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As the Obama administration works to build public support for a new American military mobilization in the Middle East of uncertain duration and scope, it should be no surprise to find the rhetoric of humanitarian interventionism on display. And it should be no less disappointing to, as usual, see many on the left falling victim to this rhetoric. An excerpt from an essay recently published by Buddy Bell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, "On Worthier Victims," might prove especially illuminating of the phenomenon at work:
"If someone is not accustomed to hearing much about death and suffering, it can be very upsetting to suddenly hear that a human being was brutally killed in some foreign location. Another someone who has a larger context in which to place that death, while not less upset, might feel less of a sense of momentary kneejerk urgency regarding that singular piece of news. Put in another way, the increment between 0 and 1 human deaths feels intuitively much greater than that between 1000 and 1001 human deaths.
I wrote my Senator, Angus King, to register my judgment that further military American intervention in the Middle East was a catastrophic mistake. His response was measured and thoughtful. Principles which will guide his future votes on policy include: “there must be a vital national interest to justify any intervention; specific goals must be established; any action we take should be as one component of a coalition strategy whereby other nations, particularly those in the region, are actively involved and supportive; no commitment of ground combat forces; and the establishment of an open and inclusive government in Iraq that unites the country's diverse ethnic and religious communities.”
It’s what Senator King doesn’t include in his response that troubles me, and what even the liberal media isn’t asking in talk shows on NPR and elsewhere: what are the creative alternatives to militarism and arms sales that won’t merely create more extremists? Instead, there is this extraordinary rush to consensus that bombs and bullets are the only way open to us.
A coalition of residents and businesses in San Francisco's Bayview District are fighting to stop the construction of a new 100-bed homeless shelter. A lawsuit has been filed and representing the coalition is Steven Hammond, partner at the Hammond Law Group. Mr. Hammond said during an interview with KQED that city officials failed to invite public comment through the public hearing process. "This is not a transparent, open process that would allow for public debate. The City has committed itself to this project before it has followed the required legal procedure."
Bevan Dufty, Director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement, refuted this claim and said public comments will be heard. "There will be a public process...we know that there is a crisis in homelessness. Without a shelter full time, we aren't doing the best job we can helping people exit the streets."
Carl Hart, PhD, a neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University, recently gave a compelling TEDMED Talk in which he dispelled the myths about drugs, drug use and drug misuse. In the talk, Hart eloquently discussed the negative influence that drug hysteria had on the flawed drug laws the United States grapples with today.
His unflinching, eye-opening talk mirrored his widely-renowned book, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (HarperCollins, 2013), a groundbreaking memoir/science book which recently won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.
On the 3-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall St. movement in Zuccotti Park, many people are wondering, "What has Occupy done?" Have protesters created any projects, models or solutions after their camp evictions? Below is a list of just 10 ongoing successes Occupiers around the world have began.
IN MEMORY OF MICHAEL BROWN: We will bring at least 500 UNARMED CIVILIAN t-shirts to Ferguson in an act of solidarity.
We have launched an initiative to print at least 500* UNARMED CIVILIAN t-shirts to bring to Ferguson, Missouri, which we will distribute publicly in an act of solidarity. We will document this action, share the footage, and amplify the voices of the people we meet in Ferguson through our social networks.
Immediately after Onondaga County prosecutor Jordan McNamara rested his case against DC peace and justice activist Eve Tetaz, DeWitt town judge David Gideon granted Ms. Tetaz’ motion to dismiss. Ms. Tetaz represented herself pro se with the support of DC attorney Mark Goldstone.
Ms. Tetaz had been arrested on April 28, 2013, along with 30 others as she stood reading aloud Preamble to the UN Charter and the First Amendment of the Constitution on the edge of the driveway leading into the Hancock Reaper drone base on East Molloy Rd., Town of De Witt. The prosecution’s video of Ms. Tetaz’ arrest showed the arresting officer grabbing those documents from her hands and tossing them aside.
We live in a time fraught with bad news. From the toll of violence and poverty to the escalating march of climate change, every week brings temptations to despair. Hope may actually be more beleaguered in the wake of a president who won the office in part by branding himself with it. Many have concluded that political participation has become a futile game.
For myself, I deal with potential despair by finding ways to act. And remembering that the doors to social change are never irrevocably closed, even in unimaginably difficult situations. Think of Nelson Mandela and his compatriots being told they would rot and die on Robben Island. Denied newspapers as a way of isolating them, they’d see a guard discard a newspaper he’d used to wrap his sandwich, and one of the prisoners would retrieve it, smuggle it under their shirt, and in a tiny coded script on toilet paper (the only paper they had), would circulate a story or headline that would give their compatriots courage.
If members of the US public were ever to wonder what the other 95% of humanity thinks about them, would it be better to break that harsh truth to them gently or just to blurt it out?
I'm going to go with the latter.
The way the United States has chosen to approach the chaos of the Middle East has far more frightening implications than we think, especially in terms of the world our children will inherit. If we are honest about how our adversaries perceive us, we will have to admit that there is a grand cycle of violence and insult operating, in which we ourselves are implicated up to our necks.
If we are to have any chance of breaking this potentially endless cycle (our military bases in Saudi Arabia leading to 9-11; 9-11 leading to the second Gulf War, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib; the second Gulf War helping to create ISIS; ISIS beheading our journalists; President Obama suckered into reluctant bellicosity etc. etc. etc), we have to start by admitting our own role in it—something extremely difficult for our culture, and therefore almost impossible for our political leaders.