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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.

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.


Women’s Rights and Duties


by: on August 18th, 2012 | Comments Off

August 18 is the 92nd birthday of the 19th amendment to the Constitution that gave voting rights to women. American women worked for at least 72 years – from 1848 to 1920–to expand the franchise to include women. And as late at the 1960s, men and women such as Fannie Lou Hamer took beatings for the right to vote. Many religious traditions teach the importance of memory and the importance of ancestor respect. In traditional African cosmology, the ancestors remain a part of the living community. We remember and rely on their wisdom and their work to inform, inspire and strengthen our own efforts. Memory is at once moral and holy.

Our foremothers and some forefathers worked to gain the right to vote for women because they understood it as an inalienable human right. They considered it sacred. In the Declaration of Sentiments presented at the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, the first item on a list of grievance of woman against man is the denial of voting rights. It says: “He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

At that time, there was opposition to voting rights for women even at the convention. Of the 12 resolutions, the only one that was not approved unanimously was the resolution calling for women’s voting rights. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass strongly argued in favor of this resolution reasoning that the ability to secure any other rights depended on voting rights. The resolution finally carried by a small majority.


The Idea of America


by: on August 13th, 2012 | 11 Comments »

When Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States, announced Representative Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate, Ryan said that America was an idea. He spoke of the idea that human rights derive from God and from nature and not from government. Whether or not human rights ought to be grounded in natural law is a discussion for another day. For now, let us think about the opposition Ryan asserts between God and nature on one hand and government on the other.

His remarks intimate that government is some tyrannical bogey man out to debilitate righteous free enterprise, binding it with red tape and stealing our liberties and our hard-earned money through taxes. He seems to think that big government equals a reduction of our human rights. This is a distortion of the idea of America.


Revolutionary Elections and Revolutionary Acts


by: on July 5th, 2012 | 10 Comments »

We do not talk much about human rights in our current public discourse. We reference them when we are scolding some murderous oppressive dictator, but we rarely speak about them when speaking about our own policy goals. Speaking about human rights is a revolutionary act, and far too many politicians and pundits shy away from revolutionary ideas because such ideas threaten the status quo.

I say: Let the next election be a revolutionary election. Our struggle for a progressive political agenda is a revolutionary act.

When people start to understand that there are certain rights that are due to people because they are human, the next step is to demand those rights. Governments exist to secure human rights, and when they do not, they ought to be altered or abolished. Thomas Jefferson said this eloquently in the Declaration of Independence. It is a document that not only belongs to the history of the United States; it is a document that belongs to all of humankind. Jefferson writes:

“Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Thus, it is our duty – the duty of the electorate – to put human rights front and center in the public debate and change our governing ideologies through the ballot.


Congress Reaps What it Sows


by: on June 20th, 2012 | Comments Off

In his book, “Don’t Ask What Good We Do”, Robert Draper describes a dinner meeting of a group of Republicans on the night of President Obama’s inauguration. The group decided they would not cooperate with President Obama, that they would do everything in their power to obstruct his agenda for the country. They would attack Democrats in the media at every turn in order to take back the Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012.

According to Draper, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, and Dan Lungren from the House of Representatives and Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn, John Ensign and Bob Corker from the Senate attended the dinner. Newt Gingrich also attended the dinner hosted by Frank Luntz.

This is no surprise to those of us who have been paying attention to national politics since 2008. While 50 million people in this country live without health insurance, while people die daily unnecessarily because they do not have access to quality health care, we watched Republicans stand united against President Obama’s efforts to pass a universal health care law.

The Affordable Care Act is modeled on Republican ideas, not the Medicare for all system that liberal/progressive such as myself want. Yet Republicans bear false witness against it and call it a government take-over of health care. They won back the House of Representatives in 2010 with falsehoods regarding changes in Medicare.

Further, with the United States and the world suffering one of the worst economic contractions since the Great Depression, with millions of people out of work, Republicans stand united against economic stimulus, against sending more money to state and local governments to keep teachers, police officers and fire-fighters working, against a jobs bill that would put Americans to work rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.


When God Does a New Thing


by: on May 23rd, 2012 | 2 Comments »

When the living God sends new mercies, when God is ready to do a new thing, it is important that we do not stand as an obstruction because to do so separates us not only from our sisters and brothers, but it separates us from God.

In the current discussion about LGBTQIA rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular, the questions for believers are: what is God doing? What does God require of me? I am a Bible-believing Baptist. I say: God said it. I believe it. That settles it. It is my reading of the Bible that leads me to support equal rights and respect of LGBTQIA people and their loving committed relationships. I have addressed the primary biblical texts that most people quote to support their opposition to Gay rights in an essay published on-line at the African-American Lectionary: Why I Believe Homosexuality is NOT a Sin

However, the reason I support LGBTQIA rights has to do with my understanding that to love, serve and worship God through a commitment to follow Jesus means that I love with an imperative to love with a radical love. Such love requires me to be wary of traps that would have me love the tradition and its laws rather than to love God with all my heart, mind and soul and my neighbor as myself.


President Obama’s Just Peace End to the War in Afghanistan


by: on May 2nd, 2012 | 1 Comment »

I say and say again that President Obama is a just peace president.

Peace people, including myself, have a list of complaints against this president, including the use of targeted drone assassinations of American citizens without due process of law. However, I still say that, for the most part, this president’s foreign policies reflect just peace theory.

Many people are familiar with just war theory. This thinking dates back millennia, and we can find it in both religious and in secular philosophical traditions. There was a moment in human history when it was the middle way between crusades, or total annihilation of populations and pacifism. Today, since total war is no longer considered moral, just war is the extreme position and just peace theory is the middle way between just war and pacifism.

While just war theory thinks about when it is right to resort to war – jus ad bellum; the righteous way to fight war – jus in bello; and the moral way to end war – jus post bellum, just peace theory thinks about how to prevent the moment of crisis that makes violent conflict thinkable or even necessary. Just peace theory also considers ways to reach a positive peace after violent conflict, a peace where combatants no long want to fight each other. Just peace theory sometimes intersects with both pacifism and with just war theory.

In his remarks on Afghanistan, President Obama indicated a just peace approach that intersects with jus post bellum. My interpretation of just peace theory relies on three pillars – truth, respect and security. In his statements earlier in the day to the American warriors, President Obama told them the truth that there are still very difficult days ahead where some will be wounded. Some will die. In his remarks to the nation, he outlined efforts that will help secure Afghanistan, and will work toward building a strong civil society with democratic institutions that will respect human dignity and human rights.