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Remembering Who We Are

Diverse People

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Our young nation is enduring a period of farce, though it doesn’t feel so amusing for stranded immigrants or unemployed coal miners.

There is a more determinative context for immediate events that we fail to call upon because at first glance it doesn’t seem remotely relevant: in addition to being Americans, we are citizens of Earth. Even beyond that, we are integral with the stupendous unfolding story of the Universe.

O.K., so the elements that make up our bodies were formed in the atomic furnace of stars. Really, so what?

Here’s what. The scientific story of the Universe is not an alternative fact. We all share the story, Shia and Sunni, Israeli and Palestinian, Christian and Muslim, Trump supporter and Trump resister.

It is an astounding story of emergence, creativity and survival on every level, from the formation of galaxies, to cells learning how to replicate themselves using DNA, to the development of mammalian care for offspring over millions of years. And, though it is 13.75 billion years old, for us it’s a new story, about which we have learned more in the last 50 years than in eons of gazing up at the mystery of the stars.

This story is not only what every human shares; it is the deepest resource for our own creativity as we address our looming challenges. It is a story, from the cooperative ecology of coral reefs to nations in complex trade agreements, that verifies the golden principle of interdependence. It is a story whose cycles, because nature leaves no waste, provide the best design models for human-manufactured materials and processes—even for the design of our institutions.

And it is a demonstration of why we can feel optimistic about our species and the Earth system even at difficult moments: we’ve come through so much. Not one of our ancestors going back to the absolute beginnings of cellular life made a fatal mistake before it was able to reproduce. We are the near-miraculous result of that unbroken chain of reproduction linking us to the entire emergent process.

Our shared scientific story is a great unifier. There is not a Muslim and a Christian science, or a Capitalist and a Socialist science; there is only an endless patient positing and testing of hypotheses. Tentative, seemingly impossible hypotheses gradually become generally accepted truths. The world goes from flat to round. The sun replaces the Earth as the center of the solar system. Cholera, once thought to be airborne, turns up in water, becoming easier to control or even conquer.

What is really important about this moment in the history of the Earth? It is the boiling up of race-based nationalism we have been seeing in the U.S. and Western Europe? Surely the scientific fact that the human species has exceeded the carrying capacity of its life-support system transcends in significance nationalist responses to events like the tragic movement of refugees around the globe. The strains of global climate instability have been one of the very causes of the great migrations of people away not only from murderous social chaos but also from disease-infested water and untillable soil. Meanwhile the overwhelming majority of the victims of terror are Muslim.

Is this not also the moment we have arrived at the realization, even if it is not yet universally shared, that the collective destructive power of the weapons deployed upon the Earth has become so great that war as a solution for our conflicts has become obsolete? All war is civil war. “We build/they build” weapon cycles are a poor substitute for meeting human and ecological needs directly and strengthening real global security.

Our most difficult challenges cannot be met except on a whole new level of international cooperation built upon shared insight, listening to other frames of reference, collaboration more than confrontation, and sacrifice for the common planetary good.

This can feel frightening, making “America First” a tempting illusion. Instead a fragile system of international law is emerging as an appropriate response to the unavoidable fact that all nations share one ocean and atmosphere, and no one will be secure unless all are secure—ecologically, militarily, politically, educationally, medically, economically. We cannot maintain a healthy market system upon an ailing Earth.

How does our own nation take its place among the rest? Our constitutional guarantees have unleashed a tremendous prosperity, and a technological creativity which will be essential to meeting the ecological challenges the world faces together.

But, to use the 1967 terminology of Martin Luther King Jr., there are materialist, militarist and racist forces at work in our country that resist, in favor of their narrow self-interests, our evolution toward new sources of sustainable energy, greater participatory democracy, and healthier manifestations of King’s vision of a beloved community.

Astronomically wealthy individuals and their agents seem unable to see that their own well-being depends ultimately upon the health of the Earth out of which they are attempting to extract fossil fuels as if more Earth-friendly technologies did not exist. They control much of the major media, which coin money off the dark energy of political polarization and a clickable sea of distracting trivialities.

It is not trivial when so many young black men languish in corporate prisons for minor drug offenses, when we are falling behind in the strength of our public education and medical insurance systems, when student debt has become unsustainable, when so many other nations are further up the curve of conversion to solar and wind.

One antidote is remembering who we are in the context of the true story of the Universe and Earth. What follows from that is ownership of America’s own real story, a story that includes the unearned suffering of the native peoples, who have everything to teach about sustaining our resources into the future.

Central also to the American story is slavery and the unearned suffering of African-Americans. A spiritual resilience that wears the faces of Douglass and King and Baldwin and so many others could be a core resource for an American identity and strength available to all the races. But it isn’t yet, because whites still haven’t come to terms with the sins of our origins. Black lives matter for so many reasons, not least that until they do we cannot authentically celebrate national diversity in equal liberty. Only then will our light illuminate an Earth struggling with the tension between heartfelt democratic longing and heart-shriveling fears of the “other.”

Finally, it comes down from Universe to Earth to America to me, who, in Ta-Nehisi’s provocative phrase, happens to be white—already a minority on Earth and soon to be one in my country, but as yet a privileged one. As such I bear a special responsibility to resist the polarization that erupted in this last Presidential election cycle. I may be white and progressive, but I pledge to a flag that stands for one nation, indivisible. I bear a special responsibility to work for not only racial, but also political and economic, inclusiveness, reaching across artificial divides to understand those who chose to vote for an inexperienced leader. If we remember who we are as children of the Universe, of Earth, and of the American ideal of diversity in community, a new world is still possible. It begins with me.

Winslow Myers, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.” He also serves on the Advisory Board of the War Preventive Initiative. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Free Weekly or its staff.

Nonviolent Resistance to Trump: Creative, Powerful … and Growing

Greenpeace protesters unfurl a banner that reads "Resist" at the construction site of the former Washington Post building, near the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, after police say protesters climbed a crane at the site refusing to allow workers to work in the area. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Greenpeace protesters unfurl a banner that reads “Resist” at the construction site of the former Washington Post building, near the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, after police say protesters climbed a crane at the site refusing to allow workers to work in the area. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The rise of Donald Trump has been infuriating, horrifying, and ridiculous all at once. Meanwhile, what we, the People, are doing to resist injustice, oppression, discrimination, hate, bigotry, and authoritarianism is downright inspiring. Nonviolent action is reaching new heights of creativity in the United States, widening in frequency and participation. Here’s just a sample of how ordinary, extraordinary people have mobilized for justice in the past month.

4.5 Million People (3.3 Million In US) March for Women’s Rights on Inauguration Weekend

The Women’s March and Sister Marches exploded across the US and around the world the day after the inauguration. March turnouts doubled or tripled expectations, and the number of solidarity or related marches far exceeded expectations. From senior citizens marching with walkers around nursing homes to 30 freezing souls in Antarctica to hundreds of thousands in the major US cities to ex-patriots overseas, people marched in support of women and against the demeaning rhetoric and discriminatory proposed policies of Pres. Donald Trump. In addition to organizers, civil resistance researchers Jeremy Pressman and Erica Chenoweth worked with a network of people to catalogue the sheer massiveness of these actions.

Greenpeace Welcomes Trump to White House with RESIST Banner Drop

Welcome to the White House, Mr. President. Soon after the inauguration, Greenpeace activists dropped a photo-bomb of a banner drop off a giant crane parked behind the White House. The one-word banner said it all: RESIST.

Federal Workers Noncooperation and Resistance to Trump Administration

Bureaucratic obstruction may be par for the course in Washington DC during a change of presidential administrations, but levels of noncooperation and resistance to the Trump Administration from federal workers are reaching new heights of political significance … and creativity. From collective resignations, letters of opposition, refusal to cooperate with assignments and orders, the federal workers (the ones who don’t change with every election) are taking subtle, but powerful action on behalf of civil and human rights, and protection of public programs. And, 180 federal employees signed up for a workshop where experts will offer advice on workers’ rights and how they can express civil disobedience.

@AltNatParkSer Turns Park Rangers Into Unexpected Climate Heroes

Speaking of federal workers, our favorite story of resistance comes from the unlikely heroes of the National Park Service. Yes, the park rangers. When a climate change gag order was sent out, the employee who ran the Badlands National Park Twitter account went rogue, disobeyed, and tweeted truth to power about climate change and the threat it poses. When the employee was shut out of the account and the tweets deleted, alternative Twitter handles popped up. @AltNatParkSer tweeted: You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time! In 36 hours, they had over one million followers and 50 other @AtlGov accounts had been opened.

Sanctuary Cities Pick Up Steam, Defy Threats

The Sanctuary City movement is spreading like wildfire, rallying local, county, and state opposition to immigration and deportation plans. Mayors, City Councils, Police Departments are all pledging to refuse to assist ICE in deporting immigrants. The Trump Administration has threatened to cut off federal funding to Sanctuary Cities, but many of them remain determined and resolute. The Mayor of Boston even offered his office and City Hall as a sanctuary. According to some reports, the State of California (the ninth largest economy in the world) has threatened to cut off funding to the federal government if the Trump Administration cuts off federal funding to the state over their many sanctuary cities.

Oh, and About That Wall…

Trump’s infamous Mexico Border Wall has set off a flurry of choice words from both the former and current Presidents of Mexico who are outraged about the arrogance of the wall proposal and the threat to make Mexico pay for it. For this and other reasons, Mexican citizens have organized boycotts against prominent US companies – Walmart, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and others – rallying support under #AdiosProductosAmericanos. Meanwhile, the tribal nation of Tohono O’oodham vows that it will never build a wall across the 75 miles of its land that spans the US-Mexican border. By the way, if this border wall is built, it will end up costing every US household $120.

Muslim Ban Catalyzes Massive Airport Demonstrations, 1000s of NYC Bodega Protest Strikes, Taxi Driver Strikes and #DeleteUber

When President Trump closed entry to the US to seven Muslim-majority nations, he unleashed a storm of opposition from US citizens. When immigrants were detained at airports, massive airport demonstrations flooded airports nationwide. The airport taxi drivers went on strike, and when rumor went out that Uber would continue to provide airport service, citizens launched #DeleteUber and to encourage users to delete the Uber App from their phones. The ACLU waded into the fray and won some important victories for immigrant rights. Then thousands of bodegas closed early in New York City in protest over the Muslim Ban. Hundreds of DC officials have made public declarations of opposition to the ban. Overseas, Iraq and Iran took steps to ban US citizens from entering their countries.

818 Companies Drop Advertisement on Breitbart

Did you hear about how Rush Limbaugh was edged off the air by a quiet, persistent nonviolent campaign to get advertisers to withdraw from stations that carried his show? Well, that nonviolent strategy strikes again — this time at the right-wing journal Breitbart. Eight hundred and eighteen companies have dropped their advertising with the site, which has as much news creditability as the Onion, according to a recent poll. The campaigners have succeeded in getting major companies to pull out, including key companies overseas as Breitbart plans an international expansion.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Objects to #AlternativeFacts

You know you’re in trouble when even the dictionary takes umbrage. After Kellyanne Conway referred to falsehoods as “alternative facts”, Merriam-Webster Dictionary retorted on social media, “A fact is a fact, and calling falsehoods “alternative facts” doesn’t make something a fact.” Thanks, dictionary people! Now that that’s clarified, let’s talk about science and facts.

Scientist March on Washington, #ScienceNotSilence

Scientists and science-supporters are marching on Washington DC after a series of Trump Administration actions pushed them into a phase transition state. No longer confined to laboratories, they’re taking action on Earth Day with a March for Science in DC and everywhere. With the slogan #ScienceNotSilence, they’re protesting the threatened erasure of climate science databases at NASA, the attempt to take down the climate data pages on the EPA website, the muzzling of officials on the subject of climate change (such as the Park Rangers), and the general dismissal of scientific fact by politicians and power holders. Some scientists have even formed a group to run for public offices: 314 Action, named for the first three numbers in pi.

That’s just some of the incredible nonviolent actions that have happened recently. Take heart. Resistance in 2017 is off to a powerful and provocative start, and the movements are growing daily.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the Programs Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Free Weekly or its staff.

‘White privilege’ Makes Some Uncomfortable

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Years ago, I visited our state’s former black mental hospital and fell into conversation with a witty, friendly, black psychiatrist.

He taunted me: “You’re a racist, you know.”

“No, no, no,” I protested — but he continued:

“Just look at yourself. You were born white, male and smart. You could go out into the world and take whatever you could get — and you never stopped to think that I couldn’t do it.”

I was speechless. Finally, I answered: “Damn! You nailed me precisely.”

Until that moment, I never saw clearly that society stacked the deck in my favor, giving me benefits not available to minorities. It was sobering. Later, I learned that sociologists call my advantage “white privilege.”

Currently, the wealthy white community of Westport, Conn. (average family income $150,000), is in an uproar because a human rights group and the public library invited high school students to write essays on the topic: “In 1,000 words or less, describe how you understand the term ‘white privilege.’”

To the surprise of sponsors, a backlash arose. Some white parents felt insulted and claimed that the essay contest was designed to make their teens ashamed of their benefits. National news coverage followed.

The chairman of the Westport human rights group, a retired black IBM vice president, replied:

“There’s a lot more controversy around it than many of us expected…. All of a sudden, we’re race-baiting or trying to get people to feel guilty. That’s not what it’s all about.”

Actually, the topic isn’t simple. There are many other sorts of privilege beyond race. People born with high I.Q. have advantage over those born with less. Americans with normal weight and appealing features get better acceptance than those who are heavy or homely. People with affluent parents who sent them to good universities have a leg up over youths from blue-collar families who couldn’t afford college—or graduate with crushing student loan debt (which is much worse for black graduates). Foreign-looking people with odd names — especially Hispanics — don’t get the same breaks as standard white Americans. Despite years of female progress, males still hold advantage. Despite progress, gays still are less accepted than “straights.”

I was born in the 1930s in a little West Virginia farm town with no electricity or paved streets. But even there, I was privileged. My father was the town postmaster and my mother a teacher — which put us in the white-collar elite, compared to sweaty farmhands. It gave me confidence and self-worth that never left me.

Last year’s “Black Lives Matter” crusade spotlighted racial privilege. At one protest, a white woman held a sign saying, “They don’t shoot white women like me.” That’s another white privilege.

Here’s the bottom line: Whites needn’t feel ashamed of their privilege — but they should work hard to ensure that everyone in every ethnic group gets the same benefits.

James Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Free Weekly and its staff.

Bannon’s Coup

In this Jan. 26, 2017, photo White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, left, and senior adviser Steve Bannon, right, walk on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, after returning via Marine One from a trip to Philadelphia with President Donald Trump. Since taking office 10 days ago, President Donald Trump has moved to consolidate power within a small cadre of close aides at the White House. He’s added a senior political adviser to the National Security Council and appears to have cut out Cabinet secretaries from decision making on some of his top policies, including the immigration and refugee order that led to protests, legal challenges and temporary detention of some legal U.S. residents this weekend. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In this Jan. 26, 2017, photo White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, left, and senior adviser Steve Bannon, right, walk on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, after returning via Marine One from a trip to Philadelphia with President Donald Trump. Since taking office 10 days ago, President Donald Trump has moved to consolidate power within a small cadre of close aides at the White House. He’s added a senior political adviser to the National Security Council and appears to have cut out Cabinet secretaries from decision making on some of his top policies, including the immigration and refugee order that led to protests, legal challenges and temporary detention of some legal U.S. residents this weekend. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

*denotes footnote

Stephen K. Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, has been elevated to the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, the top tier of national-security policymakers.* It is the first time a political affairs official has been made a regular participant in the NSC’s work. The appointment is the most important piece in an extraordinary and dangerous bureaucratic reorganization that Bannon himself may have engineered.

Anyone who thinks bureaucracy doesn’t count should think twice after witnessing what amounts to a coup. Bannon may attend any session of the NSC and the Principals Committee while the intelligence community, represented by the Director of National Intelligence (Mike Pompeo) and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, may not.** Officially, Bannon is now on par with Michael Flynn, the special assistant for national security; but in terms of real access to the president, Bannon’s only peer is Jared Kushner. “It is a startling elevation of a political adviser,” the New York Times says.

Thus, the most important foreign and national security decisions, meaning those made during a crisis, are going to be most influenced by a far-right rabble-rouser and Trump’s son-in-law, neither of whom has anything remotely resembling international experience. (I don’t count Bannon’s time in the Navy, any more than I count Kushner’s donations to Israel.) And in Bannon’s case, that influence is likely to bend the president toward aggressive, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later actions with little or no consultation with experts. What else should we expect from the man who guided Trump’s campaign and essentially wrote his inaugural address on the theme of “America First”?

In practical terms, what might Bannon’s coup mean?

First, it means that the policy-relevant government agencies can expect to be bypassed on important decisions. Thus, for example, Trump’s executive order banning Muslim immigration reportedly was issued without reference to the Office of Legal Counsel in the Exec. Off. of the President, the Dept. of State, or the Dept. of Homeland Security. Nor, evidently, were local-level officials at airports alerted. The Washington Post reported on Jan. 30 that a dissent letter on Trump’s immigration order was being circulated in the State Department. With mass resignations—or were they firings?—of the State Department’s entire management team, Rex Tillerson will be taking over a badly weakened agency largely devoid of experienced leaders and perhaps facing a morale crisis.

Second, despite administration denials, the professional military and intelligence viewpoints at NSC meetings will only be at the table “where issues pertaining to the responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.” Is that qualification intended to promote efficiency, as Trump’s people say, or to lay the basis for exclusion from the most important decisions?

Third, it means that Trump’s financial interests will remain secret and under his control, so that the inevitable conflicts with payments by foreign governments to Trump will go unpunished.

Fourth, it means that Bannon et al. will continue to work with and encourage right-wing leaders in Europe and elsewhere who are as determined as he to carry out a white nationalist agenda that is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-globalist.

Fifth, it means that Israel will get everything it wants, without a word of concern from Washington. What a sad joke that Trump expects his son-in-law to craft an Israeli-Palestinian settlement while Netanyahu authorizes more settlements in occupied territory, and applauds Trump’s intention to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Sixth, it means that Trump’s version of a “reset” of policy toward Russia will avoid the key issues that led to the demise of Obama’s reset in the first place: NATO’s eastward movement, and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and seizure of Crimea. Those matters call for careful diplomacy. Trump is likely to start dismantling sanctions and increasing U.S. investments in Russia without a resolution of geopolitical issues.

Seventh, U.S. policy toward China will be opposite of policy toward Russia. China will be the hard edge of policy: naval buildup, deeper involvement in the South China Sea dispute, support of a Japanese military buildup in contravention of long-established policy, and erosion of the One China policy.

Eighth, nuclear rearmament will again come into vogue—a reversal of the downward trend of recent decades in numbers of weapons and means of delivery.

Ninth, traditional friends of the U.S. will find that friendship doesn’t carry much weight anymore. Mexico’s president and Britain’s prime minister have now discovered that. Alliances therefore will not have the credibility they once had with an unpredictable partner such as the Trump administration.

Eliot Cohen, former counselor to Condoleezza Rice at the State Department and now at Johns Hopkins University, has this warning about the NSC reorganization for his conservative colleagues:

Trump’s disregard for either Secretary of Defense Mattis or Secretary-designate Tillerson in his disastrous policy salvos this week [on immigration and the Mexico wall], in favor of his White House advisers [Bannon, et al.], tells you all you need to know about who is really in charge. To be associated with these people is going to be, for all but the strongest characters, an exercise in moral self-destruction.

For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.

Cohen concludes that Trump will fail because the people he attacks will not go away, will persevere, and will ultimately say “enough.” We must hold everyone, especially officeholders, to account, he writes. I have to hope his confidence is warranted.

———-

*The NSC Principals Committee (PC) is the “Cabinet-level senior interagency forum for considering policy issues that affect the national security interests of the United States.” The PC can be convened and chaired by either the National Security Advisor or the Homeland Security Advisor. Its regular attendees will now include the following: Secretary of State; Secretary of the Treasury; Secretary of Defense; Attorney General; Secretary of Homeland Security; Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff; Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist; National Security Advisor; Homeland Security Advisor. The Counsel to the President, Deputy Counsel for National Security Affairs, and the Director of the OMB are also permitted to attend all meetings.

**The Director of National Intelligence is not on either the NSC or the PC. The DNI and JCS Chairman are to attend “where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed,” making their presence optional The Secretary of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy will be regular attendees “when international economic issues” are on the agenda. The Director of the Office of Science and Technology, who under the Obama administration was to be present when “science and technology related issues” were on the agenda, will no longer attend.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University and blogs at In the Human Interest. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Free Weekly or its staff.

Tomorrow Is Today

The icon’s day has come and gone, and — oh, the irony — eight people were fatally shot in Chicago on his weekend. Another eight were shot during a Martin Luther King rally and celebration in Miami.

God knows how many more died this past weekend: around the country, around the world.

An enormous wrong called human violence continues to roll across Planet Earth, but we bring less understanding to it than we had 50 years ago, when King spoke at Riverside Church in New York City and stood courageously against the war in Vietnam.

“We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation,” King said in his electrifying and disturbing speech, which merged the movement for civil rights and social justice with the growing national outrage against war. “The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate… .

“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today.”

As I say, this was 50 years ago: April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. And tomorrow is still today.

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late… . We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.”

Consider the dystopia on display in this Chicago Sun-Times story about the eight fatal (and 24 non-fatal) shootings across Chicagoland on the weekend of Jan. 14-16. Each fatality in this irony-permeated account is meticulously listed, along with the street and block on which it occurred, the precise time of day (1:13 a.m., 6:55 p.m., etc.) and, my God, the lethal bullet’s entry location on each victim’s body. Thus we learn that there were two chest wounds, a head wound, head and chest wounds, abdomen and face wounds, and three multiple gunshot wounds. That’s it. No larger understanding is conveyed, no outrage, no despair. What’s the point?

The story ends: “Nine people were shot in Chicago last weekend.”

This is no fantasy dystopia but the world we actually live in — the “tomorrow” of King’s passionate warning cry half a century ago: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy,” he wrote in his 1967 book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? “Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.”

We’re watching his prescience come to life, even as we honor him — and in the process, ignore him. As I wrote a decade ago: “The public accolades ladled upon this fallen leader embalm him in sentimentality, in some glass case in the pantheon of national heroes, next to Washington, Lincoln, Elvis, et al. Then once a year we cherry-pick a memorable phrase here or there (‘I have a dream’ comes to mind for some reason), as though the words are frozen in history, part of a time when there was struggle and disagreement and prejudice.

“The shocking thing about King is that his words are as alive and unsettling as they’ve ever been.”

So the best we can do is try to pull them loose from yesterday’s context and look at them, absorb them and embody them in today’s. If anything, however, the wall of cynicism that prevents his words from entering the American political consciousness is more formidable than ever.

“This I believe,” he said in his Riverside address, “to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls ‘enemy,’ for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

“And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula… . (It) is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.”

These words tear me open, not simply because of the truth they manifest but because, despite that truth — wrenchingly apparent as it is in the wake of 50 further years of U.S. militarism — they still fail to penetrate the wall that separates policy from sanity.

Hear the broken cries of those who join ISIS? Of course not. But Erik Prince, mercenary extraordinaire, founder of Blackwater (and brother of Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos), apparently has the ear of President-elect Donald Trump, and, as Jeremy Scahill reports, has been pushing for the Trump administration to “recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS.”

And the global dystopia rolls on.

I repeat: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.”

Welcome to tomorrow.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

January 20, 2017, A Day That Will Live in Ignominy

Donald J. Trump has been inaugurated as the 45th President of the US. If you are a xenophobic isolationist nationalist, this is such great news. If you want climate chaos to worsen—more rising seas, more massive forest fires, more hideous hurricanes, more drought—this is the perfect storm for you.

On the other hand, if you hope for more progress toward getting along with the rest of humankind, if you want stricter laws and rules to protect our fresh water, if you strive in your life to slow the onslaught of climate chaos, well, sorry. Your nightmare has arrived.

It is hard to imagine a more seriously hypocritical “leader” than Donald Trump:

· While Trump rightly accused Hillary Clinton of having too much cozy contact with Wall Street financiers, he is not only a predatory capitalist himself, but has now handpicked several more to join his cabinet.

· Even though Trump claims he is upending the Washington elite in order to bring manufacturing and sawmill and mining and oil drilling and coal-burning jobs back to America’s heartland in order to make America great again, he says nary a word about job loss through automation (including many of the Carrier jobs he pretends to have saved), nothing about losing jobs to foreign manufacturers who produce far more efficient vehicles than Detroit ever did, nothing about ruining the last bit of ancient forests of America, and nothing about increased disease and pollution from the dirty jobs he promises to bring back.

· Trump claims he is going to create “great schools” and yet he proposed billionaire Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education, a woman with effectively zero experience in public education (her hearing was nothing short of embarrassing) except to oppose it and instead has been an activist for using taxpayer monies for private Christian schools.

· In his address, Trump claims that, “We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own.” Huh? Apparently, I’ve missed hearing about all those foreign invading troops, all the missiles that have struck American towns, and all the foreign terrorists that have attacked us since 9.11.01. I would suspect the Republicans—who have been in control of the Senate and House—not to mention the Pentagon, are happy to know that finally all those attacks will stop.

· While Trump claims to care about the American people, he will likely sign the law eliminating Obamacare long before signing a better health care law into existence, thus throwing approximately 30 million Americans to the ravages of no health care.

There is so much more, but we can soon cease speculating and rise up to respond to his initiatives. I am wearing a t shirt today I haven’t worn in eight years. It has one word on it: Impeach.

Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Free Weekly or its staff.

Healthcare Is A Basic Human Right Not A Political Football

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On May 4, 2013, I delivered the eulogy for my 33-year-old brother. I’m not sure that our political representatives understand what this feels like when they make decisions to take healthcare away from people.

When innocent civilians are killed for political reasons we usually consider it an act of terrorism or a crime against humanity, but, inexplicably, when political leaders make decisions that only happen to cause those deaths why is it so easy to look away? This week the process of killing countless Americans is beginning, and it is happening because humanity and political gain are not always in concert. Nothing is literally life and death more than healthcare.

My brother went to the hospital so many times we lost count of the number of times we had lost count. Was it because idiopathic conditions are hard to treat? Was it because the insurance guarantor declined to do the tests that could have helped doctors establish an effective treatment? Was it just bad luck?

One of the worst nights I sat with him in a waiting room. I can’t tell you what was wrong with him—nobody could—but I can’t forget the symptoms. He would eat something, and sometimes “it didn’t agree with him” and he would vomit and it wouldn’t stop. Maybe like contractions while giving birth the cramping of the muscles would lead to severe abdominal pain, but the wrenching pain was just pain. Sometimes there was blood. Sometimes he had ulcers, other times he’d get tears in his esophagus. We waited because it wasn’t life threatening.

On this night we were told to wait, no idea how long it would be, and no idea where we were on the list. The hours passed and the pain got worse. Two or three times I went to the counter and asked questions like “is there anything that can be done for the pain? He is afraid he is going to pass out, what then?” After about six hours, I started calling other ERs and found one that did not have a wait. I called the ambulance and discovered they couldn’t deliver a patient from one hospital to another. With help I was able to get my brother into the car and to some treatment… Watching someone you love suffer is one of the worst things that can ever happen to you.

Years earlier my brother had a great job; he was working for a small family business. When he went to urgent care for his bad cough, they took an x-ray and discovered he had a collapsed lung, and he was hospitalized. He didn’t want to miss any work, or to let anyone down, because he was so happy to be working. He had toughed his way through something much more serious than a cold. His lung collapsed because he’d gotten Valley Fever, it isn’t an illness that sounds like its name. It is a spore that you inhale, which usually lies dormant, but sometimes (like in my brother’s case) it grows. The fungal infection in his lung caused a hole and the collapse. Anything that disturbs the soil (like the local agriculture or strong winds) can put the coccidioides spore in the air, and if you breathe it you could end up sick.

He was hospitalized more than a month. He was released but ended up readmitted because he got a staph infection in his chest cavity (likely from the chest tube). In total he was in the hospital about three months. He never returned to work.

When I’d take him to the emergency room or make hospital visits with him I couldn’t help but ask questions or speculate. He did it, the whole family did it, aided, in part, by the knowledge of our father, who was a medical doctor and our mother, who was a registered nurse. Any improvement was cause for celebration and each return to the ER was demoralizing.

A few weeks later, after hanging out with friends, he fell asleep. He didn’t wake up.

I’ve left details out of the story, but I hope at least two things are clear: 1. It wasn’t his fault he got sick—it could happen to anyone—it does happen to anyone. And 2. It was an extremely painful process. My challenge is this: I will never know what could have been. I teach political science, the day after my brother died I walked into my classroom and told them something like this:

Politics is real, and it is life and death. I took a trip to the emergency room with my brother, and I watched him suffer, but I’ll never get to know if things could have turned out differently. I’ll never get to know if the Republican foot dragging on the Affordable Care Act made my brother’s care worse. I can speculate that it could have worked better …

At the time he died there had been 57 votes to repeal Obamacare. The Congressman from my hometown has openly admitted that the Republican Congress went out of their way to make all of Obama’s policies fail. Better care might have made all the difference, but all we can do is speculate, because political vengeance was more important than saving lives.

One of my dreams would be recognizing the role of healthcare in peace and social justice. I can’t tell you what I would do, or give up, to have my healthy brother back. Don’t get me wrong, I know he had it better than most of the planet, he got medical treatment, and asking “could the treatment have been better?” is worlds better than “could a doctor have made a difference?” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says this:

Article 25. (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

It is a dream for peace and justice around the world, and I wonder if the U.S. couldn’t aim for goals like these for its own citizens if not the whole world?

Republicans have the football and are driving for the political victory; fully prepared to gut the legislation responsible for bringing healthcare and medical protections to millions of American families. This is what predatory politics does, and no alternative has been prepared. How many of those millions are getting a de facto death sentence?

Please believe me; it the most painful thing you can ever watch.

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Wim Laven, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a doctoral candidate in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University, he teaches courses in political science and conflict resolution, and is on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Free Weekly and its staff.

Coming To Our Senses Regarding Nukes

As part of President-elect Trump’s daily tweets this past week he stated: “The United States must greatly strengthen its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

In his 140-character tome he proposes maintaining a status quo of the mythology of nuclear deterrence and self-assured destruction (SAD) or a “coming to senses” of the nuclear states. As President of the United States, he will have a significant role to play in determining which path is followed. He can lead us further down the road toward nuclear annihilation or lead us at long last to nuclear abolition and a world free of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear deterrence is indeed a myth propagated for 71 years since the beginning of the nuclear age. Rather than deterring a nuclear arms buildup, it is instead the greatest driver of the arms race as each time one nation has a new weapon, technology or expenditure, then all adversaries must match and exceed that number. We are on the verge of a new nuclear arms race robbing a proposed trillion dollar expenditure from our basic human needs to rebuild our nuclear arsenals over the next 30 years. I am certain this is not the jobs program that President-elect Trump has in mind (especially as spending on this sector produces fewer jobs per billion dollars spent than any other sector of the economy).

This proposal ignores the latest scientific studies showing that nuclear weapons are far more dangerous than we previously appreciated. In a scenario evaluating one of the greatest nuclear hotspots on the planet a regional nuclear war using 100 Hiroshima size weapons, amounting to less than ½ percent of the global nuclear arsenals, could result in the killing of up to two billion people on the planet from the climate change and global famine that would follow – a suicide bombing the likes of which the world has never seen. Civilization as we know it would end as these climatic changes would last over the next two decades.

Any nuclear exchange by the nuclear superpowers would be far more devastating. The use of the nuclear weapons remaining after the New Start Treaty is fully implemented next year would most likely cause the extinction of the human race.

These facts were totally ignored throughout this year’s presidential campaign allowing candidates and even President-elect Trump to give lip service that nuclear weapons are very dangerous. The candidates were never asked if they even knew of the consequences of using nuclear weapons and under what circumstances they would actually propose using them in this game-ending scenario. As though playing a game, the candidates were given a free pass card. President-elect Trump continuously posed questions throughout the election season from “why we couldn’t use the weapons since we had them” and “why shouldn’t more nations be allowed to have them” in addition to avoiding answering whether he would use them in the Middle East and Europe.

This nuclear famine scenario is one that does not have to be. There is an alternative. Recognizing the non-survivability of nuclear war and refusing to be held hostage any longer by the nuclear powers, the non-nuclear nations of the world, the world medical associations and much of civil society including the International Red Cross have long “come to their senses.” Led by 123 nations representing a majority of the world’s population, a nuclear weapons ban treaty will be negotiated at the United Nations this next year. This treaty will ban nuclear weapons just as every other weapon of mass destruction, from chemical to biological weapons and landmines have been banned. Finally, the deadliest of these immoral weapons will be outlawed. From that point forth only pariah nations acting outside the realm of international law will continue to maintain nuclear arsenals. We invite President-elect Trump to join this effort in leading the charge.

Mr. Trump has an affection for greatness when it comes to his vision. He can either be the president who plunges us all into the greatest disaster since the Cretaceous Debacle or he can save us from the greatest humanitarian and public health threat of nuclear war; he can lead us to the greatest feat of any president – that of nuclear abolition. The world and ultimately the fate of mankind awaits with apprehension his decision.

• • •

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician, writes for PeaceVoice, and serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.

A Party of Transcendence

As we think about the election — what went wrong, what’s been unleashed and what we should do about it — please, please, let us expand our vision beyond some technical fix or updated “message.”

Even if we’re talking about the Democratic Party.

James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute and a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee, discussing the Bernie Sanders phenomenon and the future direction of the party, wrote recently: “Many rank and file Democrats had lost confidence in their establishment and were looking for an authentic message that spoke to their needs.”

He was making the case for a progressive takeover of the party and the naming of Keith Ellison as DNC chair. As I read his commentary, however, even though I essentially agreed with him, I couldn’t get past the word “authentic” — especially linked as it was to the word “message,” which made it sound like the Democrat leadership needs to search its soul and come up with a better ad slogan.

And this is American politics — American democracy — as presented for our entertainment and distraction by the corporate media and the custodians of power. “The people” are acknowledged to be participants in the process of governing, which is to say, the process of creating the future, only to the extent that they have a set of limited, specific interests the powerful have to look out for. Jobs, for instance. Or protection from the enemy of the moment.

What the Democrats need to do is become a party of transcendence. That may be too much to ask of a political party, but I’m asking it anyway — asking the Dem leadership to open themselves to something bigger than mere change, something that one might call, instead, a shift in consciousness: beyond racism, beyond war, beyond exploitative capitalism … beyond militarism and a punishment-based justice system, beyond alienation from nature and the circle of life.

What if?

What if, for instance, the Democratic leadership joined former congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in standing with Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, as they stood with the protesters at Standing Rock, acting as human shields and rewriting history?

“On December 5 — the birthday of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, who led the Battle of Little Bighorn against Lakota and Cheyenne warriors — (Wes Clark Jr.) and a dozen members of United States military branches got down on bended knee to beg forgiveness from the Lakota people,” according to a story posted at New American Media.

“In the presence of hundreds of veterans and Lakota medicine people, elders and leaders, Clark donned the uniform of the Seventh Cavalry and spoke of the history of his unit. With tears in his eyes, Clark said:

“‘Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain… . We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness.’”

In an open letter to the vets, Kucinich wrote: “Your presence holds the promise of bringing about a great healing as you join a movement which is prayerful, peaceful and nonviolent, the enduring strength of great moral suasion.

“I urge you to stand as defenders and not aggressors.”

I realize I’m pushing the limits of cynicism, to suggest that the Democratic Party drop to its knee and seek atonement for American history: for genocide, slavery, endless war. But why ask less of our political system? Why ask less of democracy?

People looking for an “authentic message” may also resonate with a Democratic Party that stood for an end to global weapons sales and endless war. As Rebecca Gordon wrote recently at Common Dreams:

“Along with a deeply divided country, the worst income inequality since at least the 1920s, and a crumbling infrastructure, Trump will inherit a 15-year-old, apparently never-ending worldwide war. While the named enemy may be a mere emotion (‘terror’) or an incendiary strategy (‘terrorism’), the victims couldn’t be more real, and as in all modern wars, the majority of them are civilians.

“On how many countries is U.S. ordnance falling at the moment? Some put the total at six; others, seven. For the record, those seven would be Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and, oh yes, Yemen.”

We’re either waging or catering wars across the Middle East and Africa — wars against evil, according to that former president whose name is never mentioned these days. The Democrats were not the party in power at the time the current, post-Cold War phase of our endless wars started, but the Dems accepted these wars as their own in 2009 and proceeded to perpetuate them.

Politics as usual will not rescue Planet Earth. Angry idealists and visionaries will not rescue it either. The only hope is a merging of power and vision: transcendent politics, you might say. This is the “authentic message” people are looking for. Maybe it’s impossible — way too unacceptable to the financial interests that underwrite the American political system. But it could have beaten Donald Trump.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

One Black Woman’s View

Courtesy Photo Heather Mosley

Courtesy Photo
Heather Mosley

What is the root of racism, the cause of conflict, the answer to anger? As we transition from our nation’s first black president and the dream of a post-racial America to a man elected by supporters that include Confederate battle flag-wavers, I need to reflect on my own journey to help myself deal with it all.

I grew up in a family of six kids, I’m the youngest, and was born and raised in Portland, Ore. My mom is black and native from Mississippi, and my father was a strong black man from Alabama. Both were raised in the segregation era. We were not raised to be violent or racist and would get disciplined if we showed any signs of it. My mom said she never worried about people messing over me even as a child. I was outspoken and would defend myself if it became necessary. I was a fairly small child but came with a powerful pack of energy. I never started any fights or picked on anyone, and never played the bully role. You would have to pick on me first for me to go into action.

I was bused out to all-white schools through elementary and high school. I can remember my first day of school; my oldest sister was getting me dressed to walk me to catch the bus. The buses picked us up from the black schools that were in the neighborhood to take us to the white schools. When my sister was putting me on the bus she said, “You better not let anyone treat you differently or disrespect you just because of your color.” I did not understand. I was too young to understand about racism but I surely learned.

There were about 10 of us black kids who were bused out to this elementary school. To this day I can remember this incident that took place when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. I was the only black kid in the classroom and a white girl raised her hand and told the teacher her lunch bag was missing. She said she believed I was the one who took it. The teacher who was an older white woman asked the class who wanted to go search my stuff to see if I had stolen it. All of a sudden, I saw all the little white hands go up into the air. I remember thinking; as soon as one comes towards me I was going to sock them in their face. One of the kids then said to the girl who was missing her lunch, isn’t that your bag over there on the window ledge, and she said yes. The class went back to normal with no apology to me from the teacher or the girl. I remember feeling so degraded even at the young age I was. That evening, I cried and told my mom what had happened.

The next morning she, I, and my dad headed to the school and my parents were not happy. My mom went into the principal’s office and explained how they were not going to treat her child in any disrespectful matter. My dad and I sat outside the door and then I saw the teacher enter the principal’s office. I will not repeat the words I heard my mom saying to this teacher. What I remember about the incident is, the teacher no longer taught that class, my parents and I were given a written apology, and I’m not sure what other actions may have ensued legally. I continued, graduated from that school, and had no more problems that I could not handle on my own.

In this world I have seen and faced a lot of unfair racial treatment, and at times I have reacted in anger. Yes, I would get up in someone’s face and be ready to handle the situation whichever way it went. It never got physically violent but certainly got verbally violent. Over the years, I learned the only person who suffered and got hurt from handling racism this way was me. I have been a work in progress and have come a long way from being aggressive. I have learned how to approach the situation and voice my opinion without hostility. I pray for strength from God to show me, and I have nothing to prove to anyone in a violent way. Now, instead, I use constructive communication skills, take conflict resolution classes, and get my point across where it does not cause serious problems. I will continue to work on being less aggressive, for I am a woman who carries herself in a respectful manner and violence is not the answer.

In the coming period, I pray we all reflect and respect and learn to overcome our inner aggressions. We will need this, I suspect, together.

Heather Mosley is a returning college student. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Free Weekly or its staff.