Tuesday, July 26, 2016

4 Aids for Those Important, Difficult Conversations

Curiosity, leaning into conflict, humility, respect: the gold standard for peace work and citizenship in 2016!

Pastor Rachel Bauman, FCCB Berkeley
How can we manage to talk successfully with people who believe different things than we do?

Pastor Rachel Bauman at First Congregational Church in Berkeley talked about this on Sunday. She drew from In Faith and In Doubt: How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving Families by Dale McGowan to suggest how people from different faith traditions can learn to listen to and hear each other. (She suggested that these skills can also be used by people who feel that they occupying separate political galaxies, as well!)

Pastor Rachel's distillation of McGowan's work focused on the need to:

* have genuine curiosity

 . . . because it is vital to understanding others, and it deepens your understanding of your own self.

* be willing to lean into conflict

Remember: avoiding conflict actually inhibits intimacy. Just be sure to let go of your desire to convert the other person.

* hold your beliefs with deep humility

 . . . which is not the same as holding them weakly!

* commit to the proposition that personal respect for each other is non-negotiable

Opinions and ideas need to earn respect, but you, as a person, are worthy of respect always.

Check out the full sermon (below) . . . and then go out and do something listening!

Related posts

I wondered at how we could have covered all that in just a minute or two -- the time it takes to go a few stops.  After all, when I walked onto that bus we were strangers.

(See Listening for Community (A Chicago Encounter))

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))

Perhaps what makes a book good for a discussion group is that it combines startling candor, brevity, and the courage to leap again and again into the middle of mysterious questions.

(See Finding Accidental Saints in Berkeley

The Election 2016 Diet: Invest 100 Hours for Peace

GOP in Cleveland . . . Dems in Philadelphia . . . Donald Trump . . . Hillary Clinton . . . Bernie Sanders . . . DNC . . . emails . . . Russians . . . NATO . . . FOX . . . CNN . . .  aaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!

I support ANTI-WAR candidates!
(Know Any?)
The 2016 US presidential election is one of the most perplexing ever for people who oppose war and militarism.

The Democratic candidate is running on her credentials as a tough hawk; the Republican candidate makes random remarks that oddly align with some antiwar positions. The circus atmosphere is bigger than ever and the third-party antiwar candidates that we might usually place some hope in are lost in the swirl of events.

This year seems to underline a difficult truth: in the run-up to the US presidential election, it always seems axiomatic that this will be the opportune time to make headway on the antiwar agenda; but in the craziness of election season itself it becomes obvious just how far out of the action we antiwar people are.

As I reeled from last week's GOP convention shenanigans and find myself drenched in another week of party-business-as-usual during the Democratic convention, I'm having a moment of clarity: these people are stealing my time.

There are, what, 100 days remaining until the election in November? Am I really going to let the next 100 days be commandeered by the minutiae and couch-quarterbacking of this election?

Consider: what if each of us claimed back the time that election 2016 is trying to demand of us? What if we said, "I am not giving you my attention?" What if, instead, we acknowledged that we know right now what we're going to do on election day, and we don't need any more TV coverage or newspaper stories or Facebook posts or tweets, and that instead we were going to use that time in a way of our own choosing?

What would you do with that extra 30 minutes or hour or . . . ?

Here's a radical proposal: what if each of us spent that extra hour a day over the next 100 days to simply think? Imagine saying, "I am investing these 100 hours in thinking deeply about what it will take to change the war-like ways of this country I live in. I am going to ask hard questions, confront what's really standing in the way, think creatively, and come up with new ways to be an effective peace worker. This is my time and I am going to make the best use of it."

Taking a break to think.  The results could be . . . revolutionary . . . !

Think about . . . how to get to a world beyond war FASTER . . .

Think about . . . getting networked with others in the peace movement . . .

Think about . . . how to use social media more effectively . . .

Think about . . . roles women play in the peace process . . . 

Think about . . . having difficult conversations . . .

Think about . . . the structural problem of "thermonuclear monarchy" . . .

Think about . . . US Constitution and what we might do differently . . .

Think about . . . all the people doing peace work, and what part YOU want to play . . .

Think about . . . creative resistance to war and militarism . . .

Think about . . . how people encourage more people to be their best and make a difference . . .

Think about . . . ? . . .

Related posts

In four hundred and thirty-five Congressional districts, there is an inseparable relationship between campaign funding for Congressional races and the military contractors. How do we push back?

(See IT'S A LOCK: Why the US Can't Break Its Addiction to War)

It will benefit us antiwar activists in the US to attend to and reflect upon the importance of these Sustainable Development Goals to achieving the goal of ending war.

(See PEACE DAY 2016: What comes first? Demilitarization? or Development?)

Election 2016 will come down to how the candidates propose to deal with ISIS, and whether they respond to the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement.

(See To Grab the Win, Might Trump or Hillary Surprise Us?)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Follow Blogger/Poet Samia J. Hassan in Somaliland

Blogger/poet Samia J. Hassan
Twitter: @SamiaHassan23
Blogger Samia J. Hassan writes beautiful poetry. You can read it on her blog at samiahassanahmed.wordpress.com.

These words especially resonated with me:

For your country you are merely a number

They want to brag about

(See the full post/poem, "Numbers and Stories")

Samia J. Hassan writes from Somaliland, a self-declared state that is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia.

"Numbers and Stories" reminded me of two blog posts of my own -- though the poetry of Samia J. Hassan says it all much more succinctly and beautifully:

I look forward to reading everything Samia J. Hassan writes.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Yasujirō Ozu: Saint for Our time

Who has more power than filmmakers? And who, among filmmakers, had more power to invoke the spiritual than Yasujirō Ozu?

Chishū Ryū and Setsuko Hara in Late Spring by Yasujirō Ozu

A few weeks ago, I was inspired by a visit to a San Francisco church that "celebrate[s] those whose lives show God at work, building a deep character to match the godlike image which stamps them as God's own from the start." It was an invitation to think about who, for me, are some of the people -- saints -- who have made a special stamp on the world. (See Who Ya Gonna Call? (Saints for All Times))

Then, several nights ago, I watched once again the film Late Spring by Yasujirō Ozu at a screening at BAMPFA in Berkeley, and I thought, "Oh yeah, he's definitely one of those saints!"

Yasujirō Ozu
(Note the cap ... Ozu brings his own halo!)
Ozu is a hero to a vast community of people who love film, and a great deal has been written about him and his work. I once saw Roger Ebert introduce Ozu's work at a talk at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago, and a post from his blog captures much of what he said:

"To love movies without loving Ozu is an impossibility. When I see his films, I am struck by his presence behind every line, every gesture. Like Shakespeare, he breathes through his characters, and when you have seen several of his films you feel as if you must have known him."

(More at "Saluting a Master Of the Cinema, Yasujiro Ozu")

What I particularly like about Ozu's films is the way they let us listen in on intimate conversations between people. We may not find those conversations full of high drama -- at least not at first -- but if we slow down and look and listen carefully, we realize that we are being privileged to be able to get at the truth about what goes on between people, and within people.

Late Spring is an Ozu masterpiece, and film lovers study it frame by frame. It is about a man and his adult daughter, and the question of whether she will continue living with him or go off to have a life of her own. This is a plot that held quite a bit of interest for me when I was a young adult, when I felt the pull of my widowed mother in conflict with the challenges of figuring out the life I wanted to pursue. Those years have passed, and my own children are adults now, and little by little I'm becoming aware that the this film holds other relevance for me.

There is a moment in the film when the "aging" father says "I'm 56 now . . . ." and I went gulp ...! You can bet I was watching and listening even more closely from then on.

As my years advance, I'm becoming a student of listening. Great films help us hone our listening skills.

Choreographers, poets, playwrights, novelists, jazz musicians - you can find all of them on the walls of St. Gregory of Nyssa church. My array of saints also includes filmmakers . . . .

Related posts

The array of saints on the walls of St. Gregory of Nyssa raise a fascinating question for all communities of faith: who would you select to memorialize and celebrate on the walls of your church?

(See Who Ya Gonna Call? (Saints for All Times))

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)

The films of Hou Hsiao-hsien came after my time in Taiwan, but for me they are a happy addition to my attempts to understand the place.

(See Taiwan Through "City of Sadness")

I'm not sure the "7 habits of highly effective people" are necessarily identical to the "7 habits of highly effective apostles." But they do pose an interesting framework to consider building from.

(See The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Apostles )

I wondered at how we could have covered all that in just a minute or two -- the time it takes to go a few stops.  After all, when I walked onto that bus we were strangers.

(See Listening for Community (A Chicago Encounter))

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chicago Aldermen Stepping Up for Police Accountability

A bill is going before Chicago City council to assure a democratically elected civilian body holds the police accountable.

In the past I publicized a poster showing the members of Chicago City Council with the word MISSING in bold red letters superimposed over it.  Now it's time to replace that with a new poster, because some members of Chicago City Council are stepping up for police accountability.

What this means is accountability for Chicago's police and also for the City Council itself.

The bill's sponsor is Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) (P) and he is reported to have the support of 8 more aldermen (including 3 who are fellow members of the Progressive Caucus, and 3 who are members of the Black Caucus):

Joe Moreno (1st)
Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) (P)
Toni Foulkes (16th) (P) (BC)
Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) (BC)
Ricardo Munoz (22nd) (P)
Roberto Maldonado (26th)
Emma Mitts (37th) (BC)
Ameya Pawar (47th)

Members of the Progressive Caucus are designated with a (P). It is hoped that they will bring along other members of the 11-member Progressive Caucus as well.

Members of the Black Caucus are designated with (BC). Other members are Chair Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer (6), Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Will Burns (4), Ald. Leslie Hairston (5), Ald. Greg Mitchell (7), Ald. Michelle Harris (8), Ald. Anthony Beale (9), Ald. David Moore (17), Ald. Derrick Curtis (18), Ald. Willie B. Cochran (20), Ald. Michael Scott (24), Ald. Walter Burnett (27), Ald. Jason Ervin (28), Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29), Ald Carrie Austin (34) and Ald. Emma Mitts (37)

You can help by reaching out to your alderman today. (Find your alderman and contact info here.) If they're already a supporter (list above) - thank them. If they're not yet a supporter - urge them to become a co-sponsor.

More background on the campaign for police accountability in Chicago:

Will Chicago Televise Hearings on Civilian Police Accountability Agency?

CHICAGO CITY COUNCIL: Impose Civilian Control on CPD

A Modest Proposal for Chicago's Progressive Caucus: Support CPAC

Does a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) need to be part of a "new plan of Chicago"?

#PeopleOverPolice: Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

Chicago Vocabulary Lesson: "Overcharging" and "Undercharging"

We need to get the police off the streets of Chicago. QED.

CHICAGO: Twilight Zone? Constitution-Free Zone? (What's it look like to YOU?)

Whence this Trollish Stoop? Oh, Britain . . . !

First #Brexit, now #Trident renewal. What next? A UK lit only by fire . . . ?

 Troll Bridge - pencils by Gido

"The hell with our neighbors. We've got a big stick, that's all we need . . . . "

Where did they learn to act this way?

Oh . . . right . . . they learned it from us . . . .

Related posts

How do you formulate a statement that can somehow convince the United States to eliminate its threatening nuclear weapons?  How do you formulate the 10th request? Or the 100th? Knowing all the time that the United States is in the position -- will always be in the position -- to say, "No" ?  At what point does it dawn on you that the United States will never give up its nuclear weapons, because it has the power and the rest of the world doesn't?

(See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States))

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) )

The decision about whether to live with the threat of nuclear annihilation is our decision. And that is why the entire country is mobilizing for mass action for nuclear disarmament in 2015. Are we capable of making sure the messengers -- Obama, Putin, the other agents of government -- hear their instructions from us clearly?

(See NEEDED: Heroes to Bring About Nuclear Disarmament )

Take a look at the activism of people in Scotland against the stationing of Trident nuclear-weapons-equipped submarines in Scotland.

(See We're Rooting for You, Scotland! (Trident NO Scotland YES) )

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Up next: Putin and Obama Talking Nuclear Disarmament?

The NATO summit fueled pessimism on US-Russia cooperation for nuclear disarmament; but things could change in an instant and Putin and Obama could sit down together. Maybe we need to demand it?

Putin and Obama: #talk

In the last 48 hours there were two pieces, both in the Washington Post, both by Josh Rogin:

"Obama plans major nuclear policy changes in his final months"

"Obama’s Syria plan teams up American and Russian forces"

Apparently Secretary of State Kerry is in Moscow for talks as I write this.

Now . . . what's the over/under on an Obama-Putin meeting on nuclear weapons before November? (Or better yet, before the August 6 Hiroshima anniversary??)

(For more background, here's the A-B-C on why Obama needs to go to Moscow to negotiate nuclear disarmament.)

Today, we may not be seeing kinetic (currently unleashed) violence on anything like the scale that consumed Europe and other parts of the world and resulted in 60 million deaths. Instead, thanks to technology, we have potential (waiting to be unleashed) violence -- nuclear devastation just the push of a button away.

(See Obama's (and Putin's) Missed Opportunity at Hiroshima)

There are three centers of power that will impact nuclear disarmament: the President, the Congress, and the people. One of them will have to make nuclear disarmament happen.

(See Countdown to U.S. Nuclear Disarmament (With or Without the Politicians) )

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

IN BERKELEY: Declaring Sanctuary, Changing Hearts and Minds

We are a Lutheran congregation declaring our commitment to help people facing deportation to dangerous situations . . . so of course we gathered around the waters of promise . . . .

Supporters from over a dozen area congregations and organizations gathered
around Pastor Jeff Johnson of University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley
poured the waters of promise as part of the ceremony in which ULC declared
Sanctuary for undocumented persons facing deportation.

Today, University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley stood shoulder to shoulder with these congregations and organizations to declare Sanctuary for undocumented persons facing deportation:

Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity / East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition (EBIIC)
Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose
Kehilla Community Synagogue
Hope Lutheran Church of El Sobrante
All Soul’s Episcopal Church
Newman Holy Spirit Catholic Church Non-Violent Peacemakers Group
Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy
Lake Merritt United Methodist Church
Pittsburgh-Antioch Community Church
Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
Episcopal Diocese of California
Oakland Catholic Worker
Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana

Over the last two years, the Sanctuary Movement has had 16 Sanctuary cases, winning relief from deportation for 13 people in 9 cities throughout the country, building a growing network of over 350 congregations in 30 states.

The focus of the day was the danger many people face if they are forced to return to the places they came from. We heard testimony from and about immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala giving specific examples of the threats to their lives that caused them to come here.

At today's event, the emphasis was on faith, conscience, and humanity: we are committed to helping these people simply because they need it. I couldn't help remembering that there is also another reason to help: US complicity in creating the violence in chaos in so many parts of Latin America. (See links to related posts below)

Two weeks ago the City of Berkeley affirmed its support of Sanctuary for undocumented persons facing deportation. Berkeley city councilman Kriss Worthington spoke at today's event and told those present that the movement is not just providing assistance to specific individuals, but also educating people everywhere about the need for Sanctuary, and changing hearts and minds.

More information on Sanctuary at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley for undocumented persons facing deportation is at ulcberkeley.org/sanctuary.

Related posts

It will take me multiple posts to spell out everything that I feel needs to be said about the Ayotzinapa 43.  People in the US need to work to change their own attitude about Mexico, and about the culpability or all of us here in the US in the wrongs that are being done down there. The Ayotzinapa 43 were persecuted for saying "the future can be different." It's time for us to take up their cry.

(See Ayotzinapa43: US People Need an Attitude Adjustment )

I dedicated Indigenous Peoples Day 2015 to making some progress towards writing about the perspective of indigenous peoples in the Americas.

How do you observe Indigenous Peoples Day?

(See Reflections on Indigenous Peoples Day 2015)

Perhaps, like me, you will read a sentence like, "In 2001, many people came to her neighbourhood looking for a new home, fleeing from the Naya River where the paramilitaries had massacred and displaced the Afro-Colombian communities," and wonder what it refers to.

(See COLOMBIA: Where did the violence come from?)

The second half of the 20th century saw massive human rights violations in countries throughout Central America and South America, committed principally by governments and government-sanctioned paramilitaries. The United States government encouraged and enabled this through arms shipments, training, and other forms of support.

(See How Is the US Implicated in Argentina's "Years of Lead"?)

Kids' Art Says "NO WAR!"

Children have a crystal clear idea of the world we need. (One without war, that is.) They can even draw us adults a picture.

V @auroandre12:
"To save the world... My little bro Andrea has created a monster eats-war!"
(Please retweet this!)

I love the image above, shared on Twitter by @auroandre12 with the message "My little bro Andrea wants to save the world... My little bro Andrea has created a monster eats-war! #NoHate #NoWar." "My monster that eats war" is depicted eating paura (fear), guerra (war), armi (guns), egoismo (selfishness), odio (hate), razzismo (racism), and cattiveria (wickedness). Andrea is 7 years old.

Maybe we need to hear less from politicians and more from 7-year-olds.

Related posts:

What value might be obtained by having a really high quality "channel" on social media that people can tune in to for news and ideas about war abolition?

(See #NOwar - Permanently Trending on Twitter? YES! )

AK Songstress connects to the antiwar legacy of world music -- "in the era of legends like Bob Marley, he was always advocating for peace, unity, love and tolerance."

(See Product of Ghana: #NOwar / Pro Peace Music)

I don't think Alanna and I ever talked about what it must be like to be trying to escape a shower of sparks and hot ash. But she seemed to know that the sparks and hot ash are too important a part of the picture to be left out.

(See The Children Are Waiting )

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Can "Lutheran" Be a #BlackLivesMatter Denomination?

LSTC president James Nieman
I've been heartened to see a #decolonizelutheranism movement coinciding with #BlackLivesMatter and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Now the head of Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) has chimed in.

Below, I'm reproducing in full the open letter from LSTC president James Nieman.

For myself, I particularly notice three things:

(1) I like what President Nieman says about stopping to think . . . and confess. (See On Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates (A Confession))

(2) OVERALL: It's a reminder that, in the Lutheran denomination at least, seminaries are in the thick of the conflict of the times --  not an escapist ivory tower. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and try to get in touch with what we're all about, it's good to remember this.

(3) Most important, he zeroes in those words that are so difficult for white people to swallow: "white privilege" and "racism" and "denial." A lot of work is going to have to be done to pry "Lutheranism" apart from "white privilege" . . . and guess who's going to have to do that work?

I'd love comments from others on what they notice in this letter

From President James Nieman:

The events of the past week in this country have culminated an escalating, sickening cycle of violence. This cycle has been inflicted predominantly upon African Americans and became more visible and acute since Ferguson, but in fact stretches back for decades, let alone centuries. Recently, others have been subjected to hate crimes (at Pulse in Orlando) or targeted for killing (the police in Dallas), and these atrocities also deserve our sober reflection and mourning. Consistent about a topic I have raised many times before, though, my focus in this letter is specifically about the role of white privilege and racism in creating the heinous harm consuming us these days, and how our school can play a part in dismantling it.

In particular, I am writing this mainly to white people like me at our seminary. I am convinced that we are in denial about the racism that saturates our society and from which we directly benefit. That denial produces predictable twin reactions from white people: either silence about the racism that plainly reinforces our way of living or surprise at the frustration and outrage African Americans and others express at how they are treated. I believe this denial, with its attendant silence and surprise, is nothing other than a refusal to acknowledge the privilege we hold and the degradation it inflicts on others. If we as white people have any conscience left, if we at this moment feel any distress at all with recent events, then we should at least have the moral courage in a seminary to admit that how we live is destructive for other people and ultimately unsustainable for ourselves. As white people, we must acknowledge our racism. [yellow highlighting added]

From various quarters there are calls for religious communities to pray or speak or march, and of course there is a place for all these actions. I am proposing, though, that white people like me must first engage the more basic, disturbing work of thinking and confessing. These practices are not at all neat and tidy, for taken seriously they are actually agonizing. But without first thinking about who we are and then confessing how we have benefitted, all of our praying and speaking and even marching become an insubstantial, self-serving charade. My point, then, is to share with white people at our seminary three resources toward a more disciplined kind of thinking and confessing. I assure you than none of these readings is easy to absorb.

First, I urge you to read “Death in Black and White,” an opinion column by Michael Eric Dyson appearing in The New York Times (click here). Second, I urge you to review recent postings on the seminary’s “We Talk. We Listen.” diversity blog hosted by Linda Thomas, including Dr. Thomas’s own excellent, poignant essay from this morning (click here). Third, I urge you to consider “White Fragility,” a scholarly article by Robin DiAngelo published in the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy .... All three readings are like a relentless mirror reflecting back to us the white privilege and racism in which we are embedded. May these be aids to your thinking and confessing about racism.

I realize some readers may find this letter harsh and uncomfortable, while others may think it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Isn’t reading articles just another kind of intellectual escapism? Can thinking and confessing ever be potent practices that make a difference? My aim, though, is theological – and theology in the name of the Crucified begins with telling the truth (cf. article 21 of the Heidelberg Disputation), both about ourselves and the evil that envelops us. As white people within the LSTC community, let us (as Luther put it in 1518) “call the thing what it is,” honestly name our complicity in racism, and commit to meaningful repentance. Only then will all our other words and deeds – and yes, even prayers – hold any promise for those whom our white privilege has persistently destroyed.

James Nieman

Related posts

Maybe a good next step is to read Coates' book and sit with it . . . listening to what comes up . . . but not jumping immediately into "solving."

(See On Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates (A Confession))

It suddenly occurs to me that everyone in the US should be studying the behavior of England toward India, and asking ourselves, "What might this tell people in the US about coming to our senses?"

(See PROBLEM: How does an entire country exorcise a national delusion?)

To be sitting in Berkeley and seeing in front of my eyes the spreading of this idea that started in Texas and was nurtured in Philadelphia and got agitated in Chicago felt like a real Pentecost moment.

(See Decolonize Lutheranism -- A Northern California Installment)

KAIROS: that moment of clarity, in which it is no longer "business as usual"; that moment in which you feel an earthquake impending.

(See KAIROS: The Moment You've Been Waiting For?

Have YOU Encouraged Someone Today?

It's startling how many great accomplishments have been spurred by the encouragement of a single person saying, "You can do it!"

Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang
I was struck again today reading an interview with the author Ji-li Jiang. She recalled a couple she knew at the time she first arrived in the US giving her a copy of The Diary of Ann Frank and writing inside, "We hope someday we will be able to read 'The Diary of Ji-li Jiang.'" The resulting book was Red Scarf Girl.

I've long been fascinated by the power of one book -- Uncle Tom's Cabin -- to change the course of US history. (See Creative Resistance 101: Uncle Tom's Cabin ) Part of the back story of that book is Harriet Beecher Stowe's sister-in-law saying, "...if I could use a pen as you can, Hatty, I would write something that would make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is." Look what she set in motion.

One of the architects I greatly admire is Sir Norman Foster - creator of buildings ranging from the futuristic Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building in Hong Kong to the renovated Reichstag in Berlin. There is an excellent documentary about Sir Norman's career, How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? In it, he shares his recollection of beginning as a lowly clerk in the firm, John Bearshaw and Partners. Bearshaw himself took an interest in Foster and his first attempts at drawings, and encouraged him to stick with it.

Is it possible that the course of these lives wouldn't have been quite the same without that moment of encouragement? Have you experienced this in your own life?

So . . . have you encouraged someone today?

Related posts

Eventually, in large part due to Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, the United States was converted from a country in which a small number of people thought slavery needed to be ended into a country determined to act to end slavery. This literary work took the movement wide, and it took it deep.

Why is a novel an important tool for creative resistance?

(See Creative Resistance 101: Uncle Tom's Cabin )

 There are some people who say, "Why does it take the sacrifice of an American to get people to care about the many people who have died and suffered in Gaza and other parts of Palestine and Israel?"

(See Where were YOU on April 10, 1979?)

Ravi Shankar is a great example of someone bringing a special point of view to pierce the bubble of "normalcy" in which a vast number of people live, and to agitate for tectonic change.

(See Thanks, Ravi

Make no mistake: Sandy was a high-powered lawyer with a high-powered lobbying firm. In that setting, Sandy was a big mahoff. But what made him really big was his ability to help the rest of us have the confidence to raise our voices.

(See REMEMBERING SANDY: Samuel Berger, 1945-2015 )

Monday, July 11, 2016

South China Sea: Get Serious, Lose the Hypocrisy

Yes, there are important issues in the South China Sea. But US people must begin by refusing to buy into US government hypocrisy on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Chigua (China name) / Mabini (Philippine name) on January 24, 2015.
(It is also known as "Johnson South Reef.")

Buried in the article in The New York Times this past week about the South China Sea conflict -- a conflict the US and others want to see judged under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) -- is this sentence:

The United States signed the United Nations treaty but never ratified it.

In other words, the US government and the US mainstream media see fit to tell the US reading public all the ways that China should be behaving differently in light of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) even though that is a body of law that the US is not a party to.

(Sort of the same way the US government and the US mainstream media tsk-tsk China for creating military installations on a few sandbars in the area when the US is itself re-instituting its extensive system of bases throughout the nearby Philippines, not to mention its network of bases throughout the area of the Asia-Pacific bordering China.)

The US has adopted the role of "enforcer" by traversing the waters involved with its navy. It seeks to remind China constantly of the US interpretation of China's rights (and the limits on those rights) under UNCLOS -- i.e. under that treaty that the US is not, itself, a party to.

The issues in the South China Sea are extremely important. US people need to use that situation as an invitation to get interested in the larger context of how the US behaves in that region and in the world.

Related posts

In much of the 20th century, conflict and war centered on oil resources and the Middle East. Will the 21st century see conflict and war center on fisheries, particularly in the Pacific?

(See Pacific Fisheries' Futile Conflict: How about sharing?)

As I read the Chinese language paper every day, it is clear to me that -- in the absence of sustained civic discourse on the security issues in the Pacific region -- our future is being shaped by military posturing.

(See SOUTH CHINA SEA FACE OFF: Does this make ANY sense?)

My hope and belief is that a Berkeley forum on peace and prosperity in the Pacific would reveal a shared interest in de-escalating the South China Sea confrontation, and dramatically increase awareness of shared Pacific prospects for well-being.

(See 21st c. Berkeley: More Relevant Than Ever to Antiwar Movement)