“Remember Pearl Harbor—Keep ‘Em Dying”: War and Racism in the Pacific

American planes dropped firebombs on Tokyo 75 years ago, on the night of March 9-10, 1945, killing an estimated 80,000-100,000 people.[1] The firebombing began a six-month-long American bombing campaign against 66 Japanese cities that culminated in the two atomic bombings and killed roughly 400,000 people in total.[2] This killing campaign was the climax of a … Continue reading “Remember Pearl Harbor—Keep ‘Em Dying”: War and Racism in the Pacific

An American Devil Figure: The Complex Legacy of Joseph McCarthy

One of the most infamous figures of 20th-century American history gave one of the most infamous speeches of 20th-century American history 70 years ago this winter. Speaking before a Republican women’s group in Wheeling, West Virginia, on February 9, 1950, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (R-WI), declared that a certain number of US State Department employees … Continue reading An American Devil Figure: The Complex Legacy of Joseph McCarthy

East Germany’s Peaceful Revolution: Remembering the Berlin Wall’s Fall

The Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago this year, on November 9, 1989. This massive barrier that since the 1960s had effectively imprisoned the residents of Communist-ruled East Berlin was also a symbol of the larger Cold War division between Eastern and Western Europe and the Soviet Union and the United States. When Berliners broke … Continue reading East Germany’s Peaceful Revolution: Remembering the Berlin Wall’s Fall

Nuclear Disarmament as a Social Justice Issue

Activists seeking to end or radically reduce nuclear weapons’ threat may find it difficult to get public attention. Despite the high stakes involved—the lives of millions and even humanity’s survival—the nuclear threat frequently seems distant and abstract. The danger is future and hypothetical, in contrast to current, actual situations of people dying or suffering from … Continue reading Nuclear Disarmament as a Social Justice Issue

Political Action’s Opportunities and Dangers: Some Lessons from Bayard Rustin

Social movements learn from one another: strategies and tactics that work on behalf of one cause may also work for another. Learning from other activists requires discernment, though: times and circumstances differ, so what worked for one movement at one historical point may require adaptation and selectivity to be effective for a different movement. The … Continue reading Political Action’s Opportunities and Dangers: Some Lessons from Bayard Rustin

The Wages of War, Part 2: How Forced Sterilization Came to Japan

World War II’s devastation of Japan, and the politics of the post-war American occupation, led to the Japanese Diet [parliament] passing the Eugenic Protection Law 70 years ago, in 1948. The law legalized abortion in Japan, with millions of Japanese children being killed in the womb over subsequent decades.[1] The law also legalized a non-lethal but still … Continue reading The Wages of War, Part 2: How Forced Sterilization Came to Japan

Apocalypse Averted: The Brink’s Tale of Near-Nuclear War

The world might have come close to ending in the early 1980s. Tensions had been rising between the United States and the Soviet Union for years, and Soviet leaders were convinced that their American counterparts were planning to launch a nuclear war. The Soviets became hypersensitive to possible warning signs of an impending American or … Continue reading Apocalypse Averted: The Brink’s Tale of Near-Nuclear War

The Wages of War: How Abortion Came to Japan

“I hate Japs. I’m telling you men that if I met a pregnant Japanese woman, I’d kick her in the belly.” — Remark attributed to Admiral William Halsey, commander of US naval forces in the South Pacific during the Second World War[1] “Tsubachan, I’m sorry I couldn’t give birth to you. I would have loved … Continue reading The Wages of War: How Abortion Came to Japan

Extermination by Hunger: Red Famine’s Story of Lethal Injustice

Joseph Stalin took a fateful trip to Siberia in January, 1928. Stalin, soon to become the Soviet Union’s supreme leader, traveled to the country’s outskirts to identify the causes of poor agricultural production and food shortages. He concluded that Soviet farming was too small-scale: most peasants tended small farms that were not economically efficient, while … Continue reading Extermination by Hunger: Red Famine’s Story of Lethal Injustice

Finding Common Ground on and Learning from World War II

Writing on the Consistent Life Network's blog, Rachel MacNair recently examined several moral issues related to the Second World War and how we interpret and remember that war today.[1] An observation in that piece that struck me was that when a nonviolence advocate discusses war with someone who supports it, a war supporter who “understands things as … Continue reading Finding Common Ground on and Learning from World War II