Hold It All

Month: November, 2010

After Attending the SOA Watch by Carol Wright

A year ago, many of us were in a course called Writing as a Spiritual Practice.  Carol was part of that gang, and she just sent me the following reflection, which I offer for your consideration.


Even if the book were written by the ghosts of the Salvadoran family massacred in 1978, their story would be the same as the man left for dead after a beating in Nicaragua or the kidnapped sister of a Colombian paramilitary – even if the book were written by former prisoners of conscience – even if the book were written by an idiot in an Alabama jail – the conclusions, upon reading, would be the same.  The soldiers, trained in the US, committed these crimes against humanity.

Even if the book were written on Monday, published on Tuesday, distributed on Wednesday, sold on Thursday, read on Friday and passed along over the weekend, the conclusions, upon reading, would be the same.

Even if the book were written in Russian, Croatian, Greek or French, translated into Latin and then given an English spin, the conclusions, after translation, would be the same.

Even if the book were illustrated by kindergartner finger painters, crayon wielding seven year olds, painterly high school art students, or adults with elaborate printing machines  – prints signed and numbered, the conclusions would be the same (particularly after viewing the preponderance of the color red.)

Even if the book were bound – paper, leather or cardboard (corrugated for added texture, a feel for the roughness of the contents) the writing would remain raw and uncovered and any conclusions upon reading would be the same.

Even if we hold our ears, cover our eyes, plug our noses to escape the stench, glove our hands in order not to feel, wash the lingering taste from our guilty mouths with a good Scotch on the rocks;  if we bury ourselves in fantasies, deny reality, conjure up protective, invincible mantras, our conscience is unable to escape and any conclusions upon reading would be the same.



“Enough” by Mark Vallen; 1988


450 Years Apart: From the Beginnings of Western Civilization in the Americas To Several Years Ago

(Or, How to Treat Those Who Are in Your Way, Actually or Potentially)

Several of us are beginning to make our way through Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. A couple of weeks ago, we read the chapter on “Columbus, the Indians, and Progress.” Reading the testimony of Father Las Casas reminded me of a more recent period of our history, that of the 1980s when the U.S. government was supporting the El Salvadoran government with a million dollars a day. Father Daniel Santiago bore witness to the “aesthetics of terror” of those the U.S. backed with such munificence and dedication. Father Jon Sobrino would have been murdered with his brother Jesuits and university staff and family had he not been out of the country on November 16, 1989.


From that time onward the Indians began to seek ways to throw the Christians [i.e., Spaniards] out of their lands. They took up arms, but their weapons were very weak and of little service in offense and still less in defense. (Because of this, the wars of the Indians against each other are little more than games played by children.) And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out hsi entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the arms and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, “Boil there, you offspring of the devil!”

–Father Bartolome De Las Casas, 1542 Read the rest of this entry »

Rashid’s Vision

… Rashid was one of the few Arab intellectuals to have first hand knowledge of Israel, of the heartlessness as well as the humanity of the settler people who have colonized Palestine and largely cleared it of its native inhabitants. Perhaps because he had an intimate, though antagonistic relationship with Israel, Rashid never waivered [sic] in his belief that only a socialist, binational state in Palestine offered the solution to the present impasse between the Jews and the Arabs.

–Eqbal Ahmad, in The World of Rashid Hussein: A Palestinian Poet in Exile, edited by Karmal Boullata & Mirene Ghossein

Rashid Hussein


It’s not going to be easy to hear what we have to say. It’s not going to be easy for us to tell it. But we believe that the only way this war is going to end is if the American people truly understand what we have done in their name.

Kelly Dougherty

As long as we have a culture that is depoliticized, we can’t deal with the occupation of Iraq effectively.

Aaron Hughes

This is a lifelong mission. I feel that in order for me to be comfortable with myself, to live with myself, I have to live my life outside of my own interests. And I think that a big part of that is going to be doing antiwar organizing, just doing everything I can to stop the war in Iraq.

Camilo Mejia

I have a strong sense of responsibility because I think if you have the ability to make a difference, then you should. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself every easily if I knew that I gave up. We live in a country that murders people. It’s murdering people, it’s facilitating mass poverty and starvation across the globe. If people don’t wake up, then I don’t want to live in that world. There is an urgency i feel about this.

Liam Madden


–Dahr Jamail, The Will to Resist:Soldiers Who Refuse To Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

A Policy of Terror

A Comment on Norman Finkelstein’s ‘This Time We Went Too Far’: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion (OR Books, 2010)

We are approaching the second anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 into January 2009.  Earlier this year, Norman Finkelstein published another one of his critical studies that undermines the moralizing mythology accompanying Israel’s recent outburst of brutality and criminality.

After Israel’s failure in its devastating summer 2006 attack on Lebanon, Finkelstein contends that Israel needed to reestablish its deterrence reputation.  How to do this?  “Israel could not restore its deterrence by inflicting a military defeat because Hamas was manifestly not a military power….The army was looking for the opportunity to hold a spectacular maneuver in order to show its muscle.”  [48-49]

What resulted when Israel showed its muscle?

“Israel destroyed or damaged 58,000 homes (6,300 were completely destroyed or sustained severe damage), 280 school and kindergartens (18 schools were completely destroyed and six university buildings were razed to the ground), 1,500 factories and workshops, several buildings housing Palestinian and foreign media (two journalists were killed while  working, four others were also killed), water and sewage installations, 80 percent of agricultural crops, and nearly one-fifth of cultivated land.” [60]  From this three-week rampage, 100,000 Palestinians became homeless. Over 1,400 were dead.

Finkelstein goes on to point out, “Israel was able to pinpoint its targets on the ground and, by its own admission, could and did hit these designated targets with pinpoint accuracy. It thus cannot be said that the criminal wreckage resulted from mishap or from a break in the chain of command. What happened in Gaza was meant to happen—by everyone from the soldiers in the field who executed the orders to the officers who gave the orders to the politicians who approved the orders. ‘The wholesale destruction was to a large extent deliberate,’ Amnesty [International] similarly concluded, “and an integral part of a strategy at different levels of the command chain, from high-ranking officials to soldiers in the field.” [65]

War is peace, Orwell wrote.

And Israel’s terrorism is legitimate self-defense, at least in the “civilized” West.

Finkelstein Book Cover

Sara’s Writing down the Bones

One maxim I try to live by is “Share the wealth.” Sara Rendell wrote this on January 14, 2010, the first week of Social Justice class.  Amigas and amigos, may these words set off inspiration, illumination, incantation …


Different from any other week coming back from break. I am not trying to stuff myself within the confines of my search for ultimate perfection.  I have felt something more important boiling inside me; something else driving me.  I see so much going on around me that I have ignored as a matter of convenience.  I am just starting to experience my emotions for life.  As I follow the situation in Haiti, I realize that my passion for going there has only intensified.

There is a purpose beyond making a 4.0 and getting into medical school.

I am not a machine that churns academic information into good grades. I am a feeling human being living in a world of human beings. Some of them are cringing with pain, some of them are starving, some of them are shaking cold, some of them are boiling over with rage.

I want to feel for and along with other human beings I share air, water, and land with.  It is impossible to say that the suffering of the people in Haiti doesn’t concern me because it does–if only for the reason that I am a human being, gifted with the capacity to feel with their suffering, to use my space and energy to help relieve it.

Closing eyes to reality, to the mosaic that is humanity isolates.  Isolation leads to some of the greatest forms of psychological pain.

I think of Joanna and “Screeching into the Silence” and I realize how privileged I am to have the capacity to feel.

Donkey Boys Sara R

“Donkey Boys”; Haiti’ 1992; Mev Puleo