On Borders – A Virtual Roundtable

Border_Wall_at_Tijuana_and_San_Diego_Border copyIn The Mantle’s sixth virtual roundtable, I brought together three experts to discuss borders, their purpose, and who they serve. Roundtable participants delve into topics such as the shift to more solidified, violent borders post – 9/11, border identities, and the dichotomy of closed borders in a globalized society.

Check out the full roundtable discussion here.

Will the Veto Ever Be Restrained (The Mantle)

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Over the last 16 years, the question of how to operationalize the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), bringing it “from theory to practice,” has been the focus of great debate among UN member states and human rights organizations. Created as a response to the devastating genocide in Rwanda, the international community has struggled to find a way to enforce this non-binding principle aimed at helping states to prevent and respond to mass atrocities around the world.

Yet, the question remains, how do you make states act for the benefit of those outside their own borders without the force of international law? How do you convince states to stand up for those who need their help, even when the situation is complicated, difficult, and not necessarily directly beneficial to their own people?

Read more at The Mantle…

Syrians need us to remember our humanity

I’m having a hard time with humanity today. I’m having a hard time understanding how eyes can be so closed, and hearts can be so cold. I’m having a hard time understanding why living in a different country makes you less deserving of life.

As news stories, videos, and pictures spread of the most recent chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, the hashtag #SyriaHoax began to trend on Twitter (It is, in fact, still trending.). I won’t repost here what those tweets contained, as they don’t deserve repeating. Suffice it to say they were ugly, sad, and full of dangerous lies.

It is unimaginable to me that someone would, with a straight face, say these atrocities aren’t happening. That these images are fake. I just honestly have no words.

I’m not going to offer a policy laden post here. I’m not going to tell you how our governments should respond — although I do have thoughts about that.

I simply have a request. Those of us who have the privilege of ignoring such atrocities. Those of us who live in peaceful countries, with no fear of war, and no concept of what these people must be experiencing. Make the choice to pay attention. Make the choice to see these atrocities. Make the choice to see the Syrian people for who they are — people.

 

Here are a few stories I’ve collected from the past few days:

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 9.25.31 PMThis video is definitely hard to watch, but I think it’s important. This shows the immediate aftermath of the bombing, as well as the work of the White Helmets as they attempt to save people suffering from the chemical attack.

This father lost his 9 month-old twin babies, his wife, and 25 members of his extended family.

This 13 year-old boy watched 19 of his family members die in front of him. That he survived is a miracle.

 

As I wrote this post, the US launched more than 50 tomahawk missiles at Homs. This scares me. There is no strategy here. There is no plan. My thoughts are with the people of Syria, as I believe even darker days are yet to come.

The Women I Marched With…

 

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I went to Washington D.C. with a group of ladies. Some I’ve known, some I met for the first time on November 12, 2016, as we took to the streets of New York to protest the election of Donald Trump. Marching that weekend didn’t feel so much like a decision as a necessity. It was the first moment of catharsis I’d had since that fateful Tuesday.

Marching on Washington this weekend felt very much the same way. I’m not sure I ever really made the decision whether or not to go. I simply asked, “who is going with me?” As luck would have it, seems we were all headed to D.C.

Since November, I’ve been asked often why I’m marching. I find the question difficult to answer – not because I can’t think of a reason, but because I simply have so many I’m not sure where to start. This inability to put into words something that weighs on me so heavily, sparked a desire to discover why exactly everyone else was marching.

So, I thought I would go to D.C. not simply as a citizen, but as a journalist. I fully intended to cover the march, take pictures, interview folks, and do a full write up. As we arrived though, it became clear this thing was bigger than we’d ever imagined. The introvert in me was overwhelmed, so I took out a notebook, wrote “Why I March” on the front, and began to pass it around to those standing near me in the crowd.

Truth be told, after about 11am, even that became too much and I decided to set down all thoughts of being a journalist, and just became a full participant, taking in the whole, overwhelming experience.

What I’ve included below is a collection of the responses written in the notebook (most unsigned by their authors), and what I managed to (poorly) capture in photo. I hope it gives at least a slight glimpse into what this weekend meant for us all.

 

Why I March…

“I march for all women…even those who don’t yet realize they need to.” – Janis

“For the sane hearts that need support in times of bigotry, racism, misogyny and apathy.”

“I march to put those in power on notice – we will RESIST!”

 

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“I march to DEFEAT TYRANNY!”

“For equality for all.”

 

“I march to defeat Donald Trump and raise consciousness of equality.”

 

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“I march to preserve everything I’ve worked a lifetime for.” – Marie

“Because we reached a crossroads – some push us back to the past, but we must go forward! Free.” – MA

“I march for EQUAL rights…for us to continue moving forward not back to the ‘old’ white man’s ways. This is my country – I will not go quietly into the hate. Love is the answer.”

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“I march to show my 3 sons it’s time to make a difference and promote love and equality for all.”

“I march for LOVE!”

” I march for my daughters, so they will know the power of their voice.”

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“I march for a better future for my son.”

” MY BODY = MY CHOICE”

“For civil rights.”

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“I march because peaceful and thoughtful resistance and love are a woman’s work. It’s a woman’s duty.”

“To celebrate human rights and make a better world (nation USA) for our children.”

“For the dignity of ALL people, human rights, BLM, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, etc.”

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“For every child because whether they have cancer, looking for a better life, or need to love each other, my son will be taught to be accepting of everyone.”

“I march for my niece, for my friends’ daughters. So disappointed that this man is now President. I could not just sit back. RESIST!”

“I march for human rights, for Mother Earth, for my daughter and my grandkids.”

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“I am a snowflake, but WE are an avalanche.” – Bill, Kate & Sidney

” I march for what is right – for the voices that need to be heard – for my nieces, so that they know they are loved, supported and strong. I march for LOVE!!”

“I march today in support of: Women’s Rights, Reproductive Rights, Immigrant Rights, and…AN END TO TYRANNICAL RULE!” – Joy

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“I march to stand up for all…to be counted.” – Ron

“I march for my Muslim family – my interracial, interfaith, bicultural daughters with differing abilities but the same forceful potential to achieve their dreams.”

“I march to stand with the other loving, open, smart Americans, who are the majority! And to demonstrate the strength of women! We are stronger than Trump!”

 

 

 

Finding Humor in Unspeakable Evil (The Mantle)

unspeakable book coverWhen you’re sitting at a cafe reading a book called A Journey to the Dark Heart of Nameless Unspeakable Evil, people tend to get curious. In response to the side-eye, I often found myself describing it as probably the only book you’ll ever read about mass atrocities that has you busting up laughing. At that point, the curiosity usually turned to confusion…which was my welcome cue to turn back to my reading. Read more…

From North Korea to Japan: Empowering Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

pan_panHere is a great interview I conducted last fall with activist and advocate Betsy Kawamura, founder of the non-profit Women4NonViolence in Peace+Conflict Zones. Ms. Kawamura has spent more than fifteen years working with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, particularly women who have fled the violent regime in North Korea and are now living as refugees around the world. For this article—and for the work Ms. Kawamura does—gender-based violence is understood as violence targeted at a specific group based on their gender; often manifesting in acts of rape, forced prostitution, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and other similar crimes. As a survivor of gender-based violence herself, Kawamura is able to enlighten us not only on the experience of survivors, but also why it is crucial to address sexual and gender-based violence as a matter of international politics and international law.

Click here to read the interview!

What Happens When a Wanted War Criminal Visits New York City? (The Mantle)

bashir_planeWanted by the I.C.C. on charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, Bashir has been flouting international law for years. With his continued travel – particularly the trip to South Africa – he has boldly told the world he does not recognize the authority of the Court, nor the laws it is tasked with upholding.  Read more…

 

Exciting Announcement over at The Mantle!

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For those of you not on The Mantle’s mailing list (why aren’t you on our mailing list?), a big announcement was made today. I am moving on from my role as International Affairs Editor and officially taking over as Managing Editor. Click here to read more about this exciting news, and don’t forget to check out the great content we’ve been publishing over on our website!

Glorious day for organizing and planning!

Happy Saturday, friends!

IMG_1661Thought I’d take a moment and give you a little glimpse into what a day in the life looks like when you’re attempting to write your first book. Spoiler: it’s not exactly what you’d think!

Here is what I’ve learned thus far: the beginning stages of book writing involve far less writing and far more planning and organizing than I originally expected.

When I embarked on this journey in January, I had this idea that I would just jump in and write the first chapter no problem. Since I already had a strong base of knowledge on the Responsibility to Protect, it should have been easy to just bust out a few thousand words, right? This has definitely not been the case.

While admittedly I initially felt a bit defeated about this, I’ve come to realize it’s all part of the process. So, I’ve slowed down and am now working on putting together a list of people I would like to interview about R2P and related matters. These will be good background for the book, as well as a refresher and learning opportunity for me.

That means today has been spent creating interview questions, making a list of people I’d like to interview, and thinking of creative ways to share these interviews with you in the process. I will keep you posted on what comes of this plan.

In the meantime, here’s today’s working soundtrack. Enjoy! (oh, and feel free to check out my good ol’ donate button on the side of the page. 😀 )