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How to Survive Dark Times

Greenpeace activists unfurl “Resist” banner near the White House, 25 January 2017

 

Marching in Washington, D.C. this past weekend with over half a million women and our allies was exhilarating, exhausting, and inspiring. My particular favorites among the many rally speeches were by six-year-old Sophie Cruz, the child of undocumented immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico; revolutionary and civil rights activist Angela Davis; and Brooklyn’s Palestinian-American Linda Sarsour, who was one of the national co-chairs of the march. I was happy to learn that the massive crowds of protesters who far outnumbered those who had attended the inauguration the day before had enraged Donald Trump. But even as we marched, I recalled the mass mobilization of millions of people in 2003 hitting the streets around the globe in an attempt to prevent the Iraq War. George W. Bush dismissed us, saying he didn’t pay much attention to “focus groups.” Street demonstrations, marches, and rallies are important sources of strength and solidarity, but the energy must further be harnessed to long-term organizing and campaigns if we are to protect our most vulnerable neighbors, organizations, and institutions.

 

On Monday morning the grim reality of life under the Horsemen of the Apocalypse hit like a two-ton bomb when the “global gag rule” was reinstated, and hours later the attack on Medicaid was launched. How are we going to survive four years of this shit? I will be honest, I’m scared, and I’m not sure where to focus my efforts when the blows against the values, groups, and individuals that I care about are landing on an hourly basis. I’m still trying to identify the best vehicles for local organizing—because I think we will have more leverage on the local level.

 

This morning I came up with a prescription for myself. How to survive in dark times? Celebrate one moment of beauty and participate in one act of resistance each day. For myself, I take solace in the spectacular sunrises on Morningside Drive, and the sunsets in Columbia County. Other beautiful things include flowers, birds, trees, and the faces of my silly dogs, my beloved family, and cherished friends. Before bed, I’ve also been reading a book called What the Robin Knows, which has been filling my dreams with robins, chickadees, cardinals, jays, and blackbirds.

 

In terms of resistance, right now we all need to be contacting our elected officials on a weekly basis to let them know that we want them to oppose the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Take a half hour to make a list of your elected officials with their contact information: senators, congressional representative, governor, mayor, and city council member, or the equivalent depending on where you live. (If you don’t have the half hour, you can use this handy and simple to use 5 calls tool.) You can start by contacting your senators and telling them to vote NO on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. The best option is to call their offices—if you have trouble getting through in D.C. or the state capital because the lines are jammed, try the regional offices. (The other day I was able to speak with a human in Chuck Schumer’s Binghamton office.) Here are some helpful tips from a Congressional staffer about making phone calls that a friend of mine posted publicly on FB. Send post cards rather than emails (electronic communications have become a kind of white noise). Post cards are quicker than letters because envelopes must go through a security check.

 

Want to do more? You can sign up with for the Women’s March 10 Actions/100 Days Campaign. Pledge to join the People’s Climate Movement in D.C. on April 29. Find a local group organizing around an issue you care about through the Action Group Network. Get connected with Stand with Standing Rock. Join Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rapid Response Network in organizing against attacks on Muslims and immigrants. Read this terrific interview with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, or her equally inspiring piece on how to build a mass movement. Frances Fox Piven tells us to Throw Sand in the Gears of Everything, Naomi Klein instructs us in how to prepare for the first shocks of Trumpian disaster capitalism. Grace Paley said, “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.” I act, therefore I hope.

 

 

 


Turkey: “I will defend myself as if the laws existed.”

Istanbul University

 

Last week I received the message below from a friend in Turkey who teaches at a university in Istanbul. She did not want her name mentioned, because at a time when someone can be jailed for a critical Tweet or Facebook post, people are censoring their social media postings for fear of arrest. But she did want me to share the information, and to call on people to help spread the word about what is going on in Turkey. You can find further updates via Endangered Scholars Worldwide, Turkey Purge, and Bianet. PEN American Center has taken up the case of Aslı Erdoğan, a novelist who is mentioned in the final paragraph of my friend’s missive, and I would also like to point out that this crackdown against dissent, while taking a tremendous toll on scholars and journalists, has hit Turkey’s Kurds most heavily.

 

 

7 January 2017

 

Dear friends and colleagues,

Alas, an additional 631 academics have been expelled from universities all over Turkey with a new decree last night. Forty-one of these are Academics for Peace signatories, and among them are very valuable scholars and intellectuals. The government deliberately chooses a piecemeal approach to purge the peace signatories, including a certain number of them into larger lists, instead of attacking them frontally and en masse. They know that a frontal and exclusive attack would arouse too much international uproar. The new tactic is to wait for university presidents to hand in a list of signatories to authorities, thus implicating them in the process. Only a few presidents have had the courage to resist, but for how long? Another decree is said to be on its way, this time to hit two major Istanbul universities.

Through a different tactic, Prof. Istar Gozaydin was arrested (yes, arrested!) because of her tweets criticizing the government. She is one of the founders of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, a highly respected NGO in the field of human rights and refugee assistance.
Tweets or any other totally arbitrary excuse are enough to accuse and detain dissidents now. Ahmet Şık, one of the last remaining investigative journalists in Turkey, was detained and arrested because of his tweets and news stories in the daily Cumhuriyet. Ironically (or tragically or both) Şık was previously imprisoned in 2011-2012 for an unpublished book, The Imam’s Army, which denounced Fethullah Gülen as a dark force manipulating the Turkish political scene. Şık was imprisoned by the Gülenists—and now, the AKP government, once Gülen’s ally but today its greatest foe, is accusing Şık of plotting with the Gülenists against the regime. Şık is also charged with being a member of a radical leftist group and of the armed Kurdish organization, the PKK. He might as well have also been accused of being a Jehovah’s Witness, a Tamil guerrilla, and a Templar Knight! They have abandoned all semblance of credibility—or whatever remains of it.

There is no proof as to the “terrorist connections” of any of the detained or arrested dissidents. The trial of ten journalists of the daily Cumhuriyet newspaper was postponed due to lack of evidence, but they are still being held in prison. The only good news we’ve heard in the past few months was the release of writer Aslı Erdoğan, the linguist Necmiye Alpay and the Özgür Gündem newspaper editor Zana Kaya at the end of December, but they are still to be tried for terrorist propaganda and face life imprisonment if convicted. In her defense statement Aslı Erdoğan ridiculed the charges against her and said: “I will defend myself as if the laws existed.”

The “as if” is what’s tragic in this country. We do need help; Western pressure does count.


Horsemen of the Apocalypse

“Satan bound for 1000 years” from The Great Bible of Pieter Mortier (circa 1700 A.D.)

 

When I have been calling Donald Trump’s roster of cabinet members and advisors “The Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” I have meant this term both metaphorically and literally. The metaphorical part has to do with the doom, chaos, and destruction I believe they are planning to unleash on national institutions, groups, individuals, and even the globe. The literal part has to do with the end times Evangelical Christians in their ranks. Trump’s cabinet picks are a mix of craven business leaders looking to enrich themselves and their friends as they pillage the public commons, and Evangelical Christians with perhaps similar goals, but a different world view. I have been focused on this aspect of the cabal because I was raised in an Evangelical Christian church and household so this cult is familiar. (Here’s a poem that talks about the anxiety this caused me as a child.) It turns out that 81% of white Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump.

 

END TIMES THEOLOGY

 

What is their “End Times” theology and how does it mesh with Trump’s worldview? In an op-ed from September 2016, history professor Matthew Avery Sutton explained it thus:

 

Trump’s ideas meld perfectly with evangelical apocalyptic expectations as the battle of Armageddon nears. He promises to seize power and to use it for them. He claims he would restore religious liberty to evangelicals. He would prohibit Muslims from entering the country. He would defend Israel at all costs. He would fight abortion by adding conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. He would rebuild the American military. He would destroy the nation’s enemies. He would keep individual citizens well-armed and prepared for battle.  

This is a man, in other words, who is not just seeking to beat Clinton. He is seeking to wage a real-world battle against evangelicals’ enemies and a spiritual battle against the Antichrist.

Vice President elect Mike Pence is an Evangelical Christian. He belongs to the College Park Church in Indianapolis. (You can read a transcript of a 2011 sermon delivered at the College Park Church that covers the Second Coming of Christ.) Betsy DeVos, who was named as Trump’s choice for Education Secretary and is the sister of Blackwater founder Eric Prince, is an Evangelical Christian. Some of the other prospective cabinet members are somewhat cagey about the specific brand of Christianity they practice, but based on my experience and understanding of the dog whistles and “secret signs” used in this particular cult it seems that Nikki Haley (UN Ambassador) and Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency), Tom Price (Health and Human Services) are also adherents.

What are the real world impacts of this theology? For one, Scott Pruitt, Trump’s climate-denying Environmental Protection Agency pick, has publicly stated his intention to dismantle the Obama Administration’s climate agenda. It turns out that many End Times Evangelicals are not concerned about Global Warming because they believe the warming of the planet and concomitant disasters are either caused by God’s direct intervention or are signs pointing towards Christ’s Second Coming and the end of the world. Why worry about melting ice caps, calamitous hurricanes, drought, famine, flooding, and war when you believe it is all part of God’s Biblically ordained plan and a sign of your imminent ascension to heaven?

 

ANGLING FOR ARMAGEDDON

Another fairly alarming aspect to this End Times theology has implications for U.S. policy towards Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. Evangelical Christian-Zionist groups such as Christians United for Israel, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (in the occupied West Bank) champion unconditional support for the Israeli government because it fits into their vision of what needs to happen in order to hasten the return of Jesus.  Right-wing Zionists in the U.S. and Israel receive Christian Zionist support for Israel and for Jews with enthusiasm, but the underlying belief system of Christian Zionism is at best utilitarian in its vision of Jews. The founding of the state of Israel has been interpreted as one of the first signs of the nearness of Christ’s return, fulfilling a prophecy made in the Old Testament book of Isaiah.  The only way that Jews can be “saved” is if they abandon Judaism and convert to (Evangelical) Christianity, so during the Apocalypse, most Jews will suffer the terrible fate of all other non-believers of either eternal hellfire, the Tribulation, or both. (At one point, I was fairly familiar with at least one version of the Second Coming timeline, but it is complicated and based on arcane interpretations of both Old Testament and New Testament Prophecy.) End times theology predicates Christ’s return on the destruction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Third Jewish Temple. Right-wing Israeli settlers have plans to rebuild the Temple that would provoke a violent uprising by Palestinians and an international crisis. Christian Zionists are playing with proverbial fire in their support for Israel’s settlement enterprise, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the Judaization of East Jerusalem. In their designs on the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, they are literally angling for an apocalyptic battle of Armageddon in the Holy Land.


From the Archive: The Rapture

A Jesus Sky portending the Second Coming of Christ

A Jesus Sky portending the Second Coming of Christ

This poem from the archive, which was published in the Spring 1988 issue of The Graham House Review, has been on my mind lately as the incoming Trump Administration has announced its cabinet picks, with “End Times” Evangelical Christians among them. I was raised in the Armenian Evangelical Church, and a copy of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth was on the end table next to my father’s armchair. As a child I had been coached to ask Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior, but I was never entirely convinced that my attempts had been successful (I have a poem about this experience as well). One New Year’s Eve I went to church with my grandmother where we watched a film that enacted what would happen in the during Christ’s Second Coming. Fortunately, the movie didn’t cover the more terrifying aspects: The Tribulation, the Anti-Christ, or Armageddon. It just showed The Rapture, the taking up of believers. A pilot disappeared from his seat in the cockpit. A man rolled over in bed to find his wife gone. A Christian singer disappeared from a performance on a television talk show, the microphone fallen to the stage floor. “The Rapture” was an account of the fate I had envisioned awaiting me.

 

The Rapture

 

 

I imagined coming down the back walk

after school, swinging my lunch box

and the thermos shifting inside.

 

Today was different, something odd

about the light breaking

from behind the clouds in ribbons.

 

My grandmother was not on the back porch.

The kitchen table was spread with flour

and dough rising under its towel, dirty bowls

in the sink, my mother nowhere to be seen.

 

And then I knew: the Second Coming.

Jesus had taken them, the believers,

from the fist of the heart to the tips

of the fingers and shining eyes.

 

The whole family, snapped up

in broad daylight while I walked home,

uninvited, unasked, abandoned.

 

I sat on the back step with the cat,

another unbeliever, waiting for the Beast,

the bloody water, the Tribulation.

Nancy Kricorian


A Change of the Right Sort

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I think now that we should maintain ourselves by a process similar to molting in birds. A change of the right sort helps us to overhaul our ideas, so that our souls may recreate themselves, venture into a higher atmosphere with bolder wings, and arouse and quicken other interests.      ~ Helen Keller 

 

 

This month I am leaving the staff of CODEPINK Women for Peace after thirteen years and the Executive Committee of the Armenia Tree Project after fifteen. I am proud of the work that both groups do, and have found deep satisfaction in these associations. But it’s time to move on, or as Helen Keller suggests, it’s time to lose some feathers and grow new ones. This week I sent the below letter to my friends and CODEPINK coalition partners letting them know about the move.

 

 

Dear Friends,
I wanted to let you all know that I will be leaving the staff of CODEPINK at the end of this month. It’s been a good long run–thirteen years–and it’s time for me to move on. CODEPINK’s Palestine work will be continued by Ariel Gold, with whom I’ve been working on our boycott campaigns for over a year. I will be transferring the codepinknyc email address to a new staff person who will be doing local organizing (please let me know if you want that contact when the details are hammered out). I will continue to run the Stolen Beauty Twitter feed and to do coalition work around the Ahava boycott campaign.

I am grateful to the CODEPINK team–its staff (present and past), and the many passionate volunteers–as well as to all the partners I have worked with over the years. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and I look forward to future collaborations as we prepare to take on the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who are gathering on the near horizon. I plan to spend more time writing my fourth novel, to do some traveling with the peripatetic spouse, and likely to seek out new vehicles for local organizing.

With fond regards,

 

Nancy K

 

 

Nancy Kricorian