Queen of Jordan works to empower women
by Barbara Crossette
She was Rania Al-Yassin, in her early 20s and a recent graduate of the American University in Cairo with a degree in business administration, when she met a young Prince Abdullah of Jordan at a dinner in Amman in 1993. When Rania, whose wealthy family of Palestinian descent lived in Kuwait, where she was born, married Abdullah in that same year, she traded a career in banking and information technology for the edges of palace life but that was not the end of the story.
In January 1999, Abdullahs father, King Hussein, who was terminally ill and would die just two weeks later, surprised Jordanians by naming the 37-year-old prince as his royal heir, passing over his own brother, Crown Prince Hassan, who had long been presumed to be next in line. Swept up in events, Rania became Queen of Jordan in February and life changed again.
Now, just as King Abdullah has risen to a large and constructive role in Middle Eastern politics, confounding those who thought no one could replace his exceptional father, Queen Rania, at 37, has established herself internationally as an advocate of educational development, especially for Arab women; expanded health care worldwide; and programs for families and young people, which led her to become UNICEFs first eminent advocate for children.
She is active in more than 20 major organizations and institutions in Jordan and abroad, balancing that life with her role as a mother of four children: Prince Hussein, who is 13; Princess Imam 11; Princess Salma, 7; and Prince Hashem, 2.
Among her other activities, Queen Rania is chair of the Middle East and North Africa microfinance council for the World Banks Consultative Group to Assist the Poor and on the boards of the United Nations Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, and the World Economic Forum.
Raised a Muslim, Queen Rania speaks often about the strengths of her religious upbringing and the atmosphere of true Islam she remembers from her home. Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, carried out by Islamic terrorists, she said this on the Oprah Winfrey show: Extremists are on the fringes of religion. By nature, Islam and the Koran, which is the holy book of our religion, came to apply to humankind at any point in history, which means it is open to interpretation. I feel that a lot of these extremists have taken this as a way to justify and twist the facts in Islam to justify their own actions and their own beliefs, and in many cases to fulfill their own political agendas.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has been through difficult years, caught up as it is between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the turmoil of Iraq, which has hurt the Jordanian economy and led to the influx of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees. But the king and queen are credited with continuing to work hard, despite the hurdles, at improving life within the country one of the most progressive in the region. Iraqi refugees, too, benefit. Jordan recently announced it would enroll their children in local schools a rare step globally for refugee populations.
In 2005, the king whose mother is British and who was educated in English schools and Sandhurst military academy established the Queen Rania Award for Excellence in Education to raise the bar ... by measuring, advancing, rewarding and honoring merit and achievement in teaching. Queen Rania herself supports a scholarship program for women in business leadership that sends Jordanian women to a business school in Spain for MBA degrees or other qualifications. She also has established scholarship links with the Athens Information Technology University Center of Excellence, which offers joint programs with Carnegie Mellon and Harvard universities.
Queen Rania, setting an example of modernity in her own life, is rarely if ever photographed with any head covering, even among rural Arab women. She encourages them to be entrepreneurial and seek education for themselves and their daughters, as well as sons. All of this has its roots in Islamic history, she notes, where clever women were respected and many were active in economic life.
Empowering women today is, perhaps, the greatest legacy we can bestow upon our children, she has written for the Jordan River Foundation. Our daughters, watching in admiration, will be inspired to emulate our initiatives and excel in their chosen fields. Our sons, proud of the positive changes they see not only in their families but also in society, will recognize the value of empowering women.
Ms. Crossette is editor of The InterDependent, magazine of the UN Assoc.-USA, and a former New York Times bureau chief at the United Nations. Her article is from The InterDependent, Fall 2007.
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2008
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
2007 Nobel Peace Prize to U.N.
Climate Change Panel and Al Gore
Hanford High School graduate shares in prize
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has announced that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations network of scientists, and Al Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change. The award ceremony will be held in Oslo, Norway on December 10.
The award is a validation for the IPCC, which has been vilified by those who disputed the scientific case for a human role in climate change. In New Delhi, the Indian climatologist who heads the panel, Rajendra K. Pachauri, said that science had won out over skepticism.
The prize is also a vindication for former U.S. Vice President Gore, whose cautionary film about the consequences of climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, won the 2007 Academy Award for best documentary, even as conservatives in the United States denounced it as alarmist and exaggerated. Mr. Gore, a vociferous opponent of the Bush administration on a range of issues, including the Iraq war, is the second Democratic Party politician from the United States to win the peace prize this decade. Former President Jimmy Carter won in 2002. Mr. Gore used the recognition to warn that global warming is the greatest challenge weve ever faced. He said he would donate his share of the $1.5 million that accompanies the prize to the non-profit Alliance for Climate Protection.
Gore had been widely expected to win the Peace Prize. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change, the Nobel citation said. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.
The Nobel Peace Prize committee also cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for two decades of scientific reports that have created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the United Nations to help guide government decision-makers with an objective source of information about climate change. The IPCC does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data. Its role is to assess on an objective and open basis the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of human-induced climate change, its observed and projected impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation. Some 2,500 researchers from more than 130 nations provide input for the panels evaluation. The panel issued reports this year blaming human activities for climate changes ranging from heat waves to floods.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said global warming may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the Earths resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the worlds most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.
Jan Egeland, a Norwegian peace mediator and director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo, said, Were already seeing the first climate wars, in the Sahel belt of Africa. He said nomads and herders are in conflict with farmers because the changing climate has brought drought and a shortage of fertile lands.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee stated, Action is necessary now before climate change moves beyond mans control.
Dina Washburn Kruger, a 1980 graduate of Hanford High School in Richland, is one of about 25 people on the IPCC sharing the prize. Kruger works in Washington DC as director of the climate change division at the Environmental Protection Agency and serves on the management team at IPCC. Krugers father, Dale Washburn, retired as a scientist at Westinghouse Hanford Co. and her mother, Dorothy Washburn, retired as a school nurse for the Richland School District.
edited from The Nobel
Foundation, IPCC, The New York Times, MSNBC and Tri-City Herald
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2007
IN MEMORIAM: Randall Forsberg - A Soldier for Peace
Randall Forsberg, who died October 19 at Calvary Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, in the company of her daughter, her sister and her mother, was a hero of the nuclear age. In 1979 she took the lead in drafting The Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race, which became the foundational text for the Nuclear Freeze movement that erupted in the early 1980s. No movement like it had ever existed before and none has arisen since. On June 12, 1982, it inspired the largest political demonstration in the history of the United States. It gave birth to nine state referendums in favor of the Freeze and won eight of them, and it succeeded in pushing a Freeze resolution through the House of Representatives.
At every stage, Forsberg served as a prime organizer, inspirer and one-woman source of expertise. Her leadership of the Freeze was her most conspicuous accomplishment, but it was perhaps not until the movement waned and eventually sputtered out in the mid-80s that her character stood fully revealed. Hard as it is to lead a great movement, it is perhaps harder still to stay faithful to the cause when the crowds, the media and the politicians have gone home.
Forsberg persisted. As head of the two-employee (she was one) Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies, she continued to produce state-of-the-art information on military establishments and their procurement around the world. She possessed a soldierlike resolve and courage. When funds for her work ran low, she mortgaged the family house to continue it. If her stubbornness at times caused her to cross swords with colleagues, that same quality kept her steady on her course.
If she had not been against not just nuclear war but all war, she would have made an outstanding general. Indeed, with her combination of prodigious knowledge, stamina and capacity for leadership, she could have served in any capacity in government as Secretary of State, for example. But her principles, including her loathing of nuclear weapons and her vision of ending war, led her in another direction into work that, after the Freeze, was more anonymous, less rewarded, less celebrated.
Recognition did come. In 1983 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, sometimes called a genius award. But the word, for all of Forsbergs learning, does not quite fit her. More striking than her great mental capacities was the rarer quality of her readiness, from early adulthood until the day she died, to pour her life into the service of her convictions.
Forsbergs death took place, as all of our deaths must today, in a world still shadowed by the peril of a nuclear holocaust. Against the background of this engulfing darkness, which she fought with every fiber of her being, the memory of her life shines with a brilliant light.
The Nation, November
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2007
[Note: World Citizens for Peace was founded in July 1982 as part of the Nuclear Freeze movement.]
2006 Nobel Peace Prize goes to microloan pioneers
The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded jointly to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, which he founded, for pioneering microcredit using loans of tiny amounts to transform destitute women into entrepreneurs. The selection embodies two connected ideas that are gaining ground among development experts: attacking poverty is essential to peace, and private enterprise is essential to attacking poverty.
Dr. Yunus, a Ph.D. economist, founded Grameen Bank in his native Bangladesh specifically to lend small amounts of cash often as little as $20 to local people, almost always women, who could use it to found or sustain a small business by, say, buying a cow to sell milk or a simple sewing machine to make clothing. Traditional banks considered such people too risky to lend to, and the amounts they needed too small to bother with. Dr. Yunuss simple but revolutionary idea was that the poor could be as creditworthy as the rich, if the rules of lending were tailored to their circumstances and were founded on principles of trust rather than financial capacity. He found that they could achieve lasting improvements to their living standards with a little bit of capital.
Microcredit has proved to be an important liberating force in societies where women especially have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions. Economic growth and political democracy can not achieve their full potential unless the female half of humanity participates on an equal footing with the male.
Dr. Yunuss long-term vision is to eliminate poverty in the world. He has translated his vision into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in other countries around the world where many institutions have copied his model. Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea.
Since its creation in 1983, Grameen Bank has made a total of $5.72 billion in such small loans, and has turned a profit in all but three years, including $15 million in 2005.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee announcement stated: Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.
This is the first time the Peace Prize has been awarded to a profit-making business. It will be presented in Oslo on 10 December 2006.
Nobelprize.org and The New York Times
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2006
Ammon Hennacy, Christian anarchist
Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual. The one who has love, courage, and wisdom is one in a million, who moves the world, as with Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi.
Ammon Hennacy (1893-1970) was a self-described Christian anarchist. He was arrested in 1917 for refusing to register for the World War I draft and served two years in the Atlanta Penitentiary. While in solitary confinement with nothing to read but the Bible, he came to understand what Jesus meant when he said that the Kingdom of God must be in everyone: To change the world by bullets or ballots was a useless procedure. The only revolution worthwhile was the one-man revolution within the heart.
When he was released from prison, Hennacy devoted himself to realizing that ideal of the one-man revolution. Among other sacrifices, he became a vegetarian and stripped his life down to the level of bare necessities. He refused to pay taxes, which could be used in part to finance war. When withholding taxes were introduced, he deliberately worked at common day-labor to subsist at a level beneath the taxable minimum.
In 1952, Hennacy moved to New York and joined the Catholic Worker community of Dorothy Day. He had long been attracted to Days commitment to nonviolence. Prodding the community to undertake a more active and visible stance on behalf of peace, he organized a campaign of civil disobedience against the citys annual compulsory civil defense drills. In Hennacys view, these drills to prepare the city for a nuclear attack would do nothing to save lives, but did have the adverse effect of preparing the public for war as an inevitability. Hennacy believed it was the Christians duty to refuse to collaborate with this dangerous farce. As a result, he along with Dorothy Day and others were repeatedly jailed until the drills were finally abolished.
Eventually Hennacy left New York and moved to Salt Lake City. There he opened Joe Hill House of hospitality for the indigent and homeless, named after the great labor martyr who was one of his heroes. He also continued his work for peace. Every August he undertook a public fast to atone for the dropping of the atomic bombs, adding an additional day of fasting for each year since 1945.
Radical that he was, Hennacy enjoyed the fantasy of one day dropping dead on a picket line a wish that was essentially fulfilled. On January 11, 1970, he collapsed from a heart attack while picketing to protest the impending execution of two convicted murderers. He died three days later.
Dorothy Day paid tribute to Ammon Hennacys enormous faith, courage, and prophetic witness, eulogizing him as the most ascetic, the most hard working, the most devoted to the poor and the oppressed of any we had met, and that his life and his articles put us on the spot. He was an inspiration and a reproach.
from All Saints: Witnesses for Our Time by Robert Ellsberg, (1997, Crossroad,
PeaceMeal, July/August 2006
Relevance of Gandhi
by Sandip K. Dasverma
In an article in The Washington Post, September 8, 2004, Anne Applebaum wrote: Some of the Beslan survivors have said that they were told by their captors that Russian soldiers are killing our children in Chechnya, so we are here to kill yours. But there is no moral justification, no intellectual line of reasoning, no political logic. The hardest thing in the world is to resist injustice without hatred, or to resist brutality without brutality, or to fight any kind of war without losing your own humanity. By failing to do so, the Chechen terrorists may have just defeated their own stated cause.
And yet more than 100 years back, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, universally known as Mahatma Gandhi, not only preached but also practiced to counter brutality without brutality. He showed that we could fight a war without losing our own humanity. He practiced it for retrieving national dignity in racist South Africa and later in colonial India.
One has to be reminded that in those days there was much less communication and hardly any knowledge of what was going on in far corners of the world. The sympathy of impartial outsiders uninvolved in the local issues was not easy to come by since they did not know about the local issues till months, if not years afterwards. Knowledge of government repression or police brutality if they were known at all by virtue of some daring reporters expose of governments actions, was way in the future. That is why in the Third World countries, the governments still try to control the media; and, for example, in the case of numbers of persons killed in a police shooting, they report much less than the actual numbers.
This made the task of communication far more difficult in those days. Gandhi had to garner sympathy from local inhabitants on the opposite side by his dignified moral actions, wherever he protested the brutal actions of inhuman regimes. He even volunteered for the British as a Red Cross worker on the side of the bitter foes, the British, in the brutal Boer War (1905) in South Africa. Time and again he commanded and got the pledge of total nonviolence from his followers in the face of extreme provocation and brutality. In the process, when nonviolent protesters marched to protest some government action and the police acted against them by resorting to a baton charge or shooting, the local solidarity and sympathy of opponents tended to lie on the side of the nonviolent protestors. And, thus, minimal physical harm and minimal incarceration resulted.
This lowering of hurdles led to larger mass participation in subsequent nonviolent reactions to each police action or repressive regulation. It was both brilliant and effective tactics in those days of isolation, when sympathy had to be earned from among the local partisans of the opposition.
Gandhi, though a devout Hindu, got these ideas from Christian ethics. His inspiration came from Ruskin and Tolstoy, the great humanists and philosophers of yesteryears. He never hated his enemy and never targeted innocents. His tactics could be used today the days of sound bites and media glare, to resolve many questions of international and national dispute much faster and with much less loss of life and property.
Both the civil rights movements of the United States, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and of South Africa, led by Nelson Mandela against apartheid, succeeded due to their commitment to nonviolence, lack of hate, and the resulting reduction of fear of reprisal among the opponents.
In contrast, the gruesome Beslan tragedy was a great loss to the victims families of nearly 400 lives. Sadly, it achieved for the combatants and their cause exactly the opposite of what they wanted.
Nonviolent methods can be used for better resolution of other hot issues of today, like Kashmir and Palestine. This brings back to mind the RELEVANCE of Gandhi, in todays violent and unjust world.
Sandip K. Dasverma of Richland, Washington, is a proponent for the underprivileged and the low castes of India, who were Gandhis prime concern. He is an admirer of Gandhis "Satyagraha"(truth force) because it encapsulates ideas of empowerment and rights of and compassion for the poor and underprivileged. Sandip is a Mechanical Engineer by profession.
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2006
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2005 has been awarded to the U.N.s International Atomic Energy Agency and its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, for their work in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. The Nobel committee has repeatedly awarded its peace prize to anti-nuclear weapons campaigners on the major anniversaries of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The committee said in a statement, At a time when disarmament efforts appear deadlocked, when there is a danger that nuclear arms will spread both to states and to terrorist groups, and when nuclear power again appears to be playing an increasingly significant role, IAEAs work is of incalculable importance.
In a press conference at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Mr. ElBaradei, 63, suggested winning the worlds most prestigious award vindicated his methods and goals using diplomacy rather than confrontation and defusing tensions in multilateral negotiations that strive for consensus. Having been at the center of nonproliferation disputes involving all three states that President Bush once labeled the axis of evil Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran, and North Korea he stated: The prize will strengthen my resolve and that of my colleagues to continue to speak truth to power.
Mr. ElBaradei was making an oblique reference to the intense pressure he faced from the Bush administration in the days before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. He demanded more time for weapons inspectors to search the country for weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush ignored him and invaded; no weapons were ever found.
For his strong stand, Mr. ElBaradei almost lost his job. He became the target of a nasty and unsuccessful U.S. campaign led by U.N. Ambassador John Bolton to replace him. He subsequently won a third term as chief of the IAEA. The Record (Hackensack NJ) editorialized: Fortunately, no other country would stoop to the level of the United States.
The I.A.E.A. was established in 1957 to promote the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It now has 138 member states. Mr. ElBaradei joined the IAEA in 1984 as legal counsel and deputy director general for external relations. He became director general of the organization in 1997.
Mr. ElBaradei was chosen from a record 199 nominees. The Nobel Peace Prize committee this year did not even call the winner in advance, fearing a repeat of last year when the news leaked and became public before the committees announcement. Mr. ElBaradei learned that he was being awarded the prize only when he heard his name in Norwegian while watching the announcement live on television with his wife.
The Peace Prize, first awarded in 1901, will be formally awarded at a ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobels death in 1896. It has a monetary value of $1.3 million, to be shared equally by Mr. ElBaradei and the IAEA.
compiled from The New
York Times, The Record, and The Associated Press
PeaceMeal, Nov/December 2005
Sir Joseph Rotblat, 96, died August 31 in London. Dr. Rotblat, a Polish-born physicist, was the only scientist to quit work on developing the atomic bomb for moral reasons. He was awarded the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for his worldwide campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons, jointly with the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which he and other scientists founded in 1957.
Born in Warsaw in 1908, Joseph Rotblat was one of seven children of Jewish parents. In 1930, he met and married Tola Gryn, a fellow student at the University of Warsaw. After obtaining a doctorate in physics, Dr. Rotblat won a research fellowship to Liverpool University, where he studied with Sir James Chadwick, the discoverer of the neutron. His wife stayed in Warsaw because the fellowship's stipend was small. When Hitler invaded Poland, he tried to rescue her, but never saw her again.
After World War II started, Dr. Rotblat decided the only way to stop Hitler from making an atomic bomb was to make sure the Allies could threaten retaliation in kind. In 1944, Dr. Rotblat and Dr. Chadwick became members of the British team assigned to the Manhattan Project to help build a bomb. As the Allies began to win the war without an atomic bomb, Dr. Rotblat felt deeper and deeper misgivings about the project. He left the project after nine months.
After the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan, Dr. Rotblat began giving talks in England to convince his fellow scientists of the need for a moratorium on nuclear weapons. He was visited by American intelligence agents who accused him of spying for the Soviet Union. He convinced the agents of his loyalty, but was threatened with arrest if he divulged his reasons for quitting the Manhattan Project.
In 1955 he was a principal author of a declaration on the dangers of thermonuclear war, signed by eleven scientists nine of them Nobel Prize winners, including Albert Einstein. The declaration issued the challenge: "Remember your humanity, and forget the rest."
The scientists got the backing of Cyrus Eaton, a Canadian industrialist and self-styled global peacemaker, who offered money and his boyhood home in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, for what became the Pugwash Conferences. The conferences convened scientists, scholars and, later, political leaders, from both East and West "to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and in the long run to eliminate such arms." The Pugwash Conferences are credited with laying groundwork for the Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963), the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968), the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972), the Biological Weapons Convention (1972), and the Chemical Weapons Convention (1993).
Courtly, brimming with Old World charm, and fired by the enthusiasm of a man half his age, Sir Joseph (he was knighted in 1998) traveled the world, sometimes making three speeches a day on disarmament. In 1996, he convened the 208th Pugwash Conference in Hiroshima and addressed a seminar in Nagasaki.
"Once I get on this subject," he said, "I'm always energized."
edited from The New York Times, Sept. 2, 2005
PeaceMeal, Sept/October 2005
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2004 was awarded in Oslo on December 10 to Wangari Maathai of Kenya "for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace." The first woman from Africa to be honored with the award, Maathai is a university professor and longtime activist in womens and human rights, environmental conservation, and peace. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, Prof. Maathai, 64, was also the first woman to become chair of the Dept. of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi.
Maathai combines science, social commitment, and active politics. More than simply protecting the existing environment, her strategy is to secure and strengthen the very basis for ecologically sustainable development. She founded the Green Belt Movement to protect forests against desertification, whereby, for nearly thirty years, she has mobilized poor women to plant 30 million trees. Through education, family planning, nutrition and the fight against corruption, the Green Belt Movement paved the way for development at grass-root level. Her methods have been adopted by other countries as well.
Maathai stood up courageously against the former oppressive regime in Kenya. Her unique forms of action contributed to drawing attention to political oppression, nationally and internationally. She served as inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights and especially encouraged women to better their situation.
Prof. Maathai serves on the boards of several organizations including the U.N. Secretary Generals Advisory Board on Disarmament, The Jane Goodall Institute, Women and Environment
Development Organization (WEDO), World Learning for International Development, and Green Cross International.
In December 2002, Prof. Maathai was elected to the parliament of Kenya with an overwhelming 98 percent of the vote. She was subsequently appointed Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife by the president of Kenya.
The Norwegian Nobel Committees award citation states: "Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and womens rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally."
In a telephone interview, Wangari Maathai stated, "I would like to tell you that this country is on fire. They are celebrating very hard, from the president even down to the children in the rural areas. Everybody feels very, very honored. It is not my own prize, but a recognition for the entire country."
It is not easy being 16, living in the surrounding Baltimore-Metropolitan Area, going to a Catholic high school, and being a pacifist. People I used to call friends now speak of me when I'm not within earshot, calling me a heretic and ridiculous.
They want to know what we're supposed to do as a nation if we are not to fight. They expect that the terrorists will invade America and force their beliefs on us, if we do not fight in the Middle East. They, along with most other Americans, do not comprehend many facets of this war.
First and foremost, America is as responsible as the terrorists are for the events. Wars do not start with the killing, they start many years before.
Second, war is different than defense. Defense mounting can exist in a state where war does not. I believe that if we strengthen our defense of our country, meaning we stay in our country, then this will be the first step toward world peace.
Third, patriotism does not entail killing others in the name of our country. Patriotism entails complete loyalty to the democratic principles this nation was founded on. Patriotism in America means not sowing seeds of war but instead being proud of a peace-loving and genuinely democratic nation. Or, perhaps, should mean.
Fourth, we will never destroy terrorism or all the terrorists no matter how hard we try. I'm sure the United States can be considered by many nations to be a nation that aids terrorism. We are guilty of the very crimes we condemn others to. Terrorism is not just an action; it is an idea, and it will never be destroyed. The more we fight terrorism, the more fuel for hatred is given to the world.
Fifth, the United States, while a great nation, is not a gift from God to the world. The United States is an institution of liberty, of freedom, and of democracy. The very idea that we should be international arbitrators and that our ideals should be spread to other nations is absurd. Our need to be involved in all world affairs cripples us and makes us a war-like nation.
Sixth, pacifism is not just an ideal. It's not just something that "only works in a perfect world." An idea, an ideal, whatever you want to consider it, begins with one. Pacifism worked for Gandhi and other leaders. It is NOT just a concept, it is NOT just an ideal condition of the world. It is a philosophy; and if more people were to adopt it, the "need" for war would cease.
There will be a change from war to peace in the world. It will happen. I put all my trust, faith, and belief into that statement. And the change will happen just as all other change does: it will start with a few, and when the full potential, the full power of the idea is realized, it will spread.
The Nonviolence Web, www.nonviolence.org
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2004
by Patrick W. Gavin
Patrick W. Gavin is a writer at the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank in Washington DC. His article appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, January 16, 2004, and has been edited here.
On January 19, the United States celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. with a federal holiday. We heard and read stories of his battles with segregation, his eloquent speech in Washington, and his fight for voting rights. This is the Martin Luther King with whom America is comfortable. These are the aspects of his life that we embrace and honor because they are the safe parts.
Our commemoration of King's vision is only partial. King's life encompassed more than simply his moving rhetoric and desegregated lunch counters. The politics King espoused toward the end of his life and the part that America has effectively ignored may provide some invaluable lessons, given the current international climate.
King became a vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy, denouncing America's "giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism," and calling the U.S. "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." Across the globe, from Vietnam to Latin America, King believed the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution."
What, then, would King make of our war on terrorism? Although terrorism poses historically new and unique threats, communism in King's time presented an equally menacing peril. As a man who told his followers to "love your enemies," it is doubtful that he would embrace the war fever that has gripped this nation since Sept. 11, 2001. How do we reconcile King's belief in "turning the other cheek" with President Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive strikes?
It is equally unlikely that King, who warned that "a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death," would support the huge price tag of our war with Iraq, especially when Iraq's link to the events of Sept. 11 is nebulous at best, and when there are serious economic problems at home.
In his time, such positions by King were called "demagogic slander" by Time magazine. The Washington Post editorialized that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people." The FBI dubbed him the "most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country."
In light of current events, King would remind us that people everywhere regardless of religion, nationality, or creed are united in "a single garment of destiny" and that no nation should act unilaterally. He would assert and, in turn, garner great criticism that it is only through treating our enemies as children of God that we will ever create true global security.
And even in the face of nuclear war, he would hold steadfast to his belief in the power of nonviolence.
More than ever this election year, we ought to rediscover the life of Martin Luther King Jr. in its entirety both the easy and the challenging parts. We may find that, once again, the man has a great deal to teach us.
PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2004