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Monday, June 29, 2015

US Mayors "Get It': The Nuclear Threat Must Be Stopped

US Mayors "get it": Ban nuclear weapons! #uscm2015

The US Council of Mayors just met in San Francisco in June and adopted a strong position for the abolition of nuclear weapons.(See "U.S. Conference of Mayors takes action for 70th anniversary of nuclear bombings" on the Abolition 2000 website.)

It should come as no surprise that it is the mayors of our cities who have the most acute understanding of the threat posed by nuclear weapons. (See What Would a Nuclear Weapon Do to Chicago?)

In this summer that marks the 70th anniversary of the first and only time that nuclear weapons were used against people -- the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 -- it is time for us to eliminate these weapons of mass terror.

Thank a mayor today.


Thank the sponsors of the 2015 
US Conference of Mayors resolution.

Remind all the 2015 conference
attendees to keep working for
nuclear disarmament.

Talk to the mayor of your
city or town about joining
the call to end the nuclear threat.

Related posts

Perhaps most startling of all, the area affected by 3rd degree burns would extend far beyond the city limits to encompass towns as far north as Waukegan, as far west as St. Charles, and as far south as Crete, and as far east as Gary, IN.

(See What Would a Nuclear Weapon Do to Chicago? (Go ahead, guess . . . ) )

That's right . . .  just take a map of your local metropolis, spread it out on the floor, and put the whole family to work learning the geometry of nuclear strike using high quality wood-crafted educational aids.

(See Obscene Geometry: The Hard Facts about Death and Injury from Nuclear Weapons )

Let's dedicate June, July, and August this year to recognizing the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 2015). . . AND let's do something about it: make a nuclear ban a reality.

(See TIME FOR A NUCLEAR BAN? On the 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima/Nagasaki )

"It's not enough to remember this just once a year; it's not enough that we make a single book -- Hiroshima -- required reading, and never go beyond that. There should be a whole canon that people study progressively, year by year, to grasp and retain the horror of this."

(See FIRE AND BLAST: A Curriculum that Confronts Nuclear Danger?)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why Church? (Does there have to be a cost for goodness?)

Installation of Elizabeth A. Eaton as presiding bishop, Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), October, 2013, in Chicago.
(Source: Episcopal News Service)

The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has asked a provocative question:

There are many socially conscious, kindhearted, generous, morally upright, compassionate atheists in the world. How are we [Christians] distinguishable from them? (See "Getting to what really matters" by Elizabeth A. Eaton in The Lutheran, January 2014)

This question makes me wince.

The form of inquiry in which we try to define how "we" are different than "them" seems to me to be filled with peril.

Specifically, the Church has been responsible for enormous harm, buttressed by a self-enforced status of "different and superior."

Psychologically, it simply may not be possible for humans to process information in this way without going astray.

December, 2014: Seminarians from Lutheran School of
Theology Chicago (LSTC) walk out as part of the 
#BlackLivesMatter protests. (Photo: Tom Gaulke)
On the other hand, particularly in the moment we are in, perhaps it is important for us to zero in on how "we" really are different than "them" -- for instance, in the US in 2015 where "we" are the beneficiaries of massive and unwarranted privilege and "they" are the recipients of centuries of oppression. (How about that difference?)

On a practical level, when it comes to the discussion of Christian or non-Christian, believer or atheist, I am deeply grateful for my friendships and working relationships with committed peace and justice advocates -- socially conscious, kindhearted, generous, morally upright, compassionate -- who come in both the believing and unbelieving stripes. Many of them have substantial experience of the Church. I would wish to be very careful and respectful in entering into any discussion of the role of faith in our lives and work.

In her essay in The Lutheran, Bishop Eaton goes on to say,

If our life together consists primarily of being affirmed by God’s unconditional love and doing works of justice and charity without understanding that God has brought about the transformation of justified sinners through the costly grace of the crucified Christ, then we are not church.

I think that does invite reflection and response.

Why do we have to talk about Jesus? Why the cross? Why does there have to be a cost?

These questions came to mind as I was working on the World Beyond War campaign in recent days. World Beyond War is a mass campaign to spread the idea that we can end all war, and is based on the idea that the power to do so lies in enlisting the voices of everyone who hopes and believes this is true. The heart of the campaign revolves around:

A world beyond war really IS possible . . .
I'm working to make it happen!
See and hearing others . . .

Believing . . .

Saying . . .

Acting . . .

Social media enables this to happen in large numbers very quickly. It is tempting to try to envision a successful campaign that needs only a very little from each person. On the other hand, the stakes are so high that it seems wrong to take the risk of falling short by asking too little.

And so we quickly come up against the question: "How much does each person have to do?"

I haven't thought this through completely, but I am feeling some resonance with the tension that Bishop Eaton lifts up: shall we simply bask in hope and positive feelings? or must we recognize and embrace the cost?

I am beginning to think that the success of World Beyond War will involve a formulation that expands to become something like "I am paying a price to make a world beyond war a REALITY . . . and the price I pay will be worth it."

Paying a price: easier said than done.

What is the form of organization that is going to support and buttress all these price-payers? What will sustain their commitment when the price gets high?

Related posts

I believe an enormous number of people will conclude that, if they really believe "we can choose to abolish war," then what's required is to speak it.

(See "We can choose to abolish war" (The rest is just details) )

Can there be any more clear illustration than the one at left to remind us that the work of the Church is liberation?

(See Christian "Church"? How about Christian "Liberation Organization"? )

Like a full-service prophet, Ron often has to be his own interpreter and explain to people what the expression "fly in the ointment" means! However, when he shows them his sign, with the big gross fly on it, they intuitively understand the role of social critic in making people uncomfortable and pointing up the need for change. And they understand that the role is not
always welcomed.

(See Flies in the Ointment and Plumb Lines for Israel)

Faced with chorus of voices saying, "Isn't it time for you to tone it down? Can't you be more reasonable? What is it you want, anyway?" Jesus kept right on doing what he was doing. And that was a sign to us about how to live our lives . . . .

(See WWJD? Occupy! )

Friday, June 26, 2015

"I was an anthracite miner . . . . "

Anthracite mine location - Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe), PA
(Click for full-size map.)

In spring 1972, I was away from the 7th grade for a few weeks while my family went to care for my Granddaddy Melker in the hospital.

He was 77, and his years of working in the coal mines were catching up with him.  I had always heard that he "only had one lung," and now he was fading.

As he lay in his hospital bed in Coaldale, PA, he opened his eyes and looked at me. "Remember, Joey," he said, "I was an anthracite miner . . . . "

Anthracite is the extremely hard and clean-burning (relatively speaking) coal found in Eastern Pennsylvania. (Most coal is that "other" coal: bituminous - see map below.)

Granddaddy Melker on the steps leading
from the house up to the "back street"
(Photo: Patsy Scarry Jones)
Granddaddy Melker probably would have been proud to have mined any kind of coal. But he was especially proud to have been an anthracite coal miner.

Every summer when I was growing up, we would travel from New Jersey to spend time in the Pennsylvania town of Nesquehoning with my mother's parents. By that time, Granddaddy was no longer mining. He would spend all day doing what he loved -- tending the flowers in his garden. Nesquehoning is built on the side of a mountain, and Granddaddy's gardens were in a series of plots at various levels in the sloped yard of the house.

My sisters and I have lots of memories of Granddaddy and his flowers. (You can read about some of those memories in my sister Elaine's essay, "Columbine," in My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love, edited by Jamaica Kincaid, and Patsy's blog post, "Underground Labor".)

But I also have another memory. I had a special job on those summer visits. Every year, Granddaddy would lay in a supply of coal to heat the house. The coal would be delivered by a truck that came up the "back street" and poured it into a room in the basement level of the garage. (Because Granddaddy's home sat on the mountainside, the garage was elevated a full two stories above the level of the house.) Granddady had engineered a sluice that ran beneath the garden into the basement of the house, so that it could be stored adjacent to the furnace. My job was to shovel the coal into the sluice opening, where a stream of water carried it to the basement; then, as the basement room filled up with a coal, I would proceed there and subdivide the delivery among several smaller bins in the basement.

Emile Zola, Germinal
I can still remember the damp, carbony smell of the wet coal in that cramped basement. (And make no mistake, the whole house carried the smell that came from burning coal year after year.)

When I went to college, I discovered that there was such a thing as literature about coal miners. The big project of my sophomore year was a paper on Zola's Germinal. It was probably at that point that I began to slowly perceive how mysterious it is that some of us enjoy a very comfortable life, a life in which  crushing working conditions are an abstraction, and others actually labor away in those conditions with little hope of escape.

I discovered that, besides 1984, George Orwell had written an unforgettable description of being in the mines: The Road to Wigan Pier. It was from this that I came to understand that the cramped conditions in the mines made the mere task of getting to the mine face -- before the actual work of extracting coal even began -- a painful ordeal that most of us could never endure.

Diamond and coal -- allotropes of carbon
Years later, I would honor Granddaddy by taking my children to see the replica of the coal mine at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and to the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, PA, and on countless rock-collecting expeditions.

In the early 2000s, I worked on patent licensing, including for a patent on something called "diamond-like carbon (DLC)," a super-hard substance synthesized from cheap graphite, and used in electronics and other applications.  As I sat in a comfortable office in the Chicago Loop, tapping away at my computer and underlining sentences in patent documents with a bright yellow highlighter, I remember thinking, "Granddaddy, we've come a long way . . . . "

*  *  *  *  *

Last year, a new work premiered in Philadelphia: Anthracite Fields. A few weeks ago, it was announced that Anthracite Fields won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for music composition.

I'm glad that now more people will know what it means to say, "Remember, I was an anthracite miner . . . . "

Pennsylvania coal resource map - showing anthracite fields in pink.
(Source: Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association.)

Related posts

I love to walk around North Pond here in Chicago and notice the asters as September stretches into October. They make me think of my mom . . . .

(See Asters for Eva )

Sunday, June 21, 2015

More war? "PUT A MUZZLE ON IT!"

J.M.W. Turner, Fishing Boats with Hucksters Bargaining for Fish, 1837/38
(Art Institute of Chicago)

We were blessed to have Pastor Liz Muñoz preaching at St. Luke's Logan Square today, as Pastor Erik Christensen was off recovering from the previous evening's wedding to his new husband, Kerry Jenkins.

Preaching on the story of Jesus commanding the storm on the Sea of Galilee to be silent, (Mark 4:35-41), Pastor Liz told us his rebuke -- "Quiet! Be still!" -- literally translates as something quite a bit more forceful: "PUT A MUZZLE ON IT!" (Σιώπα πεφίμωσο - see note on



Perhaps.  And yet . . . .

Why is it sometimes necessary to forbid noise? (Can saying SHUT UP! be an act of love?)

I've been thinking a lot lately about World Beyond War, and the simple question we have been asking:

A world beyond war IS possible!
(If more people believed it ... and said it ... what might be different?)

Not just a few less wars. Not just less destructive wars. How about no war?

World Beyond War understands that bringing about a world without war will require enormous effort by many, many people -- as articulated, for instance, in "A Global Security System: An Alternative to War."

Fundamentally, however, we also understand that it all begins with a belief and a speech act: saying the words "A world beyond war IS possible" . . . .

Why? Because conflict resolution by other means IS possible . . . BUT . . . only if the frequent resort to violence is first stopped in its tracks.

That's why it's important for people, when talk begins of yet another military intervention, to be unequivocal. Even a bit harsh. That's the time to say: NO!

(Or, as we say on Twitter, #NOwar!)

I believe that when Jesus rebuked the wind, when he said, "PUT A MUZZLE ON IT!" he wasn't just showing what he could do. He was showing the apostles what they were to do. Because sometimes being an apostle of the Good News requires a startling pronouncement that the noise is no longer to be tolerated.


Spread the word on

Add a comment below
about how YOU are
saying #NOwar

Related posts

I believe an enormous number of people will conclude that, if they really believe "we can choose to abolish war," then what's required is to speak it.

(See "We can choose to abolish war" (The rest is just details) )

Iraq is melting -- how did that happen? -- and the usual suspects have concluded there's no time like the present to inject another dose of US firepower into the situation. (Because . . . nothing helps stop violence like additional violence?)

(See "OMG! We could actually DEBATE this!" (Congress on Iraq, ISIS, and AUMF) )

What I'm feeling particularly energized about is the potential for the thousands of people who have already signed on as supporters of World Beyond War -- as well as millions more who are expected to do so soon -- to become active participants in spreading this good news.

(See News Worth Spreading: "There IS An Alternative to War!" )

There's no question that for the next 18 months, we members of the general public will be deluged with media about the 2016 presidential election. Maddeningly, 99 and 44/100% of that media will make no mention of the need to end U.S. wars, occupations, imperialism, and militarism.

(See I Support Antiwar Candidates! (Know Any?) )

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"OMG! We could actually DEBATE this!" (Congress on Iraq, ISIS, and AUMF)

more war? what if Congress JUST SAYS NO! ??

Iraq is melting -- how did that happen? -- and the usual suspects have concluded there's no time like the present to inject another dose of US firepower into the situation. (Because . . . nothing helps stop violence like additional violence?)

Rep. Peter Welch (VT) has pointed out that Congress is abdicating it's Constitutional responsibility if it doesn't debate the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for US troops and other military activity in Iraq.

Peace Action West has provided an action page showing how you can contact your member of Congress and tell them to do their job.

PS - Congress held such a debate just a few years ago. It stopped the Obama administration in its tracks from attacking Syria. See Syria: Where Have We Ended Up?

Related posts

Greenwald Was Right: "Humanitarian" War in Syria? It's Just More War

J'ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar

More related posts

It will be the 2016 presidential election that will provide the main form of entertainment and distraction to the U.S. populace between now an the end of next year. An enormous amount of political fluff will fill our lives -- pushing aside, I suppose, vast amounts of sports fluff and shopping fluff and celebrity fluff and -- well, you get the point.

(See What Will Dominate Election 2016? (ANSWER: ISIS and #BlackLivesMatter) )

I believe an enormous number of people will conclude that, if they really believe "we can choose to abolish war," then what's required is to speak it.

(See "We can choose to abolish war" (The rest is just details) )

In the past several weeks, the President of the United States tried to undertake an attack against a foreign country, but the American people said "Hell no!" and the Congress let the President know they couldn't support it. How often does that happen?

(See When THE PEOPLE Take Control: "Anything Can Happen")

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Support Antiwar Candidates! (Know Any?)

I support ANTI-WAR candidates!
(Know Any?)
This post is dedicated to the proposition that we will start to get antiwar candidates when we demand them.

There's no question that for the next 18 months, we members of the general public will be deluged with media about the 2016 presidential election.

Maddeningly, 99 and 44/100% of that media will make no mention of the need to end U.S. wars, occupations, imperialism, and militarism.

Make that 99 and 43/100%. Because at least this little corner of the media will whittle away at the problem every day.

And who knows? If each of us tells two friends . . . and they each tell two friends . . . and so on . . . and so on . . .

. . . maybe we really can take over the media with an antiwar message during election 2016!

Bernie Sanders
Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I was hoping Bernie Sanders, if not posing a real-world challenge to the Hillary presidential candidacy, could at least serve to foreground the need to rein in the military.

"Bernie Sanders calls for 'war tax' on millionaires" (The Hill, March 20, 2015) shows why Sanders is a non-starter for antiwar voters. He thinks militarism and defense spending are great; the only problem is who pays for them.

AND he doesn't seem to understand democracy: we can't have a society in which the rich feel as if they somehow have the right to make decisions about how money is spent on war. (Oh . . . wait . . . . )

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In the last two days I have been reading stories about the US assassination teams and the US attacks on ISIS.
I have predicted that ISIS will be one of two big topics that 2016 candidates will have to come out and say something about.

US: always attacking
I wonder: aren't US assaults precisely what ISIS is trying to provoke with its words and actions towards the US? Aren't the targeted killings and airstrikes exactly what demonstrates to the rest of the Islamic world that the US is the enemy?

I wonder if election 2016 will provide space for candidates to talk sense about how US violence creates enemies.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The full announcement of Lincoln Chafee's 2016 presidential candidacy makes it clear we DO have antiwar candidate.

Lincoln Chafee
It is startling to see a candidate telling it like it is: "For the [Pentagon] hawks, disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan." (Permawar, anyone?)

Some people may think Chafee's emphasis on his vote against war in Iraq is out-of-date. But if ISIS is going to be an unavoidable topic in the coming election season, aren't we going to have to talk about what caused ISIS -- i.e. the US invasion and destruction of Iraq?

Chafee's emphasis on the "ancient history" of 2003 may turn out to be just the ticket . . . !

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Reading about Barack Obama's plans to send more "trainers" to Iraq ("Trainers Intended as Lift, but Quick Iraq Turnaround Is Unlikely," by Michael R. Gordon in The New York Times, June 10, 2015), it seems unimaginable that the 2016 presidential election will not contain a stiff dose of Vietnam War history lessons.

How can we be doing this againnnnnnnn????

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sadly, the way things are going, a confrontation between the US and Russia may be part of the 2016 electoral discourse.

I want the candidates to confront the threat of war -- but I don't want there to have to be a crisis to be the occasion.

Here are several resources on what's developing:

"Ukraine and the Apocalyptic Risk of Propagandized Ignorance" by David Swanson on the World Beyond War website

"U.S. Is Poised to Put Heavy Weaponry in Eastern Europe" by Eric Schmitt and Steven Lee Myers in The New York Times, June 13, 2015

"Why Is Washington Still Pushing for War With Russia?" by James Carden in The Nation, June 11, 2015

Again I ask: why aren't Obama and Putin talking face to face?

Related posts

It will be the 2016 presidential election that will provide the main form of entertainment and distraction to the U.S. populace between now an the end of next year. An enormous amount of political fluff will fill our lives -- pushing aside, I suppose, vast amounts of sports fluff and shopping fluff and celebrity fluff and -- well, you get the point.

(See What Will Dominate Election 2016? (ANSWER: ISIS and #BlackLivesMatter) )

THESIS: A big move toward US demilitarization counts more than the next 9 things.

ANTITHESIS: It's not enough to be isolationist; we need a leader who will build the Peace System.

Let the debate begin!

(See RAND PAUL: Don't Count Him Out So Fast, Antiwar Folks )

Hillary Clinton signaled the beginning of her 2016 presidential campaign with a spread in People magazine in June . . . not to mention the publication of a memoir, Hard Choices. It's a campaign full of "get tough" posturing.

(See One Little Word That Will Sink the Hillary Clinton Presidential Run ("Obliterate") )

Friday, June 5, 2015

TURKEY: Terra Incognita No Longer ....

Ara Güler, Istanbul (1962)

Sometimes you can know a place without ever having been there.

I feel that way about Istanbul.

It came about because during a few months in 2010, when I was caring for my mother, I read all of the books of the Turkish author (and Nobel Prize in Literature winner) Orhan Pamuk.

I was looking through some papers yesterday, and found notes that I made while reading Pamuk's Istanbul: Memories and the City, which consists of a series of essays about the city. It reminded me of how those essays made the city come alive for me. I wrote notes on just about every essay, and circled the names of my favorites in red pen (often accompanied by three, four, or five stars!).

Here are some of my favorites, the chapters that have brought Istanbul alive in my imagination. (With accompanying photos by the great Turkish photographer, Ara Güler, lauded by Pamuk.)

Chapter 36 The Ship on the Golden Horn (Ferry Ride)

Ara Güler, [ferry]
This is one of several chapters that bring the water-focused existence of Istanbul people alive. (Others include Chapter 6 Exploring the Bosphorous; Chapter 22 On the Ships That Passed Through the Bosphorus, Famous Fires, Moving House, and Other Disasters; and Chapter 30 The Smoke Rising from Ships on the Bosphorus.)

This chapter in particular describes a turning point, where Pamuk becomes re-anchored (or re-moored) by walking the city, and by collecting stuff. It is this sensibility, I think, that defines him as a novelist and as an artist, and the discovery of this practice seems to have been for him the moment of his salvation.

Chapter 10 Hüzün

Ara Güler, Karakoy (1959)
Pamuk returns again and again in the book to the idea that collective melancholy (hüzün) is the characteristic of Istanbul experience. ("Ruins unaccompanied by pride.")

It reminded me of my study of other cultures, and the way specific types of feelings or attitudes can be characteristic of a particular people.

For instance, this made me think of the way a slightly different type of melancholy -- mono no aware -- is often said to be a quintessential Japanese sentiment. (And it made me think of a great Japanese novelist, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, and his book on Japanese aesthetics, In Praise of Shadows, which deals with mono no aware.

Chapter 18 Reşat Ekrem Koçu's Collection of Facts and Curiosities: The Istanbul Encyclopedia

Pamuk delves into the impulse to create, and to consume, collections of facts, and of stories -- showing how it is sort of the natural hobby of anyone who is also capable of falling in love with a robust city.

There is a natural link to the work of a city's popular press, and the columnists who find employment filling its pages with stories.

Turkish edition of 
Istanbul: Memories and the City 
(showing Pamuk in his formative years)
It is through this chapter, in particular, that I felt him making the connection to the Istanbul described in his novel The Black Book.

 . . . and much more . . .

Other chapters I loved were more about Pamuk and his personal and artistic formation, rather than the city itself.  These included Chapter 8 My Mother, My Father, and Various Disappearances; Chapter 12 My Grandmother; Chapter 28 Painting Istanbul; and Chapter 35 First Love.

Postscript: Flying Over Istanbul

I traveled to Palestine in March, 2015, and our group flew on Turkish Airlines and transited Istanbul.

It was a thrill for me to see the harbor and the city all around us as our plane descended toward the airport. (As I had imagined, it was very reminiscent of Hong Kong!)

I've gotten close to the real thing! All that remains is to go the next step and leave the airport!

Istanbul from above
(More at

Related posts

I often refer to how important the films of Iran have been in helping me open my mind to the possibilities of a peaceful relationship with that country.  I have been fortunate to be able to go see some of the best films from Iran every year at the wonderful Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago. The will be another Festival of Films From Iran showing there in February, 2014.

(See A Force for Peace: Getting to Know Iran Through Film)

Years later, during the time I was busily traveling to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and many other places, I had occasion one day to flip open my (real) passport, and all the extension pages, filled with visa stamps, cascaded out. The memory of Expo 67 and my "globetrotting" came rushing back to me . . .

(See O Canada! (We'll always have "Expo" . . . . ))  

I could go on and on about City of Sadness: about everything from the sound of slippers scraping across the floor to the history of the 228 incident that the film illuminates . . . the funeral scene, and the wedding scene . . . . But more than anything, it's about Taiwan nature, Taiwan separateness, and Taiwan rebelliousness.

(See Taiwan Through "City of Sadness")