Monday, February 20, 2017

New This Week (Feb. 20, 2017)

Nuclear weapons: are we done playing God yet?

I'm thinking about Lent - which begins next week. In particular, I'm encouraging faith communities everywhere to use this time of repentance to speak out in support of the UN nuclear weapons ban negotiations and put an end, once and for all, to the threat that a few countries pose to everyone else in the world.

Coincidentally, Ash Wednesday this year falls on March 1 - the anniversary of the Castle Bravo nuclear test on Bikini Atoll. (See my new post below on Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons.)

Here's more about the GLOBAL network working to ban nuclear weapons in 2017.

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A piece of folded paper at an event Sunday in Berkeley has me thinking: Which Comes First? Loyalty? or Equity?

Which Comes First? Loyalty? or Equity?

About 50 people gathered on Sunday at First Church Berkeley for an art response to the anniversary of the 1942 executive order #9066 that resulted in the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans. Two survivors of those internment camps shared 1,000 paper cranes with the participants. We were asked to think of ways to make use of them to say, "Never again." So now I'm sharing with you.

One of a thousand cranes distributed at the 2/19 event.

I moved to California about a year ago. While the US internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II is a legacy that every person in the US must own, it is particularly relevant to California, the home of so many of the people interned.

During the past year, I read Farewell to Manzanar - a memoir that is frequently assigned in high school and college classes here. It is a high impact book -- easy to read, and full of insights about the life of a second-generation girl of Japanese descent who was sent with her family to an internment camp in central California.

Farewell to Manzanar
I say "easy to read," but there is a part of the story that I just can't seem to get past.  Up until 1924, hundreds of thousands of Japanese were allowed to come to the US (plus Hawaii) to work, but they were not allowed to become US citizens. Then, in 1924, immigration from Japan to the US was cut off entirely by US law. (Details here and here.) Any children born to those immigrants in the US were automatically US citizens. All of them were rounded up and interned after war broke out. The pretext was: "You are of Japanese descent and we don't know where your loyalties lie."

In a way characteristic of this country, the US had created a situation combining mistreatment based on "race" identity with discrimination based on (involuntary) lack of citizenship

In 1943, the US government began to try to undo what it had done. It circulated a questionnaire to the internees, including "loyalty questions." If you answered the questions properly, you could obtain leave from internment.

Imagine having been rounded up and sent off to an internment camp, held for a long period, and then being given the "opportunity" to state where your loyalties lie. How would you feel? How would you feel if you were a US citizen? How would you feel if you were an immigrant who had been denied the possibility of ever becoming a US citizen?

The situation faced by those internees in 1943 is relevant to the continuing situation of various groups in the US today, especially immigrant populations and people subject to discrimination. Which properly comes first: loyalty? or equitable treatment? (Is the answer different if you're "white"?)


SANCTUARY (Church, City, State) and Solidarity with Immigrants 

Dirty Wars and Extrajudicial Execution (So 1984!)
Does a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) need to be part of a "new plan of Chicago"?
360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

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Why People Want a Pacific (and World) Free of Nuclear Weapons

In the US, if we think at all about our use of nuclear weapons, we think of Hiroshima (and perhaps Nagasaki).

But we should also remember the way we (and others) have subjected people in South Pacific nations to nuclear danger by tests of more and more enormous atomic and hydrogen bombs over the course of decades.

Laurence Hyde: woodcut print from the novel Southern Cross,
a book about atomic testing in the Pacific.

I, myself, got a wake-up call when participating in a commemoration of Hiroshima in Chicago in 2012 and finding the image above, depicting atomic testing in the Pacific.

My eyes were opened further by the film Lucky Dragon No. 5, by Kaneto Shindo. It tells the story of fishermen exposed to nuclear fallout from the (in)famous Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini on March 1, 1954.

Castle Bravo h-bomb test at Bikini Atoll, March 1, 1954.

Then, in 2014, a lawsuit was brought to get justice for people in the Marshall Islands.

In 2015, I was at a conference in Hiroshima and obtained a much more comprehensive sense of what US atomic testing in the Pacific was about. (See MARSHALL ISLANDS HIBAKUSHA: Can social media trump empire and entertainment? and the Wikipedia article on the so-called "Pacific Proving Grounds.")

Last year, I was listening to a hymn in church, and it led me to learn more about the leading role of New Zealand in working for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

New Zealand's representative for Foreign Affairs and Trade says,
"We will certainly be active participants in the negotiations
beginning at the UN in New York this coming March.
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NOW . . . Fiji, Indonesia, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, and Tuvalu have been among the co-sponsors of the UN resolution L.41, the passage of which set the stage for negotiations in 2017 on a global ban on nuclear weapons.

2017 is the year in which these countries and others will bring about a global ban on nuclear weapons.

For people in the US, this is a moment to understand the problem of nuclear weapons through the eyes of others -- particularly people who have lived under the shadow of US nuclear weapons. We need to urge our government to stop obstructing the nuclear weapons ban negotiations, and instead give their full support to this effort. Go to to find out how.

Working for a Nuclear-Free and Independent PACIFIC
(Image via @DimityHawkins)


Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???

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Thursday, February 16, 2017


Preparatory meetings for the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, commence today. The first full meetings will take place at the end of March at the UN in New York.

Which leads me to a modest recommendation . . . .

Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations -- United Nations, New York
27-31 March 2017 / 15 June - 7 July 2017

What if faith leaders everywhere spoke out on the need to support the effort to ban nuclear weapons? This seems particularly important in the US, Canada, Australia, and most of the countries of Europe, whose governments are opposing these negotiations. (See: Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons??? )

For instance, Christian leaders could designate Sunday, March 26 -- the day before the UN sessions begin -- as a day to lift up this important peace work. This date midway through Lent seems appropriate for talking about the need to make a change, while there's still time.

Woodcut print by Sadao Watanabe
I've checked the lectionary for the day. It includes John 9:1-41. ("One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.")  A fitting text . . . .

So . . . Preach it! Let the bells ring out!

Related posts . . . 

Ring Them Bells for Nuclear Disarmament in 2015

Nuclear Disarmament: Are the Churches the Key?

#NOwar Music: Sometimes you hear it in church

Key resources . . . 

Network of Christian Peace Organizations (NCPO) Nuclear Weapon Ban Briefing 2017

Nuclear Disarmament: The Time is Now (A Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service) 

World Council of Churches pushes for a prohibition on nuclear weapons

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Monday, February 13, 2017


Several groups worked together on Monday in Berkeley to lift up the names and stories of people who have suffered from police violence and other forms of systemic racism in the US. The vigil by members of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA), Justice 4 Kayla Moore, and Berkeley Copwatch was titled "Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil" - and took place for five hours between noon and 5:00 p.m. in the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, facing Berkeley City Hall and the headquarters of the Berkeley Police Department.

Members of St. John's Presbyterian Church share names and stories.
(Photo: Mark Coplan)

February 13 is the anniversary of the murder of transgender African American woman Kayla Moore by the Berkeley Police Department 4 years ago. (See SAY HER NAME: Kayla Moore and the Struggle for Justice)

"Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil"
(Photo: Mark Coplan)
The photo at right shows the backdrop for the event: the Justice for Kayla Moore banner at left, images of victims of killings by police at right, and artwork by event founder (and BOCA executive director) Rev. Daniel Buford on the raised central area. Rev. Buford is at center, wearing the beret. Kayla Moore's sister, Maria Moore, stands at the far right.

Many people gave testimony about the violence being carried out by representatives of the state all across this country, and particularly against people of color. Dozens of accounts, from research compiled by Rev. Buford, were read and discussed. People shared stories of violence and killings and other injustice that they had been subjected to, or that had affected their friends or families or other members of their communities.

Many people from the congregation I attend, University Lutheran Church (ULC), participated in the vigil. We at ULC have made an intentional commitment to anti-racism work, joining in solidarity with other justice activists in our city, our state, and nationally.

For my own part, I used my time at the microphone during the vigil to lift up the names of some people I have known and/or learned about through my work in Chicago before coming to Berkeley.

I talked about Flint Farmer, who was shot in the back by Chicago police and killed, as he lay face down on the ground. (See: We need to get the police off the streets of Chicago. QED. ) And I talked about Flint's father, Emmett, who I has become a tireless campaigner for justice on behalf of all people subjected to police violence. I said that each time I see the way Maria Moore has devoted herself to activism in response to what happen to her sister, Kayla, I always think of Emmett Farmer.

"Remember Our Names Black History Month Prayer Vigil"
(Photo: Mark Coplan)
I talked about Rekia Boyd, who was shot in the head by an off-duty Chicago police officer. (See: Chicago Vocabulary Lesson: "Overcharging" and "Undercharging") I talked about how people in Chicago made a commitment to #SayHerName, so that everyone would know Rekia's story. I talked about how the systemic injustice included not just the police, but the also the district attorney's office that failed to hold the police accountable. And I talked about how the people of Chicago voted states attorney Anita Alvarez out of office for her failures in cases like that of Rekia Boyd.

I talked about people who had suffered from police torture in Chicago -- people like Darrell Cannon and Mark Clements. I talked about seeing Mark show up to speak at protest after protest after protest against police crimes. If Mark -- freed after spending 28 years imprisoned on trumped-up charges -- can find the energy and courage to keep showing up to be an advocate for others, what's stopping the rest of us?

In the course of the afternoon, we lifted up the names of stories of people from dozens of places around the country. Systemic violence against people of color is not just a Bay Area thing, it's not just a Chicago thing, it's happening everywhere. (Flashback: National Forum on Police Crimes, May 2014)

A full album of photographs from the event is available on Flickr.


CHICAGO: Accountability ... Police AND City Council
Chicago Justice: Connecting the Dots

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New This Week (Feb. 13, 2017)

We were out in force in Berkeley on the 13th to "Remember Our Names" -- a Black History Month vigil in observance of the many lives lost to police violence across this country. (Story below: DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Remember Our Names)

(And we had a big turnout a week ago for the immigrant solidarity rally at the nearby detention center.)

I'm thinking ahead to Lent, and hoping many pastors will seize the opportunity to preach on the global nuclear ban negotiations on March 26 . . . .

14 de febrero - Tlatelolco 50: Un regalo para el mundo
#LatinAmerica leads the way to #NOnukes world
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The heart above is inspired by Tlatelolco 50: A Gift to the World. The 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Tlatelolco falls on Valentine's Day - Tuesday, February 14, 2017.

All this week, actions in connection with the upcoming nuclear weapons ban talks continue - see @nuclearban for updates.

I'm excited that the global network to oppose nuclear weapons is growing rapidly. I'm particularly hopeful about the potential impact of April 22 Science Marches worldwide.

UPDATE 2/15: There are now eighteen (18) co-sponsors on the bill to rein in presidential first use of nuclear weapons. Please use this script to call and get YOUR representative on that list!

   More updates ... 2/17: nineteen co-sponsors ....

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

VIETNAM and the NUCLEAR BAN: Out From Under the Shadow of US Nuclear Terror

Vietnam is one of the co-sponsors of the UN resolution L.41, the passage of which set the stage for negotiations in 2017 on a global ban on nuclear weapons.

When I sat in a session at the UN in 2014, I got an unforgettable reminder that most of the countries in the world are non-nuclear-weapons states, and that they urgently desire the US and other nuclear weapons states to eliminate nuclear weapons. (See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States) )

But my reading in recent weeks has given me another reminder: Vietnam is a country that has experienced the direct and very imminent threat of nuclear attack by the US in living memory. It is sickening to think that, on top of the immense killing and devastation that the US wrought in Vietnam (as well as its neighbors), it subjected Vietnam to the even greater threats of nuclear attack.

. . . under the gaze of US Secretary of Defense (1961-8) Robert McNamara

For example . . .

1954 - US Secretary of State Allen Dulles gave his "Massive Retaliation" speech, as the French sought to relieve Bien Dien Phu. There are multiple reports of discussions about using US nuclear weapons to come to the rescue of the French, including a plan developed by US Vice President Richard Nixon.

1961 - US General Lyman Lemnitzer and General Curtis LeMay urged JFK to authorize the use of nuclear weapons in Southeast Asia: "If we are given the right to use nuclear weapons, we can guarantee victory," promised Lemnitzer. (See James W. Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, p. 101 and 109.)

By 1968, the antiwar movement was lampooning the
Johnson campaign's upbeat "All the Way with LBJ" slogan
with a mushroom cloud suggesting a nuclear bomb.
1964 - US military commanders met in Hawaii to figure out what to do about Vietnam. As they laid the groundwork for the introduction into Vietnam of massive numbers of US troops in 1965, 1966, and 1967, the planners held out the very clear possibility that China would enter the war on the side of Vietnam, and the US would "have to" use nuclear weapons. (See Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly, p. 315.) A few months later, the famous "Daisy" ads began to run: they suggested candidate Barry Goldwater might use nuclear weapons in Vietnam if he were elected president.

1968 - The Johnson administration considered the use of nuclear weapons for the relief of Khe Sahn, in response to the Tet Offensive. (See Rick Pearlstein, Nixonland, p. 228.) Later that year, General LeMay became the running mate of Governor George Wallace. When asked if he would use nuclear weapons to end the war, he gave a meandering reply that concluded, "I would use anything we could dream up, anything we could dream up -- including nuclear weapons, if it was necessary." (Nixonland, p. 348-9)

1969 - Richard Nixon, once firmly ensconced in the White House, made the threat of using nuclear weapons central to his strategy for bringing North Vietnam to the negotiating table. (See "the Madman Theory.")

 . . . and on it goes.

Is it any wonder that Vietnam and its neighbors entered into the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in 1995? Is it any wonder that in 2017 Vietnam is a committed proponent of a global ban on nuclear weapons?

The US has opposed the negotiations on a global ban on nuclear weapons. I would invite every person in the US to reflect on the shameful history of US nuclear terror, and (re-)commit themselves to causing the US to cooperate in bringing the global ban to fruition.


Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???

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