SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
We live in a time fraught with bad news. From the toll of violence and poverty to the escalating march of climate change, every week brings temptations to despair. Hope may actually be more beleaguered in the wake of a president who won the office in part by branding himself with it. Many have concluded that political participation has become a futile game.
For myself, I deal with potential despair by finding ways to act. And remembering that the doors to social change are never irrevocably closed, even in unimaginably difficult situations. Think of Nelson Mandela and his compatriots being told they would rot and die on Robben Island. Denied newspapers as a way of isolating them, they’d see a guard discard a newspaper he’d used to wrap his sandwich, and one of the prisoners would retrieve it, smuggle it under their shirt, and in a tiny coded script on toilet paper (the only paper they had), would circulate a story or headline that would give their compatriots courage.
If members of the US public were ever to wonder what the other 95% of humanity thinks about them, would it be better to break that harsh truth to them gently or just to blurt it out?
I'm going to go with the latter.
The way the United States has chosen to approach the chaos of the Middle East has far more frightening implications than we think, especially in terms of the world our children will inherit. If we are honest about how our adversaries perceive us, we will have to admit that there is a grand cycle of violence and insult operating, in which we ourselves are implicated up to our necks.
If we are to have any chance of breaking this potentially endless cycle (our military bases in Saudi Arabia leading to 9-11; 9-11 leading to the second Gulf War, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib; the second Gulf War helping to create ISIS; ISIS beheading our journalists; President Obama suckered into reluctant bellicosity etc. etc. etc), we have to start by admitting our own role in it—something extremely difficult for our culture, and therefore almost impossible for our political leaders.
Over 10,000 women from the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland gathered May 12-15, 2014, in Malmo, Sweden for the "Nordisk Forum: New Actions on Women’s Rights." As a regional conference, it was a strategy to augment the work done in the World Conferences on Women that had been regularly taking place every five years from 1975 until 1995.
Due to the worldwide negative effects of conservatism on the status of women, particularly reproductive health and sex education, the Executive Director of United Nations Office for Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told the conference that in the foreseeable future, there would be no world conference of women similar to the 1995 Beijing women's conference. She suggested that a world conference on women could jeopardize the positive steps that have been taken over the last 30 years by United Nations resolutions on the rights of women. She cited a "failure of national and international leadership in which progress and gains for women are being reduced or are going backward."
Two winners of the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday urged President Obama to halt legal action by his administration against New York Times journalist James Risen.
In a statement addressed to Obama, the Nobel Peace Laureates -- Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland and Jody Williams of the United States -- said that they “urge a swift end to the US government’s legal threat of imprisonment and harsh fines for New York Times reporter James Risen, who has covered issues of war and peace.”
Today, the Progressive Change Institute and a trans-partisan coalition of surveillance whistleblowers, civil liberties advocates, and organizations representing millions of Americans are urging Congress to reject the Senate version of the USA Freedom Act.
The civil liberties coalition's joint letter outlines numerous concerns with the legislation, including ambiguous language that is open to abuse, the failure to include provisions specifically protecting the rights of Americans, blanket legal immunity for corporations that help spy on Americans, and the reauthorization of key sections of the USA PATRIOT Act relating to intelligence gathering. As the coalition's letter states:
New York, NY – Lack of poll workers and low numbers of voting machines are key contributors to long voting lines, and precincts with more minorities experienced longer waits, according to a new study released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.
Although many factors may contribute to long lines at the polls, little research has assessed how polling place resource allocation contributes to delays. In advance of the 2014 midterm election, Election Day Long Lines: Resource Allocation attempts to fill that gap by analyzing precinct-level data from states where voters faced some of the longest lines in the country in 2012: Florida, Maryland, and South Carolina.
After thousands of years of bloody wars among contending tribes, regions, and nations, is it finally possible to dispense with the chauvinist ideas of the past?
To judge by President Barack Obama's televised address on the evening of September 10, it is not. Discussing his plan to "take out" ISIS, the extremist group that has seized control of portions of Syria and Iraq, the president slathered on the high-flying, nationalist rhetoric. "America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth," he proclaimed. "Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it's been in decades. . . . Our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. . . . I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day -- and that makes me more confident than ever about our country's future."
Monday at 9:00 am, large numbers of protestors, dressed in blue to represent the seas that surround – and may one day engulf - NYC, will gather at Battery Park in lower Manhattan to begin a rally and a mass civil disobedience demonstration, aimed at confronting the root cause of the climate crisis; an economic system "based on exploiting frontline communities, workers, and natural resources."
"Runaway climate change and extreme weather events, such as the extreme flooding that we saw here in New York City with Hurricane Sandy, are fueled by the fossil fuel industry," said Michael Premo, an organizer of the action who was also a driving force in the Occupy Sandy recovery effort. "We are flooding Wall Street because we know that there's no greater cause of runaway climate change than an economic system that puts profit before people — and before the planet."
My mother was fond of saying "if you want someone to hear you, you must first listen to them"—know them, understand the questions they are asking, and be sensitive to their concerns. If you do this, she would say, "you will be able to speak with people and not at them".
What happens when you don't follow this simple rule of communication was on display during the "In Defense of Christians" conference that was held in Washington from September 9th to the 11th.