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Revelations: Imagine

December 08, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Education, Intersectionality, Spirituality, What People are Doing to Change the World

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”
         ― John Lennon ( October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980)

The Death and Life of John Lennon, by Pete Hamill

New York Magazine, December 20, 1980

“The news arrived like fragment of some forgotten ritual. First a flash on television, interrupting the tail end of a football game. Then the telephones ringing, back and forth across the city, and then another bulletin, with more details, and then more phone calls from around the country, from friends, from kids with stunned voices, and then the dials being flipped from channel to channel while WINS played on the radio. And yes: It was true. Yes: Somebody had murdered John Lennon.

And because it was John Lennon, and because it was a man with a gun, we fell back into the ritual. If you were there for the sixties, the ritual was part of your life. You went through it for John F. Kennedy and for Martin Luther King, for Malcolm X and for Robert Kennedy. The earth shook, and then grief was slowly handled by plunging into newspapers and television shows. We knew there would be days of cliché-ridden expressions of shock from the politicians; tearful shots of mourning crowds; obscene invasions of the privacy of The Widow; calls for gun control; apocalyptic declarations about the sickness of America; and then, finally, the orgy over, everybody would go on with their lives.

Except . . . this time there was a difference. Somebody murdered John Lennon. Not a politician. Not a man whose abstract ideas could send people to wars, or bring them home; not someone who could marshal millions of human beings in the name of justice; not some actor on the stage of history. This time, someone had crawled out of a dark place, lifted a gun, and killed an artist. This was something new. The ritual was the same, the liturgy as stale as ever, but the object of attack was a man who had made art. This time the ruined body belonged to someone who had made us laugh, who had taught young people how to feel, who had helped change and shape an entire generation, from inside out. This time someone had murdered a song. “

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Honesty

November 11, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Gun Culture, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

CI: Militarization, Surveillance, and the Police State, Part 2

August 28, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Militarization, Surveillance, and the Police State, Part 2
by nancy a heitzeg

“It is white power that makes the laws, and it is violent white power in the form of armed white cops that enforces those laws with guns and nightsticks.”  Stokely Carmichael, Towards Black Liberation 1966

Or maybe with tanks and drones. Add a few officers of color too.

Carmichael’s central premise remains unchanged, but the technology, and perhaps too the scope of the dragnet has changed.

In recent posts – Tagging, Tasers, and the Police State, Part 1 and Unpacking “Chiraq”: Repression, RICO, and War on Terror TacticsCI has explored the deepening connections between policing and war, the alignment of those two deadlyindustrial complexes  of our time – prison and military. The connections are both literal in terms of the use of military technology, but conceptual as well. The citizenry as “enemy” to be  battled and defeated.

No questions. No quarter.

Of course, this has been the experience of communities of color since colonial days, but the rapid expansion of the technology of mass surveillance and the tactics of war have spilled out into the populace at large, threatening even those they were once designed to protect.

(more…)

War Is Over (If You Want It)

May 25, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Spirituality

John and Yoko’s Second Bed-in for Peace, Montreal:

Following their seven-day bed-in for peace at the Amsterdam Hilton in March 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held a second, similar event at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada.

They took corner suite rooms 1738, 1740 and 1742 at the hotel. Montreal wasn’t their first choice; initially they had planned to hold it in New York, but Lennon wasn’t allowed into the country due to his conviction for cannabis possession the previous year..

The bed-in caused instant worldwide media coverage, and Lennon and Ono spoke to up to 150 journalists each day. In the United States around 350 radio stations reported the event, carrying the couple’s message of peace and protests against the Vietnam war.

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CI Special Edition: Of Guns and Bitter

December 16, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Of Guns and Bitter
by nancy a heitzeg

“As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
~ Statement from The President on School Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut

In the face of yet another unspeakable tragedy - 28 Dead, 20 of them small children -  attention turns yet again to the ubiquity and ready availability of guns. There are more 300 million guns in private hands here — one for nearly every man woman and child in the United States. Since the 2004 expiration of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, some of these legally owned guns include semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15.

In addition, these guns are more freely assessable due to a plethora of NRA/ALEC driven lax gun laws — some 99 reduced restrictions on permits, training, buying/selling, conceal and carry in the past three years alone. Their unfettered use is also increasingly supported by law; as detailed in CI last week, Stand Your Ground/Shoot First legislation allows shooters in 25 states to claim self-defense under situations that were once simply plain murder.

The expected result is a seemingly endless death toll. The United States ranks 5th in the World for murder by gun  – these shootings occur on the street, in homes and what seems to be a growing number of mass shootings at schools, places of work and worship, and public spaces.

And, in the face of these unspeakable tragedies, the reaction is often the same. Horror. Shock. The Tragedy of Silence is temporarily broken. Media attention that exploits individual and personal tragedy. Story lines that search for “motive” and individualized explanations. The “othering” of the shooter – labels of “mental illness” if the shooter is white; “thuggery” if not. The anger, the bitterness,  the blame.

And then the calls for tougher gun laws – certainly a renewed ban on assault weapons, but more improbable calls too, such as Repeal the Second Amendment.

A Word of Caution from Melissa Harris-Perry:
guns

“What I would caution–and I think it’s part of the lesson we learn as parents, and that we also have to learn as a country, vis-á-vis our children–is that we cannot make them safe at all times. And so we have to be careful about the reaction being, ‘Let’s build a moat, and a wall, and a metal detector around our whole worlds.’ We can, however, change the structural realities in which they exist that make them safer because there would be fewer available guns… we can’t exclusively lead with our hearts. We must also lead with our heads as we start thinking about reasonable reactions to this.”

I echo these concerns.

Full disclosure: I strongly support the reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban. I fully support the stricter regulations on the manufacture, sale and possession of guns and ammo, as well as the repeal of lax conceal/carry laws and Shoot First legislation. I am opposed to “sport hunting“, the tactics/politics of the odious NRA and the gun show loophole.

But I am not opposed to the Second Amendment, nor to the notion expressed in District of Columbia v. Heller that the “right to keep and bear arms” is an individual right. I support legitimate efforts at self-defense as both individual and collective community rights. By any means necessary – No Justice/No Peace.

I am also aware that “increasing criminalization would adversely affect certain populations”, most notably communities of color. Consider this:

  • The school security measures instituted post-Columbine ostensibly to “protect” students – security cameras., metal detectors, an on-site police presence  – became, in inner city majority Black/Brown schools,  a vehicle for  turning schools into mini-security states and  the grease for the “school to prison pipeline”.

We must be clear – the law has never saved us, calls for “law and order” and more more more criminalization never make us safer, In fact, for certain communities at least, it escalates the risk of institutionalized state violence.

So Yes, let us have that national conversation about reinstating the assault weapons ban, the repeal of Shoot First legislation and increasing the regulation of all guns and ammo.

But let’s make sure all voices are at the table and heeded too, especially those who will bear the brunt of our “solutions”. Let’s not replicate yet again our old “Law and Order” mistakes. Let’s discuss not just more legislation but an end to differential enforcement as well.

Let us remember too, that this will the beginning and not the end of the conversation –  guns are just another tool for violence in a culture that celebrates, commodifies and capitalizes on it at every turn.

The real conversation must ultimately be much broader – the  real solutions so much bolder.

I hope that we are finally ready…

namesGraphic: New York Times

John Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980)

December 08, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Spirituality

A Remembrance ~ Mother Jones

War Is Over in 100 Languages ~ Imagine Peace

“He Was a Holy Fool” ~ UK Guardian

Norman R. Morrison 1933-1965: A Light Cuts Through the Fog of War

November 20, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights

Norman R. Morrison 1933-1965: A Light Cuts Through the Fog of War
commentary by nancy a heitzeg

“The life is mightier than the book that reports it. The most important thing in the world is that our faith becomes living experience and deed of life.” 

`Norman Morrison, 1965 (notes from a lesson for an adult class at Stony Run Meeting)

Forty seven years ago to this day. At dusk. The Pentagon. In front of McNamara’s window. Norman R. Morrison handed his off his infant daughter Emily and set himself a blaze.

“The Quaker did it one rush hour evening, in gathering dark. No Buddhist monks were present to feed peppermint oil on the flames and keep down the smell of burning flesh. The fire shot ten to twelve feet into the air- so said a Pentagon guard who tore to an alarm box to call the fire department… The flames, people said, made an envelope of color around his asphyxiating body. The sound of it, one witness said, was like the whoosh of small-rocket fire.”

Morrison left behind a wife, Anne, and in addition to Emily, two small children. The day after his death, a letter arrived.

“Dearest Anne, please don’t condemn me. For weeks, even months, I have been praying only that I be shown what I must do. This morning with no warning I was shown…at least I shall not plan to go without my child, as Abraham did. Know that I love thee but must act for the children in the priests village. Norman”

Words have never been sufficient to explain the Morrison sacrifice, and so here at home, thirty years of silence sealed the date in mute grief and horror. Only The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War and In Retrospect finally call for an accounting, later offered by Anne Morrison Welsh herself in Fire of the Heart and Held in the Light.

In Vietnam, there was no such moratorium. The magnitude was immediately clear. Morrison was at once at folk hero. A street in Hanoi bears his name – Mo Ri Xon. A stamp in his honor. Seven days after his death, revolutionary poet Tố Hữu penned the words that claim Emily as their child, words still recited by Vietnamese school children even today.

Forty seven years later, our words remain insufficient. So they will be few here.

Just enough to remember, to honor great sacrifice.

Just enough to again say Peace in the face of endless war.

(more…)

Wellstone!

October 24, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Poverty, Voting Rights, Workers' Rights

Politics isn’t about big money or power games; it’s about the improvement of people’s lives.

~ Paul Wellstone (1944 – October 25, 2002)