PETER BERGEL and MICHAEL CARRIGAN – Once again we are all paying our federal income taxes this month. We do this as “the price of civilization” – to pay for the services we value and rely upon – disaster relief, help during the pandemic, wildfire protection, food security, a host of others and… nuclear weapons?
PETER BERGEL – We must build a movement strong enough to abolish nuclear weapons altogether. It will take a lot of work and will not happen overnight, but if we want to survive, it is up to the citizens of the nuclear-armed nations to demand that their governments conclude the nuclear disarmament agreements necessary to enable all of them to sign the nuclear ban treaty.
PETER BERGEL – Any of our cities could be incinerated by today’s nuclear weapons without warning at virtually any moment, either accidentally or purposely. Yet this monstrous possibility has fallen off the radar of most citizens and politicians.
MICHAEL CARRIGAN and PETER BERGEL – Our country continues to expend nearly half its discretionary budget on its military might. That leaves only half for everything else. The perennial explanation given to defend this lopsided priority is that the military guards our national security. If only that were true!
PETER BERGEL – In the wake of the COVID epidemic, the movement to ensure that Black Lives Matter, the inadequacies revealed in our health care system, the movement to address climate change and the growing disgust our people feel for the U.S.â€™s ongoing foreign wars and international bullying, the time has come for system-wide changes.
PETER BERGEL – Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has the unenviable task to sentence the Kings Bay Plowshares actionists recently found guilty of conspiracy, destruction of government property, depredation and trespassing for a 2018 anti-nuclear weapons protest at Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia. I write to her urging a very light punishment, for the very specific reason that issuing such a sentence is to act in the service of gratitude. I invite you to write your own letter.
PETER BERGEL – Not so fast, fellow progressives! Weâ€™ve underestimated Donald Trump a couple of times now. Letâ€™s not do it again. He may be all the things we think he is â€“ racist, xenophobic, narcissistic, homophobic, anti-Muslim, power-mad. At the same time, though, heâ€™s also getting away with a deadly distraction game â€“ one which threatens life on this planet. If you think heâ€™s dumb, think again.
PETER BERGEL – The election is over and Trump won. In a country with a sane election system, he would not have, but we have the Electoral College, so he did. In Joe Hillâ€™s immortal words, â€œDonâ€™t mourn; organize!â€
PETER BERGEL – As some of you know, Iâ€™ll leave on June 15 to join a citizen diplomacy peace delegation to Russia for two weeks. I will take with me a peace message from the mayor and mayor-elect of Salem, OR and will, I hope, bring back peace messages from Russian citizens, decision-makers, academicians and journalists. I will also listen carefully to the Russiansâ€™ concerns, especially those that concern our own country.
DAVID SWANSON – In the early 1980s almost nobody from the United States traveled to the Soviet Union or vice versa. The Soviets wouldn’t let anybody out, and good Americans were disinclined to visit the Evil Empire. But a woman in California named Sharon Tennison took the threat of nuclear war with the seriousness it deserved and still deserves. She got a group of friends together and asked the Russian consulate for permission to visit Russia, make friends, and learn.
FODAY JUSTICE DARBOE – In the wake of the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris and the double suicide bombing in Beirut on November 12th, many Muslims took to Twitter to loudly and unequivocally condemn the terrorists attacks with the hashtagsâ€” #NotInMyName, #MuslimsAreNotTerrorist, but is this enough to counter Islamic extremism? When will â€œmoderate Muslimsâ€ stand up and speak against the terror and mayhem committed in the name of Islam?
PETER BERGEL – Thanks to Foday Darboe for setting an example to those he calls â€œmoderate Muslims.â€ I will follow his lead to set an example for â€œpatriotic Americans.â€
PETER BERGEL – The best peace party in Oregon, Give Peace a Dance, will shake, rattle and roll Salemâ€™s Grand Ballroom (187 High St. NE) from 6-11 p.m. on March 23rd. The event features superb entertainment, silent and oral auctions, delicious food and a no-host bar. The event benefits Oregon PeaceWorks, a statewide peace, justice and sustainability organization based in Salem.
JEFF MERKLEY – This letter is a reply from Sen. Jeff Merkley to PeaceWorker Editor Peter Bergel in response to Bergelâ€™s request that Merkley support major cuts to the military budget during the upcoming â€œfiscal cliffâ€ debate, rather than allow cuts to social security, medicare, or other remaining components of the safety net. Letâ€™s hold Merkley to this encouraging approach.
PETER BERGEL – On January 31 I met with Representative Kurt Schrader to find out what his attitudes were on several of Oregon PeaceWorksâ€™ issues. Here are the questions I asked him followed by my notes on his answers.
PETER BERGEL – Former U.S. Poet Laureate William Stafford wrote in his journal on March 20, 1990, â€œArtists and peace workers are in it for the long haul and not to be judged by immediate results. Redemption comes with care.â€ Seeing the results of last monthâ€™s election, it would be easy to get discouraged. Thatâ€™s why Staffordâ€™s words are important. It reminds us that to deserve the name â€œpeace worker,â€ we must take a long view, dedicating ourselves to a lifelong challenge.
PETER BERGEL — On October 1, The PeaceWorker ran an article on the frightening and unconscionable FBI raids on peace workers that happened in the Minneapolis area and elsewhere. Since then, some activists have refused to cooperate with a Grand Jury, thereby running the risk that they will be jailed.
PETER BERGEL — Best-selling author John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Hoodwinked) spoke to a large, enthusiastic audience at Willamette Universityâ€™s Smith Auditorium in Salem on Tuesday night, kicking off a month-long series of peace visioning events called the MyPeace Project.
PETER BERGEL — Hereâ€™s another intrusion into the rights that most of us thought were sacrosanct in these United States: now government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This development is the result of a Portland case affirmed by the Ninth Circuit, which includes eight western states. Worse yet, the law draws a line of privilege between the rich and the poor. The rich have rights, the poor donâ€™t.
PETER BERGEL — Two days ago, The PeaceWorker published an explanation by Rep Peter DeFazio of his recent votes on funding the war in Afghanistan. This article was encouraging in that it expressed the misgivings many of us have about the war and those prosecuting it. It also explained in a cogent way what the â€œbest thinkingâ€ in liberal Congressional circles is these days concerning how to extricate ourselves from the Vietnam-like mess which the Afghanistan situation has become. At the same time, the article revealed why the peace â€œmovementâ€ needs so desperately to rethink its overall strategy.
PETER BERGEL — For decades, beginning during the Vietnam War, our elected leaders have tried to mask the size of the national debt they have permitted to accumulate by â€œborrowingâ€ the surplus from the Social Security Trust Fund. This was done without consulting the public in any way, and largely without public knowledge, even though this money was set aside from all workersâ€™ paychecks in an insurance program guaranteed to provide funds for them in their old age. To be precise, the government purchased U.S. T-bonds with our insurance money.
PETER BERGEL: Measured by the satisfaction expressed by attendees during the event and afterwards, Give Peace a Dance 2010 â€“ which took place on April 17 — was a grand success. It also raised well over four thousand dollars to keep Oregon PeaceWorksâ€™ projects moving forward.
I have been thinking about a verse from Leonard Cohenâ€™s oft-recorded country song Bird on a Wire, a lot recently. Written in 1968, this simple, if depressing, song has been covered by artists as varied as Cohen himself, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, The Bobs, Dave Van Ronk, k.d. laing and the Neville Brothers, to name a few â€“ a sure sign that it speaks to many kinds of people.
PETER BERGEL: Here, in no particular order, are websites (both articles and organizations) and books that I and others have found helpful in researching peace visioning.
PETER BERGEL: Progressives and peace people are probably missing a bet. We could almost certainly be more effective, wield more influence and play a more powerful role in public policy. What we lack is a unified understanding of what we mean by â€œpeaceâ€ and a new peace strategy based on that unified understanding.
PETER BERGEL: The progressive movement needs a comprehensive shared vision and Salemâ€™s MyPeace Project is a step in the direction of generating that vision.
PETER BERGEL: In an enormously provocative article entitled â€œAre Americans a Broken People? Why We’ve Stopped Fighting Back Against the Forces of Oppressionâ€ psychologist Bruce E. Levine divines what ails the American body politic.
PETER BERGEL: OPW’s award-winning publication The PeaceWorker is now available by subscription on the Internet. By entering a free subscription, you will receive a teaser and a link to a PeaceWorker article every day in your email.
PETER BERGEL: The government and the Pentagon are right. Our national security is definitely at risk. Afghanistan? Iraq? Al Qaeda? Small potatoes. Yemen? Iran? Even smaller. Nope, the big threats are not military. Nor can they be addressed by the military.
PETER BERGEL: â€œWhere there is no vision, the people perishâ€ says the King James Bible in Proverbs 29:18. Certainly the people are in danger of perishing today. If not from wars and nuclear weapons, then from global warming. If not from that, then from a series of other threats. Could vision be what rescues us?
PETER BERGEL: Helping you and encouraging you to cut your carbon footprint is a major purpose of OPWâ€™s 5% Solution to the Climate Crisis project. In addition to the information provided in this PeaceWorkerâ€™s focus topic articles, you will find a great deal more about this subject on OPWâ€™s website, www.oregonpeaceworks.org. On our homepage, click the 5% Solution link.
PETER BERGEL: The Great Getaway Raffle, OPWâ€™s annual fundraiser in which 5 awesome vacation packages are raffled off to ticket holders all over the state is under way. Tickets are currently available at $1 each.
PETER BERGEL: On November 9, a delegation organized by Oregon PeaceWorks met with Oregonâ€™s 5th District congressional representative Kurt Schrader. On the agenda were the wars in the Middle East, global warming and health care. The meeting included representatives from OPW, Veterans for Peace, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Fellowship of Reconciliation and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
PETER BERGEL: On the surface things look pretty grim. The chances for any kind of meaningful world peace seem remote. The environment is terribly degraded and seems to be retaliating with global climate change â€ probably the worst crisis the human race has ever confronted. The economic system is in the toilet and may not recover. People are hurting everywhere Ã¢â‚¬â€ from poverty, disease, war, racism, renewed threats to liberty and despair. And yetÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ amazing currents are flowing all over the planet, washing in a harvest of hope that so far has not captured the notice of the mainstream media.
PETER BERGEL: $700 billion is a number that rings a bell for most Americans these days. It was the first installment U.S. taxpayers were forced to pony up for Wall Street to “stimulate”Â the economy. But, according to analyst Don Monkrude, that sum is also, coincidentally, the amount by which the 400 richest Americans increased their net worth during the Bush years.
PETER BERGEL: The peace movement in the United States has had few new ideas for decades. We are still using the main organizing tools we used in the 60s and before: demonstrating, educating, lobbying and electioneering. Occasionally we also engage in civil resistance direct actions to halt something particularly egregious. Most of these approaches are drawing less support than they used to (with the notable exception of the School of the Americas protests each fall at Ft. Benning, GA).
PETER BERGEL: OPW’s annual Burrito Booth fundraiser at the Salem Art Fair generated about $3,500 for OPW projects as well as giving some 60-70 volunteers a great chance to work together in a delightful, peaceful atmosphere serving organic vegetarian burritos to hungry fairgoers.
PETER BERGEL: In the past half year we have come to realize that our economic system is a lot more vulnerable than we thought, and that economic threats can come from directions most of us had never considered. While our government obsesses about terrorists of the Al Qaeda variety, we have recently been shown that an economic terrorist can attack us right where we live without firing a shot or awakening the retaliatory frenzy that 9-11 unleashed. Once again, we see that, as a nation, we are incapable of recognizing the real threats to our national security. Only threats that can be met by military force are deemed worthy of our attention. When a threat does get our attention, we respond with a “War on”Â something â€” drugs, terror, poverty, hunger â€” although that military approach has been shown over and over to be ineffective and even counter-productive.