Culture

Thanksgiving food for thought: Immigrants are not 'invading' the United States

White Christian men are really scared of immigrants. Or at least they’re scared of immigrants who are “undesirable.”

They’re just terrified that new people are going to come into their country and make them eat weird food or hear weird languages.

They’re so fragile they have to cast poor people and children just trying to survive as “invading.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott is now so scared he’s begging President Biden to invoke the invasion clause of the US Constitution to protect Texans from refugees and migrant workers.

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The US has a decidedly weird relationship with immigration. It’s unique in its need for immigrants to “settle” the country (indigenous Native Americans don’t count). So immigration and naturalization have an outsized importance in the nation’s history. However, despite this need, nativism sprang up with a vengeance as soon as “undesirable” immigrants began arriving in the 19th century.

The narrative that immigrants were an “invading” force began with Samuel Morse’s Foreign Conspiracy Against the Liberties of the United States published in 1836. He said every American citizen who values his birthright should attempt to repel “this insidious invasion of the country” of “illiterate” Catholic immigrants. Chinese immigration was cast as an invasion in the 1870s in such a way that directly led to the Chinese Exclusion Act. Such rhetoric, and comparisons to an invasion of locusts, was applied to immigrants from Eastern Europe. The “invasion” moved on to Mexican immigrants in the 1920s and has remained focused on immigrants from South and Central America, even sometimes being described as a “Wetback Invasion.”

Immigrants are not invading the US.

They are not trying to conquer us, or take land, or forcibly convert us, or steal resources, or do anything else that invading armies have done (or that Americans have historically done to indigenous people).

READ MORE: The good priest who called greed 'venomous'

Current immigrants are coming to the US for the same reasons immigrants came historically. Undocumented immigrants are coming for the same reason documented immigrants are. Everyone just wants safety and economic opportunities. But casting immigrants as “invading” is a purposeful conscious choice to make vulnerable people doing no harm seem threatening and violent.

And now Abbot isn’t just accusing immigrants of invading rhetorically. He’s actually trying to get the president to treat poor people without weapons or power as a military invasion!

On November 16, a day after tweeting it publicly, Abbot wrote a letter to President Biden informing him that he has not lived up to the promise of Article IV, § 4, that the federal government “shall protect each of them against Invasion.”

Since, according to Abbott, the federal government isn’t treating poor immigrants like an invading army, Abbott will now invoke Article I, § 10, Clause 3 of the US Constitution, which allows states to “engage in War” when they are “actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”

Oh, and just to make it extra scary, Abbot specifies that the invasion is by “Mexican drug cartels.” You’d think we would have heard about drug cartels invading large swaths of Texas.

As far as I can tell the Invasion Clause has rarely been invoked in US history. The one example I could find was in 1914 when the Colorado governor asked Woodrow Wilson to invoke the clause during the Colorado Coalfield War, a bloody labor dispute, not an invasion.

Abbot’s strategy has been regularly rejected by the courts. In New Jersey v. United States, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected New Jersey’s claim that the US had violated its obligation to protect states from invasion by not controlling immigration through international borders better.

In Chiles v. Florida, the plaintiffs, Florida, claimed that the "government breaches its duty when its failure to protect against invasion of illegal aliens imposes coercive pressure on the state and local political processes.” The Southern District of Florida rejected this argument and said the plaintiffs were making a political argument, not a legal one.

Abbott seems to be trying to enforce war powers which, along with immigration enforcement, is the purview of the federal government.

Therefore, he’s clearly trying to unlawfully invoke the threat of invasion to justify rounding up asylum seekers. Last year, Texas passed Operation Lone Star, which already further militarizes the border by giving Abbot authority to deploy the national guard.

Of course, this was also justified through complaining that President Biden wasn’t doing his job. This latest ploy invoking invasion is likely in response to a Texas court ruling that the arrests under Operation Lone Star violated established law that immigration enforcement was the sole purview of the federal government.

For Article I Section 10 to be invoked, invasions must be armed invasions that are “too formidable for the civil power to overcome.”

New Jersey v. US, as well as Padavan v. US and State of California v. US in the 1990s all confirm this definition. Asylum seekers and poor immigrants are not armed and they are certainly not too formidable for civil powers to deal with. Even if we include the threat of cartels who might be armed, there is nothing to suggest that threat amounts to a formidable invasion.

Like previous courts have said, invoking the Invasion Clause is a political ploy not a legal strategy.

We never know how courts will react anymore but it’s likely Abbott’s actions would be rejected if he did take steps to further militarize immigration enforcement and take jurisdiction away from the federal government.

Unfortunately, harm can be done in the meantime, and immigrants can be unlawfully arrested. Not to mention the political narrative itself is insidious and harmful to any reasonable response to immigration. Asylum seekers are often traumatized. They don’t need to be met with a response as if they are trying to invade.

It might be something we all want to think about the week of Thanksgiving.

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'Trying to help a fascist': Jack White quits Twitter and slams Elon Musk for reinstating Trump’s account

On Saturday, November 19, former President Donald Trump said that he has no interest in returning to Twitter even though its new owner, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has restored his @realdonaldtrump account. At a Republican Jewish Coalition event, Trump said of the possibility of returning to Twitter, “I don’t see any reason for it.” The former president has been saying that regardless of what Musk does, he will continue to use his own Truth Social as his primary social media platform.

Pundits have been speculating on whether or not Trump will change his mind about returning to Twitter now that he is officially seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. But as of Tuesday morning, November 22, Trump had yet to return to Twitter. The most recent @realdonaldtrump posts are from January 8, 2021, two days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building — the event that inspired Twitter to indefinitely suspend his account.

Many Trump critics have been angry with Musk for reinstating Trump’s Twitter account. One of them is rocker Jack White, who has left Twitter in response to Musk’s decision. White is famous for his work with the White Stripes.

READ MORE: ‘Absolutely disgusting’: Jack White quits Twitter, slams Elon Musk for reinstating ‘fascist’ Trump’s account

On Sunday, November 20, White called Musk out in a blistering rant on Instagram.

White posted, “So you gave Trump his Twitter platform back. Absolutely disgusting, Elon. That is officially an asshole move. Why don’t you be truthful? Tell it like it is.”

The musician continued, “People like you and Joe Rogan (who gives platforms to liars like Alex Jones etc.); you come into a ton of money, see the tax bill, despise paying your fair share, and then think moving to Texas and supporting whatever republican you can is going to help you keep more of your money (How else could trump possibly interest you?).”

White went on to say that Trump, in January 2021, was “removed from Twitter” because he “incited violence multiple times.” And he added, “This is not ‘free speech’ or ‘what the poll decided’ or whatever nonsense you’re claiming it to be. This is straight up you trying to help a fascist.”

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Why Americans of all races, classes and genders looked to the ancient Mediterranean for inspiration

The ancient world of the Mediterranean has long permeated American society, in everything from museum collections to home furnishings. The design of the nation’s public monuments, buildings and universities, as well as its legal system and form of government, show the enduring influence of Mediterranean antiquity on American culture.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Until the late 19th century, Americans encountered the ancient world almost exclusively through reproductions – in books, artwork and even popular plays. Very few could afford to travel abroad to encounter Mediterranean artifacts firsthand.

Yet despite barriers to access, many Americans forged personal connections with the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean – not only the Greeks and Romans, but also the Egyptians and Israelites. Perhaps the newness of American culture inspired this deep interest in the ancient past.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Mediterranean antiquity’s influence on America, even before it officially became a country, is how it cut across cultural lines of race, class and gender. Far from being the preserve of a privileged few, the art and literature of the ancients was often embraced by Americans of all stripes – including the enslaved Black poet Phillis Wheatley (circa 1753-1784) and Black and Native American sculptor Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907). But the circumstances of these encounters and the way individual Americans thought about antiquity varied greatly.

I’m an art historian specializing in ancient Mediterranean art and culture. I am particularly fascinated by the way Americans, from the earliest days, made creative connections between past and present, despite being separated by thousands of miles and millennia of history.

In researching and selecting works of art for the exhibit “Antiquity and America,” on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, I was excited to show an exceptionally diverse range of American encounters with the ancient world, especially in portrait painting.

Marker of education

Take, for example, Samson Occom (1723-1792), a member of the Mohegan nation, Presbyterian minister and one of the first Native Americans to pen an autobiography in English.

Painting of a Native American man in a drapey shirt and cape looking to the right. Trees and sky are in the background.

The portrayal of Samson Occom includes symbols of both the Indigenous identity of the sitter and his connections to Mediterranean antiquity.

Painted by Nathaniel Smibert. Courtesy of Bowdoin College Museum of Art

His unfinished portrait, painted by Nathaniel Smibert (1735-1756) in the mid-18th century, alluded to Occom’s Indigenous identity in the coloring of his skin and the styling of his hair. Simultaneously, it also referenced his training in classical literature and oratory, acquired by studying with Eleazar Wheelock (1711-1779), a Connecticut Congregational minister.

Occom’s pose and draped cloak recall those found on ancient statues of Roman senators – a portrait convention familiar in early America from prints circulating at the time – and one that would later become quite popular in American society.

While his learning in Greek and Latin was undoubtedly a source of great pride for Occom – and a way for him to level the playing field with the European colonists – it was used by others to demonstrate the “civilizing” effect of European culture and education in the British Colonies.

In 1776, Eleazar Wheelock sent his former pupil Occom to Great Britain to raise money for a Native American school – funds that were ultimately repurposed for the founding of Dartmouth College. Occom would later charge Wheelock with using him as a “gazing stock” in Europe while planning all the while to use the funds for the benefit of white settlers.

Shaping public opinion

A portrait of Sengbe Pieh, also known as Cinqué, who led the 1839 Amistad slave ship revolt, is an example of Black Americans’ use of the classical world for political purposes.

Painting of a black man holding a bamboo staff in a toga-like outfit looking to the left. The background shows a landscape with a cliff, distant mountain, tropical trees and a moody, cloudy sky.

Portraying Sengbe Pieh, who led the revolt on the slave ship Amistad, in the pose and garb of an ancient Roman senator was an intentional way to influence public opinion.

Courtesy of Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Commissioned by Robert Purvis (1810-1898), a Black Philadelphian and prominent abolitionist, this striking portrait by John Sartain (1808-1897) was intended to shape the popular image of Pieh and his fellow Africans during their Supreme Court trial for mutiny and murder in 1840-1841.

Pieh’s African identity is made evident not only in the tone of his skin, but in the bamboo staff he holds and the landscape in background depicting his homeland. The white cloak draped over his shoulder would have called to mind the white robes worn by Roman senators and, by extension, the Roman virtues of honor and dignity.

Pieh and his fellow Africans were ultimately acquitted and returned to the Sierra Leone Colony in 1842.

Feminist icon

Woman posed outdoors in flowing robes holding a lute. In the background are hand written scrolls, the ocean and distant cliffs.

At the turn of the 20th century, a portrait of an American woman portrayed as the Greek poet Sappho connected the sitter to themes in the ancient work.

Painted by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1899. Courtesy of Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Caroline Sanders Truax (1870–1940), one of the first women admitted to the New York state bar, was so enamored by the ancient past she was portrayed as the Greek lyric poet Sappho by painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904).

This was a bold choice for a representation of an American woman in 1899. Sappho, whose writing is among the only surviving sources of female authorship from antiquity, was already an icon of the first-wave feminist movement, and the homoerotic themes of her poetry were well understood. Was the choice the artist’s – or the sitter’s? The most likely answer is it was by mutual agreement, perhaps inspired by Truax’s knowledge of classical language and literature – and her own interest in composing lyric poetry.

The portrait was a sensation in New York society when it arrived from the artist’s studio in Paris. It was featured in several portrait exhibitions and newspaper articles – and was hung with pride by Truax and her husband in their home.

Painting of a man and his daughter walking under an elaborately sculpted Roman arch.

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) walks with his daughter under the Arch of Titus in Rome, with the famed Colosseum in the background.

Painted by George Healy. Courtesy of Bowdoin College Museum of Art

For generations of Americans, the history and literature of Mediterranean antiquity was fertile ground for contemporary comparisons. It was universal enough to be brought into debates about the Constitution and founding principles of democracy, slavery and abolition, and women’s rights and suffrage. It was also of great individual significance for Americans of many different backgrounds – a past they were on intimate terms with, despite the millennia and miles separating the United States from the ancient Mediterranean.The Conversation

Sean P. Burrus, Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow, Bowdoin College

'Abusing its market position': Klobuchar, AOC rip Ticketmaster 'monopoly' following Taylor Swift ticket debacle

On Tuesday, November 15, fans of pop star Taylor Swift were furious with Ticketmaster when ticket sales for forthcoming tour dates went on sale and the company’s website appeared to crash during the purchasing process. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar was quick to speak out about that debacle, sending Ticketmaster CEO Michael Rapino a strongly worded open letter that was highly critical of the company’s practices.

The need for competition is one of the fundamentals of free-market capitalism, and Klobuchar complained that Ticketmaster “continues to abuse its market positions” by imposing high fees and engaging in the practices of a monopoly.

“Ticketmaster’s power in the primary ticket market insulates it from the competitive pressures that typically push companies to innovate and improve their services,” Klobuchar told Rapino in her November 16 letter. “That can result in the types of dramatic service failures we saw this week, where consumers are the ones that pay the price.”

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In 2010, Ticketmaster merged with another major company: Live Nation. At the time, critics of the merger warned that like so many corporate megamergers — from banks to airlines — the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger would be terrible for consumers. And Klobuchar brought up that merger in her letter to Rapino.

Klobuchar told Rapino, “When Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation in 2010, it was subject to an antitrust consent decree that prohibited it from abusing its market position. Nonetheless, there have been numerous complaints about your company’s compliance with that decree.”

Klobuchar isn’t the only well-known Democrat who has been lambasting Ticketmaster. On November 15, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City tweeted, “Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly, it’s merger with LiveNation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in. Break them up.”

That same day, Rep. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island tweeted, “@Ticketmaster’s excessive wait times and fees are completely unacceptable, as seen with today’s @taylorswift13 tickets, and are a symptom of a larger problem. It’s no secret that Live Nation-Ticketmaster is an unchecked monopoly.”

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CNN reporter Jordan Valinsky notes that critics of Ticketmaster were calling it a “monopoly” long before the 2010 merger. Back in 1994, members of the Seattle grunge rock band Pearl Jam filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division and argued that Ticketmaster had a “virtually absolute monopoly on the distribution of tickets to concerts.”

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'Similarity' and 'contagion': Anthropologist traces the psychological roots of magical thinking

Growing up in Greece, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ home in a small coastal village in the region of Chalkidiki. It was warm and sunny, and I passed most of my time playing in the streets with my cousins. But occasionally, the summer storms brought torrential rain. You could see them coming from far away, with black clouds looming over the horizon, lit up by lightning.

As I rushed home, I was intrigued to see my grandparents prepare for the thunderstorm. Grandma would cover a large mirror on the living room wall with a dark cloth and throw a blanket over the TV. Meanwhile, Grandpa would climb a ladder to remove the light bulb over the patio door. Then they switched off all the lights in the house and waited the storm out.

I never understood why they did all this. When I asked, they said that light attracts lightning. At least that was what people said, so better to be on the safe side.

Where do these kinds of beliefs come from?

My fascination with seemingly bizarre cultural beliefs and practices eventually led me to become an anthropologist. I have come across similar superstitions around the world, and although one may marvel at their variety, they share some common features.

The principles of magical thinking

At the core of most superstitions are certain intuitive notions about how the world works. Early anthropologists described these intuitions in terms of principles such as “similarity” and “contagion.”

According to the principle of similarity, things that look alike may share some deeper connection, just as the members of a family tend to resemble each other both in appearance and in other traits. Of course, this is not always the case. But this inference feels natural, so we often abuse it.

Case in point: The light reflected on the surface of a mirror is not related to the light resulting from the electrical discharges produced during a thunderstorm. But because they both seem to give off light, a connection between the two was plausible enough to become folk wisdom in many parts of the world. Likewise, because our reflection on the mirror closely resembles our own image, many cultures hold that breaking a mirror brings bad luck, as if damage to that reflection would also mean damage to ourselves.

The principle of contagion is based on the idea that things have internal properties that can be transmitted through contact. The heat of a fire is transferred to anything it touches, and some illnesses can spread from one organism to another. Whether consciously or unconsciously, people in all cultures often expect that other kinds of essences can also be transferred through contact.

For example, people often believe that certain essences can “rub off” on someone, which is why casino players sometimes touch someone who is on a winning streak. It is also why, in 2014, a statue of Juliet, the Shakespearean character who fell madly in love with Romeo, had to be replaced due to excessive wear caused by visitors touching it to find love.

A search for patterns

These kinds of superstitions betray something more general about the way people think. To make sense of our world, we look for patterns in nature. When two things occur at around the same time, they may be related. For instance, black clouds are associated with rain.

But the world is far too complex. Most of the time, correlation does not mean causation, although it may feel like it does.

If you wear a new shirt to the stadium and your team wins, you might wear it again. If another victory comes, you begin to see a pattern. This now becomes your lucky shirt. In reality, myriad other things have changed since the last game, but you do not have access to all those things. What you know for sure is that you wore the lucky shirt, and the result was favorable.

Superstitions are comforting

People really want their lucky charms to work. So when they don’t, we are less motivated to remember them, or we may attribute our luck to some other factor. If their team loses, they might blame the referee. But when their team wins, they are more likely to notice the lucky shirt, and more likely to declare to others that it worked, which helps spread the idea.

As a social species, so much of what we know about the world comes from common wisdom. It would therefore seem safe to assume that if other people believe in the utility of a particular action, there might be something to it. If people around you say you should not eat those mushrooms, it’s probably a good idea to avoid them.

This “better safe than sorry” strategy is one of the main reasons superstitions are so widespread. Another reason is that they simply feel good.

Research shows that rituals and superstitions spike during times of uncertainty, and performing them can help reduce anxiety and boost performance. When people feel powerless, turning to familiar actions provides a sense of control, which, even if illusory, can still be comforting.

Thanks to these psychological effects, superstitions have been around for ages, and will likely be around for ages to come.The Conversation

Dimitris Xygalatas, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Psychological Sciences, University of Connecticut

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The good priest who called greed 'venomous'

During the two years the cartoonist Joe Sacco and I spent on our book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, written out of the poorest pockets of America, we invariably encountered heroic men and women who — against overwhelming odds — rose up to fight lonely and often losing battles on behalf of the oppressed. Bill Means, Charlie Abourezk and Leonard Crow Dog in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Larry Gibson and Judy Bonds in the coal fields of West Virginia. Lucas Benitez, Laura Germano and Greg Abbot in the produce fields of Florida. The men and women in Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street movement.

When set against the crushing poverty, environmental degradation, corporate abuse and despair they opposed, the victories they amassed were often miniscule. And yet, to them, and to the people they were able to support, these victories were immense. They kept alive kindness, community, decency, hope and justice. They provided another way to speak about the world. They reminded us that our primary task in life is to care for others. These moral giants, by their very presence and steadfast refusal to surrender, damned the avarice, lust for power, hedonism and violence that define corporate culture.

Joe and I met Father Michael Doyle in Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest cities and most dangerous in the United States. Father Doyle, an Irish priest and poet with ruddy cheeks and snow white hair, ran the Sacred Heart Church in one of the city’s bleakest corners. He died at the age of 88 on November 4th in the church’s parish house.

“I haven’t heard God speak in a burning bush, but I hear Him speak from the burning issues of the day, and they are all in Camden,” he told us.

Camden is desolate, with gutted and abandoned row houses, boarded-up storefronts, the empty shells of windowless brick factories and the skeletal remains of old gas stations. Weed-choked vacant lots are filled with garbage, old tires and rusted appliances. Cemeteries are overgrown. Open-air drug markets are divided up among gangs such as the Bloods, the Latin Kings, Los Nietos and MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha. Knots of young Hispanic or African-American men dressed in black leather jackets and occasionally seen flipping through wads of cash, sell weed, dope and crack to clients, many of whom drive in from the suburbs. The drug trade is perhaps the city’s only thriving business. A weapon, usually stashed behind a trash can, in the grass or on a porch, is never more than a few feet away from the dealers. Camden is awash in guns.

Camden sits on the edge of the Delaware River facing the Philadelphia skyline, with scrap yards and a vast sewage treatment plant that fouls the air. An elevated multilane highway slices through the heart of the city allowing commuters to pass in and out of Philadelphia without seeing the misery below.

“At Ferry and Sixth, we stopped at one of Camden’s 150 open air drug markets,” Father Doyle wrote in one of his newsletters. “Then down Sixth to Viola where Kevin Walls was shot a few months ago. Where his mother bent beside her bleeding son and tried to say the 23rd Psalm in his ear. Though I walk in the valley of death, I fear not evil. There’s plenty of fear at 6th and Viola. There now the most pathetic of urban shrines. His name scrawled on an abandoned wall. Dozens of beer bottles arranged for the glint and glow of a burnt out candle. A teddy bear soiled and wet on an abandoned step. Soft wishes in a hard hearted-place.”

“Sometimes I see men and women hardened by time and all washed out like the hills of Appalachia and I wonder what were their first few years of life and what happened in the little places where they played,” he wrote in another letter. “Right here on Broadway, on the blocks above and below Sacred Heart, the prostitutes adorn every corner in all weather. They are like hardy fishermen casting their lines in the constant stream of traffic. The windowless walls of gutted houses gape down like skeletons with holes for eyes on a tragic human scene. At 3:15 PM, Anna May carefully guides little children with Sacred Heart uniforms across the street when the light changes. May God’s holy angels always get them safely across the street and off it before they harden and crack like the pavements and the prostitutes and the failed plans for urban renewal.”

You can listen to Martin Sheen read from Father Doyle’s letters in the documentary “Poet of Poverty.”

Father Doyle raised the funds to restore Sacred Heart Church, built at the end of the 19th century, and its murals illustrating the Ascension, the baptism of Jesus by John, the marriage of Mary and Joseph, and the return of the prodigal son. In 1984, he founded Heart of Camden, a nonprofit community development corporation that has renovated 250 homes for local families. He sustained the parish’s K-8 school, which the diocese tried to shut down, getting thousands of donors and supporters to provide $1 million a year. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Waterfront South Theatre, the Nick Virgilio Writers House, the Camden FireWorks arts center and the Camden Shipyard & Maritime Museum. Every year, he held a service for the victims of gun violence in the city, reading aloud from the pulpit the names of those killed and the type of weapons used to cut short their lives, as weeping family members, the name of those they lost displayed on a sign around their necks, came forward to light a memorial candle. He started community gardens and opened a medical clinic. He arranged for Mother Teresa to visit the city. He relentlessly defied the destructive forces around him, determined to nurture life, even if it was only a “fragile blade of grass poking up between the cracked cement.”

“When I look at all of Camden, I am paralyzed,” he said during one of my many visits to the rectory. “But it’s like a child at the beach. You give them a shovel. They’ll make a hole and a hill and work at it all day. They’ll have a grand time. And then the tide comes in and the waves bring down the little hill. The little thing is trampled on. But the tide doesn’t take what happened, what they were doing, what’s inside. That’s preserved forever.”

Father Doyle was a member of the Camden 28, a group of left-wing Catholics and anti-war activists who, in 1971, planned and executed a raid to destroy draft files on the Camden draft board. The defendants were arrested but acquitted when it was found that the FBI, which had an informant in the group, had provided tools for the break-in and facilitated the logistics.

“What do you do when a child is on fire in a war that was a mistake and you can’t extinguish the flame — the napalm flame — with water or anything else?” he said in his closing statement at the trial. “What do you do about that? What do you do with an old man whose bones are splintered by anti-personnel weapons in a war that was a mistake? We have no answer to that. There is no answer in the law for a child on fire in a war that was a mistake.”

He organized a memorial service for 300 young men from South Jersey killed in the Vietnam war. Years later, he would still carry a card with the name of one of those killed, Lawrence J. Virgilio from Camden.

The bishops were not pleased. He was fired from Holy Spirit High School near Atlantic City where he taught and transferred to Sacred Heart, a run-down and neglected parish, in 1974. He had to chop firewood to heat the church. It was meant to be a punishment, a demotion, but Father Doyle saw it as the greatest blessing of his life.

“I’ve failed…nicely,” he joked.

He called Camden “a concentration camp for the poor” and saw the city as a template for all that had gone wrong in America. He likened the suffering around him to the crucified Christ, nailed to “the cross of awfully polluted air” and “the broken sidewalks, the broken lives, the ugly scenes that wail for beautification, the dilapidated houses that must be restored for the children.”

“Camden is a casualty of capitalism,” he said as we sat drinking tea one afternoon. “It’s what falls off the truck and can’t get back on the truck. It is a sad stage we are in. There is a meanness that has raised its ugly head in the soul of America. Bobby Kennedy, even Lyndon Johnson, spoke about the poor. Now you can’t say the word poor and get elected. Let the poor suffer. They’re not important. Let the train roll over them.”

“Today’s a very hard time to be poor,” he went on. “Because you know you’re poor. You hear people my age get up and say, ‘We were poor. We put cardboard in our shoes’. But we didn’t know we were poor. Today you do. And how do you know you’re poor? Your television shows you you’re poor. So it’s very easy to build up anger in, say, a high-voltage kid of 17. He knows he’s poor. He looks at the TV. ‘All these people have everything. I have nothing’. And so he’s very angry. This is violence. I’m not talking about a violent show. I’m talking about the violence that rises out of the marketing that shows the kid what he could have. This creates a huge anger that explodes, easily. That I discovered very quickly when I came to Camden. The anger is so near the surface. You rub it and it explodes. There’s no respect for you if you have no money. The constant assault of the marketers is never-ending.”

“I grew up in Ireland,” he went on. “We had the songs of our struggle. It was clear who we were struggling against. It was the money crowd. But people here can’t see the enemy. You can’t challenge what you can’t see. Greed, prejudice and injustice, you can’t get at it. There’s no head. There’s no clarity. So you take it out on your neighbor. It’s horrendous what people do.”

He saw the United States as cursed by the war industry and American militarism, a curse that would doom it. The billions diverted to endless wars meant those around him went hungry. He prayed with his congregation that America will one day “come to the front lines of our cities to protect our children, not with guns, but hammers and saws and jobs and tools of transformation.”

“A child in Camden could teach the proud missile makers a lesson,” he said. “‘Take my hand,’ the little Camden child says, ‘and walk with me. Walk my streets to school. Will your bombs save me? If you want to defend me, come and live on my block.’”

He knew this was the end of the American empire, but he did not understand why it had to go out with such cruelty. What kind of a country, he asked, allowed people to die or go bankrupt because they were unable to pay for medical care?

“Capitalists shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the medical industry,” he said. “What they do is evil. Greed is venomous.”

“The history books are littered with the ruins of fallen empires,” he said. “A fellow I knew, a blue-collar fellow, he worked with the navy, had to go over with some work crew to Italy. He sent me a card with a picture of the Colosseum. He wrote, ‘I went to the Colosseum, but all I saw were two cats fighting in the weeds.’ It was, when you think about the mighty Caesars, what ancient Rome had been, quite profound.”

Father Doyle loved literature, especially Irish literature, and poetry, which he wrote and included in his letters. He was close friends with the local poet Nick Virgilio, whose brother he had memorialized years earlier and whose haikus captured the desperation of Camden: the prostituted women knitting baby booties on the bus; sitting alone as he ordered eggs and toast in an undertone on Thanksgiving; the latch key children “exploring the wild on public television”; the frozen body of a drunk found on a winter morning in a cardboard box labeled “Fragile: Do Not Crush”; as well as his lamentations for his older brother killed in Vietnam. Nick wrote what could be the city’s epithet:

the sack of kittens

sinking in the icy creek

increases the cold

In 1989, Nick died of a heart attack in Washington, D.C., at the taping of an interview for CBS Nightwatch. Father Doyle rode in the hearse that brought Nick’s body back to Camden, the head of his deceased friend thumping softly against the back partition. He built him a gravestone in the shape of a slender granite podium in Harleigh cemetery, where Walt Whitman, who Father Doyle could quote from memory, is also buried. He had one of Nick’s haiku poems carved on it:

lily:

out of the water…

out of itself

Father Doyle organized and attended a soup kitchen every Saturday where he would sit at the tables with about a hundred people, many of whom were destitute and homeless. He recruited volunteers from the suburbs, most of whom were white, to cook and serve his guests. “You have dignity at a table when you’re sharing food,” he said.

He spoke frequently about death, perhaps because in Camden, it is a daily reality. He loved the story of two old men in Ireland who spent their lives together until one fell deathly ill and told his friend he didn’t think he would be getting up, that he had always known when he started out where he was going, but now he didn’t. “But John,” his friend replied, “when you were coming, you didn’t know where you’re going and didn’t it turn out alright?”

“The same God that was there when you slithered into this world will be there when you slither out of it,” Father Doyle told me.

And yet, no matter how bleak, there were always unexpected flashes of joy and hope, gifts of grace.

“One day God sent a message from of all places Arlington Street, and it brightened up the doorway of my mind,” he wrote. “On Arlington, in the awful heat, on that Godforsaken street without light or life, ugly, urban decay at levels straining the imagination, seven children were splashing in cascading water like shining wet dolphins in the sun. Somehow, they had hauled a discarded hot tub from Adventure Spas on Chelton Avenue, opened a fire hydrant and the powerful pressure sent the water upward on an old sheet of plywood into the tub and sent the children into ecstasies of delight in spite of all the awful misery around them…Nothing could daunt the wild surge of their young lives and hopes. What is it about hope? Does its real inspiration only rise out of the tragic emptiness to take its pure and unsupported stand against all odds?”

These moments of grace sustained him even as he acknowledged that everything he had spent his life fighting for had gotten worse. They affirmed that no matter how bleak the world around us, death and despair do not have the final word. Time will slowly erode the memory of this priest, as it erodes all memory, until he becomes a ghostly remnant of another era, a name adorned on a plaque. But what will endure is what mattered to him most, the life force to which he dedicated his existence.

Avian flu is back: Millions of poultry birds culled ahead of Thanksgiving

An outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza has spread through chicken and turkey flocks in 46 states since it was first detected in Indiana on Feb. 8, 2022. The outbreak is also taking a heavy toll in Canada and Europe.

Better known as bird flu, avian influenza is a family of highly contagious viruses that are not harmful to wild birds that transmit it but are deadly to domesticated birds. The virus spreads quickly through poultry flocks and almost always causes severe disease or death, so when it is detected, officials quarantine the site and cull all the birds in the infected flock.

As of early November, this outbreak had led to the culling of over 50 million birds from Maine to Oregon, driving up prices for eggs and poultry – including holiday turkeys. This matches the toll from a 2014-2015 bird flu outbreak that previously was considered the most significant animal disease event in U.S. history. Yuko Sato, an associate professor of veterinary medicine who works with poultry producers, explains why so many birds are getting sick and whether the outbreak threatens human health.

Why is avian influenza so deadly for domesticated birds but not for wild birds that carry it?

Avian influenza (AI) is a contagious virus that affects all birds. There are two groups of avian influenza viruses that cause disease in chickens: highly pathogenic AI (HPAI) and low pathogenic AI (LPAI).

HPAI viruses cause high mortality in poultry, and occasionally in some wild birds. LPAI can cause mild to moderate disease in poultry, and usually little to no clinical signs of illness in wild birds.

The primary natural hosts and reservoir of AI viruses are wild waterfowl, such as ducks and geese. This means that the virus is well adapted to them, and these birds do not typically get sick when they are infected with it.

But when domesticated poultry, such as chickens and turkeys, come in direct or indirect contact with feces of infected wild birds, they become infected and start to show symptoms, such as lethargy, coughing and sneezing and sudden death.

Map of US and Canada showing avian influenza distribution among commercial, backyard and wild bird flocks.

Migrating wild birds, most of which are not harmed by avian influenza, are known to spread the disease to commercial and backyard flocks.

USGS

There are multiple strains of avian influenza. What type is this outbreak, and is it dangerous to humans?

The virus of concern in this outbreak is a Eurasian H5N1 HPAI virus that causes high mortality and severe clinical signs in domesticated poultry. Scientists who monitor wild bird flocks have also detected a reassortant virus that contains genes from both the Eurasian H5 and low pathogenic North American viruses. Reassortment happens when multiple strains of the virus circulating in the bird population exchange genes to create a new strain of the virus, much as new strains of COVID-19 like omicron and delta have emerged during the ongoing pandemic.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk to public health from this outbreak is low. No human illnesses were associated with the 2014-2015 H5N1 outbreak in the U.S.

The only known human case in the U.S. during the current outbreak was found in a man in Colorado who had contact with infected birds. The man tested positive once, then negative on follow-up tests, and reported only mild symptoms, so health experts theorized that the virus may have been present in his nose without actually causing an infection.

Health officials recommend avoiding direct contact with wild birds to avoid spreading avian flu.

Are these outbreaks connected to wild bird migration?

Yes, wild bird migration has been an important factor in this outbreak. Scientists have detected the same H5N1 virus that is infecting poultry in more than 3,000 wild birds during this outbreak, compared with 75 detections during the 2014-2015 outbreak. This tells us that the virus is highly prevalent in wild bird populations. While most detections occur in ducks and geese, the virus has also been found in other bird species, including raptors, such as eagles and vultures, and other waterfowl, such as swans and pelicans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducts targeted sampling to test wild birds in fall and early winter, which correlates with migration season. This helps scientists and wildlife managers understand where avian flu viruses may be introduced to domestic flocks, track their spread and monitor for any reassortment.

Because there are high amounts of virus circulating, wildlife agencies advise against handling or eating game birds that appear sick. Waterfowl can also be infected, with no signs of illness, so hunters need to be especially careful not to handle or eat game birds without properly cleaning their clothing and equipment afterward and ensuring the birds are cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (74 C) before consuming them.

Hunters and other members of the public are advised not to approach any wild animals that are acting strange and to report any such sightings to officials. In some cases, avian flu viruses have spilled over to other wild animals, such as red foxes, raccoons, skunks, opossums and bobcats. We did not see this trend in 2014-15.

HPAI is a transboundary disease, which means it is highly contagious and spreads rapidly across national borders. Some research indicates that detection of HPAI viruses in wild birds has become more common.

Detection of HPAI in wild birds is seasonal, with a peak in February and a low point in September. Many migratory bird species travel thousands of miles between continents, posing a continuing risk of AI virus transmission.

On the positive side, we have better diagnostic tests for much more rapid and improved detection of avian influenza compared to 20 to 30 years ago, and can use molecular diagnostics such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests – the same method labs use to detect COVID-19 infections.

How are poultry farmers affected when HPAI is detected in their flocks?

To detect AI, the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees routine testing of flocks by farmers and carries out federal inspection programs to ensure that eggs and birds are safe and free of virus. When H5N1 is diagnosed on a farm or in a backyard flock, state and federal officials will quarantine the site and cull and dispose of all the birds in the infected flock. Then the site is cleaned and decontaminated, a process that includes removing organic materials like manure and chicken feed that can harbor virus particles.

After several weeks without new virus detections, the area is required to test negative in order to be deemed free of infection. We call this process the four D’s of outbreak control: diagnosis, depopulation, disposal and decontamination.

Wire cages hold chicken figurines

Live birds are banned at agricultural fairs during bird flu outbreaks to avoid spreading infections. These fake chickens were on display at the Cabarrus County, N.C., fair in 2015, a previous H5N1 outbreak year.

Elizabeth W. Kearley via Getty Images

Flock owners are eligible for federal indemnity payments for birds and eggs that have to be destroyed because of avian influenza, as well as for the costs of removing birds and cleaning and disinfecting their farms. This support is designed to help producers move past an outbreak, get their farms back in condition for restocking and get back into business as soon as possible.

But these payments almost never cover all of farmers’ expenses. Poultry farms can’t always recover financially from major bird flu outbreaks. That makes it especially important to focus on prevention strategies to keep the virus out.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on April 7, 2022.The Conversation

Yuko Sato, Associate Professor of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Humanity’s first cultural revolution and how can it help us today

We live in a fast-moving, technology-dominated era. Happiness is fleeting, and everything is replaceable or disposable. It is understandable that people are drawn to a utopian vision. Many find refuge in the concept of a “return” to an idealized past—one in which humans were not so numerous, and animals abounded; when the Earth was still clean and pure, and when our ties to nature were unviolated.

This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

But this raises the question: Is this nothing more than a utopian vision? Can we pinpoint a time in our evolutionary trajectory when we wandered from the path of empathy, of compassion and respect for one another and for all forms of life? Or are we nihilistically the victims of our own natural tendencies, and must we continue to live reckless lifestyles, no matter the outcome?

Studying human prehistory enables people to see the world through a long-term lens—across which we can discern tendencies and patterns that can only be identified over time. By adopting an evolutionary outlook, it becomes possible to explain when, how, and why specific human traits and behaviors emerged.

The particularity of human prehistory is that there are no written records, and so we must try to answer our questions using the scant information provided for us by the archeological record.

The Oldowan era that began in East Africa can be seen as the start of a process that would eventually lead to the massive technosocial database that humanity now embraces and that continues to expand ever further in each successive generation, in a spiral of exponential technological and social creativity. The first recognizable Oldowan tool kits start appearing 2.6 million years ago; they contain large pounding implements, alongside small sharp-edged flakes that were certainly useful for, among other things, obtaining viscera and meat resources from animals that were scavenged as hominins (humans and their close extinct ancestors) competed with other large carnivores present in their environments. As hominins began to expand their technological know-how, successful resourcing of such protein-rich food was ideal for feeding the developing and energy-expensive brain.

Stone tool production—and its associated behaviors—grew ever more complex, eventually requiring relatively heavy investments into teaching these technologies to successfully pass them onward into each successive generation. This, in turn, established the foundations for the highly beneficial process of cumulative learning that became coupled with symbolic thought processes such as language, ultimately favoring our capacity for exponential development.

This had huge implications, for example, in terms of the first inklings of what we call “tradition”—ways to make and do things—that are indeed the very building blocks of culture. Underpinning this process, neuroscientific experiments carried out to study the brain synapses and areas involved during toolmaking processes show that at least some basic forms of language were likely needed in order to communicate the technologies required to manufacture the more complex tools of the Acheulian age that commenced in Africa about 1.75 million years ago. Researchers have demonstrated that the areas of the brain activated during toolmaking are the same as those employed for abstract thought processes, including language and volumetric planning.

When we talk about the Acheulian, we are referring to a hugely dense cultural phenomenon occurring in Africa and Eurasia that lasted some 1.4 million years. While it cannot be considered a homogenous occurrence, it does entail a number of behavioral and technosocial elements that prehistorians agree tie together as a sort of unit.

Globally, the Acheulian technocomplex coincides generally with the appearance of the relatively large-brained hominins attributed to Homo erectus and the African Homo ergaster, as well as Homo heidelbergensis, a wide-ranging hominin identified in Eurasia and known to have successfully adapted to relatively colder climatic conditions. Indeed, it was during the Acheulian that hominins developed fire-making technologies and that the first hearths appear in some sites (especially caves) that also show indications of seasonal or cyclical patterns of use.

In terms of stone tool technologies, Acheulian hominins moved from the nonstandardized tool kits of the Oldowan to innovate new ways to shape stone tools that involved comparatively complex volumetric concepts. This allowed them to produce a wide variety of preconceived flake formats that they proceeded to modify into a range of standardized tool types. Conceptually, this is very significant because it implies that for the first time, stone was being modeled to fit with a predetermined mental image. The bifacial and bilateral symmetry of the emblematic Acheulian tear-shaped handaxes is especially exemplary of this particular hallmark.

The Acheulian archeological record also bears witness to a whole new range of artifacts that were manufactured according to a fixed set of technological notions and newly acquired abilities. To endure, this toolmaking know-how needed to be shared by way of ever more composite and communicative modes of teaching.

We also know that Acheulian hominins were highly mobile since we often find rocks in their tool kits that were imported from considerable distances away. Importantly, as we move through time and space, we observe that some of the tool-making techniques actually show special features that can be linked to specific regional contexts. Furthermore, population densities increased significantly throughout the period associated with the later Acheulian phenomenon—roughly from around 1 million to 350,000 years ago—likely as a result of these technological achievements.

Beyond toolmaking, other social and behavioral revolutions are attributed to Acheulian hominins. Fire-making, whose significance as a transformative technosocial tool cannot be overstated, as well as other accomplishments, signal the attainment of new thresholds that were to hugely transform the lives of Acheulian peoples and their descendants. For example, Acheulian sites with evidence of species-specific hunting expeditions and systematized butchery indicate sophisticated organizational capacities and certainly also suggest that these hominins mastered at least some form of gestural—and probably also linguistic—communication.

All of these abilities acquired over thousands of years by Acheulian peoples enabled them not only to settle into new lands situated, for example, in higher latitudes, but also to overcome seasonal climatic stresses and so to thrive within a relatively restricted geographical range. While they were certainly nomadic, they established home-base type living areas to which they returned on a cyclical basis. Thus, the combined phenomena of more standardized and complex culture and regional lifeways led these ancient populations to carve out identities even as they developed idiosyncratic technosocial behaviors that gave them a sense of “belonging” to a particular social unit—living within a definable geographical area. This was the land in which they ranged and into which they deposited their dead (intentional human burials are presently only recognized to have occurred onward from the Middle Paleolithic). To me, the Acheulian represents the first major cultural revolution known to humankind.

So I suggest that it was during the Acheulian era that increased cultural complexity led the peoples of the world to see each other as somehow different, based on variances in their material culture. In the later Acheulian especially, as nomadic groups began to return cyclically to the same dwelling areas, land-linked identities formed that I propose were foundational to the first culturally based geographical borders. Through time, humanity gave more and more credence to such constructs, deepening their significance. This would eventually lead to the founding of modern nationalistic sentiments that presently consolidate identity-based disparity, finally contributing to justifying geographic inequality of wealth and power.

Many of the tough questions about human nature are more easily understood through the prism of prehistory, even as we make new discoveries. Take, for instance, the question of where the modern practice of organized violence emerged from.

Human prehistory, as backed by science, has now clearly demonstrated that there is no basis for dividing peoples based on biological or anatomical aspects and that warlike behaviors involving large numbers of peoples, today having virtually global effects on all human lives, are based on constructed imaginary ideologies. Geographical boundaries, identity-based beliefs, and religion are some of the conceptual constructs commonly used in our world to justify such behaviors. In addition, competition buttressed by concepts of identity is now being accentuated due to the potential and real scarcity of resources resulting from population density, consumptive lifestyles, and now also accelerated climate change.

On the question of whether or not the emergence of warlike behavior was an inevitable outcome, we must observe such tendencies from an evolutionary standpoint. Like other genetic and even technological traits, the human capacity for massive violence exists as a potential response that remains latent within our species until triggered by particular exterior factors. Of course, this species-specific response mode also corresponds with our degree of technological readiness that has enabled us to create the tools of massive destruction that we so aptly manipulate today.

Hierarchized societies formed and evolved throughout the Middle and Late Pleistocene when a range of hominins coevolved with anatomically modern humans that we now know appeared in Africa as early as 300,000 years ago. During the Holocene Epoch, human links to specific regional areas were strengthened even further by the sedentary lifestyles that developed into the Neolithic period, as did the inclination to protect the resources amassed in this context. We can conjecture the emergence of a wide range of sociocultural situations that would have arisen once increasing numbers of individuals were arranged into the larger social units permitted by the capacity to produce, store, and save sizable quantities of foodstuffs and other kinds of goods.

Even among other animals, including primates, increased population densities result in competitive behaviors. In this scenario, that disposition would have been intensified by the idea of accumulated goods belonging, as it were, to the social unit that produced them.

Bringing technology into play, we can clearly see how humans began to transform their know-how into ingenious tools for performing different acts of warfare. In the oldest toolkits known to humankind going back millions of years, we cannot clearly identify any artifacts that appear adequate to be used for large-scale violence. We don’t have evidence of organized violence until millions of years after we started developing tools and intensively modifying the environments around us. As we amplified the land-linked identity-based facet of our social lives, so did we continue to develop ever more efficient technological and social solutions that would increase our capacity for large-scale warfare.

If we can understand how these behaviors emerged, then we can also use our technological skills to get to the root of these problems and employ all we have learned to finally take a better hold of the reins of our future.

Author Bio: Deborah Barsky is a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution and associate professor at the Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain, with the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). She is the author of Human Prehistory: Exploring the Past to Understand the Future (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

'Thank you for your service': The intolerable price veterans pay to feed America's addiction to war

Kelly Denton-Borhaug: What an American Addiction to War Means to Veterans

I felt it then. I feel far more certain of it now. My dad, who died in 1983, was a member of what came to be known as the Greatest Generation, those who served in World War II. In fact, he volunteered the day after Pearl Harbor (though he was then old enough that he might not have been drafted) and ended up in the U.S. Army Air Corps — there was no separate Air Force in those days — with the First Air Commandos fighting the Japanese in Burma.

And here was the strange thing: though he had souvenirs of that war in his closet, including an old mess kit, a duffle bag filled with papers, his major’s hat, and various wartime badges, and as a boy I was fascinated, he would never really talk about his time at war. The only exceptions were those sudden outbursts of anger because my mother had shopped at a nearby grocery store whose owners, he claimed, had been war profiteers, or later because I had gone to a Japanese restaurant or bought a German car (a Volkswagen). Mind you, I thought I knew all there was to know about his war experience because he used to take me to the war movies of the 1950s where we both watched Americans ever triumphant, ever satisfied, ever glorious — and he never said a word about them, which seemed to validate everything I saw on screen.

Now, I suspect he had returned from that war with some version of post-traumatic stress disorder, some disturbance deep inside that came out in indirect but harsh ways in the tough years (for him) of the 1950s. But who talked about such things then? No one in my world, that’s for sure. And that was “the good war” (as Studs Terkel labeled it, quote marks included, in his famed oral history of World War II).

When it comes to America’s bad wars of the last century and this one, however, we know a good deal more about what they’ve done to this country’s “warriors,” as TomDispatch regular, religion scholar, and author of And Then Your Soul is Gone: Moral Injury and U.S. War-Culture Kelly Denton-Borhaug makes all too clear today. Yes, in these years, Americans were in a rush to “thank” those who fought our distant wars, while life here went on almost as if they weren’t happening. But now we know that the price paid for the disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere was far, far too high (even if you ignore the costs borne by Afghans, Iraqis, and so many others). With that in mind, as Veterans Day comes around once more, take a moment with Denton-Borhaug to consider the price our vets have paid for the decision to fight the Global War on Terror across significant parts of this planet forever and a day. Tom

The Intolerable Price You Pay: A Civilian Addresses American Veterans on Veterans Day

[Denton-Borhaug will give a version of this talk virtually to Veterans for Peace Chapter 102 at a Reclaim Armistice Day meeting at the Milwaukee City Hall Rotunda this Veteran’s Day.]

Dear Veterans,

I’m a civilian who, like many Americans, has strong ties to the U.S. Armed Forces. I never considered enlisting, but my father, uncles, cousins, and nephews did. As a child I baked cookies to send with letters to my cousin Steven who was serving in Vietnam. My family tree includes soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. Some years before my father died, he shared with me his experience of being drafted during the Korean War and, while on leave, traveling to Hiroshima, Japan. There, just a few short years after an American atomic bomb had devastated that city as World War II ended, he was haunted by seeing the dark shadows of the dead cast onto concrete by the nuclear blast.

As Americans, all of us are, in some sense, linked to the violence of war. But most of us have very little understanding of what it means to be touched by war. Still, since the events of September 11, 2001, as a scholar of religion, I’ve been trying to understand what I’ve come to call “U.S. war-culture.” For it was in the months after those terrible attacks more than 20 years ago that I awoke to the depth of our culture of war and our society’s pervasive militarization. Eventually, I saw how important truths about our country were concealed when we made the violence of war into something sacred. And most important of all, while trying to come to grips with this dissonant reality, I started listening to you, the veterans of our recent wars, and simply couldn’t stop.

Dismantling the Lies About and Justifications for Our Wars

The only proper response to 9/11, our political leaders assured us then, was war and nothing but war — “a necessary sacrifice,” a phrase they endlessly repeated. In the years that followed, in speeches and public spectacles, one particular image surfaced again and again. The lives — and especially injuries and deaths — of American soldiers were incessantly linked to the injuries inflicted on Jesus of Nazareth, and to his death on the cross. President George W. Bush, for example, milked this imagery in 2008:

This weekend, families across America are coming together to celebrate Easter… During this special and holy time of year, millions of Americans pause to remember a sacrifice that transcended the grave and redeemed the world… On Easter we hold in our hearts those who will be spending this holiday far from home — our troops… I deeply appreciate the sacrifice that they and their families are making… On Easter, we especially remember those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom. These brave individuals have lived out the words of the Gospel, 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' [John 15:13 ]

The abusive exploitation of religion to bless violence covered the reality of war’s hideous destructiveness with a sacred sheen. And this justification for what quickly became known as the Global War on Terror troubled me, leaving me with many questions. I wondered: Is it true that we demonstrate what we most value in life by dying for it?

What about living for what we value most?

Biblical stories about the suffering and death of the distinctly nonviolent Jesus of Nazareth were shamelessly manipulated in those years to sacralize our wars and the religious among us largely failed to question such bizarre connections. Eventually, I began to understand that war cultures are by their nature death cults. The depth of the militarization of this country and the harshness of its wars abroad were concealed by converting death into something sacred. Meanwhile, the deaths of Afghans, Iraqis, and so many others in such conflicts were generally ignored. Tragically, religion proved an all-too-useful resource for such moral exploitation.

We civilians deceive ourselves by insisting that we’re a peaceful nation desiring the well-being of all peoples. In reality, the United States has built an empire of military bases (more than 750 at last count) on every continent but Antarctica. Our political leaders annually approve a military budget that’s apocalyptically high (and may reach a trillion dollars a year before the end of this decade). We spend more on our military than the next nine nations combined to finance the violence of war.

Our political leaders and many citizens insist that having such a staggering infrastructure of war is the only way Americans will be secure, while claiming that we’re anything but a warring people. Analysts of war-culture know better. As peace and conflict studies scholar Marc Pilisuk puts it: “Wars are products of a social order that plans for them and then accepts this planning as natural.”

Learning War Is Like Ingesting Poison

I’ve personally witnessed the confusion and conflicted responses of many veterans to this mystifying distortion of reality. How painful and destabilizing it must be to return from your military deployment to a society that insists on crassly celebrating and glorifying war, while so many of you had no choice but to absorb the terrible knowledge of what an atrocity it is. “War damages all who wage it,” chaplain Michael Lapsley wrote. “The United States has been infected by endless war.” Veterans viscerally carry the violence of war in their bodies. It’s as if you became “sin-eaters” who had to swallow the evil of the conflicts the United States waged in these years and then live with their consequences inside you.

Worse yet, most Americans refuse to face our national reality. Instead, they twist such truths into something else entirely. They distance themselves from you by labeling you “heroes” and the “spine of the nation.” They call war’s work of death the epitome of citizenship. They don’t want to know how often and how deeply you were afraid; how conflicted you were about life-and-death decisions you had to make when no good choice was available. They don’t want to hear, as one veteran said recently in my presence, that too often your lives “were dealt with carelessly.”

They also don’t want to hear about the military training that shaped you to deal carelessly with the lives of others, both combatants and civilians. Those are inconvenient details that get in the way of a national adulation of war (in a draft-less country where 99% of all citizens remain civilians). After all, war fever means good business for the weapons makers of the military-industrial complex. As Pentagon expert William Hartung recently put it, “The Biden administration has continued to arm reckless, repressive regimes” globally, while its military support for Ukraine lacks any diplomatic strategy for ending that war, instead “enabling a long, grinding conflict that will both vastly increase the humanitarian suffering in Ukraine and risk escalation to direct U.S.-Russian confrontation.”

Such complexities involving alternatives to Washington’s war-making urges are, of course, not part of the national conversation on Veterans Day. Instead, we are promised that war and this country’s warriors will somehow redeem us as a nation. The unimaginable losses to families, communities, infrastructure, and culture in the lands where such conflicts have been fought in this century are invisible to most citizens, while typical Veterans Day commemorations recast you as messianic redemptive figures who “have paid the price for our freedom.”

But to convert war-making into something sacred means fashioning a deceitful myth. Violence is not a harmless tool. It’s not a coat that a person wears and takes off without consequences. Violence instead brutalizes human beings to their core; chains people to the forces of dehumanization; and, over time, eats away at you like acid dripping into your very soul. That same dehumanization also undermines democracy, something you would never know from the way the United States glorifies its wars as foundational to what it means to be an American.

Silencing and Commodifying Veterans

Meanwhile, citizens rush to “thank you for your service.” You’re allowed to board airplanes first and given discounts at the nation’s amusement parks. Veterans Day only exacerbates your sickening commodification, as all those big box stores, other corporations, and financial institutions use you to try to increase their profits (like the bank in my town last year with its newspaper ad: “Freedom isn’t Free: Veterans Paid Our Way. Thank you. Embassy Bank”).

These dynamics silence the truths you carry within you. I’ve heard you say that you often find it impossible to tell the rest of us, even family members, what really happened. You struggle with feelings of alienation from civilian culture, unable to express your anger or describe your struggles with deep-seated shame, guilt, resentment, and disgust.

Your military service often left you with debilitating physical and psychological injuries and even deeper “moral injuries.” Veteran and author Michael Yandell struggles to describe this ruinous self-disintegration, writing “I despaired of myself, and of the very world.” Borne out of the crushing suffering that is the world of war, some of you experienced moral pain that grew to an intolerable level. There was no longer any world left that you could trust or believe in, no values anywhere, anymore. And yet, you represent such a small percentage of the population — less than 1% of us join the military — while disproportionately shouldering such a painful legacy from the last 20 years of American war-making across significant parts of the planet.

More often than not, the invisible wounds of returning veterans are shrouded in silence. For some of you, unbearable pain led to disastrous consequences, including self-harm, loss of relationships, isolation, and self-destructive risk-taking. At least one in three female members of the armed forces has experienced sexual assault or harassment from fellow service members. More than 17 of you veterans take your own lives every day. And you live with all of this, while so much of the rest of the nation fails to muster the will to see you, hear you, or face honestly the American addiction to war.

The truths about war that you might tell us are generally rejected and invalidated, cementing you into a heavy block of silence. Military chaplain Sean Levine describes how the U.S. must “deny the trauma of its warriors lest that trauma radically redefine our understanding of war.” He continues, “Blind patriotism has done inestimable damage to the souls of thousands of our returning warriors.”

If we civilians paid attention to your honesty, we would find ourselves slammed headlong into a conflict with a national culture that glorifies war, conceals the political and material interests of the titans of weaponry and war production, and successfully distracts us from the depth of its destruction. We civilians are complicit and so lurch away from facing the inevitable revulsion, sorrow, mourning, and guilt that always accompany the reality of war.

An Alternative for Veterans Day

Honestly, the only way forward is for you to tell — and us to compassionately take in — the unadulterated stories of war. One Vietnam veteran vividly described what war did to him this way:

I went to war when I was a little over twenty — not a child, but not yet an adult. When I arrived at the Cleveland airport after my tour of duty in Vietnam, I just sat down paralyzed with befuddled emotions. I didn’t even call my parents to tell them I was home. I was afraid my family would expect to see the person I was, and not accept the person I had become; that they would not forgive me for what I had done and not done in Vietnam. How could they when I couldn’t forgive myself? Like some toxic virus morphing in a Petri dish, the war infected my moral DNA. I came home no longer thinking with the same mind, seeing with the same eyes, hearing with the same ears.

When you speak out and tell truths this way, you exemplify the epitome of citizenship, as well as courage, vulnerability, and a commitment to hope. Such revelations show that the light of your conscience wasn’t quashed by war. Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Buddhist international peace activist, pointed the way forward for veterans and the rest of us alike when he wrote:

Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding, and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war.

The resulting trauma from war’s inevitable dehumanization is not yours alone. War-culture in this country leaves us with a residual collective trauma that weighs us all down and is only made worse by a national blindness to it.

As a civilian on Veterans Day, I hope to support the creation of spaces where your voices resoundingly are heard, and your faces seen. Together, we must determine how best to do the work of rehumanizing our world. Jack Saul, from the International Trauma Studies Program, reminds us that listening is “deeply humanizing” because it generates the healing power of empathy. Compassionate listening spaces “strengthen our connections to others and ourselves, and ultimately make society better.”

This Veterans Day I’m taking part in a “Community Healing Ceremony” through the Moral Injury Program in Philadelphia where I and other civilians will witness the strength of veterans offering testimony about the evil of war in their lives. Hearing your words will clarify my own understanding, vision, and resolve. Listening can be transformative, helping tear down the deceitful myths of war-culture, while building honesty and a willingness to see our world as it is.

Let me finish by thanking you, the veterans of our wars, for your truth-telling. Your contribution is invaluable in this embattled world of ours.

Successful tool-lending libraries force us to rethink what the public is willing to share

As the old saying goes, there’s a right tool for every job—but what happens when a sizable tree branch falls in someone’s driveway after a big storm and the person neither owns a chainsaw nor has the extra cash to rush off to purchase a new one? Or perhaps a student with a tiny apartment doesn’t have storage space for tools, and suddenly needs a drill to fix the sagging cabinet door in the kitchen but has never used one and doesn’t know how to.

This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

For all of these moments when the right tool for the job is out of reach, there are lending libraries that have been springing up around the country, which supply more than just books.

According to a 2021 study by an alumna from San José State University (SJSU), tool libraries were first documented in the United States in the 1940s. These unique institutions lend devices such as power and hand tools, yard and garden implements, and even kitchen utensils to those in need of the right tool, but without the means to own or store them.

According to the San José State University study, more than 50 tool libraries were operating in the United States until May 2021. There was a boom in the number of tool-lending libraries in the late 1970s with the establishment of these libraries in places such as Berkeley, California, which opened in 1979 with one staff member in a portable trailer, according to the study. After more than 40 years of evolution, the Berkeley Public Library’s (BPL) current tool lending library can now be accessed through BPL’s website.

The study, which compiled “news clippings, refereed articles, blog posts, and websites,” according to the author, pointed out that scholars of the subject traditionally thought that tool-lending libraries sprang up in the late 1970s. However, earlier examples date further back to the 1940s when the public library in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, opened the first tool lending library.

At the end of World War II, domestic utensils such as kitchen and yard implements were in short supply as the raw materials normally used in their production were diverted to support war efforts.

Informal tool lending within communities was common at that time, according to the study, and in 1943, the Grosse Pointe Public Library created its first tool lending library, which is still in operation, and can also be accessed online like its cousin in Berkeley.

The first inventory of about 25 tools was donated to the Grosse Pointe Public Library by the Boys’ Work Committee of the Grosse Pointe Rotary Club, who, according to the study, donated the tools to the community to “encourage manual dexterity in the younger generation.”

Today, the Grosse Pointe Public Library’s collection of tools includes more than 150 implements and devices ranging from bolt cutters to bird-watching binoculars, and even includes yard games such as bocce ball and croquet sets. All games, devices, and implements borrowed from the institution come with a how-to information pamphlet.

The local Rotary Club adopted the responsibility of maintaining and repairing a varied catalog of items, and still does so today. The study’s author stated that the survival and growth of the Grosse Pointe Public Library’s tool collection might not have been possible without the involvement of the Rotary Club, and that it was the only tool library in the country until the mid-1970s.

The second known tool-lending library in the United States was formed in Columbus, Ohio, in 1976. The tool lending library was established by the local city government and provided free tools and implements to homeowners and renters within the city, stated the study. The Columbus tool library was established in a warehouse that now contains more than 5,000 implements such as hammers, drills, and ladders, which can be borrowed for durations ranging from one day to a week.

In 2009, the nonprofit ModCon Living took over operations of the Columbus-based tool library from the local government and now finances the endeavor through membership fees and donations.

Another tool library was established in Seattle, Washington, in the late 1970s by a University of Washington professor who used tools and implements donated to him by students moving away after the school year and graduation. When the collection grew too big for the professor to maintain single-handedly, the Phinney Neighborhood Association took over operations of maintaining these tools.

The Phinney Tool Library is still in operation and carries about 3,000 items including an array of power and hand tools as well as unique implements such as apple pickers and a cider press. According to the study, tools in the Phinney library that are beyond repair are donated to local artists where they find a second life as a component in a craft piece or art installation.

The greatest increase in tool-lending libraries in the United States came around 2008 during the Great Recession, according to the study, with institutions like the Sacramento Library of Things in California and the Chicago Tool Library in Illinois opening as part of this “tool-lending movement.” Another organization that provides tools to charitable groups instead of individuals, called ToolBank USA, was also established at that time in 2008. The study’s author credits advances in technology like cloud-based software to the continued boom in tool lending libraries across the United States.

Tool lending libraries have also been established overseas in the United Kingdom, stated the study. Scotland’s Edinburgh Tool Library was established in 2015, which inspired similar institutions in areas like Leith and Portobello in Edinburgh, and in 2018, a Library of Things was established in London, England, which is run by volunteers who assist interested organizations and municipalities in creating their own tool libraries.

With the popularity of audio and digital books and rising inflation increasing the cost of tools and implements everywhere, public libraries in the United States and around the world may all adopt the tool-lending precedents established by pioneers such as the Grosse Pointe and Berkley public libraries, which have tool lending models that have been used successfully for decades.

Author Bio: Aric Sleeper is an independent journalist whose work, which covers topics including labor, drug reform, food, and more, has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications local to California’s Central Coast. In addition to his role as a community reporter, he has served as a government analyst and bookseller.

Not all men harass. But most women are preyed upon

Not all men.

Except for the man who cursed affirmative action whenever a woman beat him out for a position. When I was old enough to have children, it occurred to me that my father who, not having a clue what to do with his own daughters, might not have known then what to do with a woman in the workplace who wasn’t his underling.

Not all men.

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Except for the boys in elementary school who forced themselves on the girls. I was small but fast. Still, I carry a scar on my chin from stitches, courtesy of one of the days I wasn’t fast enough. Then there were guys in middle school who would run their hands down our backs checking for a bra strap. If it were there, they would snap it. If not, they would grope us and judge our undeveloped breasts.

In high school, we moved on to the ones who copped a feel in the crowded hall between classes, from the safety of anonymity. Or the guys who assumed that going out on a date with them meant they got play, and “how far” to go was solely up to them. The guys who responded to my “no” by spreading gossip about how easy I was. I, a child abuse survivor who was afraid to kiss a boy and refused to “go steady,” had a reputation I didn’t know about until I graduated.

Not all men.

Except for my middle-aged supervisor who sexually harassed me daily. The flagrant abuse of his position went on for six months. When I took it to our superiors, I was told that they’d pay me a severance to quit instead, because he had more experience. It was then I realized I wasn’t the first and was not likely to be the last. I was 19.

READ MORE: Trump suggests threatening journalists who report on leaks with prison time, rape

Not all men.

Except the men nearing their thirties who kept asking me out at the tender age of 17. This included a man who, when he learned my age, didn’t speak to me for months, only to call me on my 18th birthday. Or my bank coworker, who asked me to accompany him to the company Christmas party, then gave me lingerie as a gift just over a week later as an enticement to go out with him again. Or the client who asked me out, and over dinner on our first date, admitted he’d been stalking me for a year. He’d volunteered to bring in his girlfriend’s business deposits just to have me wait on him.

Then later, the funny machinists at a job in another state, who played grab-ass when they got bored, assaulting us with metal rods that left welts on our backs, asses and legs. Or the owner of that company who paid for everyone’s schooling — except me, because he already had put a woman through school to run the office and he didn’t want to pay for a woman to become a machinist, just the guys, every one of which was encouraged to pick up the machining skill of their choice on the company dime.

Not all men.

Except the ones online who send us unsolicited d*ck pics, take any friendliness as consent to demand a more intimate relationship or harass us, even over multiple accounts as they break the Terms of Service and get suspended time and again.

Not all men.

Of course, it’s not all men.

Except when it is.

The greatest issue isn’t that some men harass women. The problem is that harassment of all kinds is so prevalent and pernicious that people refuse to call it predation. It’s “shooting your shot," “miscommunication” or “misreading signals.”

When I posted a thread largely consisting of these anecdotal incidents from my own life, the response was overwhelming and disheartening. It was apparent my experiences weren’t unique.

To be honest, I’ve had less horror in my most traumatic sexual assault than too many others. Women (and men) flooded the thread with their own uncomfortable or painful experiences.

One quote tweet:

“We treat sexual violence like a thing that only happens to women once if they’re really unlucky. But if you ask for a woman’s life history with abuse, it often looks exactly like this.” –Dr. Nicole Bedera

Not all men.

Except those who chose to call me an "outlier,” dismissing me instead of listening. Some suggested that I was “attractive as a victim,” because of my personality. It was argued that I was responsible for what happened to me, because of my choices, not my abusers’.

These arguments ignored that most of my (related) experiences of misogyny were at school and in the workplace. Worse, they neglected that studies, statistics and ethics agree on one thing.

Victims do not cause sexual assault or harassment.

Perpetrators cause assault or harassment.

Most of all, those people ignored the hundreds of women (and men) in the thread sharing their own experiences of the same and the nearly 10,000 who shared it because it spoke to them.

The “not all men” arguments ignore most of all the view that women are considered a commodity. Many men will invalidate some women for being sexually attractive, others for failing to be attractive enough and we all continue to fight for basic bodily autonomy.

But not all men.

I didn’t write the thread to display my trauma. I don’t feel brave for sharing it. What I’m ashamed of, what keeps me up at night, is the percentage of my life spent trying to be what these men said I had to be – to be a good or right or correct or proper iteration of a woman.

I despise myself sometimes for the indignities that I allowed myself to suffer to “get along.” I see some women, even now, who are so desperate to feel equal that they’re willing to step on other people to do so and defend that behavior as normal. We’re capable of more.

We must demand more.

No, not all men.

It doesn’t take “all men” to force women into eternal vigilance.

It must simply be enough to keep us cautious, expending too much energy on safety and survival to have any left to fight for men in power to finally treat women like people.

Not all men.

No selfish choice made by predatory men in this society is about women — unless we’re the victims, at which time the full responsibility and burden become ours to carry.

Not all men.

But damn near all women.

And that should count for something.

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How Bob Dylan used the ancient practice of 'imitatio' to craft some of the most original songs of his time

Over the course of six decades, Bob Dylan steadily brought together popular music and poetic excellence. Yet the guardians of literary culture have only rarely accepted Dylan’s legitimacy.
His 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature undermined his outsider status, challenging scholars, fans and critics to think of Dylan as an integral part of international literary heritage. My new book, “No One to Meet: Imitation and Originality in the Songs of Bob Dylan,” takes this challenge seriously and places Dylan within a literary tradition that extends all the way back to the ancients.

I am a professor of early modern literature, with a special interest in the Renaissance. But I am also a longtime Dylan enthusiast and the co-editor of the open-access Dylan Review, the only scholarly journal on Bob Dylan.

After teaching and writing about early modern poetry for 30 years, I couldn’t help but recognize a similarity between the way Dylan composes his songs and the ancient practice known as “imitatio.”

Poetic honey-making

Although the Latin word imitatio would translate to “imitation” in English, it doesn’t mean simply producing a mirror image of something. The term instead describes a practice or a methodology of composing poetry.

The classical author Seneca used bees as a metaphor for writing poetry using imitatio. Just as a bee samples and digests the nectar from a whole field of flowers to produce a new kind of honey – which is part flower and part bee – a poet produces a poem by sampling and digesting the best authors of the past.

Dylan’s imitations follow this pattern: His best work is always part flower, part Dylan.

Consider a song like “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” To write it, Dylan repurposed the familiar Old English ballad “Lord Randal,” retaining the call-and-response framework. In the original, a worried mother asks, “O where ha’ you been, Lord Randal, my son? / And where ha’ you been, my handsome young man?” and her son tells of being poisoned by his true love.

In Dylan’s version, the nominal son responds to the same questions with a brilliant mixture of public and private experiences, conjuring violent images such as a newborn baby surrounded by wolves, black branches dripping blood, the broken tongues of a thousand talkers and pellets poisoning the water. At the end, a young girl hands the speaker – a son in name only – a rainbow, and he promises to know his song well before he’ll stand on the mountain to sing it.

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” resounds with the original Old English ballad, which would have been very familiar to Dylan’s original audiences of Greenwich Village folk singers. He first sang the song in 1962 at the Gaslight Cafe on MacDougal Street, a hangout of folk revival stalwarts. To their ears, Dylan’s indictment of American culture – its racism, militarism and reckless destruction of the environment – would have echoed that poisoning in the earlier poem and added force to the repurposed lyrics.

Drawing from the source

Because Dylan “samples and digests” songs from the past, he has been accused of plagiarism.

This charge underestimates Dylan’s complex creative process, which closely resembles that of early modern poets who had a different concept of originality – a concept Dylan intuitively understands. For Renaissance authors, “originality” meant not creating something out of nothing, but going back to what had come before. They literally returned to the “origin.” Writers first searched outside themselves to find models to imitate, and then they transformed what they imitated – that is, what they found, sampled and digested – into something new. Achieving originality depended on the successful imitation and repurposing of an admired author from a much earlier era. They did not imitate each other, or contemporary authors from a different national tradition. Instead, they found their models among authors and works from earlier centuries.

In his book “The Light in Troy,” literary scholar Thomas Greene points to a 1513 letter written by poet Pietro Bembo to Giovanfrancesco Pico della Mirandola.

“Imitation,” Bembo writes, “since it is wholly concerned with a model, must be drawn from the model … the activity of imitating is nothing other than translating the likeness of some other’s style into one’s own writings.” The act of translation was largely stylistic and involved a transformation of the model.

Romantics devise a new definition of originality

However, the Romantics of the late 18th century wished to change, and supersede, that understanding of poetic originality. For them, and the writers who came after them, creative originality meant going inside oneself to find a connection to nature.

As scholar of Romantic literature M.H. Abrams explains in his renowned study “Natural Supernaturalism,” “the poet will proclaim how exquisitely an individual mind … is fitted to the external world, and the external world to the mind, and how the two in union are able to beget a new world.”

Instead of the world wrought by imitating the ancients, the new Romantic theories envisioned the union of nature and the mind as the ideal creative process. Abrams quotes the 18th-century German Romantic Novalis: “The higher philosophy is concerned with the marriage of Nature and Mind.”

The Romantics believed that through this connection of nature and mind, poets would discover something new and produce an original creation. To borrow from past “original” models, rather than producing a supposedly new work or “new world,” could seem like theft, despite the fact, obvious to anyone paging through an anthology, that poets have always responded to one another and to earlier works.

Unfortunately – as Dylan’s critics too often demonstrate – this bias favoring supposedly “natural” originality over imitation continues to color views of the creative process today.

For six decades now, Dylan has turned that Romantic idea of originality on its head. With his own idiosyncratic method of composing songs and his creative reinvention of the Renaissance practice of imitatio, he has written and performed – yes, imitation functions in performance too – over 600 songs, many of which are the most significant and most significantly original songs of his time.

To me, there is a firm historical and theoretical rationale for what these audiences have long known – and the Nobel Prize committee made official in 2016 – that Bob Dylan is both a modern voice entirely unique and, at the same time, the product of ancient, time-honored ways of practicing and thinking about creativity.The Conversation

Raphael Falco, Professor of English, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

'Good vibes only': Why toxic positivity is slowly killing us

In the past decade, Americans have become peculiarly fixated on the idea of maintaining a constant positive mindset. The idea is most epitomized by the phrase "good vibes only," which is now emblazoned on clothing, cutesy mass-market home decor, neon signs and on many an influencer's social media posts in hashtag form.

Though well-intentioned, the message — and arguably, the positive psychology movement that underlies the sentiment — has veered into the realm of toxic positivity. The term toxic positivity refers to a mentality in which, no matter how awful a situation may be, one is still told to still find a silver lining. Laid off from your job during the pandemic? The toxically positive might reply, "at least you didn't die of COVID." Did your spouse leave you? Toxic positivity would respond, "well, look on the bright side, they could have cheated on you."

These kinds of messages often lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or may be an avoidance mechanism. In other words, maintaining a "good vibes only" mindset is not particularly helpful nor psychologically healthy. Humans are meant to feel and embrace a full range of emotions — not to be happy robots all the time, especially when bad things happen. And yet, the phrase "good vibes only" is consistently splashed across walls, screens, and doormats, and has become a sort of millennial and Gen Z mantra.

Yet amid this cacophony of meaningless positivity, writer Nora McInerny is a loud dissenter. McInerny, known for her podcast "Terrible, Thanks for Asking," is leading the movement to embrace the darker sides of life — the so-called "bad vibes," things like death, depression, and the overall messiness that accompanies humanity. McInerny's new book, a humorous collection of essays titled "Bad Vibes Only (And Other Things I Bring to the Table)" is full of these kinds of cringe-y moments — spanning from the author's young adulthood in the aughts to her being a parent today. And (thankfully), unlike self-help books that line positive psychology shelves at the bookstore, these stories don't typically end by looking on the bright side.

Salon interviewed McInerny to talk about America's obsession with being positive, the state of mental health and parenting.

This article has been condensed and edited for print.

I read your book at the end of my pregnancy and it really resonated with me. I couldn't handle any so-called "good vibes" when the smallest tasks felt monumental — I struggled to even walk around my house. I needed your bad vibes. But I'm curious what motivated you to want to write a book with a collection of essays themed around "bad vibes?"

So I was writing a lot of stories, a lot of essays, and the more I looked at them as a whole, the clearer it was an essay collection not a memoir. And this was going to be almost the opposite of all of the self-help books that arrive on my doorstep — books that are designed to make the reader believe that there is some internal flaw with them, and that if only they do these five things, build this habit, or whatever, they'll feel better.

I wanted to write something that was realistic, that was relatable, and that was reflective of what it has meant to me to be a senior millennial coming of age in one of the tackiest pop culture moment. In a time when the pendulum swung from a culture that provided a path towards eating disorders for girls my age to body positivity, from beauty at whatever cost to aging gracefully or naturally, from being young and free to being someone's mom. I wanted to create something that didn't try to tie up the messy experience of life into neat life lessons.

I didn't sit down and think "How can I write a book that's a response to a popular Home Goods sign?" But every time I see a "good vibes only" sign or sticker, I know I'm not welcome there. I should see myself out.

But what if it's Target?

Oh, I will leave that aisle. Honestly, I will not shop the signs at Target. I will not shop the message tees at Target. No, no, no.

Yeah, I get it. I definitely got a sense that the book was expanding on your work on grief. And then also I thought it was a response to all the "love and light" messaging — I say that in quotes — that's pushed so much by self-help influencers on social media.

Yes, love and light positivity. There's nothing wrong with positivity. I actually think I'm generally a pretty positive person, pretty upbeat, unless I'm falling down this spiral staircase of my own depression, which happens regularly. But toxic positivity, it's so pervasive. It will find its way in, in all of these sorts of new and different ways — old and new. Someone might say "millions of people around the world died of this thing, but at least you didn't— right?" Honestly, I don't know a whole lot of people who are fine after the past couple years.

Why do you think that there has been so much focus on good vibes and this rise in toxic positivity in our culture lately when, like you mentioned, there are a lot of people who are struggling right now?

I mean, when one's problems feel so big that they're untenable — what could be an easier escape hatch than choosing to just feel good or choosing to narrow your focus down to the things that you can control, and hoping that the thing that you can control is yourself? If that's the only problem, well, that's a much easier problem to fix. And if the only thing you have to worry about is yourself, well, that's a lot easier than thinking about the fact that it feels like humanity is in its final season. I don't blame anybody. It always feels better to just be happy. People would prefer that.

I'm always perplexed by the people that preach that if you think positively, good things will happen to you, or you can "manifest" something. And it makes me laugh because an actual therapist will tell you that you are not your thoughts. And you kind of mention that in that one essay, how you're really just observing your thoughts like clouds. What do you make of this focus on manifesting? And if you think positively, good things will happen to you?

I think it's total bullshit. Thoughts don't become things. And I also know from experience that it's not even a fine line. Of course, there's a line between feeling your feelings, dwelling on your feelings, fixating on your feelings, navel gazing, getting stuck in them, actual depression. But actual depression is not a matter of you not thinking enough happy thoughts. Anxiety is just not, "let's think of some different thoughts." And the number of people practicing unlicensed therapy as so-called "life coaches" is extremely alarming. And I'm pretty sure in 20 or 30 years, we're going to look back at that and think, "what the fuck?"

I'm curious, what do you think is missing from the popular conversation around mental health in America and finding a balance between having a positive mindset, but also embracing the reality of things can be really sh**ty and crappy sometimes?

I think intersectionality is lacking. There's a book that I read that I thought was the most thoughtful little book that I guess would be categorized as self-help, but I'm not sure how she would categorize it. It's called "How to Keep House While Drowning." And it just acknowledges in so many ways the way that we're different, the way that it is hard to care for yourself if you have a disability, if you have a different mental health state than your neighbor or your sister, if your community is really strong, if you have a lot of support or you don't. And this, I think easy fixes work when you flatten down the human experience to you either do it or you don't. And it's just never that simple. And I remember when my husband died, I truly wondered why things were so hard for me.

I was like, 'It's been four months. Why am I so sad?" Because your husband just died, you clown. I'd ask 'What is wrong with you?' Of course what was wrong with me is I felt this undue kind of pressure and influence from our culture, which was like, "come on girl, you gotta get up, wash your face, get moving." And I listened. I laid in bed and I listened to a Tony Robbins book. Are you kidding me? What could that man possibly have to tell a widowed 31-year-old single mom who's on the cusp of moving in with her own mom, about anything? And I was like, I have to get my brain right. I have to fix my brain. I have to just think differently. And the stories and bad vibes only are not all that. They're really not all that traumatic.

I can totally relate. When I lost my dad a few years ago and I remember going through that with grief too, being like, 'Why don't I feel better yet?' And it's like, there is all this pressure on us to feel good. Even as a new mom right now, some days, I feel sad. I don't feel like myself. But it's hard to reckon with what I'm told is the "happiest time of my life." But like I went through a very long labor that ended in a c-section, and that was hard.

Your body was just literally sawed open and they had to take out your organs. All your hormones are racing and people are like, "Yeah. So you love it?"

I liked your essay about having kids on social media, and not posting their photos. Aside from privacy, I'm just curious, are there other reasons? Are there other reasons that you decide to mostly keep your kids off social media unless you have their permission?

I do not think anymore that my children can consent to that at all. If I have a hard time conceiving of what it means for something to go viral — and I do — I have a hard time imagining what it means that a million people saw a post. What does that mean? What is the permanence of that? I truly have a hard time fathoming that. There's no way for a five-year-old or a nine-year-old or even a 16-year-old to possibly understand what that means. And it's not just for their privacy, from the size of the audience that I have, which compared to a lot of people is very small, even modest at best. But it's for the fact that they deserve to make informed decisions about how their life is presented publicly.

Totally. My last question, kind of a selfish one, is: What advice would you give new moms right now?

My advice for new moms is to take almost no advice. There are so many people in your ear, on your screen constantly. Take almost none of it. Take almost none of it. Take what you like and leave for rest. And the one thing that I wish I would've done is accept any and all help and take it f**king easy. I brought my two-day-old baby to a public radio studio to work on a podcast. You feel this compulsion to do these things and prove that you still have worth, because the world around you is challenging your worth. And telling you that the thing that you just did, have a baby, create a human life, is really only worth six weeks of half-pay and rest — if you have a full-time job.

Nora McInerny's new book, "Bad Vibes Only (And Other Things I Bring to the Table)," is out this week from Atria/One Signal Publishers.

New discoveries about human prehistory are opening up revolutionary possibilities

Discoveries in the fields of human origins, paleoanthropology, cognitive science, and behavioral biology have accelerated in the past few decades. We occasionally bump into news reports that new findings have revolutionary implications for how humanity lives today—but the information for the most part is still packed obscurely in the worlds of science and academia.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Some experts have tried to make the work more accessible, but Deborah Barsky’s new book, Human Prehistory: Exploring the Past to Understand the Future (Cambridge University Press, 2022), is one of the most authoritative yet. The breadth and synthesis of the work are impressive, and Barsky’s highly original analysis on the subject—from the beginnings of culture to how humanity began to be alienated from the natural world—keeps the reader engaged throughout.

Long before Jane Goodall began telling the world we would do well to study our evolutionary origins and genetic cousins, it was a well-established philosophical creed that things go better for humanity the more we try to know ourselves.

Barsky, a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution and associate professor at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain, who came to this field through her decades of studying ancient stone tool technologies, writes early in her book that lessons learned from the remote past could guide our species toward a brighter future, but “that so much of the information that is amassed by prehistoric archeologists remains inaccessible to many people” and “appears far removed from our daily lives.” I reached out to Barsky in the early stage of her book launch to learn more.

Jan Ritch-Frel: What would you suggest a person consider as they hold a 450,000-year-old handaxe for the first time?

Deborah Barsky: I think everyone feels a deep-seated reverence when touching or holding such an ancient tool. Handaxes in particular carry so many powerful implications, including on the symbolic level. You have to imagine that these tear-shaped tools—the ultimate symbol of the Acheulian—appeared in Africa some 1.75 million years ago and that our ancestors continued creating and re-creating this same shape from that point onwards for more than a million and a half years!

These tools are the first ones recognized as having been made in accordance with a planned mental image. And they have an aesthetic quality, in that they present both bilateral and bifacial symmetry. Some handaxes were made in precious or even visually pleasing rock matrices and were shaped with great care and dexterity according to techniques developed in the longest-enduring cultural norm known to humankind.

And yet, in spite of so many years of studying handaxes, we still understand little about what they were used for, how they were used, and, perhaps most importantly, whether or not they carry with them some kind of symbolic significance that escapes us. There is no doubt that the human capacity to communicate through symbolism has been hugely transformative for our species.

Today we live in a world totally dependent on shared symbolic thought processes, where such constructs as national identity, monetary value, religion, and tradition, for example, have become essential to our survival. Complex educational systems have been created to initiate our children into mastering these constructed realities, integrating them as fully as possible into this system to favor their survival within the masses of our globalized world. In the handaxe we can see the first manifestations of this adaptive choice: to invest in developing symbolic thought. That choice has led us into the digital revolution that contemporary society is now undergoing. Yet, where all of this will lead us remains uncertain.

JRF: Your book shows that it is more helpful to us if we consider the human story and evolution as less of a straight line and more so as one that branches in different ways across time and geography. How can we explain the past to ourselves in a clear and useful way to understand the present?

DB: One of the first things I tell my students is that in the field of human prehistory, one must grow accustomed to information that is in a constant state of flux, as it changes in pace with new discoveries that are being made on nearly a daily basis.

It is also important to recognize that the pieces composing the puzzle of the human story are fragmentary, so that information is constantly changing as we fill in the gaps and ameliorate our capacity to interpret it. Although we favor scientific interpretations in all cases, we cannot escape the fact that our ideas are shaped by our own historical context—a situation that has impeded correct explanations of the archeological record in the past.

One example of this is our knowledge of the human family that has grown exponentially in the last quarter of a century thanks to new discoveries being made throughout the world. Our own genus, Homo, for example, now includes at least five new species, discovered only in this interim.

Meanwhile, genetic studies are taking major steps in advancing the ways we study ancient humans, helping to establish reliable reconstructions of the (now very bushy) family tree, and concretizing the fact that over millions of years multiple hominin species shared the same territories. This situation continued up until the later Paleolithic, when our own species interacted and even reproduced together with other hominins, as in the case of our encounters with the Neandertals in Eurasia, for example.

While there is much conjecture about this situation, we actually know little about the nature of these encounters: whether they were peaceful or violent; whether different hominins transmitted their technological know-how, shared territorial resources together, or decimated one another, perhaps engendering the first warlike behaviors.

One thing is sure: Homo sapiens remains the last representative of this long line of hominin ancestors and now demonstrates unprecedented planetary domination. Is this a Darwinian success story? Or is it a one-way ticket to the sixth extinction event—the first to be caused by humans—as we move into the Anthropocene Epoch?

In my book, I try to communicate this knowledge to readers so that they can better understand how past events have shaped not only our physical beings but also our inner worlds and the symbolic worlds we share with each other. It is only if we can understand when and how these important events took place—actually identify the tendencies and put them into perspective for what they truly are—that we will finally be the masters of our own destiny. Then we will be able to make choices on the levels that really count—not only for ourselves, but also for all life on the planet. Our technologies have undoubtedly alienated us from these realities, and it may be our destiny to continue to pursue life on digital and globalized levels. We can’t undo the present, but we can most certainly use this accumulated knowledge and technological capacity to create far more sustainable and “humane” lifeways.

JRF: How did you come to believe that stone toolmaking was the culprit for how we became alienated from the world we live in?

DB: My PhD research at Perpignan University in France was on the lithic assemblages from the Caune de l’Arago cave site in southern France, a site with numerous Acheulian habitation floors that have been dated to between 690,000 and 90,000 years ago. During the course of my doctoral research, I was given the exceptional opportunity to work on some older African and Eurasian sites. I began to actively collaborate in international and multidisciplinary teamwork (in the field and in the laboratory) and to study some of the oldest stone tool kits known to humankind in different areas of the world. This experience was an important turning point for me that subsequently shaped my career as I oriented my research more and more towards understanding these “first technologies.”

More recently, as a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES-CERCA) in Tarragona, Spain, I continue to investigate the emergence of ancient human culture, in particular through the study of a number of major archeological sites attributed to the so-called “Oldowan” technocomplex (after the eponymous Olduvai Gorge Bed I sites in Tanzania). My teaching experience at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and Rovira i Virgili University (Tarragona) helped me to articulate my findings through discussions and to further my research with students and colleagues.

Such ancient tool kits, some of which date to more than 2 million years ago, were made by the hands of hominins who were very different from ourselves, in a world that was very distinct from our own. They provide a window of opportunity through which to observe some of the cognitive processes employed by the early humans who made and used them. As I expanded my research, I discovered the surprising complexity of ancient stone toolmaking, eventually concluding that it was at the root of a major behavioral bifurcation that would utterly alter the evolutionary pathways taken by humankind.

Early hominins recognizing the advantages provided by toolmaking made the unconscious choice to invest more heavily in it, even as they gained time for more inventiveness. Oldowan tool kits are poorly standardized and contain large pounding implements, alongside small sharp-edged flakes that were certainly useful, among other things, for obtaining viscera and meat resources from animals that were scavenged as hominins competed with other large carnivores present in the paleolandscapes in which they lived. As hominins began to expand their technological know-how, successful resourcing of such protein-rich food was ideal for feeding the developing and energy-expensive brain.

Meanwhile, increased leisure time fueled human inventiveness, and stone tool production—and its associated behaviors—grew ever more complex, eventually requiring relatively heavy investments into teaching these technologies to enable them to pass onwards into each successive generation. This, in turn, established the foundations for the highly beneficial process of cumulative learning that was later coupled with symbolic thought processes such as language that would ultimately favor our capacity for exponential development. This also had huge implications, for example, in terms of the first inklings of what we call “tradition”—ways to make and do things—that are indeed the very building blocks of culture. In addition, neuroscientific experiments undertaken to study the brain synapses involved during toolmaking processes show that at least some basic forms of language were likely needed in order to communicate the technologies required to manufacture the more complex tools of the Acheulian (for example, handaxes).

Moreover, researchers have demonstrated that the areas of the brain activated during toolmaking are the same as those employed during abstract thought processes, including language and volumetric planning. I think that it is clear from this that the Oldowan can be seen as the start of a process that would eventually lead to the massive technosocial database that humanity now embraces and that continues to expand ever further in each successive generation, in a spiral of exponential technological and social creativity.

JRF: Did something indicate to you at the outset of your career that archeology and the study of human origins have a vital message for humanity now? You describe a conceptual process in your book whereby through studying our past, humanity can learn to “build up more viable and durable structural entities and behaviors in harmony with the environment and innocuous to other life forms.”

DB: I think most people who pursue a career in archeology do so because they feel passionate about exploring the human story in a tangible, scientific way. The first step, described in the introductory chapters of my book, is choosing from an ever-widening array of disciplines that contribute to the field today. From the onset, I was fascinated by the emergence and subsequent transformation of early technologies into culture. The first 3 million years of the human archeological record are almost exclusively represented by stone tools. These stone artifacts are complemented by other kinds of tools—especially in the later periods of the Paleolithic, when bone, antler, and ivory artifacts were common—alongside art and relatively clear habitational structures.

It is one thing to analyze a given set of stone tools made by long-extinct hominin cousins and quite another to ask what their transposed significance to contemporary society might be.

As I began to explore these questions more profoundly, numerous concrete applications did finally come to the fore, thus underpinning how data obtained from the prehistoric register is applicable when considering issues such as racism, climate change, and social inequality that plague the modern globalized world.

In my opinion, the invention and subsequent development of technology was the inflection point from which humanity was to diverge towards an alternative pathway from all other life forms on Earth. We now hold the responsibility to wield this power in ways that will be beneficial and sustainable to all life.

Author Bio: Jan Ritch-Frel is the executive director of the Independent Media Institute.

'Disturbing': Ben Shapiro tears into Kanye West's conservative defenders amid antisemitism controversy

Ben Shapiro is pushing back against conservatives who are in support of rapper Kanye West amid his latest social media rant targeting Jewish people.

According to Mediaite, the controversy surrounding the Yeezus rapper came as a result of an anti-Semitic tweet he posted that ultimately led to his Twitter account being suspended.

“I’m a bit sleepy tonight," West tweeted, "but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

READ MORE: Ben Shapiro defends Elon Musk's tweet comparing Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler

After taking a break from social media in observance of Jewish holidays, Shapiro took to social media to weigh in on West's remarks. According to Shapiro, the rapper's behavior is quite "disturbing."

“Back from the Jewish holiday now. As usual, two things can be true at once: Kanye’s moves toward pro-life, faith, and family conservatism are encouraging; his “death con 3″ posts and Black Hebrew Israelite language are clearly anti-Semitic and disturbing,” Shapiro tweeted.

Shapiro's remarks come days after The Daily Wire's Candace Owens also shared relatively troubling remarks echoing West's perspective.

Owens, expounded on her arguments, saying, “You did not think that he wrote this tweet because he hates or wants to genocide Jewish people. This does not represent the beginning of a Holocaust.

READ MORE: Senate battle over same-sex marriage could hinge on two Wisconsin lawmakers who don't see eye to eye

"That’s if you’re an honest person, you’ll admit that, right? If you’re an honest person, when you read this tweet, you had no idea what the hell he was talking about. I had no idea, when I read this tweet, what the hell he was talking about.”

The Blaze's Jason Whitlock also chimed in to tweet his perspective. “Kanye West and Dave Chappelle, is there a pattern? The industry wants both of them canceled. Black rappers and comedians are free to denigrate black people and white men a million different ways. But there’s a line they better not cross. And everybody knows it.”

READ MORE: Ben Shapiro calls on Supreme Court to 'unwind' same-sex marriage

Rudy Giuliani implies that indigenous populations deserved to be slaughtered by European settlers

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) on Monday appeared on War Room With Steve Bannon on the right-wing propaganda network Real America's Voice and delivered a grotesque revisionist history lesson of the actions of Italian mercenary Christopher Columbus.

In his minute-long rant, Giuliani fired off a series of demonstrably false and outright racist remarks about the encounters that Columbus had with indigenous populations at the end of the fifteenth century:

Columbus is probably the first hero and there's no evidence that he did any of these things. In fact, most of the atrocities they're talking about occurred thirty years after he left. If anything, he was a, he was, he was benevolent. He tried very, very hard to avoid the wars that went on. But let, let, I mean, look. The people he brought over with him, they weren't saints. They were soldiers. But the people there were living in the third world, including a third world of violence where, where they scalped each other and killed each other and raped each other. This wasn't a civilization he came to. This was a third, fourth-world country. They had no idea of what they were facing. Columbus did everything he could to control it. It got out of control forty years later and he's being blamed for it. And this history is only like ten years old.

There is substantial documentation of the horrors that were perpetrated by Columbus and the European conquistadors that followed his accidental landing on the island of Hispaniola on October 12th, 1492, which Columbus mistook for India.

READ MORE: Absolutely wrong': GOP Senate candidate's pro-Christopher Columbus rant ripped to shreds by scholars

The University of Groningen in the Netherlands points out on its website that "the direct result of this and later voyages was the virtual extermination, by ill-treatment and disease, of the vast majority of the Native inhabitants, and the enormous growth of the transatlantic slave trade."

For example, Columbus himself boasted in his diary of his intention to enslave people and ship them back to Spain to serve King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I:

They should be good and intelligent servants, for I see that they say very quickly everything that is said to them; and I believe that they would become Christians very easily, for it seemed to me that they had no religion. Our Lord pleasing, at the time of my departure I will take six of them from here to Your Highnesses in order that they may learn to speak.

He further wrote that "with fifty men they can all be subjugated and made to do what is required of them." In 1493 when he returned, he noted that even though the natives were "artless and generous with what they have, to such a degree as no one would believe but him who had seen it. Of anything they have, if it be asked for, they never say no, but do rather invite the person to accept it, and show as much lovingness as though they would give their hearts," that Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand and his consort Isabella "may see that I shall give them as much gold as they need .... and slaves as many as they shall order to be shipped."

Twenty years later, the Spanish, with the endorsement of the Catholic Church, adopted a sinister policy called "the Requirement," which stated:

We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do all the harm and damage that we can.

READ MORE: Fox News host suggests Native Americans have a history of 'alcoholism' and 'government dependency'

Additionally, what would become the United States of America was not a "country" as Giuliani put it, nor was violence uniquely endemic to the cultures that Columbus chronicled. At the time in which he sailed, the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834) was in full swing across Europe less than two hundred years after the conclusion of The Crusades (1096-1291).

Nevertheless, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of what Rudy implied was that Native peoples [such as the Taíno] deserved to be annihilated.

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: Why 'Garibaldi Day' should replace Columbus Day as an 'Italian-American holiday': columnist

'Reefer madness': Fox News freaks out after Joe Biden pardons thousands of federal cannabis convictions

President Joe Biden in a major action on Thursday announced he is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of simple possession of marijuana, which is being seen as a major move toward federal decriminalization. Fox News is calling it a “blunt move” and “REEFER MADNESS,” and it is currently the right-wing website‘s top story:

“As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” President Biden announced, as Axios reported. “Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach.”

“I’m pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden,” the President declared in an unexpected move.

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He added he is also “calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses. Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.”

That move is expected to receive pushback from many GOP governors and lawmakers, despite support by a majority of Republican voters for cannabis legalization. In April the House of Representatives passed legislation to decriminalize marijuana. It passed 220-204, with just three Republicans voting for it and two Democrats voting against.

“We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin – and more serious than fentanyl,” Biden continued. “It makes no sense. I’m asking @SecBecerra and the Attorney General to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”

“Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states. That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs,” Biden said.

Democratic nominee for governor of Texas, Beto O’Rourke, since at least 2019 has supported marijuana legalization. He has repeatedly stated this position as he did here in February.

Immediately after Biden’s announcement O’Rourke once again reiterated his support for legalization.

READ MORE: ‘Nothing to Be Ashamed of’: Herschel Walker Says if He Paid for an Abortion He Would ‘Be Forgiven’

“When I’m governor, we will finally legalize marijuana in Texas and expunge the records of those arrested for marijuana possession,” said the Democrat running against Republican Greg Abbott.

A Justice Department spokesperson said the DOJ “will expeditiously administer the President’s proclamation, which pardons individuals who engaged in simple possession of marijuana, restoring political, civil, and other rights to those convicted of that offense.”

Unlike his predecessor’s pardons, President Biden will arrange the pardons through the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Slate senior writer Mark Joseph Stern called the President’s announcement “the first step to rescheduling or descheduling marijuana on the federal level. HUGE deal. It’s a tectonic shift in federal drug policy.”

'Legalize it': Advocates cheer presidential pardons of federal cannabis convictions

This is a developing story... Please check back for updates.

Reasserting that "no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana," U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that he is planning to issue an executive order pardoning everyone convicted of low-level marijuana possession, a move that drew applause from drug policy reform advocates.

"Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives—for conduct that is legal in many states. That's before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction," Biden tweeted. "Today, we begin to right these wrongs."

"First: I'm pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession," the president stated. "There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden."

"Second: I'm calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses," he continued. "Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either."

"Third: We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin—and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense," Biden asserted, adding that he's asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland "to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law."

According to

✎ EditSign the most recently available figures from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, less than 100 people were federally sentenced for simple marijuana possession in 2017.

However, campaigners against the failed War on Drugs hailed the president's announcement, with the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen tweeting, "This is huge."

Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said in a statement that "many of the efforts taken and proposed by the president today are long overdue."

"For nearly two years, NORML has called upon the administration to fulfill the president's campaign promise to provide relief to those stigmatized with a low-level cannabis conviction," he continued. "We are pleased that today President Biden is following through on this pledge and that he is also encouraging governors to take similar steps to ensure that the tens of millions of Americans with state-level convictions for past marijuana crimes can finally move forward with their lives."

Moving forward, the administration must work collaboratively with congressional leadership to repeal America’s failed marijuana criminalization laws," Altieri added. "Congress should be inspired by the administration's actions today to act quickly and send legislation to the president's desk that would help close this dark chapter of our history."

Anti-poverty campaigner Joe Sanberg said that "this is what pressure and advocacy look like. This must be the first of many steps to ending our decadeslong failed policies on marijuana. Thank you to the activists who made this possible. No one should ever be in jail (or have a criminal record) for using marijuana. No one."

U.S. Rep Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) tweeted: "Next up? Legalize it."

The president's move comes a day after a Morning Consult/Politico survey revealed that 3 in 5 U.S. voters believe marijuana should be legal nationwide.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories have legalized recreational cannabis as of this May, while 37 states allow medical marijuana.

How the 'soft bois' pave the way for the 'hard men': conservative

Never Trumper Jonathan V. Last does plenty of mocking in a column published by The Bulwark on September 29, but he also has a dead-serious warning where MAGA is concerned: With authoritarian movements of the far left or far right, the “soft bois” are often followed by the “hard men.” And history, according to Last, shows that the “hard men” aren’t the least bit shy about resorting to violent, brutal methods.

Last opens the column by mocking some examples of “soft bois” in the far-right MAGA movement.

Michael Anton is out there calling for just asking questions about having a violent revolution in America,” Last explains. “Anton is a former private-equity guy turned speechwriter whose dream is to be a chef. Per the New York Times, Anton is ‘a classically trained chef who favors French cuisine.’ He is also something of a dandy. Then there’s Roger Stone, out there calling for violence — when the voting stops the shooting starts, I guess?”

READ MORE: Doug Mastriano consultant boasts of running 'Christian nationalist' candidates

Last continues, “He once posted, and then deleted, a picture of the judge hearing his case with a crosshairs next to her head. So tough. But Stone makes Anton look like a biker. He’s a dandy’s dandy, a heavily made-up old man with a penchant for complicated glasses. Curtis Yarvin is the internet troll who wants to get rid of democracy and replace it with monarchy and who thinks that mass killings by right-wingers are wrong mostly because they’re bad for the brand. Yarvin is more or less what you’d order from central casting if you were looking for ‘middle-age, basement-dwelling coder on the spectrum’…. The point I’m trying to make is that none of the outcasts and weirdos who are talking about overthrowing the liberal order in the name of the Great Common Man would be at home in a Budweiser commercial.”

But Last warns that “outcasts and weirdos” who preach violence while sitting behind a desk are often followed by the “hard men” who are willing to do the actual dirty work. And he uses the history of the Soviet Union to make his point, along with some footage of the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building.

“I don’t know that Trotsky and Lenin were all that butch, either,” Last argues. “In hindsight, they look like third-rate intellectuals thirsting for power. But Koba was not. He was a brutalist. And he was more than happy to take over for them.”

Last continues, “The problem is that the soft bois eventually give way to hard men, who understand and are eager to use power. What starts out as fops and dandies posing and talking tough about how super-duper double-bad they want to overthrow liberalism can eventually lead to actual men with actual weapons deciding to try it for themselves.”

READ MORE: New video captures Roger Stone’s latest attempt to incite violence

How Atlanta celebrates its Black political heritage while being consumed by 'gentrification': journalist

Atlanta is a city that is famous for its civil rights heritage and the achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his allies. Journalist Teresa Wiltz, who grew up partly in Atlanta, discusses that heritage in an article published by Politico on September 16. Now in her early sixties, Wiltz stresses that while Atlanta celebrates its past, it has experienced so much “gentrification” that it is “barely recognizable” to someone who remembers the city as it was during the 1970s and 1980s.

“In 1973, the year I turned 12, in a reverse of the Great Migration, my family moved south, decamping from the virtually all-White environs of Staten Island, New York, for my mom’s hometown, Atlanta,” Wiltz recalls. “To be a Black kid growing up in Atlanta in the ‘70s and ‘80s was to experience a version of America almost ripped from a counter history novel. This was Atlanta as in The ATL, Hotlanta, The A, Wakanda — pick your nomenclature here — post-Civil Rights, Black Power Atlanta.”

Wiltz continues, “Atlanta was ours. Our doctors were Black. Our lawyers were Black. The hardware store owners were Black. Our bankers were Black. Our neighbors were Black. Our swimming teachers and gymnastics coaches were Black. White folks, who lived on the other side of town, had the big money. But in Atlanta, Black folks had the political power. And that meant if White people wanted to get anything done, they had to come correct. At least, that’s how we saw the power dynamics in our then-majority-Black city.”

READ MORE: 93% of zip codes in the top 100 US cities have become unaffordable for Black residents: report

The journalist recalls that after living on “lily White Staten Island” as a child, moving to Atlanta at 12 and spending her adolescence there “brought a newfound sense of pride in my identity.”

“I grew up in a privileged Black bubble, alongside the kids of civil rights leaders, politicians, funeral directors, doctors and lawyers, opera singers and writers — and millionaire business owners,” Wiltz explains. “Atlanta was a place where I saw myself reflected back in the power brokers of my city, and that, along with Atlanta’s rich history, gave me a sense of possibilities.”

Atlanta still has a large Black population. According to World Population Review, the city is 49 percent Black in 2022 — that is, almost half Black. And Atlanta still attracts plenty of African-American politicians and celebrities. But Wiltz laments that gentrification has changed Atlanta a great deal, pointing out that many Black families have moved to the Atlanta suburbs because they can no longer afford to live in Atlanta Proper.

“It has been decades since I moved from Atlanta; I moved away to go to college and never moved back,” Wiltz writes. “But my Atlanta roots — on my mom’s side of the family — run deep, and I pop in often to see family. When I do, the city I land in is one I barely recognize. It’s now the Hollywood of the South, sprawling and as traffic-clogged as the Hollywood of the West. And while the face of Atlanta politics remains Black, like many cities around the country, the ATL is no longer majority Black. Its Black middle-class population is migrating to the suburbs as the explosive growth of the entertainment industry mutates the city into something else.”

READ MORE: David Brooks argues that the urban ‘creative class’ has screwed working-class America

Marjorie Taylor Greene botches movie reference to bash bill protecting federal workers from unjust firing

United States Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) gave a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday blasting a legislative proposal that would protect civil servants from being fired for political reasons or "without due process" or congressional approval.

The Preventing a Patronage System Act or the PPSA Act was introduced in June of 2021 by House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) in response to an executive order issued by former President Donald Trump (which President Joe Biden nullified) that carved out “an exception to competitive hiring rules."

The Senate put forth its own version last month.

READ MORE: Marjorie Taylor Greene says Congress being in session is 'always a problem for the American people'

But Greene argued in her address that incumbent commanders in chief should be free to remove employees at their pleasure, regardless of whether just cause exists.

"The Democrats want to pass this bill to empower Democrat operatives – people that they've hired, people that they've put in their administrations – they wanna make sure those Democrat operatives are there to be able to undermine the next Republican president of the United States. That should not be a federal law. And as a business owner, I'm telling you, it's so important to be able to fire people in your company that aren't doing a good job. And it should be no different for any president. The Executive Branch must be able to have people working there that can be terminated," said Greene.

She then botched a movie reference to make her point.

"Everyone knows the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, and on the Black Pearl – it's the second one – it has pirates on the ship that become part of the ship walls. Effectively, that's what HR 302 is doing. Preventing a Patronage System Act will make employees in the Executive Branch just that: part of the building walls, making it impossible to get rid of them," Green continued.

READ MORE: Marjorie Taylor Greene tells Steve Bannon she plans to impeach Joe Biden over renewable energy

In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Dead Man's Chest – the second film in the namesake saga – it was antagonist Davey Jones' Flying Dutchman, not Captain Jack Sparrow's beloved Black Pearl, where undead buccaneers were interred in servitude in exchange for Jones granting them immortality.

Their freedom was obtained when the heart of Jones, which was stowed in a small treasure box, was stabbed, resulting in his death.

"So for this reason I oppose this bill," Greene concluded, "and I urge my colleagues to vote against it and I yield back the balance of my time."

Watch below or at this link.

READ MORE: Watch: Right-wing reporters ditch Marjorie Taylor Greene when they spot a more important Republican

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