Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Hitler”

48 Hours After Veteran’s Day

Two days have passed since Veteran’s Day. It is a well-meaning attempt to show those who put their lives at risk to defend our freedom that we care and appreciate their sacrifice. Perhaps it moves a few, most likely those who have better adjusted to their past and control their present. But for those still fighting a war inside their heads, those who struggle because of a physical wound, who are denied the benefits and help they deserve, it might just be another day full of hollow rhetoric.

We are a society that believes in the need to defend itself, that we must be the biggest, best armed, and one of the better trained. We define this concept of defense in our own way. One key strategy is that we keep the field of conflict far away from mainland America. Whether you agree or not, it defines the 1st and 2nd World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. We fought our enemies far away from here. As a Brit whose father fought the Germans, and whose mother carries the scars of the Blitz, I can understand that. Hitler was on our doorstep even if he never crossed the English Channel.

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I can live with this principle and am willing to pay my share of the bill for financing our defense (taxes). But this social contract, which is held with those who serves, demands that we take care of them when they return and cannot smoothly reabsorb into society.

I have written a number of times about this embarrassing and inexplicable injustice, both in this blog and in my novel, Unwanted Heroes. In Israel, a country that lives under a far greater (proportionally) financial commitment to pay for its military, everyone serves in the army. This fact is probably why it is a given that a soldier, wounded inside or out, will receive whatever help s/he needs. It is, quite frankly, not an issue, and this is probably why I was so shocked when I came to live in the US and found homeless war veterans on too many street corners.

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A country that refuses to take care of those citizens, who have most earned that care, cannot be expected to build a moral and principled society. If we give our young people the message that it becomes everyone for themselves, then that is how they will behave. The consequences are fewer taxes gathered, more crime (street and white-collar), and a general erosion in respect and self-respect.

Our soldiers must be held up as the first line of defense for a society that is under attack…from itself. I don’t believe, in this technological age, that there is any rational explanation why a veteran must wait up to two years and more for their claims to be dealt with.

It is the result of a selfish society that doesn’t care, and has become numb to the needs of anyone outside of their social circle. We are failing our soldiers and failing the millennial generation who are watching, learning and judging.

We reap what we sow and we need to become responsible farmers before it is too late. It is 48 hours after Veteran’s Day and time is running out.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

What’s In A Name – Obamacare, Shutdown, Blackmail, Extortion.

Tom kind of stole my post with his excellent Whose Shutdown Is It Anyway. Here are two memorable quotes.

“John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Fox “News”, and just about every Republican politician out there is trying to pin this shutdown on President Obama. This is due to the fact that Obama stubbornly refuses to accept a Republican-crafted budget that takes away the funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Obama and other Democrats worked for years to make the law of the land.”

“It’s OK to disagree about this. It’s OK to hold the opinion that Obamacare is a bad thing. But don’t shut down the government and then claim it was the other guys’ doing. Though we can continue to debate health care, out here in the world, the law has passed. We supposedly have majority rule in this country, and the majority want serious health-care reform, and the majority made Obamacare the law.“ 

imagesI really want to hear from a coherent, thinking Republican (and there are plenty around to be fair), how s/he can justify shutting down the government to object to a democratically passed law? And how can our representatives have the audacity to deny government workers a salary, but continue to pay themselves? Leading by example? I think not.

But there was one thing that stood out for me and, as I listened to various radio stations, read a couple of articles, it occurred to me, that the President and the Democratic Party have lost the war on language.

Look again at the two exerts above. One talks about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while the other mentions Obamacare. One of the biggest mistakes this government made was to use and allow the use of the term Obamacare. I have yet to hear someone offer a coherent opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act without using the term Obamacare, and using it often. 

images-1It makes for a nice legacy and might flatter our leader, but democrats should refuse to use the word. Every time a Republican uses that term, they should stop him/her and ask that the correct term is used. It’s easy. Just ask what Obamacare is.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not defined as only for democrats. It is an essential tool to offer what is a basic human right: healthcare without personal bankruptcy. 

If we are going to discuss language, how about ditching the Government Shutdown – if this was a union, we would be calling it a strike. So the Republicans have gone on strike. Good luck dealing with labor disputes in the future!

And while we are at it, perhaps there are a few other words we might want to begin using to describe the shutdown: how about blackmail and extortion? Maybe callousness and immunity to suffering?

Not that I’m in favor of inflammatory rhetoric or imagery. Who had the audacity to design this? Thankfully, let it be said, many Republicans have come out against the comparisons of President Obama to Hitler. 

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Bk 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Remembering Blair Peach

I was fifteen years old when he died. I don’t think I had even met him, but I might have. We had participated in the same demonstrations. We had shared the same political agenda. Yet I took his death hard and it left its mark on me to this day.

Blair Peach and many other Englishmen and women were demonstrating against the unthinkable. Not even four decades had passed before Hitler’s Nazi army were massing on the Normandy shores to invade Britain, not forty years since six million of my people, a third of all the Jews on earth, had been murdered in the Holocaust.

And now the British National Party (might have still been called the National Front) was making alarming gains in local elections. As they marched through immigrant neighborhoods, many of us swelled the ranks of the Anti-Nazi League.

I had been brought up to trust the police. “If you get lost,” my mother drilled into me, “find a policeman. He’ll help you.” The neighborhood bobby was still a British value.

And yet, as I stood in the demonstration, preventing the Nazis from marching, the police charged us. I will never forget the one who punched me in the face. I had learned early to duck and weave. My school wasn’t in the nicest neighborhood and I was Jewish, with friends who were black, Asian and Irish. I just never expected a policeman to pop one at me without cause and then look on with no apology. To this day, I fear the uniform.

But Blair Peach, a man who had dedicated himself to teaching kids in a public school for children with special needs was not so lucky.  On April 2nd, 1979, he was pulled from the demonstration by members of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Patrol Group, and beaten unconscious. He  never woke and died 24 hours later. The  next day, over 10,000 of us took to the streets. Disband the SPG (Special Patrol Group) became our mantra. A huge cover up ensued. SPG members shaved their hair, mustaches and every uniform was laundered the next day before any evidence could be found. Many SPG officers, however, were members of the Nazi Party and used unauthorized weapons such as baseball bats, crowbars, and sledgehammers. No apology was ever given, no one brought to trial for police brutality.


I share this as the police patrol the streets of Cairo. I vividly remember an US army officer, flown in to take charge of the army in New Orleans after Katrina, yelling at his troops to put their weapons down. “We don’t turn them on our own citizens,” he barked.

A police officer, a soldier, like any one else has the right to defend him/herself when their safety is threatened. There is no other justification to use violence on anybody.

Blair Peach should be thinking of retirement right now, at the end of a distinguished career, giving four decades of himself to his students. They were denied him, his family were denied him and the police brutality that killed him is still being denied.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com

 

Community Gardens – Greening the Revolution One Neighborhood At A Time.

I am a child of the generation who fought World War Two.  England was a country hemmed in by Hitler’s armies with only 20 miles of water between them. The British entered a siege mentality. In the cities, they took empty plots of land and began growing vegetables. Dig for Victory was the mantra.

Thirty years on, when I grew up in London, these parcels of lands – allotments – commanded a waiting list of people still trapped in that siege mentality. The ability to grow your own crops was a reassuring subconscious feeling of freedom.

Fast-forward to today and we are seeing another agricultural grassroots consciousness. Community gardens are springing up all over the place. Here in the Bay Area, they are particularly prolific. But the motivation is different.

Today people seem to derive great satisfaction leaving their screen -dominated worlds for an afternoon to get dirt under their finger nails, want to make a connection with their food source, and are relieved to bear witness to a pure (organic) form of growth for the nourishment they will put into their mouths.

It doesn’t matter if you have no knowledge. There will be others ready to show you. Some go to the gardens to work, others to buy their produce.

And above all, it helps create an organic (pun intended) community. Perhaps there is a historic psyche, remembering the closeness of human bonds in our agrarian pasts.

For an oversight of community gardens, please visit the American Community Garden Association. (http://www.communitygarden.org/). They have a page for how begin a garden.

If you are in the Bay Area, here is a good source for community gardens near you. (http://www.sfgro.org/sfgardens.php)

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 


 

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