Jul
06

The Activist as a Young Girl

Tag: Book and Movie Reviews, Children, Culture and Society

Clare Hanrahan's memoir The Half Life of a Free Radical: Growing Up Irish Catholic in Jim Crow Memphis is a remarkable feat: part Jack Kerouac, part Dorothy Day, part Howard Zinn, and a bit of Forest Gump.

First and foremost this is an entertaining and irreverent tale of childhood and adolescence told with great humor, honesty, and empathy. But it's also told by someone who became a peace and justice and environmentalist activist in later life, someone able to look back on the poverty, racism, consumerism, militarism, sexism, and Catholicism of her youth with passion and perspective -- even appreciation for all the good that was mixed in with the bad. Hanrahan writes what in outline form would read like an endless tale of misfortune, and yet leaves you with the thought of how much riotous fun she and her eight siblings and other acquaintances had.

I know Clare, though I learned much more about her from this book, and I wouldn't risk changing her if I had a time machine and magical powers. But I still found myself wondering, as with most stories of most people in the United States and much of the world, how different Hanrahan's life would have been in a society with the decency to provide free college and free job training as needed, or a society that integrated civic activism into everyone's life, or a society in which peace activist careers were marketed on the level of military recruitment ads or even marketed at all so that they weren't so frequently found so late, or a society in which some of the best people didn't live below a taxable salary level so as not to pay taxes for wars.

Hanrahan gives us her family genealogy first, and by doing so teaches some U.S. history that echoes through the book and the years. So, she shows us the cruelty of Jim Crow, for example, through personal experiences as a white girl, but illuminates it with an understanding of its origins, and -- even more importantly -- an awareness of its latest incarnations today. She also contrasts what she knows of the history of Memphis with what she was taught in school in Memphis growing up.

Hanrahan tells her story largely in chronological order, with no lengthy flashbacks, but with numerous quick bits of foreshadowing. For example:

"Brother Tommy gouged his initials, TPH, with a pocket knife on that same bannister long before the American war in Viet Nam maimed his hand, stole his youth, poisoned him with Agent Orange, and eventually took his life and that of his twin brother Danny. The bannister was later knocked down by a speeding car that careened into the porch stopping just short of the front bedroom."

Tommy returned from Vietnam to a  hospital. "In my naiveté," Hanrahan writes,

"I rushed to my brother's bedside to embrace him. I may even have called him 'my hero' as I approached, expecting a hug. Lightning fast his good arm flailed out knocking me across the room and onto the floor. 'Wake up!' he said. 'Wake up you stupid bitch.' I can still hear those harsh words. Dazed and confused, I picked myself up and backed away. This was not the brother I had sent away with a patriotic poem, proudly recited before my senior class."

Hanrahan's two veteran brothers suffered in many ways, and failed to fit back into society in many ways, but it was the cruelty toward women that they came back from the war with that their sister Clare eventually found intolerable.

When Hanrahan left Memphis she saw a lot of the country and a bit of the world, including living off the grid on land and water, joining intentional communities and finding her way to a job writing for peace. She also protested for peace and spent six months behind bars. During the course of her ramblings, Hanrahan managed to be present at or part of an extraordinary number of crucial events and developments in recent U.S. history. Hanrahan became editor of Rural Southern Voice for Peace just in time for the first Gulf War and the awful wars that have followed.

Hanrahan found her way back to Memphis on numerous occasions, sometimes for funerals, but also to be part of activist efforts such as the successful campaign to preserve the band shell in Overton Park launched by one of her brothers. Hanrahan intersperses her memories with her dreams and poetry, adding emotional depth to an account of an extraordinary family in a struggling city that I've enjoyed visiting but would like to visit again with this book as a guide.

Jul
05

Talk Nation Radio: Mel Duncan on why unarmed civilian protection is better than war

Tag: Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-mel-duncan-on-why-unarmed-civilian-protection-is-better-than-war

Mel Duncan is a co-founder and current Director of Advocacy and Outreach for Nonviolent Peaceforce, an international non-governmental organization that provides direct protection to civilians caught in violent conflict and works with local civil society groups on violence deterrence throughout the world.  He has received numerous awards. The Utne Reader named Duncan one of “50 Visionaries Who are Changing Our World.”  The American Friends Service Committee nominated Nonviolent Peaceforce for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Jul
02

The Democratic War Platform

Tag: Elections, Peace and War

The Democratic Party's draft platform takes a government that spends over half of discretionary spending on militarism, as much as the rest of the world combined, with troops in most countries and seven wars underway, and says: Keep it going, only more so!

The Platform begins with support-the-troops propaganda, demanding military spending for the sake of the people recruited into the military, many of them of course for lack of the free college that the Democrats have left out of their platform.

"Support Our Troops and Keep Faith with Our Veterans," is the opening headline on foreign policy. The words under that headline have nothing to do with what it suggests:

"Democrats believe America must continue to have the strongest military in the world."

You'd have to eliminate the vast majority of it for that not to be so.

Jul
01

Guess Who Wants Authority to Murder by Drone

Tag: Peace and War

If you haven't been hiding under a partisan rock for the past several years, you're aware that President Barack Obama has given himself the sort-of legalish right to murder anyone anywhere with missiles from drones.

He's not the only one who wants that power.

Jun
28

Talk Nation Radio: Harvey Wasserman on Environmental and Antiwar Activism

Tag: Environment, Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-harvey-wasserman-on-environmental-and-antiwar-activism

Harvey Wasserman is a life-long activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, history, the drug war, election protection, and grassroots politics. He teaches (since 2004) history and cultural & ethnic diversity at two central Ohio colleges. He works for the permanent shutdown of the nuclear power industry and the birth of Solartopia, a democratic and socially just green-powered Earth free of all fossil and nuclear fuels. He writes for Ecowatch, solartopia.org, freepress.org and nukefree.org, which he edits. He helped found the anti-war Liberation News Service. In 1972 his History of the U.S., introduced by Howard Zinn, helped pave the way for a new generation of people’s histories. In 1973 Harvey coined the phrase “No Nukes” and helped found the global grassroots movement against atomic energy. In 1990 he became Senior Advisor to Greenpeace USA. Harvey’s America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Organic Spiral of U.S. History, which dissects our national story in terms of six cycles, will be published soon at www.solartopia.org

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

eyes
Jun
28

What is a Global Citizenry, and Can It Save Us?

Tag: Political Ideas

First published in The Humanist.

Headlines this past spring claimed that for the first time ever, more than half of poll respondents around the world said they saw themselves more as global citizens than as citizens of a country. What did they mean in saying that?

First of all, to lower the heart rate of certain U.S. readers we should state that they clearly didn’t mean they’d sworn loyalty to a secret global government for the period of time until the Dark Side crushes all light from the Force, or until Mom, apple pie, and sacred national sovereignty expire in the satanic flames of internationalism. How do I know this? For one thing, something that a majority of the planet is aware of is the opposite of a secret. More importantly, what’s at issue here are the poll respondents’ attitudes, not their situations. In many nations the responses were almost evenly split; half the people weren’t wrong, they were just differently minded.

Still, what did they mean?

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