Saturday, October 29, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016 and #NoDAPL: 4 Questions

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests are waking people up on human rights, civil rights, immigration, land, water, and environmentalism overall.


Welcome to the land of the free . . . .(V @ UR_Ninja #NoDAPL)
(Please share this image.)


It is fortuitous that the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is coming to a head as we enter November.

As kids across the US turn to making construction paper turkeys and learning the story of The First Thanksgiving, they will inevitably start asking questions.

Asking questions should have become part of Thanksgiving a long time ago.

To borrow a custom from another commemorative tradition, I suggest people everywhere use this time to ask 4 Questions:


(1) How does a person get to be an "American"?

Our children want to know: Is it "I was here first"? Is it "I got here at the right time"? Is it "I was stronger"?

(Is it "I was lucky enough to be born into a group that was stronger"?)

Maybe the way it works in the future can be different than the way it's worked in the past?


(2) Can we settle conflict by force?

Our children want to know: do we believe that, in the end, the way to settle conflict is for one side to overpower the other?

Is that how disagreements end?


(3) Who owns the land?

Our children want to know: what does it really mean for one person to "own" a part of the Earth? How does that get decided? What happens if someone says, "You're wrong, I own all of this?"

How could new people have come to the Americas and become owners of land if there were already people here who owned all the land?


(4) Will there always be enough water?

Our children want to know: I just go to the sink and turn on the tap and the water comes forever, right?


Make the Thanksgiving season a time of learning.


Related posts

"We need to first acknowledge the genocidal origins of OUR nation’s history of ethnic cleansing and occupation."

(See Native American Rights: Acknowledge the Occupation)













Having recently moved to California, I have a very strong impression that someone was living here before I "discovered" it.

(See DECOLONIZE THIS: The ELCA's Doctrine of Discovery Challenge)













More and more, people are looking to the wisdom of indigenous people to give us strength as we confront the climate crisis and other problems.

(See SDG 15 and Peace: "We are but one thread ... ")






How do you observe Indigenous Peoples Day?

(See Reflections on Indigenous Peoples Day 2015)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How Might the White Church "Die to 'Whiteness'"?

"White" Christians, "white" congregations, the "white" church -- these words don't make any sense. But how do we change them?


Edvard Munch, Two Women on the Shore


At University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, we've been reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Among other things, the book is a wake-up call for "people who think themselves white." And once awake, it's impossible for those people not to ask, "How might I think of myself?"

Three days ago, I attended a panel discussion featuring four ministers from the Bay Area. The discussion took place at the Oakland Museum of California, during a multi-day symposium on the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party, and the topic of the panel was "Liberation Theology - The Black Panther Party and the Church." In response from a question from an audience member about what the white church needs to do, Rev. Michael McBride said,

"The white church needs to die to 'whiteness'."

And I thought, "Of course."


How might the white church "die to 'whiteness'"?

For the past three days, I've been thinking a lot about what Pastor Mike said.

I certainly like the sound of it.

I'm not sure I know how to do it.

My first impulse is to say: we need to quash symbols of white ethnicity -- Bach hymns and Norwegian sweaters and Swedish coffee cake -- and open ourselves up to other cultural referents.

Pretty soon I'm off and running with visions of different ways to adorn the church, different ways to do worship, different ways to do fellowship . . . .

But something brings me up short.

I think there is valuable conversation to be had about music and attire and food -- about the signals we send to ourselves and others about who we are and where we seek our comfort -- but I also think it can obscure the heart of the matter.

The heart of the matter, at least as I understand it, is that race is a social construct, and it's concerned with power. "Whiteness" is a condition of power over and against people who get defined as "not white." "Dying to 'whiteness'," then, will involved giving up power, I think.

It may be difficult to understand how to give up power, particularly in a church context, in which (we may think) we aren't exercising any power. (At least not in the sense of physical power.)

But several possibilities come to mind.

In the church context, a lot of our power comes from our prerogative to interpret and re-interpret . . .

What might happen if we devoted ourselves to ("merely") listening to the experiences of those who have been defined as "not white" -- and check our habit of explaining what the "real" meaning of what we are hearing is?

In the church context, a lot of our power comes from our position as mediators . . .

What might happen if we took upon ourselves the demands of those who have been defined as "not white" -- and forgo our habit of watering down those demands to make them more "palatable" or "realistic"?

In the church context, a lot of our power comes from our role as managers . . .

What might happen if we went to work in the service of the solutions devised by those who have been defined as "not white" -- even solutions that we don't get to direct and control?

These are just a few thoughts that have occurred to me.

The real value, of course, will come as large numbers of people who "think themselves white" devote themselves to this question: How might I -- how might this Church -- "die to 'whiteness'"? (And: What lies on the other side?)


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))














"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."

(See Can "Lutheran" Be a #BlackLivesMatter Denomination?)









How will the organized power of 4 million Lutherans in the US be brought to bear on the fact that we are living on occupied land.

(See DECOLONIZE THIS: The ELCA's Doctrine of Discovery Challenge)

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Mind of the "World Beyond War" Activist

Adopting a "world beyond war" frame -- saying "war is going away; the question for me is how fast" -- implies optimism-realism, outcome orientation, and humility.


The path ahead . . . .
(Image: Trail Racing Over Texas)


"A lot of people are opposed to war, but what might look different when a group of people approach war as a soon-to-be-obsolete institution?"

This is a question I posed a few weeks ago in WAR: Headed for the junkheap, yes . . . but how quickly?

In that post, I talked about the growing community of people who share a conviction that the world will get to the point where war is a discredited, abandoned institution (like slavery) ... and they see that it makes a difference how quickly (and in what manner) the world gets there. And then I asked, What is different when a person adopts this new frame -- "war is going away; the question for me is how fast"?

Three differences come to mind . . . .

A new relationship to optimism and to realism.  One of the greatest challenges we face, as we work for a better future, is to live in hope while at the same time not underestimating the challenges we face.  I think one of the benefits of this new frame -- "war is going away; the question for me is how fast" -- is that it is grounded in optimism, while at the same time establishing a basis for cold-eyed analysis of what's working and what isn't. (That analysis includes an understanding of the extreme depth and breadth of the current war system.) 

To put it another way, I think this is a frame that encourages us to be hopeful but not naive; realistic but not cynical.

We can disagree on the path. A good friend once told me a word that refers to the way different pathways may be taken and still successfully reach a given result: "equifinality." I think that, as more and more people adopt this new frame -- "war is going away; the question for me is how fast" -- we will become better and better at respecting different approaches, and figuring out how to gain strength from each other.

When we act from a place of frustration, it is difficult to see the value in differences. When we act from a place of hope, difference can spark inspiration.

When we act from a place of oversimplification, there is no room for people who don't fit our model. When we act from a place of realism, differences don't catch us off guard.

To put it another way, we adopt a respectful curiosity about outcomes. What we all sincerely agree on is that we're hoping for the same result in the end.

Humility. We are basing our work on a belief about the future, and that requires us to adopt a posture of humility. We simply can't know for sure how the future will pan out; we don't get to say, "I'm right and you're wrong."


I believe these three differences -- optimism-realism, outcome orientation, and humility -- are important. I think they put us in a much better position to address the next question: How might adopting this new frame enable people to see more clearly the strategic points of impact to cause the more rapid disappearance of war?


Related posts

There is a growing movement of people focused on the "world beyond war." To many of these people, the question is not "if" but "when?" They share a conviction that the world will get there, and they see that it makes a difference how quickly (and in what manner) the world gets there.

(See WAR: Headed for the junkheap, yes . . . but how quickly?)




The strategic challenge we face is to wake up to the fact that -- globally -- we are pursuing peace work in diverse ways . . . and then figure out a way to take advantage of the inherent strength in the existence of these diverse approaches.

(See Global Peace Movement: Big, Networked, Diverse)





Rachel Bauman asks: "How can we manage to talk successfully with people who believe different things than we do?"

Curiosity, leaning into conflict, humility, respect . . . .
(See 4 Aids for Those Important, Difficult Conversations)

Friday, October 21, 2016

PRESIDENTS AND NUKES: Time for some polling

Has Donald Trump's candidacy woken people up to the risk of nuclear weapons? Good! Even better will be when they realize the risk Hillary Clinton poses, too.

It seems pretty clear that the candidacy of Donald Trump is waking a lot of people up to just how much power the US president has, acting alone, to subject the world to nuclear holocaust.


"Our founding Fathers would be rolling over in
their graves if they knew the President could
launch a massive, potentially civilization-ending
military strike without authorization from
Congress.... The current nuclear launch approval
process, which gives the decision to potentially
end civilization as we know it to a single
individual, is flatly unconstitutional. I am proud
to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear
Weapons Act of 2016 with Sen. Markey to realign
our nation's nuclear weapons launch policy with
the Constitution."
- Congressman Lieu, September 27, 2016
(Share this message on Twitter!)


I think it's time for a reality check: it's not just Donald Trump that's the issue. The other major candidate (and currently predicted winner) in this campaign uses words like "obliterate" to describe what the US could do to other countries.

Today's New York Times had stark words about Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton made it abundantly clear Wednesday night that if she defeats Donald J. Trump next month she will enter the White House with the most contentious relationship with Russia of any president in more than three decades, and with a visceral, personal animus toward Vladimir V. Putin, its leader.

That's right, that Russia -- the other country in the world besides the US that is sitting on a massive nuclear arsenal. (See "The Hawk on Russia Policy? Hillary Clinton, Not Donald Trump.")

Now that Congress has legislation in front of it to take the power to act alone to launch a nuclear first strike out of the hands of the US president, it would be a good time for somebody with a name like Gallup or Pew (or ...? ... ) to double-check with the public. "Are you only concerned about Trump?"

I predict that if the US public was asked, they would demonstrate a clear preference for NO president having unilateral authority to start a nuclear war.


A poll might sound something like this . . . 

Under current procedure, the US president may, acting alone, give the order for a nuclear first strike.

Do you consent to the fact that, as US president, Donald Trump could, acting alone, with no questions asked, give the order for a nuclear first strike?

(5) Definitely not
(4) Probably not
(3) No opinion, don't know
(2)  I suppose . . .
(1) Yes, I feel totally confident giving President Donald Trump complete authority to order a nuclear first strike.

Do you consent to the fact that, as US president, Hillary Clinton could, acting alone, with no questions asked, give the order for a nuclear first strike?

(5) Definitely not
(4) Probably not
(3) No opinion, don't know
(2)  I suppose . . . (1) Yes, I feel totally confident giving President Hillary Clinton complete authority to order a nuclear first strike.

Do you consent to the fact that, under current procedure, any US president could, acting alone, with no questions asked, give the order for a nuclear first strike?

(5) Definitely not
(4) Probably not
(3) No opinion, don't know
(2)  I suppose . . . (1) Yes, I feel totally confident giving any person elected US President complete authority to order a nuclear first strike.

Legislation has been proposed that would require the US Congress to first make a declaration of war, and explicitly authorize a nuclear first strike, before any US President could carry out a nuclear first strike. How in favor would you be of such a change?

(5) Very much in favor: I think a nuclear first strike should never happen without everyone in Congress being required to debate it.
(4) Somewhat in favor
(3) No opinion, don't know
(2) Somewhat opposed
(1) Very opposed:  I feel totally confident letting the US President continue to have the power, acting alone, with no questions asked, to give the order for a nuclear first strike.


I know how I would respond. (How about you?)

Let the polling begin!


Related posts

Representative Ted Lieu and Senator Ed Markey have introduced the "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016."  Here's how you can get on the phone to your member of Congress to demand their support . . . .

(See NUKES: Your Call to Your Congressman Matters)



In a recent Huffington Post article, John Carl Baker discussed the current state of affairs in the US -- one that many US citizens are finally waking up to: "In the United States, the president has the absolute authority to launch a nuclear attack. He or she doesn’t have to seek approval from the legislative branch, the public, or anyone else. If the president wills Armageddon, there’s effectively no way to stop it from happening."

(See Summary Edition of "Thermonuclear Monarchy")










So now it occurs to you that there's a problem? Up until now, you've assumed the US president would always be self-controlled enough, reflective enough, consistent enough . . . foolproof enough . . . that the nuclear thing would just kind of stay safely under wraps where it belongs?

(See Trump? Maybe the problem is the NUCLEAR ARSENAL itself ...)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Selected Scarry Thoughts (Fall 2016 Update)

Here are some of the issues I'm working on: nuclear disarmament, decolonize Lutheranism, using social media for activism, peace movement building, and more . . . .



Representative Ted Lieu and Senator Ed Markey have introduced the "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016."  Here's how you can get on the phone to your member of Congress to demand their support . . . .

(See NUKES: Your Call to Your Congressman Matters)

 

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)






Twitter is certainly a powerful way to quickly form connections with others in the movement.

(See Suggestions for Successful Twitter Activism)














September is a big month for peace work organizing - the UN International Day for Peace is September 21. As you plan your peace work for September, consider how you will directly and/or indirectly participate in and support of these activities taking place around the world.

(See Make Your Plans for #PeaceWork in September










See more posts ....

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

SAY HER NAME: Kayla Moore and the Struggle for Justice

Did police response to a call involving mental health distress obey the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? A court will look at Kayla Moore's experience . . . .


We remember Kayla Moore
4-17-71 to 2-13-13
poet, singer, sister, daughter, genius, friend
black trans woman with a mental health diagnosis
killed by Berkeley Police in her own home.
they tried to blame her death on "obesity" !!!
SHAME ON BPD!
JUSTICE FOR KAYLA
(Original art: Nomy Lamm)


Kayla Moore died at the hands of Berkeley police on February 13, 2013. Read "We Remember Kayla Moore" by Nomy Lamm (who created the poster above) to learn about Kayla Moore's life and how she died.

The Justice 4 Kayla Moore movement has grown steadily in the Bay Area. I was present at Federal Court in San Francisco on Monday when Judge Breyer said he would move forward with the court case brought by the family. He will hear arguments on the part of the complaint related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Judge Breyer dismissed the parts related to excessive force and equal protection. (More to come on the possibility of appeal on those issues.) The month of November will provide important opportunities to support Kayla's family and the Justice 4 Kayla Moore movement.

When I lived in Chicago, I learned about the need for police accountability. I was very focused on Chicago, but I also learned about the situation in other parts of the country, particularly when leaders from around the country gathered in Chicago for the National Forum on Police Crimes. So I have arrived in Berkeley with my eyes open.

A particular case I learned about in Chicago involved Stephon Watts. It was my first introduction to what goes wrong when police use confrontation instead of de-escalation in responding to mental health-related distress calls.

The struggle for police accountability has been a difficult one in Chicago. It's turning out to be a difficult one throughout the country.  I expect it will be a difficult one in Berkeley.

But I'm inspired to see the strength of the growing movement here. And it's about to get stronger . . .

To be continued . . . .


Related posts


In the city where I live, "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" has been given a brutal construction by the power structure:

Police encounter black man on street
Police shoot black man
Black man dies
(Business as usual in Chicago.)

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









The State's Attorney for the Chicago area finally got around to bringing a charge against a police officer who shot and killed a citizen. Why, I wondered, didn't Anita Alvarez charge him with murder?

Then I remembered my Chicago vocabulary lesson.

(See Chicago Vocabulary Lesson: "Overcharging" and "Undercharging" )










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 )

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Summary Edition of "Thermonuclear Monarchy"

No US president acting alone -- be it Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or anyone else -- can be trusted with the sole power to launch nuclear weapons.

Summary Edition of
Thermonuclear Monarchy:
Choosing Between Democracy and Doom

by Elaine Scarry
A Summary Edition of Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom by Elaine Scarry (my sister) is now available and is being widely used in educational, policy, and other settings. It contains the full introduction to each of the main parts of the complete edition of Thermonuclear Monarchy.

In a recent Huffington Post article, John Carl Baker discussed the current state of affairs in the US -- one that many US citizens are finally waking up to: "In the United States, the president has the absolute authority to launch a nuclear attack. He or she doesn’t have to seek approval from the legislative branch, the public, or anyone else. If the president wills Armageddon, there’s effectively no way to stop it from happening." Baker continues by saying,

Harvard professor Elaine Scarry dubs this authoritarian state of affairs a “thermonuclear monarchy,” and she argues that it calls into question the United States’ foundational republicanism. You can probably see her point. For a country that fought a war of independence against tyrannical King George, it’s a bit strange that we give a single individual total control over an arsenal of apocalyptic death machines. But legally, there are no constraints on the president’s ability to launch a war that could wreck the planet for generations. I don’t know about you, but I kind of like it here - shouldn’t we at least get to vote on that?

(See "Beyond Clinton or Trump: Nuclear Weapons and Democracy")

Contents for the Summary Edition of Thermonuclear Monarchy:

Introduction: The Floor of the World
Part One: The United States Constitution Outlaws Nuclear Weapons
Part Two: The Social Contract Outlaws Nuclear Weapons
Part Three: Everyday Consent and Emergency Deliberation
Conclusion: Against Us All
Notes

Get a copy of the Summary Edition of Thermonuclear Monarchy today, and maybe even give one to a friend. (Your member of Congress?)


More . . .

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 )










Representative Ted Lieu and Senator Ed Markey have introduced the "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016."  Here's how you can get on the phone to your member of Congress to demand their support . . . .

(See NUKES: Your Call to Your Congressman Matters)

Monday, October 10, 2016

DECOLONIZE THIS: The ELCA's Doctrine of Discovery Challenge

The repudiation of the doctrine of discovery by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) poses a challenge to the denomination's congregations.


SWEDISH PIONEERS
"The courage and vision of the Swedish immigrants and pioneers in our western
states was a contributing factor in the growth of a great empire, AMERICA!"
(First Day of Issue - Swedish Pioneer Centennial (1848-1948) - US Postal Service)


Happy Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Christian denomination of which I am a member, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), voted in August to repudiate the  "doctrine of discovery."

You can read the full text of the resolution on page 4 of the pdf of the 2016 churchwide assembly reports.

Meanwhile, there is a grassroots movement within the ELCA to "decolonize Lutheranism."

This leads me to wonder how the organized power of 4 million Lutherans in the US will be brought to bear on the fact that we are living on occupied land.

One possibility: the resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery affirms that "this church will eliminate the doctrine of discovery from  its contemporary rhetoric and programs, electing to practice accompaniment with Native peoples instead of a missionary endeavor to them, allowing these partnerships to mutually enrich indigenous communities and the ministries of the ELCA." It seems to me that this represents a commitment that each congregation must step up to:

* Where do we encounter the doctrine of discovery in our contemporary rhetoric and programs? What must we do to eliminate it?

* How might we "practice accompaniment with Native peoples"? What does that mean?

* "[A]llowing these partnerships to mutually enrich indigenous communities and the ministries of the ELCA" - what could that possibly mean for our congregation?

Having recently moved to California, I have a very strong impression that someone was living here before I "discovered" it. At the same time, it would be the easiest thing in the world to pat ourselves on the back for repudiating the doctrine of discovery and forget about all the rest.

I don't think I'll figure out good answers to these questions on my own. That's why I'm looking forward to working on them with other members of my faith community.


Related posts

"We need to first acknowledge the genocidal origins of OUR nation’s history of ethnic cleansing and occupation."

(See Native American Rights: Acknowledge the Occupation)













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)






How do you observe Indigenous Peoples Day?

(See Reflections on Indigenous Peoples Day 2015)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

WAR: Headed for the junkheap, yes . . . but how quickly?

John Lennon would have been delighted to be remembered for provoking people to get serious about moving to a world beyond war -- fast!

Yoko Ono and John Lennon: "War Is Over!"
John Lennon was born on this day in 1940.

When he and Yoko Ono held up a sign saying "War Is Over!" the Vietnam War was raging and theirs was a voice in the wilderness.

Today, more and more people are realizing that war is going away. Society is moving in the direction of rejecting war, just as it has already rejected slavery, just as it has already rejected men-only voting.

There is a growing movement of people focused on the "world beyond war."

To many of these people, the question is not "if" but "when?" They share a conviction that the world will get there, and they see that it makes a difference how quickly (and in what manner) the world gets there.

Think about it: it's easy to imagine a world beyond war a thousand years from now. It even seems likely that a hundred years from now we will look back and say, "People in 2016 sat by while war raged in Syria - can you believe it?"

Would it make a difference if the change happened within 50 years, instead of a hundred?

Could it happen faster?

(What might cause it to happen faster?)

Check out Doing Good Better by William McAskill. He is a leader in the "effective altruism" movement and he stresses exactly this kind of thinking. McAskill urges us to identify some world-changing development that is on track to happening, and make it happen faster.  (More resources at https://www.effectivealtruism.org/resources/#books )


So . . . three questions for people who find this approach inspiring vis-a-vis ending war:

What is different when you adopt this new frame -- "war is going away; the question for me is how fast"?  In other words: a lot of people are opposed to war, but what might look different when a group of people approach war as a soon-to-be-obsolete institution?

     ... for more see The Mind of the "World Beyond War" Activist

How might adopting this new frame enable people to see more clearly the strategic points of impact to cause the more rapid disappearance of war? In other words: there are dozens of tremendously important ways to engage in peace work; but which ways might have the greatest impact on the rapidity with which war becomes a no-go?

     ... for more see Where to Put Effort for a World Beyond War

How could we use organizational power in the pursuit of this work? If we had a clear view of what's different about this approach, and we had prioritized strategic points of impact, the question would then become: how could we throw organized money and organized people into the effort?

(To be continued . . . )