New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Voices of Pain and Peace

March 12, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Film Festival Highlights Anguish … and Hope

by Robert C. Koehler

No matter how bad it gets, we can look inside ourselves and find hope, possibility … the future. And when we find that, we know what it means to build peace.

“It’s like I’m in a never-ending battle with my brain,” Kayla said. “They called me Crazy Kayla. I have anger problems. Someone messes with me, I lose it. I was molested, raped, physically and mentally abused. I was in 127 different homes. I have a 3-month-old baby…”

Peace isn’t the avoidance of difficult topics but their thorough, unstinting examination, not with cynicism and despair but with the certainty that salvation is mixed into the pain. All we have to do is find it.

This is precisely what a good documentary film does for us, and there are so many of them out there these days. Thirty-one such films were showcased at Chicago’s sixth annual Peace on Earth Film Festival, an event I’ve been associated with since its beginning. The four-day festival, which was held March 6-9 (free of charge, as always) at the Chicago Cultural Center, takes on a mélange of provocative subjects: Fukushima, agribusiness, gun violence, forgiveness in the wake of violence, hospice care for prisoners, childhood mental illness, and much more. (more…)

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…)

Useful Enemies?

February 12, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, David Swanson, Politics

Lessons from Wars that Aren’t Meant to Be Won

by David Swanson

In War Is A Lie I looked at pretended and real reasons for wars and found some of the real reasons to be quite irrational.  It should not shock us then to discover that the primary goal in fighting a war is not always to win it.  Some wars are fought without a desire to win, others without winning being the top priority, either for the top war makers or for the ordinary soldiers.

In Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them, David Keen looks at wars around the world and discovers many in which winning is not an object.  Many of the examples are civil wars, many of them in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, some of them dragging on for decades.  Wars become sources of power, wealth, and prestige.  Exploiting civilians can take precedence for both sides over combating each other.  So can exploiting international “aid” that flows as long as wars are raging, not to mention the international permission to commit crimes that is bestowed upon those fighting the communists or, more recently, the terrorists.  Of course a “war on terror” is itself blatantly chosen as an unwinnable goal around which to design a permanent emergency.  President Obama has just waived, again, sanctions on nations using child soldiers.  Those child soldiers are on our side. (more…)

Hope and Remembrance

January 22, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Sasha Kramer

Struggles — and Signs of Possibility — in Haiti

by Sasha Kramer

Dear Friends,

I am writing this letter at 3:53 pm on January 12, 2013.  Three years ago today, Port au Prince was bustling with activity as people spilled into the streets from work and school.  Mothers returned home after a long day of working under the hot sun, fathers greeted their children with tired eyes, neighbors shared warm handshakes and laughed away the day’s challenges.  One hour later the city collapsed and over 300,000 of these mothers, fathers, children and neighbors were lost in an instant. Last night at the stroke of midnight the hills around our house in Port au Prince exploded with voices from the thousands of people attending an all night service in honor of those lost in the earthquake 3 years ago today. What struck me most deeply, was not the despair in the voices, it was the sound of ecstasy, the sound of resilience it was the sound of life. It was as though at the same time as people were mourning their loved ones, they were giving thanks for those who were spared, the were celebrating their strength in surviving, not only the earthquake, but the 3 years of struggle that have followed. (more…)

A Green Tree in Your Heart

March 02, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Robert C. Koehler

Stirring the Future with Creativity and Hope

by Robert C. Koehler

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”

Building community is a sacred process, so I begin here with a Chinese proverb that a healer and social worker turned into a song. The sacred has an intensely personal dimension to it, and the singing bird rips it open for me.

Three weeks ago I wrote a column called “The Barbara Tree,” in which I talked about two things: the orange papier-mâché bird that mysteriously appeared on a branch of the linden tree that had been planted in a nearby park in honor of my late wife; and a blog-in-progress I’m in the process of launching, with some friends, called Chicago Spirit, which seeks to celebrate the world-in-progress that so many people are creating: the world beyond war, eco-exploitation, domination consciousness, spectator culture, and the privatization of the commons.

I invited response, i.e., participation, having no idea what it would look like. This is not a simple world, as cynics would dismiss it. It’s a world of risky reaching out, groping for connection. What I got was music, art, story. What I got was politics, courage, and craftsmanship, sometimes wrapped around anger, more often wrapped around love. And birds and trees kept showing up in fascinating and heart-wrenching ways. (more…)

Mic Check

October 25, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Family, Politics, Randall Amster

Can You Hear Us, America?

by Randall Amster

We find these views to be mutually relevant…

that all people, by virtue of their basic humanity, deserve the opportunity to live, work, and associate according to the dictates of their own consciences and capacities;

that the exercise of such freedoms is only tenable in conjunction with the ability of all people to do so, in the recognition that no one is free unless everyone is free;

that people situated in place know best how to manage the conditions of their lives, and that the political autonomy and economic self-sufficiency of local communities are the primary means of ensuring the freedom of the individuals in their midst; (more…)

Women in the Crossfire

July 05, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Diane Lefer, Family, Politics

Navigating Challenges in Colombia with Dignity and Perseverance

by Diane Lefer

“When I was three years old, the army bombed my village,” the girl told me. She was sixteen, which meant the bombing happened in 1998.

“You’re from Santo Domingo?” I had protested that very bombing in demonstrations in front of the Los Angeles headquarters of Occidental Petroleum. The Colombian Air Force, intent on killing guerrillas who threatened Oxy’s operations, had relied on inaccurate information provided by the US. At least 17 civilians were killed and many others injured. Now I was talking to one of the survivors. “You were so young,” I said. “Do you remember?”

“A little,” said María Fernanda. “I remember my father lifting me onto his back. Like this, I crouched holding his shoulders. And I remember the sounds, the shells coming through the palm trees.”

We met in Barrancabermeja, Colombia where I was offering writing workshops and she was performing in the First International Theatre Festival for Peace which from May 20-30, 2011 brought us together with 400 artists and community members from different regions of Colombia and from 14 countries around the world, everyone committed to social justice. (more…)