We do Not Live in the World of Before

Following the announcement of US presidential candidate Joe Biden picking Kamala Harris for VP, I have seen many social media posts. US American liberal friends seem thrilled and some have already started the “vote shaming.” Biden and Harris have been forgiven or, better yet, not even noted for their centrist, rightwing past. And I have US American leftist, anarchist, and socialist friends lamenting the betrayal, once again, of the Democratic Party to working class people. Most of them are anticipating another four years (or more) of Trump. As one who is considered to be far left, I must concur with the latter. The Democratic establishment is once again banking on identity politics over substance. It is digging in its heels to the noxious muck of late capitalism, as it always has. That might have worked before, but we do not live in the world of before.


So it causes me to ponder what might have won? Medicare for All in a country where healthcare (a fundamental human right) is linked to employment, where millions have lost their jobs and are un or under-insured? And during a global pandemic that is poised to take hundreds of thousands of American lives? Comprehensive programs for housing and debt relief, including student debt, in an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression? Defunding and abolishing the police as it exists as an institution today, in the midst of massive uprisings against documented, ongoing, entrenched brutality and systemic racism? A true “Green New Deal,” that isn’t merely a cloak for green corporate capitalism and the fossil fuel industry? An end to the surveillance state that vastly eroded civil liberties, and a bloated military industrial complex that sucks billions of dollars each year to destroy poorer nations in the global south in the defense of capitalist interests? A decisive criticism of diplomacy and the human rights crimes of American allies, like medieval Saudi Arabia, which continues to commit genocide in Yemen with US bombs? Or apartheid Israel, which has just annexed the occupied West Bank with little opposition even though it violates international law? Just a few things here, I know.


Trump is perhaps the final and most visual symbol of the American Empire’s depravity. Perhaps, even, of its collapse. And his proto-fascistic character thrives on centrist weakness as much as it feeds on the fears of the privileged, ignorant and bigoted. He has been erroneously mocked as stupid, and yet those who mock him cannot see that this is his strength in a sham republic, where education and science are routinely viewed with suspicion and met with derision by an enormous swath of the population.


Forgive me, but I have no encouragement regarding these events at the moment. Because to me, it is as if the Weimar Republic is reaching its bony fingers through the soil of its grave to warn the apathetic and the unaware. An omen to those who live in the shadow of an empire in collapse.


I can only encourage people of conscience to build solidarity and stay sharp. As Lenin said, “sometimes decades pass and nothing happens, and then there are weeks where decades happen.” From here until January of 2021, we shall find out if that is the case in our moment.


Kenn Orphan  August 2020

Ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On this day, 75 years ago, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing 80,000 civilians instantly and injuring tens of thousands of people, many fatally, in the days and weeks that followed. Human beings were reduced to ash shadows, burned into the pavement. Women, men and children wandered through the firestorms, their skin hanging from their bodies like tattered clothes. The US would go on to bomb the city of Nagasaki days later, bringing the total death count to well over 140,000 and possibly as high as 226,000. This figure does not include those who died of their injuries later or the ones who perished from cancer caused by the radiation.
          The myth that these bombings stopped the war and saved millions of lives persists to this day, thanks to historical revisionism. But by multiple historical accounts, including American ones, the Japanese were on the brink of surrender. There were peace overtures that the Americans simply ignored. The Japanese Empire committed atrocities themselves prior to and during the war, primarily against the Chinese. But this in no way justified the murder of over 140,000 civilians. It was merely a show of force to the Soviets. It proved to the world that the American Empire would replace all others.
          After this horrendous crime, the US went on to bomb the Marshall Islands and irradiate the native population, as well as expose US soldiers to deadly radiation without their knowledge, in tests done in the Nevada desert and in the Pacific.
          Today, the world continues to face the existential menace of nuclear war and annihilation thanks to reckless American militarism. Smaller, more “usable” nuclear arms have been designed by the US in recent years, showing a willingness to use them on any nation that dares defy their hegemony. Other nations are now racing to keep up. But to think nuclear war can be contained is the height of ignorant hubris. The very definition of madness.
          Humanity is facing its ultimate nemesis with climate change and nuclear annihilation. And if we are unable to stop the madness of ecocide and empire, we shall face our quietus. From the maw of cruel history, the ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cry out.
–  Kenn Orphan  August, 2020
Title artwork is “Fire II” (1950) by Iri Maruki and Toshi Maruki. Paper, Indian ink, coloring. Artworks courtesy of Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels

The Tactics of Terror

“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” – Vladimir Lenin


Between 1973 and 1990 scores of people were disappeared by the US supported fascist regime of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. They were incarcerated, tortured and thousands were murdered. In fact, the official total of those killed by the regime is just over 40,000. But some critics suggest it was much higher. Pinochet was able to do all of this with the blessing of the CIA who assisted him in the coup against the elected President, Salvador Allende, and in his reign of terror afterward in Chile. The painful lessons of the Pinochet years has often been obscured under neoliberal historical revisionism, but with what is currently unfolding in cities like Portland, Oregon, it is urgent to revisit them.


When Donald Trump’s federal agents rolled into Portland last week, they began to employ classic police state tactics of intimidation. Tear gas was employed, “non-lethal” munitions, and the psychological terror of unmarked vans snatching protesters, and even those simply standing by, off the streets without arrest warrants and whisked off to undisclosed locations. The use of forced disappearance should not be underestimated because it is, perhaps, the most effective tactic at crushing dissent and eliminating political rivals.


Under the fist of General Pinochet, the state became a ruthless force of terror. In September of 1973, at least 10,000 people, many of them students, activists and political dissidents, were rounded up by the military shortly after he took the office of the presidency by a US supported and orchestrated coup.They were taken to the National Soccer Stadium in Santiago where they were subjected to torture or were massacred outright. Thousands of bodies were buried in mass graves. Thousands were never recovered as they were discarded in rivers and even in the Pacific Ocean. Even today, families await justice and the chance to bury their loved ones.


Forced disappearances are a crime against humanity according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. And there is no statute of limitations on this crime. But, as we have seen over the past few decades, the US government and military cares little for the international rule of law. Indeed, it has enjoyed impunity for its atrocities while those who violate these statutes in the Global South are often brought to trial and punished severely. The US invasion of Iraq, along with the occupation and atrocities are clear examples of this. And under Trump, the American Empire has divorced itself even more from international bodies that seek at least some regulation of state excesses or the management of crises. His withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change and his recent withdrawal from the World Health Organization during a global pandemic point to a brazen disinterest in engaging with the international community.


Pinochet’s Chile was not alone in its use of forced disappearances. During the Dirty War in Argentina at least 30,000 people were disappeared and murdered by the US backed, rightwing military junta. In fact, under the US implemented and CIA backed and assisted “Operation Condor,” which targeted leftist or socialist political activists, student organizers, and academicians, the entire South American continent became a killing field from the 1970s well into the 1980s. Unsurprisingly, the genocidaire Henry Kissinger was deeply involved in these atrocities in much the same way as he was in Southeast Asia and on the African continent. And he assisted in marrying federal agencies, surveillance and state police, and paramilitary mercenaries and death squads to one another in order to carry out the crimes successfully.


It is not hyperbolic for there to be great alarm over Trump’s use of forced disappearances. Although there have been no deaths because of it, his flouting of the rule of law and use of this tactic of terror is not an accident. And the people under him have proven time and time again that they are ever willing to carry out his orders. As the election looms in November, we should not underestimate the timing of this either. Across the nation protests have arisen to confront the long legacy and continuing ruthlessness of racist, police state violence. The rage has been simmering for a long time, and the murder of George Floyd ignited and galvanized millions to take a stand. To Trump, who is one of the most overtly racist presidents to have taken office since Woodrow Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt, this represents the greatest threat to his legitimacy.


The US is now leading the world in cases of Covid-19 with over 140,000 deaths. Indeed, the pandemic is currently wreaking havoc on an American healthcare system which was already suffering from disorganization and beholden to the whims and will of merciless capitalist predation. When Trump came in, he literally threw out the handbook on how to deal with global pandemics, so the ongoing protests to police brutality provide him a perfect distraction from his colossal blundering and incompetence.


And of course, there are other ingredients to this recipe for disaster. Trump faces a weak candidate in Joe Biden, who cannot seem to form a coherent opposition to his blatant fascist impulses. If there is no meaningful alternative that represents real change in ordinary people’s lives then, like it or not, the people will not bother to vote. There is also the precarious economic situation, the elephant in the room that few wish to acknowledge. With millions unemployed and facing eviction or foreclosure, the elements of fascism may be coalesced even further. God help us if a climate change fueled catastrophe comes this summer or in the fall, because it will be the perfect storm for him to pull whatever levers necessary for him to quell dissent and remain in power. He has such mechanisms at his disposal thanks to the Patriot Act and the NDAA. He can detain any US citizen indefinitely by merely calling them a terrorist, thanks to legislation designed and endorsed by George W. Bush and Barack Obama. And he has already begun branding anyone who opposes his tyranny, like Antifa and Black Lives Matter, with that spurious charge.


The uprisings taking place across the US are the stirrings of a global mass movement that shows great promise. That they are taking place in the most wealthy and powerful empire on the planet is an indication that this empire itself is beginning to unravel under the weight of its hubris and a long legacy of cruelty, racism and brutality. But no one should underestimate the tremendous pain a wounded giant can inflict as it falls. Its violence is unoriginal, but it will use the only tactics it knows. And we should remember that it is very familiar with atrocities, because it has visited them frequently on the Global South for decades. Portland is a portent. And, as Lenin inferred in the quote above, things can happen rapidly and in a short span of time. We would be wise to heed these urgent lessons before it is too late.


Kenn Orphan  July 2020

It’s True, America has been”Running the World Since 1776″

Lately, there doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by without another viral video of some white American going ballistic in public. Even before an outright racist was put in the Oval Office, in the age of social media we have been allowed to see countless moments of racist intimidation and threats that, although common, were most often hidden from public view. But the latest spate of outbursts seems to be related to mask wearing in stores and other public spaces to stem the spread of Covid-19. One incident involved a man in a Costco store in Florida who screamed at an elderly woman who asked him to wear a mask. The man yelled: “I feel threatened! Back off! Threaten me again!” as he stepped toward the woman in a threatening manner. This moment of unhinged rage would be like every other if it were not one other glaring characteristic about the man. He was wearing a t-shirt that read: “Running the world since 1776.”


To most Americans there is nothing odd about this t-shirt. I lived most of my life in the States and I understand the mindset. American Exceptionalism is a noxious myth that permeates virtually every aspect of the culture. It is embedded in almost every speech given by politicians from either side of the aisle. There was Ronald Reagan, the man who supported rightwing death squads and genocidaires in Central America, who described the US as being “a shining city upon a hill.” And there was Hillary Clinton who said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations that the US is “the indispensable nation.” This was in 2013 after the invasion of Iraq. After Libya. After scores of atrocities committed by the American military and intelligence establishment. She went on to say: “we are a force for progress, prosperity, and peace.” Orwellian doublespeak in real time.


Indeed, Americans are constantly told they “live in the greatest country on earth.” But even prior to the pandemic around 60% of the population was not in possession of a passport. Meaning, most Americans have never been to another country, not even to one neighboring them to the north or south. So how, then, did they know they were the greatest country on earth? The oft used argument is that it is because so many people are clamouring to “get in.” Yet few Americans bother to ask why there are so many immigrants from certain countries as opposed to others. No one dare suggest that decades of belligerent and ruthless American foreign policy against these nations, which has destabilized and made life a misery for millions, might have something to do with this phenomenon. And this indicates how toxically uninterested and myopic the American worldview is.


Most Americans do not see themselves as imperialists. Yet this t-shirt, worn as a testament to ones’ patriotism, is emblematic of this detestable truth. And it belies the murderous foreign policy of the US government which has overseen countless atrocities, from the carpet bombing of South Asian countries, the invasion and bombings of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and beyond, and state-run gulags like Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.  And the way in which America has “run” the world has most often been to suppress democracy and support dictatorships and oppressive governments who favor the interests of corporate capital.


In addition to this, the fact that this man employed the commonly used excuse of feeling threatened, when in fact he was the one making the threats, underscores the contradictory nature of this culture. How many police officers, for instance, have used this same excuse when shooting unarmed Black people or people of color? How often has this excuse been used by politicians and policy makers when justifying yet another military foray against a nation in the Global South?


The American project has always been predicated on two conflicting narratives. One is the supremacist myth of Manifest Destiny, a divine right to ethnically cleanse the land of indigenous peoples and grant it to white European settlers. This myth was built on the slave economy and its violent dominance would inevitably extend well beyond the continent.  The other is the myth of the perpetually threatened “white race.” Throughout American history this has influenced and informed every policy and action of the settler state. Not only are non-whites, as well as whites who are non-conforming, to be cast as inferior players on the world stage, they are also to be seen as an existential threat to white people and white culture. They must therefore be subdued, assimilated, and if all this fails, they must be eliminated.


The man in that Florida Costco was asked to wear a mask by several people before he had that public meltdown. And in video after video the same scenario is being played out. Some throwing items of food around supermarkets, others brandishing firearms. All of the videos feature white people exploding in rage for simply being asked to care about the welfare of the most vulnerable people in their society, or to think deeply about the privileged status they have enjoyed thanks to their skin pigment.  It is no coincidence that people of color, Indigenous, Latinx, and Black people in the US are the most impacted and devastated by Covid-19. On the contrary, this sad reality aligns perfectly with the precepts of a supremacist culture. Trump has emboldened this sense of white fragility, but a global pandemic has torn the garments of its entrenched conceit to shreds.


The t-shirt the Florida man was wearing was one of the most honest things I have seen emanate from far right, imperialistic, white America. “Running the world since 1776.”  Indeed, the American Empire has been running things for that long, and ruining them as well. It has saturated the planet with its noxious ideology of capitalist predation, exported its tactics of political repression to client regimes and “allies,” bullied and brutalized the people of any nation that dared dissent, committed countless atrocities, and has defended corporations and businesses which have polluted vital ecosystems and accelerated climate catastrophe.  So it is refreshing, given the current state of the world, that at least one of its subjects would finally take responsibility for its horrendous crimes, abysmal leadership and disastrous legacy.


Kenn Orphan   July 2020

On Susan Rosenberg and Black Lives Matter

          Since the uprisings against police state violence following a spate of recorded instances of brutality, there has been an unrelenting effort by far right and pro-establishment critics to tarnish organizations like Black Lives Matter. Not surprising for anyone who has studied US civil rights history. The American government has long sought to demonize anyone who dissents from their repression and violence. The latest effort has been to link BLM to terrorism.
          Susan Rosenberg, who apparently is on the board of directors of BLM, has become the latest victim of this old smear. According to Wikipedia:
“Rosenberg was charged with a role in the 1983 bombing of the United States Capitol Building, the U.S. National War College and the New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, but the charges were dropped as part of a plea deal by other members of her group. After living as a fugitive for two years, she was arrested in 1984 with an accomplice, Timothy Blunk, while unloading 740 pounds of dynamite and weapons from a car into a storage locker in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Convicted of explosives possession, she received a 58-year-sentence, which was sixteen times the national average sentence for such offenses. Her lawyers contend that, had the case not been politically charged, Rosenberg would have received a five-year sentence.”
          After her release from prison, she was also made communications director of the American Jewish World Service, yet there was little said to denounce that organization or accuse it of being violent when this happened. So we should all understand that the basis of this is simple racism and suppression of dissent to state violence.
          Rosenberg became an activist at a time when the US was carpet bombing south Asian countries, napalming children, and spraying rain forests with Agent Orange. The FBI, who had just tried to convince Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide prior to his assassination, was also running the infamous COINTELPRO program which infiltrated and sought to discredit a wide spectrum of political organizations they saw as subversive. And scores of anti-racist activists were being targeted for non-violent protest. Rosenburg’s alleged crimes didn’t target innocent people and no lives were lost. One cannot say the same in regard to the millions lost around the world by US wars and state violence.
          Rosenberg spent her time in prison as an advocate for prisoner rights and for people with AIDS. Since then, she has devoted her life to activism on behalf of the poorest and the most vulnerable, both in prison and out, and of the global south which continues to suffer at the hands of American imperialism. That she has been chosen to serve on the board of directors for Black Lives Matter should not be seen as troubling in the least. On the contrary, as one of the most important mass movements of our time, it is absolutely where she belongs.
Kenn Orphan  July 2020

Elijah’s Life Mattered, Black Lives Matter

Elijah McClain taught himself how to play the violin which he would play to soothe stray kittens at the local shelter on his lunch break. He was a massage therapist, a vegetarian, a self described pacifist, and was described by all who knew him as a quirky and gentle soul.

On the night of August 24th, 2019, Elijah was walking home from the store in his neighborhood in Aurora, Colorado. He wore a ski mask as he had anemia and would get cold very easily. That night the Aurora Police Department received a call about a “suspicious person” walking and waving their arms. This call, like so many used against Black and Brown people, was a death sentence.

When the police arrived they assaulted Elijah, putting him in a choke hold. In a video clip of the incident McClain could be heard politely reasoning with officers: “I’m an introvert, please respect my boundaries that I am speaking.” A plea that would go ignored. His last words underscored the generous compassion and humanity of this young man:

“I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat! But I don’t judge people, I don’t judge people who do eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I’ll do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you. Try to forgive me. I’m a mood Gemini. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You are all very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work. Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t trying to do that. I just can’t breathe correctly.”

Elijah had no weapon, only a can of ice tea he had bought for his brother. After passing out from the choke hold, a medic injected him with ketamine before he was taken to a local hospital. Just days later he was taken off life support after he was declared brain dead. He was only 23 years old.

Tonight, in Colorado, scores of violinists have flown in to honor Elijah. Because his life mattered. Just like George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, and Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland, and too many others to list here.

Elijah’s life mattered. Black lives matter.

Kenn Orphan   June 2020

Remembering Paulinho Paiakan

“The forest is one big thing; it has people, animals, and plants. There is no point saving the animals if the forest is burned down; there is no point saving the forest if the people and animals who live in it are killed or driven away. The groups trying to save the races of animals cannot win if the people trying to save the forest lose; the people trying to save the Indians cannot win if either of the others lose; the Indians cannot win without the support of these groups; but the groups cannot win either without the support of the Indians, who know the forest and the animals and can tell what is happening to them. No one of us is strong enough to win alone; together, we can be strong enough to win.” – Paulinho Paiakan, Chief of the Amazonian Kayapo tribe


Paiakan is being remembered today for his tireless fight to save the Amazon rainforest from destruction. For decades, the Brazilian government has failed the people of the Amazon and its unique and fragile biosphere by capitulating to logging, mining and ranching interests.

Under the far right government of Jair Bolsonaro, the onslaught has only accelerated. This, along with climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, presents an existential threat to indigenous people in the region as well as the precious forest they depend upon, as well as protect.

Paiakan died on the 16th of this month after being hospitalized from complications related to Covid-19. May he rest in peace and in power, and may we continue to champion his struggle to protect our fragile biosphere.

Kenn Orphan   June 2020

Aunt Jemima and the Poison she Peddled

Apparently, there are whole bunch of middle aged, middle class white folks losing their minds over the end of “Aunt Jemima.” The brand capitalized on the “mammy” stereotype, a vestige of slavery that portrayed older black women in a cartoonish manner. For over a century following the Civil War many white Americans used the avatar on the plastic bottle as a surrogate for a real mammy. It is one of many racist, demeaning and dehumanizing caricatures that have a long legacy in the US.
There is even a myth going around social media that the inspiration for Aunt Jemima “died a millionaire.” Nancy Green was indeed born into slavery, and she was hired to promote the brand. But the stories she told to largely white audiences were all fabrications with the intent of romanticizing slavery to sell a product in an era of Jim Crow segregation and lynching of black and brown people. Green did become an activist against poverty and for racial justice, but she worked as a housekeeper up to a few years before her death. There is no indication that she had any fortune to draw upon.
The end of one stereotype is a good thing. But before anyone is inclined to praise Quaker Oats or its parent company PepsiCo, we should understand that corporations have no interest in justice. Their sole concern is the bottom line, and that is impacted by public opinion. It is quite simple, the demographic audience has shifted, and middle aged, middle class white folks aren’t quite as important to it as they used to be. It is quite ironic that the so-called “free market” that they have constantly praised is, at least in this case, working against their prejudices.
And we should not lose sight of the fact that the product itself hasn’t changed a bit. Indeed, the poisons peddled by the food industry are more egregious than the branding. After all, the ingredients of this “syrup” are, first and foremost, high fructose corn syrup and water with cellulose gum and “FDA recognized chemical preservatives” like sodium benzoate and sodium hexametaphosphate. The pancake mix includes bleached flour, sodium aluminum phosphate and “traces of milk.”  Yum!
So maybe, along with jettisoning demeaning and dehumanizing stereotypes we should also jettison a “food” industry which has poisoned people for profit for decades.
*Title photo is an earlier “Aunt Jemima” compared with the brand in 2020.
Kenn Orphan  June 2020

Old Sins Cast Long Shadows

On this day in 1944, 14 year old George Stinney, Jr. was executed by electric chair in South Carolina for allegedly killing two young white girls. He was the youngest person to be executed in the United States. 70 years later he was exonerated of the crime.
In a courtroom packed with around 1000 people, where black people were prohibited, George was convicted by an all white jury in less than 10 minutes in a trial that lasted a mere two and a half hours. He had no attorney representation prior to the trial, a practice which was legal at the time. There was no evidence provided against him except the testimony of three white police officers, and his defense attorney called no witnesses, did no cross-examinations, and refused to appeal the conviction. George’s parents were not permitted to see him prior to trial, and were only allowed one visit before execution. They were forced to go into hiding due to mass lynching of black and indigenous peoples at the time.
George’s execution was nothing less than a barbaric feat of gruesome cruelty. The 5 foot, 1 inch tall, 90 lb boy had to have a bible placed under him because he did not fit the electric chair. He sobbed as he was strapped into the chair and looked toward his father who was allowed to be there. Because of his size, the adult face mask did not fit and fell off during the execution revealing the horror to all those present. His torturous execution lasted an agonizing 8 minutes.
George Stinney, Jr. was executed at time of Jim Crow segregation, where thousands of black, brown and indigenous people were being lynched. Yet it would be far too easy to relegate this tragedy to society’s sins of the past. It has been seventy-six years since this particular act of barbarity and we are still seeing the ripples of systemic racism persist. Amidst unprecedented protests against systemic, racist police brutality, scores of non-violent people have been injured or killed by the police or others. Thousands have been tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, pepper sprayed, and beaten. At least five black men have been found hanged outside public buildings across the country. All have been ruled suicides almost immediately by authorities, despite glaring discrepancies. And a sitting president continues to stoke the fears of racist animus among his feckless fans. All of this speaks to this unfinished chapter of history that the powerful ignore to the detriment of justice for everyone else. And if we allow cynical misanthropy, repression, and self interest continue to cast its shadow over our world, all to preserve a status quo rooted in inequality, we will have only ourselves to blame for the fire next time.
Kenn Orphan   June 2020
Photo is of George Stinney, Jr.

Raise the Flag for Sarah

I am so saddened to hear of the death of Sarah Hegazy. She was a courageous anti-capitalist Queer activist who was imprisoned in Egypt in 2017 following a music event in Cairo. Her supposed “crime” was the simple gesture of raising a rainbow flag at the concert. She endured terrible abuse in prison and had to flee to Canada following her release for her own safety. While she was in exile, her mother died, and she was unable to say goodbye. Yesterday, she took her own life.

As LGBTQ people, we often face prejudice, discrimination, alienation and violence from our own communities. The toll on our mental and emotional health can be overwhelming and for many the pain often feels like too much to bear. But for those in deeply conservative societies, it can be even more excruciating. Queer folks face terror and brutality all around the world. But Egypt, in particular, has been extraordinarily repressive and brutal in this way.

Under the corrupt leadership of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a military junta rules the country which has waged war on any kind of dissent, political or otherwise. Imprisonments, beatings, torture, extrajudicial killings, disappearances and sexual violence against critics are routine. And this has only emboldened the most ultra-conservative and fascistic elements of the society. For instance, Muslim clerics and Christian priests have been relentless in their persecution of the LGBTQ community, as well as women and non-conforming people. So Sarah’s courage in the midst of this was something incredibly formidable.

These words are the last ones Sarah wrote:

“To my siblings,
I tried to survive but I failed; forgive me.
To my friends,
The journey was cruel and I am too weak to resist; forgive me.
To the world,
You were cruel to a great extent; but I forgive you.”

Rest in peace and in power, dear Sarah. You did not fail and there is nothing to forgive. No human being should endure what you endured. But you will not be forgotten. People of conscience will carry your light forward, and it is something that we will never allow to be extinguished by hate.

Sarah Hegazy, Presente!

#RaiseTheFlagForSarah 🏳️‍🌈


Kenn Orphan  June 2020