Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Do You Know about TheGrio and the Icon Awards?

As this is Black History Month, it seems like a good time to post an article about TheGrio, which I just learned about by accident earlier this month. Some of you, I assume, know about TheGrio, but my guess is that most of you know little if any about it. 

TheGrio is “an American television network and website with news, opinion, entertainment and video content geared toward African-Americans.” It can be watched free on the internet, and it is also available on local TV in many cities across the U.S.*

TheGrio’s name comes from griot, a Western African word that designates a musician-entertainer who plays a vital role in preserving their people's oral traditions and histories.

Although I rarely watch local TV, I happened to turn on CBS on the evening of Feb. 3 and theGrio’s Icon Awards program was being telecast. I listened with interest to speeches by three of the Icon recipients, the three I am briefly introducing below.

Al Sharpton received the Justice Ikon Award. According to Wikipedia, Alfred Charles Sharpton Jr. (b. 1954) is “an American civil rights and social justice activist, Baptist minister, radio talk show host, and TV personality, who is also the founder of the National Action Network civil rights organization.” 

Sharpton has been a leading, and controversial, civil rights leader for nearly 55 years now. He has also sought various political offices, including that of POTUS (in 2004), but was never elected.

At the end of his theGrioAwards speech, Sharpton said, “The only thing that I really live for is I get up with this dream: every bigot, every racist, everyone in this country that hates will say damn, he’s up again.”

TheGrio online article concludes, “He loves to have them know that they can’t stop him. He loves knowing that Black resistance to oppression is unstoppable. That’s why the Rev. Sharpton deserves the Justice Icon Award.”

Those who commemorate recent Black history forty years from now will surely remember Al Sharpton along with many other exemplary civil rights leaders such as him as well as the next two theGrio Ikon Awards.

The Scientist Ikon was awarded to Kizzmekia Corbett, born in 1986 in North Carolina. In 2008, she received a B.S. in biological sciences and sociology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).** 

In 2014, Corbett earned a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and since June 2021 she has been an assistant professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute.

Corbett was awarded the Scientist Ikon because of her great contribution to the development of the covid-19 vaccination, which probably saved as many as five million lives—and some sources put that figure as high as 20 million—around the world.

Please click here to read the article about the reason Corbett was chosen for the Scientist Ikon and listen to her acceptance speech last November.

The recipient of the Inspiration Ikon Award was Dwayne Johnson. I never thought I would post a blog article in admiration of a man whose main claim to fame is professional wrestling, for I am the very opposite of a fan of that “sport.” 

Johnson’s father was a Black Nova Scotian and his mother (whose first name is Mataniufeagaimaleata (!) but she went by the name Ata) is Samoan. Both parents were professional wrestlers.

Citing Wikipedia again, Dwayne Douglas Johnson (b. 1972), “also known by his ring name The Rock, is an American actor, businessman, and professional wrestler. He is…widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.”

Recently, however, Johnson has been in the news because of teaming up with Oprah to raise and provide much-needed financial and housing relief for the many people suffering from the Maui, Hawaii, wildfires in 2023, the deadliest U.S. wildfires in at least 100 years.

Here is the link to Johnson’s impressive (and brief) acceptance speech for his Inspiration Ikon, which was also awarded in November 2023.

Black History Month every February is an important time to recognize prominent African Americans of the past as well as contemporary Black people of distinction who are shaping Black history that will be remembered decades from now.

_____

  * This is the opening sentence of the Wikipedia article on TheGrio (often written as theGrio)—and it needs to be updated as African-American is now not generally used as a hyphenated word nor used as much as Black. Here is a link to theGrio’s webpage with their explanation about themselves—and I encourage you to take a look at that website. (Note that Grio is pronounced grī/ō.) I was a bit surprised to learn that it is available on channel 62-2, a free local channel, here in the Kansas City area.

** I was interested to see that, for my granddaughter Naomi is currently a student at UMBC. 

Saturday, February 10, 2024

A Tribute to My Mother

My mother was born 110 years ago in February 1914. Her birthday was on Friday the 13th, right between Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which was 105 years earlier on Feb. 12, 1809, and St. Valentine’s Day, which had been celebrated on Feb. 14 since 496 A.D.

In 2017, I posted A Tribute to My Father,” on July 25, the day before the 10th anniversary of his death. Now, just before the 110th anniversary of my mother’s birth, I am posting this tribute to her.*1    

Helen (Cousins) Seat (2005)

To tell the truth, from my boyhood until the end of their lives, I held my father in higher regard than my mother, although certainly I never had any notable conflict or disrespect for her. I am glad now to be sharing this long-overdue tribute to her.

Helen Lena Cousins was born in rural Mercer County, Missouri, the third child (and third daughter) of J. Ray and Laura Kathryn (Hamilton) Cousins. In 1925 the Cousins family moved to Worth County, Mo.

Mom and my father were married in 1935, two years after they graduated from high school in Grant City, Mo.—the same high school I graduated from 22 years later. She passed away 13 days after her 94th birthday in 2008, having lived most of her long life in Worth County.

There is so much I appreciate about my mother, beginning with my pre-school years. Neither of my parents had any formal education beyond high school, and Mom had not been a very good student as a girl. (She had to repeat one grade in elementary school, but that was partly because of illness.)

As a woman of her times, she was a traditional wife, mother, and homemaker in the best sense of the word. She was a good housekeeper, an excellent cook, a skillful seamstress, and a successful gardener. But more than anything else, she excelled in encouragement and support.

In my life story book, I wrote that Mom “seemed to know how to encourage/support very effectively my desire to learn.”*2 Thanks to her, I had learned to read and to do arithmetic so well that a week after I started elementary school, I was promoted to the second grade.

Through the decades Mom’s unwavering support and encouragement continued not only for me and my younger sister but also for her six grandchildren, whom she loved dearly.

In 1966 when June and I left with our two children for Japan as missionaries, taking with us Mom’s only grandchildren at the time, she never complained. I deeply appreciate her (and my father’s) understanding and prayer support of us during our missionary career in Japan which didn’t end until 2004.

The following words of tribute to my mother were heard by the family members and friends who gathered on March 1, 2008, for her funeral and listened to the sermon I preached on that occasion. I am glad to share just a bit of that sermon with you Thinking Friends now.*3

In it, I said that because of Mom’s quiet encouragement, my sister Ann became a medical doctor and I was able to earn the Ph.D. degree. But she was never pushy; she never tried to tell us what we ought to do. With only rare exceptions, if any, Mom always believed in us and always encouraged us.

Since Mom always took great pride in her children and their accomplishments, "we thought that nothing would have pleased her more today than for Ann to furnish the music and for me to preach the funeral sermon.”

Through the many decades of her life, Mom was a faithful Christian and church member. She “was constantly thinking of others—mainly her husband and children, but others outside the family and around the world, as well.”

Mom was also never one to complain—about her work or her health. She didn’t read a lot, but she knew by nature what Norman Vincent Peale wrote about in The Power of Positive Thinking.

At times in her later years when she was not feeling well and someone would inquire about her health, she would usually reply, “I’m getting better.”

After sharing those words in the funeral sermon, partly because the end of her long life was marred by progressive dementia, I said that “now she really is better—and in a better place, the place that Jesus had prepared for her.”

_____

*1 Ten years ago, on 2/13/14, I posted “One Hundred Years Ago,” but only a few sentences at the beginning were about my mother’s birth on 2/13/1914.

*2 About six weeks ago I published A Wonderful Life: The Story of My Life from My Birth until My 85th Birthday (1938~2023). One definite reason why I have been so bold as to refer to my life so far as a wonderful life is because of my mother.

*3 I certainly don’t expect many of you to take the time to read all or even any of that sermon, but if you are interested, here is the digital link to it. In March 1959, 49 years earlier, I also preached the sermon at my mother’s mother’s (my Grandma Cousins’) funeral when I was still a twenty-year-old college student—but already an ordained pastor. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

90 SECONDS TO MIDNIGHT (=Doomsday)!

A week ago (on Jan. 23), the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced the setting of what they call the Doomsday Clock. Contrary to my expectation, the clock was set the same as last year: 90 seconds to midnight (with midnight representing “doomsday”).

For 75 years now, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been announcing the setting of the Doomsday Clock. That nonprofit organization was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and former Manhattan Project scientists. They introduced the Doomsday Clock two years later.

The first setting of the Clock was seven minutes to midnight. In 1949, with the explosion of a nuclear device by the Soviet Union and the beginning of the arms race, it was reset to three minutes before midnight.

The testing of the hydrogen bomb in 1952 led to resetting the Clock in the following January to just two minutes before doomsday. Relations between the U.S. and the USSR improved over the next few years, though, and in 1960 the hands on the Clock were moved back to seven minutes.

Over the next decades, the Doomsday Clock kept going up and down, reaching the farthest from midnight, 17 minutes, in 1991. But in 2002 it was back to seven minutes and has never been further since. In 2015 it was back down to three minutes where it started in 1947.

In January last year, the Clock was set at 90 seconds. the closest to midnight it had ever been, and it was kept at that setting last week. I expected it to be set even closer to “doomsday” because of the threat of expanding, and perhaps nuclear, war in the Levant.*

The threat of nuclear war was the main basis for setting the Doomsday Clock for the first 60 years. In 2007, however, climate change was added to the prospect of nuclear annihilation as another portentous threat to humankind, and the hands on the Clock were set at five minutes to midnight.

The announcement regarding this year’s setting of the Clock stated that there were four main considerations for determining that setting: 1) the many dimensions of nuclear threat, 2) an ominous climate change outlook, 3) evolving biological threats, and 4) the dangers of AI.**

How should we respond to the current setting of the Doomsday Clock? This question surely demands our thoughtful attention. Let me suggest three things:

1) Don’t ignore the Doomsday Clock. It would be easy to shrug off the Clock’s warning because of denial, indifference, or the unwillingness to face seriously the present predicament the world is in—or even just due to the pressure of meeting the demands of our everyday lives.

2) Don’t let the Doomsday Clock get you down. Depression, of course, is the result of feeling “down” for whatever reason. Too much attention to the Clock can certainly cause depression. Just as we shouldn’t ignore the clock, neither should we think about it “all the time.”

3) Work actively to elect candidates of the better political party, that is, the party working more consistently to deal with the dire problems besetting the whole world.

On the website linked to in the second footnote, we are told that the threats the world is currently facing “are of such a character and magnitude that no one nation or leader can bring them under control.”

They go on to state that “three of the world’s leading powers—the United States, China, and Russia—should commence serious dialogue about each of the global threats.”

Further, they contend that those three countries “need to take responsibility for the existential danger the world now faces. They have the capacity to pull the world back from the brink of catastrophe. They should do so, with clarity and courage, and without delay.”

I am not at all optimistic, though, that the three countries mentioned will even begin to do most of what is necessary to move the hands on the Doomsday Clock farther from midnight.

But I am quite sure there is much more possibility of that being done under the Democratic Party in the U.S. rather than by the MAGA party, which includes so many xenophobic people who, among other things, are also global warming and pandemic deniers--as well as deniers of the clear results of the 2020 presidential election. 

_____

  * I previously wrote about the Doomsday Clock in August 2020 (see here) and mentioned it briefly (here) in March 2018. Some things now are much the same, but there are some distinct differences also.

Note too that the Doomsday Clock elicits attention from around the world. See, for example, this Jan. 17 article from the Hindustan Times, an Indian English-language daily newspaper based in Delhi.

** See here for the official “2024 Doomsday Day Clock Statement” and related information. 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The Challenge of the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule is something “everyone” knows but hardly anyone follows to a significant degree. In this post, I want to think with you about the meaning and practice (or lack thereof) of the Golden Rule and the challenge it presents in one concrete problem facing USAmerican society today. 

The Golden Rule in Christianity and Other Religions

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (Matt. 7:12), words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, have been referred to as the Golden Rule since the 17th century. Similar words, though, were said/written in other religious traditions before and after Jesus.*1

Of special interest is the statement of Hillel, the esteemed Jewish rabbi who died about 10 years after Jesus’ birth. He reportedly said, “What is hateful to yourself, do to no other.”

This negative version of the Golden Rule, sometimes called the Silver Rule, is often expressed, “What you do not wish done to you, do not do to others.” Similar words are found in ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts, as seen in this image: 


It is interesting that the words of the five major religions seen here, the Muslim words are closest to the words of Jesus. One source states, “According to Anas ibn Mālik (d. 712), the Prophet [Mohammed] said: “None of you has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself’.”

What about the Platinum Rule?

Some people are critical of the Golden Rule and say it should be replaced by what they call the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they would like to be treated.” This shifts the focus from what you want to what others want.

Jennifer Furlong, a motivational speaker and advocate for personal growth gave a TEDx talk titled “The Golden Rule Not so Much, Platinum Rule Rocks.” In that talk, she declares that the Golden Rule is terrible relationship advice and urges people to use the Platinum Rule instead. *2

There is certainly merit in this emphasis on the (poorly named?) Platinum Rule. Thinking about what others want or need and seeking to respond to those wants/needs is a worthy challenge for us all. But so many people don’t even come close to meeting the challenge of the Golden Rule.

Let me illustrate this with one contemporary issue.  

The Golden Rule and the Current Immigration Crisis

The number of immigrants crossing the southern border of the U.S. is one of the most contentious issues facing our nation at present, and it raises a lot of red flags for many. A shutdown of the government almost happened because of the strong disagreement between the pro- and anti-immigration legislators.

Further, before long the Republican House of Representatives will likely impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Republicans have repeatedly accused Mayorkas of failing to enforce the nation's laws as a record number of migrants arrived at, and crossed, the U.S.-Mexico border.

The clamor to “close the border” is actively supported by many conservative White evangelicals. But how does one obey the Golden Rule and turn away people, including families, fleeing violence and starvation?

One tragic example is that of a Mexican woman and two of her children who drowned last week seeking to cross the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass, Texas. Mexican authorities requested help from the U.S. Border Patrol, but they were denied access to the area by the Texas State Police and National Guard.

So, if you were there in the place of that mother, what would you want others to do to/for you? Of course, you would want them to do all they could to rescue you and your children.

How could people claim to follow the Golden Rule but do nothing to help those seeking refuge from violence and extreme economic hardship?

Some have claimed that we are human beings, not human doings. That may be true, but be sure to note that the first word of the Golden Rule is do.

_____

*1 The Wikipedia article gives a helpful summary of the variety of ways the Golden Rule has been expressed by numerous religious leaders and secular scholars. 

*2 That 2017 talk was loaded on YouTube, and to date it has had around 12,000 views. It is a bit ironic, though, that in contrast to what once was usually the case, gold is now worth considerably more than platinum. Even at the end of 2017 an ounce of gold was worth $1,300 but an ounce of platinum was worth only $940.

*3 See this article posted on January 16. Although it is about a bridge some 300 miles southeast of Eagle Pass, I also suggest you read this Jan. 17 article titled “Fellowship Southwest joins bridge walk to draw attention to broken asylum system.”

P.S.: Here is a 1967 Wizard of Id comic strip by Johnny Hart: 



Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

In her December 31 sermon, my pastor told us about Sankofa, a concept/symbol that comes from the Akan people who live mainly in Ghana. I had not previously heard of Sankofa, but Pastor Ruth’s use of that idea on Dec. 31 was surely appropriate.

Sankofa is also appropriate for us to think about now in this second week of the new year. 

Sankofa is often illustrated as a beautiful bird with its head turned backward taking an egg off its back. It symbolizes the West African proverb about the importance of reaching back to the past, learning from it, and using that knowledge to create a more desirable future.

According to what ChatGPT told me, “The Sankofa is deeply rooted in African philosophy and is often used to emphasize the significance of cultural heritage, knowledge and the interconnectedness of past, present, and future.”

As Pastor Ruth showed us in her sermon, this symbol is at the very top of the new (2019) Sankofa Peace Window at the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. (Click here to see a picture of that impressive window.)**

It is certainly appropriate for African American people to use the Sankofa symbol as they seek to acknowledge their past heritage in endeavoring to create a better future for themselves in this country.

That same emphasis, though, is something we all, regardless of race or nationality, can borrow and apply to our lives with considerable benefit at the beginning of this new year.

Sankofa can be linked to the ancient Roman god Janus, the god with two faces, one looking forward and the other one backward. The English word January, as you probably know, is named after Janus. 

Both Sankofa and Janus symbolize a dual-faced looking backward and forward, but Sankofa is more noteworthy. Janus was primarily the god of beginnings and transitions, associated with the passage of time and the start of a new phase.

Sankofa is more meaningful, though, because it places a significant emphasis on learning from the past for the benefit of the future.

Utilizing the Sankofa concept in this critical year of 2024 is of great importance. We need to learn from the past year, or past few years, to help us make wise decisions in this new year.

Many things might be considered in this regard, and I encourage each of you to consider what you can learn from your own past experiences to forge a better future for yourself and your loved ones in the year ahead.

Here, however, I want primarily to think with you about the debacle that took place three years ago on January 6 in our nation’s Capitol.

At a news conference last Thursday (Jan. 4), Matthew Graves, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said,

On January 6, 2021, the United States lost control of the grounds around its Capitol and most of the Capitol itself. Thousands of people descended on the Capitol, and hundreds of people within the mob used force and violence to overwhelm the vastly outnumbered law enforcement officers protecting the building and those who work within it.

Then on January 5, President Biden made an important speech in Pennsylvania, not far from Valley Forge, where General George Washington quartered his troops from December 1777 to June 1778 during the Revolutionary War.

That war, the President said, was about Freedom, liberty, democracy.” “Valley Forge,” he emphasized, “tells the story of the pain and the suffering and the true patriotism it took to make America.” But three years ago, when insurrectionists tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power on January 6, 2021, “we nearly…lost it all.”

When all the facts are examined, it seems undeniable that by his words and actions, the 45th President of the U.S. was the one who instigated the violence of that unruly mob.

For the sake of preserving the democracy that has been at the heart of this nation from the beginning, it is imperative that we look back and properly assess the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and look ahead to November with the resolve to do all we can to keep Donald Trump from becoming the 47th POTUS.

_____

** This is the third remarkable stained-glass window installed in that church since the MAAFA Remembrance Window was unveiled in 2000. The term “maafa” is a Swahili word that means “great disaster” or “great tragedy.” It is often used to refer to the African Holocaust or the transatlantic slave trade, during which millions of Africans were captured, enslaved, and transported to the Americas and other parts of the world (ChatGPT). The window pictures a representation of Christ whose torso contains a schematic of a slave ship.

Note: Last week I discovered that a novel titled Sankofa was published in 2021, and I am reading it now and finding it quite interesting. It is by Chibundu Onuzo, a woman born in Nigeria in 1991 and who has lived in England since 2005. It was Reese Witherspoon’s book club “pick” for Oct. 2021. 


Monday, January 1, 2024

In This New Year, Let’s Respect the Humanity of Everyone

In December, I finished (slightly) revising and updating the 2020 book I wrote primarily for my children and grandchildren, the subtitle of which now is The Story of My Life from My Birth to My 85th Birthday (1938~2023). My daughter Kathy (who lives nearby) helped in several ways, including doing some proofreading. 

A few times in my book, I used the word Black(s) to refer to African American people. Kathy, who is a teacher of gifted students in the local public school system, said that that terminology should be changed, and referred to the current recommendations of the APA in that regard.

In their style guide for writing, the American Psychological Association (APA) lists some “general principles for reducing bias,” one of which is “be sensitive to labels.” In that regard is this directive: “Acknowledge people’s humanity.” They went on to say,

Choose labels with sensitivity, ensuring that the individuality and humanity of people are respected. Avoid using adjectives as nouns to label people…or labels that equate people with their condition.

Although there are some descendants of enslaved people in this country who reportedly prefer to term Black to African American, I soon agreed with the APA’s guidelines, and with my insightful daughter.

This insight is something I heard more than 60 years ago from Wayne Oates, the professor of my seminary course in Pastoral Counseling.* I have not, though, sufficiently or consistently put that perspective into practice.

I still remember Dr. Oates telling us “preacher boys” (and I don’t remember even one female student in that course I took in 1961 or ’62) that in our work as pastors, we shouldn’t say things like we’re going to visit the sick or the elderly. Rather, we should always refer to them as sick or elderly people.

Oates, who had a Ph.D. in religious psychology, was emphasizing then what the APA is still stressing now: adjectives should not be used as nouns to label people. The humanity of all people should always be recognized.

Even the humanity of our enemies must be affirmed. That is one thing that impressed me when I read the Sojourners article that introduced and included an interview with Ali Abu Awwad, the Palestinian pacifist I wrote about in my previous blog post.** That article begins with these words:

A core principle of nonviolence is recognizing the humanity of your opponent.

Considerable progress has been made in this regard in recent years. In the public media, “slaves” are now usually referred to as enslaved people. Such language choice separates people's identity from their circumstance.

And just the other day, I was surprised to hear a newscaster on the radio refer to “people experiencing homelessness” rather than “the homeless.” That was another example of people’s humanity being emphasized over their current condition.

But what about Awwad’s emphasis on recognizing the humanity of one’s opponents or enemies? It is certainly commendable that as a Palestinian man he can see the humanity of the Israelis who incarcerated him.

Can Israelis or even us in this in country, though, recognize the humanity of Palestinians affiliated with Hamas? It is certainly easier to demonize such people—and the enemy in every war is demonized. That makes it much easier to kill them.

As an advocate of nonviolence, I agree with Awwad’s recognition of the humanity of all people, including enemies. After all, Jesus said to his followers, “…love your enemies and pray for those who harass you” (Matt. 5:44, CEB).

The Hamas fighters are usually called terrorists, and not without reason. But if we follow the guidelines given above, perhaps they should be called “desperate people engaging in terrorism [=the use of intentional violence and fear to achieve political or ideological aims].”

I do not in any way condone the 10/7 violent attacks on Israel. But I do want to affirm their humanity, and that affirmation comes partly from recognizing their legitimate grievances at the way Palestinians have been treated since 1948.  

There is no telling what may happen, in the Levant or the world as a whole, in this new year of 2024. But among other things, let us always endeavor to respect the humanity of all people.

_____

  * In my 10/20/14 blog post I wrote that Wayne Oates was “probably the wisest teacher I ever sat under.”

** Only after making my previous blog post did I learn that Awwad was one of two men awarded this year’s Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development in December. That award was bestowed on Awwad for his “efforts towards a non-violent resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.” That prestigious Peace Prize has been awarded annually since its establishment in 1986. Jimmy Carter was the recipient of it in 1997.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Standing for Peace in a Time of War

It has now been nearly 11 weeks since the deadly rocket attack on Israel that began the Israel-Hamas war. Most of the military destruction has occurred in Gaza, and most deaths have been of Palestinians who were not directly a part of Hamas, an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, its official name.  

The destruction and death toll in Gaza has been horrendous. Make no mistake about it: the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel was an evil event. Wantonly killing more than 1,200 people, most of whom were civilians, cannot be characterized differently.

But I also see Israel’s revengeful attacks on Gaza as even more evil, for far more innocent lives have been taken. The latest figures indicate that around 20,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by the Israeli Defense Forces military. How much greater that is than “an eye for an eye”!

A large percentage of Palestinian deaths are of women and children, and as children (and others) dying of starvation and disease will increase in the days/weeks ahead, Palestinian casualties will continue to rise to ever more distressing numbers.

The U.S. government has clearly supported Israel from its beginning in 1948, and this support is even more distressing to me now.

As a U.S. citizen, I am highly displeased with the stance of the federal government. The U.S. has given Israel more than $260 billion of aid since World War II, more than to any other nation. In October, the Administration asked Congress to provide $14.3 billion of emergency aid to Israel.

I have been quite disappointed in President Biden’s public stance on support for Israel—but not as much as Thinking Friend Mike Greer, who on Dec. 15 posted his strong views on this blogsite:

Biden's role in the creation of a hell on earth in Gaza leaves me with little hope for the Democratic party here. I am wondering if he does not have a case of moral dementia . . . .

But I don’t think Biden’s position is any different from what any other President’s would be, including Hillary Clinton (who could well have been nearing the end of her seventh year as President if it had not been for her inexplicable loss in 2016).

Near Election Day in 2016 when I thought Clinton’s election was assured, I wrote “an open letter to Madame President.” Among other things, I implored her to ease up on her support for Israel in order to lessen the injustice being done to the Palestinians.

There are, though, voices for non-violence and peace, even among Palestinians. Despite all the violence that has been unleashed on Gaza by Israel since October 7, I am heartened by those who are still advocating peaceful responses.

Just last week, I learned about Ali Abu Awwad, a prominent Palestinian peace activist and proponent of nonviolence.*

Awwad (b. 1972) took part in the First Intifada as a teenager and was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison. During the four years before he was released, he read the writings of Gandhi, Mandela, and MLK Jr. and embraced their commitment to non-violence.

In 2016 he co-founded Taghyeer (the Arabic word for change), a Palestinian national movement promoting nonviolence to achieve and guarantee a nonviolent solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

On the other side, there is Jewish Voice for Peace in the U.S. Since its founding in 1996, it has been working for “a world where all people—from the U.S. to Palestine—live in freedom, justice, equality, and dignity.” (see here).

Also, Amanda Gelender, a Jewish American anti-Zionist writer, has also recently stressed (here) that “Israel’s massacre of Palestine is an assault on the Jewish faith.”**

So, in this war of Israel’s Defense Force against Hamas which, broadly speaking, is seen as a Jewish war against Palestinians, which side am I on? Without hesitation, I am on the side of those standing for peace and justice.

*****

Merry Christmas to all as people around the world celebrate the birth of one prophesied to be the Prince of Peace

_____

 * The theme of the January 2024 issue of Sojourners is “Nonviolence in a Time of War.” Their interview with Awwad is titled “Nonviolence in the Face of War.”

** Amanda Gelender is now based in the Netherlands. She has been a part of the Palestinian solidarity movement since 2006. Her Dec. 7 article begins, “I am a Jewish person who opposes the settler colonial state of Israel. This is not despite my Judaism, but because of it.”