Tuesday, November 17, 2015

After Beirut & Paris: Justice without Mercy?

By Craig Hovey

Last weeks horrific and deadly attacks in Beirut and Paris call first and foremost for silence. After Pearl Harbor, Dorothy Day began her column in the Catholic Worker by asking “shall we keep silent, or shall we speak? And if we speak, what shall we say?” Like the commendable silence of Job’s friends when they saw that his suffering was great, human tragedy of this sort and on this scale shocks us — the most human thing we can do is suffer with the sufferers and mourn with the mourners.
In the last few days we have been seeing a lot of different forms this solidarity takes. I was struck by this account in which a Parisian tells NPR’s David Greene how she opened her apartment to frightened mourners who had gathered in the street outside but who became alarmed when a loud sound went off:
DAVID GREENE: You brought 40 strangers into your apartment… who were just very afraid? 
JULIE MARKS: Yeah … I said, of course, come in. I mean, being friendly is all we have now. Having compassion, it's all we have now because if we just keep being afraid and being lonely and alone, you know, an individual, we have lost everything.
This initial burst of spontaneous mutual support and compassion for strangers, born of the mayhem of the last few days, is impressive. It is the spirit of nonviolence: discovering the community-building alternatives that meet needs and build people up.

But it also contrasts with the long-term war-planning coming out of the French government. Inevitably, it seems—as with Job’s friends—the talk will change from openness and solidarity to explanations and calls for justice, punishment, and revenge. Dorothy Day went on from her initial silence to affirm her organization’s commitment to nonviolence in the remainder of her column, “Our Country Passes from Undeclared War to Declared War; We Continue Our Christian Pacifist Stand.”

The nonviolence tradition with which I most identify is a faith tradition that, in an earlier time, preferred the language of nonresistance to nonviolence, peace, and even justice. Nonresistance was a way of talking about refusing to respond in kind: hatred for hatred, violence for violence. The cycles of reprisal and revenge, it was acknowledged, would go on indefinitely until they are decisively and peaceably broken when one side embraces an alternative instead.

This tradition, and ones like it, have always faced their toughest opposition when nonresistance appears simply to be inadequate to some injustice, usually in wartime. Speaking about nonresistance in times like this feels a lot like speaking as Job’s friends: unwelcome and ill-timed.

Yet I believe it is necessary to speak, primarily since others are speaking too. French president François Hollande has called these terrorist attacks “an act of war” against France. The decision to call these acts “war” is the choice to respond to violence with violence rather than find other ways, ways to break the cycle. Hollande, we have heard, has promised a “merciless response” to the attacks.

War may not only be waged mercilessly, but it is also itself a response devoid of mercy. After Pearl Harbor, Dorothy Day acknowledged that war is a place and a circumstance where mercy is most needed. “Our works of mercy may take us into the midst of war.” She urged members of her organization to refuse to contribute to the fighting, but instead to look for ways to continue works of mercy where there are especially great risks because the needs are also so great.

Nonviolence does not mean being passive in the face of violence and injustice. It requires our greatest innovation and creativity in addressing the serious troubles endured by victims and which threaten to make victims out of yet others. What it will not do is withhold mercy in order to accomplish its ends.

Craig Hovey is executive director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Identities: Murderer

By Emily Wirtz

Every one of us has an identity. Every one of us also has an ethnicity, a race, a gender, a class, and a past. How we choose to identify ourselves may or may not be one of those categories. Unfortunately, all too often a stereotype arises from something that makes us who we are. Our race becomes our label, or our gender, sexuality, class, etc. and those labels become how we are identified—not how we identify ourselves. All too often a black man is perceived to have a gun in his pocket instead of a checkbook. A woman dressed in old sweats is perceived to have a food stamps card instead of a teaching license. A man on the streets is seen as a lazy addict instead of a man with a Ph.D. and a family to feed.

On October 8, visiting artist Traci Molloy spoke in the Ridenour lecture hall—and she filled the house. As her presentation went on, it was clear that the information she was sharing with us was a powerful message she shared through her art. She considers herself as much a social activist as an artist, and I would have to agree. One of the first pieces she shared was a series entitled “Kids that Kill Kids.”


From this series came a variety of portraits and overlapping text. One piece that stood out to me in particular was one named “Missed/Dismissed.” Its display contains a series of mugshot-style portraits of both victims and perpetrators on death row. Each portrait is equally whitewashed, and the text plaques on either side are statements made by the mother of a murdered child and by the mother of a child who committed murder. The grief is the same. It is the same humanity captured within the art and the words it speaks.

If we were to look at a portrait of a sad 17-year-old, wouldn’t our immediate thought be of a child? But, if we were to look at the mug shot of a 17-year-old on death row, knowing that he had murdered a child, would we still think of him as a child? Would we have the heart to forgive him or would we condemn him? These are the exact questions that Traci’s art seeks to make us ponder. They aren’t easy questions to answer; how much worse it must be for their mothers! Perhaps this piece deals less with stereotypes and more with morality, but “murderer” and “victim” have become these children’s labels. Those are their identities—she seeks to challenge this. Nothing is black and white. Even the portraits have grey areas.

Emily Wirtz is an ACN Peace Scholar and Intern.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What We Didn’t Talk About - Race and Diversity

By Maria Cardona

On a chilly fall Wednesday night at 7:40, 7 shots are heard in downtown Ashland. A single bullet strikes a Chinese restaurant where outside, a group of Americans and Asians stood conversing. The shots startle and frighten the group as a car drives away somewhere between the Church and West Second street intersection. Relief washes over the group; no one was harmed.

Four days go by. The buzz about the seemingly random shooting has died down quite a bit, when suddenly email alerts go off everywhere. Staff and students from the University all open up an email and concern and fear takes hold of them. The vagueness of it all inspires fright in the community worried about themselves and the rest of the student body.

It is then all revealed in multiple news reports: The shooting was not as random as previously thought but an act of racial violence. While it has become clear that the victims of this horrid crime are Asians, many questions are left unanswered. Who would do such a thing? Why would they do it in the first place? And, is everyone truly safe?

More news reports surface and suspects are taken into custody, but three words stick out from the page: charges are pending. Seph Valentine, a 32 year old and Tammy Lunsford, 54 have been apprehended and the community is alerted that once more, we are safe. But in reality, are we?

With no knowledge of charges being brought up yet, and the disconcerting revelation that Valentine had been convicted in 2010 after “making and leaving homemade bombs in public places,” (Mansfield News Journal) how could we feel truly safe? We were being pushed back into the bubble of the safe, small town dream, but this only filled us with a false sense of security.

While it is true that Valentine did serve out his sentence, and stronger charges were not pressed because the bombs were not capable of detonation, Valentine still intended for these to function properly and harm others. As I read the article from the Mansfield News Journal, an important piece of the puzzle is uncovered. Valentine is a schizophrenic which might give some insight into why he’s committed these crimes but the article concludes by stating that “during his 2010 trial, he was declared competent to stand trial.” Unsettling feelings resurface once more as it’s clear that his condition is no excuse.

Multiple articles on the shooting spread through social media like wildfire as the students vocalize their concern, yet by Wednesday/Thursday it seems as if the buzz has died down. I came into this short class week expecting students and/or professors to reference the violence that had ensued just 0.6 miles from our campus, but nothing was said.

Classes went on as normal and professors expressed that they hoped we had a “nice fall break,” but the shooting went by completely unspoken of. It was jarring to me and some of my fellow students to realize that we were apparently going to ignore this. We seemed perfectly content with the news that suspects were apprehended and we were “out of danger,” but are we truly in the clear?

If 5 years ago this man had committed a crime and after 3½ years in prison he committed another, what’s to say that Valentine won’t do it again and again? And if not Valentine, what’s to say that someone else won’t come into our small town and commit a crime of a similar nature? Our false sense of security and the fact that we keep our guard down because “it’s Ashland” paints a huge, red target on our town.

I am not suggesting that we should live in constant fear and are plagued by paranoia of crime being around the corner, but we need to stop using “it’s Ashland” as an excuse. Yes, we live in a small town. Yes, most of the time it’s calm and quiet. But we can’t ignore the days when it’s not.

Perhaps there is more to us ignoring this than just the belief that we are safe in our small town bubble. It is clear to anyone that our campus is mostly Caucasian students, and perhaps it is the lower rates in diversity that we experience that bring about this carelessness. While I do not claim that it is intentional, some students might have ignored the facts because it didn’t directly affect them.

However, what happens in our community happens to all of us. We need to stand together; worry together, and more importantly we can’t sweep the issues under the rug and pretend they’re not there. An important conversation needs to take place, I believe, on race and discrimination.

Many are blind to racism nowadays because they see racism as something overt, but that is not the racism of our day. While clearly the shooting was an obvious racial attack, it is microagressions that plague our world today. Unless we learn to recognize these and talk about race openly and respectfully, we will make no progress.

So let’s talk about race and racism, let’s talk about microagressions, and let’s talk about prejudice. Let’s clear up some stereotypes, let’s love each other for who we are instead of what we look like. Ashland University has a growing diversity rate and these students are not different from anyone else. We are all AU Eagles so let’s talk about this shooting and move forward, stronger and more united than ever before.

Maria Cardona is a junior at Ashland University and an intern with the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Professional Profile: Dr. Marc Hedrick

A new professor in Criminal Justice at Ashland University, Dr. Marc Hedrick, grew up in Naperville, just outside of Chicago. Obtaining a Bachelor’s and proceeding Master’s degree after working in the Air Force, Hedrick began work in the police force and subsequently as a teacher in North Carolina.

His work and interest in the field of restorative justice began in law school, where he was introduced to the subject. He later taught at Taylor University, a relatively small Christian university, which introduced these new and unfamiliar practices within their Justice Studies curriculum. As a Christian university, restorative justice was vital to practices in peace and justice, characteristic of Christian doctrine. This became Hedrick’s capstone project, ending his chapter at Regent and beginning a new chapter in education.

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Hedrick personally about restorative justice and his career.

Wirtz: How do you see restorative justice being used practically outside of the classroom?
Hedrick: Restorative justice can be used in everything from vandalism to rape and murder. During my career, I was able to work with a juvenile facility, and we tried to build a restorative justice element into the system. Unfortunately that goal never got off the ground. The Real Justice Institute [now the International Institute for Restorative Practices] does a lot to teach restorative justice and does a lot of conferencing. They bring the victim and offender together, as long as both parties agree to meeting, and ask “How can we make this right?” It’s like mediation, yes, but used in criminal cases instead of civil cases.

Wirtz: Do you see mediation and other forms of restorative practices being used in the community?
Hedrick: Absolutely. Restorative justice is generally not used, but I practiced law in Mansfield for 8 years, and I know most—probably 99%—of their civil cases are resolved through mediation. These cases are usually between an insurance company and the other party and are often court-ordered. On the criminal side, prosecutors’ offices also supplied victim services outside of this, providing updates on cases and preparation for witnesses.

Wirtz: Clearly mediation dominates restorative justice practically, but do you see it coming into play in the future?
Hedrick: I think the question here is has it topped out yet? We don’t know. Restorative justice probably won’t ever abolish the current justice system, but I could see it possibly becoming some sort of hybrid between the two. Restorative justice could replace criminal justice in juvenile cases and low-level or first-time offenders, but with violent crime there’s just not that possibility for full restoration, although it’s still beneficial if the perpetrator has true repentance. The goal here is to put the victim first. The victim has the say so in whether or not these types of practices and meetings are used.

Wirtz: So what are the benefits you see in using restorative justice?
Hedrick: Obviously the victim gets some kind of resolution, maybe closure, but the offender and society also benefit, if their benefits are second. These kinds of practices would greatly reduce the law and order kind of system we’ve had in place since the ‘80s. It prevents recycling the offender through the system, which really just causes more damage and costs more money anyways. Restorative justice is repairing harm rather than creating more harm.

Wirtz: Now that you teach here in the CJ department, do you teach any restorative justice classes or incorporate these methods into your other classes?
Hedrick: Unfortunately, no, we don’t have any restorative justice classes at this time. I do incorporate some of the ideas into my Victimology class, though. We focus of the why, how, who, and history. It’s basically the rediscovery of the victim. Our criminal justice system focuses so much on the perp., we forget the victim, so much so that the wrongs went from the individual to the state. Now, with restorative justice, or even just its basic ideals, we can focus on the actual damage done to the victim. This is restorative justice.

Emily Wirtz is an ACN Peace Scholar and Intern.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

ACN Peace Scholars Meet with AU President

Ashland University President, Dr. Carlos Campo, met with the ACN Peace Scholars and interns today. 

From left: Maria Cardona, Brianna Sargent, William Summers, Dr. Carlos Campo, 
Emily Wirtz, Ryann Crockett, Marissa Johnson 

“I am excited about the new scholar program as part of the University’s Center for Nonviolence, which is a perfect fit for a University founded by the Brethren, a church rooted in the peace tradition,” said AU President Carlos Campo. “The center as well as its new program challenges us to begin with a mindset of peace instead of one for war.”

Find out more about the ACN Peace Scholars program here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Peaceable Animal Kingdom

By Emily Wirtz

Over the summer, my two new roommates and I took a girl-bonding trip to the Columbus Zoo. What can we say? We find rescued animals much more interesting than the latest fashion trends at Macy’s. We walked through exhibits from all over the world, got an impromptu tour of the manatees, and took more than enough pictures. However, what I didn’t expect was a lesson in peace from apes.

The bonobo, closely related to the chimpanzee and humans, is on the Red List of endangered species. The most fascinating part of this exhibit, however, was the sign in front of the bonobos’ habitat. “Peaceable Kingdom,” it read, using the language of Stanley Hauerwas, a prolific theologian and ethicist. This could additionally reflect the Quaker ideals represented in Edward Hicks’ painting, portraying a peaceful scene of animals and children from the book of Isaiah.

It explains the bonds between these apes. The female bonobos, especially mothers, are extremely sociable and get along well with both male and female bonobos. This allows the apes to live both in small and large communities—up to 200 in a single group! Very little conflict occurs within these groups due to their cliché, but entirely legitimate, way of living: “Make love, not war.” This quote held its own spot on the bonobos’ exhibit, and yes, it means exactly what the peace-mongering hippies of the ‘60s intended: “The hallmark of bonobo society is its use of sexual activity to help keep peace!” Granted this is probably not the method we as humans should use to reduce conflict, the bonobos and science alike have proven that this methodology does in fact relieve tensions.

We might not take a literal lesson from the bonobos, but if apes can strive for peace, why shouldn’t we find a way that works for us? Even if we don’t take the lesson from them, ideas of peace and community were scattered about the entire zoo, including one by Martin Luther: “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” I think if anything is to be learned from the zoo community, it is to move forward in peace, hope, and love—“not war.”

Emily Wirtz is a Peace Scholar and student intern with the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Our 2015 Annual Report

Check out our annual report and read about all of the exciting things we did last year.

Click on the above image.