanta Shootings Were Anti-Asian Hate Crimes. Here's How to Help.
On Tuesday, March 16, a white male shot eight people in Atlanta, Georgia, six of whom were Asian American women.
The victims have been identified as Delaina Ashley Yuan, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Julie Park, 70s; and Hyeon Jeong Park, 50s.
The killer opened fire at a business and then at two spas in northeastern Atlanta. He was later identified by authorities, and his actions have been officially blamed on a possible "sex addiction" (which is not a real condition) that caused him to target the three businesses to eliminate "temptation." An officer also blamed the murder on the fact that he having a "really bad day," leading to further outrage.
In reality, the attacks are a violent continuation of a disturbing trend of anti-Asian hate crimes that have been devastating the United States over the past year.
That the victims were Asian women has led others to cite the frequent intersection of misogyny and anti-Asian racism that often manifests as orientalism and imperialism as a possible cause in the shooting. Regardless of the killer's conscious motivations, his actions resulted in the deaths of six people in a demographic that is already fearful and threatened, and they occur in the context of a rush of anti-AAPI hate crimes that are rocking the nation.
The reported shootings of Asian American women on Tuesday in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy – for the families o… https://t.co/eNt81YMPSA— Stop AAPI Hate (@Stop AAPI Hate) 1615942392.0
Six Asian American women were killed in Atlanta today. We're still learning about the motive. However, you should k… https://t.co/ddorULw8iN— Dr. Melissa May Borja (@Dr. Melissa May Borja) 1615954559.0
According to a report by Stop AAPI Hate, Asian Americans have reported nearly 3,800 hate incidents over the past year. 68% involved verbal harassment and shunning, and physical violence accounted for 11%.
This is a nearly 150% increase from 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University. Some of the attacks have been deadly — an 83-year-old man named Vicha Ratanapakdee was recently murdered in San Francisco; a 91-year-old man was shoved in Oakland; a 61-year-old named Noel Quintana was slashed in the face on the NYC subway.
this caard provides a lot of articles and resources that you can read through to educate yourself on what is going… https://t.co/wTaqGHCQgf— alli*:･ﾟ (@alli*:･ﾟ) 1615992195.0
It's difficult to chronicle the actual number of hate crimes against AAPI communities, since many go unreported, but the number appears to be rising, with over 500 committed in 2021 alone.
The day before the attack, Michelle Au — Georgia's first Asian American state senator — issued a statement on the senate floor in protestation of the rising number of hate crimes. "Recognize that we need help, we need protection and we need people in power to stand up for us against hate," she said.
We’re troubleshooting @AAJA website, which is crashing from the traffic after we released guidance on covering the… https://t.co/FUkZNBz1mC— Michelle Ye Hee Lee (@Michelle Ye Hee Lee) 1616006465.0
Joe Biden has condemned the spike in hate crimes, stating, "They are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America. It's wrong, it's un-American and it must stop." Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke out about the attacks, stating that "The president and I and all of us we grieve for the loss. Our prayers are extended to the families of those who have been killed, and it speaks to a larger issue which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it."
Many blame Donald Trump's anti-Asian rhetoric and his verbal association between COVID and China for the rise in hate crimes. Despite the visible increase and this clear correlation, anti-Asian racism in America is nothing new and has a long and ugly history, though it has long gone relatively unnoticed.
According to research by Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (@A3PCON) and Chinese for Affirmative Action (… https://t.co/wxLnfiakGf— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈) 1615968009.0
With #StopAsianHate now trending on Twitter and infographics flooding Instagram, it's easy to see parallels between this movement and the Black Lives Matter movement that spiked over the summer.
Still, most groups advocate for collective solidarity against the deadly violence of white supremacy and racism, calling for people to speak out and learn about the long history and nuances of anti-AAPI racism — instead of just turning this latest horrific tragedy into an online trend.
America’s FIRST restrictive immigration law was the Page Act of 1875, effectively banning Chinese women, under the… https://t.co/9PTV6nl8RK— Mari Uyehara (@Mari Uyehara) 1615953934.0
Yes, if you're covering this, please please please ensure you understand context and history of anti-Asian violence… https://t.co/YtEvDBWhqA— Moriah Balingit (@Moriah Balingit) 1615953902.0
It's also vital to remember that sharing information and spreading awareness is only the beginning, and white people need to show solidarity rather than taking any position of white saviorship.
If you want to support the AAPI community, here are some national organizations to donate to. You can also look into local organizations supporting your immediate community.
Stop AAPI Hate
Stop AAPI Hate is responsible for researching and responding to racism and xenophobia. They are tracking the surge in violence and sharing information with the wider world.
Stop AAPI Hate is proud to announce our latest national report, measuring anti-Asian hate incidents from March 2020… https://t.co/S1KRDFA9bw— Stop AAPI Hate (@Stop AAPI Hate) 1615915487.0
Red Canary Song
Red Canary Song is a transnational grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers. They are working against police raids and deportations and believe in mutual aid and labor rights regardless of immigration status.
Hello all. In light of what happened today in Atlanta, I added @RedCanarySong to this doc list and their donation l… https://t.co/155q6TDdsV— sab•睿妍 is THEY THEM (@sab•睿妍 is THEY THEM) 1615954243.0
Asian Mental Health Collective
The Asian Mental Health Collective is working towards building a supportive community for Asians struggling with mental health. They are working to de-stigmatize mental illness and to make mental healthcare easily accessible to Asian communities worldwide.
Gofundme's #StopAsianHate Campaign
Gofundme has created a unified fundraiser that supports multiple organizations leading in the AAPI community, including Mekong NYC, Asian Health Services , Oakland Chinatown Ambassadors Program, AAPI Women Lead, and Khmer Girls in Action. You can also support individual victims of violence through Gofundme, such as Noel Quintana, Yong Zheng, and more.
[email protected]: "As part of our Gives Back program, we’re grateful for the chance to donate to fundraisers that have to… https://t.co/aiTet7V0Vm— Asian American Federation (@Asian American Federation) 1615913043.0
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
The Asian Pacific Environmental Network fights against environmental racism in Asian American communities and builds power in immigrant and refugee communities.
In this moment, we must follow and support organizations on the ground in #Atlanta. Please read this statement from… https://t.co/5TpdrTmClm— APEN (@APEN) 1616003192.0
Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Asian Americans Advancing Justice offers legal and civil rights aid for the Asian American community. They fight for housing justice, voting rights, workers' rights, and much more.
Rise up against racism together. Call for legal and victim assistance. Tell your loved ones not to be afraid. There… https://t.co/cmtD7QeC3c— Advancing Justice-LA (@Advancing Justice-LA) 1615585190.0
Asian American Federation
The AAF is an organization dedicated to benefiting the pan-Asian community and fighting hate crimes directly through outreach, community organizing, nonprofit leadership, and advocacy.
They Can't Burn Us All
They Can't Burn Us All is an organization organizing actions and rallies around the country in protest against hate crimes against the AAPI community.
You can also find a list of 45 organizations to donate to here.
After Washington, Republicans Can Never Call BLM Protestors "Violent Extremists" Again
What's happening in Washington D.C. is beyond comprehension. And yet we should have seen this coming. Many of us did.
Our elected leaders, our democracy, and the very fabric of our nation are being threatened by the current attempted coup in Washington. MAGA protestors have invaded the Capitol Building and threatened the lives of our elected representatives. They are carrying guns, and disrupting democracy. They are terrorists, and they are not being stopped.
January 6 started as a triumphant morning for Democrats. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won their races in Georgia. U.S. representatives gathered in the Capitol to count Electoral College votes. Even Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence renounced Trump's continued attempts to take over democracy. It seemed like a transition of power was going to happen smoothly.
But President Trump's supporters weren't going to let that happen. Their protest started peacefully outside the Capitol, and seemed like another group of Trump supporters making their last stand.
But somehow, MAGA protestors, Proud Boys, and attendees of this so-called "Save America Rally" broke through barricades and forced their way into the Capitol Building.
Stunning scenes from the Capitol https://t.co/DN60udjDyY https://t.co/8OF1Ibi8Wy— New York Magazine (@New York Magazine) 1609965846
Somehow, improbably, the police and security allowed some to break into the building where our government officials — the people carefully and fairly elected to represent us all — were attempting to confirm the election of the next president.
The response to these protestors, and the inaction of the police and the National Guard, is almost unimaginably hypocritical. At Black Lives Matter protests throughout the summer, we saw teeming rows of cops circling protestors, shooting them with rubber bullets and arresting them in droves, often simply for marching.
Today, after destroying government property to break their way in, protestors appear to be walking peacefully around the Capitol, walking on the Senate floor, invading Nancy Pelosi's office, destroying property, striding over the marble floors, carrying machine guns. Members of Congress have been evacuated to secure locations.
If these had been Leftist protestors, if these had been Black and brown protestors, they would be in jail at best, or more likely shot by police.
we got tear gassed and shot at with rubber bullets for literally standing outside the georgia capitol building, lawfully, in June— Hannah Riley (@Hannah Riley) 1609963244
Republicans constantly claim that the Department of Homeland Security and ICE are necessary to preserve the safety of Americans and that the military requires billions to protect America. But where are these people now, as American extremists storm the Capitol?
Imagine if #BlackLivesMatter were the ones who were storming the Capitol building. Thousands of black people layin… https://t.co/F7HEldgdUJ— Van Jones (@Van Jones) 1609960841
What about when our own president goes against the prevailing logic of almost everyone else in positions of power and quite literally incites violence against the government? Where is the military, which is supposed to protect America, today? Where is the National Guard? Where is America?
Lost, certainly. Dead, possibly. It will take an act of magic or a miracle to revive us from this.
What we are witnessing is a collapse of massive proportions, an attempted coup that reveals the fragility of our democracy and the way Donald Trump has torn us all apart.
Currently, protestors are on the Senate floor. Members of Congress are cowering inside, calling their family members and assuring them they're alright.
A woman has been carried out on a stretcher, drenched in blood.
People are calling on the president — that insecure, unstable man — but his only responses have included tweets that demand the protestors to stay peaceful and respect the cops.
I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution by deman… https://t.co/0EtvVBfAkX— Joe Biden (@Joe Biden) 1609968000
Perhaps some of Trump's supporters' delusions that he is remotely competent or sane are finally collapsing, but it is too little too late.
Let us never forget that the President urged protestors to fight. There is no logic here except the logic of a coup, except the logic of violence, except the logic of extreme greed and insanity that has always defined Trump but that has now exploded out of the woodwork and infected the minds of thousands of Americans.
There is no logic here, just the abstract soundscape of collapse. Yet no one should really be surprised. We knew that the Proud Boys were planning a boogaloo, a Civil War. The threads and the comments and the threats were all there. Time and time again, we ignored them.
We know that Trump supporters subsist on lies own media outlets. We know that they are being inundated with lies — disproven by countless lawsuits — that our election was fraudulent. We know that many of our own Republican leaders sowed these seeds, continuing to support Donald Trump as he built up his firestorm of lies and insanity.
We know that there are so many factors to blame here, a buildup in tensions from the pandemic to Black Lives Matter to Democratic victories that has exploded here today. We know that Americans are suffering and afraid, all of us.
And yet never — not in the whole summer of protests, not ever in recent American history — have we seen an unobstructed invasion like this.
On the news, the scene is horrifyingly mellow. White supremacists are walking around the Capitol, guns flying, without opposition, without election, without fact to sustain them. Everyone else is absent or cowering in fear. These people are, unforgivably, not being punished; they are being allowed to walk free.
Just to be completely clear today, pointed questions like "Where is the teargas?" or "Why don't we see more choke s… https://t.co/XIZrEdwi8b— tj usiyan (@tj usiyan) 1609961116
How do we even comprehend this? For now, some of us can at the very least hold fast to the fact that when Republicans criticize the "radical Left" for "violent" protests (AKA looting and damaging of empty buildings, at the most extreme), we will be able to remind them of the time when the more radical sect of their party — led by their beloved president — quite literally committed terrorism and infiltrated the Capitol and threatened our elected representatives' lives.
If we get through this, we know that we have a Democratic Congress. We must hope that in addition to addressing the pandemic, these bodies of government somehow figure out how to stop this from happening ever again.
I believe the Republican members of Congress who have incited this domestic terror attack through their attempts to… https://t.co/ZYHEboSa1i— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@Congresswoman Cori Bush) 1609967177
It's getting dark soon. Stay safe, stay strong, Americans. Realize that this is white supremacy knowing that it is losing power and lashing out in the way it always has — with violence, intrusion, and destruction.
Facebook, Twitter, Fox News, and rightwing talk radio have enabled this. And the mainstream media has retreated beh… https://t.co/XNcovTn4jD— Robert Reich (@Robert Reich) 1609966899
Realize that this is in America's blood and we are in the process of draining it out, but it won't go quietly.
Realize this is the spirit of American violence — colonialism and racism and all of their aftereffects — rearing its many ugly heads and, like a hydra, refusing to die, just growing back.
"[Trump] has never tried to put distance between him and the most violent fringe because he views their violence as… https://t.co/YX0HGZqB8B— Guernica Magazine (@Guernica Magazine) 1604689319
Realize that there are terrorists in America, wearing familiar faces — faces we have been taught to respect but also faces that are willing to corner our democratically elected representatives, faces that are allowed to do so and, as I write this, are still doing so.
We are somehow closer and further than ever before from actualizing the dream of America, a world where everyone can be equal.
We are on the edge of Rome burning. We are both a promise of the best of humanity and a collage of the very worst of it. We can only hope that the truth will prevail in the end.
Revolution Roundup: 9 Ways to Help the World This Week
Join the fight for change.
From climate change to the prison industrial complex to the fact that billionaires exist while other people starve, the world's problems can feel overwhelming.
But the truth is that change starts with one small step, and you don't have to quit your day job in order to maximize your impact in the realm of social change. The truth is, if everyone dedicated some time each day to working on social change, the world would probably be a very different place. Here are seven ways you can help the world this week.
America Is the Fire Nation from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”
And Zuko's arc represents transformation from complicity to active allyship.
Addicted to an illusion of its own greatness. Motivated to violence by the belief that the rest of the world would benefit from colonization. Willing to go to war to achieve its goals.
These words could describe America. They could also describe the Fire Nation in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is a kids' show that aired on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. It tells the story of a world of four nations, each with sovereignty over a specific element: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Throughout the show, we get to see the many ravages of the Fire Nation's 100-year war, which has devastated the environment, enraged the spirit world, and created thousands upon thousands of refugees.
The show begins in a world in which the Fire Nation has launched a massive war in an attempt to colonize the world. Most of the Earth and Water kingdoms have been overtaken, and the entire race of Air Nomads has been wiped out—all except one.
Aang, an Air Nomad, is the resident Avatar, who has the power to control all four elements and thus is the only living person who has the power to restore balance to the world.
But Aang has been trapped in a block of ice for a hundred years. At the beginning of the show, the ice is de-thawed by two Water Nation teenagers, Sokka and Katara, and so begins a three-season quest to defeat the militant Fire Nation.
When Avatar re-emerged on Netflix this May, it captivated whole new legions of fans—and not in a small part because of its political relevance. While the Fire Nation certainly represents elements of Japanese culture, many fans saw parallels between European colonization and the Fire Nation's belief in its own greatness.
Ali A Olomi, a University of Pennsylvania assistant professor of Islamic, Middle Eastern, and the global south's history, also sees parallels. "One of the things we see with the Fire nation is the ideological justification for what they're doing," he said in an interview. "We are a glorious civilisation. We have abundance, we have wealth, we have technological advancement; we need to share it with the rest of the world. That's almost word for word European colonisation."
The United States' Colonial Empirewww.youtube.com
Parallels Between America and the Fire Nation
Many Americans watching the show in 2020 also saw strange connections between current events and the show's central conflict. In June, co-creator Michael Dante Dimartino shared a quote from a Salon article that read, "The sobering difference between watching Avatar in its time versus seeing it now is that life in America looks and feels a lot like life in the Fire Nation as Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and eventually Zuko experience it. It is a place addicted to its increasingly hollow sense of greatness and even superiority, steered by a leader more concerned with his own glory than caring for his people."
To begin with, the Fire Nation in Avatar: The Last Airbender and America share a love of prisons—America has the highest prison population in the world, and the Fire Nation's prisons are overflowing with traitors and benders from other nations. "[Avatar] really highlights the corrupt policing system that we're experiencing in our own climate," argues one YouTuber named Channeling Chinez, describing the Fire Nation's prisons as an "accurate portrayal of what our prison system looks like."
AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER | Is America the Fire Nation? | 10 Wokest Avatar Eps | Channeling Chinezwww.youtube.com
The two nations also share a love of war. America, like its forefather Europe, has long been starting wars and relentlessly colonizing other nations, buoyed by a firm belief in its own right to sovereignty and greatness—just like the Fire Nation.
It's no surprise, then, that the parallels between America and the Fire Nation's violent colonial efforts have long been discussed by the Internet's ranks of cultural critics. In one video by a YouTuber named Zotaku, the Fire Nation is compared to the United States through the lens of its occupation of Haiti.
America Is the Fire Nation 🔥 (US Occupation of Haiti)www.youtube.com
Like the Fire Nation, America has a lot to be proud of—but the idea that everyone else should be forced to follow America's lead is fundamentally flawed.
"Since the 1970s, China has not once gone to war; the U.S. has not spent a day at peace. President Jimmy Carter recently noted that in its 242-year history, America has enjoyed only 16 years of peace, making it, as he wrote, 'the most warlike nation in the history of the world,'" writes Wade Davis for Rolling Stone. "As America policed the world, the violence came home… As they stare into the mirror and perceive only the myth of their exceptionalism, Americans remain almost bizarrely incapable of seeing what has actually become of their country."
Origins of the Fire Nation's Senseless Wars
In Avatar's third season, we learn the backstory of Sozin, the Fire Nation general who started the entire war, and Roku, the Avatar who was Sozin's best friend. Through this flashback, we discover that there is no real logic behind Sozin's colonial efforts; there's only greed.
At one point, Sozin looks out over the Fire Nation and admiringly comments on how "successful" it is. Heasks Roku to help him create a "brighter future" for the world—by colonizing it and spreading Fire Nation ideology. Roku adamantly refuses, but the seed of the idea had already been planted in Sozin's head, and he goes ahead to expand the Fire Nation's army and navy. Eventually, he establishes colonies, burns down Roku's home, and starts the destructive war that would wreak havoc on the world for the next 100 years.
Since World War II, America has positioned itself as the world's policeman—ostensibly in an effort to shield the world from communism. A deeper look reveals that many of America's war efforts were not based in any real need—more often than not, they are based in a desire for profit.
Every day, America seems to veer closer to authoritarianism. In some ways, we are all Roku, observing the collapse of our nation. In other ways, we are all Zuko, born into a world we had no part in creating and forced to decide where our loyalties lie.
Zuko's Journey as a Blueprint for Growth and Revolution
One of Avatar's greatest strengths is the way it refuses to take black-and-white views of issues. In Avatar, the Fire Nation is not a monolith—and neither, of course, is America. American citizens are not evil, and neither are the Fire Nation's inhabitants. Instead, the efforts of a few corrupt leaders and a corrupt system have guided us and them down this path.
The Fire Nation may be the show's main antagonist, but the series also demonizes anti-Fire Nation rebels who resort to violence. Jet, whose parents were killed by the Fire Nation, attempts to flood an entire town in order to defeat a fleet of troops, but he's condemned by Avatar's protagonists.
The character arc of Hama, a Water Tribe firebender, functions as a moral lesson about the problems with violent rebellions. While imprisoned by the Fire Nation, Hama discovers bloodbending, a technique that allows the bender to control others' bodies. As an od woman, she attempts to teach it to Katara, who immediately recoils—and we soon discover that Hama has been abducting and imprisoning Fire Nation civilians as revenge.
The Life Of Hama (Avatar)www.youtube.com
The show's message is clear: While the Fire Nation's leaders might have done unfathomable damage, violence against innocent civilians is never justified. Arguably, Jet and Hama's actions exemplify the dangers of what happens when revolutionaries start using the tactics of the aggressor, fighting fire with fire.
Real revolutionary change, the show advises, has to occur within the mind and the spirit, not simply through aggressive military maneuvers. Nobody better exemplifies this lesson than Zuko, the beloved (and swoon-worthy) anti-hero whose redemption arc is arguably the lifeblood of the show.
For the first two seasons, Zuko maintains allegiance to his native Fire Nation—despite having been banished and burned by his own sadistic father. Like many Fire Nation children, who have to recite daily odes to the Fire Nation's greatness, Zuko has grown up believing his nation is the greatest in the world (sound familiar?)
Aang Infiltrates a Fire Nation School 🔥🏫 | Avatarwww.youtube.com
Determined to recapture the Avatar and regain his honor, Zuko betrays the resistance countless times. Eventually, though, the wise platitudes of his Uncle Iboh begin to alter his perspective, and he begins to realize that he does not have to blindly follow the Fire Nation. The last straw comes when he realizes that the Fire Nation intends to burn down large swaths of the Earth Kingdom in order to solidify its rule.
Zuko then confronts his father, Firelord Ozai, and says: "Growing up, we were taught that the Fire Nation was the greatest civilization in history. And somehow, the War was our way of sharing our greatness with the rest of the world. What an amazing lie that was."
In an America where all children say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, and where an ideal of American exceptionalism continues to legitimize our racism, xenophobia, and aggressive conquest of the Middle East, those words ring true with stunning relevance.
As children, we are taught that America is the land of the free, but yet it is a nation built by slavery and tormented by deep-rooted racist violence. For those of us who grew up within the system, realizing this can be jarring.
A YouTuber named Evelyn from the Internet argues that not only is America the Fire Nation, but Zuko's arc represents a journey from complicit leader to active accomplice within a corrupt system.
America Is The Fire Nationwww.youtube.com
"It interested me how Prince Zuko, next in line to the throne of the Fire Nation, the person who was actively hunting Aang, the Avatar, decided that not only is it not good enough to verbally renounce the Fire Nation or verbally renounce the actions of his nation and his people—saying 'I'm not one of the bad ones'...he had to actively assist Aang and the crew in defeating the Fire Lord," she says.
In an era when passive allyship and performativity have become the norm, Zuko's progression reveals the true meaning of resisting corruption and actively supporting revolutionary efforts. Zuko's change of heart also proves that it's possible to change and do what's right, even within the belly of the beast.
His betrayal is clearly for the best. When a governing body grows as corrupt as the Fire Nation's, even its strongest leaders are destined for collapse. At the end of Season 3, we witness the unraveling of one of the Fire Nation's most vicious leaders—Azula, Zuko's sister. A cruel, relentless military genius, Azula completely loses her composure when her two best friends abandon her to support Zuko.
As we watch America flounder around during the COVID-19 response, as we see our nation unravel, cracks that have always existed in America are growing more visible. Like Azula in the last fight scene, America's government is growing weaker and increasingly fragile, less capable of unifying the nation, more erratic and alienating even towards its closest supporters.
That means that, like Azula's Fire Nation—which barely even exists at the end of the show because she fired her entire staff—America is vulnerable, but also ripe for real, radical change. There may have been no saving Azula and Ozai at the end of the show, but her decline and Zuko's change of heart opened a space for Zuko to take the throne and for balance to be restored to the world.
Climate Change: A Consequence of the Fire Nation and America's Destructive Efforts
To be fair, the Fire Nation isn't an exact stand-in for America. Its customs differ greatly from American traditions (it's hard to imagine any Fire Nation civilian daring to not wear a mask during a pandemic).
Technically, the Fire Nation could represent any authoritarian government, any civilization willing to lay siege to another for the simple purpose of domination.
It also has clear parallels to another existential threat: climate change. There are, of course, obvious metaphors about rising atmospheric temperatures and the devastating effects of fire on the Earth.
Just as environmental destruction is connected to the Fire Nation's attempt to take too much power in Avatar, climate change is connected to American exceptionalism and Western capitalism. Climate change comes not from the wastefulness of billions but largely from the greed of a few select oil companies (never forget that there are 100 companies responsible for 70% of the world's fossil fuel release) and the politicians and infrastructures who continue to support them.
In both Avatar and our present world, the Earth and its inhabitants visibly suffer from the Fire Nation's disruption of balance and its greed and cruelty. We see infected swamps that sicken whole towns, swaths of displaced refugees, and huge landscapes that have been damaged enough to enrage the spirit world.
While there's no visible spirit world in America today (that I know of for certain), it's easy to see that there's a spiritual sickness plaguing our world (as well as the very physical illness that is COVID-19). As wildfires ravage California and hurricanes destroy coastlines–and as millions of us tune into Avatar,–it's not hard to draw parallels between the greed that motivates the Fire Nation and the greed that motivates American exceptionalism, as well as the hunger that motivates fossil fuel companies and the governments that prop them up.
Perhaps there are lessons we can draw from Avatar that might help us through these difficult times. In the show, many of its calamities stem from lack of connection and a lack of respect for the interdependent balance of the world. But what saves the world in Avatar is not Aang's power or Zuko's betrayal alone, but rather the connections between Aang, his friends, and all the people they meet along the way. Only by connecting deeply with his inner world and listening to the ancient lessons of the world around him is Aang able to finally mobilize to defeat the Fire Nation.
And of course, Aang's youthful idealism doesn't hurt. From the youth-led climate movement to the youth-led Black Lives Matter movement, we're seeing young people standing up to corrupt powers helmed by power-saturated older generations. Perhaps it makes sense that a kids' show contains one of the most revolutionary stories of our time; kids and young people are at the forefront of any real change we might hope to see, in this world and in Avatar's.
None of these are exact parallels, and each one of these issues (and their solutions) is far more complex than can be summarized here. Importantly, no Avatar or single brave hero is coming to save America, and in fact there will probably be no "saving" the world at all.
Legend of Korra, the contested sequel to Avatar, perhaps does a better job of addressing the complexity and backwardness of politics—there are no real saviors, and those who claim to fight for peace often wind up committing the worst betrayals. But Avatar advises us, perhaps optimistically, that there can be healing—and maybe we can pull America and the planet back from the brink of its own destruction.
Revolution Roundup: 8 Ways to Help the World This Week
Here are eight small ways to take action and help the world this week.
A lot of horrible things are happening in the world right now. Want to get involved and make a difference? Ready to see a better future come to pass?
It won't happen quickly, though small changes can create movements. Still, doing something is better than doing nothing. If you're looking for a way to take action online right now but need a place to start, here are a few suggestions of ways to do something meaningful this week.
Take Action with Amnesty International
Amnesty International has an amazingly well-designed volunteer portal that lets you choose whether you'd like to take 5 minutes, an hour, or longer to fight for human rights. There are so many opportunities on their website, from signing petitions (questionably effective) to actually becoming a grassroots advocate. While joining for the long-haul is always the best move, signing a bunch of petitions can't hurt, right?
Become a Volunteer Tutor or College Application Mentor
If you're looking to donate some time while online, or want to offer your life skills to an impressionable youth, the Internet offers many ways to become a volunteer tutor, college application mentor, or Big Brother/Big Sister-type figure. You can volunteer to tutor low-income students on upchieve.org, help aspiring college students apply to school, or even join Big Brothers Big Sisters' virtual program.
Donate Your Graduation Gowns to COVID-19 First Responders
Somehow or other, many COVID-19 first responders are still without proper gear. Gowns4good.net allows you to give a healthcare worker the gown that's probably hanging in your closet and tormenting you with memories of a time when you were optimistic and free. Graduation gowns, with their long sleeves and zippered access, are efficient PPE gowns, so you'll be helping out one of our healthcare workers and upcycling while you're at it.
Send Letters and Postcards to Voters
We're approaching one of the most important elections of our lifetimes, and you're not alone if you feel you truly have to do something. You could join the organization Indivisible's groups across the country and write handwritten postcards to swing state voters begging them to get Big Orange the hell out—well, you'll be provided with kinder words to write that are proven to actually persuade voters to vote blue.
You can also register to vote and join a Get Out the Vote campaign. Not inspired by Joe Biden? Remember that a vote for president is also a vote for all the down-ballot candidates who run smaller but incredibly important offices. Check out local groups that fight for progressive champions to get involved in local politics.
Attend and Support Protests and Movements in Your Area
Though the media frenzy around Black Lives Matter has died down, protests are still going strong in cities across the world.
If you're able, attend in-person protests; or, if you're looking for other ways to support, there are still many ways to support the mass movement for justice, from calling your reps to attending virtual events. Just research the events happening in your area and be aware of what's going on.
In NYC the vitriol has shifted slightly from a sole focus on the police towards anger at all the city's billionaires, who keep getting richer while the city suffers. Check out Housing Justice for All, or stay abreast of the momentum in your area.
Public movements and public pressure works. So keep up the pressure.
Start an ICE Neighborhood Patrol
In the middle of a devastating pandemic, when many undocumented people weren't even receiving any government benefits at all and couldn't sign up for aid programs, ICE is still at it, evicting people, tearing families apart, caging children, and being horrible.
On September 9th, AOC is hosting an organizing workshop on how to start your own neighborhood ICE watch. You can also get to know your rights so you're prepared if ICE ever shows up.
If you want a specific event to attend: DSA is hosting a phone zap for Free Them All, an organization that demands incarcerated immigrants be released, on Friday at noon.
You could also watch this video, narrated by Fiona Apple, about how to document an ICE arrest.
Learn About Harm Reduction and Naxolone/Narcan
America is still in the midst of an opioid crisis, and during COVID-19, U.S. drug overdoses have reached record highs.
Harm reduction is one way to help people struggling with drug abuse—and you'd be surprised at how many people are. (If you're struggling, you're not alone). If you want to help, you could learn about responding to an overdose and you can start carrying Naxolone or Narcan, drugs that counter the toxic effects of opioids. Look up your local harm reduction group, learn more here, sign up for a training here, and of course, you can always donate.
August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, so this month is also a great time to educate yourself on prevention and to share information with others.
It's also always a good time to learn about alternatives to punishment, such as harm reduction and restorative justice. These strategies can be practiced on micro-levels (i.e. "calling in" instead of "calling out") or on the scale of the entire criminal justice system.
Work on Yourself
Change starts internally, and time spent working on your internal world is never time wasted. Just imagine how different movements and governments would be if all leaders had done internal work and had healed themselves before they tried to lead the world.
Healing your own wounds can be one of the most helpful things you can do in the long term. Justice movements and campaigns often fail in the wide scheme of things because they get destroyed by egos or corruption or savior complexes or poor communication.
But personal healing can be the foundation of genuine connection and community-building, which is where real change begins. Try therapy, find God, check in with your friends, take a day off; you and everyone you know deserves it.
It's the sad truth of capitalism: Money sometimes goes further than everything else. So if you're able, keep on donating—this list will show you how to make sure your donations reach the most marginalized. You could also set a goal for an amount you'd like to donate, such as 10% of your total income.
Here are five places to donate to this week:
Abundant Beginnings educates children about environmentalism, community, and liberation. It's a Black-led organization that invests in raising future activists and compassionate people.
The Center for Popular Democracy supports progressive causes and frontline communities.
Project South is a movement dedicated to fighting social, economic, and political problems in the American South.
The Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana is donating to relief efforts at the site of Hurricane Laura.
The Climate Emergency Fund supports youth climate activists in their work to stop climate change on a global scale.
What's Going On with the USPS?
#SaveTheUSPS? Budget cuts and reforms have made it difficult for the Post Office, a beloved American institution to do its job.
The United States Post Office is under attack.
Direct attacks from the president, COVID-19, government failure to provide aid, and a radical new postmaster general have all contributed to what's shaping up to be a veritable disaster for American mail—one that might have consequences for the upcoming November election.
The Postal Service's Opponents: COVID-19, Trump, DeJoy, and Money
2020 has been extremely difficult for most people and businesses, and the USPS, which reported a $3 billion loss in the last three months, is no difference. Democrats proposed giving the postal service $25 billion in aid as part of their latest coronavirus stimulus package, which stalled to a standstill in Congress due to partisan divides. Without significant aid, the USPS has suffered intensely during the COVID-19 pandemic—and so have its customers.
In addition to the fact that the postal service provides necessary services to millions across America every day–and it is now responsible for delivering vital products to Americans trying to social distance and end this pandemic–it will be responsible for perhaps the most important job ever: carrying the millions of mail-in ballots that are sure to be cast in 2020 to the appropriate destination.
More Americans than ever before are projected to vote by mail in the 2020 election, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some polls have shown that Trump's supporters are more likely to vote in person, whereas Democrats are more likely to vote by mail, while others show that there is no partisan divide between who votes by mail and who does not.
Still, many of Trump's opponents, who fear he is attempting to sabotage the election by shutting down the postal service and forcing people to choose between their health and democracy, are terrified.
The postal service has, therefore, found itself an unwitting political punching bag.
President Donald Trump has never hid his disdain for the Post Office. Recently, he's begun to argue that voting by mail—the safest way to vote during COVID-19—will lead to fraud.
Americans Fight for the Post Office & Obama Speaks Out | The Daily Social Distancing Showwww.youtube.com
This claim has been proven false, but of course Trump doesn't care. Still, it's clear that the postal service could easily manage an election if it was allowed to continue as it had been for over 200 years. "If — and that's a big IF — allowed to do its work, the US Postal Service can easily handle the surge of mail that might result from 150 million Americans choosing to vote by mail this fall rather than vote in person," writes Jesse Jackson for the Chicago Sun Times. The postal service normally handles around 500 million letters per day.
The problem is that the postal service is not being allowed to do its work. COVID-19 was incredibly difficult, but the postal service was able to keep things somewhat under control until Louis DeJoy entered the scene.
Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General
At the center of all this is Louis DeJoy, who was appointed the new postmaster general in June. Notably, DeJoy, a multimillionaire, is a top GOP donor and was the chairman of fundraising for the Republican National Convention last year.
Since he was appointed, DeJoy has made some changes. His "reforms," all imposed without any public consultation or discussion with employees, include cutting hours, reducing overtime, and removing mail processing equipment. The USPS also recently announced that it will not treat ballots as priority mail without first-class postage.
In short, DeJoy's "reforms" are slowing down the mail.
Over the past few months, the Post Office has reported delays in receiving prescription medications and other necessary goods, delays that have increased thanks to DeJoy's new policies.
The Post Office's sudden decline has also already harmed elections, with some voters in Wisconsin and Michigan never receiving the absentee ballots they requested in advance and with New York postal service employees rejecting ballots that did not have the appropriate postage.
Postal service employees themselves are extremely confused by the "reforms." "If you asked me a month ago [if] the postal service handle an influx of mail-in ballots, I would have said, 'We've been through two world wars and a depression, we've been doing this for more than 200 years,'" said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers' Union, to The Guardian. "Now, I'm not so sure."
Trump's administration has already announced that they want to privatize the Post Office, selling it off to private companies. DeJoy—who has million-dollar investments in competitors to the Post Office—has a reason to support these plans.
Democrats are attempting to take action. Nancy Pelosi recently called lawmakers back to the House to vote on legislation dedicated to protecting the postal service. They're currently voting on the Delivering America Act, which bans changes to the post office implemented after January 1st, 2020.
Democratic leaders are also calling on DeJoy to testify in court, demanding an explanation for the "sweeping and dangerous operational changes at the Postal Service that are slowing the mail and jeopardizing the integrity of the election."
What Can We Do?
With #SaveTheUSPS and #SaveThePostOffice trending on Twitter recently, the hashtag needs to become a movement.
"Citizens should be mobilizing pressure across the country, with demonstrations at Post Offices in support of the service, with calls to legislators demanding action, with pressure on state and local election officials to provide the resources needed for more drop-off boxes, more hours of early voting, more polling places," continues Jackson.
It's a great time to stage protests and call legislators, who need to know the people's opinions. While civilian contributions alone won't save the Post Office (only government stimulus packages or pocket change from Jeff Bezos could do that), concerned citizens can still do our part to show the postal service that we stand with them by buying Post Office merchandise, sending letters, and rallying to support our democracy by fighting voter suppression.
This 4/20, It's Time to Go Green
CBD and legalized marijuana could help the environment.
Plants are extraordinary.
They give us so much beauty, nourishment, and medicine—and few plants are more beloved than cannabis, a genus of flowering plant that produces CBD and THC, among other treasures.
There are three main types of cannabis plants: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. "Hemp" and "marijuana" are broad classifications of cannabis, with hemp generally referring to a type of cannabis that does not have psychoactive effects.
Since ancient times, the cannabis plant has been used as a treatment for mental and physical illnesses, and CBD in particular is rapidly growing in prominence as a therapeutic and relaxing force with far fewer side effects than its psychoactive sibling.
Today is 4/20, a date many know as the unofficial holiday of the cannabis plant. This Wednesday, 4/22, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a date dedicated to celebrating our planet and our connections to it.
As many of us turn to CBD and other natural products in this time of pain and suffering, it's the perfect time to thank our planet for all that it provides us. It's also a great time to get educated about cannabis, the environment, and our relationship to them.
The Cannabis Industry Is Actually Very Bad for the Environment
Here's the bad news: The cannabis industry can actually have extremely negative effects on the environment. (Tragic, right?)
First off, cannabis plants generally use a tremendous amount of water—nearly 23 liters per day for one single mature plant, according to a 2016 document (as opposed to 13 liters for an ordinary wine grape plant). The illegal indoor cultivation of cannabis also requires tremendous amounts of energy; this process alone consumes about 3% of California's electricity usage, leaching off tons of carbon dioxide in the process.
Furthermore, spikes in demand for cannabis plants can result in habitat destruction, erosion, deforestation and other environmentally devastating activities. The chemicals used to kill rodents and pests that damage the crops can also put wildlife in danger, especially when pesticides are deregulated.
But that's not to say that we should stop growing the devil's lettuce. There are many potential environmental solutions that could solve the issue of cannabis's environmental consequences. For example, hydroelectric dams could help circumvent the problem of increased carbon emissions. Some places like Boulder, Colorado are requiring cannabis growers to offset their carbon emissions, and others are investing in energy-efficient growing techniques. Legalization could also help ameliorate many of marijuana's worst environmental consequences.
Still, if you're worried about the environmental impact of your joint, CBD might be a great option.
How CBD Can Help the Environment
For all its negative effects, some forms of cannabis cultivation can actually be quite beneficial for the environment. One form of CBD in particular, industrial hemp, can be particularly beneficial for nature's ecosystems. Out of all the types of cannabis plants, industrial hemp may be the least damaging to the environment.
Industrial hemp is a member of the cannabis family that has a lower than 0.3% concentration of THC (by dry weight). Hemp crops can help control erosion, preserving nutrients and fostering healthy ecosystems while ingesting toxic chemicals and preserving soil health. (It was even planted to reduce concentrations of toxins at Chernobyl, for example).
Hemp can easily be recycled, and it may even be a potential biofuel that could help shift humans away from their reliance on fossil fuels. Plus, because CBD is legal at the federal level in America, growers aren't forced to keep it indoors like they are with marijuana, which means that the process requires far less energy and produces fewer emissions than its more psychoactive counterpart.
This isn't to say that we should all abandon THC for CBD. Instead, we should look to hemp's environmental benefits and examine how to extend them to the entire cannabis industry.
Hope For the Future: A Greener World
Legalizing marijuana could be an important step towards reducing the industry's overall carbon footprint. If marijuana growers can plant their cannabis in glass greenhouses rather than secret basements, this would help reduce the amount of electricity needed to grow the plants in the first place.
So the point is: You don't have to let go of your 4/20 celebrations in order to celebrate Earth Day. Instead, we all need to support widespread marijuana and hemp legalization as well as regulations that pivot us away from fossil fuels, towards cleaner, greener sources of energy.
Today, as you take your CBD or enjoy the cannabis plant however you prefer to do so, take some time to kick back and imagine a better, greener world. Imagine a world where cannabis is legal in all forms.
In this world, human beings work to heal nature while being healed by it. There's no more acrid smoke in the air, except for the fumes we willingly exhale as we tend to our backyard marijuana plots. Nobody is behind bars for marijuana possession; instead, everyone has a shot at a good job working with clean energy, rebuilding the world's infrastructure so that it relies on our natural resources—like wind, water, and sunshine. Everyone is healthier and calmer, because we all have access to plenty of nature's medicine. The pandemic is over, and we're all outside together in a park, with our reusable glass CBD canisters and our joints. The new Rihanna album is playing ambiently overhead.
Dreams, dreams… but this 4/20 and this Earth Day 2020, we all need some of those, right?