Sunday, February 12, 2017

Refuse to remain silent ...Mendler's counterfascism tools

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well and that your Sunday activities weren't dreary to match the weather.

This morning, an email arrived.  Its writer commented on the “resistance ... coalescing” around Donald Trump’s actions, and that right now is a time when we can act and connect with others on issues that we care about.  She noted that when people are angry or afraid they are also receptive ... implying that now is a time that good can be done, together.  An important thing to say, I thought.

And not an hour later I got an email from the Toronto chapter of Voice of Women for Peace (, saying that Quaker peace activist and writer, Skip Mendler, was going to be speaking at the Friends House in Toronto on the topic of  ”A handy guide for preventing fascism”.  Well ... here I am in London, Ontario, ... so I did what any other research geek would do and went online.

Mendler sounds like quite a guy!  He talks about groups like Emergency Circus and Clowns Without Borders, which help children in refugee camps.  Who knew there were such groups?!

and one of his opinion pieces for an (online?) publication called OpEdNews is titled “If You Can Keep It” ... Preventing American Fascism.  (here)

In this November 2015 piece, he outlines what fascism is - an enforced unification of institutions - and that such situations have to be imposed because people differ in so many ways that the structure and strictures of fascist (or corporatist) regimes don’t happen when people are able to express themselves.

He says we need to think of fascism in the same ways as we think of a disease ... like herpes ... so we can figure out how it’s caught, and how to reduce the factors – stresses – that cause a flare up. 

He says that people are susceptible to this imposed fascism when they become fearful, suspicious, lacking in empathy, obedient, nationalistic and rely on force.  He also commented – a year before the U.S. election - that “It is far more likely that fascist power will be established in the USA through apparently “free and fair” elections than through some kind of armed rebellion ... also far more likely to come from the grassroots up, rather than being imposed from above.”

Well ... the Trump certainly knew how to do the rhetoric that stirred up people, so maybe that’s a grassroots change.  His team is a bunch of ...

Better get back to Mendler’s ideas!

The Counterfascist Toolbox

- Turn the terms so we aren’t susceptible to fascism: be compassionate, kind, creative, imaginative, vigilant, informed, and thinking.

- Vigilance - pay attention to what's happening in the news, in your neighbourhood, city, province, country, other countries.  Yes, it can be a lot!  So "pick your battles"... the topics you really pay attention to and will/can act on.  Expanding Mendler ... the more you pay attention the better you'll be at Anticipation which helps you be pro-active: call the city clerk and ask if s/he's been told something's been given reserved time on an agenda a month hence... then call your group to be get the documents in a row, ready to write and counter the points you expect.

Centeredness – being able to maintain “calm, rational equanimity in the face of ... provocation – counters the tendency to panic, or take rash, impulsive, and ultimately counterproductive action.”

- And “centeredness supports couragewhether speaking up to a comment at work or carrying a sign along main street.

- We also have to reach out and make communities of many types: in our neighbourhood, of people with shared interests, and at all levels of government.

- “And most of all: whatever happens – refuse to remain silent.”

I'd love to have heard Skip Mendler speak in person ... and to have spent my evening with the wonderful community that would have been at a VOW event.  I'm happy to have run across his writings today tho' and thank him for being out there - being imaginative, centered and courageous, in communities quite a ways from his home in the U.S.  I think I can say I'm already on top of his last piece of advice ... and I promise to work on the others.  Thanks Skip!

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman 

Friday, February 3, 2017

So Much of the World is Inside America

             “America is committed to the world because so much of the world is inside America”
Ronald Reagan

Hello Everyone,

I hope this note finds you well, and finding ways to work in your community on projects that bring people together.

Never did I think I’d write down words spoken by late U.S. president Ronald Reagan!

Angelina Jolie uses them in her New York Times opinion piece,  Refugee Policy Should Be Based on Facts Not Fear (here) Jolie is a special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a film maker and actor.    

This post is a riff on her comments ... and I’ll do my best to put quotations marks or credit to Jolie when I paraphrase her.

Jolie writes that “refugees are men, women and children caught in the fury of war ...often the victims of terrorism themselves.”  And that of the 65 million refugees and displaced people worldwide, less than 1 percent of those are settled anywhere around the world during any one year.  So, 650,000 worldwide. 

Jolie points out that refugees into the United States are screened over several months through interviews, and “security checks carried out by the F.B.I., the National Counter-terrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.”

The United States and other countries worldwide – including Canada – have agreed to take in refugees as an aspect of their participation in United Nations Conventions, international laws against discrimination on the grounds of faith. 

If I understand the situation, nations see such conventions in a practical way:  doing the good of taking in refugees, and seeing people as equal, are good for nations’ security.  What a funny blend of ethics and politics, but if it works, that's good. 

Jolie speaks passionately in her article about how openness and compassion towards others will bring those things home to ourselves and our country.  Her comments are worth reading and heeding. (here)

Very best regards,

Why's Woman