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Archive for the ‘Erin Niemela’

The Great Mobilizer

August 26, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Erin Niemela, Politics

Hope in the Face of Injustice

by Erin Niemela

The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict recently hosted the James Lawson Institute in Nashville, Tenn. The first event of its kind, the Institute is an eight-day intensive training for North American organizers and activists, hosted by none other than Rev. James Lawson, himself an iconic figure of the Civil Rights movement. I was among 45 applicants afforded the opportunity to attend, notable activists and organizers from a variety of causes and campaigns (all of them far more experienced and courageous than I consider myself, to be sure). What I went there hoping to learn about civil resistance is nowhere near as important as what I actually gained: a profound sense of hope for the future of this world, this powerful group we call the people.

Our teachers included Rev. James Lawson, an instrumental figure in the Civil Rights Movement, Ivan Marovic, a leader of Optor!, the Serbian nonviolent revolution of 2000, and Mary King, an inspirational woman who worked in the pre-eminent Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Civil Rights Movement. We underwent four 14 hour-per-day trainings, covering historical cases, strategies, tactics, and movement cultures, among other more sensitive topics such as privilege, systemic oppression in movements, sustainability, burnout and dealing with interpersonal conflict. The intensity of these discussions had been set too high and left there permanently with little reprieve, and I found myself asking some existential questions: Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going? (more…)

Addicted to War

June 18, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Erin Niemela, Politics

Time for an American Awakening

by Erin Niemela

The recent NSA revelations of widespread surveillance on American citizens should be cause for intense protest.  Surely it will be, as a day of nationwide mass action to restore the Fourth Amendment has been planned for the fourth of July. But any awake American can see that PRISM is only one sock on a long line of dirty laundry. The list of U.S. government abuses and failures to protect stretches far and wide, an alphabet soup of depravity: PRISM, NDAA, CISPA, SOPA, Patriot Act, the Monsanto Protection Act, drones, secret kill lists, Guantanamo Bay, DNA tests, Abu Ghraib, Afghan Massacre, Keystone, Tar Sands, Hanford. I’m certain you’ll think of more.

While PRISM and the rest of the gang are individually sordid, when combined they are the track marks of a far more pervasive, widespread, life-wasting problem. One that has systematically attacked not just the Fourth Amendment, but also the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and 10th. No matter how hard we advocate for the Fourth Amendment now, others will fall so long as this substance burns through the veins of the Republic. (more…)

We Are Better Than This

April 17, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Current Events, Erin Niemela

What Will It Take to Create a World Without Violence?

by Erin Niemela

Americans will remember Monday, April 15, 2013 as a day in which unspeakable violence took the lives of three people and wounded at least 153 after bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line.  Thousands of miles away, Iraqis will remember this same Monday as a day in which violence claimed the lives of at least 31 people and over 200 injured after multiple car bombs detonated in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, and several other areas.  Afghans will remember this Monday as a day in which a ghastly roadside bomb in the Zabul province killed seven and wounded four other human beings. These are the headlines, only for this particular Monday, and we can be sure some lost lives have yet to be reported.

We are better than this. (more…)

Enmified

February 27, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Erin Niemela, Politics

We Could End Up Like Bradley Manning — Marking 1000 Days in Detention

by Erin Niemela

“I wouldn’t want to end up like Bradley Manning.” Those words were the beginning of an outpouring last week by an associate of mine who claimed to have experienced government and corporate corruption that many only read about in alternative media reports.  I sat for hours listening to stories of unbridled corruption on the taxpayer’s dime, conspiratorial advances of arms industries into consumer markets, sexually predatory behaviors deemed an acceptable part of institutional culture, and a resulting pessimistic world perspective that would make a seasoned peace activist cringe.

Having ostensibly had higher security access than common America, yet not nearly as open access as either our high-ranking politicians, our official military personnel, or some war-contracting corporate executives, my associate’s proclaimed experiences were tame in comparison to what’s likely happening at the very top, he explained. Although he felt morally inclined to report the abuses, he insisted he didn’t want to “end up like Bradley Manning.”

Among notable whistleblowers, Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, on suspicion of leaking diplomatic cables, war logs and video footage of civilian murders by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to Wikileaks, remains a steadfast example of what happens when one blows the whistle on the American government.  So, how did Bradley Manning end up? What would my associate so desperately wish to avoid? (more…)

Good Guys Without Guns

January 14, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Erin Niemela, Family, Politics

Letter of Termination to the Second Amendment

by Erin Niemela

Dear Second Amendment,

I write this letter with compassion and empathy, because what I’m about to say may hurt your feelings. We’ve had a good run — I remember shooting beer cans off my neighbor’s porch like it was yesterday. I remember the bad times, too — weapons procured in your name have caused untold tragedies. We’ve had a long, turbulent history, so there’s no reason to delay the inevitable.  Second Amendment, you’re fired. Your services are no longer necessary. You’re just too old to do the job you were originally meant to do. Antique, ancient, out-of-date, passé, out-moded, a relic, old.

Aging isn’t really the issue here. Age normally comes with distinction, wisdom, guidance and worldly understanding, all of which should be eternally appreciated by youth worldwide. The issue is that you and your comrades at the National Rifle Association tried to pass off a “good guy with a gun” speech as the result of such wisdom. With all due respect, the only people gesticulating in fervor to a speech like that are my son and his “Yo Gabba Gabba!”-loving, 5-year-old friends. (more…)

Time Is Money

January 08, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Erin Niemela

The Devastating Impacts of American Culture on Foreign Policy

by Erin Niemela

Two days before Christmas my brother called, frantically demanding I tell him what to purchase for my two young children and myself. For the kids, I said, buy Legos. For myself, I neither need nor want anything. I requested he write for me a brief letter answering the following question: If you could give me anything in the world for Christmas, what would it be and why?  My dear brother’s response was less than agreeable: “What the hell? I’m too busy to do that! Just tell me what you want!” In his defense, he just had a new baby, but his response warrants a closer look into American culture and how it impacts all of us.

My brother, like many other Americans, has aggressively adopted the metaphor for daily life time is money, and so asking him to spend 20 minutes thinking of me was in many ways more expensive than the 20 dollars he opted to spend for my brand new touch-screen Agloves. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, cognitive linguists, confronted the time is money metaphor in 1980 with their masterful text, Metaphors We Live By, explaining that in Western industrialized culture, time is a commodity, a finite resource that can be spent, invested, budgeted and borrowed. (more…)

The People Have Spoken

November 08, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Erin Niemela, Politics

Voting? Done. Democracy? Just Begun.

by Erin Niemela

Election night is finally over.  Television can resume its originally broadcast programs and Facebook can return to cat memes and photos of our dinner.  We can go back to talking about our personal lives at work and our work lives at home.  Relatives can begin to pick up the pieces of their divided relationships, while children can find some relief from the incessant blaring of talk radio on the drive to school. The people have spoken, they are tired, and they want at least a couple of years to nap, politically.

We may think our work here is done, at least for another two-four years, yet civic duty does not cease the moment you turn in your ballot. Voting every couple of years in the mass-distributed reality TV show we call “the election” neither constitutes a democracy nor mandates genuine change.  Direct action by an engaged citizenry creates and sustains democracy, and such direct democracy must be performed year-round.  While our elected officials seem keen on exporting democracy around the world, we should be developing democracy at home, as well. (more…)