Category: Speaking Our Peace

My Telephone Calls to My Son

by Paul Olson, President Emeritus

About once a week, I call my son, Andrew, in Birmingham, England, where he and his wife teach and do neuropsychological research. I love my children and grandchildren, and we stay in touch across the thousands of miles. Past conversations usually concerned his wife, his kids’ athletic events and school work, his own research and teaching, and recent family junkets. However, in recent weeks, we have had the usual exchange briefly, then Andrew goes into a half hour or so rant about Britain’s departure from the European Union—the lies told in the campaign, the incompetent Tory leadership, Labor’s lackluster role, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) crazies, and the millions of people who, having voted themselves out of the European Union, Googled to find out what they had left!

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Make America Just Again

by Paul Olson, President Emeritus

As I sit here in my easy chair, another primary proceeds—perhaps to determine the fate of the earth. Clinton and Trump lead the polls, and Trump has received the endorsement of David Duke and effective neo-Nazi organizing behind the scenes. Students suggesting that ‘Black Lives Matter’ have been thrown out of Trump’s rallies at his command. Undocumented aliens, we are told, are scum to be thrown back to their drug cartel-infested countries. The cry appears to be, ‘Mr. Trump, build up this wall.’ Sitting in my easy chair with my cup of tea, I am nonplussed. I have just seen “Son of Saul”—the bleakest Holocaust film in existence. I fear the Holocaust furnaces already burning in our hearts may also lie in our external future.

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The Nation State Is a Very Obsolete Idea

by Paul Olson, President Emeritus

Recently the BBC quoted Czech conservative, Alex Tomsky: “The nation state as originally conceived has no place at the end of the 20th century, let alone in the 3rd millennium—The nation state is a very obsolete idea… I see the nation state as stemming from nationalism, from the idea of a homogeneous society with a leader, with an authority, with a particular slant to history and ideology… I don’t think it is a positive force. After all it’s caused two world wars in Europe.” Other ‘authorities’ have disputed Tomsky’s kind of notion, especially the Chronicle of Higher Education, and pundits who point to new European nations (e.g. Kosovo and Macedonia) or recent Russian nationalism as contrary evidence.

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Stealing Grapes & Beating a Camel Driver

by Paul Olson, President Emeritus

Recently the United States dead-ended the nuclear non-proliferation talks on eliminating nuclear arms in the Middle East. As each country would be required to reveal its store of nuclear weapons and its proposals for eliminating them, the United States pulled out to protect Israel’s clandestine 80-130 weapons cache. The event received almost no media attention in the U.S. Thereby hangs a tale.

I live alone. As is the wont of old men living alone, I channel surf and recently happened across “1913: Seeds of Conflict,” an account of Palestine in 1914. The quality of the show compensated for my many wasted hours of replayed sports chestnuts, reality-TV court battles, soap opera fornication, violence between superheroes and super villains, and generals sending cinema youth to war.

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The Symbols of Who We Are

by Paul Olson, President Emeritus
 

The picture of the woman, Bree Newsome, climbing the flagpole near the Confederate Memorial in Columbia, South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag, moved me. She was arrested for doing what resistance to bigotry demanded. That climb and her subsequent arrest said even more to me about where South Carolina and the nation have been than the “black lives matter” marches or President Obama’s eulogy to the Rev. Pinckney and his powerful singing of “Amazing Grace.” These actions said that individual courage can disrupt consensual symbolism.

The Confederate flag did not stand for the southern way of life, for ‘states’ rights,’ for crinoline and great houses. It stood for hate. Or rather, all of these—way of life, states’ rights rhetoric, crinoline, great houses and Confederate flag—all stood for a pretense of civilized grace covering a white savagery. That savagery lasted for more than 300 years and is still with us. South Carolina’s Confederate 1861 plot against the U.S. began as a treasonable effort to defend the economic rights of slaveholders. Its century-later 1961 re-adoption of the Confederate flag (a gesture of defiance to the Civil Rights movement) defended the economic prerogatives of Southern white elites. A racist rhetoric originating in those elites and circulating in so-called ‘redneck’ circles kept power in the hands of the elites, enjoying their mint juleps and unquestioned economic power. The North now too often emulates the South.

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