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Craig Wiesner
Craig Wiesner
Craig Wiesner is the co-founder of Reach And Teach, the peace and social justice learning company.

A School by Any Other Name Still Stinks (SOA/WHINSEC)


by: on January 25th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

This morning I received an email from Father Roy Bourgeois, inviting folks to join him on his upcoming delegation to El Salvador in March. His letter sparked some memories which prompted this posting. I’ll share his invitation to El Salvador at the end of this reflection.

The image on the left is the future home of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA), though you wouldn’t know that if you read through the organization’s “history” on its web site.

A little bit about my history first, though.

In 1989, two years after leaving the United States Air Force, I found myself lovingly embraced by a new community of people at First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto. Among the many peace and social justice issues the church was involved with, the congregation had deep connections with Salvadoran refugees during the civil war in El Salvador and had even sent delegations to El Salvador and Honduras during the war to get a feet on the ground view of what was really going on there.

At a potluck gathering one evening I was chatting with a few church folks when someone brought up torture and assassination (not your typical church pot-luck conversation, unless you happen to be a sanctuary church like First Pres.) and how terrible it was that the United States military was training Salvadoran soldiers on how to commit these atrocious acts. “That can’t possibly be true!” I interjected.

During my eight years in the Air Force (1979 – 1987) the message we got about torture and assassination was unambiguous. We were not only absolutely prohibited from participating in such acts but we were required to report any attempt to encourage such actions. Presidents Ford and Carter had issued executive orders including these very clear words: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” And, during the Reagan years while I served as an intelligence analyst and trainer, we were reminded every year that the executive orders were still in effect.

Engaging in assassination or torture were clearly, or so I was taught, violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and anyone who participated in such acts, or who had knowledge of such acts and didn’t report them, would be prosecuted. Period. End of story. Right? Well….. it turns out……


Wonder – A Book That Transforms the World


by: on January 12th, 2013 | Comments Off

WonderWonder – A Book That Transforms the World
Written by R.J. Paclacio
Review by Craig Wiesner / Reach And Teach

It’s okay, I know I’m weird-looking, take a look, I don’t bite. Hey, the truth is, if a wookie started going to school all of a sudden, I’d be curious, I’d probably stare a bit!

When he walked into the room, I couldn’t help myself. I stared, just for a moment. He looked so different from all the other kids in the auditorium. Then, a few teen girls sitting behind me started whispering to each other. “Oh My God… Look at him!” One of them said.


Time to End Indefinite Detention


by: on November 29th, 2012 | Comments Off

KorematsuHaving served in the United States Air Force for eight years, I’m a person who takes the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States quite seriously. I also served in an intelligence role, and our training at the time emphasized the limits under which we operated, limits specifically in place to help protect American citizens, and especially to preserve their freedoms. The idea that our government thinks it can lock an American up based on “suspicion” that he or she somehow “supported” an alleged “terrorist” organization just doesn’t seem very constitutional to me! Yet our current law allows just that. Senator Dianne Feinstein and others in the Senate are trying to do something about indefinite detention and I’m hoping they’ll get enough support from Americans across the political spectrum to remove this affront to freedom from the next Defense Authorization bill. Perhaps they could call it a Korematsu amendment.


Yes Mitt. People do die because they have no health insurance.


by: on October 11th, 2012 | 6 Comments »

On Wednesday October 10th, in a conversation with the editorial board of the Columbus Dispatch, Mitt Romney said “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

Sit with that quote a minute and think.

Really? Beyond knowing in your gut that we do, in fact, have people who die in their apartments, homes, backyards, on the streets, in shelters, at soup kitchens, and in all sorts of places, in part, because they don’t have access to adequate health care, Mitt Romney is missing other parts of the nightmare that is, for 50 million Americans, the reality of not having health insurance.


Conversations Across America: Flagstaff Arizona


by: on October 10th, 2012 | Comments Off

Our friend Julie McDonald is traveling across the country by Greyhound bus to talk to real people about their lives and how their life experiences and current situations are impacting how they feel about the upcoming election.

She had conversations across America by scooter in 2008 and her storytelling from those conversations touched thousands of lives.

Yesterday, Julie watched as mothers put their children onto buses heading to Nogales and then had a conversation about immigration policy with an amazing woman who works at that station every day.

Here’s a link to that story, which includes an amazing audio interview.

I hope once you hear this first interview you’ll decide to follow Julie as she continues her trek across the county, to bring us more stories.

Soulful Citizenship – A Musing by Jim Burklo


by: on October 3rd, 2012 | 1 Comment »

As I was sitting here in our shop, stocking the shelves while Debate Bingo cards print in the background (yes – we’re going to play debate bingo tonight), I spotted a new email from Rev. Jim Burklo, his latest musing. This is one I simply had to share. He starts with the question “How can we put faith into how we vote?” Read on for his answer.


Common Sense: A Musing by Jim Burklo


by: on September 22nd, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Courtesy of Creative Commons / Wikipedia

Mitt Romney’s 47% comments have really been on my mind the last few days. Two things prompted me to post something here today. One, I had a long conversation with a homeless man who came by our shop on Friday. Two, Rev. Jim Burklo shared a new “musing” somewhat inspired by Gov. Romney’s secretly videotaped musings. I’ll share a bit about my Friday conversation, share all of Jim’s musing, and then close with a bit about how it all fits together.

And… in case you’re wondering, the photo to the left is not Rev. Burklo or our homeless friend, it is Thomas Paine. You’ll get the connection when you read Jim’s musing.


Who Is “The Beast?”


by: on September 6th, 2012 | 10 Comments »

As often happens in the evening when my husband Derrick has heard a lot of political rhetoric on the radio or TV (I’m the one really watching or listening – he’s the one trying to do Sudoku to escape it all), Derrick will make one comment that will spark my imagination and get my fingers flying on the keyboard. Last night his quip was that the “beast” conservatives were trying to starve or drown wasn’t government, it was, among many would-be victims, our god-daughter who has Down Syndrome.


Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone – Sharing a New Post by George Lakey about Class War


by: on August 29th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

During one of George Lakey’s train-the-trainer for social activist workshops, people kept mentioning that some tactic or other was a “high-wire” concept for them. After around the third time I heard that, I finally asked “What does she mean by high-wire?” George reached behind him, pulled out a soap box, and explained “What if I told you that I wanted you to take this soap box and walk over to 16th and Mission, stand up on the box, and just start talking to everyone who passes by?” “That would make me very uncomfortable.” I responded. “Why?” “Doing something like that is way out of my comfort zone.” I responded. “Exactly! Teaching is always a balancing act, taking people just enough out of their comfort zones that they learn something. If people are too comfortable, they get bored. If they’re really uncomfortable, they switch off.”

High-wire acts make everyone uncomfortable, especially the person walking on that high-wire, whether he has a safety net below to catch him or not.

Finally understanding what they all meant by “high-wire” I figured we were ready to get back to the discussion we’d been having. Instead, George announced to the group “OK folks, we’re going out to 16th and Mission and each of you is going to get up on this box for five minutes and speak to the people.” And off we went!

This morning, George’s latest posting from Waging Nonviolence appeared in the mail, and it focuses on the reaction people had to a Bill McKibben article in Rolling Stone in which he called for activists to step up the fight against the fossil fuel industry and their role in global warming. Some say that what he’s calling for is “polarizing.” That’s a charge I often hear when folks suggest that we approach a problem in a more direct way than ways in which they are more comfortable. I’d like to share George Lakey’s post below (read more), after which I’ll share a little bit more about what happened on that soap box on 16th and Mission.


A 53 Year-Old’s View of the Upcoming Election (and this 53 year-old is a little scared)


by: on August 14th, 2012 | 22 Comments »

(Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

With Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate, this election has become very personal for me. In this posting, I’d like to share how the field looks from my perspective, using my 53 year-old lens, colored by my life experience and where I am in life right now. And, I think there are a lot more people like me that might want to take a glance at their choices through my lens because I am beginning to agree with the pundits, that this is one of the most important elections in a generation.