Ain’t Gonna Finance War No More!

Larry Bassett and his mother in front of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, 1985.

by Larry Bassett

I have happily just passed the nine-month mark of my first year of massive resistance. I mark this new beginning of my life on June 11 with the death of my father and with my commitment to redirect as much of my inheritance as possible to make a better world.

Dad left me $1 million with instructions to distribute about half of it to grandchildren and great grandchildren and special others. I did that and set to work on my half.

My commitment to civil disobedience in honor of my mother who became a criminal for peace in her later years is acted out in my case with war tax resistance. I will resist the $128,005 I owe in federal income tax next month. I will have donated more than that amount to meet human needs internationally and nationally and locally.

To honor my father and mother, I am trying to do as they did many times in their lives in trying to directly help the less fortunate. They were brave and compassionate by giving money and offering a place to stay in their home and loaning other personal goods.

My parents found that helping others was not always free of risk. People who were ill and without resources sometimes took advantage of them. But my parents knew that they had much and others had little.

Since I live in the Internet age, I have had a much broader range of people in need. While I have given to many charities, I have also tried in a very small way to help some individuals in Haiti and Kenya and Uganda who had little compared to me, who had been left with so much by my father.

My effort with individuals has taught me a lot about the desperation of poverty. I have often remembered my first job out of college working with the poor in Pontiac, Michigan. Back then I came to the conclusion that what the poor need most is money. So when I found the international charity GiveDirectly that gives cash to the extremely impoverished in East Africa, I knew I had found an Organization that I wanted to support significantly.

My mother once spent 30 days in jail for merely “crossing the line” at a plant in Michigan that produced a part of a missile. What she learned from that experience was that the women who shared her jail cell were poor and black. She learned that the justice system needed reform.

The government learned and continues to learn that the biggest result of putting peace and justice people in jail is that they are creating people who diligently work to change the system.

I do not know what the justice system will do when I refuse to pay my federal taxes in April. I am a little bit scared of what they might do just as I was scared in 1985 when they took me to court. But sometimes as my parents knew, and as they taught me by their example. you have to do what you have to do.

As I write this post, I am remembering her and my father with pride just as they were proud of me back then.

Larry Bassett is a peace activist and son of peace activists; he has worked for the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign (CMTC), National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), and National Campaign for a Peace Tax Campaign (NCPTF  You can learn more about him at facebook.  To read the story of his successful confrontation with the IRS, go here  To read an inspiring set of quotes that he has assembled regarding war, peace, government, humanity, etc., go here .

 

Posted in Champions of peace, Nonviolence, Pacifism, Perspective-taking, Poverty, Prisons, Protest, resistance, social justice, Stories of engagement, War tax | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Loving a Lifer

An icon to represent “global thinking”. In the public domain. Author: Benjamin D. Esham (bdesham).

by Anthony J. Marsella

The emergence of a global era — a borderless psychological and physical milieu –confronts us with new and bewildering challenges to identity formation, change, and assertion.

Age-old questions regarding identity — “Who am I?” What do I believe?” “What is my purpose?” “What are my responsibilities?” “How did I become who I am?”– must now be answered amidst a context of unavoidable competing and conflicting global forces that are giving rise to increasing levels of uncertainty, unpredictability, confusion, and fear.

Indeed, many of our traditional political, economic, social, and religious institutions — long a major source for shaping individual and collective identities — have become part of the problems we face in identity formation and negotiation.

The problem of the sense of identity is not, as it is usually understood, merely a philosophical problem, or a problem only concerning our mind and thought. The need to feel a sense of identity stems from the very condition of human existence, and it is the source of the most intense strivings.

Since I cannot remain sane without the sense of “I,” l am driven to do almost anything to acquire this sense. Behind the intense passion for status and conformity is this very need, and it is sometimes even stronger than the need for physical survival.

What could be more obvious than the fact that people are willing to risk their lives, to give up their love, to surrender their freedom, to sacrifice their own thoughts, for the sake of being one of the herd, of conforming, and thus of acquiring a sense of identity, even though it is an illusory one (Fromm, 1955, p. 63).

But amidst this quest for identity — essential to human functioning – we are missing an identification that may be critical for our survival, and that is an identity with life itself. We seem oblivious to the fact that above all things, we are alive, and life deserves our loyalty as much as any other identity we may have or pursue.

We are more than humanity, and we must identify ourselves with more than humanity. We are embedded in life, we are surrounded and immersed in life in millions of ways. It is the most obvious and yet most ignored aspect of our being, and in our ignorance, we fail to see that we are connected, united, linked to so much more beyond ourselves. And that “connection” holds the key to our very nature.

Yet, we find ourselves as human beings assaulting and killing life in all its forms—species are becoming extinct, bio-diversity is declining, global warming is occurring, and there is a depletion of our water, energy, and agricultural resources, and wars and conflict are endemic. I would like to suggest that a solution for many of the challenges we face may be to move beyond our conventional identifications with self, culture, nation, and even humanity, to an identification with life — Lifeism.

Excerpted from an article that originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 March 2014. For full article go here: https://www.transcend.org/tms/2014/03/lifeism-beyond-humanity/ .

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr. Marsella has promoted cross-cultural understanding and acceptance as a key to peace within and among nations. He has conducted international research for three decades, as a Fulbright Scholar in the Philippines, a project director for a psychiatric epidemiological study in Borneo, a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Culture and Mental Health Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, and a professor of psychology and director of the World Health Organization (WHO) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is Past President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR).

 

Posted in culture of violence, Nonviolence, Understanding violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Sustaining Fires of Standing Rock: A Movement Grows

Beyond NoDAPL March on Washington, DC. Woman in red jacket speaking about her experiences as a water protector at Standing Rock. 8 December 2016. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Rob87438.

by Roy J. Eidelson

 Over the past year, a remote area of North Dakota has been the improbable and prophetic site of a struggle with profound ramifications for us all. The confrontation has pitted the Water Protectors — the Standing Rock Sioux, other Native American tribes, and their allies — against the oil profiteers of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. The source of conflict is completion of the $3.8 billion, thousand-mile Dakota Access Pipeline — the Black Snake — that Energy Transfer Partners has built to carry fracked oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

The current planned route for the pipeline takes it beneath the Missouri River treacherously close to the Standing Rock and other Sioux reservations. A serious leak will threaten the water supply of these tribes and millions of people who live further downstream. Meanwhile, pipeline construction has already caused irreparable harm to Native American ancestral burial grounds and sacred sites.

The Water Protectors

 Beginning last April, Water Protectors from across the country — indigenous and non-indigenous alike — began to gather in the thousands at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, established just north of the Standing Rock reservation. Around the camp’s sacred fires, they shared and honored the rituals, stories, and principles of community fundamental to the traditional values of the Lakota tribes: prayer, respect, compassion, honesty, generosity, humility, and wisdom.

At the same time, the Water Protectors sought to block construction of the final section of pipeline. Their non-violent acts of civil resistance were met with attack dogs, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, percussion grenades, water cannons, aerial surveillance, and hundreds of arrests by militarized law-enforcement personnel. The standoff ended a few weeks ago when the Governor of North Dakota, citing safety concerns, issued an emergency evacuation order. Shortly thereafter, authorities forcibly shut down and razed the camp.

Assaults like those that took place at Standing Rock are really nothing new for our nation’s Native peoples. Their history of removal, dispossession, degradation, attempted forced assimilation, and betrayal at the hands of White America runs as long and as deep as the Missouri River itself. Spanning centuries, these experiences form a chronicle of unresolved grief and historical trauma, which Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart has described as “the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over one’s lifetime and from generation to generation following loss of lives, land, and vital aspects of culture.”

The consequences of these brutal colonization practices are visible too in a range of cold, hard statistics. Today Native Americans have a median household income barely two-thirds that of the general population, and their poverty rate is nearly twice as large. They’re half as likely to have a college degree, and their life expectancy is six years shorter. They also suffer from higher rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, incarceration, depression, and PTSD, as well as suicide among their youth.

The survival of Native Americans, their diverse communities, and their rich cultures — despite hardship and oppression, and against such long odds — is a powerful testament to their extraordinary resilience. This abiding strength deserves greater recognition than it receives; like historical trauma, it too is transmitted across lives and generations. Shared narratives, traditional practices, spiritual teachings, the prayerful appreciation of time and place, and respect for the interconnectness of all things serve as crucial protective factors for indigenous tribes and their members.

The Oil Profiteers

 Compared to the Water Protectors who converged at Standing Rock, corporate oil profiteers are a very different breed. But they too have their sacred places: anywhere fossil fuels can be extracted from the ground at a handsome profit. They have rituals too: board meetings where successful ventures are celebrated and forays for new plunder are devised. And, of course, they have their own cherished stories: about the day they first struck it rich; or the time they duped a community into believing that fracking is risk-free; or the shrewd business deal that bankrupted their competition.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this contrast in cultural values. After all, consider the company profile for Energy Transfer Partners. Among its top institutional owners is Goldman Sachs, once famously described as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Donald Trump — “I don’t believe in climate change” — was himself a high-profile investor until conflict-of-interest controversies during his presidential campaign reportedly forced him to sell his holdings. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry was on the company’s board of directors until earlier this year. Perry’s response to the catastrophic BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico — ruled “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” by a federal judge — is memorable in its own right: “There are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented.”

And above all there’s Kelcy Warren, the multi-billionaire CEO of Energy Transfer Partners. His business philosophy is dog-eat-dog survival of the fittest, as he once explained this way: “Like Mother Nature, the energy industry purges itself now and then. …I don’t wish any negatives on my friends, but the most wealth I’ve ever made is during the dark times.” So where was Warren while the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies were braving “dark times” during a bitter North Dakota winter in makeshift huts and tipis? He was probably more than comfortable in his 23,000 square-foot home on ten acres in Texas, with six bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, and “a chip-and-putt green, a pole-vault pit, a four-lane bowling alley, and a 200-seat theater.”

A Movement Grows

 Energy Transfer Partners boasts that the nearly completed pipeline utilizes state-of-the-art safety measures. But comparable pledges have preceded other environmental disasters in the past. The Water Protectors also recognize that these assurances are essentially meaningless for another reason: any construction that encourages continued reliance on fossil fuels is inherently dangerous and potentially calamitous for the Earth and future generations. The world’s leading scientists long ago reached an overwhelming consensus that climate change and global warming are the result of human activity — especially the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas — and that among the adverse consequences are more destructive floods, hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires.

The oil profiteers know this too, but they have hundreds of billions of dollars in annual profits at stake, and large shareholders who vigilantly watch the bottom-line. So greed overwhelms conscience and they resort to false-alarm mind games as part of a massive misinformation campaign, insisting that warnings of planetary peril are vastly overblown. Favorite appeals in their propaganda arsenal include disingenuous denials that climate change exists; bogus claims that scientists disagree about the facts; unfounded assertions that there’s no crisis because we’re capable of adapting to change; and deceitful efforts to portray environmentalists as radical extremists.

Three days after last November’s election, CEO Kelcy Warren was confident about the prospects for the Dakota Access Pipeline: “They will not stop our project. That’s naïve. They’re not stopping our project.” Such arrogance seems to come naturally to someone who’s grown accustomed to relying on friends in high places and his personal wealth — he gave over $100,000 to Trump’s campaign — to achieve self-aggrandizing goals. The words of Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, communicate humility instead: “We have no power…the only thing that we have is support from around the world.”

But this support and solidarity shouldn’t be underestimated. Regardless of the pipeline’s final disposition in the federal courts, Energy Transfer Partners and its cronies have unleashed a counterforce that may well exceed their comprehension and control. While digging for dollars they’ve awakened a movement that combines a long-overdue commitment to addressing the trampled rights of Native Americans with a reinvigorated call for climate justice and environmental action. Today the ranks of the Water Protectors present at Standing Rock have been thinned. But as spring soon arrives on the North Dakota plains, countless more of us are embracing their powerful message of reverence and resistance.

********

Roy Eidelson is a clinical psychologist and the president of Eidelson Consulting, where he studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, former executive director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. Roy can be reached by email at reidelson@eidelsonconsulting.com and on Twitter @royeidelson.

Posted in capitalism, Champions of peace, colonialism, Democracy, Donald Trump, Human rights, Nonviolence, politics, Poverty, Propaganda, Protest, racism, resistance, social justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Predator President

Published on Monday, February 27, 2017, by Common Dreams

The Predatory Presidency

Recent executive orders reveal the Trump White House as a ruthless predator set to prey upon the most vulnerable among us.

In the Galapagos Islands, the racer snakes get ready to launch. (Photo: BBC)

The season premiere of BBC America’s Planet Earth II includes remarkable footage from the desolate Galapagos Islands. In one striking scene, baby marine iguanas race across the sand, desperately trying to elude dozens of snakes eager for their next meal. Although such stark life-or-death struggles are difficult to watch, it helps to remember that they reflect nature’s dynamic balance.

Far more disturbing—and unnatural—are the Trump Administration’s similarly ruthless predator-like attacks on whatever groups it chooses as its prey. Adding to their repugnance, several of these assaults over the past month—through a series of executive orders—are inherently racist, seemingly propelled by the ugly 14-word credo of white nationalists everywhere: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

Three White House orders stand out. First, there’s the determined pursuit of a Muslim travel ban, one that will prevent thousands of tempest-tossed and despairing refugees from entering the country. Second, there’s the heartless stalking of undocumented Hispanic immigrants, including the near indiscriminate roundup, detention, and deportation of law-abiding men, women, and children. And third, there’s the early blueprint for a “tough on crime” law enforcement crackdown, an onslaught that will inevitably and predominantly disrupt and besiege Black communities and activists.

These three groups, all non-white, have been selected as the initial targets for aggressive and oppressive government action (there will undoubtedly be others). To be sure, this isn’t entirely new. As Langston Hughes wrote 80 years ago, “America never was America to me.” But along with Trump himself, influential White House strategists Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller of the “alt-right” and new Attorney General Jeff Sessions have especially troubling histories of outright hostility and scornful indifference toward those who don’t share their skin color.

We’ve also seen that predators in the wild aren’t the only ones to use trickery, deception, and stealth as complements to brute force. Disguising the real impetus behind these executive orders, the Trump White House turns to sky-is-falling psychological mind games, warning us that these steps are necessary to protect the public from dire threats. The Islamophobia-nurturing Muslim travel ban is deceitfully presented as an essential counter-terrorism measure. ICE raids are defended with the fiction that millions of Hispanic immigrants are “bad hombres” and the rest are a drain on limited public resources. And repressive steps against African Americans are justified through bogus tales of a nationwide crime wave and “carnage in our inner cities.”

 

The purpose of these appeals is simple: to short-circuit the public’s critical reasoning; overwhelm us with emotions of fear and dread; and thereby garner either our active support or acquiescence. Once a crisis environment is created, once we begin to catastrophize and imagine the worst possible outcomes, then even the most extreme measures can begin to seem prudent. This is proven snake oil that’s stood the test of time. Recall that Nazi propagandist Herman Goering acknowledged as much when, during the Nuremberg trials after World War II, he explained:

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

But once we recognize these manipulative psychological ploys for what they are, the path forward becomes increasingly clear. First, whenever possible, we must expose and condemn the racist falsehoods of the President and his cronies. Second, we should counter and undermine the constant fearmongering they use to advance their agenda of intolerance. And third, we need to do whatever we can to help protect the individuals, families, and communities most immediately at risk of ambush and assault.

This may sound like a daunting challenge. Fortunately, however, the mass protests and daily acts of civil resistance throughout the country over the past several weeks have already demonstrated our resolve. They’ve also revealed our capacity to expand our “circle of moral concern,” so that it extends well beyond those we hold most dear or consider most similar to us.

In nature, potential prey instinctually use a wide range of strategies to ward off attacks—from camouflage to traveling in groups to alarm signals to communal defense based on strength in numbers—and they rarely succumb without a fight. With the merciless predators from the White House now on the prowl, surely we must be prepared to do the same.

Roy Eidelson

Roy Eidelson is a psychologist and an associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. He can be contacted at reidelson [ at] eidelsonconsulting [dot] com.

Posted in Champions of peace, Democracy, Donald Trump, politics, Propaganda, Protest, racism, resistance, social justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments