Remembering and resisting the School of the Americas for 30 years

It was 30 years ago; the U.S. Army School of the Americas was still in the Panama Canal Zone but military troops from the repressive government of El Salvador were training at Ft. Benning, GA. A small cadre of peacemakers, primarily from Koinonia Farm and Habitat For Humanity, came to the main entrance to the sprawling military base for the weekly Quaker-style candlelight vigil. The vigil had begun 4 months prior and usually consisted of 8-20 people who gathered in a circle to prayer, reflect, and protest U.S. policy in Central America. Continue Reading

Myopic outrage at a clear injustice: In the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict

[Disclaimer: As a white male it is virtually impossible for me to fully understand and appreciate the burden of being a black male in this society. Even though I’ve been arrested and in jail and prison, lived in the inner city and rural South, I can only approximate what that experience is because I was always a phone call away from “connections” to the world of privilege and (somewhat limited) power – unlike Travyon Martin and others like him.] Continue Reading

Red, white, and black: Imagining “Independence Day” as an anti-colonialist event

My morning started this “Independence Day” listening to Amy Goodman and her Democracy Now! program recount the heroism of Daniel Ellsberg, Senator Mike Gravel, and the Unitarian publishing house, Beacon Press, in “blowing the whistle” and releasing the Pentagon Papers in an attempt to end the war on Vietnam by our government – comparing their acts of courage and conscience to that of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden today. Later, I spent an hour reading from What Does Justice Look Like? by Dakota author and historian Waziyatawin and then watched the film “42”, the story of Jackie Robinson in breaking the color barrier in professional sports in the United States. It got me thinking about why the July 4th holiday has always been a bittersweet experience for me ever since I became politically aware. Continue Reading

Our military-backed exceptionalism

One would be hard-pressed not to see the enormous fetishizing of the U.S. Military since the attacks of 9/11/01. Whether it is at professional sports events, airports, political rallies, or even at local restaurants, it seems almost impossible to avoid signs, speeches, discounts for, symbols, or outright worship of those now labeled “heroes” – the backbone of our national identity – our warriors. Continue Reading

Trying not to stick my head in the sand

After walking two miles behind a “Stop Frac Sand” banner, we arrived at the Port of Winona where 18-wheel trucks were unloading their cargoes of silica frac sand on to barges in the Mississippi River to be shipped to natural gas fracking operations in Texas or other locations. A second group of friends walked over three miles to another Winona, MN site where already-mined frac sand was being washed before loaded on to the trucks that were arrive at the port. With the support of dozens of other friends, 35 of us were arrested on trespass charges as we nonviolently blocked the trucks this morning in what may have been the largest protest to date against fracking. Continue Reading

Farewell to my friends in Iraq: Day 12

We deliberately left the last day fairly unscheduled so we could begin the process of packing – especially all the gifts we were given by the Iraqis we met. We’ve been given pens, keychains, a mirror, a crystalline sculpture, books, jewelry, prayer beads and holy Karbala mud-stones. I purchased an Iraqi flag for the student we help support at Augsburg College as well as a wall map of Iraq – labeled all in Arabic. I’ve gotten a few other small gifts but I’d rather leave any extra money I have for the work of the Muslim Peacemaker Team. Continue Reading

Abundance and generosity: Days 10 and 11 in Iraq

Day 10: Generosity

The dinner was held in one of Najaf’s best restaurants according to the former owner of Sinbad’s in south Minneapolis who sold his business to return to help his home nation rebuild during the war. Sami Rasouli and another member of his Muslim Peacemaker Team escorted us to the Holy Shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala, about an hours drive north of Najaf if one doesn’t allow for the 4-5 checkpoints we must encounter on the 80 kilometer trip. After returning to Najaf and seated at the restaurant, Joan and I were chatting with Mohammed across the table. Mohammed mentioned to me that he had liked what I had written in my blogs which he found cross-posted on my Facebook page and then asked Joan if the “Joan Haan” on his Facebook search was her page. After she affirmed that she was, he sent her a “friend request” and they were connected on Facebook. Continue Reading