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The War on Gaza: Public Relations vs. Reality

By Robert C. Koehler For its victims, war is . . . yes, hell. For the rest of us — the onlooking and supportive patriots — war is an abstraction embedded in ignorance, a.k.a., public relations, served up for public consumption. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. The reality of war should […] more

Diversity in the Crosshairs

By Robert C. Koehler “Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital . . .” No, this is not the official “you are now entering Dearborn, Michigan” sign, at the corner of Michigan and Wyoming avenues, or whatever. This prosperous Detroit suburb — not only the hometown of Henry Ford but my hometown as well, the place […] more

Neck Deep in the Big Muddy

By Robert C. Koehler Read the news, hup, two, three, four! “Top United States officials prodded Israel on Monday to do more to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip . . .” Thus began a recent, and oh so typical, piece of war reportage. It was purveyed by the New York Times but it’s something […] more

The Need for Understanding Never Stops

By Robert C. Koehler I inhale the big, do-nothing shrug that always follows the annual posting, by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, of its global metaphor for Armageddon. For the second year in a row, the Doomsday Clock has been set – by scientists analyzing the dangers faced by Planet Earth due to human […] more

We’re Still Moving ‘Beyond Vietnam’

By Robert C. Koehler “And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak.” Take a day, pore over a few of his words. I’m talking about Martin Luther King, of course. His […] more

The Cry of the Wounded: End War

By Robert C. Koehler “I am begging the world: stop all the wars, stop killing people, stop killing babies. War is not the answer. . . .War is not how you fix things. This country, Israel, is going through horror. And I know the mothers in Gaza are going through horror. . . .” I […] more

The Law of the Jungle: Our Teacher?

By Robert C. Koehler Perhaps the primary value of war – from the point of view of national leaders and their loyal followers – is that it places 100 percent of the blame for whatever’s wrong on the other guy: the enemy. And thus there’s no alternative but to kill “him,” which nowadays amounts to […] more

Some Moments Never Go Away

By Robert C. Koehler “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Bobby come over!” I can feel the wind on my face, the gravel at my feet – oh so minutely, but with enough realness to pull me back seven decades, into one of the earliest moments of my becoming. For some reason I find myself, at […] more

Poetry Bleeds from the Shattered Normal

By Robert C. Koehler What’s ordinary about life suddenly becomes sacred. This is my definition of poetry — my deepest plunge into being alive. It seems more relevant than ever, as innocent blood flows in the wars being waged by military-political bureaucracies across the planet. How many more stunned facial expressions will I see on […] more

Takes One To Know One

By Robert C. Koehler There are a number of blatant ways for terrorist organizations – by which I mean national governments – to justify committing mass murder. Once you start killing, it’s hard to stop. But you have to justify what you’re doing – a process humanity has been engaged in since the dawn of […] more

Humanity’s Bombs Are Aimed at Evolution

By Robert C. Koehler In most media coverage of war — including the hell in the Middle East, where World War III looms —the unexamined assumption is that we, the readers, are spectators, looking on as the missiles fly (mostly in one direction) and Good dukes it out with Evil yet again, Paradoxically, Good and […] more

Empathy for the Worst of Us

By Robert C. Koehler . . . Why do I feel the urge to stroke the crime as though it were my child, to cup my hands around the horror and prevent it from going out? These words are a fragment of a poem I wrote a nearly a quarter of a century ago, after […] more

Thankfulness Buried in the Rubble

By Robert C. Koehler Much as I love Thanksgiving — seeing my family . . . oh the turkey, oh the cranberry sauce —I feel like maybe a bomb fragment has hit the “thanks” part. I find myself struggling to let a sense of thankfulness flow, because when I do — and doing so has […] more

Turning Conflict into Music?

By Robert C. Koehler Is the rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem? “. . . I came to understand the role some in the U.S. government have played to intentionally catalyze war, fueling arms sales globally, without regard for the consequences. The consequences are here! “We are cartwheeling towards a massive East v. West war with […] more

Militarism vs. Our Shared Humanity

By Robert C. Koehler Sitting safely at my desk, looking at photos of bombed buildings and knowing that missing children are buried under the rubble, imagining (unavoidably) what this must feel like . . . oh my God, empathy gives way to horror. Move on, I tell myself. Write about something else. All wars are […] more

Let’s Stop Dehumanizing the Future

By Robert C. Koehler We — by which I mean most of humanity — are still playing with the so-called “just war theory,” the intellectual justification for war dating back to St. Augustine and the early centuries of the Common Era. You know, violence is morally neutral — and thus, when the cause is just […] more

Igniting a Peace Fire, Even as War Rages

By Robert C. Koehler Here’s some advice you probably never got about parenting: Write your child’s name on his or her leg or stomach, so that if — when — your building is bombed, the child can be identified when she’s pulled from the rubble. Apparently, mothers in southern Gaza are doing this now, as […] more

Peace Means Embracing What We Fear

By Robert C. Koehler “In the midst of our grief and pain, let’s remind each other who we are.” These are the words of Stefanie Fox, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She goes on: “We are people committed to tikkun olam, the repairing of the world. The Israeli government and U.S. government are […] more

Hell Is Not Predestined

By Robert C. Koehler Humanity’s cancer shows up in Israel and Palestine. Missiles fly, hell makes global headlines, thousands of people die, many of them (oh God, of course) children. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declares: “We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly. . . . We are imposing a complete siege on […] more

Hardening Ourselves into Weapons

By Robert C. Koehler Something happened on Tuesday, as I began researching this column — I wound up having to give myself a COVID test. A good friend had just tested positive and, well, we had recently gotten together. I needed to see if I was OK. I note this not because there was bad […] more

The Truth May Hurt, But We Still Have To Face It

If the right gets its way, maybe in a decade or two, the United States will be free of its slave-owning past. All gone – gone with the wind. It’s just not taught anymore. Yeah, we had a civil war – about “states’ rights” – and then we moved on: We conquered the West, saved […] more

Floating for Peace on the Golden Rule

By Robert C. Koehler It’s 10 p.m. at Montrose Harbor in Chicago. Kiko and Tamar help me step from the dock into the wobbly rowboat. Kiko rows us out to the Golden Rule and I climb aboard in wonder. Oh my God! This is it – the 30-foot, anti-nuke sailboat with a history going back […] more

Depleted Uranium Won’t Bring Peace to Ukraine

By Robert C. Koehler Freedom’s just another word for . . . blowing up your children? Giving them cancer? Militarism is obsolete, for God’s sake. Its technology is out of control. The latest shred of news that has left me stunned and terror-stricken is this, as reported by Reuters: “The Biden administration will for the […] more

Creating Art: If It’s Fun, It’s Alive

By Robert C. Koehler As I trek toward the Great Unknown, as life’s struggles seem to intensify, some odd questions keep recurring. Art — what is it again? Why does it matter? How does it matter? What does it mean to be “good” at it? That last question, in particular, can cut like barbed wire […] more

Taking Life for Granted

By Robert C. Koehler Realizing that I’ve been taking something for granted — one grain of infinity — is never an abstraction. It generally happens by whack and wallop. Oh yeah, the knee. The knee. It’s kind of important. A crucial part of the realization process is acknowledgment. Maybe even learning something. So, pardon the […] more