Peace Almanac July

July

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July 1. On this day in 1656, the first Quakers arrived in America, having come to what would become Boston. The Puritan colony in Boston was well established by the 1650s with strict rules based on its religion. When the Quakers arrived from England in 1656, they were greeted with accusations of witchcraft, arrests, imprisonment, and the demand that they leave Boston on the next ship. An edict imposing heavy fines on ship captains bringing Quakers to Boston was soon passed by the Puritans. Quakers who stood their ground in protest continued to be attacked, beaten, and at least four were executed before a ruling by Prince Charles II banned executions in the New World. As more diverse settlers began arriving in Boston Harbor, the Quakers found enough acceptance to establish a colony of their own in Pennsylvania. The Puritans’ fear, or xenophobia, collided in America with the founding premise of liberty and justice for all. As America grew, so did its diversity. Acceptance of others was a practice greatly contributed to by the Quakers, who also modeled for others the practices of respecting Native Americans, opposing slavery, resisting war, and pursuing peace. The Quakers of Pennsylvania demonstrated for the other colonies the moral, financial, and cultural benefits of practicing peace rather than war. Quakers taught other Americans about the need to abolish slavery and all forms of violence. Many of the best threads running through U.S. history begin with the Quakers steadfastly promoting their viewpoints as radical minorities dissenting from nearly universally accepted doctrines.

July 2. On this day in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. Enslaved people had become U.S. citizens with the right to vote in 1865. Yet, their rights continued to be suppressed throughout the South. Laws passed by individual states to support segregation, and brutal actions by white supremacy groups such as the Ku Klux Klan threatened the freedoms promised to former slaves. In 1957, the U.S. Justice Department created a Civil Rights Commission to investigate these crimes, which went unaddressed by federal law until President John F. Kennedy was moved by the Civil Rights movement to propose a bill in June of 1963 stating: “This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” Kennedy’s assassination five months later left President Johnson to follow through. In his State of the Union address, Johnson pleaded: “Let this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined.” As the bill reached the Senate, heated arguments from the South were met with a 75-day filibuster. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 finally passed by a two-thirds vote. This Act prohibits segregation in all public accommodations, and bans discrimination by employers and labor unions. It also established an Equal Opportunity Employment Commission offering legal assistance to citizens trying to make a living.

July 3, 1932. On this date in 1932, The Green Table, an anti-war ballet reflecting the inhumanity and corruption of war, was performed for the first time in Paris at a choreography competition. Written and choreographed by the German dancer, teacher, and choreographer Kurt Jooss (1901-1979), the ballet is modeled on the “dance of death” depicted in medieval German woodcuts. Each of eight scenes dramatizes a different way in which society complies with the call to war. The figure of Death successively seduces politicians, soldiers, a flag bearer, a young girl, a wife, a mother, refugees, and an industrial profiteer, all of whom are brought into Death’s dance on the same terms by which they live their lives. Only the figure of the wife offers a hint of resistance. She turns into a rebellious partisan and murders a soldier returning from the front. For this offense, Death drags her off to be executed by a firing squad. Before the first shots, however, the wife turns toward Death and genuflects. Death in turn gives her a nod of acknowledgement, then looks up into the audience. In a 2017 review of The Green Table, freelance editor Jennifer Zahrt writes that another reviewer at the performance she attended commented, “Death gazed out at us all as if to ask if we understand.” Zahrt responds, “Yes,” as if agreeing that Death’s call to war is always in some way affirmed. It should be observed, however, that modern history offers many instances in which a small fraction of a given population, organized as a non-violent resistance movement, has managed to silence Death’s call for everyone.

July 4. On this date each year, while the United States celebrates its declaration of independence from England in 1776, an unconditionally non-violent activist group headquartered in Yorkshire, England observes its own “Independence from America Day.” Known as the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign (MHAC), the group’s core purpose since 1992 has been to explore and illuminate the issue of British sovereignty as it relates to U.S. military bases operating in the United Kingdom. The central focus of the MHAC is the Menwith Hill U.S. base in North Yorkshire, established in 1951. Run by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), Menwith Hill is the largest U.S. base outside the U.S. for information-gathering and surveillance. Largely by asking questions in parliament and testing British law in court challenges, the MHAC was able to determine that the 1957 formal agreement between the U.S. and UK relating to NSA Menwith Hill was passed without parliamentary scrutiny. MHAC also revealed that activities pursued by the base in support of U.S. global militarism, the U.S. so-called Missile Defense system, and the NSA’s information-gathering efforts had profound implications for civil liberties and electronic surveillance practices that received little public or parliamentary discussion. The declared ultimate aim of MHAC is the total removal of all U.S. military and surveillance bases in the UK. The organization liaises with, and supports, other activist groups around the world that share similar objectives in their own countries. If such efforts are ultimately successful, they would represent a major step toward global demilitarization. The U.S. currently operates some 800 major military bases in more than 80 countries and territories abroad.

July 5.

July 6. On this date in 1942, thirteen-year-old Anne Frank, her parents and sister moved into an empty back section of an office building in Amsterdam, Holland in which Anne’s father Otto carried on the family banking business. There the Jewish family–native Germans who had sought refuge in Holland following Hitler’s rise in 1933–hid themselves from the Nazis who now occupied the country. During their seclusion, Anne kept a diary detailing the family’s experience which would make her world-famous. When the family was discovered and arrested two years later, Anne and her mother and sister were deported to a German concentration camp, where all three succumbed within months to typhus fever. All this is common knowledge. Fewer Americans, however, know the rest of the story. Documents disclosed in 2007 indicate that Otto Frank’s continuous nine-month effort in 1941 to secure visas that would get his family into the U.S. were foiled by increasingly prejudicial U.S. vetting standards. After President Roosevelt warned that Jewish refugees already in the U.S. could be “spying under compulsion,” an administrative mandate was issued that barred U.S. acceptance of Jewish refugees with close relatives in Europe, based on the far-fetched notion that the Nazis might hold those relatives hostage in order to force the refugees to undertake espionage for Hitler. The response emblemized the folly and tragedy that can result when war-fevered fears over national security take precedence over humane concerns. It not only suggested that the ethereal Anne Frank might be pressed into service as a Nazi spy. It may also have contributed to the avoidable deaths of untold numbers of European Jews.

July 7. On this day in 1979,  2,000 Native American activists and anti-nuclear demonstrators march through the Black Hills (South Dakota) to protest the development of uranium mines in sacred lands.

July 8. On this day in 2014, Israel began a 51-day genocidal attack on the people of Gaza.

July 9. On this day in 1955, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and seven other scientists warned that a choice must be made between war and human survival. Distinguished scientists the world over, including Max Born of Germany, and French Communist Frederic Joliot-Curie, joined Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell in an attempt to abolish war. The Manifesto, the last document Einstein signed before his death, read: “In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them.” Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara expressed his own fear that a nuclear catastrophe was inevitable unless nuclear arsenals were dismantled, noting: “The average U.S. warhead has a destructive power 20 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. Of the 8,000 active or operational U.S. warheads, 2,000 are on hair-trigger alert…The U.S. has never endorsed the policy of ‘no first use,’ not during my seven years as secretary or since. We have been and remain prepared to initiate the use of nuclear weapons–by the decision of one person, the president….the president is prepared to make a decision within 20 minutes that could launch one of the most devastating weapons in the world. To declare war requires an act of Congress, but to launch a nuclear holocaust requires 20 minutes’ deliberation by the president and his advisors.”

July 10. On this day in 1987,  Greenpeace flagship, The Rainbow Warrior, bombed in New Zealand by French government.

July 11. World Population Day, sponsored by the United Nations to focus attention on population issues.

July 12. On this day in 1817 Henry David Thoreau was born. Though perhaps best known for his philosophical transcendentalism—by which, as in Walden, he viewed the manifestations of nature as reflections of spiritual laws—Thoreau was also a nonconformist who believed that moral behavior derives not from obedience to authority but from the individual conscience. This view is elaborated in his long essay Civil Disobedience, which inspired later civil rights advocates such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. The issues which most concerned Thoreau were slavery and the Mexican War. His refusal to pay taxes to support the war in Mexico led to his imprisonment, and his opposition to slavery to writings such as “Slavery in Massachusetts” and “A Plea for Captain John Brown.” Thoreau’s defense of radical abolitionist John Brown ran counter to the widespread condemnation of Brown following his attempt to arm slaves by stealing weapons from the Harper’s Ferry arsenal. The raid had resulted in the death of one U.S. Marine along with thirteen of the rebels. Brown was charged with murder, treason, and inciting a rebellion by enslaved people, and eventually hanged. Thoreau, however, continued to defend Brown, noting that his intentions had been humane and born of an adherence both to conscience and U.S. Constitutional Rights. The Civil War that followed would tragically result in the deaths of some 700,000 people. Thoreau died as the war began in 1861. Yet, many who supported the Union cause, both soldiers and civilians, remained inspired by Thoreau’s view that abolishing slavery was necessary to a nation claiming to recognize humanity, morals, rights, and conscience.

July 13. On this day in 1863, Anti-draft riots in NYC, against the implementation of the first wartime draft of U.S. civilian.

July 14. On this day in 1789, the French revolution begun.

July 15. On this day in 1834, the Spanish Inquisition, begun in 1478, is ended.

July 16. On this day in 1945, “Fat Boy,” the first experimental atomic bomb, exploded in Alamogordo, NM.

Also on this day in 1983, in anti-nuclear protest, 10,000 form human chain linking U.S. & Soviet embassies, London, England.

July 17. On this day in 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted establishing the International Criminal Court. This is a good day on which to push for Western powers to be made subject to its jurisdiction and for that jurisdiction to include the supreme crime of war.

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July 18. This is Nelson Mandela International Day.

July 19. On this day in 1881, surrender of Sitting Bull & 186 followers, crossing the Canadian border into US; Army breaks its amnesty promise & jails him at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory.

July 20. On this day in 1874, general Custer & first official exploring expedition enters Black Hills with 110 wagons & 1,000 men, in direct violation of treaty of 1868 that barred whites from sacred hills.

July 21. On this day in 1972, George Carlin charged with disorderly conduct & profanity after performing his famous “7 Words” routine at Summerfest in Milwaukee.

July 22. On this day in 1756, Friendly Association for Peace was founded, Philadelphia.

July 23. On this day in 1846 Henry David Thoreau went to jail for refusing to pay his war taxes. Also on this day in 2002, the cabinet of the British government held a meeting at 10 Downing Street, the minutes of which became known as the Downing Street Minutes. They revealed U.S. plans to go to war against Iraq and to lie about the reasons why. This is a good day to educate the world about war taxes and war lies.

July 24. On this day in 1893, Ammon Hennacy was born.

July 25. On this day in 1947, the National Security Act of 1947 is passed by Congress, uniting the armed forces under control of the National Military Establishment, called the Department of Defense.

July 26. On this day in 1948, President Truman ends segregation in the Armed Forces.

July 27. ??

July 28. In 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, starting WWI. After the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated along with his wife by a Serbian nationalist in retaliation for ongoing conflicts with his country, World War I began. Growing nationalism, militarism, imperialism, and war alliances across Europe awaited a spark like the assassination. As nations had tried to free themselves from authoritarian rule, the Industrial Revolution had fueled an arms race. Militarization had allowed the Austro-Hungarian Empire to control as many as thirteen nations, and rising imperialism incited even more expansion by growing military powers. As colonization continued, empires began to collide and then to seek out allies. The Ottoman Empire plus Germany and Austria, or the Central Powers, aligned with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while Serbia was backed by the Allied Powers of Russia, Japan, France, Italy and the British Empire. The United States joined the Allies in 1917, and citizens from every country found themselves suffering and forced to choose a side. Over nine million troops, and countless citizens died before the fall of the German, Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires. The war was ended with a vindictive settlement that predictably helped lead to the next world war. Nationalism, militarism, and imperialism continued despite the horrors inflicted on people all over the world. During World War I, protests sparked by the realization of the tragic cost of war were outlawed in various nations, while war propaganda came into its own as a powerful force of social control.

July 29. On this day in 1923 No More War rallies were held in 23 countries.

July 30. This is International Day of Friendship. This is a good day to make or reconnect with a distant friend.

July 31. On this day in 1914 Jean Jaurès was assassinated. An ardent humanist and pacifist leader of the French Socialist Party, Jaures strongly opposed war, and spoke out against the imperialism promoting it. Born in 1859, Jaures’ death has been considered by many as another reason for France’s entry into the First World War. His arguments for peaceful solutions to conflict drew tens of thousands to his lectures and writings, and to consider the benefits of a united European resistance to increasing militarization. Jaures was in the process of organizing workers for a unionized protest just before the war began when he was shot and killed while sitting near a window in a Parisian café. His assassin, French nationalist Raoul Villain, was arrested then acquitted in 1919 before fleeing France. Former opponent President Francois Hollande responded to Jaures death by placing a wreath at the café, and acknowledging his lifelong work towards “peace, unity, and the coming together of the republic.” France then entered WWI with the hope of reversing the perceived loss of status as well as territory acquired by Germany following the Franco-Prussian War. Jaures’ words might have inspired a much more rational choice: “What will the future be like, when the billions now thrown away in preparation for war are spent on useful things to increase the well-being of people, on the construction of decent houses for workers, on improving transportation, on reclaiming the land? The fever of imperialism has become a sickness. It is the disease of a badly run society which does not know how to use its energies at home.”

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