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Nathanial Batchelder (click image to read news and views from Peace House OK's Director, Nathaniel Batchelder)

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Affinity Groups for Social Action

It is not situations that are hopeless, but rather people who feel hopeless because events have left them discouraged or disempowered. Yes, these are tough times, politically and economically … all the more reason for us “peace activists” to review and renew our sources of hope. Actions DO make a difference, as all of us can attest. What is very difficult – even impossible – is to take action, consistently, by oneself. We must BELONG to groups which inspire action, facilitate action, and support us as we take actions. What is also challenging is take actions which are effective in bringing about social change.

At the Peace House, we encourage everyone to join an existing group taking regular action for change … or start one. By taking regular action in concert with others in small affinity groups, we can feel a part of the larger movement for social change that motivates and inspires all of us. To me, taking action is the antidote to feeling hopeless. I must decide what actions to take, and I must decide “how much is enough.” Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. And if everyone will find a way to take regular effective action for social change, our collective “somethings” will make it happen.

Indeed, at the Peace House we want to identify and communicate with affinity groups willing to affiliate with us. Contact us to list your group as an affinity groups affiliated with the Peace House. Perhaps we can offer advice, tips, suggestions, and alerts.

Batch presents a program titled “Healing the Break Between Citizens and Government” which addresses these issues and encourages affinity action groups. Imagine the impact if 100 such groups around the state were aligned in monthly actions for justice and peace. (Call the Peace House 405-524-5577 if interested in hearing more about this idea.)

An effective Affinity Group for Social Action has certain characteristics:
– meets at a regular time and place;
– has 5 to 12 members, one being the convener or facilitator;
– probably offers refreshments and/or snacks;
– shares identity with some larger group or groups;
– takes actions coordinated with a larger group: “action alerts;”
– develops accountability or “check in” systems on actions;
– develops measures of “success” based on actions taken;
– is intentional about fun as well as doing work.

It could be the “Social Justice Committee” at a house of worship, or a living room group which someone initiates.

Actions should focus on a “power center” in position to bring about the desired social change. Examples of power centers include the US Congress, large corporations, the media, religious denominations, the World Bank …. etc. etc. Actions are most often communications such as letters, calls, or faxes. Effective communications are short and specific: the action request should come first, and be crystal clear and achievable. If possible, follow-up communications are desirable to speak with someone who saw your request … or may need another copy of it. The squeaky wheel gets more grease. Emails are good if there is already a relationship with the person receiving the email. Congress members must receive thousands of emails, which may or may not get read. I like letters and calls.

The coming national elections in 2008 offer a huge opportunity to take action for social change. All US Reps are up for election every two years. US Senators are up for election every six years (Senator Jim Inhofe is up for election in November, 2008, and is challenged by State Senator Andrew Rice).

Whatever your issues or your candidates, social change requires more from us than that we “care,” and read lots of books and articles. Our passion for social change must be FELT by those in position to bring change about.

All the great social change movements – the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights – required struggle. Now we must struggle to bring the USA back on track … to become a nation working in concert with other nations for environmental sustainability, the elimination of the worst poverty and disease, for human rights and civil rights, for an economic sufficiency for all families, and for peace.

Hate Crimes Legislation Valuable

Clarification is needed to explain why hate crimes deserve special prosecution when some would argue that a crime is a crime, so why give special treatment to some groups.

All violent crimes are heinous but hate crimes are different. They target not only an individual but the entire population the individual represents. Hate crimes send a message to a population that it is in danger of similar acts of violence and hate.

Hate-crime laws emerged out of America’s outrage at the actions of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and others whose pleasure was to terrorize people they found unacceptable.

Our American sense of fairness is assaulted when someone of a particular religion or race is a target of hate violence simply because of who he or she is. Hate crime legislation communicates to the haters that society does not tolerate this behavior. Most Americans support national and state laws calling for prosecution of hate crimes.

It is a misunderstanding that such laws give special justice to certain groups. Many will recall the race riots in south central Los Angeles years ago and the appalling image on live TV of a white truck driver pulled from his vehicle and hit in the head with a chunk of concrete by a black man. Few will remember that the attacker was prosecuted under California’s hate-crimes law for his violence against the white driver. The language “on account of race” protects people of all races, just as “on account of religion” protects people of all religions.

Others ask how can we possibly interpret the perpetrator’s motivation? That issue is addressed every day in murder cases when prosecutors ask juries to determine whether a death was manslaughter or rises to the intention of first-degree or second-degree murder. The prosecution and sentence hinge on decisions about motivation.

Most hate crimes involve beatings or other acts of violence short of murder. A fistfight in a bar may be a crime but not a hate crime. Beating up someone because of race and writing racial epithets on their unconscious body would be a hate crime.

Violence against homosexuals has its own name as a sport called gay bashing. Police and prosecutors have, until recently, largely ignored violence against homosexuals. Indeed, historically, the police themselves have participated in violent raids on gay clubs to harass and intimidate gays.

Waking up to the injustice of hate violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people, responsible citizens petition to have sexual orientation added to existing hate crime laws. Some 80 percent of Americans support adding sexual orientation to laws on the books.

Today’s opposition to hate-crime laws is new, appearing to be a tactic to avoid including language protecting people “regardless of sexual orientation.” Let the opponents be reminded that this language would also protect heterosexuals from marauding gangs of violent homosexuals.

Plunder

The arrival of Columbus in this hemisphere 500 years ago was not the beginning of exploitation in the world. Indeed exploitation and destruction of other cultures has yet to be recognized as evil. For many, the images of historic conquests, rape and pillage, connote swash-buckling adventures of courageous figures. Vikings, explorers and adventurers arriving at “new and foreign shores” are roles Hollywood has given to Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston , and Errol Flynn.

For the people who lived in this hemisphere, and Africans brought later, October 12, 1492 is a date that lives in infamy.

We hardly dare learn the truth of acts perpetrated by Europeans who justified “Manifest Destiny” as a right, even a duty to God. The heathens were subdued, converted to Christianity, swept aside, or put to work for the expansion and wealth of the dominant race.

Slowly, details are coming out as we overcome our resistance to know. In this, we define who we are. If we cannot ever fully acknowledge the sins committed, the hearts broken, the cultures wrecked, at least we can seek ways to say to the survivors, “I am sorry for what my ancestors did to yours. I am sorry for the continuing racism I have not yet expunged from my own heart. In memory of your ancestors, who suffered so much, let us work together to rid the world of the exploitation and plundering, which continue today.”

Are we ready to look under that rug, to find the dirt of racism, exploitation, pillage and conquest which continue today TO OUR OWN PRIVILEGED SPECIAL BENEFIT? Are we ready to know who sews our shirts in Guatemala, who picks our fruit in Mexico and California, our coffee in Columbia, who mines our copper in Chile, who assembles our NIKE’s in Indonesia?

William Sloane Coffin said justice is giving back to people what belongs to them. In the case of the indigenous people of this hemisphere, that is quite impossible. What we can do, in memory of those who suffered and died, and suffer and die today, is to join hands with all the survivors, indigenous, African, Asian, all, and pledge ourselves to end plunder here. At least we can use these lessons to being 500 years characterized by passion for justice, human dignity, and a deep love of diversity and peace. For the dead, we owe this much, and more.

How It’s Really Like Vietnam, Mr. President

September 1, 2007
Oklahoma Peace Strategy Newspaper

As one who lived through the Vietnam era, there are not many things said about that war that make me more angry than for someone to say “we just should have stayed to win—the only thing we did wrong was to leave too soon.” It’s not something you hear many people say anymore—it has been widely discredited. But last week President Bush, for the first time acknowledging any comparison between Iraq and Vietnam, decided it was safe to repeat this in front of an audience of veterans, who were predisposed to applaud it. It was reassuring to hear the Sunday morning news/talk shows soundly trouncing President Bush’s assertion. Not only did the pols and pundits pan this idea but one news show stated they could not find a single historian to agree with this assessment.

I was a young woman at the time of Vietnam. We lost 55,000+ of our precious brothers, husbands, lovers, and classmates to that war. As with the Iraq war, it was not “getting out” that was the problem, it was the deeply flawed values and assumptions of the leadership in our country that led us to “getting in” in the first place. Here are some other ways the two are similar:

Then we were supposedly “fighting global communism;” today we are fighting global radical Islamists. In both instances, it was more about maintaining the prerogatives of global commerce than it was about democratic ideals.

Those who have lost loved ones were, and are, placed in the position of painfully assessing whether their dear one died for anything worthwhile at all. They died in service to their country. Some of them had a deep sense of duty; others just wanted help with a college education. And their country played fast and loose with their lives, as though it wasn’t really important to call on their willingness to serve as a precious resource to be used only in the most unavoidable of circumstances.

The country squandered then and is squandering now vast amounts of resources badly needed at home and around the globe. If this country had spent all the money it has thrown at this war in helping every Islamic country around the globe with food, water, medicine, and infrastructure instead of spending it on warfare, we would be safer than we are now. The only problem with this approach is that it would not “feed the monster” of the industrial-military complex.

There are indeed many vets who still believe we could have won the Vietnam war if we had “stayed the course.” (President Bush loves this phrase applied to the current war.) Many vets and their families need to believe this in order for their service to have been worth what it cost them. I knew a Vietnam vet who was on his way to killing himself with alcohol—every time he got drunk, he relived being a platoon leader who was assigned the task of capturing a particular hill. At the cost of all his men but one and himself, he did. Then a few days later it was deemed not important enough to keep holding. He was never able to recover or regain his balance. I have worked with many vets, some in drug and alcohol treatment programs, and the ones who seem to have regained their lives are the ones who are able to let go of the need for our country to be right and instead use the rest of their lives to give their own meaning to that experience. It seems apparent that the mental health cost for our current vets will also be lifelong and the services they are being and will be provided will be woefully inadequate as they have been in the past.

At the time of Vietnam, it took several years for a majority of the country to “get it” and oppose the war, although activists were opposing it from the outset. When it finally ended, 74% of the American people opposed that war. Unfortunately it has also taken a long time for a majority of the general public to oppose the Iraq war. At the time of any crisis, it is always tempting to do more of what one was already doing but with even more energy instead of ceasing to do those things that caused the crisis. But the old adage ‘when you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is to stop digging’ applies. Instead of renewing our commitment to an already demonstrably failed policy, we need STOP DOING IT. Then we need to evaluate how we got and get ourselves into these situations in the first place so we can prevent them in the future. Write a letter today.

Peace Can’t Wait!

THIS FALL: is a crucial time for citizens to communicate with Congress, newspapers and magazines on all the issues of concern to us. We cannot lie dormant, waiting for this administration to leave office. We must demand action now:

END WAR: We must end the US occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home. General Petraeus will make his report, and Congress will decide whether to continue funding the Iraq debacle. They must hear from us: “Enough rosie projections and half-truths! Bring the troops home!” If Vietnam taught us anything, it is that Generals NEVER want to announce a reversal of policy or say, “It’s time to come home and have peace.” GWBush and war supporters claim the US could have won in Vietnam if it weren’t for cowards in Congress. They also want war with IRAN, and we must prevent THAT TOO.

IMPEACH: We must press for impeachment of Dick Cheney by urging support for Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s legislation H.R. 333, which now has 19 cosponsors. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Jucidiary Committee Chair John Conyers also need encouragement to impeach. The resolution’s three charges are that Vice President Cheney: 1). has purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, as well as: 2). fabricating a threat about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, in order to justify the use of the U.S. Armed Forces against Iraq in a manner damaging to U.S. national security interests; and: 3). in violation of his constitutional oath and duty, has openly threatened aggression against Iran absent any real threat to the United States, and has done so with the proven U.S. capability to carry out such threats, thus undermining U.S. national security. [1][2]

GLOBAL WARMING: Congress should quickly embrace a “Go-To-The-Moon” priority for reducing national production of Greenhouse Gases. America must embark on a journey into harmony with nature and our earth. The USA must fall in love with fuel-efficient vehicles; public transportation; proper design and insulation of buildings and homes; green roofing; railroad transportation; rooftop solar capture; preservation of wild spaces and protections of species diversity. Let’s love the earth and all that dwells therein: every leaf and creature is connected to humanity. Life and abundance lie in harmony with nature. Death and destruction lie in domination and exploitation.

These and other critical issues demand action now. So act! We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for!

No Nukes for USA

OPS, May 2007

Nuclear bomb-makers constantly put forward ideas for “new” and “necessary” models, because — let’s face it — they want to make bombs. Meanwhile, most of the world, and most sane people, believe nuclear weapons are obsolete and useless (hopefully). At the height of the Cold War nuclear arms race, the best rationale for nukes was that they were essential in order to prevent their own use.

In recent years, arms makers — and supporters in Congress — have entertained serious discussions to develop “bunker-buster” nukes to penetrate the earth from space to a depth of up to 100 feet, THEN explode, insuring that underground bunkers are destroyed. Cooler heads have prevailed, and plans for the bunker-buster nuke have been shelved. (Phew!).

A generation of “smaller” nuclear weapons for “theater use” has also been on the table … “little nukes” which would obliterate only a few square miles, thus “limiting” the damage they would wreak (and make their use more likely, of course.)

Now comes the latest proposal: officially called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). The rationale for the RRWs is that they would guarantee “long-term confidence” in the reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. (Multiple independent studies have shown, however, that the nuclear weapons stockpile will remain “safe and reliable” for at least another 50 years.)

The Council For a Liveable World — www.clw.org — says this new nuclear bomb is part of a larger Bush Administration plan to rebuild the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, the cost of which the Department of Energy (DOE) estimates will exceed $150 billion by 2030. The Government Accountability Office — GAO — believes this estimate is too low and has advised Congress to require that the DOE produce an accurate accounting of the costs.

Meanwhile, the USA still has nearly 6,000 operational nuclear weapons, far beyond any rational need. (And TONS of weapons-grade plutonium, uranium, and other components, are “in storage” in places like Amarillo’s Pantex Nuclear Weapons Facility, 250 miles west of Oklahoma City, just off I-40.)

Opponents of new nuclear weapons successfully stopped development of the “bunker buster” nuclear bomb in recent years. We can’t afford to lose ground now by moving ahead with the Reliable Replacement Warhead. The United States should be showing leadership by DISMANTLING nuclear weapons, not attempting to build new ones.

The victory against “bunker buster” nukes proved that these battles can be won. But the issue requires action from citizens. That’s you.

Page 5 of this newspaper provides addresses, phone numbers, and fax numbers of all seven Members of Congress from Oklahoma. Contact our two Senators, and YOUR Representative to say “No More Nuclear Weapons.”

Your letter can simply say, “No more nuclear weapons. The USA should be dismantling nuclear weapons, not designing new ones. Stop development of any and all new nuclear weapons. No “theater-use” nuclear weapons. No Reliable Replacement Warheads (RRWs). No “bunker-buster” nuclear weapons. We must eliminate the perception that nuclear weapons are acceptable, in order to reduce the possibility that they would ever be used.”

You can also find the Council For A Livable World petition at www.clw.org.
(URL for the petition is actually www.clw.org/action/petitions/stop_rrw )

Peace Muscle

Oklahoma Peace Strategy Newspaper, May 2007

A blizzard of activities for social justice and peace in recent months, both locally and nationally, reflect growing passion among citizens to end and reverse the US occupation of Iraq – but more – to return to the truly American values of democracy, peace, and justice for all. It has been a dizzying and exhilarating time. Let’s hope this energy builds and expands!

Once upon a time, it was possible for a person to attend almost every peace and justice event in central Oklahoma. Now, events, lectures, workshops and films are scheduled north, south, east, and west, often on the same evening. Did you go to hear Jane Goodall at OCU, or journalist Anthony Shadid reporting at the Unitarian Church speaking about shoddy media coverage of the Iraq War? Or perhaps you just rested up so you could go the next evening to hear Lt. Col. Robert M. Bowman, USAF (ret) speak for peace at Mayflower Church. There is a lot going on!

Sat, March 17 Peace Rally:
On Saturday, March 17, marking four years of war in Iraq, some 400 Oklahomans gathered for a peace rally on the State Capital Plaza, for music, reading the names of fallen Oklahomans, and listening to notable opinion leaders speak for peace. Music by the Electric Primadonnas welcomed folks to the plaza, where tables of information were set up by the Peace House, CodePink, Veterans for Peace, and the Department of Peace Campaign. Speaking were State Senator Connie Johnson, Rep. Anastasia Pittman, USAF Col (ret) Katherine Schierman, Iraq Veteran Brandon Jackson, Gold Star family Warren, Kay, and Jamie Blake Henthorn, and Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers of Mayflower Congregational Church. Dr. Meyers invited people to come forward to read names of the more than 50 Oklahomans who have died in Iraq, and a gong was sounded after each name was read. Dr. Meyers’ comments are posted at: www.peacehouseok.org.

Sun, Mar 18, Spiritual Walk for Peace:
The next afternoon, some 250 citizens gathered at the Episcopal Center for encouraging words for peace and a silent peace walk encircling the Murrah Building National Memorial. Music by Mary Reynolds, Louise Goldberg and friends set the tone on a glorious Sunday afternoon. Dean George Back of St. Paul’s Cathedral welcomed the crowd and gave a prayer for peace. Senator Connie Johnson spoke again, and Rev. Lance Schmitz made an impassioned plea to support peace. Rex Friend staged the silent walk. Peace walkers stretched two blocks, as on-lookers visiting the Murrah Memorial stopped to watch the procession. At the Jesus Wept statue, the crowd paused for song and words from Cynthia Johnson and Rex Friend, then Rev. Meyers and others read again the names of Oklahomans killed in Iraq. Back at the Episcopal Center, State Representative Al McAffrey spoke strongly for an end to the Iraq conflict. Sister Benedicta Boland with the Red Plains Monastery of Benedictine Sisters then closed the event with teachings from St. Benedict and a peace prayer.

April 18, Lt.Col Robt. M. Bowman USAF (ret):
Dr. Bob Bowman spoke April 18th to a crowd of some 175 at Mayflower Congregational Church, as part of a 100-city speaking tour around the US. Bowman was a fighter pilot in Vietnam, and, with a PhD in Aeronautics, directed US military research into space-based weapons under the Ford and Carter administrations. Since his retirement, Bowman has directed his own non-profit organization dedicated to justice, peace, and the appropriate use (only) of the US military. Bowman is an outspoken opponent of Bush administration policies including the Iraq war, unwarranted surveillance of US citizens, torture and rendition of US prisoners, ignoring global warming and environmental challenges, endangering Social Security, and failure to implement a national health insurance policy. Dr. Bowman’s website about his speaking tour includes his analysis and prescriptions for US politics. www.ThePatriots.us

The spirit of people rising is always good news. Your efforts inspire me, just as others’ efforts inspire you. If everyone will follow the counsel of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, the victory of justice and peace in the world becomes possible. He said, “Everyone can do something.”

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