Category Archives: News

ATTACK MODE (2010)

(My Peace and Justice Files column from September, 2010)

attack

“Turn on the TV, we’re under attack.” As September began, James J. Lee attacked the headquarters of the Discovery Channel, taking hostages and issuing a list of demands, in which he attacked “Kate Plus Eight,” among other things. Apparently, he felt that Mother Earth herself was under attack, and he didn’t think that Discovery programming attacked global warming or overpopulation hard enough. So, police attacked in response, killing Lee. Al Sharpton attacked Glenn Beck for trying to co-opt Martin Luther King’s legacy, evangelical Christians attacked Beck for being a Mormon, and Beck attacked President Barack Obama’s faith as “a perversion of the gospel.”

The “Bleacher Report” says this year we should expect to see much more of an aerial attack from the Florida Gators than the past few years. Hamas attacked some Israelis, killing four, so you know the Israelis are going to attack someone in response, right? Nonetheless, Netanyahu and Abbas say they’re willing to attack some the thorniest problems surrounding the peace process. Turkey is still miffed at Israel for attacking that flotilla of humanitarian workers headed for Gaza, although other people defend the Israeli soldiers, whom they claim were attacked with clubs and iron bars by the people on the ships.

“Who’s behind these attacks, anyway?” Hurricane Earl is about to attack the coast of North Carolina. A Muslim imam has been under attack all summer for proposing to build a cultural center a few blocks from the site of the Ground Zero attacks in New York City. The people attacking the imam have been attacked as being Islamophobic racists, but they say they’re still outraged by the 9/11 attacks. A Muslim cab driver was attacked in his cab by a photographer who had just returned from filming attacks with the Marines in Afghanistan.

“We’re in full-attack mode now, by golly!” A mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee was the target of an arson attack. Some kids in Carlton, NY, are accused of a drive-by attack harassing a Sufi mosque. Sarah Palin maintains that the American way of life is under attack. I had a major panic attack myself in January of 2008. Newt Gingrich attacks Obama’s “secular-socialist machine,” and some of Obama’s critics have attacked the veracity of the President’s citizenship. US-led aerial attacks killed 16 civilians near Kandahar, some of whom were reportedly election campaign workers.

The schoolkids are back to attacking their books, and here in Honesdale it’s football season, and you know what that means – it’s time for the “Red and Black Attack!” Political campaigns are working on new series of attack ads, in preparation for the November elections. “The attack came before dawn, while the village was asleep.” Shark attacks against swimmers in coastal waters have grabbed headlines. Police are investigating a series of acid-throwing attacks in the Northwest. Bee colonies are under attack from a mysterious illness. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton thinks that Israel should already have attacked Iran’s nuclear program by now. An Iranian newspaper has attacked Carla Bruni, the wife of French President Sarkozy, as a “prostitute” for defending the rights of Iranian women from attack by conservative clerics.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) renewed calls for a missile defense system, saying “I think we are naked in terms of an attack on the East Coast.” Archaeologists have attacked BP’s plans to start exploratory oil drilling off the coast of Libya. Two people died in Port Huron, MI, as a result of one of a number of recent attacks around the country involving machetes. Some conservatives attacked Ann Coulter for speaking at an event for gay Republicans, and of course she attacked them right back. The Defense Department recently confirmed a major cyber-attack against US military computers. Wikileaks founder Julius Assange contends the rape charges against him are part of an attack campaign following Wikileaks’ release of a huge number of military attack reports from Iraq. A fungus has attacked the bat population in the Northeast, and is spreading.

So when Obama says that our days of attacking Iraq are over… somehow, for some reason, that gives me little comfort.

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Notes for a Manifesto

The mere removal of Donald Trump from office through impeachment as per Article 2 of the Constitution, or even simply relieving him of his Presidential duties as per the 25th Amendment, would be insufficient remedy.

  • The flawed electoral system that allowed him to assume the most powerful elected office on the planet would still be there.
  • The corrupt socio-political-economic system that produced him and made him a “success” would still be there.
  • The cynical power brokers who thought it would be a good idea to install him as President would still be there.
  • The greedy, shortsighted economic interests that thought his Presidency would be a good thing for their bottom lines would still be there.
  • The ideologically driven right-wing media/propaganda system that deceived and beguiled Americans into supporting him would still be there.
  • The deliberately-crippled educational system that produced the people that either supported him or apathetically stayed away from voting would still be there.

They could do it all again. And next time it could be even worse.

They must all be repaired, reformed, transformed, replaced, or demolished.

PEACE AND JUSTICE FILES: HEAVY THOUGHTS ABOUT LEITKULTUR

(My column for May 2017)

I have “gone to ground” for the time being in Krefeld, a city of about 225,000, near Düsseldorf in western Germany. I am staying with my cousin and his wife while I figure out what’s supposed to happen next.

Cities like Krefeld throughout Germany have become the endpoints for the journeys of many conflict-displaced refugees (“Flüchtlinge” in German) – around 3500, I am told. There is also a much larger number of economic migrants who have come looking for work, some of whom have set up businesses. Turkish barbershops, convenience stores (“Kiosks”), and pizzerias are everywhere; the latter frequently also serve “Döner,” a halal variation of the Greek gyros.

Döner has become so popular in Germany – as has, say, Mexican food in the US – that one could almost say it’s become part of the culture.

And as you might guess, that kind of development bothers some people.

The German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, set off a bit of a stir here recently with an op-ed in which he attempted to articulate some basic values of what Germans call “Leitkultur.” This word means “leading culture” or “guiding culture” – though sometimes it gets translated as “dominant culture.”

Minister de Maiziere’s essay generally makes unsurprising and not-particularly controversial points about the important roles played by history, philosophy, and the arts in the shaping of modern German society, and the value of hard work and education. (He gives special shoutouts to Bach and Goethe, for example, though not Nietzche or Wagner.) But a couple of his suggested principles seem specifically intended to be direct swipes at certain aspects of Muslim culture. “We are an open society. We show our face. We are not Burka,” he writes.

To this last point, the Gruenen Jugend, the youth wing of the Green Party, responded curtly: “We are not Lederhosen, either.” De Maizere’s piece has drawn similar scoffs and critiques from other politicians and organizations. (If you’d like to explore further, I suggest the English-language website Deutsche Welle, which has many articles on this topic.)

My cousin thinks that the whole kerfuffle is a pre-electoral stunt – there are state elections coming soon, and Federal ones in the fall – and the discussion will wither away thereafter. He’s probably right. Issues of culture and identity are hot buttons, after all, guaranteed to touch a nerve and bring out the voters. But it’s a critical discussion that should not just be kept alive, but expanded.

Part of de Maizere’s problem, I think, is that in stopping at the national level he fails to take the next logical step. He writes, “We remain, non-negotiably, part of the West, proud Europeans, and enlightened patriots,” but it doesn’t occur to him that there might be another layer, a global “Leitweltkultur” if you will, a set of common human values that can guide the relationships between nations, cultures, and individuals alike. This would include not just the already largely acknowledged values of human rights and mutual respect, but a clearer articulation of the rights – and responsibilities – of both “hosts” and “guests.” In the unsettled times to come, as more people are uprooted by cultural and climactic unrest, this will become increasingly important.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’re about to go grocery shopping. We’ll pick up some currywurst, maybe… perhaps some hummus and falafel… After all, it’s all good.

Holiday Letter 2016 (Skip’s part only)

My wife & daughter have stronger senses of privacy that I do, so we generally don’t put our family holiday letter up on the Net, or even send it out as email. (You’re either on The List or you’re not.)

But this year, it so happened that I took up one side of the page all by myself, and I kinda don’t mind who knows what’s in it. This is because (a) there are a couple of links in there to stuff I feel is pretty important and could use some wider propagation, and (b) there’s nothing sensitive or particularly “private” about it…  So, if you’re interested, and you haven’t gotten your copy in the mail, check it out by clicking the link below – and if not, then “Happy Merries!” to you anyway!

Skip’s Holiday Letter 2016 (PDF)

Parallel Universe News: Trump Forces Take Wichita

In one of the parallel universes where Hillary won, pro-Trump forces have taken over Wichita and declared an independent republic. National Guard troops have been ordered to stay out of the city by Gov. Brownback, and remain stationed in the suburbs. Reports of “ethnic cleansing” of neighborhoods could not be confirmed, since all reporters and media personnel have been ejected except for those working at the local FOX station, which is reporting that everything is “fine and under control.”

President Obama and President-Elect Clinton have urged calm, and called for talks with the rebel leaders, whom Clinton says “have legitimate grievances that must be heard if we are to move forward together as a country.” Sporadic fighting continues in Atlanta, Austin, St. Louis, and other major cities, though casualties remain light so far.

There has still been no comment from Trump Tower, where Donald Trump and his family are under 24-hour protection from the NYPD, the Secret Service, and Trump’s own security forces. NYC Mayor De Blasio has extended the protective cordon around Trump Tower for an additional block in all directions. The 6 PM curfew for non-shoppers remains in effect, as does a ban on all drone flights within the city.

Announcement: CITIZENS CREATIVE

Announcing a new venture (well, not a new venture, really, just a better name for what I’ve been doing all along):

The purposes of the CITIZENS CREATIVE rubric are twofold:

  1. To encourage the development of creativity in thought and expression
  2. To encourage the application of creative thought to the social and political challenges we face.

I pursue these goals in a number of ways – through conducting workshops, giving performances, and writing. As I said above, this is actually what I’ve been doing all along – but having a name and a framework like this, I think, helps to define and focus my efforts.  Under this heading, I could also publish books (“Citizens Creative Press”!), present performances (“Citizens Creative Productions”!), sponsor conferences, etc.

For now, it’s just a plain ol’ sole-proprietorship kinda thing… but later, we might look at making it a real live nonprofit with memberships and swag and everything.  But you can certainly  help – any contributions towards getting this endeavor off the ground (and also, incidentally, keeping yours truly on top of the ground) would be much appreciated… ! Checks can be sent to PO Box 368, Honesdale PA 18431;  prayers, beams, and good wishes can be sent directly, or via the Higher Power of your choice.

The first scheduled activity will be the Green Corpuscle production I mentioned before (working title FOURTEEN CHILDREN), which is also being made possible in part by a grant from the Puffin Foundation.  Plans for other activities and any other news will be reported as they happen!

Local Performer Receives Grant

GREEN CORPUSCLE
PRESS RELEASE

28 June 2010
for immediate release
for more information contact Skip Mendler, Director, 570-352-5769

MENDLER RECEIVES GRANT FOR “FOURTEEN CHILDREN” PROJECT

(HONESDALE) – Local performer and activist Skip Mendler has received a grant from the Puffin Foundation of Teaneck, NJ to develop a new production exploring Americans’ reactions to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Tentatively entitled “Fourteen Children,” the production will combine material from existing texts (such as Caryl Churchill’s controversial play “Seven Jewish Children”) and original material created collaboratively by the performers.

Skip Mendler has been a professional performer since graduating from Harvard College in 1978. He was a member of the TOUCH Mime Theatre in North Carolina from 1984 to 1988, and has also performed with John Bromberg’s puppetry group Pictures Moved by Strings. His latest solo performance, “Ballots, Bullets, and Bagatelles,” premiered at the North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL) in October 2006. He is interested in using the arts to promote social progress and economic justice in ways that entertain and encourage as well as inform. “Fourteen Children” will be the first project of a new venture, Green Corpuscle, which will create and perform works designed to do just that.

Rehearsals will begin in mid-July, with performances slated to begin in late September or early October. People who may be interested in participating in the production can contact Skip at 570-352-5769, or via email at smendler@yahoo.com.

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