To sign this petition to Charlottesville City Council, click here.
aside 1 square foot of space in a prominent public place, on the
Downtown Mall or in a park, where a peace pole can be erected.
peace pole is a popular means of expressing a desire for peace around
the world, including in the United States, where peace poles are found
in public plazas and parks in many locations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_pole
A peace pole can be purchased for $200 with "May Peace Prevail on Earth" written on four sides in four chosen languages: http://stores.bigwaterhosting.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=peacepoles&Category_Code=peace_poles
Charlottesville's monuments to wars, including the Native American genocide, the defense of slavery, and the slaughter of 3.8 million Vietnamese, dominate public space. Removing them would be ideal.
An easier method of quickly
displaying our city's support for peace would be to create a peace pole.
Charlottesville's city council has spoken up repeatedly over the years
for peace, for reduced military spending, for transition to peaceful
industries, and for a halt to particular wars. But a visitor to
Charlottesville cannot observe any of that anywhere on the landscape.
Charlottesville has four sister cities, and signs indicating them are visible in Charlottesville. But the motto of Sister Cities International, "Peace Through People," is nowhere to be found. There is no location set aside to celebrate these relationships, as there could be in combination with a peace pole.
Please send this petition to everyone you know in Charlottesville, Va.: http://bit.ly/cvillepeacepole
We will deliver the petition to Charlottesville City Council on a date to be set in future.
When someone commits mass murder in the United States and is tied, however significantly, to a foreign terrorist group, there remains a section of the U.S. population willing to recognize and point out that no ideology, fit of hatred, or mental derangement can do the same damage without high-tech weaponry that it does with it. Why does this understanding vanish into the ether of ignorance and apathy at the water's edge?
ISIS videos display U.S. guns, U.S. Humvees, U.S. weaponry of all sorts. The profits and political corruption that bring those weapons into existence are the same as those that litter the United States with guns. Shouldn't we be bothered by both?
The same politicians who claim they'd like to restrict U.S. gun sales have flooded the world markets with the weaponry of mass slaughter. President Obama's administration has approved more weapons sales abroad than any other administration since World War II. Over 60 percent of those weapons have been sold to the Middle East. Add to that total huge quantities of U.S. weapons in the hands of the United States or its proxies in the Middle East -- or formerly in their hands but seized by ISIS.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states that had donated to the Clinton Foundation. Saudi Arabia had chipped in at least $10 million, and Boeing added another $900,000 as Secretary Clinton made it her mission to get Saudi Arabia the planes with which it would attack Yemen.
In the past five years, the United States has sold weapons to at least 96 countries. As of 2011 the United States accounted for 79% of the value of transfer agreements to ship weapons to governments in the Middle East, 79% also to poor nations around the world, and 77% of the value of total agreements to ship weapons to other countries, according to the Congressional Research Service. By 2014, those percentages had dropped a bit but remained over 50%.
In 2013, the big war profiteers spent $65 million lobbying Congress. There's a big headline when the National Rifle Association spends $3 million. We ask if black lives matter. In addition, do foreign lives matter?
Toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than do foreign terrorists -- even adding in domestic terrorists somehow tied to foreign ideas. But we don't hate toddlers. We don't bomb toddlers and whoever's near them. We don't think of toddlers as inherently evil or backward or belonging to the wrong religion. We forgive them instantly, without struggle. It's not their fault the guns were left lying around.
But is it the fault of ISIS that Iraq was destroyed? That Libya was thrown into chaos? That the region was flooded with U.S.-made weapons? That future ISIS leaders were tortured in U.S. camps? That life was made into a nightmare? Maybe not, but it is their fault they murder people. They are adults. They know what they are doing.
True enough. But could they do it without the weapons?
On the domestic scene, we are able to recognize that other nations have conflict, hatred, and crime, but that -- in the absence of all the guns -- the crimes do less damage. Australia got rid of its guns following a killing less deadly than Orlando. Now a gun in Australia costs more than anyone would be likely to get out of an armed robbery. Now Australia has no mass killings, apart from its participation in U.S. wars.
On the foreign scene, can we recognize that regions armed to the teeth with U.S. weapons, wars with U.S. weapons on both sides, and CIA and Pentagon proxies fighting each other in Syria are not the inevitable result of backwardness in Arab culture, but rather the result of giving free rein to merchants of death?
If that headline sounds a bit like "God Is Dead" to you, you just might be from the United States. Only what the people who live in this one country of the American hemisphere call "an American" carries that variety of flag passion. If, on the other hand, you find watching paint dry more engaging than the suspense of waiting for the next Flag Day, you just might be a candidate for citizen of the world.
In fact, I think Flag Day needs to be canceled. It's not a holiday that the government, much less the military, much less the rest of the United States, actually takes off work. It's rumored, in fact, that any socialistic interruption in work schedules would be offensive to the flag herself.
So we can indeed cancel Flag Day just by totally ignoring it, along with the overlapping Flag Week, the simultaneous U.S. Army's Birthday, the mythological tales about Betsy Ross, and the celebration of a war in 1812 that failed to take over Canada, got Washington D.C. burned, and pointlessly killed lots of human beings in a battle we celebrate with bad singing auditions before every sporting event because a colored piece of cloth survived it.
This Flag Day, instead of trying to add, if possible, yet more publicly displayed U.S. flags to those already flying, take down a flag instead. Don't burn it, though. There's no sense in giving flag worshipers martyrs. Instead, I recommend Betsy Rossing it. Cut and stitch that flag into clothing you can donate to those in need of clothing -- a significant section of the public in fact in this incredibly over-wealthy country in which the wealth is concentrated beyond medieval levels -- a situation from which we are distracted in part by all the darn flags.
Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, we have a lovely city with tons of natural beauty, history, landmarks, available imagery, talented artists, an engaged citizenry capable of civil debate, and yet no Charlottesville flag. We do have a huge debate over whether to remove from their prominent positions all the statues of Confederate fighters. Less controversial, costly, and time-consuming would be to add to the local scene a Charlottesville flag that did not celebrate slavery, racism, war, or environmental destruction.
What? Now I'm in favor of flags? Of course, I'm in favor of pretty pieces of cloth waving around when they're not icons of war and separation. In the United States, local and state flags don't create any sense of superiority or hostility toward the rest of humanity. But the flag of war, the flag that the U.S. military has now planted in 175 countries, does just that.
UVA alumnus Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day the year before pushing the United States into World War I, as part of that propaganda campaign. Congress joined in the year before the war in Korea. Five years later "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, an oath originally written by a fascist preacher, originally administered with the pledgers holding their right arms straight, outward and up. This was changed to the hand-over-heart routine during World War II because the Nazis had adopted the original salute as their own. Nowadays, visitors from abroad are often shocked to see U.S. children instructed to stand and robotically chant an oath of obedience to a piece of colored cloth.
To many "Americans" it comes naturally. The flag has always been here and always will be, just like the wars under which it is fought, for which lives are taken and risked, for which lives are even exchanged. Families that lose a loved one in war are presented with a flag instead. A majority of Americans supports freedom of speech in many outrageous instances, including the right of massive media corporations to present us with false justifications for wars. But a majority supports banning the burning of flags -- or rather, of the U.S. flag. You can burn the flags of 96% of humanity. You can burn your state or local flag. You can burn a world flag. But burning a U.S. flag would be a sacrilege. Sacrificing young lives to that flag in yet another war is, however, a sacrament.
But the U.S. military now has robotic drones it can send to war. Robots are also perfectly capable of swearing the pledge of allegiance, although they have no hearts to put their hands over.
Perhaps we should reserve our actual human hearts for things robots cannot do. Perhaps we should liberate our landscape from both Confederate statues and the ubiquitous flag of the still crusading union empire.
In the early 1980s almost nobody from the United States traveled to the Soviet Union or vice versa. The Soviets wouldn't let anybody out, and good Americans were disinclined to visit the Evil Empire. But a woman in California named Sharon Tennison took the threat of nuclear war with the seriousness it deserved and still deserves. She got a group of friends together and asked the Russian consulate for permission to visit Russia, make friends, and learn.
Russia said fine. The U.S. government, in the form of the FBI and USAID, told them not to go, warned that they would not be permitted to move freely once there, and generally communicated that they, the U.S. government employees, had internalized their own propaganda. Tennison and company went anyway, had a wonderful experience, and spoke at events with slide shows upon their return, thus attracting many more people for the next trip.
Now it was Tennison's turn to brief the flabbergasted and ignorant U.S. government staff who had virtually no actual knowledge of Russia beyond what she gave them. This was back in the day when President Ronald "Is this a film or reality?" Reagan said that 20 million dead Americans would be acceptable in a war. Yet the so-called intelligence so-called community didn't know its assets from its elbows. War as a "last resort" was being considered without having considered literally any other resorts. Someone had to step in, and Sharon Tennison decided she'd try.
Those first trips took courage, to defy the U.S. government, and to operate in a Soviet Union still monitored by a nasty KGB. But the Americans went with friendship, were generally permitted to go wherever they wanted, and encountered friendship in return. They also encountered knowledge of cultural differences, the influences of history, political and social habits both admirable and lamentable. They became, in fact, a bridge between two worlds, experts on each for the other.
They expanded their work as Gorbachev came to power and the USSR opened up. They hired staff and opened offices in both countries. They sponsored and facilitated all variety of exchanges from art schools to Rotary clubs to police officers to environmentalists. They began bringing Russians to the United States as well as the reverse. They spoke all over the United States, even -- in some examples Tennison gives in her book The Power of Impossible Ideas -- converting gung-ho members of the U.S. weapons industry into volunteers and staff (in one case a man lost his job at General Dynamics as penalty for associating with them, but this freed him to more closely associate).
Tennison's organization worked on sister cities, citizen diplomacy, alcoholics anonymous, and economic development. The latter would, over the years, become increasingly central and certainly focused on privatization and Americanization in a manner that might well be criticized. But it was not U.S. citizen diplomats who created the oligarchs of the 1990s or any culture of oligarch admiration. In fact, Tennison and her philanthropists made grants to Russians dependent on their making donations to others, working to build a culture of philanthropy. Alcoholics Anonymous can also be criticized, of course, but this was an effort to assist Russians with a real problem, not to threaten them with nuclear annihilation. All of these projects built relationships that have lasted and that have influenced U.S. policy for the better.
Through the 1990s, the projects evolved to include food and financial donations, orphanages, aid modeled on the Marshall Plan's Productivity Tours, the creation of urban gardens and sustainable agriculture, and numerous business-training initiatives. Tennison met Vladimir Putin before he rose to power. She also met and advised top officials in the U.S. government. She accepted huge grants from USAID, the agency that had advised her never to begin her work. Of course, USAID has been involved in coups and hostile propaganda around the world, and a closer look at that problematic association might have been helpful in The Power of Impossible Ideas. But the work Tennison describes was all for the better, including taking U.S. Congressional leaders to dine in ordinary Russian homes. (I wonder how many current U.S. Congress members have done that.)
I can't possibly recount all the amazing stories in Tennison's book, which lives up to its vague and extravagant title; I strongly recommend you read it yourself. The critical development in the later chapters is the diversion Tennison encountered between reality and U.S. media. She found Putin to be a force for reconciliation, and the U.S. media to be intent on demonization -- at least from the moment that Russia refused to participate in attacking Iraq in 2003.
Putin had tried to partner with the United States, challenging the demands of Russian hardliners. He allowed the U.S. to use Russian bases in Central Asia. He overlooked the United States withdrawing from the ABM treaty. He accepted NATO expansion right to Russia's border. He supported, up to a point, the U.S. "war on terrorism." Washington didn't care.
"During the 2000s," writes Tennison, "I watched as the reservoir of goodwill from the Gorbachev/Reagan years evaporated." In 2004 the State Department cut off its funding for Tennison's work. In 2006 the Council on Foreign Relations produced a report hostile toward Russia. That same year, Russia gave the United States the 10-story-tall monument that stands in Bayonne, New Jersey, but it was too late to have the U.S. media inform many people of it. In 2007, the U.S. was pushing to get Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Now, following the Ukrainian coup, the U.S. is seeking "partnerships" with NATO for those nations. The U.S. also announced its plans to put Ronnie's "Star Wars" into Poland and the Czech Republic, later changed to Poland and Romania.
Finally, Putin began pushing back, warning against aggression toward Russia. In 2007, Tennison brought a group of 100 Russians to Washington, D.C., to speak to Congress. But the hostility only increased. (By 2016 Pentagon staff would be openly saying the motivation of this hostility is bureaucratic and profit-driven.)
In 2008, Tennison and others in her organization launched a blog to correct bad U.S. media. But with tensions growing ever worse, Tennison has lately returned to where she started and begun taking groups of interested Americans to visit Russian cities and get to know members of the demonized foreign land. These trips are as badly needed as they were in the 1980s, though they may require less courage. In fact, what seems to me to require the most courage, or the greatest delusion, is to not participate in this potentially world-saving project.
Sharon Tennison provided this at the end of her book, so I assume it's OK to copy it here: Reach out to her at sharon [AT] ccisf.org.
President Obama went to Hiroshima, did not apologize, did not state the facts of the matter (that there was no justification for the bombings there and in Nagasaki), and did not announce any steps to reverse his pro-nuke policies (building more nukes, putting more nukes in Europe, defying the nonproliferation treaty, opposing a ban treaty, upholding a first-strike policy, spreading nuclear energy far and wide, demonizing Iran and North Korea, antagonizing Russia, etc.).
Where Obama is usually credited -- and the reason he's usually given a pass on his actual actions -- is in the area of rhetoric. But in Hiroshima, as in Prague, his rhetoric did more harm than good. He claimed to want to eliminate nukes, but he declared that such a thing could not happen for decades (probably not in his lifetime) and he announced that humanity has always waged war (before later quietly claiming that this need not continue).
"Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man. Our early ancestors having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood used these tools not just for hunting but against their own kind," said Obama.
"We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves," he added, leaping from a false claim about the past to a necessity to continue dumping our resources into the weapons that produce rather than avoid more wars.
After much in this higly damaging vein, Obama added: "But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them. We may not realize this goal in my lifetime, but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe." He even said: "We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story. ..." That's right, but the U.S. President had already told a really bad one.
If war were inevitable, as Obama has repeatedly suggested, including in the first ever pro-war Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, there would be little point in trying to end it. If war were inevitable, a moral case might be made for trying to lessen its damage while it continued. And numerous parochial cases could be made for being prepared to win inevitable wars for this side or that side. That's the case Obama makes, without seeming to realize that it applies to other countries too, including countries that feel threatened by the U.S. military.
Developing ways to avoid generating conflicts is part of the answer to eliminating war, but some occurrence of conflict (or major disagreement) is inevitable, which is why we must use more effective and less destructive tools to resolve conflicts and to achieve security.
But there is nothing inevitable about war. It is not made necessary by our genes, by other inevitable forces in our culture, or by crises beyond our control.
War has only been around for the most recent fraction of the existence of our species. We did not evolve with it. During this most recent 10,000 years, war has been sporadic. Some societies have not known war. Some have known it and then abandoned it. Just as some of us find it hard to imagine a world without war or murder, some human societies have found it hard to imagine a world with those things. A man in Malaysia, asked why he wouldn’t shoot an arrow at slave raiders, replied “Because it would kill them.” He was unable to comprehend that anyone could choose to kill. It’s easy to suspect him of lacking imagination, but how easy is it for us to imagine a culture in which virtually nobody would ever choose to kill and war would be unknown? Whether easy or hard to imagine, or to create, this is decidedly a matter of culture and not of DNA.
According to myth, war is “natural.” Yet a great deal of conditioning is needed to prepare most people to take part in war, and a great deal of mental suffering is common among those who have taken part. In contrast, not a single person is known to have suffered deep moral regret or post-traumatic stress disorder from war deprivation.
In some societies women have been virtually excluded from war making for centuries and then included. Clearly, this is a question of culture, not of genetic makeup. War is optional, not inevitable, for women and men alike.
Some nations invest much more heavily in militarism than most and take part in many more wars. Some nations, under coercion, play minor parts in the wars of others. Some nations have completely abandoned war. Some have not attacked another country for centuries. Some have put their military in a museum. And even in the United States, 44% of the people tell pollsters that they "would" participate if there were a war, yet with the U.S. currently in 7 wars, less than 1% of the people are in the military.
War long predates capitalism, and surely Switzerland is a type of capitalist nation just as the United States is. But there is a widespread belief that a culture of capitalism — or of a particular type and degree of greed and destruction and short-sightedness — necessitates war. One answer to this concern is the following: any feature of a society that necessitates war can be changed and is not itself inevitable. The military-industrial complex is not an eternal and invincible force. Environmental destructiveness and economic structures based on greed are not immutable.
There is a sense in which this is unimportant; namely, we need to halt environmental destruction and reform corrupt government just as we need to end war, regardless of whether any of these changes depends on the others to succeed. Moreover, by uniting such campaigns into a comprehensive movement for change, strength in numbers will make each more likely to succeed.
But there is another sense in which this is important; namely, we need to understand war as the cultural creation that it is and stop imagining it as something imposed on us by forces beyond our control. In that sense it is important to recognize that no law of physics or sociology requires us to have war because we have some other institution. In fact, war is not required by a particular lifestyle or standard of living because any lifestyle can be changed, because unsustainable practices must end by definition with or without war, and because war actually impoverishes societies that use it.
War in human history up to this point has not correlated with population density or resource scarcity. The idea that climate change and the resulting catastrophes will inevitably generate wars could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is not a prediction based on facts.
The growing and looming climate crisis is a good reason for us to outgrow our culture of war, so that we are prepared to handle crises by other, less destructive means. And redirecting some or all of the vast sums of money and energy that go into war and war preparation to the urgent work of protecting the climate could make a significant difference, both by ending one of our mostenvironmentally destructive activities and by funding a transition to sustainable practices.
In contrast, the mistaken belief that wars must follow climate chaos will encourage investment in military preparedness, thus exacerbating the climate crisis and making more likely the compounding of one type of catastrophe with another.
Human societies have been known to abolish institutions that were widely considered permanent. These have included human sacrifice, blood feuds, duelling, slavery, the death penalty, and many others. In some societies some of these practices have been largely eradicated, but remain illicitly in the shadows and on the margins. Those exceptions don’t tend to convince most people that complete eradication is impossible, only that it hasn’t yet been achieved in that society. The idea of eliminating hunger from the globe was once considered ludicrous. Now it is widely understood that hunger could be abolished — and for a tiny fraction of what is spent on war. While nuclear weapons have not all been dismantled and eliminated, there exists a popular movement working to do just that.
Ending all war is an idea that has found great acceptance in various times and places. It was more popular in the United States, for example, in the 1920s and 1930s. In recent decades, the notion has been propogated that war is permanent. That notion is new, radical, and without basis in fact.
Polling is not often done on support for the abolition of war. Here’s one case when it was done.
And here's a movement to accomplish now what Obama discourages the world by claiming it can't be done anytime soon. Those who say that such things cannot be done have always had and still have the responsibility to get out of the way of the people doing them.
This video addresses the myth that humans are naturally violent: Book Discussion with Paul Chappell on The Art of Waging Peace.
This 1939 antiwar cartoon from MGM gives some indication of how mainstream opposition to war was at the time.
An example of humans’ inclination away from war: the 1914 Christmas truce.
Fry, Douglas P. & Souillac, Geneviéve (2013). The Relevance of Nomadic Forager Studies to Moral Foundations Theory: Moral Education and Global Ethics in the Twenty-First Century. Journal of Moral Education, (July) vol:xx-xx.
Henri Parens (2013) War Is Not Inevitable, Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 25:2, 187-194.
Brooks, Allan Laurence. “Must war be inevitable? A general semantics essay.” ETC.: A Review of General Semantics 63.1 (2006): 86+. Academic OneFile. Web. 26 Dec. 2013.
Zur, Ofer. (1989). War Myths: Exploration of the Dominant Collective Beliefs about Warfare. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 29(3), 297-327. doi: 10.1177/0022167889293002.
Zur, Ofer. (1987). The Psychohistory of Warfare: The Co-Evolution of Culture, Psyche and Enemy. Journal of Peace Research, 24(2), 125-134. doi: 10.1177/002234338702400203.
The Seville Statement on Violence: PDF.
Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace by Doug Fry
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman
Peaceful Revolution by Paul K. Chappell
The End of War by John Horgan
A Future Without War: The Strategy of a Warfare Transition by Judith Hand
American Wars: Illusions and Realities by Paul Buchheit
The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War by James Bradley
Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves by Adam Hochschild
Fry, Douglas. P. (2013). War, peace, and human nature : the convergence of evolutionary and cultural views. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kemp, Graham, & Fry, Douglas P. (2004). Keeping the peace : conflict resolution and peaceful societies around the world. New York: Routledge.
Marjorie Cohn will discuss her thought-provoking book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, about the use and impact of drone warfare in today’s world.