Social Justice E-Zine #19

goforth at goforth at
Sun May 12 21:29:39 MDT 1996


The terms of political discourse typically have two meanings. One
is the dictionary meaning, and the other is a meaning that is
useful for serving power...the doctrinal meaning.  Take the term
special interest.  The well-oiled Republican PR systems of the
1980's regularly accused the Democrats of being the party of the
special interests: women, labor, the elderly, the young, short, the general population.  There was only one
sector of the population never listed as a special interest:
corporations and business generally. ---Noam Chomsky

                       SOCIAL JUSTICE #19
                          May 13, 1996
                          Kim Goforth
                          Ray Goforth





   Welcome to the latest issue of SOCIAL JUSTICE E-ZINE.  The
name Social Justice encompasses the struggles of people
everywhere who work for gender equality, democratic government,
economic opportunity, intellectual freedom, environmental
protection, and human rights.
   Social Justice is an electronic magazine (e-zine) designed for
free distribution through the internet. Feel free to make copies
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by Elizabeth Kessler
e-mail: ekessler at

Hello Friends,

The last week has been a frightening one, but it has also
been thought-provoking.

Almost every time I meet a white South African, within minutes
they begin telling me how dangerous South Africa is, especially
Johannesburg, sometimes especially my neighborhood.  It has
become such a routine warning that I dismiss it as the paranoia
of suburban dwellers against cities, and when it is particularly
directed to my neighborhood, I mentally add racism to my

I don't believe that Johannesburg is much more dangerous than
any other major city, but arguing with these people is tiresome
and doesn't work anyway--they dismiss disagreement as naivety.

But last Friday night, I was sitting at home, reading the paper
and half watching TV.  The headline on the page before me read,
"South Africans more likely to die violently than anyone else."
Inside the article was the comment, "the rate of violent death
in South Africa was nearly six times that of the United States."

As I sat in my living room, between 11:40 and 11:45 pm, 3 shots
rang out on Grafton Street--the street my bedroom overlooks.
I don't think they were more than 50 feet away from me.  For a
moment, I was frozen between the impulse to go see what happened,
and total terror.  Common sense kicked in, reminding me NOT to
go look out of the window in case the incident wasn't over, and
I thought, "I should call the police."

Icy fear struck me again.  I didn't know HOW to call the police.
I grabbed the phone book and started searching through it, but
as quietly as I could.  Every second that passed from the time
the shots were fired, I listened to street noises, building
noises, and the sound of my own breathing.  I left the TV on
for comfort, but muted the sound.  I could hear other people
in the building, walking towards the Grafton Street wall, and
I could hear footsteps briefly on the street.  But in the 5
or so minutes it took me to figure out how to call the police,
I didn't hear any of the follow-up sounds that I was straining
towards--ambulance or police sirens, calls for help, or shouting.

So I didn't call the police either.  I waited and listened and
waited and listened, not moving from a small space on the edge
of the living room sofa, for 15 minutes.  And then I went and
looked out of my window, but I didn't see anything suspicious
or frightening on the street below.  I grabbed my journal and
returned to the living room sofa, writing:

    I don't think anything is going to happen.  But I'm
    still scared.

    I should just brush my teeth and go to bed.

    I think there were 3 shots.

    I thought the white woman with the little dogs was
    paranoid, _today_, when she told me that this area
    was dangerous.  I dismissed her as `typical white
    South African who doesn't like sharing the neighborhood
    with blacks.'  But gunshots outside my window are not a
    sign of paranoia.  I AM SUPPOSED TO BE SCARED OF GUNSHOTS.

Saturday afternoon, my friend Wendy dropped by.  She lives on
the next block, across Grafton Street at the corner of Minors
and Old Harrow.  We hadn't seen each other in a week or so,
and she'd had a stressful week.  It seems that her door had
been shot at, last Wednesday.  She wasn't scared, she said,
because she thought it was just someone letting off steam after
Bafana-Bafana lost to Brasil in soccer.

Wendy's door faces the courtyard of the house behind her place,
and she lives one floor above ground level.  The hole in her door
was near the top, and seems to have been shot at from the ground.
So she doesn't feel like she's in any danger, although she has
no intention of telling her parents about the hole in her door.

As I thought about Wendy, about my own fear hearing gunshots
outside of my window, I starting thinking about other dangerous
situations I have either experienced here, or that my friends
here have survived.

On the tour of Soweto, our group was rushed down the lane of
the informal settlement, because our guide was informed that
there was a "domestic situation" going on in one of the shacks,
and a man was threatening his wife with a gun.  No one wants
tourists getting shot, or even getting scared, so we were
quietly and discreetly, if quickly, hurried out of danger.  At
the time, I don't think we realized what was happening.  And I
was more scared of slipping in the sewage-y mud or cutting my
foot on a sliver of broken glass, since I'd stupidly worn my
sandals on the tour.

A friend of mine in the law school, a brilliant, friendly,
ambitious Zulu woman from KwaZulu/Natal, lost her brother
in January.  He was stabbed to death in Durban.

On the bus today, I noticed a white man, thin and tidy, in
pressed jeans and a faded-but-neat flannel shirt.  The right leg
of his jeans was pinned up neatly, making it clear that there was
only a small stump remaining.  His ability to manipulate a pair
of battered wooden crutches was impressive, and he got off of the
bus with grace.

Last Friday morning, many hours before I heard gunshots on
Grafton Street, I ran into a woman taking her dogs out for a
walk.  She lives upstairs in my building, and is an English
South African, in her fifties or early sixties.  Her dogs
are small and friendly, sure that everyone they meet is a
new friend.  She struck up a conversation with me as we were
leaving the building, talking at first about how useless her
dogs were against burglars.  When she heard my accent, she
launched into the "everything is so dangerous" speech that I'd
learned to expect.  And although I was polite, I stopped
listening to her almost immediately, writing her off as the
"typical white South African" who doesn't want to share "her"
neighborhood with blacks.

But later that night, I remembered something she said to me.
She commented on my accent, noting, "You're American?  You're
very lucky.  You can leave."

And I realized how true it is.  Not just that I can leave
South Africa, but that I'm not--probably ever--going to be
trapped in a dangerously violent place.  Being white, being
American, being a year short of a professional degree, and
living in a place like Madison, I have a lot of privileges.

But being here, living with this fear, functioning in spite
of the strange edginess that seems to permeate my life right
now, I think I have a glimpse of what it's like to live in
such danger and not to be able to escape.

I hope I don't forget how this feels.

copyright 1996 by Elizabeth Kessler

This News Service is posted by the International Secretariat of
Amnesty International,
1 Easton Street, London WC1X 8DJ
(Tel +44-71-413-5500, Fax +44-71-956-1157)


As politician Sri Bintang Pamungkas was sentenced today to
two years and 10 months imprisonment for "insulting" the
President, Amnesty International again calls on the
Indonesian Government to repeal legislation allowing for the
imprisonment of peaceful government critics.

"The authorities have yet again demonstrated their
intent of silencing peaceful opposition in the country -- the
use of this repressive legislation has in the past year
resulted in the imprisonment of journalists, activists and a
psychic," Amnesty International said today.

Indonesian laws, including the so-called Hate-Sowing
Articles, allow for the imprisonment of individuals for
expressing "hatred" and "insulting" the government or the
head of state. Sri Bintang Pamungkas is the sixth person to
be sentenced to imprisonment under these repressive laws
since 1995.

A former member of Indonesia's Parliament for the
United Development Party (PPP), Sri Bintang Pamungkas, was
found guilty of  "insulting" President Suharto by allegedly
referring to him as a "dictator" during a seminar at a German
University on 9 April 1995. He has denied the allegation and
has announced that he will appeal the decision. He has so far
not been imprisoned.

Sri Bintang Pamungkas was originally questioned over
his alleged role in demonstrations in Germany in April 1995,
during a visit by Indonesian President Suharto. However,
attention turned to alleged comments by Sri Bintang Pamungkas
in the seminar after it became clear that the police could
not find any evidence of his involvement in the
demonstrations. He was ultimately charged with "insulting"
the President, under Article 134 of the Criminal Code, and
his trial began in November 1995.

Like other political trials in Indonesia this trial has
been marked by unfairness. Defence witnesses travelling from
Germany received their first summons one week after they were
required to appear in court. The one witness who was able to
travel to Indonesia was hampered in his efforts to obtain a
visa from the Indonesian Embassy in Germany. On arrival in
Indonesia, he was subjected to extensive surveillance by the

As one of the few outspoken members of parliament, Sri
Bintang Pamungkas has come under increasing restrictions by
the authorities. In April 1995, he was banned from travelling
overseas. The following month, he was expelled from the
parliament. A further one year travel ban has been recently
imposed. During his trial, demonstrations were held outside
the offices of his lawyers and the court, apparently with the
connivance of the authorities.

Domestic and international organizations have
condemned the treatment of Sri Bintang Pamungkas. In April
1996, the Inter-Parliamentary Union stated that the
allegations against him related merely to his right to
freedom of expression.


The Boston Globe
THE HIGHER LAW (Civil Disobedience at School of the Americas)

By Globe Staff, May 3, 1996

In a US district court in Georgia earlier this week, Judge Robert
Elliot sentenced two women and eleven men to jail for trespassing
on the grounds of the US Army's School of the Americas.

The trespassers had been protesting against a US Army training
program that has produced military dictators, death squad
leaders, torturers and uniformed drug traffickers throughout
Latin America. Among its graduates are Panama's Manuel Noriega,
convicted in the United States for drug trafficking, El
Salvador's death squad leader Roberto d'Aubuisson and Bolivia's
Gen. Hugo Banzer.  Banzer, who was recently inducted into the
School of Americas' hall of fame, took power in a military putsch
and used his power to shelter Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie.

One of the trespassers, Sister Clair O'Mara, an Ursuline nun for
51 years, explained her motivation succinctly.  "There is a
higher law," she said before her sentencing. "It is the law of
conscience, and I feel obliged to follow it." Compressed in
Sister O'Mara's simple statement was a sense of obligation to the
men and women who suffered at the hands of torturers trained at
Fort Benning.

Sister O'Mara, three priests and nine laymen were convicted for
commemorating the November 16, 1989, murders of six priests,
their cook and her daughter in El Salvador. Of the 31 officers
cited by a Salvadoran Truth Commission for complicity in the
killings or an ensuing coverup, 22 were graduates of the School
of the Americas.

Judge Elliott showed no interest in the moral compulsion that
haunts Sister O'Mara and her fellow protesters. "The fact that a
person has a lofty motive doesn't excuse the criminal activity,"
said the judge. The defendants got two to six months.

Rep. Joe Kennedy of Brighton, Massachusetts, who attended the
sentence of the protesters, has sponsored a bill to cut off
funding for the training program and has written a letter to
President Clinton urging him to eliminate funding for next year.


The National Organization for Women <now at>

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as a result
of its investigation of complaints of sexual harassment and abuse
at a Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing Corporation (Mitsubishi)
plant in Normal, Illinois, has filed a massive federal lawsuit
alleging pervasive sexual harassment at the plant. The EEOC
alleges that some 300 to 500 women have been verbally
harassed and physically assaulted by co-workers and supervisors.

Mitsubishi responded to the allegations by paying employees to
attend a protest at a Chicago EEOC office and scapegoating the
women as potentially causing layoffs at the plant, thereby
encouraging further harassment of the women.

Members of NOW urge that letters of protest to be sent to:

Mr. Takahisa Komoto, President
Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America
100 N. Mitsubishi Motorway
Normal, IL 61761, United States of America

For more information go to the NOW Web site at
or call: 202-331-0066.


For those who have inquired:  We (Ray and Kim Goforth) spent
several years doing progressive political organizing work in
southern California.  We moved to Seattle, Washington, USA in
1988 where we took positions with different social service
agencies. In 1995, we both completed undergraduate degrees in
political-economy at The Evergreen State College.  We are
currently law students at the University of Washington.  Kim's
area of interest is women's and children's advocacy.  Ray's is
sustainable development and human rights.


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