Monday, September 29, 2008

Our literature tables at Austin schools

Here's an update on our Nonmilitary Options activities so far this semester...

We've had literature tables at Travis HS, Lanier HS and McCallum HS and have dates planned for Austin HS, LBJ/LASA HS and Garza HS in the next two weeks.

We've done the penny poll and used the new Peace Wheel of Fortune at most of the schools so far this year.

The peace wheel generated lots of interest today at McCallum HS. Most students knew at least one or two of the peace sheroes and heroes on the wheel. Quite a few students knew about the hip-hop/rock band, Flobots (especially their hit song, Handlebars), which was great!
The idea of the wheel is that students spin it, the ticker stops on one of the peace sheroes/heroes, and if students can tell us something about that person, then they choose a prize.

Students liked the new "I think for myself!" buttons, which we used for peace wheel prizes along with Addicted to War books and the new "It's My Life!" books from the American Friends Service Committee.

We gave students who tried the peace wheel an info sheet to study up. Here it is. So, if you see us at your school, you've got an advantage!
Pursuing Justice, Peace and Freedom through Creative Nonviolence
Raul Salinas (1934 – 2008) was an Austin poet and educator who founded the Resistencia Bookstore on South First St. and shared his passion for art, writing and social justice through writing workshops in Austin schools.

Bernice Johnson Reagan is a composer, scholar, educator, performer and founder of the African American a cappella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock. As a college student, she was active in the Civil Rights Movement and was an original member of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) Freedom Singers in 1962.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968) is perhaps the best known of all US Civil Rights leaders. Following methods used by Gandhi and the freedom movement in India, King’s oratory, writings and personal example directed the movement in using nonviolent strategies such as mass marches, boycotts, sit-ins and direct negotiations in achieving equal rights.

John Lennon (1940 – 1980) was a member of the British rock band, The Beatles, and also had a successful solo career. He and his spouse, Yoko Ono were outspoken peace advocates who expressed their views through music and performance art.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel peace laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma who has lived under house arrest in Burma/Myanmar for some 14 years. Even though the government is ruled by a military junta, she is considered a leader by the Burmese people and continues to urge nonviolent resistance to the regime.

Cesar Chavez (1927 – 1993) led worker strikes, boycotts and marches for higher wages and better working conditions for agricultural workers in the US, including South Texas. He and Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers, led the successful California grape boycott and helped organize other labor organizations in Texas and the Midwest.

Julia Butterfly Hill is a poet, speaker and environmental activist who lived for two years on a platform 18 stories high in a 1,000 year-old redwood tree in California as a protest against clear-cutting. Her book about that experience, The Legacy of Luna, was published in 2000.

Flobots is a rock/hip-hop band based in Denver. Their lyrics promote nonviolent social change. Their current release is Fight With Tools.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869 – 1948) was one of the most influential nonviolent activists in history. He helped lead India to independence from British Colonial Rule and his nonviolent methods inspired MLK and others in the US Civil Rights Movement.

Helen Keller (1880 –1968) was the first deafblind person to graduate from college. She learned to speak and became a world traveler and author who was outspoken in her advocacy for peace, women’s voting rights and labor rights.

Camilo Mejia is an Iraq war veteran who refused to return to combat because of moral objections to the war. His conscientious objector claim was denied by the US Army and he served a prison term. He is now president of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Go forth and wage peace!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What to do with the recruiter's climbing wall

Thanks to Seattle friends for sending this photo of Iraq Veterans Against the War taking it to the top on Sept. 23 at the University of Washington, where recruiters had set up a climbing wall.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ben McKenzie compelling in new film, "Johnny Got His Gun"

Following on the previous blog post, this review of the new film based on the book by Dalton Trumbo is timely. The one-actor film premiered in Austin last night to a riveted audience. Here's an excellent account of the evening and the film. Don't miss it.

Johnny Got His Gun

By Alice Embree / The Rag Blog / September 23, 2008

“Johnny Got His Gun” opens in Austin September 26th at the Dobie Theatre. It is a starkly powerful film based on a 1939 antiwar novel by Dalton Trumbo. The sole actor is Austin native Ben McKenzie, best known for his role as a high school heartthrob in the television show, O.C.

See this movie. See it because Ben McKenzie is a fine actor. See it because Dalton Trumbo, one of the blacklisted Hollywood 10, writes a compelling story.

Let it stir memories of what a simply staged production can evoke. Buy a ticket because a portion of the ticket price supports the Fallen Patriot Fund for injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Johnny Got His Gun” premiered at the Paramount in Austin Monday night. The audience included friends of Ben McKenzie and his family and peace activists along with young people brought there by Ben McKenzie’s star power. I wondered what the younger contingent thought when they silenced their cell phones to see a movie with no special effects and few laugh-lines. We have become so accustomed to multi-sensory experience, so wired to on-screen movement, that the sheer simplicity of this production is shocking.

Other characters were present only through the description of Joe Bonham, a quadruple amputee with catastrophic injuries to his face. The film traps you in a small space in the same way Joe Bonham is trapped.

“It evokes the isolation of major injury,” said a GI rights counselor after the film. Cindy Thomas, Army spouse, put it more simply to the director, “It reminded me of Walter Reed.”

I asked Ben McKenzie how he came to act in this movie. He said that the director, Rowan Joseph, approached him about the project. It was a powerful script and he thought he could reach a younger generation with its message.

Dalton Trumbo wrote his award-winning novel prompted by a news story about an American soldier hit by an artillery shell during World War I. As the soldier regains consciousness, he struggles to mark time and find ways to communicate. He asks to be put on display in the halls of Congress and in front of Parliaments as a living example of the true cost of war.

Dalton Trumbo, called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947, was blacklisted and spent nearly a year in prison. He wrote under pseudonyms until the 60s. In 1971, as another war raged, he directed a screen adaptation of “Johnny Got His Gun,” starring Timothy Bottoms and Jason Robards.

We live in an era of sanitized war. Unlike the Vietnam era, most of us are shielded from the experience because there is no draft. There is virtually no television coverage of the war. Peace activists struggle to break through the ether. Hopefully, with Ben McKenzie as a draw, “Johnny Got His Gun” will bring the human cost of war to a new and wider audience.[For more about Johnny Got His Gun, go here.]

Gods of metal

Gods of metal
by Steve Baggarly

Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach , Virginia , hosted its fiftieth annual air show this weekend. Oceana is home to F-18 Hornets and Super Hornets which are deployed on aircraft carriers stationed at Norfolk Naval Base. This year's show, dubbed “A Legacy of Excellence,” is one of over 200 air shows taking place across the country this year from March to November.

Air shows are the US Military's hottest community relations and recruiting tool. Many take place on military bases that are opened to the public for the occasion, others at local airports or fair grounds. At Oceana, attendees were dazzled by active duty fighters, bombers, transports, and spy planes, as well as historical and stunt aircraft, displayed both on the ground and in speed-filled, eardrum-shattering air demonstrations. Booths sponsored by defense contractors lauding the next generations of military aircraft under development offered pencils, stickers, and glossy photos of sleek futuristic war planes.

With local radio stations playing rock and country music, lines of concession stands, and picnicking areas, the show was an intentionally family affair as the endless stream of strollers attested. Also on hand were small Naval river craft crowded with kids behind the machine guns, a rack of M-4 and M-16 rifles and Army issue shotguns for visitors to handle, an opportunity for small children to lay in the grass with a sniper's rifle and peer through its sights, and a virtual Army experience in which groups of people embark on their own company-sized Army mission. But the Navy's Blue Angels precision flying team and the other military aircraft were the stars of the show.

Unmentioned anywhere was the sole purpose for the existence of all the assembled high-tech weaponry on display. Nowhere was their killing vocation acknowledged. Nowhere was the reality of the people under the bombs even whispered; the deafening explosions, the quaking earth, the fear, the chaos, the smoke and fire, the loss of homes, jobs, utilities, and resources, the burning of flesh, the spurting of blood, the pain and shock, the blinding, maiming, and crippling, the loss of limbs, the deep psychological trauma, the soul-rending howls of new orphans and widows. Nowhere was mentioned the inherently indiscriminate nature of airstrikes; that every time a bomb bay door opens or a wing launcher is fired that civilians, innocents, and children are as likely as anything to be blown to shreds. Nowhere were the photos of decapitated or blood-drenched Iraqi and Afghan children. Nowhere was posted the definition of war crimes.

Such realities would have upset what was essentially a religious event. Faith in the weapons was palpable. The aircraft were heralded as the source of freedom and security, peace and prosperity. These attributes of a deity were readily assigned to the warplanes, the airborne idols of our national religion, militarism. In the end it is our B-52's and F-18's and our stealth fighters and bombers that we believe will save us. We entrust our children to their protection, swell with pride when they join the ranks in their service, and freely give our money to create ever more lethal versions. This is the message of the air shows; life as we know it is made possible by these planes and we owe them our absolute and undying allegiance.

There are two air shows each year in Virginia 's Hampton Roads area, and several hundred thousand people attend the three-day events. This weekend at Oceana four people disturbed the good order of the show by climbing atop the B-52 bomber on display with banners reading “We Shalt Not Kill” and “Weapons of Mass Destruction are Nothing to Celebrate.” Each one of the Air Force's 66 nuclear capable B-52's can carry the equivalent of 320 Hiroshima bombs. They can also carry 70,000 pounds of conventional weapons (including cluster bombs, cruise missiles and gravity bombs) and in their 45 year history have carpet bombed Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The four banner bearers were detained along with eight observers. Eleven people were given letters banning them from Naval installations from Virginia to Maine . One member of the Norfolk Catholic Worker violated a previous banning order and will face a trespassing charge in Federal Court in Norfolk on November 3 rd that carries up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.

Air shows are public liturgies venerating our gods of metal. They glorify our wars and they indoctrinate our children. Go to and find the air show nearest you. Then grab some friends, some signs, literature, puppets or a bullhorn, and, as Dan Berrigan said, “Don't just do something, stand there !”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Boston College students stage protest at career fair

It was great to read this report, published on Thursday, September 18, 2008 by The Heights (Massachussetts), the independent student newspaper of Boston College:

Students Protest Defense Contractors At Career Fair
by Alexi Chi

BOSTON, Mass. - A group of 20 Boston College students stood out from the throng of suited undergrads who crowded Conte Forum during Tuesday's career fair. Those students, clad in "Who Would Jesus Bomb" T-shirts and kneeling silently, were protesting the presence of weapons manufacturers at the annual BC career fair.

The protest was organized by the Global Justice Project (GJP), a non-hierarchical organization whose mission is to educate and advocate for justice and democracy at BC.

Fifteen student demonstrators knelt at the recruitment tables of military contractors Raytheon and BAE Systems.
To the side of the kneeling students, six others participated in a satirical theater demonstration, posing as recruiters from a fictitious competing weapons manufacturer, the Civil Liberties On-Line Weapons Network Services (CLOWNS). The protestors actively tried to recruit career fair attendees to work for their company, offering "frequent buyer airfare packages ... to defend and promote democracy abroad." Midway through the event, students unfurled a banner, reading "Do Jesuits support cluster bombs? Kick Raytheon and all war off campus!"

"I feel that by refusing to un-invite Raytheon, the BC administration is condoning the company's policies, which to me is clearly contradictory to the Jesuit philosophy of this institution," said Tim Dingman, a member of the GJP and A&S '11.

Student demonstrators elected not to apply for a University-issued demonstration permit, citing the administration's "frighteningly clear" pattern of censoring student groups and infringing on their right to dissent and free expression on campus. They instead issued a "student demonstration permit" to members of the University. The permit read, in part, "not only do we believe we have an obligation to peacefully demonstrate the presence of weapons manufacturers on our campus, but we believe that dialogue and freeexchange of ideas are vital to the academic setting of any university that claims to espouse the values of scholarship and higher education."
The permit said that weapons manufacturers reap financial gain from violent and deadly global conflict, and asked whether BC supports organizations that are "helping to build the Kingdom of God," or ones that "create the deadly bombs to destroy it."

This is the fifth career fair protest that has taken place in the last five years, but past demonstrations have not been conducted as peaceably.
In 2005, the GJP's plans to protest the presence of Raytheon included a display that was to include faux Raytheon workers who were assembling a missile, as well as a bomb scene complete with bodies and debris. Though the organization sought and obtained permission to stage its demonstration, the University was unaware of the dramatic display the group had planned; the protest was cancelled at the last minute.

In 2004, 12 students staged a "pray-in" at the career fair at the Raytheon without University permission. Two of the demonstrators who refused to leave after the BC Police Department and the dean for student development arrived faced disciplinary action.

"As people of conscience, our faith demands that we actively work toward peace and justice," said Kathryn Bishop, a student demonstrator and A&S '10. "Today's prayer and protest is a small, but important step on the road toward nonviolence and disarmament."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

PeaceJam 2008

A post about PeaceJam, happening right about now: Sept. 11 - 13 in Los Angeles...

written by Amanda Molinaro, Irvine, CA

September 16, 2006 saw the largest gathering of Nobel Prize winners in US history. 10 Nobel Peace Laureates gathered in Denver, Colorado, and collectively challenged the world:

“Today we ask the young leaders of PeaceJam, and the youth of the entire world, to join us in a Global Call to Action. For the next ten years, we invite them to work side by side with us as we address ten fundamental issues. These ten core problems are at the root of much of the suffering in our world, and we believe that young people can mobilize to make a difference in these ten key areas. It is our hope that by launching this ten-year campaign, we can inspire people of all ages, worldwide, to work for change. Over the next ten years, we hope to inspire over a billion acts of service and peace.”

Ivan Suvanjeiff first conceived the idea for PeaceJam on the streets of Denver in 1994, where he met a Latino gang who knew of, and appreciated, Desmond Tutu’s nonviolent efforts towards change. He enlisted the help of several Nobel Peace Laureates, and PeaceJam began campaigning worldwide, teaching youths how to initiate peaceful change by addressing 10 key issues plaguing the world:

- Equal Access to Water and Other Natural Resources -Ending Racism and Hate -Halting the Spread of Global Disease -Eliminating Extreme Poverty -Social Justice and Human Rights for All -Rights for Women and Children, and their role as Leaders -Restoring Earth’s Environment -Controlling the Proliferation of Weapons -Investing in Human Security -Breaking the Cycle of Violence.

Today, PeaceJam is a leadership training program for youths which focuses on the words and works of 12 Nobel Peace Laureates: the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Oscar Arias, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Betty Williams, Jody Williams, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jose Ramos-Horta, Sir Joseph Rotblat, and Shirin Ebadi.

These men and women have dedicated their lives to working for peace, equality, justice and a better world, and they want to teach today’s youth generation how to work to replace violence and oppression in the world today with peace and conflict resolution.

The PeaceJam Foundation is dedicated to inspiring a new generation of youths who are committed to working towards positive change in the world. The Foundation’s mission is to have Nobel Peace Laureates working side by side with today’s youths to initiate nonviolent change and spread peace. Every year, the PeaceJam Foundation holds the Global Call to Action, where six laureates gather to address youths between the ages of 14 and 25 about these 10 current issues and the steps that should be taken to rectify them.

“Since its launch in 1996, more than 600,000 youth have participated in the PeaceJam program. Over one million service projects have been created and implemented by participating youth, and over 140 PeaceJam youth events have taken place in 10 different countries throughout the world."

The next Global Call to Action will be held from September 11-13, 2008, at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Shirin Ebadi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Betty Williams, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, and Jody Williams will address over 3000 youths, with the goal of implementing one billion acts of peace which pertain to current, pressing issues of society.

PeaceJam believes that “it is time for youth to step up and define our future.” Help PeaceJam’s simple, but daring goal to initiate 1 billion acts of peace by its 20th anniversary in 2016, and watch a brighter future unfold.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Youth Art and Action Training

The Nonviolent Youth Collective is hosting an arts-based skills training October 16-19th, 2008 in Nyack, NY (home of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.)
The weekend will use training-for-trainers arts-based skills and creative direct action, with a focus on counter recruitment and conscientious objection, applicable to other kinds of organizing as well.

Applications are due by September 15th, and can be sent to

The training will take place from the evening of Thursday, October 16th to the evening of Sunday, October 20th, just outside of New York City in Nyack, NY.
The sliding scale will be from $75-$250 based on ability to pay, and will cover housing, food, materials and training for the weekend.

The goals of this training are:**To strengthen the Counter Recruitment and Conscientious Objector movements in the U.S. through training and skill sharing, creating imagery, visioning, and cultivating arts-based capacity for young trainers.**To network and build community among NVYC members and other young counter recruitment activists.** To continue to build a network of young artists and activists committed to nonviolent, creative action in resistance to militarism at home and abroad.
For any questions or for more information, contact Brie Phillips at 651-757-5353 or at