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Soul Searching in Germany

Aug17

by: Victor Grossman on August 17th, 2016 | No Comments »

BERLIN BULLETIN No. 115 August 15 2016

Soul-searching is often on the agenda for people who long for peace, better lives for everyone and for the rescue of our planet. November 8th the USA is one case in point, but I refrain here from announcing my own decision in my New York, a “safe” state.

Germany also demands soul-searching – not only with the refugee question. On the national level, stout, commonly self-assured Sigmar Gabriel, head of the Social Democrats (SPD), is less popular than ever and so is his party, now down to 22 % in the polls. As usual before elections, due in a year, it has been sounding more leftish than usual, trying to set itself off from the coalition government in which it is the junior partner. This is not all too convincing and Gabriel’s party throne is very shaky.

As for the two “Christian” parties, a very un-Christian jealousy has dented hopes for family harmony. The Bavarian sister party, led by big, sarcastically smiling Horst Seehofer, is cashing in on media-fostered animosity toward the many immigrants (aided by some recent crimes) to demand tougher rules for them – and ways to get rid of as many as possible. Angela Merkel, long the admired ” Mutti” (“Mama”) of the nation, has led her cohorts in the same direction, though never harshly enough for German nationalists and ugly racists. Her popularity ratings are now below the halfway mark. Who can she ally with next year after the all-German vote? Will the Social Democrats again buckle under? Or the Greens move further rightward? Who knows?

Not in a year but in just four weeks two states will open their polling booths -with no electronics here, just crosses on paper, for a candidate and for a party. In northeastern Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, luckily shortened informally to “Meck-Pom”, no big dramas are expected.

But they are in the city-state of Berlin, where every second lantern pole is adorned with party posters. At present the Social Democrats are senior partners, the Christian Democrats (CDU) are juniors. But, as on the national level, their coalition gets chillier and chillier the closer elections approach and the SPD sounds ever more progressive and open to popular demands. One is less gentrification. Affordable apartments are an urgent need for the many refugees while people, young and old, move here from all Germany and far beyond. Berlin, pleasant and desirable in many ways, is less expensive than Paris, London or other capitals – but tougher and tougher for less prosperous local people.

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God, Where Were You in That Moment?

Aug17

by: Dr. Dieter Duhm on August 17th, 2016 | No Comments »

Dialogue between God and the Cardinal

A few days ago, Pope Francis visited Auschwitz and Krakow, the places of genocide. There is barely anyone working for a change in moral thinking like him. May his efforts continue with further deeds – deeds of the dimension necessary to overcome the current insanity. May the idea of hostility vanish from humankind once and for all.

On the Sunday after the Munich attacks, a Catholic cardinal spoke about the events of July 21st 2016. In the mass, he asked the question that moved in many, “God, where were you in that moment?” Furthermore, he spoke about the “ways of togetherness, because together we are human. This is our hope. Together, we are all human.”

God replied: Cardinal, I thank you for encouraging hope on my behalf in these difficult times and that you remember those who have fallen victim to this bloodshed. You ask where I was in this moment. Mankind has always posed this question after something terrible has happened. For centuries I have been called upon after people perpetrated atrocities such as these. And for centuries I have given the same response: I am not outside of you. I am within you and I have given you the gospel of love so that you can manifest it on Earth. I have given you everything necessary for it – love, compassion, ethics, conscience, intelligence. You carry inside of yourselves everything that you need to establish a humane world. You however have not accepted it. Your bible reads, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” I have always been with you. You however have seldom been at home.

The cardinal replied: Lord, don’t you see that while we proclaim the gospel every Sunday, the powers that be aren’t willing to follow it?

God:
Yes, I see that. Do you follow the gospel yourselves? Are you not also part of these powers? Why have you confined the gospel to the churches instead of bringing it into your politics, your economics, your judicial systems? Why have you been silent about all the horrors over the centuries – colonialism, genocide, the persecution of the Jews, World Wars, nuclear arms, the Vietnam war, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the siege of Gaza, the treatment of refugees? Why haven’t you provided shelter and food to the fleeing, to those who are persecuted and starving, to the children in war areas? With all your influence and resources could you not have done so?

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The Box: Solitary Confinement Takes Center Stage

Aug9

by: Sarah Asch on August 9th, 2016 | No Comments »

The Box , a play directed by Michael John Garcés and written by Sarah Shourd.

A white supremacist with a swastika tattooed above his left eye addresses the audience: “People without hope are fucking dangerous.”

One of six characters in The Box, a play that debuted at Z Space theater in San Francisco in July, Jake Juchau (played by Clive Worsley) presents one image of life in long-term solitary confinement. The play was written by Sarah Shourd, an American journalist who spent 410 days in solitary in Iran after being accused of espionage, and then returned to the U.S. and began conducting research about the domestic uses of solitary confinement.

“Years of research went into this play,” Shourd notes in the playbill. “I traveled to visit prisoners in solitary confinement in 13 facilities across the country.” Shourd also explains that the six prisoners in her play are fictional combinations of the real life stories she gathered. “The characters in The Box won’t allow us to sit comfortably in our own skins,” Shourd writes. “They force us to ask questions: Why are we torturing people in lieu of rehabilitation? What are we going to do about the violence plaguing our society? How does change happen? How do we connect our own suffering to something larger?”


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Are You Adding to The Empathy Deficit?

Jul31

by: on July 31st, 2016 | 5 Comments »

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. Here’s a quote from my friend Keryl McCord’s Facebook post that explains why:

So tonight I’m calling bullshit on progressives who still think that voting for, well, you know, Voldemort, is okay for progressives because it isn’t. You may want the system to be destroyed but the dogs of war will be unleashed on black and brown people, on Muslims, gays, and women. And if knowing that you still think that’s an option then you are not progressive, nor an ally. You’re just another foot on the neck of the people you supposedly support.

Let me be clear that it isn’t just Voldemort straight up: a vote for the Green or Libertarian candidate is also a vote for Trump, because it does nothing to close the gap between Trump and Clinton. I’m voting for Hillary because voting for Jill Stein, or any other third-party candidate whose views are closer to my own, would help elect Trump. That would be a disaster for the nation as a whole, and most particularly for the groups Keryl listed, those Trump has called out by name.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton, and trying to wrap my mind around the political viewpoint that prizes personal ideological purity over disastrous consequences for the vulnerable. I supported Bernie. The Bernie-supporters who say they are voting for Stein or Johnson or even Trump inevitably marshal the same arguments: I have to vote my conscience, I can’t support the lesser or two evils, the system is corrupt, Bernie was cheated, and I can’t stomach being part of it.

It reminds me of a Talmudic inquiry. A question is posed: is it better to give one dollar to charity with a full heart, or ten grudgingly? The self-regarding obsession with purity that flavors so much of contemporary politics has to think hard before answering “One dollar with a full heart.” But really, there’s only one answer. Charity exists to benefit those in need. Ten dollars gives ten times more relief. How you feel about it is your problem. At bottom, it’s a simple act of empathy, valuing others’ interests—especially those who would suffer the consequences of a wrong decision on your part—as much as or more than your own.


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After So Much Killing

Jul22

by: Stephen H. Phelps on July 22nd, 2016 | No Comments »

Sometimes, words and more words are not only not enough, they are trouble. They are the trouble. Sometimes, when atrocities slash our eyes open, even if only because the dead was people like us, talking new policies in response to the gash of violence is wrong. It channels energies down the drain of no change. When denial has gripped most of society for generations, every word that proceeds from its mouth, every policy proposed, changes the subject, like an addict trying to talk about who does the dishes when his partner wants at last to tell some truth.

Source: Flickr Creative Commons (Valerie Everett).

What is the sound of the scream, a keening flooding the flatlands with a fury that sends people to higher ground, to moral ground, from which they can see some truth?

A sound like that to amplify the facts of unrelenting murder of black people by police sworn to protect them. A sound to resound above the nightly news of citizens slaughtered by any person equipped with a deviated mind and an assault rifle from the local hardware, or a semi-truck and speed. A sound at once deep and immense enough to answer the murder of police, the most visible symbol of the state – against whom assault is assault on the purpose for which a state exists. What sound?

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Upcoming Event: Disarm Now: We Stand with Nuclear Survivors for Global Justice

Jul20

by: Tikkun Staff on July 20th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

August 9th will mark the 71st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nakasaki. Activists and concerned citizens will stand with survivors of nuclear weapons and all those harmed by nuclear technology by gathering at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, in conjunction with Chain Reaction: a global action for nuclear disarmament, a nonviolent global movement encouraging nuclear disarmament actions by governments and the United Nations.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a branch of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Although managed by the University of California, the lab is under contract with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and has outgrown its status as branch laboratory to become a national resource in nuclear weapons development.

The participants in the Livermore event, called Disarm Now: We Stand with Nuclear Survivors for Global Justice, are scheduled to meet on August 9th at the Livermore lab and demand that the lab cease developing new nuclear weapons for the U.S. arsenal and instead divert funds from their nuclear weapons budget (which makes up 86% of their total funding).

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The Need for a More Radical Solidarity in the Work for Justice based on Spirituality, Mindfulness, and Self-Care.

Jul19

by: Victor Narro on July 19th, 2016 | No Comments »

You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.

Do not be daunted
by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.

- Rabbi Tarfon in Pirke Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers)

For the past few years, I have ended my classes at UCLA with a reflection with my students about this excerpt from a poem by Rabbi Tarfon and its significance for them. Many of us who work for social justice often work on organizing campaigns with short timelines, with little resources, and moving on all pistons at a grueling 24-7 pace. This extreme pace can consume the important things in life that contribute to a person’s well-being. It’s a kind of martyr’s code that measures a person’s commitment to justice by their willingness to sacrifice personal time, health, and relationships.

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Stop the Violence!!!!!

Jul18

by: Rabbi Michael Lerner on July 18th, 2016 | No Comments »

STOP THE VIOLENCE!

Source: Flickr (Tony Webster).

We mourn all the victims of violence, including the large volume of violence against people that goes unreported and underreported, including poor people and people of color, but also we mourn for the very few police officers who have been hurt or killed by those outraged at the way police have been harassing or murdering members of their community, their people, their race, etc. EVERY HUMAN LIFE IS PRECIOUS. None of the violence is ok. Not black on black violence, not white on black violence or black on white violence, not police violence, not acts of violent retribution. A hard message to get across in a society that responded to the horrendous killing of 3,000 plus Americans on 9/11 by engaging in assaults (both military and economic) on Afghanistan and Iraq that caused the loss of lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Yet violence continues to produce more violence. So the violence we delivered in the Middle East engendered ISIS/ISIL, and so it goes throughout history, and today in our own country. But for us in the religious world, the ongoing violence normally ignored by the media and genuinely not known or understood by most Americans is a spiritual, religious, and ethical emergency that deserves the attention of all people in every country of the world.

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AC’TIV•IST Soup for the Social Justice Soul

Jul15

by: Kylie A. Gorski on July 15th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

The webseries is an often snubbed medium. It is written-off as sub-par and too easy: any kid can grab a camcorder and some friends right? Webseries has often been viewed as television’s disowned cousin. The truth is that webseries is the future of entertainment and the most honest medium in existence today; it is also so often, due to low budgets and time constraints, a labor of love.

Still, it takes something special for just any webseries to rise above the din of the rest, because anybody can grab a camera and some friends. The internet is for most, though not all, free and easily accessible. No one makes a webseries for the money, because there isn’t much to be made. Even the most well known and frequently awarded series are constantly grasping for sponsorship.

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Social Justice and Theater at a Time of Crisis

Jul14

by: on July 14th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Augusto Boal at Riverside Church, NY City, in 2008

All of last week I was at a Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) training. I was drawn to the intensely evocative and provocative forms first created by Augusto Boal in the 1960s, designed to support marginalized groups in creating social change. Intuitively, I sensed these practices could support the rudimentary role play forms that are part and parcel of learning Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and dramatically (pun almost not intended) enhance NVC’s social justice applications.

This week became a thick, rich, powerful, challenging entanglement of the personal, the symbolic, and the political as a group of 36 of us from across many social divides and several countries grappled together with our experiences and all else that unfolded that week. By necessity of care for our agreement to protect the specifics of what happened in the room, most of the below is only about my own experiences and lens.

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