Monday, August 10, 2015

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Our Souls

By Craig Hovey

Seventy years ago, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, ending World War II. Now, after decades of nuclear weapons buildup across the globe and some disarmament following the end of the cold war, there are questions about whether and how Iran’s nuclear plans can be kept reliably peaceful and how Japan’s pacifist constitution can be maintained. Nine nations currently have nuclear weapons.

Urakami Cathedral following the Nagasaki bombing Courtesy of atomicarchive.com
Aristotle taught that we do not simply act based on decisions that we make; our characters and dispositions are formed by what we do and in turn inspire our further actions. This works for both virtues and vices: good actions can make a good person; bad actions can make a bad person. And while most ethicists categorically condemn the US bombing of Japan, it is less common to ask what kind of societal soul both produces and is produced by it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sign the Nonviolence Commitment Card -- Help us reach 1,000 signatures



Alycee Lane's book, Nonviolence Now!: Living the 1963 Birmingham Campaign's Promise of Peace got me thinking about the kinds of commitments we make to nonviolence. Have a look at our interview with her here. Lane cautions against the inherently "masculine" accounts of nonviolence in which nonviolence is merely a tactic that better ensures victory for a cause in certain instances. 

But when peace is a personal commitment and a way of life, as Lane insists it should be, it will not only run much deeper within us, but it will also, as a consequence, yield a much more disciplined and ultimately effective movement. Even though it's now 50 years later, today's continuing challenges especially on violence and race in America will benefit from the kinds of cautions and counsels that Lane makes. 

So we at ACN thought it would be good to have another look at the 1963 pledge and to invite others to consider committing themselves to it. 

Even though the original Commitment Card reflected the Christian ethos of much of the movement, many others have since then found other religious and secular ways of articulating their deep concern and personal devotion to the ways of peace.


Our goal is 1,000 signatures. Help us reach our goal!



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Nonviolence Now! Author Alycee Lane discusses her book


Alycee J. Lane is a former professor who taught African American literature and culture at UC Santa Barbara. She is author of "Coming in from the Cold," a blog in which she analyzes political and social issues through the prism of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy of nonviolence. A student of Engaged Buddhism, Alycee in 2012 participated in the year-long Commit to Dharma course offered by the East Bay Meditation Center under the tutelage of Larry Yang. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Howard University, Doctorate of Philosophy from UCLA, and Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley (Boalt Hall). Alycee currently lives in Oakland, California. Alycee was one of the presenters at ACN's 2015 conference on "Challenges to Nonviolence."


ACN: We were so pleased to meet you when you came to Ashland earlier this year and presented a terrific paper about the ways that the language of nonviolence gets co-opted by official and governmental appeals to "peaceful protests." Now it's great to celebrate the recent publication of your book, Nonviolence Now!: Living the 1963 Birmingham Campaign's Promise of Peace. Could share with us, first of all, the reasons why you wrote this book?


AL: Nonviolence Now! was not the book that I intended to write. What I intended to write was a book on the subject of African Americans and Buddhism – a topic inspired by my participation on the East Bay Meditation Center’s year-long Commit to Dharma (C2D) Buddhism study group, facilitated by Larry Yang. In particular, I was initially interested in the growing African American Buddhist community and how it was thinking through the relationship between African American histories/cultures and Buddhist practices.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Charleston Shooting was Terrorism

By Craig Hovey

It’s important to refer to the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina as an act of terrorism. I join with others (like here and here) in insisting not only that the June 17 massacre meets the FBI’s definition of terrorism, but also that calling it by its proper name is important to highlight America’s long history of terrorism against African Americans.
Photo courtesy of ibtimes.com

There may be a connection between Wednesday’s terrorist attack and the thwarted 1822 slave revolt centered at the church (see articles here and here). Even more likely is a connection with April’s shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was shot in the back and killed by a white police officer in Charleston as he tried to flee. (The police officer was indicted for murder.) The church’s pastor, Clementa Pinckney who was also a state senator, had led a prayer vigil for Scott and had pushed for police officers to wear body cameras. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

An Element of Violence

By Jeff Weidenhamer

Following Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore, the Washington Post reported that he, like too many other children of the inner city, grew up with lead poisoning.  At 22 months, Freddie Gray’s blood lead concentration was 37 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.  This is high enough to cause serious brain damage and far exceeds the level (5 micrograms per deciliter) identified by the Centers for Disease Control as the current level of concern.  Less well appreciated is the link between lead and violence in our society.
 
It is hard to grasp just how poisonous lead is to young children.  An average grain of salt weighs approximately 100 micrograms.  Dissolve that in 2 liters of water and you have a concentration of 5 micrograms per deciliter. What do these miniscule amounts of lead do to a young child?  Effects linked to low-level lead exposure in children include reductions in IQ, learning disabilities, and ADHD. Ralph Spezio, a Rochester NY principal, found that all of the children in his school’s special education programs had histories of elevated lead exposures.  The brain damage caused by lead is permanent, and the only way to prevent harm is to prevent exposure.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Peaceful Protests and Rioting in Baltimore

By Craig Hovey

The recent rioting in Baltimore following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries sustained while in police custody has called for a return to “peaceful protests” from various government entities. As someone committed to nonviolence, I might be heartened to hear authorities suddenly embrace the language of peace. But there are some reasons to be wary of how this language is being used.
  1. When authorities call for peaceful protests, it is because security achieved and maintained through violence is under threat. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right to distinguish peace from security. Security, at least in the short term, might be achieved through violence and the threat of violence. The security that has been achieved this way is likewise vulnerable to being upset by violence. In a speech delivered in Denmark in 1934, Bonhoeffer declared that “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security.” When peaceful protest flows from a belief that peace and justice are the deep grammar of things, or the arc of the moral universe, or God’s will, then protest isn’t restraining itself in the name of security. 
  2. Why does the media seem more reticent in their condemnation of police violence compared to their condemnation of the violence of rioters? Check out the double standard in Wolf Blitzer’s interview with organizer Deray McKesson [video featured above]. Calling for peaceful protests amounts to a double standard if wrongful police violence isn’t also condemned with the same moral intensity and sincerity as are riots. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

“We’re Taking Back the Rainbow!”

By Emily Wirtz

Now, I know that I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, specifically those of #TheSelmaProject, that I’m from the Youngstown area, which just so happens to be ridden with crime and inequality. This is not to say that everyone from Youngstown falls into this category of anti-activism, but it’s come to my attention that some crazy things have been going on back in my hometown.

Youngstown State University is big on diversity—it is in Youngstown, Ohio—and for the most part, people are okay with that. Youngstown city and YSU are full of wonderful, accepting people…but there are always those who fight progress for the traditional, for the safe, non-progressive “values” that seem to always end up being on the wrong side of history. Must we revisit the Civil Rights Movement? Yes—because we’re still in it.