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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Sudden Calls for ‘Civility’ Threaten Academic Freedom After Palestinian-American Professor Fired

Sep7

by: on September 7th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

The University of Illinois administration is imploding under the weight of a swiftly growing academic boycott and a rash of no-confidence votes by numerous university departments. All of this has come in response to the firing of Professor Steven Salaita by Chancellor Phyllis Wise in August for his social-media critiques of Israel. The story of that firing is a sordid and rapidly deteriorating one on the verge of concluding. It has also become the story of how university administrations across America, unsettled by the Salaita case, are responding with calls for ‘civility,’ a preemptive strike threatening the principle of academic freedom.

To explain, it’s first necessary to briefly tell Salaita’s story as it currently stands, which indeed is a strange one. A former English professor at Virginia Tech, Salaita was hired away by Wise to a tenured professorship at Illinois, where he was to teach Native American Studies beginning this fall. However, Salaita was suddenly fired before he even stepped into a classroom just before the academic year began because of his severe critiques of Israel on Twitter.

For nearly three weeks, as outrage grew and academic boycotts by professors around the country spread, Wise and the administration remained silent. Then, finally, Wise released a statement explaining the Salaita firing in which she wrote:

“I firmly believe that a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois is a tremendous honor and a unique privilege. Tenure also brings with it a heavy responsibility to continue the traditions of scholarship and civility upon which our university is built.”


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Beale Charges Dropped

Sep4

by: on September 4th, 2014 | No Comments »

 

 

 

 

 

The government has dismissed the case against the sixteen of us who were arrested last April for civil disobedience at Beale Air Force Base. Beale, outside Marysville, California, is home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that identifies targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.

We’ll be back! In fact, we’ll be back later this month. For nonviolent direct action to be effective, it has to be sustained. History has shown that sustained nonviolent resistance is an effective means of social transformation.


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Why the Network of Spiritual Progressives?

Sep4

by: on September 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

heal the world

Join us to create a new society based on love, justice, and peace. Credit: Creative Commons/Pixabay

Just two months ago, I was living in Bellingham, Washington working as a collaborative divorce attorney, mediator, coach and trainer. I had a successful business contributing in a meaningful way to my local community. And I was engaged in local activism in various ways.  Then I was offered an opportunity of a lifetime — to be executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. When offered an opportunity to try to build a spiritually progressive social change movement for one-third the salary I was earning as an attorney, mediator and trainer, I jumped at the opportunity.  So why would I walk away from a successful and enjoyable business contributing in a way I enjoy to take on a rather herculean task?

More about that in a minute. First let me explain the political landscape as I see it.

Here in the United States, there are thousands of wonderful local organizations focusing on either local issues or fighting against one or another form of injustice. And often they make contributions and progress to better the lives of some. But ultimately as activists spend hours and hours on end struggling to take out a right-wing bill or policy or win a lasting but limited victory (such as our gains in women’s rights and gay rights), global capitalists and the U.S. government emerge unscathed and continue to pound us with attacks that undermine all our efforts. Our government and the transnational corporate forces with which it is allied launch their attacks on social change struggles without any provocation at all or any care for the casualties of human suffering here and abroad. Meanwhile the tireless efforts of thousands upon thousands of people around the world continue to try to poke holes in the defenses of global capitalism—ultimately to no meaningful effect. Even when we win a few battles or a few rights, we do not change the larger context in which corporate power and right-wing ideology are becoming more abusive to the powerless, the middle class, and the earth that sustains and nurtures us.


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Letter to Pope Francis on Obliterating the Gender Scripts

Sep3

by: on September 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »

Pope Francis

Credit: Creative Commons/Aleteia Image Department

Dear Pope Francis, Your Holiness,

Word is out that you are intending to travel to the United States in September 2015 to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where you will speak at that city’s commemoration of World Family Day. Your arrival here has sparked excitement by United States Catholics and non-Catholics alike who have been encouraged by your efforts to reform and to heal the Church from past policies and actions that have had the effort of turning people away from what has been viewed by many as misinterpretations of scripture and as a massive covering over of sexual abuses.

As a non-Catholic myself, I hope during your talk in Philadelphia you will discuss an inclusive concept of “family” by acknowledging diversity in terms of human sexuality, gender expression, and the multidimensional varieties of human relationships. Unfortunately, your predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in my estimation, failed in this regard.

For example, in January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a New Year’s speech to diplomats from approximately 180 countries, declaring that marriage for same-sex couples “threatens human dignity and the future of humanity itself.” And in 2008, during Benedict’s end-of-the-year Vatican address, he asserted that humanity needs to “listen to the language of creation” to realize the intended roles of man and woman. He warned of the “blurring” of the natural distinctions between males and females, and called for humanity to protect itself from self-destruction. The Pope compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as “a destruction of God’s work.”


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Empathy Workshops in Oregon

Sep3

by: Tikkun Admin on September 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »

Rabbi Michael Lerner will be the keynote speaker on Sunday evening, Sept. 7th in Ashland Oregon at the Awards Dinner held by the Peace House. You can purchase tickets here or by calling 541-482-9625.

Rabbi Michael Lerner and Cat Zavis, executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and empathic communication trainer and mediator will co-lead two separate workshops, Sept. 7th and 8th. Both workshops will be held at the Peace House at 345 S. Mountain Avenue, Ashland, Oregon.

Sunday, Sept. 7th from 2:00-5:00pm, Rabbi Lerner and Cat Zavis will co-lead a workshop called: Grieving for Israel and Palestine: a training on how empathy can become a path to Middle East peace. The cost for this workshop is $20.00.

In this 3-hour workshop, you will learn techniques to deal with your distress, rage, and upset about the situation in Israel and Palestine and also have opportunities to learn and practice skills for hearing those who don’t agree with you and expressing yourself more effectively. You will leave feeling empowered to engage in healthy discourse, even with those with whom you disagree.

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6 Reasons that Debunk the Myth of Islam Promoting Hatred of Jews and Christians

Sep2

by: Ro Waseem on September 2nd, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Amidst the tragic situation in Palestine these days, a few Muslims seem to have found a way to express their anger and frustration. No, not by constructively doing anything about it, but by bashing Jews and hailing Hitler as a hero! Wrongly equating the actions of the Israeli government with Judaism, they continue generalizing approximately 15 million Jews – painting them all with the same brush!

A few days earlier, as I was browsing through my Facebook news feed, I came across this meme praising Hitler for killing Jews, with the hashtag #Hitlerwasright:

Hitler meme

Exasperated as I was, I tried to maintain my composure and calmly responded to this individual that there are many Jews who condemn the actions of the Israeli government, much like us Muslims who condemn the actions of Jihadist terrorist groups, and so it is naïve to generalize all Jews based on the situation in Palestine. Without taking a minute, he responded back to me quoting the Quranic verse that “asks Muslims not to be friends with Jews”, justifying his bigotry through the Quran!

Checkmate? Probably, if I hadn’t known better!


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School Resegregation Since Brown and Different Languages of Race

Sep1

by: on September 1st, 2014 | Comments Off

Brown v Board of Education

Credit: Creative Commons/AFGE

There are milestones in the history of education where conditions have come together to advance progressive social policy reforms. One such milestone was the momentous United States Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas), rendered on May 17, 1954. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the “separate but equal” clause (set down in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896) was unconstitutional because it violated children’s rights as covered under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when separation was solely on the classification of “race.” Delivering the court opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the “segregated schools are not equal and cannot be made equal, and hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws.”

The Brown decision rested on accumulated social science research that emphasized the detrimental effects of school segregation on students of color. Following the decision, intransigence on the part of a number of Southern political leaders prevented the law from fully taking effect. In fact, President Eisenhower was compelled to call out federal troops to ensure compliance in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Some Southern governors chose to close some public schools in their states rather than comply with desegregation orders.


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Comparing How The New York Times Described Mike Brown and Ted Bundy

Aug29

by: on August 29th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

On the eve of Michael Brown’s funeral, a New York Times profile of the slain youth called him “no angel” and characterized Brown as troubled, citing his experimentation with rap as evidence. Vociferous criticism quickly followed, with the Times‘ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, finally admitting that the language used to describe Brown was regrettable.

Much of the criticism focused on how race played an implicit role in the vilification of Brown – how his blackness provoked descriptions white victims of violent crime rarely see – as is often the case in American media.

In a stunning display, Sean McElwee took that critique one step further by contrasting Brown’s description not with those of other white victims of crime, but with a white perpetrator of violent crime – mass murderer Ted Bundy.

Below is a paragraph from the Timesprofile of Brown published on August 24, 2014. It is preceded by evidence that the teenager who was gunned down by police, unarmed, was grappling with and deepening his spiritual beliefs.

nytimes1

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Pope Francis’ Lesson: The Abrahamic religions need a spiritual summit meeting, not dialogue-by-press-statements

Aug28

by: on August 28th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Pope Francis

Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Pope Francis appeared to step into the quagmire in Iraq last week when he reportedly “endorsed the use of force” against ISIS. He was speaking a week after Obama authorized U.S attacks on ISIS military positions to stave off the threatened destruction of refugees in the Kurdish mountains. So was the “Pontiff of Peace” sprinkling holy water on airstrikes, perhaps even embarking on “the last crusade”?

No, in fact, the pope was doing nothing of the sort. His message was garbled through glib and superficial reporting, as Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig has shown in an excellent analysis in The Daily Beast of what the pope said and didn’t say.

However the pope’s statement – and subsequent misinterpretations – clearly show how urgently the leaders of the three Abrahamic religions need to start talking face to face rather than through press statements. The crisis in the Middle East goes far beyond the military and political conflict, horrific as it is. At a deeper level, the spiritual identity of all three religions is under assault from the militarization of language and glorification of conflict.

To respond to these spiritual temptations of power and dominance, there’s an urgent need for these religious leaders to declare a “spiritual emergency” and meet in a “spiritual summit” to speak clearly to their faithful, from their respective traditions and scriptures, in defense of their shared values and vision of faith as applied to the current circumstances.


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Call to Creative Action

Aug28

by: on August 28th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

The work of artists and creative activists can help to create a cultural democracy that prizes diversity, practices equity, and brings a deep respect for human rights to every aspect of civil society. Therefore, the people-powered U.S. Department of Arts and Culture calls on all artists and creative activists to join in the movement to demilitarize the police and bring justice to victims of publicly funded racism.

- USDAC Call: Creativity for Equity and Justice

USDAC call to action

Credit: USDAC

For the past two years, I’ve been working with other volunteers to build and launch the USDAC, “the nation’s newest people-powered department, founded on the truth that art and culture are our most powerful and under-tapped resources for social change. Radically inclusive, useful and sustainable, and vibrantly playful, the USDAC aims to spark a grassroots, creative change movement, engaging millions in performing and creating a world rooted in empathy, equity, and social imagination.” We need volunteers, so please help if you can!

This week, appalled by the deluge of racism and violence flooding the news, we issued the USDAC Call: Creativity for Equity and Justice. Recognizing that racism, the denial of human rights, and official violence are all cultural issues, an amazing group of artists and activists (just click the link to see names like Judy Baca, Lucy Lippard, Gloria Steinem, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Peter Coyote, Brett Cook, Lily Yeh, and dozens of others) called on all of us to

Join together in affirming to all public officials and policymakers that a culture of punishment cannot stand. We join together in applying our gifts to the public gatherings, organizing campaigns, and policy proposals that will support positive change. We stand together with generations of creative activists in communities across the nation who have been envisioning and working toward a world of equity and safety for all.


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