Tuesday, December 31, 2013


It's the last day of the year and it's a day to express some gratitude.  There are a hundred people I'd like to talk about; today I'm going to focus on Frank.

If you've followed this blog, you know Frank's work.  Like Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath ("I’ll be ever’where- wherever you look . . . "), Frank is on street with his cameras any time there's a march or demonstration or action.  You've seen him in his flak jacket, his cameras strapped on, a dapper Errol-Flynn-meets-Dennis-Hopper-as-the-photographer-in-Apocalypse-Now.

(Photo by Rev. Erik Christensen)
My hard drive is full of files with names like "Guantanamo demo - FJJ photos" and "NATO protest - FJJ photos" and "Occupy Palm Sunday - FJJ photos." Within hours of every event, I can expect an email in my inbox with dozens of beautiful photos attached, and a note in the subject line ("From this afternoon - had to shoot the big banner 5 times before I got it right.") With Frank's photos, the blog posts practically write themselves. In fact, you can hardly even say I "write" blog posts. Mostly I just post FJJ photos with a few words attached. And I know a lot of other beneficiaries of Frank's photos who feel the same way.

The best part of all, though, is hanging out with Frank. After all, how many other photographers do you know that can cover the street action while giving a running update on global affairs as gleaned from his reading in 5 languages?

2013 was great! (See the selection of photos below.)

I can't wait to see what 2014 brings!

December, 2011: the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
"Obama's Nobel Prize: REVOKED!"

December, 2011: Protesting Rahm Emanuel's
pre-NATO restrictions on speech and assembly

January, 2012: 10th Anniversary of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center
(Fell shortly after Barack Obama signed NDAA detention provisions into law.)

February, 2012: Occupy Chicago

March, 2012: 9th Anniversary of U.S. invasion of Iraq

March, 2012:  Chicago protests the murder of Trayvon Martin

April, 2012: "Occupy Palm Sunday" in Logan Square, Chicago

May, 2012:  Chicago protests against NATO

January, 2013: Guantanamo protest in Chicago

April, 2013: Protest against Boeing killer drone in front of Lyric Opera
"The drone strikes on my planet have killed at least 178 children!
Please join us in our fight to stop the next phantom ray!"

April, 2013: Good Friday performance of The Predator
May, 2013: Chicago protests as Guantanamo hunger strike passes Day 100.

May, 2013: Protest against Guantanamo detention

June, 2013: "I am Bradley Manning" demonstration

September, 2013: Rally against U.S. military intervention in Syria

October, 2013: March on Springfield for Marriage Equality

December, 2013: POSADA in support of affordable housing for Chicagoans

To be continued . . . .

Thursday, December 26, 2013

DRONES: Let's Give Obama a Political Choice He Can Understand in 2014

Now's the time of year for New Year's resolutions.

Let no one doubt that Barack Obama has one resolution for 2014 and that is to win back control of the House of Representatives.

As the nationwide -- and, increasingly, global -- movement to ground the drones looks ahead to 2014, what will its New Year's resolution be?

I suggest that if we want to be heard on this issue, we need to be where Obama and his crew are paying daily attention: the highly-contested races in the 2014 midterms.

U.S. House battleground districts, 2014 Source: Ballotpedia
Let's face it: when it comes to the vast majority of House seats, the people in the Executive Branch are just as jaded as people in the antiwar movement.  They know those are no-contest seats.  But where they do spend time and energy is in the small number of districts where they can hope to influence the outcome. They are extremely anxious that nothing happen in those districts to spoil whatever chances they have with the tiny sliver of swing voters who will determine the outcome.

For someone like me who lives in Chicago, it's always tempting to try to communicate with members of Congress like Mike Quigley, Luis Gutierrez, and Jan Schakowsky. ( "Mike! You're a good liberal - can't you see the need to stop these criminal drone attacks?" ) But since Mike and Luis and Jan have very little doubt that they'll be elected in November, it's hard to phase them. I'm beginning to think my time would be better spent where it's possible to have an impact.  So now I'm asking myself, "What do I need to do to make drones an issue in the Illinois 12th District?"

Because one thing's for sure: there's a whole passel of advisers talking to Barack Obama every day about how things are progressing in key districts like the Illinois 12th. (And the Michigan 1st. And the Minnesota 8th. And ... ) I'd like to be a fly on the wall when they tell him the candidate is complaining about the latest anti-drones campaign there. ("Why the hell are there protesters at my appearance in Carbondale with signs that say, 'When will the DEMs stop being the party of Drone Execution and Murder' ???")

I don't know, today, if people in the Illinois 12th District even know what a drone is. The 12th is all the way down in the southern tip of the state, and I doubt people there have heard about our campaigns against drones up here in Chicago.  But one thing's for sure.  I'm going to make it my business to make sure people there find out -- and soon!

Related posts

Five big realizations I'm taking away from the 2013 CODEPINK Drone Summit "Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance" in Washington, DC.

(See The 2013 DC Drones Conference: 5 Big Takeaways )

There has been a good sign in 2013, in that many people have become outraged about government surveillance. A recent Pew poll found that Americans are now more worried about civil liberties abuses than terrorism. I believe a big question in 2014 will be whether challengers successfully address the issue of NSA surveillance in their campaigns.

(See What Will Election 2014 Boil Down To? )

One issue that has a key place in the midterm elections in 2014, I believe, is surveillance.  With each passing day, I am hearing more and more people say that the surveillance issue is something that a wide spectrum of people are deeply upset about. That includes people on the right as well as people on the left -- people who don't usually talk with each other, much less work together for positive change!

(See The Surveillance Issue: The Fulcrum of the 2014 Election?)

Top Posts of 2013 on "Scarry Thoughts"

I'm counting down to the New Year by looking back at some of the posts on Scarry Thoughts that were viewed most often in 2013 . . . and my own personal favorites . . .

#1 !!!

There has been a good sign in 2013, in that many people have become outraged about government surveillance. A recent Pew poll found that Americans are now more worried about civil liberties abuses than terrorism. I believe a big question in 2014 will be whether challengers successfully address the issue of NSA surveillance in their campaigns.

(See What Will Election 2014 Boil Down To? )


Five big realizations I'm taking away from the 2013 CODEPINK Drone Summit "Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance" in Washington, DC.

(See The 2013 DC Drones Conference: 5 Big Takeaways )


Re-reading George Orwell's 1984 recently made me see at least 15 ways 2013 is like the world he describes in the book . . . .

See 2013 = 1984 ?


"Although we know the end from the very beginning," says Walker, "the story is no less compelling to watch." A man, gloriously alone (except for his own reflection) on an ice-covered lake; the soothing pastel colors of the distant sky; and what seems surely to be a circle he is digging around himself with a pick-axe. A perfect parable for our headlong rush toward climate crisis?

(See How Do You Say "Suicide Narcissus" in Chinese?)


When you go to the UN website, it says, "Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world."

Garry Davis saw that, as long as nations are calling the shots, the way of the world will continue to be "might makes right" and more war. The only solution is to have a higher authority and a higher loyalty. A case in point is the United Nations' role in stopping and prosecuting the crimes of the United States.

Let's hope that, as the UN turns its focus to drones, it gives us something Garry Davis would have been proud of.

(See The United Nations, Drones, and Garry Davis)


October 18, 2013: A new 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)?)


Isn't now a moment when, instead of falling back into our existing habits of trying to change America's war-making ways, we should put our recent experience under a microscope? And ask what we can learn from this experience? Can we make 2014 the year that we sort the wheat from the chaff in Congress? And get the control over war and peace back into our own hands?

(See Election 2014: The Moment of Truth for the US Antiwar Movement?)


Cook County Jail is the perfect example of the nationwide injustice that Michelle Alexander described in her groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration, focused principally one people of color, in which "crimes" (often related to drug possession or other low-level offenses) become the mechanism for entrapping people in a cycle of incarceration that is brutalizing and often begins a downward spiral of lifetime discrimination.

(See Free Them All )


The biggest idea coming out of the 2013 Drone Summit? We will only deal successfully with the crimes being committed using drones when we understand them as part of the much larger war against communities of color . . . .

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color )


In a 1979 essay, Isaac Asimov wrote, "I feel confident that attempts to use robots without safeguards won't work and that, in the end, we will come round to the Three Laws." What are the laws that Asimov predicted would be used to limit the potential for injury from robots?

(See A Modest Proposal: Debate the Drones )

And here are some of my personal favorites from 2013 . . . . 


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 )


I believe when Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine and said "Remember me this way," he was much more interested in encouraging us to keep having conversations -- conversations that really matter -- with others . . . and finding ways to be in relationship with our neighbors  . . . all the while reminding us "never underestimate the power of food"  . . .

(See Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry))


A big Hollywood production of Ender's Game is scheduled for release on November 1. It's a perfect opportunity for us to ask: Are we happy seeing our schools turned into "Battle Schools"?

(See "Ender's Game" and the Militarization of Youth: Can We Talk About This? )


A group of us from St. Luke's Lutheran Church Logan Square  was in Springfield with thousands of other Illinoisans to encourage our state legislature to pass the marriage equality bill (SB10). Even if you weren't there, you can get a sense of what it was like -- raindrops and all! -- thanks to the dozens of photos my friend Frank took. Enjoy!

(See Marriage Equality Is a Human Right )


In Taiwan, HHH is to film as Huang Chunming is to literature.  Take, for instance, the story, set in a fishing town on the east coast of Taiwan, about a prostitute who determines to have a baby, and so selects as the father a likely candidate from among her customers (most of whom are workers in the local fishing fleet), gets pregnant, and heads back to the tiny town in which she was born, in order to have the baby.

(See Days for Looking at the Sea )

"How can it be that no one is speaking directly to what happened?" I wondered. "Should I say something? Is it just me? Can it be possible that most people aren't like me, tremendously troubled by how we should respond to what has happened in China?"

(See Remember June 4)


What would Christians think if someone proposed carving out a slice of their Sunday services to worship the God of Entombment? Wouldn't they think that was absurd? After all, if Christianity is anything, isn't it the religion of "UN-entombment"?

(See When is Christianity Going Back to Being the Religion of "UN-entombment"?)


The Ames Middle School in Chicago serves a largely Spanish-speaking community. Is the militarization of Ames anything other than a signal of what the Democratic party means by equitable treatment for immigrants?

(See The Militarization of Ames: The Real Meaning of the DREAM Act )


 "In whom and in what should we be putting our faith?" If not in Manning -- and the Manning Principle -- then in whom, and in what?

(See The Path to Peace: Why Not the Manning Way?)


As the Obama administration pivoted from its focus on Syria to something truly startling -- talking to Iran! -- it became especially important for the American public to some time and energy to learning and thinking about Iran, the history of the U.S.-Iran relationship, and what the U.S.-Iran relationship means in the larger context of the effort to reduce the risk of war and violence in the world.

(See IRAN: 3 Reality Checks on the Emerging U.S. Narrative)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Military at Ames? No Sirree Bub!

Maria must've been shaking here head. "What, is this guy afraid of a little snow?"

I had texted the door-knocking coordinator: "Are people really going out today? There's 3 inches and it's still coming down!" Hey, it was a Saturday morning.  Was anybody really going to make the effort?

When I got to Ames, I got educated.

The community affairs room -- a large, well-equipped, full-time feature right on the first floor of this beautiful, 13-year-old school -- was full of people, working on collating the piles of petitions that had already been collected and notarized. Two teams were already out on the street. Two more teams were being formed -- one of which I was assigned to -- and after a pass by the donut and coffee table we headed out with our clipboards.

And the best part?  "A little child shall lead them."

A Civics Lesson

We were going out to canvas a territory of about 5 blocks to gather signature on a ballot initiative. Many of the people in our area would prefer to speak Spanish, and only one of the adults in our team spoke Spanish.  Luckily, we had Edwin.

It was a little hard for me at first to take a back seat when it was time to give our pitch -- after all, who better than me to explain the civics context to the people we were meeting on the sidewalks and stoops of the west-side neighborhood that surrounds Ames? Someone had to determine if the person was a registered voter . . .  quickly explain the concept of an alderman pushing the school board to fall in with the Mayor's scheme to militarize the neighborhood school . . . emphasize the lack of consultation with the community . . . and then suggest the desirability of putting the question on the ballot so that everyone could vote on it.

Well, the answer to the question "who better?" turned out to be: Edwin.

Edwin is a smart, confident, likeable 7th-grader from Ames. Edwin did a beautiful job of explaining to people what was going on, and he had a winning way that made them not only want to provide their own signature, but also go rouse the other voters in the family so they could come give their signatures, too! Oh, and he switched effortlessly between English and Spanish, as the situation required.

As I stood to one side, ready to peel off one of our flyers if necessary, but mostly just offering moral support and enjoying the beautiful snowy day and listening to Edwin's conversations with the residents, I thought, "Our future is in good hands."

Sir Yes Sir!

The hardest thing for me to understand about the whole effort to militarize Ames is, why would anyone want to go into a place that is dedicated to community involvement, creativity, and leadership development, and change the focus to "following orders"?

It seems that Ames has become caught up in a complicated cultural discussion about schools, adolescence, parenting, multiculturalism, and community safety. To some people, teenagers running around and being obstreperous is the problem, and "Discipline, discipline, discipline!" is the answer.

Let's just pause here for a moment and each ask ourselves: What was I like when I was a teenager?

*   *   *


Okay, back to the present. Consider the Peace and Leadership Council at Ames. "80 students at Ames Middle School in Logan Square participated in a student-led peace assembly [in March] in order to promote ways to diffuse violence and empathize with others who may have stressors in their lives that affect how they behave." (See Ames Middle School Students Hold Peace Assembly )

The Peace and Leadership Council brought forward a set of six recommendations to Alderman Moldanado, based on their survey and analysis of conflict in the surrounding community.  (Militarization of Ames wasn't one of them.)

The thing that scares me most of all is the idea that kids at Ames will be "taught" to become at very good at "do what you're told" instead of what I currently see happening: being in an environment that brings out creativity and learning to think for themselves; an environment that places a high value on community involvement and cooperation, and eschews violence.

The fact that Ames is so successful is not an accident. Ames is one of 5 schools in Chicago with ELEV8 programs -- a highly prestigious program being operated in four areas around the country.

ELEV8 schools feature:
* Adolescent-centered health services and education in school-based health centers that encompass physical, mental, sexual and dental health, with an emphasis on prevention.

* Capacity-building for students, parents and community members to increase their leadership skills and build sustainable, healthy neighborhoods.

* Community organizing on the local, state and federal levels in partnership with the Federation for Community Schools.

* Extension of the school day, with afternoon, weekend and summer programs, including the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

* Family supports, including public-benefits screening, tax-prep assistance, fitness and healthy-living classes, effective parenting strategies, book clubs, and more through a "Center for Working Families" in each school neighborhood.

* High-quality mentoring and leadership programs for youth through Big Brothers/Big Sisters and other organizations.
ELEV8 schools have been recognized by the federal government as one of ten top models of what schools should be. (Scroll down on this page to read about Ames: "An Elev8 Chicago Success Story")

When I think about kids at Ames being forced to say, "Sir Yes Sir!" all I can think of is something my mother, Eva Scarry used to say: "No sirree bub!"

As the Urban Dictionary explains: "No siree bub - With out any possible doubt, NO. Nope, Never, Never in a million years. Absolutely not. Used in conjunction with; Do I look I look that stupid to you?"

Mom always was a font of wisdom! ;-)

Related posts

The community group in the Ames neighborhood has presented data to the Chicago Public Schools Board, showing that the community overwhelmingly demands that Ames continue to be a regular academic school, and that they reject the proposal that it be militarized. It seems to me that the only remaining question is: who controls the city, the citizens or the politicians?

(See Ummm . . . do the people in the community get a say? (Update on the Military Coup at Ames))

Ames serves a largely Spanish-speaking community. Is the militarization of Ames anything other than a signal of what the Democratic party means by equitable treatment for immigrants?

(See The Militarization of Ames: The Real Meaning of the DREAM Act )

For those not already familiar with the situation in Chicago: at a time when the City cannot be bothered to figure out how to run its own schools, but is instead closing dozens at a time, our leaders somehow think it's appropriate to let branches of the U.S. military have the run of the school and recruit kids -- and in some cases outright convert the school into a military academy. Parents in the Logan Square neighborhood are fighting a valiant effort to stop that from happening to the Ames School.

(See Stop Playing "Ender's Game" With Chicago's Young People)