Co-creating a culture of peace
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Maybe the problem is that rape is an extension of military culture. And itâ€™s metastasizing, even as legislation to address it stays trapped in congressional subcommittee.
Scandals and outrage come and go, but rape is ever-present. In 2011, a Pentagon report estimated that 19,000 sexual assaults had occurred in the U.S. military, of which barely 3,000 were reported because of the stigma and risk involved in doing so. The â€śI own youâ€ť system of military justice traditionally turns on the victim far more than the accused. That year, in response to the shocking statistics, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would, among other things, remove the investigation of rape cases from the military chain of command, which has far more interest in ignoring the problem than prosecuting it.
Letâ€™s all work together to stop terrorism!
The Palm Beach County, Fla. Sheriffâ€™s Office has a new video out urging local citizens to call them if something smells bad or seems a little weird, like, oh, a tourist is taking a picture of a bridge but thereâ€™s no one in the foreground â€” no spouse, no grinning kids, just . . . a bridge.
Youâ€™re strapped to a metal table, unable to move. They stick a two-foot plastic tube up your nose, then down the back of your throat into your stomach. They squirt in the liquid protein. You gag, bleed, vomit. Itâ€™s unbearably painful.
The practice of involuntary force-feeding is condemned by most medical organizations, including the AMA. Itâ€™s banned by most governments. Itâ€™s torture.
â€śEverywhere near the building, the stench of death was overpowering. Men in surgical masks sprayed disinfectant in the air.â€ť
We move from tragedy to tragedy with hellish regularity.
In the new security state, not even garbage will have privacy.
â€śTerrorism,â€ť the Chicago Sun-Times informed us last week, â€śhas created a new market in Chicago and other big cities for a company that started out making bear resistant garbage containers about 14 years ago.â€ť
â€śShe had a great sense of humor and freckles and red hair that brought her right to her Irish roots.â€ť
She was â€śa dream daughter.â€ť
I have a daughter, so maybe thatâ€™s why these words cut so deep.
In the not so distant future, Americaâ€™s skies will be full of . . . drones.
What could go wrong?
â€śAlthough the prospect of drones flying over U.S. cities is generating cries of spies in the skies,â€ť writes the Los Angeles Times, â€śgroups from California to Florida are fiercely competing to become one of six federally designated sites for testing how the remotely piloted aircraft can safely be incorporated into the nationâ€™s airspace.â€ť
Are the bad ideas dead yet? You know, the ones that have been hollowing out the countryâ€™s soul for the last 30 years.
In Atlanta, they just indicted 35 teachers, principals and administrators, including a former superintendent, for routinely altering their studentsâ€™ standardized test results â€” and in all likelihood this massive fraud is an aberration only because the cheaters got caught.
â€śThe status quo in Chicago is no longer tolerable,â€ť Andy Willis said, summoning the violent headlines of the past year and the past week.
This was Palm Sunday, in a church basement in a big-city neighborhood, and the time had come to stand for something enormous. My God, a six-month-old baby, Jonylah Watkins, was shot and killed this month in Chicago, as her father held her on his lap while sitting in a parked van. That was just the latest shocker. Violence is the norm, in this city and so many others. The death of children is the norm.
Weâ€™ve lost a war without being able to surrender â€” and thus divest ourselves of the consciousness that got us into it. We are unable to look honestly at what we did and why, and determine not to do it again.
My friend Catherine Menninger sent me a note the other day that began: â€śThe days are long past when the poison of DU (depleted uranium) was our shared preoccupation. Now an even deeper poison, a soul poison, is seeping into the body politic and beyond. It is touching us all.â€ť
â€śIndeed,â€ť writes David Korten, â€śwe have become so entranced in the illusion that money is a measure of real wealth and a storehouse of value that we have allowed it to displace life as our object of sacred veneration and become the ultimate arbiter of human priorities.â€ť
As the economy twists downward for most of us â€” as the politics of money tightens like a noose around everything we love â€” I think about the disintegration of human values, which insane logic and the Republicans tells us we can no longer afford.
Philip Zimbardoâ€™s TED Talk on Abu Ghraib and â€śThe Psychology of Evilâ€ť is up to 2,374,000 hits. Apparently people are hungry to know about the deep psychology of American foreign policy.
And perhaps theyâ€™re hungry to look, again . . . again . . . at the Abu Ghraib torture photos that first surfaced in 2004. Cruelty and evil inspire a twisted awe; they pull us into the black hole of our own heart, where we see ourselves in hideous distortion.
Sometimes what I fear most is that the disintegration of public life â€” indeed, the very idea of the public good â€” is complete. The vultures and profiteers swarm around the carcass and make a profit and thatâ€™s all that matters.
Thirty years on, the Reagan Revolution has done its job, or nearly so. Thereâ€™s no sustaining integrity left to how our society is organized, no principle that canâ€™t be gamed for private benefit. And even awareness of all this has been successfully marginalized. We still proclaim ourselves, in the prevailing media, the worldâ€™s oldest, greatest democracy, and worship the old rituals.
â€śWarâ€™s lingering phantoms haunt every society.â€ť
As two hellish, costly and needless wars struggle toward collapse, this is the time â€” now, right this minute, before the next false alarm goes off â€” for us to look honestly at the cost and quality of national security based on militarism. Itâ€™s time to squeeze the romance out of war and get it through our heads that war is not inevitable.
Youâ€™re young and prone to trouble. You get triggered quickly. Someone tells you that youâ€™ve screwed up and youâ€™re about to lash back. Then, instead, you think:
1. Look at the other person.
2. Say â€śOK.â€ť
3. Stay calm.
A child is murdered and we thrash about once more in the spectacle of tragedy.
â€śWith outrage over Hadiya Pendletonâ€™s slaying spreading from City Hall to the White House,â€ť the Chicago Tribune reported last week, â€śthe 15-year-old became a symbol Wednesday of escalating violence in Chicago while fueling the national debate over guns and crime.â€ť
The president negotiates our withdrawal from Afghanistan, proclaims mission accomplished â€” and the wars of the last decade continue winding down to nothing.
Weâ€™ll be leaving behind an unstable country with one of the worldâ€™s highest infant mortality rates and hundreds of armed insurgent groups. We havenâ€™t rescued or rebuilt the country or accomplished any objective that begins to justify the human and financial cost of this adventure. We just lost.
Their grief is too profound and too public. Their words have to be taken seriously â€” allowed to mix with the politics and the self-interest and the fear, those generic trivializers of the national conversation.
â€śThis is a Promise we make to our precious children. Because each child, every human life is filled with promise, and though we continue to be filled with unbearable pain we choose love, belief, and hope instead of anger.â€ť
Finally, perhaps, this is bigger than personal safety. Itâ€™s about rescuing our humanity.
Two images compete for my attention as I write this, a month after Newtown, a week after the shooting at a high school in Taft, Calif., with hundreds of murders in between. One image is of Robbie Parker, father of slain 6-year-old Emilie, offering public condolences to the family of the shooter and pleading, through his tears, â€śLet itâ€ť â€” the murders of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School â€” â€śnot turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be more compassionate and humble people.â€ť
This is an ongoing project. Stories will be added as they come in. My intention is to puncture the idea that we must be armed to be empowered, indeed, to break the grip that guns have on our society and pierce what theologian Walter Wink calls The Myth of Redemptive Violence: the notion that some violence is good.
â€śBut my instinct was that if someone is shooting at you, it is generally better to shoot back than to cower and pray.â€ť
This is the hidden argument for guns as Americaâ€™s primary peacekeepers â€” that the debate comes down to gun ownership vs. helplessness.
And so the nail is driven in. This is isolation; this is the coffin. And there are so many ways of saying it.
The social context of being human has been shattered for far too many people, and one manifestation of this is the eerie rise in mass murders â€” seemingly senseless, impersonal rampages â€” over the last four or five decades. Since the 1960s, they have increased fourteenfold in the United States, far exceeding the rise in population, according to sociologist Peter Turchin, whose four-part essay, â€śCanaries in a Coal Mine,â€ť ran at Social Evolution Forum shortly after the Newtown killings.
â€śEvil visited this community today,â€ť the governor of Connecticut said, though he might have been more accurate if he had quoted Pogo.
â€śWe have met the enemy and he is us.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m pregnant,â€ť she said.
Well, OK. She wanted $4. I could have done the â€śpretend not to see youâ€ť thing. Taking that option is part of life these days, especially in Chicago. Sheâ€™d been standing in the middle of the intersection, trying to get money so that â€” if she was to be believed â€”she and her daughter could get dinner at the McDonaldâ€™s on the corner. When the light changed, she came over to me. I was out for a walk. It was a beautiful, cold December night.
The boy is in his bed crying because thereâ€™s a monster in the room. Dad walks in, snaps on the light . . .
This is the setup for Joe Datorâ€™s macabre, punch-in-the-nose-funny cartoon in a recent New Yorker. â€śSee,â€ť says Dad as he points to the wall, â€śthereâ€™s no monster in the corner â€” itâ€™s just a pile of old skulls.â€ť
Their cost, it turns out, is beyond calculation.
â€śBabul Mia said he identified his wife Mariam Begum, 25, who was apparently burnt beyond recognition, but he could identify her bangles and her small teeth,â€ť reported Bangladeshâ€™s main English-language newspaper, The Daily Star.
Hereâ€™s one take on U.S. militarism and the culture of domination:
â€śAmericans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. You are here today for three reasons. First, because you are here to defend your homes and your loved ones. Second, you are here for your own self respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else. Third, you are here because you are real men and all real men like to fight.
Legalization of pot (in Colorado and Washington state), a big hurray for gay marriage (in Maine), lots of progressive women in the Senate and resounding defeat for the champions of â€ślegitimate rapeâ€ť (Akin, Mourdock) â€” oh my! Election Day 2012 went better than I thought it would.
And Barack Obama, the designated Lesser Evil, clobbered Mitt Romney in the swing states, despite Republican efforts to keep likely Democrats from voting there. I went to bed last night feeling an irrational joy, an enormous inner cry of relief, that the neocons and right-wing crazies were held at bay for four more years.
Suddenly we all know Sandy, the superstorm that whacked New York City, left 55 people dead across the East Coast â€” and about that many in Haiti as well â€” knocked out power to millions and caused some $20 billion worth of property damage.
What I find fascinating is that the storm has a name.
â€śI have no secret plan for peace. I have a public plan.â€ť
I listen to these words with fresh awe, 40 years later. They pierce the soul. Once upon a time, presidential politics was this open, this responsive to moral concerns. The speaker, of course, was George McGovern. The words, delivered during the Democratic National Convention in 1972 â€” and the campaign that followed â€” represent the political high-water mark of the social change movements of the 1960s.