A friend of mine got really pissed off and down this week looking at the news in Ferguson, the air strikes in Iraq, as well as almost all his friends (including me) having epic personal issues and ranting about it online, he requested on Wednesday that we make Friday “Keep the Faith Friday” in hopes to “remind humanity that we can all do some great things when we put our minds to it!!” I’m kind of hoping it catches on. We have a lot of days on social media where we look at the past (e.g. Throwback Thursday, Flashback Friday, Wayback Wednesday, etc), but looking backwards doesn’t give us much hope. Hope requires a leap into unknown territory emotionally, psychologically, and mentally. To do that you need to look forward, even project forward, to a time that may or may not come and have the optimism that events will improve. That’s faith (at least a leap of faith). So I hope this can catch on, but at the very least I hope we can pick a day of the week to look ahead with a smile.
On August 19, the Washington Post published an op-ed piece by former Los Angeles policeman Sunil Dutta titled “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.” The big pull quote heard around America was “Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?” I only agree with half of this.
First thing is, I read the entire op-ed piece not just the controversial quote, and Dutta does make a good point about he danger that cops face on the job, the abuse us civilians can hurl at them even after a traffic stop, and how cops are trained to resolve conflicts in a multitude of ways. I agree with him in that civilians can make our own cause better by being polite. I’ve had traffic tickets reduced or been let off with a warning because I was the one guy that day that was didn’t argue with the officer. He also makes a good point that if you are being bullied or harassed by a cop, any resistance will make matters worse. Dutta and I both agree that police should wear body cams to record events for evidence. I think those issues are valid and I can’t argue with him on that. What I do take issue with is blaming the victim for the actions of excessive force.
Dutta says in cases of excessive force, “officers are rarely at fault. When they use force it is in the public’s safety.” So who is at fault when an 18 year old boy turns and raises his hands in submission and is then shot at least two more times? The implication is that the victim brought this on himself because the officer is rarely at fault (It must be noted that Dutta says that “we are still learning” what happened between Mike Brown and Officer Wilson). We saw this when the Ferguson police leaked video of Mike Brown supposedly robbing a convenience store, even before releasing an incident report. Why smear the victim before all the facts are in? It’s to reinforce that “the police are in the right” narrative demonstrated by Dutta’s op-ed.
That Dutta was once with Internal Affairs is surprising he won’t talk about the “blue wall of silence” that goes up after a cop involved shooting. He either misses the point or misunderstands that a big reason “officers are rarely at fault” is that law enforcement institutions have more incentive to protect its own rather than police them. Hence why investigators hadn’t spoken to any of the major witnesses for at least a week after the death of Mike Brown, an incident report was submitted late and woefully inadequate, and the only autopsy completed so far was one paid for by the family. The bully cop only makes it harder on police to be trusted, but doing nothing or slow walking an investigation into cops in a situation like this does even more damage to all good cops.
Dutta later in the article says “cops are legally prohibited from using excessive force: the moment a suspect submits and stops resisting, the officer must cease the use of force.” However this week we also saw the actions of officer Ray Albers, affectionately known in the Twitterverse as #OfficerGoFuckYourself. On protest duty, Albers was shown on video pointing his long rifle at unarmed protestors and media and threatening to kill them; when asked for his name he said “go fuck yourself” hence the nickname. While he was removed from duty, his actions are one of the outcomes of seeing cops as “rarely at fault”: cops can act in a variety of ways with impunity (almost). The other extreme is what happened to Mike Brown. The protest chant of “Hands up, Don’t shoot” are based on Brown’s final actions while he was shot. There is no chance for Mike Brown to complain to a supervisor and lodge a complaint because the officer in this case did not cease his use of force when the 18 year old young man stopped resisting, and is dead as a result.
Finally there is Dutta’s deafness to the others when he writes “community members deserve courtesy, respect and professionalism from their officers. Every person stopped by a cop should feel safe instead of feeling that their well-being is in jeopardy. Shouldn’t the community members extend the same courtesy to their officers and project that the officer’s safety is not threatened by their actions?” This in a nutshell is what’s wrong in this case: the reason Ferguson was in near riots is that the community have not gotten the “courtesy, respect and professionalism” from the police they deserve. Ferguson is 67% Black with a police force that is 90% White, and Blacks made up 93% of 2,013 arrests after car stops. The attorney general’s office says Blacks are twice as likely to be arrested than Whites after car stops. A community that is over-policed—and at the very least over-scrutinized—is less likely to feel threatened by police. Dutta asking for the police to be treated with courtesy when the police don’t seem to show the same respect to the community is insulting; but it does follow his “do what I say “ logic.
The sad thing about the op-ed is that Dutta wasn’t intentionally trying to defend police brutality, but that’s what he wound up doing. Somewhere in that article is good advice about remaining calm and civil during a police stop, but that got buried in braggadocio and righteous indignation defending the police. Meanwhile, we still have another unarmed Black man killed by police hands and waiting for the next one to come any day now.
I think everything that can be said about Robin Williams’ death has already been said. His wife wants us to focus on the life he led rather than how he died. So in that regards, I offer two of the photos that I thought were my favorite memorial tweets, and a way that I still picture him.
This first was tweeted by Sesame Street
The second was tweeted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
While some are saying the Academy tweet with the “Genie, you’re free” is a little inappropriate (suicide is not liberation), I still love the photo.
I also wanted to post a blog entry I found that I thought was the best discussion on suicide/mental illness that I had seen on the subject. To read that, click here
RIP Robin Williams (1951-2014)
This is the full text of the sermon I gave at the UU Church in Medford, MA. Very well and warmly received even with a heavy topic. When I said “Presente,” I would dip my fingers into a cup of water I had to stay hydrated, and throw a drop on the floor (I didn’t want to spill water on the hardwood 😉 )
(Reading) The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
In September 2001, the church I belonged to at the time, First Church of Boston, was welcoming a new permanent minister after the end of the previous minister’s 40-year tenure at the pulpit. The installation ceremony was to be held on September 16 of that year, but this was before the World Trade Center towers fell to a terrorist attack. Rightfully the ceremony was pushed back to November 18, but unfortunately I missed the ceremony as well. Two weeks later in December 2001, I gave a short presentation to the congregation as to why I missed it. I was attending the annual vigil in front of the School of the Americas (SOA) that year with a group of other UU young adults; my main personal reasons to go there were because of the 9/11 attacks. Part of my reflection went thus:
“In operation since 1944, the SOA is a school within Ft. Benning that train police and security officers throughout Latin America in combat, counter-insurgency tactics and psychological warfare. The lessons learned are then wrought upon the civilian populations often with horrific results.
“We took part in the funeral procession—the first of two waves of people that march up to the gates of the fort. At the head of the march, Father Roy Boirgoise led black-cloaked and face-painted performers to the foot of the gates and staged a die-in. At the stage built for the protest, singers faced the crowd and sang the names of the victims-people killed or “disappeared” by graduates of the SOA. The school’s nearly 60,000 graduates range from notorious dictators like Manuel Noriega of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia, to lower-level graduates that have participated in human rights abuses including the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians in El Salvador. Each person in this sea of protesters had a white wooden cross in hand, and as the names were sung we raised them and responded “presente” to invoke the spirit of that person here and bear witness. Each cross was inscribed with the name of a victim and their age; mine bore the name Versnica Pirez Oylati from Mexico, age unknown. Presente.
“The specter of September 11 permeated the march in other ways. Many of those in attendance, like myself, felt that it was even more necessary to go to Ft. Benning. On some of the crosses were added names for those killed at the World Trade Center; mine bore the name Manuel Asitimbay, age 36. Presente. Whether in Latin America or one of the 110 floors in NYC, every name represented a victim of terrorism.
“With record crowds came a true “interfaith” gathering: Catholics of various orders, Christians, Protestants, agnostics, atheists, socialists, veterans, student activists, elder radicals, artists, dancers. All here for a common purpose: to say “Nunca Mas! NO more!” To urge the government to close this school once and for all. Due to the crush of people, it took an hour before my group was able to move towards the gate. In that time more names were read. Though the names were important, I focused on the ages. 90 years old… 35 years old… 70… 42… 66… 18. And there were more children. 14 years old… 10 years old… 6 years old… 5 years old… and when you thought the ages couldn’t go any lower: 3 years old… 2 years old… 9 months… 6 months… 3 days old. Presente.”
What I do with the water here is exactly what I did at the church back then. In African tradition, you spill water to honor and remember the dead who were close to you, family, or other kind of ancestor. Memory is important, not just for spiritual matters but for, obviously, historical matters as well. In December 1963, Malcolm X was asked about President Kennedy’s assassination; his answer was that the Presidents death was a case of “chickens coming home to roost.” After backlash for that statement, Malcolm clarified that he felt “his assassination was the result of the climate of hate.” That climate of hate Malcolm X referred to was the violence that America had wrought around the world and that Kennedy had failed to stop. While most took the “failed to stop” reference as the Civil Rights struggle of the time, it could also mean the Vietnam conflict which Kennedy was looking to get out of; or it most likely meant the slavery enterprise that brought Africans here and the ways of the American capitalist system that kept minorities down. And since these portions of history are episodes that many in our government and culture want to (and are still trying) to forget, it seems that our government is fated to repeat them again and again.
The one episode I wanted to focus on is currently being played out today in Texas. Since 2012, border patrols have seen a steady uptick in the amount of unaccompanied minors crossing the Mexican-American border. While the bulk of these children originally came from Mexico, over the last year or so the majority of the children originated in Central America—Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador most recently. These are not immigrants in the traditional sense: those trying to sneak into America to find work and start over in a new land whatever the personal cost. These children were fleeing increasing crime and violence in their home countries where they risked their lives if they stayed. The children have not been trying to evade capture, but have been walking up to border patrol agents and surrendering to them begging for help. Technically they are seeking asylum, but in some cases at seven or eight years old, they wouldn’t know the correct term asylum. Meanwhile the crisis was mounting as there were too many children still in the system, nowhere to put them until they were processed into the system, and not enough judges, lawyers, translators, or even court equipment to process anyone within the system, and still more children coming across Mexico from Central America to get to America. This led to the photos of children sleeping in cages, protesters stopping busloads of children from being processed, militia groups heading down to the Texas border, and the crisis continuing. We hear the continuing debate over whether to accept these children as refugees or deport them as illegal immigrants. Before we consider passing judgment en mase, we should take a look at some of the ways this crisis was created.
For this we have to go back a ways. Back to 1945 in fact. This was the year the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank were formed. The World Bank’s purpose is to help developing countries with their economies through creating productive projects, and encourage the growth of productive private sector enterprises. The idea is to create economies to help the countries thrive, usually through loans. To have participate in World Bank projects and have access to that capital, each country must be a member of the IMF. The IMF is a United Nations affiliated agency that is responsible for stabilizing international exchange rates and payments. The main way they can do this—and their core business model—is to provide loans to member states when they have difficulties with the balance of payments other member states. As part of the conditions of the loans, the countries receiving the loans need to substantially restructure their economic systems in order to get them. Both Guatemala and Honduras joined the IMF in 1945, and El Salvador joined in 1946. The restructuring of economic systems between member states usually favor the larger Western capitalist members of the World Bank and IMF (e.g, United States and England) often giving the developed countries control over those underdeveloped countries. As pointed out in Mark Hertsgaard’s book The Eagle’s Shadow “America’s overwhelming influence within the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank helped ensure that [the] free market vision carried the day, especially in weaker economies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Just as globalization has been largely Americanization, so Reagan’s version of free market capitalism has become the global norm.”
Some of these restructuring includes trade liberalization and deregulation. NAFTA is a perfect example of this. Over the last three decades, those old enough to remember have experienced first hand the consequences of deregulation and privatization: recessions, greater opportunities for corruption, consolidation of businesses and industries, the concentration of wealth towards the upper classes and elites, the contraction of jobs among the middle class, and—to make up for all of that—the increased slashing of funds to the underclasses and poor and the social safety nets. As a developed first world nation, we are not immune to these issues and have suffered, but many muddle through. For those in underdeveloped nations that are already struggling economically, these new economic pressures are enormous and nearly insurmountable. Yet they still owe money on loans to the IMF and World Bank. It is a vicious cycle that many countries cannot get out of.
Still there are many people who are under the feet of these agencies that either try to speak out, push for legislation or union organization, and do what they can to deal with the economic disparities that are inherent in this system. This is where the SOA comes in. While the training the foreign soldiers receive are intended to provide, as stated in their recent mission statements, “leadership development, counter-drug operations, peace support, and disaster relief,” they are trained in, according to the group SOA Watch, “counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics.” These graduates work as an arm of enforcement to pursue the gains of increasing economic development or to keep what gains made by the government. Union leaders have been killed and/or tortured, potential government officials have been threatened and voters intimidated to ensure a status quo, and civilian populations have been disappeared to make way for certain projects. And it is not that far in the past. In June 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a military coup ordered by the Honduran Supreme Court. The policies implemented by the resulting regime—which were also infiltrated by drug cartels members—led to illegal land grabs, persecution of indigenous peoples and other human rights violations. To say the least this only exacerbated internal problems within the country.
In addition to this, the US led War on Drugs has only militarized the region further. $800 million was sent to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for “security aid” specifically to combat cartels and drug gangs. The security was less for the people and more for the businesses within these countries that deal with the US and other European countries abroad. And while the money never trickles down to the lower classes, the violence does. There is a gang problem in these countries, but it’s not like a gang problem we know in the US. Many are of various drug cartels and operate freely in this environment, preying on the population. If you look like you have money, you are targeted for extortion schemes or outright forced into paying protection. Others are forced recruited into the gangs as mules or other low level grunt work. Rape, family violence and murder are common techniques of the gangs to enforce their rule or obtain new territory.
This is the environment, the everyday experience that these children are escaping from to travel through Mexico to get to our borders to surrender in hopes to get asylum here. These are refugees fleeing from conflict much like anyone in the Middle East. It is a conflict we have created with decades of economic policy, drug policy, military policy, and overall foreign policy. And yet we frame the debate over these children in terms of immigration and legality or residency. We stick to our story that people flock to America because we have a way of life that everyone in the world is jealous of and wants a part of, ignorant of the fact that for many we are the cause of the way of life they are trying to escape. We argue that we have limited resources for the people in this country much less to share with people who are trying to enter the country illegally, but we ignore that if not for suppressing the economic viability of their countries they would have no need to flee in the first place. In the elite’s need for control and consumption, we are creating an untenable situation for us and the countries we exploit to further our own wants.
This situation is not only a crisis of humanitarian need but also one of moral responsibility. Rightfully those on the humane side of the debate frame this crisis in the religious ideal of how we treat the stranger. Within all the Abrahamic traditions they talk about treating the stranger as we would on of our own—to some extent at our own peril. Exodus 22:20-23 says “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans.” If that’s not a reason to accept the stranger, I don’t know what is. However in this case, the stranger really is one of our own. These are children we have created out of economic need or greed. These are our chickens coming home to roost, or at the very least asking to roost here. What responsibility do we have to our own children?
The biblical parable of the Prodigal Son gives us some guidance. As told by Jesus, a father gives the younger of his two sons his inheritance before he dies. The younger son, after traveling far away and wasting his fortune goes hungry during a famine. He repents and returns home with the intention of begging to be employed and renouncing his kinship to his father. Regardless, the father immediately welcomes him back as his son and holds a feast to celebrate his return. The older son refuses to participate, stating that in all the time the son has worked for the father, he did not even celebrate with his friends. His father reminds the older son that everything the father has is the older son’s, but that they should still celebrate the return of the younger son because he has come back to them. As said in Luke 15:32 “‘But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
These children are here escaping a living situation that was our fault. These are our children. For that alone we have a moral obligation to do something for them. We also have a moral obligation to live up to our own true values as a country. We call ourselves a nation of immigrants to gloss over the fact that we are a nation of conquerors. We took this land and nearly eradicated one population, enslaved another population (or two or three) to help build up this land to be what it is for those who could afford it. But the spirit with we tell this cover story can outweigh some of the damage caused by the truth and can lead us in the direction towards our true nation’s character. We can live up to Emma Lazarus’ words if we respond to the moral obligation we have to those chickens coming home to roost.
There is hope because some people believe this as well. I am glad to live in a state where the Governor realizes this and was willing to offer some sort of placement for a certain number of children. But still there are deportations and legal processes ongoing; some of you may have heard about the protest of deportations earlier this week in Boston. A week ago a number of people, including several Unitarian ministers, protested and were arrested at the White House protesting deportations. In El Paso Texas, the militia convoy that was on the way to the border was met with a larger counterprotest that essentially drove them out of El Paso.
Still this is a problem decades in the making and one that will continue. In Malcolm X’s speech in December 1963, he said “White America refuses to study, reflect, and learn a lesson from history; ancient Egypt didn’t have to be destroyed. It was her corrupt government, the crooked politicians, who caused her destruction.” We need an education in what our own government is doing in our own name. We need to call our government out when it is doing something wrong and stand by that criticism. And there are things we can still do now. First of all, while there is still no comprehensive immigration policy in place for the US, we need to add our voices to the shaping of it. We need to ensure that we are looking at people as people and not an “other.” The children that are still here are waiting for their chance to be heard in front of a judge, which is their right to due process. We must honor that, for that is the law of our land. We need to tell President Obama to use the powers he can to make sure the children have translators, a lawyer provided for each child to present their case in court, and the time made to process all the children whatever designation they may be. But we must also call on him to recognize the past situation and realize that these are refugees and to treat them as such. We need to correct the economic policies that are causing the disparities in countries world-wide. There is no need to flee your home country if things are stable. We need to ensure that all countries can exist and thrive on the same level playing field, not try to rig the game towards one ideology. What I intend to do is go back to Ft. Benning, GA this November 21-23 to protest at the gates of the SOA. It, like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, is a stain on our national conscience and it needs to be closed permanently and I will continue to speak out against it until it is.
Progress has to be made, and it will not be made without effort. Malcolm X said “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, that’s not progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress comes from healing the wound that the blow made. They haven’t even begun to pull the knife out much less try to heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.” As the SOA activists say, another world is possible but it will take work. The first step has to come from seeing the damage done, and working to heal it.
A friend of mine posted this joke from the comedian Emo Phillips:
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”
He said, “Nobody loves me.”
I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
He said, “A Christian.”
I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”
He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”
He said, “Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912”
I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.
This pretty much sums up every religious conflict around the world.
I will be doing my second sermon this year and one of my usual annual summer sermons at my home church this Sunday. I will be talking about the links between old US foreign policy and the current humanitarian crisis happening on our southern borders. It will be a heavy but hopeful sermon.
Please join us at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, MA located at 147 High Street at 10am Sunday August 10. All are welcome for the service and to stay for coffee and fellowship afterward. You may find more information about the church as well as directions on the church website http://www.uumedford.org/index.html
With all the strife and death going on in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I’m going a little crazy. It’s all over my newsfeed and tweets; it’s already a dizzying problem to get your head around without the bombardment of news by friends from both sides of the issue. What gets me crazier are the comments and discussion that follows, which devolves into name calling and anti-Semitism faster than you can blink. I know I’m gonna catch hell for this, but I’d like to throw out an idea for how to edge the conversation more towards rationality and civil discourse. I know that’s a tall order for the interwebs but it’s worth a shot.
- Don’t bring Nazi Germany into this: Remember Godwin’s Law—as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches; the way I paraphrase it “the first comment to use ‘Hitler’ or ‘Nazi’ loses.” If you’re equating Israeli actions with Nazi Germany or the Holocaust before you start typing, you’re already done. So let’s get this straight off the bat: Israel DOES NOT equal Nazism. Seriously, it doesn’t. They are two separate things and only makes your argument anti-Semitic. This segues to the second point…
- Don’t use Zionism when talking about Israel: It’s almost the same point as the first, because when you say “Zionist” or “Zionism” when talking about Israel you’re a keystroke away from anti-Semitic rhetoric that does the same for your argument as bringing up Nazis. No one’s going to listen to you after the first mention of it. Besides when the Israeli government counters with missile strikes, they aren’t doing it for the sake of Zionist philosophy.
On both these points, the whole reason is to take the racism/antisemitism out of the equation. The whole debate is frustrating enough without the vitriol of hating another person for their beliefs or who they are. Focus on actions.
- It is NOT antisemitic to criticize Israel: The left in the US was called unpatriotic ANY time the left criticized the Bush Administration for what it did, when in fact it is part of democratic principles to be able to criticize our government. The same goes for Israel; we should be able to criticize them when they do something that we see is wrong and not be labeled antisemitic. We can argue about different values and points of view, but it is not antisemitic to do so. To take racism/antisemitism out of the equation, it has to work both ways.
- It is NOT antisemitic to sympathize with the Palestinians: If a child is killed by a missile or artillery strike or explosives, be they Palestinian or Israeli or American or Afghan, it is a tragedy. As human beings, we sympathize or even empathize with the suffering of others and we have the right to do so without shame and without name calling. We can still hate the suffering of Palestinians without agreeing with Hamas and their terrorist rhetoric. That leads to the next point.
- Being pro-Palestinian doesn’t equal pro-Hamas: To be clear: I DON’T like Hamas. I don’t like any organization/government that uses humanitarian aid to build underground tunnels to attack others, pays the best wages to the families of suicide bombers or indoctrinates schoolkids to hate Israel. That’s wrong even if I understand the why behind it. I will condemn and call out those actions when I hear them. But that doesn’t mean blowing up Palestinian homes, families and children is right either; that also needs to be called out (and that goes back to the point about criticizing Israel not being antisemitic).
- It’s apartheid, not genocide: If it was true genocide, the Palestinian people would have been dead and gone long ago. What is true is that Palestinians are second class citizens in their own land. The use of power/force to keep a certain portion of population in line—often a disproportionate use of force to the actions retaliated against—is more akin to what was happening in apartheid South Africa. I can accept debate on these grounds because it focuses on right or wrong actions of a state onto a civilian population as opposed to “intent” or what the government is thinking and/or ideology.
- Stop equating the governments with the people—both sides: My use of “government” in the last point is important. As an activist, I protest the government of Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people; simultaneously I denounce Hamas’ actions against innocent Israelis. We have been led to believe—through decades of media conditioning—that the government of a country and its people are one and the same. As an activist for nearly all my life, I know from experience that is not true. While the Israeli government tries to expand its settlements and Hamas tries to attack those targets, Israeli and Palestinian people/activists are connecting to each other through mutual hatred OVER THE CONFLICT. They are moved by the violence to try and work for peace. Not all Palestinians believe in death to Israel; not all Israelis approve of the killing of civilians in their name. If you really ask people on both sides what they want, many Israelis and Palestinians want to live in peace and an end to the hostilities. These voices are out there and we are seeing more of them during this current crisis in the conflict thanks to social media. We need to listen to these voices more and try to amplify them. Denounce the actions of the ruling bodies of both populations, but affirm the humanity of the populations themselves.
This last point isn’t much of a point of argument as much as it is my personal views on how to move forward, and an urgent plea that people can mobilize in the same way.
- Side with the peace activists: As a multiracial male, when I was once asked which side of the race war would I be on, my answer was “the multiracial, multi-ethnic coalition of peace activists that usually spring up during any war.” In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that is absolutely a necessity. They are out there in Israel, Palestine, the US, and other countries abroad. They need to be seen and heard more than ever. We need to hear the story of Palestinian refugees and survivors, as well as those Israelis who are growing more and more skeptical of their government. We need to hear of the Jews and Arabs working together to foster connections with each other to help a peace process take root. If we are going to feel any hope in this situation, it is with the young activists who may outlive a group of hardliners long enough to deliver their countries to peaceful relations. I am hopeful that this can happen, and I hope I will be around to see the fruits of their labor.
Please share this if you feel the vitriol has reached levels you can’t handle anymore and if you think we need to promote peaceful relations among the Israelis and Palestinians. #Iam4peace
This was an essay I found in Salon.com that is brilliant and says almost everything I feel about the State of Israel. It is honest, touching and even has a glimmer of hope for Israel’s people in the future if they follow what this rabbi is saying. It’s a MUST read.
Read Salon article here
Big win for LGBT community in Uganda. The Constitutional Court annuls the recent anti-gay law signed in February. They annulled it on a technicality (not a quorum vote so passed illegally), so there re options for the law to come back to Uganda. The hope is to keep up the economic pressure on them to prevent this from happening.
Read BBC Report here.
John Oliver had a blisteringly eye opening discussion about this on his show “Last Week Tonight.” It’s a good primer and almost a must watch on the situation as well. Check it out here.