It Can Happen Here

 

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here. It was a warning that fascism can happen in the USA. Jack London presaged the fascist upsurge of the 1930s and 1940s with his seminal book, The Iron Heel (1908). The underbelly of our country has always had these stirrings, with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) being the historic example of fascistic terror.

Do recent events and voices in the electoral arena indicate a qualitative turn to the barbaric happenings of the mid-20th century? Let’s probe.

The “West’s Weimar Moment” by German editor Jochen Bittner (NYTimes 5/31/2016) raised some of the above. He made four good points about Germany before fascism and compared them to present-day realities.

  1. Economic depression (1929) and the 2008 financial crisis.
  2. Loss of trust in institutions e.g. banks, governments, media.
  3. Social humiliation e.g. job loss, homes foreclosed.
  4. Political blunder. You pick ‘em for the present e.g. lack of legislative relief, bailing out banks, immigration, the gun imbroglio etc.

What scares me is what he left out. Where is the continual push toward militarism and never ending war(s)? The Priorities Project says military spending is over 50% of the federal budget’s discretionary spending while federal spending for schools is at 5%. One candidate suggested carpet-bombing areas in ISIS held territory. Another candidate stated that there should be a no fly zone in Syria. All spell out war.

Bittner also say we should set “aside the debate about whether the rise of Nazism was built into German DNA.” What? Was fascism in Mussolini’s Italy and Tojo’s Japan due to DNA too? The fact that this is being raised as a “debate” is a danger signal in itself. It was settled long ago that fascism grows out of the economic and social factors, not biology.

When politics fail to untie the socioeconomic knots, fascist ideology finds fertile ground. Denigrating women, xenophobia, and great power chauvinism – Make America Great Again – appeal to ignoble ways. Who does that sound like?

There are other historical signposts. Ruling circles in 1930s Germany thought they could contain Hitler and the fascist movement. So is the ultra right in our country, represented by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R), now willing to go with the neofascist Trump and the “containment” idea?

Donald Trump’s racist and super-nationalist statements about Mexicans and Muslims are not new to politics. Dividing people, especially white workers against people of color, were the hallmark of Republicans running for the presidency in the 20th century. Examples abound.

In the 1960s, violence was mainly aimed at civil rights and peace activists during the U.S. War in Vietnam. Rebellions in black communities occurred with the assassination of Martin Luther King. President Richard Nixon (R) turned these happenings into a “law and order” campaign in the 1968. It was aimed, ideologically and practically, at white democratic voters in the south. It worked.

President Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign gave this racist approach a new twist. He implicitly attacked black males as purchasers of steaks with food stamps while whites ate hamburgers. This, along with megadoses of anticommunism, allowed for the massive increases in the military budget and deep cuts in social spending that hurt everyone, black, white, and brown. It worked.

The 1988 electoral campaign of President George Bush Sr. gave this yet another racist twist. The Willie Horton T.V. ad showed a black man, who escaped jail while on a work furlough and raped and killed a white woman. Bush blamed the Democratic candidate. The criminalization of the black male began in earnest. It worked. He gave us the first oil war in Iraq. Remember “Slam Saddam”?

In 2003, Bush’s son “W” continued the war in Iraq claiming a connection to 9/11 events. He lied. It worked. He was reelected in 2004. Combined with the inability to solve the Palestine / Israeli conflict, this proved to be a deadly combination and a watershed happening. It further enraged an already enraged Muslim world.

Threats against the Presidency escalated with the election of Barak Obama. Militia groups quadrupled, like the one that occupied the wildlife refuge in Oregon. Police violence in black communities has been exposed for all to see.

The racism, brutal trade policies, and never-ending wars have had a qualitative effect. Along with the economic factors outlined above, Donald Trump (R) organized these sentiments into a successful, primary bid for the Presidency. It has worked . . .so far.

Neofascism is knocking on our door. It will be up to the peoples’ movements to prevent that door from opening. The Sanders campaign and the Black Lives Matter movement will be important components. A record 27 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote. All these give indications of a potential mass base to put a collective shoulder against a neofascist toehold on our democracy. Can we build that unity in time? Let’s discuss this here and now. Join in. We need everyone.

 

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I almost stopped writing this blog as the awful event in Orlando, Florida emerged in the news. I decided to push forward. Militarism is part of the complex web of problems that we need to address in our country. This blog addresses a piece of that and offers a small beginning of a solution.

KILLERS AMONG US

It’s 1943. The allied invasion to wrest Italy from the grips of fascism is underway. Communist-led partisans have neutralized some of Mussolini’s minions. Germany has sent its troops to keep Italy in the fascist loop.

A Canadian infantryman encounters a German soldier who is in a sitting position in a goat hut. The infantryman hears words from the enemy combatant, at first inaudible, then clearer. The German wants vasser, water. He is wounded. Was it a rouse? What to do?

The Canadian’s head swirls with a rush of tangled thoughts. Should he whip the carbine off his back and finish what war has already done to this human being? His body shook with emotion. He slowly reaches for his canteen, chuck full of rum, and hands it to the German. In a short time, the wounds prove deadly.

Famed naturalist to-be Farley Mowat was that Canadian military man. After the war he would find himself in the far north of Canada where he would run with wolves and get to know and appreciate Inuit Native People culture. He would share with us those experiences with other beings on the tundra through many natural history books.

He had much time to reflect on his military experiences. Fortunately, he also shared the chaos and pathos of war through his little known book, And No Birds Sang.

Let’s go back even further in time. It’s March of 1780. A group of young men, mostly from the Gunntown area of the Naugatuck Valley, Connecticut, are sitting at the Whittemore Inn in Chusetown (Seymour). In the next hour they would be recruited by a secret British agent. Four days later, they would be the shock troops to raid the house of patriot Ebenezer Dayton of Bethany. They would terrorize the Dayton family and make off with a bevy of stolen goods.

The most gung-ho, to use the modern phrase, of this motley gang was the cousins, David and Henry Wooster. Along their escape route, they participated in the kidnapping of a young colonial, Chauncey Judd, who was from a patriotic family. Both cousins were from rabid loyalist families. It would be the irony.

When the Tory gang reaches the banks of the Long Meadow Brook in Gunntown, the British agent decided to kill their captive. But lo, wait; it was none other than the Wooster boys who literally put their bodies in front of the Queen’s gun. They successfully stayed the execution of the young colonial. Their humanity, in spite of their distain for the Judd family and the revolutionary movement, burst forth.

History is replete with stories, like the two above, where the courage to do the right thing bubbles to the surface amid the chaos of war and civil strife. The one I am about to relate is not one of them.

It’s February 25, 1969, Thanh Phong, Vietnam. Navy Seals are on the hunt for a Viet Cong leader. They encounter a hut occupied by three young children and their grandparents. The Seals kill them all using knives so as not to give away their position. More civilians were killed in the main village including 13 children and a pregnant woman.

The leader of this wanton killing spree was Bob Kerrey. The report would read 21 Vietcong were killed. It was a completely false report. Kerrey would be awarded a Bronze Star and the Congressional Medal of Honor. He would, in part, bounce off his participation in the U.S. War in Vietnam to become Governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Senator, now retired.

Kerrey did not divulge this atrocity until a media report was about to do so in 2001. He claimed no direct participation in the killing. That also was a lie. Two members of the Seal team revealed he was directly involved in the killing of a grandfather. Kerrey also gave the order to kill the civilians in the larger village. A survivor, Bui Thi Luom, has corroborated their entire account (NYTimes 6/3/16).

Some say this was different. It was a time of war. The Seals had very little time. They were following orders. All these excuses were debunked during the Nuremberg trails (http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/nuremberg-trials) after World War II. Nazi leaders, as well as guards of concentration camps, were sent to prison or worse. They are still being hunted down and as are those who were involved in atrocities in Serbia, Ivory Coast, and elsewhere.

There’s more. To my knowledge Navy Seals were not drafted. They volunteered. Now Bob Kerrey has been appointed Chairman of the board of Fulbright University, Vietnam. Unconscionable? That is to say the least.

Like Lieutenant Calley of the infamous My Lai massacre (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/calley-charged-for-my-lai-massacre), Vietnam, these killers are walking among us. While former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and those of his Ilk, are culpable for the U.S. War in Vietnam, those in the field are as well. Officer’s expressions of moral injury should not let them get away with murder. Soldiers who genuinely need help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral injury should get all the help they need to recover. That’s not what we are considering here.

There is an important connection to the present. For decades, George Bush Senior has been an advocate of putting the U.S. War in Vietnam behind us. He calls it the “Vietnam syndrome”, which is basically our peoples’ reluctance for military solutions at every turn. He wants a free hand for U.S. imperialism to run rough shod over countries that will not follow the dictates of the fossil fuel boys. Iraq War #1, Desert Storm, put this thesis to work. The other side of that coin is to protect killers from the past and to shield new ones being nurtured by the military.

To a certain extent, the Bushes et al have been successful. The peace movement has been mainly mute, as pictures of heads rolling off bodies have spooked young and old. The mass murders in Florida, Paris, and elsewhere have added to the paralysis. Meanwhile the civilian casualties of U.S. militarism in the Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan also pile up enraging populations there, particularly young people.

If we can’t confront these skirmishes from past, with the Bob Kerrey case an example, how can we ever stop the madness now? Are we to leave the solutions to the Trumps of the world? That would be the path of xenophobia, racism, war, and genocide abroad and repression at home. Sound familiar? (More on this in Killers Among Us – Part II)

Demand that Bob Kerrey (Here & Now – Some Vietnamese recall Bob Kerrey’s… | Facebo

be removed as chairman of the Fulbright University in Vietnam. He needs to have a fair trail with innocence presumed, as is our law. Let justice flow from there. We all need it.

Now we need the discussion to flow here. What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

  • Frederick Douglass

I want to thank those who stopped and conversed with me at my recent book signing at Stop & Shop, Naugatuck, CT. Sold out in 75 minutes! Whether my latest book, Hurry Down Gunntown, or my memoir, Moon Shadow of War, it shows interest is high in history and in the environment.

Here are some current events, including an environmental battle in Naugatuck with a successful ending.

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Bullies – In & Out Of The Shadows

Have you ever heard “Nobody likes a bully”? It is not true. Some people are attracted to bullies. Why? They appear strong, decisive. They win adherents. They display a shoot from the hip or shoot from the lips demeanor. It is a form of arrogance that attracts the unaware.

The problems bullies spawn escalate if they are not stopped, especially on the local level. There are different kinds of bullies. Quite often the environment is their target. Here are three examples.

The take-over of the wildlife sanctuary in Oregon stands out. Did you think the take-over of the National Wildlife Refuge was a spontaneous act? Think again. It was planned and executed by those in the 3% movement. These are gun toting, so-called super patriots, who claim only 3% of colonists took part in the fighting during the 1770s – 80s.

I checked out the facebook page of one of these self-righteous, armed guys. Guns, big ones, are on display as is the flag. The slogan “Despite what your mom told you, violence does solve problems” is clear. Itching for a fight would be an understatement. There is much bravado amid surface content. Facebook

There are other ways the environment is impacted without the above bravado. This is from Rev. Jim Conn, California, and Capital & Main.

“Most recently, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) upended its mission to clean our air. First the old Democratic majority opposed its staff’s recommendation for tougher rules that would govern the fossil-fuel industry. They watered them down. Then two months later, and with an even more pro-business Republican majority, the board went into closed session and fired its long-time executive officer. Praised by environmentalists, even though they often disagreed with him, he had faithfully pursued the AQMD’s goals while balancing the impact on industry. That was, apparently, not good enough for the fossil-fuel lobby.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the looser rules benefiting oil companies that the AQMD adopted came from a two-page memo written by the Western States Petroleum Association and other business groups. The new plan postpones the installation of expensive air cleaning devices and other efforts to control emissions.”

For our third example, let’s go to Naugatuck, Connecticut. The youngsters killed at the Sandy Hook elementary school are being honored through floral plantings, particularly to attract pollinators. The Wingman program, as it is called, is a noble one. However, worthy causes are often manipulated for ignoble ends. Watch for what lurks in the shadows.

A few anti-environmental elements attempted to misuse this program to make inroads into a passive park and nature preserve with inappropriate activities. One tactical move was not to list an important proposal and vote on the local Park Commission agenda. An alert environmental group, by exposing this anti-democratic activity, prevented the worst results while still supporting the wingman concept. Democracy and the environment won.

Of course, one might conclude that as long as these local bullies are in the shadows – fine. Not so. The challenges that they raise must be met least they emerge energized by the likes of demagogues like a Trump or a Cruz. We’re seeing some of this with the above examples.

Senator Ted Cruz (R) is ready to carpet bomb Muslim towns abroad and ghettoize Muslim communities here. He is responsible for some of the worst Tea Party inspired opposition to any legislation proposed by the Obama Administration. This political maneuver has been a standard Republican tactic for years. Dangerous waters for sure. Cruz was able to grandstand in the senate, run for the presidency, and poison the media for months. We’ll save some historical examples for the next blog.

One key to prevent bullying on a growing scale is by meeting these challenges at the grassroots. No blinking allowed. Whether confronting big bullies, like a Trump (R) or a Cruz, or little power abusers, Fredrick Douglass’s guidance above makes for good advise.

One of my favorite little pieces of awareness is, “The challenge in organizing is to keep a healthy outrage at injustice while maintaining an inner peace.” Merrilee Milstein, who wrote those wonderful words of wisdom, was pulling from experiences in a lifetime dedicated to the labor movement. Thank you Merrilee.

We lose activists on both sides of that sentence because they forget it makes one interconnected whole. Some let their outrage consume them and recovery is never in full. Others get lost in seeking an inner peace that eludes them as outrage at injustice fades.

My “outrage “ side has been working overtime lately. Battling foes of passive open space and struggling with an onslaught of dirty fossil fuel initiatives involving a methane based power plant and new pipelines, head the list. Toping it off are the truly outrageous political events and politicians in the electoral arena.

Republican candidate Donald Trump’s clear racist incendiary statements on Mexicans and Muslims, with Senator Cruz joining him here, are much more than irritants. They are dangerous. The sight of white Trump supporters attacking African American protesters is down right scary. I can remember a veteran of progressive movements telling me long ago that if fascism comes to the USA, it will be on the backs of African Americans. Clearly we don’t have fascism or I wouldn’t be freely writing these words for a blog post. The question is, are we seeing its rolling thunder gathering steam? (More of this on another blog day.)

To take a break from all this, and in concert with Merrilee’s sage advise, I took a walk on Naugatuck section of the bridle trail. For those not familiar, this is a long woodland trail that was formerly a railroad bed stretching from Waterbury to Southbury, Connecticut and beyond. My approach to these outdoor walks is simple. Try to stay in the moment. If my thoughts drifted to the above challenges, I would reorient to be in the present.

While on this little nature excursion, I stumbled upon one of those small but truly magical moments. In the distance I saw what turned out to be a mid-sized bird seemly stuck to the side of a rock-like cliff covered with moss. It bobbed this way and that way while occasionally shaking its head. As I neared, the bird flew off into the surrounding treetops. Then I realized what it was doing there.

Thanks to the I-Phone on my hip, I can share it with you with a 35 second U-Tube video. I call it nature’s sounds of silence

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xHeJNPt5C-4

Apparently, that bird was taking a shower, shaking the water off as we do in a shower, and getting a drink of water at the same time. Whatever competing thoughts I had melted away.

Ecosystem is a flexible concept. It can be as large as a biome like trundra or small as a knothole in the tree. I was transfixed and enraptured by this micro ecosystem consisting of a bird, moss, water, and rock. It put a smile on my face, accompanied by a satisfying sigh. How basic is that?

Now science has given us data to substantiate what we feel in such instances. In the July 14th, 2015 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it was reported that morbid rumination is strongly associated with increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. What’s the big deal? Here’s the punch line. Excursions in natural settings quieted that portion of the brain. The outdoors literally improved mood.

We need these green redoubts in today’s world and in our country with their topsy-turvy events. At the same time, or rather after these wonderful excursions in the outdoors, we need to pay close attention to what is going on around us. The reason is the necessary third ingredient to the outrage/inner peace package. That is action.

Activity is where we put our outrage and inner peace to good use. Outrage can eat our insides. Inner peace is an eternal search. Activity is what makes us whole. Win, lose or draw, it is where our humanity is practiced.

Journeys . . . And Getting Organized

While researching my book Hurry Down Gunntown, fascinating parallels emerged between the 18th century American Revolution and a 20th/21st century battle, both here in Connecticut. The organizing features had almost spooky connections. Let’s explore.

For those in the area, I’m speaking about all this at the Naugatuck Historical Society, Sunday, March 6, 2016, 1 PM, 171 Church Street. Check out their facebook page for my 4-minute video on this very topic.

https://www.facebook.com/NaugatuckHistory/

Journeys can be taken in a number of ways. Aaron Sachs’s wonderful book, The Humboldt Current, makes this point well. “Rootedness and deracination go hand in hand.” Sachs had me running for my dictionary with that one. Of course, I didn’t have to “run” too far as dictionaries are just a click away on a cell phone these days. Deracination means to tear up by the roots.

Sachs said this in a number of ways. “To me, the history of Humboldtian exploration suggests that there is a need for balance between cosmos and hearth.” The good Baron traveled the world but also returned to his “hearth” to write many books, including his ground breaking Cosmos. Sachs then goes on to use Henry David Thoreau as an example. I don’t think Thoreau is a good example. He certainly was not the international traveler of Alexander von Humboldt fame.

Henry David Thoreau had an incredible sense of place. His “journeys”, with exception, were mostly in New England and mainly around his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts. Yet he certainly had that Humboldtian sense of making connections to issues and places far removed from his home base. War, peace, natural history, and abolitionism were all fair game to this intrepid traveler. Not all these travels were of the intellectual variety. He didn’t hesitate to take action in his bailiwick. When John Brown was killed, Henry ran to the center of Concord and rang the church bells. It was time to organize.

I had similar feelings of connectedness when researching and writing about the colonial 18th century and emerging into the new millennium. I lived through that last part. The two intertwined stories happened, for the most part, right here in the Naugatuck Valley of Connecticut. It’s the pattern that surfaced as I took these two journeys that I want to share.

As the short video mentioned above explains, in March of 1780 Rebel trackers, also known as minute men, came galloping into a section of old Waterbury now Naugatuck, Connecticut. They were hot on the trail of a secret British agent and a young Tory gang he led on a raid. Danger lurked around every bend.

The marauders were heading to the Gunntown community with a distinct purpose. They knew it had more than its share of royalists. They could find sustenance there.

To put the cart before the horse, a favorite idiom from the 16th century, the Rebel trackers win the day. Let’s put this under a historical microscope. How did common people in the mists of war, boycotts, and civil strife, manage to pull this off?

The answer starts with organization, and plenty of it. There were vigilance committees. Their task was to make sure local business people in their town adhered to the various boycotts issued by the Continental Congress. Not buying indigo for ink from other British colonies was high on the list. The Committees of Defense and Correspondence made sure all the colonies were kept up to date in all matters practical and political concerning the revolutionary movement. Lastly, the Rebel trackers themselves, who could in a minutes notice, muster a fast response to any enemy activity in their town’s borders and beyond.

Of course, it all comes down to people. Who rose to the occasion to thwart the hand of the British secret agent? It was the young people in the Tory gang itself who stopped the killing of a young kidnapped victim. It was, incredibly, the Royalist mother of one of the Tory gang who gathered the courage to confront the secret agent. At the Oxford Inn, it was a house slave, Tobiah, who temporarily stayed the hand of sure death of the young colonial captive.

There was a patchwork of people who rose to the occasion. Dr. Jesse Carrington rode out of Bethany to help track down the thugs. There were Judd family members of the kidnapped boy. Toward the end of the saga there were sea-orientated people like Captain Steele of Derby Landing, which was a deep-sea port in colonial times. Any differences were put aside. Unity was their by-word.

How does this match up with the struggle that flowed into the new millennium?

Young people, mostly young women who were also girl scouts, led the grassroots committee that emerged to fight for the preservation of the Gunntown land where key events of the 18th century struggle took place. Their den mother, and a diverse group of 1960s/70s activists, rounded out the group. The young leader of the group was of Panamanian African American, and Portuguese descent. A Mexican played important roles, especially speaking at town hall meetings. There was no treasury and thus no treasurer. The group was quick on its feet as the minutemen of yore.

The comparisons don’t end there. Coalition building and networking was their by-word. Veteran labor organizers addressed the group and organized directly with the committee. Networking occurred with other environmentalists such as river groups and land trusts. Experiences of the local Pollution Extermination Group – gotta love that name – were a key ingredient in eventually winning the Gunntown Passive Park & Nature Preserve for all citizens to enjoy.

There is a message here for the present. For a just transition to renewable energy, E- Coops, community supported agriculture, and community gardens, we need a transformational movement. It would add the political clout to make the transition happen. Needless-to-say unity will be needed among environmental, peace, labor, and social justice movements to do this.

Maximum unity will be needed to prevent those frenzied people that are paraded across our T.V. screens every night from entering the White House. The electoral movement to prevent that, and advance the transition so necessary environmentally, is represented mostly in Senator Sanders campaign. Feel the Bern!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba Journal #2

Some readers wanted more on Cuba in the December Blog. Okay. What is critical to understand is that there is no separating Cuba, peace, and anti-imperialism. Thus the connections to Syria, the media “terrorizing” our people, the imperative to stop any and all military intervention in the Middle East and MLK Day. Here’s more.

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No sprawl. That was the first impression I had, as the U.S. delegation to the World Peace Council meeting and Foreign Military Bases Conference made its way for hundreds of miles by bus from Guantanamo to Havana. What a relief! We emerged out of urban areas to verdant hills, mountains in some cases, agricultural areas, and forests. In particular, surrounding Guantanamo are three large national parks and seven protected areas. The largest park is named after famed German explorer, Alexander von Humboldt.

Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is the largest in the Caribbean at 69,341 ha or 171,272 acres of forested, mountain and ocean ecosystem. How big is that? Central Park in NYC is 843 acres. Cuba’s largest river, the Toa, rises in the mountains here and its waters are teeming with biodiversity as is the area generally. The unique toxicity of some underlying rocks led to many endemic (evolved here and found only here) flora and fauna. This is where the controversial Ivory Billed Woodpecker was spotted.

All this raises an interesting question. Why would socialist Cuba honor an 18th-19th century German naturalist? Von Humboldt visited the Island in 1800-01. While he falls into the explorer category that we associate with some of the worst transgressions against Native Americans, it is a good lesson in that there is no “one size fits all” here.

In Cuba, Humboldt noted that the Spanish colonizers stripped the forests for sugar plantations, which rapidly replaced nutritious crops. He saw it leading to dependency, poverty and injustice. He reserved special venom for slavery. In his Personal Narrative, he described a slave market where slave owners examined the slaves’ teeth, “ . . . forcing open their mouths as we do those of horses.”

Along with his anti-colony, anti-slavery views, Humboldt was a dedicated naturalist/scientist who took a holistic approach to the environment and people. He noted that where there was more human suffering, there was also devastation of the environment. Humboldt was a considerable influence on Charles Darwin. He told Darwin at the one epic meeting they had, “You write a book so someone can write a better one.” The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism by Aaron Sachs

One benefit of the peace conferences in Cuba was updates from around the world. Some countries are following the bad example of Israel and the USA and building “walls” to keep people out. With the election of a progressive woman and communist in Nepal to its presidency, India is closing its border with Nepal. India is also closing its border with Bangladesh fearing climate migrants from rising sea-waters there. Ugh.

Climate and war migrants are coming to the USA. It will take awhile for them to reach our shores because of the stringent criteria now. How will they be greeted? The reaction of some to the events in San Bernardino, California was not good. Frenzied, reactionary Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) has added venom to the mix. The Portuguese Delegate to the World Peace Council (WPC) Conference pointed out that the negative portrayals of those desperate to escape deteriorating conditions in their home countries due to war/climate change are being used to fan the flames of racism and xenophobia. It will take much work and vigilance in our communities to see that all are welcomed.

The Foreign Military Bases Conference that followed the WPC gathering was a real eye-opener. The Cuban peace group held an art contest for posters to represent our conference. They lined the walls of our meeting rooms. The below poster was selected to advertise and represent the Foreign Military Bases Conference.

About ten countries have an average of two military bases outside their borders. Unfortunately, the USA is the leader of the pack. The Japanese delegate reported that there were 131 US bases in Japan alone. Further pressure from the Obama Administration has led Japan to “reinterpret” article nine of its constitution enacted after WWII. That law prevented Japan from using military force outside its borders. It’s being scrapped. Dangerous stuff.

An Australian delegate and former railroad worker, who lives in Cuba, reported that there are 300 U.S. military bases in the Pacific. He reported there were 20 joint military facilities in Australia with the ‘joint” mostly a euphemism. They are under USA command. Later others mentioned that the resistance to these occupations was not limited to Okinawa. The fierce resistance of the people of Jeju Island in South Korea was highlighted.

These moves by the USA administration and Japan appear to be part of the military arm of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP). Much of it seems to be encircling China with military bases as NATO, with the USA its largest component, is encircling Russia in Europe.

Thomas Friedman, NYTimes writer and ideologue of the fossil fuel industry and militarization, summed up this direction best in 1999. “The hidden hand of the market will not work without a hidden fist” (of the military). So, according to Friedman, nuclear threats, occupations, and war should be accepted not only in the USA but by the world. No thanks. But what to do?

We can get direction from none other than Martin Luther King. In the second paragraph of his famous Riverside Church speech, he refers to the prophetic “words” of the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam and “the time has come to break the silence.”

So it is time to “break the silence” as Martin Luther King advised us in 1967 addressing the U.S. War in Vietnam. We must “move on” to oppose the so-called war on terror. War has not been the solution to individual terrorism. While criminal elements must be brought to justice, the 90% civilian casualty rate alone is good reason to oppose the state terror of NATO and the U.S. The bombing must stop.

American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr: A Time to Break …

 

What better day to bring this message forth than MLK day or week starting on Monday, January 18th, 2016.

 

Note – In my last blog, I mentioned that the Palestinian delegate to the conferences lives in Latin America. I was wrong. The other Palestinian attending the conferences, who was actually the official delegate, resides in the West Bank.

I’m writing this blog on Thursday, December 10th 2015. It’s Peace As A Human Right Day. It took two peace gatherings in Cuba this November to remind me that without justice there is no peace. There are presently fifteen countries lobbing bombs and shooting missiles into Syria. Are we on the brink of WWIII or has it already started? Are we so “terrorized” that we can’t see the forest for the trees? Please join the conversation. We need everyone.

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The Museum of the Revolution in Havana was one of our first stops (11/18/2015) before the Peace Conferences would dominate our stay in Cuba. I was impressed with the resistance of the Cuban People to many regimes from 1925 up to the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. The March of the Mothers in the 1930s was one example. Many family members had disappeared during the Machado regime (1925-1933). Machado was a young general during the Spanish American War (1898). He became very wealthy. Uncovered during the 1930s was systematic torture of community/labor/socialist/communist leaders, with dead bodies thrown to the sharks. It continued into the 1950s.

The Cubans venerate the leaders of their revolution as we do George Washington & others. That is understandable. I thought more emphasis on the almost 35 years of resistance leading up to the armed struggle and socialist revolution would help put events in a healthy perspective. Come to think of it, we need more backstory to properly understand our own revolutionary period from 1750s through the 1790s. I hope Hurry Down Gunntown on CT history is helping a bit in this regard. https://www.createspace.com/5385780

It was the Platt Amendment of 1903 that gave the U.S. Navy a base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, via a lease. Cubans see the base as an insult to their independence, an expression of the U.S. imperial project, and a torture center. The present Cuban government has never cashed the yearly checks for the lease.

The first meeting(s) in Guantanamo, Cuba were reports from World Peace Council (WPC) representatives. The Canadian delegate pointed out that Islamophobia is closely related to racism. It causes mistrust and suspicion. Returning to the USA and hearing Donald Trump spew out backward policies brought this to life quickly. It was like a new Cold War. The damage of the first Cold War has never been fully presented and that hurts in this new situation.

The continual airing of individual, violent acts on major media outlets have “terrorized” people, especially in the USA. Combined with the government continually using “bad” guy scenarios e.g. Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Gaddafi (Libya), and Assad now in Syria, it has demobilized and confused peace forces. Never ending invasions and warfare has to be stopped. The danger of two nuclear powers e.g. USA and Russia, colliding is real. The shooting down of the Russian plane on the Turkey/Syrian border highlights this danger.

The WPC Palestinian delegate pointed out that there were 8 million Palestinians living outside Palestine. He lives in Panama. Five hundred thirty one Palestinian towns have been destroyed. Understanding the Mid-East requires this constant reminder. It helped put the present migrations into perspective. Solutions have to include the two-state, Israel/Palestine creation and diplomatic, peaceful approaches to Syria, Afghanistan. Declaring nuclear free zones everywhere can help get a handle to many of these issues.

I was invited by the U.S. Peace Council and presented a paper at the Foreign Military Bases Conference (11/23-25/2015), also in Guantanamo, on the connections between climate change and threats to peace. I emphasized understanding that the hatred of the U.S. Military/NATO and explaining it to our people, especially in the USA, was our special responsibility. I used the following quote from Najla Said. She was in Lebanon when it was bombed by Israel in 2006.

 

You can spend your life being a humanist, a pacifist, a thoughtful person who does not even think about hating, or does not even know what it is to hate – that is to say, you can really and truly be a human being who is tolerant and open-minded and humane, judging people by how they behave toward you, and treating them the way you wish to be treated, but when you are being attacked, when bombs are falling around you, planes are hovering over your head, when your life is in danger and you are scared, it is easy to look up to the sky and feel abject, boiling hatred for the people doing this to you, and you curse them out.

 

The civilian casualties with these and similar bombings now are in the 90% range <http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/05/90-deaths-war-civilians.html>. Clearly stopping the military/bombing/missile/drone “solution” is imperative. It doesn’t work and is just creating more hatred. IT MUST END.

The connection between climate change, civil strife, and war are easily shown concerning Syria. The weakening of moisture-laden winds from the Mediterranean, and more evaporation due to elevated temperatures, were beyond natural climate variability. It was anthropogenic climate change that caused the extreme drought in Syria from 2006 to 2009. The resulting civil war, which is now an international conflict, has led to at least 200,000 deaths. The United Nations estimates that half the country’s 22 million people have been impacted with six million internally displaced.

I am old enough to remember the riveting speech by Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, when he connected ending the U.S. War in Vietnam and moving civil rights forward at home. American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr: A Time to Break …

Weapons tried and tested in the Middle East are now making their way back to our communities, particularly impacting communities of color. As the celebration of MLK Day approaches (Monday, January 18th), we need to help our people make the connections between climate change, our communities, and war.

 

I’m aware some blog readers couldn’t access my T.V. interview with Bruce Gagnon, Maine, about revolutionary Connecticut. Here it is. My latest radio interview with Richard Hill on a similar topic is also below.

This Issue with Bruce Gagnon – Len Yannielli
Host Bruce Gagnon talks with Len Yannielli about his new book about revolutionary history.

November 2015 Radio Interview with Richard Hill, WPKN, Bridgeport, CT.

http://archives.wpkn.org/bookmarks/listen/129455

my latest book, Hurry Down Gunntown, on colonial history and the environment.

https://www.createspace.com/5385780

Living the Good Life – Wherever Home is.

Did you ever have that one time, chance experience that had an outsized impact on your life? I did. In 1973, there was a motley group of young men living in Central Square, Cambridge, Mass. There was a veteran of the U.S. War in Vietnam, a law student, an undergraduate, and an unemployed teacher – me.

I was fired from my grade school teaching job due to my opposition to the U.S. War in Vietnam. When the law student invited me to Bean Town, cheap rent, and an opportunity to live amidst 1,000s of young people, I left the Naugatuck Valley and my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut. Here was a chance to participate in a vibrant anti-war movement and to study peace, which I found out, in short order, meant studying war.

One spring day brought an opportunity to learn from a renowned historian. The undergraduate mentioned this expert was speaking at the Community Church of Boston. Off we went in mass.

Upon arriving, we learned there would be a preliminary speaker. This guy was wiry tall with a weathered, many-times wrinkled face, and a full stock of gray hair. From my perch on the world, he looked one hundred years old. I figured this was some lesser light, which we would have to tolerate before getting to the featured man of the hour. How wrong I was.

This very old, grandfather-like figure began speaking in measured tones. The facts and figures of imperialism, big business, and the military that followed, were his main focus. It was the U.S. War in Vietnam put in a very clear, economic framework. He helped make sense out of a time period that had its confusions, especially for young people. In an idiom of the day, he knocked my socks off.

To put this in perspective, Abby Hoffman, a nationally known youth leader, had told us to go home and kill your parents. You could not trust anyone over thirty years of age, you see. Abby instantly lost credibility that day.

It wasn’t until a number of years later that I picked up a used copy of “The Making of a Radical”(1972) by Scott Nearing. When I heard him speak in 1973, Nearing was on speaking tour promoting his autobiography. Of course what he was promoting was peace, especially for the end of the U.S. War in Vietnam. In the process, he was teaching us the imperialist roots of war(s). Peace, anti-imperialism, and socialism were life-long endeavors of Scott Nearing.

He had paid a high price for his humanist and anti-war positions during WWI. He was fired from two teaching positions. He eventually joined and left the Socialist Party and the U.S. Communist Party. Socialism became a life-long goal. He, along with his wife Helen, began living sustainably in the 1930s in Vermont and later in Maine. He became a guru of the back to the land movement in the 1970s.

As I mentioned, it was one of those experiences that had an outsized impact on my life. He taught so much with so little time at the podium. I remember that he wore a quite spiffy sport coat. When an audience member, clearly being cynical of Nearing’s life style, pointed this out, the response was both humble and enlightening. Scott calmly and succinctly said that he had just purchased the coat at a Good Will store down the street.

Where to live has life-style choices imbedded in them. I was among those young people who chose to move “home.” Others chose big cities, places with outsized military connected businesses, academic areas, scenes of intense civil strife, or rural life-styles. Scott Nearing gave good advice to all. “Do the best you can where you are and be kind.”

I would add two very important points. Engage the “other side.” Be they destroyers of the environment, those who beat war drums, and/or vilify victims of those who profit from it all. They don’t have to be “captains” of industry. It will be their lawyers, their scientists, and their bought politicians. They might live down the street.

Secondly, be a unifier. Bring around those who want a green environment, peace, social justice and want these wholesome objectives for all people in our beautiful, diversified country and beyond. Move beyond the “choir.” Speak, write, join, vote, talk to your neighbor, workmate, meet new people. These are all part of the “Good Life.” Scott Nearing was ninety years old when I was honored to hear his thoughts of the day.

The work of Helen and Scott Nearing continues at the Good Life Center, Harborside, Maine. Check it out at http://www.thegoodlifecenter.org

MYTHS & HOPE
Two fishermen, some retirees, and young people sat down at a picnic bench on majestic Lane’s Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. The majority were women. It was Sunday, August 9th, 2015. The date was particularly important to this gathering. It was August 9th, 1945 that a weapon of mass destruction was dropped on another Island. It obliterated the Japanese town of Nagasaki and instantly killed 80 thousand people. The United States of America detonated that weapon of mass destruction, killing men, women and thousands of children.

The youngest attendee brought the book, Hiroshima, by John Hersey. Three days before the plutonian-based atomic bomb wrecked death and destruction on Nagasaki, a uranium-based atomic weapon was detonated by the USA over Hiroshima. The radiation that stalked those lands would kill many thousands more in the weeks, months, and years following the initial blasts.

On June 12th 1982, there was a massive gathering of humanity from throughout the world in New York. This was the legendary Nuclear Freeze March on the United Nations. The demands were simple, straight forward, and clear. Freeze all nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in all countries and begin the process of ridding all peoples and the environment of these threats to life on our one, habitable planet.
The Hibakusha, survivors of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with later generations from those towns, marched. The Hibakuska handed out paper cranes, symbols of life, peace, and tranquility. The march is reputed to be the largest mass gathering ever on the planet. It was one of the most important and moving experiences of my life. The Peace & Planet March of spring 2015 in NYC was a logical extension of the historic Freeze March, with demands expanded to include opposition to nuclear power and climate change.

One of the most harmful myths about the atomic bombings was the rationale put forward by the U.S. government. It was claimed that it saved 100,000 lives of U.S. troops, as now an invasion of Japan would not be needed to end the war. This was a total falsehood. The U.S. bombing survey, conducted just weeks after the official end of WWII, showed that the 2/3 of the largest Japanese towns had been destroyed by the fire bombing of those areas from May of 1944 to June of 1945. Two hundred thousand Japanese men, women, and children were dead.

U.S. Secretary of War Stimson knew Japan was ready to surrender. He passed this information on to President Truman. While General Eisenhower concurred with this position, Truman had other political objectives. He was in the presidency because of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He faced his first presidential election in 1948 and wanted to appear a “strong” leader. He also wanted to demonstrate the power of the USA, via this weapon of mass destruction, as a message to the Soviet Union. It would display, for all to see, the USA’s willingness to wantonly kill thousands of civilians for its objectives. It was the beginning of the Cold War.

One of the myths of the later period is that Ronald Reagan initiated the freeze of nuclear weapons that followed the Nuclear Freeze March. Nothing could be further from the truth. The movement was initiated at the grassroots. In my hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, there was a candlelight march supporting the freeze demand. Films and speakers educated us. This upwelling of understanding and support was occurring throughout the country and the world. It was this grassroots pressure that forced Reagan to meet with Soviet leader Gorbachev and begin acquiescing to the just demands of the people. No nukes.

The struggle against nuclear weapons and war continue. The recent agreement between seven countries and Iran over its nuclear program is the most recent example. The deal limits Iran to a stockpile of less than 300 kg of low enriched uranium. A metric ton or 1,000 kg are necessary to make a bomb. Two thirds of their centrifuges will be removed. Iran will not reprocess spent fuel rods, which is the pathway to a plutonium-based bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency has declared the agreement good, verifiable and enforceable.

Those opposing this deal want war with Iran. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is spending tens of millions of dollars to sink this deal and beat the war drums. It’s up to the grassroots to prevent this from happening. Peace loving people are asked to call/e-mail their senators on or by August 26th. Confirm the agreement with Iran.

Let’s make the same effort as those who gathered on Lanes Island, Maine, and throughout the country this August, and make HOPE happen.
In Maine:
Angus King (I) 1-207-622-8292
(202) 224-5344
Contact: http://www.king.senate.gov/contact

Susan Collins (R)
(202) 224-2523
Contact: http://www.collins.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email

In Connecticut:

Richard Blumenthal (D) 1-860-258-6940 1-202-224-2823

@SenBlumenthal
http://blumenthal.senate.gov

Christopher Murphy (D) 1-860-549-8463
@SenMurphyOffice http://murphy.senate.gov