Category Archives: poetry

on tax, my desi family, and class

Dear Readers,

I don’t watch much tv now, but I used to be on it 8 hours a day, from 3pm, when I got home from school, to 12am, SNL, Jay Leno, David Lettermen time, with Ricki, Maury, Donahue, Jerry, and Oprah keeping me company while the day turned to grey. After I left home for college, I stopped the tv habit. Life had more in store.

But I still have some ways and means leftover from back then. 4 the past few days, I’ve been opening up the New York Times like, “there’s nothing good on.” Iraq, economy, no one taking responsibility, presidential primaries, a distant people tryna get free, sports leagues, elite gadgetry, institutions and people guilty and not guilty. I’m not feelin it. None of it. Fuck the whole thing.

Damn, that sounds so American.

But Indian-American is what I be. Educated and in my body. Questioning underneath the answers fed to me. Searching for something uncomfortable in the addictive comforts tv/i.v. fed to me.

https://i0.wp.com/news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/42640000/jpg/_42640957_holi_paint2_afp.jpg

Top Question Area Today: IRS Rebate Checks aka Economic Stimulus Payment aka Blood Money?

I can’t even lie. I will be using my lil rebate real pretty. Have you heard about it? At least $300 back to you clean, so long as you file your 1040/ez and you as an individual made above $3,000 and under $75, 000. Now I know you know about it.

But, what I wonder is, have you wondered about it?

Class Truths and Lies: All in the (Desi) Family

I grew up in a pukka Desi family. Class was at once a rigid and fluid thing. My mom is Brahmin, father Rajput. Their marriage was like an interracial marriage in America circa 1955. The rigidity of class seeped out of their renegade wedding pictures, no family in the room around the fire, thick frames on beehived faces, only fellow students from their graduate program their to bear witness to that seven times around the earth, wind, and fire, supreme ceremonial rites of passage.

The fluidity of class flew in a spray of salty wave as my parents went from stand clear, head first and only ones in their generation to immigrate, to graduate student housing and government cheese, to their first home and garden in their early 30’s, to three cars, to dissolve scene, atrophy dream, coping mechanisms broke and overused like fossil fuel.

It’s like they used all their life energy just to get here, and the momentum lasted them from 30 to 50, but now that their 60 its like their 80, and I wonder if they’ll be here when I have my first baby. Physically here, I mean. Mentally they are already heaven meet hell, free.

As the only girl child, I was brought up to think that we were struggling for money. But somehow, my older brother always had the impression that we were rich. At least that’s what it seemed like as he asked for and received a mahogany baby grand, a BMW motorcycle, expensive music schools and lessons, a truck. I took that truck though. Drove the shit out of it too.

Many people, and I, at the very least, have experienced class as a multi-layered affair. Changing in the aging of our families. Hierarchical internally, resulting in various economic class positions within the home itself. Education added in as a floating variable, we go working class to rich in small talk rooms when they ask you where you went to school. Class is always an intersection.

This Tax Rebate Feels Kinda Half-Baked

The Tax Rebate aka Economic Stimulus Payment reminds me of that feeling I used to feel in my dope house on 8324 Teresa Drive, back in the day when I was young I’m not a kid anymore, but sometimes, I sit and wish I was a kid again, feeling like we were always broke, but yet and still, watching money steady coming from some source to fund the war to keep my brother happy, despite and because of it all.

No money, the country is broke, but as the sun sets one of our most blatant dynasties, there is a prize, a lottery win without the red tape debt addiction ties, at least 300 bones, a night at the bar if you buy drinks for your friends. A pair of shoes. Three months of subway rides. 45 days in a beautiful hotel in McLeod Ganj, set against the Himalayas, a type writer tapping in the distance, mist over monkeys you watch because they watch you, it is too, blood money.

And I know we deserve it, I’m not hating, thought you knew.

I’m just telling, giving free what’s true.

Back in the day people from India to America used to protest by not paying taxes unfairly laid on them by oppressive governments. Which makes sense, cause it’s not always we have and hold something they want.

Was it all a dream? See, cuz the last story I read about American’s withholding taxes in protest of the war said something about 50 cents a month folks wasn’t payin off their phone bills. To be fair, the amount probably adds up, eventually.

What is there to protest? How about the awkward reality that we pay taxes in an every man for himself system. Forget a flat tax, or a proportional tax, here, now, poor generally pay proportionally more than rich. Just because rich can hire an advocate, a genie in a bottle, a fourth wish. It’s just like the criminal justice system. In the modern day, American form of capitalism, these basic state functions become unnecessarily abrasive to the working class.

Why should these basic state functions lubricate the stability of the wealthy and drag fingers on chalkboard down the spines of the poor and working people?

Why is justice tied to money?

Why are tax burdens less burdensome for the wealthy?

When did capitalism equal democracy?

When life could be so sweet, spring buds on trees?

White swan looks my way through the breeze?

West Indian food steeped in Flatbush Avenue grease?

Water necklace on a Oshun throat of honey?

Why is justice tied to money?

What aint the news teaching me?

*

Stay tuned for more and more, from your favorite political poet with All the News That’s Fit to Flip, NaXaL.

Peace,

rs/N

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Whose Truth Matters Most: Benazir Bhutto and Black on Black Crime

 Dear Readers,

Whose Truth matters Most?

Do Christian lives matter more than Muslim lives?

Does U.S. on Muslim violence matter more than Muslim on Muslim violence?

Does your Person of Color identity matter more than your identity as a Worker?

Does the success of Capitalism matter more than the success of Democracy?

Does the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s matter more than the assassination of Benazir Bhutto?

Do Target Populations matter more to non-profit organizers than Friends?

Does Hip Hop Now matter more than Hip Hop History?

Is it Talk or Walk that distinguishes Dictatorship from Democracy?

Does the President matter more than the Citizenry?

Does What Happened to You matter more than What Happened to Me? 

Whose Truth matters Most?

Dear Readers,

It’s the day after Ohio and Texas rang in their votes for Senator Clinton.  The presidential primaries are heating back up.  I might even keep watching past half-time.  Did you know that, according to the New York Times, Clinton and Obama each ran around 1400 political ads a day in Ohio and Texas?  What does it mean to “choose” in this candidate-as-product atmoshphere? 

See if the candidates are product, then we are consumed consumers as usual, legal labyrinthed from perceiving the corporate producer-sponsored-candidate as a person to whom real questions can be and must be posed.  As a coveted citizenry (“citizenry,” here, defined open and broad like a good, wood handled umbrella over all those who work to keep this country and its under-liable corporations and its over-liable people afloat), what are our most important, least asked questions? 

How bout these: In this hot, watched race, who is Not an establishment backed candidate?  Which candidate is willing to cede the overly accumulated power that most agree, currently lies greedily in the executive branch?   

Dear Readers,  

I’ve just begun reading Benazir Bhutto’s last work, a political work of non-fiction called, “Reconciliation: Democracy, Islam, and the West.”  She emailed her final edits to the book the morning of the day she was assasinated.  It is a must read.  In “Reconciliation,” Bhutto takes a look at brother on brother, sister on sister, Muslim on Muslim violence, violence within the religious family, “sectarian” violence.   

Bhutto’s stunner analysis of sectarian violence takes it in from multiple angles, from the murdermurdermurder-killkillkill kind of violence, to the state led “i Said, are you down with Us or Them” silencing of cultural acheivements kind of violence, to the we the people are too raw and too afraid to look at ourselves in the mirror kind of violence.  She acknowledges the divide and conquer influence of colonization, *and* moves on to ask that folks be less concerned with the conquering other and more concerened about how we are conquering ourselves.

Applying her multi-layered analysis of the under-reported, detrimental affect of sectarian violence to the American discussion of Black on Black crime helped me appreciate the depth of what Bhutto is getting at. 

One, it’s hard to get down with the Black on Black crime discussion because it’s a sensitive issue, over-reported on by outsiders, generally divorced of any divide and conquer, the intended legacy of domination context. 

Two, Black on Black crime is generally housed in physical violence terms and rarely talked about in economic terms (an economic violence discussion would include the corporate modeled aquisition of wealth by some powerful members of the Black elite at the expense of the Black working poor), or cultural terms (a cultural discussion would include the appropriation of culture emanating from the streets by the elite for purposes of profit and consolidated power), thereby underreporting on issues that matter to the community.In “Reconciliation,” Bhutto flips the lens on her own people, the Pakistani people, the Muslims of the world.   

You decide for yourself if her words make sense to you.  Here’s an excerpt of her book that lays out her stance better than I can; 

(Excerpt from Benazir Bhutto’s last book, “Reconciliation:Islam, Democracy, and the West.”)

“And now there is Iraq. One billion Muslims around the world seem united in their outrage at the war, damning the deaths of Muslims caused by US military intervention without UN approval. But there has been little if any similar outrage against the sectarian Iraqi civil war, which has led to far more casualties.

Obviously (and embarrassingly), Muslim leaders, masses and even intellectuals are quite comfortable criticising outsiders for the harm inflicted on fellow Muslims. But there is deadly silence when they are confronted with Muslim-on-Muslim violence.

Even in Darfur, where there is an actual genocide being committed against a Muslim population, there has been a remarkable absence of protests, few objections, and no massive coverage on Arab or south Asian television.

We are all familiar with the data that show an increasing contempt for and hostility to the West in Muslim communities from Turkey to Pakistan. The war in Iraq is cited as a reason. The situation in Palestine is given as another reason. So-called decadent western values are often part of the explanation. It is so much easier to blame others for our problems than to accept responsibility ourselves.

The colonial experience has obviously had a major impact on the Muslim psyche. But what outsiders did in the past does not exclusively account for the quality of Muslim life today.

There is a rush to condemn foreigners and colonisers, but there is an equally weighty unwillingness within the Muslim world to look inwards and to identify where we may be going wrong ourselves. 

It is uncomfortable but nevertheless essential to true intellectual dialogue to point out that national pride in the Muslim world is rarely derived from economic productivity, technical innovation or intellectual creativity. Those factors seem to have been part of the Persian, Mughal and Ottoman past but not the Muslim present. Now we see Muslim pride always characterised in the negative, derived from notions of ‘destroying the enemy’ and ‘making the nation invulnerable to western assault’.

Such toxic rhetoric sets the stage for the clash of civilisations between Islam and the West every bit as much as do western military or political policies. It also serves as an opiate that keeps Muslims angry against external enemies and allows them to pay little attention to the internal causes of intellectual and economic decline.

Reality and intellectual honesty demand that we look at both sides of the coin.” 

(End of excerpt from, “Reconciliation,” authored by the late, great Benazir Bhutto)

Thank you for tuning in, come back soon, I post at least once a week for your political poetry viewing pleasure.

Peace,

N/rs  

october 23: fire

dear readers,

as a follow on my last post on the notion of “home,” check out a recent article i wrote on anti-gentrification battles by clicking here.

and speaking of home, oh home. 

san diego, my hometown, is ablaze.  fire, ash, sky burnt orange for days.  makes me wish I was there, to document the undoubted maze.  navigated by people of all walks, the headline today, is fire.

October 23, 2007 

 

a helicopter with water swerves across the ash strewn san diego sky

what are the disasters which remind us of war, in the smell of charred belongings, in the sight of a sky with no face mask, no screen from all that smoke, filled i am filled with a feeling of wanting to be there.  to document.  to repent.  to let go and hold on for dear life.  but i know this much, i will be back. 

Qualcomm Stadium evacuation - 10/22

a south asian extended family of fire evacuees takes refuge in quaalcom stadium, san diego 

if it wasnt for the chargers banner, where would you imagine this south asian family was?  what would they be fleeing?  how would their homes look like?  but this is san diego, and the areas where fire is getting close enough to singe back ache planted flowers, those areas got houses to die for.  sweeping scapes, rooms with 15 foot drapes, sand hues from rose to ocean blues, see this is san diego.  a small nation of many, many nations.  my mom called and said how anila auntie and other much loved family friends were having to evacuate their homes. 

i texted my homies in the 619 and 858 to see how they were all doing.  everyone is cool, but they seem shell shocked.  my afghani crew, they all texted back talking bout, “its crazy out here,” or “im rollin a blunt, you know how we do,” shit y’all, do you.  my african-american crew, they texted back like, “im good, its all in north county, so its still far away,” or “im still at work,” and “did you know your old high school is an evacuation center.” 

my persian sister was like, “they told my parents to evacuate but they won’t go, it would be soooo much easier if my parents would just listen.”  and the indian fam is spreading news like telegraphs down rivers, so and so family went here, such and such family went there.  shit, when i was growing up out there, i swear we were less than 100 south asian families in town.  but now there are so many south asian people in san diego, because the industries came which held us.  science, engineering, pharmaceuticals.  this is who we are to them.  and so be it.  it means for some beautiful sweeping homes.  much of the south asian population lives and works in the affected areas.  so my thoughts are with them.

like when my newly immigrated cousin found herself running from world trade center of september 11.  i just felt like, damn, came all the way here, set up shop despite it all and everything, and now you gotta bear the brunt of something so tragic.  but this is the america i know.  an america made up of so many nations.  im keeping my thoughts and prayers with you all down there in the 619 and 858, may you stay healthy and safe.

 stay tuned for more of all the news that’s fit to flip, by political poet, naxal.

peace,