Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Human Up!

By Peter Slade

In the aftermath of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program that revealed, among other things, that two psychologists were paid $81 million to design and participate in the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques, Fox news got an exclusive interview with Dr. James Mitchell - one of the psychologists that Physicians for Human Rights is calling a war criminal.

I watched the interview online and found the experience equal parts disturbing and morally disorienting.

Dr. James Mitchell presents himself as a reluctant torturer. A man compelled to abandon his “moral high ground” by the events of 9/11 to save American lives. That the interrogation techniques were in fact torture (whatever legal definitions the CIA hides behind) is clear from the interview. Dr. Mitchell told Megyn Kelly that “the techniques are so harsh that it’s emotionally distressing to those who are administering them.” One can only imagine how distressing they are for the subject of those techniques.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Videos from "Shall We Drone On?"

Have drones become the weapons of our age? These "unmanned aerial vehicles," sometimes used to assassinate human targets in remote areas, raise a host of constitutional, legal, moral and strategic questions. Here is a two part presentation from earlier this month that was sponsored by ACN and given by two faculty members from Ashland University. Dr. Craig Hovey is executive director of Ashland Center for Nonviolence and associate professor of religion and Dr. Michael Schwarz is assistant professor of history.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Why Aren’t You Listening? The Role of Hip Hop in Social Justice Movements
By Sharleen Mondal

Music—both when it is heard and performed—has long been recognized for its power to inspire. Across cultures and time periods, music has played a key role in social movements, including, for instance, protest songs composed to signify a united commitment to a common cause of justice for all. The song “We Shall Overcome,” an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, has been translated into countless languages and continues to enjoy enormous cross-cultural appeal. On my first trip to Bangladesh in the late 1980s, I forged bonds with people I was meeting for the first time in part through a shared appreciation for the artists of the time—Roxette, Michael Jackson—but also “Amra Korbo Joy,” the Bengali version of “We Shall Overcome.” Despite the geographical gap between us, that song united us with a common understanding of what it meant to breathe sounds and words into a melodic, shared expression of the struggle for something better. Decades later, I was struck by Bollywood melodrama’s refashioning of “We Shall Overcome” in My Name is Khan (2013), wherein through that song, a Muslim South Asian immigrant to the United States who experiences horrendous Islamophobia forms a deep connection with a small church community in Georgia devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In real life and in fiction, the power of one song to mobilize and connect people for peace is evident.

And yet, some genres of music are less frequently associated with healing and connection. The recent so-called “loud music trial,” for instance, involved Michael Dunn shooting Jordan Davis, an unarmed black teenager, at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, triggered by Dunn’s disgust at the music Davis was playing in his vehicle—what Dunn reportedly called “thug music.” Dunn’s phrase betrays a fundamental disconnect between a widespread view of rap and hip hop as violent and culturally inferior, and a long history of the genre which has historically grappled, with brutal honesty, with issues such as class struggle, racism, police brutality, poverty, and the prison industrial complex. And while hip hop cannot be excluded from the wide-ranging cultural forms in our society that are tainted with homophobia, sexism, and other forms of violence, changes within the genre, mainly amongst progressive underground artists, have taken the genre to a new level.

This past Saturday, as I attended a performance in Cleveland featuring Brother Ali, I was struck by the discrepancy between a popular perception of hip hop which pervades particular communities, which discount the entire genre from having anything meaningful to offer, and the power of progressive hip hop to inspire and motivate social justice, a power widely recognized as a matter of course within other communities (mainly social justice community organizers comprised primarily of immigrants, people of color, and working-class people). The messages conveyed through song and speech throughout this particular show that I attended would not have surprised anyone familiar with this strain of the genre: a frank, unapologetic calling out of homophobia and sexism. The dire need for working-class people to organize and address—through creative and community solutions—economic and structural oppression. The injustices being committed globally in the name of wars on terror that are terrorizing countless innocent people. The lessons of previous social justice workers and the need to know their legacy, to converse with one’s community, to struggle together to understand acts of violence that strike one’s community, and to act in unity against injustice.

As we consider the role of cultural work, such as art, literature, and music, in shaping both our understanding of and participation in movements to forge peace and justice in our communities, it is important to ask along the way what narratives we are not listening to, and for what reason. If hip hop can help mobilize one of the most important movements in our cultural moment against police violence in Ferguson, articulate the pain and courage of Arabs and those living under a violent and long-standing occupation, and even help with depression and mental illness, perhaps the question for peace and social justice workers who have long dismissed the genre might be this: why aren’t you listening?

Sharleen Mondal is Assistant Professor of English at Ashland University, where she teaches Victorian and postcolonial literature and gender and women’s studies. She has also served as a trained advocate, translator, and volunteer for Chaya, an anti-domestic violence organization serving South Asian communities in the Seattle area. She has served on the ACN Steering Committee and is currently beginning volunteer work with ASHA Ray of Hope, based in Columbus, OH, and the Akron Area Interfaith Council.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Repentance, All the Way Down: A Columbus Day Meditation

By Myles Werntz

One of the questions which a day like Columbus Day presents is not whether or not Columbus should be celebrated, but what should be done instead of celebration. Columbus’ diaries and the historical record speak abundantly to the reasons for not celebrating Columbus, but should we perhaps celebrate another exemplar? Should we, as Seattle has recently done, reform the day into Indigenous People’s Day?  Or should there be perhaps another exemplar celebrated, such as Bartolome de las Casas?

In looking at this day from the perspective of nonviolence, there seems to be no easy answer, and certainly no perfect exemplar. Columbus, as the historical record attests, engaged in slavery, forced labor, and dismemberment of the indigenous people. The indigenous people were no pacifists, engaging in skirmishes with their neighbors. De las Casas, while famously advocating against the Spanish enslavement of the indigenous people, initially proposed that the Spanish enslave Africans instead of the North American natives. Any alternate celebration, while moving away from Columbus, only appears to celebrate violence again in a different form. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: What Can We Do?

by Sharleen Mondal
courtesy of the Florida Times Union website

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and this year, it arrives on the heels of the highly publicized case of former Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice, who was indefinitely suspended from the NFL after video exposed his physically violent attack against Janay Palmer in an elevator (see a timeline of the events of the case here). With regard to the NFL, the conversation about domestic violence and the league’s poor handling of the Rice case continues. The Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson, for instance, has penned a call to recognize the need for NFL players to handle aggression productively, and for fans to donate to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Meanwhile, cultural workers like comedian Megan MacKay have produced work not only to entertain, but also to provoke audiences to discuss recurring narratives of survivor-blaming and lack of adequate accountability for abusers.In the midst of the broader public controversy, it might be easy to lose sight of two critical questions: how does domestic violence affect me? What can I do about it?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Redtail Run Brings Nations Together

By Emily Wirtz

If you asked for my opinion, I’d have to tell you that I would prefer to walk a mile on hot Legos before I’d ever choose to run a marathon. But others aren’t so wary of long distances. In 1992, massive groups of indigenous and Native Americans began to run.

Elder men of a native community carry prayer staffs.
In Native American culture, an Eagle represents the spirit of the northern continents, while a condor represents the south. The year of 1990 began talk of an ancient tradition of bringing the eagle and the condor together to celebrate resources and community. Two short years later, the Peace and Dignity Journey began for these people. Natives from the northernmost tip of Alaska to the southern islands of Chile began their spiritual journeys towards Central America, bearing prayer staffs of every community. Vanessa Inaru Pastrano, a native Taino woman and the director for the Taino community’s Journey, explained that it was a culmination of prophecy: that “native nations will come together again.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

World Day of Prayer for Peace


September 21, 2014

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, the World Council of Churches and then the United Nations eventually designated September 21st every year as the DAY OF PRAYER FOR PEACE around the world.Since then many religious groups have also given support. It’s now a world-wide observance in a variety of ways. May the following thoughts enrich your involvement in “praying for peace” regularly.

For Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

For our Enemies
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[From the Book of Common Prayer]