Gandhi-King Conference 2013

Gandhi-King Conference 2013

I will be presenting my thesis research here. Please attend!

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S.Y.R.I.A.

Turkish Protester Killed in Renewed Clashes with Police

Turkish Protester Killed in Renewed Clashes with Police

Four months after the uprising that presented the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Erdogan’s ten-year role, another protester, Ahmet Atakan, was killed during a nonviolent sit-in by a police teargas canister.

5 Key Takeaways from the James Lawson Institute

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Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the first-ever James Lawson Institute (JLI), sponsored by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. If you do not know who James Lawson is, kill your grade school teachers. Rev. Lawson was the main architect of the 1960 sit-in movement in Nashville challenging the segregation of lunch counters. He was also influential in the Freedom Rides and the struggle on behalf of the Memphis sanitation workers. It was he who convinced Martin Luther King to come to Memphis to support that campaign, which eventually succeeded in securing collective bargaining rights and wage increases.

Yet this week-long institute was more about how to change the United States in the present context — granting that progressive organizers, along with politicians, have largely failed to make significant strides in recent decades. For those who are new to strategic nonviolence, I have generated a list of key lessons learned:

1) You do not need to be as moral or committed as Gandhi or Martin Luther King to successfully practice nonviolent civil resistance. You don’t even have to be spiritual.

2) Despite what you might think, history is on the side of nonviolence. Researchers Erica Chenoweth (who is a spectacular person as well as academic) and Maria Stephan have convincingly demonstrated that since 1900, nonviolence has succeeded in toppling dictatorships and otherwise effecting sweeping political change twice as much as violence.

3) Long-term strategic planning is essential for success. Movements cannot get lost in a particular tactic without making it part of a larger strategy (for example, the Occupy Movement got lost in camping).

4) The three biggest indicators that a country is ripe for nonviolent resolution are (strangely enough) increased literacy rates among women, the tenure of the country’s leader, and presence/proximity of fraudulent or contestable elections.

5) While violent repression does reduce a resistance movement’s chances of success, it can backfire and create defections as well as increase support for the movement, particularly if the movement is nonviolent.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE:

Other than Lawson and the amazing staff of the ICNC, my hero of the week (and likely of the year) would have to be Antoinette Tuff, the clerk who saved the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Georgia by convincing an ex-student turned gunman to surrender rather than shoot himself or others (and somehow remained calm the entire time). If this doesn’t give the pro-gun crowd something to consider as an alternative to an armed guard in every school, I don’t know what will. NRA spokesdouche Wayne LaPierre has been proven wrong (again).

Why I Admire Chelsea (formerly known as Bradley) Manning

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, took on arguably the most powerful institution in the world — namely the United States Military — and came away with her dignity intact, despite the apology that left supporters wondering whether it reflected her true sentiments or a desperate effort to reduce her sentence, which now stands at 35 years in prison. David Coombs, Manning’s capable head counsel, remarked in an extended interview that she was in higher spirits than he was after the sentence was announced. Although Ft. Leavenworth is a men’s military prison and she will reportedly not receive treatment for gender dysphoria or any related accommodation, she has apparently already made friends.

I was able to attend her trial at Ft. Meade, Maryland, not far from where I grew up, on the same day, Aug. 14, that she testified before the court and issued the controversial apology for the alleged harm she caused. While I do not believe, based on what I have studied, that the release of the trove of classified documents caused any real harm to the United States (unless, of course, one were to include harming elite interests and the image of the military, which in my view ought to be tarnished if the information were in fact true — and no one, not even the prosecution that sought to paint Manning as a traitor who directly aided the enemy, debates that the information was indeed accurate). Like it or not — whether you are a liberal, a conservative, a moderate, or a radical like me — the United States and its Iraqi clients are responsible for torture, the killing of civilians, false imprisonment, and innumerable other crimes. Manning is no criminal for exposing this; he is a whistleblower who thought the truth would set him free, along with the rest of us. He is a messenger — albeit an inconvenient one — who undeniable went outside the prescribed channels and  broke the law, but to call him a criminal and a traitor merely because he went outside prescribed channels and broke the law would be to call Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr., who marched on Washington, D.C. a little over a 50 years ago, a criminal and a traitor. It would be trivially true in the technical sense but utterly false in the moral sense.

While ‘hero’ is a loaded word, Manning is certainly no villain. She is a scapegoat. It is easier for the government to blame her for endangering the United States for the release of information to foreign governments and organizations on its policies than to question whether it is in fact those policies themselves that endanger the United States. The U.S. government’s heavy-handed response to whistle-blowers like Manning, Edward Snowden, and others indicates to me that it fears domestic accountability for its abuses more than terrorism or any other foreign threat. Glenn Greenwald, whose partner was wrongfully detained for nine hours by British authorities, supports this conclusion in his defense of Snowden. I admire Manning for willingly taking on the role of scapegoat to attempt to hold the government accountable in the court of U.S. public opinion, even though she was blocked from doing so in the court in which she stood trial this past summer. While the national security state’s hegemony remains intact, Manning put a sizable dent in its armor.

Lastly, I admire her for a different reason — for holding true not only to her principles (namely the commitment to peace and justice through ending the unjust occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq) but to her identity, which is just as inconvenient to the military as the crimes she exposed. She is an inspiration to everyone unfairly closeted due to gender or sexual identity and is now one of the leading foot soldiers in the struggle for transgender recognition and equality. Again, I must invoke the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and remind us that civil and human rights for all have yet to be won. I personally will not feel ‘free at last,’ despite my relative privilege in this society, until Manning is ‘free at last.’ I ask you to support the Manning Support Network and Amnesty International’s demand that President Obama issue Manning a full and irrevocable pardon. I echo the same call for any other whistle-blower who is being unfairly persecuted. This is one small but necessary step in a much larger struggle toward justice for all.