Two opportunities to learn peacemaking
There are two events that teach peacemaking skills which unfortunately are scheduled for the same weekend – Aug. 14-15 – so you'll have to make a choice. You will be pleased no matter which one you attend, so there is no “wrong choice." (I am reminded of the Yiddish expression, “You can't go to two weddings with one tush” – darn!)
The first is the 11th annual Kateri Tekakwitha Peace Conference in Fonda.
It is one of the best kept secrets in the Capitol Region and $40 well spent.
I first started going three years ago as a “return of a favor." I sponsored a workshop in Saratoga Springs on nonviolent civil disobedience and John Amidon, one of the Kateri peace conference organizers, attended. I thought I should support his event the way he supported mine.
It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The conference is exceedingly well put together and the speakers are knowledgeable and committed to what they do. You'll come away with new skills for peacemaking.
What follows is what John has to say about the event:
This year's conference is titled “Harnessing the Winds of Change." On election night in 2008, people all across the world were joyful and celebrated both the election of our first African-American president and the coming end of George W. Bush’s failed presidency. With the election of President Obama, America clearly voted for change. The issue of race was also brought to center stage predominantly in a positive way.
Many of us began to smile again with renewed hope and it seemed as if a soft and gentle spring breeze moved across the land.
However, President Obama was greeted by an economic tsunami and the hot and destructive winds of war have continued blowing fiercely in the Middle East, raging in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Israel and Gaza exploded into horrific violence. Iraq simmered. While we remain hopeful that positive change will come and that President Obama and the new Congress will move America forward, we recognize that many of the problems are deep-seated and will require careful discernment, patience and systematic change.
Can we, the American people, harness the winds of change and work constructively for our children's future? Will we begin to live up to the promise of America by honoring the U.S. Constitution?
Can we achieve the long cherished goal of equality with freedom and justice for all? Will we insure freedom of speech, the right of assembly, habeas corpus and insist upon the unequivocal renunciation of torture?
We know what to do. We know how to do it. It is time to move past the fear and ignorance of the past eight years and work together for the good of each other, our nation and our brothers and sisters, worldwide. It is up to us.
Joanne Sheehan is an organizer on the staff of the War Resisters League and teaches Nonviolent Social Change at the University of Connecticut. She will speak on Nonviolent Social Change using Gandhi's 3 elements of social change – political action (nonviolent campaigns), constructive program (building a just, peaceful, sustainable society), and personal nonviolence to show how people around the world are using nonviolence to create social change.
Bruce R. Hare, emeritus professor from Syracuse University and currently an adjunct professor of Social Sciences at Onondaga Community College, will speak on “Toward Cultural Pluralism and Economic Justice,” discussing the giant step America has taken toward becoming a post-racial "deracialized" society with the election of President Obama, looking closely at civil rights, women’s rights, the impact of labor and the poor people’s movement, amongst others.
Lawrence Davidson and Janet Amighi will give an “Assessment of Present U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East”. Lawrence Davidson is professor of Middle East history at West Chester University.
Janet Kestenberg Amighi teaches anthropology at Montgomery County Community College and has lived in Iran for seven years.
Go to www.kateripeaceconference.org for more information.
The other offering is in Woodstock and is the Woodstock Forum on developing a peace economy. It is titled “From War Machines to Windmills."
This is what my friend, Tarak Kauff (one of the organizers) has to say about the event:
"The small town of Woodstock has a big reputation for peace." So it says on a flyer being passed around with information about the upcoming Woodstock Forum to be held here on the 40th anniversary of what came to be known as the Woodstock Festival celebrating peace and love.
But the Woodstock Forum is about more than peace and love. It's also about a massive nationwide weapons industry that stands in the way of peace and how that industry could be converted into something green and sustainable. We know that Woodstock is a community that values peace. But can we claim to be for peace when our largest manufacturer is making parts used in weapons of war and we haven't said a peep about changing that?
Woodstock's largest manufacturer, Ametek/Rotron, makes parts used in F-16 fighter planes, Apache attack helicopters, tanks and missile delivery systems.
A small group of us met with the leadership of Rotron some months ago. They referred to themselves as part of the defense industry. But "defense industry" is just another name for the same huge military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about in 1961 when leaving office.
Frida Berrigan, senior program associate with the New America Foundation's Arms and Security Initiative, in an article called "Weapons: Our No. 1 Export?" says the United States leads the world in exporting weaponry. "Increased weapons sales will certainly help defense contractors ... but they won't help the overall U.S. economy or the security of the international community."
Defense contractors may provide jobs (green, sustainable economy would provide more) but the production and sale of military hardware has little to do with actual "defense." The very profitable production (for a few) of weapons used to rain death and destruction (on the many) keeps the business of war going on and on.
Two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner (retired) Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler said it this way, "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives."
On the other hand, for more peaceful tomorrows, the Woodstock Forum is bringing together activists and scholars from around the U.S. for two days of "building a peaceful, just and sustainable economy."
Speakers and performers will include Diane Wilson, environmental and anti-war activist and author of "An Unreasonable Woman," investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, Jeff Cohen, Mikhail Horowitz, Joel Kovel, Janine Vega and others.
According to esteemed Tibetan scholar and Woodstock resident Robert Thurman, "Our town should be in the lead in turning America away from a self-defeating war economy to a green sustainable economy, and so the conversion of the Woodstock plant of Rotron from war component-making to purely peace-product manufacturing is of vital concern to all Woodstock taxpaying citizens, including myself."
Historian and author Howard Zinn wrote, "I'm gratified that citizens of Woodstock and its environs are organizing to transform the production of components now used for frightful weapons to peaceful and sustainable purposes ... perhaps other places in the country where war materials are produced will take up the struggle for a weapons-free, peaceful world.
Remember the dates: Aug. 15 at the Woodstock Town Hall and Aug. 16 at the Colony Cafe. On the flyer it says, "What if Woodstock made Windmills?"
What if? Be there and find out.