Archive: 09/2011

2011 Annual Peace Conference

sponsored by Nebraskans for Peace & UNO School of Social Work

Saturday October 15, 2011

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Trinity United Methodist Church

7130 Kentwell Lane in Lincoln

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Reading "I Am a Man" by Joe Starita: Reflections on Genocide

Nobuko Tsukui, a Japanese scholar of the literature of the atomic bombings, was the guest speaker at the Lincoln NFP Chapter’s annual Hiroshima/Nagasaki Lantern Float this past August.  During her visit in Nebraska, she was given a copy of Joe Starita’s new biography of Chief Standing Bear, I Am a Man.  Reading the book on her return to her home in Tokyo, she recorded her reflections on this momentous episode in Nebraska’s history and has graciously agreed to share them with us. 

With very little knowledge of the history of the Native Americans, I started to read this book, I Am a Man by Joe Starita, the subtitle of which is “Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice,” with a conscious intention of learning historical facts.  When I reached about a third of the book, I found myself crying as I kept reading and taking notes.  Something like this happened before, when I was reading some of the writings by the atomic bomb survivors.  Now that I finished reading this memorable book, I asked myself why I cried reading it and why I also cried reading some works of the atomic bomb literature.  What follows is my reflection – in an effort to find answers to my own question.

It’s true that I Am a Man deals with facts of nineteenth-century U.S. history, focusing on Chief Standing Bear and his “journey for justice.”  The book is a “compelling narrative of injustices finally righted,” a story of “the struggle of our nation’s first inhabitants to find justice in the land of their birth.”  (The quotes are from the excerpts under the heading, “Praise for I Am a Man” printed on pp. i – ii.)  The book gives detailed accounts of Standing Bear’s experience, his family’s experience, and his people’s – the Ponca’s – experience: the suffering, pain, agony, hardship, starvation, illness, death, arrest, imprisonment, and more.  Through all these ordeals, his “perseverance” sustained the Ponca Chief, and on May 12, 1879, Judge Dundy “had declared for the first time in the nation’s history that an Indian was a person within the meaning of U.S. law.” (p.157)  Hence the reviewer for Kirkus Reviews writes: Standing Bear’s ‘case’ “established legal personhood for American Indians.”  (p.i )  (Of course, May 1879 was not the end of his “struggle,” but only the beginning of the end, which came in 1890, when “Standing Bear received Allotment No. 146: a 297.8-acre parcel of rich, dark soil hugging a bend on the west bank of the Running Water.” (p. 233)  [The significance of this event for Standing Bear and his people is explained by Starita: “In short order, in going from a tribally owned reservation to individual allotments, the Northern Ponca has lost 70 percent of their original homeland.” (p. 233)] 

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The Militarization of our Everyday Lives

Over the past several decades—particularly after the widespread public opposition to the U.S.’s intervention in Vietnam—the Pentagon has methodically worked to embed the ‘military-industrial complex’ in every congressional district around the country. Today, there is nary a representative in Congress whose district isn’t an economic beneficiary of the Department of Defense’s ‘gravy train.’

Here in Nebraska, U.S. Strategic Command, according to the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, annually contributes $2.5 billion to the local economy. In the 1st Congressional District (which includes Lincoln), the Pentagon has close ties with the University of Nebraska—specifically its new “Space and Telecom Law Program”—as well as contracts with private firms. And in the 3rd District, the entire Panhandle is dotted with ICBM missile silos affiliated with Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne.

The steady infusion of Defense dollars into local economies has made it increasingly difficult for legislators to separate military and foreign policy decisions from their home district’s economic interests. So deep have the Pentagon’s tentacles reached into our nation’s 435 congressional districts that every military expenditure, every foreign intervention, is now invariably a ‘jobs issue’ for some Congressmember somewhere.

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Cut the Millitary budget first and foremost.

The following news article detailing the exorbitant waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon budget strongly makes the case for why cutting military spending needs to be the centerpiece for all deficit reduction efforts in Congress. Contact your Federal Elected Officials to urge them to cut the Millitary budget first and foremost.

The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Comment Line: 202-456-1111
202-456-2993 (Fax)

Sen. Ben Nelson
11819 Miracle Hills Drive, Suite 205, Omaha, NE 68154
440 North 8th Street, Suite 120, Lincoln, NE 68508
202-224-6551 (Washington, D.C.)
402-391-3411 (Omaha)
402-441-4600 (Lincoln)
308-631-7614 (Scottsbluff)
308-293-5818 (Kearney)
402-209-3595 (South Sioux City)

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