This piece is by guest contributor Curtis Taylor, who is a teacher at Dr. Freddie Thomas High School in Rochester, New York. The Gandhi Institute has been partnering with Mr. Taylor and other teachers at Freddie Thomas to provide nonviolence education sessions four times each week. More info on Mr. Taylor’s background and experience is below.
Goal: Ending the Race Wars
The tragic August 5 shootings at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin brought to my mind, once again, a hard question I continually ask myself as a teacher: how can we as educators help to prevent young people from growing up hateful?
We are not, after all, their parents or guardians. We cannot control what they go through at home, or in their neighborhoods, or in their daily lives out in the world.
And yet, as I have learned and continue to learn, we can do something. I think back to 2007, when I substitute-taught a group of seventh- and eighth-graders at a city public school in Rochester, New York.
There was, in an adolescent way, a race war going on in this group of young people. On one side were American-born English-speaking students, mostly African-American. On the other side were English Language Learner students, primarily from African nations and from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran. From what I could tell, the combat started with the American-born students making fun of the ELL students for their ways of speaking and their cultures. This escalated to ridiculing and demeaning female Muslim students for their traditional garb, and making inflammatory claims that the religion of Islam was responsible for the awful events of September 11th. Then came the counter-attacks: the English Language Learners, not to be outdone, vehemently mocked the American-born black students as uneducated, lazy, violent and stupid. Things went into free-fall.
I fought it. First I tried the tough approach: I told every student that under no circumstances would I allow xenophobic, racist or intolerant behaviors in my classrooms. Then I tried the empathic approach: I told the black American-born students that showing mutual respect was a way for them to counter negative perceptions of America and media-produced stereotypes of black Americans. Next I tried the unifying approach: I told all of the students that regardless of ethnic or religious differences, they all shared a heritage of having been colonized by European powers.
All of this failed. The abuse and counter-abuse kept going full-steam.
So I tried soccer.
But here’s the twist: I didn’t want students to play the game. I wanted them to see certain things about the game.
Right off, soccer appealed to more of the ELL students, who were often from nations where soccer is huge, than the African-American students, who tended to see soccer as a privileged “white” game. So I showed videos of the world’s top soccer players, many of whom are of African descent. I also showed news footage of black players being bombarded with racial abuse by thousands of racist fans during matches in European countries: fans throwing bananas, screaming epithets, making monkey chants. At the same time, I showed video footage of Muslim and African immigrants in Europe being discriminated against, attacked and even killed by wildly bigoted mobs.
This started to hit home. In answer to questions I devised, and during speak-outs I orchestrated, students began to open up. American-born black students expressed shock at how much they had in common with the foreign-born students of color. Foreign-born students heard harrowing stories from black American students that were not terribly unlike their own experiences. In these conversations, and in the ensuing days, the mood shifted subtly from civil to cordial to downright collegial among some students who just days ago had been at each other’s throats. Frankly, it amazed me.
I provided as much guidance as I thought I should: I asked students to describe out loud instances when they had been discriminated against and occasions when they had stood idly by while members of “their” group discriminated against others. I asked them how they could use what they had now seen and heard to look out for one another and to help students in general in the school to better get along. I suggested to them that bigoted actions, if not caught early and opposed, can spread like cancer until something tragic happens. I assigned seating so that every American-born student was seated next to a foreign-born student, and I held students to this arrangement.
By the end of my two weeks as a substitute, the racial taunting had ceased. I don’t delude myself into thinking that the prejudices carried by these young people – which took a lifetime to take hold – suddenly disappeared. But I did see first-hand how bringing students face-to-face with one another’s ordeals and truths can be a big step toward a shared sense of fairness and justice.
About the author:
Curtis Taylor is a native of Rochester, NY and a graduate of the Rochester City School District. After being labeled emotionally disturbed as well as an at-risk-youth during the 4th grade, he would spend grades 4-8th in a special education academic setting. After graduating from high school and enrolling at a local community college he decided to give back to minority youth by working as a teacher’s aide and a summer recreation counselor for several years. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree from S.U.N.Y. College from Old Westbury with a degree in Media and Communications /American history he decided to dedicate his life to assisting impressionable inner-city youth by deciding to work as a substitute teacher in the Rochester City School District. Witnessing the firsthand accounts of the disturbing educational experiences that inner children and teaching staff experience on a daily basis compelled him to pen his EPIC first novel- A Teacher’s Diary: A True Life Novel.
Curtis is currently enrolled in a graduate school TESOL(Teaching English as a Second Language) program at Nazareth College. For the spring semester of 2013, Curtis has decided to spend a semester abroad in North Africa (Tunisia) learning Arabic and French. In addition, he has earned a Tier I certification from Football4Peace international, a British Council Sponsored program during a weeklong conference in England. The Football4Peace organization uses soccer to promote mutual respect and cooperation between Arab and Israeli children in the Middle East. He is scheduled to graduate from Nazareth College with his master’s Degree during the spring semester of 2014.
By David Sanchez
Conflict in Palestine and Israel is not inevitable. How do I know this? Because I’ve met people of this land who, despite the overabundance of fuel for hate, recognize that it is just that type of energy that feeds the fire of the cycle of violence and instead thirst for a just peace. It would be misleading if I didn’t reveal that I’ve also met people who’ve become victim to digesting the propaganda of “Othering” and in turn feed it to their peers and children. Of course you can turn on the news and see the array of politicians and commentators standing next to the flame feeding it with fear and extremism. Like anywhere else in the world, there are a small number of people who benefit greatly from conflict while the majority of populations are fooled and coerced into playing along with devastating results. The challenge is then, to highlight this gross imbalance and injustice to participants and the world at large.
FOREIGNER IN A FOREIGN LAND
You can imagine the reaction on peoples face when I, a young, white male dripping in American privilege began telling friends and family that I’d decided to visit Israel and teach English in refugee camps in Palestine- “Oh, but isn’t it dangerous, and “Aren’t there terrorists over there?” Those especially concerned for my safety advised me not to reveal my citizenship. On the flip side, whenever I travel I make it a point to let people know where I’m from when asked because I aim to confront the perceptions and stereotypes others have while facing my own. Above all, it was for this very reason of investigating how I as an American, who lives thousands of miles away, am somehow connected to the land that is called both Palestine and Israel.
Being named David, after the late great King of ancient Israel, a man revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike provoked more attention than I expected. When I pronounced my name in English most Jews thought I was Jewish and most Arabs thought I was, well, Jewish. Whenever I revealed to an Arab that I am in fact not Jewish I was usually quickly assured how it wouldn’t be a problem if I was. I was taken aback by how tolerant most Palestinians were despite the military and economic occupation by Israel. Upon answering that I was American, the default response was “You are welcome” coupled with a smile. I had heard about Arab hospitality but now wondered how aware Palestinians were of the massive funding the US provides to Israel and how this might influence my reception. I quickly found out that many people were well aware of US support of the Israeli regime that carries out an apartheid expansionist policy that subjugates a population in their own homes and fields. As one man told me “Ah, we don’t like what your government does here, but we love the American people.” And they do. I’ve never been invited to not only eat with but to stay with so many families than in Palestine. I was confounded, how could these people open up their hearts and homes so readily to me, someone with real links to their oppression? Such treatment forced me to further scrutinize the way in which this conflict is internalized based on media portrayal of Israelis and Palestinians and the political stance of my own government.
DÉJÀ VU: FAILED SOLUTIONS
As the debris from the most recent large-scale outbreak of the conflict has settled, the world seems to sit back, as if waiting for the intermission to break yet again. And so, the same cliché question resurfaces: what to do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? To any viewer of international media the answers would seem to be hidden somewhere inside a cluster of finger pointing and political roundabouts, or in other words, nowhere to be found. That is to be expected. There are many powerful individuals, groups, corporations and countries that are politically and economically invested in perpetuating the status quo.
Media coverage of the latest outbreak of missiles besieged on and from within Gaza was massive, as it should be. There was not a shortage of war crimes to be documented on both sides. As usual, the physical destruction was disproportionate for Palestinians, leaving approximately 170 dead, 750 wounded, with 6 Israeli’s dead and many more wounded. The imbalance in numbers results from difference in quantity and quality of weapons the advanced Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and Hamas militants hold and that with a population of 1.7 million people, Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth. All of these statistics fail to address the detrimental impact that this ongoing feud leaves on the psyches of every last person living in the area and beyond. They also fail to recognize that this last operation is but yet another failed military solution for an issue that demands one of political nature. Now that the pieces are left to be picked up, the limelight has all but disappeared. Herein lies a major issue for how we view this and ever other conflict: worldwide attention peaks only when people start dying.
For years on end the world’s solution has been to offer “Peace Talks”. The US government has done everything in its power to direct these talks to benefit Israeli interests and its own, leaving Palestinians without fair representation. From blockading in the UN Security Council to directly arming the IDF, the US has provided full political cover for Israeli regimes to pursue their agendas. Thus, land has only continued to be swallowed up into Israeli settlements, further complicating one of the most significant issues in a peace deal today. As of right now, the seeds of future conflict are being sowed in the name of Americans.
If we continue to politically validate and physically support the violence in the region what message does that send to the youth of Palestine which have the potential to become radicalized or leaders of peaceful movements, and to the youth of Israel who are mandated to serve in the military?
The message is clear: there will never be peace among your peoples.
WAITING TO BE HEARD
Like any resistance movement, there is diversity among strategies and ideologies, falling mainly into armed and non-violent categories. In the case of the Palestinians, a predominant amount of coverage has been given to those groups that choose violence as their vehicle for creating change.
Sitting in a room full of Palestinian youth a day after the latest attacks began on and from Gaza, I questioned the use and effectiveness of newly acquired Hamas missile systems that could launch at farther distances, this time hitting civilian targets deeper inside Israel. A few young men in the group were under the impression that power had shifted because of this new acquisition and that the world would now be forced to listen to Palestinians in a different way. Weapons are in fact a manifestation of power. However, seeking change through these means is only re-energizes the cycle of killing, and perpetuates the conflict. From media reports and IDF Twitter posts, one could gather that a very similar type of conversation was occurring among both Israeli soldiers and high-level officials, justifying this new round of ‘inevitable’ warfare, euphemistically known as “cutting the grass.”
Among these same voices I was reminded time and again that Palestinians were conscious of being labeled as “terrorists” but not for being known for their many other types of resistance and diverse culture. Despite this, I met countless young, driven men and women working at community building who told me after graduating from university they would travel to find the jobs that don’t exist at home and challenge these stereotypes about their people. And they do. Many families I met had a son in California, Abu Dhabi, or Qatar, working to send money home. The Diaspora has dispersed the Palestinian people all over the world. Still, there are young and old alike who remain in their homeland, and despite the abundant reasons to become apathetic have chosen instead to lead and to utilize education and international solidarity as their weapons. They use social media, music, art and other means as their voice and they are waiting to be heard. A Palestinian slogan often heard voicing this indomitable will is simply “To exist is to resist”.
If we fail to portray any people in the multi-dimensional light due, we undermine the efforts of those who negate the philosophy of violence and thus condemn entire cultures to stereotypes.
NONVIOLENCE: THE ONLY VIABLE SOLUTION
How then, do we avoid the predictable narrative of repeating bloodshed? If we look a little deeper, possible solutions and execution of them are unfolding by Palestinians, Israelis and internationals vested in reconciliation. These solutions, however, do not fit into the discourse of a mainstream media with various political agendas. Rather they speak in the language of nonviolent resistance. They are the voices of the villagers of Budris, Bi’lin, Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam, of Women in Black, Edward Said, Ilan Pappe, Heartbeat, Tarabut – Hithabrut, Alice Walker and Norman Finkelstein, to mention just a few. Nonviolent conflict resolution is not a passive, romanticized, unattainable ideal. It has worked towards solving countless other conflicts and holds all parties accountable for their actions. It offers pragmatic solutions to the enormous human and economic costs incurred to keep this war going.
Among massive repression, the First Intifada was propelled by a non-violent mass movement. The Second Intifada, too, had many non-violent actions among the wide-scale violence that spiked the death toll in the region.
So one has to ask, why then isn’t the world listening? A quick glance at the history of social movements would suggest that consciousness and action haven’t yet reached a critical mass. The recent U.N. vote upgrading Palestine to a non-member observer state, worldwide solidarity actions, and Israeli settlement boycotts are a few indications that international governments and populations stance on Israeli policy is shifting. But is it assertive enough? More importantly, does it call for a fundamental change in the way we view this matter that leads to sustainable changes on the ground and in the virtually powerless UN body? Without waiting for the UN or anyone else, many people have been working towards cohabitation in Palestine and Israel on a grassroots level for years.
During olive harvesting season there is a call for the presence of internationals to discourage attacks on Palestinian’s and their crops. Yet still, destruction occurred at record rate this year with farmers attacked, land seized and trees destroyed by both settlers and IDF. As part of their mission, the group Rabbi’s for Human Rights takes part in the harvest, bringing Israeli’s out to witness and document the situation. One day, a Palestinian family we worked alongside with finally received the permit needed to harvest their grove, as it was in close proximity to the extending arms of the nearest illegal outpost. As one rabbi told me ‘We come here on moral and religious grounds, the theft of land and destruction of any tree that bears fruit is forbidden under Jewish law.’ As I left I snapped a photo of a Palestinian woman working from the top of her family tree with two Israeli women harvesting below her; not a be all to end all, but if only a reminder that Jews, Christians and Muslims have been cohabitating in this land through war and peace for thousands of years.
The documentarian, Julia Bacha, vividly illustrates the story of Budrus, a Palestinian village that united in non-violent resistance to successfully alter the placement of the separation wall on their land. Some of the actions also included Israeli citizens who stood in solidarity with the villagers, challenging stereotypes at their very core. Bacha argues that when non-violent action is given due attention it spreads. In numerous instances it has. She tells of the contagious impact of empowerment and exposure the screening of her film had in various villages, which inspired others to mimic such strategies.
Demonstrations are exploding right now all over the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. Palestinians, Israeli’s and internationals have been organizing in non-violent demonstrations to show solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons, shut down settler-only roads, bring attention to settlement expansion of E1 in Jerusalem and illustrate the situation in Gaza among countless other issues surrounding the occupation.
These are but a few stories of everyday people working towards an alternative way of living.
THE CHOICE: NONVIOLENT COEXISTENCE OR COANNIHALATION
It seems then, that we now stand at a diverging crossroad, or more poignantly, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech:
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Born out of the Cold War, the implications of these words are far more real today with growing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and world.
We must then come to the conclusion that resolution of this conflict calls for a total transformation in the way we highlight acts of violence and nonviolence, one that labels the former as destructive, de-legitimate, and counter to international law and human rights and looks to foster and legitimize the latter. It also calls to recognize policies of occupation and apartheid as inherently violent and therefore root causes of subsequent violence. Contrary to claims of acting as deterrents to extremism and suicide bombing, these are the very policies used as recruiting tools for those schools of thought, very much the same as American drone bombings do in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Failure to confront these elements absolves the very foundation of any negotiations before even beginning to be built; violent means will only lead to violent ends. Therefore the point of discussing any sort of state(s) solution or further “Peace Talks” is moot until we realize that only through forging nonviolent means can we reach peaceful ends. The options for participating in this endeavor are endless and one only needs to look at the tactics being employed on the ground now and to past social movements for ideas how.
The affects of the Palestinian-Israeli relationship are not isolated to that small swathe of land, not even just to the Middle East, but are rather a symptom of a larger malady of conflict that endangers the earth as a whole. With the occupation of Gaza becoming more of a humanitarian catastrophe by the day, continuation of repression, expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and the Israeli nuclear arsenal, cost of living and antagonism of government officials growing, the need for a movement towards a lasting reconciliation is imminently more necessary. So many times have I heard fellow Americans speak of “those people” fighting “over there” as if speaking of some foreign species on another planet. Yet, in a globalized world, what goes on in this region is as relevant to our lives as is missile testing in North Korea, the growing crisis in Syria, our own massive “United States-Mexico barrier” in the South, the most recent shooting in your town and what will be on your dinner table tonight. In other words, it’s at the foot of our doorsteps, and the policies we shape in these areas have huge implications for those who come knocking wishing to wish us harm or good health.
There is currently a domestic and international shift occurring in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more broadly to how we as Americans and humans impact the lives of other people. We now have to decide how and what role we play in these changes: will we be complicit observers, supporters of oppressive regimes or actors in the liberation of any person repressed by their neighbor or government? As with the lifting of racist laws on African Americans, South Africans, and support of dictatorships in countless other cases, the US government is guaranteed to show up late and unapologetic. However, we as individuals and communities have never been tied to that same predictable narrative. Instead, we alone hold the capacity and responsibility to determine the role we will play in our own history and humanity.
By George Payne
Dear God, have mercy on Lu Lingzi, her family, the people of China, and the entire Boston University community. Have mercy on Martin Richards, Martin’s parents, Bill and Denise, and sister, Jane. Have mercy on Krystle Campbell, her father, William Campbell, and her grandmother, Lillian Campbell. Have mercy on MIT officer Sean Collier, and all who loved him. Have mercy on the 27, 000 runners who crossed the finish line, the 400,000 spectators, and the millions of viewers who watched the race on TV, the Internet, and cell phones all over the world. Have mercy on people who took shrapnel on Kenmore Square and Boylston Street, and those who had legs and arms ripped from their bodies in the twin blasts packed with nails and ball bearings. Be with the medics, trauma care physicians, EMTs, the Boston Police Department, the Boston Fire Department and anyone who held and sometimes stopped the bleeding that day. Have mercy on the ambulance drivers, paramedics, doctors and nurses at Boston City Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Have mercy on councilors, therapists, chaplains, imams, priests, rabbis, pastors, youth workers and educators. Have mercy on funeral directors, morticians, pall bearers and gravediggers. Be with Muslim- Americans. Be with Russians and Chechens. Have mercy on Anzor Tsarnaev, Zubeidat Tsarnaev and Ruslan Tsarni. Be with the teachers, coaches and staff members of Cambridge Rindge and Latin, UMass Dartmouth, and Bunker Hill Community College. Have mercy on the reporters, news anchors, journalists and bloggers assigned to cover this senseless carnage. Be with the designers, factory workers, truckers, retailers, salespersons and cashiers that helped to produce and distribute the parts that went into constructing the bombs. Be with the crime scene investigators, enlisted ATF, FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Massachusetts National Guard, Massachusetts State Police, and Watertown Police. Have mercy on the man who owns the boat that became an entombed hideout. Have mercy on President Obama, the U.S. Congress, the House of Representatives, the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Boston City Council. Be with children who do not understand despair but feel its soul shattering effects. Have mercy on veterans who understand despair but no longer believe in a soul to be shattered. Be with the murdered innocents of hellfire missiles from drone strikes over the skies of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Have mercy on every living being that breathes life into this painful world. Have mercy, even on these two confused and hate fueled brothers, who made the tragic mistake of believing that violence has a purpose other than to heal.
By George Payne
(This article was originally published in the Smugtown Beacon)
Friday, March 8, 2013 Rochester, NY - According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism from June 2004-mid-December 2012, American drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,335 Pakistanis of which some 891 were believed to have been civilians. Even more disturbing is the finding of a new study released by researchers at New York University and Stanford Law School that show insurgents only account for one out of every 50 deaths at the hand of unmanned drones in Pakistan. The study also revealed that the CIA has been double striking targets, thereby killing first responders. Since the beginning of 2013 the CIA has launched seven deadly strikes, killing more than 40 people, including 11 civilians. Hima Shamsi, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, says this indiscriminate bombing has morphed the Central Intelligence Agency into a paramilitary organization with an expansive unlawful killing programme.
Notwithstanding the moral crisis associated with orchestrating a clandestine war that has killed more innocent people than two Mai Lai massacres combined, the Obama administration must do a better job addressing the geopolitical consequences linked to his international drone war. One major critic of the Presidents use of drones is Michael Boyle, who was on his counter-terrorism group leading up to the election in 2008. Boyle condemns the use of combat drones as having adverse strategic effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains of killing enemy combatants. There is an urgent need for greater transparency because most Americans remain unaware of the scale of the drone program and the destruction it has caused, he writes. Boyle also argues that these bombings have a debilitating effect on local populations and their governments. Despite the fact that drone strikes are often employed against local enemies of the government in Pakistan and Yemen, they serve as powerful signals of the regimes helplessness and subservience to the United States and undermine the claim that these governments can be credible competitors for the loyalties of the population.
In response to expert anti-drone analysts like Boyle, the Obama administration has countered with a number of legal and rhetorical tactics. The administration claims the persistent use of drone strikes against Al Qaeda and its allies are lawful as part of the military action authorized by Congress after Sept. 11, as well as under the general principle of self-defense. This last point is important because it allows the President to evade an executive order banning political assassination.
For a brief moment, lets be sympathetic to the President by looking at this issue from a philosophical viewpoint. In Stephen Pinkers new book The Angels of Our Better Nature: How Violence Has Declined, the Harvard scholar claims that the expansion of literacy, journalism, history, science, third party dispute resolution, courts and police, the consolidation of kingdoms, the transition from tribal groups, commerce, and an increase in trade and exchange has contributed to the overall decline of global violence. Pinker also cites discoveries in forensic archeology that show a disproportionate amount of skeletons that had bashed-in skulls or arrowheads embedded in bones; what is more, he highlights many ghoulish medieval torture practices that have long since been abolished including the phenomenon of debtors prison and other outmoded forms of institutional violence like human sacrifice, transcontinental slavery, and the persecution of the mentally handicapped. If Pinker is right about evolutionary trends in violence, then unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV), also known as drones, may be more evidence that humans are growing increasingly civilized in the arena of warfare. One can make the argument that drones are more lethal than boar spears and brass knuckles, but also much more technologically precise (and therefore humane) than cluster bombs and Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators (RNEP). The main idea being stressed here is that this rhetoric is a mirror reflection of the Orwellian effort by the Obama administration to rationalize the use of drones as a lifesaving advancement in counterterrorism weaponry. In a way, Pinkers thesis about violence declining with the course of human evolution serves to undergird the moral and political architecture of Obamas entire drone policy. This also explains why the President selected John Brennan to replace David Petraeus as CIA director. At a Woodrow Wilson Center speech last year, Brennan unambiguously solidified his superiors position on drones when he stated: There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat.
Brennans zeal for non-personal combat is legendary in the field of national security. But the Presidents move to codify this martial strategy into a national policy, especially in the wake of killing three American citizens in 2011, has inspired citizens across the nation to actively protest the development and use of drones in combat operations as a violation of both international law and the 4th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. One such group is the Hancock 15, a coalition of independent anti-war activists mainly from Western and Central New York. In a fearless attempt to draw the publics attention to the unlawful use of drones, these men and women have been willing to risk jail time by trespassing onto the Hancock Field Air Force Base (located 4.6 miles north-northeast of Syracuse, NY) in order to draw attention to the manufacture and deployment of the M-Q Reaper drone.
According to the longstanding Syracuse Peace Council their intention was to present grievances to the government by delivering a War Crimes Indictment, co-authored by former Attorney General of the U.S., Ramsey Clark indicting Hancock base personnel, up to their Commander President Obama, and to prevent war crimes of: extra-judicial killings, killing of innocent civilians, wars of aggression, and the violation of national sovereignty. During the trial Ramsey memorably quoted Dantes Inferno: The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis, do not act. Syracuse Peace Council member Carol Baum put it this way: From the first moment, the defendants goal has been to put the drones on trial. The group argued that they were innocent of the lawful ‘order to disperse’ charge because the order was actually not lawful. It contradicted the Nuremberg Principles, which forbid wars of aggression, attacks on civilians and extra-judicial assassinations-all actions associated with drone warfare. Citizens have a duty to act where they can to prevent violations, even if the violations are committed by their government.
Furthermore, in his closing remarks defendant John Hamilton professed: There is no exception anywhere, for you, for me, for anyone from this overarching legal certainty: acts of aggression are always and everywhere illegal, and must not be ignored by the courts. Extra-judicial murder must be called out and stopped.
Defendants also maintained that they were upholding the Geneva Conventions, which govern the conduct of participants in war. Among other restrictions, the Geneva Conventions place a burden upon participants to limit civilian deaths and injuries through proper identification of targets and distinction between combatants and non-combatants. In his final testimony to the Court, Daniel Burgevin declared: I am innocent of trespass. The unlawfulness of trespass is when a hellfire missile enters through the roof of a familys home, exploding and spreading fire and shards of metal through the bodies of the family living inside That is the unlawfulness and the criminality of trespass.
The judge refused to allow the war crimes indictment into evidence. Within ten minutes of deliberation all eleven defendants were found guilty.
When considering the justice of this decision, try to imagine the following scenario. The year is 2016. You are at a birthday party in Highland Park. There is a rumor that the park is under surveillance for terrorist activity by a CIA maneuvered IAI Heron drone. But today you are not feeling afraid of anything. The sky is faultlessly blue. Children are playing tag by the iron cast fence along the edge of the reservoir. The smell of broiled hot dogs seeps from the vent of a portable Coleman grill. Everywhere is the sound of normalcy
Then in a flash you hear the noise of torrential whizzing like a drove of parachuting wasps. Boom! Within milliseconds everyone in your party is dead. Limbs are instantly calcified into unrecognizable gobs of matter. The scent of scorched flesh paints the air like rotten sage. The crater where the hellfire missile first touched the earth is ignited into a bonfire of diesel fuel, un-lodged cement and thick purple smoke. The impact zone turns into a radiant casket of liquefied skin and metal. In the distance the South Ave firehouse shrieks as bystanders look heavenward towards a roving caravan of answerless clouds.
By George Payne
Until gun violence steals the life of your spouse, child, parent, or best friend there is no way to rationalize such primal suffering, especially in the form of an editorial. Consequently, it is assumed that political and spiritual reforms should not be debated during times of intense grieving. But what if this is the only time when such reform can actually happen?
In this article, I will suggest that we cannot comprehend gun violence without first talking about violence in general. Secondly, I will argue that individuals have a choice to not use guns. (Rare exceptions include child soldiers and some cult followers.) Gun violence is, therefore, the responsibility of people who choose to acquire and use guns and not abstract entities like the U.S. Government, criminals, the mentally ill, or even the National Rifle Association. My third point is related to (but qualitatively different from) the first two. The moral justification of self- defense makes possessing guns culturally acceptable. Remove the allowance for self- protection and the scaffold that buttresses the cultural sanction of gun violence disappears. Lastly, I intend to celebrate the truth echoed by every major religion that humans should not kill other humans. From the Mosaic commandment in the Book of Genesis to the “Golden Rule” of Confucius, the supreme code of religion is inscribed with the liberating admonition to love our enemies at all costs.
Having laid out the plan for this article, let’s establish that guns have always been enshrined with the virtue of nobility in American lore. Thomas Jefferson expressed this attitude when he said:
“A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises. I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.”
And many Americans still believe that guns symbolize independence from political and domestic bondage. Patrick Henry, that remarkable champion of political sovereignty declared: “The great object is, that every man be armed…Everyone who is able may have a gun.”
Furthermore, guns have come to represent a much darker version of American-styled diplomacy. In the words of Al Capone: “You can get a lot farther with a kind word and a gun than a kind word alone.”
Clearly the notion that guns serve a purpose in society is intricately woven into America’s cultural fabric. According to a recent Gallup poll, a record low 26 percent of Americans favor a ban on civilian possession of handguns, down from 60 percent when Gallup first asked the question in 1959. The Supreme Court has codified this popular opinion in landmark rulings in 2008 and 2010. In these cases the justices decided that the 2nd Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to possess a handgun at home, striking down controversial prohibitions in Chicago and Washington D.C.
But before the ramifications of gun violence can be adequately understood, it is necessary to ask fundamental questions about the nature of violence itself. Trying to solve gun violence without examining violence is like trying to end apartheid without looking at the phenomenon of racism, or tackling the problem of homelessness while ignoring the dynamics of poverty. There are many different theories about violence. The one I wish to highlight is the Jain tradition from India which teaches us to grasp violence as the desire to see living beings harmed verbally, physically, or even mentally. Guns, by this standard, are especially violent because they are intricately crafted to harm living beings with maximal efficiency. Assailants and other types of attackers are also living beings even if we have a proclivity to deny their right to exist. I dare say that the only way guns are morally acceptable is by making self-defense morally acceptable, and this logic applies equally to individuals and nations. The social purpose undergirding the possession of guns is rejected absolutely when individuals refuse to use them.
Understanding the nature of violence is important because it determines how we conceive our privilege as individuals to make guns a component of societal governance. Working with the Jain definition of violence is empowering because it allows us to reclaim our own personal responsibility to disarm the world we inhabit. Research shows that personal disarmament makes communities safer. The Harvard Injury Control Research Center assessed the literature on guns and homicide and found that there’s substantial evidence that indicates more guns means more murders. This holds true whether you’re looking at different countries or different states. Richard Florida’s economic studies have found that in states which have one of three gun control restrictions in place-assault weapons’ bans, trigger locks, or safe storage requirements, firearm deaths are significantly lower. (Oregon was in the lowest tier at 5 per 100,000 compared to highly unregulated Arizona with 20 per 100,000, a striking four times as many.) A recent study by James Wright (University of Massachusetts) involved interviews with men in prison who agreed that controls imposed at the point of retail sale would not be effective in the acquisition of guns by felons. Since theft of guns is a predominant means by which criminals get firearms, the 30 to 50 million handguns currently possessed by licensed owners represents a potentially rich source for unlawful handgun acquisition.
It takes forceful courage unmatched by any martial conflict to let go of armed self-defense, but it may be the only way to achieve a permanent abolishment of these killing devices. In other words, the personal decision to disarm establishes the only unconditional precedent for a city wide or even nationwide disarmament campaign. All other measures are founded on confusing hypocrisies.
Having surely provoked readers with this radical viewpoint on violence and human responsibility, let’s propose a more modest initiative that can be realistically accomplished in our lifetimes. The banishment of handguns is doable, so let’s start there. In fact, it would not be the first time America has experimented with such legislation. Georgia passed a law banning handguns in 1837. The Gun Control Act of 1968, the National Firearms Act and the Arms Export Control Act gives the President the authority to control imports and exports of “defense articles,” including firearms and ammunition. In October of 1998 New Orleans became the first U.S. city to file suit against gun makers, firearms trade associations, and gun dealers. With political will driven by the citizenry handguns can be severely limited through legislation alone.
The need for bold, unprecedented gun regulation is more urgent now than ever before. If Americans are still unconvinced that our nation faces a gun epidemic, they are not genuinely following the data. In the United States in 2009 United Nations statistics record 3.0 intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants; for comparison, the figure for the UK, was 0.07, about 40 times lower. According to the National Institute of Justice, every year over 30,000 Americans die through the suicidal, homicidal, or accidental abuse of guns. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that, on average, one child died every three days in accidental incidents in the U.S. from 2000-2005. Gun related death rates in the United States are eight times higher than they are in countries that are economically and politically similar to it. Kieran Healy, a sociologist at Duke University, has reported in a recent study that the United States is a clear outlier when it comes to “death by assault” compared to other countries. America’s only real competitors in this dismal category are Mexico and Estonia.
Every neighborhood in America is impacted by gun violence. The same social mythos that has enfranchised Remington (America’s oldest company making its original product) and Colt (think Beatles’ Revolver) as cherished brand names in rural households is the same daemon that sub-consciously influences youth on our streets to seek Versa Max shotguns and 95 Derringers. The Flower City is certainly no exception. In 2005 the Rochester homicide rate once again earned the city the embarrassing title “murder capital of New York State.” Then Assemblyman David Koon had to fight for legislation that would pass the following commonsensical bills: Ban cop-killer bullets, which can pierce bullet-proof vests; expand the ballistic identification database to cut down on illegal gun trafficking; crack down on “straw buyers,” who legally purchase firearms for resale to criminals; and remove loopholes in the law that allow violent criminals to lawfully possess guns. The fact that these activities needed to be legally condemned just within the last decade is not a hallmark of safeguarded personal liberties by a benevolent government but a collective sign of deep denial pertaining to our country’s idolatrous and fetishistic love of guns.
Eight years and hundreds of lost lives later, Rochester’s disproportionate homicide rate continues to charge anyone who honestly cares about the health and prosperity of our community to become better advocates in the movement to abolish guns. But only 60%-70% of firearms sales in the United States are transacted through federally licensed firearm dealers. All efforts to stop gun violence in Rochester must, therefore, focus on the steady availability of firearms in pawnshops, flea markets, and online sites such as Craigslist. During reporting for this article, I was prompted to visit the Rochester gun classifieds section on Craigslist, where I discovered the sale of Thompson Omegas, a Ruger GP 100, one Marlin 22 caliber rifle, a Winchester Model 94 30-30, bullet proof vests and armor piercing bullets. I noticed in the bottom left hand corner of the page a disclaimer in miniaturized font that alerts sellers and buyers about local, state, federal, and international law. The barely visible warning also claimed that “ARMSLIST does not become involved in transactions between parties.”
Furthermore, if Rochester is truly serious about combating gun violence, the city must commit to a series of well funded intervention programs. Gun “buy-back” efforts, for instance, have serious critics; but if implemented correctly economic incentive programs can persuade individuals to relinquish their arsenals. Moreover, various aspects of programs like Operation Ceasefire in Boston, Project Exile in Richmond, Virginia, the Safe Kids/Healthy Neighborhoods Injury Prevention Program in New York City, Safe Homes and Havens in Chicago, and the national initiative Project Safe Neighborhoods, can be duplicated to meet the unique needs of Rochester. Speaking of which, the Rochester based Pathways to Peace is financially struggling to survive as an organization. If Rochester intends to make a real difference in the fight against gun violence, then the city needs to invest in crisis intervention programs like Pathways to Peace.
One idea that city and law enforcement officials have not yet entertained involves a private-public merger that capitalizes on the reapplication of gun parts for sale on the free market. An initiative to solicit guns voluntarily from the populace with the intention of repurposing them as hardware parts (think nuts and bolts), jewelry and ornaments, home accessories, or anything else made of wood, steel, chrome, and other valuable metals, can be a lucrative enterprise with the proper marketing and distribution tactics. Products “Made in Rochester from Former Guns” can be sold all over the world. (Imagine chrome bracelets, steel car rims, and gold plated golf clubs being bought and sold by commercial benefactors.) Ideas like this one have the combined advantage of making homes and streets safer, stimulating economic opportunity, and inspiring other cities and townships to experiment with similar ventures.
Economics aside, the most compelling reason to ban guns will always be rooted in the undeniable wisdom of our spiritual ancestors. Although I am tempted to conclude with a certain New Testament verse that categorically condemns the killing of other human beings by upholding the duty to serve friend and foe alike, the words of General Eisenhower hauntingly describes the pragmatic consequence of this enduring ethical mandate. “Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
By George Payne
Admittedly the hard science involved in hydrofracking is beyond my primary area of competency. As a philosopher and theologian, I am not qualified to speak with the perspicacity of a degreed ecologist, geologist, or mechanical engineer. Furthermore, I have absolutely no technical experience working in the oil and gas industry although it is a dangerous fallacy to argue that professional credentials matter if one’s position is accurate. In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci: “Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his or her intelligence, they are just using their memory.” So I do not need to be a trained chemist to know that cigarettes contain carcinogens that tear holes through the fabric of our lungs. Nor do I need to be a biologist to know that all animals depend on delicately manufactured cells that require clean air and clean water to survive. I also know that hydrofracking is wrong. Wherever it has been tried, the threat of water contamination, noise pollution, wildlife habitat destruction, and human disease has followed like a dark shadow. Hydrofracking batters the visible skin of our land and stains the invisible layers of our skies.
Hydrofracking is a short term solution to a long term problem. The problem is peak oil. No one in the media or government wants to talk about peak oil. I predict that 75% of Americans have no clue what the term even means. Peak oil is a very simple problem with unimaginably complex consequences. Societies all over the world are reaching a tipping point where the cost of oil and gas extraction is becoming more expensive than it is worth to commercially distribute the finished product. Soon, because of the law of supply and demand, Americans will face a post-petroleum scenario in which every facet of their lifestyle will be cataclysmically shifted. Everything from transportation patterns to sleeping patterns will be altered by the disappearance of constant, cheap, and controlled oil. In light of this looming energy crisis, hydrofracking represents a last ditch effort to get what is left before the public catches on to the severity of the problem.
Again, I readily confess that I am not a scholarly geologist; but I have heard many experts in the field of geology argue that the shale gas being fracked in the Marcellus is an inferior product compared to the oil that is close to depletion in places like Kuwait, Venezuela, and Texas. Companies are even drilling for gas in Western New York State which is a clear sign of desperation rather than opportunism. Major corporations such as Halliburton are trying to scrape what they can from the bottom of the barrel while they still have the energy to keep their motors roaring and the pipelines flowing. Eventually the derricks will come to a halt; and the tractors and cranes, they, too, will cease working. In the end, these machines will lay littered across the once bejeweled valleys and hills of the Southern Tier like giant steel monuments to our stupidity.
I do not have a comprehensive solution other than to say that in terms of hydrofracking Mother Earth should be left alone. This is not a utopian plea for our species to resort back to a distant time in the past, but an invitation to be better than the people we have allowed ourselves to become. We have allowed ourselves to become suspicious and ungrateful of the home that births and sustains us. We have allowed ourselves to become the offspring of a nonrenewable life source that is dying faster than we can understand.
By George Payne
*Devoid of a deeply conscious appreciation for human individuality empathy morphs into a subtle form of psychological totalitarianism. Empathy is beneficial only when it acts as a signal that someone is having a genuinely unique experience. Approaching human conflict empathically is, therefore, about establishing connections with people’s distinctiveness rather than their similitude. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “only your compassion and your loving kindness are invincible, and without limit.” Everything else is bound by our hopes, fears, and misunderstandings.
*There is a clear distinction between the organic process of discovering how people persist through periods of turmoil and the misaligned supposition that others can be ontologically known as conflicted individuals.
*It is not helpful to conceive of conflict in terms of eradication, resolution, or even transformation. Conflict is an existential predicament that originates from our primordial condition as physically sovereign, spiritually numinous, and psychologically emergent beings.
*According to the Roman philosopher Seneca “wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” The supreme hope that fuels restorative justice is that meaningful connections between people in conflict can still be made in spite of their prevailing estrangement from one another.
*The primary goal of working with conflict is not to prevent or resolve interpersonal discord but to introduce a communication process that offers people the freedom to be themselves and to choose how they will persist with a conflict (always in unknown ways) with other free people.
from the backseat of a honda civic on its way to Rochester from Attica Prison, after day one of a conflict transformation workshop…
by Shannon Richmond
I started going to Groveland Correctional Facility as a volunteer my first year of college when I was 19 years old. What I experienced changed my life in many ways and drew me back to become a facilitator with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). Now, I am one of the outside coordinators for AVP at Groveland, and as of June, became a volunteer at Attica as well.
The workshop at Attica was quite different than the experience I was used to at Groveland, which is a medium-security men’s facility. Attica’s atmosphere, history, heightened level of security, and the people I met inside created an intense experience over those three days which has caused much reflection since then. This poem came out of that reflection, after the first day of the workshop:
from the backseat of a honda civic on its way to Rochester from Attica Prison, after day one of a conflict transformation workshop…
groundless. tired. emotionally raw.
needing space and air and trees and to touch the earth.
feeling the weight of our sorrow—our collective grief. how huge it is.
wanting to break down.
sitting in the circle and wanting to cry for all the pain. all the regret and oppression and trauma and pain. seeing that it isn’t just one of us who is sick—it is all of us. and it is because of our choices and it is because of the system and how it has failed us.
how it is failing us.
how is it that the sky is so immense and the clouds are strewn across it and there’s just not enough air in this car or in my lungs?
my throat is closing and I’m back walking that corridor looking out on D-yard and knowing how many died there.
are there enough tears for all the blood that soaked into the earth that day in September?
and it isn’t that long ago, 1971, and it all continues—
the violence and suffering and dehumanization and the fact that they don’t have cameras inside because they don’t want us to know.
it is all connected—this pain of the past is our inheritance.
the monument out front only mentions the guards that died, 10 of them.
and who is remembering the others?…29 of us.
how is it that we are so disconnected and so separate that 6×10 cells  are acceptable and beatings and camera-less corridors and constant humiliation?
with this endless sky above us all and this earth that supports every one of us—have we forgotten?
it is calling us back.
it is calling me to breathe with the pain.
the streaks of clouds now orange and pink, this endless sky holding us.
still holding us.
 this is a guess at how large the cells are, as I have only observed them in a short documentary film and not personally seen or measured them.
If you’re interested in learning more about AVP, you can check out AVP New York’s website here. Or, I love talking about the work and my journey over the years as a participant and now as a facilitator of the workshops. Feel free to get in touch with me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I can also support you to become a volunteer at Groveland, if you’d like to come inside and experience it for yourself.
By George Payne
The International Day of Peace on September 21 is recognized by millions of people all over the globe. I will celebrate this occasion by showing up at Cobbs Hill Park to resist horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or what is commonly referred to as “hydrofracking.” I will be joined by many of my fellow citizens as we publicly declare our noncooperation with this destructive method of shale gas extraction. This process is harmful to our communities and is out of balance with Nature.
As an employee of the M.K. Gandhi Institute and a student of nonviolence; it is clear to me how the dangerous consequences of “fracking” produce conditions for ecological and social conflict. The polluting of our water and air leads to the decay of our bodies, which then leads to the dismantling of our families and communities. But I also understand that peace is a unique experience that cannot be claimed by one person or group only. Workers in the gas industry likely find peace in the satisfaction of a hard days’ labor. They may sleep well at night knowing that they placed food on the table for their children.
Why is my peace more important than the peace that a shale gas driller receives from doing a job he or she thinks is necessary? After-all, gas comes to all of us in the beneficial forms of light bulbs, refrigerators, cars, hospitals and fire stations. Most workers in the hydrofracking industry are not only unembarrassed about their job, they are proud to supply their neighbors with vital sources of nonrenewable energy. This very letter would not have been typed if some worker had not dug for gas somewhere.
All of us benefit from innovation and technology in more ways than we realize. Furthermore, every type of “activist” should be sensitive to the wisdom of Mother Theresa, who reminded us that “if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” The reason I am against “fracking” is because I feel connected to everything that has life in the world. I am no more disunited from the herons and egrets outside my bedroom window than I am the man or woman who chooses to work for Halliburton or Chesapeake Energy.
The reasons I am opposed to hydrofracking in New York State are the same reasons that I am opposed to doing it anywhere else in the world. I feel an unbreakable bond to the beings that depend on our air, water, and land. I must do my part to maintain a balance with these beings around me. Hydrofracking is out of balance with the needs of life itself. If a definition for peace must be given, it is this: peace is living in balance with the needs of life.
Hydrofracking is out of balance with the needs of life because it is an experimental process of shale gas extraction that brings the risk of avoidable calamities wherever it is attempted. Even though Senator John Kerry has extolled America as “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” and many politicians, business moguls, invested scientists and professors, and eager workers routinely shrug off the perils of “fracking”; here are some facts to consider: 7 million gallons of water are used to frack a single well, and 30% of this precious resource is lost forever in the various stages of extraction and storage production. Methane escapes during the drilling process, and later as fuel is moved through massive pipelines. During the intensive drilling periods diesel engines and generators run constantly. Over the past two years there have been at least two catastrophic spills that released close to 8,000 gallons of carcinogenic fluid into freshwater aquifers. Even when extraction is successful, the fluid that is removed is commingled with the shale gas and contains radioactive elements including uranium isotopes, brine, and other heavy metals. Lastly, natural gas may be cleaner and more efficient than diesel but there is no infrastructure in place that will enable our society to transition from oil to natural gas. The bottom line is this: hydrofracking profits few at the expense of many. As a humanitarian and concerned citizen of New York State, I will not stand by while the land we all depend on is so severely threatened.
The message “Make Peace, Don’t Frack” is not against anyone. If we make peace, it will be together. The oil and gas tycoon is not my enemy. The driller is not my enemy. The truck driver who transports the radioactive waste is not my enemy. Governor Cuomo is not my enemy. The only enemies I have in this world are ignorance and fear. September 21 is a day when both of these enemies will be combated with the inexhaustible, renewable energy known as “people power.”
If you possibly can, join us at Cobbs Hill Park near Lake Riley on September 21, anytime between 5-8PM. Bring your friends and family. Wear your blue t-shirt. This is a day when we stand against the ignorance that has brought “fracking” to our doorstep and stand for present and future lives in this beautiful state of ours.
*Love as an action*
This letter has been wanting to be written for weeks and months. And the waiting deepened the richness of the gratitude that lives within me. This gratitude is widening, ever extending in continuous circles and is rooted in a strong foundation in love.
When I speak of love, I mean “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. Radical writer bell hooks understands love as an action, as a blend of care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust as well as honest and open communication in order to have the ability to nurture growth. She affirms Scott Peck: “We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
From day one at the Institute, this blend of care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust as well as honest and open communication surrounded me, transmitted through the faces and hearts of Kit, Shannon and George. From day one at the Institute, this radical lived practice of love has supported me in opening and liberating spaces inside myself: places previously numbed or locked. From day one, I felt and saw clearly that it is not at all exclusively the WHAT we focus on but largely the HOW we do things. From day one, I understood that there was a continuous striving in my co-workers to align their own lives along the principles of nonviolence and to embody an integrity of thought, speech and deed.
*From product to process*
This radical practice of love and the focus on process is inherently subversive. It counteracts the societal pushing to isolate and atomize human beings and to treat and form each of us as insular and identical individuals. Both Joanna Macy and Gene Gendlin speak about the act of de-isolating as the crucial step in co-creating a sustainable and regenerative world. The act of de-isolating encompasses a shift towards comprehending and engaging with all beings as interrelated processes woven into a fabric of diversity and radical interdependency.
Most of us are strongly conditioned to think in entitites and to comprehend reality as a bunch of ‘given whats’. There is such a commitment at this Institute to approach life as a process, as a continuous experiment, as a testground for what works and what does not work. This commitment to experiment is opening wide and creative possibilities and potentials. It reframes how questions are asked.
There is such commitment to stay present and awake and to ever freshly respond to what comes towards us.
Another world is not only manifesting itself at the Institute. It is being crafted and strenghtened in this place. It is being crafted by choosing to base our work in the principles of service, embodiment, responsibility, accountability, and meaning and it is being strengthened by saying yes to our ideals and aspirations.
*On metamorphosis and the becoming human*
A dragonfly spends most of its life cycle in the nymph stage in which it is only visible if you are swimming underwater in a lake or pond with your eyes opened. It can take years for their development into dragonflies.
Once the dragonfly nymph is fully grown, and the weather is right, it will complete the metamorphosis into a dragonfly by crawling out of the water up the stem of a plant. The nymph will shed its skin onto the stem of the plant and will then be a young dragonfly. I believe that the nymph carries the experiential knowledge of its potential within itself and I believe that it cannot quite know how life will feel like once it spuns its wings open and flies lightly into the world. Similarly to the metamorphosis of a dragonfly, I transformed from a retreated and insecure being who was more comfortable to not speak in groups to daring to speak out and daring to be fully seen.
Carl Rogers and Marshall Rosenberg inspired me to intellectually understand myself as an “essentially positive” living system striving to fully actualize my potential. Instead of solely relying on guidance from outside, Rogers believed in an inner source of wisdom which is accessible to every person and can act as internal locus of evaluation. Rogers believed in the necessity of three core conditions in order to enable a person to develop trust and confidence in their ‘inner compass’: unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence.
There is a lived culture and practice of empathic receiving, honest self-expression and unconditional appreciation at the Institute. I believe that these external conditions allowed me to learn how to fly and step towards my inner strength and truth.
The last 11 months at the Institute have taught me that every living organism, whether dragonfly or human being, has the ability to thrive within a life-sustaining context.
I am sitting in a train in Europe and notice my nervousness around finishing this letter. It is hard to not leave it open ended because my gratitude seems to change and grow every day. Every day, I realize how much I have grown as a person in my time in Rochester and how my choices and reactions to reality have shifted. I am noticing how choices for self-care and self-connection come with much more ease and natural flow in navigating reality around me. Equally I notice the spaciousness inside myself for other people and their experience of reality which might differ from my own in crucial ways.
I have often heard and strongly internalized the judgement that self-care is indulgent. What seems more true in my experience and in my inner and outer journey is that self-care is crucial in order to care for the wider system. In a deep ecological understanding of the world, the wider system and the self are not separate but part of each other. The self is a holon of the wider system and crucial part of the whole. In this open systems perspective, the notion of self-care shifts to a notion of care for life rather than care for a separated and disconnected self. In this perspective, intrapersonal, interpersonal and systemic aspects of reality are not separate but densely woven into the same fabric of the complexity of life and our precious all-encompassing web of inter-existence.
- August 19, 2013 10:00 am2013 Nonviolence Summer Intensive
- August 20, 2013 10:00 am2013 Nonviolence Summer Intensive
- August 21, 2013 10:00 am2013 Nonviolence Summer Intensive
- August 22, 2013 10:00 am2013 Nonviolence Summer Intensive
- August 23, 2013 10:00 am2013 Nonviolence Summer Intensive