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Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Path Of Truth Is The Path Of The Brave

I've been in some discussion about non-violence given the various forms of protest we've seen since the Darren Wilson Exoneration Jury.  I naturally agree that rioting is counterproductive in general, but I both empathize (in the sense I posted about yesterday), and to a certain degree sympathize, with people engaging in such rebellion.

It's particularly important to recognize that people need the "space" to practice NV, and that's not necessarily available to the dispossessed.  By that I mean people need the opportunity to move up Maslow's hierarchy (or however you want to describe it, knowing that model might not be perfect) beyond meeting bare survival needs, be exposed to NV action and strategy, develop connections to others for coordinating NV efforts, etc.

So yeah, NV methods might be the "best" to achieve justice in Ferguson and elsewhere (both from a moral and practical perspective), but that's easy for me to say from my privileged position.  I was raised in the Quaker tradition more or less, spent decades learning about NV movements and how to apply NV tactics in a variety of circumstances, and of course benefit from the current power structures rather than being oppressed by them, so don't really know what it's like to suffer from repeated injustices.

With that as backdrop, I ran into some resistance to what I've expressed here (admittedly a little more thought out than when I'm quickly typing on Facebook).  I don't just mean the usual "that shit'll never work" canard, but also my allowing for even violent (or at least destructive) responses to oppression.

I'll not get into the exchanges' weeds, but merely (re)state my thesis: violence is a natural, human response to negative exogenous developments so engaging in NV can be rather hard, which is why it's a tool of the strong and really has to be learned and practiced.  Yes, even Gandhi and King couldn't get everybody to adopt their philosophy, despite all the charisma they brought to bear--both also understood the reasons for violence by the oppressed, and sought to not only educate but foster the conditions where more people could join them.

I don't have much of a narrative beyond that, but wanted to share some excerpted writings that have long formed the basis for my ideas on NV.

One thing that still surprises me that people are surprised by is that even Gandhi himself didn't expect everybody to follow his path of satyagraha.  One reason he undertook satyagrahic fasts was to interrupt default violent processes and shame people a little so they'd reflect and perhaps do a better job going the NV route, but he also hated the idea of passivity, impotence and cowardice.

For example, he wrote in The Gita and Satyagraha:

I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death, may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. 

I don't mean to suggest that he advocated violence per se.  Rather, he decried inaction, and while he practiced NV and wanted others to as well, the Mahatma saw acceptance of evil to be worse than violent resistance to evil.  This was an extremely common theme in his writings.

It seems clear to me that Gandhi understood how non-obvious his form of NV was.  He noted this in Young India (November 5, 1919):

The way of satyagraha is distinct from the beaten track and it is not always easy to discover it. Few have ventured along that path and the footprints on it are few and far between and indistinct, and hence the people's dread of it. And still we clearly find people taking that course, be it ever so slowly.

Ever so slowly, as Dr King still had to observe in Why We Can't Wait (1963):

Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.

And when accepting the Nobel (1964)

[N]onviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. 

Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. 

I see all of this as acceptance of the immutable fact that humanity's conscience and society have to evolve as much as all other aspects of our existence.  Not unlike MLK (and Thurman) built upon the learning and practice of Gandhi--the former not even admitting the value of violence over impotence as the latter did, yet still understanding why the downtrodden might rise up in less constructive ways.

I'll have more to say about that in a while, following up on King's language of the unheard.  For now digest the offerings above, and consider that if you're judging rioters in the way I've seen people do ("I respected King, not that" or "it doesn't win my sympathy") then you are not being a part of the solution.


December 6, 2014 in Conscience, Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Friday, November 07, 2014

A Matter Of Partisan...er, Conscience


Republican members of the Vermont Legislature will be free to vote their consciences in the upcoming balloting to choose the next governor, party leaders said Friday.
Even though recent tradition has been for lawmakers to cast their ballots for the top vote-getter, some Republicans are considering backing Milne.

How sweet they get to vote their consciences!  And their consciences just tell them that they should buck tradition and the top vote-getter because, hey, they got $370k in outside money to win a couple seats in the Leg!


November 7, 2014 in And Fuck..., Conscience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Years Of Rice And Salt

Because learning about something is worshipping it:

An angry father has been banned from a Maryland high school’s campus after he made vague but ominous threats against the school because his daughter’s history homework mentioned the Islamic faith.
Charles County School District Superintendent Kimberly Hill met with Wood and his wife to discuss their concerns on Monday. The couple reportedly asked the school to excuse their daughter from world history class for the duration of the segment studying Islam.

After the meeting, Wood told reporters that his daughter, a junior at La Plata High, should not be forced to study a faith that she “does not believe in.”

Morris told the Woods that an alternate curriculum could be created for their daughter, and that any assignments she refused to complete would be given a failing grade.

“I told her straight up ‘you could take that Muslim-loving piece of paper and shove it up your white [expletive],” Wood said on Monday. “If [students] can’t practice Christianity in school, they should not be allowed to practice Islam in school.”

Wood told Superintendent Morris that the school is violating his daughter’s “constitutional rights” and threatened to “bring down a shit-storm on them like they’ve never seen.”

But hey, I'm sure nobody would ever ever ever ever ever force non-Christians to study a faith they don't believe in...


October 28, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Oxford and Cambridge were not necessary to fit men to preach."

[T]he true preaching and ministry are to be in the spirit [1 Cor 14:15]; for the saints were made able ministers of the spirit, and not of the letter [2 Cor 3:6].

 - George Fox, Epistle CCCXII

The other day Anthony posted something about Chris Hedges' ordination, then so did RMJ today:

Suffice to say I have reasons to despise the institutional Church; far better reasons than Chris Hedges sums up in his article on the occasion of his ordination.

Ordination is a tricky thing.  It is determined by each denomination, based on its own determination of what validates an ordination.  I understand that in some Baptist denominations, for example, the congregation can ordain those they deem fit, and the deed is done.  The UCC is supposed to require a seminary education, but that's not the rigid requirement you might expect it to be.  I don't know what standards other denominations impose, but the idea is to determine that you have a calling to ministry and a reason to be set aside as a pastor or priest.  It is not automatic, granted upon your graduation from the right school, or based on your winning personality.  Most churches require some call to ministry; not just the mysterious "inner" call, but an actual offer of employment in what the denomination recognizes as a ministry.  A call to pastor a church is the obvious choice (it was how I was ordained; I couldn't even ask for ordination until a church wanted me to be their pastor), but there can be other calls.  There is always a lot of discernment involved, and a lot of consideration as to whether the candidate can simply handle the job of being a priest or pastor.

It ain't no golden staircase.

I'm not one who gets institutional religion generally, particularly the concept of ordination.  Probably due in large part to my Quaker upbringing, but perhaps also because I'm not one who feels compelled to listen to authority when I can just as easily have my own ideas about such matters.

Anyway, it brought to mind George Fox's distrust of the priestly class and overall thoughts on ministry, which he wrote about in his Journal.  From The First Years of Ministry (1648-1649):

The earthly spirit of the priests wounded my life; and when I heard the bell toll to call people together to the steeple-house, it struck at my life; for it was just like a market-bell, to gather people together, that the priest might set forth his ware for sale. Oh, the vast sums of money that are gotten by the trade they make of selling the Scriptures, and by their preaching, from the highest bishop to the lowest priest! What one trade else in the world is comparable to it? notwithstanding the Scriptures were given forth freely, and Christ commanded His ministers to preach freely, and the prophets and apostles denounced judgment against all covetous hirelings and diviners for money.

But in this free Spirit of the Lord Jesus was I sent forth to declare the Word of life and reconciliation freely...

A Year in Derby Prison (1650-1651):

[C]oming to Derby, I lay at the house of a doctor, whose wife was convinced; and so were several more in the town. As I was walking in my chamber, the [steeple-house] bell rang, and it struck at my life at the very hearing of it; so I asked the woman of the house what the bell rang for. She said there was to be a great lecture there that day, and many of the officers of the army, and priests, and preachers were to be there, and a colonel, that was a preacher.

Then was I moved of the Lord to go up to them; and when they had done I spoke to them what the Lord commanded me, and they were pretty quiet. But there came an officer and took me by the hand, and said that I and the other two that were with me must go before the magistrates. It was about the first hour after noon that we came before them.

They asked me why we came thither. I said God moved us so to do; and I told them, "God dwells not in temples made with hands." I told them also that all their preaching, baptism and sacrifices would never sanctify them, and bade them look unto Christ within them, and not unto men; for it is Christ that sanctifies. Then they ran into many words; but I told them they were not to dispute of God and Christ, but to obey Him.

One Man May Shake the Country for Ten Miles (1651-1652):

I went to a steeple-house hard by, where the priest and people were in a great rage. This priest had threatened Friends what he would do; but when I came he fled; for the Lord's power came over him and them...

I was sent of the Lord God of heaven and earth to preach freely, and to bring people off from these outward temples made with hands, which God dwelleth not in; that they might know their bodies to become the temples of God and of Christ; and to draw people off from all...the world's hireling teachers, that take tithes and great wages, preaching for hire, and divining for money, whom God and Christ never sent...I exhorted the people to come off from all these things, directing them to the Spirit and grace of God in themselves, and to the Light of Jesus in their own hearts; that they might come to know Christ, their free teacher, to bring them salvation, and to open the Scriptures to them.

Thus the Lord gave me a good opportunity to open things largely unto them. All was quiet, and many were convinced; blessed be the Lord.

At the Work of Organizing (1667-1670):

[W]e passed to a province meeting, which lasted two days, there being one about the poor, and another meeting more general; in which a mighty power of the Lord appeared. Truth was livingly declared, and Friends were much refreshed therein.

Passing thence about four and twenty miles, we came to another place, where we had a very good, refreshing meeting; but after it some Papists that were there were angry, and raged very much. When I heard of it, I sent for one of them, who was a schoolmaster; but he would not come.

Thereupon I sent a challenge to him, with all the friars and monks, priests and Jesuits, to come forth, and "try their God and their Christ, which they had made of bread and wine," but no answer could I get from them. I told them they were worse than the priests of Baal; for Baal's priests tried their wooden god, but these durst not try their god of bread and wine; and Baal's priests and people did not eat their god as these did, and then make another.

Friends can be a harsh toke.


October 25, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quakers Fighting Slavery

Violence is any day preferable to impotence.

 - MK Gandhi

I read in Friends Journal:

In John Brown, Abolitionist, Reynolds writes of two of Brown’s volunteers: “the brothers Barclay and Edwin Coppoc were examples of that oxymoronic type, the fighting Quaker.” He explains further: “Quakers had a long history of opposition to slavery and an even longer one of pacifism. . . . The Coppoc brothers . . . had no qualms about taking up arms against slavery.”

Yeah, Quakers ain't monolithic, and plenty carried a musket in war, including that unpleasantness over sacred states' rights.  We all make our own theological, moral and political calculations when deciding to act.  One thing you can't say is that Quakers just sit around, wringing their hands...


October 16, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Live Your Life As Light

One hopes this is done many places:

October 2, 2014 marks the 145th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. Schools over the United States will be reading the Grandfather Gandhi “Live Your Life as Light” Pledge over morning announcements to celebrate his contributions to the world.

Educator tools and whatnot at the link.


September 27, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Friday, September 26, 2014

"Without justice, what kind of God are we worshipping?"

Rabbis and others struggle with Rosh Hashanah After Gaza.


September 26, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fit for Freedom, not for Friendship

I've blogged about Quaker abolitionism and military service quite a bit.  One must always be reminded that Friends tend to be privileged, and not at all monolithic:

As a person with privilege, I often mis-calculate how hard real change will be and overestimate the power I have to make change...It’s my sense that the killing of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Palestinian children and families or the inclination to turn refugee children away would be far harder if not for the dehumanization and lies of racism. What will it take to undo this spiritual deformation that stands in the way of just and lasting peace?

I had the honor of working closely with the co-authors, Vanessa Julye and Donna McDaniel, of Fit for Freedom, not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans and the Myth of Racial Justice toward the conclusion of its publication. The book breaks apart the myth that all Quakers were abolitionists or active in working for Civil Rights and demonstrates that most Quakers were not that involved, had hesitations about the Friends that were involved in these efforts, and often resisted change.
Though we like to believe we were counter-cultural and exceptional, throughout our history most American Quakers, in the end, weren’t all that different from the dominant Euro-centric and racist culture we have inhabited and inhabit today. 
There were, though, a courageous few among us, both white and Friends of color: Lucretia Mott, John Woolman, William Boen, Benjamin Lay, Thomas Garrett, Anthony Benezet, Sarah Mapps Douglass, the Grimke sisters, Paul Cuffee, Barrington Dunbar, Rufus Jones, Prudence Crandall, Bayard Rustin, Rachel Davis DuBois, George Sawyer, Kathie O’Hara and quite a number of others who struggled with Friends and the wider society for racial justice.
Donna and Vanessa wondered about publishing a companion book about these courageous few, these spiritual ancestors willing to stand in the gap between who we say we are and who we are and try to help us cross the chasm.

Unfortunate that the book is not available in electronic format, since that's the only kind I have the luxury to read these days...


August 31, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Speaking Of Nixon

He was no Al Gore.  And no Friend (certainly not the type who would run an underground railroad to rescue LGBT Ugandans).


July 20, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Conscientious Objector +1

Remember when Sotomayor threw women under the bus?  Well go over the LGM and see how she's clearly redeemed herself.  Expect no other context from me.

I will, however, highlight this:

“Suppose it is wartime, there is a draft, and a Quaker is called up. Many Quakers are pacifists, and their pacifism is a tenet of their religion. Suppose the Quaker who’s been called up tells the selective service system that he’s a conscientious objector. The selective service officer to whom he makes this pitch accepts the sincerity of his refusal to bear arms and excuses him. But as the Quaker leaves the selective service office, he’s told: ‘you know this means we’ll have to draft someone in place of you’—and the Quaker replies indignantly that if the government does that, it will be violating his religious beliefs. Because his religion teaches that no one should bear arms, drafting another person in his place would make him responsible for the military activities of his replacement, and by doing so would substantially burden his own sincere religious beliefs. Would this mean that by exempting him the government had forced him to ‘trigger’ the drafting of a replacement who was not a conscientious objector, and that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would require a draft exemption for both the Quaker and his non‐Quaker replacement?”

This is so great.  Wish I'd thought of it.


July 3, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Marvelous Sugar Baby

Denise Oliver Velez writes over at Orange Satan:

When we describe and think of sugar, it is a white crystal sweet, ubiquitous in our daily diets. "Refined" is a word we associate with behavior and social class, and we forget that white sugar starts out a dark brown, with a molasses as a byproduct of a process called "refining" of sugarcane, "the world's largest crop by production quantity." It is hard to imagine a world, not so very long ago, when only elites could afford refined sugar, or eat the subtleties crafted for their dining pleasure. Nor when we buy confections or liberally dump spoonfuls of sugar into our coffee or tea do we think of slavery, death and blood.  

It is this history, so intimately entwined with the peculiar institution that was slavery and the slave trade, that artist Kara Walker has evoked in her towering and disturbing art exhibit in the old Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, New York.  

Thanks to the likes of John Woolman and others, I do thinking of slavery, death and blood on a regular basis when using sugar, in contrast to editors at Slate and other folks.  I'm weird that way.

Regardless, Walker's art installation looks really amazing.


June 29, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Struggling For Any Justice Somewhere Is Struggling For Justice Everywhere

I have long advocated for fighting against bad stuff, though there's no requirement for loincloth and goats' milk.  So I wholly endorse what Loomis says here about activist snobbery.

I admonish people to get engaged.  Don't have to do what I do, or for the reasons I do it, just fucking do something.  Even frisbee revolutions have value.


Contribute to the Eleventh Blegiversary *

June 14, 2014 in Conscience, Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kokesh Advocates Pre-emptive Cop Killing

Wow, stay classy:

On his Wednesday Internet show, Adam Kokesh blasted the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for noting that Jerad and Amanda Miller had been inspired by his gun activism.

“You’re not going to get away with it this time USA Today and SPLC,” Kokesh insisted, arguing that the shooters had acted because “authority has become a homicidal institution against freedom.”

Kokesh asserted that the slaying of the two officers was not “murder” because police are likely to kill people.

“Let’s say someone is going around stabbing people, like just stabbing people,” he opined. “It’s not murder to kill someone in that situation. And has been pointed out about the Vegas shooting, when you have police officers that are going around and doing violent things all day long, and then they take a break for lunch, well, it doesn’t mean all of the sudden they’re innocent or they’re being peaceful because they’re taking a break from all of their other anti-freedom, rights-violating violence.”

“Think of how many lives might have been saved by this incident. How many people would these cops have killed had they not been killed?” he asked

But hey, Washington crossed the Delaware to attack lunching Hessians, so it's all good.  Although I guess Adam's no longer claiming that his little revolution is non-violent and Gandhian.


Contribute to the Eleventh Blegiversary *

June 12, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Start Of Gandhi's Life Of Crime

That half-naked fakir's first act of civil disobedience took place on this date in 1893:

A first class seat was booked for me. It was usual there to pay five shillings extra, if one needed a bedding. Abdulla Sheth insisted that I should book one bedding but, out of obstinacy and pride and with a view to saving five shillings, I declined. Abdulla Sheth warned me. 'Look, now,' said he, 'this is a different country from India. Thank God, we have enough and to spare. Please do not stint yourself in anything that you may need.'

I thanked him and asked him not to be anxious. The train reached Maritzburg, the capital of Natal, at about 9 p.m. Beddings used to be provided at this station. A railway servant came and asked me if I wanted one. 'No,' said I, 'I have one with me.' He went away. But a passenger came next, and looked me up and down. He saw that I was a 'coloured' man. This disturbed him. Out he went and came in again with one or two officials. They all kept quiet, when another official came to me and said, 'Come along, you must go to the van compartment.'

'But I have a first class ticket,' said I.

'That doesn't matter,' rejoined the other. 'I tell you, you must go to the van compartment.'

'I tell you, I was permitted to travel in this compartment at Durban, and I insist on going on in it.'

'No, you won't,' said the official. 'You must leave this compartment, or else I shall have to call a police constable to push you out.'

'Yes, you may. I refuse to get out voluntarily.'

The constable came. He took me by the hand and pushed me out. My luggage was also taken out. I refused to go to the other compartment and the train steamed away. I went and sat in the waiting room, keeping my hand-bag with me, and leaving the other luggage where it was. The railway authorities had taken charge of it.

And that's where Attenborough began his story...


June 7, 2014 in Conscience, Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, June 01, 2014

Quakers In Reality

[C]oncerning these quakers (so caled)...we have no law among us whereby to punish any for only declaring by words, &c, their mindes and understandings concerning the things and ways of God, as to salvation and an eternal condition.

 - Letter from the government of Rhode Island to the government of Massachusetts (October 17, 1657)

Speaking of Friends, we've been executed and otherwise persecuted--in America, no less--for not worshipping properly.  One of the most famous examples is Mary Dyer:

On June 1, 1660, at nine o'clock, Mary Dyer again set out from the jail for the gallows on Boston Common, surrounded by a strong military guard. As she stood upon the fatal ladder, she was told if she would return home, she might come down and save her life. " Nay," she replied, " I cannot ; for in obedience to the will of the Lord God I came, and in his will I abide faithful to the death."

Captain John Webb, the commander of the military, said to her that she had been there before, and had the sentence of banishment on pain of death, and had broken the law in coming again now, as well as formerly, and therefore she was guilty of rer own blood. " Nay," she replied, " I came to keep blood-guiltiness from you, desiring you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law of banishment upon pain of death, made against the innocent servants of the Lord, therefore my blood will be required at your hands who wilfully do it ; but for those that do it in the simplicity of their hearts, I do desire the Lord to forgive them. I came to do the will of my Father, and in obedience to his will I stand even to the death."

Then her old Puritan pastor, the Rev. Mr. Wilson, bade her repent, and be not so deluded and carried away by the deceit of the devil. To which she replied, "Nay, man, I am not now to repent."
And more she spake of the eternal happiness into which she was about to enter; and then, without tremor or trepidation, she was swung off, and the crown of martyrdom descended upon her head. Thus died brave Mary Dyer. Her remains were buried on Boston Common, and there they now rest in an unknown grave.

Which, you know, is exactly like Obamacare's contraception mandate.


June 1, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Quakers in the Movies

QuakerSpeak looks at Friends in film.  I take particular note of #13 and #11, in reverse order.

I've noted before:

Richard Nixon, whilst a President who appeared to do little to end his country's involvement in a number of wars, also pioneered new approaches to Russia and China during the Cold War period, moves that his obituarists linked to his Quaker upbringing.  Nixon himself describes a strong Quaker upbringing in a tight-knit Quaker community...He called himself a Quaker but also claimed that he felt the peace testimony could only work if facing a 'civilised compassionate enemy'.  'In the face of Hitler and Tojo, pacifism not only failed to stop violence - it actually played into the hands of a barbarous foe and weakened home-front morale'.

I continue to think that Nixon misunderstood nonviolence and conflated it with pacifism, but at least he realized that inaction and impotence are useless and not really in line with Quaker, let alone Gandhian, ideals.  Sadly, this is why the whole "Nixon was a Friend" thing leads to more misunderstanding and mischaracterization:

His favored two-word phrase connecting him to Quakers was “Quaker heritage,” usually referring to his mother, as though Quakerism somehow resided in his genes. Eastern Quakers had a sterling historical reputation, for consistent stances against slavery, support for women’s rights, and testimony against war. This legacy is the one he used as a kind of whitewash when the political going got tough.

Despite four years of service with the Navy during World War II, the commander-in-chief of the army and navy told an interviewer for the New York Times in 1971, “I rate myself a deeply committed pacifist, perhaps because of my Quaker heritage from my mother.”

Where, then, was the “real” Nixon’s religious identity? I would argue that its noisy evangelical roots and character were well hidden, a cover-up carefully engineered by mother and son.

The examples above came well before the Watergate affair, by which Nixon is today best known and remembered. But Watergate, no matter how broadly defined, involved only the latest cover-up. The original one from which the others flowed dealt with the contours of Nixon’s deepest convictions—his religious faith.

No wonder he told his favored English biographer Jonathan Aitken that other authors had “underestimated” his Quaker heritage’s effect on his personality. Rather than merely undervaluing his religion, they had, he considered, underestimated its “Quaker” veneer, the very definition of a cover-up—his oldest, perhaps his most effective, certainly setting the pattern for his handling of Watergate, not to mention historians.

He was a faker Quaker.  From where I sit, so was his mother as part of that weird Friends' Church, which was more akin to fundamentalists than we Eastern silent Meeting types.  But whatever, it takes all kinds.

Somebody more in line with my conception of Friends is John Dickinson, who was portrayed fairly well in John Adams.  We certainly have been eyed with suspicion from the Republic's very beginning.  For example, while debating what became the Second Amendment and Madison's original conscientious objection language:

[Mr Jackson] did not expect that all the people of the United States would turn Quakers or Moravians, consequently one part would have to defend the other, in case of invasion...

More charitably, Mr Sherman observed:

[T]here are men amongst the quakers who will turn out, notwithstanding the religious principles of this society, and defend the cause of their country.

Indeed, Quakers served in the Revolution, Civil War and both World Wars.  Because, again, it takes all kinds.


May 31, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Who Could Object?

In honor of International Conscientious Objectors Day, one of my favorite philosophers and professors, the late Bob Reuman:

Drafted following his junior year of college in 1943, Reuman refused military service as a conscientious objector. He served for the duration of the war at a Civilian Public Service camp fighting forest fires and at a mental hospital in Philadelphia. In 1948, in the midst of a teaching appointment at the University of Pennsylvania (where he earned his Ph.D. in 1949), Reuman was sentenced to a year in jail for refusing to register for the draft. He served four months in the federal penitentiary at Danbury, Conn., was paroled, and immediately set out for China to work for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that was building hospitals and establishing medical clinics. 

Fucking Quakers, never fighting, always ruining everything.


May 15, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Monday, March 10, 2014


We pretend to believe that retaliation is the law of our being, whereas in every scripture we find that retaliation is nowhere obligatory but only permissible. It is restraint that is obligatory. Retaliation is indulgence requiring elaborate regulating. Restraint is the law of our being.

 - MK Gandhi, Young India, March 9, 1922


One way to refuse cooperation with a regime is to engage in Method 122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance:

In many situations, the making of speeches and the publication and distribution of literature which call on people to undertake some form of nonviolent noncooperation or nonviolent intervention themselves become acts of defiance and resistance.  This is especially so in those countries where any call for resistance, especially for illegals acts of resistance, is itself illegal or seditious.

Now sedition is a rather subjective thing, and often used too loosely to describe a variety of acts.  I think colloquially it is taken to mean "advocating stuff that upsets the status quo."  Sometimes it's criminal.

We in the US have had a long history, from the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in during John Adams' tenure in 1798 to the Sedition Act of 1918 under Woodrow Wilson to the Smith Act that was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt (and remains on the books to this day).  Sadly, there are plenty of examples of trying to suppress dissent in the recent past, too.

You most likely know where I'm headed with this.  On the same date that Gandhi wrote in Young India about non-violence, he also instructed people what to do in case he was arrested:

The rumour has been revived that my arrest is imminent. It is said to be regarded as a mistake by some officials that I was not arrested when I was to be...It is said, too, that it is now no longer possible for the Government to withstand the ever-rising agitation in London for my arrest and deportation. I myself cannot see how the Government can avoid arresting me if they want a permanent abandonment of civil disobedience, whether individual or mass.

I advised the Working Committee to suspend mass civil disobedience...becauae that disobedience would not have been civil, and if I am now advising all provincial workers to suspend even individual civil disobedience, it is because I know that any disobedience at the present stage will be not civil but criminal. A tranquil atmosphere is an indispensable condition of civil disobedience. It is humiliating for me to discover that there is a spirit of violence abroad and that the Government of the United Provinces has been obliged to enlist additional police...

He also admonished his followers to not engage in any demonstrations or hartal upon his arrest, nor should they revive mass civil disobedience, and they should strictly adhere to the principles of non-violence.  

Gandhi was, in fact, arrested at Ahmedabad late at night on March 10, under Section 124, Indian Penal Code.  His parting words were that "all who bore patriotism and love for India should strain every nerve to propagate peace and goodwill all over India, among all communities."

The authorities charged Gandhi with sedition for writing three articles in Young India:

Fans of Attenborough's movie might remember a stirring court scene that encapsulated the "Great Trial" which ended with this statement (necessarily summarized in the film) on March 18:

I know that I was playing with fire. I ran the risk, and if I were set free I would still do the same. Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also last article of my creed. I know that my people have sometimes gone mad. I am sorry for it. Their crime consisted in the love of their country.

I am here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest Penalty. In my opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good Nonviolence implies voluntary submission to the penalty for non-co-operation with evil. I am here to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be the inflected upon me for what in law is a deliberated crime and what appears to me be the highest duty of a citizen.

The only cause open to, judge, is either to resign post and thus dissociate yourself from evil if you feel that the law you are called upon to administer is evil and that I am innocent or to inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good for the people of this country and that my activity is therefore injurious to the public weal.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, though he was released early because of illness (he was 53 at that point and had an appendectomy two years into his prison term).  Wonder if the CEO of Hobby Lobby would be willing to demand the harshest penalty of law to defend his principles and effect change...


March 10, 2014 in Conscience, Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Because God Knows We Don't Want Any New Nonviolent Citizens


A California resident applying for U.S. citizenship has had her application denied because immigration officials did not accept as valid a conscientious objector, declaration to “bear arms” in defense of the U.S. because it is secular in nature. The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is representing Adriana Ramirez in her appeal.

In a letter dated Feb. 27, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials in San Diego, CA were informed that their decision is not supported by the law and should immediately be reversed. “Given the Supreme Court’s unequivocal instruction that, to be consistent with the Constitution, the government must interpret a statute permitting conscientious objection on the basis of ‘religious’ belief to include comparable secular moral views,” the letter states, “denying Ms. Ramirez’s citizenship on the grounds that her secular moral beliefs are not ‘religious’ is unconstitutional.”

“There is no legal basis to deny a citizenship application because one’s ethical values are secular,” said Appignani Legal Center attorney Monica Miller. “The letter is meant to clarify the mistake being made by officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’s San Diego office so that the application process can move forward.”

In June 2013, the American Humanist Association was successful in a nearly identical case. On behalf of Margaret Doughty, a similar letter was sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials in Texas outlining the Supreme Court rulings that require the government to treat secular and religious conscientious objectors alike. Shortly after the letter was received, Ms. Doughty’s citizenship application was approved.

During the citizenship process, applicants are allowed to express moral, ethical, or religious objections to warfare, making the promise to “bear arms” an optional part of the oath of loyalty taken by those approved for citizenship.

We want people to become citizens who will contribute to society, and yes, even defend it.  But there are myriad ways to contribute and defend, which includes stuff that is both secular and nonviolent.  One hopes AHA will be successful again in this pursuit.

As an aside, Madison's original proposal for what eventually became the Second Amendment included a clause regarding conscientious objection.  Worry not, even though Vermont's constitution (New Hampshire's, too!) still have such a provision, not everybody will turn into Quakers.  

I think we can afford to let a few fellow travellers become an American, if only because they could help us find tools other than violence to make our country and the world a better place.


February 28, 2014 in Conscience, PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Timecop Takes Place In The Past...Or Did It?

Funny line in Timecop:

We need someone rich in the White House who doesn't have to listen to anybody...When I'm in office, it's gonna be like the 80s. Top 10% will get richer, the rest can emigrate to Mexico, live a better life.

It was way more prescient than it's given credit for.


February 25, 2014 in Conscience | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack