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Ubuntu or Collective Suicide

By Robert C. Koehler I stroke the killer’s hatred and certainty, knowing the answer we all ache for — why? — will not be forthcoming. Yes, there was another mass shooting the other day, at Club Q in Colorado Springs. A young man clothed in body armor entered the nightclub carrying an assault rifle and […]

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Shatter Alley

By Robert C. Koehler Can a poem transcend fury — fury combined with helplessness? Can individual property owners join NATO? Having no other options than simply to continue seething, let me tear myself psychologically open for a moment here and see what happens. Yeah, this is personal. And yeah, I live in Chicago — part […]

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Looking for Victory Beyond the Election

By Robert C. Koehler After the election comes . . . the coverage, which always, at least in the mainstream media, seems to reduce everything to winning and losing, to strategy and tactics, rather than to the deep issues shaping the future. The mainstream-created context of this year’s midterms amounted to: Will there be a […]

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The Drum and the Cardinal

By Robert C. Koehler My friends Scott and Betsey gave me a drum a few weeks ago. I played it as I sat with them . . . and I certainly mean the word “play” as childishly as you can imagine. I’m no more a musician than I am a nuclear physicist, but I played […]

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Loving Nature or Profiting from It: Take Your Pick

By Robert C. Koehler It’s fascinating how “interests” interfere with survival. We prepare for — and, of course, wage — war with an overwhelming percentage of our resources (to the benefit of the profiteers), but we plead poverty when it comes to helping people or, you know, saving the planet. Humanity! The species of global […]

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Fifteen Seconds Till Armageddom

By Robert C. Koehler “When militarism is addressed as a psychosocial disease, the absurd irrationality of its symptoms is clearly exposed.” These words are from a 1992 essay by N. Arther Coulter published in a journal called Medicine and War. Who would have guessed? They’re as relevant now as they were three decades ago. God […]

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Death by Nationalism?

By Robert C. Koehler The game may be almost over. Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies put it this way: “The irresolvable dilemma facing Western leaders is that this is a no-win situation. How can they militarily defeat Russia, when it possesses 6,000 nuclear warheads and its military doctrine explicitly states that it will use […]

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Transcending the Morality Police

By Robert C. Koehler I’ve been haunted by a phrase for almost a month now: “morality police.” The news has been global. A 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, was arrested as she was leaving a subway station in Tehran on September 13 by an Iranian police unit known as the Islamic guidance patrol, a.k.a., the morality […]

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Nukes, War and Moral Sanity

By Robert C. Koehler What does surrender look like in the world of geopolitics? To my mind, this gets pretty close: “President Biden’s national security adviser said on Sunday that the United States had warned Russia that there would be ‘catastrophic consequences’ for the country if Moscow used nuclear weapons in its increasing desperation to […]

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The Military to American Youth: You Belong to Me

By Robert C. Koehler Ah, the children! They belong to us, sayeth the Department of Defense. At least some of them do. It’s a little more complicated than it used to be, thanks to one of the changes that occurred back in 1973, a year of startling historical significance. That was the year of the […]

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Nikes on a Wire

By Robert C. Koehler There they were again. The dangling irony of memorial Nikes . . . I was walking home from my neighbor’s house. They’d just had a piano recital and I was still full of music when I saw the pair of tennis shoes flung over the telephone wire that crosses my street […]

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Bob’s Rhubarb Lounge

By Robert C. Koehler Michael suggested the name Bob’s Rhubarb Lounge. I couldn’t stop laughing, at least on the inside. I imagined commissioning someone to make a neon sign with those words, maybe ten feet high. I’d place it in front of my house, of course. Why not? The point of the lounge would be […]

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Staring into the Eyes of the Wolf

By Robert C. Koehler Close your eyes and try to envision the two wolves. Imagine yourself as a terrified child. I think that helps bring the myth to life . . . this myth, said to be Cherokee, of humanity’s two choices. The wolves are engaged in a vicious fight. The wise grandfather explains to […]

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The Stained-Glass Teddy Bear

By Robert C. Koehler Relax, kick back, enjoy life. My daughter, Alison, who is 36 years old, flew into town the other day (angel that she is) and I can’t let go of the wonder and miracle of it all . . . being alive. I had intended to write a column this week about […]

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With Wars To Wage, Who Can Afford Peace?

By Robert C. Koehler Texas and Arizona have begun busing refugees at their border – at a cost of millions – up to a couple liberal Northern cities . . . let’s see how they like it! Texas, according to Gov. Greg Abbott, “has had to take unprecedented action to keep our communities safe” – […]

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‘Mommy, Somebody’s Having a Baby’

By Robert C. Koehler On a shrugged-off afternoon of YouTube wandering, I came upon this: “Is There Life After Death?” Hmmm . . . well, is there? Turns out it was a presentation by five professors at the University of Virginia, moderated, good God, by John Cleese. I more or less had no choice but […]

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Surrendering Power to Reverence

By Robert C. Koehler “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous Peoples.” So said Pope Francis last week, at a powwow in Alberta, at the start of his “apology tour” across Canada — for the participation of the Catholic Church in the multi-century horror of Native American […]

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The Cynics’ Monkey Wrench

By Robert C. Koehler If you depart from an “us vs. them” philosophy of life, your first confrontation is likely to be with the cynics. Last week, for instance, I wrote about the weekend I spent, a decade ago, getting handgun training from the NRA — and what I learned, which is that the things […]

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My Weekend with the Good Guys

By Robert C. Koehler You may find this shocking, but a little over a decade ago I spent a weekend learning how to shoot a handgun — under the auspices of the NRA. I wound up earning myself an NRA “personal protection in the home” certificate. For years I have pondered writing about this weekend, […]

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White Supremacists Want ‘Their’ Country Back

By Robert C. Koehler Is an insurrection percolating in the MAGA universe? A civil war? One thing I notice as I read the growing warnings that this is the case is the assumption that suddenly the USA has become a divided nation, a splintered democracy, when, in point of fact, it has always been deeply […]

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Growing Up, Becoming a Man

By Robert C. Koehler I’ve made my own choices along the path of life — spiritual, mental, physical. I declared myself a non-believer in my parents’ religion at age 16. I’d just read the book Exodus, by Leon Uris, and couldn’t tolerate the church’s teaching that all non-believers, including all Jews, were going to hell. […]

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Choice Without Shackles

By Robert C. Koehler “The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions. On the contrary, an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.” What could be more convincing than that? […]

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Good Guys with Guns?

By Robert C. Koehler Ready, aim, fire: “I believe in Jesus, guns and babies.” So declares Kandiss Taylor, GOP candidate for governor of Georgia, in a campaign ad. Or how about: “I’m Eric Greitens, Navy SEAL, and today, we’re going RINO-hunting.” This is not about killing rhinoceroses. “RINO” stands for Republican in Name Only – […]

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Embracing the Complexity of Peace

By Robert C. Koehler “Just imagine for once if we led the world in funding peace and not wars.” Just imagine! The words are those of Robert Weissman, president of the organization Public Citizen, in response to the legislative efforts of Reps. Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan, who are the co-chairs of — glory hallelujah! […]

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The Collateral Damage Comes Home

By Robert C. Koehler “They were at places that seemed safe — but few spaces in America are guaranteed safe anymore.” This is CNN, doing its best to stay atop America’s mass shootings and keep the survivors (by which I mean us) informed. Yeah, 13 gun massacres this past weekend, at strip malls, nightclubs, graduation […]

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