LIVING FOR CHANGE
DETROIT-CITY OF HOPE
By Gracc Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Sept. 23-29m 2007
It is a complex fate to be a Detroiter.
On the one hand, we can bewail the hardships of living in a city abandoned by industry and supermarkets, depopulated by white and middle class flight, where public transportation barely exists and 300 or more people are killed by gunfire every year.
Or we can seize the opportunity to begin living simpler. healthier and more environmentally-friendly lives, which will not only help alleviate the planetary emergency but also begin creating the new concept of active citizenship called for in these worst and best of times.
For example, do we keep hoping that supermarkets will return so that we can buy additives-contaminated foods trucked into the city by gas-guzzlers? Or do we support the community garden network that is already producing healthy food and reducing neighborhood blight, and expand it into a local economy with greenhouses, canning plants, and neighborhood food markets?
Do we continue to depend on the police and barred doors and windows to protect us from crime and violence? Or do we spend more time on our front porches and on our streets, looking out for our children and each other, biking instead of driving
SUVs, working together on recycling and other environmental projects and, by bringing the neighbor back into the ‘hood, transforming our communities into Peace and Safety Zones?
Do we continue to look on helplessly as 30-50% of our children drop out of schools? Or do we recognize that our schools are now dysfunctional because they were structured a hundred years ago for the industrial age which has come to an end? Now it is up to us to begin creating schools that engage our children from K-12 in community-building, getting their cognitive juices flowing as they transform their surroundings and themselves, planting community gardens, organizing neighborhood arts and health festivals, painting public murals, learning from practice which has always been the best way to learn.
Do we continue to permit our young people to be incarcerated because they have drifted into drugs and petty crimes out of joblessness and hopelessness? Or do we organize Restorative Justice programs that provide opportunities for dialogue between non-violent offenders and community members, so that together we can discover ways and means to reintegrate our young people into our families and communities?
When we meet someone new these days, we usually ask: “What do you do?” In other words, what is your job?. We have allowed ourselves to be reduced to jobholders and consumers who define one another by our jobs, the clothes we wear or the cars we drive.
Accepting this economic/materialistic view of ourselves was understandable in the 19th and early 20th centuries when rapid economic and technological development was necessary to produce material abundance.
However, now that we are overwhelmed with consumer goods, our urgent need is to become active citizens, accepting continuing responsibility for our communities, our cities, our country, our world and our planet, including the responsibility for creating meaningful Work for everyone, Work that not only produces goods and services but is ecologically-friendly and develops our skills, gifts and citizenship.
If we want to be safe from petty criminals as well as global terrorists, we need to redefine and recreate ourselves as active citizens rather than as consumers and producers.
Detroit City of Hope is beginning this redefinition on a local level.
In the first half of 2007 we organized two events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of MLK’s anti-Vietnam war speech and of the Detroit Rebellion.
Based on what we learned from these two events, DCOH is now embarking on a five year campaign to support and expand a network of the individuals and organizations already engaged in activities to rebuild Detroit from the ground up.
We will be launching this campaign on Saturday, October 6, at a meeting co-hosted by The Gathering for Justice, the organization founded by Harry Belafonte to struggle against the criminalization and incarceration of our young people.
The meeting will be at YouthVille, 7375 Woodward Ave., from 9-4 p.m. Lunch will be served.
Our aim is for everyone to leave with a deeper commitment to rebuild and respirit Detroit because we have become more aware of how we each can contribute to this goal.
THINKING FOR OURSELVES
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, Sept.23-29, 2007
Waging Peace: the Art of War for the Anti-War Movement is a new book by Scott Ritter who served as the United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998.
Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Ritter, a former Marine and a Republican who voted for George Bush in 2000, publicly argued that Iraq possessed no significant weapons of mass destruction. He has been a consistent critic of the administration, opposed the invasion of Iraq, and has recently been warning about the buildup toward war with Iran. In an interview with Democracy Now last October he said, “The path that the United States is currently embarked on regarding Iran is a path that will inevitably lead to war. Such a course of action will make even the historical mistake we made in Iraq pale by comparison.”
In Waging Peace Mr. Ritter brings his military training and critical skills to bear on the peace movement. His central challenge to the movement is clear. He says:
The anti-war movement has come face to face with the reality that in the ongoing war of ideologies that is being waged in America today, their cause is not just losing, but is in fact on the verge of complete collapse. Many in the anti-war movement would take exception to such a characterization of the situation, given the fact that there seems to be a growing change in the mood among Americans against the ongoing war in Iraq. But one only has to scratch at the surface of this public discontent to realize how shallow and superficial it is. Americans are not against the war in Iraq because it is wrong; they are against it because we are losing.
Ritter offers this critique out of both a deep respect and concern for the anti-war movement. While he attributes much of its lack of impact to poor organization, the absence of a single clear message, and the confusion of tactics, strategies and objectives, he raises two fundamental issues that are of critical importance in waging peace.
First, he argues that the anti-war movement does not appreciate the power and tenacity of the pro-war forces currently running the country. Quoting Dwight Eisenhower, Ritter talks about the military-industrial-Congressional complex. He notes that Eisenhower was forced to drop Congress from his oft-quoted phrase, but the reality is that Congress is essentially controlled by profiteers who seek to promote war as a way of life.
Second, the anti-war movement has failed to project an alternative vision of a peaceful America. It has failed to answer the fundamental question of what we believe in.
Ritter suggests we need to be more than an anti-war movement. We should be a pro- Constitution movement. For all its imperfections, the Constitution, the rule of law, the protection of basic human rights, and the defense of freedom and liberty are the values that have long defined America at its best.
Ritter understands that such a patriotic defense of American values is troublesome to many in the anti-war movement. But, because we have not provided a clear set of alternative values, our nation has been symbolized to the rest of the world by the B-2 bomber, M-1 tank and M-16 rifle.
As Bush now offers perpetual war, as he increasingly invokes the specter of war against Iran, and as Congress proves incapable of stopping this war, Ritter offers an important challenge. He is asking us to love America enough to change it. As James Boggs often said, “I hate this country for what it has done and what it is doing. But I love it for what it can become.”