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
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.

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.   

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holidays in the Military

It was December of 1970 and after eleven months I was as accustomed to Viet Nam as I was going to get.  The 25thcame.  A few guys said “Merry Christmas” but basically it was just another day.
Looking back, I’m glad there was no joyous celebration.   We were occupying a country and causing massive death and destruction, so the stories and visuals of Christmas would have been hypocrisy.   Peace on earth.  Good will to all.  That was not our mission.
I find it disturbing, especially at this time of year, when those in power use the young people in the military to pull on our heart strings to further their agenda.   Everyone in the military is not a “hero”.   The real heroes are those who seek to solve conflicts with dialogue vs. destruction.   It takes great courage and ability to face your adversary with the tools of understanding and mutual respect.   Violence is mindless – just pull a trigger or push a button.
The “evil ones” are not the people, or even the leaders, of Iran, Syria, N. Korea or whoever is the next U.S. target.   The evil ones are the cowards within the U.S. who push for war, who push to send our young people to kill and destroy, while they plot to amass their fame and fortune.
I met Claude Anshin Thomas a few years ago.  He was a door gunner in Viet Nam.   In his book,  “At Hell’s Gate”, he says, “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it’s the absence of violence within conflict.”  This holiday season please think about that.
Arnold Stieber

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Michigan State University & Violence

On Armistice Day weekend 2012 I watched Michigan State play basketball in Germany at a military base.  The teams had camo. uniforms.  The audience was "the troops", there were death and destruction vehicles in the stadium and weapons proudly displayed.  It sickened me.  This is the second year in a row that MSU has tied basketball to the military.  I mailed the following to the three listed.  To date I've had no response.
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November 10, 2012
TO:  Board of Trustees
         Lou Anna K. Simon – President
         Tom Izzo – Men’s Basketball Coach
FROM:  Arnold Stieber
               (address deleated for this post)
SUBJECT:   Michigan State and Violence
As an MSU Alum and military veteran (Army, infantry, Viet Nam) I am sadden and disturbed that MSU is directly promoting the use of violence via its glorification of the military.
The purpose of the military is to eliminate conflict via violence.   The TV ads with their simulated combat scenes make this statement very clearly – “Kill the bad guys.  This will keep us safe” - is the message.   For two consecutive years the Men’s Basketball team has performed in a military setting and thus has directly tied MSU to this barbarian concept.
I invite all of you to research the most decorated Marine in U.S. history – two-time Medal of Honor recipient Major General Smedley Butler.  After he retired he reflected on his career and wrote a booklet – “War is a Racket”.   I also invite you to explore the words of General Eisenhower  - “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, as only one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity “.  
Once you begin to explore war, the symbols of war, the financial incentives for war, the promotion of war – subtle and overt – I hope that you will conclude that having sporting events with military involvement is helping neither those in the military nor this country.  For those in the military MSU’s involvement adds creditability to the concept that violence is “patriotic”, and “brave”, and the “American way”.   Many in the military, like Generals Butler and Eisenhower, will feel the pain of this barbarian concept later in life.  For this country, having sporting events with military involvement is saying that war is a game.  It is saying to other nations that the USA is about “winning” (aka conquest) and the USA (with its military) will “win”.
I am a graduate of Michigan State University.  I can’t change that.  I ask you to consider the associations that you make in the name of MSU and thus me.   Peace – Gandhi style.