Jonny 5 is Alive

But not everything rhymes...

Day 2: Mein Deutsch ist die Wurst

Today´s 20 minutes of German from memory/imagination.

Huete wir haben gegangt auf eine klein berg die hießt “Straubing”. Wir haben in train gegangt. Die erst train war nich genung schnell, und wenn wir haben kommt auf die bahnhoff fur train zuandere, die andere train hat schön gekommt und gegangt. Das ist nicht richtig. Wir sind in Deutschland, nicht war?

Es gibt eine andere ding aus heute welcher ich verstehe nicht. Mein Bruder und mein Vater und Ich haben getrunken ganz weil Wasser und cafe und bier. Mein Bruder und mine Vater hast nur 2 oder 3 zeit nach toilette gegangt. Ich habe 5 oder 6 zeit nach Toilette gegangt.

Was ist das? Ich dankt das wir sind eine Familie, aber jetzt ich weisses nicht was ich doch glauben.

Sounds about right! Okay, now let’s see how I did…

Huete we have gegangt on a small mountain, the hießt “Straubing”. We have gegangt in train. The first train was nich genung quickly, and when we get on the ground hoping for zuandere train, the other train has beautiful gekommt and gegangt. That’s not right. We are in Germany, is not it?

There is a different thing from today which I do not understand. My brother and my father and I have been drinking all because water and cafe and beer. My brother and father have mine gegangt only 2 or 3 times after toilet. I have 5 or 6 gegangt time after toilet.

What’s this? I would like to thank that we are a family, but now I white not what I believe but.

Holy Shieße- I’ve got a long was to go!

Zehn Tagen in Deutschland

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I am spending the next ten days in Germany. I am going to take 10-20 minutes each day to write as much German as I can on my own. Obviously there will be lots of mistakes, but the idea/hope is that I will get slightly better each day. Has anyone read Flowers for Algernon? Yeah, I’m hoping  the next ten days will read like that.

Below you will find my entry without corrections. You will also find two translations. The first is what google translate thinks I wrote. The second is what my dad and my brother think I wrote.

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Ich heiße Jamie. Ich komme aus Denver. Ich bin jetzt mit mein Vater und mein Bruder in München. Zeit fünf oder sechs Monaten, mein Vater hat eine trip aus Deutschland geplant. Ich hat gefragt wenn ich auch gehen können, und er hat gegantwort “ya, gerner.” Wir haben auch gefragt mein Bruder und er auch habe gemochte kommen. Jetzt, wir sind zusammen in München.

Ich mochte Deustch lernen, aber das ist sehr shon, wier die Personen aus Deutschland alles spreche English sehr gut. Wenn ich ihnen Deutsch spreche, sie mir English spreche.

Darum, ich musste Deustch üben. Hier in das blog, ich will meine Deustch schreiben, alles der tagen. Ich habe zehn Tagen in Deutschland, darum ich will etwas schreiben zehn zeit.

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My name is Jamie. I’m from Denver. I am now with my father and my brother in Munich. Time five or six months, my father has planned a trip from Germany. I asked if I can go, and he has gegantwort “ya, gerner.” We have also asked my brother and he too had come liked. Now, we are together in Munich.

I liked CREIN learn, but this is very shon, wier the people of Germany all speak English very well. When I speak German to them, they speak English to me.

Therefore, I had to practice CREIN. Here in the blog, I will write my CREIN, all the days. I have ten days in Germany, I will write something ten times.

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I am Jamie. I am from Denver. I am hanging out with my father and my brother in Munich. I farted on the Sofa. My father has big plans for tomorrow. He was defrocked because of Dan Kunn. I was in a hot air balloon and I jumped out and did a gainer.  We’ve gotta air out my brother who smells because of the trip that he has come on. We’re going to have some good salmon in Munich.

All this dutch-learning is for sure. If I was a person like Alice in Germany I would speak English for food.  If you guys speak German to me, I’ll speak English to you. I would like mustard on my Rueben.

Here in my blog is my German writing. My brother and my father are very wise. I’m going to have a good time in Germany because my father and my brother are so wise. 

KUMBAYA

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I’m not going to get this story exactly right, but I’m going to tell it anyway.

It begins with Vincent Harding, my friend and mentor whose memory I’ve been frequently and unabashedly invoking in the last few months since his passing.  On several different occasions when I was around Dr. Harding, somebody used the phrase “kumbaya” in the derisive way it tends to get used. You know, like “I’m not suggesting everything is all fine and dandy and kumbaya”.

I quickly learned that Dr. Harding would not let such moments pass. Instead, he would inform us that Kumbaya is a song from the Gullah tradition, and that Kumbaya comes from the words “come by here”.

I’m pretty sure, though not positive, that he also said that the song was often sung in the African-American community after someone had been lynched.  I think he also said that the lyrics themselves- “Come by here my lord”, “someone’s crying lord”, etc.-  referred to such a moment. (A quick attempt to confirm this though google has yielded no results).

The song also reminded Dr. Harding of a story, which he would always tell. It is this story that I may get not quite right.

In 1964 Dr. Harding was at a meeting of black and white students volunteers who were preparing to travel to Mississippi to register black voters, when they learned that three of their peers had gone missing. James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andy Goodman had disappeared after being arrested and then released. It would be many weeks before it was confirmed that their friends were dead, and yet in that meeting it was already clear to the students that this was the reality looming.

So, after grappling with the fact that their friends had, very likely, been killed, Dr. Harding and the other adults asked the students to take some time and the consider two options. They could continue with their mission and place themselves in danger, or they could turn back and go home to safety.

The danger was utterly real and wanting to avoid it was fully understandable. It was made clear that not a single person would think any less of anyone who decided to leave.

All of the students chose to stay. All of them.

It was after making this decision that they joined hands and sang Kumbaya.

That’s how I remember the story, at least.

I’ve been thinking of this story this week, because I am currently in Nashville, Tennessee, participating in something called the James Lawson Institute. Its namesake, the Rev. James Lawson, is widely recognized as one of the primary tacticians of the Southern Freedom movement. He is the architect of the Nashville Sit-ins and many/most other campaigns during the civil rights movement. He has lived a life dedicated to the study and practice of the art of nonviolent civil disobedience as a tool with which to build a better world, and encourages us all to do the same. He was a friend of Dr. Harding, and a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr.

But that’s not why I’m thinking of the story.

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I’m thinking of the story because of Ferguson, Missouri.

I’m thinking of the story because of my friend, Gwen.

Gwen is here with me at the James Lawson Institute. Yesterday she noted how much she wants to believe that if she had been alive in the 60’s, she would have looked at videos of black students at lunch counters and seen the clear injustice.  She wants to believe that she would have been one of the brave students involved in the movement. She wants to believe that she would have been on the right side of history.

But then she saw another video of a young black man killed by police in Missouri. And it left her deeply disturbed. It was not Michael Brown. (There has indeed been another young man killed since then). His name is Kajieme Powell. You can click here and watch him die.

You can click here and witness an extrajudicial killing, in which police officers serve as judge, jury, and executioner.

You can click here and see a situation of stark injustice.

Can you see something else? Is it far more complex for you? Is the injustice unclear? If so, why?

Is it because you cannot yet envision a world without police violence? Does that vision seem unrealistic, even impossible?

Rev. Lawson reminds us that people said the same thing about Jim Crow, the systemized discrimination and segregation enforced by violence. While it was here, it seemed to be as permanent and immovable as concrete. But then something, a force more powerful, swept through the country and transformed the reality.

And now that Jim Crow is gone, it is obvious to us that it was temporary.

But police violence is still here. Extrajudicial killings of young men of color by police are a regular occurrence. The deaths of Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell are currently part of our reality. The story seems bound to repeat itself.

Can we imagine that it won’t?

Can we envision a future in which the videos of police violence are not reminders of our present reality, but footage from a bygone era? Can we consider what it would be like if Ferguson became not just a flashpoint, but a turning point in our nation’s story?

If so, what will we do to change the story?

How can we react to these killings in a way that does not accept them as a recurring phenomenon?

What force will sweep through our country to transform this reality?

Kumbaya, my lord, Kumbaya.

War is Terrorism: Israel Jumps The Shark

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On May 19th, a man named Vincent Harding died.  

Dr. Harding was a beloved professor at Denver’s Illiff School of Theology. He was a renowned author and historian, and a major force behind the PBS Eyes on the Prize series. He was a veteran of the Southern Freedom Movement (which, he reminded us, was the true name for the “Civil Rights movement”) and a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  In fact, he was the author of Dr. King’s April 4th, 1967 speech “A Time to Break the Silence”, in which King first took a bold, costly public stance against the war in Vietnam. He was a powerful voice for peace and democracy.

He was also my friend. 

He was more than a friend, of course. He was a mentor, a teacher, and an elder. He was the sort of person who became an orienting force in the lives of those he met. Through his words and actions, he gave us plenty of material to think about- a lifetime’s worth, I suspect

Right now, for example, I am thinking of two of those things.

The first is the fact that, in 2012, Dr. Harding went on a trip to Israel and Palestine.

The second is the fact that there is not a single picture of Dr. Harding from the last ten years in which he is not wearing a button that says “War IS Terrorism”

I never got the chance to talk to him about either of these things. I missed the public talks he gave after his trip.  And, even though he wore that button constantly for at least ten years, I never asked what it meant to him.

I wish I had, because I believe his responses would have provided some much needed vocabulary about what is happening in Gaza this month. The more I think about it, the more I realize that  “War is Terrorism” is a profound description of what is unfolding there daily.

Let me explain.


WAR , TERRORISM?

Let’s start with terms. I bet you have a picture in your head for both “war” and ‘terrorism”. And I bet it looks something like this.

War is when two armies of combatants line up and face off in an attempt to capture territory from the other side. I suspect that most of us imagine the US Civil War and World War I to be examples of this sort of war. In this imagining, these battles occur at a safe distance from civilians. Civilian casualties are an anomaly.

Terrorism is when a group seeks to achieve its goals by directly attacking civilians, Most of us probably think of the September 11th attacks, Boko Haram, or maybe the Oklahoma City bombing, if we’re old enough. When Dr. Harding heard the word terrorism he often mentioned the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Ku Klux Klan.

When painted with these broad strokes (which is how I believe we paint the picture in our head), there is a stark contrast between the ethics of utilizing war and terrorism. During Wars, the targets are the opposing combatants, adults who (we assume) consented on some level to risk their lives. In acts of terrorism, the targets are civilians, innocent people who clearly did not consent to be targeted.

When juxtaposed with terrorism, war seems to occupy the clear moral high ground. But what is that high ground based on?

Nowhere is this questions more relevant than in the conversation about what is happening right now in Gaza and Israel.

TERRORISM IS WAR

It’s worth noting that there is a fairly common pattern to war and terrorism.

Wars (the proper wars we subconsciously envision) are generally waged by nation states using a state-funded army. Terrorism is generally committed (note the word we use- we don’t “commit” war) by non-state entities, groups of people without a well-funded army. Independence movements, stateless by definition, often turn to terrorism to wage conflict.

Israel’s own history provides an example. Before they had a state, the Zionist movement had a variety of underground militant organizations. One of them, the Irgun, used terrorism to seek to expel the British and establish a state. With this goal, the Irgun bombed the King David Hotel, killing 91 people. The man who ordered this bombing, Menachem Begin, went on to command a formal military when he was elected prime minister of Israel.

This history underscores an utterly predictable tendency. Military entities tend to fight with the most sophisticated level of weaponry they have. So, the haves use their armies, while the have-nots resort to other means.

I realize that it may sound like I am descending into moral relativism, or worse, refusing to take any moral stance whatsoever. But that’s not my intention at all.  I am certain Dr. Harding did not wear his “War IS Terrorism” button in order to excuse or justify terrorism. He did not wish to elevate terrorism onto the same moral plane as war. I believe, instead, he wore it to demote war to the same immoral plane as terrorism.

There is no better illustration than Gaza.

WAR VS TERRORISM

The media framing is as expected: Israel is fighting a war of self-defense, against Hamas, who is committing terrorism. Let’s leave this narrative unchallenged and just imagine it to be the full truth. The confrontation between Israel and Hamas, is, therefore, a showdown between war and terrorism.

Now, since September 11th there’s been a dominant public framework for how War and Terrorism interact. It is called the “War on Terror”.  In this framework, the ethical steps are clear.

1. Those who target civilians are identified as terrorists.

2. Targetting terrorists is ethically justified, and even obligated.

3.Civilian deaths that happen in the process constitute a necessary evil that is to be avoided as much as possible, noted as tragic when it happens, and ultimately blamed on the terrorists who made it necessary in the first place.

So long as the basic outlines of our definitions of “war” and “terrorism” keep their form, this logic seems to ring true. But in the course of Operation Protective Edge, the name given for Israel’s most recent actions in Gaza, what has happened has made a complete caricature in this logic.

What has happened is simple. Hamas, the group who, we are told, makes every effort to cause civilian casualties, has managed to kill only 3 people.

Israel, the nation who, we are told, makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties, has caused more than an estimated thousand civilian deaths, more than 300 of them children.

War at it’s most precise is taking exponentially more lives than terrorism at it’s most indiscriminate. This discrepancy is revealing a fundamental flaw in the logic of the war on terror, a detail that until now, perhaps, felt inconsequential.

There is a difference between targetting civilians and killing civilians.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

What happens, if one group declares that it targets civilians but kills very few, while another group declares that it does not target civilians but kills many?

The ineffectiveness of the Rockets fired from Gaza, while it does little to mitigate the immorality firing them indiscriminately, is certainly a welcome development.

But what about the effectiveness of Israel’s weaponry? The IDF, we are told, is the most moral army in the world. They declare repeatedly that they do not target civilians. And yet they do kill civilians. This begs the question- is a simple declaration of intent the only thing necessary to secure the moral high ground? Does saying “we don’t target civilians” excuse the actual killing of civilians?

That is the logic that we are being asked to accept in the world of missile defense systems, security barriers, drones, and targeted assassinations.

That is the logic that we are being asked to accept when the IDF strikes and kills civilians in UN shelters because there were militants nearby.

That is the logic that we are being asked to accept when 4 Palestinian children playing on the beach are killed in front of reporters and the response to the outcry is to deflect attention by quoting the Hamas charter.

That is the logic that we are being asked to accept when the IDF drops bombs in one of the most densely populated areas in the world and then refers to civilian they have killed as “Human Shields”.

If Hamas were to declare that all of the rockets currently being fired into Israel were NOT TARGETTING CIVILIANS but explicitly targeting IDF weaponry, would we accept that as valid?

Of course not.

We would not accept it. We should not accept it.  The families and loved ones of all those who have been killed most certainly do not accept it. This most obvious point sounds utterly trite, but is, of course, the one most profoundly fundamental and deserving of deep reflection.  The overwhelming loss of life is tragic and unacceptable.

A NEW FRAMEWORK 

Fortunately, the world does not seem to be accepting it either. In fact, the repeated strikes on hospitals and UN shelters seem to have been something of a turning point.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called it “a moral outrage and a criminal act”. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called it “totally indefensible”. Here on the internet, we might even say it was the moment when Israel jumped the shark. Because when you instruct civilians to vacate their homes and move to shelters, and then you strike and kill them in those very shelters, it becomes hard to take you seriously.

What Operation Protective Edge has proven, ultimately, is that anything terrorism aims to do, war now does better. War causes massive civilian casualties. War produces trauma, suffering, and needless destruction. War kills the sick and elderly. War makes normal life impossible for innocent victims. War spreads terror throughout the population, a threat of imminent attack backed up by an all too real track record of follow-through.

So, if it has not already been said, let me declare it here. The War on Terror is bunk. We need a new framework.

What is that framework? Well, to be clear, it is most certainly NOT one in which terrorism is validated as a means of war. I’m sure the families and loved ones of the 3 civilian casualties killed by rockets in Israel could underscore this for us.

The new framework we need is one which does not ask us to set aside our most human of responses- to bemoan, condemn, and seek to prevent the killing of innocent people. The new framework declares that, regardless of the perceived evil of one’s enemy or the perceived justness of one’s cause, taking actions which one knows are virtually guaranteed to create widespread civilian casualties is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

In other words, war IS terrorism.

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Sometimes I rap about really unimportant things…please tell eveybody!

The final Rhyme of the Day (for nostalgias sake…)

I just found out that James Kochalka ended his American Elf series after more than 14 years. I can only imagine what that’s like.
Or I should say, I can only imagine 1/14th of what that’s like…

I just found out that James Kochalka ended his American Elf series after more than 14 years. I can only imagine what that’s like.

Or I should say, I can only imagine 1/14th of what that’s like…