The fact that my post follows Brian Tannebaum’s Blog Review # 298 makes me a little bit afraid. Having read his take on Valentine’s Day, I am concerned that, although we have never met, he is already angry with me about something. I promise, however, that I am too technologically unsophisticated to search engine optimize anything, and while I know what toe cleavage is, it shall gain no purchase here. Toe thongs, however – in flip-flop form – are another thing entirely.
Alas, we must leave these thoughts of feet behind (but not far behind) for this week’s Blawg Review. I have been asked to write about peace. Or not peace exactly, but The Peace Symbol, no doubt because the Mysterious Editor Himself read my previous posts and concluded that I am just hippy dippy enough to cover this topic adequately. I congratulate him for his perceptiveness.
Because I was the Rebellious Angry Girl in high school, I adopted as my uniform at some point an old denim jacket of my father’s and an olive-green backpack purchased from Sunny’s Surplus (“The Affordable Outdoor Store”) in Parkville. I painted a peace symbol on the backpack, stole my father’s Hair record, and read Allen Ginsberg. I believed that the sixties mattered because people cared about something; my adolescence, by contrast, ran parallel to the songs of Echo and the Bunnymen and curling ironed-crispy hair. I didn’t fit in and was accordingly pissed. All of which brings us neatly to The Symbol’s unusual birth. Unlike other symbols of peace - the dove and the olive branch, the broken rifle – which more or less depict the state they are meant to represent, The Symbol owes more to war and anger than to serenity.
British artist Gerald Holtom designed it on February 21, 1958 for use in a march to protest nuclear arms. It was based upon the letters N(uclear) and D(isarmament) of semaphore signals, and was eventually adopted by the anti-war movement and counterculture of the late nineteen-sixties. The Symbol appeared on placards, banners, t-shirts, VW Bugs, and dorm room posters. It floated wondrously through acid trips and tattooed itself onto Woodstock. It became, to my mind anyway, the symbol not just of peace, but of the movement for change. As such it illustrates an interesting dichotomy between the Western notion of making peace happen and the Eastern notion of accepting what is.
The Western notion of course fits more neatly within our idea of justice. We do not accept that peace and injustice may coexist. In fact, peace is the result we expect to achieve once we figure out how to address injustice. And until we get there we’re angry. Or at least motivated. We wage wars, protests, demonstrations, arguments, and pursue litigation in the name of peace.
As in this poem by Denise Levertov. (Indulge me; I usually quote poetry on Mondays around here.)
The disasters numb within us caught in the chest, rolling in the brain like pebbles. The feeling resembles lumps of raw dough weighing down a child’s stomach on baking day. Or Rilke said it, ‘My heart. . . Could I say of it, it overflows with bitterness . . . but no, as though its contents were simply balled into formless lumps, thus do I carry it about.’ The same war continues. We have breathed the grits of it in, all our lives, our lungs are pocked with it, the mucous membrane of our dreams coated with it, the imagination filmed over with the gray filth of it: the knowledge that humankind, delicate Man, whose flesh responds to a caress, whose eyes are flowers that perceive the stars, whose music excels the music of birds, whose laughter matches the laughter of dogs, whose understanding manifests designs fairer than the spider’s most intricate web, still turns without surprise, with mere regret to the scheduled breaking open of breasts whose milk runs out over the entrails of still-alive babies, transformation of witnessing eyes to pulp-fragments, implosion of skinned penises into carcass-gulleys. We are the humans, men who can make; whose language imagines mercy, lovingkindness we have believed one another mirrored forms of a God we felt as good— who do these acts, who convince ourselves it is necessary; these acts are done to our own flesh; burned human flesh is smelling in Vietnam as I write. Yes, this is the knowledge that jostles for space in our bodies along with all we go on knowing of joy, of love; our nerve filaments twitch with its presence day and night, nothing we say has not the husky phlegm of it in the saying, nothing we do has the quickness, the sureness, the deep intelligence living at peace would have.
Denise Levertov, Life at War, from To Stay Alive (New Directions Pub. 1971)
As luck would have it, the blogs this week come bearing plenty of injustice, plenty of war, and plenty of conflict.
Whatever your take on the war in Iraq (guess what mine is!), Jonathan Turley’s recent post should give you pause. In it he reports on “Curveball’s” incredulity that his account of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was ever taken seriously. It’s a shame we couldn’t have figured that out before 4,500 Americans went to their deaths. And we’re not out yet.
Of course, President Obama has continued to expend treasure and lives in Iraq in the ultimate example of the economic theory of “path dependence.” We continue to fight a war based on a fabricated story because our leaders cannot risk the political repercussions to pulling out from that country. There is also no known punishment for the officials, including high-ranking CIA and Administration officials, who perpetuated this lie. At best this was an act of willful blindness and at worst knowing falsification to justify going to war.
And on a closely related note, Sarah Mehta of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program brings us inside a courtroom in Guantanamo as Noor Uthman Muhammad pleads guilty to training terrorist recruits in Afghanistan. After eight years spent awaiting trial, Muhammad answered ”na’am” (“yes”) repeatedly as he was questioned about his consent to the plea, but the court translator failed to render the one sentence Muhammad spoke: “Enough, enough already ….. Let’s get it over with.” Mehta concludes:
This is the 10th year of the Guantánamo military commissions, and they are still demonstrably incapable of producing justice. We should use our tried and true federal courts, instead of perpetuating a discredited military commissions system that is recognized as a dark stain on American history. Yesterday, Chief Prosecutor Captain Murphy maintained he was “extremely comfortable” with the level of justice produced by the military commissions, but I feel incredibly uncomfortable with the spectacle I witnessed.
Scott Greenfield writes about a different kind of combat on his Simple Justice blog: the proposed Combatting Infringement and Online Counterfeits Act. I don’t want to give anything away here, but there’s a twist. Point made. Also, the Bard himself makes an appearance.
By the way, congratulations, Scott, on your fourth year of blogging.
I should confess right now that the only patent I understand is leather. (Shoes again. See how I tie all the little threads together?) BUT important things are happening at the Federal Circuit, as the Acting Solicitor General prepares to argue the Justice Department’s position in Association of Molecular Pathology v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (the “Myriad case”, for those who know these things.) The court will be asked to determine whether isolated genes are patent-eligible, and the DOJ thinks not. Kevin Noonan argues that the PTO is conspicuously missing in this scenario, and that major decisions with real world consequences shouldn’t be made by high-minded types with no connection to said world.
Looking on the bright side, the possibility exists that, under the kind of piercing questioning that ASG Kaytal is likely to face from whatever Federal Circuit panel hears this argument, he will begin to have a glimmer of an understanding on how completely the “government” has botched the opportunity to benefit from the experience of senior PTO officials and experienced legal staff, and that merely being the latest installment of the “best and brightest” isn’t always enough.
And, in the “This Peace Brought to You by Big Brother” department, Eric Sherman’s post on Bnet asks the obvious question: “Why on earth does the United States Air Force need software to manage 500 fake accounts on Facebook?”
In 2005, the U.S. military was involved in a multimillion covert operation to plant propaganda in the Iraqi media. So what could the government do with fake online personalities that could use social media sites and services? A number of things come to mind, including the following:
- Play a part in antiterrorism activities.
- Offer an outlet to disseminate propaganda as though it were the opinions of disinterested individuals.
- Keep tabs on what military personnel do online.
Hmm. Sounds legit, I guess. Still, I would advise you to think carefully before your next poke.
Of course, the blogosphere is alive with posts about Egypt, from Egypt, and for Egypt. Professor William Jacobson of Cornell Law School lays out the downside, suggesting that the revolution of the people will give way to religious tyranny. As evidence of this, he points to the hollow role played by Wael Ghonim, the young, handsome voice of the “new” Egypt, at a rally led by radical cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Where was the western hero Ghonim?
He tried to take the microphone to speak to the crowd, presumably to preach his western values, but he was kept off the stage by Sheik al-Qaradawi’s security.
Google executive Wael Ghonim, who emerged as a leading voice in Egypt’s uprising, was barred from the stage in Tahrir Square on Friday by security guards, an AFP photographer said. Ghonim tried to take the stage in Tahrir, the epicentre of anti-regime protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, but men who appeared to be guarding influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi barred him from doing so.
Ghonim, who was angered by the episode, then left the square with his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.
Meanwhile, Jacksonian Lawyer is watching events unfold in Morocco, Libya and Syria and posting videos. Hopefully, these revolutions will be guided by Andrew Jackson’s words quoted on the site: “But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.”
I leave you, I hope not too thoroughly discouraged, with this lesson from one wise in the ways of war.
But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony–Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?
Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet On The Western Front (Chelsea House Pubs., 2009)