A few times a week these days I get a call or email from friends around the country who all ask me the same question: so, what’s happening down there in North Carolina?
I’ve taken to telling them that the Civil Rights Movement is getting born again.
Most of them have read a news story or seen coverage of protests against the extremist takeover of NC government in the past year. (If you have an hour, Bill Moyer’s “State of Conflict” is probably the most informative intro.)
But big business is funding quiet extremism everywhere. What my friends want to know is what happened to inspire over a hundred thousand people to rally at the NC Legislature last summer. How in one summer did half as many people (945) get arrested in one state as were arrested nationwide in 1960′s sit-in movement. And how, many have wondered over the past few weeks, did more than 80,000 people march on a state capitol to demand change?
by: Katie Loncke on March 7th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
Unfortunately, we spiritual-progressive types, including but not limited to dharma heads, seem to be particularly prone to something I call compassion-baiting.
General compassion-baiting sounds something like:
Try having more compassion. If you did, you’d see things my way.
And in social justice situations, specifically, compassion-baiting often sounds like:
You’re more upset / loud / angry about social harm than I, arbiter, deem appropriate. You must therefore be lacking in wisdom or compassion.
F**k that noise, for real.
Why so touchy, you ask? Let’s break it down: 5 major fails associated with compassion-baiting.
by: Donna Nevel on March 7th, 2014 | 25 Comments »
Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace
Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind.
The Palestinian-led call for BDS, which began in 2005 in response to ongoing Israeli government violations of basic principles of international law and human rights of the Palestinian people, is a call of conscience. It has strengthened markedly over the last few years among artists, students, unions, church groups, dockworkers, and others. Media coverage of endorsers of the boycott has gone mainstream and viral. Recent examples include Stephen Hawking’s refusal to go to Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, the successful campaign surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s support for Soda Stream and its settlement operation, and the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution that endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Alongside BDS’s increasing strength have come increasingly virulent attacks on, and campaigns against it. These attacks tend to employ similar language and tactics – as if the groups are all cribbing from the same talking points – including tarring BDS supporters as “anti-Semitic” and “delegitimizers.”
Credit: Creative Commons/Forge Mountain Photography
In school rooms across America, kids like mine are coloring pictures of Martin Luther King and watching slide shows about Ms. Rosa Parks. It’s Black History Month again-”the shortest month of the year,” a friend of mine wryly observes. But it’s amazing how broadly we celebrate those who sat-in, marched, and cried out for justice in America 50 years ago. No one in America today can argue that King doesn’t matter. He’s standing on the National Mall, memorialized in stone.
But remembering our history matters little if it doesn’t reshape how we see the present. While communities across America are telling neat and clean stories about the 1960s, most of the mainstream media is ignoring the biggest broad-based organizing effort in the South since that time.
by: Amy B. Dean on February 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
Credit: Carolina Jews for Justice
It can be isolating to be a progressive Jew in North Carolina. In a state where just 1% of the population identifies as Jewish, it can be tough just to find a religious community, let alone a politically active one. Although older Jews who may have been activists in the civil rights movement of the 20th century still live there, it appears their coordinated work for justice ended along with that era. There is no sustaining, Jewish-identified organizational infrastructure that today’s generation of younger North Carolina Jews could revive and harness for today’s fights.
But recently one Raleigh-based Jewish group has tapped into a wellspring of political passion among Jews, and is mobilizing them across the state to challenge the Republican takeover of the legislature. Through building coalitions with other faith and community-based groups, turning Jews out to the Moral Mondays rallies at the state capitol, and organizing laypeople and rabbis to take action, the members of Carolina Jews for Justice (CJJ) are speaking up for the political changes they want to see in North Carolina.
"For months activists have been coordinating tent cities in the heart of Bangkok
I’m no expert at Thai politics. But I do know a good protest when I see one.
Let me be more clear on how little I knew about what’s going on in Thailand before this week: My best friend, Ariel Vegosen, and I, having spent the past two months studying Gandhian nonviolence and working with the anti-GMO movement in India, decided we wanted a little vacation to just chill out, so we booked a flight to Thailand. A flight to Bangkok, that is, which would arrive, unbeknownst to us at the time of booking, on Chinese New Year’s Day, one day before the highly controversial national election, on a weekend when the US State Dept. was warning Americans not to enter the country, the BBC was reporting violence in the streets, and protesters were threatening to shut down the entire city. Oh! I thought we were just headed to “Amazing Thailand,” land of tropical beachy paradise, cheap, delicious pad Thai, lush jungles and some elephants. But try as I might to play American tourist while on a short sabbatical from activism, here I was flying directly into the eye of the revolutionary storm. God must be laughing. Real hard.
Credit: Creative Commons
In the last several months I have visited services in several faith communities – Jewish, Catholic and Muslim. Sunday before last I was in my own house of worship, Union Methodist, a historically Black congregation. After religious services, we gathered in the basement to discuss the vexed question of whether or not our pastors could or could not officiate over same-sex marriages. The meeting took no formal vote, but the overwhelming sense of the gathering was that all people had a right to equality. A thirteen year-old girl stood up and cried when she spoke of the bullying of a boy at her school. An elderly Caribbean woman denounced gay bashing. A middle-aged father of two spoke of how he had slowly come out to his two daughters. A Puerto Rican psychologist spoke movingly of how his early view of homosexuality had turned him away from a call to the ministry. A young man from the Deep South spoke of the long darkness in his soul as he wrestled with demons, sexual and otherwise. We had church.
by: Kristin McCandless on February 5th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
(DMX / Credit: Creative Commons- Wikimedia)
The first couple of times I heard a celebrity boxing match between George Zimmerman and the rapper known as DMX was in the works I thought the idea was a joke.
But this match is not a joke – it is actually on its way to being contracted. And I’m terrified of what this means for us as a society.
George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator who shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin back in 2012 was acquitted of the murder and manslaughter charges against him, so on a legal level, no more can be done to hold Zimmerman to account.
There is, however, much that can and should be done to change the system that allowed that verdict to happen. The way to bring about justice is to use this horrible case and its powerful, emotional backlash to change what is wrong within our system, to make it reflect the peoples’ desire to move forward past racial disparities and unpunished hate crimes.
People are against Zimmerman because they are against his raw, blatant display of hate, violence, and discrimination.
So let me ask: why are we letting him stoke these exact same sentiments through a high-profile boxing match on TV?
A person angry at Israel, now angry at Starbucks too. Credit: Creative Commons
Back in 1995, while studying abroad in Jerusalem, an American Jewish friend and myself were invited by a Palestinian friend to go to a pop music concert at Bethlehem University in its outdoor arena. The female Arab singer was fabulously talented and charismatic, and of course she sang all the songs in Arabic. At one point, she led a song with her fist high in the air, repeating a rhythmic chant, with the impassioned audience repeating the chant, fists high in the air. Again, all in Arabic. Because it was so rhythmic, my Jewish friend and I joined in. When there was a break in the music, I turned to a Palestinian next to me who spoke English and said to him, “That was really great! Oh, and by the way, what were we chanting that whole time?”
He said, “Kick the Jews out!” Of course, that meant all of the land, not only the 67′ lines.
Memories of that Bethlehem episode came flooding back after reading Omar Barghouti’s op-ed in The New York Times today titled, “Why Israel Fears the Boycott.” It seems that at least some of those who reject Israel as a Jewish state for the Jewish people – a people who have endured milennia of persecution that culminated in the Holocaust – have finally seen the limited public relations range of fist-pumping exhortations of ethnic cleansing, and have instead gone all Madison Avenue on us. In fact, tobacco companies still holding out hope that they can get 5th graders addicted to cigarettes through all manner of subliminal messaging ought to read Barghouti’s op-ed. They could use some new pointers.
Perhaps because this year I am teaching a yearlong telecourse (in four independent parts) on The Art and Craft of Dialogue, I’ve been more deeply attuned to the largely unknown power of dialogue to create entirely unexpected results. In those moments, when the veil of separation drops, at least momentarily, and we stand in the magic of finding a path forward that truly works for everyone, I often feel both elated and profoundly sad.
The elation is directly the result of having visceral evidence of the simplicity and elegance of the path. Rosenberg, the man who created the practice of Nonviolent Communication that informs everything I do, says about this phenomenon:
“So many times I have seen that no matter what has happened, if people connect in this certain way that it is inevitable that they will end up enjoying giving to one another. It is inevitable. For me my work is like watching the magic show. It’s too beautiful for words.”
I confess that for years I was dubious – how could it be “inevitable”? I didn’t truly believe it, though I loved hearing it said. Over time, I realized that it is, likely, inevitable. The catch is more in the “if” than in the outcome. The question, for me, has then become simply about how to create the conditions – both inner and outer – that make it possible for people to connect in this way.
Which brings me to the sadness. I find it so tragic that so many people are likely to live and die without having access to this experience, without knowing it even exists, without trusting that such transformation is so possible and so simple.