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Sunday, June 29, 2014

July 4th Myopia



Through the eyes of this grandfather and military veteran of the U.S. war against the people of Viet Nam, the celebration of July 4th is myopic and hypocritical.  

If you are a rich, light skinned male who has staked a claim in a land stolen from indigenous people and built on the backs of dark skinned people, then wave the flag, explode the fire works.  All others, step to the back of the bus.

There are those who say, “that was a long time ago, forget it”.  I remind them that 1776 was a long time ago, yet every year this very selective piece of history is glorified.

On this July 4th I suggest that you read the Declaration of Independence (including the part that refers to indigenous people as “the merciless Indian savages”) through the eyes of a female, or a person with dark skin, or from the perspective of a resident of one of the many countries that the U.S. has invaded and plundered – including this one.  If you want to remember the past, then remember all of it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This poem was read at the Chicago Memorial Day Ceremony




THE  BOX

With their backs board straight,
and their hand to their head,
the draped box passes by.

With their uniforms crisp,
and their eyes steely fixed,
the draped box passes by.

Gone are the "who-yahs"and the high fives
and the beers, and the babes and the bitchin’,
as the draped box passes by.

“Kill the bastards – they killed ours.
They’re all bad.”
“We go there to help them.  For freedom!  Democracy!”
“We serve our country!
“It’s NOT about money or markets or oil!
We’re defending our freedom and our soil!
“There’s no other way!  Sometimes we must!
Send in the few . . . the proud . . . . . the . . . “
the young ? . . . . the pawns?
The draped box passes by. 

“They can’t speak our language.
They don’t know our customs.
They’re HYMIES, and JAPS, and CHINKS,
and GOOKS, and HAJJIS, and RAG HEADS. 
They’re evil.   They’re terrorists!”
They are “THEM”.   They are “THOSE”.   They are “THEY”.
So it’s OK - - -   to kill them.
There’s no other way,
That’s what the box makers say.

We have courts – but not for “THEM”.
We don’t torture people – but “THEY” are not.
We are CIVIL  - with our approved assassination lists,
We are HUMAINE with our surgical drone strikes.
They” are not.

We have our flag.  We sing our songs.
We love our country.   “U-S-A      U-S-A
We’re # 1.   We’re # 1!”
They” are not.
Don’t bother your beautiful brain.
Don’t think . . . . avoid the pain.
As the draped box passes by.

Who makes the box in which soldiers lay?
This well crafted box for the remains to stay.
Is it more than a box to carry the dead?
Is the box mental and fixed in our head,
By those who profit from wars and destruction
Because they know we’ll follow instruction.

Some of the box makers are out in the light,
They’re proud of the fact they cause us to fight.
But most of the makers work in the stealth,
Applying their trade and amassing huge wealth.

From Presidents to talking heads and others less known -
 - - Create fear, make a box, keep the masses alone - - .
“We know what we’re doing, we’ll save the day,”
“Stay in the box and just do as . . . WE say.”

The boxes are made as they always have been,
By those with the power to develop the spin.
Their words are repeated - -
Down is up . . . up is down
Killing is good . . . they are not
Down is up . . . up is down
Soon the box closes . . . without a sound.

Violence and power are global pollution.
Dialogue and education are the solution.
Talk to those you know . . .  and to the “they”.
(very slowly)  Read and share . . . . and show the way . . . . . . .

With their backs board straight,
and their hands to their heads . . . . . .
With their uniforms crisp,
and their eyes steely fixed . . . . . ,
Gone are the “who-yahs” and the high fives,
What’s left are the whys . . . . ,
As the draped box passes by.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl Message


As I watched the opening pageantry of the Super Bowl with my grandfatherly eyes I was astonished to see the focus on the military - the reading of the Declaration of Independence with the ever-present visuals of military uniforms and weapons, the flyover, the association of military and patriotism.   With all the wonderful people in this country doing great things in education, science, the arts, and many other areas, I began to wonder – what group directed the focus?, what was the message?, how much time and money did they spend in the development of the message?, who paid for the development and the airtime?

Weapons are the number one export product of the U.S.   The U. S. allocates more of our tax dollars to the military solution to conflict than any other area of our national budget.  The Senate is considering SB 1881 that will make us the pawn of Israel and take us to war with Iran.  Is war the Super Bowl message?

I’m reminded of the words of Martin Luther King – “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

MLK and Our Greatest National Resource - 1/20/2014


January 20th,, Martin Luther King Day, is the only national holiday that commemorates the peace and justice work of a U. S. citizen.
 
I’m a Viet Nam veteran and for me, Martin Luther King‘s most powerful speech was on April 4th of 1967.   “Beyond Vietnam” directed attention to the triplets of war – militarism, materialism, and racism.  All of these lead to moral and financial poverty.
 
When I was in Vietnam I saw many children.  Every time I look at a child I see our greatest national resource.  It pains my heart to see our children’s future being depleted by our government’s fixation on the military solution to conflict - invasions, occupations, death and destruction.  Every dollar spent on “defense” and war (the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will eventually cost us $3 trillionis a dollar that could have been used to bring our over 16 million children out of poverty.  
 
 On this national holiday read “Beyond Vietnam”.   Contemplate the words of this brave and magnificent man.  Think about what you can do to bring peace and justice into the U.S.A. and protect our greatest national resource. 

Arnold Stieber

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Armistice Day - A Peace Day


On 11/11 there will be much talk of "patriotism", "sacrifice", "love of country", and "defending our freedom", but little about "mutual understanding" or "friendly relations". 

I’m a military veteran – Army, infantry, Viet Nam – and I find it interesting how the eleventh day of the eleventh month has been transformed from a day of peace (armistice - truce, suspension of fighting) to a day of justification of violence (Veterans Day). The original Congressional resolution stated that "this date should be commemorated with . . . exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations" and they invited "the people of the United States to observe the day . . . with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples".

Instead, on 11/11 we will be subjected to a continuous stream of flag waving and images of strong, brave young people in full combat dress. The message is that violence will keep us safe and violence will keep us free. The reality is that young people are sent to kill other young people, because older people lack the skill and/or the desire to resolve the conflict using non-violent methods.  We are taught to do awful things.

Please observe 11/11 as it was originally intended.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Culture of Violence

I recently sent the following letter to President Obama and his Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.  I sent a similar one to Michelle Obama and Rahm Emanuel (Mayor of Chicago).  The Obama home is in Hyde Park - a section of Chicago.
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Barack Obama
President
Washington, DC

Violence in Hyde Park, or Newtown, CT, or Afghanistan is violence.  To stop it, there must be a concerted effort to get to the roots and develop programs of prevention.  

I live in Hyde Park, not far from where the shooting of Hadiya Pendleton occurred.  I'm a father, grandfather, retired businessperson and a military veteran (Army, infantry, Viet Nam).  I woke up to my military experience in January of 2003 and since then I've been studying violence and its causes.  I joined Veterans For Peace to be with military veterans who have seen violence and want to stop it – domestically and internationally.  I offer you my thoughts, in the hopes that they will help prevent more death.

The 27 words of the second Amendment to the Constitution start with "A well regulated Militia".  We not only need regulation, we need to eliminate all weapons - from guns to atomic bombs.  Using violence to solve problems is barbaric.  My motto is:  If you have to hurt someone to solve a problem, you are the problem.  Since the likelihood of eliminating all weapons is beyond remote, I could accept "a well regulated Militia" with the emphasis on "well regulated".

Based on my readings however, the regulation or even the elimination of weapons does not get to the root of the problem.  The root is our "culture" - those things we do and see and say.   We cheer when war planes fly over cities and sports stadiums or when we assassinate a "bad guy".  We watch violent TV and movies as if violence and killing is normal.  We say, "I could just kill my kids", and "We destroyed . . . (the other team)". Our schools are militarized with Chicago being the most militarized school system in the country.  From movies to video games, to sporting events, to TV shows, to ads and even cartoons, violence is so ingrained that we don't see it.  But all of these influences lower the barrier to hurting others. They infect our psyche.  The continual dose of "violence solves problems" is there, everyday, with no countervailing option.  

There is an option.  It's called education.  More than the schoolroom, we need to implement community programs (the programs have already been developed by many organizations) that teach us how to have dialogue, how to solve problems with our communication skills, and how to develop understanding and respect for one another. 

Yes, it's long term.  No, it can't be reduced to a sound bite.  Yes, it will be difficult.  Yes, it will cost money.  But if we truly want to eliminate violence, then our communities and our leaders must be educated.

The article cited below is long, but well done.  It speaks to culture and weapons and murder rates.  The key point is that Japan has very restrictive gun laws and Switzerland has more guns per capita than any country, but both have very, very low murder rates.        http://www.guncite.com/journals/dkjgc.html

You can make it happen.  You have the bully pulpit.  You’ve been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Do what is right for the future of your kids and this nation.

Peace - Gandhi style,




Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Veteran Remembers Martin Luther King, Jr.

I sent the following to a number of media outlets.  If you change the word Vietnam in Dr. King's speech to Iraq or Afghanistan, the speech could be given today.
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I believe that Dr. King’s most powerful speech was on April 4 of 1967.   “Beyond Vietnam” directed our attention to the trifecta causes of the moral and financial poverty in the U. S. – militarism, materialism, and racism.   
As I look around with mature eyes I see torture being justified, drones killing civilians, assassinations being legalized, hatred for “those people”, massive gun violence, loyalty oaths to governments that engage in genocide, invasions and occupations, songs about bombing countries, war planes being cheered as they fly over sports stadiums, violence showcased on TV and movies and video games.  All of these set examples.
In the 1960’s Dr. King asked those in the cities to stop using violence to solve problems.  “They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems”.   Dr. King concluded that,  “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today—my own government”.
Yes, there are good things about America, but there are many areas of silence.  Dr. King said  “the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak”.   “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
On the only national holiday that recognizes a person who worked for peace and justice, read “Beyond Vietnam”.   Dr. King studied and practiced non-violent conflict resolution.  We, as a nation, need to do the same.