If John Brown Were Alive, Could He Help in Ferguson?

 This year marks the 155th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Although he isn’t the most revered figure in American history, he most certainly is honored as a revolutionary and a hero ranging from the likes of Malcolm X to Quentin Tarantino. A contemporary of Brown, famous author, poet, naturalist and abolitionist Henry David Thoreau, wrote an essay called “A Plea for Captain John Brown” and recited it publicly many times before the execution of Brown. He pleaded abolitionist supporters to remember him as a true hero, a martyr, and not as a fool for giving his life for what he believed.

If John Brown, abolitionist, insurrectionist, and self-proclaimed martyr, who called for the immediate end to chattel slavery in the United States were still alive, he most certainly would be of great help in Ferguson, Missouri. His enthusiasm, passion, and belief that no person should be subjugated to slavery or injustice is what people of color in the United States need from the white majority. Although what is happening in Ferguson isn’t slavery, John Brown’s call to action during his lifetime motivated members of the white community in the 1800’s willing to support direct action efforts of achieving equality and justice for the African-American community.

John Brown was born in 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut, where he grew up in a religious household. His father, Owen Brown, was not only an abolitionist by belief, but also an active participant in the Underground Railroad, a network of people, safe houses, and pathways that helped fugitive slaves escape to free states and Canada.  John Brown’s name has been etched into American history for his famous raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now part of West Virginia). On October 16, 1859, John Brown along with 20 other men attacked an arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia with the intent of stealing enough weapons in order to start a slave revolt. His plan failed and he was eventually captured by local soldiers and U.S. Marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee. John Brown was tried, convicted of treason, and executed by hanging on December 2, 1859. His legacy lives on as a polemic character in American history whose martyrdom is honored by some members of the black community and condemned by others who described him as simply a terrorist.

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So where does John Brown fit into contemporary American social issues? One can argue that a person like John Brown hasn’t existed in the white community since his death.

When white Americans says,  “there is a lack of leadership in the black community” they must recognize that there is also a lack of leadership in the white community regarding racial equality and the call to justice for all people living in the United States. John Brown would be a perfect example of a leader for the white community who could command them in their efforts to combat institutionalized racism and injustice.

The shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American, has sparked a new wave of protests condemning not only the use of excessive police force, but also racial profiling, the criminal justice system, and the apparent apathy white Americans have for the plight of minorities in the United States. Michael Brown was shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer on August 9, 2014. Although there is overwhelming evidence and witness testimonies conveying that Michael Brown had indeed tried to surrender to the police officer with a “hands up” motion, he was shot multiple times by Wilson. At an estimated distance of 35 feet from the police cruiser, and no visible weapon possessed by Brown, witnesses heard Wilson fire approximately 10 shots. Based on the evidence present, one can conclude that officer Darren Wilson did not act in self defense, and that Michael Brown was murdered in cold blood.

Two months after the shooting of Michael Brown, Darren Wilson is still on paid administrative leave and has not yet faced charges or arrest. The state and federal investigations are taking a long time to reach a conclusion. Protesters believe this is deliberate, concluding that the local government is hoping that protests in and around the Ferguson – St. Louis area of Missouri will die down. The fact that charges haven’t been formally brought up against Darren Wilson is just the tip of the iceberg for the African-American community as they can foresee the murder of Michael Brown going unpunished. Below the murky waters of American race relations there is a lot of racist backlash against African-Americans coming from the white community with respect to demonstrations and vociferous opposition to unpunished white-on-black murders.

The fundraising efforts of people who support Darren Wilson was one of the first things outside of the investigation that struck a nerve within the African-American community in Ferguson. There were wristbands that read “I am Darren Wilson” being worn by members of the Ferguson police (as if to say that they also supported extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals). There were online fundraisers that had raised more money, about $400,000 for Darren Wilson and his family than for the family of the Michael Brown.

The amount of money raised for Wilson is nothing compared to the vitriol and racial hatred perpetrated by television news pundits and online social commentators. Young black men, who dress, act, or look a certain way are victims of verbal abuse in the media when they are all referred to as “thugs” “gangsters” and “hoodlums”. There has been an additional racial polarization in the United States regarding white America’s negative perception of young black males, hip-hop culture and whether they are innocent/guilty in the eyes of the law. As if the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, wasn’t enough to cause deep-seated racism to surface, the killings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and John Crawford, by white men has opened up old wounds in the African-American community, reminding them of lynchings and unpunished murders, which lasted from since the end of the American Civil War up until the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s.

The American prison system is disproportionately filled with African-Americans compared to white Americans. It is estimated that “one in three black males will end up in prison”. Similarly, African-Americans, along with other people of color, make up approximately 30% of the U.S. population, but represent 70% of all arrests and 60% of the prison population.

Constant police surveillance, police brutality, harsher punishments and longer sentences for people of color is akin to modern-day slavery and social injustice. John Brown would condemn the American prison system and fight tooth and nail until all unlawfully imprisoned people of color were released. Missouri is one of the states continuing the tradition of disproportionately sending people of color to prison.

John Brown definitely could be of good help in Ferguson in order to show other white people what true support for justice looks like. After a few weeks of protests and demonstrations in Ferguson, Governor Jay Nixon deployed the Missouri National Guard. Protestors were met with excessive force in the form of tear gas, flash grenades, riot police and soldiers with high-grade military equipment. It basically looked like a war zone in Ferguson during the Governor’s “invasion.”

A parallel can be drawn between how white Americans feel about social injustices, whom they support, and how the media portrays key players during a controversial event. One example comes from the Cliven Bundy standoff. Bundy is a Nevada rancher who has been disputing with the United States Bureau of Land Management over unpaid grazing fees. With the threat of government repossession of Bundy’s cattle, protests ensued and armed militias, mostly right-wing white Americans, came out to support Clive Bundy in an armed standoff against federal agents. Although those who supported Bundy were armed and aggressive, the government agents didn’t fire cans of tear gas, flash grenades, nor did the Governor of Nevada send in the Nevada National Guard. Conservative news media personalities like Sean Hannity were quick to support Bundy and his anti-government crusade, but soon realized how racist Bundy was when he made comments like “are black people better off as slaves?”.

How would John Brown respond to Cliven Bundy’s remarks about black people being “better off as slaves”? He would have killed Clive Bundy and all who attest to racist ideology. John Brown would have joined the protestors in Ferguson, Missouri to support the African-American community against the local police, the state police, the National Guard, and federal agents. He would have mounted his own militia of fellow whites to help protect the African-American community from white aggression.

The importance of having white people fight alongside people of color in Ferguson is tantamount to how the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s was such a success. In the same way, John Brown represented the ideologue of vengeful justice through direct action since before the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln, well known for upholding his abolitionist beliefs and declaring war upon the Confederacy for breaking up the Union, later paid for his beliefs with his life. Later on, during the 1960’s, John F. Kennedy was killed for unknown reasons, but speculation has it that he was killed for trying to end the Vietnam War, and for trying to give civil rights to African-Americans.

Although John Brown’s personality and legacy as a Christian religious fanatic and insurrectionist can be seen as somewhat of an ethical dilemma for pacifists, atheists, and the United States government, it would be interesting to see how much could been achieved as far as civil rights in America if a person like John Brown were around. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry on October 16, 1859 is said to have been one of the key factors in polarizing the country so much that it started the Civil War, which restored the Union and ended slavery. The positive aspects that came after the most devastating war in United States history is difficult to justify on both sides. In the spirit of the 155th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, there is Ferguson October, which is a call for action and civil disobedience pleading for justice not only for Michael Brown, but all American citizens victimized by the prison-industrial complex. There are some things that aren’t as simple as being labeled as liberal or conservative. Morality, liberty and justice have no political party, and therefore, more people should abandon party affiliation and fight injustices for all people regardless of race, class, or gender.

By: Opton A. Martin

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Old World Guns v. New World Guns

“Execution and defamation is a New World Order tactic for censorship.”

“The New World Order seeks to destroy traditions and monuments, some hundreds or thousands of years old. It’s an international club of powerful men who have more in common as military, political and economic partners than their own countrymen. They exterminate and slander those in their way, those who they hope will be forgotten.”

Only sometimes is death preventable.  Sometimes knowingly, mostly unknowingly, we engineer dangerous societies with flawed socio-structural elements that are designed to push certain groups of disenfranchised people to the periphery. The lower class are limited by economic, educational, and representational boundaries, which are supported by the suburban middle class who vote for these policies.  Those living at the periphery fight against one another because they compete for the little resources that have been left for them. The the “center” is off limits, because it is being guarded – this is where legislative, political and economic power control the elements of the state – the semi-failed state.

Gun violence in the Americas (with the exception of Canada) from the United States to the tip of Argentina and Chile is very different than gun violence in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. It differs in the motives behind how gun violence is distributed and executed and the prevalence of such. The similarities between Old World Guns and New World Guns is that it all comes down to who controls the territory, space, land, turf, region, zone, state, country, caliphate, community, block, city, roadways, access, building complex, county, town, island, trade route, port – and above all natural resources (money). Although robberies could account for much of the world’s use of firearms illegally, the Americas have the problems of heavy drug trafficking and the drug war which makes up part of regular, day to day gun violence.

The flow of drugs through the Americas normally flows South-North and ends up into the hands of North Americans and Europeans to be consumed.  The citizens of the United States of America consume more illegal drugs than any other country in the world. Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico and everywhere in between has been plagued with intense violence from gangs who amass their empires and personal protection from the money generated by the drug trade, extortion and bribery of police forces. The illegal gun trade is just as much a part of the illegal drug trade in that one is needed to protect the other – they go hand and hand. Central American and Caribbean countries suffer a great deal from the drug trade because of their geography. It is a narrow passageway for cartels coming up form the South American mainland. At about 82 homicides per 100,000 residents, Honduras has the highest murder rate of any country in the world. Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador are also stretched thin by narco-trafficking and violence, which has caused a humanitarian crisis that is the irregular immigration of children to the United States.

The current war-like levels of violence and armed conflicts in Central America was propagated from the foreign policy campaigns under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who supported the Contras (anti-leftist commandos), in covert operations and coup d’etats against left-wing ideologies including Marxist-Leninists, Communists, or any political fraction in support of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro’s revolution. Reagan authorized the CIA to help fund and train the Contras to fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. And who can forget the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 to dispose of Manuel Noriega, former CIA employee, and narco-trafficking military dictator. The U.S. government effectively helped to establish Latin American drug cartels with out-of-work Contras  who before fought against leftists. The Iran-Contra Affair of the 1980s was real, not a fabricated conspiracy, which highlights how little we know about how deep these operations run in Latin America.

The drug war continues in mysterious ways as the U.S. government helps to create some of the chaos, especially with their “Fast and Furious” operation of 2006-2011 in which the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) sold weapons to those they believed were tied to Mexican drug cartels (in an attempt to “track” them).  Eventually those same weapons began appearing at brutal crime scenes in Mexico, and the Mexican government was perplexed as they were not informed of these American operations.

As American police crack down,  drug prices go up, the cartels make more money, they buy more guns, they become more violent, then they control more territory. Drug cartels continue to look for newer routes for transport of guns and drugs, which at times causes the violence to “bottleneck” in small countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Jamaica, which have the highest rates of homicides (per 100,000 people) by guns in the world. Jamaica has become especially violent since cocaine and other drug shipments have diverted to travel through the Caribbean via Jamaica. If drugs were legalized or at least partially legalized, drug cartels would have less demand ergo less money to fund their armed conflicts. Or Americans and European could stop doing drugs all together, which will never ever happen.

In Europe and Asia gun violence is far less prevalent than in the Americas. Legislation in these geographic areas generally only permit gun purchases for hunters and law enforcement officers. In Spain for example, if you want to buy a shotgun, you have to get a hunting permit, hand guns are rigidly regulated. In the United States, buying a gun doesn’t require much of anything besides money. The United States Constitution states that bearing arms and forming a militia is part of independence and homeland security, therefore, gun-ownership is a cultural thing in the United States. It is a direct result as to why there are about 88 guns per 100 Americans, making the United States the most gun-packing nation on Earth. It might also shed light on why cities like Chicago boast 500 homicides a year, the majority of them being gun-related. High gun related homicide rates in U.S. cities over 100,000 people are common – they shouldn’t be.

Some countries in Europe have relatively high gun ownership rates, but don’t suffer the amount of gun violence present in the Americas. A European capital like Madrid, Spain, which has a population similar to Chicago (including metropolitan zones) suffers from only about 30 homicides a year, with only a fraction of them being gun related. Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and island nations in Pacific, have similar gun related homicides to Northern Europe.

Only Switzerland and Finland come almost close to the United States in gun possession at about 47 guns per 100 Swiss and Finns in their respective countries. Gun violence is rare in Europe even among police:

” According to Germany’s Der Spiegel, German police shot only 85 bullets in all of 2011, a stark reminder that not every country is as gun-crazy as the U.S. of A. As Boing Boing translates, most of those shots weren’t even aimed anyone: “49 warning shots, 36 shots on suspects. 15 persons were injured, 6 were killed.” – thewire.com

In the United States on the other hand, it is not uncommon to hear a story about a single police officer who shoots a person 90 times.

Crime and police protection with the theme of race and ethnicity are part of what make America an unsafe place for minorities as they are treated differently than European Americans. In 2002, police officers in the United States killed about 313 African-American men. Gun violence and police execution of a minority group has been calculated as “Every 28 hours a Black man is killed by the police in America.” Gun violence comes from those who have completely lost their sense of humanity – it’s the mechanization of murder.

In Asia, China and Japan have effectively gotten rid of gun violence. Japan has almost 1/2 of the U.S. population (128,000,000 est. 2010) crammed into an area equivalent to California, yet might have about ~2 gun-related homicides per year.  Buying a gun in Japan is an enduring process, there are strict limitations on the type, there are psychological and metal exams, a course must be taken, and it is subject to government inspections. In China, private possession of firearms is practically forbidden for citizens. The lack of guns and lack of gun related violence are clearly related, but the subject is more complex in countries less industrialized.

One of the main things that separate gun violence in the United States to gun violence in Europe and Asia is culture. Americans feel the need to have a gun because it was instrumental in carving out the North American continent in a Wild Wild West fashion, whereas Europe and Asia have older nation-states that were conquered by marriages, diplomacy, trade routing, epic battles with swords, cannons and mammoths crossing the Swiss Alps; in Europe and Asia, they have other ways of having fun besides shooting at things in their back yards, or shooting at people in their front yards.

The continent of Africa and the Middle Eastern region have some gun violence, but these current “Old World” conflicts are New World Order endeavors. Ancient African and Middle Eastern kingdoms were cut out centuries ago the same way kingdoms were formed in Asia, India, and South America until they were abruptly invaded, and geographically redrawn by Europeans in the 18th,19th, and 20th centuries. Current places like India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, and Israel were all cut up by the British and the French who ignored cultural, linguistic and ethnic elements when they crammed different people into a states.

Conflict zones like  Syria, Libya, Sudan, Mali, Israel, Yemen, Pakistan and more, require guns and armaments to be sent from Western nations (i.e. North America, Europe and Russia). As these zones become flooded with more weaponry, the violence continues as new fractions seek to redraw the lines that were left there by the Europeans in the first place. It is a revolving door of violence, but the Westerns nations profit the most so long as the guns keep firing.

Though it might seem simple enough as to just restrict firearm availability to reduce firearm homicides, it might not be that simple. If people want to kill each other, they will do it. In South Africa, where the homicide rate is higher than in the United States, firearm homicides account for only 45%, while in the United States the rates is about 67%.  There are deep-seated social problems that lead to friction between groups of people. The availability of firearms only exacerbates social tension of lack of resources. What is certain is that in the Americas, where many countries are at “peace” , they have just as many or more casualties, as current war zones. These problems must be addresses as to not coerce the governments of the Americas to deploy  futuristic, dystopic, and Orwellian permanent military police who will monitor the streets with tanks, machine guns and stun grenades. The police states pre World War II of the 20th century were bad, the police states of the 21st century will be worse.

by Opton A. Martin

If I Buy Freedom and It Doesn’t Work, Can I Return it and Get My Money Back?

“We know that freedom isn’t free, but how much does it cost? Is there a discount on freedom? Can I use a freedom coupon? Where is my buy 2 countries, get 1 free card? If I buy freedom, and it doesn’t work, can I return it and get my money back…I have the receipt!”

I as a former resident of Torrington, Connecticut, United States of America, since 2001 would have contributed about $6,812 to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. The website nationalpriorities.org has been tracking the U.S. cost of war since 2001 and allows Americans to see how much of their tax dollars, down to local populations, have been contributed to the efforts overseas.  Torrington’s citizens since 2001 have paid out $119,212,900 (15-aug-2014) to a multiple-front war. Since there are about 35,000 residents in Torrington, and about 1/2 are working or paying income taxes, 1/2 of all Torringtonians have contributed over $6,000 to the war on terror. But the real question is are we safer now because of the war on terror? Have we made the world safer? Is the war on terror actually producing more terrorist organizations? How long until it’s finally over?

Since September 11th 2001, there has been a liquidation sale on “freedom” worldwide when then president of the United States, George W. Bush and his administration, soon announced a global war on terror. At first the cross hairs were focused on Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their sympathizers. Then, Bush decided to put Osama Bin Laden on the back burner and continue what could be seen as a Bush family legacy – Iraq. The American military’s focus switched rapidly to Iraq, where the regime of Saddam Hussein was suspected to have had weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda.

Before, during, and after the deposition of Saddam Hussein, investigators claimed that Iraq did not possess high caliber (nuclear material) weapons of mass destruction nor had been working with Al Qaeda. In fact,  Al Qaeda and other extremist groups were natural enemies of Saddam’s regime. If Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had been working together, why would they have kept it secret? Their unity would have been seen as a sign of strength in the region. Luckily, their distinct ideologies did not allow for a military or political union – their conflicting personalities and dislikes were greater than their hatred for the United States.

Under current president Barack Obama, who more or less has been progressive concerning local and social matters within the USA, has not only continued the legacy of Bush-era military campaigns, but has amplified a seek-and-destroy, extrajudicial drone program that could be considered crimes against humanity. Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are what I would like to call “Drone Zones” in that no real formal declaration of war has been made, but are part of a continuous bombing campaign in which civilians are unfortunately part of the casualties.  These bombing campaigns are simply not effective in changing hearts and minds. Whose ideology is going to favor Westerners when their neighbor, perhaps a civilian, had been killed by them?  Spreading democracy doesn’t come from without, but from within.

So what is freedom in 21st century terms? Which country is most free? Is freedom being able to do literally whatever you want? Or is freedom being able to have social and economic mobility in the form of one’s access to a good education, housing, food, medicine, and other facilities or amenities that First World inhabitants encounter with less difficulty.

Spreading freedom and democracy as part of a bombing campaign can be seen as a vice, like any other, freedom is aggression, anger, addiction, greed, censorship, gluttony, hatred, hysteria, lust, perversion, vanity and wrath. Although this may not be our ideal of what freedom is, the countries that suffer from “American Freedom” by way of military operations, heavy policing and lengthy occupations, fear cultural infiltration or annihilation.

Freedom, by way of material objects, is in a sense purely economical, in that freedom is for the rich; oppression is for the poor. If you live in a conflict zone, and you are rich, you might have more freedom to leave, through legal means or not, than a poor person. If you live in a country where women’s access to reproductive services are restricted, as a rich person, you might have the freedom to travel to another country where women’s reproductive laws are different. This is not to say that a poor person cannot escape a conflict zone or access healthcare, but the pyramidal structure of modern and post-industrial human society shows that the upper echelon of society, the wealthy and powerful, are the ones who make and break the laws.  Materialistic freedom in terms of commodities is not universal.

Human beings are political property of the state in which they were born, reside or had resided. A stateless person is one who has no rights, and paradoxically has total freedom, yet no freedom. On the other hand, something like spiritual freedom is closer to universality in that one’s beliefs and thoughts are tangible within one’s mind, where no one else can truly restrict their beliefs, whether they practice them or not.

Spreading democracy and freedom after the Second World War was a bit different than how it is done today. After Mussolini, Hitler, and Hideki Tojo were disposed of, and the war had been won by the Allied Forces. After obliterating the Axis Powers, the Allied Forces wanted to help their former enemies rebuild and prosper – and they did.  Italy, Germany and Japan became stable economic powerhouses in which their citizens currently enjoy high personal income, well developed infrastructure, universal healthcare, stable borders, and relatively few internal conflicts that lead to deaths or executions. The citizens of these counties are generally considered to be free.

The Second World War cost the United States more than 4 trillion dollars (in 2014) according to some estimates. After about a five-year campaign, the U.S. and its soldiers were treated like true liberators, like “winners” of WWII. They are still considered the greatest generation of humans to ever walk the Earth. As we fast forward to 2014, after 10+ years of war in the Middle East, combining the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, all military operations, and  everywhere else terror resides, 4.4 trillion dollars is the current cost of war (total cost of all services related to conflicts), and Americans are not treated as liberators, nor winners, and things are worse now than when we started.

What does the future hold now that Hussein, Bin Laden, Hosni Mubarak, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, and other life-term dictators have been disposed of? Will the countries of Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq become economic powerhouses like Germany, Japan, or even South Korea? Not likely. The reason: the war economy. Peace and stability is just as important a factor to the global economy as war and conflict zones.

Now that there are currently more heavy conflict zones since before the U.S. and Allies’ invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, defense contractors are making more profits and bigger sales than ever. For the profit-driven industry of arms dealing, shame from not being able to reduce violence and bring about stability after a military campaign is less important. As long as the guns are firing and the bombs are dropping, there is profit to be made. Therefore, it is conducive to the industry to provoke or procreate areas of conflict. It is even better if they could sell arms to both sides of the conflict through conspiracies and inside deals. If both sides have the same weapons, one will be forced to upgrade.

With respect to dark-horse terrorist organizations with plenty of cash, the rise of ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is currently driving a wedge in concurrent conflict zones in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. They plan on taking over territories that roughly stretch from Morocco to India, to eliminate all borders between “Islamic” countries – high hopes for a group with few allies and many enemies.

Current conflict zones: Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, Mali, Columbia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Kurdistan, Pakistan, India, North & South Korea, China, Japan, South Sudan, Mexico, Egypt, Ukraine, Russia, Central African Republic, Libya, and many more, including the United States.

As military hardware reaches a level of surplus, state and local police forces worldwide have been either given or have been purchasing this equipment. In the before mentioned conflict zones, it is not uncommon to see the military acting as a civilian “peace-keeping force” (like what we have seen in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt). Yet in recent years, many countries like Spain, Italy, Malaysia and the United States have riot police or S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons And Tactics) who use military equipment on a regular basis to intimidate and scare local populations from demonstrating, protesting, and having their voices heard. This is an undemocratic way of maintaining social justice and order in that people will get the sensation of an authoritarian police state – people will stay home, be complacent and compliant, and be afraid to speak ill of the government for fear of persecution. This makes the U.S.A no better than the countries it invades to “spread democracy” if it continues to terrorize its citizens.

As the world has recently seen how the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri rang out and connected with other oppressed people as distant as Palestine, it is important for all people to try and invest in other industries, besides the arms trade, that aim to save lives, not take them.