"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Monday, September 29, 2008

Read A Banned Book!

It's pretty near impossible to escape all the depressing news these days - major financial crisis, preachers telling us how to vote (and who to vote for), and on and on... Well, don't despair; no need to medicate. Just in time to save us from the sky that is about to fall (according to President Bush) if Congress doesn't pass the Bailout Bill (exactly as he wants it),


That's right folks, it's the perfect time to escape the humdrum routine of perpetual war, global warming and the current financial woes with a copy of one of those great, controversial books that have gotten people's dander up over the years. Whether it's the Harry Potter or Junie B Jones series or Slaughterhouse Five, there is a banned/challenged book for just about everyone.

I recently spoke with King County Library System (KCLS) Programming Goddess (not her official title, but it sounds better) Debbie Schneider about Banned Books Week. She told me that this year KCLS is not having any activities directly associated with Banned Books Week, but instead is focusing on Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace...One School At A Time, a wonderful book by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I have read it, and I find it a wonderfully refreshing perspective on how "ordinary" people can make peace when those in power are still trying to do it at the point of a gun.

Debbie said that people can find out everything they want to know about Banned books (including lists of banned/challenged books through the years) at the American Library Association (ALA) Banned Books Week Webpage. As for Debbie, she just finished re-reading Ray Bradbury's novel, Fahrenheit 451, and when asked about her favorite banned/challenged book, she said, Maya Angelou’s I know why the caged bird sings.

Debbie reminded me that we walk a slippery slope as soon as even consider removing any book from our public libraries. If we remove just one book that we consider unnacceptable, which will be next? Who will decide? What are the repercussions on intellectual freedom?

At a time when our Constitution is threatened by those we elect to protect it, it is particularly fitting that we really celebrate Banned Books Week. And I think it is fitting to celebrate not only the freedom to read, but also those who are on the frontlines of the struggle to maintain intellectual freedom, those noble librarians. Can't you just picture some librarian wrestling a book away from Sarah Palin before she can toss it in the fire???

So go check out a banned book this week, and while you are there, thank a librarian for protecting our freedom to read.



P.S. - You can find many more great posters like the one above at http://www.oldamericancentury.org/.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Chaos or Community

There certainly are a lot of things to think about these days. Of course, tonight is the Presidential debate. That should be interesting in light of recent events. I also understand (although I haven't read the article yet) that there is a group of clergy that plan to tell their congregations in no uncertain terms how they should vote this November. Now that is scary!

I just happen to coordinate a social justice ministry in the United Methodist Church, and I can tell you that, tax exempt status or not, I would never tell a United Methodist (or anyone else) how to vote. I would, of course, tell them where I believe we should stand on issues and let them take it from there. It's their consciences. I just wrote something relevant to the election for our church's October newsletter, and I thought I would share it with you here (with one or two minor revisions). I think it is pertinent. Enjoy tonight's debate.

Chaos or Community

I recently sat with a group of people at a get-together at the home of someone in our congregation. More than once the discussion gravitated to the subject of “community”. Our host (as did others) made the point that she lived in what she considered a real community, where people were there for each other both in good times and bad. That got me thinking about the meaning of community and its implications for our nation (and the world), particularly in light of the coming election for President.

There are many definitions of community in the dictionary, but I think that one can extrapolate any of them to a global context; in a very real sense the world has become a global community. The nations of this global community need to find a way to build up a real sense of community or suffer the consequences of our folly. Just how can our nation help foster a true sense of community among all nations? How can we (a nation that considers itself a leader) lead the world towards a truer sense of community?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once (in 1964) articulated his vision of a global community as “a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.” In his World House essay King described what he believed to be the three great problems facing humanity – racism, poverty/materialism and war. But Dr. King went beyond stating the problems and laid out the solutions to those problems.

Dr. King calls us to:
Transcend race, religion, tribe, nation and class, and embrace the vision of a World House,
Rid our nation and the world of the axis of evil – racism, poverty and militarism,
Change from a “thing” oriented society to a “people” oriented one, and
Resist injustice and resolve conflicts using nonviolent methods in a spirit of love.

If one studies Dr. King’s concept of the World House and compares it to our current state of affairs, it becomes apparent that we are far from that vision. From the current economic crisis to the endless War on Terror, our nation is approaching a state of financial and moral bankruptcy of astronomic proportions.

Dr. King once said that, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” He was being charitable when he used the word “defense”.

Just what implications does this have for us right here and now with an election coming up? We have a choice. As Christians, we claim to follow the nonviolent Jesus. If we are to faithfully follow him, we have to make a difficult choice, whether to cooperate with systemic evil or choose the ways of the Prince of Peace. Dr. King said that, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” Today we do, indeed, stand at a crossroad. The choice we make when we vote for President will very likely affect the future of not just our nation, but of the entire world. We face an awesome responsibility. It is time to face down our values and determine whether we walk with Jesus or empire. It is in a very real sense time for a revolution, a revolution of values.

As Dr. King said in The World House, “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

When we go to the polls in November, how will our votes reflect our values? Will we vote for perpetual war or peace? Will we vote for a minimum wage or a living wage? Will we vote for national security or global security? Will we vote for hate or love? Will we vote for chaos or community? We have been merely throwing coins to those poor beggars for far too long; it is high time we transform the entire Jericho Road. This will be an extraordinarily difficult task, but do we have any other choice as people of God? May Dr. King have the final word.

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’ There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on….’ We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. This may well be mankind's last chance to choose between chaos and community.”

Author’s Note: You can (and I hope you will) read Dr. King’s World House essay at http://www.theworldhouse.org/. This November, exercise your right and duty to vote, and remind your friends to do the same.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Paul Krugman for Treasury Secretary

The great thing about a crisis (for those in power) is that it takes attention away from all our other serious problems. In the current situation that would be the financial crisis detracting from the problems we have created and continue to create in/with Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan (and a few others).

It is obviously too late to stop this train wreck known as the subprime mortgage crisis, but by no means must we rush into a $700 billion "rescue" plan that the President would like to push through the way he did the invasion of Iraq. The question is, "Who will benefit?" From my reading, it does not appear that the taxpayers of this nation - you and I - stand to benefit. What is of even greater concern is the language of the plan that gives the Treasury Secretary sweeping decision making powers with no judicial or legislative oversight.

Paul Krugman, an economist, author and professor at Princeton University, writes extensively on the economy, and always seems to get to the heart of things. In this case he has done it again. You can read Krugman's opinion piece, "Perils of the Paulson Plan" in the Seattle Times Op/Ed Section by clicking here. Perhaps the next President will appoint an academic such as Krugman for the top money job rather than someone who ran a huge global bank holding company like Goldman Sachs.

Joseph Stiglitz, a nobel laureate and economics professor at Columbia University says that, "We should begin with the core of the problem, the fact that millions of Americans were made loans beyond their ability to pay. We need to help them stay in their homes, including by converting the home mortgage deduction into a cashable tax credit and creating a homeowners' Chapter 11, an expedited way to restructure their liabilities." WOW! If people can repay their loans/debt the banks will remain solvent. Forget trickle down economics, because we know what ends up trickling down; isn't it time to build from the bottom up?

For now we can counter the President's pressure on Congress with some pressure of our own. If you agree that the President's rescue plan is a bad one, I know of one site where you can email your members of Congress to stop what would be the largest transfer of wealth in the history of our nation. Go to http://www.votenobailout.org/ to make your voice heard on this issue. You can also take action at http://www.truemajority.org/. It is Congress' duty to protect working families, not wealthy executives!

No Greed,


Related Article by Joseph Stiglitz at:

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Hibakusha Comes to BCC

I spent Sunday evening at the International Day of Peace event at Bellevue Community College (BCC) in Bellevue, Washington. Besides being thoroughly entertained (and inspired) by environmental troubadour Dana Lyons (from "Circle The World" to "Cows With Guns"; check out Dana's Website), I had the opportunity to meet with the international group of students who are hosting a powerful photo exhibition showing the devastating effects of the nuclear bombs that devastated Hiroshima towards the end of WWII. I saw part of that exhibit on Sunday; it is riveting!

The complete exhibition will be on display on Tuesday, October 7th in conjunction with a lecture by Hideko Tamura Snider, a Hibakusha (survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima). Ms. Snider, the author of "One Sunny Day: A Child's Memories of Hiroshima", was only 10 years old when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. She lost her mother, cousin and many friends. Ms. Snider is the founder of the OSD (One Sunny Day) Initiatives, an educational organization that provides pathways to connect people for reconciliation and collective healing.

Ms. Snider's lecture is titled
"The Consequences of Nuclear Use and the Role of Hope: A Personal Testimony". A reception at 6:30 pm will be followed by the lecture at 7:00 at the BCC Student Union Building (Building C). Click here for a campus map and directions to BCC. This is a rare opportunity to not only see this unique photo exhibit, but also to hear a personal testimony from a Hibakusha, a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima. It will be a very special evening indeed.

At a time well beyond the fall of the Berlin Wall when the Superpowers should have disarmed and pursued worldwide nuclear disarmament, our government has set things back by selectively enforcing the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, pulling out of the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty (in force for 30 years until the U.S. unilaterally withdrew in 2002) and pursuing new nuclear weapons (Reliable Replacement Warhead) as well as new uses for them (“Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations”). Phew! We desparately need to become fully aware of the awful effects of these terrible weapons of mass destruction (so that we can become more effective messengers of nuclear disarmament), and this is just such an opportunity. Tell everyone you know in the Seattle area about this event; it is too important to miss.

If you can't aren't in the Seattle area or can't make it to BCC for the exhibition and lecture, you can see photos and learn about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima & Nagasaki Remembered Website. It also contains first-hand accounts from Hibakusha.



Sunday, September 21, 2008

Oppose U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Deal

Welcome to the Subversive Peacemaking Blog. For those who don't know me, I have been sending emails to a relatively small social justice email network for a few years. While it has grown steadily in readership, I have decided that it is time to enter the blogosphere and see if I can engage even more people to act for peace and justice to build a better world for all. This is a good day to begin since it is the International Day of Peace; September 21 has been designated the International Day of Peace by a United Nations resolution on September 7, 2001. This day is celebrated all over the world by events, large and small, focused on promoting peace in the world. Of course, peacemaking is more than a (one day) job; it is a way of life.

If you don't already know, the Bush Administration recently convinced the 45 member nations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to lift a 30-year ban on nuclear trade with India. India first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974, which resulted in the international community placing a trade ban on nuclear technology and materials. President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh reached a verbal agreement for the U.S. to provide nuclear fuel and technology to India in 2005, even though India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Since 2005, the President has been pushing Congress to approve the agreement. You can see the entire timeline of the U.S.-India nuclear deal at Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

So just why is this a BAD idea??? As Pakistani scientist Pervez Hoddbhoy recently commented, "The deal has struck yet another nail into the coffin of nonproliferation." Right now we need to be doing everything possible to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but the Bush administration has done just the opposite - among the highpoints:

  • Pulled out of the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty

  • Pushed for a new generation "Reliable Replacement Warhead"

  • Pursued new (strategic) uses for nuclear weapons

We need to clean up our own house so that we can set an example for the rest of the world. Meanwhile, we can impact global proliferation right now. The President is making one last push to get Congress to approve the U.S.-India deal. This deal would greatly increase India's capacity to produce nuclear weapons, and would vastly undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which India is not a part.

Urge your representative to oppose this U.S.-India nuclear cooperation deal, and to work instead toward the elimination of these dangerous weapons. While at the FCNL Website, consider signing up to get their Action Alerts. Until next time,