When then, did the millennium turn? Was it in Seattle on November 30, 1999, with the unprecedented backlash to corporate-led globalization? Was it amidst the smoldering rubble of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001? Or was it on February 15, 2003, when in perhaps "the most spectacular display of public morality ever" (in the words of Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy), over 10 million people worldwide marched and rallied against a U.S.-led military attack on Iraq?
My hope is that at some future time, we'll look back and recognize a number of events that worked together to facilitate a (hopefully positive) shift in human consciousness in relation to living together and sharing the resources of the planet.
Certainly this online exhibit was motivated by a number of events. For although I'd been taking snapshots at various protest rallies in the Twin Cities since 1997, it was three specific events at the end of 1999 that really galvanized me to create Faces of Resistance.
The first of these events was the Committing to Peace: Generation to Generation conference of October 29-November 1, 1999. Organized by the Midwest Institute for Social Transformation (MIST), this conference united longtime justice and peace activists with youth from around the U.S. in an exploration of "the history and future of non-violent dissent in the struggle for justice."
The second event was the November 1999 protests in Seattle against the neo-liberal policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO). As Mary Shepard, co-founder of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), observed in February 2000, the "WTO fiasco" blew the lid imposed by the corporate media on the organizing and protesting activities of the grassroots justice and peace movement and "behold, linkages between issues and people [were] made."
In explaining the WTO, Mary observed that "the WTO is nothing more than the logical extension of the capitalist system, which rewards the 'haves' and deprives the 'have-nots' -- a system irrationally fueled by greed in a world of diminishing, nonrenewable resources. Rather than being the road to democracy, the system cannot tolerate democracy and crushes it wherever it raises its head. Rather than being a force for peace, the system all but guarantees the wars."
Although opposition and resistance to this system and in particular, its manifestation in the policies of corporate-led globalization (or neo-liberalism), have been taking place for decades in the global South, the "showdown in Seattle" brought the struggle home to roost in the very bastion of First World corporate power. Such a turn-of-events, said Mary, "really is the beginning of something new."
The third galvanizing event of 1999 involved my participation in the efforts to stop a very concrete example of the arrogance and destructiveness of corporate-led economic expansion. The re-routing of Highway 55 in South Minneapolis threatened to cut through land considered especially sacred to the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota people. The struggle by a diverse coalition of individuals and groups to stop the re-route, ended in defeat on the morning of December 11, 1999, with the destruction of a grove of four bur oak trees, sacred to the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota.
My awareness and, to varying degrees, participation in these three events, instilled in me a desire to be more intentional in my documentation of the people and issues I encountered as both an activist and a photographer. As a result, I began interviewing many of the individuals I photographed. In this way I recorded their own thoughts and perspectives on the issues they felt strongly about.
In building the Faces of Resistance website, I also decided to include the perspectives of internationally renowned commentators who, although not featured in my photography, nevertheless had observations and insights worth sharing. Such people include Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star, Mark Hertsgaard of the Guardian of London, Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald, Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle, author and activist Arundhati Roy, theologian Susan B. Thistlethwaite, author and activist Starhawk, author Susan George, and writers Hugh Pearson, Sidney Blumenthal, Jeremy Rifkin, Roger Burbach and Jim Tarbell.
Actor and activist Vanessa Redgrave, whom I greatly respect and admire, once said that the essence of both life and art is to "communicate about lives . . . and beliefs, and what is in those beliefs." In some small way, it is this type of communication that I've attempted to facilitate and document through Faces of Resistance.
Following are some photographs (that others took of me) and commentaries that document my expansion in political and social consciousness -- an expansion that took place in the context of the Minnesota justice and peace movement at the turn of the millennium, whenever and however that is reckoned.
The weekly vigil outside the corporate headquarters of Alliant Techtsystems -- Minnesota's largest military munitions contractor -- introduced me to the crucial role that militarism plays in US foreign policy. My involvement in this vigil and the community that faithfully gathers for it every Wednesday morning come rain or shine, also made me aware of other justice and peace issues, their underlying causes, and various creative and nonviolent responses and alternatives to them.
This awareness compelled me to get involved in a range of social justice issues and to creatively document via photography, the people I encountered and the events I witnessed, participated in, and in some cases, helped facilitate. Such activity was very energizing and ensured the building of lasting friendships with many interesting and inspiring individuals.
In November 1997, I wrote to my parents in Australia and shared with them my new found interest and involvement in the activities of the Twin Cities justice and peace community.
"What makes me so interested and motivated to participate in such things?" I asked. "I'm not really sure. The sense of solidarity and community I experience while working with others to bring about change undoubtedly plays a part. As does my conviction that as followers of Jesus we are called to non-violently confront and dismantle systems of injustice and oppression. I was looking through my photos of last Christmas and my time spent back home earlier this year. I was suddenly very aware of how incredibly lucky we all are to be living where we do and in the ways that we do. I was also conscious of my brother' and sister-in-laws' calling to raise their children in such a way that they will treat others lovingly and justly. I have no doubt that Chris & Cathie and Tim & Ros will do this admirably. Yet for obvious reasons [I had come out as gay to my family the previous year], such a calling is not for me. Perhaps the opportunities I now have before me and which call me to become involved in the issues I have written to you about, are no less important ways of helping build a better world.
"I'm not sure where my involvement in such issues will lead me. But I know that in the last year I've changed a lot - mainly in relation to the way I view this country, militarism, and the economic system that we currently have and which is obviously not working in a just way for a vast number of people. I have no alternative to offer, yet know that there's no going back to the way I used to view things. Basically, I'm just trusting that the Spirit will lead me in right ways of thinking about such things and accordingly, in how I should live my life."
Later in my letter, I shared with my parents how the life and work of Dorothy Day had influenced me.
"Dorothy's life (1897-1980) and her openness to the Spirit, have become quite inspirational for me over that past year or so. She co-founded the Catholic Worker movement (a network of Houses of Hospitality which feed and shelter the poor in numerous US cities) and throughout her life campaigned and protested against various forms of social injustice -- poverty, economic injustice, militarism, and racism. She also had a very rich prayer life which she always maintained was essential if one was to work for social change in the world. During the Second World War and the 1950s, Dorothy was often branded a communist. She once noted (quoting a Latin American bishop) that 'when you feed the hungry you're labeled a saint, yet when you question the underlying structures of society that allow for such widespread hunger, you're labeled a communist.'"
5. Protesting (in the rain) the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia -- Edina, Minnesota, May 1999. With me are Tom White, John Bruan, and Jane Regan.
In September 1998, I found myself needing a place to live. I shared my situation at one of the Wednesday morning Alliant vigils, and Ken and Carol approached me afterwards and generously opened their home to me. We'd later joke that I came to live with them after meeting them on the streets, which in a way, is actually true!
For five years (1998-2003) I lived very happily in a basement room of Ken and Carol's house in the Seward neighborhood of South Minneapolis. Such an arrangement allowed me to live the life of an activist/photographer. I worked with various non-profit organizations, planned and participated in conferences, actions, and educational forums, exhibited my photographs and weaved my Faces of Resistance website (primarily via Carol's computer), studied for a time at United Theological Seminary, and, of course, was constantly short of money. A favorite saying of mine at the time was, "If you're not on the edge then you're taking up too much space." Financially, I was often "on the edge," but emotionally and spiritually I always felt very grounded and safe thanks to the love and support of many people -- Ken and Carol in particular.
My time with Ken and Carol was punctuated by innumerable house- and dog/cat-sitting gigs for friends and acquaintances in other parts of Minneapolis. In November 2003, Dr. Michael Douglas offered me his home, "across the river" in St. Paul, to care-take on a permanent basis. I accepted the offer at around the same time that I became executive coordinator of the independent Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM). A new phase of my life in the Twin Cites had began.
I had been visiting Kerry and other friends in nearby Goulburn when I first heard the news of the US air strikes against Iraq. Knowing my friends in the Twin Cities would be engaging in some form of protest, I decided to do likewise in Australia. Kerry felt the same way and agreed to accompany me to the US embassy in Canberra. With our homemade signs and banners we picketed the embassy for almost two hours before heading to the Australian Parliament House to do similar action for about forty minutes. We did this as the Australian government was supportive of the US military action. We were the only ones protesting, though we found out later that a sizable rally had taken place in Canberra's central business district while we were at the US embassy.
A German tourist snapped this photograph of Kerry and I as we were being told by a security guard to leave the forecourt of Parliament House or face arrest. We moved to the sidewalk were several other tourists came up to us and offered words of encouragement and thanks. I remember one young man of Middle Eastern descent calling us "heroes." Perhaps in his country of origin, a simple public protest like what Kerry and I were engaging in would result in execution. (The ironic thing is that so many repressive and undemocratic Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia and, for many years, Iraq, are supported by the US.) We couldn't help but notice that responses from white Australians to our presence were of either disbelief or disdain.
I was in Washington, DC, for the A16 series of events. A16 refers to April 16, 2000, the main day of protest during a week of rallies, demonstrations, teach-ins and activities -- all of which were aimed at protesting the structure and policies of both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While in Washington, DC, I worked with the Independent Media Center, taking photographs of various A16 events.
9. Dressed as a "grief puppet" for an anti-war march and rally in Minneapolis -- June 1999. No taking photos for me that day!
10. On the shores of Lake Superior with (from left) Pepperwolf, Jane McDonald, Tom Bottelene, and Kate McDonald -- June 1999. We were in Duluth, Minnesota visiting our friends at the Catholic Worker House of Hospitality.
15. At the site of the Four Sacred Oaks. The trees had been destroyed one week earlier on December 11, 1999 by the rerouting of Highway 55.
We were always a small group, but throughout QURA's three years of existence we proactively worked to ensure a number of important and satisfying accomplishments. One of these was a presence at the 2001 Twin Cities Gay Pride festival where we surveyed over 700 people for their views on the so-called "War on Terror.'
Along with some slide images and stories about the issues and people I've encountered while working for social change, I also shared with these young people my thoughts and experiences on what motivates people to try and make our world a better place. I remember emphasizing that rather than think and speak about such people as "protesters" against various negative things, we should talk of them as "advocates" for positive goals like fairness and peace.
While in Australia from November 2000-January 2001, I found myself often grappling with where and how I wanted to live my life. Traveling by train one day from Sydney to visit my friends Garth and Jeremiah in Wollongong, I thought about my plans for the future and wrote the following in my journal: "I'm committed to returning to Minneapolis and working for at least a year at Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ as the community's director of Education for Liberation program [I ended up working at Spirit of the Lakes for two-and-a-half years.] God, the inner city scenes and situations that that thought conjures up seem so alien as I gaze out the train window and see eucalyptus forests, rivers, and sleepy little Aussie train stations pass me by. What else draws me back to the States? I experience a strong sense of community while working with others to challenge corporate-led globalization and dysfunctional US foreign policy. And in so many ways, the States is where it's happening. It's 'the heart of the beast.' I'm really beginning to think that things are just way too laid back for me in Australia. I have a very intense, passionate, and inquiring part of me that finds expression and nourishment in the various activist communities I'm part of in the States. I'm sure such communities exist in Australia, but the thought of returning here permanently, finding them, and starting all over, feels very overwhelming."
In the summer of 2001, as I was about to start a new volunteer position as well as a two-year period of study at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, I was seriously contemplating wrapping up my Faces of Resistancewebsite. Two months later, the terrorist attacks of September 11 occurred. Documenting the justice and peace community's response to both this tragedy and the Bush's administration's so-called "War on Terror," would ensure the creation of a new gallery -- one that would become the most extensive of the Faces of Resistance website.
The message on my sign in image 20 was inspired by independent journalist John Pilger, who in a 2001 article, noted that the "War on Terror" was more about protecting and expanding US corporate interests (most notably oil interests) than it was about combating the problem of international terrorism.
Standing from left to right: Brigid McDonald, Jane McDonald, me, Marie Bruan, and Chris.
Some further reflections on Faces of Resistance
This economic system is of course, capitalism. It's a system that by its very nature, views everything primarily in terms of "commodity," and places profit above all other concerns -- be they human, social, or environmental. In doing so, capitalism denigrates democracy (the rule of the people) to mere plutocracy (the rule of money). The unfettered expansion of capitalism is increasingly referred to by those in power -- and by the media they own and control -- as "globalization," though a more accurate term would be "corporate-led globalization".
David C. Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism, notes that corporate-led globalization is a "made-in-America product imposed on the world using every instrument of power at America's command . . . [The subsequent] trashing of the world's cultures, economies, and democratic institutions [not to mention ecological systems] . . . is purely an agenda of a handful of American corporations, not America's people."
Korten notes that even proponents of corporate-led globalization acknowledge that its success depends not on "any inevitable and self-propelling force arising out of the dreams and aspirations of humanity", but on the United States' willingness to use its military power to impose the corporate-led globalization agenda upon any who threaten or challenge capitalism.
As former CIA agent Philip Agee notes, "every progressive and left movement, however far away [from the U.S.] is a threat . . . [especially if they champion] a model that favors human social rights--education, health care, work and dignity -- over the rights to unfettered use of private property, to unlimited wealth at the expense of others [and the environment], and the right to cast a vote in elections that [in reality] offer little real choice."
Thomas L. Friedman could not have expressed it more succinctly when he wrote: "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps . . ."
Accordingly, it is accurate to say that U.S. foreign policy stems from and reflects a reliance on U.S. military intervention (both covert and overt) to secure and expand the profit-driven agenda of U.S. transnational corporations. Yet as well as questioning and non-violently confronting this use of force and the capitalistic system that undergirds it, the individuals and groups featured in this exhibit also advocate alternatives that promote compassionate engagement with the world, justice-making, peace, true democracy, and environmental sustainability.
The Faces of Resistance exhibit is thus populated by Americans involved in both protesting and advocating. They are individuals and groups who are actively working to instill real values of justice and peace into the way their country's structures of power (be they governmental and/or corporate) are designed and regulated, and how these structures interact with U.S. citizens, the global community, and the environment.
Bennis also notes that "The [September 11 attacks were] a crime -- a crime against humanity of unspeakable magnitude, but a crime nonetheless. If the United States' claim to be a country ruled by law was accurate, then the U.S. goal -- even for those outside the law such as the September 11 terrorists -- should have been to bring the perpetrators to face international justice, not to turn them into dead-or-alive targets for F-16-flying bounty-hunters."
"More than any single policy, the biggest cause of international anger against the United States is the arrogance with which U.S. power is exercised," insists Bennis. She lists examples of this arrogant exercising of power in her 2002 book, Before and After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis. They include the dismissing of international law, the ignoring of UN resolutions, and the abandoning of binding treaties.
"Washington demands that other countries strictly abide by UN resolutions and international law, imposing sanctions or threatening military assault in response to violations, but holds itself accountable only to a separate law of empire that applies to the U.S. alone," Bennis observes.
Commenting on the Bush administration's handling of the September 11 crisis, Bennis speaks for many in the justice and peace community when she says that, "we know now that a weak, ultimately illegitimate president saw the September 11 crisis as a great gift, enabling him to consolidate his faltering credibility (domestic and international), and to implement long-standing goals of the right-wing Republican agenda. Aside from domestic policies that destroyed once-cherished liberties protections and undermined hard-won environmental defenses, September 11 brought the Bush presidency a shift of vastly enhanced power to the executive branch, military force asserted in place of diplomacy, rejection of treaties, and foreign policy imposed on the rest of the world through an unchallenged law of empire."
The individuals who appear in the Faces of Resistance exhibit are prepared and willing to challenge this law of empire, are prepared to rise above a nationalistic mind-set, embracing instead the realization that we are ultimately a planetary people. Many of the individuals featured in these photographs also integrate spirituality and various religious beliefs into their thinking and acting as they live and work for justice, peace, and the building of a sustainable world for all.
Michael J. Bayly
GALLERY 1 - FACES OF RESISTANCE
GALLERY 2 - CONFRONTING CORPORATE GLOBALIZATION
GALLERY 3 - A16
GALLERY 4 - MAY DAY 2000
GALLERY 5 - RESPONDING TO THE CRISIS IN IRAQ
GALLERY 6 - CLOSING THE SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS
GALLERY 7 - HIGHWAY 55
GALLERY 8 - ALLIANT ACTION
GALLERY 9 - RESPONDING TO 9/11 AND THE "WAR ON TERROR"