Brad Will, an Indymedia reporter, is shot down in the streets of Oaxaca, and our sense of "the violence is over there, we're OK over here" stretches a little thinner. After all, what is Indymedia but a bunch of scrabbling, outraged voices looking for a hearing? Who would take an Indymedia reporter seriously enough to assassinate him? but the photo, now on the homepage of Los Angeles Indymedia, sure looks like a deliberate hit: no crowd, no evidence of a street brawl, no bevy of police or military, one or maybe two clean shots at mid-chest, and an activist is dead.
But maybe, maybe, we can stuff this back in our “over there” closet. After all, Brad was in the thick of it, in Oaxaca as the federales march in to sack and pillage the rebellious town. And we’re not there. Here in the U.S, most of us who are politically active are at one remove, protesting the wars overseas, protesting the treatment of women in Afghanistan, a few of us taking on the mass murders in Darfur. We protest the remote and heady Bush regime, assuring ourselves that an FBI jacket is nothing more than a token of radical credentials. Locally, a few people get busted for trying to save the South Central Farm or protesting the expulsion of immigrant families from their homes, but, we tell ourselves, no one in the U.S. will be killed, by an agent of the government or by a rabid, fascist extremist.
Maybe Brad wasn’t that different than many of us who speak out, but he was in a different, dangerous place, 1200 kilometres outside the U.S. as the crow flies. Immigrants shot and run down by frustrated minutemen are not us. Muslims held in Guantanamo and god-knows-where-else are, in our final analysis, Muslims. We’re not. And the Torture Act’s application to citizens is an oversight, sure to be overruled by the (Bush-packed) Supreme Court.
But shoving Will’s killing back in the closet shouldn’t be that easy. Nowhere in the Democratic agenda is reversing the torture bill or rolling back domestic surveillance. Nowhere do the Dems talk about ending the current manifestation of Cointelpro that spies on Quakers and peace-themed coffee klatches. We tiptoe on the edges of government sanctions, lost in a reverie of “America the Free” with its guaranteed “exercise of free speech.” But that was then--if it was ever anything more than a romatic notion.
Brad and others of his generation didn’t grow up with any such illusions. For people under 28, their first Presidential vote was cast in the stolen election of 2000, and their second was in 2004. They have no illusions of “peace, not war” or "flower power." They live in the here and now, their politically active life has always allowed the government to listen to their phone calls and read their email, when every political move, large and small, is openly videotaped by cops to stuff into a database and drag out for some future indictment. In Los Angeles, their first political memory is TV images of the national guard shooting at residents and commandeering neighborhoods in 1992, and tanks in the streets again at a 2004 peace rally. They live in a nation where almost everybody says all that’s OK. Like the Germans in the thirties, Americans read about indefinite detention and government spying in their daily dose of Internet news, and most of them assure themselves the government must know what it’s doing.
Brad ended up 750 miles outside of U.S. “protection.” We stay here. I’d like to ask Brad how much longer he’d feel safe if he’d never gone to Oaxaca, if he’d stayed in the U.S. Brad is dead, another activist who stepped out into danger, and he now works from the hall of fallen heroes, with Rachel Corrie, Eduardo Veado and Simone Furtini Abras, Noli Capulong, Marla Ruzicka, Brian Williamson, Tom Fox, T. Ashwini Kumar, and so many others. We can sit smug in our delusions and denial, or we can pay attention to Brad’s final Indymedia report, sent to us over the web from Oaxaca, a dangerous place, conveniently removed “over there”--and as close as our government-tapped Internet connection.