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.”


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.


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…



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#WarHurtsEarth. Plowshares Action. Gaza Slaughters.

This Earth Day:
Tell Environmental Groups and Gatherings that
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.

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.

“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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“Justice. Justice you shall pursue.” “JUSTICE”! NOT “Just Us”!

“Justice. Justice you shall pursue.”
That’s “JUSTICE” not “JUST US”!

I was closing in on sending this out when I learned about the massacre in Gaza on March 30. The Palestinian organizers did all they could to broadcast the nonviolent nature of their plans for an encampment and marches. It was known that Israel would probably allow its “most moral army in the world” to shoot unarmed Palestinians and then blame them (and Hamas and anyone else) for it, and they did, killing at least sixteen and injuring well over a hundred on the first day of the “March of Great Return.” This isn’t exactly new behavior.

miki kratsman

Inspiring photo of Palestinian resistance by Miki Kratsman

The problem is; THIS IS NOW! “Tens of thousands of Palestinians swarm Gaza border, 16 killed by IDF fire” (Ynet) “Israeli army opens fire as tens of thousands march in Gaza” (972 Magazine) “As ‘March of Great Return’ Begins, Israeli Forces Gun Down Palestinian Protesters Along Gaza Border” (Common Dreams)

Passover is hard to swallow right now. If I can’t avoid a Seder, I will drink no wine, make no toast and eat no dessert. I won’t sing or chant unless we’re singing solidarity songs for Palestine. Is it chutzpah or blind insensitivity that allows Jews to hold Passover Seders to celebrate and retell our mythic liberation story while the people of Gaza are fighting for their lives because Zionists are attacking them in the name of all Jews everywhere. Israel is the existential threat to Palestinians, and Zionism is poisoning Judaism. I am grateful for the response I got for my Facebook post: 

I couldn’t skip the Seder. I didn’t drink any wine or toast any cups or eat any dessert…Who is Pharaoh today? Don’t even try to blame Hamas or the people of Gaza for this!

Last year I was party to helping create the Sumud Freedom Camp in the south Hebron Hills. We were invaded by the army around 11:30 pm on our second night there,  Saturday, just after Shabbat. I knew from the announcements about the “Great March of Return” that Israel would be brutal, but I also could feel the essence of the appeal, and who was behind it, and it felt familiar, like I know these people. demonstrators_signs_GazaThey’re my comrades in protest: People creating encampments standing up for what is fair and decent and right. In this case, Gazans who’ve been under siege for years in encampments are standing up for themselves, as they have every right to do and the Zionist state is gunning them down in my name.

They must rise up since Israel has the big control there and seems committed to starving the people of Gaza or poisoning them with non-potable water, crimes against humanity. I don’t want to pray with Jews or anyone who tries to explain away the targeting of schools and hospitals and the destruction of water infrastructure to deadly levels. And Gazans are choosing to organize with nonviolence…again…still. We better hope they succeed! Please, I beg you, don’t blame the victims. Do something to try to influence the situation and make Israel stand down and see the light of day for a change. If you feel lost, is a good place to go to find honesty, compassion, and some way to plug in.

Earth Day Cometh! Do you know where your military is?
(Breast milk, climate change and Gaza.)

For a long time I have encouraged people to see how the United States military overshadows pretty much everything. Not that it is the only angle to take as we organize against social ills and oppression, but it is rarely included in spite of the scale of its widespread impacts. We’re not going to end gun violence in schools if we keep bombing schools and children abroad. We can’t really insulate ourselves from the brutality we as a nation dish out. There is a callousness that creeps into our domestic life from offenses we commit in other lands.We’re not going to avert climate chaos if we ignore the single largest purchaser of petroleum in the world and its exemption from treaties and environmental regulations. Breast milk in women the world over now contains perchlorate, a toxic remnant spread by rocket motors used in many munitions. nuclear-free-cranes2

Disarmament organizers have thus far been unsuccessful in their efforts to get climate change and environmental organizations like and the Sierra Club to broach, much less stir up their members about how war hurts the earth, (#WarHurtsEarth). Militarism is nowhere to be seen in the programs of the official Earth Day Network nor the choices people were given in selecting this year’s worthy focus, A World Without Plastic Pollution

I was heartened to be arrested at the Nevada Test Site with some activists from New Mexico who are working to stop uranium mining at the Canyon Mine which abuts the Grand Canyon and in general. #HaulNo

TruePinknikFor Earth Day 2018, five organizations, CODEPINK, Environmentalists Against War, Just World Educational, Traprock Center for Peace & Justice, and World Beyond War, have created a sign on letter for citizens and organizations around the U.S. to express to the Earth Day Network support for a campaign about the military and its toxic legacy. It reads in part: “We appeal to our fellow citizens to recognize the damage that warfare and preparations for war inflict on our land, air, water, and climate; to commit to educating others about these impacts.” The statement then lists specific policies “which can reduce and start to repair the damage that militarism inflicts on the Earth” that are suggested for people to organize around. I also want to direct people to CODEPINK’s Divest from the War Machine campaign. We need to get people who aren’t ready to say we shouldn’t have one at all to rein it in then!

People’s Life Fund Granting Opportunity Until April 15!

Around the country there are different local groups that make up the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. Each one is independent, and most of them maintain funds that people donate to instead of paying federal income taxes in full or in part. They also maintain escrow accounts for war tax resisters to set aside some funds in case the feds ever come after them. The Bay Area group is called the People’s Life Fund. Groups in the Bay Area can still apply for money in the current cycle. We hold a granting pot luck dinner on April 15 in Berkeley. The official deadline has passed, but grant applications are still being accepted. Please check out past grantees and the application and explanation of priorities.

“No Arms, No Armies: Addressing the Roots of Militarism and Gun Violence in the US”

“No Arms, No Armies” was the title of an outstanding piece by Emma Burke, originally published on TruthOut’s Buzz Flash. I first saw it in a great e-blast from the War Resisters League  (for whom Emma is Development and Membership Coordinator) with the longer title that came to my inbox on March 29. 

please-dont-defend-us-with-wmm-30x20For communities of color, the terror of gun violence isn’t contained to mass shootings…Militarism is deeply entrenched in US society, and the phenomenon of mass shootings and gun violence in the US must be understood in the context of settler colonial histories of slavery, genocide and white supremacy sustained by centuries of warfare…Let us expand our imaginations for a vision of disarmament that not only includes weapons of mass violence on the streets, but a full disarming of the systems of state violence that drive it: the police and military.

It also contained a link to a petition sponsored by World Beyond War calling for the removal of JROTC programs from high schools. In that vein, I had never heard of the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) until Pat Elder brought it up after a Nation article focused on JROTC didn’t even mention this influence on gun attitudes in our country. Pat pointed out that CMP’s “Marksmanship Nights” have even more reach than does the military’s recruitment scheme.

Commemorate Martin Luther King Jr, assassinated April 4, 1968.

MLK’s national holiday is around his birthday in January like other celebrations of people. In the last few years there has been a lot more organizing that goes on to de-icon-ify him in our national mind and re-politicize gatherings in his memory. The anniversary of his murder, April 4, 1968 never seems to get its due as a rallying point for our political attention. I usually want to join celebrations of him in January and scream his powerful words over loud-speakers as we commemorate his terrible assassination in April.King_Statue_Front_Shadow

As I have discussed before, King gave one of the most important speeches of the 20th century on April 4, 1967 in Riverside Church in Manhattan, one year to the day before he was gunned down. He clearly and carefully denounced the Vietnam war, on logical grounds. Then he said we need a “radical revolution of values” as he called for widespread noncooperation with war in general, on moral and religious grounds. Anti-war activists often organize political discussions and readings of that speech which was historic (although his similar talk at the National Conference for New Politics on August 31 of that year speaks to us of the future even more clearly). The points he made half a century ago are still frighteningly relevant today. “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” is still the United States of America.

I sometimes fear peace activists sound like a broken record about the Riverside Church speech, but really, sadly, it is too obscure to be concerned about that. Some black activists implore white activists not to speak of or quote MLK because too often we ignore other wise people and leaders of color who deserve to be celebrated and quoted. But King’s words are powerful and poetic, challenging yet uplifting, and consistently hit the nail on the head. It pains me to be told to step away from King as a matter of course. I resist. I think we all need to dive more into his wise words even as we widen the sources of our inspiration.

Anyone outraged by the Ford truck commercial from the Super Bowl ad would do well to listen to or read “The Drum Major Instinct” which is where that clip was from. It was his last sermon and was delivered two months before he was killed. It shows where King’s political evolution had led him. Evidently not all of the King family wanted to let Ford use it, but it is galling to consider that the movie “Selma” was not allowed to use any of King’s actual words.

“A Time to Break Silence: Beyond Vietnam” Readings on April 4

King Posters -No Nukes_Page_3At Noon (and probably later in the afternoon too) on Wednesday, April 4, take part in a public reading of “Beyond Vietnam.” Outside the Oakland Federal Building on Clay between 13th and 14th Sts. Keep insisting that his strong analysis about the fundamental need for antimilitarism to be included in a progressive agenda how we remember him.

Also, on April 4 at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, 1433 Madison St. in Oakland from 7 to 9 pm, the seriously informative but delightful Vijay Prashad will give a talk entitled Long, Bitter and Beautiful Struggle for Freedom. He was on KPFA a couple of days ago, and the talk will have a lot to do with King’s “Beyond Vietnam” message. I’m going, for sure!

Relatively Short Sentence for Palestinian Girl is a Relief but Shows Something Very Wrong with such Legal Proceedings in Israel

Ahed Tamimi, age 17, was sentenced to months instead of years in detention by the Israeli military court system for slapping a heavily armed, Israeli soldier, and this is actually seen as a relative victory. lot of international organizing

Two Susiyas

Part of Palestinian Susiya (foreground) in 2016, now demolished.

And also from B’Tselem on March 22, this action item against the “forcible transfer” of Palestinians from Area C, like in the south Hebron Hills where I have written about extensively over the past couple of years. And just this morning (March 28), a friend from that area sent out a notice that the army was in Susiya demolishing buildings, something that even the likes of Dianne Feinstein spoke out against.

Who Calls Anyone Civilized?

by Cathy Breen
March 31, 2018

photo of Cathy Breen

[Cathy Breen is a co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She has spent significant amounts of the past two decades in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. I went to Afghanistan in March, 2011 with Kathy Kelly and Voices. Photos of Mosul are by Abu Mohammed.]Building in Mosul decimated by bombing, March 2018″ and “Shop remains open in area of Mosul decimated by bombing, March, 2018

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and professor of Creative Writing at Texas State.  Her father was Palestinian and a refugee journalist. In one of her poems after 9/11, entitled “Blood,” she writes:

Mosul (2)

Shop remains open in area of Mosul decimated by bombing

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

I myself tried to write something for the 15 year “commemoration” of the US war against Iraq, but wasn’t able to complete it.  It was too much for me. A couple of months ago I was invited to go to the Northwest to speak about “Fifteen Years After the War.”  It was too much for me emotionally, and somewhat shamefully I had to decline.  

As I write, I have the phone next to me.  I am texting a young Iraqi boy who is alone in Turkey.  About ten months ago he was kidnapped in Iraq.   Through a chain of events, he ended up in Syria.  About two months ago his father was contacted and was able to get his son smuggled across the border into Turkey.  Last month his son turned 18 years of age and was eligible to register as a refugee with UNHCR.  But he will not get an interview for many months to come.


Building in Mosul decimated by bombing, March 2018

Traumatized, missing family and without friends, he tells his family he wants to come home.  But it is much too dangerous for him to return.  Trying to draw him out of his boredom, I ask him to tell me how his day was.  What did he eat?  Did he get outside? What is the weather like?  I ask him what words he has learned in Turkish.  I tell him what I ate, about the soup I cooked or the rainy weather. By the length of time between our messages, I suspect that he is looking up some of the English words.  Sometimes we speak by phone and get to see each other.

For some reason I find our simple conversation today so tender.  His family in Baghdad is grateful that we are in contact.  They have another son who was also kidnapped.  They do not know whether he is alive or not.  The boys were separated after the kidnapping.  The grief of this family seems to have no end.  And this is just one family.

I was in Iraq for the month of October last year.  One of the hardest things for me on that trip was the feeling I heard expressed that the country has become invisible.  A doctor friend in Baghdad, his hurt palpable, told me he felt as though Iraq has been completely forgotten by the global community.

A friend from Baghdad sent me photos a couple of weeks ago, photos that he took from a bus window of the destruction in Mosel, and it was the side of the city that had suffered only “minimally.”

Stop Urban Shield Victory in Alameda Board of Supervisors! 

On Tuesday, March 27th, the Stop Urban Shield Coalition successfully built community pressure and convinced the Alameda County Board of Supervisors not to fund the 2019 Urban Shield expo and military-type training, putting an end to the largest militarized SWAT training in the world. Urban Shield takes place in the Bay Area on the weekend of 9/11 each year, and is a war games training and weapons expo that involves international and local law enforcement agencies and emergency responders. board voted not to support the 2019 Urban Shield, but the 2018 fair and exercises were already funded, so stay tuned. This is a powerful victory for a very strategic coalition, but of course, we must stay vigilant and not let up, even as we have to celebrate a little.

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Not just more of the same, and every sign of hope is precious.

Regarding nuclear weapons, the current administration is continuing policies of the previous one as did recent administrations before it: don’t work towards disarmament and pretend we aren’t upgrading our nuclear weapons or designing new ones. Despite his undeserved Nobel Peace Prize–his should be rescinded before Aung San Suu Kyi’s–and one over-played speech in Prague he never intended to honor, Obama’s nuclear legacy is one of delivery system upgrades, nuclear infrastructure growth and recalcitrant hypocrisy toward non-nuclear weapon states especially Iran. Yes, hhe did oversee the Iran nuclear deal, but that also is a noose around Iran’s neck, so that isn’t exactly a win for disarmament either.

Nuclear.Cloud_TreeStill, Trump and the Republicans are changing the rules on the ground, legalizing their thievery, making it legal for them to hide all their cards from any oversight or public awareness. The unfortunate lies of the Democrats are referenced to bolster their own, even more extreme lies and power grabs. International law, the laws of armed combat, international human rights conventions and treaties, the mandate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (and Red Crescent) have failed to make warfare less injurious to civilians over the last century, but they at least displayed an awareness that the concepts of war crimes and crimes against humanity should exist, and enforcement mechanisms should exist too. Shaming world leaders didn’t work really well, but now that ideas are threatened in their entirety by Donald Trump’s violent braggadocio.

Trump and General Mattis have said they want to make smaller nukes, ones that they have deemed usable. I didn’t think that anything could make me argue for deterrence! The logic of deterrence is a bit convoluted, but internally consistent. The presumption is that a nuclear armed state won’t attack a non-nuclear armed state out of fear that a retaliation will ensue. No defense against nuclear attack could be so fool-proof as to allow someone to launch a “first-strike.” A small nuke would probably leave the attacked state able to retaliate with its own surviving ones. Should they launch on warning? Do they wait and maybe not be able to retaliate? And then there is the question of what will the other nuclear armed states do in response even if they aren’t the ones attacked to begin with?

The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that George W. Bush pulled us out of, kept countries countries_with_the_biggest_nuclear_arsenalsfrom trying to design shields. For deterrence, countries need to think their missiles and command and control systems will survive a first-strike. Attacking countries need to think that too, so they don’t risk starting a nuclear exchange, afraid that a retaliation would destroy its cities. Small nukes and delivery systems that may or may not have nukes on them confuse countries under attack, making them unsure if they are being nuked or not.

Maybe the nuclear states need to say to one another, if you launch against anyone, we all will launch against you. I can’t believe I just said that! On some level, stepped up deterrence against the United States seems necessary to me. That is shocking and depressing. I still pledge to work tirelessly for total nuclear disarmament, even unilateral nuclear disarmament. The rest of the world needs to unite against us and Trump, or I fear war–even nuclear war–is on a near horizon.

Trump even has ordered the Department of Energy (which oversees nuclear weapons production) to be ready to restart nuclear testing which was suspended by the elder Bush in 1992. Bill Clinton’s “Stockpile Stewardship” program extended testing in other, less radioactive forms, and kept nuclear weapons “alive.” That Clinton creation provides the basis for Trump’s order to the DOE. Barack Obama quadrupled the capacity of the nuclear weapons complex to upgrade and make new weapons. The illegal upgrade of the B61 to the B61-12 gravity bomb was a program Obama embraced, and it is now full speed ahead, making them very targetable and hence capable of being used as a first-strike weapon. I think the United States could have led the world towards disarmament by renouncing first strike weapons years ago, but now, such a gesture is even further from the table than it was.

Threatening to use nukes on a non-nuclear country is illegal under international law, but the USA has done this many times, and of course, we did nuke the people of Japan, the Marshall Islands, Nevada and elsewhere.

How can militarists get away with arguing that the 20170424_Military_ExpenditureUnited States military and its nuclear component are a laughing stock around the world? We may seem unwise, ignorant and arrogant, but still, our military budget and sales are taken very seriously, with relish, by tyrants the world over. The Koreans know how devastatingly we’re willing to use it. So do the Japanese. The world sees us arm Saudi Arabia to kill Yemenis and Israelis to try to subjugate Palestinians. The United States has upwards of 800 military bases in over 1 in 3 countries. For comparison, Russia has nine foreign military bases. Trump and others like John McCain and Lindsay Graham shouldn’t be able to assert with so little challenge, that our military is shrinking and falling behind. And they want freer rein to use those weapons, bases and personnel.

They are pushing back against any scrutiny or self-disclosure. In the past I would have said “almost any scrutiny” and been pleasantly surprised at some of their own reports. Now, they don’t want ANY, and they’ll just say “national security” until we’re blue in the face screaming in protest or maybe until we’re blue because we’re all dead. Republicans and the leadership of the Democratic Party seem to be okay with that. Sadly, most rank and file Dems and even radical environmentalists don’t seem to grock the extremely dangerous changes Trump’s swamp is making to the international lay-of-the-warfare land. If they kill you, you were by definition, the enemy, and if we destroy a village or a city, it was necessary to save it. And if he and his spokespeople claim that actually, the people are grateful for the intervention and thriving, well, that is good enough, that they say it, and time to move on…

Military actions are suppose to target military targets,please-dont-defend-us-with-wmm-30x20.jpg not civilian ones. A cynic might say that such strictures will never be honored by one’s mortal enemies and can’t be trusted and we can’t fight with our hands tied behind our back. But it was war-like parties that agreed to such things to begin with. That negotiations could lead to such agreements despite all the bad blood in the world is amazing, and a testament to something in the human spirit that strives for the common good over individual greed. Even despots knew that it was wrong to go too far, even if they then justified it to themselves. Armies were more aware that they were supposed to treat civilians differently, and saw them as different than armed enemies. That knowledge sometimes has made a life and death difference for someone, a family, a village even though in the past 100 years, civilians began to face the  overwhelming brunt of military violence. That sense of shame, or at least the not wanting to get caught, actually meant something on the ground in a war zone.

Trump is undoing even such minimal humanitarian efforts. Others started it, but Trump is pushing militarism so hard that despots around the world feel no shame, guilt or event expedient qualms about killing anyone they want, be they journalists, opposition candidates, labor leaders, environmentalists, or any random person someone in trouble might name to get the spotlight off of themselves. Attacking opponents isn’t new, but limits did help mitigate harm, and that being the norm did foster a more civil society which allowed lives, structures and routines to continue amidst fighting.

Our World Needs You to end warNow, we seem hell-bent towards massive destruction, and it is hard to take hope in the pushback that is actually growing, but is also casting about all over the place, diffused and often at odds with itself as much as with the forces of wanton cruelty. Movements for the sake of the environment, racial justice, gender equality and economic opportunity are often led by people who don’t include one of the largest contributors to their problems: militarism and especially The Pentagon. Perchlorate from rocket motors is in every women’s breast milk in the planet. The Pentagon uses more petroleum than any other institution in the world even though it has/d been developing alternative fuels. Most of the oil goes to the air force for airplanes and other transportation excesses among the different branches of the military.

The idea that using a nuclear weapon could be done in a way that doesn’t harm and kill civilians is murderously crazy and ignorant, indifferent to facts and fallout. Maybe other leaders will be more grounded than expected, and they won’t retaliate with their own nukes. I hope so, because Trump seems like the most unglued of the lot, but somehow, the world needs to unite against Trump and Trump-ism, or there is little cause for hope.

TNP_discovery1I take solace in every glimmer of hope that rises. Having children is a sign of hope. Good people having kids and raising them with loving, sharing values instead of some Ayn Randian “me first, me always” ethic gives me great hope! Radical parents give me hope. Seeing any signs of loving and friendship give me hope. Sharing and generosity are in abundance, and they give me hope. New configurations of activism give me hope. Black women running for office give me hope. Groups like Bay Peace, the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Youth Against Settlements, and Movement Generation give me hope. The Water Protectors give me hope. Jewish Voice for Peace and the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust give me hope. Environmentalists and journalists give me hope. The amazing young adults I have seen grow up in the Reclaiming Tradition give me great hope!TruePinknik

My friends and lovers give me hope. You are amazing. I thank you all for instilling and nurturing hope in me and people around you wherever you are. Thank you!


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Incredible. Unbelievable. But not ridiculous.

Before talking about why nuclear weapons and the military budget need to be on the agendas of more activists (in the next post-ette of this belated, Approximately Monthly Missive), I’m feeling called to say a word about words, certain words that I often have a reaction to. Okay, I’m just going to talk about one word:


Ridiculous gets under my skin when people use it. I find it disconcerting when articulations of murderous, spiteful or hateful policies are dubbed ridiculous. I look at the word and think: Something is ridiculous if it is worthy of being ridiculed. But I don’t want to ridicule something that scares or threatens me or the world around me. I want to build opposition to it. I don’t just want to mock or make fun of it. I want to stop or change it. If I make a joke about it, it is an uncomfortable use of wit (I hope) because we have to keep a sense of humor about ourselves and the fights we are in to keep our spirits up. Staying lighthearted in the struggle is essential to keeping from beating each other up when we disagree. It helps us pause and return to seeing the best intention in others on our side. But that sort of humor isn’t about ridicule but laughing at our common and sometimes absurd humanity.

swamp_monsters_bWriting this post will help me move on. I don’t want to lay a trip on people mid-conversation to take on this word. It’s like how people misuse the word “literal” in the most absurd ways that are anything but literal. Then some people really get upset at the loose language. I don’t want to be one of those. Satire and parody have their place, and that was me in the Betsy DeVos “swamp monster” costume with the Trump Dis-organization as evidence.

Let me take a moment to refer to definitions. This is the first that popped up in Google for me:

ri·dic·u·lous /rəˈdikyələs/ adjective
deserving or inviting derision or mockery; absurd.
“when you realize how ridiculous these scenarios are, you will have to laugh”
synonyms: laughable, absurd, comical, funny, hilarious, risible, droll, amusing, farcical, silly, ludicrous; (rare) derisible, senseless, silly, foolish, foolhardy, stupid, inane, fatuous, childish, puerile, half-baked, harebrained, cockamamie, ill-thought-out, crackpot, idiotic, absurd, preposterous, ludicrous, risible, laughable, nonsensical, senseless, outrageous

I thought maybe ludicrous would feel more apt, so I looked it up too:

lu·di·crous /ˈlo͞odəkrəs/ adjective
so foolish, unreasonable, or out of place as to be amusing; ridiculous.
“it’s ludicrous that I have been fined”
synonyms: absurd, ridiculous, farcical, laughable, risible, preposterous, foolish, mad, insane, idiotic, stupid, inane, silly, asinine, nonsensical; informal; crazy

Well, I like a lot of the synonyms listed above and could see using them for monstrous, political ills that are anything but funny. But I’ll still avoid ridiculous in favor of unreasonable or incredible or any number of words from the above definitions. Something can be unreasonable, even though someone will build an argument for it. Something can be incredible when its advocate lacks credibility even if other people give them more credence and standing than they deserve.


The idea that more guns will protect us from gun violence is unbelievable even though it seems many US-ians believe it. Still, it is anything but laughable…or ridiculous. The idea that one country could spend almost as much money on its military as the rest of the world combined and still argue that it needs to increase its military expenditures should be as unbelievable as it is incredible and unreasonable, but here we are, and I’m not amused. Building massive walls around cities by absurdly Zippyfearful, armed outsiders shouldn’t be “a thing.” My look in the picture to the left was bemusement, not amusement at the “welcome” sign on the wall Israel has built around Bethlehem, a scant six miles from Jerusalem, that is designed to choke Palestinian society into submission if not out-and-out death.

In the immortal words of Zippy the Pinhead (okay, Bill Griffith): “Are we having fun yet?” And no, I don’t think micro-encephalitis is a laughing matter…or ridiculous!

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For the children’s sake

For Tu Bishvat, Jewish Voice for Peace Bay Area and Kehilla Community Synagogue teamed up for a ritual event. It was a lovely evening, fun and playful as well as serious with political intent about the theft of native Ohlone lands here (all of here), and the dispossession of Palestinians from ancestral lands and homes. I made a handout that we didn’t end up using that featured some important groups and work going on. A celebration of trees, because of the incarceration of Ahed Tamimi and her 17th birthday coinciding with her January 31 birthday, there was a lot of focus on children and youth as well as trees.

I wasn’t able to fit in more groups, so let me briefly add the extremely vital Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association which is a “Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons.”

I just received a letter from Brad Parker, Co-leader of the #nowaytotreatachild campaign, Attorney and International Advocacy Officer for Defense for Children International – Palestine:

On November 14, 2017, lawmakers introduced the first-ever bill on Palestinian human rights in Congress, something the #nowaytotreatachild team has worked toward over the second half of 2018.

Join #nowaytotreatachild campaign co-leaders, Brad Parker and Jennifer Bing, for a webinar on February 27 at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET for updates on the bill and the situation on the ground for Palestinian child detainees. We’ll also be launching a new action that we are excited to share with you!

Click here to register for the webinar.

The bill, H.R. 4391, is titled the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act and was introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) with nine additional co-sponsors. It prohibits U.S. tax dollars from supporting human rights violations against Palestinian children during the course of Israeli military detention.

H.R. 4391 requires the Secretary of State to certify annually that no funds obligated or expended in the previous year by the United States for assistance to Israel have been used to support the ill-treatment of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank.

Please follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss anything!

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