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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Is There Space for Anything Besides War in the US Constitution?

Devote some of your "100 hours for peace" to a better understanding of the fundamental US document on war and peace: the US Constitution.

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second
American Revolution, 1783-1789
by Joseph J. Ellis
I suggested people take back control of (at least some of) the time that the election 2016 circus is stealing from all of us, and put it to work thinking deeply about how to work better for peace.

An example of something US people who want peace need to think deeply about: does the US Constitution help us or hurt us?

My sister's book, Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom, makes strong arguments about what the Constitution really intends, and what it should cause us to do differently if we really intend to follow it.

The case of US Army Captain Michael Nathan Smith should force all of us to go back to the Constitution and try to understand what kinds of military structure and actions are permissible under the law of the land.

And, like or not, this is also going to force us all to really confront what our national agreement has been in the past -- and needs to be in the future -- about guns.

I have spent the last several days readying a wonderful book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, by Joseph J. Ellis, about how the U.S. Constitution came into being. It's at your local library. If your eyes glaze over when you hear "Constitution" and "Federalist Papers," this book will rescue you. (Extra incentive, if musical theater inspires you: one member of "the quartet" is Alexander Hamilton; the others are George Washington, James Madison, and John Jay.)

For instance, The Quartet makes clear that, first and foremost, the impetus for the U.S. Constitution was (a) to assure that funds would be available for carrying out war, and (b) to enable the unimpeded occupation of much greater amounts of territory [see (a)].

The story only begins there, and, as one would expect, the eventual course of events has been conditioned on the diverse attentions and interests and moods of the leaders involved and the public that has acquiesced in their leadership.

It seems to me that it is necessary for all of us to step up and understand what the US Constitution is about. Like it or not, it creates the ground for dialog with a greatly expanded circle of people about the direction of warmaking and peacemaking by the US and its citizens.

Related posts

"I am investing these 100 hours in thinking deeply about what it will take to change the war-like ways of this country I live in. I am going to ask hard questions, confront what's really standing in the way, think creatively, and come up with new ways to be an effective peace worker. This is my time and I am going to make the best use of it."

(See The Election 2016 Diet: Invest 100 Hours for Peace)

US Army Capt. Nathan Michael Smith has sued the commander-in-chief, President Obama, for ordering war in violation of the US Constitution. Therein lie 5 lessons . . . .

(See Confronting Permawar: 5 Lessons from Captain Smith)

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon - a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War - deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of "Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry )

If you're really interested in effective harm reduction, the solution is a drastic reduction/elimination of the instruments of harm

(See ORLANDO SHOOTINGS: Start with the obvious (guns)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"Personal Success Story"? "White Privilege"? or Both?

The ELCA's presiding bishop, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, has set an example: own the white privilege we've experienced in our lives. Will Lutherans step up?

From @scarry:
What if we all did a personal inventory of how our "personal
success story" was built on white privilege? #ELCAcwa

(Image: ELCA presiding bishop Rev. Elizabeth Eaton and quote:
"When my dad came back from the war, the GI bill meant he and
my mom could get a low interest loan. That was not available to
African American veterans. That's white privilege. It's baked into
the system. Now, we didn't create it, but if we don't work to
change it, we are complicit."

The tweet above coincided with the every-three-years national gathering of the major US denomination of Lutherans -- the churchwide assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The presiding bishop, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, had shared a meme of herself on Twitter, and I found it inspiring. So I added my own take on it, and shared it. It stimulated a lot of activity.

The ELCA has a growing emphasis on anti-racism, and Bishop Eaton's message puts that emphasis front and center.  I found Bishop Eaton's meme powerful for three reasons in particular:

(1) It's about systemic racism . . . in this case, a government benefit. A big part of our anti-racism work is understanding that racism is institutionalized in the US, and that we are called to change that.

(1) It names "white privilege." Without taking anything away from her dad, who served in the war, and worked hard in other ways, Bishop Eaton points out that some of what she has benefited from is based on an inequity: white privilege.

(3) It's personal. It's about Bishop Eaton and her dad and her mom. It's real.

It seemed obvious to me that this act of leadership was saying to all of us, There, I did it; you can do it too: you can think about it . . . you can stand up and say it publicly . . . and you can help spur the conversation! 

Bishop Eaton has a "big soapbox." The ELCA has about 4 million members. Imagine if just a fraction of those people responded to this act of leadership.

So, in response to her initiative, and in the spirit of learning from Bishop Eaton about how to use social media effectively, I'm creating and sharing my own meme about how I've experienced white privilege.

This is just a first step, and it involves selecting one example out of many. This one builds on something I was reminded of by Bishop Eaton's testimony - a benefit stemming from military service in my own family. (Stay tuned for a future installment about my experience with the criminal justice system.)

The personal success story

My mother was the daughter of a coal miner in Eastern Pennsylvania. My "granddaddy" Melker had served in World War I.

My mother got college scholarship money for an essay she wrote for a veterans organization her father belonged to -- the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Together with other scholarship money, that money enabled her to attend college at Temple University in Philadelphia.

My mother met my father at Temple.

They got married.

Time passed.

I was born.

The question

You can't imagine how many times this legend has been repeated in our family. "Just imagine -- if Mom had never won that scholarship . . . !"

Very few teenagers from the coal fields of Pennsylvania got to go to college in those days; my mom was certainly the first person in her family to make the leap.  

And she earned it. She was really, really smart. And she was a hero in many, many ways.

At the same time . . . . I'm now wondering, "Was that scholarship a privilege that could not be accessed by the children of African-American veterans?" I've researched a little, and it's hard to prove one way or another. I did learn that 370,000 African-Americans were inducted into service in World War I. I've seen reference to the de facto (white) ethnic character of particular VFW posts; I've also read that there were all-black VFW posts, and that the VFW wasn't very widespread in the South.

Beyond the Bonus March and GI Bill: How Veteran Politics Shaped the New Deal Era by Stephen R. Ortiz says:

While marked differences existed at the leadership level and in the national status of the [American] Legion and the VFW, more subtle differences could be found in their rank-and-file memberships. Both organizations took pride in a cross-class national membership. The thorny issue of race, however, tested the supposed inclusiveness of the organizations. Each allowed state departments to decide on racial matters, in tacit complicity with the southern Jim Crow system and the racial system that was emerging in the north during the 1920s. Therefore, while both the VFW and the Legion included African-American veterans as members, typically they were shunted into segregated posts in both northern and southern states. (p. 19, accessed via Google Books)

This will be a question that I will continue to research. (Maybe some of the people who know the history can share comments to this blog.)

My family went from the coal fields to the college quadrangle,
with the help of a scholarship from the VFW.

"Personal Success Story"?
"White Privilege"?
or both?

(Share on Twitter)

Related posts

"I am convinced that we are in denial about the racism that saturates our society and from which we directly benefit. That denial produces predictable twin reactions from white people: either silence about the racism that plainly reinforces our way of living or surprise at the frustration and outrage African Americans and others express at how they are treated."

(See Can "Lutheran" Be a #BlackLivesMatter Denomination?)

To be sitting in Berkeley and seeing in front of my eyes the spreading of this idea that started in Texas and was nurtured in Philadelphia and got agitated in Chicago felt like a real Pentecost moment.

(See Decolonize Lutheranism -- A Northern California Installment)

I believe that once the Church comes out of the closet -- that is, once we start speaking quite openly about the difference between the world as we find it and the world as we believe God wishes it to be -- there is no way this old world will be able to stay the same.

(See Let the Church Out of the Closet )

Thursday, August 11, 2016

#NOwar Music: Sometimes you hear it in church

Is your church community raising its voice against war and nuclear weapons? If not, why not?

Shirley Erena Murray
I got a jolt when I looked closely at the bulletin in the church service at University Lutheran Chapel a few weeks ago*. It called my attention to the hymn of the day, by New Zealander Shirley Erena Murray, particularly these words:

2 We who endanger,
who create hunger,
agents of death for all creatures that live,
we who would foster
clouds of disaster,

God of our planet, forestall and forgive!
(emphasis added)

The bulletin explained that

The "clouds of disaster" in verse 2 (which is sung in a minor key) refer to nuclear tests carried out by France in the South Pacific, which New Zealand has protested at the United Nations many times.

In fact, the Marshall Islands are currently seeking redress in connection with those tests in international courts: see "MARSHALL ISLANDS HIBAKUSHA: Can social media trump empire and entertainment?"

Coincidentally, just days later people were marking the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki with a vigil and protest at the Livermore Labs, near Berkeley, a major site of US nuclear weapons research. The foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum, spoke at the event.

2016 Nagasaki Day protest at Livermore nuclear weapons lab
(Image: Margaret Lowry)

Here's the full hymn, "Touch the Earth Lightly":

Read more about the work of Shirley Erena Murray here: "A jolt of reality – the hymns of Shirley Erena Murray."And check an additional hymn by Shirley Erena Murray about the nuclear threat.

* By the way - I really shouldn't be surprised to hear any activist message at ULC Berkeley. See, for instance, "IN BERKELEY: Declaring Sanctuary, Changing Hearts and Minds."

Related posts

AK Songstress connects to the antiwar legacy of world music -- "in the era of legends like Bob Marley, he was always advocating for peace, unity, love and tolerance."

(See Product of Ghana: #NOwar / Pro Peace Music)

An amazing thing that will be happening -- in fact, has already begun happening -- here in Berkeley is a performance of Britten's War Requiem.
(See WAR: Will you hear? Will you perceive? Will you think?)

"We all live in a yellow nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine . . . ."

(See Lady Alba: When Progressive, Antiwar Views Go Viral )

An amazing number of the world's greatest artists are long-time devoted activists for nuclear disarmament and against nuclear power.

(See IT'S SHOW TIME! 2015 Sounds Like "Nuclear Disarmament"! )

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Think About It: "Roles Women Play in Peace Processes"

Want to be (at least) TWICE as effective as peace workers and peacebuilders? Think about "Roles Women Play in Peace Processes" . . . .

A few weeks ago I suggested: take back the time that the election 2016 circus is stealing from you and put it to work thinking deeply about how to work better for peace.

Today I saw this fabulous meme from Conciliation Resources:

Roles women play in peace processes
(Graphic from Conciliation Resources)

I talked about the importance of gender equality / gender equity to peace in this post: Gender Equity and Peace: Let's ALL have a say in conflict resolution. The Conciliation Resource meme is a nudge to think deeper.

Have you known women who have acted in one or more of these roles?

* Leaders of civil society initiatives or forums
* Facilitators of social reconstruction
* Promoters of women's rights and participation
* Informal or community mediators
* Influencers of armed groups and society
* Carers of the war afflicted
* Formal mediators, signatories, and witnesses
* Delegates or advisors to the negotiating parties

I intend to use some of the time that I've rescued from election 2016 to think deeply about this question. Maybe it will give me something to write about. Or at least some thank you letters to write.

Related posts

"I am investing these 100 hours in thinking deeply about what it will take to change the war-like ways of this country I live in. I am going to ask hard questions, confront what's really standing in the way, think creatively, and come up with new ways to be an effective peace worker. This is my time and I am going to make the best use of it."

(See The Election 2016 Diet: Invest 100 Hours for Peace)

There is no question in my mind that gender equity is foundational to moving us closer and closer to a world where conflict is addressed through cooperation and compromise, and not through domination and violence.

(See Gender Equity and Peace: Let's ALL have a say in conflict resolution)

In a composition suggestive of a yin-yang symbol, a woman in a burka (but wearing audacious red glitter platform heels) is surrounded by genie-ish tableaus of the many male obsessions/pastimes that some of us rail about frequently -- sexualized pop singers, professional sports -- as well as some that we probably should rail about more (such as patriarchy in religion and political violence).

(See VIOLENCE: " . . . and the women must live with the consequences . . . " )

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trump? Maybe the problem is the NUCLEAR ARSENAL itself ...

Fifty GOP leaders oppose Trump, warning of danger if he controls nuclear weapons. Are they opposed to thermonuclear monarchs in general? Or just this one?

Donald Trump, December 2015:
"Why bother having nuclear weapons
if you are afraid to use them?"
(ICAN graphic)

I am perplexed reading the letter by 50 of the most powerful people in the world -- and they are, considering their inside role in the US political and national security establishment -- in which they warn about Donald Trump becoming president.

Really? A letter? That's the best you can do?

Without putting too fine a point on it: these are 50 of the people most responsible for propping up the current balance of terror, and now that it occurs to them that a catastrophe might occur, they give us a letter?

Make no mistake, even though they soft-peddle it, their ultimate fear is clearly what Trump might do with nuclear weapons:

Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be President. In our experience, a President must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control emotions, and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust.

In our judgment, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal
. (highlighting added)

So now it occurs to you that there's a problem? Up until now, you've assumed the US president would always be self-controlled enough, reflective enough, consistent enough . . . foolproof enough . . . that the nuclear thing would just kind of stay safely under wraps where it belongs?

If you really grasped the risk, you would be standing alongside President Obama urging him to negotiate complete nuclear disarmament as fast as he possibly can, and talking to everyone in Congress you can possibly get to support him.

See OBAMA: First stop, Hiroshima; second stop, Moscow.

Related posts

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon - a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War - deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of "Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry )

Do we have a way to immerse ourselves in the experience of what the use of those nuclear weapons would really mean -- prospectively -- so that we can truly cause ourselves to confront our own inaction?

(See Stop engaging in risky behavior )

Any advocacy for the elimination of nuclear weapons must sooner or later get around to the specifics of the steps by which we get to zero. U.S. nuclear strategists recognize that 311 is still a large number of strategic nuclear weapons for the U.S. to hold. Shouldn't our minimum demand be to get U.S. to this level (or below)?

(See Why Are These Military Experts Saying CUT CUT CUT Nukes? )

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

4 Aids for Those Important, Difficult Conversations

Curiosity, leaning into conflict, humility, respect: the gold standard for peace work and citizenship in 2016!

Pastor Rachel Bauman, FCCB Berkeley
How can we manage to talk successfully with people who believe different things than we do?

Pastor Rachel Bauman at First Congregational Church in Berkeley talked about this on Sunday. She drew from In Faith and In Doubt: How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving Families by Dale McGowan to suggest how people from different faith traditions can learn to listen to and hear each other. (She suggested that these skills can also be used by people who feel that they occupying separate political galaxies, as well!)

Pastor Rachel's distillation of McGowan's work focused on the need to:

* have genuine curiosity

 . . . because it is vital to understanding others, and it deepens your understanding of your own self.

* be willing to lean into conflict

Remember: avoiding conflict actually inhibits intimacy. Just be sure to let go of your desire to convert the other person.

* hold your beliefs with deep humility

 . . . which is not the same as holding them weakly!

* commit to the proposition that personal respect for each other is non-negotiable

Opinions and ideas need to earn respect, but you, as a person, are worthy of respect always.

Check out the full sermon (below) . . . and then go out and do something listening!

Related posts

I wondered at how we could have covered all that in just a minute or two -- the time it takes to go a few stops.  After all, when I walked onto that bus we were strangers.

(See Listening for Community (A Chicago Encounter))

I believe when Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine and said "Remember me this way," he was much more interested in encouraging us to keep having conversations -- conversations that really matter -- with others . . . and finding ways to be in relationship with our neighbors  . . . all the while reminding us "never underestimate the power of food"  . . .

(See Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry))

Perhaps what makes a book good for a discussion group is that it combines startling candor, brevity, and the courage to leap again and again into the middle of mysterious questions.

(See Finding Accidental Saints in Berkeley

The Election 2016 Diet: Invest 100 Hours for Peace

GOP in Cleveland . . . Dems in Philadelphia . . . Donald Trump . . . Hillary Clinton . . . Bernie Sanders . . . DNC . . . emails . . . Russians . . . NATO . . . FOX . . . CNN . . .  aaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!

I support ANTI-WAR candidates!
(Know Any?)
The 2016 US presidential election is one of the most perplexing ever for people who oppose war and militarism.

The Democratic candidate is running on her credentials as a tough hawk; the Republican candidate makes random remarks that oddly align with some antiwar positions. The circus atmosphere is bigger than ever and the third-party antiwar candidates that we might usually place some hope in are lost in the swirl of events.

This year seems to underline a difficult truth: in the run-up to the US presidential election, it always seems axiomatic that this will be the opportune time to make headway on the antiwar agenda; but in the craziness of election season itself it becomes obvious just how far out of the action we antiwar people are.

As I reeled from last week's GOP convention shenanigans and find myself drenched in another week of party-business-as-usual during the Democratic convention, I'm having a moment of clarity: these people are stealing my time.

There are, what, 100 days remaining until the election in November? Am I really going to let the next 100 days be commandeered by the minutiae and couch-quarterbacking of this election?

Consider: what if each of us claimed back the time that election 2016 is trying to demand of us? What if we said, "I am not giving you my attention?" What if, instead, we acknowledged that we know right now what we're going to do on election day, and we don't need any more TV coverage or newspaper stories or Facebook posts or tweets, and that instead we were going to use that time in a way of our own choosing?

What would you do with that extra 30 minutes or hour or . . . ?

Here's a radical proposal: what if each of us spent that extra hour a day over the next 100 days to simply think? Imagine saying, "I am investing these 100 hours in thinking deeply about what it will take to change the war-like ways of this country I live in. I am going to ask hard questions, confront what's really standing in the way, think creatively, and come up with new ways to be an effective peace worker. This is my time and I am going to make the best use of it."

Taking a break to think.  The results could be . . . revolutionary . . . !

Think about . . . roles women play in the peace process . . . 

Think about . . . having difficult conversations . . .

Think about . . . the structural problem of "thermonuclear monarchy" . . .

Think about . . . US Constitution and what we might do differently . . .

Think about . . . creative resistance to war and militarism . . .

Think about . . . how people encourage more people to be their best and make a difference . . .

Think about . . . ? . . .

Related posts

In four hundred and thirty-five Congressional districts, there is an inseparable relationship between campaign funding for Congressional races and the military contractors. How do we push back?

(See IT'S A LOCK: Why the US Can't Break Its Addiction to War)

It will benefit us antiwar activists in the US to attend to and reflect upon the importance of these Sustainable Development Goals to achieving the goal of ending war.

(See PEACE DAY 2016: What comes first? Demilitarization? or Development?)

Election 2016 will come down to how the candidates propose to deal with ISIS, and whether they respond to the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement.

(See To Grab the Win, Might Trump or Hillary Surprise Us?)