Democracy

Erica Chenoweth 08-25-2011

Could nonviolent resistance have succeeded in Libya? Here are four points worth considering:

1) The movement was fairly spontaneous, unlike the highly coordinated campaign in Egypt. As Peter Ackerman consistently points out, planning is an essential element to a successful nonviolent revolution. As with any battlefield, a nonviolent campaign requires extensive preparation. But reports seem to indicate that Libyans began protesting in earnest around Feburary 15th, likely inspired by events in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia. Gadhafi seemed prepared for this and immediately cracked down using overwhelming violence. By February 19th, the movement had become violent in response to these crackdowns. Four days of civil resistance doesn't give it much time to work. Egyptian pro-democracy activists struggled for years before seeing Mubarak fall. Syrian oppositionists, thousands of whom have been killed by Bashar al-Assad's regime, have toiled along for the past six months. So, we can't really say whether or not nonviolence would have worked in Libya. It never had a chance to materialize in the first place.

Thelma Young 08-19-2011

Broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornel West just wrapped up their 18-city "Poverty Tour." The aim of their trip, which traversed through Wisconsin, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and the Deep South was to "highlight the plight of the poor people of all races, colors, and creeds so they will not be forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible." Although the trip has been met with a fair amount of criticism, the issue of poverty's invisibility in American media and politics is unmistakable. The community organizations working tirelessly to help America's poor deserve a great deal more attention than what is being given.

The main attack against the "Poverty Tour" is Smiley and West's criticism of Obama's weak efforts to tackle poverty. For me though, what I would have liked to see more is the collection of stories and experiences from the people West and Smiley met along their trip. The act of collective storytelling in and of itself can be an act of resistance.

Rose Marie Berger 08-08-2011

More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the United States have signed a statement in support of a fellow cleric Roy Bourgeois, who faces dismissal for participating in a ceremony ordaining a woman as a Catholic priest, in defiance of church teaching.

More than 300 priests and deacons in Austria -- representing 15 percent of Catholic clerics in that country -- last month issued a "Call to Disobedience," which stunned their bishops with a seven-point pledge that includes actively promoting priesthood for women and married men, and reciting a public prayer for "church reform" in every Mass.

We have come to an impasse in the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling because of several conceptual errors in our public discourse. These errors were most glaring in the remarks recently delivered by Speaker of the House John Boehner in his response to President Obama. The largest conceptual error is the idea that the government of a constitutional representative democracy is different from the people. Boehner said, "You know I've always believed the bigger the government, the smaller the people."

What does this mean? The government is composed of the people, and if people are paying attention and voting according to their own interests, the government ought to work toward the happiness of the people. The problem is that too many Americans have bought into this conceptual error that the government is some kind of leviathan, a monster that exists to take away their liberties. This is nonsense. A correction of another conceptual error in Boehner's presentation makes my point.

Nathan Schneider 07-18-2011

Behind Bars. Fremantle Prisonphoto © 2009 Amanda Slater | more info (via: Wylio)On the first day of this month, inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison, joined by inmates in other prisons around the state, began a hunger strike to protest "inhumane and torturous conditions" in the Security Housing Unit, which holds inmates in solitary confinement for decades at a time. They're still at it; the state has admitted that as many as 6,600 inmates around the state have participated in the strike. Last week, corrections officials offered the prisoners a proposed deal, which they unanimously rejected.

This comes after a Supreme Court decision in May that ordered California to reduce its prison population, as overcrowding was causing "needless suffering and death."

Part of what's making the standoff worse is the belief that the strike is, in essence, a form of gang activity. For one thing, as Colin Dayan noted in passing in a New York Times op-ed, "How they have managed to communicate with each other is anyone's guess." The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), though, isn't so stumped.

Paul Drake 07-08-2011

As I celebrated my freedom on Independence Day, I found myself considering the promise that my country boasts about: "liberty and justice for all." In particular I was struck by the many freedoms uniquely absent from the lives of so many American workers.

Ryan Beiler 05-25-2011

The scenes were stunning: Hundreds of demonstrators pouring across the fence between Syria and the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.

Eboo Patel 05-19-2011
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and high-profile conservative intellectual, announced that he is officially in the running for the Republican nomination for president.
Claire Lorentzen 05-06-2011

At Sojourners, we have always been advocates of principled nonviolence. But all too often, conventional wisdom has seen nonviolence as passivity, even in the face of injustice.

Jim Wallis 05-04-2011
[Editors' note: This post was written in response to a question posed by The Washington Post's On Faith blog editors: Is it moral to celebrate a person's death, even i
Shane Claiborne 04-11-2011
As a Christian, Easter marks the most stunning act of grace and enemy-love in human history -- Jesus' death and resurrection.
Eboo Patel 04-01-2011

The whole idea of democracy is that the setiments of our fellow citizens have power; we put ourselves in each other's hands.

Alex Awad 03-22-2011

After decades of repression by autocratic dictators, the restless masses in the Middle East and North Africa are going to the streets -- most of them nonviolently -- and asking their leaders to step down.

Jim Wallis 03-22-2011
The U.S. just started another war. We're good at starting wars. We're not good at ending them, but we start them really well. They say this is for "humanitarian" reasons. Aren't they all?
Trish Edwards-Konic 03-16-2011

When I announced my plans to go to Jordan several weeks ago for a press trip, my son replied, "You are the only person wanting to go to the Middle East right now." That was several weeks ago when people were fleeing from Egypt and Tunisia. And he was right, my plane to Jordan was less than half full.

Bryan Farrell 03-16-2011
Corporations have long used the false rhetoric of "jobs versus the environment" to pit what would be natural allies -- environmentalists and labor activists -- against one another.
Maryada Vallet 03-14-2011
As the world is watching Libya, I am keeping close watch and prayers over the sea.
Brian McLaren 02-28-2011
The "What Would Jesus Cut?" campaign, launched by Jim Wallis and the good people of Sojourners, assumes that
Jake Olzen 02-21-2011
A week after a shocked world reveled in Egypt's incredible moment of freedom and people power, Wisconsin is reviving its own unique tradition of people power and creative protest.
Daoud Kuttab 02-18-2011
Ten years ago, I established AmmanNet, the Arab world's first Internet radio that used technology to create audio and text content freely.

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