We endorse the statement below from the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Police violence, particularly though not only against African Americans, requires immediate and forceful response at every level of our society. People should be protesting in the streets of our country wherever an ethical consciousness has not yet been snuffed out by cynicism, surplus powerlessness, indifference, or inability to focus due to mind-destroying absorption in the distractions that abound in cyberspace, the media, and the entertainments of contemporary American society.
At the very least, everyone should be writing to all of their elected officials from President Obama to the local city councils and state legislators asking for new laws that require an independent prosecutor in every city and for every state (to be chosen by a panel of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights leaders and lawyers) to investigate every incident of alleged police violence and charged with the ability to directly bring to trial those for whom there is strong reason to believe that they violated the civil and/or human rights of those assaulted, , to penalize through pay reductions every police officer in the district
by: Reid Madden on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
“Why is ‘Social Justice’ a toxic phrase in common conversation?”
My roommate recently showed me something online, but what he said got me thinking. He told me “social justice warriors probably hate this.”
What does that phrase even mean, “social justice warriors?” I decided to look up what it meant on Urban Dictionary – admittedly not the best source for information, but this is what I found: “A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow and not well-thought-out way.” These people do not “necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of.” They do it to be popular.
So how do these people make social justice look bad? After all, protesters all over the world use the Internet to organize and rally support. Social media was a huge force in the Arab Spring protests that eventually toppled regimes. Using these networks at home has created huge firestorms around net neutrality, which recently forced the FCC to adopt net neutral protocols. Using mass media has always been in the toolbox for enacting social reforms. Social reformers like Martin Luther King Jr. are regarded as heroes. Universities from Miami University to Merrimack College to my own, Hamline University, offer majors in Social Justice, training the next generation of reformers.
by: Lydia Gans on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Berkeley City Council is once again moving to enact laws more cruel and dehumanizing than ever. It’s not the first time that they will have passed laws increasingly targeting homeless people. Panhandling within 10 feet of a parking pay station would be a crime. Putting personal objects in planters or within three feet of a tree well would be a crime. Poor people will have to have a tape measure handy to make sure they’re not committing a crime. As a matter of fact just about anything that a homeless person needs for sleeping, tent, mat, sleeping bag, cannot be left on any sidewalk any time of day. Nor can personal items be attached to trees, planters, parking meters etc. etc. and oh yes, it would be a crime to sit against a building.
Voices of protest are being heard. Members of the interfaith coalition of more than 40 congregations, including Buddhists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, are speaking out against the city’s criminalization of homelessness. On April 9 they held a protest ‘in solidarity with homeless people’ at the downtown Berkeley BART Plaza. Starting at 5 o’clock with a meal and an interfaith service it concluded with a sleep-out at the Plaza until 6:30 Friday morning.
by: Raanan Geberer on April 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
Back in 1985, I started working as an editor at an energy-conservation trade magazine. Sure, it was a place of work and there were deadlines, no question about that. But we often took long lunches and often went out together as a group. Sometimes, during a lull in the work, we’d play a word game called “Botticelli,” whose rules I can’t remember for the life of me, but everybody seemed to enjoy.
I left that job in 1992. What a difference! We were putting out the same magazine with half the staff, we were busy almost every minute (one new worker observed that “everybody seems maxed out”), we were spending longer hours there, and as for lunch, half the time we just ate hurried meals at our desks. No Botticelli now!
After years of reading about the changing American workplace and thinking about my own experiences, I decided to ask some other people in my own age group and older, meaning people who’ve been working 25 or more years, about their experiences, about whether they’d seen similar changes in their own fields.
It’s time to sweep aside all the illusions:
*That the national environmental organizations have a secret plan to save the environment but just haven’t told us yet
*That local acts of environmental sanity in a few dozen urban areas will make a dent on the global degradation of the life-support-system of the planet
*That “new technologies” will solve the problem
*That individual acts of recycling and “conscious consumerism” will change what is being produced
*That good guy corporate leaders will eventually turn around the massive impact that global corporations have been having in undermining Nature’s balance
*That political sanity will prevail if only we get a new president (remember when you thought that about Obama? Are you now thinking it will happen with Hillary?)
Illusion after illusion after illusion.
We are up against a global economic and political system that has only gotten worse and worse over the course of the 45 years since Earth Day 1970. Consciousness has grown, small battles have been won, and the people who worked so hard on both fronts deserve our commendation. But don’t deceive yourself: the situation of the planet has gotten worse and worse, and it will continue to do so until we have a movement capable of fundamentally changing our economic and political system.
by: Jeffrey Vogel on April 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
All living things, large, small, and in between, share in the precious gift of life on Earth. However, it is only we humans, with our large brains enabling us to be self consciously aware of this gift, that are the only creatures to celebrate Earth Day. As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day let us remember that this grand unifying perspective was made possible by one of our nation’s greatest gifts to the world, the first stunning photo of Earth from outer space taken during the Apollo moon missions. This awesome image of our beautifully round whole Earth, suspended in the vast blackness of space, is humanity’s crowning achievement on our long and frequently tortured path in trying to make some sense of our often overwhelming self-conscious existence; the climax of the long collective urge of humanity to explore our surroundings. This new perspective of the Earth takes our self consciousness to a whole new dimension enabling us to feel part of a much greater self — the whole Earth.
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
As supremely self conscious beings, humans are acutely aware of their mortality and therefore face the question: Why am I here? Human history has been largely determined by humanity’s attempts to answer this crucial question. To find an answer we look for symbols to identify with, to give us a sense of connection and belonging. These symbols range from family to tribe, from nationality to religion, from political party to ethnicity, from wealth to power, from designer clothes to team loyalty. But these identifications and affiliations often devolve into intolerance, violence and warfare as the various groupings strive for supremacy.
by: Larry Lerner on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
We cannot change the results of the last Israeli elections. Netanyahu will serve another term as the prime minister, only this time of a more right-wing government. This is an unfortunate fact.
Though you can’t change the results of the election, you can still have a say over what happens in Israel.
Just as groups on the Israeli Left face increasing marginalization, so too do progressive Zionist organizations in America. The American Zionist Movement (AZM) is holding an election to determine the views of American Jews for the World Zionist Congress, which takes place in October 2015. Much like Israel’s Knesset, there is a progressive slate of delegates that represents liberal Zionist ideals in the face of hardliners. It is the combined slate of Ameinu, Partners for a Progressive Israel, Hashomer Hatzair, and Habonim Dror. We call this the HATIKVAH slate.
by: Aryeh Cohen on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
We are on a journey. This period that we are now moving through, the seven weeks that start on the second day of Passover and end at Shavuot or Weeks, the next holiday in the calendrical cycle, is a journey from Egypt to Sinai. It is deeply symbolic that as the first day of Passover was waning this year, we were marking the 47th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year that anniversary was marked amidst the outcries of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, amidst the sounds of gunshots and the cries of unarmed black and brown men killed by officers of the law, of the state.
We are on a journey—but where are we going?
We know where we are coming from. We are coming from the Egypt of the three evils, as Dr. King described them, racism, poverty, and militarism. As the Yiddish proverb goes: any place can be your Egypt, any place can be your Promised Land. Today in the United States we are facing these same interrelated issues. Poverty overwhemingly impacts communities of color. Communities of color are impoverished by mass incarceration. The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Those people are then barred from the right to vote, have a harder time getting housing, or a job. As Michelle Alexander has argued, this is the new method of social control, of racist social control. A new Jim Crow in impact even if not in explicit intention. The police and incarceration regime are more and more militarized. While there are exceptions, the pictures that the whole world saw of police officers in Ferguson, MO in camouflage uniforms pointing assault weapons at unarmed civilians, is more often than not the rule.
by: David Giesen on April 20th, 2015 | 2 Comments »
A modern day version of the Jubilee land law must address land value justice rather than simply endorse redistribution. Above, construction cranes work on the Infinity Towers in San Francisco. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Hydrogen Iodide.
Please note: The following article is a response to Norman Solomon’s article in a series of web-only articles associated with Tikkun’s Winter 2015 issue: Jubilee and Debt Abolition.
The Jubilee land law of the Torah aimed to create and sustain a community of economically independent families free from social status differences. The society envisioned by the Torah was one where debt would never long plague any citizen, and a society in which full and equal standing as a free and dignified member was both the ideal and a possibility. The chief instrument in establishing such a remarkable community was the land law introduced in Chapter 25 of Leviticus. That law ensured that all Hebrews could make a livelihood directly from the soil. In short, at any time in history a family could turn its back on being employed and make a living on its own by direct application of labor to the land.
This essay aims to persuade you that the same intent of that land law is achievable today, with specific modern legislation. We can transform and heal society.
Throughout the ages, individuals and organizations have employed “religion” to justify the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, and oppression of entire groups of people based on their social identities. At various historical periods, people have applied these texts, sometimes taken in tandem, and at other times used selectively, to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and groups targeted by these texts and tenets.
Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) recently passed in states like Indiana and Arkansas argue that these laws promote religious freedoms and freedom of speech – two tenets already covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court opened the flood gates for the enactment of new and enhanced RFRA laws in its 2014 decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. While human and civil rights anti-discrimination laws primarily have never covered bone fide religious institutions, the Hobby Lobby ruling extended such exemptions to “closely held” (where no ready market exists for the trading of stock shares) for-profit corporations when these owners claim that to follow anti-discrimination statutes would violate their religious beliefs.