Tag Archives: peace


By Michael True

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who sacrificed themselves in battle. Among the great works remembering victims of war are the poems of Wilfred Owen, who was killed in Northern France, one week before the Armistice, November 4, 1918, and Benjamin Britten’s, powerful oratorio, War Requiem.

On Memorial Day, it’s appropriate, nonetheless, to remember peace heroes, who devoted their lives to resisting injustice, violence, and war, as well as war heroes. And t its recent Friday Night “Clarification of Thought” meeting, Jane Sammon, editor of the Catholic Worker in New York, decided to mark Memorial Day by focusing on well-known peacemakers.

Many people who have contributed to the history of nonviolence sacrificed themselves for the benefit of others in building a peace culture. They responded to conflict without killing and skillfully brought about social change without killing or harming others. Poets, human rights activists, and peace researchers, who have enriched our lives include William James, 1843-1910; Muriel Rukeyser, 1913-80, Stephen Biko, 1946-77, Kenneth Bolding, 1910-98, and Elise Boulding, 1920-2006.

William James contributed to peacemaking through his remarkable essay, “”The Moral Equivalent of War,,” in which he advocates devising a substitute for war-making. . According to tradition, this essay inspired the development of the Peace Corps decades later,

Sadly, he argued, “Showing war’s irrationality and horror is of no effect,, since the horrors make the fascination”; and “war taxes are the only one people never hesitate to pay.” A century ago, as James predicted, the U.S. a military-industrial-academic complex corrupts language as we know it. “’Peace’ in military mouths today is a synonym for war expected….Every up-to-date dictionary should say that ‘peace’ and ‘war” mean the same thing.”

A nonviolent alternative to war, however, “would preserve in the midst of a pacific civilization the manly virtues which the military party is so afraid of seeing disappear in peace. We should get toughness without callousness, authority with as little criminal cruelty as possible, painful work done cheerily because the duty is temporary and threatened not, as now, to degrade the reminder of one’s life.”

Stephen Biko, 1946-77, a heroic figure in the nonviolent campaign against apartheid in South Africa, was forced to shoulder the heavy weight of the campaign after older leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned. Arrested on September 6, 1977, he was interrogated for twenty-two hours, fiercely beaten about the head, fell into a coma and died six days latter. Although only 31 when he died, he remains a hero to many, the subject of an award-winning film, Cry, Freedom, based upon Donald Woods’ biography, who described him as “quite simply the greatest man I have ever had the privilege to know.”

A graduate of Marianhill, a Catholic high school in Natal, Biko saw African Christianity as a colonial inheritance, a product of and symbol of imperial Europe and resigned from the University Christian Movement, his book, The Challenge of Black Theology in South Africa,” reflects his religious upbringing and his belief that black theology provided an opportunity “to bring back God” to black people, to the truth and reality of their situation.

Muriel Rukeyser, 1913-80 as with the other peacemakers cited here, was a person of courage, not only in her commitment to peace and social justice She took many chances, failing at times, but always in an effort to speak truthfully about the pain as well as the joys of being an American.

Among various commitments to the common good, I particularly admired her willingness to risk standing at the door of a prison in Seoul, South Korea, on behalf of the poet, Kim Chi Ha, in the early 1970s. As president of PEN at the time, having endured two serious operations, she stood in the rain for three days, on her colleague’s behalf. It was an action that helped to facilitate his release from prison, during a terribly repressive era, in which the U.S. was complicit.

Kenneth Boulding, 1910-93, and Elise Boulding, 1920-2009 were both peacemakers extraordinary, both nominated for the Nobel Prize, he in economics and she in peace. They were co-founders of the International Peace Association at the University of Michigan in 1965 and the academic inter-discipline of peace, conflict, and nonviolence studies. Today, there are now over 400 peace, conflict, and nonviolence studies programs and research centers around the world, undergraduate and graduate programs and peace research centers, including a special chair in nonviolence at the University of Massachusetts.

This developed from a modest beginning forty-seven years ago, as they worked to recommend ways of eliminating war as the principal means of addressing conflict. In peacemaking, as Elise said, “there are no easy parts where you can rest…Whether we work in protest and social change movements or in the safe professional fields of peace studies and conflict resolution, peace makers must be intensely aware of the interconnectedness of all the elements in the system we know as life-on-earth.”

Through his posthumously published poems, Wilfred Owen alerted many young men to the waste and horror of war than anyone, often inspiring them to conscientiously object to war. His deep understanding of Jesus’s sayings led him to challenge clergymen and others who justified the slaughter of innocents in the First World War. “Futility,” one of the most powerful and moving poems in English, is a fitting memorial for those who offer their lives for the benefit of others as war heroes or peace heroes.


By Wilfred Owen
Move him unto the sun
Gently, it woke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown,
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was is for this the clay grew tall?
–O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
to break earth’s sleep at all?

News from our favorite Congressman …

Congressman Jim McGovern rules! From his stance on Cuba to his committment to the poor and his fight against hunger in Worcester – and throughout the world! – McGovern has always stood for the right thing (even if it meant taking some heat at home). He’ll always be our congressman! Why? Because besides having a great heart, Jim also brings home a ton of $$ for all Worcester’s pet projects and has lots of clout in Congress. I can’t imagine anyone else representing us. Here’s what he’s up to these days:

R. Tirella

                                        News from Congressman Jim McGovern

The People’s Rights Amendment

By Congressman Jim McGovern

Late last year, I introduced a Constitutional Amendment in the House of Represenatives to repeal the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, and restore the Founding Fathers’ intent to grant rights to people, not corporations.

As any high school civics student knows, the first three words of the preamble to the Constitution are ‘We the People.’  Corporations are not people. They do not breathe.  They do not have children.  They do not die in war.  They are artificial entities which we the people create and, as such, we govern them, not the other way around.

The legislation, H.J. Res 88, is intended to “clarify the authority of Congress and the States to regulate corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.”

The Citizens United case effectively reversed decades of precedent recognizing the authority of the people to regulate corporate spending in our elections.  But the consequences of the case are not just limited to campaign finance issues.  The newfound “Corporate Rights” movement that seeks to give corporations the same rights as people in any situation has been making troubling gains.

Recently, a federal judge blocked the Food and Drug Administration from requiring tobacco companies to place graphic warning labels on cigarette packages, arguing that cigarette makers had the right to free speech.

My amendment also clearly protects the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion and freedom of association.

We need to have a serious, thoughtful debate in this country about this important issue and I hope that my amendment will begin to spur that debate.

To stay up to date on the amendment, follow me on Facebook. The full text of the amendment is available here.


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The high cost of historical ignorance

By Paul S. Ropp

Ignorance of world history should be a crime for politicians. Why? Because historical ignorance has led to some of the worst disasters in American foreign policy. In the 1960s, for example, the US sent 500,000 troops to the small country of Vietnam in order to “contain China” and to maintain the independence and “democracy” of South Vietnam.

In fact, South Vietnam was no democracy, and Vietnam was a proudly nationalistic country that had successfully contained China, quite by itself, for 2000 years. With neighboring Laos and Cambodia, it had fiercely resisted French and Japanese imperialism in modern times. And all three countries retained a profound sense of national pride and a profound hatred for Western or Japanese armies.

Consequently United States troops were widely seen in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as a richer version of the racist and rapacious French and Japanese. Yet American leaders, blindly ignorant of Asian history and Asian nationalism, and fearing the “soft on communism” charge in domestic politics, sent 57,000 young Americans to their early deaths, and killed between one and two million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, mostly civilians. This death and devastation was a direct result of our profound ignorance of the history and cultures of Asia.

More recently, and more disastrously for the US national interest, George W. Bush felt emboldened by the 9/11 terrorist attacks to launch an invasion of Iraq in 2003, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. With no knowledge and no curiosity about the history of the Middle East, Bush assumed that just because Saddam Hussein was a nasty dictator, American troops would be welcomed in Baghdad, and American-style democracy would be warmly embraced by all parties.

The history of western imperialism in the Middle East is as shameful, and as relevant today, as the history of western imperialism in Asia. After World War I, the British arbitrarily drew the boundaries of Iraq, deliberately combining three hostile groups—Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds—to guarantee a weak and unstable oil-rich country that could be manipulated and dominated by the West.

Because Saddam Hussein brutally imposed Sunni control over the Shi’ites and Kurds, it was clear to all historians that his overthrow would seriously weaken Iraq and unleash lethal tensions pitting revenge-seeking Shi’ites in the south and independence-seeking Kurds in the north against the former Sunni power-holders.

Ignoring the history of Iraq, Bush wildly exaggerated Saddam’s military power, quickly destroyed the country’s modern infrastructure, and then failed to provide even a semblance of law and order, or the massive reconstruction effort so desperately needed following the “shock and awe” of the American assault. The Saddam regime’s sudden collapse proved he was never a serious military threat to American interests. The looting of the Iraqi national museum and the torture photos from Abu-Ghraib Prison became symbols the world over of American ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy.

When no weapons of mass destruction could be found in Iraq, the war rationale was changed to democratization, despite the fact that nothing is less democratic or more subversive of democratic values than a foreign military invasion. The Bush war in Iraq has empowered Iran as many Middle Eastern experts predicted, and has inspired both Iran and North Korea to accelerate, not abandon, their nuclear development. The sectarian tensions and continuing violence in Iraq today are a direct result of the Bush administration’s reckless invasion in 2003.

The Bush war in Iraq has killed some 4000 Americans and over 100,000 Iraqis, and seriously wounded over 20,000 Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis. Over 2 million Iraqis, mostly middle class professionals, have fled the war-torn country, and the industrial infrastructure of Iraq has still not been restored to pre-war levels. The financial costs of health care for Iraq war veterans, the interest on the money borrowed to fight the war, and the damage to America’s moral standing in the world will be a burden on the US for generations to come.

Americans like to focus on the future, not on the past. But ignoring the past leaves us blind to the moral, political and financial costs of our past mistakes, and all too likely to repeat those mistakes in the future. Beware of American politicians who combine arrogance and ignorance of world history. They are a greater threat to our national security, prosperity and power than any external enemies.

Course on nonviolence at Clark University for public school teachers

By Michael True

Twenty elementary and secondary teachers from Worcester Public Schools recently participated in a Professional Development Institute at Clark University’s Hiatt Center for Urban Education. Instructors for the course on Nonviolent Movements in the Modern World include faculty from Clark, Holy Cross, and Assumption, and local organizers.

Sponsored by the Center for Nonviolent Solutions, with support from the Massachusetts Humanities, the Institute meets weekly, offering instruction as well as resources for units and courses in various academic disciplines. In addition to carrying graduate credit, the program offers a stipend for each teacher to buy materials, books, and films for the classroom.

The Center for Nonviolent Solutions, initiated in 2009, provides education and resources for people in the Worcester Area to increase understanding of nonviolence as a way of life and an effective means of resolving conflict. For two years, it has offered a 10-week course on Peacemaking and Nonviolence for students at the University Park Campus School and Claremont Academy, as well as brief courses in nonviolent communication for junior high school students. The Center maintains an office and resource center at 901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, a website (nonviolentsolution.org), and curricular materials and DVDs for use by teachers, parents, and the general public.

Topics for the class meetings include the Origins of Nonviolence; Mahatma Gandhi; citizens’ resistance to the Nazi occupation of Denmark; the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the ending of apartheid in South Africa; the democratic uprising in China, 1989; the Protestant-Catholic conflict in Northern Ireland; and the history of nonviolence in Central Massachusetts.

The Institute emphasizes the history of successful nonviolent movements that demonstrate how crises and conflicts provide opportunities to build a civic culture of inclusion. It reslies upon informed discourse, including recent research and scholarship, that fosters community solidarity among people of different races, classes, and political ideologies

Teachers for the course include Co-directors, Paul Ropp, Research Professor of History, and Tom Del Prete, Director, Hiatt Center for Urban education, Clark University, as well as Predrag Cicovacki, Professor of Philosophy, Holy Cross College; Sam Diener, Education Director, Center for Nonviolent Solution; Michael Langa, Specialist in Cross-cultural Conflict Resolution; Janette Greenwood, Professor of History, Clark University; Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, St. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker; and Michael True, Emeritus Professor, Assumption College.

Let there be peace on earth!

By Michael True

“The same war continues,” Denise Levertov wrote, in “Life at War.” Her lament is more appropriate for 2011 than as it was when she wrote the poem forty-five years ago.

Columnists and academics, including Andrew Bacevich, Boston University, are finally acknowledging facts familiar to anyone “awake” regarding failed U.S. policies, wasted lives and resources during this period, Willfully ignoring such facts, as Professor Bacevich wrote, “is to become complicit in the destruction of what most Americans profess to hold dear.”

At the beginning of this New Year, consequences of “life at war” stare us in the face: the victimization of military and civilian populations and a huge national debt, Continue reading Let there be peace on earth!

Worcester Peace Center update (the cost of war)

By Michael True

In a recent announcement of its office at 901 Pleasant St., Worcester, the Center for Nonviolent Solutions committed itself to providing education and resources for people in the Worcester Area to help increase our understanding of nonviolence and to reject violence in resolving conflict.
On October 17, at the Center’s successful launch at the Worcester Public Library, Congressman James McGovern said he expected to be attending “a meeting.” Instead, he added, he came upon” a movement”—a broad coalition of peace and justice organizations, neighborhood groups, churches, colleges and universities, in the Worcester area.

Over the past three months, the Center has committed itself to programs for achieving its vision, by providing educational resources for concerned citizens, such as information and assistance on nonviolent solutions to conflict. Continue reading Worcester Peace Center update (the cost of war)