Co-creating a culture of peace
Here are the most recent articles!
There has always been a â€śdeep state,â€ť as Mike Lofgren described it in a compelling essay recently published at BillMoyers.com â€” a predatory consensus of money and political ideology that serves only its own endless growth and functions in pristine autonomy from any sort of democratic process â€” but defining it begs an enormous question: Can we actually build a world that isnâ€™t run by its shadow interests?
And what is this going to take? Can good will and big principles stand up to Wall Street and the Washington consensus? Perhaps even more to the point, if itâ€™s even possible, how much time do we have before war and climate change rip the human experiment to shreds?
No matter how bad it gets, we can look inside ourselves and find hope, possibility . . . the future. And when we find that, we know what it means to build peace.
â€śItâ€™s like Iâ€™m in a never-ending battle with my brain,â€ť Kayla said. â€śThey called me Crazy Kayla. I have anger problems. Someone messes with me, I lose it. I was molested, raped, physically and mentally abused. I was in 127 different homes. I have a 3-month-old baby . . .â€ť
â€śWhen you go to dig your fields, or make a pot from clay, you are disturbing the balance of things. When you walk, you are moving the air, breathing it in and out. Therefore you must make payments.â€ť
Oh, unraveling planet, exploited, polluted, overrun with berserk human technology. How does one face it with anything other than rage and despair, which quickly harden into cynicism? And cynicism is just another word for helplessness.
â€śThe standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.â€ť
This is how we talk about learning, growth and the human future?
Things are getting worse in the American classroom, not better. The experts and the special interests purporting to fix the educational system are continuing, instead, to asphyxiate it.
The young guys were half a block ahead of us. Nothing was happening except that they were walking. A police car pulled up behind them, slowed to their pace, aimed a spotlight at them.
They were African-American (did you guess?), numbering maybe half a dozen. They werenâ€™t intimidated. Some of them stopped, stood staring at the police car, talking to it; this had obviously happened before. The spotlight continued to shine in their faces. Other young men crossed the street in front of the car and joined the crowd. The game went on for a while: the slow saunter, the cops driving along next to them, the light in their faces.
Iraq vet Ross Caputiâ€™s film opens with a fleeting synopsis of the American heartbreak â€” and the bandage we tape across it.
His documentary, Fear Not the Path of Truth, is about the U.S. devastation of Fallujah, in which he participated as part of Operation Phantom Fury in November 2004, but the first couple minutes give us an overview of his hometown, the â€śformer industrial cityâ€ť of Fitchburg, Mass.:
Every night gunshots lullaby me to sleep
In ruins of abandoned buildings
the broken glass is
where we bottle up all our broken dreams. . . .
Hold the dream with me, as it breaks loose from Jameale Pickettâ€™s poem. Something beyond the insane dance of crime and punishment is happening, at least this year, this moment, in Chicagoâ€™s high schools. Young people are getting a chance to excel and become themselves, as more and more schools find and embrace common sense, also known as restorative justice.
â€ś(Chris) Christie is the caricature of a Third World despot,â€ť writes Chris Hedges of the reeling New Jersey governor. â€śHe has a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself, an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and little respect for the law and, as recent events have made clear, for the truth.â€ť
And he still might wind up becoming our next president.
â€śIn Iraq, al-Qaeda launched an offensive to take control of two cities, Fallujah and Ramadi, that U.S. troops sacrificed heavily to clear of terrorists between 2004 and 2008.â€ť
And so the new year begins, with a heavy dose of same old, same old. This is the Washington Post editorial page, which Robert Parry dubbed the neocon bullhorn, blaming the al-Qaeda uprising in western Iraq on President Obamaâ€™s withdrawal of troops from that country, along with his failure to invade Syria last fall, all of which, the editorial charges, adds up to complacency in the face of growing danger and a lack of protection for â€śvital U.S. interests.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m dying to know what itâ€™s like to love somebody â€” to know what it feels like to be wanted.â€ť â€” Art Corneau
So we need a documentary to break the Code of Shame. Itâ€™s called A Hard Name and came out in 2009; it ran on Canadian public television. (The film is online but, unfortunately, canâ€™t be viewed in the U.S. â€śdue to rights restrictions.â€ť) Director Alan Zweig found seven ex-prisoners â€” five men, two women â€” and just let them speak. The result was the opening of a raw wound: the public exposure of something so deeply hidden, so wrapped in cynical taboo, I could barely listen without screaming: Why?
Iran! So long our enemy-in-waiting, just asking for it, yâ€™know?
No wonder Americans are confused about the idea of maybe not going to war with that country one of these days, at least according to USA Today, which reported: â€śThe White House and Iran face an uphill selling job to convince Americans to embrace the interim nuclear pact negotiated with Tehran last month.â€ť
â€™Tis the season to feel rage and heartache about the economy.
I feel hope as well, praise the Lord, thanks to Pope Francis and the alley behind my house, where nothing of value goes to waste.
Iâ€™m the kind of person who canâ€™t throw anything away, but sometimes I have to anyway â€” an old microwave, a sewing machine that hasnâ€™t been used in 20 years, a threadbare easy chair, tangled computer wires and other excruciating miscellany â€” and when I do, itâ€™s usually gone within a day, if not an hour. When I can no longer find value in what I possess, others see it as a gift from the universe.
What goes around comes around . . . and around, and around.
Last month, the day after I left Santa Rosa, Calif., a 13-year-old boy carrying a toy replica of an AK-47 was shot and killed on the outskirts of that town by a Sonoma County deputy sheriff with a reputation for being trigger-happy. The officer had ordered the boy to drop the â€śgun,â€ť then in a matter of two or three seconds opened fire, giving him no chance to comply.
â€śThe only premise of the book was to just go out and listen.â€ť
And the book, edited by Miles Harvey, who is quoted above, is remarkable. Itâ€™s one of a kind, as far as I know â€“ How Long Will I Cry? â€“ the first publication of a newly formed nonprofit organization called Big Shoulders Books, which is affiliated with Chicagoâ€™s DePaul University. Itâ€™s available free of charge, because . . . how could a cry in the wilderness be otherwise?
I felt the music and the fire as the civil rights movement rose from its slumber.
â€śRepair . . . justice!â€ť went the call and response last week, in the basement of an old Chicago church at the corner of Ashland and Washington. â€śRestore . . . life! Rebuild . . . community!â€ť
Another crazed, furious loner shocks the world. This time Iâ€™m a little too close to the edge of the chaos.
I gape at the TV in disbelief: Iâ€™m supposed to fly out of Los Angeles Airport â€” Terminal 3, no less â€” that afternoon, but all I see is footage of scrambling police and snarled traffic. If Iâ€™d booked an earlier flight, I could have been sitting there when the 23-year-old gunman shot the TSA agent at the foot of the escalator, then wandered through the gate area with his rifle and his grievances.
â€śTo all of our atheist friends: Thank God youâ€™re wrong.â€ť
Move over, We Buy Ugly Houses.com and Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa. Here was religious faith on a billboard, refuting non-belief in letters three feet high. I was visiting Los Angeles, driving with a friend along La Cienega Boulevard, when this king-size ad for religious certainty smacked us in the eye.
What if we had politicians who believed in the abolition of war with as much passion as the Republican right believes in the abolition of taxes?
For me, the question that immediately follows is: What kind of politics draws power from resources other than the deep pockets of billionaires? Just because the world is sick of war, how will that ever translate into serious political action to defund standing armies and ongoing weapons research? How will it ever cohere into a consensus that has political traction? Does Washington, D.C. only have room for one consensus?
In an agony of stupidity, the government shuts down.
Only some of it shuts down, of course. The part that stays open is the part thatâ€™s at war. â€śThose of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status,â€ť the president said. â€śThe threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency. Ongoing military operations, like our efforts in Afghanistan, will continue.â€ť
The community was out of control â€” the children, oh my God, the children, were sniffing gasoline and pretty much abandoning any pretense of a future â€” and the social and criminal-justice systems were just adding to the problem. Nothing was working.
â€śOur children slammed us against a brick wall,â€ť Burma Bushie said.
Poison gas is not only a â€śmoral obscenityâ€ť â€” one the United States stockpiled for decades after its use was banned in warfare â€” but a metaphor for human recklessness and wasted science.
Like it or not, weâ€™re forced to think about it these days, since itâ€™s still an enticing pretext for war. And the more I think about it, the more I marvel at the persistent insanity of its existence. The â€śred lineâ€ť that the so-called civilized world crossed over a century ago was not in the use of poison gas but in its creation, because itâ€™s lethal whether itâ€™s used or not. Attempting to get rid of it â€” by burying it, burning it, dumping it â€” has consequences almost as deadly as firing it off in battle.
â€śImagine if we sent 5,000 well-trained nonviolent peacekeepers from throughout the world to protect civilians and work with local civil society in building the peace.â€ť
Indeed, imagine if we knew that doing this was an option.
â€śBecause these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them.â€ť
Why does the president need to address a classroom full of third-graders?
This is the time, as the next war strains to be born, amid the same old lies as last time, amid the same urgency and pseudo-debate and pretensions of seriousness:
The government of Syria has crossed a â€śred line.â€ť It has used poison gas, killing hundreds of innocent people and committing a heinous war crime. And suddenly, clear as a bell, we have good vs. evil. Our only course of action, President Obama and his spokespersons tell us, is to â€ścarry out a punitive strike against the Syrian government.â€ť
Itâ€™s hard to lie about your age once youâ€™ve told someone youâ€™ve just been to your 50th high school reunion.
Well, technically, it was the 49th â€“ this was the class of â€™64. The organizers made the decision to hold it a year early because, uh, more of us would be alive (if I understand the reasoning correctly). In any case, close enough. I went. This is the first class reunion Iâ€™d been to in all this time and I hadnâ€™t seen most of the attendees since we seized our diplomas and scattered off in search of our lives.
Stopping crime before it happens is a great idea, but stopping young men for â€śwalking while blackâ€ť â€” touted by true believers as the same thing â€” is a game played by an occupying army.
The tactic is called stop-and-frisk. As practiced by many police departments, including New Yorkâ€™s, it amounts to blatant racial profiling. Stop-and-frisk makes it impossible for young men of color to lead normal lives, to walk outside without fear of preemptive police harassment. The long-term hatred and tension it engenders does far more harm to a community than all the questionable good that proponents ascribe to it. Security based on racism is a sham.
â€śPakistani authorities have long denounced the strikes, out of concern that civilian deaths caused by drone strikes inflame the local population, bolster militant groups and violate Pakistanâ€™s sovereignty.â€ť â€“ CNN, July 26
Oh, the serious news! I read it with ever-fresh incredulity. Itâ€™s written for gamers. It reduces us to gamers as it updates us on the latest bends and twists in the geopolitical scene. Weâ€™re still playing War on Terror, the aim of which is to kill as many insurgents as possible; when theyâ€™re all dead, we win (apparently). The trick is to avoid inflaming the locals, who then transition out of passive irrelevance and join the insurgency. They get inflamed when we kill civilians, such as their children.
â€śMy life would be worthless without music,â€ť the girl said.
And the music came, up from the garbage, through her hands and heart and out to the world. My god, she was playing a violin made out of an old can. A boy was playing a cello crafted with more love and ingenuity than I can imagine, from a used oil drum, old wool and tossed-out beef-tenderizing tools.
Did the ghosts of our slave-holding and Jim Crow past high-five each other in the Florida courtroom on Saturday? George Zimmerman was acquitted, but does that mean that American history was, too?
The experts who weighed in on the legal battle essentially noted that, in the absence of any witnesses other than Zimmerman, the prosecution couldnâ€™t prove what had happened, or more to the point, couldnâ€™t convincingly counter-argue his version of events â€“ that he was returning to his car when Trayvon Martin assaulted him and threw him to the ground, forcing him to kill the boy in self-defense. Trayvon was dead; that left him, legally, voiceless and out of luck.
What I keep longing to hear, in the hemorrhaging national debate about Edward Snowden, whistleblowing and the NSA, is some acknowledgment of what the word â€śsecurityâ€ť actually means, and what role â€” if any â€” the government should play in creating it.
â€śYou canâ€™t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy.â€ť
A moment of silence, please, for the dying patriarchy. That, of course, was how President Obama explained it to the American public shortly after the spy scandal hit the fan. When did we become â€śthe childrenâ€ť in our relationship with the government, irrelevant to its day-to-day operations, utterly powerless as we stand in its massive, protecting shadow?