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March 06, 2015
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Peace and Justice Files

An alternative citizenship test

It’s not often you’ll hear me approving of news out of Arizona. The state that gave us Evan Meacham and Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not usually thought of as a birthplace for interesting ideas. But they’ve recently introduced a new requirement: to graduate from high school, all students must pass a civics test similar to the one given those seeking naturalized citizenship.
At first glance, I like the concept very much. Americans’ general ignorance of the way their system works is legendary, and anything that encourages greater civic awareness is a good thing in my book.  Read more

Reality, illusion and vision

Greetings, readers out there in the future... don’t mind me, I’m still mired back here in the middle of last week, vainly trying to make some sense out of the terrorist attack on the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. By the time you read these words, you will know a lot more than I do at the moment about the eventual outcome of the situation—but I would wager that we won’t have any better ideas about what we should do in its aftermath.  Read more

The evil that men do

Quick! Name a bunch of famous silent film comedy stars! Charlie Chaplin, check… Buster Keaton, of course… You remembered Harold Lloyd? Good for you!

How about Roscoe Arbuckle?

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (1887-1933) was an immensely successful entertainer. A singer, comedian, silent film actor and director, he was a superstar of the early years of the 20th century. According to Wikipedia, he helped launch the careers of both Buster Keaton and Bob Hope, and he was one of the most popular and highly paid performers of his time.  Read more

Gratitude and ambivalence

I never quite understood the logic:

“Finish everything on your plate, young man; for goodness’ sake, you know there are children starving in India.”

If your parents grew up during the Depression, as mine did, it’s a good bet that you heard that line, or something like it, more than a few times during your childhood. The reasoning, I suppose, was that whether or not you particularly liked what happened to be on your plate, you should not only eat it all, but also be grateful for it, because there were other children in other parts of the world who would be thankful for anything.  Read more

Necessary—but not sufficient

Thirty summers ago, a group of activists gathered in St. Paul, MN to discuss the possibility of creating a Green Party in the United States that might replicate the political successes of The Greens (Die Gruenen) in West Germany. Building on the “Four Pillars” of Die Gruenen, they came up with a statement that listed 10 “Key Values” for the nascent American Green movement: Ecological Wisdom, Grassroots Democracy, Personal and Social Responsibility, Nonviolence, Decentralization, Community-Based Economics, Post-patriarchal Values, Respect for Diversity, Global Responsibility, and Future Focus.  Read more

The unending war

Maybe you remember: it was a beautiful Tuesday morning, clear and sunny. I had spent a couple of early morning hours training with my martial arts teacher, and I was headed home to start in on my day’s obligations for my telecommuting job. I stopped at a health food store in Hamlin for a beverage—and it soon became clear that something was not right. The radio was tuned to NPR and the news people were still on the air, though it was now way past the time for the morning news programs.

And what they were saying made no sense.

“What… happened?” I asked the clerk.  Read more

Dear Bob

Author’s note: I don’t know if Sullivan County is in the coverage area for Bob Beierly’s publication Our Town, but here on the PA side of the river you can’t swing a cat without hitting one of his stands. A longtime feature of local life in Wayne and Pike counties, this free magazine, combining right-wing politics and sometimes salacious humor, has recently begun expanding its reach into Orange County, parts of New Jersey and other areas.  Read more

Religious freedom, religious fairness

The folks at Hobby Lobby (which apparently is an evangelical ministry disguised as a craft store) took out a full-page ad in the papers recently, touting the notion that the United States was from the outset intended to be a “Christian nation” (whatever that is supposed to mean—but that’s another column). I guess they were reveling in the heady feeling of victory, following the Supreme Court decision that recognized their right to apply their religious beliefs to the benefits package that they offered their employees. Many liberals and progressives were upset by the decision, but not me.  Read more

Flag washing

It was a beautiful August day as we gathered in the town square. Two large tubs, one with soapy water and one with clean water, had been set up in front of the speakers’ podium. A good-sized flag hung from a clothesline behind it, its stars and stripes bright in the sunlight. Two more clotheslines hung on either side, plentifully supplied with clothespins. A table held the dishes that had been brought for what I guessed was a potluck to follow.

Everyone had flags. Small ones, large ones, flags hanging from flagpoles, flags stapled to sticks, flags draped across shoulders.  Read more

Change the rules

I spent my adolescence in North Carolina, during the storied reign of Dean Smith as basketball coach for the UNC “Tar Heels.” An important part of UNC’s strategy during those years was the “Four Corners Offense.” Having established a lead, four Tar Heel players would stake out the corners of the offensive court and use up as much time as possible just passing the ball back and forth.  Read more