Friday, April 18, 2014

You're Gonna Put This Guy in Prison? Really??

Last year at this time, on Good Friday morning, I was not only getting ready to participate in the annual 8th Day Good Friday Justice Walk -- a venerable Chicago institution -- but also getting ready to put on a play.

The playwright Jack Gilroy was in town to make a special appearance together with a small group of us who were staging a reading of his play, The Predator. (See The Predator in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - 'A Passion Play for the Drones Era'") The Predator is a play that many communities have used to stir conversation about the nature of drone warfare.

Jack is much on my mind today, in part because of the anniversary of that performance, but also because of news he recently shared with me about an upcoming court appearance. I quote here at length from a letter Jack shared -- it is addressed to participants in a Peace Studies course that he advises, and it begins with encouragement from Jack about their work at their college:

The struggle is not over yet but if won, it will open up student minds to alternatives to violence like no single course ever has at B~ University . You can’t wave a victory flag yet but get it ready. There will be snags and disappointments but don’t get discouraged and give up the struggle. Many issues will be wrapped in the new curriculum and the process will not be to solve specific issues but to find ways to treat conflict issues diplomatically, rationally, intelligently—all with compassion.

That said, I am involved in an issue now that may prevent me from working with you next school year. I go to trial on July 14th in DeWitt Court House near Syracuse for a ‘killer drone die in’ that I was part of a year ago. I was one of 31 who lied on the ground of the entrance way to the 174th Attack Wing of the NY State National Guard. The 174th Attack Wing fires drones (located in Afghanistan and only God and the NSA know where else) electronically by ‘pilots’ located at their consoles inside the Hancock Air Base in Syracuse . [NOTE: die-in pictures here]

Some of our group chose to take a plea bargain (plead guilty and pay a fine) and have charges dropped. I would not do that. I committed no crime by asserting my constitutional rights of free assembly and speech. Every United States citizen has an obligation to call their US Government to honor when the US government is committing crimes. It is illegal to assassinate. Both President Ford and Reagan both issued Executive Orders to forbid assassination. And of course, this is a test of our morality that for me is much greater than legality. I will not be a party to killing any person.

Since the Magna Carta in 1215, Western jurisprudence has given high ground to habeas corpus—a person has the right to hear charges, to a fair trial. There is no hearing for those assassinated by US drones. Thousands of people have been killed by our drones--- many of them women and children.

My trial will be one of the first jury trials for this so called ‘crime’ of speaking out against killer drones. If convicted, I was told by the Judge to expect to be sentenced to the Jamesville Penitentiary for one year.

This is reminding me of how rapidly the resistance to U.S. drone killing is growing, and the many dimensions of this resistance.  And as I reflect on Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus' showdown with imperial power 2,000 years ago, it is also reminding me that there are people today who have come to the conclusion that the preservation of their own bodies may have to be foregone in the interest of saving others.

I'm pretty sure that Jack Gilroy is not a fan of spending time in prison.  I sense that he would be very happy if this cup could pass from him. But I also hear Jack saying, "If this is what it takes to stop the killing . . . thy will be done."

On this day, as you reflect on the meaning of Good Friday, take an opportunity to look around you.  There are Jack Gilroys all around us, and their number is growing.

Related posts

Brian Terrell, prior to beginning his term in federal prison for entering a drones base near Kansas City, MO: "There seems to be in these last weeks a new openness to speaking about the issue of the drones. It is as if with the dreadful distraction of the presidential election over, people are wiping the sleep from their eyes and are shocked to see the evil that had been festering while they were not looking."

(See Brian Terrell: "I go in solidarity with prisoners every place")

Beale, in CA, is home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that demonstrators claim helps in the targeting of Predator and Reaper armed drones. Increasing numbers of demonstrators have been arrested at Beale over the past several months. On March 5, Ash Wednesday, arrests included several members of the clergy. Other actions are scheduled for later this month.

(See Former National President of Veterans For Peace Arrested at Beale)

" . . . the suffering of tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza who are under drone attack . . . the killing, the wounding and the devastating impact of constant drone surveillance on community life . . . "

 (See End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization: Call for Spring Days of Action 2014)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New Life? The Prospect of a World Beyond War (and the questions we have to ask)

What if we died to the idea that we solve problems with force? Can we see new life on the other side of that kind of dying? It seems like a worthwhile question this Easter.

A growing body of people has been asking: is it time for a "World Beyond War (WBW)"? Specifically, they have been asking 4 questions:

* What do you think causes war?
* What do you think will be required to end war?
* Why do you think this is the right time for this initiative?
* What value could the WBW initiative add?

Below are my thoughts on four questions. But more important than my opinions, I think, is the simple fact of many people -- millions of people -- entering into conversations about these four questions. This, in essence, is the path to a World Beyond War.

What do you think causes war?

I've thought about this question quite a bit, especially in light of the fact that the United States seems to be involved not just in wars, but in permawar.

While there are many factors and contributors to the state of permawar in which we find ourselves, I have concluded that the driver at the pinnacle of the whole situation is the drive for total power on the part of the people we call our "leaders." The very best way to get more and more power is through the conduct of war, in all its forms. And the temptation to do so appears nearly irresistible.

See ( J'ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar )

What do you think will be required to end war?

The World Beyond War initiative has provoked me to think in a pointed way about this question.

Based on my answer to the question above, I would have to say that in order to end war we must reverse the way in which powerholders are currently successful in using war to get greater power.

Somehow, we humans are inclined to give attention to, and surrender authority to, people who operate from a standpoint of force . . . up to and including leading us into war.  What if we were able not just to stop doing so, but to actually reverse the pattern.  What if we were able to make it the case that people who operate from a standpoint of force are rendered inaudible, invisible, and lose all authority?

I don't know exactly how to do this, but I suspect one approach may have something with the way we set priorities about information we receive and pay attention to. For instance, what if Facebook not only had "privacy settings" but also "belligerency settings."

What if we were able to channel our attention to people who are forces for peace?

What if warmongers faded into the background . . . until all that was left of them was their smile?

Why do you think this is the right time for this initiative?

More than ever before, people everywhere are sure they don't trust politicians. They just haven't figure out yet how to act on that surety.


What value could the World Beyond War (WBW) initiative add?

There exist diverse mechanisms for people everywhere to "turn up the volume" on people who are leading without force, and "turn down the volume" on people who lead from a position of fear mongering and warmongering.

The opportunity exists for WBW to network these mechanisms together, and encourage a situation in which everyone is involved in the process of leading us away from war-making.

With the help of WBW, people can find the forces for peace all around them -- and not just "like them on Facebook," but actually "like them in life."

To learn what other are saying about these four questions, visit

Related posts

More than anyone else, the beneficiaries of permawar are the politicians who thrive on the power to make and control wars. The number one prime beneficiary is the President, as well as presidential aspirants. But it doesn't end there . . . .

(See J'ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar )

We have had a window of opportunity -- nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imagined we were supposed to do?

(See Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed )

Because the forces of militarism control the vast majority of the tools of violence -- guns, jets, missiles, bombs, etc. etc. etc. -- on their side, we need to confront them with other means -- ones where we hold the advantage. In order to conduct an effective resistance, we need to ask, "What are our strengths?"

(See NETWORK the Resistance to NATO!)

Monday, April 14, 2014

U.S. Militarism in Asia: THINK DIFFERENT!

Prodded to action by several recent events I have attended, I have begun to conceive a "Project on U.S. Militarism in Asia" -- to raise awareness and provide education here in the Chicago area and elsewhere.

The problem: the U.S. "pivot to Asia."

The opportunity: asking ourselves, "What would we do differently if we revised our myths of Asia?"

By coincidence, today is GDAMS - the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.  It's the day for each of us to advocate to #MovetheMoney and to say what we would do if we had $1.75 trillion dollars. So here goes:

If I had $1.75 trillion dollars, I'd invest in a "Zero Carbon U.S.A." 
-- starting with a Zero Carbon Chicago.

Wow! Look at what we could do if we think different!

More to follow on the "Project on U.S. Militarism in Asia" . . .

Related posts

We have had a window of opportunity -- nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imagined we were supposed to do?

(See Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed )

People are talking about cuts to the military. It couldn't happen to a more deserving half of our national budget.
HOWEVER . . . we need a lot more people jumping into this debate, because the cuts being talked about are too timid . . . AND because the most dangerous and illegitimate (and frequently illegal) forms of military force are being advocated for the "efficiency" and "cost-effectivneness."

(See Talk of the Town: Shrink the Military )

What would happen if every member of Congress "adopted" a foreign military base and demonstrated what would happen if all the money spent there were brought home to local districts? Do you think the constituents would welcome THAT initiative?

(See How About a REAL (Tea) Party? SHUT DOWN THE MILITARY BASES! )

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

An Open Letter to Congressman Mike Quigley on H.R.4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act

Rep. Mike Quigley
Illinois 5th Congressional District

Dear Congressman Quigley,

We have met and communicated frequently in recent years, particularly with respect to U.S. military actions, and I am grateful for your attention to my concerns as a constituent.

As you know, I have worked with others around the country over the past several years to raise awareness about U.S. drone killings and to build support for bringing those killings to an end.  I have written frequently in my own blog about drones, as well as worked with others in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, the New England states, Washington, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as other states, to build a national network and a critical mass to stop drone killing.

Over this same period, there have been several indications from Congress that it is concerned about U.S. drone killings.  Finally, in recent weeks, a bill has been introduced to force the administration to come clean about its drone killings: H.R.4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act.

Debate is beginning about the merits of H.R. 4372. I urge you, as one of the leading progressive members of Congress, to do everything you can to advance this bill to passage.  We need this bill for the following reasons:
* Operating in secret is undemocratic. The bill calls for disclosure of what the Executive Branch is doing. First and foremost, we must get the truth into the open. Without H.R.4372, the Executive Branch will be able to continue to carry out killings in secret.

* We need to operate under the rule of law. The administration has dodged scrutiny of the legality of drone killings by hiding the facts. The first step in a return to the rule of law in this area is a finding of fact.

* With the facts, we will be able to judge legality. My personal belief is that the killings are wrong. I believe that once the facts are known, those killings will be generally recognized as wrong, and will be condemned, and will be subject to a variety of remedies (e.g. in our courts, by Congress, and by the general public).
In the long run, of course, we must put mechanisms in place so that no executions take place without a legal finding by a competent court of law.

There are many additional reasons why this bill is needed: drone killings are ineffective (because they create more conflict, not less); undemocratic (because roboticized war is leading to war without the people's awareness, involvement, or consent); and immoral (because resolving conflict through violence is inconsistent with any vision of peaceful community).

For all these reasons, I hope that you will become an early and strong advocate of this bill.  Tell the administration to "come clean" on its drone killings, and start the return of this country to the rule of law and the due role of Congress in guiding how military force is used.

As always, thank you for everything you do,


Joe Scarry
Resident, Chicago 5th Congressional District

Related posts

First Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) called the U.S. on the carpet for dodging the call from the international community to come clean about its drone killings. Then Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) submitted a bill calling for drone transparency. So ... are we finally going to get the truth?

(See REAL Progressives Demand that the U.S. Come Clean on Drone Killings)

A 2013 U.N. report makes it clear that the U.S. has to report fully on all its drone attacks.

(See 2014: The Year of Transparency (for U.S. Drone Use)?)

The reason the Administration is hiding truth about drones is that they don't have a satisfactory answer for how decisions about drone strikes are made.  As we have known all along, we need the public to think about how crummy the whole drone program is, and then they will be ready to be on our side. The best way to get them really thinking is to shine a spotlight on the secrecy, evasiveness, and deceit involved in the U.S. drone program.

(See Drone Killings: Come Clean )

Monday, March 31, 2014

REAL Progressives Demand that the U.S. Come Clean on Drone Killings

Rep. Adam Schiff
Rep. Walter Jones
[UPDATE April 2, 2014: Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have now submitted a bill calling for drone transparency. See Natasha Lennard, "New Bill Aims for Drone Transparency," and Thomas Earnest, "Representatives Schiff and Jones Introduce Bill to Increase Transparency in U.S. Drone Program." 

[See also Joint Statement in Support of The Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act by Amnesty International, Arab American Institute, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Center for Constitutional Rights, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, National Security Network, Open Society Policy Center, Peace Action West, Reprieve, and Win Without War.

[SEE: hub page for all Resources to SUPPORT the "Come Clean on Drone Killings" Act (Schiff/Jones HR 4372: the Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act)]


Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) have called the U.S. on the carpet for dodging the call from the international community to come clean about its drone killings.

Now it's time for all 62 other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to step up to the plate.

Grijalva and Ellison's initiative creates an opportunity for all of us to demand of our progressive representatives that they, too, take a stand. It's a simple yes-or-no, no-ifs-ands-or-buts question:

"Have you signed on to the CPC co-chairs' demand
that 'our intelligence agencies provide
an annual public accounting
of the number of civilian casualties
caused by drone strikes overseas'?"


The Grijalva-Ellison demand was provoked by a series of events at the United Nations.

First, in October, 2013, a pair of long-awaited reports by the U.N. special rapporteurs on counter-terrorism and on extrajudicial executions were published. The included an unambiguous demand for a full accounting of drone killings.

This was followed by a little-publicized General Assembly vote that use of drones in counter-terrorism must comply with international law.

By early 2014, people were beginning to realize that the government was succeeding in quashing debate about its extrajudicial executions simply through its silence. A consensus began to build around the key point of pressure: the need to bear down on the U.S. government to come clean about its drone killings.

When the U.N. Human Rights council convened in March to take up the matter of the drone killings, the U.S. government had a simple solution: boycott.

And thus it was the sight of the U.S. government fleeing a U.N. convocation into human rights that provoked the call by Reps. Grijalva and Ellison. "Instead of working closely with the international community to help strengthen current international standards on the use of drones, the U.S. government decided to boycott a discussion of the draft resolution. We are troubled by the ease with which dialogue and diplomacy—values at the center of the president’s foreign policy—were cast aside in this debate," they said in their statement.

"Today’s vote highlights the need for Congress to play a larger role in overseeing and regulating the use of lethal force abroad. Requiring that our intelligence agencies provide an annual public accounting of the number of civilian casualties caused by drone strikes overseas — a measure included in the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act — would be a good start," they said. (emphasis added)


Reps. Grijalva and Ellison issued their call in their capacity as co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  The clear next steps is for every other member of the CPC to join the call. This is a simple but unambiguous assertion by Congress of authority in the U.S. drone killing program, and it is vital that there be unanimous support by the CPC.

Please look at the list below and write personally to the member who represents you.  Now is the time for us to insist on public statements from every member of Congress that they unreservedly support the call for the U.S. to come clean about its drone killings.

And if you live in Arizona or Minnesota . . . you have a thank you note to send.

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

(note: may of these members signed the May 10, 2012 letter to President Obama calling for drones transparency - 5/10/2012 letter)

CA02 - Jared Huffman @RepHuffman

CA11 - George Miller @askgeorge (5/10/2012 letter)

CA13 - Barbara Lee @RepBarbaraLee (5/10/2012 letter) - Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force. See "Rep. Lee Demands Administration’s Full Response on Drones" March 11, 2013

CA17 - Michael Honda @RepMikeHonda (5/10/2012 letter)

CA20 - Sam Farr @RepSamFarr

CA27 - Judy Chu @RepJudyChu

CA34 - Xavier Becerra @RepBecerra

CA37 - Karen Bass @RepKarenBass

CA40 - Lucille Roybal-Allard @RepRoybalAllard

CA41 - Mark Takano @RepMarkTakano

CA43 - Maxine Waters @MaxineWaters

CA44 - Janice Hahn @Rep_JaniceHahn

CA47 - Alan Lowenthal @RepLowenthal

CO02 - Jared Polis @RepJaredPolis

CT03 - Rosa DeLauro @rosadelauro

DC00 - Eleanor Norton @EleanorNorton

FL05 - Corrine Brown @RepCorrineBrown

FL09 - Alan Grayson @AlanGrayson - "Come Clean on Deadly Drone Activities," March 27, 2014 in the Huffington Post

FL22 - Lois Frankel @RepLoisFrankel

FL24 - Frederica Wilson @RepWilson

GA04 - Henry Johnson @RepHankJohnson (5/10/2012 letter)

GA05 - John Lewis @repjohnlewis (5/10/2012 letter)

IA02 - David Loebsack @daveloebsack

IL04 - Luis Gutierrez @RepGutierrez (5/10/2012 letter)

IL07 - Danny Davis @RepDannyDavis

IL09 - Jan Schakowsky @janschakowsky Offered an unsuccessful amendment in late 2013 that would have banned signature strikes.

IN07 - André Carson @RepAndreCarson

MA02 - James McGovern @RepMcGovern (5/10/2012 letter)

MA04 - Joseph Kennedy @RepJoeKennedy

MA07 - Michael Capuano @mikecapuano

MD04 - Donna Edwards @repdonnaedwards (5/10/2012 letter)

MD07 - Elijah Cummings @RepCummings

ME01 - Chellie Pingree @chelliepingree

MI13 - John Conyers @repjohnconyers (5/10/2012 letter)

MN08 - Richard Nolan @USRepRickNolan

MO05 - Emanuel Cleaver @repcleaver

MS02 - Bennie Thompson @HomelandDems

NJ06 - Frank Pallone @FrankPallone

NJ12 - Rush Holt @RushHolt (5/10/2012 letter) - MSNBC, October 28, 2013: "Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., argues that no matter the safeguards the U.S. drone program is loosely managed and needs greater oversight."

NV04 - Steven Horsford @RepHorsford

NY07 - Nydia Velázquez @NydiaVelazquez

NY08 - Hakeem Jeffries @RepJeffries

NY09 - Yvette Clarke @YvetteClarke (5/10/2012 letter)

NY10 - Jerrold Nadler @RepJerryNadler (5/10/2012 letter) - Watch Rep. Nadler on drones during a February, 2013, committee hearing.

NY12 - Carolyn Maloney @RepMaloney

NY13 - Charles Rangel @cbrangel (5/10/2012 letter)

NY15 - José Serrano @RepJoseSerrano

NY25 - Louise Slaughter @louiseslaughter

OH11 - Marcia Fudge @RepMarciaFudge

OR01 - Suzanne Bonamici @RepBonamici

OR04 - Peter DeFazio @RepPeterDeFazio (5/10/2012 letter)

PA02 - Chaka Fattah @chakafattah

PA17 - Matt Cartwright @RepCartwright

RI01 - David Cicilline @davidcicilline

TN09 - Steve Cohen @RepCohen

TX18 - Sheila Jackson Lee @JacksonLeeTX18

TX30 - Eddie Johnson @RepEBJ

VA08 - James Moran @Jim_Moran

VI00 - Donna Christensen @DelegateDonna

VT00 - Peter Welch @PeterWelch (5/10/2012 letter) - July 12, 2013Welch introduces legislation to limit domestic drones, protect privacy

WA07 - Jim McDermott @RepJimMcDermott (5/10/2012 letter)

WI02 - Mark Pocan @MarkPocan

WI04 - Gwen Moore @RepGwenMoore

Related posts

A 2013 U.N. report makes it clear that the U.S. has to report fully on all its drone attacks.

(See 2014: The Year of Transparency (for U.S. Drone Use)?)

The reason the Administration is hiding truth about drones is that they don't have a satisfactory answer for how decisions about drone strikes are made.  As we have known all along, we need the public to think about how crummy the whole drone program is, and then they will be ready to be on our side. The best way to get them really thinking is to shine a spotlight on the secrecy, evasiveness, and deceit involved in the U.S. drone program.

(See Drone Killings: Come Clean )

An Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms: linchpin races, scandal, principle, drone testing, and some "special" cases.

(See Will the 2014 Midterms be a Referendum on Obama's Surveillance, Secrecy, and Assassinations?)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed

[One servant said] "I went and hid your talent in the ground."

[The master said] "[C]ast the worthless servant into the outer darkness."

             (Matthew 25:25,30)

Sometimes the stars align, and you see the world in a new way.  Here's how it happened for me.

First, as I started to describe recently, an initiative has been begun to propagate the idea that "war can be abolished." This is not to deny that people disagree about things, but only to say that no thinking person believes, anymore, that the desired way to settle disagreements is through force. (See Part of this initiative involves getting into the nitty-gritty problems, particularly the fact that nations tend to cling to the idea that fighting is "the" way for them, in the final analysis, to settle disputes; and the problem that, "sure, I want to renounce war -- but it's the other guy (group, nation, whatever) that's the problem!"

Second, I've been deeply impressed by the work of Mohamed ElBaradei in working against nuclear proliferation, as described in his book, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.Through this book, I have been schooled by ElBaradei in the little-discussed fundamentals of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, in particular, that the NPT -- and all the prevention of new weapons acquisition that it is aimed at -- is predicated on the elimination of nuclear weapons by the existing nuclear "haves"!

Third, I have been alerted to developments in Japan by my friend and colleague, the scholar and antiwar activist Kazashi Nobuo. In a Skype call just a few weeks ago, Kazashi urged me to learn more about the trends in Japan that may lead it away from its "peace constitution," and to tell others.

Finally, I attended a series of excellent workshops at this year's Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, DC, just last week. One was a session on "Costs, Dangersand Alternatives: Military and Economic Competition in Asia and the Pacific" led by Mark Harrison, Director of the Peace with Justice Program/UMC-GBCS, Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee, Chloe Schwabe, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, and Yuichi Moroi, Temple University. I was struck when Prof. Moroi projected the actual words of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution on the screen:
ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized. [emphasis added]
The combination of all these influences made me see the words of the Japanese constitution in a new way. It suddenly occurred to me that the point of Article 9 has not been what it means for Japan, but what it means for the rest of us.  Article 9 is an invitation -- a creator of a special space -- in which we have the opportunity to consider what we want our constitution to say.  Do we ignore Article 9, and just carry on with business as usual?  Or do we rejoice in the space that Article 9 has created to allow us to consider renouncing the use of force as well?

I've posted here some pictures from Japan, reflecting various dimensions of the movement there to resist the impulse to war, as a reminder that Article 9 is not just a few words in a document.  It stands for an enormous amount of effort that people in Japan have invested over decades to emphasize their commitment to renouncing war and stopping the nuclear threat. (Have we been paying attention?)

I fear that we have not been good stewards of the opportunity that Article 9 has provided to us. Instead of taking that small beginning and making something glorious out of it, we have squandered it through inaction. I can't help think of the "Parable of the Talents" (Matthew 25:14-30):
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Source: Bible Gateway)
We have had a window of opportunity -- nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imagined we were supposed to do?

Whatever we have imagined, what we have done is . . . not much. And so . . . are we any better than the "wicked and slothful" servant?

We have not taken this parable to heart in anything even resembling the seriousness intended. I can't help thinking that we have not had the courage to imagine that we are called to be stewards of the fate of the earth. I regret that in the past I myself have, too often, heard this parable in the most literal and, frankly, trivial way.

But all that's changed.  I'm tempted to be angry, like the master in the parable. However, I realize that what I am called to do is to try to be "good and faithful" in response to the opportunities that do still exist, and to convince others to do so, too. (The alternative -- the darkness -- is not pretty.)

On November 16, 2014, many Christian denominations (such as the ELCA) that follow the common lectionary will feature the Parable of the Talents as the Gospel reading at their Sunday services.  I wonder how many ministers will be preaching on the 21st century variant of this story of wasted opportunity and the darkness that ensues.

Related posts

It's time for us to get honest about the true costs of war, including the long term health consequences for people who serve in the military, and the corresponding long-term costs that our society must commit to bear.

(See How to REALLY Honor Veterans)

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon - a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War - deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of "Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom" by Elaine Scarry )

FLASHBACK: 2012 protests against NATO in Chicago: As the Obama administration expressed fury at Pakistani resistance to further NATO war operations and excludes Pakistan's president from the NATO Summit, members of the wider community gathered to memorialize people killed by U.S. airstrikes and drone attacks in Pakistan and in the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as U.S./NATO operations in Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere. Recognizing what veterans on Sunday called "the burden of blood that has stained these medals", Trinity Church opened its lawn to expressions of grief and remembrance by the entire community.

(See #NATOvictims )

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crimean War? Crimean Showdown? or Crimean Mediation? It's Time for Americans to Get Some New Vocabulary

An initiative has been begun to propagate the idea that "war can be abolished." This is not to deny that people disagree about things, but only to say that no thinking person believes, anymore, that the desired way to settle disagreements is through force. (See

Recent developments on Russia's border give us a good place to test this proposition.

See Wikipedia, "Russians in Ukraine"
The status quo involves force or the threat of force to influence the alignment of peoples and regions with one state or another.  Crimea is the crisis du jour, but South Ossetia and Abhkazia were a few years back, and Ukraine looks like it's just around the corner. (See the Miami Herald, "First Ukrainian soldier killed as Putin calls Kiev 'mother of all Russian cities'")

Conveniently, a large military alliance -- NATO -- bristling with weapons, has announced itself ready to step in and contest annexations of territories by Russia. For NATO, the measure of resolvability of conflict is firepower.

Most of us are ignorant about the peoples and regions surrounding Russia, and the sentiment in those places. We don't begin to have an idea about the history. I know that I didn't know the first thing about Crimea before the current crisis -- except that it was part of the phrase The Crimean War. As I sit here right now, I'm not clear on all the arguments for and against Crimea being part of Russia vs. being part of Ukraine. But what I am clear on is that I have passively allowed the U.S. government to adopt the posture that (a) the U.S. gets a say in how the question is resolved; and (b) the U.S. gets to back its position up with force. 

Columnist Bob Koehler wrote today that it's time for citizens -- ordinary people like you and me -- to get involved in demanding a different way, building on a statement by the International Peace Bureau:
The statement cites a plea by Pax Christi International “to religious leaders and all the faithful in Ukraine, as well as in the Russian Federation and in other countries involved in the political tensions” – I would simply include in this plea every concerned human being – “to act as mediators and bridge-builders, bringing people together instead of dividing them, and to support nonviolent ways to find peaceful and just solutions to the crisis.”

The idea that the world we create at a personal level can influence if not determine the sort of world we create at the national and international level seems naïve, perhaps, unless one looks at the default alternative, consigned to us by the media: that our role is to be a spectator in the global wrestling arena.

Dialogue and diplomacy are extensions of mediation and bridge-building at the personal level. Perhaps if such work were regarded as a citizen’s responsibility, it could not be so easily dismissed in the reporting of global affairs – nor could war be declared by a few absurdly powerful leaders, with the rest of the world simply following along without choice and reaping the consequences.

(See Bob Koehler, "Make It Hurt")
See Wikipedia, "Russians in the Baltic states"
In other words, we need to become advocates for a whole different way of resolving the disagreements over the borders of European and Russia regions.  We're going to have to develop the courage to say, "I didn't know that," and "I need to understand this better," and even, "I guess I was wrong," and "I need to urge you to talk about this." What we can't do is continue to just throw up our hands and say, "Let the military sort it out."

There is a distinctly American attitude that says, in effect, "I'm much too important to spend my time working patiently to resolve conflict with you" and "Don't bore me with a history lesson" and even "You're pissing me off and so it's fine with me if you get hurt." And from that a thousand military budgets have been spawned.

But American "annoyance" can no longer be an excuse for military action.

And to bring about change, we're going to have to commit ourselves to some hard work. Peace work.

I recommend a good place to start is with first principles.

Do you believe the desired way to settle disagreements is through force?

Do you believe others are able to see things as you do?

What is stopping us from agreeing that "war can be abolished"?

Who can you share this message with today?

Related posts

Many people will argue that it was only because the U.S. made a threat of force that Syria offered to enter into an agreement on chemical weapons. The sequence of events certainly suggests some relationship between the two.

(See "OR ELSE!" (What the U.S. threat of force against Syria teaches us) )

With NATO coming to Chicago, how were we, as a faith community, to engage with this historic event?  Could St. Luke’s Logan Square be a place where we can work together to understand NATO, militarism, and how conflicts can be resolved without violence?

(See NATO: A Mighty Fortress is Our God? in the St. Luke's Messenger.)

Call me a demanding citizen, but I think the President should get off his butt and go talk to the leader of Russia.  (Yes, Putin.)  It's his job.

(See Obama: Go to Moscow!)