– from the Board President
by Janet Gibson
Martin Luther King, Jr. said that . . ."Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." I hope that our California readers will join the fight for universal health care with single payer financing by supporting state senate bill 921.
Of course, we face many problems. Employers are cutting back on benefits. President Bush wants to privatize and cut back Medicare. The state budget crisis will mean a minimum of 500,000 more uninsured Californians. The rolls of the uninsured are swelling, and costs are soaring. 41 million Americans have no insurance and we are the only industrialized nation not to have a national health plan. Healthcare spending in 2001 averaged $5,035 for each person in the United States. This is 2 to 3 times as much as any other industrialized nation.
Let’s rid ourselves of the 300 insurance company and 69 government bureaucracies in California. Creating one publicly funded and publicly accountable agency to finance all health care would rid us of the existing maze of bureaucracies. We would pay taxes in lieu of premiums, but they would be less than current insurance company premiums. This would mean a healthier economy with more money in the pockets of business and working people.
In 2002, the State of California concluded a 1.2 million-dollar study called the Health Care Options Project (http://www.healthcareopotions.ca.gov). It concluded that by removing the health insurance industry from the health care loop and using a single payer financing system instead, Californians could save 7.6 billion dollars a year while insuring everyone with better services including long term care and full prescription drug coverage. The SB 921 legislation is based on this study.
A "single payer" system is important. There is a problem calling only for universal health care without calling for single payer financing. Many politicians call for universal health care but their solutions leave the insurance industry in the health care loop. Those are called multi-payer solutions and they deliver different levels of care for different classes of people. Health insurance today is either a job perk, a poor people’s program, a senior program (Medicare), or we pay dearly for it. This makes no sense. The question to ask politicians is, "Are they proposing that we all be in one risk pool and enjoy equal, great health care (single payer) or are they only talking about expanding on a wasteful system that continues delivering different levels of care for different classes of people?"
The U.S. war budget is equal to the waste in our health care system. It is estimated that 25% of U.S. health expenditures is wasteful either due to insurance companies keeping 15% to 30% of every dollar for overhead or because doctors have to deal with the maze of insurance company paperwork. There are 1 and 2/3 secretaries or billing clerks for every doctor in America. In 2001, U.S. health spending was $1.4 trillion and the defense budget was about $350 billion.
The forces against change are powerful and you are needed to build a social movement for health care reform. It is a movement of compassion and sends a message that as a society we actually care for one another.
You can help by:
• Getting a group to endorse. Endorsement should be mailed or faxed to Senator Sheila Kuelh; State Capitol, Room 4032; Sacramento, CA 95814 or faxed to 916-324-4823.
• Sending a personal letter of endorsement to the above address.
• Hosting a speaking presentation for your group or friends.
For more information, fact sheets,
list of supporters, or sample letters, see the Health Care For All website
or contact them by email at: email@example.com or phone: 415-695-7891.
by Carolyn S. Scarr
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Drum Major Instinct Delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, on February 4, 1968.
As the U.S. prepared for its attack on Iraq, articles began to be published in a variety of venues supporting the idea that the United States empire was 1) a new idea, 2) inevitable, and 3) potentially a good thing for everyone. Even some who spoke in opposition to a unilateral attack on Iraq described it as unprecedented. Curiously many of those speaking are old enough to remember Vietnam.
As a matter of fact, there is a long list of U.S. military adventures dating from the founding of the United States as a nation. One such list, published on the Department of the Navy Naval Historical Center home page, provides ten pages of "instances of use of United States armed forces abroad, 1798 - 1993." Some are large; some are small. Almost all are described in terms justifying the action.
For example, the invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965 to overthrow its elected president is described as "The United States intervened to protect lives and property during a Dominican revolt and sent more troops as fears grew that the revolutionary forces were coming increasingly under Communist control." Missing from that list are the 1954 overthrow of the Guatemalan government, the 1954 overthrow of the government of Iran, and the September 11, 1973 overthrow of the Allende government in Chile. The overthrow and assassination in the Congo of Patrice Lumumba is barely mentioned and in the most neutral of terms, with no names given. One would never recognize the acquisition of Hawaii in the description of the military actions there. Similarly Cuba. The long history of occupation of Nicaragua is glided through lightly, as is the sequence of battles in which massive chunks of Mexican territory were acquired by the U.S. In a burst of candor, the entry regarding the Philippine Islands reads "U.S. forces protected American interests following the war with Spain and conquered the islands by defeating the Filipinos in their war for independence."
It is important to remember that the United States was begun as a collage of white settler colonies, mostly British, generally established through the use of military force. The imperial ambitions of the U.S. as a nation on the North American continent commenced almost immediately with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, by which President Thomas Jefferson purchased a vast swath of land from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who didn’t own it.
Characteristics of Empire
In light of this history, it is a good idea to take a look at some of the characteristics generally shared by empires.
From its earliest practice to this day, in an empire a central ruling country (or city) is in charge. This ruling power exercises some form of political control of the territories of the empire, directly or by proxy. Sometimes it requires the payment of tribute, taxes, etc. The ruling power expropriates products of the other regions – agricultural, mineral, timber etc. at prices considerably below their worth – to the economic and/or environmental detriment of the local population. The local economy is often entirely sacrificed or at least warped. The labor of the colonized people can be expropriated – as slaves, low-wage imported workers, "off-shore" plants, etc.
Benefits of an imperial system accrue to ruling elite of the colonizing country, often with some payoff to collaborators in the colonies. The British and the Romans both maintained a mixed system, with direct rule in some areas and proxy rule in others. The U.S. empire of the 20th Century has been primarily of the proxy variety, although this may be changing. As people in Africa, Asia and Latin America broke free from the colonial rule of European countries, the United States frequently supported the establishment of totalitarian regimes which served the economic interests of the elites in the United States. This kind of pattern is often referred to as "neo-colonialism." This relationship is also seen between some European countries and their former colonies.
Since people don’t starve willingly, an imperial system requires a massive military force. The resources within the ruling country are heavily devoted to the maintenance of a military machine. This machine includes the military of the ruling country itself and the military of the collaborating elites in the subordinate countries. The cost of the military is borne disproportionately by the poorer citizens of the ruling country, maintaining significant and often widening class divisions and, in the case of the U.S., racial divisions. Within the ruling country, the military, police and prison systems are nearly the only escape route from poverty for members of the disadvantaged classes and races. These systems of force also serve to suppress efforts by poorer people to improve their economic lot.
The theoretical underpinnings of empire often hypothesize that colonized people and the local poor classes and races are unable adequately to run their own affairs. It is the "White Man’s Burden" to run the world.
In empires we frequently see idolization and even worship of country and/or of the leader. The Roman emperor Caligula insisted he was divine. The "divine" right of kings was maintained for centuries. In 1967, the sociologist Robert Bellah wrote the article, "Civil Religion in America." Today we see some American citizens regarding their country with something like worship. This idolatry is encouraged by some politicians to suppress dissent.
So – What Is To Be Done?
In his article of May 13, 2003, the noted economist Walden Bello, states that notwithstanding its recent victory over a "fourth-rate power," the United States is in fact seriously overextended politically and militarily. He anticipates a growing resistance on a number of fronts while "the US is likely to be more and more isolated in the community of nations while retaining the immense power to plunge that community into disorder."
We see this in the resistance to the U.S. neocolonial New World Order going on in a number of areas.
It is essential that we keep the whole picture in mind as we work on the specific issues we find ourselves called to. We have several examples in which this awareness of the inter-relatedness of issues has been clearly shown. We see it in the opposition to the international trade meetings. Across the world these meetings are met by labor and environmentalists, religious and secular humanists, young and old of all races and from many countries and continents. At the School of the Americas where people from across the U.S. come together to oppose the U.S. training of terrorists in the countries of Latin America, they lift up the practices of U.S. foreign policy across the globe.
Demonstrations against the U.S. attack on Iraq were held across the globe. Arundhati Roy points out 10 million people marched in 5 continents. As the U.S. threatened their governments and coerced acquiescence where it could not get cooperation, people recognized that the United States was engaged in an escalation of an old pattern and was not going to be satisfied with one "victory". Opposition to the war was expressed both in this country and abroad by old and young, professionals and people of the working class, religious people and leaders of many faiths. Labor leaders spoke against the war. From his cell on death row, Mumia Abu Jamal wrote against the impending war. Classically conservative Senator Robert Byrd became a leading anti-war spokesman. What seems to have been awakening was an awareness of the dangers of the expanding imperial ambitions of the most heavily armed nation on the planet.
In his speech at Riverside Church in 1967, at the founding of CALC, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke to the forming anti-war movement: "The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit . . . " He eloquently made the connections between the war abroad and the troubles faced by Americans at home. Excerpts are printed in this issue. We could read the whole speech every week as we take up our work.
Three and a half decades later in Riverside Church this May, Arundhati Roy offers us the challenge and the hope. (See additional excerpts in this issue) She invites us, "If you join the battle, not in your hundreds of thousands, but in your millions, you will be greeted joyously by the rest of the world. And you will see how beautiful it is to be gentle instead of brutal, safe instead of scared. Befriended instead of isolated. Loved instead of hated."
What About the Faith Community?
The faith community can and must call upon its traditions and history to state clearly that all nations and other human institutions (including religious institutions) are subject to the judgment of a higher authority. The early Christians, like Socrates, challenge us by their declaration, "I will obey God rather than you."
How may we find our way to that point of courage in these fearful times when "wrong comes up to face us everywhere"? How may "we take the longest stride of soul men and women ever took."? (Christopher Fry) Chris Hedges, New York Times reporter and author of "War is a Force that Gives us Meaning," states "Love is the most potent enemy of war." How do we build and express that love?
The old labor song reminds us, "Step by step the longest march is begun. Many stones to build an arch, singly none." We must be both small and large at the same time. Small groups of people, meeting to share vision and plan action can form the base of resistance. Such small groups formed the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the anti-nuclear and peace movements. Small groups, working in concert, are forming everywhere.
The energy put into the effort to stave off the attack on Iraq needs to be transformed to the long haul effort to end the occupation there, prevent future attacks, and break down the mechanisms of empire across the globe. The faith community is an integral part of this formation. The religious and secular peace and justice communities are working together in ways unheard of in past decades.
We in the faith-based branch of the peace and justice community bring a long history of commitment to nonviolent resistance in a wide range of issues. We can already see the results of that offering in the ways that resistance is taking shape around the world. Nonviolence guidelines are becoming widely accepted.
The most important contribution the faith community may have to bring to the ongoing struggle is its preparedness to work without a guarantee of success. Gandhi adjures his companions to lay aside desire for the fruits of their labors. This laying aside of desire is not to be confused with being indifferent to what happens to the people for whose sake we work. We have a vision of a just and peace-filled world where people will sit under their vine and fig tree and none shall make them afraid.
The faith-based community can lead the peace movement in seeking action based on hope. The way of hope is that of nurturing actions. The results do not always have to be immediate. The end may not be what we anticipated.
Indeed, there is not an end. There
is only "the way." This has long been known in spiritual traditions across
the world. This understanding enables us to continue for years a weekly
vigil, an annual witness, a discipline of service.
from Beyond Vietnam
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, April 4, 1967
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
. . . During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.
. . . I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Arundhati Roy, May 13, 2003, Riverside Church
Empire is paranoid because it has a soft underbelly. . . . Its "homeland" may be defended by border patrols and nuclear weapons, but its economy is strung out across the globe. . . . Already the Internet is buzzing with elaborate lists of American and British government products and companies that should be boycotted. Apart from the usual targets - Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds - government agencies like USAID, the British DFID, British and American banks, Arthur Andersen, Merrill Lynch, and American Express could find themselves under siege. These lists are being honed and refined by activists across the world. . . .
It would be naïve to imagine that we can directly confront Empire. Our strategy must be to isolate Empire’s working parts and disable them one by one. No target is too small. No victory too insignificant. . . .
The battle to reclaim democracy is going to be a difficult one. Our freedoms were not granted to us by any governments. They were wrested from them by us. And once we surrender them, the battle to retrieve them is called a revolution. It is a battle that must range across continents and countries. It must not acknowledge national boundaries but, if it is to succeed, it has to begin here. In America. The only institution more powerful than the U.S. government is American civil society. The rest of us are subjects of slave nations. We are by no means powerless, but you have the power of proximity. You have access to the Imperial Palace and the Emperor’s chambers. Empire’s conquests are being carried out in your name, and you have the right to refuse. You could refuse to fight. Refuse to move those missiles from the warehouse to the dock. Refuse to wave that flag. Refuse the victory parade.
You have a rich tradition of resistance. . . . If you join the battle, not in your hundreds of thousands, but in your millions, you will be greeted joyously by the rest of the world. And you will see how beautiful it is to be gentle instead of brutal, safe instead of scared. Befriended instead of isolated. Loved instead of hated.
I hate to disagree with your president. Yours is by no means a great nation. But you could be a great people.
History is giving you the chance.
Seize the time.
Iraq: The March For Justice & Peace Continues
by Gloria Escalona
Gloria is an EPI Board member, a Lay Dominican, an RN
The bombs have stopped falling, but the invasion of Iraq is not over. Peace has not come to the people of Iraq. Peace has not come to the people of the Middle East nor to the people of Afghanistan. Our whole world is not at peace. According to californiapeaceaction.org "since the war against Afghanistan, the Bush administration has established 13 new military bases in 7 different Central Asian countries and expanded military aid to countries with appalling human rights records." The FBI Uniform Crime Index shows an increase in violent crimes in the US since 9/11/01, and Homeland Security continues to periodically put the US on High Alert. Amnesty International reports the rise in human rights abuses worldwide since 9/11/01 and even more since the invasion of Iraq. According to the major news media, Al-Qaida has regrouped. Despite hundreds of UN weapons inspectors and thousands of US military personnel scouring the country, no weapons of mass destruction of any kind have been found in Iraq. None of the objectives for which Bush invaded Iraq or Afghanistan were accomplished. What was accomplished was the re-destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure (water, sewage, power plants, roads, agriculture, housing, and hospitals), more deaths among civilians and children, more severe unemployment, massive numbers of homeless where there was little to none before, and a large number of disgruntled ex-military, Baathists, unemployed young, and a generally hot, angry, and armed citizenry.
Sister Bushra is a nurse-midwife for a maternal-child hospital run by the Dominican sisters in the middle of Baghdad. As the only nurse-midwife for the hospital, she is on call 24-7 and has been since UN sanctions were imposed and most of the lay staff had to leave the country soon after to earn a living. When I met her in March 2001, she had been up for almost 2 days helping deliver newborns and care for their new moms. Her work hours are longer now and even busier. How is she able to accomplish her work? — "one baby one mother at a time."
One by one our world and the world for the Iraqis will come to justice and finally to peace, but not without a lot of sacrifice and struggle — hard work that can be done with joy and great love. Already in the depressing midst of looting in Iraq, rising animosity toward the US presence in Iraq, more photo-ops by the Bush Administration, and TV specials highlighting the wonderful dual-use of US spy planes in monitoring the ozone layer ("that’s why it’s so important to keep them in our arsenal" says the commentator), there has been progress. The peace movement has consolidated and is larger and more global than it has ever been before. With the tremendous participation of huge numbers of US citizens in peace marches throughout the country, the world saw another America — an America alert to the realities of the Bush foreign policy agenda, sensitive to the plight of the rest of the world, and filled with compassion for the Iraqi people. Our work is not done; there remains a lot to do. This requires that most drastic of actions — a regime change.
1. Bush foreign policy is a failure. The Bush policy of pre-emptive strike is irrational, unnecessary, inhumane, and contrary to international efforts towards peace and solidarity. And, when based on false, incomplete, or outdated information becomes a crime against humanity. The invasion of Iraq was the first test of this new policy. Someone said that "war is not a failure of the peace movement; it is a failure of foreign policy." In less than 2 years our best international friends seem to be our enemies and our enemies seem to be joining forces. — Tell your elected leaders you want to see fundamental changes in the US relationship with the rest of the world.
2. Bush interpretation of the Constitution is flawed and a failure. The Bill of Rights and "due process" are being eroded for US citizens, legal immigrants, refugees, and even tourists and visitors. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Why can someone’s citizenship be taken away, if they are only "suspected" of being an "enemy combatant"? What redress does a US citizen have if wrongly accused of being an "enemy combatant"? War is supposed to be declared by the US Congress NOT the president. — Tell your elected leaders that you voted for them to lead and remind them that they have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.
3. Bush domestic policy is a failure. The military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about has grown up. We now spend more to support and furnish our military than all other countries put together, while our social fabric and infrastructure rapidly deteriorate, and the future of our young and those reaching retirement age are placed in serious jeopardy. Even while US citizens demonstrate support for US troops, the US budget is being modified to reduce their health benefits. The Vietnam vets also returned home to reduced health, education, and retirement benefits. — Tell your elected leaders that you voted for them to ensure your Rights and remind them that democracy begins at home.
4. Your elected leaders need to hear your voice. Write them! Call them! Educate them about your community needs and your vision is of your country’s place in the world. Let them know the recent FCC ruling limits your voice and rewards the shoddy reporting already being done by the major news conglomerates. — Tell your elected leaders that you want them to account for your tax dollars; that your vote counts, at least in California.
As we mourn each fallen US soldier in Iraq, let us also remember to mourn those who died in battles they were not fighting - the Iraqi children, the ill, the frail, the handicapped, the poor and homeless, and the elderly. The "collateral damage" - the men, women and children who died because they just happened to be there.
To the peacemaker who asks what can they do now that the US is instituting demon-cracy in Iraq, even while democracy is being diminished here at home, I answer, there is much that needs to be done. There is room yet for hope, even as Bush readies his army for another war. Debra Preusch, Executive Director of the Interhemispheric Resource Center said, "I believe the political tide is turning. That’s because the voices of all those concerned are gaining critical mass."
We at EPI are not easily discouraged by Bush and his malicious officials, for we are here for the long haul. We are here to stay until justice is done. Let us remain galvanized for action with the knowledge that the rest of the world is with us and with the Iraqis in wanting peace and justice in our world in our day. Pope John Paul II said "Peace is an empty word until we fill it with justice and love." Renew your work for justice and peace with prayers for healing, forgiveness, and friendship between all citizens of earth, and healing for all the damage done to the people and the land of Iraq.
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