The Union Stock Yard: The beginning and end of the line
What can we say about the Holocaust, and can we in any way talk of it in the same breath as the routine slaughter of billions of animals on today's factory farms?
In a thoughtful and thought-provoking contribution to the study of animals and the Holocaust, The Holocaust and the Henmaid's Tale, Karen Davis makes the case that significant parallels can, and must, be drawn between the Holocaust and the institutionalized abuse of billions of animals in factory farms. Carefully setting forth the conditions that must be met when one instance of oppression is used metaphorically to illuminate another, Davis demonstrates the value of such comparisons in exploring the invisibility of the oppressed, historical and hidden suffering, the idea that some groups were "made" to serve others through suffering and sacrificial death, and other concepts that reveal powerful connections between animal and human experience, as well as human traditions and tendencies of which we all should be aware.
In Eternal Treblinka, scholar Charles Patterson shows the links between the Chicago meat-packing industry, the assembly lines of Henry Ford, and Hitler's embrace of mechanized slaughter and eugenics perfected on animals: a deadly combination that led to the killing of over six million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and communists. Thoughtfully showing the ideology of purity and dehumanization that led to the Holocaust, Patterson reveals how the fascist mentality exists even today in the destruction of life unworthy of life in the factory farms of today.
In 1986, Jens Soering, a naive and arrogant undergraduate, made a terrible decision.
Under the spell of a disturbed young woman, he became implicated in the horrendous murders of her parents. Infatuated and poorly advised, Soering assumed that as a German citizen he could take the blame for the murders, be extradited, and serve a limited sentence in his home country. He was wrong. He was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and placed in a maximum-security prison in Virginia. Twenty years later, and with little hope of parole or extradition, he continues to serve out a sentence for crimes he insists he did not commit.
Such a punishment might have destroyed him. However, a chance encounter with the work of Fr. Thomas Keating enabled Soering to leave the cycles of despair, anger, and emotional turmoil he was going through and discover the transformative power and practice of Centering Prayer. In The Way of the Prisoner, Soering explains just how he came to experience God's grace in the direst of circumstances and how that grace forced him to confront the past and recognize the beauty and redemptive hope possible in his current situation. A moving, true story that shocks and inspires, The Way of the Prisoner illustrates how we can all transform our crosses and our prisons (literal or metaphorical) into hard earned wisdom.
Students are getting on with living and learning at VA Tech
Lantern has published one books that does well when things in the world go badly: No Easy Answers, a well-told, thoughtful, and insightful discussion of the Columbine High School killings of 1999.
Every time there's a school shooting, people turn to No Easy Answers. In the office we talk about this response, and cringe a little. But the reality is that people need this book. They need to understand what can turn angst into murder. When unfathomable events happen, it's natural to want to dissect them, to study them, and to take steps to avoid the disaster happening again. The book doesn't let anyone off easy, instead calling for people to examine their own behavior, and the behavior that they endorse or excuse.
One Political Science professor at Virginia Tech took preventative measures, and 300 students read No Easy Answers in their introductory course. When this sort of non-violence education is made formal (especially in wounded atmospheres like VA Tech), we feel quite good about it. No cringing this time.
The American Mental Health Foundation Press has made part of its mission to examine the issue of violence through publishing the work of Dr. Raymond B. Flannery. Dr. Flannery has spent his career examining the issue of violence, among youth and others, and attempting to explore why it occurs and how it might be prevented.
One question that needs to be answered is why the school shooters are invariably male. In recent years, Lantern has found itself turning to this question of the adolescent male and the problems that affect them. Boys Will Be Boys is a book about what factors influence aggression and violence in American males. It also provides descriptions and proposals for interventions, social action, and solutions to stop the violence. Working at the intersection of the men's movement and adolescent detention centers, Brad Fern and Tom Lutz explore in Ashes to Gold the rites of passage (or lack thereof) that troubled male teens must pass through in order to understand themselves. Filled with extraordinarily moving stories of boys who have experienced enormous trauma, Ashes to Gold is essential reading for those who would understand the great pressure that boys are under in today's society, and how vulnerable they are.
Finally, another book that's a kind of antidote. Violence can take other forms—the kind that's meted out upon you when you resist violence and the kind you see every day on television and on dinner plates. That's why Aftershock is an excellent, even necessary, book for those contemplating direct action to stop violence.
The question is always thrown at me in the most random moments—in the middle of a biology lab, during a tennis team pasta party, or even at a Yale campus interview. And each time, I wonder how to answer it. Throughout most of high school, I gave people an answer that was easy to grasp: for the environment. Not many people bother to argue with hard numbers—who would dispute the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air per pound of meat, the inefficiency of producing a given weight of beef as opposed to potatoes, deforestation per half-pound hamburger? But I always knew that the reason for my vegetarianism was far more complex than just being purely environmental.
A few months ago, my cell phone buzzed late at night, signaling a text message. I was awake reading a book, and fumbled around before flipping my phone open. "So," it read, "I'm vegetarian now…"
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been much in the news recently, as veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan receive treatment for a condition that had been rarely acknowledged post-battle (except perhaps as "shellshock" in World War One). PTSD, however, manifests itself on battlefields closer to home: in domestic violence; when police officers experience and witness violent events; suicide, nightmares, insomnia, and depression; and even within individuals who are themselves violent.
Since its inception, Lantern has concerned itself with trying to understand the roots of trauma and the violence that is its cause and effect—not only toward other animals or the earth, but to and between people. pattrice jones explores the issue of trauma among activists for animal rights in Aftershock. Rob Merritt and Brooks Brown examine the culture of violence, intimidation, and bullying that existed in Columbine High School before the killings of 1999 in No Easy Answers.
Hector Aristizábal grew up in the barrios of Medellin, Colombia, where he and his siblings had to use all their wit, wiles, and wherewithal to survive poverty, the ever-present allure of cheap drugs and very dangerous money, and the endemic violence from leftwing guerrillas, rightwing death squads, cocaine cartels, and the armed power of the State. As a young actor and psychology student, Hector was seized by the military, held in secret, and tortured. He survived and went on to find meaning in his ordeal as he channeled his desire for revenge into nonviolent activism both in his homeland and during decades of exile in the United States.
While challenging the State-sponsored causes of much suffering in the world, Hector reached out to some of society's most marginalized—at-risk and incarcerated youth, immigrants, and many others—using his theatrical skills and psychotherapeutic training to help people shape their own stories and identities. He sought to understand his own identity as well as that of one brother who was a revolutionary and another who was gay—and how his belief in personal integrity and political freedom might square with the realities of a country under the yoke of toxic ideologies. Hector was forced finally to examine his own motivations and commitments, and begin to heal his own gaping wounds.
Shockingly honest, heartbreaking, and vibrantly told, The Blessing Next to the Wound is a passionate and evocative memoir that, amid enormous suffering and loss, is a full-throated affirmation of life.
The Middle East and the country of Israel are roiled in a centuries-old struggle for self-determination and land. The following books explore that conflict.
The twelve women of Jerusalem (whether Christians, Jews, or Muslims) who are profiled in Making Their Own Peace face the unique pressures of living in a city steeped in history and blood, resonant with revelation and absolutism, and needful of mutual respect. These women tell their stories of cooperation and support in their decisions not to wait for political negotiations to succeed in bringing their communities together but through the forging of their own ways to live and work in peace every day. They offer an inspiring message of hope in the midst of conflict.
In The Olive and the Tree, educator Dr. Ruth Westheimer and documentary film-producer Gil Sedan uncover the secret world of the Druze, the peoples of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, who are Arab in ethnic origin and Muslim by religious orientation, but maintain a different and secret identity in their various countries. Dr. Ruth concentrates on the world of the Israeli Druze, who have made a commitment as a minority within the minority to live within and fight for the state of Israel, itself a minority country in the Middle East. In Shifting Sands, Westheimer and Sedan explore the often hidden world of Bedouin women, members of a community facing challenges to its nomadic lifestyle within a country (Israel) that is often modern, and within a tribal society that is patriarchal and traditional. These women, as Westheimer and Sedan discover, our forging a new, hybrid identity as they chart a way to the future without losing contact with a treasured past.
For many years, Sister Mary Margaret Funk engaged in interfaith dialogue with American Muslims in the mid-West. In Islam Is..., she reflects on the religion in which she has found startling similarities to her own deeply held Catholic practice and beliefs. The result is not only a beautifully clear exposition of Islam's central tenets but a call for the kind of deep attention and prayerful respect that allows peace to take root.
On April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, two seniors at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, walked into their school and shot to death twelve students and one teacher, and wounded many others.
It was the worst single act of murder at a school in U.S. history. Few people knew Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris better than Brooks Brown. Brown and Klebold were best friends in grade school, and years later, at Columbine, Brown was privy to some of Harris and Klebold's darkest fantasies and most troubling revelations. After the shootings, Brown was even accused by the police of having been in on the massacre, simply because he had been friends with the killers.
In No Easy Answers, Brooks Brown and journalist Rob Merritt describe the warning signs that were missed or ignored, what life was like at Columbine High School before the shootings, and the evidence that was kept hidden from the public after the murders. Shocking as well as inspirational, No Easy Answers is an authentic wake-up call for all psychologists, authorities, parents, and anyone wanting to learn the unvarnished facts about growing up as an alienated teenager in America today.
Here's an interview from 2002, conducted by CNN's Connie Chung, with the authors.
Today I sent the following letter to my alma mater, the University of Kansas, in protest of an upcoming exhibit at the university's Spencer Art Museum called "The Story of Chickens." This project will encourage townspeople to get to know and care about five chickens over a period of time, then the chickens will be slaughtered in public and served at a potluck.
The Bhagavad Gita (the "Song of the Lord") is considered the most important work of ancient Sanskrit literature.
Part of the great epic poem the Mahabharata, the Gita tells the story of Arjuna, a great warrior prince, who on the eve of battle experiences doubt and fear at the fighting to come. His charioteer, however, is none other than Lord Krishna, who strengthens his heart to face his destiny.The Bhagavad Gita as a Living Experience offers the unique combination of an expert Indologist, Wilfried Huchzermeyer, who examines the literary and mythic meaning of the text, and a yoga instructor, Jutta Zimmermann, who reveals the Gita's deep wisdom about yoga in all its four major forms (karma [action], jnana [knowledge], bhakti [devotion], dyana [meditation]), and shows how its wisdom can provide universal guidance for all humanity.
The Upanishads include some of the most beloved and illuminating stories from the vast literature of India’s Vedic tradition. Adapted from the original text, the twelve tales contained in All Love Flows to the Self tell the story of enlightenment in simple, poetic language that will appeal to both adults and children. These tales express the full glory of the inner Self. When one has realized the Self, everyone and everything become more near and dear, and one flows in universal love.
Hinduism scholar Steven Rosen explores the world of the Hare Krishna movement in Holy Cow and reveals how it has been instrumental in raising awareness of vegetarianism in the United States through its restaurants and food distribution programs. Rosen explains the Vedic texts specifically supporting animal rights and vegetarianism, with their call for ahimsa, or nonviolence, toward all living beings. The book includes tasty recipes.
Another book with its roots in the Indian tradition of non-violence, is Peace to All Beings by Judy Carman. The book explores the meaning of ahimsa today as it applies to stopping environmental destruction and the cruelties of factory farming. Drawing upon all the world's religions and contemporary spiritual teachers, Peace is a wonderful manual for spiritual seekers and activists looking to sustain their souls as they bring about difficult and hard-fought change.
The yoga of tolerance finds a perfect expression in Ruth Lauer-Manenti's thoughtful and sympathetic An Offering of Leaves, in which she offers dharma talks on yoga's principles of compassion, attention, and generosity in daily life.
For more on the International Day for Tolerance, click here.
Zen master, professor, pacifist, and social activist Robert Aitken, Roshi, was a pioneer in bringing Zen to the West in the 1950's. He founded the Honolulu Diamond Sangha, which now has affiliates worldwide, co-founded the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and authored over ten books of Zen teachings. He died at age 93 last summer; what turned out to be his final interview was published in Tricycle magazine this spring. One of his statements in that interview impressed me so much that I invite you to ponder it with me:
"Just because historical statistics show lots of war, it does not follow that behind history there is an imperative to wage war. Indeed, the imperative is self-realization. It is the perversion of self- realization into self-aggrandizement that directs the course of our lives to violence."
Our industrialized, resource-intensive agricultural system is once again contributing to food instability. Food prices spiked along with oil prices in 2008, and there were food riots all over the globe, from Mexico to Africa to India.
In the past few days, world food prices have reached a new high, and there are riots in Algeria over the problem. The cost of such common ingredients as flour and cooking oil has doubled in just a few months in Algeria, and unemployment is estimated to be around 25 percent. Protesters have ransacked government buildings, banks, and post offices.
This is not the most serious incident since the beginning of the year related to rising food prices. The riots in Tunisia have resulted in the fall of the government. In Jordan, thousands of demonstrators protested rising food prices and unemployment.
I've been trying to get people in the Transition movement interested in vegetarianism for some time. ("Transition" is a group originating in the U. K. dedicated to local planning for a post-carbon future.) However, a recent discussion of plant-based nutrition on the "Transition Culture" blog gave vent to some pretty blatant resistance to plant-based nutrition at the very top of the Transition movement.
In the middle of a back-and-forth discussion about the future of the Transition movement, the "Permavegan" (Jonathan Maxson) politely tried to raise the question of plant based nutrition on what I thought were fairly straightforward scientific grounds. To put it mildly, a lot of people blasted him unfairly, viciously, and without apology.
Today is the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the Union, the action which precipitated the Civil War. Edward Ball has written an opinion piece in the New York Times clearly blaming slavery as the root cause of the civil war. It was not about "small government, limited federal powers and states' rights." He quotes South Carolina's statement at the time: "The non-slaveholding states . . . have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery" and "have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes."
So did slavery cause the Civil War? This is close, but not quite right on two essential points. First, slavery was a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of the civil war. Second, the civil war delayed the end of slavery.