Peace & Justice
Tuesdays the Peace/Life Center will be open from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. Bring brown bag lunch. Come by for some coffee or tea or to chat or to see a film or browse through various books and magazines. Beverages will be provided.
America’s ‘Poverty Draft’
From the American Friends Service Committee
America has a “volunteer army” in name only. Although we don’t have a formalized national draft, the Pentagon spends almost $4 billion a year to target high-achieving, low-income youth. They’re targeting children of color and the poor, and they’re doing it with slick commercials and brochures, video games, personal visits, and enlistment bonuses.
The contrast between enlistment in poor and wealthy neighborhoods is dramatic, and very telling.
Two counties, side-by-side: The Bronx, a borough of New York City, and New Jersey’s Bergen County. Geographically, they’re closer-demographically, they’re worlds apart.
And the military knows it. They know where their recruitment tactics will lure teens who have little hope of college.
The military is taking advantage of an economy that increasingly squeezes out those without a college degree. American Friends Service Committee is opposed to the poverty draft, and we need your help to inform needy teens of their alternatives.
ACTION: For more information, please contact the American Friends Service Committee at 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102; phone: 215-241-7000; or www.afsc.org
On October 20, 2005, the Council of the City of Providence, Rhode Island, voted unanimously for a resolution supporting the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act, making it the first city in the U.S. to pass such a measure.
The Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act, H.R. 2631, a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, would allow conscientious objectors to military taxation to pay their federal taxes into a non-military fund. Read the text of the Providence Resolution at: http://ri.peacetaxfund.org/news/resolution.htm.
ACTION: To start a resolution campaign in your town, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund at www.peacetaxfund.org, 1-888-732-2382.
‘Alternatives to Violence’
By MARGARET WILLITS
(Think) Globally: Alternatives to Violence (AVP) originated 30 years ago in collaboration between Quakers and those involved in a New York prison. This experiential program of three 20-hour classes for inmates has grown to 41 states and to countries from South Africa and Australia to Canada and Ireland. Studies in Delaware prisons found a 60% reduction in write-ups (prisons' method of recording violence level) and up to 50% reduction in recidivism for inmates who take a basic workshop.
There are almost 2,000 volunteer facilitators in the United States. The basic training includes affirmation, communication, cooperation, and conflict resolution activities. AVP uses a minimum of three facilitators in each class to model teamwork.
(Act) Locally: Alternatives to Violence just completed its first training in the higher security facility at Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) near Jamestown. At the end, one participant wrote that he had learned "that a group of men in prison can get together no matter what differences and work together in a positive direction." This was the fourth training at SCC, which is the first prison near Modesto to begin the program. Prisons in Tracy and Chowchilla have also expressed interest in starting programs.
ACTION: Local volunteers are needed to train as facilitators at Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) near Jamestown to replace facilitators coming from Nipomo, Grass Valley, Santa Cruz, and the Bay Area. To know more about this project, contact George Ramos or Margaret Willits or visit www.avp-california.org
From the Fellowship of Reconciliation
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
Dr. King’s prophetic warning has seldom seemed more compelling than on this Martin Luther King Day. Spending on an immoral war continues to spiral obscenely, despite the erosion of public support for the war and the abandonment of any pretence of reconstructing Iraq. And, unfazed by the disaster wrought in Iraq, the clamor grows daily for military action against neighboring Iran.
Instead of programs of social uplift” we see a massive increase in hunger, with 36 million people, or 13% of the “U.S. population, experiencing food shortages in the past year. We remain the only industrialized nation without a national health care program. And a United Nations index of income inequality shows the United States to be more unequal in income distribution than every other industrial democracy.
But the journey to “spiritual death” encompasses more than just economic or social ills. We have created a culture of deceit and mistrust, as evidenced by the plague of corruption scandals in public and private institutions. Our lawmakers take bribes to legislate. Corporations criminally enrich themselves at our expense. Government officials lie to us. Secret agencies spy on us. Torture, once unjustifiable and illegal, is now permitted and necessary.
How deep is the malaise when official outrage at revelations of torture and extrajudicial spying are not directed at the practices themselves, but at the whistleblowers who revealed them to the public? How far adrift are we when the very word “morality” is understood to mean personal piety, rather than socially ethical behavior?
A growing number of Americans feel that there is something deeply dysfunctional in our society. They are right. When truth, integrity - even reality - become irrelevant, we are in deep trouble. Dr. King offered a moral foundation for society as it fought the triple evils of war, racism and poverty. We have lost this moral compass.
Now, more than ever, is the time to lift up Martin Luther King’s vision of a beloved community. It is, truthfully, the only vision that can guide America to a path of restoration, redemption, and true justice for all.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation, www.forusa.org
Driving to San Quentin
Like a moth to a flame,
I drive to the cold inferno,
knowing what awaits.
Named for a false saint,
this space is unholy.
At the break of the morrow,
blanketed by a biting fog,
A broken Brother Tommie says, “It must be the will of Allah,”
but I don’t have his faith.
I think tonight,
God must be crying.
— Ruben Villalobos
[Monday, Dec. 12, 2005, eve of the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams.]
‘Get Engaged’ for equality in Stanislaus County
By BETHANY HOLDEN
All over California on Valentine’s Day, we gay couples, accompanied by our children, extended family, and friends, will stand up for our relationships by rendering visible the discriminatory law imposed on our families every day; we will request marriage licenses. It’s no secret what the result will be; the county clerks across the state will have to turn us away as part of their job. Each year this action requires that one human being employed by the State of California, in essence, look another human being in the face and tell them, “you are not worthy, go away.” Not because they personally feel that way, but because the State of California and the United States Government currently require that they discriminate against same-sex couples – no matter how long they have been together, regardless of the impact on their children, and without regard to how desperately the couple needs the 1,400 state and federal rights and protections that come with a marriage license.
Marriage Equality is a civil rights issue that, as citizens both straight and gay, we must stand up for. The lack of marriage equality creates problems and crisis that do not arise between those who are legally recognized as married. It is in times of crisis when the 1,138 federal rights that California gay couples are denied would really come in handy. Like on April 15th, when we are required to file single and pay more taxes into a system that our families cannot access the benefits of, like when we can’t get domestic partner health care benefits, because our employer is self-insured, or when we unexpectedly are injured outside of California and are told by medical staff that we are not a family and that we are not entitled to make decisions or speak to the doctor about our long-term partner’s medical condition. These stories sound like fiction, but unfortunately they are all true and have already happened and continue to happen.
Who would be so cruel as to claim supporting marriage discrimination is upholding moral values? There is nothing moral about denying seniors their long-time partner’s pension or Social Security Survivors benefits, there is nothing moral about denying children the protection of two legal parents, and there is nothing moral with telling a class of people that they are not entitled to the governmental rights and protections afforded all other citizens, simply because of their sexual orientation.
What can you do to help?
Educate yourself about marriage equality and talk to other people about the importance of ending marital discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
Join your local human rights commission to help keep this issue on the front burner.
Join us on Valentine’s Day as a straight ally, because, as it has been so eloquently stated, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
We invite everyone to Get Engaged for equality.
ACTION: Equality California Stanislaus County Chapter is requesting gay couples and their supporters to come down to the Stanislaus County Clerk Recorder’s office of Lee Lundrigan 1021 “I” Street, Suite 101, in Modesto at noon on February 14th, to request a marriage license to honor your same-sex relationship. Signs will be provided.