Category Archives: U.S. Peace Movements

Cellist Yo Yo Ma on “Open Borders”

Cellist Yo Yo Ma will play 36 solo concerts on 6 continents to "explore how culture connects us" in his Bach Project.

One of 36 solo concerts by cellist Yo Yo Ma took place at the southern Chile observatory, the most powerful in the world. With his two year Bach Project the musician declares, “We are all cultural beings – let’s explore how culture connects us and can help build a better future.”

In April of this year, world renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma played a Bach suite for solo cello in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico at the border crossing to the U.S. For an audience filled with persons who daily cross the border to the U.S., the Chinese-American musician noted how his own personal life and his art have been about crossing borders. “I’ve lived my life at the borders between cultures, between disciplines, between musics, between generations.”

Ma had planned to play the concert on the bridge linking the U.S. and Mexico but the U.S. Customs and Border Protection would not approve it. In a Laredo interview he responded to a recent statement by the U.S. President that the country was already “full”.  Ma asserted,“A country is not a hotel and it is not full”.

Designated by the United Nations as one of its “Messengers for Peace”, Ma will play the Bach six suites for solo cello in 36 locations on 6 continents over a two year period. His web site describes the mission of what he calls The Bach Project, “The shared understanding that culture generates in these divisive times can bind us together as one world and can guide us to political and economic decisions that benefit the entire species.”

Watch an excerpt here of the Nuevo Laredo, Mexico performance filmed and commented on by Texas Public Radio:

Atomic Scientists on “Open Borders”

The 1946 book One World or None was reissued in 2007 by The New Press

Many of the leading atomic scientists contributed essays to this 1946 best selling book and assisted in production of a documentary film of the same name.

“If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people must unite, or they will perish.” J.Robert Oppenheimer spoke these words soon after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The chief of the Los Alamos team that produced the first nuclear weapons joined many other atomic scientists in calling for international oversight of future development of atomic weapons and atomic energy.

The scientists’ anguish over the cataclysmic potential of nuclear bombs led to the creation of the Federation of Atomic Scientists of Los Alamos. Their December 1945 newsletter editorialized, “the preservation of…secrecy on a purely national basis would represent the defeat of any adequate program of international control.”

At the same time, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by Los Alamos and Manhattan Project team members who “could not remain aloof to the consequences of their work.” Several of them also contributed essays to the best selling book of 1946 titled One World or None: A Report to the Public on the Full Meaning of the Atomic Bomb.

Oppenheimer continued to call for international control of atomic weapons in the 1960’s. At a series of lectures at Oxford in 1962 he declared, “[…] We think of this as our contribution to the making of a world which is varied and cherishes variety, which is free and cherishes freedom, and which is freely
changing to adapt to the inevitable needs of change in the twentieth century and all centuries to come, but a world which, with all its variety, freedom, and change, is without nation states armed for war and above all, a world without war.”

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists advanced the “doomsday clock” in 2018 thirty seconds explaining, “In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II.”

Albert Einstein was among the leading scientists who hoped the United Nations would provide the institutional framework for control of atomic weapons and atomic energy. He began his appeal to the Second General Assembly of the UN in 1947 lamenting: “Since the victory over the Axis powers – no appreciable progress has been made either toward the prevention of war or toward agreement in specific fields such as control of atomic energy”. Anticipating the argument that the U.S. or any other nation’s hegemony in nuclear weapons would guarantee security and peace, Einstein declared, “However, strong national armaments may be they do not create military security for any nation nor do they guarantee the maintenance of peace.”

Einstein’s appeal to the U.N. warned against the idolatry of national sovereignty as hampering progress toward international peace and security. “There can never be complete agreement on international control and the administration of atomic energy or on general disarmament until there is a modification of the traditional concept of national sovereignty…. Security is indivisible. It can be reached only when necessary guarantees of law and enforcement obtain everywhere, so that military security is no longer the problem of any single state.”

The hope for a world order without armed forces and weapons deployed by individual nation states soon gave way to the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The 1946 founding of the United Nations represented for Einstein and many others a departure from and repudiation of the logic of nationalism and national sovereignty. Expectations that progress in creating a world system of law and order would follow soon gave way to a new scramble to maintain control of the resources in the former colonies of Europe. It is the devotion to the defense of national sovereignty, a conception of world order most developed in the 19th Century, that drives opposition to “open borders” today.

Our “national sovereignty” is referred to as threatened by immigration to the U.S. Migrants today constitute an “invasion” of the country. Such language leads to further militarization of the 1,933 mile southern border of the U.S. Building a wall to ensure long term security ignores ample evidence that what hasn’t worked in the past won’t work in our time. The push for building a wall contributes to the hysteria surrounding immigration without contributing to the defense of the nation or clearing a path for progress in immigration reform.

Responding to increases in the number of migrants by building a wall does illuminate for us the dangers of clinging to outmoded, archaic thinking behind public policies based on defense of “national sovereignty”. Defense of our people in this nation from the potential consequences of atomic warfare, of global climate change and of mass migration from impoverished regions most affected requires the U.S. to rethink its posture and politics of “America First”. What must happen before we commit to international cooperation and control in this “one world or none”? What degree of catastrophe in the U.S. must occur before we open our minds to “open borders”?

“Beyond Vietnam 1967 to Congo 2016”

Dr. Mukwege’s Nobel Peace Prize represents an advance of the Congolese people – and all humanity. Could it be that his award will do more to bring about the political change desparately needed in in Congo than all the millions of dollars and the lives expended in peacekeeping in the still war torn nation?

Lokoleyacongo

Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Denis Mukwege has pioneered surgical treatment of gang rape victims in eastern Congo.  He is the son of pastors in the Pentecostal Church. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Denis Mukwege has pioneered surgical treatment of gang rape victims in eastern Congo. He is the son of pastors in the Pentecostal Church.

On April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King spoke out against the U.S. waging war on Vietnam. His “Beyond Vietnam” sermon will undoubtedly stand as a landmark speech in the history of the United States. Among the words of powerful prophecy we read,

“The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality [applause], and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about…

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