Let’s Talk Ferguson — Chicago Symposium January 14

Urgent update:  We have just today, Jan 13, received word of a priceless opportunity occurring the evening of January 14 in Chicago.

The Yearly Meeting has joined with various Monthly Meetings in discussing the social issues raised by the events in Ferguson and elsewhere in the country.  There is a remarkably related event planned for January 14, as follows: Continue reading

Are we asking the wrong question? (Drones Part Two)

A query in search of words.

“My son is a soldier in Afghanistan. If a drone will protect my child from harm, so be it.”

​I listened and I trembled inside. The parent spoke at a public lecture critical of our government’s use of drones. For a few moments a stillness settled on the room. I do not take the parent’s statement as rebuttal to the speaker. Rather, I remember it as an implicit question: how do I reconcile my concern for my child with criticism of government behavior?

​For that moment we stood on common ground: the speaker, members of the audience, the parent, and myself. Discussion stopped. In the stillness I felt this common ground slipping from beneath us. And after a few heartbeats, the room was filled with words about legalities, disclosure, and accountability.

I continue to reflect on that moment, remembering that I have, as many of us have, witnessed similar moments since the days of Vietnam. During those five decades we have seen these moments repeated when shared concern, even skepticism, about a foreign venture is deflected. Whatever the defects in the policy, we hear that we need to support our children in uniform or that our security requires that certain prices be paid.

When the parent spoke, how might I have responded? I remain uncertain. While analytical arguments about political systems and cultural values and about complexities of effective dissent provide necessary perspective, that talk seems insufficient by itself to address this question in search of the right words. After all the talk about constitutional questions, this place may remain barely explored. The parent’s response silences criticism of state policy. And criticism of state behavior often evades the parent’s question. The answer lies somewhere beyond the question: do I stop the drones or do I support our loved ones?

And so I feel drawn to this still point in time. At once I empathize with the parent and remain no less convinced that the drones are wrong. Moreover as a parent I know that these killing machines kill children over there. Today a parent in Afghanistan may be saying that if it were not for the drone, he would be having dinner with his daughter.

Sometimes we tell ourselves that we are asking the wrong question. Today I do not know the words for my question. Yet I feel it necessary to continue searching. I feel so when I stand at my community’s Saturday peace vigil and meet neighbors who are friendly to the dream of peace but conditioned to be fearful for their security. Again, the problem is posed as a choice between either peace or war with little ground between. Repeatedly though in different ways, I feel common ground slip away. Perhaps a first step may be taken simply by taking a deep breath and not stepping out of that still place.

Good work is being done that may enable us to sit in that still place between seeming opposites or irreconcilables for a bit loner. Last year neighbors in my community gathered in groups to read and discuss Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life” and the Charter for Compassion project. That discussion continues in several forms including the Nonviolent Carbondale project. Parker Palmer comes to this place in his “Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit”. And Living Room Conversations works to bridge political division.

​I am imagining a long process of undoing deep habits of thought that we share and that stymie our imaginations. But the wars have been going on for a long time, so long that we may simply call it The War. Learning the facts and calling for disclosure of government behaviors informs the discussion. But I wonder. The facts alone about drones or other policies once disclosed may not mean that they bring us forward. Intellect helps, no doubt, to address recurring concerns. Yet intellect alone may remain stymied, as it was that evening, without union with compassion and listening. Perhaps then we can work with that parent.

Building bridges across political divides

Parker Palmer writes (on Facebook):

Joan Blades is co-founder and co-chair of the well-known political organization MoveOn, which promotes liberal and progressive causes. Some people (and I’m one of them) are grateful for MoveOn. Some are not. But this post is not about taking political sides. It’s about building bridges across political divides.

Joan has launched a new project I’m excited about. Called “Living Room Conversations”, its purpose is to foster civil discourse between folks who differ politically and help them make common cause.

Want to see something hopeful? Check out the conversation. You’ll see and hear a dialogue between Joan and Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots: two people who are poles apart politically, but who found overlapping concerns and mutual respect through this project.

The site is full of resources for starting your own Living Room Conversations with family members, neighbors, colleagues and friends. This kind of conversation can help “We the People” overcome our divisions and become a political power again—the power on which American democracy depends.

Joan and her colleagues are “putting wheels” on some of the things I wrote about in “Healing the Heart of Democracy”. So I’m very grateful for Joan’s endorsement of the book, which you can learn more about at the site below:

“Can we keep our sights on the vision of what we aspire to be while working constructively to transform realities that do not yet fulfill that vision? How do we remain ‘open hearted’ so that we can engage creatively with citizens who hold different views of the challenges we face? ‘Healing the Heart of Democracy’ asks these necessary questions and inspires us to answer.” — Joan Blades

Testing our students for military service

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in 12,000 high schools across the country.

The four hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain sensitive, personal information on more than 660,000 high school students across the country every year, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically are given the test at school without parental knowledge or consent.

The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy is working to prohibit the automatic release of student information to military recruiting services gathered through the administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Career Exploration Program in high schools across the country.

None of the cities or states with ILYM meetings seem to be currently addressing this issue, but you can learn more about how school districts elsewhere in the country are:

Is your Meeting working to address the privacy of students mandated to take the ASVAB?

Earlier this Spring, The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth reported on the work of the Texas organization, Peaceful Vocations, who presented to the Texas State Board making the request that “Option 8” be the choice for all Texas schools when administering the ASVAB. Since students and parents may not currently determine how test information is released, if a school chooses “Option 8” it will allow for a parent to decide: they may still give permission for the test results to be released to military recruiters, but with this policy change the decision rests with the parent, not the school.

Learn more about the work of The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy and The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth to explore what you and your Meeting can do to address this issue.

It has been reported that there was local activity several years ago up in the Chicago region under the name “Chicagoland Coalition Opposed to Militarization of Youth” who gained attention in 2006 for their efforts (read article here). Might anyone know if their work continues?

Quaker Peacemakers Project: Elizabeth Mertic

Elizabeth Mertic is a member of Lake Forest Friends Meeting and attends Evanston Monthly Meeting. She has lived in Evanston since May 2001. Elizabeth’s strong interest in peace began when she was an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin-Madison where she met Francis Hole from Madison Meeting. When Elizabeth moved to Chicago in 1958, she began attending 57th Street Meeting and joined the Peace & Social Concerns Committee.  In 1960 she was a participant in the Ring around the Pentagon demonstration along with hundreds of other Friends from across the country. Elizabeth shares: “I have gradually moved toward the goal of growing more peaceful with myself, which will help me live peacefully with the rest of humanity.”

Click the play button below to hear Elizabeth’s reflections on peacemaking.

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The Peace Resources Committee interviewed Elizabeth alongside Joey Rodger and Sara Gmitter in front of a live participatory audience at Evanston Monthly Meeting in November 2012. Listen in to hear her talk about peacemaking as a daily practice, being active in commuinity, and remaining hopeful. Elizabeth shared of her experience with the Iraqi Student Project, supporting two young Iraqi women attending DePaul University in the Chicago.

Click here to learn more about the Quaker Peacemakers Archive Project where you can nominate Friends in Illinois Yearly Meeting you think should be included in this effort. The project aims to compile and preserve an oral history of Friends whose contributions to peace building offer wonderful opportunities for reflection. As Friends tell their stories in their own words, these recordings will capture and preserve unique and inspired personal acts and thoughts which enrich our Yearly Meeting.

Music: “On Reflection” by The Appleseed Cast (Low Level Owl: Volume 1, 2000)

Who inspires you?

Quaker Voluntary Service grew out of the leading of young adult Friends to reclaim Quaker Service for our time. Though the model is different from previous incarnations of Quaker service and witness, QVS has directly benefitted from earlier generations and honors these stories. And those Quakers of earlier generations, who gave of their gifts to make this world more peaceful and just, continue to inspire. They served through Civilian Public Service (CPS), through Quaker work camps, through American Friends Service Committee and other relief efforts after wars and disasters, through Alternative Service programs for Conscientious Objectors, and in numerous other ways. Many of them are the models we think of when we aspire to rekindle that spirit and commitment to transformative Quaker service as envisioned by Quaker Voluntary Service.

As Quaker Voluntary Service offers new generations of young adults the opportunity to contribute to the expansive work for change, QVS wants to highlight the stories of those who have come before us. This is just the beginning of these efforts, but there is hope you will read these incredible stories and share with QVS others that you may know.

If you would like to contribute a story of Quaker service to this collection, please email: stories@quakervoluntaryservice.org.

Click here to read this beautiful collection of Quaker Service Testimonies.

AFSC offers resources for fostering religious tolerance

Quaker meetings and churches can help AFSC by doing some specific things to support our peace and justice work. This year we are inviting you to help with our work to create more religiously hospitable communities by engaging with a film resource, “Hawo’s Dinner Party: The New Face of Southern Hospitality.”

“Hawo’s Dinner Party” is a video module designed to support dialogue, bridge-building, and cultural exchange in communities that receive immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries.

Directed and produced by Kim A. Snyder and executive produced by BeCause Foundation in association with Active Voice, the module follows the trajectory of Hawo Siyad, a refugee and former nurse from Somalia, who has come to work at the nearby Tyson Foods chicken processing plant. Dressed in colorful hijab even on the assembly line, Hawo is determined to learn English and to connect with her neighbors. But as news of “home grown terrorism” appears in the national media and as Hawo tries to reach out, we get an intimate glimpse into the honest—and often uncomfortable—encounters that emerge.

You can learn more about “Hawo’s Dinner Party” and the Shelbyville Multimedia Project at www.ShelbyvilleMultimedia.org. Active Voice would really like to know if you have offered an event; you can send that information to Lucy Duncan at lduncan (at) afsc.org and AFSC will pass it along.

Click here to read the full article, find event planning resources and discussion questions.

Why you might consider boycotting SodaStream

When: Saturday, April 27 at 12pm noon
Where: Chicago City Target, 1 S. State St., Chicago, IL 60603 (map)

SodaStream is an Israeli corporation produces gadgets to make homemade soda from tap water. SodaStreamproduces its products primarily in an illegal settlement built on stolen Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. They enforce harsh working conditions, low wages, and revolving door employment policies for Palestinian workers. SodaStream markets itself as an environmentally-friendly product to “Turn Water Into Fresh Sparkling Water And Soda.” But there is nothing friendly about the destruction of Palestinian life, land, and water resources.

This settlement company obscures its true illegal origin by marking its products “Made in Israel.” “Made in an illegal Israeli settlement” is more like it. Tell Target and folks thinking about buying SodaStream products, that there is nothing friendly about occupation!

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/380620872051571

Sponsored by: The Chicago Sodastream Boycott Campaign

Connect your meeting to AFSC

Activism in the Meetinghouse
Have you signed up to be a Meeting/Church liaison or want to learn more? Lucy Duncan will be hosting an orientation call on Monday, April 22nd from 7:30pm-8:30pm EST. For call-in information, email friends@afsc.org.

How a community heals: A conversation with Denise Altvater
The first ever Truth and Reconciliation Commission between a sovereign tribal nation and a US state was seated on Feb. 12, this interviews explains how it came to be. “The hurts are so deep. Once everyone can tell their story, the healing will come for them; the community will heal, too. We need to understand how what happened impacts how we treat each other, and how we need to heal in order for things to change. There is power in having a voice.” You can also read a poem written for the occasion.

Calling forth the goodness podcasts
Madeline Schaefer, Friends relations fellow, is producing a series of podcasts on AFSC’s work, “Calling forth the goodness,” which features the voices of communities and Quakers that work together to create change. The first one, “Working at the Root” is about AFSC’s farmer-to-farmer training program in New Mexico. The second episode, “The Seeds of an Occupation,” tells the story of AFSC’s growing involvement in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Recent AFSC guest posts
Johan Maurer wrote a moving guest post that tells a bit of his spiritual journey, “Love your enemies: Learning to trust in the face of violence.” Doug Bennett wrote about the value of the AFSC Corporation, which gathers this week beginning on Friday for a two-day meeting.

Announcements for meeting newsletters
Webinar on AFSC’s website for Friends: In January Ralph Medley, Web director, and Lucy Duncan, Friends liaison, hosted a webinar on how to learn about AFSC’s programs by navigating AFSC’s website. You can watch that here.

Wage Peace toolkit and banner: Given the current conversations about the federal budget, there is an opening to raise voices asking that the percentage of dollars going to the military be reduced. AFSC has produced a toolkit for download to help Friends and others advocate for a shift in priorities. You can also order a 20-foot banner for your meeting house or for protests which shows the current budget priorities. The banners are $200; email wagepeace@afsc.org to order one.

Job openings
AFSC is seeking candidates for the Deputy General Secretary and other positions. Take a look at the current job openings and let other Friends know.

Post-Traumatic Stress – A Natural Response to War

Watch a video interview of Nao Rozi, an Afghan National Army veteran who is now a member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. When Dr. Hakim reflected on this interview for a postscript, he shared “my thinking about war trauma transformed in the few minutes that I was interviewing… Nao Rozi, an Afghan National Army veteran. War related post-traumatic stress is a natural order, not a disorder.”

Click here to read the transcript and additional after-thoughts from Dr. Hakim, published by Fellowship of Reconciliation.