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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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The Other Superpower?

By Robert C. Koehler “I’m so honored to be alive at such a miraculous time in history. I’m so moved by what’s going on in our world today.” This was 2003. The words were those of Robert Muller — the other one, the one from Costa Rica, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations […]

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Yemen’s Crisis Belongs to All of Us

By Robert C. Koehler What’s a little cholera — excuse me, the worst outbreak of this preventable disease in modern history — compared to the needs of a smoothly functioning economy? A week before he was kicked out of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet for allegedly having watched pornography on his government computer, former […]

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Governing by Scapegoat

By Robert C. Koehler Got a problem? Simplify and project. When you have a country to govern and you have no idea what to do — and, even more to the core of the matter, you also have a crony-agenda you want to push quietly past the populace — there’s a time-proven technique that generally […]

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The Wisdom of Mass Salvation

By Robert C. Koehler Incoming! Incoming! Uh . . . pardon me while I interrupt this false alarm to quote Martin Luther King: “Science investigates,” he says in The Strength To Love, “religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals […]

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The Sanctity of Life

By Robert C. Koehler Breathe deeply, suck in your fear, value life. Some psycho-pranksters have made this national conversation unavoidable. The game is called “swatting”: Call the cops, report a terrifying emergency — “they’re holding my mother hostage!” — and wait for the fun to start. A SWAT team swings into action. Police surround a […]

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The Button, the Wall and the Myth of Nations

By Robert C. Koehler “Mr. Kim may be partly motivated by an intense need to roll back sanctions that, by all accounts, have begun to bite.” Whoa and ouch. This was my wakeup paragraph. I was sitting at Starbucks, reading the New York Times, feeling confusing old emotions wash over me on the first day […]

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Peace on the Far Side of Nuclear Weapons

By Robert C. Koehler “. . . real security can only be shared . . .” I call it news in a cage: the fact that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. In other words, how nice, but it has nothing to do with the real […]

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Rebuilding Jim Crow Nation

By Robert C. Koehler Dred Scott lives! With the Supreme Court’s declaration that President Trump’s third version of a Muslim travel ban is now enforceable, even as legal challenges against it proceed, the court and the country reopen the racism that permeates American history. “The question is simply this: Can a negro, whose ancestors were […]

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Reopening the Doors of Perception

By Robert C. Koehler In a time of endless war and triumphant cynicism, I found myself the other day unexpectedly walking through the doors of perception. Yeah, those doors. “You know the day destroys the night/Night divides the day/Tried to run/Tried to hide/ Break on through to the other side . . .” The words, […]

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Empowering the Vulnerable

By Robert C. Koehler OK, here’s a good one: What’s the position of women in the antiwar movement? This was circa 1967, when I was a college kid just coming of age, psychologically and politically. I was a hippie. I had stopped cutting my hair. I’d discovered pot. And I was outraged by the Vietnam […]

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Trapped in a ‘Man’s World’

By Robert C. Koehler Things fall apart, the center cannot hold . . . The “man’s world” I grew up in is shattering into fragments of shame, contrition and desperate denial. Allegations of sexual harassment and abuse are catching up with powerful perps, sometimes decades after the fact. On Capitol Hill, we now know about […]

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The Illusion of Armed Salvation

By Robert C. Koehler This time, the “the fire and the fury” of American mass murder erupted in church. Twenty-six people were killed, including children, one only 18 months old. How do we stroke their memory? How do we move forward? This is bigger than gun control. We should begin, I think, by envisioning a […]

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Bureaucracy vs. Humanity

By Robert C. Koehler Basically, it’s kidnapping. Were the Border Patrol agents wearing MAGA hats when they grabbed Rosa Maria Hernandez as she left her hospital room? “It’s a shocking case — the most outrageous case I’ve ever seen. Is it a preview of things to come?” ACLU attorney Michael Tan said to me about […]

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Praying for the Moths and Beetles

By Robert C. Koehler “. . . insects as a group are in terrible trouble and the remorselessly expanding human enterprise has become too much, even for them.” And instantly I’m beyond the realm of anything I know, as I consider the gradual disappearance not of whales but of . . . beetles, moths and […]

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A Country, and a Future, Worth Serving

By Robert C. Koehler America’s endless war quietly moves across the broken nations of the world. Every so often, U.S. soldiers die, as four Green Berets did several weeks ago in . . . Niger. And the news was more about the adequacy of presidential condolences to the families of the slain soldiers than the […]

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