What They Said…

On Armistice Day, 11/11/18 at 11 am “The War to End All Wars” ended. Don’t Celebrate “Veterans Day”

From Celebrate Armistice Day, Not Veterans Day by David Swanson, Nov. 7, The Humanist:

Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution in 1926 calling for “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding…inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.” Later, Congress added that November 11 was to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

We don’t have so many holidays dedicated to peace that we can afford to spare one. If the United States were compelled to scrap a war holiday, it would have dozens to choose from, but peace holidays don’t just grow on trees. Mother’s Day has been drained of its original meaning. Martin Luther King Day has been shaped around a caricature that omits all advocacy for peace. Armistice Day, however, is making a comeback.

Swanson is a great writer and debunker of the myths of war. If you haven’t heard of the Kellogg Briand Pact, please look it up or read any number of pieces from his blog Let’s Try Democracy.

From Peacemakers, Warmongers and Fence Sitters: Who Represents You? by Nicolas J. S. Davies and Medea Benjamin, Oct. 3, Common Dreams:

The elephant in the room that none of them want to discuss is that Congress keeps handing more than 60% of discretionary federal funds over to a military industrial complex whose recent wars have only succeeded in plunging half a dozen countries into intractable violence and chaos, leaving vital domestic priorities permanently underfunded.”

This article has eye-opening stats on how members of both houses of Congress have voted on matters of war and militarism over the years. I was honestly didn’t expect the contrast between the two parties to look as stark as it is. What are our priorities, and how can we make those count in federal budgets? Who is representing whom? We need to know even if it seems like truth isn’t as relevant as we would have it be in the current political climate. The ballooning military budgets that pass with a suicidally bipartisan lack of scrutiny or wisdom point to who is stealing our public commons, trust and money. Campaigns for human rights of any kind or any part of the environmental movement that ignores the Pentagon are bound to fail. You can’t effectively address a problem and ignore its largest component at the same time.

From yours truly…I’ve said before…

In a free society, one should be able to get away with murder. (I trust no one to accuse me of encouraging better planned murders.) The important corollary that is being undermined in today’s world is that if it can be proven you did it (beyond a reasonable doubt), you are supposed to face consequences.  In the current state of affairs, it seems that even collective memory and video clips don’t matter when some people attack others, are “inciteful” instead of insightful, or are extremely rude and even proudly spout racist and misogynist tropes.

I have to excuse reporters being dumbfounded like I am when Trump hypocritically and hyperbolically attacks other people as rude, racist or sexist. The dishonesty is so blatant, I want to appreciate the calm, professional demeanor of  PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor when Trump called her questions racist at the infamous Nov. 7 press conference. I would cheer, and feel encouraged for the world to see a black woman challenge Trump fiercely in a situation like that (and then would try to help her if her job were being threatened). That exchange was even more absurd than when Trump and other Republicans called the antifa and some Democratic lawmakers “uncivil.” They shouldn’t be able to land such questions without immediate pointing out of their hypocrisy.A lot of us would. Good for Jim Acosta standing up for himself and his profession, but all journalists of integrity need to stop hanging on Trump’s every ignorant word or misdirecting move.

It is about time that journalists stood up for themselves to the point of asking follow up questions and being cut off from White House briefings. More need to follow suit. Trump’s press conferences should be unattended.

It is long overdue for Democrats and moderates to take up voter disenfranchisement with seriousness. Samantha Bee nailed this issue in two of her earliest episodes of Full Frontal addressed well the extreme failings of the Democratic Party to be sure not to lose so badly in 2010. And seeing some Democrats not concede in close races is an important change. Al Gore laments heeding the advice of Dem higher ups in 2000 told him

I have long questioned as myopic the abundant (to say the least) focus on the question of “collusion” between Trump and Putin or the Russians. It is actually exceedingly clear that the Republicans have been rigging the system since 2000 or earlier and pretty clear the Democratic leadership didn’t want Al Gore to utilize the Constitution to stand up for himself, their party or the future of the country and the world. How can any measure be legal that makes it almost impossible for some people to cast their ballots? How can results be announced credibly when more remain uncounted than divide presumed winner from loser?

I feel dirty using Facebook and Whats App

They have been used by violent authoritarians around the world to skew public opinion, get elected and drive people to murder. Civil rights in the Philippines, India, Hungary, and now Brazil have all been dealt devastating blows as a result of how this social media has been used. A lawyer working against Duterte’s “war on drugs” in the Philippines was gunned down in early November. Benjamin Ramos became the 34th lawyer killed in the last two years there according to Democracy Now! What is remembered lives. Journalists and local environmental and labor organizers, generally regular folks, often poor, looking out for their families and communities, are being killed and blamed for it in ways unimaginable before the advent of social media and the internet. Like using fossil fuels, I feel a bit complicit with my constant use of screens and devices. “In a free society, few are guilty. All are responsible.” (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver deserves a couple of Pulitzers

John Oliver doesn’t just use the stuff of the current political melt down for the sake of a joke in a way that lessens the seriousness of what he covers. Occasionally I do feel like Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah make their points but don’t go quite far enough or they use the story to support the joke instead of vice versa. Episodes that stand out for me include his segments about the IRS, civil asset forfeiture and setting yourself up as a megachurch (not all on one show). The November 4 show was an amazing expose about the details of the family separation regime of the current administration. It was the clearest and most informative report about what is really happening with some chilling comments and footage along the way.

Jon Stewart, a pioneer in the modern news comedy format, made some cautionary and insightful comments about the juxtaposition/confusion of news and comedy, reality and “fake news” in conversation with Christianne Amanpour on a London stage as presented by Melanie McFarland in Salon on November 3 that asks “How long will the media play Trump’s game?

[O]ne strange truth is that his tactics have resulted in a further conflation of journalism and entertainment in a way that has defanged the way the press covers him as well as Congress. Over the past week especially, many members of the press had to finally wake up to the fact that what journalists of color have been saying all along — Trump is a white supremacist — is indeed true. But most still have problems saying that, even after Trump crowed about being a nationalist at a rally in Houston. They’re too afraid of losing the crowd, of walking the room.

Keeping up with Shukri

I am touched but not surprised by the humane concern and generous support for the survivors and families of victims at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh showed by Linda Sarsour and other Muslims. At the same time, the experience of the Holy Land Foundation comes to mind. At the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Holy Land Foundation was the largest Muslim charity in the country. Based in nearby Texas, the HLF sent unequaled material support to the people of OK City as well as dozens of volunteers. Their help was uniformly praised and thanked…except once Israel got the George W. Bush administration to go after the HLF. From Shukri Abu-Baker, founder of the HLF who now sits in federal US prison serving an unjust 65 year sentence for his generosity and despite his integrity.

In the trial, the government used our humanitarian response to the O.C. bombing against us, alleging that we only did it to deflect attention from our true mission, which they said was supporting  terrorism. Of course, this was the shortest road the government could take to demonize American Muslims: Make very good thing they do to work against them. I won’t be surprised if Sarsour and her colleagues were at the top of Israel’s list of enemies, no matter what she does. And I won’t be surprised if her effort to normalize Islam in America will draw negative attention to her __ and perhaps put her under the FBI’s most watchful eyes. Muslims will always be suspects in this country, not because they deserve it, but because the voices of hate are still louder than that of love. However, there is a price to be paid when one decided to embark on a course of universal enlightenment. No change can be made without sacrifice, fortitude, and deep belief in the mission.

Three Vital Articles about Judaism, Antisemitism, Zionism, Palestine and Israel

I have tried to point out that modern Israel and the unflinching support for its blatant brutality in the name of Jewish security fan the flames of antisemitism, replacing irrational fear and hatred of us with reasons that are firmly based on tragic, contemporary, political policies and actions.

From Rebecca Vilkomerson on Trump and Netanyahu “enabling antisemitism”, Oct. 31, Middle East Eye (Great Britain):

One thing that has definitely happened in the Trump era is that supporting Israel has become a stand-in for supporting Jews….In the Trump era you can love Israel and still hate Jews and often I think a deal with the devil is being made by a lot of Jewish organisations, that as long as a person supports Israel they give them a pass on anti-semitism.

From Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization by Jeff Halper, Oct.12, Counterpunch:

Regardless of Zionism’s claim to have begun as a genuine national movement, once it chose the form of settler colonialism it made decolonization the only acceptable form of resolution. It is Zionist/Israeli policies and actions that have eliminated any other form of accommodation other than decolonization. By repeatedly and consistently choosing to enforce an exclusive claim to the Land, excluding (and negating) Palestinian national rights and carrying out ongoing policies of displacement and colonization, Zionism rapidly transformed a potentially legitimate movement for Jewish national rights into an unacceptable and unsustainable settler colonial enterprise. Before considering what decolonization entails, let’s briefly trace the transition from a Jewish national movement to Zionist settler colonialism.

From A guide to principled anti-Zionism by Steven Salaita, October 1, Mondoweiss:

There’s significant opposition to Israeli brutality on the US left, but hardly any consequence in electoral culture for cosigning or ignoring that brutality. Done without care, opposition to Israeli brutality can reify other forms of oppression, or it can conceptualize Israel as an aberration from honorable American values.  Israel doesn’t corrupt the United States—nor does the United States corrupt Israel. Both states originated through corruption[.]

 

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Brewing an Elixir of Radical Peace and Justice

Reclaiming Spiral Dance, Saturday, October 27, Craneway Conference Center, Richmond, California: Altar viewing and Reading of Names of the Beloved Dead at 6:00. Ritual at 7:00

   "Where land meets water, together with our beloved dead, we stir a cauldron of tears and outrage to brew an elixir of radical peace and justice."   This year’s ritual intention is “Where land meets water, together with our beloved dead, we stir a cauldron of tears and outrage to brew an elixir of radical peace and justice.” I have been working most of the year on this year’s Spiral Dance. I always find the reading of the names of the dead to be a very powerful reminder and meditation. Two years ago I became one of the readers, and this year I am coordinating the reading and hence participating in the organizing meetings. Someone has to attend meetings to plan events like this, not that meetings are “my thing” as sometimes I am told. For next year’s 40th anniversary Spiral Dance we are going to need even more people working on it than this year.

To submit names of people you want read (and projected) before the ritual,  whether or not you are coming, visit https://www.reclaimingspiraldance.org/the-beloved-dead/.  For more about the Spiral Dance itself, visit https://www.reclaimingspiraldance.org/

We still need volunteers. There may still be a ritual role or two that remains unfilled. This year, due to scheduling and venue availability difficulties, the North Bay spiral dance is the same night, so we will be missing some usual helpers and presences. We will cosmically connect energetically with them as we dance.

Join us for this great working. We need to brew and imbibe and share as much radical peace and justice as we can!

Become a Citizen of the Good Country

The Good Country is a creation of Simon Anholt and Madeline Hung that began registering citizens on September 17. The Good Country is an outgrowth of The Good Country Index which I learned about from World Beyond War as part of their work showing that alternatives to war and other measures of social well being exist, and that by no measure is war really a positive. I hadn’t looked at WBW’s website for a while. I recommend it for inspiration (and reality checks, but a lot of good organizing is happening, and we aren’t finding out about as much as we should due to social media algorithms and other fear-mongering news filters. Check out WagingNonviolence.org while you’re at it for similar inspiration from the likes of civil society in Idlib demonstrating while under Islamic State control.

The Good Country is still being populated, and I hope others of my friends join me in it. Here are some reasons why. The annual tax rate is a flat $5 which I gladly paid (unlike my US tax liability which remains outstanding). The Good Country index is already a very useful way to look at the world through different overlapping lenses. There is a lot of info in the index, and it is fascinating to explore!

David Swanson & Joanna Macy
Saturday, Oct. 13, 3-5pm
Historic Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar St., Berk.

Speaking of World Beyond War, WBW Director David Swanson (“War is a Lie” and Roots Action) will be in the area, and I can’t recommend this combination (him and Joanna Macy) more highly for information as well as a serious dose of reality but also a sense of uplift and “We’re all in this together.” Jim_JoannaJoanna (The Work that Reconnects and “Deep Times”) is one of my favorite teachers and thinkers, activists and friends. Music also provided by Jen Myzel. Thanks to CODEPINK: Women for Peace (Golden Gate) and the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee for organizing another “Active Hope” event with Joanna. For more info and to register for this free event (donations will be accepted) click here for Eventbrite or Facebook, or just show up.

Keep Space for Peace week (October 6 to 13)

Thank you to Bruce Gagnon and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (www.Space4Peace.org)  for valiantly organizing the annual Keep Space for Peace week(KS4P) the second week of October. The Global Network has consistently brought activists from different continents together on this issue.

October 6 -13 2018
Keep Space for Peace Week
International Week of Protest to
Stop the Militarisation of Space
No Space Force
No Missile Defense
Close U.S./NATO Bases Worldwide
Stop Drones Surveillance & Killing
End Privatization of Foreign/Military Policy
Convert the Military Industrial Complex
Deal with climate change and global poverty

With Trump’s desire to create a formal “Space Force,” we need to keep eyes on the sky even as local communities fight attacks that acutely threaten their existence. A nuclear or conventional bomb can cause very sudden life-changes and life-endings. The siphoning off…the stealing…of communal resources and the social safety net to fund more weapons and fuel more attacks should garner more push back than it does. Pentagon budgets get raised with barely a discussion, even on the left. Are we afraid to confront our cousins and grandparents who join or believe in the US military?

Even if the army doesn’t meet its goal of 80,000 new recruits for 2018, they are closer than I think they should be, around 75,000. And they complain about competing with businesses when jobs (even low-paying, non-benefits-granting) are more available in the private sector.

If I am at the gates of the Livermore National Laboratory or the Nevada National Security Site or the Sunnyvale plant of Lockheed Martin, we talk about militarism’s reliance on racism, misogyny and climate change anxiety. The problem of intersectionality of oppressions is very real, war profiteers need to be challenged more widely by more movements. Every social movement needs to steer its adherents away from military “service” if we are to create a good country, much less a good world. Come to the 10/13 event above to learn more about CODEPINK’s work organizing against the war economy and war profiteers.

Intersectional Hope: Be Here Now

PictureBAY-Peace does great work helping youth organizers “take action against militarization for racial and economic justice” in Oakland schools. It’s now ten years strong! This is a real high school peace group. They talk about the military industrial complex to junior high school students. They see economic conscription not as an opportunity, but the death trap it really is and educate their peers about the raw, one-sided deal military enlistment contracts are.

BAY-Peace is in the midst of a $17,000 fundraiser for stipends and office and art supplies for over 40 youth leaders. I just gave. You can too, here.

I also want to give props to the War Resisters League, now 95 years fighting the good fight against war fighting. WRL’s 95th Anniversary party is October 11 at DCTV, 87 Lafayette St. in New York City. They also have the annual Raffle of Resistance underway through November, so get some tickets.

The Peace Award winners of the past few years show a growing understanding of the intersection of oppressions on the part of WRL. This year’s Peace Award is shared by Corrina Gould, an East Bay Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone woman and sacral site land activist, and The Peace Poets, a Bronx-born collective of artists that celebrate, examine and advocate for life through music and poetry. Mandy Carter is also receiving the Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award for her many continuing years as a movement activist (including co-organizer of War Resisters League West during the Vietnam war).

Ends and Odds

I have a job I like now, has little stress, and feels like I could ride into my future. It isn’t high-paying, but it is enough, and it is satisfying. After 25 years I’m not going to be a medically indigent adult (MIA) in San Francisco anymore. I’ll have Kaiser. Real insurance. And MetLife for dental and something else for some vision. The change makes me nervous. I’m going to miss Castro-Mission Health Center, all the SF General clinics I have visited over the years, the surgeries and even the Walgreens at Mission and Cesar Chavez. San Francisco Health Plan and Medi-Cal was serving me well. But now I’m a member of the working poor. I got outstanding care, and they always wanted to give the the best treatment possible. I have been well-served, so I am loathe to change, but it’s time. I’m ready to make the move and actually register and get set up and move forward with new doctors and facilities. It’s gonna be good!

Out in the world, there are so many alarms to raise, if I wait a month to send out this Missive, it will be even more too long! Here are a few news items you may have missed that I want to highlight:

  • Some Latinx who travel abroad have been not allowed back into the United States. 
  • Here is an interesting article about trying to raise children in gender neutral ways(You are welcome to wonder and inquire why this might be of interest to me!)
  • Jerry Brown vetoed the bill to provide for the harm reduction effort of safe injection sites. I don’t like Brown, but of course, there are far worse.
  • The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) has informed Nevada Desert Experience (NDE, my former employer) that their longstanding practice of not processing tickets for crossing onto the NNSS at front gate actions is cancelled. As I work on this Missive, NDE just completed its fall “Justice for Our Desert.” Actions are small now, not like they were, but Donald Trump wants them to resume underground testing. Hell, he wants to see one go off above ground!
  • Friday demonstrations continue in Gaza, and Israel continues to kill and maim unarmed Palestinians in protest or just in sniper range from the IDF perimeter. At the same time, the fate of the small Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmer seems sealed by Israel’s high court saying it can be demolished, but the village just East of Jerusalem is a rallying cry for local Palestinians as well as the international community.
  • A documentary created by Al Jazeera about dishonest campaigns by Israel and a couple groups including Canary Mission that target and threaten Palestinians and supportive college groups has been censored in response to Israeli lobbying. Still, even the Jewish Forward ran an article about the efforts and the censorship.
  • To recommend just one thing to look at (okay, two together) that deal with misogyny, sexual violence, and how they are being talked about and dealt with (or not) check out Democracy Now! from Friday, October 5. Eve Ensler is in both segments. First is her open letter to white women who supported Brett Kavanaugh: “Stand with Survivors & Fight This Nomination. Then they interviewed the just-announced Nobel Peace Prize winners who work for women’s rights, help rape survivors and work to stop the use of rape as an instrument of war.
  • As I was finalizing this Missive, I received a new video from the Afghan Peace Volunteers (less than three minutes long), the amazing group that hosted me when I visited Afghanistan in 2011. Seeing them do the yarn toss, web-weaving exercise, talking about what they learned at their “Youth on the Road to Peace” conference 2018 was very touching, and a reminder of how truly global aspirations for peace are.

Thanks for reading,
Jim

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To stop genocide, we have to call things genocidal first.

To stop genocide, we have to call things genocidal first.

It’s the High Holy Days still. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur have passed, but there is Sukkot and Simchat Torah over the next week or so. On a personal level, I want to soften and reconcile. I want to repent and listen. I want to shut up and apologize simply. I want to be soft spoken, look at where I err, not others. I want to open up and take It in. Personally, I do. I am. I will. I am…if imperfectly, sadly…but I do, I am.

jim.wall.bird.terrorPolitically, I don’t want to mince words though. I am always struck by the Yom Kippur morning Haftorah portion (Isaiah 57 and 58) when the prophet screams at the people Israel to get real, to stop bullshitting ourselves, to stop being assholes, to stop having things not work out and then run crying to God. (Oh, God. I do do that, don’t I!) If we don’t got our neighbor’s back, then things don’t feel chill or safe or secure. Well, that’s no surprise! We help people in need and things look, feel and smell a lot sweeter, almost by definition. So, I feel called to cry out about politics, about Israel especially, alongside the United States. (So what else is new?) I really mean to shake people to awaken outrage, not to bludgeon anyone. I am crying out in anguish and outrage myself. Why? Here is why:

  • I think it is manifestly evident that Israel and the United States don’t care if Palestinians live or die, and they are actively killing them, taking their land, and criminalizing their existence in the diaspora. This we must oppose and stop, so we must ponder and meditate on it as we atone.
  • Um_Il_Khair_bulldozer_destroys_homeIf my harsh words distract anyone from taking up the cause of resisting oppression done in our names, then I think they are too easily looking away from the people in need, Palestine, and the fault isn’t mine. The problem isn’t my tongue nor the errors of Palestinian leadership or any violence committed in resistance to Zionist myopia and greed. Nor is it violence committed against Jews in other countries or by the Mufti of Jerusalem eighty years ago. We are called “not to look away” from those in need.
  • Let me say again: I think it is manifestly evident that Israel and the United States don’t care if Palestinians live or die, and they are actively killing them, taking their land, and criminalizing their existence in the diaspora. This is the foundational affront we must stop and ponder as we meditate and atone.
  • Mosul (2)I don’t think they’re going to stop. Israel and Zionists, I mean. Israel…people who themselves claim the label “Zionist” and insist they are defending all Jews, are acting for all Jews, and are operating from a place of Jewish goodness…the people Israel are taking what was Palestine and running highways to the sea through it.
  • Israel demands to wear the mantle of all that is Jewish and then bristles at any unflattering conflation of Judaism and Zionism. I’m not the one making Zionism, and by extension Judaism, hateful. I’m also not the one to be blamed for conflating Israel and Judaism. Credit for that also goes to the Zionists, not the Palestinians nor even to real antisemites like the ones Israel is colluding with in the Trump administration or in despotic regimes that purchase weapons to use on their own people that have been developed and tested on Palestinians by Jews.
  • jim-and-the-earthen-roadblock_PPTIf my cousins don’t like the brutality and trajectory of Zionism, they need to stop the other Zionists from making the label something despotic and greedy. Or they need to shed the term and stop being defensive about it. The people doing horrific things demand the mantle of Zionism. It isn’t me choosing to call them that.
  • They’re killing Palestinians like there’s no tomorrow. Israel refuses to punish brutality committed by Jews against Palestinians even in the most extreme and blatant cases.
  • Jaffa_Street_massesIf you think Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon earned the right to be remembered as statesmen after their admittedly terrorist careers, then grant Palestinian revolutionaries the same honor. It is at least as honestly deserved. Don’t want Palestinian knife wielders to be remembered lovingly? Then deal with the ostentatious grave of mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein and the impunity other murderers of Palestinians are afforded. And don’t ask me if I think Rasmeah Odeh killed anyone!
  • I think Jews will get a better shake from Palestinians than has been the case in the reverse, even after all this time, all that has been taken, all that has been lost. All that has been killed. Palestinians can’t act more bloodthirsty than has Israel.Sumud_signs_flags
  • It could get worse though, and there is a tomorrow. That can go either way, and we have the capacity and necessity to steer the ship. How bad does it have to get for you not to consider me alarmist? Does genocide have to happen first?
  • I didn’t say genocide has happened, but to stop something, we need to name it first. I think there are lots of indicators that Israel will continue deluding itself that it is just acting to protect itself. It isn’t and Israel must be stopped.
  • Israel is a nuclear weapon state with sophisticated delivery systems that surpass all but Russia and the United States. That puts it in a special class of moral reprehensibility. Overblown fear of Iran is another distraction that keeps good-hearted Jews from confronting Israel. We are threatening them more than the other way around. “We” have nukes and they don’t. Let me say that again: We are threatening Iran, not the other way around. We have nukes, and they don’t!
  • Forward_activists-1468604402The horrific, despotic Zionist truth of the present is so bad, that it makes antisemitic works of the past like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Blood Libel easier to sell and harder to dismiss out of hand.
  • First responsibility to stop Israel lies with Israelis. Second responsibility lies with world Jewry, and third responsibility lies with people of the United States. We really need to stop and ponder what “we” are doing to the Palestinians before it is too late.
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Personality: Disordered!

Welcome to another edition of Jim’s Approximately Monthly Missives. I’ve had a difficult time getting this one out. It was close a couple weeks ago. Any delay opens me up to shifting feelings of the day and more outrage at ignorant xenophobia and murderous governments. Please venture into the body of this missive for important news about Gaza. Then there’s a brief observation about why I think that Muslims are perhaps the world’s most maligned people. See also more love and wisdom from Shukri Abu-Baker from behind bars and a parsing of personality disorders vis a vis the sitting US president and the nation as a whole. Oh, and don’t miss Environmentalists Against War’s “Things You Should Know” about Trump’s Pentagon’s aggressively-paced efforts for actually initiating a nuclear war. I don’t know if the people of the world can stop Trump without the leaders of countries rejecting him and us. BOYCOTT THE UNITED STATES IMMEDIATELY AND FULLY NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE! DON’T MEET WITH TRUMP. STAND TOGETHER. STOP THIS BLIND, SUICIDAL REGIME!

Meanwhile personally, I am spending more time working and commuting than ever in my life. I haven’t found it very onerous, but it feels like I am needed in the streets more than I have the energy or focus for. And I have friends in need, plus my own situation which I truly must spend more time attending to or I will literally be on the streets or cycling through friends to shelter with. I am overjoyed by an old relationship re-blossoming in an amazingly new way, generating new life in me (okay, not IN ME, but close) that should buoy my spirits for the rest of my life. At the same time I am devastated by a more recent lover with whom only months ago I shared a uniquely precious honesty and understanding, only to be told now  “it is clear that we are not communicating.” Evidently not since communication is a two part endeavor, but I can’t imagine a more insulting and hurtful thing to be told in response to opening my heart and expressing my truth. I expected at least some ongoing friendship, not to be summarily dismissed. So much of the last Missive about communicating with “lead-doped gold” was about my fall from grace with her. Even my usual inner turmoil has been thrown for a loop!

Thanks for reading on,
-James

The Spiral Dance is Oct. 27 at the Craneway Conference Center in Richmond, California

I want to encourage people to come to this year’s Spiral Dance. I became a reader of the names of the dead a couple years ago, and this year I stepped up into the organizing team. The intention for this year’s Spiral Dance is Where land meets water, together with our beloved dead, we stir a cauldron of tears and outrage to brew an elixir of radical peace and justice.

Click here to submit names of your beloved dead to be projected and read at the beginning of the event (during altar viewing before the ritual).
Click here for the Spiral Dance website for more information in general. We are suggesting donations of $30 or more, but no one will be checking. We appreciate advance ticket purchases (and extra gifts). The rental of spaces has gone way up in price, and we need help for this and next year…our 40th anniversary. Plus, money raised at Spiral Dance is sometimes made available to support other Reclaiming events and gatherings.
Get advance tickets here. These really help the organizing cell breathe easier.
Check out and say you are attending on our Facebook page.
Make extra donations for Reclaiming from our website.

 The World’s Most Maligned People

My heart goes out to Muslims all over the world. I can’t think of a more maligned and attacked people…except maybe women and poor people everywhere, refugees, prostitutes and prisoners. Still, consider…

Narendra Modhi’s Hindu nationalist government of India has just stripped the citizenship of 4 million Muslim Indians in Assam province in the northeast. In a similar move, the genocidal Myanmar Buddhists have burnt many of the villages of 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state and sworn up and down that the Muslims burnt their own homes and mystifyingly ran away. The Chinese have turned Xinjiang province into a police state in efforts to control 10 million Muslim Uighurs. I’m not going to name any single Judeo-Christian example of deadly Islamophobia, because they are too myriad, and they are homegrown as well as international. Violence against Muslims is supported by increasingly fascist governments, but in the forefront are the United States and Israel, the two countries I am most part of. Not all Palestinians are Muslims, but the vast majority are, and because of that, they are considered expendable if not sub-human. Nothing justifies this attitude, and I will continue to resist it with all the will and strength I can muster.

Gaza Freedom Flotilla and other Assaults on Palestinians

Delaying putting this Missive out means I can’t just encourage you to learn more about the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and tell Israel to release the medical supplies it hijacked from two ships in international waters on July 29 and August 6. I also have to express pain and upset that in the meantime, the Trump administration announced that it is cutting another $200 million funding for UNRWA (which I have written about before) which has provided essential services for decades to half of the people now in the Gaza Strip. Read the press release from the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (Aug 9) demanding that Israel release the medical supplies they pirated from their two Scandinavian-flagged ships, the Al-Awda and the Freedom, that Israel hijacked. I don’t find this portrait of Gaza as presented by the state of Israel to be credible. I hope the Palestinians in the stories truly got the help they needed. More revealing is the experience of Dr. See Ang, a British medical doctor who was kidnapped while aboard one of the ships.

Many people, including hesitant Jews, are alarmed by Israel de-officializing Arabic as a national language. Humanitarian workers are being turned away from Israel, and we are being told stupidly, but effectively and dangerously, that helping people in need is the same as funding terrorism (witness the plight of the Holy Land Foundation Five). UN officials and even Jews are being turned away from Israel because of their solidarity or support work for Palestinians. I am grateful for this review of Jewish Voice for Peace’s actual mission and statements by a skeptical Israeli JVP member and lawyer published in Jewish Currents in January. If you don’t think you like JVP or if you think it goes too far, I strongly encourage you to check it out.

Inspiring and Troubling Messages from Shukri Abu-Baker

From Shukri Abu-Baker, director of what was the largest Muslim charity in the United States until Israel and the GW Bush administration succeeded in convicting him and four other Palestininians on absolutely fabricated charges of supporting terrorism. The winning argument the US used in the kangaroo court against the Holy Land Foundation should outrage and alarm people: The government hoodwinked a jury into believing that by directly aiding Palestinians in need, the Holy Land Foundation were taking pressure off of Hamas to provide basic services in Gaza and hence were supporting terrorism. Relief organizations in any besieged or war torn place would seem to meet that criteria. On January 22 Shukri wrote me:

The whole downing of the Holy Land Foundation and the consequent prosecution of the HLF-5 including myself was solely done on behalf and in the behest of Israel…I’m sentenced to spend the rest of my life in prison, not for anything that violated any U.S. code or American ideal. Rather, for purely political ends. However, I remain strong and encouraged by the support I’ve been receiving from all over the world. One day the truth will be unearthed and the Truth shall set me free.

From Shukri on August 9, 2018:

In this particular institution, I had worked as a GED tutor for three and a half years, but had to quit when my exceptional performance was met with a systemic unjustness-to put it mildly. Of course, you would assume that a man with a college degree and some post-graduate work, in addition to having a-hard-to-match record of institutional achievements, programming, and conduct, would have no problem landing himself a job of prime choice. Not so. In fact it has been hard for me to get a job as menial as an orderly. Disappointment aside, over all, this is not so bad a situation for me to be in, especially that I don’t mind enduring some additional ego-clipping as I continue trudging in my spiritual journey. Humility is an integral part in a Muslim’s character; and having to go around and solicit help in seeking work and then feel rejected, if not detested, only nudges me to lower my wings even the more. Now -in retrospect- I feel God’s Grace upon me for having enabled me to do all the wonderful things I wished to do in the service of humanity. He alone employed me and He alone empowered me. Yet, now, even though behind bars I still want to take a job, not only so that I can be useful, but also because dirty hands and wrinkled pants set a bridle on my haughtiness. But at the end of the day if- for whatever reason- no one wished to list my name on their roster, then no harm done. After all, prison in all its chaotic ways, politics, and inexplicabilities, is supposed to be just like that: a humbling experience. And humbled I am, indeed.

Shukri was sentenced to 65 years in 2008.  Read about Shukri and the rest of the Holy Land Foundation 5 and the fabrication and prosecution of the case against these very faithful humanitarians in Injustice the 2018 book by Miko Peled (JustWorldBooks.com) Write Shukri at
Shukri Abu-Baker 32589-177
USP BEAUMONT
U.S PENITENTIARY
P.O. BOX 26030
BEAUMONT, TX 77720

Not Borderline Narcissism

In order for a person to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

  4. Requires excessive admiration

  5. Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

  6. Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

  7. Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

  9. Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Trump is a 100% Narcissist, all the way, 9 for 9. Damn! And unlike most narcissists, he  gets to point to signs of success to sorta justify his sense of self. There is another personality disorder that I think fits, on a societal level. The United States behaves like it has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

A person with this disorder will also often exhibit impulsive behaviors and have a majority of the following symptoms:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, whether the abandonment is real or imagined

  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation

  3. Identity disturbance, such as a significant and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self

  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)

  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior

  6. Emotional instability due to significant reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)

  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness

  8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)

  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms

Environmentalists Against War:
NO NUKES!

Thank you to Gar Smith for this notice from Environmentalists Against War. I prefer to end with an upbeat or personal item, but right now I think it is important to leave people pondering nuclear weapons. I probably will irritate some activist friends from other causes when I say that they need to pay more attention to nuclear weapons before it’s too late. Trump’s military has enough enthusiasm to use nukes that they are happy to feed off of his crazed ego even if it leads to mutually assured destruction. I have alerted you to the dangerous upgrading of the B61-12 gravity bomb so it is really a new weapon. Well, its testing just achieved another milestone, sadly. Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has increased its nuclear war scenario planning and preparations: not a good sign. Trump is leaning mafia boss style on the leaders and companies to stop trading with Iran (non-nuclear Iran, I must state) and other actual steps are being taken for nuclear war to be initiated by the United States which will argue, of course, that it will be necessary and defensive in intent. Not sure who will be left to argue with whom about it.

Even if the anti-nuclear movement is mocked on the left in the United States because of the overwhelmingly white attendance at our events and actions, the world of color globally, even almost every despotic leader, has said they want to rid the world of nuclear weapons. At the Livermore National Laboratory, for our annual memorial for the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we can turn out a black preacher or youth ensemble  for some words and music, but their congregation and their crews rarely come along, if they are even told their friends or pastor are presenting to begin with. I’m not sure if it is a white privilege attitude to have assumed (in the past, not anymore) that diversifying presenters will lead to a more integrated set of attendees.

So much is being shut down, stolen from people and the public and shifted to rich war mongers. The social safety net is so much cheaper and can lead to health and happiness unlike spending on war, prisons and criminalizing being poor or black. All injustices need our grave and immediate attention. But don’t ignore the fact that nukes can end all our beauty and struggle in a heartbeat. So sorry to need to bring it to your attention again. Hopefully the next Missive will end on a higher note (and will be adorned with photos and graphics again).

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Communicating in Gold…with a little Lead Doping up the works

[I tend to ruminate about foibles and let downs.It is perhaps reflective of the Sun square Uranus in my birth chart which I also credit with keeping me outraged at issues and injustices that I could instead ignore. I don’t want to maintain recurring, problematic patterns of communication. In this Missive I share a view through one lens that helps me look within. Please, if I go on too long there, check out the few brief items later on, including looks at:
*Media consolidation and influence, especially Fox News and Sinclair Broadcast Group
*Trump’s boastful ignorance
*Compelling stories from Afghanistan and Hebron
*A spot-on comment from my friend Brian Terrell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Thanks for orbiting the sun with me,
Laughing Jim
]

I communicate with lead-doped gold.

caduceus with colors (2)I have been using alchemical associations and correspondences to reflect on how I walk and change in the world. I was with my fire tribe in Nevada over my birthday weekend attending the annual Mayfire campout organized by the Vegas Vortex. Our process involves transmitting mysteries and sharing our stories and heartsongs during nighttime, alchemical fire circles. The Vortex is a magical community I joined while I was living in Las Vegas from 2008 to 2013. If my Bay Area Reclaiming Community is foundationally Wiccan and Faerie (and political), the Vortex is foundationally alchemical (and less political) in how we create ritual spaces and frame the work of transformation. Alchemically, we start at Saturn (or lead) and move into the light, represented by the Sun (or gold) as we evolve and grow. As we proceed inward, our light tends to brighten and our pace often quickens.

I communicate with lead-doped gold.

In chemistry, “to dope” something means to introduce a small measure of impurities into it on purpose. This can generate great reactivity and surprising effects. Semi-conductors in electronics rely heavily on this process. I am mixing metaphors, and no metaphor is perfect to begin with, so I ask you to bear with me. My lead usually comes out impulsively, quickly and surprisingly, but not on purpose. I’m probably just excited, not angry. Maybe I’m outraged, but also confused and shocked, questioning my sense and senses. Nonetheless, I sometimes scare people with my sudden volume, and I regret this/am working on this.

I communicate with lead-doped gold.

As I walk my life, I feel like a golden nugget (or at least a bit of gold dust) in a vein of gold. I am constantly touched by the amazing communities of people I am part of and the powerful folk who see me as friend and peer. The various tribes I am part of uplift me, and I am most happy when I am seen to be uplifting others. I think I bring a lot more golden light to the world than darkness and hopefully more levity than leaden weight as well. I feel welcome in amazing company even if I feel a bit unworthy, second rate, or just not quite top-shelf. Nothing quite feels good like being thanked for inspiring someone you admire.

I communicate with lead-doped gold.

high-speed-bullet-appleI fall short sometimes. (Don’t we all.) I may have to pass through a leaden roadblock of reaction before my golden heart illuminates a matter more fully. But my golden heart is there, and…here’s the rub: I want my preponderance of gold to make my lead less harmful and more forgivable, but that isn’t really up to me. When I make a mistake, I’m pretty hard on myself. I try to understand what made me err so I won’t repeat it. I seek reconciliation to foster my internal forgiveness. Sometimes this inquiry can make things worse, even less tractable. Then, I can be harder on myself than ever, and perhaps more alienating to others.

I communicate with lead-doped gold.bullet bouncing off

Lead may be a shot fired before thinking or a lead barrier that hinders movement or something that blocks the light from illuminating a path. Lead shot can be bb’s, bullets or cannon balls. They can be tossed or fired. They can hit squarely in the heart or miss wildly and have unintended consequences. They can be barbed or leave shards, or pass through or be easily removed. Lead can kill, but wounds can heal. Painfully, hurt may precede clarity, and mending is often incomplete or leaves scars or is just too little too late, even if it follows in an instant. I try to make amends for emotional projectiles I may put off, and often that moves me forward, but it isn’t a sure bet. Most broken hearts are reparable, but not necessarily to their previous state. (Click here to listen to a delightfully apropos Kate Wolf Musical Interjection.)

I communicate with lead-doped gold.

collided bullets from GallipoliA tough thought or emotion expressed well and received as intended is golden.  Leaden communication may cause confusion or unintended pain and may be generated by one’s own confusion, fear or anger. Two War CrimesBoth elements are dense and can be heavy, but with gold, light can illuminate and be reflective whereas lead blocks radiance (and radioactivity) and makes understanding hazy or dull. I speak with lead when I clam up when I should speak out. Silence can surely be golden, and God knows I still sometimes speak when I shouldn’t, much to my chagrin. Being slow to speak can provide others a golden opportunity to step up so being quick witted or quick to the punch isn’t always very bright indeed. Lead can literally poison and dull our minds, but it can also shield us from toxic radiation. Lead has its place and use. It is a double edged sword. First steps are special!

I communicate with lead-doped gold.

Jim_Gaza_Shroud 1As I’ve said, I’m more of a political activist than others in the Vegas Vortex. Even so, its leadership has encouraged me consistently, inviting my offerings and helping me figure out the best way to bring specific global or societal issues into sacred space when people are used to a more personal magical intent. I need help because my heart is all over the map! I’m the guy who leads childlike Laughter Yoga exercises during a “magic moment” and who also brings prayerful, visual, fiery consciousness about the Israeli massacres in Gaza to the magical fire. I want to laugh with people but I also want to feel and share my heartbreak. Otherwise I feel inauthentic. Outrage about injustice needs to be loud and visible, or it won’t do much. I look at my political art, and I have to admit, it all ain’t gold. It can’t be.

We need community and spirit to help us through societal pain. Laughing-Jim-web-bannerWe are all suffering from what my friend and amazing mandala-maker, Dennis Rivers calls “multiple simultaneous broken-heartedness.”

I communicate with lead-doped gold.

Mayfire happened at the time the United States opened its offensive embassy in Jerusalem, and Israel was celebrating its creation seventy years ago in what Palestinians accurately call “The catastrophe” or “Nakba.” I agree with Palestinians that the Nakba, a catastrophe of dehumanizing dispossession, never ceased, and now it is accelerating and deepening. I am able to communicate about this in phenomenally touching ways, but I can also be thrown way off center. In June I attended a very sweet and juicy ritual honoring Pride month that centered on the sacred love poetry of the Song of Songs. While cleaning up afterward someone saw my kite-shaped “Palestinian Human Rights” pin and launched into blaming Palestinian deaths on Hamas, and challenging my views as inherently uninformed. I was knocked out of the beautiful frame of mind I was in. I walked away from her and started muttering and crying out, “It’s not Hamas! Don’t tell me about Hamas now!” She kept going a bit too. I must have seemed surprisingly disturbed to anyone else nearby who didn’t see the initial interaction. I went from gold to lead really suddenly. If I am going to don political garb, I need to deal better with the challenges that they invite. I can and will do better. I wrote this Missive to help me stay conscious of my golden light when I feel like I have lead weights on my chest.

Sinclair? Fox News isn’t bad enough? Holy shit!

Image result for sinclair broadcasting logoURGENT from the folks at the Courage Campaign which “fights for a more progressive California and country”: Justice Department approval of the Sinclair Broadcasting-Tribune Media mega-merger could come as soon as THIS WEEK.(1) If this merger goes through, the pro-Trump propaganda network would own stations in over 70 percent of U.S. households — enough to ram their right-wing propaganda into tens of millions of homes.(2) Courage has launched a full-court press on the Justice Department and FCC to stop this awful merger and prevent Trump TV from taking over the airwaves. It is devastatingly scary, the degree to which Sean Hannity and Fox News are influencing world affairs because Donald Trump likes them. On July 14 Fresh Air’s Terry Gross interviewed Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman that included fascinating if disturbing backstory about Fox News and background on Trump’s new communications director, Bill Shine. Fox on cable and now Sinclair on the airwaves. Damn!

Ignorance isn’t bliss, dammit!

Meanwhile, Trump takes special joy in making a game of asserting things he doesn’t know and watching as other leaders and officials, out of fear or confusion, try to make sense of and respond to his bombast. He takes pride in his ability to be ignorant and make people relate to his absurdities. This was clearly seen with his comments to Justin Trudeau about the trade balance with Canada. But with Hannity talking with Trump on the order of an hour a day, I only see hope in people and nations of the world uniting, boycotting the United States if necessary.

Republicans are shockingly willing to hang their faith in a Trumpian noose as they hang their hat on his hook. They don’t see any way to dodge electoral ousters at the hands of Trumpian thralls at home. Hell, they should just become Democrats. They’ll feel right at home with lavish support from the upper echelons of the Democratic Party which only wants them, not the more progressive folk who have been stepping up and entering races across this country. God help us! The Democrats are damning us to a Republican hell.

It is obvious that the emperor has no clothes. I didn’t think the Republican party would so fall in line, lockstep behind Trump. I wish the latter (Republican leaders) were legitimately scared of repudiation from the left instead of from an extreme right that exhibits open hostility to women, people of color, the poor of any additional demographic, and actually, the entire rule of law. Hell, they ignore their own senses, witness climate chaos.

So much for war… (sad face)

20170424_Military_ExpenditureSo many weapons! The United States Makes and sells so many weapons, and tells the world to spend more on weapons. It is crazy. It is suicidal. And so much oil to fuel the war machine! The Pentagon is the number one purchaser of petroleum in the world. Weapons are being promoted above all else, blind and proud all the while. “Despots united” is what the global scene looks like to me.

My Heart is Always Turned towards Hebron and Afghanistan

One of the main Palestinian organizations that welcomed and led us on the Center for Jewish Nonviolence delegations I went on in 2016 and 2017 was Hebron’s Youth Against Settlements which is somewhat affiliated with the Hebron Freedom Fund. Their newsletter that I just received paints a fair and upsetting picture of Palestinian lives being uprooted by Israeli inhumanity and injustice. The widespread Palestinian repudiation of violence is amazing despite the crazed but effective airplay that kites with molotov cocktails get here compared with US made F16 fighter jets, helicopter gunships and snipers of the Israeli “Defense” Forces. For readable background  and info you probably haven’t found elsewhere, please read Joel Beinin’s connective piece just published on LobeLog, “From Gaza to Jerusalem to Iran.”

US airstrikes in Afghanistan

As if Obama wasn’t already wreaking enough havoc on Afghanistan.

I was in Afghanistan for a couple of weeks in 2011 with Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV). For moving, little observations and insights from where they are, check out the poems, photos and brief videos from the Afghan Peace Volunteers, the most inspiring peace makers I have ever met. This piece from Business Insider comes via my dear friend, VCNV’s Kathy Kelly who introduced me to them. I am still in touch with people there. When I see reports about how many more bombs the United States is dropping on that country, it strikes a personal cord. I cry at the manifest indifference to cruelty it displays. Who do they really think they’re bombing?

Let me sign off with another word from Voices, another longtime friend and comrade, VCNV co-coordinator Brian Terrell speaking on Press TV’s, We The People:

“If we really want to end this refugee crisis we need to stop bombing and robbing people around the globe. There simply isn’t any other solution. More important than any immigration reform, we need to end these wars, end these economic policies and allow the people of Central America, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Mexico to live and raise their families in peace.”

APV_No_War_Bastions_banner_2011

Banner made by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers for their Spring 2011, new year (nowruz) campaign against all the armed actors and corrupt officials.

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My Bar Mitzvah: Korach and Hillel

I was working on a different post but realized that I became a bar mitzvah on June 14, 1975 (or “I had my bar mitzvah” as we in the US tend to say, noting more the ceremony and celebration than the rite of passage). I find it gratifying and sobering to reflect back on that experience and find relevance for me now. This year, my Torah portion, Korach, is in fact, read today, June 16, so here is an updated Bar Mitzvah reflection+43 years. My next Missive will probably come out a little sooner than later and will cover more territory as is my custom. -Jim

jim_bike_richmondImportant parts of becoming a b’nai mitzvah (the general term for a bar or bat mitzvah, a “child of good deeds”) is publicly reading from the Torah (the five books of Moses) and giving a drash (teaching), usually interpreting the Torah portion (or “parsha”) . I read from the parsha Korach (Numbers 16:1 to 18:32). I wasn’t very moved by it at the time, and in preparation for my talk my rabbi (the wonderful Rabbi Gerald Raiskin, may his memory be for a blessing) didn’t make me talk about it. Instead we shifted to the classic and ever relevant quote of Hillel’s from Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Parents 1:14): “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” This sentiment has been the inspiration for many a b’nai mitzvah. It has remained a major influence in my life too…and an ongoing challenge. I’m always trying to walk that fine line between looking out for myself or for us all. The fulcrum shifts so the balance point rarely means equal weights of self and other, just as the divine beauty point between mercy and justice is solidly on the side of mercy even if it seems to be the opposite here in this world, Malkuth.

Now though, I see ample lessons for me in Korach so that I marvel at how that parsha fell to me. [Interjecting here another early influence that has made me who I am in a big way: Holly Near’s song from 1973/1974: It Could Have Been Me. -Jim] A recent mention of Korach on an internal Jewish Voice for Peace listserve prompted me to consider my bar mitzvah lessons again. Benjamin Ben Baruch wrote about a weekend workshop he attended (quoted with permission):

It was a program of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs and sponsored by both local synagogues.  It was held over the Shabbat on which the story of Korah is read and both the local Reconstructionist rabbi and the Conservative rabbi from JCPA gave the same interpretation of this story:

Korah approached Moses representing the “voice of the people”.  There were grievances about his leadership. Korah was swallowed up by the earth – that is, he was “executed” by divine punishment.  What did Korah do that merited such punishment? The rabbis concocted a reason to explain this summary execution of a someone who challenged Moses: he must have said something that was beyond what was acceptable.

In other words, to start off the workshop to bring diverse opinions about Israeli policies and the ways we relate to Israel, the two rabbis issued a warning: Some positions are just unacceptable and will not be tolerated! [Emphasis added. -Jim]

I just reread Korach after many years and also some interpretations about it collected by Lawrence Kushner and Kerry Olitzky in the beautiful book Sparks Beneath the Surface. I think I last looked at it in the mid-1990s when I challenged myself to seek inspiration in Judaism after finding more spiritual gravitas elsewhere. (Thank you, Reclaiming Community!) I quickly found Jewish Renewal, and I also learned that I received a pretty good Jewish education growing up as pertains to Jewish ethics and teachings. In my childhood, reform movement synagogue, I never put together that we were being taught passages of Talmud extracted and translated. Learning the lesson was more important than knowing the source.

The text clearly states that God made the ground open up to swallow alive Korach’s tribe and a couple others that were part of the insurgency even though they didn’t show up for the big showdown. It is a classic sounding “angry God” text, and very unforgiving. My interpretation, which I’m happy to see is shared by some rabbis of old, is that the challengers had lost their faith, and they simply had no ground to stand on. That manifested literally in the earth falling away from them and swallowing them up, putting the onus for their fate back in their own hands instead of blaming an external deity. To learn from a story, I’ll play with an anthropomorphized deity or godhead or aspect a goddess or other being even if I hold a mystical, somewhat incorporeal view of the divine.

This cartoon from the northern California Jewish Bulletin from 1994 at the time of the Hebron massacre by Baruch Goldstein somes sadly to mind in light of the murders in the Jerusalem synagogue last week.

Political cartoon from northern California’s Jewish Bulletin in 1994 at the time of the Baruch Goldstein massacre in which he entered the Al Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron with a machine gun and killed almost thirty worshippers until his gun jammed. Some Israelis celebrate him still.

The God of the Bible sort of taunted the Israelites, often testing their faith as they wandered in the desert and as they invaded Canaan. [A contemporary aside: In the Torah, the ancient Hebrews were clearly not elected or chosen by the people of Canaan to “come to power” or to “take over.” They invaded, and we would do well to consider the second part of the Book of Exodus as much as we do the first half. I contrast this with Hamas in Gaza which won free and fair elections to gain control of Gaza. Hamas didn’t split their votes like the Fatah candidates did, and they were elected and have been far more diplomatic and honest than has Israel which is a tragically low bar to set. The Israelites lost their faith time and again, and God made examples of some to impress and scare the rest. God heard Israel cry about lack of water or food (legitimate fears) or that they were tired (also fair, perhaps). Sometimes “enemies” would be delivered into their hands as a sign to restore their faith. Other times God would say, “You should have believed in me,” and then kill a bunch of It’s “chosen people.” I do prefer forgiveness and mercy teachings, and it is important to note that, despite this particular story, if one counts references, God’s love is mentioned far more in scripture than is God’s retribution which is a good lesson for us to mirror in life.

This magazine is for youth. The cover is so offensive and hopeless in its depiction of a "P.L.O. Statesman" it makes me less hopeful.

I find this 1976 magazine cover for young people, published by the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York, despicable. It reflects the ongoing, racist, many-leveled, hypocritical Catch-22 that Palestinians have faced from the Zionist camp for decades: They say they need Palestinian peace partners, but then they say don’t trust Palestinian peace partners. Another part of the hypocrisy is that Israel has a sordid record of assassinating Palestinian leaders, sometimes on the verge of negotiations, who were in the best positions to be peacemakers. And there has long been so much Palestinian organizing that exemplifies nonviolent, even pacifist principles, that its invisibility is a terrible disservice to truth.

Certainly, I don’t think Korach is correctly applied to say that I and the rising chorus of dissent are outside the bounds of legitimate Jewish debate about Israel or Zionism. That would make the government of Israel analogous to Moses and Aaron, an undeserved position to say the least. Maybe Jeff Sessions will add Korach to his playbook as he has used Romans 13 (from the Christian canon) to tell Americans that God wants us all to obey the state, actually trying to put the divine imprimatur on the current administration. (SO SAD!) Israel and Zionist Jewish leaders are a very far cry from Moses and Aaron! Trump has a very dangerous God-complex. The scary thing is how many people are buying into it. It is unbelievable, but here it is.

Martin Luther King Jr. expressed this sentiment in sermons during the last year of his life. Sometimes I run it as an e-mail signature, so it may be familiar to you:

“Don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as His divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgement, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, ‘You’re too arrogant, and if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know My Name. Be still, and know that I’m God.'”

I criticize Israel and stand with Palestine not because I in some way renounce Judaism, but because I embrace it even as I do renounce pro-Israel hypocrisy (including that of so-called “liberal Zionists” or people who are PEP, progressive on everything but Palestine). Israel defenders all too often seem to cry, “Just Us!” instead of “Justice!” I think the Talmud’s House of Shammai (the harsher, more literalist contemporary of the typically merciful Hillel) would stand with Palestine-supporting Jews like me. Both Hillel and Shammai are probably rolling over in their graves at what is being done in Judaism’s name.

JVP-All-Responsible-logo

The story of Korach clearly raises the question of when to challenge leadership and when to follow it. Can questioning leadership be helpful instead of a threat? I hope so. I know that at times I have been a thorn in the side of some leaders or with people with whom I have shared leadership. I have challenged authority, sometimes unwisely, or missed learning opportunities due to my own arrogance. I think I have avoided cynicism and start from a place of giving a benefit of the doubt when trying to resolve conflicts or figure out what and whose plan to follow. I’m not a knee jerk anarchist, and I want to be a supportive follower as well as a humble leader. Sometimes things need to be shaken up, but I’m not a Ward Churchill, “Just Fuck things up” kinda guy, and I sure hope the ground and my faith continue to hold me up.

At the Middle East Children’s Alliance 30th anniversary celebration recently, Alice Walker or Angela Davis made a point about hope, that it is created by outrage and action. I am continually awe inspired by examples of this that I learn about from my dear Afghan friends from my trip there in 2011. Did you know that Pashtun men are walking for peace from Helmand across the country for peace?

Our World Needs You to end warLet us keep the faith, but in teachings and lessons more than leaders and governments. We know in our souls that it is better to love than hate and better to judge and forgive than to judge and hold a grudge. I pray that we don’t look away from people and a planet in need, and that by our outrage and actions, love and forgiveness prevail over fear and violence. As the Teachings of the Parents (Pirke Avot) states early on, we are “not obligated to complete the task, but nor are we free to desist.”

Addendum about Afghan Peace Walk

From my friend Kathy Kelly’s recent article (June 11) about this profound peace effort:

cropped-afghan-street-doveThis past Friday in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, Hazara girls joined young Pashto boys to sing Afghanistan’s national anthem as a welcome to Pashto men walking 400 miles from Helmand to Kabul. The walkers are calling on warring parties in Afghanistan to end the war. Most of the men making the journey are wearing sandals. At rest stops, they must tend to their torn and blistered feet. But their mission grows stronger as they walk. In Ghazni, hundreds of residents, along with religious leaders, showed remarkable readiness to embrace the courage and vision of the Helmand-to-Kabul peace walk participants. It seems likely that ordinary Afghans, no matter their tribal lineages, share a profound desire to end forty years of war. The 17-year U.S. war in Afghanistan exceeds the lifetimes of the youngsters in Ghazni who greeted the peace walkers.

There is so much more to talk about. I can’t believe so many people in our country claim the mantle of “family values” even as they seem to accept separating families at the border. More on that next time and other tragedies and inspirations. Plus, lots of personal life changes to share. Soon…

cropped-figuresafterfire1.jpg

 

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#WarHurtsEarth. Plowshares Action. Gaza Slaughters.

This Earth Day:
Tell Environmental Groups and Gatherings that
WAR HURTS EARTH!
To Save the Earth, Curb Militarism! An appeal for Earth Day, 2018

Thank you for clicking on the link above to take you to a sign-on letter we hope will receive a large infusion of signatories between now and April 22 (though it will stay alive after that for a while too).

TruePinknikEarth Day is just over a week away! People and communities are making plans, a lot of them focusing on eradicating plastic waste from oceans (and everywhere) as humans bury the planet in straws and bags and packaging–a serious problem. However, zero of 28 campaigns run by the Earth Day Network deal with the consequences of war and war preparations. We won’t stave off widespread climate chaos by ignoring probably the largest piece of this awful, toxic pie: Militarism.

There is a lot to focus on.

Tune into Just World Educational’s Facebook page on Thursday, April 19, at 5pm Pacific Time (8pm ET) for a 30-minute discussion about ways to bring militarism up in the coming week. It will be a conversation led by Gar Smith, the Director of Environmentalists Against War and editor of The War and Environment Reader. I hope you will join this online conversation! We are hoping for a lively interplay of Gar’s crisp points and creative memes with questions and action ideas from commenters like you. Gar will be joined by Jackie Cabasso of United for Peace and Justice, Mayors for Peace and Western States Legal Foundation.

Super Power Super Polluter1

One of the best leaflets I’ve seen on the issue.

Super Power Super Polluter2

Sadly, it is 18 years old.

We want as many people as possible to be thinking about the military influence on the environment when they attend Earth Day events this year. With encouragement, can we get more people to raise the issue in Q&A periods of speakers extolling the problems of everything but the Pentagon? Can more bulletin boards and community graffiti wall installations and sidewalk chalk zones be tagged with #WarHurtsEarth? Can more signs be carried with this message at marches and school assemblies? Can other memes on the topic be created and shared? Can we generate enough use of #WarHurtsEarth to force a response from hesitant groups? Can we get militarism added to intersectional agendas instead of put aside as not immediate enough, or too diversionary or polarizing, or too international for local consideration?

King Posters -No Nukes_Page_3This is our challenge in the coming week. Please, let me know if you have any plans to work on this issue between now and April 22. Can you add it to a blog post or social media page? Will you add it to an email blast if you do such things? Thank you for working with the rest of us to publicize the “Curb militarism!” letter so the problem is taken up more visibly by people working to avert climate chaos.

 

King’s Bay Plowshares 

Kings Bay Plowshares 1There was another Plowshares action! I know these people. I have been good friends with five of them for a long time, actually. They went into the King’s Bay Naval Base in the state of Georgia, home to more active duty, first-strike, nuclear weapons than anywhere else, even Bangor-Kitsap in Washington where I have demonstrated and been arrested. The Trident D5 warhead is immoral and illegal, and we can’t give up trying to make that matter.

The last big Plowshares action was the Transform Now Plowshares that I posted about extensively in 2014 and 2015. saw my octogenarian friend, Sr. Megan Rice similarly cut through chain link fences and walked to the uranium processing facility at the Y-12 facility in Tennessee where all the uranium for the US nuclear arsenal is produced.

Clare Grady, one of the King’s Bay Plowshares wrote from Camden County Jail:

“We say, ‘the ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide’, and yet, the explosive power of this weapon is only part of what we want to make visible. We see that nuclear weapons kill every day by their mere existence. Their production requires mining, refining, testing, and dumping of radioactive material, which poisons sacred Earth and Water, all on Indigenous land.
We see the billions of dollars it takes to build and maintain the Trident system as stolen resources, which are desperately needed for human needs.
We see nuclear weapons as a cocked gun, the biggest gun, used 24/7 to ENFORCE the many layers of state-sponsored violence and deadly force required to maintain white supremacy, global capitalism, and global domination.
We invite others who have been privileged by these systems to join us in withdrawing consent from their deadly function and purpose. We live with hope for a nuclear-free, decolonized world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GajQsFlBxo

The King’s Bay Plowshares 7. They have been denied bail and are being held in county jail.

Here is a great way to continue the witness against Trident. Have a crane folding party! Then send the cranes to Nikki Haley along with a message from ICAN, the Nobel Peace Prize winning group working to abolish nuclear weapons. You can even get some white postcards and write to the Kings Bay Plowshares during the party.

http://www.icanw.org/projects/paper-crane-project/

“Gaza Deserves Our Support”

Don’t blame Hamas, Egypt or the Palestinian Authority, bad as they can be. Don’t blame me if I don’t stay calm when talking about this: The Passover Massacre was inexcusable! I love me a good peace camp, and I know one when I see one. I have marched for justice all over the world, and I feel kinship with such a mass of nonviolent demonstrators as I have seen in Gaza as part of the “Great Return March” movement. Raising the issue of stone throwers or a few violent people or the influence of Hamas is so secondary to what the fundamental problem is as to be a distraction from what must be faced. Don’t ignore your eyes and pretend that Israel’s actions are anything other than reprehensible mayhem and bloodshed visited upon unarmed demonstrators who are fighting for their lives with a lot more dignity than their desperation might allow.

April 13, Gaza Strip (Ashraf Amra, APA images)

The people of Gaza–most but not all, refugees and their descendants from the Nakba of 1948–are basically locked inside one of the most densely populated places on earth as Israel showcases its horrific tools and tactics trying to lock away hundreds of thousands of people and spreading lies to demonize the victims. Israel (and the United States) is caging and slaughtering and starving the people of Gaza and accelerating the dispossession of the people of Palestine.

As I was writing this post, I shied away from using a term for the slaughter that I have since seen James Zogby use in his piece “Gaza Deserves Our Support” for Jim Lobe’s blog:

The entire affair has been more like a “turkey shoot” then a military confrontation, with innocent protesters who are captives in the world’s largest open air prison being randomly picked off by sniper fire. Even more sickening was the recently released video of a sniper shooting and hitting a Palestinian while his fellow snipers cheered his success. The Israeli response to this video has been to call for punishing the maker of the video and not the sniper who killed the unarmed protester.

progressive on palestine shirtShammai, the strict sage of the Talmud, is rolling over in his grave because of the affronts to Jewish teaching being committed in the name of the Jewish people. Whether or not you are Jewish, I encourage you to join or at least visit Jewish Voice for Peace on the web, and come on our to events and actions organized by Palestinian groups, often in coalition with JVP, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) or other groups. Go on a delegation to Palestine, and bring back personal stories to share. Do something for Palestine today. I do feel it is especially incumbent upon Americans and Jews to try to stop what is being done in our name, and with unbridled support of both parties and all administrations. We must not stand aside.

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