May 6, 2007

The logic of occupation, the corruption of empire is what the liberals refuse to challenge–and in that refusal they show themselves as accomplices, hypocrites, and apologists for misery and mayhem and murder. Occupation always elicits the same series of idiotic and impossibly thick observations: we mean well so why do they resist us? I can’t tell friend from foe on the streets so who should I shoot? I’m trying to help them so why aren’t they gratefully working harder to help me help them? And on and on…

Nationanal Propoganda Radio had a heart-warming puff piece last week about an “ethics” course taught at West Point– oxymoronic in the extreme, though the reporter didn’t seem to notice. The course is “Winning the Peace” and the premise is that winning wars is the easy part for  the US military machine, but that those nettlesome hearts and minds–have we learned nothing?– aren’t so easy to capture or subdue, especially after they’ve been invaded, destroyed, killed and maimed and tortured. The little scenarios for ethical reflection and discussion are about whether to pay a young boy to photograph suspected terrorists, things of that ilk. No ethical discussion of whether occupation and preemptive war is moral. No talk of saying “no” or speaking the unwanted truth to power. So luckily our paid killers are being asked to behave well in a hell of their own creation– to be ethical actors at the level of a slave-holder who paid his bills on time and always attended church on Sunday.

Big News!!!

May 5, 2007

A Pentagon study reveals that young people who experience combat for extended periods find their mental health at great risk. DUH!

Viet Nam vets still suffer from PTSD and other mental illnesses, and now a fresh batch for the slaughter and the misery that follows being made into a killing thing.

These old men who order kids to war are criminals and should be  impeached and taken out of civilized society.

Trudging Toward Freedom

May 2, 2007

The May 1 marches for immigrant and human rights were a marvelous and magic moment for those of us who chose to become a small part of this community-in the-making. The mediot-savants reported crowd estimates and missed the heart of the matter: folks stood up and named themselves in new and surprising ways, they faced one another as authentic and free, they pointed to something in need of repair, transformed their sense of who they are as well as who they might  become, and in that moment they altered the world. A public space emerged and a vision of freedom appeared. That cannot easily be stuffed back into a corked bottle and tossed under an anonymous rock.

War Criminals

May 2, 2007

The current “human face” masking the massive war crimes in Iraq belongs to General David Petraeus who said in an interview this week that young men selling trinkets in the large outdoor markets around Baghdad was a mark of real progress since  when left idle these same young men were prone to violence. Hmmmmmm…maybe we need these markets and trinkets at home so that our idle young men won’t be bribed and seduced to travel the globe in the service of the most violent  government on earth.

A Modest Proposal

April 29, 2007

A state by state referendum, Choose either A or B:

A) People will only be allowed to marry other people of the same sex, or

B) The state will sanction no marriages whatsoever, leaving that business to religious groups, sects and cults, or self-defined communities of friends and comrades.

Basic rights (including the right to decent health care) and full recognition of one’s humanity do not depend on one’s marital status.

ps: Only GLBTQ people shall be allowed to enlist in the military. Keep it simple.

Brian on JJ

April 20, 2007

Thoughts on the tenth anniversary of the passing of John “JJ” Jacobs (1947-1997), the author of the original 1969 SDS position paper “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”. He taught us internationalism.

Neither high nor very far,
Neither emperor nor king,
You are only a little milestone,
Which stands at the edge of the highway.
To people passing by
You point the right direction
And stop them from getting lost.
You tell them of the distance
For which they still must journey.
Your service is not a small one,
And people will always remember you.
– Ho Chi Minh

We were young, restless, homegrown revolutionary internationalists, children of the civil rights era and the war in Vietnam. At some point we decided that we had had enough and we would take our stand and go to war.  There were armed robberies, jailbreaks, and bombings. We will tell you that we did them but none of us will ever tell you who did what. We were driven by that fundamental idea that no American life is more valuable or sacred than any other life. And that stoned, hope-to-die, John Brown internationalism will be the final enduring legacy of the Weather. I am eternally proud to have been part of it.
               Brian Flanagan

Ann Lynn Lopez Schubert, 1952-2006

December 9, 2006

Ann Schubert died in Chicago on December 2,2006 after a long illness— her life-long love and devoted partner, Bill Schubert, and their two children, Heidi and Henry Lopez Schubert, were by her side.

Ann earned her Ph.D at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1993. She concluded her stunning dissertation with these words: “Nearly fifteen years ago, before our two children were born, my husband and I wrote that in order for education to be genuinely for children or anyone, it also had to be of and by them. By this I mean that students must be involved in authentic ways in the conceptualization of purpose, method and evaluation of consequences—the whole process of education. While it seems clear from my own experiences that the more formal the system of education the less education centers on meaning and sense of direction or purpose, there exist possibilities to create occasions for such learning through study of supportive and resistive factors, study of the environment and its history, ongoing dialogue with one’s students, subversion, creativity, sheer determination, trust, courage, and love.”

That’s Ann, pure and straight-forward.

Ann’s inquiry explored the possibility of employing progressive approaches in a city school, a dance class, and a unique home education project. It’s an original and ground-breaking narrative study, focused on the deep meaning-making perspectives of participants. She writes: “urban…schools are experienced…as places of value, diversity, freedom, possibility, and complexity rather than barren wastelands of filth’ corruption, decay, and vice…Until we learn to value the idea of the city,we can expect to see the streets paved with anger…”

Ann continues to teach me in ways subtle and surprising—- her words enlighten me and her life emboldens me.

I miss her very much.

2006 Carolina SHOUT: Act III

March 29, 2006

Introduction: The most innovative and propulsive celebration of teaching that I know is the brainchild of Craig Kridel, the brilliant Renaissance man and professor at the University of South Carolina, and it’s called CAROLINA SHOUT! Here’s a write up from Spring, 2006.

The drama of education is always a narrative of change. Act I is life as we find it—the given, the known or the received, the already settled and assumed, the status quo. But there’s always something more to do, something more to learn and to know, something more to experience and accomplish. Act II is the fireworks, the wild upheaval and the crazy dissonance, the vast experience of discovery and surprise, the intense energy of remodeling and refashioning. Act III is the achievement of an altered angle of regard, new ways of knowing and behaving, a different way of seeing and being. Transformation. Act III, of course, will one day be recast as a new Act I, and the never-ending journey toward the new will begin again. Teaching changes lives.
This sense of growth and change, learning and transformation, fireworks and upheaval, was on full display at the 2006 CAROLINA SHOUT! This was Act III, and it channeled all the love and hope, all the hugs and tears from Acts I and II, with some spice and flavor—like any home-cooked meal—all its own.
Kenny Carr and the Tigers, founding partners, co-authors and co-conspirators with Craig Kridel in this most unique and uplifting testimonial to teachers, have become pit orchestra and indispensable cultural marker for the SHOUT. When Kenny hit it, the line of horns came blasting to life, and everyone leapt up, our spirits rising in righteous appreciation. It was a joy to behold.
Ten-year-old Aileene Roberts shouted out with remarkable poise and grace for her teacher Ms. Tiffany Smith, whose tiny baby son Jeremiah stole the show as well as the hearts of those of us who took turns holding him during the proceedings. Traci Young Cooper, national Teacher of the Year in 2001, honored her Columbia High School French teacher, Madame Lilease Hall, this diminutive yet regal presence who “opened worlds to us,” and believed that her students could overcome any barriers to their dreams. And Craig Melvin, WIS news anchor, thanked Doug Brandon and Michael Fanning for never giving up on kids, and for creating idiosyncratic environments that were filled with interesting, provocative, and nourishing opportunities to learn, and kept him engaged in spite of his predilections to do otherwise.
A sense of opportunity and renewal—for individuals, for whole communities and societies—was at the heart of it all, the ineffable magic drawing our spirits back to the classroom and the school again and again. Like these students and their teachers, we felt ourselves becoming more powerfully and self-consciously alive, challenged toward further knowledge, enlightenment, and human community, toward liberation.
Here was a faith that every child and every student and every teacher as well comes as a whole and multidimensional being—a gooey biological wonder, pulsing with the breath and beat of life itself, evolved and evolving, shaped by genetics, twisted and gnarled by the unique experiences of living. Each has as well a complex set of circumstances that makes his or her life understandable and sensible, bearable or unbearable. Each is unique, each walks a singular path across the earth, each has a mother and a father, each with a distinct mark to be made, and each is somehow sacred. That insight, that understanding is something worth shouting about. SHOUT!