International Relations

A Poorly Written, Thinly Veiled Allegorical Short Story

In the year 2032, China, the new democratic world superpower, invaded America. The United States had been hauled before the U.N. security council because of its proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, but, like so many other “rogue states” before it, it remained defiant. The U.N. attempted to send in weapons inspectors to check on the progress of U.S. weapons programs, but had been rebuffed.

Every diplomatic avenue taken and failed, then, China concluded that invasion was the last resort for eliminating the threat America posed to the world– after all, it proliferated nuclear weapons, had supported nasty dictators, and had a nasty track record of invading sovereign states without U.N. permission.

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Supporting the Troops

So, should we support the troops? This seems to be an eternal issue, displayed as it is on bumper stickers and on the news.

At the outset, I should note that as a Christian pacifist, I believe heeding Christ’s call and caring for the world’s citizenry should be a higher concern than supporting American troops. Still, this seems to be an important issue these days, so here are my thoughts on the issue:

The Troops as Individuals

We need to start, for the time being, by dividing the issue of “supporting the troops” from that of “supporting the mission.” See, the troops are individuals, and as such they deserve our love and support. I have a number of military friends, some of whom have been to Iraq. In fact, I just talked to one yesterday. I give love and friendship to these people, as they are children of God who are loved by Him. I do not agree with their occupation, but agreement is not a prerequisite for friendship.

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Just an image in my head

I thought I would share this little image that I can’t get out of my head. I don’t think there’s a point here, I just find it frightening. It’s my image for how things are going in the current administration.

The United States is a big car hurtling down a busy highway at about 150 mph. It is swerving a lot and hitting things but keeps barreling on. Bush is at the wheel and his buddies are in the front seat. They’re all drunk teenagers and they’re having a big party up there. The rest of the country is in the backseat. Some in the back are sleeping peacefully and some are holding on with white knuckles and have that freaked out look on their faces. They’re freaked out because they know there is a really big wall just a mile or two up the road and we’re all going to crash and burn. They also have a sneaking feeling that after all the crashing and burning. Bush and his buddies are going to get up, brush themselves off and stumble away – unscathed.

Anyway, that is my image. I’d really like to get out of the car. Anyone else?

Patriotic Correctness

We have all heard of political correctness, which requires euphemistic language when talking about women, minorities, or people with disabilities. While I can understand why people believe in political correctness and I believe it is sometimes justified, I tend to have a problem with it. It’s just that, often, I’d rather deal with real issues than dance around things with politically correct language. Maybe it’s better to offend if we’re being honest, although I’m sure someone could debunk me on that.

However, today I am not going to focus on this issue. Rather, I wanted to piggy-back on a subject Carl began: the character of America. Specifically, I will talk about patriotic correctness.

This, in a nutshell, is political correctness that is used in the defense of our nation. Instead of prohibiting offensive language about (for instance) handicapped people or women, it prohibits talk that questions the preeminence of America. It forces us to talk euphemistically when talking about our nation’s faults or mistakes. There are numerous examples:

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Christian Peace Witness raises more questions than I had before

Yes, I call myself a pacifist. And yes, I went with a group from my area as a reporter on the Christian Peace Witness. If alarm bells are ringing in your head about my capacity to be objective, you’re not the only one.

Here’s why I thought I could do it: While overall I oppose war and violence, I have a lot of questions and issues with the war in Iraq. The CPW was a response to that war specifically, not a call to disband the U.S. military or whatever. The more I learn about Iraq, the more I realize it’s an intensely complex situation that has no easy answers. I don’t pretend to know what should be done there. Not to mention I didn’t seek out the CPW—it came to me when the local trip coordinator contacted my editor to see if we’d do a story. I looked at the info and realized it would be a much better story if I went with them. My editors know our readers eat it up when local people do interesting things, so I ended up doing a front-page package deal of three stories and lots of photos for Sunday’s paper. (more…)

Who, when, and where to talk about Race

Race is such a sticky thing to talk about. I almost don’t want to discus it for fear of looking like “that white woman who likes to hear herself talk.” I may put some people on the spot in this post, and if you don’t like that, I apologize. The questions:

—What’s the racial/ethnic composition here at YAR? I don’t know most of you yet, so maybe you’re not all white Anabaptists.
—For those of you who aren’t white, how should white people talk about racial issues? What’s actually helpful? I feel discouraged when I read or listen to a discussion on race and then realize all the participants are white. If white folks decide how to “fix racism” primarily by themselves, I doubt we’ll find anything lasting. It’s not enough just to talk about treating everyone right—we have to make sure everyone’s participating in the conversation. (more…)

Anabaptist Radical Needed as Military Counselor in Germany

I’ve spent the last two years doing a job I love, working with American servicemembers who have been changed by their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the same way that the Pentagon technically has the right to extend a soldier’s active-duty service indefinitely during a time of war, so too do these soldiers have a right to get out early in certain situations. And war has the power to transform people. That’s where a military counselor comes in.

In a time when peace churches are having a hard time finding ways to be proactive in response to our country’s wars, this work gives us just that opportunity. More than protest, more than letter-writing, more than being “against stuff.” We can do better by providing alternatives.

In this position, you’ll learn to understand military law, military culture, and what’s really going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. There will also be opportunities to travel in the US and Europe to speak about issues of war and peace, explain what servicemembers who have been in the war actually say about it, and bring the Christian peace witness into the international debate. In the years I’ve worked in this capacity, I’ve had the opportunity to speak in dozens of venues in the US, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Holland, and Israel/Palestine.

For more information, read the attached documents or e-mail me at mcn@dmfk.de. I’m sorry to be leaving the job, but it’s a great opportunity for someone to bring in fresh ideas and perspective. Feel free to pass this info on to other people who might be interested. For more information about the organization, check out www.mc-network.de.

Joy that has a Serious History

(I originally emailed this in some form to some YARites, and TimN, kind soul that he is, suggested that I post here. So here we are, I apologize for the length.)

Part 1: The Introduction

Despite being a member of the Original cast, I have remained in the shadows, a lurker, secretly, greedily taking your thoughts and keeping them, without so much as an insightful comment, an empathetic pat, or a hearty guffaw. But today I join the ranks of YAR, and walk anew into the light!

So, I’m Paco, a friend of TimN. There were some legit reasons for not posting before. For instance, I was living in Afghanistan for more than half of the last two years. But now I am in Korea which is like the internet capital of the world, so there aren’t as many excuses left available to me.

But enough of that, the reason I am posting, aside from merely getting one in, is to introduce this virtual community to my physical one, and introduce myself here, in hopes to meet some of you in person, when I return to tour the US in about a month. (more…)

Who is our enemy?

This morning a friend sent me a link to an insightful article by Glenn Kessler in today’s Washington post. Kessler focuses on the underlying doublespeak behind the way Bush uses the terms “free”, “moderate” and “terrorist”. While we’re all used to Bush’s buzz words, this article sharply tears away the veil to reveal just how untrue the president’s words are.

Yet Kessler doesn’t resort to to black and white truisms that mirror those of Bush. Instead, he lets the gray areas speak for themselves. First he points out that, despite Bush’s claim that “free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance”:

In the two of the most liberal and diverse societies in the Middle East — Lebanon and the Palestinian territories — events have undercut Bush’s argument in the past year. Hezbollah has gained power and strength in Lebanon, partly at the ballot box. Meanwhile, Palestinians ousted the Fatah party — which wants to pursue peace with Israel — from the legislature in favor of Hamas, which is committed to Israel’s destruction and is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department.

He also points out that the countries Bush describes as “moderate” such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia rank about the same as Cuba and Burma on the Freedom House rating scale (see links above for their respective ratings).

As Christians, this question of who is our enemy has a special importance because these are the people Jesus calls us to love. (more…)

Mimesis in Violence

One thing I have been studying recently is the nature of violence to be mimetic, which refers to the human propensity to immitate others, espeically if we’re in a society permeated by certain types of actions or beliefs.

With regards to violence in our society, mimesis works most commonly by making violence contagious. The belief in violence and force is immitated from the halls of Congress to the street corner, from the abortion clinic to the execution chamber. It spreads like a disease up and down, infecting every echelon of society. The result is that people in our culture grow up socialized to believe in the effectiveness of violence, as well as having faith in individualism, greed, and upward mobility– even if it means stepping on others in the process.

For instance, we have politicians who advocate war against adversaries in so many circumstances. Force, for them, is a primary way of getting things done. But then those same politicians grope for answers when dealing with the murder rate or the prevalence of school shootings. The usual suspects are mentioned: Marilyn Manson, violent video games, the like. It seems to rarely, if ever, occur to these national leaders that maybe their own actions have something to do with it all.

That is a central reason why, I believe, our society has such a problem with violence on so many levels. We immitate it without even trying to. We believe in it wholeheartedly. So if we ever want to lower our murder or abortion rate, we must take a holistic look at our violence problem in this society; we cannot tackle one problem as if it were isolated.

Luckily for those of us who are Christians, there is something else that purports to be contagious: the Kingdom of God and its ethics. Jesus spoke of His Kingdom as yeast or as a mustard seed, which both start small but subtly permeate everything. So we need not fear the violence in our society, and realize that Jesus has something that is much more powerful. All we need is faith to believe it will work.

living tribute

I learned of Martin Luther King, the hero of the Civil Rights Movement, in school.
I learned of Martin Luther King, the peacemaker, at church.

In both cases I learned about King as an icon. He was like an angel-man, superhuman. King became a real person when I moved to Atlanta.

It was a fall from a pedestal of sorts, when I learned about all of the trials, the fractures, the tribulations, the anguish, and the arguments that went on behind the scenes of the marches and the committee meetings. To listen to lectures by the veterans of the movement, (Former Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery, R. D. Abernathy, Rev. James Orange) all still involved, but some bitter, some who have appropriated the movement…whew! I learned about the hundreds of sidelined and under-recognized women who laid the groundwork for so many of the church meetings, boycotts, and potlucks (Septima Clark, Montgomery Women’s Council, Ella Baker, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson). Most of all, when I saw the struggle of his immediate family to know how to live out the legacy of the father they lost when they were young children, it all became so tangible. (more…)

What would you do?

No, this isn’t one those questions intended to corner pacifists. This is a question that I actually have, based on experience I actually experienced, and a question I would actually like to have an answer to, although I understand that a solid answer to what I am pondering is allusive at best.

Here is the scenario: I am a youth pastor, and not too long ago I was at a youth pastor peer meeting with about five other youth pastors. It was a good meeting, refreshing to hear other people’s joys and frustrations that I can relate to. We ended the meeting with a homemade lunch which was really good, but over the lunch the conversation turned towards everyone’s family. One of the younger married youth pastors began telling of how he was just finishing up the adoption process and he and his wife were about to get their first child: a cute little Guatemalan baby, they had pictures, a name and everything. Then one of the other youth pastors chimed in that her sister (or other close relative, I forget exactly) just recently adopted a Guatemalan baby, so needless to say, the table conversation was about Guatemalan adopted babies for at least fifteen minutes. For these fifteen minutes I kept my head down, and didn’t speak. (more…)

Christmas invitation from Oaxaca, Mexico

For the last three weeks I haven’t been blogging as much because I’ve been doing support work for a Christian Peacemaker Teams emergency accompaniment team in Oaxaca, Mexico. The team of two CPT reservists was invited to Oaxaca because of increasing repression by state and federal police of local people who have been protesting to remove their governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (more on why below). The state government has replied by killing more than 15 Oaxacans and 1 American and imprisoning hundreds of Oaxacans on fabricated charges.

This Christmas, we are inviting you, along with your families and churches to write Christmas and New Years cards of support to the families of those who have been imprisoned. Here’s the story of one of the families:

Bernadita Ortiz Bautista, a 40 year old Mixteca Indigenous woman, was arrested along with her son Alejandro (19) and two of her daughters, Rosalva (12) and Beatriz (14). Rosalva and Beatriz saw the police beat their mother. The Mexican authorities held the children for three days (separately from their mother) before releasing them. They are now at home helping to care for five younger brothers and sisters. Their father, Pablo Ortiz, says he is unable to work, because he needs to be home with the children now that the mother is away. Typical of homes in Campimiento, their one room house is only sixteen feet long and thirteen feet wide.

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