Tuesday, October 23, 2007

EAOP Grad's Talk on Restoring Democracy Written Up in Brattleboro Newspaper

Power to the people -- for a change
By BOB AUDETTE, Reformer Staff

Monday, October 15
BRATTLEBORO -- Power belongs to the people.

In the Declaration of Independence -- which came before the U.S. Constitution -- the signers were very clear in their intentions. "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," they wrote. And though a government shouldn't be changed or abolished "for light and transient reasons," when it has become "destructive of these ends," they wrote, it keeps people from their unalienable rights -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

While admitting that most of mankind would rather live with the evil they know "than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed," the signers of the Declaration gave Americans the right to stand up and be counted, said Ellen Hayes, of Advocates for Community Empowerment. With more than 25 people in attendance in the basement of Brattleboro Savings and Loan Saturday morning, Hayes said "democracy that the Declaration talks about has never been achieved."

"The Constitution is touted as one of the greatest democratic documents in the world," said Hayes. "It is not." Not only has the United States become an "empire state" in the tradition of the Great Britain it broke away from in 1776, she said, since the Civil War "the few have managed to institute laws backed by the armed might of the state to increase their control over property and commerce" at the expense of community and nature. You've been sold a bill of goods, said Hayes, and people need to learn the difference between what they've been told is the truth and what the truth actually is. Once you learn the truth, she said, communities can take steps to return decision-making authority to the people.

Corporations are able to manipulate the U.S. Constitution for their own means, and not for the public good, said Hayes, because the Constitution veered from the Declaration of Independence over the 11 years from 1776 to Sept. 17, 1787, when it was adopted by a group of landed elite, said Hayes. Over the years, corporate business interests have learned how to manipulate the law-making process to their advantage. The "corporate bill of rights," granting "personhood" to corporations, is another tool that businesses use, she said, "to get federal preemptive law to suppress everything else." But, she added, "there can be no supremacy clause for decisions that affect you directly."

Communities around the country are learning this for themselves and taking back control, said Hayes. "If you want to stop this problem at the root, here's what has already been done and upheld by the Supreme Court," said Hayes. By stepping back to the Declaration of Independence, you can force corporations to stay out, she said, adding nine states in the Midwest have laws banning corporate ownership of farms, said Hayes, excluding family-owned farms.

The corporations may have the legal decision on their side, "but do they have the legitimate decision on their side?" asked Hayes. For example, she said, in Barnstead, N.H., residents saw a battle being waged between a nearby town and a spring water company that wanted to bottle and ship its water to Europe. The towns have spent the last six years fighting the plan. Barnstead residents, wanting to avoid such a fate, realized the issue wasn't about water extraction, it was about who was making the decisions and were they in the best interests of the community. "If you define the problem as someone impeding your ability to self-governance, the answer is no longer parts per million or a funny definition of public good," said Hayes. "It's about who gets to make the final decision about something that directly affects my life, my family's life and future generations."

Residents of Barnstead banned corporations from extracting water in their town by reframing the debate as one about the right of self-governance and the rights of nature. By providing for rights for nature, she said, you give every citizen the ability to speak to issues in their community. "The only way this works is to build a majority and solidarity," said Hayes.

That's the only way to overturn policies that benefit corporations at the expense of consumers. By using the anti-discrimination laws and the guarantees of the 14th Amendment, corporations have been able to attain equal standing in the eyes of the law. "They are a fiction of our imagination to perform some kind of economic or public good and they're out of control."

Classes on democracy-based organizing are offered by the Daniel Pennock Democracy School, with its next session Nov. 16-18 in Bethlehem, N.H. The Democracy School is a 16-hour weekend dedicated to the study of American history, people's movements, how law is made, who makes the law, whose values the law serves and how real communities can use this education to change their organizing tactics and become more effective.

Advocates for Community Empowerment works with community groups to preserve democracy by using local law. The Saturday morning meeting was recorded by BCTV and will be scheduled for presentation at a later date. More information can be found at acene.org and celdf.org. The complete text of the Declaration of Independence can be found at ushistory.org/declaration/document/index.htm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Antioch New England Addresses Racist Incident at Columbia University

On October 9, a “hanging noose” was found on the office door of Dr. Madonna Constantine, a faculty member in counseling and clinical psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Constantine, who is African American, teaches about multicultural counseling and does research on racism and professional psychology. This abhorrent incident is a harsh reminder of the persistence of prejudice and racism in our culture, and of the effort we must make together to confront such hate-based behavior and develop and implement strategies to promote positive change. Below is 1) a letter sent to Dr. Constantine by Antioch University New England's President David Caruso on behalf of the faculty and staff at Antioch University New England and 2) a support resolution drafted by the director of the Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program and unanimously passed on October 17 by the Antioch University New England Faculty Senate.

1) Letter sent to Dr. Constantine by President Caruso on behalf of ANE Community
Dear Dr. Constantine:

Please accept the heartfelt sadness and support of the Antioch University New England community for you and the faculty, staff, and students in the Counseling and Clinical Psychology program at Teachers College. We offer our support to you as you deal with the difficult reactions you must be experiencing after the abhorrent racist hate incident, and also our support for the important work that you do related to multicultural counseling and racism in professional psychology. We deplore such hate-based behavior rooted in racism and pledge to redouble our efforts to contribute to the development of a just society free of prejudice, discrimination, and racism.


David Caruso

2) The Antioch University Faculty Senate Statement of Support for Dr. Madonna Constantine (Passed By A Unanimous Vote of the ANE Faculty Senate on October 17, 2007)
The Antioch University New England Faculty Senate stands in full support of Dr. Madonna Constantine and others at academic institutions who are being targeted for racist intimidation in overt or subtle ways. We believe that the core values of freedom, justice, mutual respect, and universal human rights--which should be at the heart of every academic institution—need to be defended. The struggle against white supremacy is not over. This was made clear to all of us last week by the ugly, racist act of someone putting a hanging noose on Dr. Madonna Constantine’s office door at Columbia University's Teachers College.

While two of our faculty members have worked closely with Dr. Constantine in the past, making what happened to her a very personal concern for us as a faculty, such an act should sadden and anger all people even if we do not have a personal connection with the person or persons being targeted. The ANE Faculty Senate hopes our statement of support for Dr. Constantine will be but a small drop in a much larger wave of support from academic institutions and professional societies all across the country and world. We firmly believe that an injury to one is an injury to all.

We also believe that this is a teachable moment at academic institutions across the country, one that could allow for deepened discussion and insight into the dynamics of racism and other forms of oppression--as well as an opportunity for all of us to learn how to support each other, be better allies, and stand up for justice and decent treatment for all. We urge all our students and faculty to find ways--in our respective spheres of influence--to reach out and support Dr. Constantine and the understandably upset faculty and students at Teachers College, while also building an ever stronger community of racial solidarity and trust right here at Antioch University New England.

Finally, we want to thank Dr. Gargi Roysircar-Sodowsky and the students of the Support Group for Ethnic and Racial Diversity in ANE’s Clinical Psychology Department for taking leadership in raising the issue of this painful, racist incident at Columbia's Teachers College for public dialog on our own campus. Their initiative has helped Antioch University New England keep our eyes on the prize of creating what Martin Luther King called the Beloved Community. As a faculty, we now rededicate ourselves to this vision.