Recent Articles

Here are the most recent articles!

RSS feed susbscribe to our RSS feed

 

 


The Heart of Order

By Robert C. Koehler He’d left the water running, flooding neighbors’ apartments. He’d been running around outside naked. By the time police arrived, he was standing in the window of his fourth-floor apartment on Farwell Avenue — a few blocks from where I live in the diverse, unpredictable Chicago neighborhood called Rogers Park — threatening […]

...read more

Beyond Winning and Losing

It’s the smallest thing in the world. Does the tennis ball land inside the line or outside? But somehow, as I watched this 60-second YouTube clip of an Australian tennis match last January, and heard an explosion of joyous approval surge from the crowd, I could feel the planet shift.

Or at least it seemed that way for an instant.

...read more

The Nuclear Breakfast Menu

Donald Trump is a reckless fool. But the U.S. defense establishment is M.A.D.

And herein lies one of the darker problems with the Trump candidacy, and the reason why so many establishment conservatives are awkwardly distancing themselves from America’s leading narcissist — if not running screaming into the night in fear for their lives (and everyone else’s).

...read more

Reaching Beyond the Candidates

What would it take to cause Hillary Clinton to distance herself from the newly launched bombing campaign in Libya? Or call for a congressional debate on it? Or suggest the obvious: that the war on terror isn’t working?

Of course it won’t happen. But the fact that it sounds so absurd — almost as fanciful as the notion of movie characters stepping off the screen into real life — indicates how illusory, how unglued from reality, American democracy is at the presidential level. It’s a spectator sport — mud wrestling, say — doled out to us as entertainment by the media in sound bites and poll numbers.

...read more

Slavery, War and Presidential Politics

As I watched “unity” take hold of the Democratic Party this week, the believer in me wanted to imbibe it — bottoms up.

Michelle Obama ignited the crowd. “That is the story of this country,” she said. “The story that has brought me to the stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, who kept on striving, and hoping, and doing what needed to be done.”

...read more

Volatile America

In a flash I thought, oh God, the civil war has started.

Then the headlines shifted and, for the moment, “normalcy” returned. It’s a Trump-sated normalcy that’s anything but, of course, and the most recent heavily reported violence (at least as I write these words) — the murder of three police officers in Baton Rouge — blends into the endlessly simmering turmoil known as the United States of America.

...read more

The God of War

There’s Mars, the god of war, perched in a parking garage in Dallas, annihilating the enemy with utter impunity. Mars, you sicko! Just listen to President Obama:

“By definition, if you shoot people who pose no threat to you — strangers — you have a troubled mind. What triggers that, what feeds it, what sets it off, I’ll leave that to psychologists and people who study these kinds of incidents.”

...read more

The Illusion of Security

“Please be gentle.”

The story is too easy to believe. At the Memphis airport, a confused, nervous teenager sets off the metal detector — possibly because she has sequins on her shirt — and is told she needs to come to a “sterile area.” Armed guards show up to escort her. She’s terrified.

...read more

The Right To Bear Courage

Behind the “right to bear arms” lies concealed the right to make money. You know, a lot of it.

The right to . . .

I pause here, torn apart by the political sacredness of these words. We have the right to speak freely and worship the God or our choosing or none at all, the right to reasonable privacy, the right to choose our leaders, the right to fair and equal treatment under the law. These rights are inscribed in the national bedrock: the Constitution. They activate our humanity; without them, we’re so much less than our fullest selves. Without them we’re perpetual victims, forced to live in fear and secrecy.

...read more

Hair-Trigger Alert

I feel the finger on the trigger. I also feel it on the button.

“Dear President Obama,” the letter begins. It goes on to remind him of something he said in his 2008 presidential campaign: “Keeping nuclear weapons ready to launch on a moment’s notice is a dangerous relic of the Cold War. Such policies increase the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculation.”

...read more

Mass Karma

This won’t be the last.

Half a week into the Orlando tragedy, this reality remains pretty much unacknowledged, as cause-seekers focus on security and ISIS and the specific mental instability of Omar Mateen, who, as the world knows, took 49 precious lives and injured 53 others at the nightclub Pulse in the early hours of June 12.

...read more

School Days and Grenade Launchers

Come on, they aren’t tanks, they’re armored rescue vehicles. And the, uh, grenade launchers would only be used to launch teargas canisters. When necessary. And the M-16s? Standard police issue.

What a journey these Los Angeles teenagers, and the civil rights group Fight for the Soul of the Cities, had, to get from there — the ho-hum justification by (good Lord) the city’s school district police force, for the accumulation of surplus Defense Department weaponry — to here:

...read more

Poverty, Militarism and the Public Schools

What’s the difference between education and obedience? If you see very little, you probably have no problem with the militarization of the American school system — or rather, the militarization of the impoverished schools . . . the ones that can’t afford new textbooks or functional plumbing, much less art supplies or band equipment.

The Pentagon has been eyeing these schools — broken and gang-ridden — for a decade now, and seeing its future there. It comes in like a cammy-clad Santa, bringing money and discipline. In return it gets young minds to shape, to (I fear) possess: to turn into the next generation of soldiers, available for the coming wars.

...read more

A 10-Minute Debate on War

“Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used? Possibly, possibly . . .”

This is — who else? — Donald Trump, flexing, you might say, his nuclear trigger finger in an interview with Chris Matthews, who responds in alarm:

...read more

Rethinking Criminal Justice

“For over forty years our criminal justice system has over-relied on punishment, policing, incarceration and detention. This has ushered in an age of mass incarceration. This era is marked by sentencing policies that lead to racially disproportionate incarceration rates and a variety of ‘collateral consequences’ that have harmed our communities and schools. . . .”

In this time when our self-inflicted troubles seem so obvious but the possibility of change — that is to say, political transformation, through awareness, compassion and common sense — feels more illusory than ever, something extraordinary, that is to say real, is on the brink of happening in Chicago.

...read more

Quiet War, Sleeping Nation

And the race goes on. So does the war, but you’d never know that the one had anything to do with the other.

Even when the mainstream media trouble themselves to acknowledge that the primary season remains open on the Democratic side, that Bernie Sanders — and his millions of supporters — are still in the race, the Bernie revolution is never portrayed as addressing foreign policy and the still-failing, still-catastrophic war on terror.

...read more

Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz

“The people are being reduced to blood and dust. They are in pieces.”

The doctor who uttered these words still thought the hospital itself was a safe zone. He was with Doctors Without Borders, working in Kunduz, Afghanistan, where the Taliban and government forces were engaged in hellish fighting and civilians, as always, were caught in the middle. The wounded, including children, had been flowing in all week, and the staff were unrelieved in their duties, working an unending shift.

...read more

Opening the Closed Political Culture

The headline, from the Los Angeles Times, hit me like a sucker punch: “Voters’ ‘Bernie or Bust’ efforts persist despite Sanders’ vow not to be another Ralph Nader.”

Actually, it was worse than that. When my brain cleared, I realized I was, once again, caught in a media straitjacket.

...read more

The New Enlightenment

What remains endlessly hinted at about the 2016 presidential race, but not fully articulated, is that something enormous — bigger than politics, bigger than America itself, perhaps — is trembling and kicking just below the surface, struggling to emerge.

I have a name to suggest for this hypothetical phenomenon: the New Enlightenment. Nothing less than that seems adequate.

...read more

Creating Resilient Communities

“Conflict happens in isolation.”

Wow, that’s it. A sense of awareness ignited as I listened to Kristin Famula, president of the National Peace Academy, make this seldom-acknowledged observation. When we feel wronged, violated, disrespected, suddenly we’re alone with our careening emotions.

...read more

Democracy Free-for-All

Here in America, we celebrate democracy by staying in touch with the lack of it. What better way to honor our ancestors’ struggles to win the right to vote — and have that vote counted — than to have to struggle ourselves for the same thing?

Considering that, as I wrote four years ago, “democracy is nothing if not a perpetual nuisance to the powerful,” and that apathy is the national curse, I remain amazed that we’re having a presidential race this year that cuts so deeply — to core human values — and is worth enduring a sort of bureaucratic totalitarianism to participate in.

...read more

Playing with Guns

You shouldn’t play with guns, unless you do it the way “Jim” apparently did.

His gun play — a (seemingly) satirical petition at change.org — has enveloped the looming Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer in awkward surrealism and forced the three Republican presidential candidates to duck for cover from their own words.

...read more

Recovering from Militarism

The pols cry glory and revenge. They cry security. They cry greatness.

Then they stick in the needle, or the missile or the rifle shell, or the nuclear bomb. Or at least they imagine doing so. This will fix the world. And they approve more funding for war.

...read more

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

By Robert C. Koehler The snaking line was more than a mile long. Thousands of us had been waiting for hours in the bitter cold to get into Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre to hear Bernie Sanders speak. It was Monday night. The Illinois and four other state primaries were the next day and, as has been […]

...read more

Politics and the Golden Rule

“What I’m not trying to do is just pass legislation. I’m trying to change the face of American politics.”

Pull these words out of the context of “the news” and let them pulse like the heartbeat of the future.

The words are those of Bernie Sanders, of course — engaged last week in a confrontational interview with Chris Matthews. Free college tuition? Matthews loosed his skepticism on the presidential candidate, who pushed back:

...read more

War, Peace and Bernie Sanders

It’s the day after the big vote and I’m doing my best to dig Tulsi Gabbard’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders out from beneath the pile of Super Tuesday numbers and media declarations of winners and losers.

As a Boston Globe headline put it: “Clinton and Trump are now the presumptive nominees. Get used to it.”

...read more

Finding Peace at the Heart of Grief

A young, much-beloved woman was gang-raped three years ago on a bus in Delhi and a culture exploded.

The documentary India’s Daughter, which addresses the horrific rape-murder and its aftermath, is part of that explosion of awareness, aimed straight at the heart of India’s cultural dismissal of women as full-fledged members of society and full-fledged human beings. It opens up a world where people can still say: “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock. A girl is far more responsible for a rape than a boy.”

...read more

Beached America

For at least the last four decades now I feel like I’ve been living in Beached America: a nation that has lost its values, even as it writhes in violent agitation, inflicting its military on the vulnerable regions of the planet.

It does so in the name of those lost values . . . democracy, freedom, equality. These are just dead words at this point, public relations blather, silently followed by a sigh: yada, yada, yada. Then we send in the drones.

...read more

Confronting Our Toxic Legacy

Maybe if we declared “war” on poison water, we’d find a way to invest money in its “defeat.”

David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, writing at Tom Dispatch this week about what they called “The United States of Flint,” make this point: “The price tag for replacing the lead pipes that contaminated its drinking water, thanks to the corrosive toxins found in the Flint River, is now estimated at up to $1.5 billion. No one knows where that money will come from or when it will arrive. In the meantime, the cost to the children of Flint has been and will be incalculable.”

...read more

Four Horsemen of the Democracy

“It was also a shock to the system that a candidate universally known in Iowa, with deep pockets and long experience, could come close to losing to a relative unknown who was initially considered little more than a protest candidate.”

Just think of it! The tiny, tightly controlled consciousness that calls itself The World’s Greatest Democracy got all rattled and discombobulated by the behavior of Iowa caucus participants this week, because a large number of them — virtually half of the participating Democrats — cast their vote for an old socialist, well outside the zone of official approval.

...read more