Tag Archives: violence

A Future Stuck in the Pipeline

By Robert C. Koehler
COTO Report

Are the bad ideas dead yet? You know, the ones that have been hollowing out the country’s soul for the last 30 years.

In Atlanta, they indicted 35 teachers, principals and administrators, including a former superintendent, for routinely altering their students’ standardized test results — and in all likelihood this massive fraud is an aberration only because the cheaters got caught.

Everything is at stake in these tests, so perhaps it’s dawning on us that fraud — by adults — is inevitable, but there’s a bigger issue here that continues to escape public outrage: The tests are stupid. They measure virtually nothing that matters, but monopolize the classroom politically. Teachers, under enormous pressure, are forced to teach to the tests rather than, you know, teach critical thinking or creative expression; and education is reduced to something rote, linear and boring.

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Used-up Heroes

In association with Suzanne Ross and Adam Erickson of the Raven Foundation, I am part of a blog radio show called “Playing for Keeps.” Here’s a link to our first show.

As you think about giving gifts with meaning this year, please consider my book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound, which speaks with honesty and humor about the human condition. It’s especially appropriate for anyone who has suffered recent loss and is coping with the grieving process. Be aware also that the sale of the book supports this column and my ability to give a peace journalist’s perspective on current events. The book has been reduced in price through the end of the year. More info below this week’s column:

By Robert C. Koehler

At a sports bar in downtown Minneapolis called Sneaky Pete’s, “Young men fueled with alcohol begged Boogaard to punch them, so they could say they survived a shot from the Boogeyman.”

I’m thinking, wow, we power our society as much on adolescent energy as we do on fossil fuels. And the consequences are probably even more devastating. [Image]

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Building Community, Building Peace

Bob will speak in Los Angeles this Sunday; details below.

By Robert C. Koehler

In our techno-saturated society, we have the casual capacity to capture any unfolding event on film — even an act of shocking violence — and send images of the live action around the globe just by whipping out a cell phone.

Two years ago, Chicago’s Fenger High School had its 15 minutes of horrific fame when the beating death of one of its students, an honor student named Derrion Albert — waiting for a bus after school, caught suddenly in a surge of gang violence, savagely beaten with two-by-fours and railroad ties — was recorded on someone’s cell camera and became an international spectacle.

What we lack, it would seem, is the capacity to do anything about the violence itself.

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Blaming the Muslims

Anders Behring Breivik on Utoya Island, Norway


By Robert C. Koehler  

“I saw people being shot. I tried to sit as quietly as possible. I was hiding behind some stones. I saw him once, just 20, 30 meters away from me. I thought ‘I’m terrified for my life,’” the young survivor said to a Reuters reporter. “I thought of all the people I love.”

And there’s the moment, in all its politics and horror: no more than this. Young adults — teenagers — being stalked and methodically murdered at their bucolic summer camp on Utoya Island in Norway. In God’s name, why?

This is the question we ask instantaneously, with sucked-in breath. Why? The question is bigger than any answer we make up.

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Wanted Dead or Alive

By Robert C. Koehler

When President Obama, summing up the killing of Osama bin Laden, said, “Justice has been done,” the problem wasn’t simply that he misspoke — justice, after all, can only emerge at the end of an impartial judicial proceeding — but that, in so misspeaking, he hit the emotional bull’s-eye.

“Justice has been done.”

We got him, America! Oh yeah, sweet! Who can’t feel the pop of satisfaction in those words? “He should have said, ‘Retaliation has been accomplished,’” Marjorie Cohn pointed out recently at Common Dreams, and that’s true, of course, but the president wasn’t summoning the dry, sober rule of law. He was evoking, just as George W. Bush did before him, the Wild West, America’s deepest font of mythology, where justice, you know, comes from the muzzle of a revolver. As with Geronimo, so with Osama: Wanted Dead or Alive.

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Autocratic Deafness

I will be moderating a panel discussion following a showing of the film Concrete, Steel and Paint at 6 p.m. Friday, April 15, at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, 1870 Campus Drive, on the school’s Evanston campus. This is a great movie. Please come if you’re in the Chicago area. I have several upcoming reading/speaking engagements related to my new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound: On Sunday, April 24, I will be speaking at Mothers Trust, in Ganges, Michigan. On May 6, I will be reading at the Quaker Friends meetinghouse in Lake Forest, Illinois.

By Robert C. Koehler

The Arab Spring — which indeed is a global spring — is a struggle, an upheaval, for fundamental justice and humanity. That’s the problem.

We —the Washington Consensus, the post-colonial West, the world’s military and economic overlords — have no more enthusiasm for this awakening, this cry for genuine democracy and equitable distribution of resources, than the tottering autocrats of the Middle East, most of whom (exception: Muammar Gaddafi) are our allies.

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Broadway’s touring ‘West Side Story’ tweaks theme, boosts Q love

West Side Story's Ali Ewoldt and Kyle Harris

By Rady Ananda

Arthur Laurents’ story about love, racism and violence set in 1950s New York City took on a new twist under the direction of David Saint in Broadway Across America’s Ft. Lauderdale production of West Side Story. By making subtle changes (from the 1961 film version starring Natalie Wood), Saint softens the criticism of US racism and salutes same-sex love.

When I first saw the film as a teen, the song “America” shocked me with its blunt lines, “Life is all right in America … if you are white in America.”  Given our media-fostered culture of anti-Arab sentiment, I looked forward to hearing those words again.  Instead, under Saint’s direction, the song mocked Puerto Rico. “Twelve in a room in America” became San Juan’s burden.

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Revolutions Know No Color

By Michael Collins

The legitimate demands of the people everywhere have no color, nor do their revolutions. These are not the revolutions arising from staged events by the White House, the National Endowment for Democracy, and other meddlers. We are witnessing what Mark Levine called human nationalism. The people of Tunisia, now Egypt, are, “taking control of their politics, economy and identity away from foreign interests and local elites alike in a manner that has not been seen in more than half a century.” (Image)

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Film Festival 2011: Righting the Balance of Power

I’ve written columns through harrowing circumstances, but this is the first time I’ve had a blizzard in the middle of one. My best to alll of you Midwesterners who took the hit last night and today, and my solidarity with all of you on the East Coast who are used to two feet of snow in one dump. It’s beautiful out there right now and a big adventure to get anywhere. When Chicago does shut down, I appreciate how rare such occasions are. I also appreciate my connectiion to a viable, surprisingly caring community. Meanwhile, my book is still for sale, with info following this week’s column.

By Robert C. Koehler

“I only remember a couple of more gunshots and then everything got quiet. Just as it all started it all just stopped. It felt like an eternity before the police got to our door and tried to open it up and they couldn’t open up the door. They had to ask for help from inside because there were bodies in the way.”

So . . . this, unavoidably, is how we have to think about peace — with horrific instances of its obvious absence. It’s not the only place to start, but somehow it seems right to start here, maybe in order not to stop here.

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The National Empathy Divide

By Robert C. Koehler

“The loose network among relatives offers the grim solace of knowing that others too have suffered the same curse.”

Every terrible rift is the occasion for peace and the place for the peacemaker. And often peace is nothing more, at first, than connecting, pulling the injured or ostracized back into the social circle and  beginning the process of healing.

Peace is not a state of “perpetual pre-hostility,” as it has been described by military strategists — that is to say, perpetual armed readiness and checkpoints and unending displays of superior force, eventually and inevitably lapsing into horrific violence. That may be the state of the world, but it’s not peace, nor is it sustainable. It’s the downward cycle in which we are caught — and in which we fully and enthusiastically participate, with bloated national defense budgets and uncounted trillions spent globally to stay armed, terrified and isolated.

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MLK: A Time to Break Silence

Intro by ICH

By 1967, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had become the country’s most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech delivered at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 — a year to the day before he was murdered — King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

Time magazine called the speech “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,” and the Washington Post declared that King had “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”

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Shooting Safeguards. A Society Armed



copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert. Empathy And Education; BeThink or BeThink.org

Once again, Americans are up in arms or perchance, better armed and dangerous. Only little more than a week into 2011, citizens have had to confront their fears, feelings, all at gunpoint. It began on a calm, clear Saturday. In a Safeway Store Tucson parking lot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords held one of her customary Congress on the Corner events. It was January 8, 2011. Friends and admirers from each political Party turned out. Suddenly, cordial chatter turned icy cold. gunshots shattered the calm. People were slaughtered. Some survived. However, as a nation, we were all wounded.

Retorts followed. Seemingly, a culture was changed, or was it? Just as has occurred, many times in the recent past, people quickly took sides. Blame was ballied about. Solutions were also presented. Some argued for stricter gun control laws. Others used the occasion to validate a need for less restrictive restraints on gun ownership. Persons who held a position similar to the most prominent victim proposed a need to protect themselves. Continue reading

Isolated Incident

military grave (500 x 333)By Robert C. Koehler
Tribune Media Services

Moving forward from the latest massacre, three narratives — well, one of them is no more than the familiar, all-purpose shrug of experts, puzzled over yet another “isolated incident” — are vying to explain what happened and set the direction of our future.

Is Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged killer of 13 people at Fort Hood last week, A) a Muslim terrorist; B) a solitary guy who snapped; or C) a broken healer and victim of the misbegotten war on terror?

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A Hole in the Night

unwind bigBy Robert C. Koehler
Tribune Media Services

It all felt wild and uncontained, like on the playground. I was the outsider kid, wrong jacket, wrong hat. Or maybe I just stepped out of my car at the wrong time. With a whoop they were on me, surrounding me, laughing. What great fun.

Then one of them shoved me and I was off balance, stumbling, and I felt more shoves and they were saying something to me. They wanted my money, I guess. Continue reading

Power with, Power over

Honor student Derrion Albert, 1993-2009

Honor student Derrion Albert, 1993-2009

By Robert C. Koehler

Tribune Media Services

I don’t know if words can transform the world — I know they can’t bring back a murdered child — but I have a few of them to scatter on the grave of Derrion Albert, the Chicago boy whose brutal slaying [caught on video] two weeks ago stunned the city and the nation:

Power with, not power over.

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