Seeking the kindness of strangers, Part II

 

This is the second post by Alice LoCiero on the recent virtual demonization of refugee children from Central America.

 

Two children stand by their school in Cubilguitz, Guatemala, as U.S. Army Master Sgt. Russell Kempker, a Missouri Army National Guardsman with the 35th Engineer Brigade, surveys the facility April 1, 2012, in support of Beyond the Horizon 2012.This image is a work of a U.S. military or Department of Defense employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.Photograph by SPC Anthony D. Jones

The media, without independently examining the situation, seems to have fallen into the trap of using the “secondly” linguistic trick when reporting on refugee children from Central America:   Secondly, the children are here “illegally.”   Secondly, they have violated laws. Secondly, they may be a burden on our system. Secondly, their care may cost us some money.

It is my hunch that these denigrated children represent, in some symbolic way, the damage the US government has done, and the effects of this damage on children. Their lives and tragedies are horrifying to the US because our government is, in essence, the perpetrator.

And the result is a horrifying combination of ignorance and hate, reflected in Americans’ call to send them back. There are cries that we must make our borders more secure. Secure against hungry and frightened children?  But Americans have been fed a steady stream of news of the children, beginning with “Secondly.”

These messages are complicated by terrible ignorance of the conditions of the families and communities from which the children have fled, and the conditions of their trip here.  Call the families and tell them we are sending them back?  It is as if many Americans think the families sent their children to the US on an extended vacation—kind of like a semester abroad.

At the same time, the media has stopped reporting on the large number of Americans who have offered to help these children, and who would open their homes and communities to them. And the President refused to go to the border. No official has visited the shelters where these children are being kept. Why?

My hunch is that because as soon as Americans see these children, there will be an outcry against sending them back.  I know that Americans are capable and very willing to help children. Strangers are, have been, and will continue to be, kind.

The media and the government have to get out of the way of ordinary Americans, and let them help these desperate children.

Dr. Alice LoCicero is a staff member at Boston Medical Center in the Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology, an adjunct professor at Lesley University, and a volunteer psychologist at Community Legal Services and Counseling Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her book, “Why Good Kids Turn into Deadly Terrorists: Deconstructing the Accused Boston Marathon Bombers and Others Like Them”  will be released at the end of July.

 

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Gaza: Time to take sides

International Symbol of Nonviolence.

International Symbol of Nonviolence.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author=Jmarchn

The news out of Gaza has been horrendous, overwhelming, tragic, heart-breaking. Death upon death. Destruction after destruction. Loss of life; losses for families, communities, the human race. It is easy to feel rage and horror, depression and defeat. Will the violence ever end?

Although the outlook for peace and reconciliation may seem at a discouraging low, there are also some hope-inspiring stories that should not be ignored and buried in these deadly times:

 

  • Following the strategy that helped bring about an end to apartheid in South Africa, a group of Palestinians have organized a Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (BDS) as an alternative to violence.

 

  • And closer to home there is Seeing through Walls, an awe-inspiring group of Jewish and Muslim artists who got together in 2010 to create a mosaic peace mural that “expresses our vision of peace, justice and hope for the Israeli and Palestinian people.” Please visit their site, view the photos of this magnificent project in progress, and feel your hope rejuvenated.

After considering these stories, you decide:

Which side are you on, man? Which side are you on?

If you’re on the side of violence, you’re home free. No need to do anything. There are enough people  benefittng one way or another from armed conflict and other sorts of atrocity to stoke hatred, distrust, and misunderstandings and thereby keep the violence going.

On the other hand, if you’re on the side of nonviolence, there’s a lot you can do. Donate your time, your money, your expertise to the efforts to find nonviolent solutions to the conflicts in Gaza and elsewhere. Your voice counts, it matters.

Make yourself heard.

Posted in Armed conflict, Champions of peace, Nonviolence, Poetry and the arts, Protest, Reconciliation and healing, Stories of engagement, Tolerance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Seeking the kindness of strangers, Part I

Monument of the refugee children in Skopje, Macedonia This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, Taken by Rašo.

This is the first in a series of two posts by Alice LoCicero.

It is easy to blur the truth with a simple linguistic trick: start your story from “Secondly”…..Mourid Barghouti 

Since 2006, I have worked with children and adolescents who come to the US out of fears and traumas similar to those faced by the children now at our borders, children seeking a fair hearing and requesting asylum here.

I know what their faces look like, and what their experiences have been. I have talked with children from four continents about experiences of torture, abuse, and trauma. I have helped them cope with their fears. I have been happy to see them gain asylum. I look forward to the citizens they will become. Several are in college or graduate school now. They have become contributing members of our society. We will all benefit.

 Most important, the children I met have all depended on the kindness of strangers in many parts of their journey towards asylum.  Ordinary Americans have helped them tremendously. I know how Americans can and do help children, once they understand their story. Once they meet them. Once they see their faces. Americans are not, by nature, mean and stingy towards children in need.  So what is happening to make ordinary Americans so fearful of the children seeking help at our borders?

 The manufactured “crisis”  of the Central American youth coming to our border unaccompanied has a long history, and  the media coverage of this situation starts with “Secondly.” Briefly, US intervention in the affairs of its neighbors has caused less stable and highly dangerous conditions, including chronic political instability, rebel forces and gangs. Many children, personally in grave danger, traumatized and terrified, have taken the huge risk of fleeing to the US border. Those that arrived alive and intact are now facing hatred, mostly whipped up by media misrepresentations that tell the story of the children starting at “Secondly.” 

Dr. Alice LoCicero is a staff member at Boston Medical Center in the Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology, an adjunct professor at Lesley University, and a volunteer psychologist at Community Legal Services and Counseling Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her book, “Why Good Kids Turn into Deadly Terrorists: Deconstructing the Accused Boston Marathon Bombers and Others Like Them”  will be released at the end of July.

Posted in Children and war, Human rights, Propaganda, Torture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Does Nonviolent Resistance Work? Part 4c

              

This is the third of three posts comprising Part IV of a series of posts in which Dr. Ian Hansen shares his thoughts on nonviolence.

See also Part 1aPart 1bPart 1cPart 2aPart 2bPart2cPart3aPart3b, Part3c, and Part 4a.

  The violence of those lost to rage helps to justify excesses of state-inflicted oppression and atrocity on the rest of the frightened population (from above).  It also helps to justify excesses of subnationally-inflicted oppression and atrocity on that same population (from below) in the form of terrorism, guerilla warfare and/or revolutionary violence. These acts of oppression and atrocity from above and below shock and discombobulate, and often drive the majority even further into hopelessly compliant resignation to whatever violent force eventually reigns victorious.


If, however, the popular majority of a nation or people begins to continually and effectively coordinate acts of nonviolent resistance to violent oppressors (from above and below) then those who profit from violence and oppression are in danger of a decline in their portfolio. 

 When true revolutionaries achieve this mass mobilization of nonviolent resistance, the desperate atrocities of the violently rebelling minority should become a less credible justification for state oppression and atrocity against the majority.  And the ruthless atrocities of the violently dominating state should become a less credible justification for subnational violence also. 

Those who can both resist the oppression and violence of others and maintain nonviolent discipline for themselves will come to look more legitimate than subnational guerillas, violent revolutionaries and terrorists.  They will also look more legitimate than the terrorists of another kind who often find themselves making decisions on behalf of powerful states and empires.

When this change in perception occurs among a critical mass of people, the nonviolent revolution should be more likely to realize its goals.  This may be for better or for worse, but usually (on average) it should achieve better things that what a more exclusively violent revolution might have achieved.  And a nonviolent revolution that can maintain its nonviolent discipline to the end should also achieve better things on average than just taking it lying down.

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