Sunday, May 13, 2007


Jim: At the request of reader Alicia, we're doing another roundtable. She suggested that the mailbags had become mini-roundtables but she asked for something "lengthier." She further noted that "roundtables are becoming all the rage lately and if you don't do another one soon, you'll lose your place." Hey, no cutting in line! Ty's picked out a few e-mails and he'll explain that in a second but here's who is participating: The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and me, Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, and Wally of The Daily Jot. Ty?

Ty: I was looking for a mix in the e-mails in terms of topics and I was also attempting to note repeated questions or issues that come up. If you've written about something and it's not here, maybe we'll be able to get to it in the mailbag. I do try to respond to all e-mails that require a response and I know Dona does as well. First up is a question that is very popular after last week's edition: Are illustrations worth it?

Dona: I think they are. Ty and I both responded to that during the bulk of the week. They do put us behind, no question. There are huge problems with posting them and there are huge problems with getting them up on Flickr to begin with. Rebecca, what's the time on that right now?

Rebecca: 45 minutes on one illustration.

Dona: That's uploading one so that gives you an idea. Now uploading can slow down postings but most of the time they do not slow down the actual writing process. What they also do, in the best instances, is give us to something to focus on. Often, the ones doing the illustration are Kat, Jess, Ty, Jim, Ava, C.I. and myself. That's because we're all together. But, even when the rest assisting aren't present, they can make suggestions over the phone, and it's a way to get us all on the same page before writing. So in terms of that, they're a bonus. In terms of the look of the site, I think they've been a plus. We are toying with posting features on Sunday without illustrations when we're unable to get them to load, then coming back in the evening and adding them. It is a problem, but it's also has an upside. Having offered illustrations, at this point, I'd be upset if we stopped because I am used to the 'new' look.

Betty: I'd just add to that illustrations became a big deal to everyone for the editions in the lead up to the September rally. We really wanted to move towards more illustrations. Good or bad, they can be a breather from text. It's also true that even before illustrations became so important, they already were in one regard. C.I. was very vocal that we needed illustrations of war resisters because they weren't being covered and we really needed to do our part to put a face on war resistance. From that flowed where the site is now.

Ty: That was the most asked question, most raised issue in last week's e-mails. I'll turn it back over to Jim.

Jim: Thank you, Ty. For anyone wondering, Ty's turning it over to participate. I like to moderate and listen. On Thursday, C.I. discussed "What's Next for the Peace Movement?" (Foreign Policy in Focus) which was a follow up to Lawrence Wittner "How the Peace Movement Can Win." One complaint came in, C.I. didn't link to the piece. Which was an accidental oversight and C.I. plans to provide the link in tonight's "And the war drags on" entry. But everyone else just wanted to know what anyone else thought of that.

Wally: I agreed with it. I read it and I can't wait to read Marcia's take on it Tuesday in Hilda's Mix, but I agreed with the critiques offered. Cedric and I were talking about it Saturday morning while we were working on a joint-post and we agreed that Brian Corr's was one of the real standouts of that.

Cedric: He's addressing the fact that you can't just say 'we're diverse' by providing spokespeople, you also have to be diverse within the structure of the organization itself. That was the one that stood out the most, most favorably, for me. I was glad it stood out to Wally too and C.I. as well. I also agreed that the "I agree with Wittner" parts should have been dropped. When I started reading it, the Wittner parts are at the beginning, I nearly stopped reading. Then I flipped back to C.I.'s entry and saw Corr was one of the ones C.I. was really talking up, so I went back over and read. About the second paragraph, he starts really getting into it. It was my own personal favorite and I find it interesting that he was the only one to address that.

Jim: Just so you know, everyone appears to want to respond right now so we may make that the topic, Dona's very serious about the time limit here, the sole topic of this roundtable. Mike wants to speak and I'm pretty sure what he wants to say because there's something that really ticked me off and I'm guessing it did Mike as well.

Mike: Saif Rahman, right? We've got one young or youngish person in the mix and he's wasting his allotted time to include an eight-line MLK quote. C.I.'s comments on that were: "I'd also add that in limited space, a multi-line quote from MLK isn't advancing anything. You can summarize it. But to use limited space to share a quote? MLK has had his say and should be remembered. But as the only youth voice invited into the discussion, it was more important to hear from that then to hear a lengthy quote (eight lines) from MLK." I loved that. I've got no problem with a quote and certainly not one from MLK but this was about today's peace movement and the one young or youngish voice is using eight lines to insert a quote? It just struck me as, "Got to beef up my term paper!" C.I. wanted to hear from the youth. Me, I wanted my generation represented. There are very real issues for my generation and they're not going to be addressed that way.

Jim: Other than the use of a lengthy quote, what did you think of Rahman's piece?

Mike: Seems to me everyone's looking for an easy fix. The peace movement is moving along, without much help from outside, and in that section and other people's suggestions, I saw a lot of copy-catting. I saw, "The key is if we just do this!" But "this" wasn't often about the peace movement. It was "let's copy!" Rahman wanted a peace movement that was put together like NOW or the NAACP. I disagree with that and wondered what could have been offered instead, in terms of people my age and issues -- good or negative -- with the peace movement?

C.I.: I wasn't planning to comment on this because I had my say. However, I feel the need to note that Rahman is a young person and that he may have been intimidated by some of the other contributions. I think it's right to point out that we lost a shot at hearing from a young voice. But I also think, or hope, that the next time that won't happen. Foreign Policy in Focus is one of the firsts to present a roundtable on peace. So I just want to note that doing that was a strong thing and if all the contributions had left us less than thrilled, it still would have been. In terms of Rahman, it's not easy being the first one in the water. I'll also throw a nod to Ron Jacobs' "Sitting In On Senator Kohl and the War-A Conversation With Antiwar Students" (ZNet).

Jess: I'll back that point up and note that the complaint is not, "Shut up, Rahman." The complaint is that we wanted to hear from Rahman. And that Ron Jacobs' roundtable is worth reading, really worth reading. That's a wide ranging look of students involved in the peace movement today.

Rebecca: Let me point out what no one probably wants to be the first to about the roundtable in Foreign Policy in Focus, Joanne Landy. Now I hated that. I hated it and I won't give the qualifiers that C.I. did. C.I.'s commentary on that piece had me laughing and it was funny because it was true.

Jim: Should we note the organization?

Jess: A.N.S.W.E.R. is the organization that Landy offers negative criticism on by name. They aren't a participant in the roundtable and I found that a bit snarky.

Rebecca: I would agree with that completely. I also note that the "Mother Russia" comment by C.I. made me snort my diet cola when I read it. That was funny and it really did capture it. I'm also familiar with one get together a decade or two back where C.I. and several others had to step between and separate people because they were bringing their old grudges into a social function and were ready to come to blows.

Elaine: Well the organization I support is United for Peace & Justice. I don't have a problem with other organizations -- ones that really work for peace -- but that's the one I'm behind. I don't see any need for anyone, in a roundtable like that, to trash A.N.S.W.E.R. I found her offensive and her suggestions, as C.I. pointed out, leading to exactly the thing she supposedly doesn't want.

Jim: Meaning?

Elaine: A party line. I'm not going to be as diplomatic as C.I. I have no problem with the left that is Democratic, Socialist or Communist. But I'm not interested in those who are taking their marching orders . . . I'm taking a breath. During Vietnam, and C.I. addressed this in the last roundtable we did, there would be people who were established activists. I'm glad and I thank them all. But for every four of them there was someone who apparently had once taken orders from Russia and, as the leadership changed, the orders changed. So one moment you were supporting this and the next you were supporting that. On board with Germany! Oops, we're opposed now. That was not the entire left nor was it the entire left who were Communists. I want to be clear about that. But there were some like that and, by Vietnam, there were some who wanted to bring all their old baggage into it. I loved C.I.'s comment last roundtable about the man complaining that the youth, then youth, didn't know all about Russia: "So what?" That's how many my age felt when that nonsense would start up. And I dispute the idea that enough wasn't known. It wasn't an issue of knowledge, for those people, it was an issue of commitment, an issue of following the party line.

Betty: Well, and this was before my time so I may be misunderstanding this, but with all that was going on and had gone on, JFK, MLK, RFK, Malcolm X shot, the attacks by the police in Chicago, the stench of Nixon that would lead to the exposure of Watergate, I'm wondering if people, the young people then, would have accepted something like that to begin with?

Elaine: I don't think so. I think you're getting at exactly what the problem, the 'gap,' was. Now I'm not judging anyone for what they fought for or what they thought pre-Vietnam. I am saying no one needed them dragging their old battles into the then current peace movement. It was irritating and a distraction. On the most basic level, it was a distraction because someone would ask you after, "What was that about?"

Jess: My mother, like Rebecca, loved the "Mother Russia" comment as well. She noted the group, which is still around and often younger, that bends themselves into logic pretzels trying to justify this and that and she remembered how much angst and anger they caused in the movement. Not because of their beliefs or their past actions but because they wanted to relive that during Vietnam.

Elaine: Right and I really wish C.I. would jump in.

C.I.: Okay.

Rebecca: Only for Elaine, I will note.

C.I.: You are so right. I'm joking. But, hmm, the thing that has Elaine hesitating is that we're not red baiting and you end up having to choose every word carefully to avoid anyone thinking you're doing that. I majored in poli sci, real ideologies don't scare me, actions may. There were many wonderful Communists or lapsed Communists who made very valuable contributions and were trying to fit in and work with young people during that period. It was probably as difficult for some as it was for young people. And I'm sure that a roundtable of them would note issues, our issues, that weren't exactly helpful either. But this nonsense of "You supported/opposed the Warsaw Pact!" This wasn't a conversation with the youth, it was bickering and arguing between two factions, some of whom would slip over into being neocons as time progressed, was a private argument that they really needed to take outside. Rebecca outed me as a non-Communist --

Rebecca: My mother-in-law told me you'd be upset about that.

C.I.: I'm not upset with you. But that's the sort of thing that I'd never weigh in on one way or another at The Common Ills. I'm not interested in red baiting. If the issue came up, I always sidestepped it. That was with anyone that wasn't a close friend as well. The reason for that, and Elaine and I have discussed this at length starting in college, people who were Communist were wrongly targeted and wrongly smeared. So that's why Elaine's hesitant to tackle this issue full on, she doesn't want it to appear as if it's "Dump on the Communists time!" It's not. We are, however, talking about some members of two strands in conflict who, years and years later, brought their disagreements into the effort to end Vietnam. And it wasn't productive then and it's not productive now. The article we're discussing is drawing a line in the sand and that line could cut off one strong ally. We're not interested in that. We weren't interested in it during Vietnam where some people were trying to bring decades old grievances into a movement to end the war. It was disruptive. It was also very ignorant because if I had been a Communist, I would've been much more interested in what was going on in China than what was going on in the USSR. China was already emerging and you had various visits and trips to that country, not just by Tricky Dick and Pat Nixon, so that would have been on the radar more than someone's love affair with Russia.

Jim: There are people who feel that some people need to apologize for past actions.

C.I.: You're talking about in the 30s they supported this or that, or whatever decade, you can pick at will, and then something awful happened so the right wants them to parade in ash cloth, right?

Jim: Right.

C.I.: Anyone can be wrong. I'm wrong all the time. There's a difference between being wrong and lying. If someone's wrong because they made a mistake in judgement, then so be it. Happens every day, every hour of the day. If someone's wrong because they're lying, that's different. I'm really not interested, however, in individuals apologizing. When world leaders start being forced to apologize, then maybe individuals should. While I wasn't mad at Rebecca for outing me as a non-Communist, I really wasn't, Rebecca, I was bothered because there would be, for some, possibly a feeling of, "Oh, C.I.'s not Communist, I can read C.I. now." If someone likes or doesn't like or believes or doesn't believe in Communism, they're welcome to read but I'm not really interested in anyone who needs a safety valve to read -- someone who needs a disclaimer on this or that before they can think for themselves.

Rebecca: I will note that I wrote about that over a year ago and my mother-in-law said, "Rebecca, you shouldn't have written that." I didn't get that. Now, I know you're not mad, but I do get it now and I'm remembering a guy I dated in college pressing Elaine about whether or not she was a Communist and Elaine refusing to answer it and Elaine did get very mad when I answered it for her.

Elaine: Right. That was one of your dumb jock periods. I think you went through six weeks where you were sampling the entire athletic department. So there was the little boy, in school on a sports scholarship, accusing me of being a Communist and getting angry that I wouldn't take the bait or issue a denial. People were actively persecuted for that and things weren't going to stop by me, or anyone else, stopping in the middle of every political debate to say, "No, I'm not a Communist." In fact, that would have only kept the witch hunts alive on some level. It would have rewarded them to begin with because people would still have to be answering that: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

C.I.: And let's remember that a number of organization and outlets behaved very shamefully. You can include The Nation in that. So the idea that the one piece we're talking about, in Foreign Policy in Focus, seems to us, Elaine and myself, to have been built around that "I do real work and I'm not like those people" nonsense and we found that very offensive. In this case, "those people" are A.N.S.W.E.R. and in terms of ending this illegal war, A.N.S.W.E.R. has worked very hard on that issue.

Rebecca: It's like the lesbian issue [at the start of the second wave of feminism in the US].

Elaine: Exactly. At a time when lesbians were coming out of the closet and claiming their rightful space, there was an attempt by some outside the feminist movement to use that as a battering ram.

C.I.: Some inside as well, don't forget The Ego Of Us All.

Elaine: Correct. And Gloria Steinem had the best way of responding to that question. I'm not remembering the wording.

C.I.: "Are you a lesbian" is the question and Steinem's answer to the male questioneer was, "Are you the alternative?" Lesbian, straight, bi, non-sexual, various women made up the feminist movement, and still do today, and there was a very real effort to pit sides against one another. I'm not talking about disagreements within the movement. There were valid disagreements that needed to be raised about issues such as were all women being given the same opportunities welcomed equally, etc. The issue was that lesbian had a perjorative for many in society and the easiest thing in the world, whether you were straight or a lesbian, was to rush in to say, "No, I'm not a lesbian." And by doing so, you were perpetuating the belief that there was something wrong with being a lesbian.

Elaine: Whether you meant to or not. And some meant to and were happy to reap the benefits.

Betty: What this is reminding me of is Thomas Friedman. It's reminding me of how he's always wanting Muslims to prove their non-violence with this statement or that.

Ava: I think that's a very good comparison. He's setting up a negative and asking them to prove they aren't that way. Why should any group have to denounce violence that hasn't used it? If they followed his suggestion, if every mosque denounced every act of violence in the world, it wouldn't lead to a universal agreement that "They're not a violent faith." It would lead to, "Oh, did you hear that? They're denouncing it again. You know what they say, where there's smoke there's fire. The lady doth protest too much." And let's be really clear that I've never expected to open The New York Times and find Thomas Friedman denouncing every act of violence by the Israeli government. I didn't enjoy that piece, essay to begin with, and the more it's discussed here, the more I wish the woman had chosen another approach to write about peace or to try to write about or pretend to write about peace.

Jess: To get back to another piece in this edition, what it does is create a Sister Souljah movement, like me or vote for me because I'm not like them! But the reality is that for the right and the right-of-center, regardless of what someone might say, they are always like them. So this nonsense about striving for respectablity in the eyes of the enemy is self-defeating.

Jim: Go, Jess! Okay, Dona's just told me we "really, really need to wrap up." This has become the topic, the piece in Foreign Policy in Focus, so let's stay with that and Dona says Wally, Cedric and Ty especially need to be given the chance to talk.

Ty: I think everything that could be said on Landy's piece has been said, and said very well, so I'll note that along with Corr's piece, I was really impressed with the one by Bal Pinguel. I think it is really important for the peace movement to emphasize the war's costs here. And I think those costs go beyond monetary and to the ugly stain we're leaving on our character. I think the Bully Boy has cheerleaded the nation into a series of dark moments and by not rejecting them, the Congress still hasn't shut down Guantanamo, we've come to a place where our very foundation is at risk. Secret detentions, warrantless searches, illegal spying, these aren't things that just either happen to you or not, these are things that effect the character of a nation.

Cedric: I'd agree with that and back it up by noting, we can only be what we can dream. The US has never been the land where everyone was treated equal and all rights were protected and enshrined. But we could believe that we might get there. What Bully Boy has done is damage that dream, pit us against one another, teach us not "Love thy neighbor" but "Be scared to death of your neighbor." He hasn't done it by himself, he's had a lot of help, but I do believe he set the tone on it and I do believe that we don't know how bad the fallout will be. You have people who have been raised in a time when it was okay to illegal spy on American citizens, to give one example. You have people who believe it is okay to detain Jose Padilla for years with no trial. Let me correct that, to imprison him. And before anyone says, "Well ___ didn't say it was okay!" I know some groups have argued against it. I also know Congress has gone along with it so the message has been sent that our government is okay with it, including the Supreme Court which has elected to sit out on most of the important issues today.

Wally: What Cedric and Ty are talking about are very real concerns. There's also the concern that when you have a country that shrugs over the gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl, Abeer, by US soldiers, you have to wonder if it's two 14-year-old girls next time, or if it's a 10-year-old girl next time? At what point do we become outraged after living through one outrage after another while Congres, the Courts and most of the media sat it out? Let me give an example from the real world. You get a neighbor who blasts his music non-stop, all day. He moves out and you get a neighbor who does the same but only for a few hours. You may feel relief that it's not all day. You've accepted that it's okay for someone to blast you out. By the same token, what things are we now going to be more accepting of when Congress finally does act? Okay, no illegal wiretapping but black bag searches are still okay? Where's the line now because Bully Boy has destroyed the line and some people will just be so glad that a line is redrawn that they won't care too much that it cuts off a large chunk of rights we used to have.
So there are very real effects of the illegal war and Bully Boy's other abuses that are going on in this country and they go beyond the cost and the debt and what we could have had if all the money hadn't gone to the war. In many ways, getting back to Cedric's dream point, it may be worse than some of the things we've lost out on financially because even though we were deprived of some needed things, we still had the ability to dream of better and at this point, when you hear some people longing for the days of Nixon, it's as though better has been downgraded to the extreme.

Jim: And on that note, we're going to wrap up this roundtable.
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