Viewpoint: Violence & Politics -- Selected comments in response to a PIELC panel.
Natural Resistance: Pledging to the Light -- Matching our words and our values.
Living Out: Where the Men Aren't.
Letters: EW readers sound off.
Violence & Politics
Selected comments in response to a PIELC panel.
The Saturday morning (March 9) Public Interest
Environmental Law Conference panel "Is Non-Violence Still a Viable Strategy?" provoked many more questions than the audience had time to ask. I'd like to ask one of these questions publicly now, of panelist John Zerzan and anyone else who believes that violence is an acceptable and appropriate means to achieve the ends of a just, ecologically sane world.
With only slightly altered rhetoric, the attacks of Sept. 11 could be seen as masterful, "justified" actions in support of the anti-corporate, anti-technological anarchist agenda. Could our society's reaction to those attacks (a backlash which has resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent lives in Afghanistan, squelching of civil liberties in the U.S., a massive boost in military spending and militarism, a new brand of McCarthyism, and many other ills) be any indication of what a violent strategy is likely to produce? Are we closer to a just, ecologically sane world because of the tactics of the attackers?
Haven't even those violent movements which were successful in overthrowing their "oppressors" (remember the French Revolution) historically ended up institutionalizing the violence that had been their modus operandi? Ultimately, isn't non-violence the only approach that does not turn one into what one is fighting against?
And as Michael Nagler suggested on Saturday morning, isn't violence against others predicated on the notion of separation -- a notion that is itself an illusion that keeps us from realizing the kind of world we are all striving for? Could it be that love is not only the ends in our attempts to achieve that world -- it's the means as well? -- Chris Roth
It seems that every couple months Spruce Houser (3/28)
writes yet another rant that could be distilled down to: Anarchists are bad, Gandhi is good. I am so tired of the discussion as to which tactics people should use to fight the culture that is killing all life on the planet and its physical manifestations.
I am an anarchist, and therefore I flatly refuse any ideological, moral, and philosophical confines to how I chose to resist. It was stated in a recent article in the Oregon Peaceworker, that a 95 percent non-violent "movement" is not sufficient, and all physical interaction with authority needs to be passive and symbolic.
The system is rotten to the core and we need fundamental change. I admit, most actions anarchists take are non-violent, but there can be no limitation on this. In fact, many anarchists do embrace revolutionary violence, as a necessary and natural reaction to oppression. If we look anywhere in the natural world, we see that self-defense is instinctual. This cannot be overridden by hypothetical, moral ideals.
Most people on Earth do not have the comfort to decide what the most "righteous" response to domination should be, and often the stakes are life and death. It is not a matter of individual reflection or ideological refinement; it's do or die. This is not to say that everyone needs to engage in violent resistance, but rather, to say that it exists, it is justifiable, and should not be condemned. It is authoritarian to decide for others what tactics they can use.
I would like to close by pointing out the inherent violence that Spruce promotes by legitimizing institutions of the state (i.e. legislation, electoral politics, policy reform, etc.), the most violent force on the planet. To get a free copy of Green Anarchy, write to P.O. Box 11331, Eugene 97440 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org mail -- Robin Terranova
Spruce Houser continues his campaign against local anarchists
in his March 3 Viewpoint. He refers to a "panel on nonviolence" which he orchestrated at the recent PIELC. Respected local peace activist Peg Morton, according to a friend of hers, was informed too late of her inclusion in the panel to be prepared for it. That was consistent with the marginalization of women at the conference in general.
In a short EW article announcing the panel, Spruce alluded to anarchists breaking the "agreement" made by participants in the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. It was, of course, no agreement at all, but a dictate handed down by authoritarian organizers. The conference program notes the positions of the pacifist and the anarchist panelists framed as the difference between "compassion and hatred."
Referring to anarchist tactics, Spruce writes "If people are harmed, this outreach will be seriously compromised ..." This point of view parrots the oft-repeated "concerns" stated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies about, for example, ELF tactics, that some day a person may be harmed. But where is the shock and outrage for the official violence?
The fact is, as author Derek Jensen recently said in a speech at the UO, violence only flows in one direction in a dysfunctional society -- downward. Obliteration awaits those who fight back.
Ramona Africa, whose entire extended family was murdered by a bomb exploded on their home by Philadelphia police, said recently, "There is NO animal that does not fight back when attacked."
Spruce on the panel tried to connect the Sept. 11 events to anarchist philosophy. In fact, local anarchists have made many critical reports about the Taliban for a couple of years now, because of the horrendous treatment of women in Afghanistan. I believe that the authoritarian, psuedo-religious, repressive, hierarchical Taliban embodies the antithesis of anarchist ideals.
I personally do not believe in violence against people. I believe everybody deserves another chance to redeem him or herself, even Spruce Houser. -- Trish Binder
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Pledging to the Light
Matching our words and our values.
A Gary Larsen cartoon shows astronomer Carl Sagan as a young child. He's looking up at the night sky, saying something like, "Wow! There must be HUNDREDS of stars!"
Perhaps the following could be a similar picture of someone who was destined to be a biologist: At school as a child, I remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. What thrilled me was the heartbeat under my hand. There it was, every morning, beating, just as it had been when I last checked, the morning before. It had a quiet, pulsing rhythm. It was me, alive, inside there. Very mysterious.
I haven't stood up for or saluted any flag, or recited any pledge of allegiance since grade school, and likely never will, but it's not because I'm trying to make some political point or be obstinate. It's just that if I ask myself whether I really give my allegiance to a flag or a nation (or even any person, right or wrong), I have to admit the answer is "no."
Which leads to the question of what I do give allegiance to. I suppose to Earth, the only home I know. Also to open democracy, the best form of government I've heard of (and the U.S. is not the only democracy in the world). And to personal integrity.
Two Saturdays ago, friends and family gathered in Whittier, Calif., for the memorial service of my 90-year-old mother-in-law, Helen O'Brien. At one time a member of the Communist Party, she ceased that allegiance once she learned how Stalin was behaving. During the '30s in the South, she helped organize the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, an early integrated organization of blacks and whites. During World War II, she and her husband, University of Washington sociology Prof. Robert O'Brien, worked to find inland college openings for Japanese-American students who were incarcerated in the West Coast's "relocation" camps. They were able to get more than 5,000 young Japanese-Americans out of the camps and into college during the war years.
With a masters degree in social work, Helen first worked in a Seattle orphanage; and then for 23 years taught in and headed a public school unit for cerebral palsy children in Whittier. She finished her last teaching stint with these children, at age 80, filling in for one teacher for three months.
A Quaker, Helen participated in and chaired numerous committees for the American Friends Service Committee, the social action organization that reflects the spirit, goals, and processes of the Quaker religion. When she died this February, she was serving on the Executive Committee for the Southwest and the Mideast Peace Committee.
I think of intelligent, capable, wise Helen. I never saw a flag around her home. As she was a traditional Quaker, I doubt she pledged allegiance to any flag, because Quakers' allegiance goes to the light that exists in each person, no matter what religion or nation. (Quakers don't stand up for judges, either; it would imply that judges are more important than other humans.) And yet, I doubt anybody who ever met Helen during her 90 years would question that she was one of those great citizens and humans who, when they see problems, work in positive, effective ways to solve them.
Any crowd reciting any pledge of allegiance to anything is faintly frightening to me, because people acting as part of a group to which they are "loyal" have often been willing to undertake inhumane, destructive, or shameful acts that they never would have approved if they were thinking individually. However, throughout the years, no one has ever acted belligerently toward me as I sit while they stand to pledge allegiance to the flag; I am grateful for that. It is a testament to their tolerance. I return their graciousness by thinking about fine things other than nations to which I do offer my allegiance.
We can only believe what we truly believe. And we can only strive to utter words that truly reflect what we love, and what we believe will help the world that holds us all.
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Where the Men Aren't
"Why aren't there any men here?" asks the 40-ish woman ahead of me in the box office line. She's wearing a black velvet evening coat, sparkly earrings, heels. Her date opens his wallet and buys their tickets to tonight's show -- a local up-and-coming comedian (a lesbian).
Women's voices percolate through the small dinner theater. The gentle timbre of their laughter rings out over the tinkle and clink of ice and forks. Oregano-scented lasagna spices the air. Soft house lights wash over the few unfilled seats and glint off gelled haircuts.
"Where are all the men?" she asks again, apparently not noticing that she's with one, there's one selling tickets, and another one waiting to usher them to their seats. I recognize a couple of guys in the audience and wave. Seems like plenty of men here to me. The woman grows more agitated, "Where are the men?"
"Who needs them?" I reply without thinking. My instinctual reaction sounds hostile, but I didn't mean it that way. I swear. I've come off sounding like a complete man-hater, but that's not it at all. My mental soundtrack plays folk singer Malvina Reynold's "We Don't Need the Men," a good-natured ditty inspired by women mill-workers who were getting impatient for the men to end their checkers match and show up at the union meeting. What I meant to convey is the song's message -- women don't need men around to take care of business. Malvina's song is about affirming women's competence and self-reliance, not man-hating.
How can I clarify that all I meant is that we don't need men to validate ourselves? I wish I could explain my thoughts to this perfect stranger: You don't need men around to have a good time; it's OK to be places that aren't male-dominated; you might even find it refreshing. Do men worry that so few women attend stockholders meetings, technology conferences or, say, the US Congress? No!
But I'm magnanimous. Not all men are privilege-sucking power-mongers. Some of my best friends are male. They can't help it; they didn't choose to be born that way. I don't begrudge men who pay good money to see a lesbian comedian. But neither do I worry about them being in the minority once in a while.
This little tirade goes on inside my head along with my instant regret for adding to the poor woman's distress. I feel like a big oaf. Where do I get off being so judgmental? I'm ashamed of myself for not having more compassion. I want to explain or at least apologize. I hope she didn't even hear me, or if she did, that it didn't register.
"Where are all the men?" she asks her date again. "What's going on here? Is this comedian GAY or something?"
Her guy mumbles under his breath.
"No, it is NOT a stupid question," she argues while he folds his change into his wallet and hands their tickets to the usher. She loops her arm through his, telegraphing her uneasiness at having stumbled into a swarm of lesbians.
The lesbian comedian is, in fact, absolutely hilarious and the crowd is roaring. Most of the material is universal humor -- what, you thought lesbians have only one thing on their mind? Hey, don't confuse us with men! No, haha, I am only kidding.
But she includes a few inside jokes that might go over the heads of those not in the know. Instead of just enjoying the show like everyone else, I worry that another straight person is now completely alienated and convinced that every low-down mean and ugly thing she's ever heard about lesbians is true. I crane my neck to see how upset the poor woman has become. I spot her and her guy a few seats away. I have not given her any credit for having brains. There they are, laughing their heads off.
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As a second-year student in the Chemical Dependency Counselor Training Program, I would like to express my concerns about the prospect of the program being cut from LCC. I'm an active member in several community organizations, and I feel there is no community service program more valuable to Lane County than this particular program.
The training program has been effective in maximizing the motivation of students by having extremely dedicated, ultra-ethical, experienced, and thoroughly prepared instructors bringing a panorama of approaches to treating chemical dependency. All the perspectives and methods are necessary to work together to treat a very difficult problem. It's been miraculous to watch eager students become competent counselors in a mere two years. The agencies in town are consistently surprised at how qualified the counselors are to enter the field even before two years are completed.
Human Shields on the West Bank
Joe Gessert and Liv Dillon, my son and his wife, left for Bethlehem March 28. They plan to spend the next two weeks on the West Bank with a group called International Solidarity Movement (ISM) people from Western Europe, Brazil, Australia, and the U.S. who have come to do nonviolent resistance with Palestinians, Israelis, and local and international Christians. ISM's original plans were to help Palestinians remove roadblocks, and to prune trees with Palestinian farmers who would not otherwise be allowed into their orchards. But plans have changed rapidly.
These past few days, hundreds of internationals in Palestine have played an important though under-reported role on the West Bank. Because Israeli soldiers are more careful with international people than with Palestinians, internationals work as "human shields."
March 29-30, more than 100 internationals accompanied medical teams to Arafat's besieged buildings in Ramallah, arguing and negotiating with Israeli soldiers until they finally allowed doctors and medics inside, and wounded people could be treated. In Beit Jala near Bethlehem, internationals and Palestinians protested the occupation together while Israeli soldiers in tanks fired over their heads and threw a percussion bomb into the crowd.
Now internationals are riding in Red Crescent ambulances on the West Bank, trying to shield medical teams. ISM internationals are staying with families in the refugee camps of Deheisheh, Aida, and Azza near Bethlehem, in an effort to protect civilians as the Israeli army invades the camps.
Joe and Liv called us on Easter Sunday from Aza refugee camp. Joe said, "These are the friendliest people I've ever met. They laugh all the time. I've never seen people laugh so much. I think they have to. They're glad we're here, although they wonder how much good it will do. We're expecting the Israeli invasion within the next day."
Joe tells us that he and Liv are staying with a big family. These people have been refugees since 1948. They used to live in tents, until the U.N. built housing. "They have a nice apartment. It has bullet holes in the walls, but all the same ... Listen! Do you hear them? They're singing with the TV."
He thinks about a thousand people live in Aza camp. "We've met one family after another. Everyone seems to be related. I've never drunk so much tea in my life."
Then someone in the family asks to speak with my husband and me. "Hello, I am Mazha." Her voice is warm, buoyant, and yes, she is laughing a little while she is talking. "I'm 20 years old. Please don't worry. We love your son, and he is safe with us." Tanks are moving towards the families in the refugee camps, and she is trying to reassure me!
Please call congressmen, senators, the White House. Ask them to
urge Israel to negotiate, not retaliate. For background and updates: www.indymedia.org
--Kate Rogers Gessert
I am personally concerned about the process that has precipitated these cuts. The income and expenses have not been fairly addressed; the program's impact on the community and society has also not been adequately discussed; and an array of potential solutions (tuition increases, professional contributions, reorganization, downsizing administration, and further investigation into why money has disappeared from our system) need to be explored.
Cutting the program sends a destructive message to the children and adults of this community, and I urge you to reconsider.
I am optimistic that we can reform the electoral process and inspire more people to participate knowing they have a genuine voice if we can get on the ballet several current Oregon initiatives.
One is the instant runoff voting initiative which recently passed
in San Francisco (my favorite city) by 56 percent. Visit www.pacificgreensjaco.-
Another initiative is campaign finance reform which is currently very imperative. The federal campaign finance reform which Bush could sign could bring about a flood of corporate political campaign contributions in Oregon.
The McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meehan bill prohibits corporate money to political parties. Oregon campaign finance reform would close the loophole of corporations spending money on campaigns on the state level once the way of funneling corporate money to political campaigns on the national level is shut off. Only six states allow unlimited corporate contributions and Oregon is one of them. Visit www.followthemoney.org
The League of Women Voters recently warned people to think before they sign petitions. The initiatives that are currently circulating are not backed by large lumps of money and the ones we need to be wary of are already turned in. Ours are not sponsored by Seizmore. I would suggest several things. Look on the back of the petition and see who sponsors it. Attend the initiative kick-off party from 2 to 4 pm April 14 at 601 W. 13th Ave. It's a good place to learn more and perhaps sign up to collect signatures. Lloyd Marbet, who's sponsoring the campaign finance reform initiative, will speak there.
Ceila (Starshine) Levine
Salaam alaikoum, marhaba, hi! I understand and am completely sympathetic with Palestinian anger and frustration, but as a Muslim and as a person with a conscience, I must say that any bombing campaign directed against civilians (i.e., unarmed women and children in places like hotels and restaurants) such as that reportedly being carried out by Hamas' military wing, the Izzidin al Qassam brigades, is sickening and disgusting! This is not the way to maintain the high moral position which is a part of the righteousness of the Palestinian cause. Please stop attacking women and children. Enough!
Isn't e-mail wonderful? That's how I learned about this new 10-40 plan to protest the permanent U.S. "War Against Terrorism." If you pay the income tax due April 15, you just subtract $10.40 from the total owed. Then include a note to explain why you withheld the $10.40. Some of us pay no income tax, legally or illegally, because about 50 percent of the money is used to pay for past, present and future wars.
More of us refuse to pay the federal excise tax on our phone bills, now 3 percent, because we read that it was imposed in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish-American War.
But, thousands and thousands of us withholding $10.40 from our 1040 forms -- now that's creative action from taxpayers who refuse to kill for the U.S. and also refuse to pay for the killing.
It's called conscientious objection. For more information, call Military Tax Objectors of Lane County, 342-2914 or 342-1953.
Constance P. Brown
I was saddened to read a letter in your 2/21 issue by an African-American resident who feels that Eugene is the "littlest biggest racist town in America" and that he is surrounded by "bigots and fascists."
I am also black and moved here in December from Los Angeles. However, in contrast, my experience has been just the opposite. I have found this community to be extremely warm and hospitable. In fact, merchants, neighbors and total strangers have gone out of their way to make me feel welcomed.
It's not my intention to deny the letter writer his experiences. The strength of his words clearly illustrates the sincerity of his sentiments. I would only suggest that quite often we can all find ourselves generalizing and indicting an entire group of people based on a limited number of unfortunate incidents. Such experiences can color our perceptions and lead to self-fulfilling prophecies that don't give new people who enter our lives the benefit of the doubt.
It was reported recently that the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) released their 2001 National Environmental Scorecard. The scorecard claims to demonstrate which elected officials had a pro-environment voting record in 2001 and which did not. However, important environmental votes were actually ignored in the scorecard while other issues, including abortion and campaign reform, were included.
Important environmental votes ignored in the scorecard included:
Brownfields revitalization, which allows for economic development in predominately minority neighborhoods through the cleanup of polluted urban industrial sites, and the Pacific Salmon Recovery Act.
I'm tired of the liberally biased media promoting liberalism in the guise of protecting the environment. This "scorecard" from the League of Conservation Voters is just one more example.
Why can't the media think for itself and question such "endorsements" instead of just accepting them at face value? Institutions such as the NRA and other conservative organizations have such endorsements and releases questioned and even ridiculed by the same media.
Thomas A. Huffman
In a competitive world, all living organisms diligently pursue their self interests in order to evolve. Darwinian nature. Since currency is the human medium for this pursuit, then achievement of community goals can best be effected through fiscal manipulation. Follow the money. If you buy this argument, then here are a few suggestions for our community governors.
Want to encourage core residential development and discourage urban sprawl? Then expand property tax incentives for downtown developers. Sell them underutilized city-owned properties below par (the former Sears building would be a good place to start). Get the costs down to a level where urban development is competitive with suburban. Too expensive? Compare these discounts to the costs of urban sprawl and the rents received from a used furniture business.
Want to encourage use of mass transit? Then instead of increasing fares, fund LTD with a county tax and make it free to ride the bus. Too expensive? Compare a free ride with the costs of road building and maintenance, air pollution, and traffic congestion.
Want to create a vibrant retail district downtown? Then pull out the parking meters and give people a reason not to drive to malls where the parking is free. Too expensive? Compare free parking with a desolate downtown and the nickels and dimes remaining after the costs of operating the city's parking program.
More highly evolved life forms will sacrifice individual self-interests for the larger interests of communities. Until humans achieve this enlightenment, I suggest our community leaders pursue the greater good by responding to the mantra of the individual: Show me the money!
I know I am not the only one wondering what is going on in this country. How can I sit here going about my life while each day brings yet another zinger from this administration. The list grows with ever increasing audacity and brashness: the people's business being done in abject secrecy; a wish to drill for oil in one of our few remaining wild areas; a call for more nuclear power plants while we sit on tons of dangerous waste -- Nevada does not want it buried under its mountain. Demeaning welfare recipients by suggesting less than minimum wage, while the disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us is already huge; dropping the ABM and Kyoto treaties.
Then there is this constant marketing campaign of fear (terror, evil, axis of evil) while labeling those who speak their mind as traitors and unpatriotic, and a constant push for yet more corporate tax breaks. How short is our collective memory (trickle down economics II)? Only one year and already predictions of Reagan-era deficits. As for educating our children, health care for all and environmental protection -- it's back to bake sales.
I am all for a country protecting its citizens, but I look at what is being done and see nothing that makes me feel safe. I hear a lot of arrogant talk and provoking rhetoric that will bring more violence our way. To be honest, I am less scared of terrorists than I am of this administration.
Timothy J. Boyden
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