STANISLAUS CONNECTIONS

Working For Peace, Justice, and A Sustainable Environment

Online Edition: December 2001     Vol. XIII, No. IV

A Modesto Peace/Life Center Publication

Save this date!--5-Time Grammy Nominee

John McCutcheon

In a benefit concert for the Modesto Peace/Life Center

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

7:00 p.m.

Featuring opening act: Megan Slankard, 2001 MAMA Best Folk-Acoustic Artist

Details click here

CONTENTS

Fasting
How pacifists see world
Armistice Day
Reflections on the Middle East
The South African transition—any lessons?
Draconian law enforcement is not a solution to terrorism
Local Terrorism Task Force explained
Reason for the season originates with ancient Winter Solstice traditions
The "Security" charade
Maya Angelou at MJC: two reviews
Who needs it? If Consumerism isn't for you

Norman Solomon -Media Beat
   
     War Needs Good Public Relations

Peace and Justice Links

Living Lightly

mudpiest.jpg (3553 bytes) Mud Pies and Purple Onions

BREAKING GRIDLOCK

Out and About

Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa founder to keynote local celebration
NAACP to review events of past year

COMMUNITY CALENDAR --CURRENT & COMING EVENTS

Masthead and Back Issues

Letters to Connections

For more local peace and justice news, check out the latest issue of San Joaquin Connections

The South African transition—any lessons?
By the Most Rev. DESMOND TUTU

Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Excerpts from the Oliver R. Tambo Lecture, Georgetown University November 1, 2001

 How many are the tyrants and despots who thought they ruled the roost, who have come a cropper and bitten the dust ignominiously? In recent times, Hitler, Mussolini, Amin, Marcos, Ceaucescu, Pinochet, Milosevic, ad infinitum. They might indeed cause considerable havoc, but in the long run (which is the only run that matters, as someone has put it) good is stronger than evil, life is stronger than death, light is stronger than darkness. . .

 Christians are well aware, or should be, of the woeful record of Christianity—responsible for the Inquisition, for the burning of witches and heretics at the stake, for the obscurantism that sought to frustrate Copernicus and Galileo and others, for the Crusades that caused such bloody mayhem among Muslims. Fervent Christians supported slavery, it was Christians who supported Hitler in perpetrating the Holocaust in Germany, and it was decent Christians who were the most zealous supporters of apartheid. And it is Christians at one another’s throats in Northern Ireland, and it was Christians who were involved in the recent Rwandan genocide. . . .

 You [USA] are a wonderful people, warm hearted and generous to a fault. My family and I have experience of that.... You’re a great people. Many of us have been inspired by your history of a struggle to attain political independence to aspire for our freedom and democracy. The exploits, especially of African Americans in sport, the arts and in so many other ways, especially their civil rights movement, fired our imaginations and told of what we too could attain.

 Of course, you are now the only super power in the world; your economic and military power are undisputed really. But that should not be the measure of your greatness. It should be because of your moral stature; it should be about what you do with your economic, military and political might; about who you support and sponsor out there, whether they embrace the same values as you. It should be about what sort of policies you implement out there; whether it causes you anguish that unarmed civilians—little defenseless children, mothers and grandparents, just ordinary people—are being killed as at the present time, and whether your country’s policies cause God’s children out there considerable suffering.

 It should be about sharing your enormous affluence and your political and social values of justice, freedom and equity—that there is a place in the sun for all. How gratifying that so many, many voices in this land are being raised at this time to say, “America, let us engage in serious introspection. This is an opportunity for a hard look at ourselves.” That way lies the way to true greatness.

 You and me are made for goodness, for love, for transcendence, for togetherness. God has a dream that we, God’s children, would come to realize that we are indeed sisters and brothers, members of one family, God’s family, the human family; that all belong, all white, black, and yellow, rich and poor, beautiful and not so beautiful, young and old, male and female. There are no outsiders; all, all are insiders—gay and straight, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Americans, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Afghans—all, all belong.

 And God says, “I have no one to help me realize my dream except you; will you help me?”

 —Source: Georgetown University Office of Communications. The entire speech can be found at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/ens/2001-322.html

 

Draconian law enforcement is not a solution to terrorism
By MICHAEL RATNER

 I live just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. In New York, we are still mourning the loss of so many after the attacks on our city. We want to arrest and punish the terrorists, eliminate the terrorist network and prevent future attacks. But the government’s declared war on terrorism, and some of the anti-terrorism measures planned, include a curtailment of freedom and constitutional rights that have many of us concerned.

 The domestic consequences of the war on terrorism include massive arrests of immigrants, the creation of a special new cabinet office of Homeland Security and the passage of legislation granting intelligence and law enforcement agencies much broader powers to intrude into the private lives of Americans. The war on terrorism also means pervasive government and media censorship of information, the silencing of dissent, and widespread ethnic and religious profiling of Muslims, Arabs and Asian people.

 The claimed necessity for this war at home is problematic. The legislation and other governmental actions are premised on the belief that the intelligence agencies failed to stop the September 11th attack because they lacked the spying capability to find and arrest the conspirators. Yet neither the government nor the agencies have demonstrated that this is the reason.

 This war at home gives Americans a false sense of security, allowing us to believe that tighter borders, vastly empowered intelligence agencies, and increased surveillance will stop terrorism. The United States is not yet a police state. But even a police state could not stop terrorists intent on doing us harm. And the fantasy of Fortress America keeps us from examining the root causes of terrorism, and the consequences of decades of American foreign policy in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Unless some of the grievances against the United States are studied and addressed, terrorism will continue.

 On September 20th President Bush announced the creation of the Homeland Security Office, charged with gathering intelligence, coordinating anti-terrorism efforts and taking precautions to prevent and respond to terrorism. It is not yet known how this office will function, but it will most likely try to centralize the powers of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies — a difficult, if not impossible, job — among some 40 bickering agencies. Those concerned with its establishment are worried that it will become a super spy agency and, as its very name implies, that the military will play a role in domestic law enforcement.

 In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attack, Attorney General John Ashcroft focused on non-citizens, whether permanent residents, students, temporary workers or tourists. Normally, an alien can only be held for 48 hours prior to the filing of charges. Ashcroft’s new regulation allowed arrested aliens to be held without any charges for a “reasonable time,” presumably months or longer.

The FBI began massive detentions and investigations of individuals suspected of terrorist connections, almost all of them non-citizens of Middle Eastern descent; over 1,100 have been arrested. Many were held for days without access to lawyers or knowledge of the charges against them; many are still in detention. Few, if any, have been proven to have a connection with the September 11 attacks and remain in jail despite having been cleared. In some cases, people were arrested merely for being from a country like Pakistan and having expired student visas. Stories of mistreatment of such detainees are not uncommon.

 Apparently, some of those arrested are not willing to talk to the FBI, although they have been offered shorter jail sentences, jobs, money and new identities. Astonishingly, the FBI and the Department of Justice are discussing methods to force them to talk, which include “using drugs or pressure tactics such as those employed by the Israeli interrogators.” The accurate term to describe these tactics is torture. Our government wants to torture people to make them talk. There is resistance to this even from law enforcement officials. One former FBI Chief of Counter Terrorism, said in an October New York Newsday article, “Torture goes against every grain in my body. Chances are you are going to get the wrong person and risk damage or killing them.”

 The FBI is also currently investigating groups it claims are linked to terrorism — among them pacifist groups such as the U.S. chapter of Women in Black, which holds vigils to protest violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The FBI has threatened to force members of Women in Black to either talk about their group or go to jail. As one of the group’s members said, “If the FBI cannot or will not distinguish between groups who collude in hatred and terrorism, and peace activists who struggle in the full light of day against all forms of terrorism we are in serious trouble.”

 At the time of this writing, the United States Congress has passed and President Bush will soon sign sweeping new anti-terrorist legislation aimed at both aliens and citizens. The proposed legislation met more opposition than one might expect in these difficult times. A National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom of over 120 groups ranging from the right to the left opposed the worst aspects of the proposed new law. They succeeded in making minor modifications, but the most troubling provisions remain, and are described below:

 Rights of Aliens

 Prior to the legislation, anti-terrorist laws passed in the wake of the 1996 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma had already given the government wide powers to arrest, detain and deport aliens based upon secret evidence — evidence that neither the alien nor his attorney could view or refute. The current proposed legislation makes it even worse for aliens.

 First, the law would permit “mandatory detention” of aliens certified by the attorney general as “suspected terrorists.” These could include aliens involved in barroom brawls or those who have provided only humanitarian assistance to organizations disfavored by the United States. Once certified in this way, an alien could be imprisoned indefinitely with no real opportunity for court challenge. Until now, such “preventive detention” was believed to be flatly unconstitutional.

 Second, current law permits deportation of aliens who support terrorist activity; the proposed law would make aliens deportable for almost any association with a “terrorist organization.” Although this change seems to have a certain surface plausibility, it represents a dangerous erosion of Americans’ constitutionally protected rights of association. “Terrorist organization” is a broad and open-ended term that could include liberation groups such as the Irish Republican Army, the African National Congress, or civic groups that have ever engaged in any violent activity, such as Greenpeace. An alien who gives only medical or humanitarian aid to similar groups, or simply supports their political message in a material way could be jailed indefinitely.

 A key element in the new law is the wide expansion of wiretapping. In the United States wiretapping is permitted, but generally only when there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and a judge signs a special wiretapping order that contains limited time periods, the numbers of the telephones wiretapped and the type of conversations that can be overheard.

 In 1978, an exception was made to these strict requirements, permitting wiretapping to be carried out to gather intelligence information about foreign governments and foreign terrorist organizations. A secret court was established that could approve such wiretaps without requiring the government to show evidence of criminal conduct. In doing so the constitutional protections necessary when investigating crimes could be bypassed. Eventually, the secret court’s jurisdiction was expanded so that it could permit the FBI to secretly search homes and offices as well as obtain bank records and the like. The secret court is little more than a rubber stamp for wiretapping requests by the spy agencies. It has authorized over 10,000 wiretaps in its 22-year existence, approximately a thousand last year, and has apparently never denied a request.

 Under the new law, the same secret court will have the power to authorize wiretaps and secret searches of homes in criminal cases — not just to gather foreign intelligence. The FBI will be able to wiretap individuals and organizations without meeting the stringent requirements of the Constitution. The law will authorize the secret court to permit roving wiretaps of any phones, computers or cell phones that might possibly be used by a suspect. Widespread reading of e-mail will be allowed, even before the recipient opens it. Thousands of conversations will be listened to or read that have nothing to do with the suspect or any crime.

 The new legislation is filled with many other expansions of investigative and prosecutorial power, including wider use of undercover agents to infiltrate organizations, longer jail sentences and lifetime supervision for some who have served their sentences, more crimes that can receive the death penalty and longer statutes of limitations for prosecuting crimes.

 Overall, the new legislation represents one of the most sweeping assaults on liberties in the last 50 years.

 Censorship at Home: Unofficial and Official

 Censorship in the United States during this war period is rampant. The White House press secretary, Ari Fleisher, warned that “people have to watch what they say and what they do.” A prevalent attitude is that you are either with us or against us; questioning the practices and policies of the United States is considered unpatriotic. Dissenters from the drumbeats of war or those who want to examine underlying causes for the attack are given almost no voice; if they dare to speak they are roundly castigated. The logic is that we do not criticize our nation at war and that to examine causes is to excuse the terrorists.

 Self-censorship by the media and even liberal organizations is also occurring. Often this occurs by simply not airing alternative views — one show actually cutoff the microphone in mid-sentence of a guest arguing for a legal not a military response. A radio station apparently fired a well-known journalist for broadcasting an interview with the one member of Congress, Barbara Lee, who voted against the war. A number of journalists have been fired for criticizing the president. Two major environmental organizations, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, pulled ads criticizing Bush’s environmental policies and one even removed critical comments from its website.

 The most remarkable act of censorship was the government’s request that the five major TV networks not fully air the prerecorded statements of Osama bin Laden and his associates. The White House claimed it did not want bin Laden’s propaganda messages about killing Americans widely broadcast, and that the statements might contain secret codes. Neither reason made much sense: bin Laden’s statements are already widely available around the world, and airing them in the United States would more likely build support for the war among Americans, not undermine it. As for secret messages, the government admits that none have been found. Nonetheless, the TV networks agreed not to run the tapes, and the government has extended its request to print media.

It is not uncommon for governments to reach for draconian law enforcement solutions in times of war or national crisis. It has happened often in the United States and elsewhere. We should learn from historical example: times of hysteria, of war, and of instability are not the times to rush to enact new laws that curtail our freedoms and grant more authority to the government and its intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Michael Ratner is a human rights attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.   edited from: www.TomPaine.com

Local Terrorism Task Force explained 
By MYRTLE OSNER

Lt. Rob Green has a seemingly mammoth job ahead of him. He's the coordinator for Stanislaus County's task force on terrorism. His "real" job is two-fold, in that he is the Chief of Police for the City of Waterford, as well as a member of our county Sheriff's Dept.

At a recent League of Women Voters luncheon, Lt. Green explained the different levels of the county's mobilization against terrorism. We get lots of news in the mass media about what is being done nationally, but practically nothing about the local levels. His explanation for that silence is at least party due to the fact that what we don't hear is how many possible terrorist events have been stopped before they got here. None of this kind of work will ever be told to the public. It does make you wonder, though. The air waves are full of acts of war in Afghanistan, overshadowing everything else that happens.

The state of California, by order of the Governor, has set up the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) It is made up of many different agencies of law enforcement, fire department, California Highway Patrol, Dept. of Justice, and has an FBI representative sitting in on their work. Essentially, they take raw data (reports) and try to make sense of it all. Suspicious circumstances are investigated and then turned over to the appropriate branch to deal with. They will assist local police in their work in cases with evidence.

At the local level, California is divided into regions which would be responsible for happenings within their region. Lt. Green expressed the opinion that locally we can't wait for the state and the US law enforcement agencies to tell us what to do. When an event happens, we have to be ready where it happens. To that end, the local task force consists of representatives of Fire Departments, city and county, The Dept. of Environmental Resources, the Department of Health Services, as well as the law enforcement agencies.

Training for "first responders" to any terrorist event is ongoing. Evacuation drills of all public buildings are beginning. Emergency plans are being updated. Threat assessment is going on, of our bridges, power plants, reservoirs, etc. This process is meant to assess what areas might be vulnerable, including the above but also including agriculture, in case of contamination possibilities. Town Hall session seeks to allay fears

Part of the job here is public education. If there is information that will help people deal with their fears, it will be shared. A town hall meeting November 8 run by the Modesto Bee's editor, Mark Vasché, televised on Cable Channel 8, brought together every conceivable agency that has a role to play. Most assured us that emergency preparedness is constantly being updated; up to date plans for fire and law enforcement, evacuation plans, have been in place since 1998. Training is on-going in all agencies. We also have a new Emergency Operations Center capable of translating 45 languages when you call 911.

Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden urged us to work more closely in our neighborhoods to make them safer by watching out for each other and our families more closely. He praised the City Schools for their "Respect for All" curriculum and for the "Day of Respect" held in high schools here. It originated in Modesto by our own teacher, Sharon Froba. "We need to enhance family values and keep crime-free neighborhoods all the time," he said. Several speakers echoed the view that "We need to get on with our lives."

On the subject of the threat of anthrax: "The mail is safe. Out of 3 billion pieces of mail there have only been three with anthrax." "California has the best labs in the country. We have an electron microscope, only one other state, New York, has that." "California has the best air sampling system in the world." Dr. John Walker, Public Health Officer of Stanislaus County, reminded us that, in a sense, we have to set priorities, because our funds and personnel are not unlimited. Look at what the dangers are and judge what to do.

Echoing that was Assemblyman Dave Cogdill, who told us that the California state budget is in dire straits; we are looking at a $14 billion deficit prediction, which will mean severe budget cuts. The two hour forum was indeed an education.

Conclusions

When questioned about the word "suspicious circumstances", Lt. Green reminded us that we all still have our rights as a democracy. Persons who may be suspected of terrorism have rights also and cannot be taken in just on unfounded suspicions. His final comment was, "If we don't remember these fundamental rights that we hold in the United States, we are no better than those countries that oppress their people."

While many questions remain, it is at least somewhat comforting to think that a coordinated effort is being made to put all the pieces together on the local level. One of the biggest questions remains: are the recent laws passed by Congress, which have been justified under the banner of making security tighter in the U.S., necessary? Do they make us safer? Or will innocent people get caught up in more restrictive laws which appear to restrict our fundamental freedoms? The record of the CIA and the FBI in restricting basic freedoms in the past is not reassuring. We have only to remember the days of McCarthyism to be wary of arresting "suspicious" persons, to say nothing of the Immigration Service.

Reason for the season originates with ancient Winter Solstice traditions 
By TINA ARNOPOLE DRISKILL

In this season of shortest days and longest nights our ancient forefathers and foremothers chose to recognize the Winter Solstice as a universally sacred and special time when the Sun has died, harvests are in, flocks and herds are gathered from range lands and life hangs in the suspension of a long darkened wait for winter to end.

England's Stonehenge and Ireland's Newgrange, as well as other stone monuments found worldwide from South America to Asia are reliable physical indicators of solstices and equinoxes from as far back as 3000 BCE. The return of the sun, known as the Winter Solstice, was the time when "our ancestors embraced the symbols of life in the face of death, of light in the face of darkness," writes El Selby of Unitarian Universalist Metro Atlanta North.

Winter Solstice festivals, which pre-date the Gospels, have served as the infrastructure for most of our modern day Christmas stories, rituals and traditions. Early peasants and workers of the fields did not fully understand the disappearance of the sun and built immense fires on mountaintops and in fields to ward of the darkness and cold. The festivals they established to deal with superstitions and bring back the sun became so deeply ingrained in their cultures that we are still celebrating them almost as they originally were practiced in ancient times.

Selby retells the familiar story of a child who is born to be the savior of his people. His birth is surrounded by miracles and wonders. His mother is impregnated through mysterious and godly circumstances. His lot in life is lowly, not befitting a king or a god. The birth is foretold ages before and announced by miracles and cosmic signs. Finally, the baby's life is in danger from the current king, and he must be spirited away.

Most would recognize this as the story of the baby Jesus. Selby points out it is also the story of Adonis, Dionysus, Mithras, Arthur and hundreds of other gods and heroes of myth, legend and religion.

The story of Mithra took place at the same time as early Christianity in the area of modern Iran and Iraq once known as Persia. Around the fifth century

BCE, when Persians had conquered and blended with Babylon, Mithra, an Aryan sun god, was raised to a supreme and intensely ethical deity. At that time Mithraism spread more rapidly, was more respected than Christianity and was strikingly similar. Mithra was considered the sun of the world in the same sense as Jesus. He was honored, says Selby, through the sacrifice of pleasures. Followers were expected to live lives of celibacy, asceticism and purity. They were baptized in blood. practiced the most severe austerities and fasts, and took communion of bread and wine. They worshipped Mithra in underground temples, or artificial caves, which were filled with the light of candles and smelled of burning incense. Each year, says Selby, they celebrated the birthday of this god who had come to "take away the sins of the world" on December 25th.

The birth of the Egyptian sun god, Horus, son of Soirees and Isis, also was celebrated around December 25th. Isis was originally a virgin or sexless goddess, and strict abstinence was demanded from her devotees. An anonymous Christian writer of the "Paschal Chronicle" explains that Egyptians worshipped a virgin goddess and a magical child because, "Jeremiah gave a sign to the Egyptian priests, saying that their idols would be destroyed by a child-savior, born of a virgin and in a manger." (Col. 385 in the Migne edition, vol. XCII.)

A short distance from Egypt in Alexandria a similar Greek celebration on December 25th recounts the birth of a divine son to Kore (the "virgin"). J.M. Robertson recounts in "Christianity and Mythology" that "Hermes, the Logos (like Jesus in John), the messenger of the gods, son of Zeus and the virgin Maia, was born in a cave, and he performed extraordinary prodigies a few hours after birth. He was represented as a 'child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger'." Similarly, Dionysus (or Bacchus) was said to have been "laid in a basket-cradle in the cave in which he was born."

Saturnalia, the Roman Winter Solstice celebration spawned some of our most enduring secular Christmas traditions. "Saturn, god of 'seed time' and mythical ruler, presided over a golden age according to Roman myth." (Celebrating the Winter Solstice Part 1: Celestial Ties, Ancient Rites) During this golden time there was peace, prosperity and equality for all without private property. Saturnalia was the Roman attempt to bring back the 'golden king' and era.

Saturnalia began as a single day of festivities on December 17 and was combined with other festivals over several days to include practices which have existed through the ages. Halls and temples were decorated with evergreens and boughs of laurel to symbolize the continuity of life. Lamps were kept burning to ward off the spirits of darkness. Schools were closed, the army rested, and no criminals were executed. Slaves were given the same status as free men and everyone wore the same type of clothing to blur any social barriers (hence the medieval custom whereby all inhabitants of the manor sat down together to feast). A Mock King was appointed to rule over the revelry (origin of the medieval Christmas Lord of the Misrule). Friends visited bringing with them good luck gifts of fruit, cakes, candles, wax or terra cotta dolls, jewelry and incense. It was truly a time of peace and good will toward all.

December 25th on the Roman calendar was set aside as the solemn Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. When Christianity emerged various Christian churches celebrated the birth of Jesus on different dates. The eastern churches generally observed January 6th, which remains for many as Epiphany. Others chose April 24 or 25 or a date in May. It was not until 354 CE that the Church of Rome, the most powerful church of the day, chose to align the anniversary of Jesus' birth with the Roman Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.

Yule (from the same old Teutonic word hoel or wheel), the Norse/Germanic turning of the year, is another holiday with lasting impact upon modern winter celebrations. The 13 night "time between days" marked a time "when everything, men, gods, troll, and the shades of the dead converged on the earthly realm." It was a time when feasting, merrymaking and "everything done reflected on the year to come." The Norse gods and goddesses, Thor, Freya, Freyr and Odin, were honored. Sacrifices were made to ensure fertility and ghostly horsemen, led by Odin in the Wild Hunt, were left gifts to ensure a good harvest in the coming year.

Directly connected to our modern day celebrations are the holly and evergreen decorations, yule logs, Christmas trees, Christmas feasts, wreaths and mistletoe. Rings and wheels were sacred symbols, and "The wreath - complete with candles and ribbons - was the symbol of the returning sun and the joys of the season." Mistletoe, which mysteriously grew on the sacred oak tree, was considered sacred in the dark, cold North, as it was by the Druid priests, who called it All-Heal.

There are numerous cultural events which are included in modern day holiday celebrations, among them Las Posadas, the Hispanic culture reenactment of the Christmas story, and the Swedish feast day of Santa Lucia, Queen of Lights on December 13.

Many other major and minor Winter Solstice holidays have become popular in modern times. Diwali (meaning rows of lighted lamps), the Hindu Festival of Lights, is as important to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians. The five day festival is held on the fifteenth day of Kartika on the Hindu calendar and is a time for lighting candles and lamps to honor Laksmi, goddess of wealth. (Wealth is considered the reward for good deeds of a past life.) It is also a time to mark the lunar New Year and reflect upon ones personal, business and social actions

Chanukah (rededication), also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated during the Winter Solstice season on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, although its origins are not directly attributed to the solstice. It is a retelling of the historical fight for religious freedom of more than 2000 years ago led by Judah Maccabee to drive the Syrians out of Israel after their King, Antiochus, had defiled the holy temple and made decrees that in effect annulled the practice of the holy Jewish religion. The holiday is known as the festival of lights, because enough purified oil to light and rededicate the temple menorah for only one day miraculously lasted for eight days until more could be obtained.

One of the newest celebrations of this season is Kwanzaa (discussed in an adjunct article), a unique African American celebration focusing upon family and community values and responsibilities.

ACTION: No matter what cultural and/or religious traditions we choose to practice, Mr. Selby encourages us to avoid the Bah Humbugs by joining "in the general merriment and celebrate(ing) the symbols of warmth, light, peace and community"...as an "opportunity to build bridges to our fellow people, rather than more walls to further divide us."

The "Security" charade 
By ROBERT BOWMAN

The truth is that none of our thousands of nuclear weapons can protect us from these threats. No Star Wars system, no matter how technically advanced, no matter how many millions of dollars are poured into it, can protect us from a nuclear weapon delivered in a sailboat or a Cessna or a suitcase or a Ryder rental truck. No one weapon in our vast arsenal, not a penny of the $270 billion a year we spend on so-called defense can defend against a terrorist bomb. That is a military fact.

We are the target of terrorists because, in much of the world, our government stands for dictatorship, bondage, and human exploitation. Agents of our government deposed popularly elected leaders and replaced them with puppet military dictators who were willing to sell out their own people to American multinational corporations.

We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies those things to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by our corporations...

In country after country, our government has thwarted democracy, stifled freedom, and trampled human rights. That's why it is hated around the world. And that's why we're the target of terrorists.

(Excerpted from a longer article first published in The National Catholic Reporter, October 1998. Reprinted with permission. Robert Bowman flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam. He was a 1998 bishop of the United Catholic Church in Melbourne Beach, Fl)

Maya Angelou conquers our hearts 
By MYRTLE OSNER

Maya Angelou, an actress, dancer, poet, and consummate teller of stories captured her audience in the palm of her expressive hands, with her voice and her songs.

She used some powerful metaphors to explain how we can all help each other: We can be a rainbow for someone's clouds, indeed for clouds that threaten our lives. Telling the story of why she became mute for seven years, we were all moved to tears. And the powerful influence of her grandparents was that rainbow that brought her back to life. She didn't let us off the hook either. "You've been paid for!" she proclaimed. And proceeded to remind us that the lives we have today were purchased with the lives of those who came before us. Using slavery as an example of this power to reclaim lives of those yet to come, she reminded us that those strong men and women paid with their lives to make life better for their children. We can all do this with our own lives, she told us.

On the subject of the terrorist attacks: "Those who say it's the first time we've been attacked on American soil forget all the other times," and proceeded to name them: Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor; how we fought each other in the Civil War; the slaughter of Native Americans on our own soil and theirs.

Sitting in the darkened Modesto Junior College gym, I thought of all the different colors and clans represented in Modesto, and was grateful to be part of a community that values its diversity. Maya Angelou was a perfect speaker to illustrate that diversity.

During the following week, a celebration of the United Nations Day of Tolerance included the staging of dance, music, and readers theatre, titled "Confront the Storm." A short preview of this event opened the Maya Angelou presentation with a complete performance available to this community twice on the following Tuesday. This town is growing up to its potential and we can all be proud.

Modesto Junior College has hosted some of the most innovative events ever, usually in concert with other organizations in town (such as the Peace Life Center.) Under the collaborative leadership of Dr. Jim Johnson, Dean of the Arts, Humanities and Communications Division, the college is well on its way to community leadership. By melding the arts, music, dance, theatre and other forms of communication, Johnson has enabled multi-media response to our common humanity.

Another example of the college's leadership was the recent "Faces of Stanislaus" project, just ended. Last month we published debee loyd's poem written for the International Festival in Modesto, which was read at the opening of the "Faces of Stanislaus" exhibit. This massive project to collect photos from every corner of Stanislaus County was spearheaded by Dan Onorato, MJC English and Spanish instructor as well Peace/Life Center activist. It involved an all-out effort of dozens of college staff as well as the co-sponsors. But the impetus in the beginning was furnished by the college.

We are in danger of losing some of the thrust of the community colleges in California due to Gov. Gray Davis's slashing of their budget. Community colleges have a role that the universities cannot fill. Continuing education for adults who need it for job skills is only one of their many challenges. Celebrating diversity is another. We have a gem in our midst. Support it and participate in all the colleges' community building work.

Maya Angelou Visits Modesto 
By ELIZABETH ANN VENCILL, MBA, MT(ASCP)

To a sold-out audience at Modesto Junior College, Dr. Maya Angelou sang, swayed, preached and exhorted Friday night November 3rd as part of the college's Beyond Tolerance Initiative. Energetic, intense, inspiring, and exceptional characterize her being on stage. She glided from the shadows to a standing ovation, rose up the three stage steps, bowed low to the assembled company at each corner of the stage, walked carefully to the lectern, signaled silently to be seated and in her low, slow, full, round, contralto voice, sang, "When it looks like the sun ain't gonna shine any more, God put a rainbow in the clouds." The people cheered it again and again and again throughout her talk.

Dr. Angel's stories, her poetry and the poetry of others, her expressions, movements and gestures all reflected this theme. "Literature", she says, "made me talk again", after a 6 year traumatic silence, from ages 7 to 13, following the death by kicking of her rapist in Stamps, Arkansas. Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Shakespeare, and many more authors, gave Angelou her voice back, and she hasn't quit talking. During her hour, she told the people to seek out their librarians and ask for the literature of the black poets, telling us that at first the librarian will give us "about three minutes of this!" (BLANK STARE) "and then search every corner of the state for what we ask." It can and will give us perspective. There is nothing new about tragedy on our soil, she historicized. Remember the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, the Slave Ships, and the Indian Massacres. Do not think that war cannot come again here.

Angelou chuckled that, where she grew up, there was so much prejudice black people weren't allowed to eat vanilla ice cream. Her Uncle Willie, who was crippled, would hide amongst the potatoes and onions to avoid Ku Klux Klan raids. But when Uncle Willie died, the Mayor of Little Rock gave Dr. Angelou a police escort for his funeral. The Mayor was black, and Uncle Willie had taught the Mayor his times tables as a boy, and given him a love of learning that helped him to succeed.

Dr. Angelou was born in 1928 to parents who separated when she was three and her brother was five. The children were sent on the train from Los Angeles to Stamps, Arkansas to their Grandmother Annie Henderson's home.

Grandmother Henderson built a general store that she owned for twenty five years. When Angelou was 7, she was sent back to her mother, and it was the mother's boyfriend who molested then raped her. He was tried and convicted, then kicked to death and Angelou thought it was her words that killed him, so she did not speak again for many years.

She was sent back to her grandmother's home, where she met Mrs. Bertha Flowers. Mrs. Flowers' influence as a teacher gave Maya reason to talk again. She read the girl the works of the great authors which Maya then memorized. The strong influences of Henderson and Flowers gave the girl back her wings. But her route has not been without other difficulties.

During her turbulent life, she prostituted herself for a time in San Francisco, had a child as a 19 year old, married an African Freedom Fighter, lived in Africa, then determined to have a career in the theater. Dr. Angelou now holds a lifetime appointment as the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, Winston Salem, North Carolina. She is fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, West African Fanti. Dr. Angelou's Curriculum Vitae runs to 6 pages of publications, essays, books, poetry, awards, performances, plays, screenplays, films, acting and recording performances, affiliations and other accomplishments.

Lastly Dr. Angelou admonished us, "Let there be no whining, for whining lets a brute know there's a victim in the neighborhood." "When it looked like the sun wasn't gonna shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds." Dr. Angelou has been that rainbow to millions around the world.

Who needs it? If Consumerism isn't for you
By MYRTLE OSNER

As evidenced by the growing popularity of the Alternative Faires, both held this time of year, we are giving the rest of you a list of possible "alternative giving". Who in your family "has everything"? Perhaps you would like to give a gift to honor a friend or relative, but don't want to buy an item you know they don't need or want. Voila!! Give a gift to an organization that does what you cannot do as an individual.

If you want to attend the Alternative Faire at College Ave. Congregational Church, (Orangeburg and College Ave., Modesto) it will be open after church (about 11:30 a.m.) Sunday, December 2.

At such events, a huge assortment of specially made items are displayed for sale, all of which have been made by refugees in countries hit by extreme poverty. The money goes direct to the people who made them, through SERRV International Gift shop. You can also visit the SERRV shop at the Modesto Church of the Brethren, (see calendar page for times). As listed in last month's Stanislaus Connections, you can also give to organizations with a proven track record of delivering assistance to those most in need around the world and locally.

For those who wish to give directly but don't know who to support or where to send the money, here's a rundown of groups you might want to know more about.

There are dozens of other international and national organizations that have specific purposes; space limits me to naming only a smattering of my favorites.

DEADLINE TO SUBMIT ARTICLES TO CONNECTIONS.

Tenth of each month. Submit peace, justice and environmentally friendly event notices to P.O. Box 134, Modesto, CA, 95353, or call 522-4967 or 575-4299, or email to Jim Costello. Free listings subject to space, availability and editing.

04/25/04