Saturday, September 29, 2001

charles deemer wrote "An Open Letter to the Peace Movement" (via scripting news). whether or not you are part of the "peace movement" (i hadn't previous thought of it as a "movement"), i think what he wrote does a good job of framing some common disagreements between the american peace movement and the rest of america.

i actually agreed with much of what he wrote. not this part: "There are many ways to fight. Here is where I part company with my former colleagues in the peace movement. I do not believe the network of terrorism can be defeated without engaging it directly, which I believe will result in violent acts. I believe this because I don't believe anything can be done to make terrorists surrender..."

(1) i believe it is possible to engage anyone both nonviolently and directly (provided they can be engaged directly at all). (2) i don't believe all exiting terrorists can ever be entirely defeated or made to surrender - neither by nonviolent nor violent methods. i also believe that only one terrorist can cause terrible harm to others (remember the unabomber?). that in mind, i think the best way to fight terrorism is to prevent future terrorists by destroying the very things on which terrorism thrives. what are those things? i don't know them all, but it seems clear to me that violence is one of them. i think others include politically closed systems. terrorists seem to flock toward less democratic countries - i supect because it's easy to recruit in such countries with the promise of having some effect on the way the world works. also vast economic disparity seems to encourage terrorism. first, because much of terrorism is funded by a few incredibly wealthy who have very appealing offers in a land where most are incredibly poor. second, without aid and redirection of anger from some incredibly wealthy people, the very poor tend to build up a strong antagonism toward the very wealthy in general.

so how do i know i am right and mr. deemer is wrong about these things? i don't. what i do know is that war has a long and terrible history. and it doesn't seem to be getting us to where we want to go. so i think it's time to try something new. if war were a car, i think we would have traded it in long ago for something new - something like a peacemobile.

Friday, September 28, 2001

pride and prejudice:

a couple years ago, a friend of mine was talking to me about gay rights. he said something like "i don't really have a problem with gay people, but i don't think they should push it in everyone's face. you don't see a bunch of straight people having 'straight pride' marches." maybe the sudden interest in american pride since 9/11 could give straight americans a better idea of why the victims of violence might want to group together and express their community pride. in both cases i think the victims have every right to feel proud about what they've gone through without giving up their principles.

at the same time, i think i have a new understanding of why so many heterosexuals are frightened by gay pride events. because i'm somewhat frightened by all this national pride. it's hard to tell the difference between feelings of pride and feelings of superiority - are you proud because you love what you are or because you hate what you're not?

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

arun gandhi wrote an article titled "Terrorism and Nonviolence" that i highly recommend reading. a small part of it: "We must acknowledge our role in helping to create monsters in the world, find ways to contain these monsters without hurting more innocent people, and then redefine our role in the world. I think we must move from seeking to be respected for our military strength to being respected for our moral strength." i agree.
the guardian reports: "The European commission today rushed through new proposals which would see a new Europe-wide definition of terrorism, and an EU-wide extradition process...The document defines a terrorism offence from a specified list of crimes which are 'intentionally committed by individuals or groups against one or more countries, their institutions or people, intimidating them, aimed at seriously altering or destroying their political, economic or social structures'." so when do the trials of nearly every industrialized nation begin?
oliver wrede does a better job of explaining some of my views than i have done. here's part: "Right now I see U.S. citizens being collectivly psychologized by an archaic pattern of unification into a nationalistic perspective. I do not support that, because it will not resolve the conflict. A society under pressure should not fall into such a regression and welcome any kind of distortion of reality. Especially not in this time.

Instead the international coalition should be stabilized and supported by a spirit of true cooperation. Such spirit would not allow an 'America first!'-policy which was introduced by the Bush administration." (via scripting news)

but i don't think the bush administration introduced this policy. it just road the tide of public and media sentiment and spun it to the point where not supporting everything bush does is virtually synonymous with not supporting america, or - even more broadly - good.

both bush and america have made significant mistakes in the past, and it seems unfair to both them and the rest of the world to expect otherwise for the future. that is, bush will inevitably make mistakes, and if we refuse to acknowledge this by adopting an unquestioning nationalism (as dave winer seems to be doing: "the reason people read my site is that I think for myself. I do, except in time of war."), we are hurting ourselves as much as anyone else.

Monday, September 24, 2001

i got this quote in an email from my friend kate: "war is like a group of people in a room full of gasoline fumes, half of them have two hundred matches, and the other half is trying to tell us we won't be safe until we have three hundred. - carl sagan."

kim hanson at first blush quotes "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. -- Dwight Eisenhower, April 16, 1953"
dave writes "Do you care more about Baghdad than Chicago? If so, you can't think of yourself as a friend of the US or depend on our help to defend you." what if i find the lives of innocent americans and non-americans to be equally valuable? i haven't seen any reason to believe that the destruction of baghdad would make chicago any safer, or vice versa. in fact, destroying either city would seem to me to make the other less safe.

james at upsideclown interviews an automatum: "America is a large continent made up two sub-continents, North America and South America. The USA is the largest country in America. I'm from the USA, so I'm an American. Has the weather been good recently?" (via interconnected)

i'm an american too. yesterday it rained.
wired's declan mccullagh writes "To their credit, many politicians have already stressed that sacrificing liberty for security, even temporarily, is an unacceptable trade." (via scripting news) more than that, i find it a worthless trade. maybe some people would feel more safe if we were to ban all arab-americans from planes, but what good is that going to do us when the next terrorist act is a white guy with a car bomb?

Sunday, September 23, 2001

(via dave:) christoph pingel writes of "the danger to claim that only a black-and-white picture of American culture and politics can be morally justified these days." to defy the rules of existance that bush laid down on thursday, i neither side with the terrorists, nor do i unquestioningly side with the american government. as soon as america starts killing innocent civilians, it becomes in my mind morally indistinguishable from the terrorists. i just hope that day won't come.
dave winer asks "Now who scares you more, Uncle Sam or Uncle Osama?" for me, it's uncle sam. bin laden has limited resources. america could destroy the world - including itself. on thursday i thought the bush administration was practicing restraint for the sake of justice, but then i read this: "If it comes to a ground war, I believe the western forces will have a very slim chance of victory."

dave also points to globalsecurity.org, which looks like a collection of statistics about militaries around the world. the idea of "global security" as opposed to "national security" was something i was thinking about on friday night. a lot of people at the meeting said they felt more like global citizens than american citizens. i think the idea of promoting our own security and freedom at the expense of that of the rest of the world is becoming less and less useful in an increasingly interconnected world.
on friday night i went to a meeting of "citizens for peace and justice" at the local unitarian church. it was great. there was a lot of organizing and getting to know each other on very personal levels. on guy stood up and said "i'm a terrorist." after the initial shock set in, he explained that he is a muslim from palestine and in the average american's eyes, that now makes him a terrorist. then he talked about how he is really an american, but he hasn't been allowed to mourn the damage to his country and his fellow citizens because the only emotion he is allowed right now is fear for his life. when is the "war on terrorism" going to start taking some serious action to fight the terror in our own country? how many americans are more afraid of their fellow citizens than any foreign terrorists?

yahoo news reports "Three of the men, however, told reporters in Salt Lake City that they were removed because other passengers refused to fly with them on board." honestly, this makes me more angry than what happened on 9/11.