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Valerie Elverton-Dixon
Valerie Elverton-Dixon
Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar studying ethics, peace theory, public discourse, and the civil rights movement.

Exodus (the movie) A Passover Maundy Thursday Reflection


by: on March 28th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

When Holy Week and Passover are the same week, the simultaneity reminds us that Jesus was not a Christian. He was a radical Jewish rabbi who called himself the Son of Man, teaching his followers to understand their tradition at its basic purpose – love for God and for all of God’s creation. The Last Supper, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist began as a Passover meal, the purpose of which is to remember Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt. Jesus instructed his disciples to use the table meal to remember him, and he gave a new commandment: Love one another.

Maundy Thursday commemorates this mandate to love. Thus, a Passover Maundy Thursday commemorates liberation and love.

Exodus (the movie)

I became interested in Israel/Palestine when I was a girl, and I saw Otto Preminger’s movie Exodus on television. The fine Paul Newman and the too cute Sal Mineo were fighting for the establishment of a Jewish state so that Jewish refugees from World War II could have a homeland. Their characters were handsome and brave and able to at once fall in love personally and remain committed to a larger cause. Newman, playing Ari Ben Canaan, and Mineo, playing Dov Landau, were the good guys. Dalton Trumbo wrote a screenplay that gives us much to contemplate, even today.


Thoughts on St. Patrick


by: on March 17th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

St. Patrick first came to Ireland as a slave.

He was captured in England at age 16, brought to Ireland, and tended livestock for his master. Like many of us, he questioned the meaning of his life situation. He wanted to understand the meaning of his captivity, and he decided that his enslavement was God’s chastisement. He writes in his confession:

“I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken in captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts nor where we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation.”

Patrick, at least in this text, does not challenge the morality of slavery itself nor denounce the evil of man stealing. He does tell us that he prayed for hours night and day. He fasted. God only knows the content of those prayers. Not unlike enslaved Africans in America, I imagine he prayed for his own liberation. The first thoughts of freedom no doubt came to him as he entered into relationship with transcendence.


Forgiveness: A Presidential Example of Spirituality and Pragmatism


by: on March 13th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

I must confess that forgiveness is difficult for me.

I think about it, speak about it and write about it. (See: http://justpeacetheory.com/files/Thoughts_on_Forgiveness.pdf) When the time comes for me to forgive, I pray the prayer of Jesus on the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 KJV) I pray this prayer until I am able to say inside my own soul: “I forgive.”

President Obama continues his “charm offensive” this week with trips to Congress to speak with members about a compromise on various important issues – the federal budget, immigration, gun control to name a few. On March 6, 2013, President Obama invited a group of Republican senators to dinner at a fancy Washington DC restaurant at his own expense. He wanted to speak with them in an informal setting about how to move forward on various pieces of legislation that would benefit the country. This is the kind of effort that I advocate in my work on just peacemaking. I say that just peace requires the ethics of commensality, the ethics of the table meal where the bread and wine of communion not only help us to remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but also become symbols of sustenance and joy which are the ethical goals of life.

The senators came from the dinner with good things to say about the evening and prospects for a better working relationship with the president. I trust and believe that this will be the beginning of a less toxic atmosphere in Washington, the beginning of a new and better working relationship between the president and Congress.


A Lamentation


by: on December 24th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

O God, do you see this?

I do not ask why an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present God has allowed the tragedy of the mass killings in Newtown Connecticut. I do not ask why 20 children and 8 adults are dead at the intersection of mental illness and semi-automatic assault weapons. God gives human beings free will. So, my cry is a human cry to humanity. The correct question is: why do we allow this?

The National Rifle Association continues to insist that easy access to semi-automatic weapons is not the reason for the series of mass shootings that this nation has witnessed. Their spokespeople claim that culture, mental illness, and not enough guns in schools are responsible for the recent tragedies. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, says the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Such thinking is nonsense. Bullets cannot tell a good guy from a bad guy, and there is no guarantee that when the smoke clears, the good guy will be the one left standing.

We have genuflected too deeply and given too much power to a misanthropic, misinterpretation of the second amendment of the United States Constitution. A fusion of past, present and future horizons provides a necessary context for a correct interpretation of this amendment. When we consider the past, it is important to know that the founders thought that a standing army was a threat to liberty. They thought it would be too costly.

This was the historical moment of citizen soldiers who would take up arms when a specific threat arose. Moreover, the idea was the citizen soldier would be a part of “[a] well regulated militia.” Writing about the bill of rights, James Madison said government existed: “for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right of acquiring and using property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

The founders believed in natural rights that inhered in our humanity before the establishment of positive law. Such rights included: conscience, religion, property, happiness and safety, speaking, writing, publishing, peaceable assembly, and petition of government. The purpose of the second amendment is “the security of a free state.” Its purpose is not to protect the individual from the government. All of our friends who interpret the US Constitution according to its original intent ought to understand that it does not give ordinary citizens an unlimited right to bear arms. One could argue that only those who are members of their state’s national guard have the right to keep and bear arms.


Unicorns Exist


by: on December 21st, 2012 | 2 Comments »

The following is an excerpt from the introduction of my recently published book – Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation. This book is a collection of essays, many of which were first published here at Tikkun Daily. Today is the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. Our country has experienced two major disasters in the past few weeks – Hurricane Sandy that took children away from their parents and left many people homeless and the horror of the mass killings in Newtown, Connecticut.

I am exhausted from grief.

Yet, this is the season of hope in the midst of the gloom. It is the season when we look into the dark days and know that each day following brings more light. It is the season of the miracles of Hanukkah, of praise and thanksgiving for God’s goodness. It is the season of peace on earth and goodwill toward men and women. It is the season of remembering the Seven Principles of African Community. It is a season that celebrates a New Year and the gifts the wise men brought to the Christ child.

There has also been much discussion about the end of the Mayan calendar. A Mayan spiritual leader explains that this does not portend the end of the world, but it does signal the end of an era. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/dec-21-2012-marks-the-shifting-of-eras-says-mayan-spiritual-leader/2012/12/19/524a068e-4a23-11e2-b6f0-e851e741d196_blog.html) I say let this be the end of the era of violence and war and confusion and fear. I say let this be the beginning of an era of faith, radical love, and peace.

Unicorns are often used to speak about that which does not exist. However, I say that unicorns exist as a symbol of a utopian ideal of a better world that does not require violence. It is a symbol of the moral “ought” that we imagine when the “is” that we see is not moral enough anymore. The unicorn dances upon the horizon of our righteous dreams, and like the future horizon leads us ever on in our moral evolution to be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today.


We Keep Praying for Peace


by: on November 21st, 2012 | 2 Comments »

We keep praying for peace.

The definition of madness is to continue doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. But,

We keep praying for peace.

Wars rage in the Middle East. War is a wicked cruel deception that ultra-violence, that organized murder, that death, devastation and waste can bring peace. Yet,

We keep praying for peace.

We have seen this episode before. Israel puts Gaza under seize. It is in effect an open-air prison. Hamas sends rockets into Israel. Israel responds with targeted assassinations. Hamas responds with more violence. Israel responds with even more lethal violence. Civilians die. Children die. Blood and tears flow on both sides, but the deaths are disproportionately Palestinian. God only knows what mathematics, science, medicine, art, music, literature and philosophy die with the last breath of the dead. All of humanity is wounded in the futility and stupidity of war. Still,

We keep praying for peace.

In Syria, a leader in whom there were hopes of reform tragically disappoints. He and his hip cool vogue wife become uncool when he decides that his power ought to be bought and paid for with the blood of his own people. A nonviolent Arab spring becomes a long savage season with both sides committing atrocities. Refugees spill into Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. The suffering is stunning, and winter is coming. Nevertheless,

We keep praying for peace.


Armistice Day/Veteran’s Day 2012 Four Haiku


by: on November 11th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Armistice Day Peace.
Let us not forget the start
of Veteran’s Day.

Cool November days,
Eleven Eleven is
a time to think peace.

Let us not allow
our love for warriors to
become love of war.

Veterans have seen
humanity at its worst.
We owe them our best.

Election Day 2012


by: on November 6th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

I voted yesterday, Election Day Eve, at my city’s Board of Elections Commissioner’s office. I had errands to run yesterday, and I wanted to work uninterrupted today. So, I went to the third floor of City Hall and cast an in-person absentee ballot. I was happy to have the choice to vote early, yet the convenience of it did not in any way detract from the importance and the beauty of casting my vote.

The office is a small room, and when I arrived there were only a couple of people in line ahead of me. I took a number and filled out the requisite paperwork. As I was doing this, the office became full when a young woman and her children, and elder woman and another young man arrived. The staff was courteous and patient in explaining the process. The presence of the children reminded me of the days when my own children were young, and I took them with me to vote. When I was a girl, my mother would let me pull the levers, and I continued the tradition with my children.

Biblical wisdom teaches: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) I take voting seriously; both of my children take it seriously; and I expect that the example this young mother is setting for her children will cause them to take it seriously.

As I sat in the office, the beauty of Election Day became clear to me. This young woman, the elder woman, the young man, and I were equal to any other American on this day. We each were equal to the richest billionaire who can drop several million dollars on a campaign advertising buy without blinking. We were equal to the owners of whatever business who have no moral compunction about telling their employees that if President Obama wins they may lose their jobs. This is political blackmail. On Election Day we have one vote each.


Halloween After Ms Sandy (A Short Story)


by: on October 31st, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Ms Pearl lives directly below me in our apartment building in Orange, New Jersey. We exchange pleasantries at the mailbox or in the parking lot as we go about our day. She is a beautiful elder woman. I hope I look that good when I am her age, and it is hard to know just how old she is. She is perhaps in her late sixties or early seventies. She has snow white shoulder length dreadlocks and a lineless pecan brown face. There is a timeless quality about her. She radiates peace.

Hurricane Sandy was on the way, so the Saturday before the storm I stocked up on storm necessaries – food, bottled water, batteries, first aid kit. I had already packed a go bag and had my thumb drives and important papers in a lock box ready if I had to leave. When I passed Ms Pearl’s door on the way out, as usual, I smelled good food. Today it smelled of baking bread.

In contrast, I only turn on my stove to boil water for coffee, tea or hot chocolate. I eat what I buy from the hot food counter at the grocery store, or from the Chinese place I discovered a few years ago in East Orange. She lives alone and cooks. I live alone and I do not.

When the storm hit land, I was in bed. It is a family tradition to turn off the television or music or whatever and go to bed when a storm comes, whether it is an ordinary thunderstorm or a hurricane. God is doing God’s business, and the best thing to do is to be still. So, when Sandy came, the wind growled, and I slept. The storm passed and we were lucky. We lost power, but the trees did not fall down on us. We did not have to evacuate. Our building was still standing untouched. Later, talking on the telephone with my friend Debbie, she named the hurricane Ms Sandy. Give girlfriend her proper respect.


Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy: A Just Peace Interpretation


by: on October 24th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

When I read Mitt Romney’s remarks at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), a statement of his foreign policy, I am stunned by his idea that the United States of America has the power to work its will in the world. He says: “it is our responsibility and the responsibility of the President to use America’s great power to shape history, not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.” He says at the end of his remarks: “The 21st century can and must be an American century. It began with terror and war and economic calamity. It’s our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom and peace and prosperity.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/09/us/politics/mitt-romney-remarks-at-virginia-military-institute.html?pagewanted=all)

From a just peace perspective this is not true, and it shows a striking lack of insight about the complexity of the world and a profound lack of respect for other peoples and nations. This was only one of the major weaknesses of a Romney foreign policy as articulated in his VMI speech. The relationship between military hardware to national security and his embrace of the exhausted and obsolete idea of an American century also make his thinking on foreign policy untenable.

First on the notion of shaping history, humility is in order. Abraham Lincoln writing to three Kentuckians about his decision to emancipate the slaves said: “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” (http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/hodges.htm) History is replete with unintended consequences, both good and bad, from various actions. Even Donald Rumsfeld understood that there are unknown unknowns in every situation. So, the notion that the president of the United States can purposefully shape history to his or her will is ridiculous. This does not mean that the nation can have no influence on other actors in the world, but it is important to recognize the moral autonomy of those other actors. That Romney does not understand this shows an amazing naiveté. He also does not grasp the concept of leading from behind.