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Poverty, Violence and Spiritual Wildfires

By Robert C. Koehler “They take advantage of that opportunity and they shoot into a crowd, no matter who they hit.” The news this past weekend emerging from my fair city, Chicago, felt like news about wildfires sweeping across California: the sudden, hellish karma of climate change, that is to say, the gradual collapse of […]

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Border Security: Wall vs. Principles

By Robert C. Koehler Consider the limited thinking that produces a concept such as “border security.” The essential assumption here is that the United States of America is primarily a physical container – three and a half million square miles of freedom and prosperity, whoopee, but the supply is limited. Sorry, have-nots, we don’t have […]

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A World Designed by Playground Bullies

By Robert C. Koehler As the week’s news slaps against my consciousness like road slush, some fragments sting more than others. For instance: “According to the DOJ’s court filing, parents who are not currently in the U.S. may not be eligible for reunification with their children.” I can’t quite move on with my life after […]

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Mixing Guns and Racism

By Robert C. Koehler In Illinois, as in all the rest of the states, it’s legal to carry a concealed handgun, unless you’re at a ballgame or in the library or a number of other designated public places. But one of those places is not the corner of 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard, in Chicago’s […]

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The Dems Could Win if They Stood for Something

By Robert C. Koehler The Democrats have been in turmoil for the last half century and then some, when they abandoned their racist base and supported the civil rights movement. Revved up by the spirit of the ’60s, the party began opening itself to further change, even daring to push beyond the financial interests of […]

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Womp, Womp: Racism in a Cage

By Robert C. Koehler “We offer your love to all of our children . . .” the Episcopal priest said, her eyes closed in prayer. Some 170 people were gathered around her, as she stood in a gazebo in a park in Huntsville, Ala. This was one of the 700-plus protests across the country last […]

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Valuing Life More Than Borders

By Robert C. Koehler “We are people who believe in the worth of every human being,” Elizabeth Warren said the other day, and I wondered for a moment what life would be like if that were true. The more crucial question, however, is: How can we make it true? Warren had just returned from McAllen, […]

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Trump, Kim and the Nuclear Status Quo

By Robert C. Koehler Peace, love and Donald Trump? I get the skepticism regarding the tentative nuclear disarmament agreement the president and Kim Jong-un reached last week, but not the cynicism — not the outright dismissal. It’s too easy to hate Trump, but he isn’t the point. In his reckless unpredictability — in his lust […]

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The Great Waking Up

By Robert C. Koehler I don’t blame all of the planet’s ills on the Republican Party, but I find hope in the possibility that it’s on the verge of collapse. I’m not talking politics here. I’m talking deep vision of humanity: a sense of who we are and how we impact Planet Earth and all […]

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The American Way of War: Evolution Stops Here

By Robert C. Koehler America does what it wants. This is obvious, except it’s also monstrously unnerving. Let’s at least add some quote marks: “America” does what it wants — this secretly defined, self-obsessed, unelected entity that purports to be the United States of America, all 325 million of us, but is, in fact, a […]

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Empowering Kids Instead of Arming Them

By Robert C. Koehler Let’s open the classroom doors — all of them. Open up the schools, open up America, looking for the lost souls. “Woo hoo!” he shouted as he fired off his guns. By the time he was done, ten more people were dead. Eight students, two teachers. More sacred lives tossed to […]

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Two Prongs of a Pitchfork

By Robert C. Koehler Such gentle abhorrence! It almost doesn’t seem like racism. “But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people in the countries they come from — fourth, fifth, sixth grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English, […]

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Let the Prayer Continue

By Robert C. Koehler “. . . may all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws but […]

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Peace and the Nuclear Paradox

By Robert C. Koehler Whenever the topic is nuclear weapons, I remain in a state of disbelief that we can talk about them “strategically” — that language allows us to maintain such a distance from the reality of what they do, we can casually debate their use. Consider, in the context of the sudden rush […]

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Can We Unlock the Golden Door?

By Robert C. Koehler Around 9 a.m., a helicopter began circling overhead. Moments later, as Jonathan Blitzer wrote recently in the New Yorker, a fleet of cars pulled up outside the meat-processing plant in Bean Station, Tenn. . . . And the SS guys stepped out. Oh wait, I mean the ICE agents, who swarmed […]

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Playing War in Syria

By Robert C. Koehler Donald Trump got “presidential” again and fired about $150 million worth of cruise missiles at Syria, accomplishing God knows what. Meanwhile, the United States, in its humanitarian largesse, has so far allowed 11 Syrian refugees into the country this year, of the more than 5 million external refugees the country’s civil […]

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Lynchings Past and Present

By Robert C. Koehler When history is looked at in its complexity, it plays havoc with the present moment. “This wasn’t done by the Klan, or people who had to wear a mask. This was done by teachers and clergy and law enforcement officers.” This is Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, talking to […]

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Rethinking the Whole Country

By Robert C. Koehler Repeal and replace? How about the Second Amendment? “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Setting aside the antique strangeness of the wording, isn’t it time to give thought to the values […]

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Change Is Coming

By Robert C. Koehler The cries of loss and anguish become public, at last. A million young people seize the truth: “Half of my seventh grade class was affected by gun violence. My own brother was shot in the head. I am tired of being asked to calm down and be quiet.” The stories went […]

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Normalizing Violence

By Robert C. Koehler Addressing the Parkland shootings last month, and the apparent emergence of a movement for tougher, saner gun laws that has followed, a USA Today article asked: “What has been so different from all the other mass shootings over the years?” In one sense, this is a reasonable question. Why now? Why […]

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Breaking the ICE

By Robert Koehler Perhaps the best political news of the Trump era has been the emergence of sanctuary cities — city governments valuing the presence of immigrants and standing for the protection of their right to live without fear — and their defiance of this country’s current manifestation of legal racism. “How dare you vilify […]

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It’s Time To Disarm the Gun Debate

By Robert C. Koehler The “gun debate” is the national schism that seemingly cannot be bridged. Those on one side see the loosely regulated presence of 300 million firearms in this country as a threat to everyone’s safety and gasp in ongoing disbelief when the gun lobby smirks that the solution to every mass killing […]

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Melting the Ice in the Human Heart

By Robert C. Koehler How close, how intimate, have you ever gotten with Greenland? A new documentary called Stella Polaris, directed by Yatri Niehaus — part of Chicago’s tenth annual Peace on Earth Film Festival — takes you on a meditative journey to this lonely, extraordinary island, to its melting ice, its rampaging waters and […]

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The Cheapening of Human Life

By Robert C. Koehler The cries of terror and disbelief continue. Teenagers lie down in front of the White House to protest the nation’s tepid, stalled gun-control legislation. Parents grieve for their children and stare at the wound carved into the American soul. Assault rifles have more rights than schoolchildren. A movement simmers, or so […]

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War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell

By Robert C. Koehler It’s so easy to paper over the real American security void with verbiage about strength vs. weakness and the endless need to upgrade the military. Here’s Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, for instance, quoted the other day in The Guardian: “It is incumbent upon us to field a more lethal force […]

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