Sunday, April 15, 2018

Black Pregnancies at Risk in the U.S.

The fundamental racial disparity in the nation's health care system is demonstrated by the following report from the New York Times -

Saturday, April 14, 2018

William Wilberforce, born in August of 1759, was a powerful advocate for the abolition of slavery in the then extensive British Empire.  Great Britain’s involvement in the promulgation of slavery was, for most part, driven by economic and commercial interests that spanned the globe.  The industrial revolution that began in England, was essentially financed by its colonial activities that embraced slavery.



Wilberforce was born into a wealthy and influential family in Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England.  Following his father’s untimely death in 1768, his mother sent her nine-year old son to his affluent uncle and aunt who had residences at St. James’ Place, London and Wimbledon.  He eventually became very attached to his “new” family.  His mother, however, was a member of England’s traditional Anglican Church and was concerned about her son’s exposure to Evangelical Christianity and had him return to her at the age of 12.  It was his Aunt Hannah who was especially influential in this regard.
At eighteen years of age (1777), Wilberforce attended St. John’s College in Cambridge University.  He was not an exceptional student; he already had an inheritance and was not particularly motivated.  However, there be became close friends with William Pitt who would later become Prime Minister (1783-1801 and 1804-1806).  Nearing the end of his stay at Cambridge, Wilberforce decided to run for Parliament and won a seat at the age of 21 as an independent.
While he was in Parliament, he distinguished himself as an eloquent speaker.  There, he met James Ramsay in 1783 and for the first time the subject of slavery was discussed.  The Reverend James Ramsay (1733 – 1789) was a ship's surgeon, Anglican priest, and was a leader in the abolitionist movement.  This relationship signaled a change in Wilberforce’s perception.  Between 1784 and 1786, Wilberforce seemed to have experienced an intense religious conversion.  As a result, he was tempted to abandon his political ambitions; however, his good friend and mentor John Newton encouraged him to use his political position to push for social reform.  John Newton was an Anglican clergyman and former slave ship master who eventually spoke out against the slave trade.  In 1789, Wilberforce witnessed his country’s loss of the American Colonies after its defeat in the American Revolutionary War.  This may have impressed upon him the reality of a shrinking British Empire as further encouragement for the need for major reform.
Using his new-found religious conviction, Wilberforce began to lead, guided by conscience.  The slave trade and the abhorrent character of slavery, inspired him to become a forceful advocate for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade.  He was encouraged by Sir Charles Middleton to represent the cause in Parliament.  Charles Middleton was a British Royal Naval officer who, in his later years, played a critical role in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. He was also influenced by the writings of Rev. James Ramsay (as mentioned earlier).  Furthermore, in 1787, Wilberforce was introduced to Thomas Clarkson who gave him a copy of his treatise on slavery entitled, “Essay on Slavery.” They joined together in a collaborative effort to abolish the slave trade that lasted nearly a half of a century.
The following is Wilberforce’s impassioned speech in support of the abolition of slavery to the Parliament in 1789 in its entirety –

“When I consider the magnitude of the subject which I am to bring before the House—a subject, in which the interests, not of this country, nor of Europe alone, but of the whole world, and of posterity, are involved: and when I think, at the same time, on the weakness of the advocate who has undertaken this great cause—when these reflections press upon my mind, it is impossible for me not to feel both terrified and concerned at my own inadequacy to such a task. But when I reflect, however, on the encouragement which I have had, through the whole course of a long and laborious examination of this question, and how much candor I have experienced, and how conviction has increased within my own mind, in proportion as I have advanced in my labours;—when I reflect, especially, that however averse any gentleman may now be, yet we shall all be of one opinion in the end;—when I turn myself to these thoughts, I take courage—I determine to forget all my other fears, and I march forward with a firmer step in the full assurance that my cause will bear me out, and that I shall be able to justify upon the clearest principles, every resolution in my hand, the avowed end of which is, the total abolition of the slave trade. I wish exceedingly, in the outset, to guard both myself and the House from entering into the subject with any sort of passion. It is not their passions I shall appeal to—I ask only for their cool and impartial reason; and I wish not to take them by surprise, but to deliberate, point by point, upon every part of this question. I mean not to accuse any one, but to take the shame upon myself, in common, indeed, with the whole parliament of Great Britain, for having suffered this horrid trade to be carried on under their authority. We are all guilty - we ought all to plead guilty, and not to exculpate ourselves by throwing the blame on others; and I therefore deprecate every kind of reflection against the various descriptions of people who are more immediately involved in this wretched business. Having now disposed of the first part of this subject, I must speak of the transit of the slaves in the West Indies. This I confess, in my own opinion, is the most wretched part of the whole subject. So much misery condensed in so little room, is more than the human imagination had ever before conceived. I will not accuse the Liverpool merchants: I will allow them, nay, I will believe them to be men of humanity; and I will therefore believe, if it were not for the enormous magnitude and extent of the evil which distracts their attention from individual cases, and makes them think generally, and therefore less feelingly on the subject, they would never have persisted in the trade. I verily believe therefore, if the William Wilberforce’s 1789 Abolition Speech National History Day 2007 61 wretchedness of any one of the many hundred Negroes stowed in each ship could be brought before their view, and remain within the sight of the African Merchant, that there is no one among them whose heart would bear it. Let anyone imagine to himself 6 or 700 of these wretches chained two and two, surrounded with every object that is nauseous and disgusting, diseased, and struggling under every kind of wretchedness! How can we bear to think of such a scene as this? One would think it had been determined to heap upon them all the varieties of bodily pain, for the purpose of blunting the feelings of the mind; and yet, in this very point (to show the power of human prejudice) the situation of the slaves has been described by Mr. Norris, one of the Liverpool delegates, in a manner which, I am sure will convince the House how interest can draw a film across the eyes, so thick, that total blindness could do no more; and how it is our duty therefore to trust not to the reasonings of interested men, or to their way of colouring a transaction... As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of the slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might - let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.”

After years of concerted effort during which time public sentiment in favor of abolition grew, Wilberforce put forth a bill called the Slave Trade Act that made it illegal for slave owners to participate in the trading of slaves with the French colonies.  Although this bill fell short of an entire ban on the slave trade, it reduced the slave trade by 75% - it was a masterful piece of legislation.  It became law in 1807.
However, the battle was not yet won.  Finally, in 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed.  This act made slavery illegal in most parts of the Empire.  Just three days after this monumental reform in British law and custom, Wilberforce died on July 29, 1833.
Without Wilberforce’s persistent and undaunted efforts to end the support of slavery In the British Empire, it probably would not have happened in a timely fashion.  It would take some thirty years before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863} that ended slavery in the United States in the midst of the disastrous American Civil War.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Walt and Milly Woodward



On February 19, 1942, the executive order (EO) 9066 promulgated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The following is the full text of this executive order –

“Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas

Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities as defined in Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220, and the Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104);

Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order. The designation of military areas in any region or locality shall supersede designations of prohibited and restricted areas by the Attorney General under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, and shall supersede the responsibility and authority of the Attorney General under the said Proclamations in respect of such prohibited and restricted areas.

I hereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area here in above authorized to be designated, including the use of Federal troops and other Federal Agencies, with authority to accept assistance of state and local agencies.

I hereby further authorize and direct all Executive Departments, independent establishments and other Federal Agencies, to assist the Secretary of War or the said Military Commanders in carrying out this Executive Order, including the furnishing of medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.

This order shall not be construed as modifying or limiting in any way the authority heretofore granted under Executive Order (EO) No. 8972, dated December 12, 1941, nor shall it be construed as limiting or modifying the duty and responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with respect to the investigation of alleged acts of sabotage or the duty and responsibility of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, prescribing regulations for the conduct and control of alien enemies, except as such duty and responsibility is superseded by the designation of military areas here under.”

It ordered all Japanese American to vacate their places of residence and move en masse into concentration camps setup up to accommodate them.  This occurred in the midst of World War II after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Although the United States was already at war with Nazi Germany, no such mandate was imposed upon the many German-Americans living throughout the country.
This mass evacuation imposed a severe burden on the lives of those citizens who were forced to abandon their homes and properties for the “duration” of the war.

In 1940, Walt and Milly Woodward from Bainbridge purchased the weekly publication, the Bainbridge Review.  Two months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) that precipitated the declaration of war against Japan, they pledged in a front-page editorial to, “strive to speak the truth, unafraid. whether it be on a national interest or something purely local.”
They lived up to this promise to their readership; for, the day following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, they warned that, “There is a danger of a blind, wild hysterical hatred of all persons who can trace ancestry to Japan.  That some of those persons happen to be American citizens…easily could be swept away by mob hysteria.”  They attempted to raise the awareness of their subscribers to the loyalty of their Japanese-American fellow citizens by stating in their newspaper that, “These Japanese Americans of ours haven’t bombed anybody…They have given every indication of loyalty to this nation.  They have sent…their own sons – six of them – into the United States Army.” 



As a result of the EO, 272 Japanese Americans were forced to abandon their homes, properties and friendships and moved to Manzanar – one of the ten Japanese concentrations that were erected throughout the nation.  Manzanar was located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California's Owens Valley and ultimately housed 10,000 individuals.  
This courageous and tenacious couple continued to speak out throughout the war regarding the injustice of the forced and massive relocation.  As a matter of fact, their publication was the only newspaper throughout the entire country to take such an unpopular position.  The Woodwards actually hired high school students – Paul Ohtaki, Sa Nakata, Tony Koura and Sada Omoto to report from Manzanar on the daily lives and challenges facing the inmates of that camp.
After the war, Walt and Milly Woodward remained strong local activists of the Bainbridge Island community especially in regard to local schools, construction of a new library and public transportation.  Walt ultimately stepped down as editor of the Review in 1963; the newspaper was sold in 1988.  Walt worked for a time on the editorial board of the Seattle times   Milly returned to her career as a high school teacher and died in 1989.  Walt passed away in 2001 at the age ninety-one.
Walt and Milly Woodward were recognized posthumously by the Asian Journalists Association for their outspoken opposition to the involuntary internment of Japanese-Americans. They were recipients of the, Special Recognition Award.

Finally, on March 30, 2009 (the sixty-seventh anniversary of the internment), the ground-breaking ceremony took place to begin construction of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial to honor those Japanese-Americans of Bainbridge Island who were moved into concentration camps.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Arthur Waskow




Arthur Waskow is the founder of the highly recognized and acclaimed Shalom Center (https://theshalomcenter.org).  Waskow was born in 1933 and spent his young life in Baltimore, Maryland.  As a young man he got his undergraduate degree at John Hopkins and eventually a doctorate in United States History at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (1963).  At the time of his graduation, the United States was in the midst of social and political turmoil revolving around two distinct issues - the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.
From 1959 to 1961, in the midst of his academic studies, he was passionately involved in disarmament and civil-rights in the role of a legislative assistant for U.S. Congressman Robert Krastenmeier of Wisconson.  From 1961 to 1963, he was a Senior Fellow of the Peace Research Institute.  This work inspired him to help create the Institute for Policy Studies and acted as a Fellow there until 1977.
Throughout the troubling era of the sixties, Waskow was a vociferous and relentless advocate for world peace and non-violent action against social injustice.  He wrote extensively on these issues including literally hundreds of articles and many books.  In 1968, he was a part of the Washington DC delegation to the Democratic National Convention of 1968.
Waskow’s interests eventually extended to the use of renewable energy and energy conservation – he began to understand the dangers to humanity of the ongoing reality of climate change.  His activism in regards to this issue took the form of his role as a Fellow of the Public Resource Center in Washington D.C.

Although his dedication to social activism remains intact, in 1969, he turned his attention to Jewish life in America. At the time, he felt it needed spiritual renewal.   His new journey is reflected in his Haggadah (a traditional Passover text) entitled, The Freedom Seder. 
The following excerpts from this masterful peace, show how Waskow incorporated the modern struggle for peace and social justice into the body of a traditional Jewish text in celebration of the Passover –
“For as one of the greatest of our prophets, whose own death by violence at a time near the Passover were member in tears tonight as the prophet Martin Luther King called us to know: "The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But the principle of nonviolent resistance seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites-acquiescence and violence. The nonviolent resister rises to the noble height of opposing the unjust system while loving the perpetrators of the system. Nonviolence can reach men where the law cannot touch them. So, we will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will not hate you, but we cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws. And in winning our freedom we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process."
“And as rabbi Buber said, "The revolutionary lives on the knife's edge. The question that harasses him is not merely the moral or religious one of whether he may kill; his quandary has nothing at all to do with selling his soul to the devil' in order to bring the revolution to victory. His entanglement in the situation is here just the tension between end and means. I cannot conceive anything real corresponding to the saying that the end sanctifies the means; but 1 mean something which is real in the highest sense of the term when I say that the means profane, actually make meaningless, the end, that is, its realization! What is realized is the farther from the goal that was set, the more out of accord with it is the method by which it was realized. The ensuring of the revolution may only drain its heart's blood."
“Or as the rabbi Hannah Arendt wrote, "Man the political being is endowed with the power of speech. Speech is helpless when confronted with violence. Violence itself is incapable of speech. When violence rules absolutely, not only the laws but everything and everybody must fall silent."
“But even the prophet Gandhi, who made his life a call to nonviolent revolution, warned his people, "Where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence. Unless you feel that in nonviolence you have come into possession of a force infinitely superior to the one you have and in the use of which you are adept, you should have nothing to do with non-violence and resume the arms you possessed before."
“So, the struggles for freedom that remain will be more dark and difficult than any we have met so far. For we must struggle for a freedom that enfolds stern justice, stern bravery, and stern love. Blessed art thou,0 Lord our God! who hast confronted us with the necessity of choice and of creating our own book of thy Law. How many and how hard are the choices and the tasks the Almighty has set before us!
“For if we were to end a single genocide but not to stop the other wars that kill men and women as we sit here, it would not be sufficient;
“If we were to end those bloody wars but not disarm the nations of the weapons that could destroy all mankind, it would not be sufficient;
“If we were to disarm the nations but not to end the brutality with which the police attack black people in some countries, brown people in others; Moslems in some countries, Hindus in other; Baptists in some countries, atheists in others; Communists in some countries, conservatives in other it would not be sufficient;
“If we were to end outright police brutality but not prevent some people from wallowing in luxury while others starved, it would not be sufficient;
“If we were to make sure that no one starved but were not to free the daring poets from their jails, it would not be sufficient;
“If we were to free the poets from their jails but to train the minds of people so that they could not understand the poets, it would not be sufficient;
“If we educated all men and women to understand the free creative poets but forbade them to explore their own inner ecstasies, it would not be sufficient;
“If we allowed men and women to explore their inner ecstasies but would not allow them to love one another and share in the human fraternity, it would not be sufficient.
“How much then are we in duty bound to struggle, work, share, give, think, plan, feel, organize, sit-in, speak out, hope, and be on behalf of Mankind! For we must end the genocide [in Vietnam] , stop the bloody wars that are killing men and women as we sit here, disarm the nations of the deadly weapons that threaten to destroy us all, end the brutality with which the police beat minorities in many countries, make sure that no one starves, free the poets from their jails, educate us all to understand their poetry, allow us all to explore our inner ecstasies, and encourage and aid us to love one another and share in the human fraternity. All these!”
In 1982, he became a member of the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and in 1983 he co-founded the Shalom Center (https://theshalomcenter.org/).  The Shalom Center’s mission is to revitalize modern Judaism.  In keeping with this mission, it works closely with the National Council of Churches, Muslim groups and has aligned itself with teachers and activists in order to find common approaches to world problems including racism, poverty, climate change, the Israeli-Palestine conflict etc.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow works tirelessly in the pursuit of peace and social justice.  His generosity of spirit is inspiration to all of those who desire a more peace and equitable human world.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Human World in Disarray


As the number of human beings populating planet earth continues to grow resulting in greater pressure placed upon the resources necessary to sustain twenty-first century human existence; as the climate of the earth is changing and deteriorating as a direct result of human activity and as human wealth continues to be concentrated in the hands of a very few of the world’s people, acts of irrational and crazed violence are growing at an alarming rate.

Living in the so-called, “developed world,” we have become accustomed to expect that life will provide us with a wide range of comforts and ever-expanding opportunities for enjoyment and fulfillment that is far in excess of the expectations of billions of our fellow humans. 

Primarily due to the time and place of birth, vast numbers of our species are subjected to a life of constant turmoil, violence and hardship denied access to the essentials that we naturally take for granted.  Within the limited boundaries of such an existence lies a trying and shortened existence. 

The peoples of the developed world choose to remain oblivious to the price their affluence is exacting upon those less fortunate by siphoning both wealth and resources from much of world.  Ironically, the most telling example of this is the fact that in order to sustain the lifestyle we have grown accustomed to we are producing an over-abundance of greenhouse gases that will ultimately negatively impact the entire human population regardless of place of origin or economic status.


Unfortunately, and tragically, all of this extreme suffering is unnecessary.  Life is a fleeting experience and one that should be cherished and appreciated.  Nonetheless it is all too often squandered in the myopic pursuit of self-interest at the expense of the common good.  We could live in a peaceful and harmonious world if only we could regard everyone as our equals and deserving of meaningful and fulfilling existence.  After all, there is certainly an abundance of intelligence, resourcefulness, creativity, ingenuity and skill within the human community to confront and overcome the problems that we all face as human beings on this most remarkable planet.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Plea for Sanity

I am deeply unsettled by events that are unfolding here and around this deeply troubled human world.  As a people, we seem to be gravitating towards a darker era of the nation’s past – a time when power was deeply entrenched within the domain of white males.  We seem to be revisiting a time when corporate power controlled all aspects of American life; when the central government played no role in regulating the influence, policies and reach of the powerful; when the natural environment was not considered in the formulation of public policy; when diverse opinions were regarded as essentially irrelevant; when civil rights and human rights had no place in the national discourse and when keeping the population as ignorant as possible - especially in the realm of science - was seen as a necessary tool of governance.

This new federal administration seems to be more than willing to engage in bigoted and demeaning speech and to offer credence to xenophobia through both words and divisive actions in a country that has been deeply enriched by a remarkable degree of diversity that serves us all well.

For the most powerful nation on the planet to move in such a direction in the 21st century is an astounding prospect and is very disturbing.
 
In the meantime, the striving of all of humanity is overshadowed by the indisputable reality of climate change dangerously accelerated by human activity that can only be countered by collective and sustained effort.  In spite of this reality, the humans on planet earth – our only home – remain mired in debilitating conflicts and seemingly endless struggles over politics, religion and economics.  As a result, a great many humans endure suffering often of the most extreme kind.

This is not the way it has to be.  As human beings, we are quite capable of so much more.  I know that we can create a world in which love, compassion, intelligence, reason, and generosity of spirit are the values that inform our politics and our behavior. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Wistful Song


Will humans ever discard
incessant and ancient calls to hatred
subdue the chaotic winds of war
relentless stupidity of the lower brain.

Will humans ever awaken
to the essential joy of living
fall into the blissful and awaiting
embrace of love.

Will humans ever find release
within the fiery storm of consciousness
surrender at last to the reality of
death’s encompassing presence.

Will humans ever bury
the blighted harvest that only
greed can promise.

Will humans ever embrace
everyone as family
put an end
to all the needless suffering.

Will humans ever ascend
the golden staircase
into that terrain
enfolded by the sweet enveloping breath
of boundless peace.