Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Policing as Counterinsurgency

By John Moser
A few weeks back my wife and I visited the charming little college town of Delaware, Ohio. Delaware is about 35 miles from Columbus, and is home to Ohio Wesleyan University, as well as a collection of fine restaurants and even a microbrewery. We had chosen a good night to go, because there was a local street fair, and the town was alive with booths from local businesses and civic organizations. The Delaware police were there, too.

And they brought with them their new toy, a big black armored vehicle called an MRAP. That stands for mine-resistant, ambush-protected.

One might wonder why Delaware, with fewer than 36,000 residents, has need of such a vehicle. Is the local constabulary really that worried about mines or ambushes?

But of course this development is hardly unique to Delaware. For the last ten years the Department of Defense has been providing local police forces across the country with military hardware at cut rate prices. Delaware paid only $2,600 for its MRAP, which ordinarily sells for some $700,000.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Sort of People Will We Be? A Reflection on Ferguson and Christian Identity

By Brian Bantum

As a teacher and especially as a theologian I try to help students connect how a community's understanding of who God is connects to the way they see themselves and their world. But inevitably, when we encounter the historical atrocities of the American slave system, Jim Crow, or other global acts of tragic dehumanization and violence, students are overwhelmed. But they also express a curious distance from those historical perpetrators. They say something like this, "Well, surely something like that couldn't happen now, we are not those sort of people." 

But what "sort of people" either justify or ignore the persistent cries of those being dispossessed and persecuted? And herein lies the fundamental problem. The implicit language of what is natural underlines how we view ourselves and others. While a relatively small percentage of individuals owned slaves in the United States, the assumption of what black bodies were, by nature, and what white bodies were, by nature, served to perpetuate the system as part of God's natural order.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Colors of My School

By Sue Dickson

Daviny sat next to me in the school’s cafeteria, her head bent closely to the paper as she bit her bottom lip in concentration. We were in La Aguada, a rural school in the FARC controlled mountains of northwest Colombia. She was showing me that she could write the letters of her name. Her parents do not read or write—but she does. Daviny is nine. She wants to be a teacher. She walks a couple of kilometers on mountain trails to school every day. Violence is part of Daviny’s life. Her older brothers have been recruited by the FARC. When a group of FARC militants showed up at the door of the family’s hut, they knew: they could either join the guerillas or be killed. As Daviny and I worked, one of the brothers was watching us from the edge of the jungle. In another world, at another time, he would have been a student in the school, too. He is fourteen. Now, he was a militant watching from the margins.

The school is three concrete-block rooms, painted bright yellow with blue trim—the colors of Colombia. Large windows look across a grassy field and out over the valley and jungle-wrapped mountains. There are no other buildings in sight. These mountains are exquisitely beautiful and they are exquisitely dangerous for outsiders. They are remote, undeveloped, sparsely inhabited and therefore a perfect hideout for the FARC. In the valley to the north, the paramilitaries remain in control. In the middle of that valley, a military base stands watch. Violence is commonplace.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Peace and Preservation

By Emily Wirtz

Just to piggy-back off of some of the other environmentally-based posts on here, I figure it’s worth discussing why we seem to think “the Earth is just a dead thing you can claim” (of course it was necessary to use a Pocahontas reference). We infect our own environment with pesticides, noxious gases, and waste and then take the good stuff from it—deforestation, city expansion, war destruction—and still expect the world to be a-okay.

[This is no joke. Residents of Toledo are presently warned not to drink the water since it comes out of the water source looking like the image to the left. The cause is an algae bloom in Lake Erie from phosphorus used in farming fertilizers. —Ed.]  

Vanessa Inaru Pastrano, “Inaru,” is a dedicated member of the United Confederation of Taino People, an elder of the Bohio Atabei Council and coordinator of the Peace and Dignity Journey’s Caribbean region. As an indigenous Native American, this Taino woman feels a strong connection to our environment: “Those trees, that grass, those insects all have a language of their own, and just because it’s not English or Spanish doesn’t mean we should ignore it.”

Inaru returned to Ohio to partake in Youngstown’s Taino Summer Solstice ceremony on June 21st, during which I had the opportunity to listen to her talk about her community involvement and environmental passions. Companies like Monsanto that advertise as “sustainable agriculture” yet use harmful pesticides and GMOs in their crop production, she explains, are a big part, but only one part, of the disintegration of Earth’s health.  Sure, “the Earth is going through its natural processes,” she continued, “but we are escalating it.” Waste from ships, deforestation in the Amazon and bombing in the Middle East are a few other issues she feels are “destroying the lungs of the Earth.” We seem to think, she explains, that nothing’s wrong unless we can see it directly affecting us. We ignore the destruction of the Earth because media doesn’t cover it. “We have to think like an Indian. Everything has life and purpose and meaning. Everything on this planet is alive, and the Earth is dying, and we are destroying it.”