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Uncle Pentagon: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American War State

Mar11

by: Frida Berrigan on March 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

A black and white photograph of a young boy holding a woman's hand as they walk in front of the Pentagon.

Growing up as the daughter of two prominent activists, Friday Berrigan spent much of her childhood at the Pentagon. Above, the author (at about two) and Rosemary Maguire at the River Entrance to the Pentagon in 1976. Credit: Frida Berrigan.

The Pentagon loomed so large in my childhood that it could have been another member of my family. Maybe a menacing uncle who doled out put-downs and whacks to teach us lessons or a rich, dismissive great-aunt intent on propriety and good manners.

Whatever the case, our holidays were built around visits to the Pentagon’s massive grounds. That’s where we went for Easter, Christmas, even summer vacation (to commemorate the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). When we were little, my brother and sister and I would cry with terror and dread as we first glimpsed the building from the bridge across the Potomac River. To us, it pulsated with malice as if it came with an ominous, beat-driven soundtrack out of Star Wars.

I grew up in Baltimore at Jonah House, a radical Christian community of people committed to nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear culture. It was founded by my parents, Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. They gained international renown as pacifist peace activists not afraid to damage property or face long prison terms. The Baltimore Four, the Catonsville Nine, the Plowshares Eight, the Griffiss Seven: these were anti-Vietnam War or antinuclear actions they helped plan, took part in, and often enough went to jail for. These were also creative conspiracies meant to raise large questions about our personal responsibility for, and the role of conscience in, our world. In addition, they were explorations of how to be effective and nonviolent in opposition to the war state. These actions drew plenty of media attention and crowds of supporters, but in between we always went back to the Pentagon.

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Farmworker Women Speaking Up on Domestic Violence

Mar9

by: Brenda Rincon on March 9th, 2015 | No Comments »

(Crossposted from New America Media)

Editor’s Note: This article was produced as part of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, a program of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Names have been changed in this story for the protection of the victim.

Latino farmworkers picking tomatoes in a field.

Female farmworkers are arguably the most reluctant victims to report domestic abuse, not least because they (and their abusers) are often undocumented immigrants.

Alicia Montes was only 16 when she fell in love with Juan Alvarez in the courtyard of the trailer park where she lived with her father and siblings.

“I was abandoned as a child by my mother, and I was looking for the love of a parent,” she says in Spanish. “I thought I loved him, but now I see I did not.”

At the time, Montes could not imagine that charming young man would come to shove, choke, and kick her as he did throughout their 15-year relationship.

Montes, now 33, is one of an unknown number of victims of domestic violence in the Eastern Coachella Valley – a largely impoverished agricultural community with approximately 56,000 residents, about 20 miles east of Palm Springs -and one of the few to report her abuser to authorities.

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Open Letter to Rudy Giuliani on the Characterization of Obama

Mar4

by: on March 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

A cartoon of Rudy Giuliani with bats flying out of his mouth.

Rudy Giuliani's continuing criticism of President Obama is neither informed nor constructive. What, exactly, is he saying, asks Dr. Blumenfeld. Credit: CreativeCommons / DonkeyHotey

Dear Rudy,

I realize that you don’t know me, but I hope you won’t mind if I refer to you as “Rudy.” Anyway, I am writing to you because, frankly, you said some things about President Obama that confused me. I hope you can clarify some things.

During a private dinner held in New York City for possible GOP 2016 presidential contender, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, you said:

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

“I do not believe that the president loves America.”

So, Rudy, let’s break down your statement. When you say that “I do not believe that the president loves America,” what indication do you have or what criteria are you using? I really want to know,

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Generosity Versus Violence

Feb25

by: Jack Gilroy on February 25th, 2015 | 15 Comments »

In May of 1955, I was one of thirty United States Infantrymen facing a like number of Russian Infantrymen divided only by a manhole cover, on the cobblestone plaza of Schoenbrun Palace, Vienna, Austria. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, Allen Dulles, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sat on the sidelines. At a signal, the American and Russian Colonels saluted, that was the official end of the occupation of Austria. The withdrawal of all foreign troops would begin and Austria would start a new age away from a war economy.

There was much to do. Although the Marshall Plan, the economic assistance plan to assist European nations devastated by World War II, had obvious political and even self-serving strategies by the giver nation, the USA, it was evident that it was working. The rubble of war was being cleaned up except across the Danube where buildings remained torn and tattered from intensive bombing ten and more years before.

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Global Divestment Day: Undermining the System that Causes Climate Change

Feb13

by: on February 13th, 2015 | No Comments »

Calling on the United Methodist Church to Divest from Fossil Fuels.

 

Check out the many divestment actions that are taking place around the world today–Global Divestment Day.

The movement to divest from fossil fuels undermines the system that is causing climate change. The worldwide system of unrestrained free-market capitalism, dominated by global corporations and fueled by money, is based on the view that market forces will sort everything out.

Those of us who are working to get our churches, synagogues, colleges, and other institutions to divest from fossil fuels are challenging this system by saying, “Money is not the highest value.” There are good financial reasons to divest from fossil fuels, but even if there weren’t, “If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.” There are values in life that are more important than money.

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Sit Down to Stand Up

Nov13

by: Aryeh Cohen on November 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Walmart Protest

Credit: Creative Commons/ Brave New Films

One of the earliest recorded labor actions occurred in Biblical Egypt. Moses demanded that Pharaoh let the Israelites slaves go into the desert to worship their God. Moses, in other words, demanded that Pharaoh treat the Israelites as people with spiritual and physical needs, rather than as construction machines useful for the raising of royal cities and monuments.

Pharaoh, as many a tyrant after him, refused to see the Israelites as full people worthy of respect and dignity. The only thing he could see was that they were “shirkers” who didn’t want to do a good day’s work. Pharaoh never dreamed that a rag tag people with a leader who stuttered and claimed to be speaking for an invisible God would ever be a threat to his rule and his country.

We all know how that turned out.

Nonviolent direct action has two goals. The first one, as my friend and teacher, and fellow CLUE-LA board member Jim Conn has said, is to turn the tables on the powerful. When the oppressed stop cooperating in a system of oppression, and start demanding dignity, respect, and just compensation, the system grinds to a halt. The only way to restart it is for the “powerful” to compromise, or accede to the “weak.”

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Mitzvah Day 2.0 (on Walmart)

Nov10

by: Aryeh Cohen on November 10th, 2014 | Comments Off

Nov 13, 2014 Walmart protest Mitzvah Day 2.0

In many Jewish communities in the United States, Mitzvah Day is celebrated annually. Mitzvah (literally: commandment, colloquially: a good deed) Day is a day on which Jewish communities come together to perform all manners of community service. Atlanta’s Mitzvah day announces that it contributed 570 hours of service by 190 volunteers at ten project sites. At Temple Emmanuel in New York City people made totes for women undergoing chemotherapy, sandwiches and 300 meal bags to combat hunger, and baked fresh cookies which were packaged with organic milk boxes for children at the local day-care and after-school programs. In Los Angeles, (which seems to have been the originator of the concept) Mitzvah Day outgrew the Jewish community and was adopted by the whole city as Big Sunday.

All the Mitzvah Day projects seem to be well-attended and worthwhile (at least the ones I’ve seen). However, I want to suggest that the vision of Mitzvah Day is too narrow. There are some commandments which are not included in any Mitzvah Day or Big Sunday I’ve seen. These are the commandments to protest against injustice and to treat workers fairly. Therefore, I would like to think that this Thursday (November 13) in front of the Walmart in Pico Rivera, California will be Mitzvah Day 2.0. Workers, clergy, and community members will be protesting against Walmart’s mistreatment of its workers and demand that Walmart pay its employees at least fifteen dollars an hour, and that they have access to full time employment.

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Project Shows How Twelve People Got Into Debt in San Francisco

Nov10

by: Brittany M. Powell on November 10th, 2014 | Comments Off

The Debt Project

Credit: Brittany M. Powell

Crossposted from The Bold Italic

In 2012, after struggling with a significant loss of income from my photography business following the 2008 economic decline, my debt skyrocketed, and I made the difficult decision to file for bankruptcy. This inspired my interest in investigating how debt affects our identities and how we relate to the world. Debt is publicly enforced and highly stigmatized but is almost always privately experienced. It is in many ways an abstract form without material weight or structure, yet it has a heavy physicality and is a burden in a person’s everyday life.

The Debt Project is a photographic and multimedia exploration into the role that debt plays in our personal identities and social structures. I began the projectby asking subjects to sit for a formal portrait in their homes, surrounded by their belongings, in a way that’s reminiscent of the early Flemish portrait-painting tradition, and answer a series of questions on camera about their debt. I also asked them to handwrite the amount of debt they are in and tell the story behind it.

To see more of Brittany M. Powell’s photos, visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery.

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Economics According to the New Testament

Nov5

by: Kevin Daugherty on November 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

rich and poor

Credit: The Hampton Institute

Growing up, I was often exposed to the idea that capitalism and Christianity go together. Profit and wealth were not simply compatible with Christianity, but were a sign of God’s blessing or your personal piety. I remember going to the Christian bookstore once or twice and seeing large piles of books with that topic specifically in mind, usually by Dave Ramsey, who was recently on the 700 Club for a new book of his. In that interview, one of the first things mentioned is how Ramsey and Robertson agree that wealth is a good thing, and that those who see wealth as bad are wrong, even “gnostic.” I don’t think the heretics here are the “gnostics” who believe that wealth is wrong; rather, I think the heretics here are Ramsey, Robertson, and others in their camp, who seem to have forgotten what the New Testament and early church taught concerning economics.

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2014 Midterm Elections Will Change Nothing

Oct28

by: on October 28th, 2014 | Comments Off

The 2014 midterm election will change nothing in the United States. This election is set to be the most expensive non-presidential election in US history and unfortunately money buys elections. Not only do politicians do the bidding of the wealthy, they themselves are increasingly numbered among the rich and super-rich and they follow their corporate masters. Social inequality rules in America and the 2014 midterm election has been reduced to Kabuki theater as millionaire Republicans and Democrats rearrange the chairs on the deck of the sinking Republic while the mainstream press tries to convince us that it all really matters.

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