Tax Dilemma 4/9/14

The Tax Dilemma

By Jack Payden-Travers

Jack Payden-Travers

Jack Payden-Travers

Yesterday, I got my taxes off to the IRS and felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. You know the feeling, don’t you? Another year and somehow we managed to survive. Other than the car and the house which both belong to the bank for the next few years, the bills have been paid. Well not all the bills. Actually there is one left. It’s the $10.40 cents which I refused to pay of the “Taxes Owed” to the IRS.

This year the “Taxes Owed” came to a whopping $15.00 and so I wrote a check to the United States Treasury for $4.60. As I have every April since 1973 when my wife and I started filing our taxes together, we enclosed a polite note to our “Dear IRS Worker” informing her or him of our decision to withhold a symbolic portion of our income tax in protest as Christian pacifists to the military madness infecting our Federal Budget.

How else can one explain the fact that the majority of our Federal tax dollars are still paying to support present and past wars? Can you believe that the Treasury still needs to send checks each month to two survivors of Civil War veterans? 149 years later and we are still paying for the decision to settle that conflict by force of arms rather than seek non-military solutions to internal and international conflicts. There has got to be a better way to settle disputes.

How strange is it to us today to think of settling personal disputes by dueling with the intention of killing our opponent? And yet this is exactly what I hear proposed as soon as an international conflict arises. For some reason honor rather than reason, emotion rather than sanity takes hold and the drums of war start to beat. The kill, kill, kill of bayonet training becomes the fall back option and Dr. Strangelove rides again. Oh you think Ukraine is different from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Uganda, Columbia, and the list goes on.

During the Vietnam War my wife and I both came to an understanding of our Christian faith as one of nonviolence and thus a rejection of war. I actually chose to refuse induction and face a sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 rather than join the military. And yet each year in April we are faced with the decision to either pay for war and deny our Christian faith or to participate in war-making by paying our entire tax bill.

We choose to affirm our religious beliefs and to resist the payment of our taxes owed by withholding a symbolic amount. And what is more symbolic of the tax dollar than the Form 1040. And so we withhold the symbolic amount of $10.40 from whatever we owe and send it to a group that works for peace.

We know, of course, that the IRS may eventually collect this amount along with interest and penalty from our bank or wages or more likely a tax refund. That is a price we are willing to pay for the sake of conscience. We know that we are not alone in our quest to live according to our religious principles. In fact$10.40 For Peace is a group that encourages conscientious reflection about the payment of taxes that support war. They host a website to assist people wrestling with this question: www.1040forpeace.com.

One option that I hope everyone will consider is to support the right of conscientious objection to the payment of war taxes through passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act of the 113th United States Congress. HR 2483 is a bill that would extend the right of conscientious objection to US taxpayers. Introduced each session by civil rights Congressman John Lewis, this bill would create a Peace Tax Fund in the US Treasury into which those opposed to war would pay 100 percent of their taxes. It could not be used to fund the Pentagon, nuclear weapons produced by the Department of Energy, Military Aide to foreign nations, national security, etc. You can join the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, which lobbies for passage of this bill, by going to www.peacetaxfund.org.

Jack Payden-Travers is the Secretary of the Peace & Justice Studies AssociationHe also serves as the Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.

 

Nun in Prison Garb 4/9/14

Any Courtroom in China

By John LaForge

John LaForge

John LaForge

Any courtroom in China or Iran could have been the scene: An 84-year-old Catholic nun in prison garb, chained hand-and-foot and surrounded by heavy Marshals, is shuffled jangling into court. Her attorney asks if she might be allowed one free hand in order to take notes. The nun has been convicted of high crimes trumped up after her bold political protest embarrassed the state. A high-ranking judge lectures her about law and order and then imposes a three-year prison term.

Like a Mullah thundering against an Infidel, the judge absurdly orders the penniless convict, who has lived her entire adult life within a vow of poverty, to pay $53,000 in restitution — what the government said was cost to fix four cuts in wire fences and repaint a wall.

The nun, Sr. Megan Rice of New York City, had fearlessly declared to the court, “To spend the rest of my life in prison would be a great honor and I hope it will happen.” Life expectancy for white women is 81 years, so hers may be a death sentence. The judge denied he had imposed a life sentence, just like any magistrate in Beijing or Tehran. But this is US district court in Knoxville.

What had the frail, retired missionary, who spent 40 years building schools and teaching in Africa, done to bring down the weight of the US Justice Department upon her? With wire cutters, spray paint, poured blood and prayers directed against the “Y-12” H-bomb factory at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Sr. Rice (and two retirement-aged US Army veterans) dared to call the US government a criminal enterprise in its production and threatened use of nuclear weapons. Speaking to the court, she said she’d walked up to Y-12’s bomb-grade uranium fortress which, “… we were able to reach, touch and label with statements of truth.”

The Mullah, US District Judge Amul Thapar, told Rice her action, “evokes complete disrespect for law … total disregard for law,” that, “at some point the law demands respect,” and, “we need to … protect the law,” and that she “transgressed laws of the United States, a great country,” and “No man or group is above the law,” and, finally, “Courts aren’t the places for judges to disregard the law.” Turns out the judge disregarded a lot of law.

“International law is not an empty promise, and treaties must be enforced.” — President Obama

Never mind that the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, the Treaty of Paris, the Nuremberg Principles, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other binding humanitarian law prohibit the planning, threat or commission of massacres, deliberate long-term damage to the environment and construction of new nuclear weapons — all of which is today ongoing at Oak Ridge.

Never mind that Obama said Sept. 24, 2009, “International law is not an empty promise, and treaties must be enforced.” Never mind that the US Constitution holds all such treaties “supreme,” and says treaties are binding on “every judge in every state.” Never mind that the US Supreme Court has upheld this “Supremacy Clause” five times.

Never mind any of this law — because nuclear weapons are considered above it all in federal court. Evidence and testimony about the criminal status of nuclear weapons is considered inadmissible there. Contraband cannot legally be in anyone’s possession, but if experts offer proof that nuclear weapons are contraband, the offer is excluded by federal courts.

Oak Ridge’s W78 and B61 nuclear warhead production, forbidden by the Nonproliferation Treaty, can’t even be described to a federal jury. Even the expert testimony of a former US Attorney General — that Oak Ridge’s mission is a criminal conspiracy to produce banned weapons — can be, and was in this case, hidden from the jury.

Four US Courts of Appeal have said juries would be “confused” by this powerful evidence. On the contrary, proof that H-bombs are illegal would pierce the vacuum that protects the Bomb complex from judicial scrutiny. Any evidence of the fact that planning and preparing massacres is criminal, that nuclear weapons can only produce massacres, and that the government is presently building new H-bombs, would dissolve the façade of legitimacy surrounding the Bomb. It would also exonerate the nun’s action in a new context — that of whistle-blowing and crime prevention. Sr. Rice told the judge her protest had lifted “an enormous cloud of deception covering up the monstrosity of Y-12.”

The illusion that H-bombs are lawful and defensive is embraced by almost no one outside the weapons complex and the judiciary — either in China, North Korea or the US. Only a swarm of amplified protest and resistance can possibly break through this willful blindness.

— John LaForge works for Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly newsletter, and is syndicated through PeaceVoice. You can write Sr. Megan Rice at: # 88101-020 / MDC Brooklyn / Metropolitan Detention Center / P.O. Box 329002 / Brooklyn, NY 11232.

 

 

 

Advocates for War 3/26/14

The War Activists

David Swanson

David Swanson

By David Swanson

War activists, like peace activists, push for an agenda.  We don’t think of them as activists because they rotate in and out of government positions, receive huge amounts of funding, have access to big media, and get meetings with top officials just by asking — without having to generate a protest first.

They also display great contempt for the public and openly discuss ways to manipulate people through fear and nationalism — further shifting their image away from that of popular organizers.  But war activists are not journalists, not researchers, not academics.  They don’t inform or educate.  They advocate.  They just advocate for something that most of the time, and increasingly, nobody wants.

William Kristol and Robert Kagan and their organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative, stand out as exemplary war activists.  They’ve modified their tone slightly since the days of the Project for the New American Century, an earlier war activist organization.  They talk less about oil and more about human rights.  But they insist on U.S. domination of the world.  They find any success by anyone else in the world a threat to the United States.  And they demand an ever larger and more frequently used military, even if world domination can be achieved without it.  War, for these war activists, is an end in itself.  As was much more common in the 19th century, these agitators believe war brings strength and glory, builds character, and makes a nation a Super Power.

Kristol recently lamented U.S. public opposition to war.  He does have cause for concern.  The U.S. public is sick of wars, outraged by those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and insistent that new ones not be begun.  In September, missile strikes into Syria were successfully opposed by public resistance. In February, a new bill to impose sanctions on Iran and commit the United States to joining in any Israeli-Iranian war was blocked by public pressure.  The country and the world are turning against the drone wars.

The next logical step after ending wars and preventing wars would be to begin dismantling the infrastructure that generates pressure for wars.  This hasn’t happened yet.  During every NCAA basketball game the announcers thank U.S. troops for watching from 175 nations.  Weapons sales are soaring.  New nukes are being developed.  NATO has expanded to the edge of Russia.  But the possibility of change is in the air.  A new peace activist group at WorldBeyondWar.org has begun pushing for war’s abolition.

Here’s Kristol panicking:

“A war-weary public can be awakened and rallied. Indeed, events are right now doing the awakening. All that’s needed is the rallying. And the turnaround can be fast. Only five years after the end of the Vietnam War, and 15 years after our involvement there began in a big way, Ronald Reagan ran against both Democratic dovishness and Republican détente. He proposed confronting the Soviet Union and rebuilding our military. It was said that the country was too war-weary, that it was too soon after Vietnam, for Reagan’s stern and challenging message. Yet Reagan won the election in 1980. And by 1990 an awakened America had won the Cold War.”

Here’s Kagan, who has worked for Hillary Clinton and whose wife Victoria Nuland has just been stirring up trouble in the Ukraine as Assistant Secretary of State. This is from an article by Kagan much admired by President Barack Obama:

“As Yan Xuetong recently noted, ‘military strength underpins hegemony.’ Here the United States remains unmatched. It is far and away the most powerful nation the world has ever known, and there has been no decline in America’s relative military capacity — at least not yet.”

 This pair is something of a good-cop/bad-cop team.  Kristol bashes Obama for being a wimp and not fighting enough wars.  Kagan reassures Obama that he can be master of the universe if he’ll only build up the military a bit more and maybe fight a couple more wars here and there.

The response from some Obama supporters has been to point out that their hero has been fighting lots of wars and killing lots of people, thank you very much.  The response from some peace activists is to play to people’s selfishness with cries to bring the war dollars home.  But humanitarian warriors are right to care about the world, even if they’re only pretending or badly misguided about how to help.  It’s OK to oppose wars both because they kill huge numbers of poor people far from our shores and because we could have used the money for schools and trains.  But it’s important to add that for a small fraction of U.S. military spending we could ensure that the whole world had food and clean water and medicine.  We could be the most beloved nation.

I know that’s not the status the war activists are after.  In fact, when people begin to grasp that possibility, war activism will be finished for good.

David Swanson is syndicated by PeaceVoice. His books include War No More. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

 

Things That Trouble 2/5/14

Florida Does it Again

By Laura Finley

Laura Finley

Laura Finley

Last time I wrote about things that trouble me in my current home state of Florida, I received some pretty nasty responses. One person emailed that my criticism of some of the laws in the state was an affront to those who have served the U.S in foreign wars (I still don’t see how, but never mind) and strongly suggested that I move to Russia or Saudi Arabia. But, eight years after my arrival, I am still here, and at the risk of receiving even more hateful responses, I am again compelled to offer a criticism of some of Florida’s latest dandies.

First, there is the state judiciary’s ridiculous conversation about whether to allow a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for medical purposes on the state’s November ballot. Although the proposed legislation names only nine diseases for which doctors could prescribe pot, Florida Supreme Court Chief JusticeRicky Polston, writing for the minority in the court’s 4-3 decision, expressed the absurdity that, because a section of the proposal offers immunity for prescribing doctors,  “a physician, in his misguided ‘professional opinion,’ could believe that the benefits of marijuana for a teething toddler would likely outweigh the risks, and, therefore, recommend that the toddler use marijuana three times a day for six months until the teething subsided.” Indeed. Maybe we’ll see pot poultice prescribed for diaper rash as well.

Next we have Florida’s latest case of vigilantism, where the movie-theater texting of a man to his young daughter so outraged a 71-year-old former cop that he left the theater, retrieved his gun, and shot and killed the 43-year old and wounded his wife.  Although some have responded to the assailant with condemnation, others in the state that the NRA built have offered their support. Because why should we act with restraint when encountered with a minor annoyance? Better to go all in, regardless of the consequences. Why wait until Florida makes texting in a theater a capital offense? Summary execution works for the NRA.

Although Florida is not the only state to allow guns on campuses, colleges and universities responded swiftly to a state court decision that overturned a University of North Florida ban on weapons in cars. Within days, Broward College announced it will now allow people to pack heat in their vehicles, and Miami Dade College, Palm Beach State College, and Florida International University officials say they are planning to do so as well. In true Florida fashion, it doesn’t look like it will stop here, as legislation has already been filed by Florida Carry, a gun-rights group, to allow students to keep guns in their dorms. Students and faculty: Start wearing your Kevlar to class.

I know I am not the only person troubled by the notion that people will have easier access to weapons on campus.  Studies have generally found that a number of initiatives can make a campus safer, but arming its populace is typically not among them.

In another example of why Florida is called the Gunshine State, the Miami Herald reported just days ago that a snowbirder living in Big Pine Key has installed a gun range in the back of his home. It seems that state law allows him to do so, as the Republican-led, NRA-loving Florida Legislature in 2011 forbade cities from enforcing their own gun regulations or adding new gun-related legislation. Guess I’ll wear that Kevlar at home as well, in case my neighbors want to begin target shooting too.

Not two months ago, Florida also had this winner:  A man actually tried to trade a live four-foot alligator for a 12-pack of beer. I kid you not. But he did keep the gator in good shape, officials report, so there’s that.

In breaking news, the state is seeing its second Zombie attack, as it is being reported as I write that a naked man died late on Tuesday February 4 after he assaulted a retired police officer, bit another man on the face, and was shot by Palm Beach county deputies.  Only in Florida.

At least Justin Bieber has not been arrested in the state in the last week.  We have to take our wins where we can get them.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated byPeaceVoice.

 

Throwaway Society 1/15/14

Throwaway Society

By Laura Finley

Laura Finley

Laura Finley

Many commentators have referred to the U.S. as a throwaway society. Typically, they are referring to our excessive consumption of disposable products. We are a society in which the average family throws out a quarter of its food, and each individual generates around 4.5 pounds of trash every day, all year long.  As bad and unsustainable as this is, even more bothersome is our penchant for throwing away people.

One in three black men in America will go to prison during their lifetime.  This means families left fatherless. It means that when they are released, these men will likely not be able to vote, hold office, serve on a jury, or obtain many professional licensures. Consequently, job opportunities are severely limited and the chance for re-offending is maximized.  Although not nearly as staggering, one in six Latino men will also end up in the wasteland that is an American prison.

Critics might contend that these statistics reflect higher crime rates, but the primary thing they reflect is a system in which Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, tried, and convicted than their white counterparts.  Indeed, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of South Carolina found that nearly half of all black men in the U.S had been arrested at least once before the age of 23, and about 30 percent had one arrest before their 18th birthday.

Sadly, studies have shown that while we are throwing these young men into the abyss of the corrections system, prison is actually the safest place to be a black man in America.  A study conducted in North Carolina in 2011 found that black men were half as likely to die in prison than they were out in society.  This isn’t the first time that researchers have found lower death rates among incarcerated marginalized groups, who often receive healthcare and square meals routinely for the first time in their lives when they are inside the big house.

Mahatma Gandhi once commented that you can measure the greatness of a nation by the way it treats its weakest members.  Given the statistics presented above, we are, so far, an epic fail.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

Uncomfortable Questions 1/8/14

Has the Idea of a Jewish State Become Obsolete? 

Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

While John Kerry admirably shuttles around like the Energizer Bunny in search of Middle East peace, is there anything new to say about the intractable tension between Israelis on the one hand and predominantly Muslim peoples, especially the Palestinians, on the other?

One layer of the unspoken is Israel’s implicit status as a nuclear power.  Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama draw red lines in the sand concerning the threat of Iranian nukes, but say little about the only viable long-term solution: a negotiated and verified nuclear-free zone in the Eastern Mediterranean—even better, a planet-wide nuclear-free zone. Nuclear war anywhere on earth has become more unthinkable as it has become more possible.

Also rarely spoken—lest howls of anti-Semitism ensue—is an uncomfortable question:  why do we frown upon the lack of separation of church and state in many Muslim countries, while Israel gets a pass in privileging a particular constellation of religion and ethnicity?

The historical rationale for the birth of the Jewish state could not be more reasonable. In the context of Jewish history over thousands of years climaxing in the Holocaust, no one could argue with Jewish fears of extinction and their need for a secure homeland.

Though all parties in the region ought to know from long experience how futile war, terror, obstruction, and discriminatory harshness are as tools to suppress the universal impulse toward justice, each keeps trying one or another unworkable method, making the success of Mr. Kerry’s quixotic mission all the more crucial.

The present Israeli government derives its identity in large measure from fear of what it is against, and so it has encouraged injustices like the settlements that it would never tolerate were it a victim of similar treatment.

Obviously this is not to say that the anti-Semites of the Arab world are innocent. And it is unfair to compare the civil rights Israel has afforded non-Jews with the civil rights much of the Muslim world affords women and non-believers.  Israel does not order the execution of those who abandon Judaism.  However much it may wish to be even-handed, it sees its own Muslim population growing. If this population enjoyed full citizenship Israeli could eventually become a de facto Muslim state.  So it waters down Muslim civil rights to preserve its identity.

As we express our hope that Arab countries (and even the U.S. itself) evolve toward a more inclusive and tolerant politics, it is worth asking if the maintenance of Israel as a Jewish state become counter-productive to its own long-term security? It is not that Zionism is racism, in the crude Arab formulation, but that Zionism has been transcended by the notion of a state relatively untethered to any one religion.

If the identity of Israel were re-established on the basis of equal rights for all ethnicities, ancient fears might begin to dissolve from within. The corrosive “us-and-them” dynamic could be undermined in a way that left Jews safer—just as Jews, while a minority in the United States, are surely as safe there, if not more so, as they are in Israel.

For Israel to become a fully secular state, the international community would have to guarantee the security of Jews, whether inside or outside Israel, a task that for understandable reasons Israel has always zealously reserved for itself. Abdication of self-determined security is, to say the least, unlikely. Tragically however, maintaining a Jewish state will increasingly tie its citizens in knots as they are forced to choose between Jewish identity and full democracy.

Jews and Palestinians for the most part do not know each other as people, and the predictable theatrics of their leaders do nothing to help reconciliation. The entry point into a shared future beyond war is the face-to-face engagement of ordinary citizens at the heart level. It is people moving one by one from unfamiliarity, ignorance, and fear, toward familiarity, empathy, and enough trust to allow the heart to message the brain that it’s safe to get creative together.

The moral basis of the secular state, the tolerance and compassion that flows from the acknowledgement of universal rights, is ironically a major premise of the Jewish ethical tradition. An unbeliever once asked Rabbi Hillel if he could sum up the Torah while standing on one foot. The simple answer was “What is hateful to yourself, do not to your fellow man. That is the whole of the Torah and the rest is but commentary.”

One of the many gifts world civilization owes the Jews is this confidence in an ethical universality that transcends specific sects and ethnicities. If I identify as a Jew but also as citizen of secular democracy, I am better able to interact with Palestinians according to our common identity as humans. Finding ourselves in this shared human context, we will stand a measurably better chance of resolving our differences. To the extent that Jews allow themselves that larger identification with the “other,” they may not only come closer to fulfilling the ethical promise of their heritage, but also may find the security that has eluded them since the founding of the Jewish state. How poignant that after thousands of years of their culture contributing so much to the world, this idea should still feel so risky. Godspeed, Mr. Kerry.

Winslow Myers, author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” writes on global issues forPeaceVoice and serves on the Advisory Board of the War Prevention Initiative.

 

Worse than Nuclear War 1/8/14

WHAT’S WORSE THAN A NUCLEAR WAR?

Kent Shifferd

Kent Shifferd

Kent Shifferd

What could be worse than a nuclear war?  A nuclear famine following a nuclear war.  And where is the most likely nuclear war to break out?  The India-Pakistan border.  Both countries are nuclear armed, and although their arsenals are “small” compared to the U.S. and Russia, they are extremely deadly.  Pakistan has about 100 nuclear weapons; India about 130.  They have fought three wars since 1947 and are contending bitterly for control over the Kashmir and for influence in Afghanistan.  While India has renounced first use, for whatever that is worth, Pakistan has not, declaring that in the event of an impending defeat by India’s overwhelming conventional forces it would strike first with nuclear weapons.

Saber rattling is common.  Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that a fourth war could take place if the Kashmir issue wasn’t resolved, and the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh replied that Pakistan “will never win a war in my lifetime.”

A nuclear China already hostile to India could also quickly become involved in a conflict between the two enemies, and Pakistan is on the brink of becoming a failed state¾a development unknown and thus highly risky for a nuclear weapons nation-state.

Experts predict a nuclear war between India and Pakistan would kill about 22 million people from blast, acute radiation, and firestorms.  However, the global famine caused by such a “limited” nuclear war would result in two billion deaths over 10 years.

That’s right, a nuclear famine.  A war using fewer than half their weapons would lift so much black soot and soil into the air that it would cause a nuclear winter.  Such a scenario was known as far back as the 1980s, but no one had calculated the impact on agriculture.

The irradiated cloud would cover vast portions of the earth, bringing low temperatures, shorter growing seasons, sudden crop-killing extremes of temperature, altered rainfall patterns and would not dissipate for about 10 years. Now, a new report based on some very sophisticated studies reveals the crop losses that would result and the number of people who would be put at risk for malnutrition and starvation.

The computer models show declines in wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans. Overall production of crops would fall, hitting their low in year five and gradually recovering by year ten. Corn and soybeans in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri would suffer an average of 10 percent and, in year five, 20 percent.  In China, corn would fall by 16 percent over the decade, rice by 17 percent, and wheat by 31 percent.  Europe would also have declines.

Making the impact even worse, there are already almost 800 million malnourished people in the world.  A mere 10 percent decline in their calorie intake puts them at risk for starvation.  And we will add hundreds of millions of people to the world population over the next couple of decades.  Just to stay even with we will need hundreds of millions more meals than we now produce.  Second, under the conditions of a nuclear war-induced winter and severe food shortages, those who have will horde.  We saw this when drought depressed production a couple of years ago and several food exporting nations stopped exporting.  The economic disruption to the food markets would be severe and the price of food will go up as it did then, placing what food is available out of reach for millions. And what follows famine is epidemic disease.

“Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk?” is a report from a world-wide federation of medical societies, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Nobel Peace Prize recipients, 1985) and their American affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility.  It’s online athttp://www.psr.org/resources/two-billion-at-risk.html    They have no political axe to grind.  Their sole concern is human health.

What can you do?  The only way to assure ourselves this global disaster will not happen is to join the global movement to abolish these weapons of mass destruction. Start with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (http://www.icanw.org/).  We abolished slavery.  We can get rid of these terrible instruments of destruction.

Kent Shifferd, Ph.D., (kshifferd@centurytel.net) is an historian who taught environmental history and ethics for 25 years at Wisconsin’s Northland College.  He is author of From War to Peace: A Guide to the Next Hundred Years (McFarland, 2011) and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

It’s OK to be Thin 1/8/14

Don’t Tell Me to Eat a Burger

By Laura Finley

Laura Finley

Laura Finley

In a recent interview with Barbara Walters, film star Jennifer Lawrence denounced the way we are taught that to make fun of someone is funny. Lawrence took particular issue with calling people “fat,” and asserted that if we can regulate television advertising related to cigarettes, why not also limit the way it presents harmful images and discussions of people’s bodies? I applaud Lawrence for using her platform to shed light on this important issue, and want to share here an additional perspective.

I completely agree that American culture demeans people whose body does not fit the unrealistic images presented in movies, television, and magazines. It is true that women in particular are told they must be thin, young and sexy to have value. Women and girls are taught that if they just buy one more product or pony up for reconstructive surgery they will at last be beautiful. Equally harmful, however, is the open ridicule that some women and girls experience precisely because they happen to be thin without engaging in excessive consumption, eating disorders, or dangerous procedures. As one of these women, I want to call attention to the fact that it is not OK to make fun of people for their looks and their weight regardless of where they fall on the weight spectrum.

I have been asked multiple times, to my face, “Do you ever eat?” “You probably only eat salad,” and “You’re anorexic, right?” Rather than asking, others simply declare “You should go back to Ethiopia” (or some other country they perceive to be dealing with famine). And then there’s the declarative I disdain most: “Go eat a burger.”  As if only “good” or “healthy” people eat meat. All of this comes from the same place as calling someone fat—that for whatever reason, my body, as it is, is not OK and it is someone else’s business to inform me of how I can become more acceptable.

Calling someone out for their perceived bodily inadequacies is, as Lawrence remarks, terrifically damaging to their self-esteem. Sadly, most of these comments come from other women. That, to me, is the worst part because it represents how we have been taught to pick one another apart rather than build each other up. Rather than helping others be healthy and happy, this harassment results in dissatisfaction, depression, and disorders.

I am thin. I work out. I am a vegetarian. Deal with it.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

 

Pain Compliance State 12/25/13

Yes Virginia There is a Police State

By Lynn Fitz-Hugh

Lynn Fitz-Hugh

Lynn Fitz-Hugh

Hyperbole?  You decide if this is how you believe the police should behave when citizens are exercising their constitutional right to free speech.

On Monday, December 16, 16 people were arrested at two different locations on Hwy 26 outside John Day, OR.  They were there in response to Omega Morgan Company moving a heat condenser from the port of Umatilla to the Tar Sands site of the XL pipeline in Canada.  This mega-load is so wide that it takes up two lanes of traffic, is 18 feet high, 376 feet long and weighs 450 tons.  A similar load was unstable enough to tip over the next day and snarl up traffic on I-205 for hours.

Four of the protesters put disabled vehicles on the highway to block the mega-load and bravely locked themselves to the cars.  Their action is to protest the devastation of the Athabascan First Nations lands and waters in Alberta that have been destroyed by the mining of the dirty Tar Sands.  Additionally, they protest the fact that if all the oil is mined and burned, it will release more carbon than scientists say the planet can tolerate without baking.  The protesters were acting to protect all of us.

The police responded by arresting not only the four, but also 12 support people (including one minor) who were standing off on the side of the road. Officers issued no warning.  Various items were taken from the protesters leaving them exposed to sub-freezing temperatures for 45 minutes.  Some of the activists who were locked down to the vehicles were dragged across the asphalt while still locked to the vehicles, literally a risk to limbs if not lives.  They were taken to waiting ambulances and inside these vehicles, which are intended to provide medical care to people, officers used pain compliance to force protesters to comply with various demands.  In some countries this is called torture.

Earlier this month some of these same protesters were on hand across the street from the $32,000 per couple fundraiser that President Obama held in Seattle.  They were again peacefully trying to reach the President through banners asking him to cancel the XL pipeline.  Secret Service ran jamming devices so that all cell phones in the area went straight to voice mail but could not connect, again interfering with protesters’ (and uninvolved neighbors’) ability to communicate with each other and the press, and thus with their right to free speech.  An intimidating armored vehicle was also parked on the street and swat team members in bullet-proof vests, carrying assault weapons, paraded around.  Well, we need to protect the President you say? Agreed, but this over-the-top show of force is just a waste of taxpayers money and also violates civil liberties.

During Occupy, in city after city the “riot control” squads came out to control crowds of completely non-violent protesters. Swat teams were clad in all black “Darth Vader outfits” with smoked visor helmets that render them faceless.  They do not have their names listed on their jackets like regular police, and act anonymously, with impunity.  We learned at that time that squads in every major city had been given special military training, which includes the tactics of disorientation,  “pain compliance” techniques used last Monday in John Day, and tear gas sprayed directly into people’s face (which can be life threatening if someone has asthma).  Why would we militarize police who deal with American civilians?  Is this how we want our citizenry treated?  Is this what we want done with our tax dollars?

So maybe climate change is not your cause.  But whatever your favorite cause, is this how you would like to be treated if you came out to simply demonstrate your thoughts?  I think there was wisdom in the founding father’s desire to protect dissent, regardless of the cause, which they saw as critical to true democracy.

Lynn Fitz-Hugh, Seattle, is a lifelong peace activist, a mother, therapist, and writes for PeaceVoice.

 

Gut-Wrenching Reality 12/18/13

Masculinity Question Still Missing Post Newtown

Rob Okun

Rob Okun

By Rob Okun

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down 

—Stephen Stills

As we prepare for the gut-wrenching first anniversary of Newtown on Saturday, I teeter back and forth between sadness and anger. Sadness that 20 six and seven year-olds were murdered—along with a half-dozen Sandy Hook Elementary School educators—and anger that public officials and most of the media still largely ignore the missing component in the Connecticut tragedy—the gender of the shooter.

            Don’t get me wrong. It’s urgent we implement gun control legislation and increase mental health services. Some states—including Colorado and Connecticut—have passed new gun laws, doing an end run around the National Rifle Association and their minions in Congress. And kudos to Vice president Biden for shepherding $100 million in additional money for mental wellness programs. Still, like a two-legged stool, those efforts can’t stand up to this type of violence if we don’t add a third leg: male socialization.

Take this simple quiz. Don’t worry; you’re sure to get 100 since—spoiler alert—the answer isn’t “woman.” In the year since Adam Lanza began his rampage by murdering his mother, was it a man or a woman who killed innocent people at the Washington Navy Shipyard, the Boston Marathon, Santa Monica College, homes in Hialeah, Florida, Manchester, Illinois, and Fernley, Nevada, a barbershop in New York’s Mohawk Valley, and at Los Angeles International Airport? Get it?

 It’s been nearly 15 years since two male students murdered 12 classmates and a teacher at Columbine High School. Since then there have been close to a hundred mass shootings; in all but one the killer was male.  How can we expect to reduce the numbers if we don’t put raising healthy boys and treating at-risk men at least as high on the national agenda as gun control and mental health?

Now is the time for gun control advocates, mental health professionals, and those working to redefine masculinity to form a new coalition that recognizes the irrefutable relationship between men and guns, men’s mental health, and men and power.

Now is the time for educators to begin cultivating boys’ emotional intelligence, making it as high a priority as is teaching math and reading.

Now is the time for the president to direct the Department of Education to create a curriculum that emphasizes boys’ emotional wellbeing.

Now is the time for the Centers for Disease Control—perhaps in concert with the Department of Veterans Affairs—to coordinate a national “Men and Mental Health” campaign to reach men who underreport their depression and are averse to mental health checkups—all health checkups for that matter.  The families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims deserve nothing less. As do all the other families in the club no one ever wants to join that stretches from Boston to Los Angeles.

While experts on gun control and mental health fill Congressional hearing rooms  and dominate the opinion pages and the airwaves with analysis and commentary, it’s time to share the microphone with those working to redefine masculinity. Inspired by women, a growing legion of men has been working since the 1970s to prevent domestic and sexual violence and to transform traditional ideas about manhood, fatherhood, and brotherhood.

Today, men’s organizations across the country have experienced staffs working to prevent domestic violence and rape; to coach fathers, and to assist sons on the journey to healthy manhood.

In the 1990s I facilitated batterers’ groups working with lonely, isolated men who had been abusive to their spouses. While none was as mentally unstable as the mass shooters, all were products of the same male socialization.

Today no one may be shrugging, dismissively saying, “Boys will be boys” to explain away aberrant male behavior. Still, when “boys” kill their mothers, children, strangers—committing suicide by mass murder—isn’t it time we took the crisis in masculinity seriously? If we care about the parents of Sandy Hook the answer to this quiz question must be yes.

Rob Okun is editor of Voice Male magazine and writes for PeaceVoice. His new bookVoice Male: The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement will be published in January.

Wait 4.5 Million Years 12/18/13

Archeology and the Atom

By Kent Shifferd images

We have all heard of the city of Idu.  Right?  Thousands of families living there, carrying out their normal lives, government housed in lavish buildings, written documents, trade, religion, etc.  Well, it was lost.  A whole city lost.  Idu flourished in the 13th century B.C.  We knew it had existed from some ancient Assyrian records, but had no idea where it was.  Archeologists finally found it last year, buried in northern Iraq.  And then there is the case of Richard the Third, one of the most famous kings of England who died in one of the most famous battles in the year1485, just 528 years ago.  You would think his tomb would have been a carefully preserved site viewed by thousands of tourists today.  But in fact no one knew where he was buried until last year when archeologists found him under a parking lot!  Let’s consider nuclear power plants and weapons manufacturing in the light of Idu and Richard.

Nuclear power plants and weapons manufacturing produce a host of deadly radioactive waste (including the bombs even if they never go off).  Tons of it each year.  Radio nucleotides are among the most toxic materials on the planet.  They are biocides which attack the higher forms of life more first and then work their way down the chain.  At the lower end of the spectrum of complexity, some organisms like lichens seem immune.  High dose exposure to humans causes prompt death by internal hemorrhaging.  Lower doses can cause cancers.  During the nuclear testing that occurred above ground up until 1962, the U.S. experienced an epidemic of childhood leukemia.

 Some folks are touting nuclear power as a solution to the problem of global warming, noting that it does not produce carbon dioxide, one of the chief greenhouse gases.  Well, when used in a power plant to boil water to steam to turn a turbine and generate electricity, it doesn’t, but the mining, processing and transporting this material to the plant rely on fossil fuel, a major source of greenhouse gases.  Still, let’s ignore that.  The deadly wastes last a long time.    Radioactive material does decay over time at a rate which is measured in half-lives.  That is, if you have a ton of the stuff, half of it will into some other product (which might also be radioactive) over a given period of time, and then half of the remainder will do the same over another, same given period, and then half of the remainder, etc.  At the end of 3 half-lives you still have an eighth of a ton.  The half- life of plutonium is 24,000 thousand years.  That means it needs to be kept away from the public for 144,000 thousand years at a minimum.  The half-life of uranium 238 is 4.5 million years.  You get the picture.

Electric power in the U.S. that is produced by our existing nuclear plants and by weapons manufacturing together turn out 2,300 tons of waste each year, about 800 from the power plants.  Over the past 40 years, it has added up to about 67,000 tons.

All this high level waste (as opposed to “low level waste” as is discarded from a hospital X-ray machine) produced to date in power plants is so hot when it comes out that it needs to be stored in deep pools of water for 4 to 5 years or even up to 10 years.  Then it is removed and is stored in casks on site.  The casks seem to have a life of about 50 years.  In the U.S., nuclear plants currently produce about 20 percent of our power.   If we were to rely on nuclear power for all of our electrical generation, the amount of waste generated would climb to 11,500 tons per year or 40 to 50 times over the expected life of a nuclear plant, about 50,000 tons.  Note also that at the end of its useful life, a reactor producing electric power or plutonium for bombs is itself so irradiated that the whole thing is high level waste.  It has to be dismantled and buried. All this to turn on the lights for our brief moment in history. Leaving aside the increased chances of another Fukushima (or a Three Mile Island, or a Chernobyl), and the fossil fuel burned in preparation, and thinking about Idu, and Richard, do we really believe that this deadly waste can be sequestered from human contact for longer than civilization itself has existed, indeed for as long as humans have existed on the earth?

There are other ways to make electricity, namely solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro dams, and there is always conservation.  Why would anyone in their right mind risk going nuclear as a way to deal with global warming?  And aren’t we glad that the people who lived at Idu did not have nuclear power or nuclear weapons?

Kent Shifferd, Ph.D., (kshifferd@centurytel.net) is an historian who taught environmental history and ethics for 25 years at Wisconsin’s Northland College.  He is author of From War to Peace: A Guide to the Next Hundred Years (McFarland, 2011) and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

Keep It Real & Authentic 12/11/13

Authenticity

“And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite.” 

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Laura Finley, Ph.D.

Laura Finley

Laura Finley

Authenticity is one of the most important qualities to teach young people. To be truly who you are, to be comfortable in your own skin and to walk your talk, is essential to not just personal happiness but is also requisite for building a better, more just and humane world. Unfortunately, teaching authenticity is challenging in a society that is dominated by hypocrisy. Politicians manipulate, deceive and outright lie with such regularity it is almost amazing when one does not do so. Celebrities demonstrate to children and youth that it is acceptable to say one thing and do the complete opposite Below is a short list of recent hypocrisy by leaders and celebrities.

Although nowhere near exhaustive, here is a smattering of the political hypocrisy of 2013.  Republicans claimed they wanted to avoid the government shutdown in the fall, yet many openly embraced the idea as a way of stymieing President Obama in general and of opposing Obamacare.  Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney derided Obamacare, yet it was very clearly based in large part on the model Romney introduced as Governor of Massachusetts. Then there is the Cheney sisters, who want to be “personally” fine with gay people but not politically so.  And what about Florida Republican Trey Radel, who supported Governor Scott’s initiative to drug test welfare recipients yet is a cocaine addict?

It is clear, however, that the hypocrisy bug has infected Democrats as well. President Obama, for example, pledged to usher in an era of transparency yet the revelations made by Edward Snowden make it abundantly obvious that he has authorized and continues to support privacy invasions previously unheard of. And, of course, there are Obama’s pledges about health insurance that were, quite simply, either signs of complete ineptitude or willful deception.

Supposedly assigned to protect and serve, many of the law enforcement officers in my home of South Florida seem to do anything but. In just one example of a litany, Miami Gardens police stopped and harassed 27-year-old Earl Sampson 258 times in the last few years while he was on the clock (yes, you read that right, he was at work) at a convenience store. They searched him more than 100 times, much of which is captured on camera because the store owner, Alex  Saleh, realized that the threat to his business did not come so much from local thugs but rather from the police themselves.

Not exactly a reliable source, Fox News has, however, shed some light on the hypocrisy of celebrities who speak out against various social ills while visibly perpetrating the same behaviors. Perhaps most notable was the star-laden Demand A Plan initiative, in which a series of celebrities, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, lined up to film PSAs requesting gun control. These same celebrities—Jamie Foxx, for instance—are often featured in violent films that glorify gun culture. Both Jay Z and Kanye West have faced hypocrisy accusations for their failing to admonish or withdraw their products from companies, like Barney’s, that are said to racially profile.  Not to be outdone, evidently just days ago, the supposedly vegan Beyonce showed up at an event wearing a fur coat and suede shoes. Ummm…maybe not.

Among the many nonviolent principles along which Mahatma Gandhi operated, the concepts of truth and authenticity rank near the top. Gandhi recognized that even his detractors might soften their positions if his actions echoed his words, his diet followed his espoused beliefs, and his consumption patterns were consistent with what he preached. In short, living what you believe is an essential component of nonviolent social change.

 I believe the world would be a better place were authenticity to be widely valued and taught.  Although we are all works in progress, I call on all adults to work diligently to be those role models—in both what we say and what we do—that our youth so desperately crave.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

 

Essential Disagreement 11/27/13

Disagreement without the Hate

Laura Finley, Ph.D.

Laura Finley

Laura Finley

Disagreement is an essential component of a healthy relationship, a healthy workplace, and a healthy democracy. Much research documents the dangers of surrounding ourselves with so-called “yes men” who always concur. Workplace echo chambers stifle innovation and reify bad policy decisions. Disagreement stimulates creative thinking and prompts innovation.

Yet, there is indeed a peaceful, even collaborative, way to disagree.  And, I contend, that it never involves personal insults, ad hominem attacks, and strings of epithets and curse words.

Unfortunately, it seems as though few in the U.S are taught how to disagree peacefully and constructively. Instead, if we read, hear or see something that bothers us, we tend to get all pissy about it and, rather than present our case, resort to the lowest blows we can. This behavior is, of course, modeled at nearly every turn.

It is difficult to remember any politician in the recent past who has not decided that the way to offer a contrasting view is to rip the crap out of his or her opponent.  As bad (sometimes worse) is media, where television pundits (and I note, both conservative and liberal) seem to love nothing more than to invite guests onto their shows to interrupt them, yell at them, berate them, and otherwise set them up to look foolish. In professional sports, having the best trash-talker on your team is often viewed as an asset. K-12 schools reinforce the normalcy of mean-spirited disagreement when they fail to hold accountable those who denigrate those with whom they disagree. Popular culture encourages the “othering” of the alleged opposition.  For just one example, the t-shirt company David and Goliath offers a shirt that says, “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them.”

My recent experience authoring op-eds illustrates the issue perfectly. I authored a piece about the bureaucratic stifling of activism. In the op-ed, I encouraged folks who disagree with my positions to share their viewpoints, as dialogue and disagreement can lead to amazingly creative social change from the synthesis of the best parts of different arguments. While I did receive some pleasant feedback, I also received one very disturbing piece of hate email.

Not only did this anonymous emailer attack me personally, using hateful slurs, but s/he also failed to see the point I was making, which was precisely that we should not all agree but should not stifle those who do not see things our way.

I implore those who are reading this to understand what I am saying: I do not have all the answers. I never suggested I did. No one does. And I think it is amazing when people get worked up about an issue or a cause and take that passion to the streets, to the airwaves, to the print media and anywhere else they can find an audience. But please, do so in a peaceful, respectful manner. We really can learn from one another if we discuss and debate, rather than attack.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

 

Nuclear Motivation 11/20/13

Nuclear Weapons and the Unfolding Universe

By Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

Winslow Myers

Through the work of the eco-philosopher Thomas Berry and his protégés, a new way of looking at the universe and our human place in it has been established. While still not “mainstream,” this new story has given hope not only to hundreds of thousands of environmental activists around the world, but as well to thoughtful people in many fields, including economics, theology, education, politics, and science.

The new story of the universe goes something like this: we moderns, using tools like the Hubble Telescope, are the first generation that possesses the resource of the continuous 14 billion-year story of the unfurling from the original flaring forth, through the establishment of the galaxies, stars, and planets, to the development of cellular life, to the expanding diversity of life here on earth, to the rise of a particular kind of self-reflective consciousness that is the hallmark of human beings. The cosmologist Brian Swimme offers one of the most concise and beautiful retellings of this story in his prize-winning one hour DVD, “Journey of the Universe” (www.journeyoftheuniverse.org/). This life-changing account of our origins and creative potential ought to be seen by every student, every congressman, every pastor, rabbi, mullah, every businessman, in short, everyone.

What are the implications? First, this scientific story of the universe is the basis for all stories, all religions, all the mythic systems humans have devised to give meaning to our presence here—and further, this story is the basis not only for our religious myths and symbols, but also for our educational systems, our economics, and our political arrangements. We humans belong in this universe. We emerged from it. The elements in our bodies, carbon and oxygen and calcium, were forged in the furnace of the stars.

A second obvious implication is that our economic systems must be based in the reality of the economics of the earth itself. As Berry said over and over, you cannot have healthy humans on a sick planet. We cannot extract more resources than the planet can naturally replace, or pollute its systems to the point where it is unable to heal itself. At present our world economic system is based on doing exactly that.

A third clear implication is that all humans are intimately related and connected in their collective story and their collective fate, and connected to all the living systems of the earth without which our lives would be impossible. All our divisions, in the context of the universe story, are artificial abstractions based upon fears, labels, and projections: Arab and Jew, Shia and Sunni, Islam and “the West,” capitalist and socialist, Republican and Democrat.

The degree of this interdependence has taken on a fresh intensity of meaning in the light of our ecological awareness of global interdependence. We cannot save the earth in parts. If Brazil fails to preserve the rain forest, the very lungs of the earth, none of us will breathe oxygenated air. Among thoughtful citizens worldwide, such ideas are already well-worn clichés. But the cliché falls far behind the actions we need to undertake to actually address the problems.

It is astonishing to realize that as a part of this awesome unfolding story, our reflective self-consciousness has also managed to unlock the enormous destructive power at the heart of the atom—threatening everything on our small planet. In the same way our minds and hearts have not caught up with the need for radical concerted action to address our ecological challenges, we also experience a distance between the reality that humans cannot afford to use nuclear weapons, and concrete political efforts to abolish them, efforts which are still considered pie-in-the-sky by our leaders.

Nuclear weapons are a symptom of our security fears, but these very fears can become a motive for action toward disarmament if the shared system of mutual fears is made the basis of diplomacy. The fatal combination of our us-and-them thinking and weapons themselves, no matter who has them, is the threat. It is an illusion to think that just because we are American or French or Pakistani or Chinese, we are infallible and wouldn’t misuse them. There is no going back. They can’t be uninvented. They cannot provide security, because if they were detonated above a certain not-so-large number (some scientists speculate about 5% of existing weapons), a planet-ending nuclear winter would ensue.

Most of the media seems utterly wed to the apparently unchangeable truth of this fear system. But the normative political gesture of people who understand that they all emerged from one universe begins with reaching out beyond an automatic assumption of competitiveness toward the familiarity that establishes safe spaces for dialogue, friendship and gradually built trust, in the context of challenges shared by all.

Were I a diplomat, I would base my confidence-building overtures with perceived adversaries on this new way of thinking—that this nation or that may be enemies on one level, but on a planetary level we all face this threat together. I would pledge no-first-use. I would push hard for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, especially difficult as that might be.

In the larger context of the universe story, may there soon come a time when the nations of the world, accepting the uselessness of nuclear weapons in war, might cooperate to create a reliable system of rockets and warheads for diverting asteroids on a collision path with our earth. People tend to cooperate more effectively if they can join forces toward a common goal. Then these destructive weapons will take their place in the creative context that we already know to be true: we’re all in this 14-billion-year-old adventure together.

Winslow Myers is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” serves on the advisory board of the War Prevention Initiative, and writes for PeaceVoice.

 

Raging Free Speech 11/13/13

Stifling Activism, the Bureaucratic Way

Laura Finley, Ph.D.

Laura Finley

Laura Finley

I am writing and raging. Raging because I am tired, oh so tired, of my activism being repressed or limited by bureaucratic minutia and ridiculous protocol.  I am even more upset at the ways bureaucracy stifles my students who, because they are informed and outraged, want to act and are told they can’t, or can only under certain conditions…blah, blah, blah.

I am coming to realize that this squelching of real activism happens on so many fronts, even those we typically associate with freedom to assembly and expression. As a college professor, I have witnessed the difficulty of enacting a true mission for social justice because, any time we get “too controversial,” we might alienate a donor, future donor, or other bureaucratic big-wig. Thus final approval for activism, it seems, must come from, of all places, a division devoted to making money for the institution, not one devoted to its mission or to the empowerment of students as leaders.

It is even worse for students. Increasingly, students are told they can only organize if they get institutional approval. And they must speak out only in designated “free speech zones”—wasn’t the United States founded as a free speech zone?  How oxymoronic, emphasis on the latter half of the word.  Those who have power can lord over those without, curtailing their efforts to envision and begin creating a better world.

It is not just academe where this is a problem, however. I have written before about the bureaucracy of social services and the ways that these entities sometimes harm, rather than help. It is even evident among progressive peace and justice organizations, although I would argue it looks different. It may be disguised as offering a “voice” to all, but when some exercise veto power, or at least attempt to do so via bureaucratic strangling, the result is the same.

For instance, I have seen this squelching of ambition and activism via an electronic handcuff known as track changes. Instead of applauding persons who author critical commentary on social issues, an important form of activism, I would argue, I have seen members of peace and justice organizations attempt to curtail or rein it in by softening the word choice and track-changing the ever-loving-hell out of a document. So, instead of being justice-oriented yet provocative, this activism ends up mundane and, in all likelihood, boring and unread.

What do I recommend? We let people be and we let them put their messages out there. Others who may disagree can do so. Dialogue will ensue—a good thing. We stop using our academic privilege to present as though our style of delivery is better than others. And, we encourage students, academics, and activists to prevail through the bureaucracy until they are heard.

 I know I will, rant aside.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

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