Follow-up on North Korea

In response to a recent blog post, Rising Tensions with North Korea and Farm Diplomacy, Jon Krieg (American Friends Service Committee) who played a key role in this endeavor, wrote, “Isn’t it pretty cool how one thing that feels relatively small at the time can send bigger waves?”

I also heard from another key participant, Dan Jasper who wrote “You’ve done a lot to keep the history alive and I think you documented some important stuff on that post. It was a good trip when Linda and I came to Iowa and this retelling is very timely. We’re in the middle of our Korea peace advocacy week (an annual event where we set up meetings for grassroots folks to speak to their members of congress on Korea related bills). I also recently presented my sabbatical research on the connections between food, climate, and peace at AFSC. I’ve come to believe that it’s no accident that ag offers a place for communities and even adversaries to come together.

We could also set up a meeting with your congressional delegation as a sort of extension of the Korea peace advocacy week.”


Isn’t it pretty cool how one thing that feels relatively small at the time can send bigger waves?

Jon Krieg, American Friends Service Committee

This AFSC website will help you send a letter about tensions in North Korea to your US Congressional representatives.

https://www.afsc.org/action/support-peace-and-humanitarian-cooperation-north-korea

The U.S. must act now to build peace and humanitarian cooperation with North Korea. 

June 25, 2022 marks the 72nd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War. Though there was a ceasefire in 1953, the United States and North Korea have yet to sign a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. This open wound is a root cause of the conflict and hostilities still present on the Korean Peninsula today.  

This “forever war” risks further military conflict, fuels arms races, exacerbates global humanitarian crises, and keeps families separated. And it’s time for it to end. 

Join us in calling for peace and humanitarian cooperation today! 


This is the letter that is created from that link. And the response from Senator Chuck Grassley.


As someone concerned about the well-being of the people on the Korean Peninsula and as a supporter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), I ask you to please co-sponsor H.R. 1504 – the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act. The bill expedites the provision of nongovernmental humanitarian assistance, including life-saving medical care, to the people of North Korea. In the weeks following the COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea, it is critical that you support these measures, which will help private aid organizations respond when the borders reopen.

Please also co-sponsor S. 2688, the Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act, which would require the State Department to work toward reuniting Korean-American families separated by the Korean War.

Help us respond to critical humanitarian needs and reunite Korean Americans with their families in North Korea.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jeff Kisling


June 16, 2022

Dear Mr. Kisling:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your support for the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act (S.690) and the Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act (S.2688). As your senator, it is important to me that I hear from you.

I appreciate hearing your support for the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act which was introduced by Senator Edward Markey. This legislation, if enacted, would require the Treasury Department to expand existing humanitarian licenses for North Korea to include larger humanitarian projects as opposed to medical supplies and food.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Treasury Department and the Department of State have expanded licensees for the provision of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in sanctioned countries. That said, I do not believe that the wholesale removal of sanctions on North Korea would alter the regime’s behavior or ensure adequate distribution of relief within the country. Rather, it would provide Kim Jong-Un with resources to continue persecuting the North Korean people and antagonizing the United States and the rules-based international order. 

I also appreciate hearing your support for the Korean War Divided Families Reunification Act. This bill was introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono and if enacted, would require the State Department to report to Congress on its consultations with South Korea about potential opportunities to reunite Korean Americans with family in North Korea. 

Both of these bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Should either of these pieces of legislation come before the full Senate, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. Please keep in touch.

   Sincerely,

  Chuck Grassley
  United States Senator

My great thanks to my fellow activist photographer, Jon Krieg, of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for these photos of the visit of Linda Lewis and Dan Jasper, of AFSC, to Iowa to tell us about their work in North Korea, March 2018. (Another activist videographer, Rodger Routh joined us. His video of this visit can be found below). You can see Linda and Dan visited us at Bear Creek Meeting. Russ Leckband presented them with a gift of his pottery. Linda and Dan also spoke at Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting. Also attending was my friend Reza Mohammadi. Ed Fallon interviewed them on his radio program. And I’m glad they were able to visit Scattergood Friends School and Farm where they spoke with Mark Quee and Thomas Weber.

Photos by Jon Krieg, AFSC

A Love Letter to Y’all

I’m looking forward to being with my Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) friends this morning, for our weekly free grocery store, described below.

As a Quaker, I find it particularly interesting that the first public action of DMMA was participation in a peace march.

Originally tweeted by Des Moines Mutual Aid (@dsm_mutual_aid) on January 6, 2021.

A Love Letter to Y’all (a thread)

One year ago yesterday Des Moines Mutual Aid participated in a march protesting the potential for war or increased hostilities with Iran that followed the fallout of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by drone strike in Baghdad.

This was our first “public” event since adopting the name Des Moines Mutual Aid, a name we gave our crew during our growing work with our relatives at the houseless camps throughout the city and our help with coordinating a weekly free grocery store that has a 50 year history, founded by the Des Moines Chapter of The Black Panther Party For Self Defense.

A year ago we started laying the foundation for work we had no idea what was coming.

As we were adjusting our work with the camps and grocery re-distribution in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both that continued to grow in need and importance, the police continued their jobs and legacy of brutality and murder.

This nation exploded in righteous rage in response to the pig murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

DMMA realized we were in a position to organize a bail fund to keep our fighters out of jail, both to keep the streets alive as a new phase of The Movement was being born, and because jails are a hotspot of Covid-19 spread.

Not to mention the racial and economic oppression that is the cash bail system.

In the past year DMMA has expanded it’s work in multiple directions and gained many partners and allies.

We partnered with the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM) to create the DSM BLM Rent Relief initiative to help keep families in their homes in the midst of a pandemic and the winter.

The camp work has grown exponentially, but is being managed with our collaboration with Edna Griffin Mutual Aid (@egma_dsm), DSM Black Liberation Movement (@DesMoinesBLM), and The Great Plains Action Society (@PlainsAction).

The bail fund remains successful because of desire from the public and a partnership with Prairielands Freedom Fund (@prairielandsff) (formerly The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project).

The weekly free food store has maintained itself, carrying on the legacy it inherited.

Every one of our accomplishments are directly tied to the support of so many people donating time, talent, and funds to the work. We are overwhelmed with all of your support and hope you feel we are honoring what we promised.

All of these Mutual Aid projects are just a few of many that this city has created in the last year in response to the many crises we face, not only confronting the problems and fulfilling the needs directly in front of us, but creating a sustainable movement that will be capable of responding to what’s next and shaping our collective futures as we replace the systems that fail us.

These last 12 months have been wild and a real test of all of our capabilities to collectively organize.

But it is clear that we as a city have what it takes to do what is needed in 2021, no matter what crisis is next.

Much gratitude to you all.

In love and rage,
Des Moines Mutual Aid

Originally tweeted by Des Moines Mutual Aid (@dsm_mutual_aid) on January 6, 2021.

Rising tensions with North Korea and farm diplomacy

I recently received the following from Dan Jasper of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) about rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. The state of Iowa and my Quaker meeting, Bear Creek Friends, have a long history related to North Korea. Dan visited us in Iowa in March 2018.

Tensions between the U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”) are on the rise once again. In recent weeks, North Korea has conducted missile tests, and the U.S. and South Korea have responded with missile of tests of their own.

To make matters worse, a recent outbreak of COVID-19 in North Korea threatens a population that is already experiencing shortages of food and basic supplies.

A peace agreement would be a crucial step toward nuclear disarmament, and without it renewed military conflict could erupt at any moment. It would also help reunite thousands of families—including many Korean Americans—who have been separated for over 70 years.

As the pandemic further threatens lives and livelihoods in North Korea, the U.S. must also support private aid organizations providing critical humanitarian assistance in the country. 

Call on Congress today to take action. Urge them to pass legislation to end the Korean War, support nongovernmental aid missions, and reunite families.

Dan Jasper 

Asia Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator 
American Friends Service Committee


Farm Diplomacy

Sept. 1, 2017, Kenneth M Quinn, President of the World Food Prize suggested inviting a North Korean delegation to visit the United States as a way of easing tensions.  In 1959 the Des Moines Register invited Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to come to Iowa to discuss agricultural practices.  The Register’s Lauren Soth won a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for that editorial, in part because Khrushchev accepted the offer. https://www.pulitzer.org/prize-winners-by-year/1956

In 1959, at what was the most dangerous moment of human history as Soviet and U.S. nuclear weapons were poised to be fired at each other, an event on a farm in Iowa contributed indirectly, but crucially, in keeping those missiles from ever being launched.

As the artwork that accompanies this essay and hangs in our World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines shows, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev traveled to Coon Rapids on Sept. 23 of that year to visit the Roswell Garst Farm. Standing at the corn crib and holding an ear of hybrid corn, the Premier asked Garst why he couldn’t have corn like this in the Soviet Union.

Garst responded by sending his nephew John Chrystal on multiple trips to Russia over the next three-plus decades as an unofficial ambassador of agriculture, sharing aspects of Iowa technology.

Agriculture could be key to easing U.S.-North Korea tensions by Kenneth M. Quinn, Des Moines Register, Sept 1, 2017

After that article was published, Jon Krieg, of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Des Moines, shared the story below, Growing seeds of relationships with Des Moines Register editor, Lynn Hicks, about AFSC hosting a North Korean agricultural delegation’s visit to Iowa in 2001. October 5, 2017, the Register published the following editorial  Could North Korea’s Kim visit Iowa, as Khrushchev did? 

In 1955, this newspaper invited Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to send a delegation to Iowa “to get the lowdown on raising high quality cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens. We promise to hide none of our ‘secrets.’”

The Register’s Lauren Soth won a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for that editorial, because the Kremlin took note. Exchanges of farmers followed, and hybrid seed-corn entrepreneur Roswell Garst met with Khrushchev in Moscow. And in 1959, Khrushchev shocked the world by accepting Garst’s invitation and visiting his Coon Rapids farm.

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn evoked the Khrushchev visit in a Register op-ed last month. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, wrote: “With so few good options to defuse the current situation over North Korea’s enhanced strategic capabilities, including possible nuclear-weaponized long-range missiles, using agriculture as a vehicle to reduce tensions would seem worth a try.”  

Could North Korea’s Kim visit Iowa, as Khrushchev did?, the Register’s editorial, Oct 5, 2017

In response to that editorial, Eloise Cranke, the author of the story about the 2001 visit (below) published Farm Diplomacy is a Good Idea, October 6, 2017, in the Des Moines Register.

Thanks to the Register for its Oct. 5 editorial, “Let’s Invite North Korea’s Kim to Iowa.”

It was my distinct pleasure and honor to accompany the five North Koreans who visited an Iowa farm in 2001. What a warm and friendly evening it was, as we gathered for a delicious potluck with friends at the Bear Creek Meeting House.

That kind of one-on-one conversation and exchange of ideas is sorely needed today.

Why not invite Kim Jong Un to Iowa? “Farm diplomacy” helped ease tensions in the 1950s. Why not now? It could be a powerful way to move the conversation with North Korea from bombs and missiles to food and feeding hungry people.

Herb Standing’s words still ring true today, “We must tell people that it is not through missiles and bombs that we find security and peace, but rather through the one-on-one sharing with persons of different countries, cultures and experiences.”

Let’s give it a try.

— Eloise M. Cranke, Des Moines

Growing seeds of relationships, Eloise Cranke, Regional Director, American Friends Service Committee, Spring, 2001

I am fascinated by the story of the 2001 visit to my Quaker meeting, Bear Creek, because I wasn’t living in Iowa at the time.  In the photo above, Burt Kisling is my father, Russ Leckband continues to attend Bear Creek, Herbert Standing was a cousin, and Arnold Hoge was the father of Win Standing, whose husband Ellis, is my mother’s brother.  The delegation visited the farm of Ellis and Win.  Then, after the potluck meal at the meetinghouse, I can easily imagine them gathered around the wood burning stove as described above, “…the conversation ranged from farming to families to religion, touching on many topics of curiosity and interest”.


Several of the people who had participated in that visit in 2001, were at Bear Creek meeting the morning of 10/8/2017.  They shared their memories of that time.  Winifred Standing shared what she had written in her journal that day:

Wednesday, February 28, 2001
2 degrees above zero this morn.  Sunny
I made an Economical Sponge Cake and a soybean casserole.  Browned roast.  Lots of phone calls  this morn about wood and about tonight.  I went to meetinghouse–cleaned a bit, set dishes out, got coffee pot ready, etc.   I started cooking roasts at 2:00.  Peeled potatoes.   Eloise Cranke arrived just  before 4.  We visited with her until Randy Iverson and 5 North Koreans arrived.  They looked at our heifers and quizzed Ellis.  Eloise took me to meetinghouse about 5:15 to get supper started.  Ellis brought Dads and Dorothy later.  A good crowd gathered.  A good supper and questions and answers around fireplace after–Home about 9.  We visited and rested.  Seemed a good evening.

We discussed how this might relate to our current political situation.  I said I had shared a recent blog post about this with Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee, Scattergood Friends School, and several people at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).  If another North Korean delegation did come, I thought a visit to Scattergood Friends School’s Farm at West Branch would be very beneficial.

The meeting wanted to support the idea of the Des Moines Register inviting another delegation from North Korea to visit us and approved the following letter, which was published by the Register.

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/readers/2017/10/13/letter-welcome-north-korea/761130001/

When we looked into what was being done regarding North Korea at this time (2018) we were surprised to learn that the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) had been involved in bringing agricultural practices to North Korea for many years. We contacted the people who had been doing this work, Linda Lewis and Daniel Jasper, and they agreed to visit us in Iowa to share what they had been doing in North Korea.

Jon Krieg, AFSC, recorded the following video of the presentation about work Linda and Daniel have been doing in North Korea that was held at Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting on March 18, 2018. Both have been to North Korea and described how the AFSC has used efforts to improve agricultural practices in North Korea to facilitate understanding and build peace between North Korea and the United States since 1980.


Following is an excellent video by Rodger Routh interviewing Linda and Daniel on March 20, 2018, about their work for peace in North Korea. Linda and Daniel were in Iowa to discuss their work with agricultural projects in North Korea and to talk with us about how we might arrange for another North Korean agricultural delegation to Iowa, as happened in 2001, to try to reduce tensions between North Korea and the United States. Unfortunately, another visit has not occurred, so far.


Returning to Dan Jasper’s email about present day tensions with North Korea, Call on Congress today to take action. Urge them to pass legislation to end the Korean War, support nongovernmental aid missions, and reunite families.

No Way Out but War

I came of age during the Vietnam War years. Organized a draft conference, walked with the entire student body of Scattergood Friends School (all sixty of us) fourteen miles into Iowa City during the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, became a draft resister. The entire country was in an uproar. Young men and their families lived in fear of induction based on a lottery system. Over 58,000 Americans were killed.

A key component to the sustenance of the permanent war state was the creation of the All-Volunteer Force. Without conscripts, the burden of fighting wars falls to the poor, the working class, and military families. This All-Volunteer Force allows the children of the middle class, who led the Vietnam anti-war movement, to avoid service. It protects the military from internal revolts, carried out by troops during the Vietnam War, which jeopardized the cohesion of the armed forces.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

I’ve often despaired at the absence of an antiwar movement since our plunge into a ‘war on terror’ that is an excuse to have military presence and conflict in any place politicians define a threat. To terrorize children by the sounds of drones circulating overhead. With untold civilian casualties from drone strikes. Death by remote control.

What should I have done? What should I be doing now?

Shortly after the Vietnam years, I moved to Indianapolis (1970). The filthy air, the clouds of smoke pouring out of every tailpipe, traumatized me. Especially as I imagined how the air in the beautiful National Parks I had visited might become polluted.

We went on vacation to California around this time. The first day in Los Angeles we could hardly breathe. We coughed and our eyes were irritated. We were told we would get used to it.

It was this war against Mother Earth I devoted my efforts to, including refusing to own a car, which I called a weapon of mass destruction. And against the wars of White supremacy on black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC).

But the armed wars of this country continued, expanded internationally. And turned inward, bringing the tactics, equipment, and attitudes of war to our cities.

The United States, as the near unanimous vote to provide nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine illustrates, is trapped in the death spiral of unchecked militarism. No high speed trains. No universal health care. No viable Covid relief program. No respite from 8.3 percent inflation. No infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require $41.8 billion to fix the 43,586 structurally deficient bridges, on average 68 years old. No forgiveness of $1.7 trillion in student debt. No addressing income inequality. No program to feed the 17 million children who go to bed each night hungry. No rational gun control or curbing of the epidemic of nihilistic violence and mass shootings. No help for the 100,000 Americans who die each year of drug overdoses. No minimum wage of $15 an hour to counter 44 years of wage stagnation. No respite from gas prices that are projected to hit $6 a gallon.

The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven the US debt to $30 trillion, $ 6 trillion more than the US GDP of $ 24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military, $ 813 billion for fiscal year 2023, than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined.

We are paying a heavy social, political, and economic cost for our militarism. Washington watches passively as the U.S. rots, morally, politically, economically, and physically, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, and other countries extract themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network banks and other financial institutions use to send and receive information, such as money transfer instructions. Once the U.S. dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, once there is an alternative to SWIFT, it will precipitate an internal economic collapse. It will force the immediate contraction of the U.S. empire shuttering most of its nearly 800 overseas military installations. It will signal the death of Pax Americana.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

Chris Hedges goes on to explain

There were three restraints to the avarice and bloodlust of the permanent war economy that no longer exist. The first was the old liberal wing of the Democratic Party, led by politicians such as Senator George McGovern, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Senator J. William Fulbright, who wrote The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The self-identified progressives, a pitiful minority, in Congress today, from Barbara Lee, who was the single vote in the House and the Senate opposing a broad, open-ended authorization allowing the president to wage war in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to Ilhan Omar now dutifully line up to fund the latest proxy war. The second restraint was an independent media and academia, including journalists such as I.F Stone and Neil Sheehan along with scholars such as Seymour Melman, author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War. Third, and perhaps most important, was an organized anti-war movement, led by religious leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Phil and Dan Berrigan as well as groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They understood that unchecked militarism was a fatal disease.

NO WAY OUT BUT WAR By Chris Hedges, Scheer Post. May 23, 2022. Permanent War Has Cannibalized The Country. It Has Created A Social, Political, And Economic Morass.

Where was the organized anti-war movement?

I wasn’t there. As I said, I was led to the ‘fight’ to protect Mother Earth, protect the water. The damage we’ve done to our environment has led to the collapse we are experiencing now. As I wrote just yesterday, collapse is already here. Significantly worsening environmental chaos is everywhere and will only worsen, rapidly.

What does this mean regarding militarization now? As Chris Hedges writes above, there is no political resistance to continued military spending, leaving little for domestic needs. “The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money.”

The US military is the largest polluter in the world because of the combustion of fossil fuels by the machines of war and the energy needed by steel production.

Depletion of fossil fuel supplies will eventually render those machines useless. But they will be a priority for dwindling supplies. I guess time will tell how long armored tanks and planes will have fuel in the timeline for our collapsing society.

So many military installations are on ocean shores and will be flooded by rising waters.

As oil supplies are depleted, the US armed forces will continue to take over fossil fuel sources anywhere in the world.

At the time when it is absolutely essential to stop burning fossil fuels, the military will continue doing the opposite. Might this be the way we finally rise up against the tools of war?

As our economy continues to collapse, the armed forces and militarized police will increasingly be used to quash civil unrest.

I was led to the fight to protect Mother Earth, protect the water. Much as I wish I had been able to do more to stop militarization, I know I have tried to hear what the Spirit was leading me to do. And then do it.


Grateful and humbled

I am grateful for many things this morning. For the waters falling from the sky. For my Mutual Aid friends who demonstrate what a Beloved community is. For the Buffalo Rebellion, growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice. Thankful for my Quaker communities. I give thanks to the Spirit.

I am grateful for my Indigenous friends. Humbled by the grace they have shown me and other white people as we seek ways to heal from the horrendous history of white supremacy and forced assimilation, abuse, and death of thousands of Native children. As we search for ways to deal with the present, ongoing injustices. The intergenerational trauma. Ripping open deep wounds as the remains of children are located. As the title of this new documentary says, “They Found Us”.

Growing up I heard references to Quakers who worked in the residential schools. I was told they were helping the Native children adjust to living in white society. I didn’t have the awareness to question why that was not a good thing.

I’ve had a life-long concern about environmental devastation. I grew up on farms. When I moved to Indianapolis in 1970, I was horrified by the dense, noxious fumes from every tailpipe, making it difficult to even see. This was before catalytic converters hid the damage being done. I was led to refuse to own a car.

It was obvious Indigenous peoples lived in sustainable ways.

To pull this all together, here is the link to a recent blog post, Midwest Quakers and Native Peoples, which describes how I was blessed to become friends with Indigenous folks in the Midwest and the history of some of the work we’ve done together. It also talks about the Indian Residential Schools and includes a letter from Curt Young, member of George Gordon First Nation, describing the documentary he created, “They Found Us”. Sikowis is also a member of George Gordan First Nation.



“I thought it would be important to document these searches and capture some of the stories told by members that were forced to go to these institutions. It’s a first hand look into some of the experiences survived in residential school.”

Curt Sipihko Paskwawimostos, creator of “They Found Us”.

Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss is one of my close Indigenous friends. We’ve discussed the residential schools, briefly, a few times. I was glad she felt she could ask me if Quakers would help pay for expenses to travel with the film for viewing in a number of communities. She later told me it was difficult for her to ask for funds.

I am clerk of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Our committee has a budget of $1,100 to support justice work. In the past we sent $50 or $100 to a number of such organizations. Someone suggested instead sending a larger amount for one or two projects. We decided to do that but didn’t have a project in mind when we were meeting last summer.

I believed the Spirit would show us the way. The request for “They Found Us” seemed to be what we were waiting for. Our committee met to discuss and unanimously approve this. I’m grateful and humbled for that, as well.

Additional funds would be helpful. Please contact me if you are interested. jakislin@outlook.com

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical

“Hero” isn’t a word I hear much these days, but Martin Luther King, Jr, is one to me. Other heroes are the men and their families who also resisted cooperation with the systems of war. That includes a number of those in my Quaker community. And includes Muhammad Ali. People whose lives reflected their faith and beliefs. Because even as a child it was clear so many people did not do so. This was and continues to be spiritually traumatic.

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy.  Cornel West

Martin Luther King’s beliefs and actions related to racism are well known.

He was late to publicly come out against the Vietnam War and was harshly criticized by most in his own community for doing so. The argument was that would weaken his work against racism. But he could clearly see the ties between racism, capitalism, and militarism.

A historic speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered even 55 years later as one of the most courageous speeches ever made. This speech stated those truths which no other leading political leader or even leading activist was willing to state in such a clear and sharp way.  The reference here is of course to the speech delivered by Dr. King at Manhattan’s Riverside Church on April 4 1967—a speech remembered also as the ‘Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence’ speech.

The great importance of this speech is due to several factors. Firstly, he drew a very clear linkage between why a civil rights activist like him has to be a peace activist at the same time. He stated very clearly that the high hopes he had from the poverty program started getting shattered from the time of increased spending on Vietnam war. So he realized that in order to really help the poor it is important also to prevent wars and to have peace. Secondly, he expressed deep regret that it is mainly the children of the poor (black as well as white young men from poor households) who were being sent to fight a very unjust and oppressive war, while they should have been contributing to reducing distress of their own settlements. Thirdly, he exposed the great injustices and bitter realities about US military intervention with such clarity and conviction that it was bound to have a strong nationwide and in fact worldwide impact.

April 4 – Remembering Martin Luther King on his Death Anniversary by Bharat Dogra, Counter Currents, April 4,2022


The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one.
Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people.

If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises.
Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!

Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy.  Cornel West

New heroes for me are the young people I’ve been blessed to work with and learn from, particularly in Mutual Aid communities. Working against “capitalist wealth inequality and poverty.”

King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom.”


Martin Luther King, Jr and Bobby Kennedy

April 4th is the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, in Memphis, Tennessee. There is always a somber gathering in Indianapolis, at the site where Bobby Kennedy announced the death to a crowd. In the days before cell phones and instant communication, most in the crowd had not heard the news.

As a photographer I was fascinated by the sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert F Kennedy in the park where Bobby Kennedy spoke. I visited it many times, day and night. I put together the video below with some of the photos. There are two speeches as part of the video. The first is the last speech Martin Luther King gave, the night before he was killed. The second is the speech Bobby Kennedy delivered that day in Indianapolis.

There were riots in many cities that day, but not in Indianapolis.

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” Martin Luther King, Jr., told an overflowing crowd in Memphis, Tennessee, on 3 April 1968, where the city’s sanitation workers were striking. “But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land” (King, “I’ve Been,” 222–223). Less than 24 hours after these prophetic words, King was assassinated by James Earl Ray.

Martin Luther King, Jr

April 4, 1968, Robert F Kennedy gave several speeches in Indiana as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. This young white man, as the United States Attorney General, along with his brother the President, had been thrust into the middle of the civil rights struggle. And then his brother was assassinated.

At Notre Dame he spoke about the Vietnam War and told the students there that college deferments for the draft discriminated against those who could not afford to attend college and should be eliminated.

After speaking about racism at Ball State, an African American student said, “Your speech implies that you are placing a great deal of faith in white America. Is that faith justified?” Kennedy answered “Yes” and added that “faith in black America is justified, too” although he said there “are extremists on both sides.” Before boarding a plane to fly to Indianapolis, Kennedy learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot. On the plane, Kennedy told a reporter “You know, it grieves me. . . that I just told that kid this and then walk out and find that some white man has just shot their spiritual leader.”

It wasn’t until the flight had nearly arrived in Indianapolis that he learned Martin Luther King, Jr, had died of his wounds. There wasn’t time to write something to cover this news. The Indianapolis event was to be held at a park in a predominantly black neighborhood downtown. The Indianapolis police and city leaders tried to get him to cancel the speech, telling him they couldn’t protect him if there was a riot.

But he insisted. At the park, from the back of a flatbed truck, he said:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some–some very sad news for all of you — Could you lower those signs, please? — I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black — considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible — you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization — black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with — be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poem, my–my favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King — yeah, it’s true — but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love — a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past, but we — and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

And let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

Thank you very much

At the ceremony in 2016, I was surprised see my friend, Chinyelu Mwaafrika from the Kheprw Institute in the crowd. I hadn’t known he would be there. He saw me before he went onstage to perform part of the rap song, “The revolution will not be televised” by GIL SCOTT-HERON, 4/5/2016. We had a nice visit after his performance. I thought about the many ways we are all connected with one another.


Path of Peace

I refused to have a car for the nearly fifty years I lived in Indianapolis, initially for environmental reasons. That was possible by walking, running, and using the city bus system. Moving to Indianola, Iowa, which doesn’t have public transportation, has made it necessary to use my parent’s car for long distance travel. I still walk in town. But I always feel bad when I drive.

We usually drove the forty miles in each direction to attend Bear Creek Meeting on Sundays. But that ended with the pandemic, for now.

It’s a testament to how important Mutual Aid is to me that I drive to Des Moines every Saturday morning.

I try to make the most of each trip by taking photographs on the way in, or out of Des Moines, sometimes both. I leave a little early to have time for that. Yesterday I left later than usual and wondered if I had time to stop somewhere. I drove past the usual places, like Ewing Park and Easter Lake, but as I neared the church where our food project was done, I saw I did have about ten minutes to spare. The sculpture, “Path of Peace” was nearby. My dad, Burt Kisling, and Chuck Day were involved in having the sculpture installed on the Des Moines Area Community College campus.

I’m grateful for this video by my friend Rodger Routh.

Dedicated to peace and peacemakers, a ten-ton limestone sculpture, named “Path of Peace,” by Ron Dinsdale, portrays of three doves. It was installed on May 10, 2012 near Interstate 235 just south of Des Moines Area Community College’s Urban Campus. The sculpture was created out of a solid 14-ton block of Indiana Bedford limestone, one of the materials used to construct the Iowa State Capital in the late 1880s (between 1871 and 1886). This sculpture was supported by the Urban DMACC Campus, the Des Moines City Council, and the Iowa State Department of Transportation, as the first “I-235 Corridor Gateway Sculpture.”

Path of Peace.  Ron Dinsdale

It was a life-long dream that flourished in my soul.

Ron Dinsdale

Conscientious objection and Ukraine

Amid the horrifying situation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I was concerned every time I heard that Ukrainian men aged 18 – 60 were banned from leaving the country.

I studied war resistance and conscientious objection extensively while a student at Scattergood Friends School. All males in the US were required to register for the draft at the time of their eighteenth birthday. I was a Senior at Scattergood then (1969). I went through the process of applying for and was granted conscientious objector status while I tried to prepare my family for my decision to turn in my draft cards. Which I did.

This is a bit ironic because Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee discussed conscientious objector counseling at our recent meeting. That was brought up in part related to the war in Ukraine. Also, as an opportunity to engage our youth in discussions related to war and peace. And because of the writings of a member of the yearly meeting. John Griffith and Draft Resistance.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered a general military mobilization.

In a declaration signed late Thursday, Zelensky said that “in order to ensure the defense of the state, maintaining combat and mobilization readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations,” a broad-based mobilization was ordered, including in the capital, Kyiv and all Ukraine’s major cities.
It ordered the “conscription of conscripts, reservists for military service, their delivery to military units and institutions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” and other state security services.

At the same time, Ukraine has banned all-male citizens 18-60 years old from leaving the country, according to the State Border Guard Service.

The statement said that following the introduction of martial law in Ukraine, a temporary restriction had been imposed.

“In particular, it is forbidden for men aged 18-60, Ukraine citizens, to leave the borders of Ukraine,” the statement said. “This regulation will remain in effect for the period of the legal regime of martial law. We ask the citizens to take this information into consideration.”

Ukrainian males aged 18-60 are banned from leaving the country, Zelensky says in new declaration From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi and Caroll Alvardo, February 24, 2022

A New York Times podcast tells the story of an animator named Tyhran, who unsuccessfully tried to cross the border into Poland.

I can’t imagine myself doing military stuff […] I have no experience in it. I’m afraid of holding a gun […] I cannot imagine myself holding a gun.

Tyhran says he was shamed at the border by guards and others seeking to cross, but may try again to cross illegally.

They are bombing and people are dying. Everyone is running […] They are not going to stop. They just want to destroy.

In Ukraine, the Men Who Must Stay and Fight. As hundreds of thousands of citizens flee the Russian advance, the country’s government has ordered men ages 18 to 60 to remain. New York Times podcast, March 1, 2022

What international law says

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. Although it does not specifically guarantee a right to conscientious objection to military service, the UN Human Rights Committee has confirmed this right derives from the protection under the convention.

This means that if a person’s conscience, religion or beliefs conflict with an obligation to use lethal force against other people, their right to conscientious objection to military service must be protected.

Some human rights can be suspended or limited during a public emergency. But the right to freedom of conscience is specifically excluded from this category.

Why banning men from leaving Ukraine violates their human rights by Amy Maguire, The Conversation, March 7, 2022

What should Ukraine do?

The government of Ukraine should cancel its ban on men leaving the country. To maintain it will violate the freedom of conscience of any man who wishes to flee due to a conscientious objection to killing others.

In relation to LGBTQI+ people, the ban could also be regarded as preventing people with a well founded fear of persecution from fleeing to seek refuge outside Ukraine.

More broadly, repealing the departure ban would protect Ukraine from allegations it is failing to protect civilians, as required by international humanitarian law. It is one thing to conscript men into military service, providing training and appropriate equipment (although, even in that case, a right to conscientious objection must be respected).

It is another thing entirely to prevent civilians from escaping a war zone.

Why banning men from leaving Ukraine violates their human rights by Amy Maguire, The Conversation, March 7, 2022

Questions and observations

Obviously, I have no idea about the deep details of either US or Russian policy. I’m horrified by the images and stories from Ukraine and fervently pray for the conflict to end.

But having worked for peace my whole life, I’m alarmed by the nearly universal support for the war in Ukraine.

History has shown the many times a pretext, or even false claims started wars. There were the Gulf of Tonkin incidents that led to the US becoming involved in the war in Vietnam. The false claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Claims that weren’t credible even at the time they were made.

Some might say the US is not directly at war with Russia. But the US involvement is obviously a proxy war.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul joins Garrett Haake to share his reaction to Russia’s strike on a Ukrainian nuclear plant, and to assess the motivations behind President Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. “I think people really need to understand that this is just a proxy war for his fight against us,” says Ambassador McFaul. “That’s the way he frames this: the regime there is just a puppet American regime put in place by us.”

Amb. McFaul: Putin’s fight in Ukraine ‘is just a proxy war for his fight against’ the U.S., NBC Universal, March 4, 2022

Some of my questions and observations are:

  • Why was it not possible to meet Putin’s demand that Ukraine would not join NATO?
  • Who benefits from this conflict?
    • The war industry
    • Energy
      • Shutting down Russia’s oil industry
      • Shutting down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline
      • Terminating Russian oil imports
      • Calls to increase US oil and gas production
      • Calls to increase renewable energy
    • The President’s approval ratings
  • Why is it so easy for Congress to provide billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, but not for social programs in the US?
  • Where is the concern about adding to the national debt?

Bear Creek Friends Meeting