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Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Today, November 11, marks Veteran’s Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada.  Originally called Armistice Day and begun to mark the end of the “War to End all Wars,” Veteran’s Day now celebrates the service and sacrifice of soldiers who have fought in all of the United States’ wars.  (Turns out the First World War was not the war to end all wars after all).

Today I find myself torn between two undeniable realities.

One: millions of U.S.-Americans have fought and sometimes died with the intention of securing the “freedom” of their fellow countrywomen and men.

Two: many of these wars have been unjust.  The United States military has oppressed at least as much as it has liberated.  It has inflicted violence upon the defenseless bodies of children at least as much as it has protected them from it.

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Some things to keep in mind on this fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech, a day when everyone is claiming King as their ideological ally.

1) Martin Luther King was against imperialism and believed the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

2) He believed in using the power of the federal government to improve the lives of poor people.

3) He believed in using the power of the federal government to force white people to do right by their black countrywomen and men.  He believed in changing laws at least as much as he believed in changing hearts.

4) He was a pacifist and rejected all calls to use violence to fight even the greatest of evils, including the unpunished murder of children.

5) He believed that law and order often bears little resemblance to justice.

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In 1996, famed Civil Rights leader John Lewis was one of very few Congressional representatives to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  It passed the House by a vote of 432 to 67.  The U.S. Senate affirmed it by a count of 85 to 14.  Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton signed it into law.

But John Lewis, a middle-aged straight man from the Deep South, voted against it.  And drawing upon his experience growing up a black man during the reign of terror known as Jim Crow, he stood up and made a speech against it.

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I’ve been trying to write a blog post for the last few weeks now… ever since a good friend of mine pointed out this post to me, where Bo Sanders offers a proposal arguing that “privilege is not racism, sexism, or oppression.”  In his post, Bo suggests that:

The conversation around issues of Race-Gender-Class and Identity Politics usually breaks down and becomes unfruitful due to two fatal flaws in how the conversation is framed.

Bo sugests that the first flaw is “the use of either-or binaries and dualisms that are too limiting,” and the second flaw is “the sloppy mixing of words and categories without clear distinction.” He goes on to argue that we should make a change from our dualistic thinking, moving instead to delineation between a) privilege, b) racism/sexism, and c) oppression/marginalization.

I’ve struggled with where, and how, to begin to respond to this post… Luckily for me, and my writer’s block, someone already beat me to it—Sarah Moon wrote an excellent blog post on “Tony Jones, Peter Rollins, and the trend of ‘don’t call me a racist!’”

While her post was in response to a different (though ostensibly related/overlapping) set of authors, it was definitely in response to the same trend… as she puts it, the “trend among white, straight academic cis men in progressive or emergent Christianity where calling someone racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. is a bigger problem than the existence of racism, sexism, and homophobia.” (emphasis mine).

I did, however, briefly want to elaborate on some of what Sarah has said, and make some connections with some other things I’ve read in the blogosphere this week. (more…)

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Saturday, January 12, marks the three year anniversary of the earthquake that left Haiti in ruins.  Immediately after this earthquake, scenes of Haitian suffering appeared with unprecedented frequency on TV screens throughout the United States.  In response, many North Americans looked upon Haiti with compassion, sending money to assist the impoverished country in its rebuilding efforts.

But we did not hear very much about why Haiti was so poor in the first place.  Haiti’s poverty seemingly appeared out of thin air, and, like all facts of life, was thought to require no explanation.  In this framing, when we think of Haiti (and surely, we almost never think of Haiti) we imagine it a country in need of North American benevolence.  We imagine ourselves heroes–aid workers, missionaries, liberators. Never do we consider ourselves among the major villains of Haitian history.

But we should.

As I explain in an article for The Other Journal, the histories of Haiti and the United States exhibit an abiding interconnectedness that stretches back to each country’s revolutionary inception more than two hundred years ago.  For most of this history, to Haiti, the United States has operated not as an ally but as an oppressor.  Both countries threw off the shackles (and only in Haiti’s case were these shackles literal and not metaphorical-rhetorical) of their colonial oppressors.  But the American Revolution comprised a quarrel between white supremacies while the Haitian Revolution served as a stunning repudiation of it.  Thus,

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“Blessed the one who seizes your children and smashes them against the rock.” — Psalm 137:9

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” — Matthew 19:14

Below is a list of children killed by weaponized violence.  Some were killed last Friday in a Connecticut grade school by a man with  unknown motives.  Others were killed in homes in Iraq, Pakistan, or Afghanistan by members of the United States military.

Charlotte Bacon, age 6, killed by gunfire in a Connecticut grade school

Safia Abbas, age 5, Baghdad, killed by a missile that hit her while she was sleeping (March, 2003)

Daniel Barden, age 7, killed by gunfire in a Connecticut grade school

Mohammad Ahmed, age 4, Baghdad, killed by shrapnel from a missile that hit his home. (April, 2003)

Olivia Engel, age 6, killed by gunfire in a Connecticut grade school

Maria Hassad, age 7, Baghdad, killed by a missile that hit her home (April, 2003)

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Here in New York, concerns about a fair and accessible voting process in this past Tuesday’s election revolved around after effects of Superstorm Sandy, which took a severe toll on infrastructure along the mid-Atlantic coast. In the face of ongoing power outages and transportation gaps, not to mention intense personal and communal disruption, thousands of voters as well as many polling officials went to great lengths to cast and count their ballots.

Concerns of a very different sort plagued the electorate in a number of states due to the decidedly unnatural disaster of restrictive voter ID laws; nineteen states, to be exact, have passed such measures since 2011 (although some are not yet in effect). These laws’ potential unjustly to disenfranchise scores of eligible citizens was well documented during the campaign and no doubt was made actual in some places on Tuesday. While this election cycle is now over, the work of assuring free and fair elections in a country that purports to value participatory democracy is surely unfinished business. (more…)

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Today, the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (IHRCRC) in conjunction with the Global Justice Clinic (CJC) at NYU School of Law released a report entitled “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan.”  The result of nine months of independent and intensive research, this report seeks to answer the question of “whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians.”

The report contains four principle findings:

“First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians…from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.”

“Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning.  Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.  Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment…The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups…out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators… Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.”

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A photograph of Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, & Ekaterina Samucevich

Right to left: Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Ekaterina Samucevich. Photograph from freepussyriot.org

(OK. I’m going to warn you, this post is long. If you’re strapped for time, my suggestion is to read the text of “Punk Prayer,” and then skip down to “First,“. Thanks in advance for your patience.)

By now, I’m sure everyone has read about yesterday’s conviction of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samutsevich, three members of Pussy Riot, “an anonymous Russian feminist performance art group formed in October 2011,” for their “punk prayer” protest.

On Tuesday, February 21, Masha, Nadya, and Katya entered the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior wearing bright dresses, tights, and balaclavas, and stood in front of the iconostasis, crossing themselves, dancing, and singing in protest of the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Vladimir Putin. Cathedral security stopped the three less than a minute after they began. On March 4, after a video of the action had gone viral and the Russian Orthodox Church had initiated a criminal case, Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service‘s terrorism division on suspicion of “hooliganism.” Formal charges were not filed until March 15, when Samutsevich—initially considered a witness—was also arrested. Yesterday, all three were sentences to two years of prison.

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