All the difference

Well, it looks like my self-imposed hiatus is drawing to a close. Recently, the road I was traveling on diverged in some unexpected ways as I resigned my high school teaching position a week ago. Needless to say, it was a decision that did not come easily. My health has not been as good as it should be and I think some of it was related to the job stress. The classes I was assigned to had all special education students but I was expected to teach like a general education teacher and, to make a long story short, I got tired of being a performing monkey for administrators. I loved teaching and felt like I was turning my back on the students I was leaving but I realized the educational system turned their backs on them long ago. My own kids, who are now in 10th and 11th grades, have spent their entire school careers inferring that the high-stakes standardized tests at the end of the year are the ultimate measure of learning.

So many students have internalized the message that they are Level 1 or Level 2 learners who will be relegated to remedial classes until the day they (hopefully) graduate. Meanwhile, the pipeline is waiting for all those round-shaped students who don’t fit into the square-shaped schools. I’m down but definitely not out and, in many ways, I’m looking forward to the possibilities of walking down some roads less traveled. I am grateful for the messages of support and solidarity from  my fellow bloggers. Your words have served as a reminder that Deconstructing Myths must continue. On that note, I am here to let readers know that the blog will be returning to it’s regularly scheduled programming in the very near future, albeit, at a slightly lessened pace. On that (hopefully) uplifting note, I leave you with poetry/spoken word performances from high school students at Polytechnic High School in Pasadena, CA.

(One of my favorite performances is at the 48:00 mark.)

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

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Loss Can Lead to Happiness

Jeff Nguyen:

Skywalker is a gifted storyteller, poet and artist whose insights on fear and loss speak to me on so many levels. Letting go of the need to seek validation from my captors has been a lifelong struggle for me. I encourage readers to visit the link to SACRED and participate in the community that Skywalker is building. Here is a link to Skywalker’s Facebook page: Sacred community. Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Originally posted on rigzenchomo:


Loss opens vistas/Attachment limits new movement/Freedom is empty

The word loss sends shivers down our spines. We are you afraid of losing our jobs, our spouse, our health, our good looks, our memory, our home, our children. And most of us harbor the unspoken fear of the ultimate loss – death?

How can loss lead to happiness?

Recognize when fear of loss controls our lives.

How many of us move through life motivated by Fear?

We enter unsatisfying relationships because we fear being alone.

We go to college because we fear disappointing our parents.

We take jobs we hate because we fear going into debt.

We wear the latest fashions because we fear being ridiculed.

At the base of all of these fears is one overriding fear, the fear of loss.

We fear the loss of a relationship.

We fear the loss of our parent’s approval.

We fear the…

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The concrete roots of capitalism’s magical thinking

Jeff Nguyen:

If I had any say in the Pulitzer Prize, a nomination for Systemic Disorder would be forthcoming. I highly recommend this exhaustive analysis of the cradle to the grave conditioning, state repression and controlling of the narratives that capitalism engenders. This read is time well spent.

Originally posted on Systemic Disorder:

Most people don’t actually like capitalism. Dislike of the jobs we head to each day is quite the norm. Resentment of the power of the corporations we deal with in our daily lives crosses all social lines. Loathing of banks is nearly universal, across the political spectrum.

A sullen resignation to the continual unfairness of the world is pervasive. And yet, “there is no alternative.” Mercenary scribblers furiously tell us so. That this barrage of propaganda ceaselessly flows from the corporate media and other institutions speaks for itself as to the necessity of reinforcing this message; but it doesn’t in itself account for the widespread acceptance of “there is no alternative.”

There is the argument that if we simply ceased to cooperate, it would grind to a halt. Tempting though that argument is — and, in theory, it holds much truth — the puzzle of capitalism’s continued acceptance is a good…

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Fair Food Fest

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It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to let readers know that Deconstructing Myths will be on a (hopefully) brief hiatus. I have taken on a new teaching position which, along with family life, is currently taking up much of my time and energy. I will be working with 9th and 10th grade special education students at a school with a high population of at-risk students. The recent paramilitary events in Gaza Ferguson, MO, following another entirely preventable shooting of an unarmed young black man serves to highlight the need for awareness of our surroundings and the larger contexts in which they live and breathe. It is heartening to know there is a global army of bloggers who are wielding their mighty pens (keyboards) and willing to speak truth to power. Fair warning…like an elementary school principal in the night, I will be visiting my fellow bloggers to make sure no one’s sitting behind their desks goofing off or playing Angry Birds. So, until DM returns, I leave you with the poignant and haunting music of Tracy Chapman whom I’ve always loved for her integrity and the way she’s unafraid to wear her heart on her sleeve. We should all be so introspective.

“If you knew that you would find a truth
That brings up pain that can’t be soothed
Would you change?
Would you change?”

Update: Just a clarification…Deconstructing Myths is down for some time but not out. My apologies for any confusion and my gratitude for all of the support.

Peace and solidarity to all readers.


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The crying games

For who would dare to assert that eternal happiness can compensate for a single moment’s human suffering.

-Albert Camus

There are times when one’s voice seems so small and so insignificant in the face of suffering and misery on an unimaginable scale. The people of Ukraine know this feeling as do the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the myriad of other countries that the U.S. has graced with it’s presence in the past decade. In fact, it seems that everything that the U.S. touches turns into a commodity for the lords of capital to speculate and trade on. Now, it’s the Skin Horse known as the Palestinian people’s turn (again) at the whipping post. The residents of the Gaza Strip have endured a brutal, month-long siege that has seen disproportionately high numbers of civilian deaths and injuries. The casualties have been so lopsided and the targets of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) so indefensible that many previously neutral observers have spoken out against the genocide. The unrest and protests taking place in the homeland and, especially, abroad have made the political elite in the U.S., who never met a campaign contribution they couldn’t accept, increasingly uncomfortable. The U.S. has prided itself on retaining the illusion of the high ground in it’s international affairs but there is none to be found when the world knows the U.S. has blocked U.N. votes debating sanctions against Israel and has authorized the provision of more arms to Israel. Some have argued that Israel has the courtesy to drop leaflets warning of their strikes, as if Gazans should send thank-you notes to the IDF. The people of World War I France and post-Sadaam Iraq know all too well that an occupying army uses these tactics not for humanitarian reasons but for propaganda and social control.

(Photo credit:

(Photo credit:

A fellow blogger at Crow’s Head Soup has helped to bring awareness to my embarrassingly limited consciousness of another group of sentient beings that are ritually slaughtered and literally chewed up by the capitalist meat grinder. These are the thousands of heads of cattle found in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) in the United States of (Con)Agra. During a summer road trip with my family, I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It was an illuminating read, especially from someone who admittedly is not a vegan/vegetarian. There were two main takeaways I gleaned from the book, the first being the overarching influence that commodity corn has had on the food supply. There is no small trace of irony that the crop the indigenous people of North America gifted the colonial settlers with for their survival may be the very food source that hastens our downfall. While the author did not intend for the book to be a treatise against capitalism, it was hard not to see the tracks of the corporate interests in the factory farms that dot the landscape from sea to shining sea. The most important word in any good capitalist’s lexicon is efficiency. So, because grass does not produce cattle at sufficient sizes in acceptable time frames, America’s cattle have been raised on a diet of hormones, antibiotics and wait for it…corn. So, thanks to corn we can enjoy the modified fruits of our labor…cheap meat and corn in every product under the sun. The more I travel the road of social justice, the more I realize how interconnected all facets of our life are to both the capitalist grind and the natural world. We can be free without the former but never the latter.

(Photo credit: KeizerStreetArt)

(Photo credit: KeizerStreetArt)

Whether it’s the animal slaughterhouses of America or the open-air prison known as Palestine, there is a tendency for the occupiers to become sadistic. A study by Temple Grandin found, “It is important to rotate the employees who do the killing, bleeding, shackling, and driving. Nobody should kill animals all the time. Several plant managers and supervisors state that rotation helps prevent employees from becoming sadistic.” The equal and opposing force to sadism is compassion, the etymology of compassion is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” Compassion moves beyond mere empathy as it gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering. In order to see others in reality, we have to see ourselves more clearly first. Nelson Mandela, who knew a little about suffering, once said, “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” If we are not able to find our collective power in our shared humanity, the elite will continue to divide and conquer us. If we are not able to find compassion for all living beings, we will reap the whirlwind of the natural world as it seeks to restore balance and the natural order, independently of humans. We, humans or animals, were not meant to live our lives in chains nor were we meant to stand by idly while others are so confined. The levees of cutthroat capitalism that undergird the military and agricultural industrial complexes will not fall under the weight of a single drop of water. Every tear shed and every voice raised brings us closer to the tipping points needed to turn the tide.

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

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That’s how it goes

The Newseum's Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking  Everybody knows that the captain lied  Everybody got this broken feeling  Like their father or their dog just died.”

-Leonard Cohen

This coming weekend, I will be publishing a contribution to the Mic check guest blogger series from Claire O’Brien, whom I met through our interactions at her exceptional blog, Eléctrica in the Desert. Journalism is a profession that, in my not so humble opinion, falls under the category of “higher calling”, as it is entrusted with the widely coined mandate to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” In this context, Claire is an honorable reporter whose story serves as a reminder that following one’s conscience may come at a price. I would like to share with readers the extraordinary attack that was coordinated against her in the midst of a racially and politically divisive murder trial several years ago that served to derail her career as a journalist. O’Brien worked as a reporter for the Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, at the time a Latino man named Sam Bonilla was on trial and facing decades in jail for killing a local man, which he claimed was in self-defense. Bonilla was a Mexican immigrant who feared he could not get a fair trial and opted to forego a jury trial. In the course of her investigative reporting, she interviewed a source who corroborated Bonilla’s claim that the man he killed when confronted had “a base of support that is well-known for its anti-Hispanic beliefs” and a “supply of semi-automatic weapons.” O’Brien was pressured to reveal her source and when she refused was threatened with contempt by the presiding Judge. As a result of her actions, she was unceremoniously fired from her job at the Daily Globe, which went so far as to change the locks in their offices. She found previously proffered job offers and invitations to appear at journalism conferences withdrawn. This despite the fact that O’Brien won multiple awards for her investigative reporting, helped bring Bonilla’s case into the light of public scrutiny and was instrumental in establishing a Shield Law, in 2010, by the Kansas legislature.

Journalism is not  a crime

(Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

In Claire O’Brien’s own words:

“I feel it’s important for me to make my position clear, and I want to start sharing it with people. It’s my only path to justice, so I must take it, even if any of my arguments are flawed and/or my efforts still fail. 

I wrack my brain daily re: why no one considers my position worth even investigating. During fierce national threats to our civil liberties, I had acted to derail a state frame up funneling a Latino victim of a Hate Crime to a 40-year prison term. My coverage shone a light on “one of the most repressive and disturbing racist systems” the Mexican American Defense Fund had ever seen. Next, the U.S. Dept. of Justice showed up. No one had ever been made aware of the plantation system exploiting 9,000 slaughterhouse workers and their families in a corner of SW Kansas. Next, I’m hit with a subpeona to reveal the name of a confidential source. The nations premier Free Press organization, founded by four Black reporters 40 years ago because they couldn’t interview a member of the Black Panther Party without getting arrested, sends its biggest big shot, the famous Lucy Dalglish (FYI, the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press is now a white-dominated organization).  

For the first time in the history of journalism, the DEFENDERS of reporters make a secret alliance with Corporate media and they knock this heavily supported reporter to the ground with a statement to the national press accusing me of lying. 
The very worst thing you can do to a reporter. I never got up. Reporters who had flooded me with support disappeared. When I returned to the Daily Globe, the doors were all locked-the locks had been changed. 
The Latino community got the message about what happened to reporters who spoke up for them. They were silenced. Every reporter in Kansas also got a message. Big shots who knew the truth said nothing, this reporter was silenced. No one can tell me that wasn’t a sucessful national atttack on the First Amendment.
And the American press won’t say a word?”
Dodge City, Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dodge City, Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are the facts of O’Brien’s case and then there are the facts. Dodge City, where Wyatt Earp once served as a deputy marshall, is known for once being a major part of the Chisholm Trail where cattle were driven from Texas to Kansas railcars to be shipped East. During the cattle years, Dodge City became a booming frontier town known for saloons, prostitutes and gun slingers. So it was, some 150 years later, the descendants of the old West collided with the descendants of the new South. In O’Brien, the Latino community found a voice and a champion who was not afraid to stand with them in the face of monumental political and legal pressures. O’Brien paid a heavy price for her solidarity. The most crushing blow was the betrayal at the hands of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Lucy Dalglish, former director of the RCFP, and now the Dean of the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism, refused to issue a statement in support of O’Brien and, in fact, questioned her refusal to initially appear before the grand jury convened to pressure her into revealing her confidential source and her notes from jailhouse interviews with Bonilla. According to O’Brien, Washington, D.C. reporter Tony Mauro, then-president of the RCFP Steering Committee, was present when Lucy Dalglish admitted to Claire that, even after confirming Claire’s statements as true, she subsequently lied about Claire to the Associated Press. To add literal injury to the insults against her professional reputation, O’Brien was in a car accident shortly after leaving Dodge City jobless and penniless. She clearly ruffled the feathers of the preening peacocks found in every American city for whom the status quo is the guarantor of the power and privilege they have become accustomed to wielding. If an innocent Latino man is imprisoned for decades for standing his ground against white supremacists, well, apparently the bell tolled for he.
Ford County Courthouse in Dodge City, Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ford County Courthouse in Dodge City, Kansas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Claire O’Brien:

“And I’m supposed to accept it? What message is the Left sending me? If the Press leaders and the corporate media can stamp out rank and file reporters at will, that means their tens of millions of the unimportant readers have just had their First Amendment access to a free press shattered.

And the American public won’t get to weigh in because the American public will never know.
One Latino man’s life was at stake (he was 40, and was headed for a 40-year sentence) and another had risked reprisal from the Aryan Brotherhood on the basis of my word, which I have never broken.
When I stepped forward to take a big risk, I did not think I was standing alone. I have understood that our only power lies with one another since I was eight years old, and that refusing to stand for a worker who acted to defend all our rights was not a defensible choice. Personal feelings had no role whatsoever in this ongoing struggle. To deny support in such a circumstance was the strongest public rejection the Left could send.
Every day I still wonder: what does it mean to write and speak about oppression and resistance, yet allow someone we know to be singled out and picked off without even a chance to be heard? My beliefs have been shaken to the core, although my blog doesn’t reveal that, because I cannot grasp the idea that I am not considered worthy of the rights we’d all defend for the worst wife and child absuser: the right to present my defense, to be heard, and to be represented by counsel. I risked a charge of felony contempt, 4-6 months in jail, a fine of $1,000 a day, the combined wrath of a power I had no chance of facing alone, the loss of my reputation, the regard of my peers, my way of life, a voiceless community I had been honored to serve, my political honor, my income, my home and my family. One minute I had the only protection the working class may rely on-numbers and publicity. That’s what the Left DOES. I looked up and realized that I was facing that vast corporate power alone.”

(Photo credit: BlueRobot)

I was privileged to meet O’Brien through a series of conversations on our respective blogs. Her story needs to be shared and reshared because it’s our story. The implications of her legal case do not exist in a vacuum but are part of a much larger pattern of organized censorship and controlled discourse engineered by the corporate media and political interests they serve, with the ever present currents of systemic racism bubbling just underneath the surface. I must confess that while I have known superficially of the circumstances of Claire’s case, I failed to absorb the full impact of the suffering she has experienced and the toll it has taken. In America, where the global hunger games masked as austerity are taking effect, it is essential that we stand together rather than allow ourselves to continue to be divided. Europe is seeing a rise in fascist ideologies in Greece and other countries hard hit by austerity as people seek someone, anyone, to blame. As the corporate media act as gatekeepers of knowledge on behalf of their capos in lower Manhattan and the Beltway, the American public is kept on a short leash and information is doled out on a strictly “need to know” basis. The controlling of the discourse is by definition the managing of dissent. As Paulo Freire cautioned, “If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed.” As long as the ruling class is the one telling the stories, their straw narratives will continue to be spun into gold. If we turn our backs on the Claire O’Brien’s among us, who will be there to speak up when they come for us? Will the way that it has always gone continue to be the way it always goes?

Update: If there’s a journalist whose editor won’t kill the story, I have a ton of evidence and info. You should know that Jeremy Peters at the N.Y. Times said he was ready to write it, but they killed it, and that Charlie Savage knew of the problems I was having with GateHouse Media three months before anyone else did, and has remained silent.  Calvin Trillin wrote a piece in the New Yorker, and admitted to me right before his May 10, 2010 story that he’d been informed of my innocence before arriving in Dodge City. All I’m saying is, be prepared to get your story killed. I don’t know how to express how much any support will mean to me. Frankly, I have been devastated. Any blogger could make a huge difference by urging every connection they have to re-blog and tweet and re-tweet, demanding that the U. of Maryland Board of Trustees investigate these allegations. State law actually requires it. Also, the RCFP steering committee – the organization lists the many members, but refuses to provide me with email info for each of them. Reporter Tony Mauro, former president of the RCFP Steering Committee has participated in this cover-up, as has the Society for Professional Journalists – most prominently and ironically David Cullier, national Freedom of Information Act Officer. I have proof that he removed evidence of his actions from his SPJ blog. I am sorry I don’t have the contacts right at my fingertips. I have not been expecting any help for at least two years, and am having myriad tech problems with my laptop. However, it will take me just a couple of days to assemble the crucial links. In the meantime, my blog is packed with posts about this case, and if I can just stay on line long enough to assemble those links without getting kicked off, I will post them ASAP. Perhaps Jeff will have time to select at least a few.

I thank anyone who is willing to apply some pressure to these people – and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Yours in struggle,

Claire O’Brien


Postscript: I encourage readers to contact Claire directly to offer support and to consider writing to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now. Perhaps, we can help her story gain a wider audience and see that justice is truly served for a change. Here is the contact info for Democracy Now:

Further links to Claire O’Brien’s legal case:

Kansas reported who exposed racism in Dodge City has new battle to fight

A racially charged crime in Dodge City, Kansas

An open letter to attorney Chris Grenz, Kansas City, from journalist Claire M. O’Brien

All of us or none of us: No one walks alone

Gutless GateHouse puts bottom line ahead of public service

Claire O’Brien at Latina Lista

Governor signs shield law

Daily Globe wins six awards in state contest

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Aren’t we all?

Just sayin’…

(Photo credit: Jeff Nguyen)

(Photo credit: Jeff Nguyen)

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Maps are written by the victors, too

“For decades, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation. Despite abundant condemnation of Israeli policies by the UN, other international bodies, and preeminent human rights organisations, the world community has failed to hold Israel accountable and enforce compliance with basic principles of law. Israel’s crimes have continued with impunity.

In view of this continued failure, Palestinian civil society called for a global citizens’ response. On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.

The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the OPT, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Boycotts target products and companies (Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights, as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions. Anyone can boycott Israeli goods, simply by making sure that they don’t buy produce made in Israel or by Israeli companies. Campaigners and groups call on consumers not to buy Israeli goods and on businesses not to buy or sell them.

Israeli cultural and academic institutions directly contribute to maintaining, defending or whitewashing the oppression of Palestinians, as Israel deliberately tries to boost its image internationally through academic and cultural collaborations. As part of the boycott, academics, artists and consumers are campaigning against such collaboration and ‘rebranding’. A growing number of artists have refused to exhibit or play in Israel.

Divestment means targeting corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights and ensuring that the likes of university investment portfolios and pension funds are not used to finance such companies. These efforts raise awareness about the reality of Israel’s policies and encourage companies to use their economic influence to pressure Israel to end its systematic denial of Palestinian rights.

Sanctions are an essential part of demonstrating disapproval for a country’s actions. Israel’s membership of various diplomatic and economic forums provides both an unmerited veneer of respectability and material support for its crimes. By calling for sanctions against Israel, campaigners educate society about violations of international law and seek to end the complicity of other nations in these violations.”

(Source: Introducing the BDS Movement)

Update: A summary of how each company on the boycott list is supporting Israel: Boycott Israeli Products

(Video link: Israel/Palestine 101)

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We are all Palestinians

Jeff Nguyen:

As the POTUS fiddles and Gaza burns. it is (hopefully) a sign of hope that the global community is raising their voices in solidarity with the Palestinian people. The U.S. has no high ground to claim as it continues to provide arms and U.N. cover for the genocide taking place in the occupied territories. It appears that Netanyahu has taken ‘no child left behind’ to heart as the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, women and children are tactical methods for suppressing future generations who know in their hearts they must resist to exist. The “humane” leaflet drops warning Palestinians of imminent bombings were first used by Germany in WW I and by the U.S. military in Iraq to instill compliance…nothing new under the sun.

Originally posted on Deconstructing Myths:

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia )

Well, it’s February in the land of milk and Honey Boo Boo, the ruling class is ruling, the working class is barely working and the middle class, well let’s just say it was fun while it lasted. One of the more well received posts at Deconstructing Myths has been The giant and the boy who threw stones which discussed the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories in Gaza and the West Bank. When I consider my present standard of living in relation to that of the Palestinian people who have been livin’ la vida loca of modern day concentration camp conditions for decades, it’s like that feeling you get when you walk by a homeless person on the street. The recently granted United Nations non-member observer state status is a small step toward making the Velveteen Palestinians really real. Consequently, it is…

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Mic check: skulzstudios

La danse de la mort!

by skulzstudios

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

Palestinians in Gaza are butchered.

Our shared humanity stands silent.

Silence is disgraceful.


Skulzstudios can be found at his outstanding blog…DONZO’S GUERRILLA GRAFFIX. This work is part of the Mic check guest blogger series.

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