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Trump and the Lost Country

By Robert C. Koehler Where, oh where, is the United States of America — global leader, creator of democracy, hope of humankind? It certainly wasn’t up there on the debate stage last night. When 9-year-olds start slinging insults at each other — “Is not!” “Is too!” — it’s hard for platitudes to step in and […]

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Election 2020: The Coming Chaos

By Robert C. Koehler Is this the future, leaking into the present moment? “You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.” The speaker, of […]

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Life in Cancer Alley

By Robert C. Koehler Shut up and let corporate America — and also, for that matter, corporate Taiwan — get on with its business. We have ethane to crack and plastic to produce. We dare not let America run out of shopping bags! Environmental racism? Don’t be ridiculous. This is the message the activists of […]

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Standing Up to Trump . . . and Biden

By Robert C. Koehler When I ponder the likelihood of looming electoral chaos — uncounted votes, a defeated president who won’t leave office, the possible termination of American democracy (coming soon!) — I can’t avoid putting it into a larger context: We’ve always been, at best, a partial democracy, skewed in favor of the wealthy […]

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Is There Life Beyond Plastic?

By Robert C. Koehler “Plastics!” Yeah, it’s everywhere … not just in grocery store aisles and department stores and every other commercial outlet you can think of, not to mention your own cupboards and closets and trashcans, but on the grass and on the sidewalks, in the landfills, in the lakes and rivers, in the […]

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Ending the Civil War

By Robert C. Koehler This looks like the beginning of a civil war. The chaos and violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin are unfolding as I write. I feel as though I’m watching some natural disaster develop, suddenly overpowering any hope for social change “before it’s too late.” Is it already too late — that is to […]

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War, Peace and the Democrats

By Robert C. Koehler “There’s something happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear . . .” Or is it? Day one of the Democratic National (virtual) Convention. Bernie Sanders had just told his supporters: “Together we have moved this country in a bold new direction,” pointing out that “all of us . . .yearn for […]

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Learning from the Hibakushas

By Robert C. Koehler “They were covered with blood and burned and blackened and swollen, and the flesh was hanging from the bones. Parts of their bodies were missing, and some were carrying their own eyeballs in their hands. And as they collapsed, their stomach burst open.” But war is necessary, right? The speaker, quoted […]

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Election Theft and the Reluctant Democracy

By Robert C. Koehler As election 2020 draws ever closer, the flawed, easily gamed nature of the American quasi-democracy becomes increasingly visible, thanks, of course to Donald Trump, our Fuhrer wannabe, who sees no need to hide his contempt for any result in November other than his own victory. Election theft could well be looming, […]

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Standing Up to the Armed and Inarticulate

By Robert C. Koehler Here’s a quietly unsettling moment from the current cries for change churning across the nation: A teenage girl is at a grocery store in the small town of Marion, Virginia. Her brother, Travon Brown, age 17, had recently become both beloved and hated — the center of controversy — in the […]

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Cultural Genocide Continues

By Robert C. Koehler “There are so many . . . primitive tribes — they don’t understand anything.” The global movement to end racism must turn its attention to the world’s most vulnerable cultures — the indigenous people of Planet Earth — who are still enduring the forces of colonial genocide. They are, after all, […]

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What About Armed Protests?

By Robert C. Koehler Change. Now. I get that, and understand the symbolism of packed heat. A gun says: We mean business. But that symbolism stops as soon as the trigger is pulled. What the armed protesters could wind up with is a bitter present-day civil war and the blood-stained illusion of change. The country […]

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Is the Nation Opening Its Soul?

By Robert C. Koehler Topple a few statues, remove some iconic names from American institutions . . . and the ghosts of the past start to escape from history, filling the present moment. It’s called awareness. Too much awareness can feel like chaos. Not surprisingly, a lot of people would prefer to stick with the […]

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Seattle’s Cauldron of Possibility

By Robert C. Koehler Maybe CHOP won’t last, but something is changing. Our national groupthink, as maintained with such stalwart certainty over the last half century by centrist politics and the mainstream media, seems to be crumbling before our very eyes. And as the groupthink crumbles, a larger awareness opens. Progressive thinking is finding its […]

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Defunding ‘Justified’ Murder

By Robert C. Koehler Well, he deserved to die, didn’t he? He fought, he ran, he grabbed the cop’s taser and fired it. And he was intoxicated, apparently. And he was blocking traffic. “If an officer is hit with that Taser, all of his muscles will be locked up, and he’ll have the inability to […]

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Globally Uprooting a Racist Past

By Robert C. Koehler “This was not an attack on history. This is history. It is one of those rare historic moments whose arrival means things can never go back to how they were.” And the toppled statue of a 17th century slave trader, now at the bottom of Bristol Harbour, is suddenly more relevant […]

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The Knee for Change

By Robert C. Koehler Is George Floyd today’s Emmett Till? Is the nation moving beyond, oh God, its third manifestation of “legal” racism? The first manifestation was, of course, slavery, which was eliminated via the Civil War. The second manifestation was the Jim Crow/KKK era, with its lynchings, black vote suppression, unending segregation and unquestioned […]

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Policing and the Sanctity of Life

By Robert C. Koehler This is so much bigger than personal accountability. Yes, the four police officers present at the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis were fired the next day. The case is being investigated by the FBI. And the mayor of Minneapolis and lots of other politicians are talking about “values.” […]

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Rethinking Public Safety: Trust vs. Force

By Robert C. Koehler “Guns aren’t just a danger in and of themselves,” writes Noah Berlatsky at Quartz. “They enable a policing philosophy built on violence and forced compliance, rather than one founded on respect, trust and consent. That philosophy affects every police interaction, even those that don’t involve actual shooting.” Examples of this, of […]

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Racism and the National Soul

By Robert C. Koehler How deep does American racism go? And is it possible to uproot it? Or will it simply — endlessly — shift shape, wrap itself in the political correctness of the day and morph, say, from slavery to Jim Crow, from Jim Crow to stand-your-ground laws, gerrymandering and voter suppression? At some […]

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Can We Achieve Nuclear Adulthood?

By Robert C. Koehler “I’ll never tire of repeating: We need to demilitarize world affairs, international politics and political thinking.” What if a world leader — someone with extraordinary power, even, my God, control over nuclear weapons — were to talk this way? Well, this is as close as we can get for now. The […]

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A United World Must Break Out of Prison

By Robert C. Koehler At a time when the president wants to reopen the economy — but not the borders! — it’s time to grab ahold of the moment and start groping in our minds beyond what’s politically possible and start envisioning serious social change. Life is fervid chaos right now for those who are […]

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Moral Injury and the Pandemic of Violence

By Robert C. Koehler “The vet in the mirror may be wounded in the soul — and it is your duty to carry this one last vet for help.” This is not an easy reach — into the soul of the loneliest man or woman on Earth, which is the definition of everyone who is […]

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War, Irony and the New Normal

By Robert C. Koehler The uber-irony about the deadly coronavirus is that, as it claims lives, endangers millions and interrupts the social normal, threatening unprecedented global chaos, it is also quietly informing us what we must do to create a better world — and, indeed, creating it, in certain ways, as we look on in […]

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What World Shall We Create?

By Robert C. Koehler As the quarantine continues, as I gaze out my window at the quiet street in front of my house — wow, look, there’s a cardinal . . . oh yeah, there’s a neighbor walking her dog — I swell with wonder at the paradoxical unity, “the shared humanity,” I feel in […]

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