not Taken / Roles not Played
(for peace and democracy)
by Don Irish
Yogi Berra, the philosopher/catcher of the New York Yankees (in their heyday) advised, "Whenever one comes to a fork in the road, take it!" The decision to go one way or another is a choice! Yet Yogi erred in implying that a fork involves only two alternatives (a more realistic "fork" has numerous tines); the either/or assumption fails to include other options.
Our president, following the 9/11 events, presented the citizenry with choosing either to be "for the terrorists" or for his presidential war. But one could be a faithful citizen and reject both positions. Either/or framing of issues tends to polarize mentalities, and societies. There are more than two political parties in the USA, more options than to bomb or to do nothing, more patterns for democracy than ours. How about this: try classifying everyone into "criminals" or "non-criminals". Any readers out there who have never violated a law?
Regarding choices, beware of leaders who say, "If we have to ..." or "If it is necessary to ..." or "We have no choice but to ...." Such phrases can be used intentionally to suppress debate about means-to-ends in society. All decisions involve choices. Given the potential devastation of modern (nuclear) weaponry, one can argue that war is never the only or necessary choice; indeed, unless one is willing to exterminate the enemy, the need for negotiation will come eventually. Conscientious, rather than compliant, citizens may find that their choices involve risking imprisonment, torture, even their lives. Jesus could have remained an itinerant carpenter, become a rabbi, or taken the role of tax collector. Gandhi might have remained an attorney for privileged South Africans, become a Hindu priest, or run for political office. King could have utilized his PhD in academia, run for office (as did Jesse Jackson), or played it safe as a minister, avoiding controversial issues.
It is true that legislative decisions usually require a "yes" or "no" vote (although abstention is always an option). However, proposed laws have usually been much debated before coming to the vote. Various amendments and views are considered, and the final bill is a compromise from among a variety of features. Except for being born, and then dying, there are always choices (although it is true that people's choices are often constrained by factors they cannot control).
Two Significant Examples
1. US exceptionalism and global treaties -- Beginning early in the 19th century (re: Haiti, Cuba, and other islands), an arrogant US foreign policy has implemented a "manifest destiny" attitude within the Western hemisphere, coast-to-coast, north-to-south, and that demeanor continues. We resist impingement by any others on our sovereignty, as we perceive it. The "neo-cons" in the 1990s explicitly set forth their goals for the USA: "to dominate the world economically and militarily [even in space now] and tolerate no rivals." That scheme proposes a world-wide empire which would be incompatible with retaining our democracy.
Of the total number of active treaties (550), the USA has ratified only 160 (29%). President Bush has reversed US backing of six pacts: the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, Landmine Treaty, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and nullified Clinton's signature related to the International Criminal Court. Only Somalia and the USA have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child!
We evade provisions in the Protocol on Hazardous Wastes, the Rights of Migrant Workers, Discrimination against Women, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
All these agreements provide numerous exits from our one-way street, our single-mindedness at cross-roads/intersections with other nations. We have chosen, instead, to "put the pedal to the metal," looking only to our nationalistic destinations.
Why are so many Americans citizens puzzled regarding the low esteem, disappointment, irritation by our "allies" toward the USA and the angry, even hateful views of us by our "opponents"? Quite understandable! We have chosen to disregard their interests, their feelings of not being treated with respect, their lives (in many cases) of dire poverty and despair. To a considerable extent we create our own enemies - and friends!
2. US double standards -- Also alienating other nations are our many cases of double standards. There are more than 30 instances of UN Security Council resolutions against Israel, which the US has vetoed, while requiring that the Palestinians obey each one, as the Iraqis also were to do. We have ignored World Court decisions against us. We have unilaterally intervened militarily about 100 times in Latin America, manipulated their elections, arranged coups. The nuclear anti-proliferation treaty was doomed to failure from the beginning, because to permit "some of us" to develop and maintain nuclear weapons while telling others they cannot is not sustainable. Already Israel, Pakistan, India and perhaps others have nuclear weapons, while Iran, North Korea and others may be seeking or developing them.
The "famous walk in the woods" by a Soviet and an American official soon after World War II led them to agree that both nations should eliminate nuclear weapons. Many Americans are ignorant about the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It involved a significant trade-off: "The non-nuclear weapons states agree not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, and the nuclear weapons states agree to engage in good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament" (from the National Catholic Reporter, March 4, 2005. Italics are mine.)
However, the USA has not yet (ever?) been willing to set a "date certain" (and soon?) for abolishing its nuclear weaponry. Moreover, this president is committed to the development of new kinds of nuclear arms. What leverage can the USA exert upon Iran, North Korea, or other "lesser states" when we have been unwilling to fulfill our treaty obligations? Setting a near and definite date for our full implementation of the treaty would remove "valid" justifications for their pursuit of nuclear weaponry. Every five years, the 188 nations that are parties to the treaty meet at the UN to examine progress. Unfortunately, "particularly the United States [seems] to have made virtually zero progress in the past five years. Despite its pledges to do otherwise, the United States has failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, opposed a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty, substituted... for the START treaties, scrapped the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty...; kept nuclear weapons at the center of its security policies...; and demonstrated no political will toward the elimination of its nuclear arsenal" (ibid.)
Well, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, what can you validly say to Iran, North Korea, and the American people? What route to peace and security should we take?
We are the Future
by Kara Johnson
We, as a nation, have progressed over the past century. We have somewhat overcome the plights of bigotry, discrimination, and more. But has our nation reached a point where everyone can be accepted and feel equal among others? As we have overcome countless obstacles, our nation still has not developed to its fullest potential. This is where activist groups come in; people who are trying to make a change.
What exactly does it mean to be an activist? Simply doing anything makes a difference, whether you think so or not. At a place as gruesome as a high school, things are not as easily come across. There is often much diversity among the students: different ages, social groups, and ethnic and religious backgrounds of every sort. Then there are the students who are striving to achieve equality and peace within the student body - and who spend their entire four years trying to do so. A GSA (gay-straight alliance), for example, is a logical way to go about doing this. At Roseville Area High School, in Roseville, MN, there is a GSA doing just that. I am a member of this GSA, with about ten other people. Not many, but we try our best.
Our GSA was started by Hannah Augustin, Megan Martinson, and a very understanding staff member when we were in eighth grade at Roseville Area Middle School. It took many trials and much effort to convince the staff and district to allow them to have a GSA, which had never happened at the middle school before. But, after much persistence, they succeeded.
Some students liked the idea and joined in, about ten people total, including myself. If I might say so, the eighth-grade year was not very productive. We had meetings weekly, had fun and socialized, talked about issues, and did have a few productive moments. For example, we participated in the Day of Silence, a national event where students refrain from speaking for the whole day to symbolize the oppression inflicted on GLBT people all over the world. We had, as I recall, more than half of the school participate.
When most of us had to move on to high school, the GSA came with us. The middle-school GSA is still going, carried on by some of the younger members. Our first year at the high school (2004-05) made a drastic impact on the student body; they were not expecting a GSA to suddenly appear with the incoming freshmen. We have participated again in the Day of Silence, and we created our own awareness week. One member of our GSA, Hannah Augustin, even spoke at the Minnesota Annual Lobby Day; so we feel quite empowered.
Our GSA has been a big hit for the students here at RAHS, and hopefully it will be for many years to come, but our GSA is made up of many people who most definitely have minds of their own. Our discussions sometimes get off topic, and we talk about government, equality, racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, peace ... the list is endless. Lately we have been focusing on peace particularly: what it means to be peaceful, what it means to be in a peaceful state of mind, how we can achieve peace.
As we were discussing peace-related subjects, we noticed a trend at our school: having military recruiters coming in attempts to sign up brave new enlistees. At RAHS, we had a lot, and I mean a lot, of military recruiters coming. I don't remember one single week where there wasn't a table up at lunch with big signs saying "army," "marines," "navy," or "air force," right across the front. I took the time to read the pamphlets and listen to what they were saying, and it was ridiculous. The thing that confused me most was that people were excited about this!
The majority of the student population thought the military was a positive thing for our American nation. But how can war, which has brought death, oppression and exploitation of people so often, be a good thing?! I found the recruitment officers to be ruthless, redundant, and offensive!
Everyone in the GSA felt the same way, and we all knew something had to be done. I came up with the bright idea of having the opposite side represented: to have peace recruiters come, to hand out pamphlets, to explain why peace is the best path, the most logical path, to follow throughout life. Army recruiters might ensure you a college education, but peace recruiters will ensure you your life.
Unfortunately, I got the idea too late in the school year, and now it is a task to tackle for next year. Our GSA hopes to come forth on all of these issues, and to make a positive impact on all of the students. I feel very strongly on the topic of military recruiters, and I feel something needs to happen - not just at RAHS, but at every high school across the nation.
Although you may not think so, there are GSAs in high schools everywhere.
They might be doing things similar to what our GSA is doing, or they might
not be. The thing is, they are doing something, and that is all that matters.
Hopefully one day our nation can grow to its fullest potential, everyone
can live in peace, and there will be equality among us all.
"We remember those who walked"
by Don Christensen
Editor: The following are accounts by Al Kopas, Dakota (Sisseton Wahpeton) and Daniela S. Mueller of their participation in the Dakota Commemorative March, November 7 - 13, 2004. Daniela is a German graduate student, a participant in an FOR nonviolence training, and a facilitator for youth-exchange programs between Israel, Palestine, and Germany.
Al Kopas: On the morning of 7 November 2004, I, Alvin Kopas (Sisseton Wahpeton) along with several dozen Dakota people started a 150-mile march that would begin a healing process and a remembrance of my ancestors. As a result of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, about 1700 Dakota, mostly women, children and elderly, were forcefully marched from the Lower Sioux Agency near Morton, Minnesota, to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling.
On their way to the camp they were assaulted by white settlers who threw rotten food, rocks, sticks and boiling water at them when they marched through certain townships. An untold number of men, women and children died of hunger and sickness. Others died en route from beatings and assaults by soldiers and residents, and throughout the winter at the concentration camp at Fort Snelling.
The actions that led to this war are complex and manifold. It all had to do with land, broken treaties, hunger, fear and ignorance. In order for the white settlers to legally settle on Minnesota land, they needed to make treaties with the Natives in which it was clearly stated that they had permission to do so. The Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux and the Treaty of Mendota, signed in 1851, ceded some 24 million acres of rich farmland to the United States for a little over 3 million dollars in gold payments and food rationing.
The treaty, written in English, was not clearly understood by the Natives who signed it. Gold payments promised in the treaty were delayed or stopped, along with the food rations. Andrew Myrick, a spokesperson for the traders, was reported to have said, "As far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass or their own dung." That's how much some white man cared about the well-being of the Indians who lived here; Myrick was later found dead with grass stuffed in his mouth.
Widespread hunger and starvation plagued the reservations. On 17 August 1862, four young Dakota on a hunting expedition raided a hen house out of desperation and hunger and killed five white settlers, resulting in councils that waged the war.
The first Commemorative March to remember this local history happened in 2002, and the march will continue to take place every two years until 2012, the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. The purpose of the march is to keep the memory alive of those who suffered, to educate Natives and non-Natives about this history, and to learn from it for a better future.
Walking through the beautiful Minnesota countryside with its rich agricultural farmland and its well-manicured townships, I saw no clear evidence of the horrors that took place here, other than the Dakota names of certain areas and landmarks. No clear connection to the people who once lived here. Why were they no longer here, where they belonged? This walking journey instigated another internal journey for me, a journey that would begin my own personal understanding of what was happening and why so many Dakotas were forced to leave their homeland.
I learned of my own grandfather's (Chief Gabriel Renville) plight in the war; about his people, dying of sickness and starvation at the concentration camps. With the death toll growing, Gabriel Renville was left with the choice of suffering it out in the camps with his people or helping to end the war by fighting the Dakotas.
Gabriel chose to help the whites end the conflict, and was appointed by the U.S. Army as Chief of the Scouts. In doing so, he was faced with the horrible prospect of hunting down his own brothers. He had to kill his people in order to save them. This conflict of ideals is what was emotionally the hardest for me to bear. I had trouble relating to it, and sometimes felt like I couldn't relate to it at all. But I wanted to understand my ancestors by following in their footsteps.
On the last day of the march, arriving at Fort Snelling, many things became clear to me. I felt the pain and some of the guilt that my ancestors felt when they killed their own brothers. Yet, I also felt that their brothers had forgiven those who had been caught between two worlds, who were trying hard to live peacefully with the white settlers and accommodate their wishes and at the same time not to betray their own families and traditions.
At Fort Snelling I felt a sense of closure. Years ago in a place where there wasn't any I felt peace. Gabriel Renville was 3/8 Dakota and was 38 winters old when the war broke out. I'm 3/8 Dakota and 35 winters old, and to walk in his and my ancestors' honor is one of the greatest achievements of my life.
Daniela Mueller: Hearing Al's and other descendants' personal stories about their Dakota relatives, seeing their pain, and at the same time experiencing their openness, friendliness, and joyfulness was an amazing experience for me. Here I was, a German student, walking amongst a group of mostly Dakota Indians and being allowed to partake in their experiences and emotions. They had every right to mourn exclusively among themselves, but they invited everyone who wanted to join the march, regardless of their color, race or spiritual beliefs.
Even though I was not able to stay with the group the entire time, I felt strongly connected to each one, even at the times when I could not be there. I was mentally and spiritually on the road with them, thinking about their hardship, about their present situation, and also about their strong will and heart, and their commitment to each other. I realized the great extent to which this past affects Dakota Indians even today.
Dakotas are still scattered all over the USA and Canada; they struggle to keep their native language alive; their have lost trust in the white man/woman, resulting from the many broken treaties; they have been discriminated against and treated disrespectfully over and over again. Despite all the disappointment and bitterness, the Dakotas I met on the march tried their best to set a positive sign and make a difference. They were not afraid to show their pain and emotions, but rather shared them and embraced each other; they welcomed me, a stranger, and everyone else who wanted to learn and show respect to the dead and the living.
The message that was sent by these Dakota children, men and women was very powerful. Even though the group was relatively small, they had a strong impact on those who were willing to see and listen. Some people were greeting the walking group, waving or honking at them as a sign of acknowledgment and support; others were simply ignorant or even annoyed.
I hope that many more non-Natives will experience what I did. I hope that the group will get bigger and bigger each year, so that at some point, students whom I tell about my experience will not look at me in disbelief, but be familiar with the story and feel sorry for what happened a long time ago on this land, to the people who lived here in peace.
For the homepage of the Dakota Commemorative March, go to
P E A C E
Brenda Clarno, Don Christensen, and Jo Clare Hartsig at the PEACE Across
the Northside event on Friday, May 20. The organizers report, "We had
over 1000 people from the Northside and around the region standing together,
side-by-side, stretching from Newton Ave N. to Lyndale Ave N.!" Under
the banner PEACE Summer 2005, the PEACE Foundation will mount a series of
activities to build community and directly address crimes, and their causes,
in north Minneapolis. Plans include door-to-door canvassing, street parties,
and organizing block clubs in high-crime corridors. The Foundation is actively
seeking volunteers to help plan and be involved in all these programs; please
go to their website at<www.citypeace.org/>
for more details on how to get involved.
FOR Collaborates with Palestinians
in Nonviolence Training
by Don Christensen
A Quaker Service volunteer who has been doing nonviolence education and training in Palestine and Israel for over five years said it this way: "In Israel there is little interest in nonviolence training. In Palestine we cannot keep up with the demand."
On June 2-6, 2005, these words of Kathy Kamphoefner took on flesh for me when I and seven other FOR nonviolence trainers and educators from the USA participated in four days of nonviolence training with Palestinians.
During the first two days the FOR trainers were invited to observe Palestinian facilitators doing nonviolence training with women, men and youth from the village of Dar Salah, a Muslim village just outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem. For six hours each day, with the help of Palestinian English-Arabic translators, the US trainers observed our Palestinian colleagues as they worked with the villagers.
The final two days were an opportunity for US and Palestinian trainers to give each other feedback and support and learn from one another about the challenges we face in our very different contexts. All of the training was participatory, experiential and aimed at personal empowerment. Attention was given to violence in the home and community, as well as to the violence of the Israeli military occupation.
"Our purpose is to keep hope alive," said Sami Awad, Director and Founder of Holy Land Trust, the Palestinian organization that began this work in 1998. "We understand that nonviolence training will not bring down 'the Wall,' nor will it end the occupation. But we believe, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, 'that nonviolence can change the hearts of our oppressors, and this has the power to end the occupation.'"
I was skeptical when the Holy Land Trust trainers told us that they expected nearly 100 villagers to participate in the training. When 140 showed up, I became a believer. The trainers divided the villagers into four groups of 35, and dispatched the groups to rooms in the municipal center and the school. The participants were young, mostly 18-30, and each group included men, women and youth. Due to the shortage of trained Palestinian facilitators, only one trainer was available to each group. In the US, we have the luxury of co-facilitators and much smaller groups.
Although the rooms were hot, noisy and crowded, and resources such as video players and flip charts were only a dream, the participants and trainers were undaunted in their enthusiasm. Young women and men unaccustomed to learning together in the same classrooms, and steeped in authoritarian lecture-style teaching, were passionate in brainstorming about "conflict," analyzing village issues in small groups, and role-playing the fear, humiliation and violence that Palestinians face daily under the brutal military occupation.
In one role-play, a pregnant Palestinian woman and her husband played roles that may soon be their reality: a checkpoint confrontation in which aggressive Israeli soldiers deny a couple passage to the hospital for the delivery of their child. In another situation Palestinian women role-played female university students refusing to be strip-searched at a checkpoint by female Israeli soldiers. Although the US trainers were nearly overwhelmed with the emotion of these situations faced daily by the Palestinians, our hosts participated with seriousness, determination and even humor. For Palestinians nonviolence training is not a choice, it is a matter of survival.
At the conclusion of the training, as we said our farewells, a Palestinian
woman who had been very engaged in the training, and who had shared with
me the story of her brother's killing by Israeli soldiers, approached me
and said, "Thank you for coming to be with us. Please tell the American
people that Palestinians are not terrorists; we love our children. We are
Upper Midwest FOR Regional Gathering
"We Make the Road by Walking*:
90 Years of Interfaith Peacemaking"
* or rolling, or any way you can get there!
September 9-11, 2005, Villa Maria Center, Frontenac, MN
Join members and friends of the Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation at the Villa Maria Center in southeast Minnesota, September 9-11, 2005, for a weekend of celebration, renewal and organizing for peace with justice through nonviolence.
The gathering will be graced by master storyteller and peace and human rights activist, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb. Rabbi Gottlieb, now in her 32nd year of rabbinic service, is one of the first ten women to become a rabbi in Jewish history. She is also a ceremonialist, Klezmer dancer and drummer for the Rebbe's Orkestra and the Nahalat Shalom Community Klezmer Band, and rabbinic scholar of peace studies. Throughout her career Lynn has devoted herself to interfaith peacemaking and working toward a just and compassionate outcome for Israel and Palestine. Lynn's current one-woman show is called "Pre-Occupied: The Struggle for Peace in Tattered Lands."
Author of She Who Dwells Within: A Feminist Vision of a Renewed Judaism, and numerous articles on peacemaking, interfaith work and women's studies, Lynn is a long-time member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. She is co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish PeaceWalk for Interfaith Solidarity, and head counselor for the Children's Interfaith Peace Camp on Rose Mountain. Lynn is the mother of Nathaniel, and rabbi of Congregation Nahalat Shalom (Inheritance of Peace) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
For more information about the regional gathering, contact Don Christensen at chris385 @ umn.edu, (651) 690-2609.
REGISTRATION for Upper Midwest FOR Regional Gathering
September 9-11, 2005, Villa Maria Center, Frontenac, MN
To register please fill out this form and return with $30 deposit per registrant to:
Don Christensen, 1953 Sargent Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105.
The Gathering convenes Friday evening at 7:00 (no meal served) and continues through Sunday brunch (about noon). The cost quoted below includes lodging for Friday and Saturday nights and 4 meals. An additional $30 per-person program fee should be added to the accommodation fee that you select.
Inquire about scholarships; limited scholarship assistance is available. Childcare and a program with children will be arranged if needed; participants utilizing this service are expected to volunteer for a shift. Contact us regarding the fee for childcare.
Name(s) of registrant(s)_______________________________________
Phone ___________________ Email ___________________________
Names, ages of children aged 12 or younger
Vegetarian? (please indicate # of people): ______________
Phone # to call if you have questions/concerns, or if you would like to be contacted about any disabilties
Optional accommodations (please circle the number beside your preference).*
1. Single room in Marian Hall (handicap accessible
2. Shared room in Marian Hall: $107
3. Bunk in Wildwood Cabin: $76
4. Tent on center grounds: $60/person
* Don't forget to add $30 per-person program fee to the cost of your accommodation.
Name(s) of preferred roommate(s) or bunkmate(s):
We encourage you to register early so that we can give the Center's staff the time they need to arrange housing for all of their guests on that weekend. The FOR has space reserved for 70 persons.
the last word
by Christine Smith
This picture of Professor/Father Jon Sobrino SJ and me was taken during a recent trip to El Salvador sponsored by The Center For Global Education, Minneapolis, Minnesota, that took place March 19 to 28, 2005. I went to be in solidarity with the people of El Salvador in their commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Monsignor Oscar Romero's assassination, and finally to make my way to the country whose liberation theologians have deeply influenced and transformed my life and writing.
To meet one of the most brilliant and humble theologians of El Salvador, Sobrino, to have an opportunity to express my profound gratitude to him for his impact on my life, my writing, and my activism, was a very holy gift. His words, quoting one of his brother Jesuits, Ignacio Ellacuria, who was killed in 1989, speak for themselves in terms of what most of us in the privileged world of this country need to do in terms of peace and justice: