This strife among ourselves wastes our energy and destroys our unity. My message to those of you involved in this battle of brother against brother is this: Take your guns, your knives, and your pangas, and throw them into the sea! ~Nelson Mandela
When I was 25 in 1985, I took a course in South African political culture and current affairs. The general consensus at that time, at least among my professors, was that the lower third of Africa was headed inexorably towards murderous race war, probably within the next decade. The Reagan administration had no interest in mediating the situation and, in fact, tacitly supported the apartheid government in South Africa and its satellite in Rhodesia. South Africa had a nascent nuclear capability and a VERY well-armed white populous as well as a highly trained professional army and an extensive and brutal internal police apparatus. The African nationalists including the ANC had plenty of guns of their own, vastly superior numbers, time and moral authority. On the periphery, the Soviets, the CIA, the Israelis and the Organization of African Unity to name just a few, were all sniffing around. In the townships, a state of constant, low-level rebellion existed with civilians being killed on a daily basis either by a vicious police force or a murderous vigilante opposition. It seemed as if every night on the news there were more images of police massacres and the aftermath of “necklacing”. The Afrikaners were trying (and largely succeeding) to buy out the Zulus and make side deals with the mixed race half-casts who had marginally better rights than the blacks. The Communist wing of the ANC was threatening a full-scale reorganization of society if they took power and everyone knew that there was going to be a bloodbath in those circumstances. Would the US and Europe stand by if the Afrikaners lost and a black on white genocide began? Would the rest of the African continent and the US and Europe stand by if white South Africans won and sought to extend and intensify their own longstanding policy of ethnic and racial cleansing? If outside powers were seen to take a hand, would the Soviets get more involved, maybe through their client state Mozambique? After all, there are few places in the world of more strategic importance than the Cape. Southern Africa is a veritable treasure chest full of strategic materials like chromium, aluminum, beryllium, cobalt, diamonds and gold among other things. Many nations might be tempted to intervene for any number of reasons and a much larger and more general continental war was likely to start from a localized apartheid war. The Afrikaner administrations of Botha and later DeClerk were desperately looking for a way to step down from this precipice, ideally with their white supremacy intact, but there were few credible takers.
In the mid eighties, across Europe and the US, young people on college campuses began agitating for their schools and for major corporations to divest themselves of South African investments (I am proud to be one of those students), this threatened the last real connection the South African economy had with the West, and the Afrikaners understood that Reagan wouldn’t be there forever to protect them and Israel alone wasn’t much of a trading partner. The most militant elements on both the Afrikaner and Pan-African and Black Nationalist sides were ready and willing to kick this thing off, and I for one saw little chance that this could end in anything other than war waged on a map as big as the US with millions of civilians trapped in the middle.
Into this mess stepped Nelson Mandela, a man in the midst of his third decade of captivity, a man who had been tortured and abused, often in solitary confinement for as long as I had been alive. South African leader F. W. DeClerk deserves his share of the Nobel Peace Prize he and Mandela were awarded later for seeing the writing on the wall and choosing peace over war, but it is Mandela who shines. He brokered a peaceful transition to majority rule that convinced whites to largely remain in the country of their birth and keep the wheels of the economy turning, and convinced blacks to hold their rage in check and begin building a positive multiracial society. He did this through a brilliant political acumen and masterful diplomatic skill, but also in large part it seems through the power of his personal character and integrity. He had the credibility born through hardship and sacrifice among his colleagues in the ANC. This allowed him the room to negotiate with DeClerk. He had the gravitas and sense of the moment needed for the Afrikaners to take him seriously as a partner.
South Africa is not perfect and neither was Mandela, I am sure. The nation today has a terrible AIDS epidemic, and a generation later many blacks have yet to see much economic progress for themselves or their families. The ANC leaders who have come after Mandela are lesser men and they are prone to the kind of mortal weaknesses that apparently didn’t affect the great man, but one has only to look North to Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) to see the way things might have gone if not for the smooth transition in the south. While Zimbabwe limps along on the verge of becoming a failed state still ripped by racial and class resentment on all sides, the nation Mandela built continues to nurture the seeds necessary to one day become an international powerhouse like Brazil or India.
What has happened in South Africa is still something of a miracle to me, and Mandela was the catalyst. He will of course be compared to Gandhi and MLK and there are clearly many similarities and cross-references, but perhaps the most striking and gratifying difference to me is that Nelson Mandela died in his bed at the ripe old age of 95 in a largely peaceful region of the world that he primarily made, not a martyr for whom we can only speculate as to what he might have done, but as a beloved and respected leader who served his nation and mankind to the fullest of his capacities.
When I was a young man, that part of the world looked set to explode. Because he lived and because he could put aside the wrongs done to him and his people, that never happened. We’ll never know just how bad it could have gotten. His strength gave others the strength to forgive while not forgetting; and for that the world owes Nelson Mandela a massive debt of gratitude.
~ Scott Price, APV President
Love is the symbol most often associated with perfection – the power of love, the power of truth …. It’s the stuff of poets.
Poets are all who love, who feel great truths,
And tell them; and the truth of truths is love. ~ Philip Bailey
It may be innate – I think so, but early gratification, when we’re defenseless and being cared for is surely a time to feel the give and take of love. When we present at birth, we begin taking from others straight away in lovely, greedy, gulping neediness – and that creates a miracle. It may feel at times like the most under-appreciated part of the human experience, but taking enables giving. It’s good and right and makes possible that feeling we associate with perfection.
When the baby looks around him
It’s such a sight to see
He shares a simple secret
With the wise man ~ Leon Russel
Completing the cycle is the consciousness of giving. Heart-felt giving, generosity, is the true and ultimate form of greed. The pay-off, of course, is love – what we truly crave and what makes us healthy. Our desire for love is as wonderfully selfish and greedy as every breath we ever take, or more so. In that respect, our survival simply depends on the needy taking and the greedy giving.
I believe the harmony and balance that enables that cycle is available all the time; that our numbers, personalities, strengths and weaknesses are complimentary. But when we separate people into takers and givers, making one group bad and one group good, it depletes our source of power – the love we create when we help one another. In providing for each other we thrive. Love is plenty, and plenty divides into more plenty.
When we can’t count on each other, our sense of community is destroyed and we feel isolated. I think that’s when our quest for love is bastardized into a feeling of worth that’s disconnected from the truth. We collect and hoard and mood-alter in a million ways, chasing one vanishing point after another, but it’s loveless. That’s why we know health and happiness as fleeting or temporary states, and why we don’t get along, live in peace, feel safe or feel saved. Give and take are separated on our balance sheets.
Do you recognize the bells of truth
When you hear them ring
Won’t you stop and listen
To the children sing ~ Leon Russell
Asking if your butt looks big is a test you probably shouldn’t give to a three-year-old. Truth is their reality, their community, a universe of boundless energy where the freedom to create is the freedom to fail, where trial and error are perfect partners. In loving innocence, children understand the harmony that allows everybody to be a work in progress as givers and takers at the same time. They accept and encourage others regardless of imperfection or weakness, and they need the same in return.
And so … we’re wonderfully thoughtful, creative, needy and generous until we learn to distrust, and then we try to live among people who might not help us if we fail, if we’re needy, or if we have a big butt. We learn to criticize and fear criticism, and it smothers our natural inclination to create and offer our gifts. That fear sickens us and weakens humankind as surely as the lack of touch and human kindness kills an infant. Our resistance to helping each other is so sad and irrational. Love provides. Deviating from our source of love weakens us individually, and as a society.
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in. ~Leonard Cohen
The enlightened and the creative among us have always given rise to the light of truth. It cleanses everything, revealing purity, essence. But truth is not a choice. And we can’t visit the light or feel the power of our love during a weekly visit to the museum.
It’s true we live and die within the margins of our experience, but I believe our best thoughts and deeds ripple out over time and space to touch others. And those who defeat resistance and unleash themselves to change the world and experience mankind’s greatest gifts are with us. We raise them up to feel the glory of truth and love around us. What makes them adorable, though, is what they did when they had the chance. Here on earth, they showed us how to care for each other. It’s what gave them the strength and power that has made them eternal.
I love this analogy: When a fearful puppy rolls over to expose its belly, it’s a correction, an offering of trust, a submission to the highest power – love. Trust is the door love comes in through.
Love is the only miracle we know; unfailing, undying, available and waiting for us in every thought and every deed. Evidence of love’s power to transform anything into good is everywhere we choose to see it and honor it with the truth.
Our symbols are often so inadequate that it’s difficult to assign mere words to a feeling of such power and importance, but it’s been done. It’s around the world in every language known to man: God is love. Love is perfection. Truth, Love, Power.
Whatever that means to you, I hope you feel the best of it. I hope you feel love.
Stranger in a Strange Land – Leon Russell and Don Preston
Christy Diane Farr
Every single day for seven months out of each year my fourteen year old son leaves our home wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He loves Skittles and tea. Never once have I worried he would be shot and killed for walking down the street and talking to a friend on a cell phone. Not one single time. Most days, I am ashamed to admit, I don’t even remember what a privilege that is.
White privilege? Um…yeah. My kid is white and he wears a hoodie, and when he and his friends cross the street between the closest snack vendor and our neighborhood, nobody stops them to ask what they are doing. They are not assumed to be up to no good, nor does anyone think they don’t belong here. They are white kids in rural Tennessee. They belong here–whatever the hell that means–and that turns my stomach inside out.
Occasionally, I do worry that he or his sister will be treated badly because I’m a lesbian, but even in our very conservative and sometimes close-minded town, I most often feel that they will be safe. Of course, you can’t tell by looking at my children that their mother is different from the other mothers. The same cannot be said of Trayvon Martin and his mother.
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old in a suburb of Orlando, Florida, was shot and killed by a man who, even after being told by the 911 operator to back off, pursued him and shot him in the chest. His killer, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, claims he was protecting his property and that ultimately, this was an act of self-defense.
No, my son is not bulletproof. Do not misunderstand me. Bullets care not for the color of my son’s sun-kissed skin, or his feathery blond hair. If someone shoots him in the chest — much less from a distance short enough that they could have instead reached out to shake hands — he will die… just like Trayvon Martin died.
But people who hold guns care deeply about the color of my son’s skin — as do teachers and neighbors, executives and stay-at-home moms, and every other person from sea to shining sea. . . even if they don’t want to.
The truth is, we all see color. People with every single shade of skin, from every age, political leaning, economic status, etc., see color if they see at all. We see one another through our filters, and sometimes our filters tell us lies. That’s what happened to George Zimmerman. His filter told him that a young black man walking through his gated community was “suspicious,” and it was a lie.
Tragically, Zimmerman believed the lie. There is no part of me that believes, based on what I’ve read and watched, that he shot Martin for recreation. This was not a hate crime in the same way that Mathew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., were murdered for being gay or black. This was violence perpetuated by fear, a reaction to the little voices in Zimmerman’s head that misconstrued a situation into a fantasy — a deadly one.
I’m unsure which of those two scares me more but, honestly, I believe it is the latter. It’s the kind of fear that lives right here in my community, in our schools, our neighborhoods. And fine, I’ll admit it, even in my head.
This is the same fear behind the failed attempt to prohibit the government in Nashville, Tennessee, from using any language other than English. This is the same fear that creates opposition to place of worship because those who attend will worship God as Muslims instead of as Christians. This is the same fear that compels others to “protect traditional marriage” by banning marriages like mine. This is the same fear that… well, look around you. Examples of this fear are woven consistently and strongly throughout life as we know it.
I can’t stop thinking about the fact that Trayvon Martin was hunted by his killer. Evidenced by the recording of his own 911 call, Zimmerman literally chased him down. Trayvon was trying to get away because he was scared. Zimmerman was so consumed by his fear that he couldn’t even recognize that he was actually giving Martin a reason to act suspiciously, to try to get away. A man with a gun was hunting a boy with Skittles and tea, and the man was so consumed by his fear that he couldn’t even see what was happening inside him.
The fear-driven killing of Trayvon Martin isn’t the first of this kind, not even close. But every tragedy like this, every injustice, seems like trying to start a wave at a football game. Some attempts cultivate the attention of 20 or 75 or 300 or 1,000. Some go all the way, around and around until the people are one.
Never has there been an experience like this that went completely unnoticed. But, never has there been one in which everyone allowed themselves to be consumed by the wave of possibility. There’ve been maybe 10,000 people enraged or engaged, or even a million or more, but not everyone.
We’re being given that invitation again now. Nothing we can do now will justify the taking of Trayvon Martin’s life. Period. But, please, please, please let this be the last false start of that wave that can take the fearful energy that is consuming our country, and return it to love.
Let us be consumed this time. Let us rise up and demand justice. Let us throw up our arms, long and strong and proud, so that others will feel encouraged to join us. Let us raise our voices stronger than we’ve ever raised them before. Let us have the courage to explore how this tragedy could happen in America in the year 2012.
Let us at least have the courage to admit that this did happen, that it happened on our watch; and let us not pretend that we didn’t have plenty of evidence that it could. No more silence, for that is the darkness that breeds fear and we can no longer afford to sacrifice even a single person to hate. Let us be honest with ourselves today. Let us be broken open by the horror of this story, for it is only in that openness that a seed of hope can be planted.
Let us consider the equity of our mindset: If you would feel outraged if that bullet had gone into my precious son’s white chest, then — for the love of whatever you find holy — be outraged right now.
“Our son is your son.” – Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s Mother
I, like most of you, am not an attorney or an investigator, and I don’t even live in Florida. I am a white woman whose heart has been shattered by this vicious reality check. But, what now? How can we let this life-changing experience change us? We can see the need for healing, for change, for this wave of love, but we are paralyzed.
This simply is not enough. Stopping here, with the horror and heartache, and slowly returning to who/what we were before Trayvon Martin died simply isn’t enough. I am reminded of a conversation I had many moons ago with my friend Caroline Blackwell who is now the Executive Director of the Metro Human Relations Commission in Nashville, Tennessee. She has been a most inspiring and gentle guide as I’ve begun to explore matters of diversity and inclusion.
Nearing the end of this conversation, I was completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the obstacles, all that stands between our reality today and true equality for all. I stumbled and bumbled, and finally, I was able to choke out, “There’s so much that’s broken. Where do we… How can it… What can I do?” What follows is the essence of what I learned from her that day.
We start by talking about it, people like you and me, and others who care about these issues, so that others can begin to care, too. We talk about what we see and what we think, and feel. We create safe spaces, like the circles we use here in our community, in which people can come together to talk about our needs and our fears, our hopes and realities. We explore our thoughts and our beliefs, with ourselves and with others. By sharing ourselves in this way, we begin to learn to value our differences and similarities . . . We start by talking about it.
by Christy Diane Farr
Crosby Stills Nash and Young
You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.
I found a safety pin in the carpet and remember being surprised and delighted when I got it open. I used it to scratch the paint off the face of my sister’s new dolly. After the tear fest that followed her outrage, torrents of Bible verses and lectures about jealousy fell on my young ears and then Daddy got home to teach me several other consequences of destructive behavior. I remember it well.
Feelings about fairness are rooted in every social problem.
A sense of fairness, whether innate or learned, is something I imagine most parents attempt to highlight in their children, and learning to respect the property of others is basic. Understanding why we wouldn’t is more subjective, requires empathy and addresses the feelings of persons negatively affected. When authoritative consequences drive home the point that punishment follows for those who disobey the law, it only works if the laws are understood, reflect society’s morals and ethics, and if the punishment is applied fairly across the board.
“Do as I say, not as I do” and “Do what I say without question” are old style authoritarianism, ineffective leadership, and not the least bit democratic. We need to get that mentality out of our government. When the American people react en mass out of feelings of unfairness, we don’t need to have the sin spanked out of us. We need representatives willing to listen first, ask and answer questions, and attend to our needs – whatever we say our needs are. Their secrecy and the favoritism they show to corporations is abhorrent. They need to keep their religion to themselves and legislate in fairness with the hearts and minds of the people as their priority. That could begin with laws that respect the peoples’ property.
When young lessons are twisted up in a mix of religious and economic self-righteousness, the result is confusion, then anger, then rage. The same goes for a nation with laws that allow corporations to abuse or destroy our property while others are subjected to jail time.
If my factory emissions cause your emphazima, loss of employment and homelessness, even death – that’s too bad. Illness, cancer, toxic waste, the destruction of our environment – it’s all the same. Erin Brockovich was popular because our hearts and minds were with her in a desperate struggle to right a wrong, but the rarity of her success is what made it a story.
Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.
It’s role reversal. The people are the teachers, not the government. And the parents of America’s children have their hands full trying to convey that message, I’m sure. It must be tough, for example, teaching children that their bodies are their most precious possessions, to be cared for and treated with respect by all. This, at the same time the state of Virginia among others have the audacity to force medical procedures on unwilling women for a purpose clearly not covered in the law – a future mandate for women to endure unplanned pregnancy and bear unwanted children.
Another thing I know parents struggle with today, because it’s getting difficult for everyone, is providing and modeling healthy nourishment. Having compromised the standards for the most fundamental requirements of the human body – in favor of corporate profits, government agencies have made a mockery of our basic needs. Body, heart and mind – it takes clean air and water, healthy food. John Prine suggests,
“Blow up your T.V.
throw away your paper,
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches”.
And while you’re at it, exercise the freedom to make your own spiritual choices. The religious doctrine of others is healthy food for thought and a joy to study and consider – during the process of independent, personal resolve.
I jumped off the track with John Prine, but while I’m here, I’ll say what I’m thinking: there’s nothing reasonable about making smiles illegal. “Well done, hot dog bun, my sister’s a nun.” Try explaining that one to your kids, but you might hold off on the drug war. They’ll eventually see through it like everybody this side of “Just say no”, another authoritative instruction from the old school that never worked and never will.
Back to religion – by their very nature, spiritual choices are unregulated; they come through a variety of life and family experiences. Legislation that favors your experience over mine is categorically wrong, but a good example of the confusing religious and economic self-righteousness being dished out by ‘Daddy’ these days.
Among various other discrimination, Virginia’s new adoption law allows state agencies to say, “You may adopt this child if you’re a Christian, but not if you’re a Jew”. If you live in America, have a brain cell and are raising a child, that’s another one that should be difficult to explain, especially for Christians. Subjecting the soft skin of children to the warehousing of orphanages when they deserve, have a right and an opportunity to become a family member in a safe, protective and loving home, is not exactly ‘witnessing’. If I were an orphan under those circumstances, I can’t think of anything that would drive me away from Christians more completely.
And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
The point is, good parents are what we need and I hold them in the highest esteem. Having the know-how, intuition, courage and stamina to make positives from negatives and prepare young minds for a go at the world ahead is more than I can grasp, but I appreciate them and the challenges they face.
One of the most important lessons in fairness and how our children will work toward it is in our Bill of Rights. The First Amendment enshrines the right to assemble peaceably, to speak freely, and to petition for governmental redress of grievances. In light of what happened at the Capital in Richmond on Saturday during the rally for women’s rights, I’ve wondered how parents are supposed to teach their children to be good citizens who practice healthy, peaceful redress efforts without being afraid or intimidated. (If you don’t know what happened, here’s March 3rd, 2012 – Of Protests and Bitch Slaps, by Jack Johnson, and excellent account of the rally and of the arrests that followed.)
The following is an example of good parenting that I think fits the bill. I saw it earlier today, and don’t know the mom who posted it, but see if you don’t agree that she has the “hearts and minds” of her children in full view of their future and our needs as a nation:
“Since Saturday I have been wondering about an appropriate role in the re-surging women’s rights movement. As I watched civil disobedience play out on Saturday I kept wondering, what can/should I do? What is my role in this?
I am a mom.
I am needed at home.
My life is busy.
You are too.
I sometimes wonder if some elected officials count on us being so busy as to not pay attention to what they do. I am not *that* busy anymore. But what, given the requirements of being a mother, should I be doing?
I am a mother.
I have two daughters.
I will teach.
Today I called the Capitol Tour Desk to inquire about having a picnic with my children on the grounds. I am told that we are allowed to bring food or purchase food at their underground café and eat anywhere on the grounds except inside in the historical part of the building.
I plan to take my girls for a field trip to discuss civil disobedience, democracy, and the women’s rights movement. I may do this more than once and I am putting the intention into the universe that other mothers will feel the strength of this lesson for the next generation. The erosion of personal freedoms is not to be tolerated. This Thursday I plan to sit on the steps in the same spot that the protesters were sitting and bring my laptop with the YouTube video of what happened in that spot.
Think of the tremendous life learning opportunity we have before us to teach the next generation. I am not looking to turn this into anything other than what it is… mothers teaching their children and remaining visible even while handling our busy lives.
I was thinking I might head over there this Thursday a little before lunchtime. Anyone care to join me???”
(That will be tomorrow, March 8, 2012)
Some News from APV, Virginia:
Today Governor McDonnell signed HB 462 (the Mandatory Ultrasound Bill) into law. We are deeply disappointed by his decision, but not deterred. There is no doubt that our voices have been heard ‘loud and clear’, not just by our representatives, but by the press and therefore the country. We have gotten our message out there. We have been remarkably successful in fighting some of the worst legislation out of the GA this year with the odds against us. We have forged alliances and gathered people who will not forget, and we will continue to build momentum to take this state back. We’re in this for the long haul. Make no mistake, we ARE winning.
Sculpture “Non-Violence” in memory of John Lennon, Manhattan, by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd
Gad! No wonder the people in this country are struggling. This issue is disturbing on so many levels that just being aware of it is intimidating! If it continues unabated like it is now, just imagine what life in the good ole USA will be like for Americans down the road a ways. You think they’ll be safe enough?
The cost of America’s police state, by Stephan Salisbury, is a good recent piece on the what, where, when, why, and how of the militarization of our local police forces, the vast network of video surveillance interlinked with information databases, “fusion centers”, and more.
One thing not mentioned in the article is 1033. But more than a year ago, Benjamin Carlson covered it in BATTLEFIELD MAIN STREET, and I think it’s key in understanding how all this got its big heave-ho. Here’s an excerpt, and the article has some great photos of the equipment being distributed at the time.
“Passed by Congress in 1997, the 1033 program was created to provide law-enforcement agencies with tools to fight drugs and terrorism. Since then, more than 17,000 agencies have taken in $2.6 billion worth of equipment for nearly free, paying only the cost of delivery.”
In today’s Mayberry, Andy Griffith and Barney Fife could be using grenade launchers and a tank to keep the peace. A rapidly expanding Pentagon program that distributes used military equipment to local police departments — many of them small-town forces — puts battlefield-grade weaponry in the hands of cops at an unprecedented rate.
Through its little-known “1033 program,” the Department of Defense gave away nearly $500 million worth of leftover military gear to law enforcement in fiscal year 2011 — a new record for the program and a dramatic rise over past years’ totals, including the $212 million in equipment distributed in 2010.
The surplus equipment includes grenade launchers, helicopters, military robots, M-16 assault rifles and armored vehicles.
And the program’s recent expansion shows no sign of slackening: Orders in fiscal year 2012 are up 400 percent over the same period in 2011, according to data provided to The Daily by the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency. (…)
Experts say the recent surge is simply the continuation of a decades-long trend: the increasing use of military techniques and equipment by local police departments, tactics seen most recently in the crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street protesters across the country. But critics of the program say that the recent expansion of 1033 distributions should be setting off alarm bells. (…)
Arthur Rizer, a Virginia lawyer who has served as both a military and civilian police officer, stressed that their outlooks and missions are fundamentally different.
“If we’re training cops as soldiers, giving them equipment like soldiers, dressing them up as soldiers, when are they going to pick up the mentality of soldiers?” he asked.
“If you look at the police department, their creed is to protect and to serve. A soldier’s mission is to engage his enemy in close combat and kill him. Do we want police officers to have that mentality? Of course not.”
The intimidation factor associated with having a military presence instead of a “protect and serve” mentality in law enforcement from coast to coast is obvious. If you haven’t noticed it, try a little redress of grievances with a group of like-minded, concerned citizens some day soon. At this rate and before too long, most people will be afraid to object to any legislation that comes down the pike, and I’m not sure that isn’t the precise intention of all this beef-up. If you read the articles above, you may disagree, but I think it’s already out of control in every way. Regardless of the “freebies” provided to local law enforcement, we can’t afford it. It’s an oppression tactic, and we don’t want to be an oppressed people. At least, that’s not what I had in mind.
How do you go about turning something like this around before it gets worse? Salisbury offers a clue or two pointing out: “This is not simply a police issue. Law enforcement agencies may acquire the equipment and deploy it, but city legislators and executives must approve the expenditures and the uses. State legislators and bureaucrats refine the local grant requests. Federal officials, with endless input from national security and defense vendors and lobbyists, appropriate the funds.” [emphasis mine]
But for some historical context, validation and encouragement, this recent interview with Jonathan Schell did it for me. It’s worth your time, “hearts and minds”.
Sixteen of Americas intelligence agencies have reaffirmed that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and yet the chest-beating war mongers in the media and congress are all but counting their money from betting against efforts to work toward peace and diplomacy with a nation full of innocent people who are probably as baffled by some of their state policies as I am with ours.
The American people pay dearly so our leaders can afford to have a smart, effective, representative State Department, foreign policy and military equipped to make friends with the people of other nations, promote peace and defend the American people against … whatever, and somewhere in that mix, somebody is responsible for strategy. So, what’s going on with our policy toward Iran and why aren’t we being consistent in our war against terrorism?
Stipulating for the point, say the Iranian government, not the people, but the state – is doing something that could result in killing people and that’s what we don’t want them to do – kill people. That’s the bottom line, right? Say we also know that there are terrorists in Iran, non-state actors, angry and itching to kill Americans and Israelis. Now say somebody, not America, starts murdering scientists in Iran and the Iranians think we’re involved in that terrorism. What’s the best strategy for our war on terror to protect and defend Americans, and prevent another war … or … terrorist attack involving the people of the Middle East?
Posing here with his young son is Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, a scientist, an Iranian university professor and chemical engineer who worked on procurement for the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. He was 32 years old and buried recently after having been murdered by a terrorist.
Although the United States claims to be looking for terrorists, all we’ve done about this is to deny our involvement in these concerted attacks – several in the last years killing Iranian scientists. We didn’t so much as send a flower arrangement for the funeral service, let alone a diplomat to convey our condolences and assure the Iranian people that we are striving to end this sort of terrorism around the world. That is what we’re doing, right?
The Iranian people, who obviously need international cooperation to find these terrorists, just as we would if it were happening here, have had no help from the U.S. nor have we used our influence to garner support for them among other nations. When their Human Rights Secretary-General wrote to the U.N. asking for help, he was told that these illegal “extrajudicial executions” must be investigated by Iran. And here’s what U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: “We have some ideas as to who might be involved. But we don’t know exactly who was involved.”
That’s the level of interest and concern we’re showing for terrorism while leading a global war on terrorism. Rather than seizing an opportunity to help, win friends, or influence the Iranian people in our fight against these murderers, here’s what happened instead:
[“Death to America! Death to Israel!” roared the crowd streaming away from weekly prayers at Tehran University, where the dead man was hailed as a martyr in the tradition of Imam Hussein, a revered figure for Iran’s Shi’ite branch of Islam.
“Nuclear energy is our absolute right!” young men chanted.]
If the people in Iran held anti-American sentiments before this funeral, how do you think they’re feeling now?
But furthermore, what danger to the people in America and around the world has been exacerbated by our apparent strategy to exclude the people of Iran from our otherwise hell-bent war on terror? The answer to the first question is easy: Not illogically under the circumstances, we’ve been branded as the terrorist.
Whatever our strategy in the war on terror, it would seem we need to stand against terrorism. Wherever it happens, we should treat the people of nations the way we were treated after 9/11, with compassion and support.
If we’re not standing against the senselessness of reacting to state policy by murdering innocent people who live in the country, what are we doing?
Knowing everything our government knows about terrorism (and I’m sure it’s a boatload whether the intelligence is right or wrong), they seem to be unmindful of the danger of further enraging an already enraged populace that supposedly includes elements of non-state acting crazy people who want to kill us – and who now, if not before, probably have the ear of some very capable scientists.
That serious consideration has been analyzed by CSIS, a Foreign Policy think tank that informs Washington with strategic analyses on security issues. While we often think of 9/11 as the type of attack we could face again, these assessments involve attacks that require less organization and expense, and focus on the broad spectrum of our population. Our media never calls attention to the very real possibility of our being the recipients of a weapons grade “hazard” that spreads uncontrollably across America, but I think the possibility increases with time and strategy that creates enemies of state and non-state players rather than allies.
Click pictures to enlarge. (CBR = Chemical, Biological and Radiological Hazards, N = Nuclear)
Personally, I don’t think we’re headed for war with Iran, but that wouldn’t mean the coast is clear. There are people in Iran who believe, and with good reason, that their nation is under attack, that their people are in danger, and that either we are part of it, or protecting the culprits. And while we may have some control over the actions of the Iranian government and their military, we will never have control over all their people, or other people around the world who think our “war on terror” is evil.
Any good strategy to provide for the safety of Americans would not include the callous indifference we’ve shown to the people who live in Iran while they have been under attack. Looking the other way while our “allies” are murdering innocent citizens of another nation is clearly a breach in our stated objective. It shows our intentions are without integrity and attracts the ire of would-be terrorists world-wide.
Knowing the whereabouts and intentions of all non-state actors is impossible. All our surveillance, black ops and intelligence gathering is of little use against even one really enraged scientist who would unleash a chemical, biological or other uncontrollable weapon to spread across our country. George W. Bush said it: They only have to be right once. Ironically, and regardless of why he said it, that’s the best reason I know of for the sort of diplomacy and foreign policy that he was not recommending – one that embraces and helps the people of other nations.
9/11 should have taught us that, and how to treat our global neighbors. Instead, we continue to push our luck in every conceivable way. Our reputation around the world gets worse with every drone that drops a bomb in a neighborhood killing innocent bystanders. Our military does that with impunity, including in nations we’re not even at war with. Under those circumstances, we should all be able to understand anti-American sentiment.
War is political failure, not success. And it’s always the people, not the state, who pay the price for that failure whether it’s here, there, or somewhere else. When I look out my front door and think about my neighbors and my community, especially when I think about the stealth involved with chemical and biological weapons, I know that any foreign policy that attracts terrorism is dangerous and not a strategy designed to defend or protect the people. Americans are as divided on this as they are about everything else, which stands to inhibit the public outrage necessary to change it. But one thing’s for sure, if we keep giving apples to the baker, we’re just begging for apple pie, and it’ll find its way over here sooner or later.
(all photos in Iran – Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Image)
(all graphics – CSIS, http://csis.org/files/publication/110916_Iran-US-IsraeliPerspII.pdf)
Those who weep for America today understand the loss of “liberty and justice for all”. What’s happening is a travesty, abhorred by our forefathers and guarded against to the best of their abilities. While I believe they would have pitched tents in our parks long ago, they would surely be defending them now. Their warnings are clear; it’s our torch to carry.
“A generous parent would have said, ‘if there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”
“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”
– Thomas Paine
“If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the land that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
“If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
– Samuel Adams
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
“If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained — we must fight!”
“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
– Patrick Henry
“Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the world that a free man, contending for his liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”
“My anxious recollections, my sympathetic feeling, and my best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom.”
“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, ’till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all.”
“The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail.”
– George Washington
“The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy.”
“Without Freedom of Thought there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as Public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.”
“It is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.”
– Benjamin Franklin
“And I sincerely believe… that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
“We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our selection between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat in our drink, in our necessities and comforts, in our labors and in our amusements, for our callings and our creeds…our people.. must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread...”
“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
– Thomas Jefferson
APV supports the nonviolent Occupy movement and we appreciate everything you’re doing to help.
Like a lot of people, I see the Occupy movement growing and naturally morphing into a more powerful entity, and I hope that their tactical choices nationwide will allow for a more powerful base, while still maintaining popular support.
That doesn’t always happen, as seen in Social Movements and Strategic Nonviolence, an opinion by G. William Domhoff, Research Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. It’s a well sourced article based on lots of research and recent history, focusing mostly on the long-term negative effects that violent episodes and destruction of property cause, and the ultimate damage they do to popular support.
A lack of patience shown by those in the trenches, and an inability to see the big picture have failed some of the strongest movements, and are probably, at this point, a necessary consideration for Occupiers. Of course, there are varying opinions, but this one seems like a strong overview. It was written in 2005 before biased thoughts for or against the movement were possible.
A resolute and consistent peaceful effort will undoubtedly be more successful and more likely with popular support and an appreciation of the challenges of resistance Occupiers are facing, both inward and outward.
In a more recent opinion, activist and author Rebecca Solnit wrote Throwing Out the Master’s Tools and Building a Better House: Thoughts on the Importance of Nonviolence in the Occupy Revolution – a great article from beginning to end. In explaining her lack of tolerance for less than nonviolent activity, she speaks from experience differentiating between types of property destruction:
So when episodes of violence break out as part of our side in a demonstration, an uprising, a movement, I think of it as a sabotage, a corruption, a coercion, a misunderstanding, or a mistake, whether it’s a paid infiltrator or a clueless dude. Here I want to be clear that property damage is not necessarily violence. The firefighter breaks the door to get the people out of the building. But the husband breaks the dishes to demonstrate to his wife that he can and may also break her. It’s violence displaced onto the inanimate as a threat to the animate.
Quietly eradicating experimental GMO crops or pulling up mining claim stakes is generally like the firefighter. Breaking windows during a big demonstration is more like the husband. I saw the windows of a Starbucks and a Niketown broken in downtown Seattle after nonviolent direct action had shut the central city and the World Trade Organization ministerial down. I saw scared-looking workers and knew that the CEOs and shareholders were not going to face that turbulence and they sure were not going to be the ones to clean it up. Economically it meant nothing to them.
Solnit, a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine, concludes her article, which has been reprinted in countless publications, with this observation and request: “The powerful and effective movements of the past sixty years have used the strategy of people power. It works. It changes the world. It’s changing the world now. Join us. Or don’t join us. But please don’t try to have it both ways.”
The Occupy movement is still young, diverse, inclusive and unfolding into what we all hope will be a lasting and powerful voice for positive and moral changes to come. It will no doubt cross many of the bridges of movements past, and experience the inevitable trials inherent to struggles for liberty and justice throughout history.
In less than two months, they had already changed our national and political dialog with the support they garnered almost immediately. If we all just give them the benefit of the doubt, imagine what could be accomplished with a full complement of our support and encouragement.
I believe they will need more of our support every day – more praise and appreciation for the changes they’ve already brought about, more positive sharing and attention to their individual needs in our communities, more money donations, water, tents, blankets … whatever they need.
Phone calls to representatives and politicians, local, state and federal, with clear, insistent and unconditional demands for their support can make a big difference, and could sway or end the violent nature of the attacks against them. How they are treated during the coming holidays will reflect on us all. “The whole world is watching.”
Actually, it would help if they were on all our lists – the grocery list, the errands list, the to-do list, the gift list, as well as our wish lists. The Occupiers deserve the kind of support we show other Americans struggling with disasters. They’ve set out to peacefully absorb whatever unpleasantness comes their way, and they’re doing that for us. History is very clear about non-violent resistance. Its success rate in overcoming government overreach is undeniable. But it’s not for sissies – it takes great fortitude. They’re a peaceful blessing, earnest and unselfish, and we can all do something to help them.
Revolving around each other’s needs inclusively, providing for each other to provide for ourselves, that’s the revolution. Together, we can transform this early period, the “beginning of the beginning”, into the means for a peaceful recovery of the American values we cherish, and then pass them on to our children with reasonable expectations and the tools they need to guard against future abuses. Please join or adopt an Occupy group and help them as much as you can.
Pepper spray is not a vegetable.
In 1967, I saw the Star Trek episode, Taste of Armageddon. Kirk and Spock beamed onto Eminiar VII, were informed that the Enterprise had been annihilated in a computer simulation, and that the crew were obliged to be executed.
Trying to avoid the destruction of their planets, the inhabitants had decided to have a computer war instead of a real one. When a “hit” by the computer was scored, those living within the strike’s radius went willingly into “antimatter chambers” to be vaporized, making the casualties legitimate. That gives new meaning to save the planet, right? You gotta love Star Trek.
It was a good thought experiment, though. Even today, efforts to desensitize the reality of war leave me cold. I want to see the ugly. Anything else seems condescending or manipulative, neither of which serves the people on this planet. Reality has all its glory and shame in full view.
A seemingly innocent example is Steve Mumford’s work in Iraq as an embedded artist. But Robert Shetterly called him out saying, objectivity is “to present many sides of an issue, and let the viewer try to make sense of the complexity and live with the uncertainty.”
Uncertainty gives rise to choices.
There’s a lot of extra news lately about Iran’s nuclear energy program, so it’s time to ratchet up the fear level and make sure our military has enough money to protect us from the people who live in Iran.
If the supper committee doesn’t do its job of further slashing and dashing the hopes of Americans, the agreement laid out by a “previous congress” was for deep and automatic cuts that included the military. But of course, military spending cuts are frowned upon by some lawmakers just like tax sharing for the wealthy. Therefore, at [a recent meeting of the deficit reduction panel, Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, sought assurances that nothing would prevent Congress from changing the mechanism for automatic cuts in military spending. Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, replied, “Any Congress can reverse the actions of a previous Congress.”] And there we have it. The built-in “out” has been revealed.
As for Iran, word has it today out of Tel Aviv, Washington and London that the IAEA will deliver breaking news soon – an already well leaked report that is reminiscent of the pre-Iraq war claims with an ISIS satellite photo of a bus sized metal bomb testing room (think mobile biological weapons labs). France and Russia have both warned Israel against a military strike, warning of irreparable damage to the region – the understatement of a decade.
Looking for an Intelligence Estimate, I found a report from three weeks ago by CSIS, a foreign policy think tank with heavy influence in Washington. It goes through September, but does not end two or three weeks ago. It takes its blazing strategy and analysis into the future. With diagrams, charts and possible scenarios, it describes what might happen if ….
It’s another thought experiment. I looked through the pages and saw what THEY think could happen. It’s ugly. And I think if we stay on this course, if we don’t force our governments to settle their differences without sizing up the people for annihilation, our planet stands to be assessed one country at a time, one city at a time, just like Tehran:
This is a PDF and it’s not for sissies:
Iran’s Strategic Competition with the US and Arab States – Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Capabilities
Update: Here’s the IAEA Iran Nuclear Report. I see too much hype and stale information, and not enough critical thinking or factual explanation for assumptions. I remain concerned about our political persuasion and our recent tendency to rush to judgement in matters of war against the people of other nations. What I consider reasonable breakdown of it can be found here and here.
Find a better way. Save the planet. Peace.
On Tuesday night, as if Thomas Jefferson had been waiting to exhale for 235 years, we seem to have won a debate that would give him the go-ahead. The question posed was: Is the US Declaration of Independence illegal?
In the winning argument, American lawyers concluded:
Under basic principles of “Natural Law”, government can only be by the consent of the people and there comes a point when allegiance is no longer required in face of tyranny.
The legality of the Declaration and its validity is proven by subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just, based on the fundamental principles of equality and self-determination now reflected in the UN Charter.
For this century, though, a better question might be: How is independence declared at all, and especially in a way that does not involve violence?
Resulting from a deportation conflict with the U.S. government in 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono tried it this way:
Looking back at their agenda and the motive behind the deportation effort, uncomfortable thoughts of negligence and procrastination came to mind and I wondered if anything has changed at all.
Injustices around the world prompted Lennon to use “his popularity for fund raisers, voter-registration drives, and anti-war rallies and concerts. These activities were planned to take place in many of the presidential primary states in 1972, and this deeply troubled Richard Nixon and the Republican Party. Consequently, many Republicans feared that Lennon, through these motivated activities, would jump-start the anti-war movement, resulting in the majority of young Americans voting against Nixon in the upcoming election.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, it was revealed that on February 4, 1972, Senator Strom Thurmond wrote a memo, classified as secret, citing Lennon as a danger to the Presidents’ 1972 reelection campaign. So what could the Republicans do to prevent this? Easy they thought – just revoke Lennon’s visa. Thurmond said further that “if Lennon’s visa is terminated, it would be a strategy counter-measure.” He further advised that “caution must be taken with regard to the possible alienation of the so-called 18-year-old-vote if Lennon is expelled from the country.”
[…] Was John Lennon successfully deported – no. However, in 1975, the chief counsel of the INS resigned, and after doing so, publicly stated that the United States government, i.e., the Republican Party, spent millions of tax dollars, and conducted a more vehement attempt to deport John Lennon than it did in trying to throw out Nazi war criminals. It should be noted too, that all activities involving Lennon, or his intended activities, were protected under the First Amendment, which extends this protection to both citizens and non-citizens alike. John Lennon broke no laws in trying to fight for the many injustices he believed in. ~by John T. Marck, I Am The Beatles, John Lennon the Immigrant
So … in spite of taxpayer-funded dirty tricks, they were actually successful – a comparatively irrelevant gain, though, ending in the tragic loss of a dearly precious life. But can we conclude that John Lennon’s deportation experience and the declaration of Nutopian independence demonstrate that standing symbolically and nonviolently against injustice, corruption, secrecy and abuses of law enforcement is a noble endeavor worthy of us all? I believe so. And I think we’re headed in the right direction.
But what about entire nations declaring independence? According to one American historian:
The source of the powers of congress is to be sought solely in the acquiescence of the people, without which every congressional resolution, with or without the benediction of popular conventions or state legislatures, would have been a mere brutum fulmen; and, as the congress unquestionably exercised national powers, operating over the whole country, the conclusion is inevitable that the will of the whole people is the source of national government in the United States, even from its first imperfect appearance in the second continental congress.. Cyclopædia of Political Science. New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co., 1899.
In theory, then and now, the people rule collectively – at least in America. As surely as the American lawyers argued Tuesday night, “Under basic principles of “Natural Law”, government can only be by the consent of the people….” We either legitimate our congress, our popular government, or their decisions are mere inert thunder.
That’s a nice theory, but unfortunately somewhere along the line, and especially with corporate personhood, the rule of the people was given over to the rule of the money, and inert thunder is accepted as the law of the land.
Looking to the Tibetan people’s struggle for independence (a people who have positively moved in the direction of non-violence), returning to an independent sovereign state has proven to be a futile effort in the “principles of equality and self-determination” that validate a Declaration of Independence – this also argued by our lawyers.
“China’s policy of occupation and oppression has resulted in no more or less than the destruction of Tibet’s national independence, culture and religion, environment and the universal human rights of its people. But having no representation in the United Nations, the world largely stood by and allowed China’s occupation and destruction to happen.” Issues facing Tibet* today describes the human rights and environmental atrocities that afflict a nation of once proud and self-determining people – and frankly, some of it is way too close to home.
And so, our lawyers argued for validity on the basis of “subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just”, and are “now reflected in the UN Charter”, but that was more or less a convenient and exclusive argument reserved for the elite nations backed by a document that is neither abided by nor enforced by our own government. It was certainly not a point inclusive of what is “right or just” for the people of Tibet.
When people’s rights, values and money are consumed by states and corruption, of course the pattern for violence is more concentrated in recovery efforts well after the fact than in efforts to regulate and prevent a corrupt government’s economic and legislative overreach.
Of the many examples of violent recovery efforts from such overreach, the people of Southern Sudan have been plagued with civil war on and off since 1955. Two million are dead and four million have been displaced since 1983, resulting overall in the mass destruction of a lovely people and culture. Whether or not nonviolence will last in a nation fraught with war for generations of citizens is questionable, as also exemplified in areas like Israel and Palestine. Attrition ensures that the people themselves have no standard for living in peace. Chronically bad situations during the prolonged catastrophe of war with its societal disorganization, malnutrition and disease, crime and overwhelming fear, often result in a people characterized as living almost for safety alone. The natural rhythm and balance afforded a life in peace and safety is unrealized, and even after the danger subsides, our human preference for the familiar tends to render the people of those war-torn nations as unsafe children in their desire for safety, and in that way they remain vulnerable, abused children of violence and war.
On the other hand, and more recently, a better result will come for the people of Iceland, who have been standing up together to face the economic and social injustices brought on by their corrupt state. Being progressive, they’ve taken “the bull by the horns”, and their noble and nonviolent correction is ending that economic injustice and the ruining debt imposed on the nation’s people in a way that will serve and protect generations to follow. And the Icelandic people have written a new constitution, independent of their parent country, Denmark.
When social and economic injustice come to the people of a nation and they do not stand together and act to correct it, if inequality results in abuses and the exploitation of social weaknesses, if the flow of information is controlled, if the validity of elections is questionable, if the allegiance of elected officials can be purchased, … and all while knowing that violence and war can be the default result of the people’s negligence and procrastination in facing those abuses, then generations to come, tomorrow’s children and theirs, are not being given a fair opportunity to live in peace … whether or not a congress or a declaration of independence is legal or approved by the oppressors.