Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Activists

Unpronounceable Words

George McGovern and William R. Polk, Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now

March 2007

Dear Andrew,

I have finished McGovern and Polk’s primer on the catastrophe in Iraq and how to get out of it. It does remind me in form of Carter’s book on Palestine: short, succinct, easy to read, intended for a huge audience. Certainly, a huge audience in America could and should be enlightened by this book. Early on, the authors ask, “How can a person distinguish between propaganda and fact?” And they respond in a way that is a challenge to us, CTSA, and our students: “The short answer is diligence and time, plus a healthy dose of skepticism.” [14] “The challenge is to devote the time. On the Iraq war the American public and Congress clearly did not.” [15]

The early chapter on what is Iraq and who are the Iraqis would be welcome, I think, for so many of our students, given their (our?) poor sense of history and geography. I am reminded of a remark a young Palestinian woman made to me in Ramallah, “We know everything about America, and Americans know nothing about us.” Her remarks generalize beyond Palestine, of course. The authors show how embedded journalism does us no real service: “Few reporters went to Iraq knowing the local language, and so they could not hope to get the opinions and observations of most Iraqis. We tend to accept this fact as a given, because Arabic is a difficult language known to few Americans, but we should ask ourselves how we would rate reports on American political affairs written by a Chinese journalist who could not speak or read English.” [10] Read the rest of this entry »

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Doing the Opposite of What Dr. King Suggested

Reagan Patrick is taking her third course with me, Comparative Religion and Culture. She recently spent some time with Dr. Martin Luther King’s April 4, 1967 speech on Vietnam and wrote the following reflection.

After listening to this speech, I found it strange how this is my very first-time hearing anything about Dr. King giving this speech. Being from Memphis I’ve learned about Dr. King from kindergarten to the day I graduated high school; but this speech has never had the spotlight. We all know Dr. King for being the one to start the Civil Rights Movement, and to be a huge public figure. He’s someone who didn’t hold back on how he felt, so this speech is something that I’m not surprised about.

I think the whole point of the speech was to get the people to see that the country was choosing to put the people last. It didn’t matter the race or the gender of the people, it was just the fact that the country chose to take away the poverty program to put money towards guns, and its military. He didn’t see that as something that was right. Read the rest of this entry »

Trying To Stop the War

Shawn Francis Peters, The Catonsville Nine: A Story of Faith and Resistance in the Vietnam Era

Johanna Hamilton, 1971: On the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI

Shawn Francis Peters’ 2012 book is an account of the Catholic activists in May 1968 who burned draft files in Catonsville, Maryland. Johanna Hamilton’s 2014 film examines some of the men and women who stole FBI files from an office in Media, Pennsylvania, and shared them with newspapers, including the Washington Post even before Daniel Ellsberg leaked the “Pentagon Papers” to Katherine Graham’s paper. Hoping to play a role in stopping a hideous war against Vietnam, both groups of citizens felt compelled to act, even if it meant arrest, trial, and long prison sentences.

Read the rest of this entry »

As Broad and Powerful as Possible

Mark Rudd, Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen (William Morrow, 2010)

If a white person wants to help our cause, ask him what he thinks of John Brown. Do you know what Brown did? He went to war.

Malcolm X

 

Underground is an often engaging book, thanks to Mark Rudd’s honesty, maturity, and sense of humor. He was a privileged middle-class Jewish baby-boomer who went to Columbia University, got radicalized, became committed to ending the U.S. war on Indochina, and escalated his commitment, so he thought, to the faction of the movement that resorted to armed violence. What if, in 1970, Dan Berrigan had been able to sit down (when he was underground) and had a heart to heart with Rudd? Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Lea Koesterer: 2017 Harvest in Occupied Palestine

My friend Mary Wuller told Lea to get in touch with me before she went on her trip to Palestine with Interfaith Peace Builders. We visited at Northwest Coffee in December, and I knew I wanted her to share with us some of her stories and reflections. –Mark

Because I am not an expert, I speak about my own experience traveling with Interfaith Peace Builders, and things that Palestinians themselves told me about their existence under the apartheid regime that exists under Israeli occupation. I gleaned background information from relevant books. Among others they are:

Lords of the Land: The War for Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007, by Edit Zertal and Akiva Eldar.

The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine, by Ben Ehrenreich Read the rest of this entry »

The World according to Chomsky: Winter Reading Group 2018

In recent years, I’ve known many people who ask themselves, “What can I do, given the state of the world?”   In the past year, this question has been especially urgent, given the toxicity of the US political scene.  It’s easy to be continually distracted by the latest outrage; yet, it’s imperative that we understand more of the big picture involving the institutions that have  long had significant impact on both U.S. citizens and the rest of the word.

I invite you to spend several weeks with me reading, thinking about, and discussing a few essays by Noam Chomsky, long-time MIT professor and prolific political writer.   In so doing, we may encounter fresh critical perspectives, analyses, and questions, which we can bring to our  own civic priorities.

Back in 1979, a New York Times reviewer said of Chomsky, “Judged  in terms of the power, range, novelty and influence of his thought, Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive today.”    Some important themes of Chomsky’s work include liberal criticism and the limits of thinkable thought;  the how and why of propaganda;  the responsibility of the writer and intellectual; ; the political economy of human rights;  the power of activism; and the elite fear of democratic participation.  He became known to the American public in the later 1960s because of his opposition to the Vietnam War.  He has  since been involved in issues of justice and peace regarding Israel/Palestine, East Timor, Central America, Afghanistan, Iraq, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »

Finkelstein’s Gaza

I just received  Norman  Finkelstein’s latest book, Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom.  I noticed this blurb by Alice Walker:

“This is the voice I listen for, when I want to learn the deepest reality about Jews, Zionists, Israelis, and Palestinians. Norman Finkelstein is surely one of the forty honest humans the Scripture alludes to who can save ‘Sodom’ (our Earth) by pointing out, again and again, the sometimes soul-shriveling but unavoidable Truth. There is no one like him today, but in my bones I know this incredible warrior for Humanity and Justice is an archetype that has always been. And will always be. Small comfort in these dark times, perhaps, but a comfort I am deeply grateful for.”

 

When Simone Met Simone

Most interesting among [Alain’s disciples] was Simone Weil, the future author of Gravity and Grace, who was taking the same classes as the future author of The Second Sex.  Simone Weil dressed oddly and always carried copies of Libres Propos and the Communist newspaper L’Humanité that spilled from her pockets. She was extremely committed politically, and she took the world’s sorrows personally. The strength of her convictions prompted her to become a worker at the Renault auto factory, to join the international brigades at the time of the Spanish civil war, and later to work at the Free French headquarters in London during World War II. Simone de Beauvoir wanted to get to know her fellow student and managed to start a conversation that soured abruptly when Weil declared flatly that the only thing that mattered was “the Revolution which will feed all the starving people of the earth.” De Beauvoir shot back that the only thing that counted was to make sense of the reason for human existence. Weil lashed out, “It’s easy to see you’ve never gone hungry!” and this effectively ended the exchange. Yet there was much common ground between this doctor’s daughter who had never lacked for anything and a Simone de Beauvoir who was always just a few steps ahead of privation.

–Claude Francis and Fernande Gontier, Simone de Beauvoir: A Life, A Love Story

 

Three Hours in the Morning

In Talking with Sartre, U.S. professor John Gerassi explores a fascinating range of subjects with the French intellectual, writer, and activist.  At the book’s conclusion, Gerassi writes, “What we must do instead, he said, is commit ourselves over and over again. No act is pure. All acts are choices, which alienate some. No one can live without dirty hands. To be simply opposed is also to be responsible for not being in favor, for not advocating change. To fall back on the proposition that human actions are predetermined is to renounce mankind. No writer can accept the totalitarianism implied by ‘human nature.’ If he writes, he wants to change the world—and himself. Writing is an act. It is commitment.”   Throughout,  I became particularly intrigued by Sartre’s musings and reflections on the writing life…

Projects don’t exclude death—projects are the antithesis of death. That’s an important difference. The project is an act. Writing is an act. My projects right now: the next part of CDR. Then I think I want to write my political testament.  16

I never changed in my being: I am what I am and write. 30

Once one decides to be a writer, one’s conception of life, one’s whole being changes. … travel, experience as many different circumstances as possible. Go into every world. Go see how the pimps live in Constantinople. Why Constantinople? There are pimps right here, around the corner. Because travel, experience, give a richness to the writing. All adventures help, including sexual adventures, love, et cetera….A writer has to choose the false against the true. When you decided to be a writer, you couldn’t make that choice because you wanted a revolution, you worked for a revolution. I was nothing but what I wrote. You had a goal. I was my goal. 34 Read the rest of this entry »

December 10 Sunday Share the Wealth with Andrew Wimmer: Reckoning with Torture

In November 2005, Stop Torture Now, a project of the Center for Theology and Social Analysis in St. Louis, delivered a Peoples’ Indictment against Aero Contractors and the commissioners of the Johnston County airport in North Carolina from which Aero operated extraordinary rendition flights to Guantanamo and CIA black sties. We dubbed Aero’s operation the Torture Taxi.

Watch for two minutes to get a sense of what Aero was involved in.

A dozen years later, and after sustained work by a dedicated group in North Carolina, The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture held a two-day hearing before a board of commissioners with witnesses from around the world, including those who were rendered, psychologists, military interrogators, international legal investigators, and journalists.

Take a look at the NCCIT website to see the scope of their work.

The question on everyone’s mind and the one voiced repeatedly throughout the two days of hearings was “And now what do we do?” Read the rest of this entry »