Category Archives: Politics

Another Exception

Another exception, again political.  This is not intended to upset or offend anyone.  Just know that if Mr G and I were on the east coast we would have been there, we would have been arrested.

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Filed under Peace, Politics

Let’s Celebrate!

I think it is a day to celebrate.

I don’t usually post things that are not about books on this blog but today I am making an exception.  The United States Senate just voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the anti-gay military policy that has been in place for 17 years.  The story is here.

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Filed under Events, Politics

For Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all!   Here is something I found through one of my favorite websites, something all of us can do for humanity and for the Earth, mother of us all.  To find out more visit jointhepipe.org.

Have a great day!

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Filed under Earth, People, Politics

Diversify Your Reading

 Teresa at Shelf Love has come up with a brilliant idea to help all of us find and read more books by underrepresented authors from all over the world.   Here is what she says about it.

Diversify Your Reading is a blog that will catalog reviews of books by underrepresented authors. Bloggers can contribute links to their reviews in the comments sections of relevant posts (organized by nationality, ethnic group, sexuality, and more), and the site editors (currently me, Jenny, Eva, and Nymeth—although we’d love more help) will add those reviews to the posts as time allows. Thanks to RSS feeds and options to subscribe to comments by e-mail, interested readers can have review links sent to them as they are added to the comments.

Please visit, add your reviews and take advantage of this wonderful resource.

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Filed under PoC, Politics

The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

030726639701_sx140_sy225_sclzzzzzzz_ The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2008

It took me a long time to read this book.  I wanted to read it quickly, to get it over with, but all I could do was read a chapter or two.  Then I would have to put it down, walk the dog, putter in the garden, read something else, just to come back to myself, to get over the sadness and anger.

Dexter Filkins, a correspondent  for The Los Angeles Times in the late 1990’s and then for The New York Times, has gathered his reporting and folded it into a sobering, heart-rendering book.  In the tradition of Michael Herr’s “Dispatches”  Filkins describes with clarity and honesty the human and cultural dimensions of our war on terror, and how war changes places and people over time.

Starting in the late 1990’s Filkins spent time in Afghanistan.  He saw the rise of the Taliban and witnessed the influence of supporters like the Pakistanis and Arabs.  He heard Afghans talk of Osama Bin Laden and his suitcases filled with American dollars. He found the place unbelievable and yet fell in love.

In Afghanistan, the brutality and the humor went hand in hand; the knife with the tender flesh. There seemed no collapse of their fortunes in which the Afghans could not find some reason to laugh.

In my many trips to Afghanistan, I grew to adore the place, for its beauty and its perversions, for the generosity of its people in the face of madness   The brutality one could witness in the course of a working day was often astonishing, the casualness of it more so; and the way that brutality seeped into every corner of human life was a thing to behold.  And yet somewhere, deep down, a place in the heart stayed tender.

I sat in a mud-brick hut near Bamiyan, the site of a gnawing famine, and a man and his family pressed upon me, their overfed American guest, their final disk of bread.

“Please,”said the bedraggled man, his face mottled with white patches. “Please take.”  page 24/25

In September of 2001 Filkins stood in the ruins of the World Trade Center.   When Americans entered Afghanistan in force he was there.  He heard stories of bin Laden riding out of small villages just hours before the U.S. bombs hit. The people and the place taught him something about war.

People fought in Afghanistan and people died, but not always in the obvious way.  They had been fighting for so long, twenty-three years then, that by the time the Americans arrived the Afghans had developed and elaborate set of rules designed to spare as many fighters as they could.  Men fought, men switched sides, men lined up and fought again.  War in Afghanistan often seemed like a game of pickup basket ball, a contest among friends, a tournament where you never knew which team you’d be on when the next game got under way…War was serious in Afghanistan, but not that serious.  It was part of everyday life.  It was a job.  Only the civilians seemed to lose.  Page 50/51

And when the U.S. invaded Iraq in March of 2003 he was there.  He spoke to everyone he could, and he listened.

There were always two conversations in Iraq, the one the Iraqis were having with the Americans and the one they were having am among themselves.  The one the Iraqis were having with us – that was positive and predictable and boring, and it made the Americans happy because it made them think they were winning.  And the Iraqis kept it up because it kept the money flowing, or because it brought them a little peace.  The conversation they were having with each other was the one that really mattered, of course.  That conversation was the chatter of a whole other world, a parallel reality, which sometimes unfolded right next to the Americans, even right in front of them.  And we almost never saw it.

The most basic barrier was language itself.  Very few of the Americans in Iraq, whether soldiers or diplomats or newspaper reporters, could speak more than a few words of Arabic.  A remarkable number of them didn’t even have translators.  That meant that for many Iraqis, the typical nineteen-year-old army corporal from South Dakota was not a youthful innocent carrying America’s goodwill; he was a terrifying combination of firepower and ignorance.  Page 115/116

It was in the green zone that I would think the war was lost.  I didn’t think about losing when I was outside – when I was in Iraq.  There was too much reality pressing in, too many things changing, too much in play.  No: it was when I was waiting for the bus outside the Rashid Hotel, watching the overweight American contractors, making more money than they’d ever dreamed of, saunter into the restaurant for dinner at 5p.m.  It was when one of the American generals in charge of Baghdad, in his office at Camp Victory, pronounced the name of the Iraqi prime minister three different ways in a half an hour, “Molokai,” “Maleeki,” “Malaaki,” each time as if he were speaking of some sort of exotic plant.  Page 230/231

Filkins writes without judgement, fearlessly, with compassion.  He writes with brutal honesty about the people he met and the things he saw.  This is a hard book, it is a difficult book.   If you are at all interested in world affairs and American influence you should read it.

Other reviews:

Literary License

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Weekly Geeks – More Quotes

wg-zombie3

Quotes about Nonviolence

The essence of the practice of nonviolence is that it seeks to liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists themselves (‘hate the sin but not the sinner’). This may be based on religious injunction or on a strong sense of the unity of all life: either way, this means that it is ethically wrong and existentially or spiritually self-defeating to treat another with less dignity than is warranted by a shared humanity or divine inheritance. Thomas Weber and Robert J. Burrowes

http://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/seasia/whatis/book.php

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buddhist-monksThe dramatic growth in democratic governance in recent decades from Latin America to Eastern Europe as well as large parts of Africa and Asia rarely came from outside forces or top-down initiatives, but primarily from democratic civil society organizations engaging in strategic nonviolent action. There appears to be a growing recognition that endemic corruption needs to be addressed the same way.

A number of the democratic experiments which have emerged in recent years from the global south and the former Soviet Bloc will remain fragile if the legitimacy of elected governments is questioned as a result of their corrupt behavior. The global anti-corruption movement is beginning to recognize that it may be up to the very forces which made free elections in these countries possible to also ensure that these new democracies live up to their promise and, if not, to be prepared to take to the streets once again.

Steven Zunes

http://www.opendemocracy.net/blog/stephen-zunes/2008/11/12/fighting-corruption-through-nonviolent-action

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I believe that Gandhi’s Satyagraha is the most important political discovery of the twentieth century. It happened on September 11, 1906, in the Empire Theater in Durban, South Africa. At that time the Indian community in South Africa had been suffering very serious oppression, not unlike apartheid. The Indians were not allowed to vote. They couldn’t own land in certain places, and in 1906 a law was passed that greatly heightened their oppression. The Indian community called it the Black Act. It consisted of forcing everybody to be registered, fingerprinted on pain of imprisonment or expulsion.

Gandhi saw the act as an attempt to destroy this community. He said, “It meant absolute ruin for the Indians in South Africa.” And he said, “It’s better to die than to submit to such a law.” So Satyagraha was born to defend the right of a people to exist, in the face of what today we would call ethnic cleansing or even genocide.

Another interesting feature of the event was that it occurred on the spur of the moment at the Empire Theater in Durban. Gandhi later wrote, “The foundations of the first civil resistance under the then well-known name of passive resistance were laid by accident. I had gone to a meeting with no preconceived resolution. It was born at the meeting.”

At the meeting a gentleman called Seth Haji Habib demanded that the audience take an oath, before God, not to observe the Black Act. Gandhi was startled because he saw a world of difference between a mere vote and an actual oath by individuals, which he believed could only be taken by those people themselves and which was binding on them no matter what anyone else did. A new force, a new power, was being brought to bear in politics, a new commitment, a new will really unto death, yet without violence.

Jonathan Schell, The Nation, January 14, 2009

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peoples_-march-for-land-rigIt is an unshakable faith with me that a cause suffers exactly to the extent that it is supported by violence. I say this in spite of appearances to the contrary. If I kill a man who obstructs me, I may experience a sense of false security. But the security will be short-lived. For I shall not have dealt with the root cause. In due course, other men will surely rise to obstruct me. My business, therefore, is not to kill the man or men who obstruct me, but to discover the cause that impels them to obstruct me and deal with it.

M.K. Gandhi

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Dr. King was in Birmingham leading a movement to break segregation, and after great anguish he had xtaken this great gamble. There had been nonviolent demonstrations for over a month, and he had written his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which no one paid much attention to. It had not been published. He was about to withdraw.

There were ferocious arguments within the movement about using small children to demonstrate. Not just martin-luther-king-215-year-olds or 12-year-olds, but 6-year-olds. They only had twenty people willing to face Birmingham jails. So on May 2, 1963, they had a thousand children march out of the church. And the next day they had another thousand, and that’s when the police brought out the dogs and the fire hoses.

Those two days there were a tremendous watershed for nonviolence in the United States. There was an emotional reaction against the use of violence on these children, and it triggered sympathetic demonstrations across the country, forced President Kennedy to introduce the Civil Rights Bill, which changed the face of American politics and stimulated kindred movements. But what’s most interesting is that the reaction went against the violence and in favor of the nonviolence of the children, who were swept down the street by the hoses and chased by the dogs on those two days.

Taylor Branch, The Nation, January 14, 2009

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Weekly Geeks – A Quote A Day

This week’s WG brought to you by Terri/teelgee.  A quote a day (or as many as you feel up to).

You may want to come up with awgbookpile theme, such as favorite passages from books, author quotes, political quotes, quotes about books or reading, humorous quotes, whatever. Or you may not want a theme at all; maybe you just want to gather up seven assorted quotes that appeal to you. You may want to start each of your posts of the week with a quote, or you may want to give quotes posts of their own in addition to your regular posts. It’s all up to you!

I tried to figure out a way to talk about nonviolence as a political/social interest last week but couldn’t figure out a way to say what I needed to say.  This week I can quote directly from people who research nonviolence or do this work much more directly then I do:nvaction

A rainbow of revolutions

Jan 19th 2006

From The Economist print edition

The 20th century was so horribly bloody that it has been easy to overlook the potency of peaceful boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience and public protests in many of the greatest upheavals of the past hundred years. In their book, “A Force More Powerful”, Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall chronicle some of those events: the popular uprising in Russia in 1905, Mohandas Gandhi’s campaign for Indian independence, the Danes’ resistance to the Nazis, Martin Luther King’s civil-rights campaign in America, Solidarity’s triumph in Poland, the noisy clattering of pots and pans in Chile in 1983 that sounded the beginning of the end for Augusto Pinochet, the demonstrations that eventually drove Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines from office in 1986, the first Palestinian intifada, the Tiananmen protests in 1989, and others. Few of these brought about an instant change of regime, but all of them proved seminal: that is, they planted the seeds of change.

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