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

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.


Dear Mr. President


by: on October 15th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to remind you that from a just peace perspective no one can “win” a debate with political prevarications – a.k.a. lies. In my interpretation of just peace, truth, respect and security are three primary principles rooted and grounded in the Golden Rule that are necessary for peace. Just peace is not only a relatively new paradigm for thinking about war and peace, but it is also a way of conducting our lives in ways that make for both personal and political, for local and global peace.

Truth-telling is a necessary component of justice. And without the due regard that justice is, there can be no peace. Respect for the American electorate, for the realities of our lives, for our fears and dreams, means that public policy ought to be built upon a foundation of rock solid principles. Government of the people, by the people and for the people is how we ALL come together to make life better for EACH of us. The end goal is the sustenance and joy of every person. The end goal begins with a eudemonism that helps to create the conditions for human flourishing and for the flourishing of the natural world and for all of creation.

Respect for the intelligence of the American people means that the women and men who want to lead us ought to know the truth of the observation that you can fool some of the people all of the time; you can fool all of the people some of the time; but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. When people seeking public office change position from one day to the next, even holding contradictory positions within the same sentence – “I will cut taxes for everyone but the rich will not pay less.” – this demonstrates a profound lack of respect for We the People of the United States. Worse, it demonstrates a lack of moral intelligence. (I have written about this in an essay at JustPeaceTheory.com)

The good news is: The American people are paying attention, and while you have their attention it is imperative to speak the truth to the people. You were correct to say in the first debate that we have data. As you know the data show that tax cuts for the rich, for the so-called job creators do not lead to higher gross domestic product (GDP). In a report issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), an arm of the Library of Congress that exists to give “authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan” analyses to members of Congress, we learn that tax cuts for the rich only leads to income inequality.


Frank Luntz, Paul Ryan, and the GOP Inauguration Night Conspiracy


by: on October 11th, 2012 | 12 Comments »

Few successful conspiracies are published.

Most conspiracy theories are incredible because they presuppose that the conspirators can keep a secret. The truth is the more people involved the less likely that the conspiracy will remain secret. In the GOP inauguration night conspiracy, somebody talked. And Robert Draper reported it in his book “Do Not Ask What Good We Do.” According to Draper, on January 20, 2009 – inauguration night – Frank Luntz, a GOP communications expert, organized a dinner with GOP members of both the House of Representatives and of the Senate. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and journalist Fred Barnes also attended the dinner. Representatives Cantor, McCarthy, Ryan, Session, Hensarling, Hoekstra, and Lungren were there. Senators DeMint, Kyl, Coburn, Ensign, and Corker were present.

At that dinner, they started planning to take back the House of Representatives in 2010 and the White House in 2012. Cantor said it should be about ideas. So far, no harm, no foul. Politicians ought to make the case for their ideas and for their policy positions then let the voters decide. However, once the voters have decided, our representatives have a responsibility to work together to get something done for the good of the nation and of the world.

However, this was not the decision they made. They decided to contest EVERYTHING and not to work with the president on ANYTHING. This is where that meeting degenerated from benign to malignant. It was Paul Ryan’s contribution to say that the GOP ought to remain united against the president. Draper writes:

“‘But everybody’s got to stick together.’ said Paul Ryan, a thirty-eight-year-old Wisconsin congressman and numbers fetishist whose shiny earnestness recalled an Ozzie and Harriet America” (xvii).


Is Palestinian President Abbas Telling the Truth?


by: on October 3rd, 2012 | 5 Comments »

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love you. Psalm 122:6

Those of us who spend time thinking about the connection between justice and peace, thinking about ways to make peace– personal and political, local and global – can learn very much from the speeches of world leaders at the opening of the UN General Assembly. Since the question of whether or not Iran will develop a nuclear weapon is an issue in the presidential campaign, the remarks of President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Iranian President Ahmadinejad received the lion’s share of media attention around this year’s opening.

However, one speech that we ought to consider carefully is that of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He painted a disturbing portrait of the state of the relationship between the Government of Israel (GOI) and the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Abbas spoke of attacks upon Palestinians by Israeli settlers, the continuation of discriminatory laws, the continued building of settlements on occupied land, the continued blockade of Gaza and the incarceration of “nearly five thousand Palestinians.” Abbas said:

“It is a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people via the demolition of their homes and the prevention of their construction; the evocation of residency rights; the denial of basic services, especially in regard to construction of schools; the closure of institutions; and the impoverishment of Jerusalem’s community via a siege of walls and checkpoints that are choking the city and preventing millions of Palestinians from freely accessing its mosques, churches, schools, hospitals, and markets.”


Peace Day 2012


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

In just peace theory, three primary principles – truth, respect, security – stand as categories of both personal morality and public policy that can make for peace. October 21 is the UN Day of International Peace and Global Ceasefire. It is a day to rededicate ourselves to the goal of ending violent conflict in the world, both local and global.

This Peace Day comes as scorching drought-dry summer turns to a cool green autumn of an exhausting US presidential campaign. Mercifully, this will be over in a few weeks. The two major candidates work to persuade voters that their policies – foreign and domestic – are best for the nation and for the world. Political pundits work to analyze the policies and handicap the race. We see two very different approaches to foreign policy. In most instances, the pundits do not know how to analyze President Obama’s foreign policy because they do not know just peace theory.

We see a contestation between a 20th century Cold War, neo-conservative foreign policy of Mitt Romney and a 21st century just peace paradigm of President Obama.

Romney has falsely accused President Obama of apologizing for America. In his ill-advised and incorrect statements on September 12, an explanation of his September 11 statement in response to attacks on the US embassy in Cairo and the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, he returned to his claim that Obama is an apologist and an appeaser.

Fact checkers have said time and time again that this charge is false. However, what the president has done is to tell the truth about America’s actions in the world. He has treated other nations – their leaders and their people – with respect. He has encouraged the democratic aspirations of the people at the grassroots and insisted that democracy is a means to the end of establishing human rights and in turn human rights are a means to the end of a just and lasting peace. Truth and respect will lead to security, and at the same time, a confident leader of a strong and confident nation is secure enough to speak the truth with respect.