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Not Our Daughters Or Sons: True Equality Would Abolish Selective Service Registration And War

Yesterday’s approval in the House of Representatives of a bill requiring women ages 18-26 to register for the selective service is forcing a much-needed conversation on gender equality in matters of war and combat.

Our daughters as well as sons have an equal right and responsibility to serve our nation and our world. And now they have an equal opportunity to – potentially – be called out of their lives for the sake of unlearning all we try to teach them about respecting the dignity and humanity of others. They have the chance to be shipped far away to render parents childless and orphan children. With our sons, they will share the prospect of being wounded in mind, body and soul. They will be able to serve – in the form of wreaking devastation and desperation and bringing an already delicate planet closer to the brink of destruction – until they come home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and contemplate or succeed in taking their own lives, if they come home at all.

This is not the kind of equality I dreamed for my daughters.

And I admit, it would have been on my radar a lot sooner if I had sons.

I’ve long felt an urgency to end war. Besides being immoral, unconscionable, and deadly, it is also wrecking our world. Our military has the world’s largest carbon footprint, and its damage is compounded by the fact that, in destroying land, lives, and dignity, it also eliminates the trust and good will necessary for all people to come together and save this sinking ship that is our planet. As much as I know this, as much as I center my vocation on this knowledge, it is still hard for me to imagine myself or my family being an immediate victim of climate change or a terrorist attack on US soil… although our war-making abroad makes both of those scenarios a more likely possibility than they would otherwise be. But the urgency has become intensely personal with the specter of the draft looming over my daughters. It was never acceptable for that specter to loom over anyone’s son, either. And as we begin to hold conversations about what it means not only to allow but to potentially force women into combat, we also need to talk about what it means for men.  This legislation brings attention to the need for our nation as a whole to consider what it means to require preparation for war as if war is a necessity, instead of a crime, a burden, and the ultimate evil.

Many women are echoing the sentiment of Rep. Jackie Speier, who lauds this legislation as a crucial step toward equality, arguing, “I actually think that if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription.” Yet equality – not only among the genders, but among all distinctions of people, is radically diminished by violence and war. Sending more people into war – women or men — simply undermines the humanity of more people, reduces the compassion of more people, and diverts more resources from food, education, housing, medicine, and aiding the poor, into the pockets of profiteers.

There is a direct connection between violence against those labeled enemy others and violence against one’s own friends and family. How could it be otherwise, when people are trained to hate and be hated, when they are broken down in basic training to make it easier to kill and risk being killed? As David Swanson writes in War Is A Lie, “This is why drill sergeants are pseudo-evil toward trainees. They are inoculating them, conditioning them to face, handle, and believe they can survive the wind of hate.” That wind of hate batters and erodes not only the souls of soldiers, but also their relationships.  Domestic abuse is so common in the military that the Department of Defense treats it with specific concern. The Pentagon estimates that approximately one in three women in the military are sexually assaulted, and while the percentage of women victimized might go down as the number of women serving goes up, the total number of women victimized is sure to increase. The idea that rape in the military might go down as the normalcy of women in the military increases is belied by the fact that more men than women are victims of rape in the military, as well as the fact that violence perpetuates itself not only between people, but in the souls of those who wage it as well. While women must already be vigilant against sexual assault anywhere, the dehumanizing nature of the military can foster sexual as well as mental and physical violence. The notion that conscripting women would improve our treatment is ludicrous. Forcing women into military service would harm women. Of course, it would equally harm men.

Some are quick to say that such a measure is merely symbolic, as the United States has not used a draft in over 40 years. Yet with the United States waging wars designed for perpetuity all over the globe, the reinstatement of the draft is a realistic prospect. Consider the fact that the measure to conscript women was folded into a bill to increase military spending and improve combat readiness, despite the fact that we already spend more on our military than all the other nations and more than the next 8 nations combined. No matter how much war we wage, we seem constantly preparing to wage more, and indeed, the more war we wage, the more aggression against us (and within nations we destabilize) increases, creating a pretext for more war. The idea that we will need more fighters in the future than are willing to volunteer is guaranteed if we continue this trajectory. The de-facto poverty draft may fill the need of a legal draft for a while, but probably not forever.

Perhaps this is why a much better path toward true equality between men and women is hardly ever considered. Instead of conscripting women, why not eliminate required registration for the draft all together? The answer is that though we have an all-volunteer military, we are conditioned to think that a draft might be necessary one day because war is inevitable and sometimes required for the greater good. But this line of thinking is fatally flawed, and the creativity, wisdom and imagination it takes to envision a nation and a world without war is needed in equal measure from women and men. Eliminating preparations for war and war itself is not only necessary for continued life on this planet, it is critical to changing the violent mindset of humanity that keeps not only genders, but also races and classes and nations and ideologies, divided.

Some people consider universal conscription for women as well as men to be a testimony to women’s strength. Yet the strength our world needs right now and evermore is the strength to love, the strength to forgive, the strength to reconcile, and the strength to repair a war-wasted world. Women and men alike have that strength, and the time to draw upon it is now.

 

Image: Screenshot from Youtube: “New Bill Would Require Women to Register for the Draft” by wochit News

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Trump’s Man Card Is Self-Loathing Hatred

Earlier in the week, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of playing the “woman card.” It’s a bit hypocrital, don’t you think?

I mean, nobody plays the gender card better than Donald Trump. He is the stereotypical male – and he’s loud about it. For Trump, to be male is to win so much that you’ll get sick of winning. He talks down to Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, all while saying, “Oh but the women love me!” Do you remember what he said about Fiorina’s face? “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” He boasts about defeating his male rivals. And do you remember one of the many low points in his campaign when he defended the size of his “hands“? Trump plays the man card more than anyone.

More than anyone except for maybe one group – internet trolls. I recently heard a story on “This American Life” about Lindy West, an author and former columnist for Jezebel. West writes with an honest passion about herself, especially about how she came to accept her body. She’s overweight and has worked through self-esteem issues. She now joyfully accepts herself for who she is.

Men viciously trolled her social media accounts. One man went so far as to create a false Twitter account of West’s recently deceased father. The man googled West’s family and filled the fake Twitter account with information about her father and siblings. Pretending to be her father, this troll tweeted that he was ashamed of Lindy.

Of course, West was hurt by the harmful tweets. She wrote an article about her deceased father’s twitter account and how much pain it caused her. The man who created the false Twitter account read her article and felt a sense of guilt for his actions. He emailed West, apologizing for his harmful tweets. Then they talked over the phone. In their recorded conversation, West asked the man why he trolled her. His response was stunning. He told West that he was overweight, too, but could never accept himself. In fact, he hated himself, and so projected his self-hatred onto her with tweets that seemed strong and aggressive, but stemmed from self-loathing hatred. As René Girard wrote in his book Resurrection from the Underground, “At the source of the hatred of the Other is the hatred of the Self.”

Trump and this troll are essentially the same. They are run by self-hatred. In order to deal with the hatred that plagues their lives, they play their “man card” by demeaning women. They act macho. They claim to be more powerful than they are because deep down they know they lack meaning in their lives. And, like most of us men, they have never been taught how to play the card that will help them manage their self-hatred, so they project their hatred onto women.

There is one difference between Trump and the troll. The troll became more of a man when he apologized for being a jerk. In apologizing, he found a little more self-acceptance.

The humble ability to say I’m sorry. That’s one of the most important cards men need in our deck.

Image: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton During United States Presidential Elections 2016, Wikimedia Commons.

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Let’s Make America Meh

Donald Trump wants to “Make America Great Again.” Hillary Clinton claims America has never stopped being great. But maybe we should just try to make America meh.

Here’s a question, how do we define American greatness? In politics, American greatness is usually described in comparison with other nations. This comparison is part of human nature. As René Girard states in his masterful book on human social dynamics called Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, to be human is to have a tendency “to compare oneself with others.”

What’s true on the personal level is also true on the national level. Historically, the United States has compared our greatness to other nations – England, France, China, Germany, and Russia, for example. But now we also compare ourselves to terrorist organizations. Our greatness as a nation is being defined by our ability to destroy al-Qaeda and ISIS.

To make America meh would be to stop defining our “greatness” in comparison with other nations. On an individual and national level, comparing ourselves with others leads to relationships of constant and escalating rivalry.

Many of us are addicted to that rivalry. We gain a sense of “greatness” by being against our enemies. But that’s a false sense of greatness. It may give us a temporary high, a sense of meaning in our lives, but we will always need another fix, another enemy to be against.

True greatness isn’t formed in a relationship against our enemies. Rather, true greatness is formed in a relationship with our enemies. Or, as Jesus put it, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

When we are addicted to rivalry with our enemies, loving them might give us a sense of meh. Or, even worse, some may claim that Jesus’ command to love our enemies is naïve. But in an age where weapons of mass destruction can be obtained by almost anyone, it’s naïve to think relationships of escalating rivalry will make us safe.

Girard ends his book The Scapegoat with this apocalyptic warning, “The time has come for us to forgive one another. If we wait any longer there will not be time enough.”

Love? Forgiveness? They might make us feel pretty meh. But at this point in human history, they are our greatest hope.

Image: Flickr, Donkey Hotey, Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump – Caricatures, Creative Commons License, some changes made.

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Making A Change For Peace

If you have visited our Facebook page recently you know that we have not been shy about announcing that a change was coming to the Raven Foundation. Well, here it is! The change is a snazzy new header for our homepage. From now on our blog site will be called “The Raven ReView” and it comes with a new tagline, “Change your view. Change the world.”

We hope you like the change. Our idea was to give our homepage an easily recognizable identity as a blog site that provides mind-blowing commentary on a wide range of issues. Our mission is to shift people’s perspective on violence, scapegoating and the things that make for peace. Changing our view on who and what the obstacles to peace are is the surest way to give peace a fighting chance (pun intended!).

The Change Game

Changing the header was easy. Changing our view, that has always been a bit trickier. Because when we think about making the world a better place, a safer place, a more peaceful place our minds immediately turn to an ancient formula: seek out and destroy the scoundrels who are the obstacles to change we seek. That has been the strategy of politicians, generals, power brokers and strong men across time and place.

“Change” is a familiar campaign slogan, as we are all painfully aware right now. But when politicians call for change, all they want is to change places with the person currently in power. Nothing actually changes except the name on the door because no matter their political party or status as an insider or outsider, they all subscribe to the ancient formula of destroying the scoundrels who stand in their way.

Too harsh? I’m afraid not. I can offer as evidence a very simple proof. It has to do with the words politicians use to talk about violence – words we too often accept without question. When violence is being used against us, our leaders use words like aggressive, unprovoked, unlawful, barbaric. However, when the violence is being deployed by us against someone else, we all too willingly agree to use words like necessary, just, defensive, lawful, moral duty. What we conceal by this word play is that we are involved in a dangerous game in which good people will continue to see violence – their violence – as good and necessary while continuing in all sincerity to condemn the violence of their enemies.

The Game Changer

Here’s the catch: Everyone, even the rotten scoundrels we love to hate, thinks of themselves and their cause as good! It’s only in the movies where the enemies of good self-identify as bad! You see, violence is not a problem caused by bad people. Quite the contrary. Violence is a problem because people are so completely convinced of their own goodness that they – we – do bad things without qualms, moral ambiguity or remorse.

Which is why our new header wisely proclaims that if you want to change the world, you need to change your view. And we are not talking about a change of scenery out your window! We are talking about changing your view of your violence as good. If we want to start playing a different game, one that makes peace a real possibility here and now, we need to recognize that our perception of ourselves as good people blinds us to the ways in which we have instigated and provoked violence and in the process become the very obstacles to peace we are seeking to overcome.

René Girard, the founder of the theory of violence which guides our work here at Raven, helped us to understand that in this moment in history humanity faces a terrible alternative: either good people will renounce their use of violence or we will be the authors of our own destruction. Bad guys don’t control our destiny; we do.

Image: Stock Vector by Mihai Maxim via 123rf.com. Quote by Mahatma Gandhi.

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Creating Resilient Communities

“Conflict happens in isolation.”

Wow, that’s it. A sense of awareness ignited as I listened to Kristin Famula, president of the National Peace Academy, make this seldom-acknowledged observation. When we feel wronged, violated, disrespected, suddenly we’re alone with our careening emotions.

Indeed, this is what makes it a “conflict”: the fact that we can’t see beyond the rage, the sense of injury, the wrongness of what has happened. It may last only a moment or two, after which we put the situation in perspective or, at the very least, shrug it off and move on. But perhaps the situation is ongoing, or the wrong was inexcusably offensive — and we can’t let go of it.

Maybe the aloneness we feel is what’s worst about the whole situation. We’re alone with our own intolerable emotions, reduced to fight-or-flight thinking, unable to address the matter beyond the perceptions of our reptile brain. And the only resolution we can imagine is a counterattack — no matter that, most likely, this will only aggravate, intensify and prolong the problem. And it will leave us feeling just as isolated.

But what else are we supposed to do?

This question strikes me as indicative of the stalled state of our world, especially when we expand the hypothetical conflict situation beyond the personal. Imagine protesters in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., confronting a wall of helmeted, billyclub-wielding police officers. Imagine a boatload of desperate immigrants facing a mob of angry nationals telling them to go back home. Imagine a national leader in the wake of a terrorist attack, facing what he (or she) imagines to be evil itself . . . and wondering whom he should bomb.

Conflict happens in isolation — isolation from our larger consciousness. But the thing is, we have enormous resources for the sane and even productive handling of conflict, mostly, alas, under the social radar. The stories we tell ourselves — the movies and TV shows we watch, the pseudo-news we absorb in the media — are primarily about the consequence-free triumph of good violence over bad violence, and the endless necessity to stay on the aggressive defensive against our enemies. The “next war” is inevitable. And peace is simply the lull between wars.

But real peace — positive peace, which transcends violence and turns conflict into opportunity — is and always has been part of who we are as well. We know a lot more about how to create peace than we think we do. We’re perfectly capable of transcending violent solutions to our troubles and building a sustainable future. The first step is to take our conflicts out of isolation.

And it is in this context that I reintroduce the National Peace Academy, which came into being in the wake of a conference at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland seven years ago, and since then has been in the process of creating partnerships, facilitating workshops and quietly helping to expand the American and global culture of peace.

Last week, the NPA took a crucial step in its becoming. It has established a partnership with George Mason University, near Washington, D.C., and will become part of the university’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, the oldest peace studies program in the country.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 6, the university opened Point of View, “a peacebuilding research and conference center in Lorton, Virginia, dedicated to teaching and learning, research, and a commitment to engagement and practice,” according to the NPA’s news release. The Peace Academy, as part of the peacebuilding center, plans soon to break ground on its own facility at Point of View, the Elise Boulding National Peace Academy House, a residence, according to the press release, that “will allow for on-site peacebuilding training, conflict resolution, dialogue, and more.”

Speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer of Virginia said of Point of View: “This unique human resource . . . is part of the new geography of hope.”

I see it as the concept of peace claiming realness.

“There are good people out there doing (peace) work already, but they’re not always connected,” Kristin Famula told me the other day. NPA’s role is to bring these people together and “deepen the impact.”

More specifically: The vision, Famula said, is to establish a center where parties involved in serious conflict — think Ferguson residents and the police — can come together to address the situation in a context capable of acknowledging and valuing all points of view and committed to finding a solution that transcends the problem.

“Envision having access to a wealth of people who can help do research and thinking about this,” she said. “Conflict happens in isolation” — but the vision is to create the infrastructure for putting even the biggest, thorniest social conflicts into a healing context.

Dot Maver, NPA co-founder and former president, said of the academy’s partnership with George Mason University — which resulted from her connection with Kevin Avruch, dean of the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution — that it will “provide necessary connective tissue to help create . . . safe and resilient communities.” Indeed, NPA’s mission includes “helping communities become trauma-resilient.”

To which I cry hallelujah! It may not be obvious, but we are moving beyond a domination- and punishment-based social structure. Creating resilient communities, providing the resources that can take conflict out of isolation and put it into a constructive context, strike me as a crucial step in our social evolution.

More than 90 years ago, social visionary and management consultant Mary Parker-Follett wrote:

As conflict — difference — is here in the world, as we cannot avoid it, we should, I think, use it. Instead of condemning it, we should set it to work for us. . . . The transmission of power by belts depends on friction between the belt and the pulley. The friction between the driving wheel of the locomotive and the track is necessary to haul the train. All polishing is done by friction. The music of the violin we get by friction.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2016 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.

Image: “Give Peace A Chance” by Jimpg2_2015. Image available on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Change is coming! Be sure to enter the random drawing to win a $50 gift card at the online store Ten Thousand Villages. For 65 years, Ten Thousand Villages has been a leader in the fair trade movement, connecting artisans in developing countries with markets in North America. Every dollar spent on their site helps a family in poverty build a sustainable future. Visit Raven on April 15 to see what’s new on our site and to find out the winner of the drawing.

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Quiz 5: People on the Move — The European Problem

Over the last 2 years, about one and a half million migrants have sought asylum in Europe. Who are these people and why are they on the move? Is it possible that terrorists are hiding among them? This is a tough issue, for sure. Thank goodness it’s a “European” problem, right? But before you agree that it’s not our problem, too, test your knowledge of this difficult issue.

• One and a half million refugees represent less than 0.3% of the total population of Europe. True or False

• 80% of the migrants come from three countries at war in which Western nations are actively engaged: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. True or False

• It’s believed that 10,000 unaccompanied children have fallen victims to human traffickers since they entered Europe and are being exploited as illegal underage workers and in the sex trade. True or False

• The family movie, Paddington, offers powerful insights into how to calm our fears and think more clearly about the risks and rewards of welcoming foreigners into our midst. True or False

Change Your View: You may have already guessed that all the statements are true. We chose to highlight these facts because they are not usually included as part of the debate about how to respond to the migrant crisis. In fact, if you think about that first fact, that the refugees represent only three tenths of one percent of the European population, the term “crisis” may not even apply.

If you want a new way to think about this problem, take a look at Paddington the movie. The writer and director, Paul King, doesn’t deny that there are risks, but his movie focuses our attention on the rewards of welcoming strangers. Paddington shows us what happens to the Brown family when they overcome their fears to welcome the bear from darkest Peru into their home and hearts. They discover that shutting ourselves off from strangers has the odd effect of diminishing all our relationships. When Suzanne Ross interviewed him about the movie, King said, “Letting a little bit of danger into your life, and a little bit of the unknown, can be enriching.”

Sure, it’s easy to have a happy ending in a movie, but to change the world you must believe that happy endings are possible. If you don’t believe that, you won’t work toward one. As Mr. Brown, the nervous risk analyst, says at the end of the movie, “It doesn’t matter that Paddington comes from the other side of the world, or that he’s a different species, or that he has a worrying marmalade habit. We love Paddington. And that makes him family”. To change the world we must believe that it’s possible to expand the boundaries of our family with some effort, a bit of risk taking, and a generous helping of love.

Image: “Syrian Refugees” by Freedom House. Public Domain via Flickr.

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Change is coming! Be sure to enter the random drawing to win a $50 gift card at the online store Ten Thousand Villages. For 65 years, Ten Thousand Villages has been a leader in the fair trade movement, connecting artisans in developing countries with markets in North America. Every dollar spent on their site helps a family in poverty build a sustainable future. Visit Raven on April 15 to see what’s new on our site and to find out the winner of the drawing.

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Blood Stains: Rituals of Recovery in “The Women of Lockerbie”

“The clothes are contaminated. They’re covered in blood.” – The Women of Lockerbie, Deborah Brevoort

“He was about to make great sacrifice when his own herald Lichas came from home bearing your gift to him, the robe of death.” – The Women of Trachis, Sophocles

“Ritualistic action… has only one axiom: the contagious nature of the violence encountered by the warrior in battle – and only one prescription: the proper performance of ritual purification. Its sole purpose is to prevent the resurgence of violence and its spread throughout the community.” – Violence and the Sacred, René Girard

 

In her play about a modern tragedy, Deborah Brevoort deliberately evokes the ancient Greek dramatists. In fact, she takes them as her model for the structure of her play, employing a chorus of women, poetry, odes and even a section called “The Agon.” Agon is the root for agony and it refers to a dramatic contest between main characters vying to outdo each other. It’s the verbal equivalent of physical combat and it can be as agonizing to witness as a bloody battlefield, and the outcome just as lethal.

When terrorists blew up a plane over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, violence invaded like a trespasser, transgressing the peace, disrupting the rituals of daily life. People were going about the mundane things we do without thinking much about them when the plane exploded, dropping bloodied debris and severed body parts on a small town. The characters in the play tell us that washing clothes, cooking, mopping the floor, running errands – all were contaminated by shock and horror.

Loss, grief and recovery are part of this story, and though the play has provided many opportunities for the exploration of psychological issues such as these, I do not think that they are Brevoort’s chief concern. She takes us into the deeper, cultural shock that is the scandal of violence invading our mundane lives. This is the concern of Greek tragedy and her play offers us an opportunity to bring into consciousness something that was all too present in the ancient world: the contagion of violence.

In the days of Greek tragedy, the violence played out on battlefields far from home. Warriors returned with spirits stained by blood letting. Rituals designed for decontamination were performed with care because violence is contagious, liable to spread and infect an entire community. Warriors must be cleansed, their hearts purified, and this happened around sacrificial altars. Holocausts were offered to the gods, blood was properly spilled to cauterize the soul of the warrior so that no more blood would be spilled by his hand.

But rituals meant to purify the warrior sometimes went awry. The ritual fires, if they failed to cleanse the violence and madness, could instead rouse them to a fever pitch. That danger, always hovering over the sacrificial flames, is the subject of a play by Sophocles, with a title that echoes our own, The Women of Trachis. In Sophocles’ play, the warrior Heracles performs his duty, making a sacrifice of a bull to the gods that is required of all returning warriors before they can reenter daily life and cross the threshold into their homes. Unwittingly, Heracles has been given a gift stained with the blood of a creature he killed long ago, a tunic that becomes an instrument of revenge. The sacrificial fires that were meant to cleanse him of the blood of his victims activate a victim’s blood instead and consume him in an agonizing death.

Brevoort takes great care in her drama to make us aware that there are risks involved in rituals of cleansing. The central image, one that brings Heracles’ fate to mind, is that of 11,000 pieces of contaminated clothing from the airplane that were collected as part of the recovery effort. They have been waiting for seven years on the Shelves of Sorrow, hermetically sealed like the highly contagious objects they are. Now the decision must be made whether to incinerate them, as the authorities desire, or return them to the families of the victims as the women of Lockerbie desire. Contact with the blood stained garments could open wounds or cauterize them – which will it be?

With an ancient sensibility worthy of Sophocles, Brevoort draws audiences into the search for a ritual cure to the risks posed by close proximity to violence. AstonRep has brought this remarkable play to Chicago, a long overdue opportunity for audiences here to bear witness to the fate of the Women of Lockerbie.

If you are in the Chicago area, join Suzanne Ross, director Robert Tobin and cast members for a post show discussion at The Raven Theater on April 24. Tickets available here.

Image: The Women of Lockerbie

Change is coming! Be sure to enter the random drawing to win a $50 gift card at the online store Ten Thousand Villages. For 65 years, Ten Thousand Villages has been a leader in the fair trade movement, connecting artisans in developing countries with markets in North America. Every dollar spent on their site helps a family in poverty build a sustainable future. Visit Raven on April 15 to see what’s new on our site and to find out the winner of the drawing.

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Quiz #3: Who’s the Terrorist?

We all know who the terrorists are, don’t we? I mean, isn’t it obvious? Those evil people who indiscriminately kill innocent civilians, justifying it in the name of some greater good, but we know their “greater good” is just plain evil.

Many in the United States are afraid of the next terrorist attack on US soil. We fear that terrorists “out there” are trying desperately to get into the US in order to destroy our way of life, including our sense of safety and security. And so we feel that we must keep the terrorists out! Here’s a little true or false quiz that may change your view:

  • Since 9/11, the United States has accepted 784,000 refugees. During that time, three refugees were arrested for attempting to plot terrorist activities – and two of those three refugees were falsely accused.
  • Jihadist attacks from 2005-2015 years have killed 24 people (if you add extremists it goes up to 71) whereas in the same time there have been 301,797 gun deaths.
  • 2,996 people were tragically killed on 9/11. In response, the United States enacted the War on Terror, which has killed a conservative estimate of 3 million people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
  • Drone strikes kill far more than their intended targets. In one 5-month period between 2012 and 2013, nearly 90% of American drone strikes in Afghanistan killed people they were not intended to kill, including civilian guests at a wedding party.

Change Your View: If you answered true to all of those questions, you would be correct. Of course, we mourn all deaths at the hands of terrorism. To change our view is to recognize that though we denounce their terrorist actions, we rarely see our own acts of violence as terrorism.

That’s because we hide from the truth that our own violence terrorizes our victims. All humans think that their violence is good and just, while their enemy’s violence is evil and full of terror. In other words, nobody thinks their use of violence is evil; rather, we all view our violence as a just means to a just end.

But what if we changed our view? What if we began to realize the truth that all violence is an act that terrorizes? We might realize that all acts of violence, including our own, lead to a cycle of retributive violence that will continue to terrorize the world. If we changed our view, we would be much more critical of terrorism, especially our own.

Image: “Stop Terrorism” by bykst. Public Domain via Pixabay

Change is coming! Be sure to enter the random drawing to win a $50 gift card at the online store Ten Thousand Villages. For 65 years, Ten Thousand Villages has been a leader in the fair trade movement, connecting artisans in developing countries with markets in North America. Every dollar spent on their site helps a family in poverty build a sustainable future. Visit Raven on April 15 to see what’s new on our site and to find out the winner of the drawing.

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Quiz 1: Criminal or Victim? You Decide.

Dear Readers,

As we renew our campaign for peace and prepare for changes to our website, we are aware that there is no peace without full inclusion and engagement. For the next 2 weeks, we are eager to engage our readers in dialogue with quizzes and political cartoons aimed at stimulating conversation and provoking thought.

Our first quiz is designed to help us think about issues relating to immigration, asylum, security and citizenship.

Imagine you are an immigration judge at the South Texas Family Residential Center. Your case is a woman with four children who all crossed illegally into the US at the Mexican border with nearly 2,000 other “asylum seekers” in the summer of 2014. She claims that she is on the run from gang and drug violence in Guatemala. You’ve heard it all before. You know that violent gangs control more than half of the territory of Guatemala but you need to decide whether to grant her and her children asylum or deport them back home. Which of the following reasons would convince you to grant her asylum?

* Her husband was murdered by a gang of drug dealers.

* Gangs are targeting her sons, trying to recruit them into the illegal drug trade.

* Gang members are threatening her and her daughters with sexual violence.

* You would grant her asylum for any one of those reasons

* None of those reasons are enough for you to grant her asylum

Change Your View: What’s a good enough reason to grant someone asylum in the US? What should our policy be when it comes to people who claim to be in danger and need our help? Those who worry about security here at home want to err on the side of caution and send border crossers back where they came from, no matter what can be verified about the risks they face back home. They fear that these people are criminals, murderers, rapists, economic opportunists and freeloaders. At the very least, they have been caught breaking the law by illegally crossing the border. As Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security secretary, says, “Our borders are not open to illegal migration… individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed.”

Current US policy is to round up, detain and then deport women and children who have crossed illegally into the US. But are they deserving of asylum? Asylum officials think so: As of the end of 2015, more than 80% of the mothers held at the two family detention centers in Texas passed an initial interview with an asylum official. Yet of the 905 cases of parents with children caught at the border and held in detention centers, 80% or 726 cases, ended in deportation. What’s going on?

The truth is that it is not illegal to go to the border of the US and request asylum. Families desperately seeking relief from threats of violence do it all the time. There’s a famous case you may have heard of because it’s been in the news recently. It seems that like today’s asylum seekers, Ann Frank’s father, Otto, repeatedly applied for visas to protect his family from threats of violence. He was repeatedly denied because the immigration rules at the time reflected the fear that anyone with family in Germany, like the Franks, could be German spies. We have all been moved to tears by Ann’s death in a Nazi concentration camp at age 15. If the US had granted her family asylum, her fate would have been so different.

Like the Frank family, the families who are arriving at our borders now are not murderers; they are victims and potential victims of murderous violence. This is why we are not only urging you to change your view, but to join us in helping them get the legal representation they need to avoid being returned to dangerous conflict zones. For every new follower on the Raven Foundation Facebook page, we will donate $1 to the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, up to a total of $500. Please share the word about CARA and our Facebook campaign. America is at her best when she opens her doors to help those in need. We can do this!

Image: Immigration by alexskopje at 123rf.com

Change is coming! Be sure to enter the random drawing to win a $50 gift card at the online store Ten Thousand Villages. For 65 years, Ten Thousand Villages has been a leader in the fair trade movement, connecting artisans in developing countries with markets in North America. Every dollar spent on their site helps a family in poverty build a sustainable future. Visit Raven on April 15 to see what’s new on our site and to find out the winner of the drawing.

Refugees look on

“Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” Abandoned for Forced Asylum

Editor’s Note: Kathy Kelly and her colleagues are peacemakers who travel to some of the world’s deadliest or most impoverished places. Kathy herself has been to prison numerous times for nonviolently resisting the United States Empire. While mimetic theory may not be mentioned explicitly in the articles that Kathy Kelly submits on behalf of herself and her friends, the articles she shares with the Raven Foundation give voice to the victims of the policies of the United States and her allies. Amplifying the voices of victims, exposing our entanglement with sacrificial systems of violence, and working for nonviolent resolution to conflict and reconciliation among all parties are among our primary goals at Raven, and we are honored to have Kathy and her colleagues share their stories of peacemaking and nonviolent advocacy for justice on our site.

This article is by Maya Evans, coordinator of Voices For Creative Nonviolence UK. It has been previously published in various media outlets.

This month, French authorities (supported and funded by the UK government to the current balance of £62 million) [1] have been demolishing the ‘Jungle,’ a toxic wasteland on the edge of Calais. Formerly a landfill site, 4 km² it is now populated by approximately 5,000 refugees who have been pushed there over the past year. A remarkable community of 15 nationalities adhering to various faiths comprises the Jungle. Residents have formed a network of shops and restaurants which, along with hamams and barber shops, contribute to a micro-economy within the encampment. Community infrastructure now includes schools, mosques, churches and clinics.

Afghans, numbering approximately 1,000, constitute the largest national group. Among this group are people from each of the main ethnicities in Afghanistan:  Pashtoons, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks. The Jungle is an impressive example of how people from different nationalities and ethnicities can live together in relative harmony, despite oppressive hardship and infringement of universal rights and civil liberties. Arguments and scuffles sometimes break out, but they’re normally catalysed by French authorities or traffickers.

Earlier this month Teresa May won a significant battle to restart flights deporting Afghans back to Kabul, on the grounds that it is now safe to return to the capital city. [2]

Just 3 months ago I sat in the Kabul office of ‘Stop Deportation to Afghanistan.’ [3] Sunlight poured through the window like golden syrup on a top floor apartment, the city of Kabul shrouded in dust splayed out like a postcard. The organisation is a support group run by Abdul Ghafoor, a Pakistan-born Afghan who spent 5 years in Norway, only to be deported to Afghanistan, a country he had previously never visited. Ghafoor told me about a meeting he had recently attended with Afghan government ministers and NGOs – he laughed as he described how the non-Afghan NGO workers arrived at the armed compound wearing bullet proof vests and helmets, and yet Kabul has been deemed a safe space for returning refugees.  The hypocrisy and double standards would be a joke if the upshot was not so unfair. On one hand you have foreign embassy staff being airlifted (for security reasons) [4] by helicopter within the city of Kabul, and on the other you have various European governments saying it’s safe for thousands of refugees to return to Kabul.

In 2015, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 11,002 civilian casualties (3,545 deaths and, 7,457 injured) exceeding the previous record in 2014 [5].

Having visited Kabul 8 times in the last 5 years, I’ve been acutely aware that security within the city has drastically declined. As a foreigner I no longer take walks longer than 5 minutes, day trips to the beautiful Panjshir Valley or the Qarga lake are now considered too risky. Word on the Kabul streets is that the Taliban are strong enough to take the city but can’t be bothered with the hassle of running it; meanwhile independent ISIS cells have established a foothold [6]. I regularly hear that Afghan life today is less secure than it was under the Taliban, 14 years of US/NATO-backed war has been a disaster.

Back in the Jungle, north France, 21 miles from the British isles, around 1,000 Afghans dream of a safe life in Britain. Some have previously lived in Britain, others have family in the UK, many have worked with the British military or NGOs. Emotions are manipulated by traffickers who describe the streets of Britain as paved with gold. Many refugees are discouraged by the treatment they’ve received in France where they’ve been subjected to police brutality and attacks by far-right thugs. For various reasons they feel the best chance of a peaceful life is in Britain. Deliberate exclusion from the UK just makes the prospect even more desirable. Certainly the fact that Britain has agreed to take only 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5 years [7], and overall the UK is taking 60 refugees per 1,000 of the local population who claimed asylum in 2015, compared to Germany which is taking 587 [8], has played into the dream that Britain is the land of exclusive opportunity.

I spoke with Afghan community leader Sohail, who said: “I love my country, I want to go back and live there, but it’s just not safe and we have no opportunity to live. Look at all the businesses in the Jungle, we have talents, we just need the opportunity to use them”. This conversation happened in the Kabul Café, one of the social hotspots in the Jungle, just one day before the area was set ablaze, the whole south high street of shops and restaurants razed to the ground. After the fire, I spoke with the same Afghan community leader. We stood amid the demolished ruins where we had drunk tea in the Kabul café. He feels deeply saddened by the destruction. “Why did the authorities put us here, let us build a life and then destroy it?”

Two weeks ago the south part of the Jungle was demolished: hundreds of shelters were burnt or bulldozed leaving some 3,500 refugees with nowhere to go [9]. The French authorities now want to move onto the north part of the camp with the aim of rehousing most refugees within white fishing crate containers, many of which are already set up in the Jungle, and currently accommodate 1,900 refugees. Each container houses 12 people, there’s little privacy, and sleeping times are determined by your ‘crate mates’ and their mobile phone habits.  More alarmingly, a refugee is required to register with French authorities. This includes having your finger prints digitally recorded; in effect, it’s the first step into forced French asylum.

The British government has consistently used the Dublin Regulations [10] as legal grounds for not taking its equal quota of refugees. These regulations prescribe that refugees should seek asylum in the first safe country they land in. However, that regulation is now simply impractical. If it was properly enforced, Turkey, Italy and Greece would be left to accommodate the millions of refugees.

Many refugees are requesting for a UK asylum centre within the Jungle, giving them the ability to start the process for asylum in Britain. The reality of the situation is that refugee camps like the Jungle are not stopping people from actually entering the UK. In fact these blights on human rights are reinforcing illegal and harmful industries such as trafficking, prostitution and drug smuggling. European refugee camps are playing into the hands of human traffickers; one Afghan told me that , the current going rate to be smuggled into the UK is now around €10,000  [11], the price having doubled over the last few months. Setting up a UK asylum centre would also remove the violence which often occurs between truck drivers and refugees, as well as tragic and fatal accidents which come about during transit into the UK. It’s perfectly possible to have the same number of refugees entering the UK via legal means as there are by the ones which exist today.

The south part of the camp now stands desolate, burnt to the ground other than for a few social amenities. An icy wind whips across the expanse of littered wasteland. Debris flaps in the breeze, a sad combination of rubbish and charred personal belongings. French riot police used tear gas, water canons and rubber bullets to aid the demolition. Currently there’s a stalemate situation wherein some NGOs and volunteers are reluctant to rebuild homes and constructions which might quickly be demolished by French authorities.

The Jungle represents incredible human ingenuity and entrepreneurial energy exhibited by refugees and the volunteers who have poured their lives into making a community to be proud of; simultaneously it’s a shocking and shameful reflection of the decline in European human rights and infrastructure, where people who flee for their lives are forced to inhabit communal crate containers, a form of indefinite detention. Unofficial comments made by a representative of the French authorities indicates a possible future policy whereby refugees who choose to remain outside of the system, opting either to be homeless or not to register, could potentially face imprisonment for up to 2 years.

France and Britain are currently shaping their immigration policy. It is especially disastrous for France, with a constitution founded on “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”, to base that policy on demolishing temporary homes, excluding and incarcerating refugees, and forcing refugees into unwanted asylum. By giving people the right to choose their country of asylum, assisting with basic needs such as accommodation and food, responding with humanity rather than suppression, the State will be enabling the best possible practical solution, as well as complying with international human rights laws set down to protect the safety and rights of everyone in the world today.

—–References—-

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/david-cameron-uk-give-france-20-million-to-stop-calais-migrants-refugees-reaching-england-a6908991.html
[2]
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugee-crisis-afghanistan-ruled-safe-enough-to-deport-asylum-seekers-from-uk-a6910246.html
[3] https://kabulblogs.wordpress.com/
[4]
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/world/asia/life-pulls-back-in-afghan-capital-as-danger-rises-and-troops-recede.html?_r=1
[5] https://unama.unmissions.org/civilian-casualties-hit-new-high-2015
[6]
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/07/taliban-young-recruits-isis-afghanistan-jihadis-islamic-state
[7]
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/07/uk-will-accept-up-to-20000-syrian-refugees-david-cameron-confirms
[8] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911
[9] http://www.vox.com/2016/3/8/11180232/jungle-calais-refugee-camp
[10]
http://www.ecre.org/topics/areas-of-work/protection-in-europe/10-dublin-regulation.html
[11]
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/peoplesmuggler-gangs-exploit-new-route-to-britain-from-dunkirk/news-story1ff6e01f22b02044b67028bc01e3e5c0
—-end—-

Maya Evans coordinates Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK. She has visited Kabul 8 times in the last 5 years where she works in solidarity with young Afghan peace makers.

Image: Submitted with article.

Change is coming! Be sure to enter the random drawing to win a $50 gift card at the online store Ten Thousand Villages. For 65 years, Ten Thousand Villages has been a leader in the fair trade movement, connecting artisans in developing countries with markets in North America. Every dollar spent on their site helps a family in poverty build a sustainable future. Visit Raven on April 15 to see what’s new on our site and to find out the winner of the drawing.