Creative and Powerful 2/15/17

Nonviolent Resistance to Trump: Creative, Powerful . . . and Growing – by Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

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.

New Era – New Stories 1/11/17

New stories for a new era

Review: Sun, Rivera (2016). The way between. El Prado, NM: Rising Sun Press Works.

This novel should be read aloud to everyone, by everyone, from childhood onward. It is an auspicious beginning to a new mythology of peace, of justice, of inclusion, of conversion and transformation. Rivera Sun’s care for the unobtrusive embedding of the theories of change, of the principles of conflict transformation, and the way of the human heart all conspire to allow for a tale that will inspire. It is ancient and magical and legendary. It flips the glory of big men waging war into the valorization of “powerless” ‘tween girls waging peace, the sacralization of bloody combat into the lionization of nonviolent heart and mind power. It does so credibly, which is the stumbling block to most fiction writers trying to achieve what Rivera Sun actually does manage to do here.

If the reader were told at the outset that an 11-year-old girl would defeat the mightiest warrior of the nation without inflicting any pain or harm—this is in a medieval time of swords and teapots, warriors and monasteries—you would not continue reading. But by the time it happens, you have been prepared by Sun’s artful storytelling to accept—even expect and demand—just that outcome. Like any good plotmaster, Sun describes many setbacks, much potential, lots of inner conflicting emotions, but it’s all undergirded by the unflinching idealism of youth. The girl is mixed ethnicity and raised by a third people, thus bearing the strengths—and some of the challenges—of all three peoples, all of whom have been either in conflict or avoiding one another.

What is so poignant is that the girl is not accepted too much by any group—the forest people raise her but she is not one of them and cannot follow them to their wintering place, the village boys torment her, the monastery warriors-in-training taunt her and even beat her in her early training phases—but her idealism and her potential push her toward her own special destiny. The girl is the underdog at every turn but we learn to expect her to rise to meet all challenges. Her flash of serendipitous and even accidental brilliance convinces a great warrior to take her as apprentice and he teaches her the ancient, all-but-forgotten, Way Between—neither the violence of the warrior nor the avoidance of the coward.

No, there is no didactic artifice to teach us the particulars of principled negotiation, CLARA de-escalation, peer mediation, Sharpian or Kingian strategic civil resistance or any other of the researched competencies in the field of Peace and Conflict Studies, even though Sun is in her professional life profoundly knowledgeable of all this. Rather, Rivera Sun writes in a style as magical as Tolkien and as authentic as Twain. The reader is not once bludgeoned with the zealot’s pontificating but rather is drawn to love the characters and the conclusions.

This book, along with her instant classic The Dandelion Insurrection will be on the reading list next time I teach Peace Novels, my favorite summer class.

Sun’s appendices carry all the theoretical, competency-based, and practical teachings that she wove invisibly into her tale. She helps the reader achieve the education necessary to reify her yarn and it makes it an invitational, educational, volume. Required reading for those wishing to be the countervailing message and meaning as we head into the Age of the Avenging Autocrat. Read it soon. We need you to pass it along.

Reviewer: Tom H. Hastings

Also  Books by Rivera Sun and  http://www.riverasun.com

On The Verge 9/7/16

Thrown Under the Automated Bus – by Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Automation isn’t coming. It’s here. At the airport, the public library, the grocery store, and dozens of other places, touch screens are rapidly replacing human bodies, especially in basic service industry positions. In a time when service industry jobs represent 80 percent of all employment in the United States, and when a presidential report on automation looks at the frightening possibility of more than half the jobs in the country being lost, one could reasonably expect the current presidential and congressional candidates to be putting forth bold strategies for addressing the rising economic crisis and skyrocketing unemployment rates for middle and working class families.

We can praise the timesaving efficiency of automation, but we must also deal with the unintended consequences. The potential of automation comes with a shadow side, which must be rigorously discussed and addressed in our nation and around the world.

People will be replaced by machines. Profits for the already wealthy will soar. Millions of Americans will be left without jobs. At this point, our nation has no comprehensive transition plan. There is marginal lip service being paid to “retraining programs” and “jobs fairs,” but the scale of these proposals is like trying to plug Niagara Falls with a toothpick. Business journals tout the creation of new jobs in automation design and maintenance, but it is uncertain as to how many jobs will be created, and for how long. The shift into automation requires not reckless enthusiasm, but rather, proactive planning from both the business and political sectors.

We are told that the economy has recovered from the 2008 crash. The average American feels the daily pinch of the truth: we have seen no recovery. Ninety-five percent of the income gains went straight into the pockets of the One Percent. The rest of us are still swamped with debt, struggling desperately to pay bills, and at risk of financial catastrophe caused by unexpected expenses no larger than a failing car engine or a broken bone. We have no economic safety nets or savings to fall back on.

The elections loom large on the horizon of our nation. The circus of the presidential race overshadows the congressional races – but it is the make-up of the legislature that will – or will not – place a wide variety of economic policies on the political table. Bills about widening the social safety net, implementing basic income, taxing the rich, closing loopholes that benefit mega-corporations and the super-wealthy, addressing student debt, stopping unfair corporate trade deals, and raising the minimum wage to a living wage must be considered. It is the make-up of the legislature that will determine whether or not an adequate response to the economic upheaval of rising automation will be proposed, debated, and passed.

We have been brought to the brink of an unsuspected revolution, arriving full circle to a parallel moment in history to the Industrial Revolution. Widespread automation demands that we once again engage in a global and national moral debate about both the meaning of work and the purpose of the economy. Is the purpose of our economy merely to provide profits for a few people or is our economy meant to care for the populace and provide for everyone’s needs?

With the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution, humanity was asked to grapple a seemingly simple question: what do we do with the free time provided by the efficiency of machines? Then, like today, the ruling elite was politically poised to answer the question with a solution that was highly profitable for them: work harder, produce more, make more money for us.

This time, the nature of the question has expanded. Does the ruling elite (the owning class – the rich people) have a moral and social responsibility to provide for the needs of the people while their businesses automate and cause widespread unemployment?

It is a political question, and an ethical, moral, and social question. What is the responsibility of the rich and powerful toward the rest of us? Are we – the workers, inventors, artists, teachers, mothers and fathers and children – merely convenient sources of ultimately disposable labor to them? Should corporations, owners, and the current crop of corporate politicians be allowed to throw us out when machines become more profitable than our bodies? What will they do when unemployment skyrockets, families can’t pay rents or mortgages, homelessness becomes endemic, and the United States consumer class vanishes? What actions will these political candidates take . . . will they simply pocket the profits of automation and start selling goods to China? Or will they demonstrate that they have the political backbone to do what’s right for the people and address the systemic crisis that has arrived on our doorstep?

We are on the verge of being thrown under the automated bus. Make your choices carefully this November; this election cycle determines what measures the next crop of politicians will take to keep us all from being run over.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the Programs Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence.

End Endless Wars 8/31/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?

by Rivera Sun

“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake,” said Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress.

Decades of invasions, airstrikes, occupations, and conflict have left Americans staring at a disastrous rubble of our own making. War is an earthquake – a violent, destructive force unleashed. The aftershocks bring our veterans and communities to their knees as 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and PTSD cripples veterans and their families. Our tax dollars are sucked into the bottomless pit of military contractors’ pockets and we witness greedy oligarchs and politicians manipulating the nation into yet another war while the unhealed scars and wounds from past conflicts grow increasingly deeper.

The annual cycle of military holidays sets off flurries of sentimental speeches about supporting our troops. But, between the bouts of patriotic fanfare, few politicians care enough about those women and men in uniform to end the wars and bring them home, to de-escalate growing conflicts, or to demonstrate real commitment to dealing with the veterans with respect by providing adequate services, preventing homelessness, and treating PTSD and other health challenges.

In this election cycle, the citizens – left and right – need to question the militarized rhetoric of the candidates. Who is campaigning on “bringing American sons and daughters home?” Which candidates want to end wars? Who dares to stand up to the greed of the military industrial complex and call out warmongers who are just hungry for a new multibillion-dollar military contract? Blood money. Which candidates will defy the profiteering racket that takes our nation’s youth and sends them into the jaws of death in order to rake in trillions of our tax dollars that should have been spent on education and infrastructure—both of which produce far more good jobs per $billion spent than the military sector?

Who challenges inflammatory lies that drive us into conflicts around the globe? Who will publicly say that hate speech is endangering – not saving – our young people? Our men and women in the military know firsthand the vast difference between the lies and propaganda we are told versus the realities on the ground in the countries our troops are fighting in.

Which candidates will decry the rising militarism of our society, and especially in our police? Many of our veterans are deeply disturbed by these trends. For them, militarized police are a violation of the ethics they were taught. To view citizens as “potential enemy combatants” – as many police trainings currently teach – is an affront to the deep principles of loyalty and protection they believe in. Seeing tanks and assault rifles on the streets at home triggers PTSD, invokes the horrors of what they experienced, and makes them wonder what were they fighting for if war is now a reality in our streets, waged by our own police forces against our own citizens. The very freedoms they were trained to defend are constantly being violated by the actions of the police – as well as by the NSA, by legislation passed by politicians, and by the failure of corporate-controlled courts to uphold the rights of citizens.

This election cycle, pay attention to which candidates speak about ending wars, not escalating them and about smarter ways to ensure our security. Who stands up for the rights of all citizens, equally? Congressional seats are up in the air this election cycle. Beyond the presidential race, who embodies the values we wish to see put into legislation in our nation? These are the questions we need to ask as we rapidly approach Election Day. These are the questions that determine whether politicians will continue to send our young men and women into endless wars . . . or whether politicians will find the backbone to honor our troops by respecting – and radically reducing – the role militarism is expected to play within the broader context of our nation.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the Programs Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence.

Dignity and Respect 8/17/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Dignity and Respect During an Election Year  – by Rivera Sun

During election years, pent-up frustrations, simmering animosities, and the toxic legacy of countless hours of hate talk radio erupt from the seething volcano of the American public. Injustice left festering explodes into anger and hatred. Defensive arrogance and condescension drips down the pyramid of privilege.

What should – and perhaps someday could – be a time of remarkable civic discourse, truth-telling, education, and public dialogue devolves into political shouting matches that leave millions of American citizens feeling bruised and abused, belligerent waiting for the next go-round of the elections to take vengeance on each other.

I am a member of the last generation of American children who received civics education in our public schools. Budget constraints and curriculum cuts have stripped our youth of access to knowledge not just about the three branches of government, the constitution, the electoral process, but also about the broader context of democracy, historically and worldwide. In the void of education, we learn from observing the current political climate – a circus of extreme wealth, party politics, manipulations, fraud, deceit, personality candidates, disempowerment of citizens, corporate sponsorship, name-calling, shaming, personal attacks, and the endless stream of broken campaign promises.

While this is, unfortunately, an accurate representation of how our dysfunctional political system currently operates, it also fails to articulate or embody the values of true democracy or of a democratic society.

As a child in a rural Maine public school, I learned about the nuanced discussions of democracy from the ancient Greeks through the founding fathers. I learned the shortcomings, foibles and follies of both the individual characters and the governing systems they produced. My memory of my civics courses evoke images of the white-clad suffragettes with sewn banners and African-Americans organizing nonviolent action that led toward civil rights and the Voting Rights Act. And, oddly, I have a persistent memory of a French woman in a cafe holding a lively discussion about politics and elections.

Where did this come from? One afternoon, a civics teacher invoked this semi-mythic figure to stimulate the half-glazed expressions in the classrooms. Politics should not be vitriolic or boring, our teacher told us, we should enjoy political discussions and consider them an essential part of the culture of a democratic society. By lunch, most of my classmates went back to talking about soccer or pop songs, but the lesson stuck with me.

This election cycle, as my fellow Americans froth at the mouth, I find this memory returning as I interact online and in person. Why is it so hard for us to have a passionate – not scornful or vituperative – conversation about politics? Has respectful discourse, like civics, fallen by the wayside of American education? Are we trained only in argument, attack, humiliation, screeching, vilifying, fear mongering, and other forms of verbal abuse?

This is unfortunate and dangerous. Discourse is the foundation of democracy. Even within the context of a representative republic, the ability to have a respectful, engaged, and informed conversation about politics – in the post office, our homes, on the media, with friends, family, or with total strangers – is essential for a society that prizes the ideals of liberty and freedom.

If we are not free to converse without being verbally assaulted, insulted, and screamed at, what does that say about the content of our characters? Why should any of us believe that shaming another citizen for their political choices is an effective approach to building the kind of political engagements and civic interest that greases the wheel of functional political process? Is it really so hard to engage in the practices of being curious about our differences, asking questions, listening, and responding in a sane and civil manner?

We can do better than the obnoxious and insulting manners we are currently displaying during this election cycle. These behaviors are beneath the dignity of a nation that claims to be a democracy and professes to have operated as one for 240 years.

If there is one political action every American should take between now and November, it is to lift our heads with greater dignity and treat our fellow Americans with respect. Regardless of others, our own self-respect should demand such action. We can engage in functional civic dialogue. There is no need to wait for the “leadership” of politicians, parties, pundits or press. In our own lives and interactions, we can discuss politics in a way that uplifts the dignity of all.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the Programs Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence.

Clock is Ticking 8/3/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Who Will Speak for the Voiceless? – Rivera Sun

The forest sways in ripples of green. Wind sends the dappled sunlight sparkling through the branches. These are the things we forget in the heat of the political season. There are few politicians who will speak on behalf of all people . . . and even fewer who will speak for the beings that comprise the other 99 percent of the planet and are essential for human existence.

Sitting in the forests of rural Maine last week, I stared for hours at the swaying walls of green. Having lived too long in dry places, in landscapes of dust and drought, on concrete and asphalt flatlands, in the stench of exhaust, I had nearly forgotten the beauty of a forest deep in the verdant sigh of summer. As I sit here in a tucked-away section of woods between small farms and fishing coves, the forests return to prominence in my thoughts, replenishing . . . yet troubling.

More than half of the population of the United States has become urbanized. We live under the canopy of skyscrapers. Asphalt is the new green. Climate change is measured by increased air conditioning bills. For many citizens and public officials, nature is an abstract idea hanging like a wall calendar in our minds.

Even among the rural populace, many live in mono-cropped landscapes amidst thousands of acres of genetically modified soy and corn. How many rural voters believe the misinformation on screens rather than their eyes and lifetimes of experiences? Climate denialism still spouts from the mouths of many. The disconnection is severe and dangerous.

For most Americans, the holocaust of mass species extinction has already occurred within their neighborhood. Within our human-dominated landscapes, most of the native and wild species have long since been crowded out. The death of our fellow species is abstract because they died to our “world” decades ago. Why would an inner-city child mourn the death of a butterfly she’s never seen? Who in the suburbs realizes how sterile and deathly still their yards have already become?

How many more election cycles do we get?

The answer is not many. In November, millions of Americans will go to the polls, line up on concrete, wait in office buildings, and then tap screens of choices for political candidates. They will vote for the lesser evil, to make America great again, to put a woman in the White House, or in vain hopes of ousting corporatocracy, oligarchy, or big government out of power. They will vote on slogans, circuses, email scandals and celebrity hat tricks. They will vote on what the pundits tell them.

And all the while, the clock is ticking. Another day passes. The sun is touching the tips of the green trees across the meadow. The planet is heating. Where I live, the mountains are burning. The twisted pines of the desert forests are yellowing with disease and bug infestations. The rivers are shrinking. We normalize these things, attuning to the increasing heat levels, compensating for the lack of rain and humidity by drawing up more water from underground aquifers. A few years ago, a catastrophic forest fire nearly burned Los Alamos National Laboratory – and tons of radioactive waste and stored plutonium – into ash. That record-breaking fire was turned aside just miles from Los Alamos. It raged so hotly that the earth literally melted. Sections of the burn area still look like black moonscapes, even years later.

Who mourns these forests? Who remembers them? Who invokes these swaying giants of trees as they ride the subway? Who consults these leafy communities of being as they make public policies that affect our world? We have largely forgotten these things and our responsibility to them. Humans gather in windowless rooms illuminated by burning kilowatts of fossil fuels or deadly nuclear fission, amplifying a few voices to crowds of other human beings, declaring why this candidate or that should become the next president.

Outside, the trees outnumber humans. Voiceless, unable to travel to conventions or vote, without any hope of political representation, the forests, the Earth, and our fragile, interdependent existence have been left out of democracy. The forests transform the exhaust of our words, breath, cars, and factories into the oxygen we require for existence. And yet, who speaks for them from the podium? Who honors the gift of life the forests bring? Who acknowledges the heavy burden of responsibility we are faced with now?

I am sitting in Maine, in the forest, remembering the things that we seem to have forgotten as we traverse concrete and drought-cracked landscapes, dusty and grimy. My breath is slow and saddened as I watch the tidal sway of the trees rippling in the wind. The sun sets over the branches, shadows lengthen. No easy answers come. Election Day draws closer.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the Programs Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blind & Deaf 7/6/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Helen Keller: Socialist, Pacifist, Women’s & Workers’ Rights Advocate

By Rivera Sun

The name Helen Keller conjures up, for many people, a deaf-blind-mute girl learning to communicate via sign language. It is a scene straight out of “The Miracle Worker,” the biographical play recounting Anne Sullivan’s role in reaching young Helen Keller. However, the amazing part of Keller’s story is not that the way she learned to fingerspell W-A-T-E-R, but what she chose to say once she could sign, read Braille, write, and speak.

Helen Keller is one of the most beloved figures in American history. Few people, however, remember her as a socialist, pacifist, and activist. Wikipedia reports, “A prolific author, Keller was well-traveled and outspoken in her convictions. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, labor rights, socialism, and other similar causes.”

Keller was celebrated as a miracle, but her intelligent and articulate views and opinions were denounced as irrational, misguided thinking that came as the result of her afflictions. Keller railed against these charges. Responding to one attack in the Brooklyn Eagle, she wrote:

“At [one] time the compliments he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember them. But now that I have come out for socialism he reminds me and the public that I am blind and deaf and especially liable to error. I must have shrunk in intelligence during the years since I met him. … Oh, ridiculous Brooklyn Eagle! Socially blind and deaf, it defends an intolerable system, a system that is the cause of much of the physical blindness and deafness which we are trying to prevent.”

Keller was highly adept at connecting the dots between the issues, understanding the relationship of war and militarism to economic injustice and the abuse of women, workers, children, and others. She also understood the power of nonviolent struggle, noncooperation, and organized direct action.

In her famous 1916 “Strike Against War” speech, Keller said to the workers of the nation, “It is in your power to refuse to carry the artillery and the dread-noughts and to shake off some of the burdens, too, such as limousines, steam yachts, and country estates. You do not need to make a great noise about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to straighten up and fold your arms.”

Helen Keller Day commemorates her birth on June 27,1880. On this day, one way to honor her life and legacy is to share the story of her commitment to pacifism, ending war, equality, women’s rights, labor and workers’ rights, suffrage, and more. Remember her as a woman who understood the relationship between systems of injustice, and the challenges of being deaf, blind, or mute. Keller clearly saw that while she had lost sight and hearing through illness, many people were becoming deaf or blind through workplace injuries, poverty-related sicknesses, and lack of access to affordable healthcare. To honor and commemorate her life, find a way to work for social justice in your community, and tell her story wherever you go.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the Programs Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence.

Tea Out the Window 6/29/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

The Nonviolent History of American Independence -by Rivera Sun

Independence Day is commemorated with fireworks and flag-waving, gun salutes and military parades . . . however, one of our nation’s founding fathers, John Adams, wrote, “A history of military operations . . . is not a history of the American Revolution.”

Often minimized in our history books, the tactics of nonviolent action played a powerful role in achieving American Independence from British rule. Benjamin Naimark-Rowse wrote, “the lesson we learn of a democracy forged in the crucible of revolutionary war tends to ignore how a decade of nonviolent resistance before the shot-heard-round-the-world shaped the founding of the United States, strengthened our sense of political identity, and laid the foundation of our democracy.”

One hundred-fifty years before Gandhi, the American colonists employed many of the same nonviolent actions the Indian Self-Rule Movement would later use to free themselves from the same empire – Great Britain. The boycotting of British goods (tea, cloth, and other imported items) significantly undermined British profits from the colonies. Noncooperation with unjust laws eroded British authority as the colonists refused to comply with laws that restricted assembly and speech, allowed the quartering of soldiers in colonists’ homes, and imposed curfews. Non-payment of taxes would prove to be a landmark issue for the independence movement. The development of parallel governments and legal structures strengthened the self-rule and self-reliance of the colonists and grew local political control that would ultimately prove strong enough to replace British governance of the colonies. Acts of protest and persuasion, petitions, pamphlets, rallies, marches, denouncements, legal and illegal publications of articles, and disruption of British meetings and legal proceedings were also employed.

Some of the most powerful boycotts in nonviolent history occurred in the New England colonies against the British Crown. Though the term boycott would not emerge for another hundred years until the Irish coined it during tenant and land struggles, what the colonists called “nonimportation programs” dropped British revenue in New England by 88 percent between 1774 and 1775. In the Carolinas, colonists deprived the Crown of 98.7 percent of import revenue. Moreover, in Virginia and Maryland, the rate reached an impressive 99.6 percent participation.

Resistance to the Stamp Act of 1764 thru 1775 dropped revenues 95 percent below what was expected. The British could not even pay for the cost of enforcing the Stamp Act throughout the colonies, and it was repealed in 1766. Newspapers published without paying the Stamp Tax used noms de plume to avoid reprisal. Courts closed because lawyers and judges refused to pay the Stamp Act for the printing of court documents. Shipping permits were supposed to be stamped, and, since merchants and shippers refused to pay the tax, ports closed, and even official documents were not delivered! Merchants of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia pledged a nonimportation pact until the Stamp Act was repealed. Six months later (at a time when crossing the Atlantic by sail took at least six weeks, and sometimes as long as three months), the Crown repealed the Stamp Act under pressure from its own panicked merchants.

In a campaign that is strikingly familiar to Gandhi’s spinning campaign, the American boycott of imported British cloth held spin-ins, whereby young women gathered in large groups to spin homespun yarn for weaving cloth. Colonists even stopped wearing the traditional funeral black (which mirrored English style) in protest of Great Britain. Women played significant roles in all the nonimportation programs, especially the resistance to the notorious Tea Act. While everyone remembers the Boston Tea Party’s dumping of tea into the Boston Harbor, few Americans have heard about how Susan Boudinot. She was the nine-year-old daughter of a New Jersey patriot, who, when handed a cup of tea while visiting the governor, curtsied, raised the cup to her lips, and then tossed the tea out the window.

These are just some of the many nonviolent actions engaged in by Americans in their struggle for independence. Some scholars even go so far as to call the Revolutionary War, the “War of Reclamation,” for the revolution had already been won in the hearts, minds, homes, and practices of the people by the time the British Crown sought to reclaim the independent and self-governing colonies. This Independence Day, tell the stories of the role nonviolent action played in establishing the United States. Perhaps by next year, we will be participating in re-enactments of spin-ins, holding mock funerals for Lady Liberty, and engaging in boycotts of imported goods to commemorate how American Independence was actually won.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the Programs Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence.

Justice and Change 6/22/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Celebrating Grace Lee Boggs – by Rivera Sun

On June 27, 1915, Grace Lee Boggs was born in Providence, Rhode Island, above her father’s restaurant. Grace later said, “because I was born to Chinese immigrant parents and because I was born female, I learned very quickly that the world needed changing.”

Over her 100 years of life, Grace would, indeed, change the world . . . and herself. She began her organizing work with labor and workers’ rights, tenant’s rights, and the struggles of the African-American community. In 1953, she married African-American autoworker and political activist James Boggs and moved to Detroit where they focused on the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.

Her approach to activism and social change shifted dramatically over her long, engaged lifetime. Her ideology began with Marxist, violent revolutions as the primary mechanism of change, but then she expanded her thinking and began to understand that change happens on the social and cultural levels, not just the political and economic. During the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, she started out unconvinced of Dr. King’s nonviolence. The Detroit Riots of 1967 and the rise of violent crime in her community, made her question violence as a means to change.

In a 2012 interview, she said, “I was not a supporter of Martin Luther King during the early period because I was in Detroit talking about Black Power and Malcolm. But when violence began to break out amongst us, I think we had to begin rethinking- why is non-violence such an important, not just a tactic, not just a strategy, but an important philosophy? Because it respects the capacity of human beings to grow- it gives them the opportunity to grow their souls and we owe that to each other. I used to think of it in very political purely narrow superficial terms but you know you grow older you grow wiser.”

Boggs eventually adopted Dr. King’s nonviolent strategies and fostered Dr. King’s vision of “beloved communities,” in Detroit. She started food cooperatives and community groups to support the elderly, fought utility shut-offs, and organized unemployed workers. She combated crime by organizing protests outside known crack houses and promoted civic reforms. In 1992, she founded Detroit Summer, an intergenerational, multicultural youth program.

A documentary film, “American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” shows the powerful transformations throughout her life, both personal and political. Her story is an important one for all Americans to know, for it chronicles the life of a woman who unceasingly questioned and examined her beliefs, and worked for justice and change.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the Programs Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence.

Day of Council 6/1/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

On June 2nd Remember the Mother’s Day Peace Proclamation -by Rivera Sun

Every year in May, peace activists circulate Julia Ward Howe’s Mothers Peace Proclamation. But, Howe did not commemorate Mother’s Day in May . . . for 30 years Americans celebrated Mother’s Day for Peace on June 2nd. It was Julia Ward Howe’s contemporary, Anna Jarvis, who established the May celebration of mothers, and even then, Mother’s Day was not a brunch and flowers affair. Both Howe and Ward commemorated the day with marches, demonstrations, rallies, and events honoring the role of women in public activism and organizing for social justice.

Anna Jarvis’s vision of Mother’s Day began when she organized Mothers’ Work Days in West Virginia in 1858, improving sanitation in Appalachian communities. During the Civil War, Jarvis convinced women from both sides of the conflict to nurse the wounded of both armies. After the end of the war, she convened meetings to try to convince the men to lay aside grievances and lingering hostilities.

Julia Ward Howe shared Anna Jarvis’ passion for peace. Written in 1870, Howe’s “Appeal to Womanhood” was a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. In it, she wrote:

“Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council.”

As time went on, Congress approved the annual commemoration of Mother’s Day in May, and businessmen quickly capitalized on sentimentality and eradicated the powerful calls-to-action both women intended in the original Mother’s Day concepts. Anna Jarvis’s daughter would campaign for years against flowers and chocolates, seeing clearly the commercialization of honoring women and mothers would lead us further from the call to take action.

Consider these stories as the wheel of the year turns around. By next May, perhaps you’ll find a way to honor your mother for her social and political activism, her engagement with resolving injustice, her care for the sick, elderly, or infirm, or perhaps even her staunch opposition to the carnage of war.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and is the Programs Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence.

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