This painting attempts to acknowledge the millions of innocent people who have met violent ends at the hands of ethno-sectarian supremacists in the United States and in the racially/religiously oppressive nations that our leaders, to their lasting shame, have enthusiastically supported: South Africa, Israel, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, India, Ukraine, etc.
I will always be grateful for the works of Spike Lee, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Arundhati Roy, Edward Said, Michelle Alexander, Randall Robinson, Mahmood Mamdani, James H. Cone, Glen Ford, Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin, and others who have guided me toward a greater awareness of the fundamentally prejudiced, structured inequalities in our nation, especially visible in our country’s policing/sentencing, economics, voting rights, and foreign policy.
Particular thanks are due to Michelle Alexander, author of the acclaimed The New Jim Crow, who taught me that more African-Americans are laboring for pennies in our overcrowded, largely privatized/for-profit prisons — slaving away for corporations from Microsoft to Nike — than were “employed” as slaves at the height of American slavery.
Per studies reported in the L.A. Times, there are more slaves in the world today than at any time in recorded history. I will long remember the horror stories I’ve read about the lives of slaves on modern fishing boats, catching the majority of the fish in our supermarkets… and the legions of child sex-workers (slaves) in the U.S. and beyond… and the many third-world workers who jumped to their deaths from the windows of their sweatshop-prisons, either to simply end their suffering or to escape the infernos consuming their “workplaces.”
This kind of race-based oppression is standard operating procedure for the USA. Donald Trump, repugnant though he is, is anomalous only in his brazenness. Not in his essential character.
He represents our system all too well.
(Consider the fact that Trump’s three predecessors alone are responsible for the deaths of millions of Arab Muslims, a modern holocaust: Bill Clinton’s potable water-denying sanctions killed over a million innocent Iraqis, as did Bush/Cheney’s illegal invasion of the country; and Barack Obama’s Operation Timber Sycamore flooded Syria with genocidal Salafist militants, provoking a bloody civil war that claimed over 500,000 lives and created over 10 million refugees. And then there was President Obama’s regime-change operation in Libya, culminating in the lynching of Libyan president, Moammar Qaddafi, followed by the rise of open-air slave markets…)
This painting, “USA, the Ground-level View,” hopes to provide the victims’ perspective. It hopes to encourage empathy in the viewer for those who have lost their lives to ethno-sectarian terrorism and plunder, at home and abroad, much of which has been underwritten by our fundamentally white-supremacist, Christian-Dominionist empire.