Saturday, March 05, 2005

I Was a Little Eichmann

I only sat down tonight to read the entirely of Ward Churchill’s essay in which the controversial “little Eichmanns” quote is contained. The same quote that had the power to have speaking engagements revoked, and death threats forcing resignations. I probably didn’t feel the need to read the essay right away because I knew that anything that pissed off Pataki that much was probably on the right track or maybe it was because I knew as a woman of color, a woman who considers herself a colonial subject I would probably agree with Churchill. In my own defense, because I can see my more conservative readers standing up straight and getting ready to attack me, I am a New Yorker and a survivor of the 9-11-01 attacks (not to be confused with the 9-11-73 attacks) as is my mother and that I knew many people who died in the World Trade Center.

Earlier I watched Ward Churchill on Real Time with Bill Maher. Of course he was placed opposite a brother of an employee of Cantor-Fitzgerald who died in the World Trade Center. This put Churchill in the position of sort of being cajoled into apologizing to the brother for his statements. I did not know the particular person who died in the World Trade Center represented on the show by his surviving brother. I did work with Cantor-Fitzgerald employees at the time of the attacks however. I can’t speak and won’t dare to speak for all inside the towers. Especially not people who were working minimum wage jobs cleaning or serving at Windows on the World. Not for my mother who was a manager in one of the retail stores inside one of the towers when the plane hit (she made it out ok). Hell I won’t even speak about people at Raytheon, a defense company I have protested, who had offices in the World Trade Center. I will however speak for myself , not as the single mom who was stuck in a smoke filled dark subway car for a few hours on my way to work on 9-11-01 as the Twin Towers collapsed above me but as the little Eichmann I could have been and in some respects was.

I wasn’t going to work to clean a toilet or sell clothes. I was going to work in one of the largest investment banking firms in the city and dare I say the world. I wasn’t a top executive. Hell I was just a lowly temp when I started. I needed to feed my daughter so I filed papers. And I struggled even with the decision to do that because in my activist, woman of color, mami, colonized woman gut, I felt something was wrong with it. I was so good at filing that eventually I was trained to actually learn what I was filing, Foreign Exchange trade confirmations. In my three years, my salary grew and I was learning how to write the confirms up and what each part meant. Of course I was still a temp. C’mon you didn’t think they’d promote the spic that easily. That only happens in movies and then the spic has a heart of gold and a desire to assimilate. Anyway the more I learned the smarter and more skilled I became yes but also the more horrified. For example when Chavez of Venezuela was overthrown (by whom I will not get into) the office was in a tizzy but not because they gave a shit about the people of Venezuela or who could be behind the coup but rather because we had huge multinational corporations with trades pending and we didn’t want to lose our deals with them and our money. I witnessed and was a part of the same frenzy with Argentina. I happened to be the only Spanish speaker in the department. I also happened to be the only Latina. I tried to get those confirms in and signed and spoke to people in the third world offices, laughing in Spanish.
Tonight, as Ward Churchill explained his quote, when I read the entire essay and even as I write this, I cry. I was a little Eichmann. I was no innocent. I facilitated the devastation in Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. And deep down I knew it. Maybe that’s why when after three years of moving up the temp ladder I was finally offered a full time position with benefits that included not just medical and paid vacation but stock options and an incredible salary to boot, I walked away. I said no. I resigned and left. Everyone thought I was crazy. People still think I am for that decision. Hell I went from Wall Street to a strip club because dancing half naked felt cleaner, more honest than the shit going down in that office and offices like it. I never have regretted the decision.

Churchill’s comments weren’t anti-United States. They were not pro-terrorist. They were about reality. When I walked out into the downtown sunlight from the subway tunnel I had been trapped in, I also yes walked into ash and fire, and streams of people crying. Hell I cried thinking my mother was dead. I never however asked why. Because deep down in my gut, my woman of color, colonized, mami gut I knew why. It would be wise for others, those who say that they don’t understand, to read Churchill’s entire essay or better yet read his book. Then study the history of the United States beyond the history books and Fox News and CNN. Visit Vieques, Palestine, Colombia, Haiti, Chile, the Congo or any third world nation and not as a tourist. You know what, hell freaking spend a day in the projects of Washington Heights, el Barrio, Corona. Then explain why.

Special thanks to Mean Regression for having some good links on her page about this.


Blogger RHD said...

Speak truth to power, mama. Another book that is starting to make some noise on this subject is "Confessions of an Economic Hitman," by John Perkins. I haven't read it yet, only the review in the NYT, but I'm waiting for my hold on it at the library to come in.

3/05/2005 01:07:00 PM  

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