Beautiful Earth 4/20/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

On Earth Day, Commit to the Great Turning  by Rivera Sun

Viewing the destruction of the planet and our natural systems as a form of violence, Campaign Nonviolence – a long-term movement to build a culture of nonviolence – engages people across the country in working toward sustainability, renewable energy, reducing meat consumption, supporting local food, and many other practices of living nonviolently on this beautiful Earth.

As we commemorate Earth Day on April 22, we are called upon to recommit to protecting our planet to ensure that the human species and our fellow beings will have a long-term future. Founded in 1970, Earth Day is an internationally celebrated day, honoring the natural systems of the planet, and a day of action in support of climate protection. The commemoration was first proposed by two different people, peace activist John McConnell, who created the iconic Earth Flag, and Senator Gaylord Nelson.

In an era of climate crisis, Earth Day reminds us of the urgency and importance of transforming our way of life . . . today! One resource for this is to reimagine these times as an epochal period of great change, one that many people are calling the Great Turning.

The Great Turning is a phrase popularized by teachers and writers Joanna Macy and David Korten that describes our current time period as a massive shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization. We may not make this transition in time to prevent catastrophic climate change . . . but billions of people around the globe are engaged in the three types of actions that support the Great Turning.

These three types of actions are:

Holding actions to slow the destruction of human-based systems on the Earth and other beings. These activities include all the political, legislative, and legal work required to reduce the destruction, as well as direct actions–blockades, boycotts, civil disobedience, and other forms of noncooperation and nonviolent intervention.

These are important to stop the worst of the destruction, but they are not enough on their own; they must be supported by . . .

Creating new systems that support a life-affirming society, including local agriculture, reducing meat consumption, switching to renewable energy, creating mass transit systems, watershed protection and restoration, cooperative housing and eco-villages. And, to support the movement toward these visionary goals, it is also necessary to engage in . . .

Shifting beliefs away from old concepts of domination, separateness, greed and destruction. We must move towards new understandings of interconnection, general and living systems theory, deep ecology, cooperation, and collaboration.

The three dimensions of the Great Turning are equally vital. Look around your community and notice how many people are engaged in one or several aspects of this work! Question your own participation – how do you contribute? What more could you engage in? What excites and intrigues you? For the Great Turning to be successful, we need all hands on deck! How will you be a part of this historic moment?

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

Earth Day Action 4/20/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

On Earth Day, Commit to the Great Turning   by Rivera Sun

Viewing the destruction of the planet and our natural systems as a form of violence, Campaign Nonviolence – a long-term movement to build a culture of nonviolence – engages people across the country in working toward sustainability, renewable energy, reducing meat consumption, supporting local food, and many other practices of living nonviolently on this beautiful Earth.

As we commemorate Earth Day on April 22, we are called upon to recommit to protecting our planet to ensure that the human species and our fellow beings will have a long-term future. Founded in 1970, Earth Day is an internationally celebrated day, honoring the natural systems of the planet, and a day of action in support of climate protection. The commemoration was first proposed by two different people, peace activist John McConnell, who created the iconic Earth Flag, and Senator Gaylord Nelson.

In an era of climate crisis, Earth Day reminds us of the urgency and importance of transforming our way of life . . . today! One resource for this is to reimagine these times as an epochal period of great change, one that many people are calling the Great Turning.

The Great Turning is a phrase popularized by teachers and writers Joanna Macy and David Korten that describes our current time period as a massive shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization. We may not make this transition in time to prevent catastrophic climate change . . . but billions of people around the globe are engaged in the three types of actions that support the Great Turning.

These three types of actions are:

Holding actions to slow the destruction of human-based systems on the Earth and other beings. These activities include all the political, legislative, and legal work required to reduce the destruction, as well as direct actions–blockades, boycotts, civil disobedience, and other forms of noncooperation and nonviolent intervention.

These are important to stop the worst of the destruction, but they are not enough on their own; they must be supported by . . .

Creating new systems that support a life-affirming society, including local agriculture, reducing meat consumption, switching to renewable energy, creating mass transit systems, watershed protection and restoration, cooperative housing and eco-villages. And, to support the movement toward these visionary goals, it is also necessary to engage in . . .

Shifting beliefs away from old concepts of domination, separateness, greed and destruction. We must move towards new understandings of interconnection, general and living systems theory, deep ecology, cooperation, and collaboration.

The three dimensions of the Great Turning are equally vital. Look around your community and notice how many people are engaged in one or several aspects of this work! Question your own participation – how do you contribute? What more could you engage in? What excites and intrigues you? For the Great Turning to be successful, we need all hands on deck! How will you be a part of this historic moment?

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

Affects All Indirectly 4/13/16

Letter from a Birmingham Jail: Poignant and Timely  by Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

On April 16th, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was sitting in a stark jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, where he had been arrested for engaging in nonviolent direct action.

An ally had smuggled a newspaper into the jail that contained the recently published piece, A Call To Unity, written by eight local white clergymen who thought civil rights should be won in the courts, not in the streets. Dr. King began drafting his response on the margins of the newspaper – the only paper he was allowed at first. Later, a black trusty brought Dr. King some scratch paper. Dr. King’s lawyers pieced the writing back together and prepared it for publication. It was widely published in 1963, and included in Dr. King’s book, Why We Can’t Wait, in 1964.

In Letter From A Birmingham Jail, Dr. King responded to criticisms of nonviolent direct action on religious, moral, legal, historic, and political grounds. He chastised the attitudes of the white clergymen, and other white progressives. He stated clearly the intentions of the movement, and wrote expressively and honestly about the cruel effects of racism and discrimination.

Some of our most widely recognized quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. come from Letter From A Birmingham Jail, including, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Dr. King concludes the letter by apologizing for its length, writing poignantly, “but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?” He reaches out a hand of reconciliation to the eight clergymen, hoping they can meet in person one day, and saying, “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

Letter From a Birmingham Jail is as timely today as it was in 1963. The scourge of racism has not vanished; it has changed form. Segregation has ended, legally, but persists economically and socially. Many white allies find their stances eerily reminiscent of the eight Alabama clergymen as they rebuke Black Lives Matter over choices of tactics. And, the contemporary voices of African-American organizers share Dr. King’s clarity about the scope of injustice they face, and the importance of immediate action. Reading Letter From a Birmingham Jail with an eye on the past, the present, and the future is a powerful, challenging, and insightful experience. As we approach the anniversary of this historic letter, take the time to read, reflect, and find ways to engage with the ever-timely messages it contains.

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

Fistful of Mud and Seawater 4/6/16

Gandhi’s Salt: How a Fistful of Mud and Seawater Shook the British Empire

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

By Rivera Sun

On April 6th, 1930 at 6:30 a.m. after morning prayers, Mohandas K. Gandhi raised a lump of salty mud and declared, “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.”

Salt was an unexpected choice for the revolutionary nonviolent movement. Earlier that year, the Indian National Congress had boldly issued a declaration of self-rule, and the Working Committee of the Congress had asked Gandhi to choose a target for resisting British control. The initial reaction of the Working Committee to Gandhi’s choice of salt was incredulity. The committee thought the reaction of the average Indian would be that of laughter.

But, the salt law was particularly odious to the average Indian, as salt was a necessary ingredient of life in hot and humid India, and the British monopoly on production meant millions paid the British for what they once produced themselves. Furthermore, since the 1882 British Salt Law granted a monopoly on salt production to the British Empire, the proceeds from the salt represented a hefty 8.2 percent of total British tax revenue.

Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India, apparently didn’t do the math on this particular scheme of Gandhi’s. When he caught wind of the Indians’ plans, he grumbled that he would not lose any sleep over salt. The joke however, was on him, as it is often quipped that while he did not lose any sleep over salt, he did lose India.

On March 12th, Gandhi set out from his ashram with 78 satyagrahis. The march traveled 390 kilometers through four districts and 48 villages, raising awareness and participation in the march and upcoming civil disobedience at each stop. Speeches were given, funds raised, new satyagrahis registered, and resignations of local officials who had decided to non-cooperate with the British were collected. Gandhi gave interviews and wrote articles along the way, using press coverage to further his cause. (The Young India, Gandhi’s journal for the Self-Rule Movement, was the world’s largest circulation newspaper at the time.)

On April 6th, Gandhi stood at the edge of the ocean, picked up a handful of salty mud. When 50,000 gathered Indians likewise followed suit, their mass act of civil disobedience of unjust laws commenced.

Wikipedia reports, “What had begun as a Salt Satyagraha quickly grew into a mass Satyagraha. British cloth and goods were boycotted. Unpopular forest laws were defied in the Maharashtra, Karnataka and Central Provinces. Gujarati peasants refused to pay tax, under threat of losing their crops and land. In Midnapore, Bengalis took part by refusing to pay the chowkidar tax. The British responded with more laws, including censorship of correspondence and declaring the Congress and its associate organizations illegal. None of those measures slowed the civil disobedience movement.”

At midnight on May 4th, the British arrested Gandhi. A few weeks later, the movement carried forward its plans to nonviolently seize the Dharsana Salt Works. They were brutally beaten, and the story of the violence was reported on by 1,350 newspapers throughout the world.

Civil disobedience continued throughout 1930, escalating and intensifying.

In early 1931, Gandhi was released from prison and Lord Irwin began formal negotiations and talks. Though the negotiations failed to achieve many of the Indians core demands, future Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said,

“. . . the real importance, to my mind, lay in the effect they had on our own people . . . Non-cooperation dragged them out of the mire and gave them self-respect and self-reliance.”

The Salt Satyagraha is one of the most iconic campaigns in nonviolent history. A masterful blend of constructive action, mass civil disobedience, and acts of protest and persuasion, it holds powerful lessons to understand about movement-building, resistance, and nonviolence.

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

Things To Know 3/16/16

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

10 Things To Know About Nonviolent Struggle – by Rivera Sun

1. Nonviolent action is used around the world by people of all classes, races, genders, sexualities, faiths, and political beliefs to accomplish a wide range of goals including changing governmental regimes, ending occupations, expelling foreign invasions, overthrowing dictators, stopping destructive industries, protecting the environment, gaining civil rights, creating economic justice and much more.

2. Nonviolent action is twice as successful as violent means, works in a third of the amount of time, and incurs a tiny fraction of the casualties as violent conflict.

3. While researchers don’t know how few people are necessary to successfully use nonviolent action to accomplish their goals, researchers do know that every movement they studied that successfully mobilized four percent of the populace always won.

4. There are more than 200 methods of nonviolent action, including marches, demonstrations, rallies, boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, blockades, noncooperation, civil disobedience, work stoppages and slowdowns, refusal to provide services and much more.

5. There are two hands of nonviolence: the hand that says no to injustice, and the hand that says yes to justice. Gandhian nonviolence might refer to these as obstructive and constructive programs. Others refer to the two-fold strategy as “oppose and propose,” or noncooperation with the destructive and cooperation with the beneficial. For example, a movement might work to ban factory farming while simultaneously encouraging the support of local, small farms.

6. Use acts of protest and persuasion such as speeches, fliers, and marches to spread knowledge of your issue or cause. Use constructive actions such as alternative institutions and parallel governments to build new systems rooted in justice. And, use acts of noncooperation and intervention such as boycotts, strikes, shut-downs, etc. to disrupt the injustice and remove cooperation and consent.

7. Movements use a series of nonviolent actions to build a campaign around a specific objective. A series of campaigns builds into a set of stepping-stones to accomplish the large goals of the movement.

8. Nonviolent movements for change seek to remove support from the injustice, and instead place support in systems of justice. These types of support may include material resources, money, human resources, skills and knowledge, authority, communications, public opinion, and intangible factors such as obedience, fear, hope, loyalty, etc.

9. Unlike violent conflicts which dehumanize people in order to hurt or kill them, nonviolent movements benefit from humanizing everyone involved, including the movement, the opposition, and the bystanders.

10. Nonviolent struggle is used by ordinary, extraordinary people just like you and me. Find a movement, get involved, start a campaign, participate in an action, build an alternative system, and find ways to make change right where you are.

_Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network.

Teach Us About Trump 12/30/15

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

What the Women of Berlin’s Rosenstrasse Protest Can Teach Us About Trump – By Rivera Sun

Many United States citizens are appalled at recent remarks by Donald Trump and other bigoted politicians advocating policies against Muslims that are eerily reminiscent of Nazi policies toward the Jews. The parallels between the 1930s-40s in Germany and the United States in 2015 are frightening. It is clear to many citizens that the rise of bigotry and fascism in our nation cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged. Organized resistance is essential. In this effort, revisiting the history of resistance to the Nazis offers us some tantalizing concepts.

Those of us who choose nonviolent action as a form of making change are often challenged with the question, “But what about the Nazis?” The stories of nonviolent resistance are far more numerous than most people suspect. One of the most interesting successful stories comes from the heart of Germany itself when the women of Berlin rose up to demand the return of their Jewish husbands.

In 1943, Joseph Goebbels promised Adolf Hitler that Berlin would be Judenfrei – Jew-free – in time for Hitler’s birthday. On February 27, without warning, Jews were snatched off the streets and from workplaces and held in buildings temporarily before they were loaded onto trains to be sent to their deaths in the concentration camps. This was the fate of nearly 6,000 Jews from Berlin. Another group, the 1,800 Jews with non-Jewish German wives, were rounded up according to a separate list and held in a building on Rosenstrasse, Rose Street. The German women, upon discovering their husbands were gone, raced to the location and began an impromptu unarmed, nonviolent demonstration demanding the release of their husbands.

For a full week, as many as a thousand women protested night and day, defying orders to disperse, withstanding threats of being shot to death. The German Gestapo office sat within earshot; the women persisted despite the danger. On March 6, as thousands of other Jews were being sent to Auschwitz, the husbands of these Berlin women were released. Even the 38 Jewish husbands who had already been sent to the camps were returned to Berlin. It is said that the Rosenstrasse protest also halted the plans to round up the intermarried Jews in France, a change that likely saved thousands of lives. The German government felt that the dissent and visible signs of resistance would be detrimental to morale at that time and that releasing the men was easier than risking more uprisings.

Today, as Islamophobia and anti-refugee rhetoric are whipping the American populace into a frenzy of fear, we need not wait until the eleventh hour to see where this type of discrimination leads. Before politicians allow bigots to require Muslims to register (like the Jews in the 1940s), or wear a symbol (like the yellow star), or be deported to concentration camps, let us take a chapter out of German history – the Rosenstrasse women’s episode – and learn from it. If the threatened registry appears, let us protest it, or sign it en masse as an act of protest. If the parallel to the yellow star occurs, let us all, as citizens, resist the labels unanimously. Let us never forget the words of Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—

and there was no one left to speak for me.

And if they come for any of us, let us be prepared to use nonviolent action, as the women of Berlin, to rescue not just our loved ones, but all of our human brothers and sisters, so that the tragedy of the Holocaust can never be repeated. With courage, preparation, and knowledge, we can stop the dangerous cycle of history from repeating in the context of our contemporary lives.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network.

Sanctuary for Refugees 12/16/15

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Sanctuary For Refugees: André Trocmé and Le Chambon-sur-Lignon

by Rivera Sun

Recent comments by US politicians have left many troubled, worried about a replay of Nazi-era Germany here in the United States. The specter of the Jewish Holocaust recast upon Muslim and refugee bodies haunts many. In times such as these, the stories of courageous, organized resistance to the Nazis bear repeating. Of these, the efforts of a French priest can serve as example to us all.

André Trocmé was trouble for those who favored war and violence. He was sent to a remote parish in the mountains of France for his pacifist views, but as the Nazis invaded and occupied France, Andre discovered he was in a unique position to join the international network of people resisting the Nazis and the persecution of the Jews. He and his wife, Magda, and his deputy worked with the villagers and parishioners of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to create a series of safe houses for fleeing Jews. The local schools enrolled children under false names, and met them at the train station as if welcoming family members into their homes. When the anti-Jew Vichy government caught on, they sent gendarmes to search the village. When asked to produce a list of Jews, Trocmé replied, “We do not know what a Jew is. We only know men.” It is estimated that between 1940-1945, the village saved the lives of 3,500-5,000 Jewish refugees.

Flash-forward to September-November 2015: Syrian refugees are fleeing violence, civil war, airstrikes, terrorist groups, and extreme repression. They flood the shores of Europe. In Hungary, Sweden, and Greece, the governments ban the refugees. But citizens rise up, nonviolently, flock to the train stations, defy their officials, and welcome the refugees into their countries. Then, in November, terrorists attack and kill 130 in Paris. The Syrian refugees are scapegoated. Thirty-one United States governors overstretch their authority and issue statements saying they will not accept Syrian refugees in their states.

What are we going to do? The moral obligation of compassion is clear. Our governors, like the officials in Europe, like the Vichy government and the Nazis, and all the cruel oppressors throughout history, must be resisted nonviolently. Like André Trocmé and Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, we must make our communities havens for those fleeing violence and death. We must open our hearts and homes to provide sanctuary to our fellow human beings, even going to great risks to assure that our common humanity is not destroyed by the bigotry and hatred of the times. Refugees are seeking refuge . . . and all philosophies, faiths, and spiritualties call upon us to offer such sanctuary in the midst of the storms of violence and war.

Resisting modern-day Hitlers and Nazis—from ISIS to Trump—requires opening our hearts to those being persecuted by the politics of hatred. In our times, this means Muslims, refugees, immigrants, homeless, the poor, and a great many more. Like Trocmé and the villagers, we find ourselves in times of crisis, being required to do extraordinary acts in the midst of our ordinary human lives. Like Trocmé, we each have this capacity within us, a seed of compassion just waiting to unfurl.

“Look hard for ways to make little moves against destructiveness.” – André Trocmé

Learn more about André and Magda Trocmé here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/André_and_Magda_Trocmé

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, and other books, She is a trainer and social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence. (This essay was originally part of a longer essay addressing five stories of nonviolent resistance to the Nazis and the parallels that can be applied to current events in the United States.)

Racial Justice 12/16/15

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Pledging to Resist Fear and Hatred

by Rivera Sun

At this time, it has become imperative for citizens to speak up and stand up against the rise of Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, and the politics of hatred. When this pledge from Showing Up For Racial Justice came to my attention, I did not hesitate to sign it.

I want to be known as a human being courageous enough to speak truth to power and meet unwarranted hatred with organized love. Our shared humanity calls us to this. I want to know about and assist the efforts of my fellow American citizens who reject the politics of hate and the practices of fear.

These are not times for passivity or silence. Donald Trump has publicly called for a registry of Muslims akin to the registry of Jews that presaged the yellow stars and concentration camps. We know how this story goes.

Already, in Texas, the politics of hate and the propaganda of fear have caused the KKK and other armed vigilante hate groups to threaten, intimidate, and demonstrate with guns outside of mosques and Islamic Centers. Christians and citizens of conscience are rising in peaceful, nonviolent counterdemonstrations to stop this.

These are not times to merely speak hollow words with no commitment to action behind them. We who believe in peace must organize tangible resistance to the misinformation and bigotry that give rise to violence and war. Already, our nation is engaged in military actions that promise only further cycles of violence, terrorism, and endless war.

By taking this pledge, I am committing to being a part of a movement that has had its parallel in every chapter of human history. In the era of Nazi Germany, this pledge would be signed by Sophie Scholl and the members of the White Rose, the Rosenstrausse women of Berlin who demanded the release of their Jewish husbands, the Danes who saved 7,220 Jews from death, André and Magda Trocmé and the citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon who saved 3,500 Jews during the occupation of France.

These are times to search your soul and look for courage. This pledge is one way to demonstrate that you have found both.

Sign the Pledge to Resist Fear and Hatred

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network.

Lose Common Dignity 11/18/15

Without Kindness, We Lose Our Common Dignity

By Rivera Sun

As I’m riding the overnight train from Chicago to New Mexico, an elderly African-American man in a wheelchair is taken off the train by paramedics, police, and the conductor. Earlier, I had heard the car attendant say something about a minor heart attack. The man, a double amputee, shivers in the cold night air as he argues with the authorities in words I cannot hear through the sealed train window. Fifteen minutes later, they put him back on the train, and we continue on our way.

By morning, the man’s physical distress is noticeable; an odor fills the train. The man has soiled himself. As I’m gathering my luggage in the lower car to step off at my stop, a conductor starts complaining loudly, about the smell.

“I thought they were going to throw him off in Kansas City,” he grumbles. “There are rules about offensive odors. Why should 50 people have to suffer all the way to Los Angeles because of this guy?”

I am shocked by the comment. The man is poor, probably homeless. It is possible he was put on the train in Chicago and sent to Los Angeles to survive the coming winter.

“I swear, I’m putting him off when we get to Albuquerque,” the conductor whines.

It snows in Albuquerque, my mind objects. My words are turning to dust in my mouth. I glance at the car attendant, hoping he’ll say something to the conductor. The car attendant shifts uncomfortably as we stand in the crowded vestibule. The elderly man can hear every word we say – and don’t say – through the thin door of the handicapped bathroom. The car attendant, a calm, Hispanic man tries to explain to his supervisor, who got on the train this morning, the complexity of the elderly man’s situation. The supervisor ignores him and over-dramatically opens the door of the moving train to let in fresh air.

The train slows as we near the station, hardly a minute or two have passed. I am frantically trying to spit out the words that are in a jumble on my tongue. In Chicago, more than 6,000 homeless people are preparing to survive six months of sub-zero temperatures. This man has no feet. He has possibly just survived a heart attack. He needs medical care in a nation that will not provide it. He needs our compassion, not our scorn.

The train stops. The conductor impatiently throws out the yellow step stool and tells me to get off – this is a 10-second stop. I am left on the platform in this remote corner of northern New Mexico, tears in my eyes, furious at my inarticulateness.

Standing there, Gandhi came to mind. Not the triumphant Mahatma Gandhi on top of his game, waging powerful nonviolent struggle for Indian independence from British Rule, but rather the young Mohandas K. Gandhi, who was thrown off a train in 1893, South Africa for refusing to give up his first-class seat because of the color of his skin. He spent the cold night sitting on the hard bricks of the station, confronting injustice and his sense of powerlessness. It was a potent, long night. In the morning, he rose with determination and resolve to end the injustice of discrimination he and his fellow Indians faced. We know the story from there.

Like young Gandhi, I spent an uncomfortable period at the train station reflecting on my personal failure. I failed my fellow human beings on the train. I failed myself, and my principles. I failed the man in the wheelchair. I failed the haunting memory of my diabetic father who faced amputations shortly before his death. I failed the car attendant who may have felt stuck between the opinions of his superior and the seeming agreement in my silence. I also failed the conductor, leaving him to continue his unthinking cruelty. I failed to challenge his discrimination. I left him with the impression that I – and other passengers – agreed with his assessment that his professionalism required him to throw a hurt, elderly man off at Albuquerque. I failed to explain that our slight discomfort at the smell is negligible compared to the suffering the man was enduring … and that we, as fellow human beings, could offer the slight balm to the man’s pain by showing him compassion and treating him with dignity.

As the train shrank on the horizon of the tracks, carrying the man, the conductor, and the car attendant into an unknown chapter of the unfolding story, I was left with the burning shame of having lowered my human dignity through silence and inaction. We all like to imagine ourselves as the heroes in the story, but I failed to step into the role and instead wound up on the sidelines, a minor character in the long plot of the world.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I died a little that day. This essay is an attempt to return to life, to step back into the living crucible of human existence. I share this story to begin to restore my diminished human dignity. I reflect here to prepare us both to act differently in the next moment, to succeed in speaking for justice and compassion. I hope we all find the words I lacked that day and the courage to speak them promptly. My silence may mean that man’s death. It also may not matter; someone else – the car attendant, another staff person, a passenger – may have intervened to assure the elderly man safe passage to Los Angeles. He may have wheeled out of the bathroom and given the conductor a piece of his mind. I do not know. I only know that my behavior left room for improvement.

I have heard that the Tibetans have no word for guilt. The closest approximation is a word that means, “intelligent regret decides to do differently.” Noticing wrong action is tied inextricably to changing the behavior. For myself, the lesson on the train is well taken. It came home powerfully to me over the next few days. I went over the situation again and again, practicing in my mind how to change my behavior. With more than half a million homeless people, and 46.7 million in our nation living below the poverty line, there is no doubt that I will face another situation like this again. It is only a question of when and whether I will choose to make a choice that upholds the human dignity of us all.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network.

Humanity Evolves 9/23/15

A Spark of Nonviolence

by Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Once a year, Campaign Nonviolence invites thousands of people to light a spark of active nonviolence in communities nationwide. This spark is then nurtured and fed year-round to build a light of nonviolence that shines brightly in our world. Through classes, films, speakers, actions, and campaigns for change, this fire of nonviolence can be tended into a central hearth for a whole community, growing a life-changing force that helps humanity evolve.

One powerful example from Campaign Nonviolence’s first year occurred in the city of Wilmington, Delaware, which had been shattered by 39 gun-related homicides from 2013-14. A coalition of more than 40 organizations came together to address the situation, intentionally connecting the predominately inner-city African-American communities with the predominately white suburbs. The coalition used a two-fold, oppose-and-propose strategy: March to End Gun Violence/March for a Culture of Peace. The simultaneous messaging proved effective: the march attracted hundreds of citizens, presenting relevance, timeliness, and vision all at once.

As the march wove through the neighborhoods singing and chanting, people stepped off their porches to join in. Citizens carried banners and t-shirts on poles to represent the lives lost to gun violence. The diverse group included youth and elders, church groups, and civic organizations. A month later, many of these attendees would gather again for a forum on how to address the complex roots of structural (institutional) and physical violence in their community. Over the course of this last year, another march, workshops, forums, talks, meetings and more occurred on a monthly basis.

This month, the coalition will be taking action again, continuing to work to build a culture of peace in their community. The marches are the visible symbols of the less noticed—but deeply important—conversations, meetings, policy shifts, advocacy and outreach work. As this takes place, the interconnections between cultural, systemic, economic, political, and social violence are revealed from institutionalized racism to income inequality to the lack of nonviolent conflict resolution alternatives promoted throughout our culture.

Part of the intention of the nationwide Campaign Nonviolence movement is to connect the dots between the issues and build a culture of active nonviolence that can address these widespread problems of violence. The September Week of Actions uses the solidarity of thousands of people to light sparks in local communities. Each action is locally self-directed and organized, following the Campaign Nonviolence framework of using nonviolent actions to address war, poverty, the climate crisis, and all forms of violence. As the coalition in Wilmington, Delaware has demonstrated, a spark of an invitation can grow into sustained, year-round action that can transform our world one community at a time.

Join us for the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions Sept 20-27, 2015, to end war, poverty, the climate crisis and all forms of violence. Learn more and sign up here.

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network.

Salty Sailing 8/12/15

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Maine Sail Freight Revives Salty History of Revolution, Independence
By Rivera Sun

In this new millennium marked by the looming threat of transnational trade deals like the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), one unusual trade adventure, Maine Sail Freight, will embark on a creative and bold journey as an act of defiance against what has become a poor standard of business-as-usual. When Maine Sail Freight launches its maiden voyage at the end of August carrying 11 tons of local, Maine-made cargo, the Greenhorns – a plucky band of young farmers – and the sailing crew of a historic wooden schooner are declaring their independence from corporate tyranny and re-invigorating sail freight as a wind-powered transportation agent of the booming local food economy.

And, interestingly, they will be carrying one freight item that has a long history of revolutionary potential: salt.    Yes, salt.

More than a hundred years before Gandhi’s independence movement kicked the British Empire out of India, the American colonies were roundly beating the same empire using tools of nonviolent action – noncooperation, civil disobedience, boycotts, strikes, blockades, parallel governments, marches, rallies, and self-reliance programs. The two independence movements even shared parallel salt campaigns.

Gandhi’s 1930 Salt Satyagraha campaign is famous. The 1776 New England saltworks expansion is virtually unknown. Indeed, several well-organized, clearly identifiable nonviolent campaigns are often overshadowed by violence and war in the retelling of revolutionary era history. The research, however, testifies to the nonviolent campaigns’ pivotal role in the struggles.

Know your history. The British certainly should have. In 1930, 150 years after American Independence, Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India, commented on the brewing salt law resistance saying, “At present the prospect of a salt campaign does not keep me awake at night.” Too bad – if he had stayed awake, studying the history of salt, colonial governments, and independence movements, he might have lost sleep – but he may not have lost India.

In 1776, the British Empire lost the American colonies over a famous tax on tea … and salt.

Most everyone has heard the story of the Boston Tea Party – rowdy colonists, incensed by the tax on tea, dressed up as Indians and stormed Boston Harbor to dump the contents of a ship carrying import goods into the water. The colonials boycotted tea and demanded “no taxation without representation.” The tax on tea also contained a tax on salt. At the time, salt was a necessity for household survival and the economic functionality of the colonial fisheries, which exported salted fish. There were, however, no saltworks along the lengthy coastlines of North America. The salt used by the colonists was imported from the British Caribbean.

When the new tax laws were announced in the colonies, the colonists declared they would boycott imported goods from Britain, refusing to cooperate. Of course, they didn’t use the term “boycott,” which would not be coined until 1880 when the Irish rebelled against the land agent Charles C. Boycott.

The colonists rebelled against the tax laws, declaring independence. A crippling embargo was placed on the colonies, cutting off the supply of imported salt entirely. In response, the Continental Congress placed a “bounty” on salt to encourage the young nation to build saltworks and produce this essential resource. Cape Cod responded to the call, even inventing new elements of the salt production process. They rejected the process of boiling out the water, as it used too many cords of wood, and instead developed a system of producing salt that used wind power to haul the seawater to the drying troughs, natural solar power to evaporate the water, and a unique construction of rolling canvas roofs that would keep the rain out of the troughs and could be pulled back on sunny days to allow the light in. The production of salt increased the American’s self-reliance, reduced their dependence on the empire, and strengthened their ability to resist British oppression.

These three dynamics – increasing self-reliance, reducing dependence, and strengthening the ability to resist oppression – are all elements of what Gandhi would later call “constructive program.” Gandhi employed 18 different constructive programs in his movement, one of which was the production of salt. The 1930 Salt Satyagraha was a powerful demonstration of the two-fold strength of nonviolent action. In addition to the constructive dynamics, it also utilized the “obstructive” dynamics of noncooperation and mass civil disobedience, as well as many acts of protest and persuasion including marches, rallies, picketing, letter writing, and demonstrations.

The story is simple: the British Empire enforced a monopoly on the production of salt in colonial India, operating the saltworks to their own profit and charging the Indians for the staple. In 1930, Gandhi decided to openly defy the salt laws, inciting thousands of Indians to make and sell salt, rendering the salt laws unenforceable through mass noncooperation. Gandhi added his usual political clarity and dramatic flair to the undertaking. Where the Americans pragmatically made salt as a necessity of survival and a tool of self-reliance, Gandhi’s marches, public announcements, mass disobedience, and inimitable sense of humor made humble salt the downfall of British authority over India. Gandhi overtly challenged the British over salt–and won.

Today, many contemporary struggles revolve not around colonies and crowns, but rather between citizens and transnational corporations. The basic lessons of salt still hold true for modern times. To win our freedom one again, we must increase self-reliance and lessen our dependency on products of our oppressors. We must refuse cooperation with injustice and build parallel institutions that benefit people rather than some company’s bottom line. As Maine Sail Freight travels from Portland to Boston, reinvigorating traditional ocean trade routes, the participants are also joining the growing popular resistance to global corporate domination. As history will attest, their success lies in the willingness of the people to non-cooperate with business-as-usual and instead participate with the constructive actions of local, sustainable, and renewable economies. Here’s where to find out more and join the Portland to Boston adventure.

Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network.

Shock of Heat 8/12/15

70 Years of Atomic Bombs: Can We Disarm Yet?

by Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Two days. Two bombs. More than 200,000 men, women, and children incinerated and poisoned. It has been 70 years since the United States military dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This August 6th and 9th citizens around the world will gather to remember–and to renew their efforts in working toward nuclear disarmament.

At Los Alamos (the cradle of the bomb), citizens will gather to mark the days with peace vigils, demonstrations, public speeches from nationally renowned activists, and trainings in nonviolence. Campaign Nonviolence, one of the organizing groups, will live stream four days of events to everyone, including broadcasts in Japan.

Los Alamos is a city that exists solely to research and develop nuclear weapons. The vigils for peace and disarmament will take place on the exact ground where the original bombs were built. In 1945, a set of buildings surrounded the top-secret laboratory. Today, Ashley Pond has been turned into a public park. The lab has been moved across a deep canyon, protected by security checkpoints, and pedestrians are not allowed to cross the bridge. Los Alamos National Laboratory consumes two billion taxpayer dollars annually. The county is the fourth-richest in the nation. It is located in the northern part of the second-poorest state, New Mexico.

When local anti-nuclear activists converge with the hundreds coming from across the country, they represent the reality of living in the shadow of the wanton destruction of nuclear weapons. The land was taken from three surrounding native tribes without legality or due process. Radioactive waste was routinely tossed into and buried in the canyons, leaving a miles-long chromium plume that contaminates one of Santa Fe’s water supplies after heavy rainfalls. Deer and elk hunted by the tribes contain tumors and growths. When a record-breaking forest fire swept within a few miles of the laboratory in 2011, the fire was turned aside into Santa Clara Pueblo lands. Sixteen thousand acres of Santa Clara Pueblo burned in the fire, much of it in the pueblo’s watershed.

Los Alamos National Laboratory employs a public relations firm at a price that exceeds the operating budgets of many of the surrounding towns. The impact of income and wealth inequality shapes the landscape of New Mexico politically, culturally, and economically.

In 2014, a billion dollar radioactive waste storage facility (WIPP) caught fire from Los Alamos negligence and ensuing complications irradiated some workers. The facility is currently unusable. It is the only one of its kind in the nation. Stockpiles of radioactive waste are building up in unsafe conditions at laboratories, facilities, and military sites across the country.

Currently, the Department of Energy (which overseas the nuclear weapons program) is gearing up for an expansion of the nuclear arsenal, although the sugarcoating phrase is “refurbishment” and “modernization.” Watchdog organizations say the Obama Administration is committing one trillion dollars over the next 30 years to maintain and grow the nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, citizens protest nuclear weapons because they are objectionable in every conceivable way.

One public talk Campaign Nonviolence will broadcast via livestream during the 70th anniversary events is James Doyle, former scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who was fired over the publication his paper debunking the myth of nuclear deterrence. The theory of deterrence is the main justification of the obscene expenditure of taxpayer dollars on a type of weaponry that, for the survival of the world, should never, ever be used. Doyle has stripped away the lies, leaving only the stark truth: nuclear weapons are a scam that the American public should reject utterly and completely.

Nuclear weapons are presented to the public in the guise of horrifying but necessary evils perpetuating our security. In reality, they are an obsolete, monstrous system of weaponry that exists only because they rake in fortunes for the military industrial complex. Los Alamos continues to occupy its position of respect in New Mexico not because of its service to national defense, but because of the two billion dollars it can sink into an impoverished community. The nationwide nuclear weapons research, development, maintenance, manufacturing, and deployment operations fling money at Capitol Hill lobbyists who ensure funding for nuclear weapons.

Hannah Arendt used the phrase, the banality of evil, to describe the Nazis. Local activists in New Mexico have been known to call Los Alamos, Los Auschwitz. In one day, the H-bomb destroyed 100 times what a concentration camp could in a similar timeframe . . . and the bombs of 1945 are cheap firecrackers compared to the thousands of missiles currently standing on full alert. Los Alamos, New Mexico is a quiet town busily constructing global annihilation. The budget of the laboratory pays for the well-paved streets, the orderly public parks like Ashley Pond, superior education, museums, and large county office buildings. It is banal. One must super-impose testimonies from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to conceive of the evil it masks.

The horror of nuclear weapons cannot be conveyed by towering plumes of mushroom clouds. One must learn the reality on the ground of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Heaps of charred bodies. Survivors desperately racing to fling their flaming bodies into the river. Eyeballs forced out of sockets from the impact of the explosions. Miles of city blocks turned to rubble. The bustle of an ordinary morning annihilated in an instant. Schools in session, banks opening their doors, factories revving up for production, shops arranging goods, streetcars packed with commuters, dogs and cats skirmishing in the alleyways – one minute, the city was awakening; the next moment, a searing sound, blinding flash of light, and a shock of heat beyond description.

On August 6th and 9th, 2015, commemorate these horrific tragedies with thousands of citizens who are gathering to renew the effort toward nuclear disarmament. Watch the Campaign Nonviolence livestream and see Los Alamos with your own eyes. Bear witness to the past. Become a part of a different future.

Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, and other books, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network.

Banality of Evil 3/11/15

Desert Pilgrimage to the Cradle of the Bomb

by Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

The lawn is mowed. This small detail cracks my heart into pieces. A silent scream wails in the hollow space of my ribs.

I am standing at the birthplace of the atomic bomb.

Green grass slopes down to a pond. A grandfather helps a child circle the concrete walkways on a plastic scooter. Ducks paddle around a metal statue of cranes. The rusted iron of the metal cranes look charred and melting. The lumps and bubbles remind me of the hanging flesh of Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims. Like everything in the mundane city park, the cranes, upon close inspection, cannot hide the fact that this very spot was where the first nuclear bomb was built.

In my mind, an angry red mushroom cloud roils thousands of feet into the sky.

Nowhere is Hannah Arendt’s phrase the banality of evil more potent than at Los Alamos, New Mexico. The prosperous county -one of the nation’s richest – sits amongst the piñon pines and junipers in the high-altitude desert of northern New Mexico. It exists almost exclusively for the purpose of researching and developing nuclear weapons.

My shoes are standing on the place where the first atomic bombs were built. The World War II sheds and buildings are gone, replaced by this city park, but the canyons still hide radioactivity . . . and a mile away, scientists are developing bombs that make Fat Man and Little Boy look like cheap firecrackers.

Awakening before dawn, my partner and I have come on a pilgrimage to Los Alamos to speak truth to power at a meeting of our elected officials from local county, city, and tribal governments. Not one of these mayors, councilors, or commissioners dares to use their position on the coalition to speak out against nuclear weapons. The livelihood of the impoverished northern New Mexicans depends on the laboratory. It is the second largest employer in the state.

Lives are at stake, we are told again and again. We need the jobs.

Lives are at stake. The phrase echoes in my mind as I watch the fountain in the center of Ashley Pond. Seven billion lives are hanging “three minutes to midnight” as the United States keeps nuclear weapons ready to deploy. Three hundred and twenty million Americans are kept in danger by the US and Russian tensions and our governments’ inability to dismantle their nuclear arsenals. One and a half million New Mexicans are thrust in the shadow of Los Alamos . . . a laboratory that sits on top of a fault line, nearly burned to the ground in a catastrophic forest fire a few years ago, and still stores plutonium on site. Countless peoples of the Marshall Islands and North American tribes have been poisoned by radiation. 150,000 Japanese lost their lives in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago.

At the same time that a secret team of scientists was constructing the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, 11 million people were being shoved into gas chambers. In Nazi Germany and occupied territories, local officials let train loads of men, women, and children pass through their depots because the officials’ lives – and livelihoods – were at stake. German bureaucrats filed paperwork just like New Mexican bureaucrats – because their livelihoods were at stake. Construction crews built Auschwitz and the other death camps, because they needed the jobs. Scientists designed the gas chambers, incinerators, and toxic chemicals. Townspeople coughed on acrid black smoke and went on with their daily lives..

The banality of evil lies in this mowed lawn that slopes down to the complacent Ashley Pond. I sit for a moment by the water, watching the ducks and the fountain, thinking of Japanese civilians with eyeballs hanging out of their charred faces as they stumbled through the ruins of Hiroshima. I think of the post-bombing suicides when traumatized Japanese, unable to cope with the horrors, threw themselves under trains, leaving sisters to collect dismembered limbs.

“The Atomic Bomb has resulted for the time being in destroying the soul of Japan. What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see.”

– Mahatma Gandhi, 1945

Gandhi’s words make me weep. I feel shame for my country. I am a member of a people who would not only drop one, but two horrific bombs on Japan, and currently has enough weapons to destroy the whole world. I am a citizen of the nation that contaminated whole chains of islands with nuclear tests. I am part of a country that devotes trillions of dollars to these monstrosities while just down the hill the local children are going hungry.

On the other hand, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There will be hundreds of vigils and actions all around the world, and I invite you to be part of the hundreds who will pilgrimage to Los Alamos this summer to speak out against the horror of nuclear weapons during the August 6th & 9th Hiroshima and Nagasaki Day Vigils. I am one of the hundreds who will choose to embody Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words about nuclear weapons, “It is nonviolence or nonexistence,” by taking part in the Campaign Nonviolence National Conference, studying active nonviolence with Rev. James Lawson, Erica Chenoweth, Kathy Kelly, Medea Benjamin, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Ken Butigan, John Dear, and more. I am one of the thousands who live in the shadow of Los Alamos who choose to stand up to nuclear weapons.

And today, I am one person standing at the epicenter of our nation’s banality of evil, listening to a child laughing.

-end-

Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books. She is syndicated by PeaceVoice. www.riverasun.com

American as Apple Pie 2/18/15

Nonviolence is US – Nonviolent Activists Shape American Identity

by Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun

As an American writer, I often examine the story of our nation for emergent archetypes of US identity. Several are terribly embarrassing for a citizen of conscience: the Couch Potatoes of Consumer-Capitalist Society, the American Gladiator of War-Rage and Bigotry, the Avaricious and Appalling Wall St. Tycoon.

Yet, one plucky character threads its way stolidly through the story of the US, challenging the apathy and atrocities of other archetypes, marginalized in the media, misrepresented in history, proposing itself as an audacious, eternal figure in the identity of this nation: the Activist, linking arms with fellow citizens and striving for change. Flawed and heroic, with blind spots the size of Texas, with imperfect vision yet awe-inspiring determination, this character has appeared in many millions of Americans of all races, genders, sexualities, classes, faiths, creeds, and ages.

Against the backdrop of violence and greed, this character shows up again and again, refining the tools of nonviolent action into something as American as apple pie.

Nonviolent action, you say?

Yes, nonviolent action. We are steeped in a culture of violence, but as I was researching in preparation for writing my novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, which depicts a nonviolent movement in a slightly fictional United States, I was surprised to discover how frequently nonviolent action has been used to make change in the US . . . and how powerfully it has shaped our nation. The Civil Rights Movement comes to everyone’s mind, and perhaps the United Farmworkers’ struggle, but nonviolent action also liberated slaves via the Underground Railroad, brought us women’s suffrage and environmental protections, formed the core of the labor movement tactics, replaced child labor with public education, and, according to John Adams, won 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. One hundred and fifty years before Gandhi, the colonists were employing many of the same tactics the Indian Self-Rule Movement would use to free themselves from Great Britain. The boycotting of British goods (tea, cloth, and other 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.

Reflecting on these actions, John Adams remarked that the independence of the United States was won long before a single shot was fired. Acts of noncooperation, civil disobedience, protest and persuasion, intervention, parallel institutions, and economic boycotts brought the independence movement to such a powerful position that the so-called War of Independence was not the Americans’ way of achieving freedom, but rather, the British Crown’s attempt to regain what was already lost.

Most Americans are familiar with the violent methods of the revolutionary period, but unaware of the potent effectiveness of the nonviolent actions that strengthened the internal organization of these American activists. The founding fathers and mothers were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination: subjugation of women, enslavement of Africans, genocide of native tribes, blatant racism, class prejudice and discrimination – the list goes on. Yet, an examination of how they waged struggle for independence from British rule will reveal early applications of the same tools the suffragettes would use for women’s rights, the centuries-old peace movement would use for anti-war struggles, the African-Americans would use for civil rights, the labor movement would use to win eight-hour work days, minimum wages, health and safety standards, etc. Although it was Gandhi who first used the term “nonviolent resistance,” it was an American, Henry David Thoreau, who coined the term “civil disobedience”.

Nonviolent action is as American as apple pie. It is part of our history and heritage. It has shaped this nation powerfully and potently. It has been one of our more noble contributions to global struggles for justice and equality. At a time when the American identity hangs between the archetypes of violence, greed, and apathy, the lineage of the nonviolent activist offers us an alternative . . . one it would behoove every US citizen to emulate.

Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books. She is syndicated by PeaceVoice. www.riverasun.com

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