Testimony for National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service — END DRAFT REGISTRATION

I prepared the below testimony to present at a public meeting in Chicago before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, a commission created by Congress to deal with questions of draft registration, most specifically, whether to end draft registration or expand it to women. The Commission designed the format for this meeting with severely restricted opportunities for general public input. I intend to submit this testimony in written form, but I do not anticipate that I will be able to present it in person. At the end of this testimony is a much shorter statement that I intend to present to the media in Chicago, and directly to the Commission, if possible.

FULL TESTIMONY

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, to be here today. I have come from 250 miles away to testify to you about service. I am volunteering my time to testify about that which is involuntary: conscience. I have come much further than 250 miles to be here today…

My testimony is rooted in family history predating the existence of the United States of America.  I am 12th generation in this land now known as the United States of America. In the early 1700’s, my ancestors settled on land given to them by William Penn, on what would come to be known as Pennsylvania. My Mennonite ancestors fled Germany to escape conscription and war.

With that wave of German immigrants and refugees, those that occupied the land had much fear about them ruining life as they new it. Newly-arrived German males age 16 and older were forced to take a loyalty oath to the British crown. The English oath was administered roughshod over the newly arriving boys and men, most of whom spoke only German upon their arrival. Apparently, a nominal and blind oath provided some comfort to those fearful residents already occupying the land.

As the Philadelphia harbor bells rang, signaling new arrivals, people gathered to greet them. Many gathered to welcome family or provide strangers with much needed assistance, knowing what it is like to leave one’s home and arrive in a strange land with little or nothing. Others gathered to enlist indentured servants. Here is my most important question regarding service. Serving freely or serving under coercion — which is the greater service? I submit that serving freely is greater. In this particular case, the free service of hospitality and welcoming outsiders is greater than enlisting indentured servants. In the shared scripture of The People of The Book — Jews, Christians and Muslims — a similar exhortation is repeated multiple times: “You must love foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt.” This service of what may be considered radical hospitality is a time-honored practice of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The humble practice is at the heart of every great faith worldwide. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love because you were first loved. My ancestors, yearning to be free, wanted neither to be the cause of war as soldiers nor the tragic effects of war in its wanton destruction. This was at the heart of my ancestors’ journeys in life. This is my heritage.

More recently, in relation to war and peace, my great-grandfather, during World War II, ran an alternative service camp for conscientious objectors. As for me, I was literally born into service. I was born in 1961 in Haiti, while my parents were serving as medical missionaries, a doctor and nurse, with Mennonite Central Committee. Mennonite Central Committee has long encouraged and empowered years-long terms of service, often overseas. For my Dad, this was also as an alternative service to military service.

In 1979, the year I graduated from high school, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In response to this, President Jimmy Carter instituted draft registration of young men my age, ostensibly to send a message of military preparedness to Soviet leaders. I was in the first batch of young men required by U.S. law to register for the draft. However, the prospect of draft registration conflicted with a higher law, my conscience and ultimate commitments. I could not and cannot, in good conscience, participate in war-making. As the clarity of my conscience emerged, I could find no way to register for the military draft, whose sole purpose is preparedness for war. My conscience also dictated that if I was to disobey an unconscionable law, then I was to openly take full responsibly for my actions while I worked to change such a law. I began by writing letters to Selective Service and my elected representatives. I may not have had been well-schooled — yet, anyways — on the politics of waging war or peace, but I was intimately familiar with my conscience and the legal duty that my young male peers and I faced. I was a teenager facing obedience to my conscience. This obedience came at the legal threat of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

I quickly learned that my war resistance is not dependent on geopolitical circumstances, political pendulums, or legal threats. I am already opposed to the next war. Unlike in the pragmatism of war, my enemy’s enemy is not my friend. For me, war is the enemy. Nonetheless, the nearly 40 years since my initial confrontation with draft registration affords me a certain perspective as I have lived through a full cycle of history.  While I was a skinny teenager facing taking on the United States government, the U.S. government was backing the soon-enough-to-be-notorious Osama bin Laden as a so-called “freedom fighter,” leading the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation.  Of course, our support of Osama bin Laden, our enemy’s enemy, turned out to be a deadly lessen in the futility of weaponizing violent radicals in the vain hope that it won’t blowback in further violence on virtually all fronts. Today’s “freedom fighter” is tomorrow’s terrorist. Today’s war seeds tomorrow’s terrorist. Gandhi spoke frequently of the seamless connection of means and ends. War IS terrorism. How can we expect it to produce anything else — with it many “means” and “ends”? In the end, I cannot view warmaking as service to this country, or any country for that madder, certainly not to humanity as a hole. I find warmaking incompatible with Jesus’ call to love our enemies and to be peacemakers, the children of God.

In speaking with hundreds of Americans over the years about draft registration resistance, I have found that people’s objections to my objections are of two basic types. One type of response is basically that draft registration is such a minimal requirement that it isn’t worth much fuss. If this is the case, then why don’t we just get rid of draft registration, without much fuss? The other type of response is about the utter graveness of our warmaking, and usually something about our national doody. If war is so grave, perhaps the concerns around someone refusing to go postal should receive more thoughtful and consequential consideration. To add insult to injury, in a surreal show of moral farce, war apologists routinely cite “necessary evil” as their moral foundation. This is not the God I serve. Straddling these two poles of minimal and supreme concern, are the tired questions that are asked pacifists, such as: “What would you do if someone was raping your grandmother in the ally?” I learned to answer such questions with: “I’d register for the draft.” If their perplexity persisted, they might suggest that I go back to Russia (where I’ve never been) or indicated their inclination to see me face time in jail; presumably, so I am not around to not protect them.

Mean wile, back in 1980, soon after winning the presidential election, Ronald Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration. His campaign rhetoric about getting the government off the backs of people rang hollow, like a hollow bullet to my heart. The media wanted to do a story on this broken promise and how it affected the young men subject to the law, particularly those opposed to it. As it turned out, while there were millions of nonregistrants quietly in violation of the law, I was the only local public nonregistrant that they could track down, and I soon found myself highlighted in various media for years to come.

To make a long story shorter, in 1983, I was indicted for failure to register — I prefer refusal to register. In 1986, I was tried and convicted. My indiscriminate honesty more than compensated for their lack of investigatory skills. I served 107 days in the federal Community Corrections Center in Detroit, served two years probation, and served 200 hours of community service. I can’t help but note, today, since the theme is “service,” that the solution to my singular failure was to rip me from my community in order to integrate me back into my community. Plus, the court had to bean-count community service that you couldn’t have stopped me from serving anyway.

Of course, there were larger forces at work. I, and a select few others, had to be made examples of. I, for One, am proud of the example I served. In the case of The United States of America vs. Daniel A. Rutt, there was a focus on my failure/refusal. In the meantime, I had finished college, got married, finished graduate school, had a son, and got a job. I went on to serve in a public health career of almost two decades. I even got a national award from the feds for my work in health promotion — thanks for noticing, U.S. of A. For the last 16 years, I have run my own business promoting social justice.

I do not consider my time imprisoned or countless hours engaging in war resistance as any great burden. In fact, I consider this as service to my country and humanity. I do suspect that most any person who did a tour of active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan has suffered more than I.  Unfortunately, war is replete with suffering. Of course, suffering is of no great inherent value. Nonetheless, whatever we willingly suffer for is a good measure of what we truly value. I hope that more Americans, whether male or female, young or old, will volunteer to put more skin in the game and resist war in any way they can. I believe that the cost of freedom is found in not killing, rather than killing. As General Patton so infamously stated, “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”

It is impossible for me to separate my service from my conscience. Conscience is that small still voice that emanates from the foundation of our existence, that calls us, at the risk of trademark infringement, to be all that we can be. My war resistance is deeply rooted in following Jesus, The Prince of Peace. The Jesus I follow was executed as an enemy of the state. He was executed at the behest of the religious elite. Today, the religious elite dutifully save themselves and their clan, more faithfully blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war, more conveniently blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war. The first wave of martyrs in early Christendom were men who refused military service. The broader wave of martyrs were Jesus followers who refused idolatry, the literal and figurative “pinch of incense on the altar” to Caesar.

For me, draft registration is that “pinch of incense on the altar” of the state. When it comes to military service, in the great U.S.A., there is no “one nation under God.” When it comes to military service, The United States of America is God. Specifically, The United States of America, does not recognize ANY Constitutional right to refuse military service for ANY reason, including conscience or freedom of religion. As we all know, the U.S. Constitution provides for many rights, rights that cannot be infringed upon by the state. There are many constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition for redress of grievances, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to equal protection under the law, among others. These are often referred to as natural rights or God-given rights. Such rights define the character of a state, and place limits on its sovereignty, recognizing a power greater than itself. The United States of America, does not recognize ANY natural or God-given right to refuse military service for ANY reason. If you are surprised by this, so was I. I count this as the singular lesson that I learned in my draft registration resistance. This sad and idolatrous reality was unmasked only by a federal judge citing a Supreme Court case in a legal opinion rejecting my motion for dismissal on the basis of religious freedom. Fortunately, I have found that God’s grace extends further than legislative grace or constitutional provision of this republic. I strongly suspect that tens of millions of Americans of faith recognize that holy obedience sometimes requires civil disobedience.

My male ancestors age 16 plus who arrived to this land so many years ago were forced to swear a loyalty oath to the government, even though most didn’t even speak the language in which the oath was administered. This didn’t even seem to matter to government officials. Why is this? I suspect that the nominal and incomprehensible oath was a “pinch of incense on the altar,” a ritual form of national worship needed by a resident populace afraid of strangers. The minimal content of the oath served as a safe and surefire way to maximize compliance and minimize resistance. Who would get back on the boat and return across the sea because they had to mouth or sign an incomprehensible swearing. Who would not submit their name and basic information to the Selective Service System? Well, most young men do not register when they first become legally required. Most young men, hoping to go somewhere, register when they need to secure a driver’s license, or when they reach the shore of an education, needing a student loan.

I suspect that the ritual obedience of a “pinch of incense on the altar” may be more important than an actually functioning, fair and equitable system of potential conscription. Conspicuously absent from the Selective Service annual report is the noncompliance rate with the requirement for registrants to update their address (within 10 days) every time they move. Every observant person knows that 18-25 year-old men move a lot. How many address updates do they get? How many address updates don’t they get? Surely, this can be estimated, and certainly it matters if one actually cares about being able to effectively and fairly enlist young men in a potential draft. The noncompliance rate for initial registration is 8% for all 18-25 year-old men. I strongly suspect that the noncompliance with current address is much higher than noncompliance with initial registration; probably, in combination, high enough to blow a hole in any contention that draft registration is effective and fair. By the way, those young men not complying with address updates are subject to the same legal penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. In FY 2017, 184,051 names and addresses of suspected violators to initial registration were provided to the Department of Justice. Does it strike anyone else as odd that the names and addresses of suspected violators are forwarded? If the Selective Service System has the names and addresses of potential enlistees, what else do they need?

I contend that what Selective Service is largely after is your assent to civil obedience, participation in a national religion of warmaking, your “pinch of incense on the altar,” if you will. This seems to be a better characterization of Selective Service’s function than, in the case of a military draft, to “rapidly provide personnel in a fair and equitable manner.” Oddly, if you find yourself a male age 26 or older, beyond the age requirement to register, and you failed to register, you could still run into trouble by being denied eligibility for federal student financial aid, federal job training, federal employment, or U.S. citizenship; yet, you may be in the clear if your can “show by a preponderance of evidence” that your failure to register was not knowing and willful. Just don’t be too conscientious; that is, until you have to prove that you were not conscientious. Apparently, the true crime is conscientiousness in not registering, more so than simply not registering. The selective prosecution of a few conscientious and public resisters while millions are noncompliant speaks volumes to this.  Certainly, a system where obliviousness is excusable and objecting conscientiously is a crime is a system that distorts our nation’s highest values.  I don’t object to Selective Service being shot full of holes regarding compliance. I do object to Selective Service dishonoring or punishing conscientiousness. As there is no way for a registrant to officially indicate any intent at conscientious objection, I would be very curious to see what would happen if conscientious objector status were a checkbox in the registration process. We might learn a lot about the state of conscientious objection in America. Of course, if Selective Service noncompliance is largely about non-conscientiousness, then I have to ask: What would such a level of non-conscientiousness say about what we might be fighting for and who might be fighting for it?

The draft registration system cannot account for true conscientiousness. The draft registration system cannot muster enough compliance, conscientious or not, to claim fairness and equitability. The honorable course of action, in both cases, is to end draft registration.

In truth, the actual practice of draft registration ignores conscientious objection. While there is no apparent constitutional right to refuse military conscription, there are some legislative provisions for what are called conscientious objectors. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to indicate conscientious objection during the current draft registration process. This is objectionable to many conscientiously opposed to war. Somewhat oddly, the only legal way to make such a claim is to submit to a system, the Selective Service System, whose sole purpose is preparing for war, which you must reject completely. Plus, conscientious objector status is only possible as a military service classification, if and when a draft may occur. The longer a registrant is unrecognized as conscientiously opposed to war, the further the objection. Further, conscientious objector status can only be recognized for those who are opposed to all wars. If you in good conscience object to whatever current war in which you are subject to serve, this is oddly irrelevant. You could, in fact, turn out to conscientiously object to every actual war that comes down the pike in your lifetime and this is deemed irrelevant if you are not opposed to every theoretical war (or past war). This renders conscientious objection to a meaningless idea for what is perhaps the vast bulk of being conscientiously opposed to war. Finally, there is no real mechanism to truly count or officially value the service of conscientious objectors, meaning that men will be drafted until the military need is met, whether ten or ten million men have conscientious objection. The service of a conscientious objector is superfluous to the determining aim of the Selective Service System. This itself is offensive to many persons of conscience opposed to war-making. Let’s end the criminalization of conscience.

In truth, the actual practice of warmaking habitually runs roughshod over international law and human rights. The promise of some possible future alternative service as a noncombatant is little comfort to my conscience, and of many others. In a warring world, the distinction between combatants and noncombatants offers fantastical sanitization rather than actual sanity. The fact is that across time and across a myriad of modern armed conflicts, over ten so-called “noncombatants” are killed for every “combatant.” The first casualty of war is the truth; most of the rest are noncombatants. My duty is to oppose war, not escape military service. This is my service to humanity. This service is regardless of combatant status. Plus, the best way to serve warriors happens to be ending war.

In the age of terrorism, some will claim that we live in new era of war, not subject to the old rules of war. We do live in a different time than in the 1980’s, the decade when draft registration was initiated. I can testify to a profound shift toward anti-war sentiment since then. During the first Gulf war, in the early 1990’s, I never felt so isolated as an American, confronting palpable resistance even from liberals. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, our local peace network, the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, initiated weekly Sunday demonstrations at busy intersections around town. These demonstrations for peace and against war occurred weekly for 15 years (and continue twice each month). In the early years, most of the feedback we had from passing motorists was angry yelling, middle fingers, and expletives flying. Over the years, this angry response has become rare, perhaps a couple a week, and the overwhelming positive responses are represented by hundreds of “honks for peace,” peace signs and thumbs up. Americans in the heartland of Ohio are tired of war and welcome peace. Draft registration is a relic of ages past. Why have draft registration when even the military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft?

One issue at the heart of draft registration and military conscription is what is the proper role of women in warmaking and peacemaking. I am delighted to see that women serve as 5 of the 11 commissioners. Surely, it is women who should determine what is the proper role of women, in this case, concerning warmaking and peacemaking. In my lifelong work across a wide range of social justice movements, I have found women to be the most reliable and most inspiring leaders and laborers for social justice. I strongly suspect that women will take up the mantle of even greater war resistance if they become subject to military conscription. I take inspiration to serve as a war resister from Julia Ward Howe. She, most famously known as the composer of the Battle Hymn of The Republic, was the founder of Mother’s Day, originally a day of war resistance. She issued this Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm! Disarm!” The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

 In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

I would much prefer entrusting my conscience and fate to such “a general congress of women without limit of nationality,” rather than the currently constituted National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

Perhaps somewhat ironic, given my heritage, Germany now has a constitutional right to conscientious objection while the United States does not. When Germany ended conscription in 2011, the majority of those serving were conscientious objectors, and the debate had shifted from conscience to whether they should give up a huge pool of cheap labor. I believe that forced national service is incongruent with our nation’s highest ideals. I believe that volunteerism is at the core of authentic service. I suspect that lowering our ideals by forcing service is a poor way to nurture true service. Let us lead by example. This is why I am here today. If you want to gauge both the heart and the cutting edge of service in this country and for this country, look to those who volunteer, willingly, without pay, to live out their deepest values. This is the clearest view of our highest ideals incarnate, that service, that work, which cannot be bought and sold.

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Commission. From your bios, I can see that you are exemplary leaders in service. Unfortunately, I think that you may have an impossible job. I appreciate that Selective Service is technically considered under civilian control. Still, I can’t help but notice that both Selective Service and this Commission are heavily represented by persons from the military or traditional national security apparatus. This does not fairly represent America in the civilian service necessary to make for peace in the world. Also, about 4 in 10 Americans are persons of color, including many of those in the military. Why is this Commission even whiter than the overly white Congress who appointed it? This is not a service to America, and raises the question of whether white supremacy is part and parcel to your work. In tandem, the Commission’s overwhelmingly militarized representation and unduly whiteness, inspires little confidence that your recommendations can represent America. Perhaps it would be more honest to call this Commission an Omission. I suspect that this failure is rooted in the failure and cowardice of Congress to deal with draft registration in a changing world, that is, a world that recognizes women as equals. Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Instead, Congress kicked the can down the road for a couple of years by creating a Commission to address this question for them. Unfortunately, This Congress-created Commission is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, any hopes of sparking a national conversation on service will be sparks falling on damp firewood.  Further complicating the credibility of the Commission is the tightly controlled and choreographed public meetings in conjunction with severely limited open public testimony. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then using this input to shape additional “invited” testimony. This may already be too late to remedy. The chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic or representative. In my years of public service, both as a community planner and as a citizen participant in many public forums, I think that it is fairer to characterize the Commission’s public meetings to date more as “dog and pony shows” than as an open and responsive democratic process. For this Commission’s work to claim legitimacy, there is a lot of changes that need to be made. Lastly, having to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission. I hope that you have found worthwhile input in my testimony to move toward a peace-loving democracy in which every one of us finds ample opportunities, free of compulsion, for self-sacrificial service for the good of all.

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PRESS STATEMENT

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, about 250 miles away, to be here today. I am one of the select few prosecuted and imprisoned for refusing to register for the draft, back in the 1980’s. We are here today for one reason, and one reason alone: Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Congress punted by appointing a Commission to provide recommendations regarding draft registration a couple years down the road. That Commission is the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Unfortunately, This Commission’s work is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to honestly and openly addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, the Commission will be a failure. Draft registration continues to have no mechanism to accommodate conscientious objection. Draft registration is fraught with noncompliance by young men either not registering at all, registering late, or not updating their addresses. The military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft. This is no time to expand draft registration, whether to women or persons with select skills the military might want. Now is the time to end draft registration. Voluntary service is true service. Let’s keep it that way.

Today’s public meeting in particular highlights the failing credibility of the Commission. Previous public meetings around the country have had very limited opportunity for open testimony from the general public. Today’s meeting has even less opportunity. Previous public meetings have been billed as having opportunities to speak directly to the Commission; and when people get there they find out that there is a scheduled two minutes per citizen. This meeting is being billed as an opportunity for Q&A, not even to the Commission but to their invited speakers. Furthermore, the overall time for the public to even participate in this insular Q&A has been cut down to “20 or 30 minutes.” From the experience of previous public meetings, the chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic. The Commission is moving in the wrong direction. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then used this input to shape additional “invited” testimony as needed. This may already be too late to remedy.

Unfortunately, the Commission has other credibility problems that may very well make their job impossible. This Commission is dominated by members from the military or traditional national security apparatus, all the while trying to couch their work in a broader, more generic view of service. This Commission is extremely white, in a nation where people of color are about 4 of 10 Americans. This Commission is poorly designed to represent America. To make matters worse, the Commission has chosen to conduct its business in such a manner that citizens have had to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission. This does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission.

Originally, I planned my trip from Toledo to Chicago, for this public meeting, to deliver testimony to the Commission, offering a story of conscience and how draft registration fails to meet a broad range of America’s ideals. Because this public meeting cannot accommodate such open testimony, I stand before you, hoping that a free press will shine a light on the ill-conceived and poorly executed work of The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

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Are Peace Signs The Bomb?

This is my kind of story about the power of peace buttons:

In one North Carolina city, authorities decided it might be too dangerous to give peace a chance.Give peace a chance -- John Lennon quote

News outlets report Interstate 240 in Asheville and a bridge over it were closed for about 10 minutes Thursday while police removed two round button-like objects reading “peace” from underneath the bridge.

About 1 foot (0.3 meters) across, the objects were made of a Styrofoam-like material, painted red and gray, and attached with magnets to the steel beams underneath the bridge on the northbound and southbound spans.

The Citizen-Times quotes Lt. Joseph Sorrells as saying authorities assumed the objects didn’t pose a threat, but they shut down traffic “to err on the side of caution.” He said the objects were harmless.

The road closures caused significant backups on I-240, and a preschool was placed on lockdown.

I have been known and unknown to skulk about in similar such peacemongering activities.  When peace breaks out in such small ways, may we not be so afraid.

Please feel free to browse my many hundreds of peace sign designs, from simple to psychedelic.

POEM: A World Worth Fighting For

Once agin
His eyes went
Threw me
Populating lonely
A whirled
Of perpetrators and victims
Bad asses and good ass
Of which I was won
Haunted by wonder
In what kind
Of world
Would we halve
Been friends
Now that is
A world worth
Fighting for

In a world flush with partisan rancoring and polarized perspectives, it is easy to pay know tension to each other’s humanity, often valuing each other less than common ground.  Who is a hero? He who turns his enemy into a friend. The Talmud quote PEACE BUTTONIn a world wear the lyin’ between winners and losers is sharply drawn, like an unbrakable sored, we risk a fate worse than deaf.  When we are effaced with the phallus choice forced upon us between perpetrators and victims, there peers no amor culpable of shielding us in what is right or left, split in two, halves and have nots.  The flush harbor in their stately effluence of fauxs.  Oar their wins carry them aweigh, atop endless serfs and bounteous fleeting vassals.

Can one side fit awe?Peace - One Side Fits All - Peace Dove - PEACE BUTTON  Courage to Stand Up and Sit Down Listen - PEACE QUOTE BUTTONCan we engender enough solidarity and courage to make peace?  What does fighting for won an other’s humanity look like?  Who knows, perhaps the genuine struggle to answer such questions in our living and dying may very well be what makes this a world worth fighting for.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Anti-GOP Pledge of Allegiance — Plague of Leeches on The Flag

With a wave of patriotic protests occurring during the national anthem, I thought that I would add the pledge of allegiance into the mix.  Of course, this free poster is an anti-Republican, anti-GOP parody of the pledge of allegiance: Why plague leeches to the flag unguided statesmen of America and to the Republican which grandstands, “won nation under God, it’s our liberty, just US for all.”

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Anti-GOP Pledge of Allegiance -- Plague of Leeches on The Flag

Please feel free to share, download and print this FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Anti-GOP Pledge of Allegiance — Plague of Leeches on The Flag.

Also, please feel free to browse my patriotic themed designs:

What Your Flag Stands For Is Up To You - POLITICAL BUTTONHopeful Symbolism Flags Don't Wave in Vacuum -- PEACE QUOTE BUTTON	 Dissent Is The Highest Form Of Patriotism POLITICAL BUTTON

THINK - It's Patriotic POLITICAL BUTTONI WANT YOU To Support PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY - Protect the Constitution (Uncle Sam) - POLITICAL BUTTONAmerican Flag is Bad Wrap -- ANTI-WAR BUTTON

Where Are All of the Politicians Wrapped in Flags ANTI-WAR BUTTONI Want You To Work for Peace [Uncle Sam] PEACE BUTTONSupport Our Troops - Work for Peace - Justice for Veterans - Bring them Home NOW--PEACE BUTTON

POEM: Commander-in-chief

Just
Say it
Three times fast
He/she/it
Commander-in-chief
Presiding over
No unwounded soldiers
As sum kind
Of used scars salesman
Master of what we auto do
Protector of awe we car about
As if
Some amored vehicle
Good grief
Shock and all
Giving won’s right harm
As pumped up append age
And sport scar
As buy gone youth
The fodder of proclamations
And canonizing
A bout
How offal sorry
Know longer jumping
Through hooplas
Green to pain for grave deeds
As herein now
Head stoned
Or even
Missing inaction
That piece that passes
Awe
Under standing
An immeasurable ruler
Of the highest
Nay heavenly
Rank

Wars Don't Kill People Presidents Do--ANTI-WAR BUTTONOwed to the Commander-in-chief.  He/she/it.  Weather a man, a woman, or merely a cog in the office of the President, war is hell.  All else is propaganda.  The commander-in-chief serves as the high priest of nationalism, offering up blood and idol words, mocking the sovereign goodness of God.  Selling evil as necessary is affront enough to a loving God.  GOD: The Mother Of All Soldiers (and civilians) PEACE BUTTONOverselling military service as a sacred duty cements our feat in an ocean of hurt.  Trust in the power of war, military might, is the fodder of much of the Old Testament.  This is nothing new.  However, the power and workings of God are ever anew.  There was a time when people believed that he earth was flat.  There was a time when people believed that monarchy, the rule of royal elites, was an absolute and unchangeable reality.  I DON'T ALWAYS KILL PEOPLE, BUT WHEN I DO, I WRAP IT IN MY HIGHEST IDEALS ANTI-WAR BUTTONThere was a time when people accepted slavery as a normal, desirable, even God-sanctioned, fact of life.  God created us free.  Free to do evil.  Free to do good.  We don’t need to kill to be free.  We may need to kill to mold creation into our image, of a world free for those closest to us, and a world of shit for those far from us.  We worship a god chopped up into little peaces, and we have the body parts to prove it.  May we cast off the vicious cycles of violence and war, and dedicate, even sacrifice, our lives for a world where one side fits all.  This is awe that God asks of US.  Make it sow.

Anything War Can Do Peace Can Do Better PEACE BUTTON If we were willing to pay the same price for peace that we pay for war, we'd have peace today PEACE BUTTONI Want You To Work for Peace [Uncle Sam] PEACE BUTTON

Our Grief Is Not A Cry For War PEACE BUTTONPACIFIST - Someone With The Nutty Idea That Killing People Is Bad PEACE BUTTONNothing enduring can be built on violence. Gandhi quote PEACE BUTTON BUTTONS-Peace-Q-NECB

Peace hath higher tests of manhood than battle ever knew. John Greenleaf Whittier quote PEACE BUTTONWeapons are like money; no one knows the meaning of enough. Martin Amis quote PEACE BUTTONSupport As Few Troops As Possible PEACE BUTTON

Violence - The Cause and Solution to All of Our Problems PEACE BUTTONYou Can Bomb The World To Pieces But You Can't Bomb It To Peace PEACE BUTTONgot militarism? PEACE BUTTON

I Support Everyone's Troops [Grim Reaper] ANTI-WAR BUTTONThere Is No Such Thing As An Unwounded Soldier ANTI-WAR BUTTONWAR - Your Doody To Humankind ANTI-WAR BUTTON

 When You Fight Evil With Evil, Evil Wins ANTI-WAR BUTTONStop Taking Life Literally--ANTI-WAR BUTTONPeace is Patriotic ANTI-WAR BUTTON

Truth is the First Casualty of War - Most of the Rest Are Civilians--ANTI-WAR BUTTON I Want You To Die a Meaningless Death To Sustain a Lifestyle that Will Ultimately Destroy the Earth-ANTI-WAR BUTTON

Browse all of Top Pun’s anti-war button designs and peace button designs.

 

POEM: In A Family Weigh

The future looms
Sew large
As we seam
Sow singularly stranded
In the present
Weave heir
A parent
With know designs
Beyond
Sum won ails
And grater still
The mine wandering
Too what end
As life goes
On and on
In and out
Adding up
One’s soul contribution
The pit or pattern
Of little feat
Never apart
Of the family busyness

This poem is about solidarity and hope.  At times, each of us may feel alone, facing an uncertain future.  This poem sets such worries and fears in the context of being part of the human family, children of God.  You are not alone.  While our individual actions may seem futile, they are an undeniable thread in the fabric of the future.  Even when we feel screwed, the future is pregnant with possibilities.  Not Your Obligation to Complete Your Work But Not at Liberty to Quit--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONThe Talmud wisely states, “It is not your obligation to complete your work, but you are not at liberty to quit.”  Change is ongoing — such is the nature of life.  Works worthy of the human race (versus the rat race) cross generations — even races!   Worthy hopes and dreams often need to live on across generations; thus, our hopes and dreams must pass the test of being in a family weigh.  As native Americans might put it: the arc of our lives should be aligned with the lives seven generations from now.  The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice--Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONFurther, as Martin Luther King, Jr. assured us, “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”  Wherever your journey takes you, may you find courage and hope in the company of others, and do your part taking care of the family busyness.

 

 

Feel free to browse courage designs here.

The Opposite of Courage In Our Society Is Not Cowardice; It Is Conformity -- Rollo May quote POLITICAL BUTTONCourage - The Other National Deficit POLITICAL BUTTONHatred is the coward's revenge for being intimidated. George Bernard Shaw quote PEACE BUTTON

POEM: Loving Your Enemas

The legal lists
Were longing
With who hurt
And who not heard
Attesting too
How much they love
They’re enemas
Only wading
For sue a side
As eminent just us
And inevitably knot
Passing the smell test

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)--FUNNY PEACE BUTTONThis is a poem about the intractable mess of trying to love your enemies and kill them as well.  American Christianity generally considers pacifism a quaint way of life, tolerable in direct proportion to its relegation from the halls of power in church and state.  American Christianity has bought rather wholesale into war as a practical necessity — the necessity of evil, that is.  Wince again, the necessity defense is the greatest offense.  Is the oneness of humanity to be cleaved by the body of Christ?  For badder or worse, the inconvenient truth of dying for one’s enemy reliably leaves American Christians more than cross.  Object of War Not to Die for Your Country But Make Other Bastard Die for His--ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTONAt best, nationalism, and at its worst, imperialism, become the legal ism for such a knotty morality.  And if any prophets may bedevil such an undertaking, their fate is bound in the hands of a certain high priest, possessed buy inescapable logic: “You know nothing at all!  You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:51)  Yep, to gain the world and halve the whole world parish.  American Christians all to often worship a bastard son, pax Americana, a modern day roamin’ umpire, overruling with just US, and as per fuming so extravagantly that we don’t even realize we fail the smell test.

May awe of US unearth humility enough to execute amorality, in a creation fit for all — for Christ’s sake!

 	 I'm not a pacifist. I'm not that brave. Phil Donahue quote PEACE T-SHIRTPeace - Won for All - Peace Dove-PEACE BUTTON

Check out more pacifism designs.

POEM: A Brother Lying

Prey fore the dead
In the name of Jesus
In resurrection of those soully asleep
Getting a phallus rise
Out of Christianity
That is, US
More sow then radical Islam
In violate fundamental lists
Dissembling faith, hope, and love
As our trinity project
Our won God triumph a writ
With a Cain due attitude
Over awe that is Abel
To spill the good word
Buy blood crying out
Too me
From the ground
A brother lying
Knot knowing
The hollowed meaning
Of I am
One’s keeper

I often write about stuff triggered when I hear the news.  I listen faithfully to Democracy Now on weekdays.  It’s not unusual to stop in the middle of a show, or even a news story, to write a poem about something that touched me: a phrase worthy of seeding a poem, an issue baffling human kind, or simply a heartfelt emotion.

The literal life and death issues of war and peace, militarism and pacifism, have been close to my heart my whole adult life.  The latest flavor of this is the unending war on terrorism, which easily commiserates with virulent patriotism, nasty nationalism, presumptive racism, and irreconcilable religious bigotries.  Our unconscious privilege, convenient distance, and well-earned ignorance of world affairs is complicit with any easy alliance of violence as a lazy alternative to costly self-sacrifice as the true weigh of incarnating justice for all.  Nominal Christianity and its state-sponsored sheep, hawk a cheap grace bound only by an unequaled military budget and unquestioned reverence for a mercenary class.

I have a more generous perception of a frightened citizenry in deed resorting to violence in an increasingly secular, postmodern worldview.  Violence seems inevitable, certainly unendurable, without a resilient weigh to measure the sacred worth of an other, a brother human, who peers threatening.  I have a less generous view of normalizing violence by those aspiring to be religious, deeply commuted to any of the major faith-based worldviews represented by the world’s religions.  In the case of the U.S., the purported rock of our moral lives is Christianity.  I assert that an honest appraisal of American Christianity regarding its world military domination is that it is ruggedly cross.  War and Peace - What Would Jesus Do? FUNNY PEACE BUTTONAmerican Christians quiet reliably in efface of violence, instead of bearing the rugged cross, demand the blood sacrifice of “others” as their savior.  To this I can only say, “Jesus Christ!”  Whose image due we bear?!  What about state violence has to do with the heart, life and death of Jesus — other than the fact that it was state violence that executed Jesus.

To add insult to injury, the budget-sized war we christen as terrorism, we blame on Muslims, or worse yet, on the sacred tenets of Islam.  The real competition may be about who has the shallowest understanding of their religion: nominal Muslim terrorists or nominal Christian war apologists.  I strongly suspect that the farces of Christianity have killed more people than the farces of Islam.  Regardless, the age-old story of Cain and Abel, shared in the sacred texts of both Christianity and Islam, plays out over and over: brother kills brother and denies the essential nature of their kin relationship and how family should care for one another.  May people of faith lead the way in ending violence between all peoples.  This goes triple for “People of The Book” (Jews, Christians, and Muslims).

Browse anti-terrorism designs.

Is Killing In The Name Of The Prophet Worse Than Killing In The Name Of Profit? ANTI-WAR BUTTONTerrorism War of Poor War Terrorism of Rich--ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTONWar Is Terrorism With A Bigger Budget ANTI-WAR BUTTON

 

FREE DOWNLOADABLE POSTER — VETERANS DAY: Let’s Leave War Behind Not Veterans

Here is my tribute to Veterans Day.  Please feel free to share this downloadable VETERANS DAY poster or meme.FREE POSTER: VETERANS DAY Let's Leave War Behind Not Veterans

This free downloadable poster is based on these designs, available in buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, laminated posters, and more:

Support Our Troops - Work for Peace - Justice for Veterans - Bring them Home NOW--PEACE BUTTON

Support As Few Troops As Possible PEACE BUTTON

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing enduring can be built on violence. Gandhi quote PEACE BUTTONPeace hath higher tests of manhood than battle ever knew. John Greenleaf Whittier quote PEACE BUTTON

Psychedelic Rainbow Peace Sign

Black Light Party 7–Psychedelic 60s PEACE SIGN BUTTON

Black Light Party 7--Psychedelic 60s PEACE SIGN BUTTON

Black Light Party 7–Psychedelic 60s PEACE SIGN BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Psychedelic 1960s Peace Sign Buttons.

This psychedelic rainbow peace sign is way cool regardless of your sexual orientation.  Nonetheless, for gay folks and their straight allies, this cool peace sign design is a total winner.  If you don’t like this peace sign, chances are you are a total whiner — just saying.

No War in Iran – Toledo and Defiance Protests

Top Pun at Toledo "No War in Iran" Protest

Top Pun at Toledo "No War in Iran" Protest

This last weekend I participated in two protests as part of the national Day of Mass Action to Stop War on Iran – February 4, 2012.  On Saturday afternoon, about 15 to 20 people gathered outside the Defiance County Courthouse in Defiance, Ohio.  This anti-war protest was sponsored by the Defiance County Citizens for Change and Occupy Defiance.  It was certainly difficult for me to resist participating in an act of defiance of war in a city literally named Defiance! On Sunday afternoon, about 30-some protesters gathered at the corner of Secor Road and Central Avenue.  This no war in Iran protest was a special edition of the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition’s weekly protests against war has been going on since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.  A call to action and endorsement by Occupy Toledo helped bolster the usual numbers of the unusual suspects.

Both days were beautiful February days thanks to global climate change.  In an unrelated observations, there were large numbers of internal combustion vehicles passing by at both locations.  There was an overwhelming friendliness to our antiwar message, maintaining a very positive ratio of at least 10 to 1 of honks for peace versus middle fingers and angry screams out of the window.  Of course, there were plenty of blank stares and averted gazes amongst the silent majority.  Hopefully, those people who were not even looking outside the car window, busily texting, were telling their friends and enemies to come down and join the protest.  I would note that this is a big change from the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003 when the NWOPC weekly protests began.  At that time, with the run-up to the Iraq war and the shock and awe beginning of the so-called war, the American people seemed patriotically supportive or oblivious to our wars and their implications.  At these weekly protests, at the beginning of the Iraq war, there were a large number of motorists hurling angry epitaphs at us for protesting the war.

You Can No More Win a War Than You Can Win an EarthquakeA few days before the Iraq war started, a couple dozen or so of us were arrested protesting in front of the Toledo U.S. Army recruitment center.  Eight or nine of us went on trial a few weeks later, and during jury selection I was amazed to witness that the majority of jurors could not even state an opinion regarding the war.  Obviously, most Toledoans, probably fairly representative of Americans, were either not paying attention and/or didn’t really care.  I hope that today, after a decade of drumming up and fighting what is openly billed as an endless war against terrorism, that the American people are beginning to realize that the so-called new war against terrorism is really just the same old war that has been fought since the beginning of humankind, or human unkind as the case may be!  One of my favorite quotes shown in the peace sign design to the right, demonstrates the futility of war: “You can no more win a war than win an earthquake!” May we truly take this to heart and not fight merely to end a particular war but to end war itself.

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture) FUNNY PEACE DESIGN

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)–FUNNY PEACE BUTTON

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)--FUNNY PEACE BUTTON

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)–FUNNY PEACE BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Peace Buttons.

This funny peace design includes many of the signature elements of my designs.  Of course, as a total peacenik, a peace dove carrying an olive branch, a classic peace sign, is the centerpiece of this design.  The sky in the background offers a little bit of realism into simple clip-art design.  The dove sets up the visual pun which can only be understood in conjunction with the text.  The “Look Ma, No Arms!” presents itself with a childlike innocence, calling attention to itself with a demanding affection.  The pun on “arms” hopefully draws the stark contrast between a simple interaction between mother and child and a call for disarmament.  This design captures well both of the playfulness and the seriousness that I value greatly, and fits well into my mission to provide serious, funny, seriously funny designs.  Enjoy!