Bob Schwartz

Month: April, 2013

Days of Holocaust Remembrance: Different Trains

Holocaust Train Car
Monday was Yom HaShoah, the Day of Remembrance for victims and heroes of the Holocaust. In the United States, the entire week marks the National Days of Remembrance.

The phenomenon of the Holocaust has demanded the work of historians and others to record and chronicle. That mission moves ahead, and every year—more than seventy years later—adds new dimensions to the story. It has also demanded the work of activists, whose mission is transform the basest experiences into a brighter and more humane future.

But the artists are different kinds of workers and alchemists. They know that when we read or hear the details, or see the photos, we are apt put up a psychic wall, because we can take only so much. Enough: we are human, as were the victims and the masters of madness. Artists approach us, and the Holocaust, differently. Even if our psyches want to put up a wall, to give us some rest from the onslaught, we don’t know where to build it. So we are tricked into watching, listening, and learning in a different way with different senses.

Steve Reich is one of the masters of modern music. He composed a suite, Different Trains, inspired by the Holocaust. Each of the three movements represents the experience before, during and after the War.

Here is a YouTube video of a performance of the second movement, Different Trains – Europe-During the War. The composition features the recorded voices of Holocaust survivors.

If you are a Spotify user, you can listen to Different Trains.

At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., there is an actual train car used to transport Jews (above). This extraordinary museum contains artifacts and educational displays, the cumulative effect of which can be overwhelming. You might feel your spirit broken, tears in your eyes, and then, miraculously, your spirit begins to be healed, a little.

That’s why we have the historians, the activists and the artists. They are the doctors dedicated to healing the soul of a badly wounded world and trying to make sure it doesn’t get so sick, ever again.

Clinton, DOMA and GLAAD

Bill Clinton
People—including some politicians—hate politics, for a thousand reasons. Every one of those reasons is valid.

The answer to these reasons is the often cited quote from Otto von Bismarck: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”

Oh principles, oh pragmatism. We honor and admire the idealists, but in the end we support those who get things done—especially the things that we want done.

This is a timeline. The common thread is one of America’s current political dynasties.

  • 1996 – President Bill Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • 2003 – Hillary Clinton votes for the Iraq War Resolution.
  • 2008 – Hillary Clinton runs for President.
  • 2011 – Bill Clinton comes out in favor of marriage equality.
  • 2013 – The Iraq War ends.
  • 2013 – Bill Clinton calls DOMA unconstitutional.
  • 2013 – DOMA is argued before the United States Supreme Court.
  • 2013 – Hillary Clinton comes out in favor of marriage equality.
  • 2013 – Bill Clinton to receive the Advocate for Change Award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
  • 2016 – Hillary Clinton runs for President?

People who do things for political reasons, or support those who do, should never be ashamed of that. Otto von Bismarck, unifier of the German Empire in the nineteenth century, certainly wasn’t.

But the “art of the possible” does create some tight and twisted places that Houdini might have trouble escaping from. Unless, of course, he had help.

Bill Clinton’s statement before signing DOMA includes this: “I also want to make clear to all that the enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.”

Here is DOMA, which has been the law of the United States for the last seventeen years, and may or may not still be the law after the Supreme Court decision.

The statute reads:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

It also changed the definition of marriage in U.S. law:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Evolution—political, philosophical, or most other kinds—can be a wonderful thing, particularly if it leads to freedom and fairness. But evolution presupposes a prior state, which might be called “less evolved” or “unevolved.”

Some people approach this by pretending that the pre-evolutionary state didn’t exist. They may also be unwilling to acknowledge that the pre-evolutionary state was politically motivated, or that the evolution itself may be. Remember, the art of the possible is only possible by paying no attention to the man, or woman, behind the curtain. Once in a while, they even apologize for it, or contort themselves as John Kerry did, well-meaningly, about his prior support for the Iraq War: “I was for it before I was against it.”

Still, this is America. We love second chances and second acts. Consider the late Senator Robert Byrd, who emerged from the depths of racism to become a champion of Constitutional rights. But while it may not be fitting to punish people for having once upon a time acted in a powerfully less enlightened way, this doesn’t always mean they have to be rewarded. Or awarded.

198 Ways to Make Change

Gene Sharp
The Albert Einstein Institution may be the most important organization you’ve never heard of, and Gene Sharp may be the most important person. Since 1983, he has dedicated himself to advancing the study and use of strategic nonviolent action in conflicts throughout the world.

These are just a few of the headlines he has garnered in the past year or so:

The New Statesman – Gene Sharp: The Machiavelli of non-violence.
The Progressive – Nonviolence Strategist Gets Deserved Recognition.
Deutsche Welle – Alternative Nobel Winner says non-violence works.
The New York Times – The Quiet American.
CNN – Gene Sharp: A dictator’s worst nightmare.
The Nation – Gene Sharp, Nonviolent Warrior.
The Boston Globe – Sharp: The man who changed the world.

His book From Dictatorship to Democracy is an introduction to the use of nonviolent action to change regimes. It has been translated into seventeen languages and has served as a pro-democracy guide for movements around the world. This and other books are available free for download on the website.

Even if you are not living in a dictatorship and are not planning to topple a government, you will find a very small and very valuable item at AEI. Think of it as a jewel of social action. It is a two-page list of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. You will find the list below.

For those who want to make change, big or small, the keys are commitment and creativity. We’ve seen some inspired actions take hold. We’ve also seen some well-meaning initiatives pop-up and die almost as quickly. There is no blame in this. Sometimes all that’s needed is a fresh spring wind to revive the spirit of change.

This list is that spring wind. Look it over. This may go without saying, but be well aware that a number of these actions are obviously aimed at a serious lack of or breach of democracy, and are appropriately serious for those situations. All of them necessarily involve social, economic, legal, moral and ethical issues that must be considered. Maybe you will find something to do. Maybe you won’t do anything, but will be uplifted by knowing that such things can be done, have been done, and have moved communities and whole nations—today, in this very world—a little way along a path to freedom and justice.

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action
Albert Einstein Institution

The Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion

Formal Statements
1. Public Speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public statements
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions

Communications with a Wider Audience
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting

Group Representations
13. Deputations
14. Mock awards
15. Group lobbying
16. Picketing
17. Mock elections

Symbolic Public Acts
18. Displays of flags and symbolic colors
19. Wearing of symbols
20. Prayer and worship
21. Delivering symbolic objects
22. Protest disrobings
23. Destruction of own property
24. Symbolic lights
25. Displays of portraits
26. Paint as protest
27. New signs and names
28. Symbolic sounds
29. Symbolic reclamations
30. Rude gestures

Pressures on Individuals
31. “Haunting” officials
32. Taunting officials
33. Fraternization
34. Vigils

Drama and Music
35. Humorous skits and pranks
36. Performances of plays and music
37. Singing

Processions
38. Marches
39. Parades
40. Religious processions
41. Pilgrimages
42. Motorcades

Honoring the Dead
43. Political mourning
44. Mock funerals
45. Demonstrative funerals
46. Homage at burial places

Public Assemblies
47. Assemblies of protest or support
48. Protest meetings
49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
50. Teach-ins

Withdrawal and Renunciation
51. Walk-outs
52. Silence
53. Renouncing honors
54. Turning one’s back

The Methods Of Social Noncooperation

Ostracism of Persons
55. Social boycott
56. Selective social boycott
57. Lysistratic nonaction
58. Excommunication
59. Interdict

Noncooperation with Social Events, Customs, and Institutions
60. Suspension of social and sports activities
61. Boycott of social affairs
62. Student strike
63. Social disobedience
64. Withdrawal from social institutions

Withdrawal from the Social System
65. Stay-at-home
66. Total personal noncooperation
67. “Flight” of workers
68. Sanctuary
69. Collective disappearance
70. Protest emigration (hijrat)

The Methods of Economic Noncooperation: Economic Boycotts

Actions by Consumers
71. Consumers’ boycott
72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
73. Policy of austerity
74. Rent withholding
75. Refusal to rent
76. National consumers’ boycott
77. International consumers’ boycott

Action by Workers and Producers
78. Workmen’s boycott
79. Producers’ boycott

Action by Middlemen
80. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott

Action by Owners and Management
81. Traders’ boycott
82. Refusal to let or sell property
83. Lockout
84. Refusal of industrial assistance
85. Merchants’ “general strike”

Action by Holders of Financial Resources
86. Withdrawal of bank deposits
87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
88. Refusal to pay debts or interest
89. Severance of funds and credit
90. Revenue refusal
91. Refusal of a government’s money

Action by Governments
92. Domestic embargo
93. Blacklisting of traders
94. International sellers’ embargo
95. International buyers’ embargo
96. International trade embargo

The Methods Of Economic Noncooperation: The Strike

Symbolic Strikes
97. Protest strike
98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)

Agricultural Strikes
99. Peasant strike
100. Farm Workers’ strike

Strikes by Special Groups
101. Refusal of impressed labor
102. Prisoners’ strike
103. Craft strike
104. Professional strike

Ordinary Industrial Strikes
105. Establishment strike
106. Industry strike
107. Sympathetic strike

Restricted Strikes
108. Detailed strike
109. Bumper strike
110. Slowdown strike
111. Working-to-rule strike
112. Reporting “sick” (sick-in)
113. Strike by resignation
114. Limited strike
115. Selective strike

Multi-Industry Strikes
116. Generalized strike
117. General strike

Combination of Strikes and Economic Closures
118. Hartal
119. Economic shutdown

The Methods Of Political Noncooperation

Rejection of Authority
120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
121. Refusal of public support
122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance

Citizens’ Noncooperation with Government
123. Boycott of legislative bodies
124. Boycott of elections
125. Boycott of government employment and positions
126. Boycott of government depts., agencies, and other bodies
127. Withdrawal from government educational institutions
128. Boycott of government-supported organizations
129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions

Citizens’ Alternatives to Obedience
133. Reluctant and slow compliance
134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
135. Popular nonobedience
136. Disguised disobedience
137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
138. Sitdown
139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
140. Hiding, escape, and false identities
141. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws

Action by Government Personnel
142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
143. Blocking of lines of command and information
144. Stalling and obstruction
145. General administrative noncooperation
146. Judicial noncooperation
147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents
148. Mutiny

Domestic Governmental Action
149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units

International Governmental Action
151. Changes in diplomatic and other representations
152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
154. Severance of diplomatic relations
155. Withdrawal from international organizations
156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
157. Expulsion from international organizations

The Methods Of Nonviolent Intervention

Psychological Intervention
158. Self-exposure to the elements
159. The fast
a) Fast of moral pressure
b) Hunger strike
c) Satyagrahic fast
160. Reverse trial
161. Nonviolent harassment

Physical Intervention
162. Sit-in
163. Stand-in
164. Ride-in
165. Wade-in
166. Mill-in
167. Pray-in
168. Nonviolent raids
169. Nonviolent air raids
170. Nonviolent invasion
171. Nonviolent interjection
172. Nonviolent obstruction
173. Nonviolent occupation

Social Intervention
174. Establishing new social patterns
175. Overloading of facilities
176. Stall-in
177. Speak-in
178. Guerrilla theater
179. Alternative social institutions
180. Alternative communication system

Economic Intervention
181. Reverse strike
182. Stay-in strike
183. Nonviolent land seizure
184. Defiance of blockades
185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
186. Preclusive purchasing
187. Seizure of assets
188. Dumping
189. Selective patronage
190. Alternative markets
191. Alternative transportation systems
192. Alternative economic institutions

Political Intervention
193. Overloading of administrative systems
194. Disclosing identities of secret agents
195. Seeking imprisonment
196. Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws
197. Work-on without collaboration
198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government

Arm Postal Workers

United States Postal Service
It seems that the National Rifle Association and an incongruously growing number of fearful politicians are currently lining up behind a proposal to train and arm teachers to fight the threat of gun violence. In the view of some, this makes more sense than requiring universal background checks and limiting assault weapons and oversized ammunition magazines.

The scenario is that when psychopaths like Adam Lanza try to force their way into Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, they will be shocked and awed to find themselves facing a militia of teachers, a special forces unit capable of both taking out terrorists and teaching reading to six-year-olds.

Good plan. But it doesn’t go far enough.

It is time to arm postal workers.

We know, to begin, that postal workers have faced their own sort of psychopathic terror over the years. Not often, and certainly not often enough to have earned the undeserved meme “going postal.” But on the principle that you can never have too many guns in the hands of good guys and gals, it would be a welcome preventative.

On top of that, postal workers walking their delivery routes regularly navigate the mean streets of America, just as our police do. Why not, then, train, arm and deputize these postal workers as sworn peace officers? This has many benefits: the streets will be safer, and the Postal Service will be playing a vital role—a role that should fend off any questions about their budgetary problems, especially with changes in the use of mail.

Part of being a good American is coming up with good ideas to keep our country safe—especially ideas that increase the number of guns and gun owners. Saving the Postal Service is just a bonus. You’re welcome, NRA.

The Year Begins with Baseball

Mom Marlins
The New Year finally begins. It is Opening Day for Major League Baseball.

Non-baseball people are turning away with a lack of interest or understanding. Even non-sports people know that football long ago took over as America’s pastime. The Super Bowl v. the World Series? Who are you kidding? When’s the last time the Rolling Stones performed at a World Series halftime. (Note: There is no halftime in baseball. Just a brief break known as the seventh inning stretch, where we sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, not a Stones song.)

If baseball has somehow been eclipsed, it may be symptomatic. Whatever it is that has made football more popular than baseball might not be such a good thing. There are tomes by eminent scholars written about this. The time element alone is telling. Those leaning towards short attention spans and busy lives like football because something is always happening and it is time-constrained by a clock. For non-baseball fans, there are long stretches where nothing seems to be going on in a baseball game, except most of the players just standing around. Games can theoretically go on forever, and sometimes they seem to, exceeding five hours. Once again the chorus asks: Who are you kidding?

George Carlin, one of the sharptest and funniest observers of American life, focused on the differences between baseball and football. You can read the complete text and listen to a recording. Here’s an excerpt:

Baseball and football are the two most popular spectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to be able to tell us something about ourselves and our values.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football:

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle….

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.

In football you wear a helmet.
In baseball you wear a cap….

In football you receive a penalty.
In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.
In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.
Baseball has the sacrifice….

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! I hope I’ll be safe at home!

There are dozens of books containing art, poetry and writing about baseball. The other sports may have some, but not of the quantity or the caliber of these. As pointed out before, and it will be pointed out again, for a brief moment in the late 1980s, cut tragically short by illness, A. Bartlett Giamatti was the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Bart Giamatti was the President of Yale University, a professor of literature, and a writer of note. When and only when the NFL, NBA, NHL, or any other sports league decides to appoint a person of equal credentials as their commissioner, then and only then will it be worth having a conversation about the big picture relative merits.

Bart Giamatti also wrote the quintessential essay about baseball. The Green Fields of the Mind is written not about Opening Day, but about the last day of the season for his beloved Boston Red Sox in 1977. He didn’t live to see that one of baseball’s most hapless teams would go on to become a championship powerhouse years later.

The essay is a poetic take not only on the refrain of baseball fans everywhere—“wait until next year”—but on the way that refrain works in our lives. It reflects the progress from the hopes of spring to the dimming of prospects in the fall, but only in the meantime. There is no justice in an excerpt of it, but here is one anyway:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.…

That is why it breaks my heart, that game–not because in New York they could win because Boston lost; in that, there is a rough justice, and a reminder to the Yankees of how slight and fragile are the circumstances that exalt one group of human beings over another. It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.

Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.

Finally, a rare personal note. Many, many families have memories tied up with sports. I am no exception. Those memories aren’t important because the game is, just as the game isn’t important because of the memories. They are just tied up in a package that you open on occasions. Opening Day is one of them. Above is a photo of my Mom, a few years before she passed away. She is watching a Marlins game. As Bart Giamatti wrote, “there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts.”

That’s another reason we love baseball and are happy it is Opening Day again.