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.