Los Jardines ("The Gardens") Institute is a New Mexico sanctuary: a community garden where I volunteer in Albuquerque’s South Valley dedicated to growing food for the area’s poor residents. But go into our adobe studio and you’ll see another kind of sanctuary as well: one for the mind and spirit. Shelves hold some of the more than 80 books that the Tucson public high school banned last year when it ended its renowned Mexican American studies program. (The books are mostly by Latino authors, but not all; Shakespeare’s The Tempest made list, too.) Why?
Members of Albuquerque Iraq Veterans Against the War issued a warning this week about a "horrendous health epidemic" faced by U.S. troops. The statistics are chilling.
- The military suicide rate increased 150 percent from 2001 to 2009.
- While on average only 9.1 percent of the suicide deaths between 2005 and 2009 had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this percentage has steadily increased from 4.6 percent in 2005 to 14.1 percent in 2009.
- Suicide rates among active-duty troops are twice as high as that of the civilian population, and veterans with PTSD are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide.
- Official Pentagon figures show that 188,000 service members have suffered brain injuries since 2000. Of those, 44,000 suffered moderate or severe head injuries. Another 144,000 had mild traumatic brain injuries. However, previous ProPublica and NPR reporters show that number likely understates the true toll by tens of thousands of troops. Some estimates put the number of brain injuries at 400,000 service members.
The catastrophe of Mexico’s current narcotraficante violence has diverted attention away from a travesty that began years ago: the Femicide, as it is known -- the murder and torture of young women, mostly maquiladora factory workers -- near the U.S.-Mexico border. Now an opportunity has arisen to refocus U.S. citizens on the women’s fate, thanks to the work of Valerie Mart'nez, a New Mexico author who gives us a book that is at once a lyric poem in 72 parts and an organizing tool for activists.
I lived in Tucson, Arizona for almost ten years in the 1990s; my activism included work with Derechos Humanos, a human rights group that monitors border patrol abuses.
One of our founding members, attorney Isabel Garcia, has been a high-profile advocate for the human rights of immigrants. For decades this has earned her the hatred of those who have claimed that she wants the Southwest to be returned to Mexico. This would sound like a joke except that she has long been threatened with violence and even death.
I am more worried than ever for Isabel and others advocating a humane immigration policy. The cold blooded shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last week was almost bound to happen in our current climate of right-wing extremism and its violent rhetoric and imagery -- much of it aimed at immigrants.
It is significant that Giffords voted for the DREAM Act, which would have allowed children of undocumented workers, including those who have served in the military, the opportunity to attend college. The bill passed in the House but failed in the Senate.