[MN FOR]

Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation

North Country Peace Builder

Vol. 56, No. 1, March 2005

In This Issue


FOR Gathering of Conscience and Courage
in Nyack, New York

February 18-21, 2005

Hello Readers! My name is Alice Kloker, and I am new to the Minnesota FOR. I am also under 60 years of age, which I was surprised to learn qualifies me as a member of the youth wing of the peace movement. From February 18-21, I had the privilege of attending the FOR Gathering of Conscience and Courage in Nyack, New York, where over 30 individuals came together to network, share resources and develop new strategies to further the work of non-violence. Central to the gathering was a discussion of how to build an anti-racist and gender-inclusive community of resistance to war and conscription. Out of this gathering came the Nyack Declaration of Conscience and Courage.

The work of resisting militarism is a challenging task; most readers of this newsletter are already, I'm sure, aware of this fact. Militarism today increasingly manifests itself in our schools thanks to the "No Child Left Behind" Act, a provision of which requires all federally funded schools to disclose contact information for all high school juniors and seniors to military recruiters. While it is possible for parents to opt out of this requirement on their child's behalf, most do not know that unless they explicitly request that their children's names be taken off of a list, they will have effectively consented to subjecting their child to military recruitment efforts. Students may also request for their own names to be taken off the list, but this requires that they are aware it was there in the first place.

For me, it is daunting to think about going up against an institution that has at its disposal billions of dollars and slick promises of adventure, money for college, and a sense of self-worth, aimed especially at low-income youth and youth of color. One could think of the United States military as a kind of employment machine that offers the only way many young people feel that they have out of a life with few other prospects. It is, to borrow Martin Luther King Jr.'s phrase, an embodiment of the triple evils of war, racism and poverty. I often feel that grassroots counter-recruitment efforts are up against impossible odds.

In Nyack, however, I remembered that we are surrounded by an incredible movement of individuals and organizations who share a commitment to a non-violent world. Although not as well funded as the military, we have at our disposal the lessons of our elders, the energy of our youth, and the ethical inheritance of diverse faith and philosophical traditions of non-violence. In order to most fully use these tools, it is crucial that we promote intergenerational dialogue and continuously foster anti-racist and gender-inclusive communities where we can share stories, strategies and resources.

I was particularly moved by the participation of Willie Ricks, a veteran of the civil rights and anti-draft movements. After watching a movie, entitled Blood Makes the Grass Grow, about conscientious objectors during the first war against Iraq, Ricks told the story of seeing his friend shot in the face for using the whites-only bathroom at a rest stop during a civil rights campaign. And then, after a screening of Judith Ehrlich's The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It, we heard George Hauser speak of spending over a year in prison for refusing to register for the draft in World War II. Meeting Ricks and Hauser did much to put things in perspective for me. I needed to be reminded that people of conscience have been up against the Goliath of a racist, military state for many years. Because they had the courage to walk a path of non-violent resistance, our world is very different than it otherwise would have been.

Arlene Inoyue, a teacher from Los Angeles, told her own story of non-violent resistance. Inoyue, herself from a family who had been subjected to the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II, testified to having witnessed military recruiters pick students up from bus stops, knock on classroom doors during school hours and eat with students in the cafeteria in order to deliver their sales pitch. To combat the growing intrusion of the military into her East Los Angeles high school, Inoyue networked with students, parents and fellow teachers. In response, they launched an opt-out campaign in the Los Angeles Unified School District to educate parents and students about removing their names from the list of military recruiters. As coordinator of Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools and member of the newly formed National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, Inoyue provides an inspiring example, and a model of how communities can resist the militarization of our schools.

 

While very few participants at the gathering thought that there was an immediate threat of a military draft, we agreed that an effective poverty draft is already in place, one which disproportionately affects people of color. Some people have proposed that a universal draft is one solution to the poverty draft, and that perhaps members of congress would be more reluctant to authorize military action if they thought that their children would be on the front lines. In an effort to raise awareness concerning the significance of a unilateral strike against Iraq, and to ensure "a more equitable representation of people making sacrifices" in the case of war, Representative Rangel (NY) introduced a bill on January 7, 2003 that would have reinstated the draft. Rangel and others hoped to spur debate on the inequities that currently exist around military participation. Representative Stark (CA), the bill's co-sponsor and an ardent opponent of the war in Iraq, pointed out that out of 435 representatives and 100 senators, only one has a child currently on active military duty.

However, Bill Galven from the Center on Conscience and War cautioned against bringing back the draft as a way of countering the poverty draft. Sharing stories from his experiences working with conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War, Galven emphasized that the wealthy are always able to protect their children from conscription, either by avoiding military service altogether or by ensuring their placement in non-combat military positions. Galven and others at the Center on Conscience and War would like to see the rights of conscientious objectors expanded, so that current military personnel who undergo a change of heart are able to leave without spending time in prison or fleeing the country.

I left the gathering feeling energized and empowered. And then, only two days after I arrived back in Minneapolis, I received confirmation that a network dedicated to countering militarism and supporting conscientious objection to war is active, responsive, and above all effective. On February 23, I received an email originally sent by Brandon Madsen, a senior at Kennedy High School in Bloomington. The same day that Madsen's urgent appeal, "Help Defend Free Speech Rights at Kennedy High School," went out, peace-and-justice and civil liberties networks responded. By the time I got a hold of Bloomington Schools Superintendent Gary Prest that afternoon, he had received calls from across the country in defense of the students' right to set up an anti-war information table in their high school.

The American Legion had apparently threatened to withdraw donations from Kennedy High in protest of anti-war leaflets they had seen distributed among students, believing that the administration of the high school had endorsed such efforts. The threat moved Principal Ronald Simmons to inform Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) -- an established group at the high school -- that they could not, as a matter of school policy, table during school hours. YAWR had intended to set up across from a military recruitment table, which they had done before. In response to the email alert, concerned community members (including Don Christensen from the Minnesota FOR) and reporters converged at Kennedy High that afternoon to attend a protest and teach-in organized by YAWR. The policy on tabling during school hours is currently under review at Kennedy High; YAWR are committed to continuing their anti-war efforts at the school.

The events of Wednesday, February 23, demonstrate how important it is for those of us in the peace community to stay connected, informed and vocal. Currently the American Legion employs over 300 full-time employees, many more than the relatively modest staff of the FOR. As a state-sponsored organization, they have access to funds that the FOR will never have, by virtue of its mission. It might seem on the surface that Brandon Madsen was up against impossible odds in attempting to counter the influence of an established and wealthy organization. After all, as a high school student, he is not in a position to pay for sports teams or other extra-curricular activities. In this era of budget cuts for schools, and federal funding tied to military access, school administrators and teachers have found themselves faced with increasingly difficult choices: let the military recruiters in, or lose your funding.

Clearly, it is crucial that we work together in community to promote alternatives to the military and combat the triple evils of war, racism and poverty that sustain the military machine both here and abroad. It is a time of action for the Minnesota FOR. Are you ready?


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Building Peace through Conscientious Objection

by Michael Mitchell

In my capacity as the Minnesota FOR student intern (as well as through my roles of concerned student, friend and brother), I recently attended a workshop on conscientious objection facilitated by Veterans for Peace. The workshop, "Refusing to Fight: Training for CO Counseling," was held at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

In Holy Trinity's gymnasium, approximately forty individuals gathered to gain the knowledge necessary to support today's conscientious objectors (COs) and to work for the ultimate goal of peace. After a seven-hour session filled with information and questions, everyone, including myself, left with a new sense of purpose and power. The workshop focused on several topics, including how future drafts will work, the role of a counselor in conscientious objection, and counseling people in the military.

Currently, young men, when they reach the age of 18, are required to register with the Selective Service (mandatory registration was reinstated by former President Jimmy Carter in 1980 after the requirement lapsed in 1975). Those who choose not to register are committing a felony punishable with a prison sentence of up to five years and/or a fine of up to $250,000. No conviction has occurred for failure to register since 1985; however, other ramifications for not registering exist. For those planning to attend university, failure to comply results in automatic ineligibility for federal student financial aid. Also, failure to register makes one ineligible for job training and employment with the federal government. These are serious consequences, and place a lot of pressure on those who question registering for the draft.

For those who do register but who are opposed to military service, conscientious objection is an option to be considered. At the workshop, participants learned the process of counseling and supporting conscientious objectors in their time of profound confusion. Becoming a CO requires one to establish a CO file, which is a grouping of documents proving one's objection to war. The official statement of a CO is as follows: "[I am] conscientiously opposed to participation in war because of [my] moral, ethical, and/or religious beliefs." Once the file is complete, it is best to make copies of all documents and store the file in a place such as one's church. There are several levels of objection, ranging from objection to all military service to objection with availability for noncombatant military service only. For more information on conscientious objection, the Center on Conscience and War is a great resource (nisbco @ nisbco.org; 800.379.2679), as is the Central Committee on Conscientious Objection (info @ objector.org; 888.236.2226). Peace.


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Seminary Students Witness Struggle
for Justice in Guatemala

by Don Christensen

From January 3 to 15 of this year, I was privileged to accompany a group of United Theological Seminary (UTS) students on a travel seminar to Guatemala. The trip was organized and led by FOR member Prof. Christine Smith of UTS, and guided by Fidel Xinico of the Augsburg College Center for Global Education. The focus of the seminar was the current social, political and economic situation of the indigenous poor of Guatemala in the aftermath of the devastating 36-year war and the signing of the peace accords in 1996.

By bus we roamed the Guatemalan highlands, visiting Mayan communities in Chichicastenango, Quetzaltenango, San Marcos and Santiago Atitlan. Throughout the journey we heard reports of large demonstrations of indigenous people against efforts by the Guatemalan government to install a gold mining operation by Glamis Gold Ltd, a US and Canadian multinational. Several Guatemalans whom we interviewed told us that the terms of the agreement signed by the government with the company would result in few jobs for Guatemalans, and that virtually none of the profits from the mine would remain in Guatemala.

While we were traveling in the highlands, the mining company was attempting to transport a huge piece of machinery from Guatemala City to the mine in the Department of San Marcos. The only way this could be done was by truck along the Pan American Highway. At several points along the route large groups of campesinos gathered to try to prevent passage of the giant cylinder. In efforts to block the highway, large pine trees had been felled across the road, and piles of tires were set ablaze. Armed Guatemalan troops and police were dispatched by President Berger to keep the road open, and at several points there were clashes between soldiers and demonstrators. Near the town of Solola, police killed one campesino, and sixteen others were wounded. In addition, a bus and several vehicles were burned.

"Fundamentally this is about water," said Magali Rey Rosa, member of the movement to stop the mine. "In a region where water for communities is in short supply, this mining operation will use 250,000 liters of water per hour. Before a license of mineral exploitation is granted to a multinational corporation, they need to secure popular consent. More than 5,000 campesinos oppose this activity," she said.

PhotoOn the day following the violence at Solola, our group was privileged to meet with Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini, Catholic Bishop of San Marcos, who is in solidarity with the indigenous campesinos who oppose the mine. Despite death threats leveled against him, Bishop Ramazzini has continued to be a voice for the indigenous: "I hold the Guatemalan government responsible for the death of campesino Raul Castro," charged Bishop Ramazzini. "This violence would not have happened had the government bothered to consult the people."

"We are living with the people," said the bishop. "With our eyes we see the poverty and the misery. We see the families giving coyotes thousands of quetzales to take their sons north to seek work. I would like for the President and his Cabinet to spend five days in Tajumulco, living with the people, moving everywhere by foot, crossing the rivers, sleeping under the sky, eating tamalitos. After this they can come and tell us their plans. Then we will listen to them."

Our students were moved by the courage and determination of the indigenous people, especially in the face of the forces of government and big business massed against them. Prior to departing the country, the students wrote a letter to President Berger sharing what we had seen and heard in Guatemala, and voicing deep concern about the violence and the continuing exploitation of indigenous people by multinationals and the Guatemalan government.


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"Coming Out": Why? Who? What? When? How?

by Don Irish

This commentary began with a concern well expressed by Shakespeare's Hamlet:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man [woman/person].

In our very mobile, highly individualistic, often very anonymous society we "Americans" come to know many acquaintances, while cultivating very few friends. Who is each of us, really? Outside our family, who are we to others? Our relationships can be more meaningful for all if we "come out" more to each other.

Why "come out" to others? More rewarding friendships can develop if we invest the time, make the effort, probe each other's thoughts, sense their feelings, and seek to be a friend. As social beings we are "group-made." We seek others whom we trust to share honestly, freely, and rather fully. That result cannot be achieved if persons present façades of themselves. The public "self" should correspond closely to the personal "self." Too, without a genuine self, one is not apt to be persuasive with others, which is important in building movements for societal change. "Coming out" honestly to others may make life easier.

Who may be aided by "coming out"? There are some individuals who have personal limitations that cannot be hidden: the sightless, physically crippled, badly scarred, those missing a limb. With the help of others and their own courage and discipline, they usually manage to experience productive, creative, and satisfying lives. For others of us, our "secrets" are not visible or readily discernible in daily behaviors. Some of these inner "handicaps" can be revealed usefully in situations of secure relationships. [Note: All of us are temporarily abled, and all of us will become disabled in later life - unless we die suddenly. Too, all of us are handicapped, lacking some skills.]

What might be revealed? Consider the unease of a person with impaired relationships due to an aspect of their life that seriously jeopardizes their relationships with others. Openly revealing this issue to family, friends, or even the wider public often brings "relief," a new sense of freedom, and a more genuine presentation of self. By "speaking truth" they aid others with similar concerns also to "come out," thereby affecting popular conceptions and perhaps bringing about a gradual change in public attitudes.

There are many examples, from famous, respected personalities as well as from "ordinary" individuals. They have felt able to reveal their formerly "unspeakable" inner truths. By their "speaking truth," they have aided others with similar concerns also to "come out."

For instance, Congresspersons Barney Frank (Massachusetts) and Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), as well as Minnesota legislator Alan Spears, have all been openly gay/lesbian as candidates or office-holders. Mary Cheney and Maya Keyes, lesbian daughters of national politicians, and the Log Cabin Republicans, have all been clear about their identities. Many thousands of GLBT persons have come out since the Stonewall days. In other examples, Bill Moyers has publicly discussed his son's drug addiction. Adlai Stevenson was twice a candidate for the presidency as a divorced man. Barbara Ehrenreich, columnist and author, has alluded openly to having had an abortion. Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey each brought the "scholarly" treatment of human sex patterns to the fore. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross advanced the study and discussion of death and dying in the public domain, without euphemisms. Betty Ford and Elizabeth Edwards promptly announced their breast cancer diagnoses. Ronald Reagan came out openly to inform the American public about his advancing Alzheimer's disease.

The writer has been in informal small groups where young women have spoken about having been raped. Nelson Mandela recently announced the death of his son from AIDS. Many people now refer unselfconsciously to relationships with their therapists. Some friends have shared prior thoughts of suicide. The famous 19th century orator and politician, Robert Ingersoll, was openly agnostic or atheist. "Bill" (William Griffith Wilson) and "Dr. Bob" (Robert Holbrook Smith) initiated Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s, "coming out" to others about their alcoholism.

When and how to "come out"? These are individual decisions; they depend on one's level of inner turmoil, from living without sharing. Who among one's family and friends would be most receptive, or most need to know? When would an appropriate occasion arise or be arranged? Be gentle with oneself and others (there is an important difference between being frank and being brutally honest.) Of course, there is no obligation for anyone to confide in others whatever they do not wish to share or feel unable to report.

Our society has failed youth by not providing them with the preparation for alternatives to military service, alternatives that can challenge and utilize their potential talents, hopes and dreams.

Stigmas are an important means of social control against unwanted behaviors. Yet warping lives, impeding creativity, denying the full contributions of people because of common human variations should not be acceptable in any society endeavoring to be a "beloved community."

"Coming out" about war. A very significant failure in our society has been failing to teach our youth about the realities of war. Modern war has more to do with economic exploitation and indirect political control of other nations than with bringing freedom or democracy to people. The explicit policy of the "neo-cons" seeks to have the USA dominate the world economically and militarily, and tolerate no rivals! The result is empire, entirely inconsistent with democracy. Our society is becoming increasingly militarized -- in the schools, media, federal funding choices, industrial production, and academic research. Half of the congressional discretionary budget now goes for war-related endeavors. We seem to be almost continuously involved in warfare, using our own citizens or providing training and weaponry for surrogates to serve our purposes. Much of the reality of war is kept from public knowledge by the government and media. As Martin Luther King, Jr. warned, failure to adhere to non-violence in this nuclear age can lead to non-existence.

A content analysis of a dozen current, very attractive, colorful but mainly euphemistic folders for recruiting our youth for the Navy, Army, Marine Corps and Air Force has been done. The basic and distinctive function of a military is to train people to kill other human beings that their government has defined as "enemies;" nevertheless, most of the casualties of modern warfare will be civilians. Nowhere in any of the recruitment materials did the word "killing" appear. Only in one (directed at young women) did the word "gun" or "rifle" appear -- just twice! Except for expertise in killing, the worthwhile traits discussed -- challenges, discipline, feelings of self-worth and achievement, creative occupations -- all can be equally or better developed through civilian institutions, with faculty specially trained to do so, and by our families, schools and churches.

John Kerry, as a veteran, dared to "speak truth to power" in Congress in 1971. He has been attacked for his veracity and specificity about warfare. We need other thoughtful veterans to speak out, to share the reality of war with their spouses, children, friends, and the public. Many textbooks offer sanitized accounts of war -- just dates, places, names of generals and who "won." No dead bodies, cruelties, refugees, broken homes. Teachers are reticent to teach the truth, if they know it. Veterans understandably wish to be perceived as good people by their families, and often hesitate to confide, to "come out" about all their experiences, the effects on their personalities, and the results for others.

Young people of color, particularly, and youth from poor communities, who are especially targeted by military recruiters, need to be told the truth instead of euphemisms. Our society has failed such youth by not providing them with the preparation for alternatives to military service, alternatives that can challenge and utilize their potential talents, hopes and dreams. Instilled with contrasting values, they could then devote themselves to life-giving vocations, not life-destroying ones.

Now, urgently, we need to be open with each other and with our youth. With US imperial foreign policy involving our youth in conflict overseas almost continuously, many are declaring their conscientious objection to war. We need to raise the profiles of these courageous people higher, as noted in a recent issue of the Quaker House Newsletter. Come out for non-violence and peace! Veterans for Peace, among many other groups, are dedicated to this task.

Note: Ava-Dale Johnson assisted with this manuscript.


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MN FOR Board Meeting

Photo

Members of the Minnesota FOR board met on January 23, 2005, to plan and strategize for the year. Present were (back row, L-R): Joyce Bonafield, Kay Welsch, Don Christensen holding Samuel Hupp, Jo Clare Hartsig, Katy Gray Brown; (front row, L-R) Karen Redleaf, Rachel Mordecai, Alice Kloker, Michael Mitchell. Board member Linda Gesling, who could not join us, was missed.

The board agreed that MN FOR priorities for the year would be: nonviolence education; counter-recruitment/conscientious objection education and war tax resistance; working with City Council member Don Samuels' neighborhood peace initiative; interfaith dialogue; racial and economic justice work; monthly programming and coalition building; and regional development.


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Calendar of Events - Winter 2004 / Spring 2005

Ongoing Peace Vigils


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the last word

Restorative Justice by Kay Welsch

Through a happy set of circumstances my husband I became mediators in the Victim-Offender Conferencing (VOC) program in Washington County about eight years ago. This volunteer opportunity, working with victims and offenders, has made us staunch advocates of restorative justice. Victim Offender Conferencing can be very effective, especially since we deal mainly with juveniles (usually convicted of property crimes).

The process (which is voluntary for the participants) involves our meeting separately with the victim(s) and offender(s) and seeing if they wish to continue in the process. If so, we set up a meeting (in a neutral location) for the victim and offender to meet and talk about the crime. We set up ground rules for the meeting so both the victim and the offender feel safe. Often, the offender has no idea what an impact his/her behavior has had on the victim. Ideally, at the end of the conference, both the offender and victim have decided on restitution, which can be monetary and/or a letter of apology. Not all conferences turn out "ideally," but most of the participants are grateful for the opportunity and so are we.

This volunteer opportunity has been rewarding for several reasons: We received excellent training, and get ongoing continuing education and lots of appreciation from Washington County and the participants in the process. But the biggest reward is when the conference "works," and there is genuine reconciliation and restoration of community.

 


Contents

National FOR | MN FOR
Minnesota Peacemaker Project
Peace and Justice Websites (nonviolence.org)
Benedictines' Website | Justice and Peace Links


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North Country Peace Builder

Produced quarterly (September, December, March and June) by the Executive Committee of the Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation. Send submissions, letters and comments to Rachel Mordecai <rachel.mordecai @ gmail.com>, editor.

Or use the online form to send comments or contributions.


 

© 2005 by MN FOR / www.osb.org/for/2005/index01.html