Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Myth of Redemptive Violence

By Jesse Laird
(610 Words)

This Commentary is Unpublished

There is an old American myth, the myth of redemptive violence, which is so often repeated (often so subtly) that it has become almost invisible.

It is the myth of classic B-movie Westerns, with the villains in black hats and the hero in white. At the end of the movie, there is the violent confrontation –the shootout for Good against Evil –that sets the world right and makes everything safe for women and children (usually white women and children). It is the myth that ends justify means: that murdering the murderers will reestablish order.

The myth of redemptive violence plays a role in American thinking on critical issues –from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, on the one hand, to prisoner execution and torture, on the other. It is one movie-camera lens we use to see the world –which would be fine if it were not so damaging to ordinary people (like ordinary Iraqis, Afghans and American soldiers).

The main problem with the myth of redemptive violence is it does not work in the real world –and we Americans are learning this the hard way in our War on Terror...

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Jesse Laird is a masters candidate in Conflict Resolution at Portland State University and works as an agent for PeaceVoice –the Portland (Oregon)-based nonprofit dedicated to peace inspired commentary.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

South Carolina Changed History

By Harry Targ
(1000 words)

I confess. I was a supporter of the presidential candidacy of John Edwards (particularly since Dennis Kucinich was made to disappear). I think his clear populist stance, his anti-corporate agenda, and his critique of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council represented an advance over the ambiguous and limited centrist politics of Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, both of which have begun to change since South Carolina....

....Having admitted my political "biases," I now see the political significance and transformative character of the Democratic Party primary election held in late January in South Carolina. First, the campaign tactic of the Clintons, posturing that they were crusaders against racism in American life, was finally unveiled for the deception that it was. President Clinton did everything he could to remind voters that Barak Obama was after all an African American and that this election was occurring in South Carolina. In a totally irrelevant response to a reporter's question after the results were announced, President Clinton reminded the reporter and the audience that Jesse Jackson carried South Carolina in the 1980s; i.e. the outcome would not count and it would not count because Obama, like Jackson, is an African American.

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Harry Targ teaches political science at Purdue University. His most recent book is entitled Challenging Late Capitalism, Neo-liberal Globalization, and Militarism: Building a Progressive Majority, Changemaker Publications, 2006.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Can We Stop School Shootings?

By Michael N. Nagler
(672 words)

In terms of human suffering, killings in schools is one of the most anguishing forms of contemporary violence. So far, there has been virtually no discussion of the underlying causes of these suicidal outbursts. Virtually all discussion, be it in the media, in academic settings or private conversations, begins and end with the particulars of each individual case: was the killer a loner? Did he just break up with his girlfriend? Were they bullied? And recently, in one op-ed online about the most recent shooting at NIU, were the school buildings run-down and depressing?

No doubt all these things are true; but as a Greek philosopher once said, the first step in the ignorance of any subject is to fail to see the principles for the particulars.

Even if we were to ask ourselves why this tragic phenomenon has hit schools in general it would not quite get us to the underlying reason. The underlying reason is, we have allowed ourselves to drift into a culture of violence. School violence is a symptom; so is gang violence; so are domestic violence, workplace violence, and, yes, “shock and awe” violence – our policy for devastating foreign countries. All of these without exception arise from and feed back into a violent culture, and it is only by addressing that culture — a challenging but doable job — that we will reduce and some day eliminate avoidable and ‘meaningless’ violence from our lives...

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Michael Nagler is the author of The Search for a Nonviolent Future. His UC, Berkeley course on nonviolence can be reached through He recently received the Jamnalal Bajaj International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India.

Consequences of the Changing Global Political Economy

By Harry Targ
(1728 words)

This Commentary is Unpublished

The economic crisis that is growing in rich and poor countries alike in 2008 directly rersults from years of unbridled, unplanned capitalist expansion on the world stage. We can plot the transformation of the global political economy, that is the parallel and combined development of economic and political institutions, since World War II to understand how and why the crisis of today emerged. And, after reflecting on that history, we can begin to see what needs to be done to overcome the crises that befall us.

World War II ended with death and destruction rampant across the Eurasian land mass. Some 60 million people died, 27 million alone in the former Soviet Union. The United States experienced an economic boom resulting from war production. Industrial productivity rose by a factor of three. Trade increased fourfold. At the war's end, the U.S. controlled 2/3 to ¾ of the world's industrial plant and productivity. With this power, the United States played a fundamental role in reestablishing the economic and political institutions that would govern the world over the next 60 years. During the period from 1945 and 1968, the so-called "golden age" of the U.S. economy, multinational corporations and banks spread across the globe as domestic consumption soared....

....In the twentieth century we saw various political movements and ideologies offering a vision of "positive government," that is a vision that says that political (and economic) institutions can and should be created by and for the vast majority of people. While many experiments in positive government failed, for a variety of reasons, the global movements of our own day are saying that we can establish new institutions that represent us all, and not just the rich and powerful. That is the continuing challenge of the 21st century.

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Harry Targ teaches United States foreign policy and international political economy at Purdue University.

Reflections on the Cuban Revolution Today

By Harry Targ
(730 Words)

This Commentary is Unpublished

President Bush now travels through the African continent trumpeting the United States as a model for the peoples of the Global South. At the same time Fidel Castro steps down as Cuba's chief of state stimulating reflections on the role of the Cuban revolution at home and abroad. Which country has had a more progressive impact on the historical development of the world?

....In the words of C. Wright Mills, reflecting on the Cuban revolution at its outset, Cuba remains part of the "hungry bloc," not in the sense of poverty and scarcity as he meant it -Cuba is part of the developed world in these terms- but in the sense of still struggling to achieve its right and capacity to define its own destiny. In fact, it could be argued that Cuba's "hunger" for self-determination, its spirit of nationalism, is what drove the revolution in the nineteenth century, in the 1930s, in 1959 and still drives the revolution today....

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Harry Targ teaches U.S. foreign policy and political economy at Purdue University. His book on Cuba is called Cuba and the USA: A New World Order?, International Publishers, 1992.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama: Experienced, Intelligent and Competent

By Laura White
(330 words)
This Commentary is Unpublished

I'd like to put another perspective on the "Obama-lacks-experience" conversation. As a multicultural educator, mediator and diversity consultant, I was impressed when I read his autobiography several years ago. I thought "this man is both emotionally intelligent and inter-culturally competent"! These capabilities come from a depth of life experience and a maturity of psychological development that we rarely see in US politicians. Both are vital in a multicultural America and for rebuilding international relations...

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Laura White, MA, is a diversity and conflict resolution trainer and a longtime mediator; she is currently the multicultural training specialist in the Office of Human Resources at Montgomery College in Maryland.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Come Clean on Water Boarding

By William Loren Katz
(420 words)
This Commentary is Unpublished

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, this country's chief legal officer, discussed the torture known as water boarding Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chair Patrick Leahy insisted that water boarding "has been recognized as torture for the last 500 years." Though it has been practiced since the Spanish Inquisition in the 1400s, Mukasey told Senators he is not sure it is really torture.

Taking a more direct approach, Senator Ted Kennedy asked Mukasey, "Would water boarding be torture if it was done to you?" ....

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William Loren Katz is the author of forty U.S. history books and has been affiliated with New York University since 1973. His website is WILLIAMLKATZ.COM