Carols Writings About Current Issues
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The Contradictions in the Body Bush
Out of one side of his mouth come platitudes about freedom and democracy, while the other side authorizes torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial.
With one eye, he envisions the profits from
On the one hand, he eulogizes family and religion, while on the other, he slashes the programs that help to keep families together, educate children well, feed and clothe the elderly, and protect women’s ability to make rational decisions about reproduction.
One leg rests lightly on a display of international cooperation, while the other leans heavily on the international goodwill built up over decades by other administrations, civil society and individual Americans.
While one foot is being washed by proponents of Christian teachings about caring for the poor, the other is grinding into the ground those in need both at home and abroad.
© Carol J. Pierce Colfer
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‘Civilization’ and the Changing World
Family values – Although this phrase wasn’t in common usage, it would not have meant what it means now: ignoring the needs of the poor and disenfranchised, while supporting the oppression by men (particularly wealthy men) of women and children, and reinforcing rigid traditional sex roles and a Fundamentalist vision of sexual mores.
Valuing life – This---which once focused on the fundamental rights of functioning human beings to have their lives respected and protected---has come to be associated with a preference for saving the lives of a) the unborn over the living and b) older Americans in terrible pain or any American in a vegetative state over the human right to health and well being of the rest of us both in the US and abroad.Carol J. Pierce Colfer ©
We DO have this power, but only if we exercise our rights and perform our duties. We have not been doing that. Now is the time to start again---in time for the November election.
Carol J. Pierce Colfer ©
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Framing the Debate; Stopping the Madness
The news media in recent
weeks have been discussing at some length whether we, the
But there is a fundamental flaw with such discussions. The central question should not be how much of American wealth and personnel should go into occupying which country (though we have gotten ourselves into such a situation that we cannot ignore this question completely). Rather it should be, how do we put a stop to the cycle of violence that we have been fostering? How do we translate war into peace?
We are in a vicious cycle, in
which each act of violence on one ‘side’ encourages further acts of violence on
the other. Every suicide bombing in
Making peace will mean
rejecting the climate of fear that the Bush administration has so assiduously
created in the
It is time for those of us who see this to act. Reject Bush’s climate of fear. Clamor for peace. Elect a Congress that will control Bush’s excesses. Sing out against war. Reject torture under any circumstances. Support other countries’ efforts at self-determination. Study how to resolve conflicts peacefully. Work toward more equitable economic systems. Protect the earth. And speak out for global agreements that make us all safer and more civilized. We, the American people, are probably the only force on earth that can stop this madness; but to do it, we must act.
Carol J. Pierce Colfer ©
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Impeachment is not an action
lightly taken in the
My point is that I think the time has come---with three more dangerous years of this administration ahead of us---to consider impeachment seriously. The president and vice president are endangering American freedoms in a way that is even alarming their conservative constituency at this point. And the havoc they are wreaking internationally is unprecedented in my lifetime (60 years).
This is another election year; and we Democrats must get our act together. We must come up with a coherent platform that is grounded in traditional Democratic values. We must field strong candidates who will stand up for that platform, rather than striving to be ever closer to the ephemeral ‘middle of the road.’ In the single-minded pursuit of winning elections, we’ve let the spirit of compromise get out of hand; we’ve abandoned the values---at least in public---that characterized the Democratic party, and that most of us still stand for.
The last few months have brought a number of encouraging signs. First, the press has begun to cover some of the cover-ups and snafus that they ignored for the previous five years. Second, there have been signs that many Republicans themselves are getting fed up: the 80 conservative Christian groups who recently came out in support of scientific conclusions about global warming, the Republican-dominated investigative committee that looked into the Katrina debacle and found all levels of government---including the top---falling short, and other Republicans breaking ranks over spying, deceit, and other problems.
Third, Al Gore has found his voice. He gave a passionate and coherent speech a few weeks back vilifying the policies that are endangering our freedoms and our soldiers and bankrupting our nation; and he did it with flair and charisma. Given that many felt he won in the first round against Bush, is it not possible that he could take on Bush again, with the benefit of hindsight, learning from his failings, and with full recognition of the incredible shambles Bush and Cheney have made of domestic and foreign affairs? Could not Gore’s righteous anger at the election that was stolen and the resulting state of our nation spur him to win the next election?
But for that to happen, we have to be clear on our core values: We care about social, health and educational programs. We care about equity between men and women, between young and old, between white, black and brown. We care about social security. We care about the rights of women to control their reproductive lives and of gay people to live together in peace. We care about the environment and maintaining it for the next generation. We want to create a cooperative world in which nations work together to improve conditions for all humanity. We believe that the best weapon against terrorism is improving the conditions that spawn it while strengthening international cooperation. We believe in keeping our promises, honoring our treaties. We even care about fiscal responsibility!
And we need to stick to our guns on these issues. We can’t give wishy washy answers and try to ‘play it both ways.’ We either believe these things or we don’t. The electorate is not fooled when we abandon our principles for short term and ephemeral electoral advantage.
But as we move forward on these fronts, let’s consider impeachment seriously. I don’t think we can afford three more years of this continual erosion of our own liberties, our national budget, our environment, and the goodwill that we had built up internationally.
© (Carol J. Pierce Colfer)
 A much longer and better documented list of misrepresentations, connivances, and deceit is available in The Book on Bush.
© Carol J. Pierce Colfer
With the level of killing that is occurring in the world
today, does it really make sense for the
Is not the rhetoric of George Bush and Condoleeza Rice---“
It is truly time for impeachment of the President and Vice
President of the
© Carol J. Pierce Colfer
‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.’
Again I am struck by the fact that the deaths, displacement,
and destruction in
© Carol J. Pierce Colfer
An Australian television show brought it all back. In 1972, a photograph that captured the horror of the Vietnam war was widely circulated. It was a little girl, running naked down a road, with arms outstretched, screaming in pain. She had been hit by American napalm a few moments earlier. The TV program featured the girl, now a woman, and documented her life since.
For me, the images brought back vividly the passion and
anger of my generation as we saw our government making mistakes that meant
death and destruction in another part of the world. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s young people
ranted and raved, wrote letters and articles, demonstrated, had sit-ins, and
discussed these abuses publicly and privately.
And finally, in 1975, the
From my point of view---nearly 40 years later---the same mistakes are being made again, or at least mistakes with similar effects on the ground. People are suffering and dying, their homes and infrastructure are being destroyed because of American bombs, weaponry, funding and policies.
Yet, the youth are silent. Almost everyone is silent. And those who do speak out, complain more about the expense than the death and destruction.
Events suggest that we are needed again. It is time for the ‘60s generation’---now in our 60s---to make our voices heard again. Most of us are still capable of ranting and raving, of writing letters and articles, of demonstrating and holding sit-ins. We can still discuss these issues publicly and privately---and loudly!
An election is upon us, an election that can make a difference if we elect the right people. It is time for us to do a repeat performance. Let’s do it!
We’ve seen what George W. Bush and his cronies can and will
do. They’ve overturned two centuries of
American precedent with their “pre-emptive strikes”. They’ve embroiled us in a series of wars that
show no signs of ending---where American young people are dying along with the
innocent citizens of other countries.
They’ve essentially turned the whole world against the
It is now time to stand up and take back what we consider “the American way.” We need to stand up for world peace, for the dignity and value of the individual, for human rights (and responsibilities), for the environment, for equity and justice, for those who need our help both at home and abroad. We need to be able to impeach the President and Vice President; and that means we need to take back the House and the Senate in November.
We need to mobilize. That
means activating our personal channels in whatever ways we can.
We can talk to our families, persuading the doubters,
encouraging the lazy, inspiring those on our side. We can re-activate networks of friends from
high school, college, work, or professional/trade associations, communicating
with them via email or by phone or in person.
We can engage or re-engage with clubs, interest groups, churches,
mosques---where we can use our powers of persuasion, one on one or by giving
speeches. We can try to connect with
people we know in the red states, where we’re more likely to make a difference.
We can write our views and publish them in newspapers,
newsletters, on the web, in leaflets.
We can contribute money or time to political groups interested in changing the composition of Congress.
There are many things we can do, but we all---each and every one of us---need to get off our butts, and JUST DO IT!
If we don’t, I fear for the
Carol J. Pierce Colfer ©
6 February 2003
There is much talk of war, in the United States today. A few brave souls object, arguing that war is immoral and questioning the rationale for the proposed attacks on Baghdad (and possibly, points East). But there is a remarkable shortage of debate, when the course we seem to be following is so dangerous. Unethical, yes, but dangerous too.
To allow the reader to put my views in perspective, I confess that I am a second-generation anthropologist who spent nearly seven years of her childhood and youth in Turkey. Since then I have spent some 20 years overseas, mostly in Oman and the villages of Indonesia, where I have developed lifelong, familial relationships with local people. So I am comparatively well-informed about the Middle East and Islam. Although in New York this year as a visiting fellow at Cornell, I normally work for an international research center (Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR) in Bogor, Indonesia. There I am surrounded by scientists from all over the world; in my own program, we conduct village-level work in ten countries. So perhaps I have had more than average exposure to non-American views of our actions. I would close this little self-disclosure paragraph by stating that my years abroad have led me to value very highly many aspects of America, like democracy (with all its flaws), our basic freedoms (speech, press, religion, etc.), and the concept of equality under the law. In fact, I love my country very much.
Indeed, that is one reason I’m moved to communicate these views. I believe that I share with a significant proportion of the American populace certain core values. Many of us believe that one should be true to one’s word; that the strong should protect the weak; that individuals have certain inalienable rights; that sharing is a good thing; that hard work should be justly rewarded. I also believe that the current administration is making a mockery of these values, in its dealings with the rest of the world.
The world has changed a lot in my 57 years. There has been striking technological progress in many places, resulting in equally striking discrepancies between the rich and the poor. Even more important, there has been a phenomenal increase in our connectedness. Communication and interdependence among countries have exploded---meaning that images of America flood the world. And, increasingly, we don’t look so good. People in other countries imagine that the violence we export under the guise of entertainment reflects all of our day-to-day lives; our leaders are more bellicose by the day.
Our country has led much of this global change. We have developed much of the technology and we have spearheaded the internet revolution. We have also garnered much of the wealth. These accomplishments (good and bad, just and unjust), combined with the fall of the Soviet Union and the resulting hegemony of the United States, have set the other nations of the world on edge. If the United States is the most powerful nation on Earth (and it’s hard to argue that we are not), then---citizens of other countries reason---any other nation is potentially in danger from us. Others are, understandably, uncomfortable with this state of affairs.
For people in the many countries plagued by corruption and bad governance, the United States has been a beacon. While resenting our wealth and periodic failures of judgment, people in other nations could still value our democratic principles, our respect for human rights, the good example we set in many spheres. Many, even while expressing anger at specific policies, have seen us as a symbol of what was achievable. We have represented economic and human rights successes toward which they and their nations could aspire.
The value, in a changing world, of faithfully performing this symbolic role---as an example of good governance, of faithfulness to one’s agreements, of generosity towards other nations in times of need---is hard to over-estimate. For the world’s sake as well as our own, we should be strengthening our commitment to these values, rather than abandoning them. We should be recognizing and building on the simple but real power of a good example; not embracing atavistic chauvinism. As interconnected as the world is, this is the time to be moving international discourse to a higher plane. For the first time, we actually could lead the world toward peaceful relations. Instead we are leading the world toward war.
Our President, in his previous positions, showed remarkably little interest in the world outside our borders (except perhaps as a supplier of oil); and he continues to show his lack of understanding of international affairs. He undoubtedly knows even less of the hearts and minds of ordinary people in other countries. Such ignorance in the most powerful person on earth is extremely dangerous in a world as interconnected as ours.
Now, when George W. speaks, he insults other nations, belligerently threatening others with America’s strength and ignoring the commitments that we as a nation have made to the world. The cabinet is actively involved in planning war, based on very questionable justification; and American citizens’ and visitors’ longstanding rights are being increasingly abridged. Those members of the House, the Senate, and the populace who perceive the dangers, have been effectively muzzled by a greater fear: that they will be perceived as “un-American” and unsupportive of their President and their country in a time of national crisis.
I do not question the fact that Saddam Hussein is an evil man who oppresses his own people. I was a reluctant supporter of the previous war in Iraq. At that time I had been living in Oman for the previous four years, and was very aware of the dangers he posed to his neighbours. And he had invaded Kuwait. But this time, he has invaded no one. Are we really ready to send troops to all the countries whose leaders do not live up to our standards of conduct (standards we seem increasingly willing to abrogate ourselves!) and who possess potentially harmful weapons? As an informed citizen, I have not seen sufficient evidence to convince me that we should unilaterally attack Iraq at this time. We live in a democracy where we are supposed to be told why our leaders act as they do.
But more fundamentally, I believe that our current foreign policy, based on brute strength rather than on the firm foundation of our values---values that are admired and aspired to, around the world---is a dangerous mistake. We are frightening other nations when we should be reassuring them. We are attacking them when we should be sending them aid. We are not being true to the values we routinely express in our day to day lives and that we teach our children. Why should we not honour our own values in our interactions with other nations?
We possess more weapons of mass destruction than any other country in the world. We are ignoring the rights of men being held in Cuba, pretending they are not prisoners of war, so that we are not bound by international agreements we have signed. We are abridging the rights of our own citizens and visitors based on their ancestry, religion and appearance. Are these actions meant to reassure the world of our good intentions and moral turpitude?
In my view, our position (being the one, most powerful nation on Earth) requires strict adherence to moral precepts. To reassure the rest of the world that we are an honorable nation, more likely to help other nations than to invade them, we should adhere scrupulously to any international agreements we have made. We should generously provide aid to countries in need. We should set a flawlessly good example in the efforts to protect the global environment. We should strictly respect the rights of all those who come within our purview. We should cooperate fully with, and strengthen the role of, the United Nations.
Pragmatically speaking, rather than threatening others, we should be creating forums---among ordinary citizens, among scholars, and among the powerful---in which global problem-solving is the genuine goal. We should be seeking skilled individuals who can facilitate serious discussion among the world’s powerbrokers---creating space where leaders and negotiators from less powerful nations can also express their perspectives and contribute solutions with impunity. We should be mobilizing human creativity, jointly with other affected countries (and the UN), to deal with the problems posed by Saddam Hussein and other dangerous regimes in the world. For the first time in human history, air travel, telephones and email make more humane and cooperative approaches much more potentially viable----if there is the political will. This is where American power and influence should be brought to bear---to bring about creative, and wherever possible, peaceful solutions. I do not believe we have reached the stage where the no-brainer of simply unilaterally bombing miscreant nations out of existence makes any sense at all. The citizens of those countries already suffer enough under their rulers.
As the administration continues its hawkish approach, other countries will inevitably become more and more nervous about US intentions. The possibility that fear and antagonism could mobilize others to band together to oppose us grows larger with every bellicose statement from the White House. The increasing perception that we are anti-Islam has already resulted in stronger connections between nations with large Muslim populations and great antagonism toward Americans. The North Koreans have now been given an excuse, in response to the charge that they were part of an “axis of evil,” to strengthen their own military arsenal.
Again, I recognize that Iraq and Korea are unlikely to honor their own agreements, that they are indeed dangerous states. But the way to deal with them is through international cooperation, with scrupulous attention to international law, with persistent attention to collaborative problem-solving, and quiet, but dogged determination. We should be leading by good example, not bad!
The path that the US President and his cabinet have chosen is one that is unlikely to lead to some sort of benign Pax Americana, but rather to reduction in human rights at home---for which many valiant battles have already been (and will always need to be) fought---and an increased probability of a world-wide conflagration, rendered far more dangerous than those that came before by global, technological sophistication. Let us change course, building on and following the values we teach our children, rather than threatening the world with our might.
Carol J. Pierce Colfer, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Carol J. Pierce Colfer ©
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