Rivera Sun's Blog: From the Desk of Rivera Sun

August 11, 2021

A Gift For The Future

Image by SeppH from Pixabay

Today, a child was born, tiny hands curling and unfurling with the startled shock of cool air on wet skin, oxygen flooding into newly-opened lungs as she cries upon entering this strange new world.

This child will likely live to see 2100. The date hangs, inconceivable, futuristic, but now within the span of a single lifetime. The child will be older by then, close to 80. She will have lived through every dire climate prediction modeled by modernity’s soothsayers, the scientists. She will have seen the full weight of our failures in the times she was too young to remember, these next few years when an immediate transition away from fossil fuels is an imperative for the survival of humanity.

I hope she remembers the story about to unfold, a story that began decades ago and is rapidly approaching the climax of its epic, the story in which billions of human beings rise up for their shared love of this Earth. Like thwarting monsters of old, we will wrestle fossil fuels back into the ground, dethrone the titans of industry, and stop the headlong plunge into the hell realms of the Sixth Mass Extinction. These times are the star-stuff of legends, if we survive long enough.

If we don’t turn this story around, the tiny newborn arriving today will grow up in the greatest tragedy ever to hit our species, the catastrophic collapse of all we know and love. As an 80-year-old grandmother, she will see the dawn of a new, bleak century, awash in the wreckage of nuclear waste, plastic pollution, ruined cities, dust bowls of barren farmlands. Hers will not be the Silent Spring of which Rachel Carson warned. It will be the Silent Century.

She will be tough, this old woman in 2100. She will have survived decades of horrors: heat waves roasting the corn on the stalk and melting the onions in the fields, superstorms that slam the coastlines and flatten cities, torrential flooding that sweeps whole towns away, vanishing ice caps, rising seas that swallow Florida in a gulp, early frosts that lead to crop failures and empty grocery store shelves, desperate wars fought for water amidst unrelenting droughts.

It reads like a Biblical curse. We are the ones hurling it in her fragile, newborn face. We are the wicked fairy godmothers hovering over her cradle, poised to ruin her life. But we don’t have to be.

In these next few years as she learns to crawl, speak, count, walk, we still have time to change the story of her life. As an 80-year-old in 2100, she may be able to tell a vastly different tale than the apocalyptic tragedy that awaits. But, before she even learns to read, we must take immediate action.  We must declare a climate emergency, demand a swift transition away from fossil fuels, defund polluting industries, invent in and deploy clean renewable energies, overhaul destructive agricultural practices, and more.

If we do all this with vision and conviction, as a grandmother in the new century, she will speak of our courage and sacrifice. She will tell her grandchildren how everything changed as she grew up. She will speak of her career in restoring ecosystems alongside so many of her generation. She will have seen upheavals, yes, and the lingering instability of our damage to the Earth, but she will be able to speak with hope and pride.

The newborn in her parents’ arms today will live to see the birds return in vast flocks. She will see the whales rebound in great proliferating pods that sing across the slowly-cooling seas. The aerial photo maps of her world will change color as she supports global reforestation projects to reverse desertification. She will taste the harvest from her local farms and know the journey her water took to reach her. She will have a hope that seems impossible to us today. She will have hope because of us.

And that is what we can do with our lives, right here and right now, to bless this child and all the others entering the world today, tomorrow, and the next day. We can take action for climate justice and give the young ones a gift unparalleled by any fairy godmother.

We can lift the curse that sits upon them. We can give them cause for hope, instead.

Joy for this child or misery for this child. To choose joy is to commit to action.

________________

Rivera Sun , syndicated by  PeaceVoice , has written numerous books, including The Dandelion Insurrection . She is the editor of Nonviolence News and a nationwide trainer in strategy for nonviolent campaigns.

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Published on August 11, 2021 08:40

May 30, 2021

Make Memorial Day About Peace

Make Memorial Day About PeaceWe live in a war culture. Let’s change it to a peace culture.
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The rumble of 20,000 motorcycles roars up the highway to an annual festival across the mountains. It’s Memorial Day Weekend. The dual anthems of US militarism and consumerism are playing across the country. Meanwhile, I’ve got the volume turned up on a different sort of tune: peace. 

As I gathered stories for Nonviolence News this week, I noticed a recurring theme of compassion under fire, and people who strive for peace amidst war. An Idaho schoolteacher disarmed a school shooter and hugged her until help arrived. A soldier hijacked a school bus and the kids asked him so many questions, he let them leave the bus. Farmers in Colombia carved out a peace village in the midst of civil war. The women of Liberia blended civil resistance and peacebuilding to end the Second Liberian Civil War. In West Papua, civil society is protesting against months of violence in the latest flare-up of the longstanding conflict between government forces and pro-independence insurgents. In Israel, thousands of Jews and Arabs marched to demand a lasting peace with Palestinians. (Find Nonviolence News here.)

I’m impressed by these stories. I’m awed by how people can dredge up empathy even amidst violence, or how they find they courage to call for peace when everyone around them is barreling deeper into war. There are a surprising number of them. I’ve been finding these as I co-facilitate a course on “Disarming Conversations, Connecting Across Divides” and listening to stories about how people who virulently dislike each other find their common humanity. The work of peace is hard and challenging, but when we remember that the alternative is war and violence, it suddenly seems worth it. 

I always dream of a culture of peace, one where Hollywood makes movies about people who stop wars rather than win them. A culture where we teach the skills of conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and nonviolence in video games, novels, and the type of history we study in the classroom. A society that is universally horrified at the prospect of going to war rather than accustomed to endless, borderless wars. An economy where profiting from weapons is illegal, and peace work is considered invaluable to economic wellbeing. In this vision of a culture of peace, 20,000 motorcyclists are roaring up the road to demand we defund the military, bring the troops home, dismantle nuclear weapons, and end the endless wars. To me, Memorial Day should be a day when we mourn those who have died in wars – soldiers and civilians on all sides of the conflict – and renew our efforts to prevent the travesty of war from ever happening again.

How are you honoring and recommitting to peace on Memorial Day Weekend?

Toward peace,
Rivera

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Speaking of the peace economy … all my novels oppose war and violence and promote peace and active nonviolence. You can find them all on sale this week on my website. At 20% off, you can pick up summer reading for yourself and friends! Check it out here>>

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Published on May 30, 2021 12:27

May 16, 2021

Great News! Ari Ara Wins A Second Silver Nautilus Award!

Ari Ara Wins Silver Nautilus Award!
Desert Song is the second novel to win this social justice fiction honor.

Great news! Desert Song has just won a Silver Nautilus Award – the second book in the Ari Ara Series to be honored in this way! The Nautilus Awards are for socially-engaged fiction and I’m tickled pink to have two of Ari Ara’s novels be awarded this distinction.

Gift the Ari Ara Series to Yourself & Friends This Summer
Find the award-winning books here>>

I’ve been polishing and revising the fourth novel in the series. It brings together characters from both sides of the border to build peace and prevent conflict in an intergenerational peace team. The story is inspired by friends and colleagues who do this work in real life – it’s courageous, inventive, and sorely needed in our world. The Silver Nautilus Award is a reminder that weaving these kinds of great efforts into compelling fiction is exactly the sort of visionary fiction humanity is longing to read. 

In other news, I’m spending the summer co-facilitating some amazing online courses (see info below) on connecting across divides, nonviolent action, nonviolence and the earth, and much more. Enjoy and spread the word.

With love,
Rivera

PS Each week, Nonviolence News collects some extraordinary stories of nonviolence in action. This week has some stellar examples, including how Yacqui women dismantled an illegal pipeline and sold it for scrap metal. It’s a joy to edit this collection, and I hope you’ll enjoy the fruits of this joyful labor by checking out Nonviolence News here>>

Upcoming Webinars

Disarming Conversations, Connecting Across Divides: In this time of increasing polarization, ordinary people like us can help disarm hate, connect across divides, and decrease the likelihood of violence. This series will help you gain skills in communicating with people who hold views opposed to our own – whether they’re family members, neighbors, coworkers, or others. In this 8-week program, you (and an amazing cohort of participants) will explore practices for connecting across divides, disarming conversations, unlearning hate, dealing with toxic polarization, applying interpersonal nonviolence, de-escalating political tensions, unpacking misperceptions, opening space for change, peacebuilding, using radical empathy, and more. (May 25-July 10) Learn more>>

Nonviolence In Action – Strategy & Planning Webinar: Join nonviolent strategy trainer Rivera Sun for a 2-hr webinar that introduces strategy and planning for nonviolent action. This webinar is fun, friendly, and open to people of all experience levels. You’ll learn the guiding principles of how to make change with nonviolent action, how to think strategically, and how to design powerful campaigns for change. (June 3) Learn more>>

Reading To End Racism With Kids, Grandkids & Young People:  In this 4-week webinar, Reading To End Racism Cofounder Daniel Escalante will guide you through how to use personal stories and books to open up meaningful conversation about the impacts of racism and how to dismantle it. This course will offer trainings, practice sessions, and weekly assignments in applying the knowledge we’ve explored each week.(Starts June 10) Learn more>>

Learning From the Earth – A Summer Solstice Virtual Retreat: In this Summer Solstice Nonviolence Retreat, we will open our hearts and minds to the many ways that the Earth embodies and teaches us nonviolence. We sometimes think of our species as either the destroyer or the savior of the planet, but in this webinar we will reframe our relationship into one of solidarity and interconnection. From a place of humility and respect, we will remember the profound lessons of living systems. (June 19) Learn more>>

World Beyond War Book Club on The Way Between: Support the movement to abolish war AND get a free novel. Author Rivera Sun will join World Beyond War’s fundraiser bookclub for FOUR weekly online sessions in July to discuss peace literature, teaching peace to young people through books, and how stories can help us build a more peaceful world. Limited spots! Learn more>>

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Published on May 16, 2021 12:53

April 24, 2021

Ditch the Draft, Once and For All

It’s outdated. It’s dysfunctional. It’s hated by most of the populace. No, we’re not talking about the line at the DMV. We’re talking about the Selective Service and the military draft. For decades, young men have had to register. Now, congress is considering expanding draft registration to women. 

Here’s a better idea: let’s abolish the Selective Service and end draft registration for everyone. 

A new bill in congress calls for the repeal of the Selective Service Act. Introduced by a bipartisan group, it eliminates this outdated, immoral, and unpopular system. The Selective Service Repeal Act would repeal the Military Selective Service Act in its entirety; repeal presidential authority to order registration for a military draft; abolish the Selective Service System, including the data center, national and regional offices, and local draft boards that have been appointed and trained for every county in the US; and end all federal sanctions for nonregistration with the Selective Service System. 

Politicians from across the aisle are acknowledging that it’s time to end the draft system. 

“The military draft registration system is an unnecessary, wasteful bureaucracy which unconstitutionally violates Americans’ civil liberties. We should be abolishing military draft registration altogether, not expanding it,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), co-sponsor.

“If a war is worth fighting, Congress will vote to declare it and people will volunteer,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), co-sponsor.

“(The US Selective Service) has far outlived its expiration date, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars per year.” – Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Even the former head of the Selective Service testified to a congress-appointed commission on the draft that the current database is so incomplete and inaccurate that it would be “less than useless” for an actual draft. Rather than continuing this system — or expanding it to young women — the option is on the table to get rid of it. 

If you hate the idea of a military draft as much as the next American (and most of us do), find out how to organize to keep young women — and young men — from having to deal with this. Tell your congresspersons to cosponsor or support the new bill to abolish the Selective Service. Now is the time to end this unjust, unnecessary, outdated system, once and for all. 

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Rivera Sun , syndicated by  PeaceVoice has written numerous books, including  The Dandelion Insurrection . She is the editor of  Nonviolence News  and a nationwide trainer in strategy for nonviolent campaigns.

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Published on April 24, 2021 12:41

April 10, 2021

Visionary Inspiration and Practical Strategies for Direct Democracy: “Winds of Change” Book Review

By Marissa Mommaerts

Winds of Change,” the third part of the trilogy that began with The Dandelion Insurrection, is so rich that I simultaneously want to share it with every visionary changemaker I know, while at the same time rereading it over and over until I absorb every drop of wisdom, hope and strategy into the fabric of my being. 

As always, Rivera Sun shines the spotlight of love into the shadows of humanity, inspiring readers with practical strategies to imagine and create a future beyond the pervading narrative of profits over people. But in this third book in the Dandelion Trilogy, the movement of activists, called the Dandelions, grow a powerful movement for direct democracy in the fertile soil of love and resistance they have cultivated through years of organizing.

Each poetic yet action-packed chapter presents an essential theme in the transformation of our culture, economy, and political system: the rights of nature, the rise of the sacred feminine, youth leadership, immigration reform, reparations, economic justice, reclaiming the commons, and community-based responses to climate change and natural disasters. All of these threads are woven into the struggle for direct democracy, “not just voting for smiling liars,” but actually governing ourselves in every aspect of our lives: our neighborhoods and communities, our workplaces, our schools, the lands we steward and our places of commerce, and so much more.

Reading “Winds of Change” opened my mind to possibilities and my heart to hope in a way that hasn’t happened since I took my first Permaculture Design Course. From envisioning urban neighborhoods that function as native ecosystems and urban wetlands that buffer the coastal impacts of climate change; to viscerally acknowledging–and even healing from–the legacy of patriarchy; to laying out a mass, creative, and strategic campaign to topple a christo-fascist presidential candidate (whom, by the way, feels uncannily familiar) and create the conditions for direct democracy to flourish, it is truly remarkable that “Winds of Change” can offer so many treasures to our growing movement for democracy, justice, and regeneration in just 347 pages. 

Please, pick up a copy, devour it, dream it, share it, pick up another copy, host a book club, and bring direct democracy more deeply into your heart, your life, and your community, as I plan to do. Rivera Sun reminds us that love and courage go hand-in-hand, and that any one of us could be the catalyst of a mass movement that will change the world.

Review written by Marissa Mommaerts, Transition US National Network Organizer, and originally published on transitionus.org.

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Published on April 10, 2021 14:18

March 12, 2021

Maine Farm Girl & Kansas Grain Farmer Talk Climate on The Train

Image: “Into the Night” by TumblingRun is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

A young Kansas grain farmer and I were riding on a train through Iowa when the subject of the climate crisis came up. He was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed son of a multigenerational Midwest farming family. I’d grown up on a potato farm in Northern Maine. Both of us spent our teenage years in overalls. We compared tractor models (him, John Deere; me, 1960s FarmAll). 

We were passing under the towering windmills that dot the rolling farmlands in Iowa when I mentioned the climate crisis. He was a Christian conservative. I was a chip off the ole block of my Vietnam War-resisting father. I told him I was worried about the climate, that I had seen the snow pack shrink in Northern Maine throughout my 28 years of life. It hurt the crops. It made farming even more risky than it always was. 

He surprised me with his reply. 

“I’m worried, too,” he confessed. 

His urban friends from Oklahoma City just didn’t get it, he told me. And it made him mad. He’d seen the yields go down. He’d watched the entire crop get flattened by a late hard frost. He’d seen members of his grain co-op lose their farms because of summers of endless rain or scorching droughts or early freezes. He knew the climate was changing and it frustrated him that his urban conservative friends thought the climate crisis was a hoax. 

Farmers know the land. We have a telltale ache that’s tuned to the weather. We endure the usual battery of bad luck, wet seasons, insect swarms, untimely drought, crop disease. We wrestle the corporate agricultural giants year after year, trying to preserve a chance for the small farmer to stay independent. But the climate crisis is here. It’s no hoax. The young farmer and I — despite our wildly different politics — both saw it crashing down on our farms with our own eyes. 

I’ve been thinking about his city friends and mine. We need them to know where their food comes from, to understand that swallowing the lies of the fossil fuel industry won’t put bread on the table forever. We need them to shift to renewable energy now, not 20 years from now. Our farms need our fellow Americans to take this crisis seriously. The land is not designed for the way we’re using it. The earth will not put up with human abuses for much longer. It’s time for humanity to make a transition to a way of life that gives back more than it takes, that puts care of the earth above profits for the rich, that lives respectfully in our only home. 

He and I craned our heads up at the giant windmills. I cracked a joke about newfangled inventions. He quietly reminded me that Midwest and Western farmers and ranchers had used windmills as water pumps for more than a century. Renewable energy is not foreign to rural communities. It’s been a source of independence for a long time. We need to lay down our political divisions and remember that we can find common ground. If a conservative Kansas grain farmer and a potato-picking farm girl from Maine can see eye-to-eye on the climate crisis, maybe there’s hope for the rest of the country. The future of humanity depends on it. 

-end-

Rivera Sun , syndicated by  PeaceVoice has written numerous books, including  The Dandelion Insurrection . She is the editor of  Nonviolence News  and a nationwide trainer in strategy for nonviolent campaigns.

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Published on March 12, 2021 16:23

February 24, 2021

A Blizzard. A Power Outage. A Failure of the Heart.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

A continent-wide snow storm swept across the United States last week. From Seattle to Baton Rouge and from Dallas to Minneapolis, people grappled with road closures, shutdowns, power outages, and freezing temperatures. 

From sea to shining sea, ordinary people stepped up to take care of one another. My brother volunteered to snowblow the Seattle offices of an autism support center. A colleague in Portland, OR, posted warnings not to walk under the snapping, ice-laden branches of city trees. Friends in West Virginia popped back online to make sure everyone was fine after three days without Internet. When Texas megachurches refused to shelter people, a mattress store opened their doors to those without power. Up and down my dirt road in New Mexico, people checked-in with each other as they walked dogs, drove to work, and dug out their driveways. 

This is the America I believe in. In a time of political outrage (and even more outrageous headlines), I believe the content of our national character is found in how we take care of one another. Especially in times of crisis. This spirit of neighborly caring is a widely-shared value, stretching from rural communities to urban neighborhoods, encompassing everything from faith-based relief efforts to mutual aid networks. 

Why don’t we see more of this from politicians, pundits, and wealthy elites? 

For days, 2.5 million residents in Texas were left without power, killing at least 17 people. Despite the fact that Texas runs largely on fossil fuels, the state’s politicians blamed the outages on solar and wind failures. (The Antarctic, Minnesota, and Norway all replied with proper instructions on how to keep wind turbines moving in below zero temperatures.) Profiteers gleefully chortled over $8,000+ electric bill spikes. As a quarter of his powerless residents struggled to survive freezing temperatures, Texas mayor Tim Boyd posted on Facebook, “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish [sic].” 

This kind of cruelty makes me ashamed of my fellow Americans. We can’t say we “love our country” if we don’t put our love-in-action to help our entire populace. We praise our soldiers for being willing to sacrifice in times of need, but our words of honor ring hollow if citizens and public leaders don’t mobilize to make sure children have food, elders are warm, and families are safe. When the blizzard strikes and the power falters, heroism is shown by those who compassionately step forward to make sure everyone is okay. Our willingness to care amidst crisis is a form of patriotism, a way of showing loyalty to your country. 

When grandstanding politicians lie about windmills as fossil fuel failures freeze people to death, they should be ashamed of themselves. When a dangerously under-regulated power grid company fails to take care of millions of people, they have lost the moral right to operate a critical piece of infrastructure. When a billionaire gloats about hitting the jackpot as electric bills wipe out families’ life savings, something is rotten in his soul. When a small-town mayor snarls in disdain at desperate families, he does not deserve to hold public office. When we fail to reach out a hand to our neighbors — whether they live in the house next door or have no house at all — then we have also failed to live up to common decency.

What makes us strong is not our smug satisfaction that our own little house is safe and sound. Sneering in judgment at the suffering of others does not make us good, righteous, or powerful. It is our love and respect that make us strong. It is our heroic capacity to care for one another. It is the way we use everything from our snowplows to shovels to churches and mattress stores, back-up generators, city governments, public utilities, private companies, social media platforms, and more to make sure each and every single person in this country is safe, warm, healthy, and okay.

A blizzard. A power outage. A failure of the heart. In times of crisis, we either rise to our best … or we perish at our worst. 

________________

Rivera Sun , syndicated by  PeaceVoice has written numerous books, including  The Dandelion Insurrection . She is the editor of  Nonviolence News  and a nationwide trainer in strategy for nonviolent campaigns.

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Published on February 24, 2021 14:16

February 2, 2021

8 Magical Stories Of How Peace Literature Changes Culture – And Lives

8 Magical Stories Of How Peace Literature Changes Culture – And Lives

By Rivera Sun

Four hours per day, six days per week, I take action for peace. It may not look like your typical nonviolent action – I don’t hold signs or block the gates of military bases. The way I wage peace is by writing. I pick up the pen that is supposedly mightier than the sword, and use novels to shift our culture away from war and violence. It’s a Sisyphean task, a Herculean effort, and a David and Goliath battle, for sure. Yet, if you recognized even one of those references, you understand why stories matter so deeply to our world.

Myths, epics, legends, folktales: these are what the human imagination is woven from. These kinds of stories influence how we see the world, and how we act in our lives. Yet, in large part, our epics teach that violence is a good way to solve our conflicts. War is the background upon which heroes prove their valor. Even in Hollywood today, we are bombarded with narratives of violent heroism.

If we don’t change these stories, they’ll kill us.

For nearly 10 years, I’ve been on a writer’s mission to prove that good stories do not require violence to deliver an action-packed, heart-thrilling adventure. First, I wrote the Dandelion Trilogy which features a nonviolent movement for change in a slightly fictionalized United States. Then I turned an eye to younger readers with the award-winning Ari Ara Series. Ari Ara is a young girl of mixed background. She is chosen as the apprentice in the Way Between, a blend of what we might describe as an aikido-like (non)martial art, nonviolent action skills, and peacebuilding practices. These series is fantasy – a genre overwhelmingly marked by its use of violence and warfare – but in these novels, the heroine doesn’t win wars . . . she stops them. Instead of leading an armed uprising (like the protagonists of the Hunger Games and so many others), she taps into the most effective forms of social change: nonviolent action. With her friends, she tackles bullies, racial injustice, migrant worker abuses, militarism, warmongering, gender imbalances, and more.

The series has won praise from parents, educators, and peace professionals alike. But it is the following collection of true stories about young readers that give the series its highest praise. These stories show that the Ari Ara Series activates the imagination in ways that change the readers’ hearts, lives, and indeed, the world.

#1 Playing The Way Between In the Backyard

How many times have we spotted the kids in the backyard stick-fighting or having imaginary Star Wars battles? Well, after reading The Way Between, multiple parents reported seeing their kids re-enacting the scenes in the book in the backyard, imagining themselves waging peace instead of war. Another mother told me she caught her daughter standing on one foot in the kitchen – just like Ari Ara in the first novel – building her skills in balance, perseverance, and focus. Young readers easily identify with stories about studying and learning; the motif of the hero-in-training captures the imagination of young readers. Only, in these novels, the story directs the reader’s mind toward the many ways we can build our skills for nonviolence and peace.  

#2 Dismantling Border Walls

In The Adventures of Alaren, a collection of fictional folktales telling the legends of the peacebuilders in Ari Ara’s world, there is a short story called The Brother’s Wall.  It tells the tale of a village that dismantles a wall built by feuding kings and uses the stones to build other things. After reading it, a 12 year old boy emailed President Biden with an idea: the federal government should tear down the wall Trump built between the US and Mexico, and use the materials to build housing for the homeless. According to his grandmother, who relayed this story to me, officials “responded immediately and said they liked the idea and that they would keep it in mind for future policy discussions. He responded to add that his idea offered them a way to show that they are keeping families together, not separating them.” Stories that teach us conflict resolution and social justice often inspire ideas for creative solutions to our world’s pressing problems.

#3 Refusing To Study Violence

Repeatedly in the series, Ari Ara is told to practice fighting or play war games by teachers who support the armies. Each time, she refuses to engage in attar (the word for war and violence). After reading one of these scenes, an elementary school student echoed Ari Ara’s stance during a virtual Phys-Ed class. When the students were supposed to participate in a “ninja workout”, the 10-year-old said, “I follow the Way Between, not attar!

#4 Practicing With Dad

You know a novel has captured the reader’s imagination when they not only daydream about the scenes, they invite others into their games. A mother sent me an email one day, enthusing about how her daughter asked her father to “play the Way Between” with her. Together, the two tried to work out the moves described in the books. Child development experts have long understood how formative these kinds of games are for young people. They develop both motor skills and neural pathways. If these come from exercises in peace rather than violence, so much the better, for we need to train our fellow humans to wage peace.

#5 Ditching Video Games For Books

Teenage boys are an at-risk population for adopting violence and enlisting in the military. They are bombarded with the propaganda of the military-industrial complex, and targeted with video games as recruitment tools. So, it’s a big deal when two teenage boys eschew their obsession with video games in order to binge-read the Ari Ara Series, as one parent told me. It shows that a compelling story can intervene in the habits of the culture of violence. These types of stories remind readers that another path is possible, that war is not inevitable, and that violence is far from the only – or best – option.

#6 Skits & Folktales

From page to stage, a teacher has turned The Adventures of Alaren into a teaching tool that lets students stand in the footsteps of peace team members, inter-positioning scenarios, and peacebuilding endeavors. His assignment is to read one of these fictional short stories – and the real life example it’s inspired by – and convert the tale into a skit that can be performed in the classroom. This is a powerful example of how educators can use these books to offer creative and engaging peace education.

#7 Summer Camp

Harry Potter summer camps abound – and who can argue with the joy of pretending to enroll at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, shouting Expelliarmus!, and holding Quidditch matches on broomsticks? In a similar vein, a group of parents and homeschooling educators are working on a plan to create a summer camp program around the Ari Ara Series, using the magic of these stories to teach peace. The possibilities in this concept are endless – and they show how a good story can unleash a whole world of adventures, not to mention opportunities to teach peace education.

#8 Halloween Costumes

This is my favorite story of how the Ari Ara Series is bringing peace and nonviolence to life. For Halloween, a pair of friends decided to dress up as Ari Ara (black cloak, tunic, knee-high boots) and the street urchin Rill (colorfully patched vest and dozens of braids) from The Lost Heir, the second novel in the series. Whenever someone asked them what they were, they’d launch into a synopsis of the novel, including a description of how the two friends used nonviolent action to win a labor struggle. When a good book makes its way into other aspects of popular culture, you know you’re shifting hearts and minds.

In a world facing drones, nukes, and trillion dollar war budgets, the idea that my writings can counter the culture of violence is heartening. Scribbling away each day, these anecdotes shared by teachers, parents, and readers remind me that stories are powerful and that this form of peace action is making a difference. But I don’t do it alone – so many people help spread the word about these novels, recommending them to youth, parents, and teachers. This is another way of taking action for a culture of peace. It’s what turns 8 stories into 80,000 stories. It’s what shifts a few tales into a cultural movement. It’s how we use good books to actually change the world.

________________________

Note: If you would like to republish this piece, you can! Simply link back to this original post. Thanks!

Author/Activist Rivera Sun has written numerous books and novels, including the Dandelion Trilogy and the Ari Ara Series. She is the editor of Nonviolence News and a nationwide trainer in strategy for nonviolent movements. www.riverasun.com

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Published on February 02, 2021 11:43

January 22, 2021

The Scale of Loss: 400,000 Dead

Image via Today, “Could The COVID-19 Memorial Become Permanent?”

Four hundred lights stretch along the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. Each represents one thousand people in America who have died of COVID-19. It is only in their absence that we have space to acknowledge the dead–there is not enough space beside the pool for that many people to stand. It is only by symbols that we can understand the enormity of what we’ve lost.

If the living marched on DC in equal numbers, the sea of people would be as large as the DC Women’s March in 2017or twice the size of the crowd in the iconic photos of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech during the March On Washington in 1963. 

It is difficult to comprehend the silence around these 400,000 deaths. When 2,977 people died in the 9/11 attacks, the nation mourned and grieved, took off their shoes at airports, invaded two countries, formed new departments of security and surveillance, tossed out half our civil liberties, and posted flags commemorating the lives lost on 9/11 in airports around the nation. 

There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of our failure to limit the spread of COVID-19. Many of us cannot even take the simplest action to respect this tragedy–not even wearing a mask to prevent the disease’s spread. Until the memorial of lights along the Reflecting Pool, we had no official mourning from the highest office in the nation.

Why is death by pandemic less worthy of our collective grief than death by terrorism? 

There is no foreign nation to falsely accuse and illegally invade this time. The culprits are ourselves, the lies of politicians, our gullibility, and the propaganda of media outlets. It is painful to think of all the ways we failed our fellow citizens in this crisis. Can we carve out the social space to regret how some prioritized privileges over the needs of others? Can we discuss why some of our fellow citizens felt their vacations and shopping were more important than others’ lives? Can we deal with the stark fact that the wealthy and politically powerful insisted upon business-as-usual, forced the workers back to work, and refused economic relief that would have kept each family safe and sheltered, fed and warm?

Can we bear to think–even for just one moment–of 400,000 families who weep over the absence of a grandmother, ache as they notice the empty chair of a beloved, or sob because their son or daughter was cut down too early in life? 

Can we imagine the pain of families who lost two, three, or more relatives to this pandemic? 

Can we acknowledge the ways Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples have had the heart of their communities carved away, leaving silenced wisdom and missing language-speakers? 

Can we remember the hundreds of thousands still struggling to recover from the disease, wrestling with relief at surviving it and frustration with the exhaustion that lingers in their bodies for months after being discharged from the hospital? 

Can we commend the teachers who stood up against hasty school re-openings and honor them for saving thousands of schoolchildren?

Can we offer a minute of silence for each of the 400,000 victims? That is a pregnant thought, as 400,000 minutes equals nine months. Of ghostly silence. 

We choose, as a nation, who we mourn. These choices are not weighted equally. We have used our national mourning for political gain. We have used grief to drive our country into illegal wars. Meanwhile, we ignore the grief of those whose oppression turns the wheels of our economy. We deem the losses felt by marginalized groups as somehow less worthy than the losses felt by the most privileged in our society. We decide by those weighted scales whose lives deserve acknowledging–and whose should be swept into a single statistic that is ignored. 

Each life, however, is born with the unalienable right to be seen and heard, honored and treasured, missed and mourned when it is lost. To fail to reckon with the losses our nation has faced from this pandemic is to fail to measure up to our basic humanity. The dead deserve far more than what we’ve offered them and their families. These losses will haunt us for centuries to come. We can only hope that in this haunting, we change the ways in which lives are counted or discounted, and souls are lost . . . or perhaps saved. 

-end-

Rivera Sun , syndicated by  PeaceVoice has written numerous books, including  The Dandelion Insurrection . She is the editor of  Nonviolence News  and a nationwide trainer in strategy for nonviolent campaigns.

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Published on January 22, 2021 09:46

December 11, 2020

After The Fireworks – Winds of Change





This is an excerpt from Winds of Change, the third novel in the Dandelion Trilogy.
Find it through our Community Publishing Campaign here>>





It was a time of giddiness and babble, when the world seemed hopeful and lost all at once. Possibility lurked on the edge of each moment. Disaster loomed across every horizon. With humanity at a crossroads, the clock ticking in the earth’s heartbeat, the Dandelion Insurrection took a deep breath . . . and went flying on the winds of change.





The night hung dark in all directions. Across the pooling black of the lake, distant drunken whoops shot out. A pitched shriek echoed over the water. A crackle erupted in the sky. Starbursts lit up the night. Cheers lifted on the shore. An off-key anthem praised rockets’ red glare. The smell of charcoal briquettes swept past and vanished.





Back when that song was written, it would have been the stench of burning flesh, Charlie thought cynically.





He lay on his back in the bottom of a metal rowboat in the middle of a lake on the Fourth of July. Red and blue hues of fireworks electrified his features in brief flashes. Angular and aching, his face bore the lines of a youth who has seen too much and knows secrets that wake him up at night. His sandy hair gleamed green for an instant as a firework bloomed above him. The crackling pink trails of the explosion turned his blue eyes violet.





The light fizzled. Darkness dropped like a shroud. Charlie Rider disappeared from sight once again. Only the strip of glow tape and the solar lights attached to the stern and bow remained, bobbing like drunken stars stumbling in the black sky. The sound of splashing arose, rhythmic and confident. A murky figure swam up to the boat. The metal pinged with the slap of a palm. Zadie Byrd Gray’s laughing eyes lifted over the gunwale. The vessel lurched in the water.





“You should come in,” her breathless voice enticed.





“It’s too cold,” he answered, not budging from the comfort of the blankets layered in the hull. He grimaced. She’d soak him when she clambered back in, dripping and naked, teeth chattering and skin bluish under the cover of darkness.





“Makes you feel alive,” Zadie urged, releasing the edge of the boat and diving back into the inky waters.





The triple flowers of the next fireworks illuminated her face when she resurfaced. Her black curls were plastered tight against her skull by water-weight. Her pale skin gleamed for a second, limbs strange and froglike under the surface of the lake.





Typical Zadie Byrd Gray, he thought with a small chuckle, skinny-dipping under the Independence Day fireworks.





It had been his idea to row out and escape the mayhem of the shore. His massive extended family had all gathered at the gravely beach for corn-on-the-cob, hotdogs and burgers, and apple pie. His cousins had contributed a devastating vat of homebrew. Zadie’s father, Bill, launched into a tirade on the shortcomings of the Founding Fathers – a lecture they’d both heard a thousand times. When Charlie whispered in Zadie’s ear, she leapt at the chance to slip off. They shoved the boat into the water and rowed out to watch the fireworks. Charlie texted his mother so she wouldn’t suddenly glance up with panic thundering in her chest when she didn’t see him. She’d lost too many nights of sleep over her revolutionary son. He’d been shocked to see grey streaks in her hair when he had returned home to Northern Maine.





The boat tipped as Zadie heaved her torso out of the water. Charlie sat up and countered the weight. He handed her a towel as she rolled in, sopping.





“Brrr,” she gasped, “I swear there’s still ice at one end of the lake.”





“Wouldn’t surprise me in the least,” Charlie answered. Though the spring melt had long passed, the water in Northern Maine wouldn’t lose its frigid edge until August – and even then, only in the top few feet of sunlight-pierced waves.





A good metaphor for revolutions in this country, Charlie thought darkly. They never went deep enough to keep out the chill of centuries of injustice.





Another collection of fireworks boomed overhead.





They’d fought and struggled for so long, shining bold as dandelions, piercing the darkness of the hidden corporate dictatorship, making so much progress, and yet . . . the sheer weight of injustice still thundered like an oncoming train wreck through the lives of the people. The backlog of misery accumulated by centuries of rich people’s rule had a momentum of its own. A nation could only be neglected for so long before the moth-eaten holes of the social fabric crumbled into dust. It would take a hundred years to dig out of the mess of the hidden corporate dictatorship.





And they didn’t have a hundred years.





They’d ousted the corrupt politicians, replaced them with decent enough officials, thwarted a counter-revolutionary take-over, and halted the corporatists’ continued efforts to steal anything that wasn’t nailed down. It still wasn’t enough. He and Zadie had worked non-stop to get bills passed through Congress, held an emergency election for a single-term transitional president, and ensured that hundreds of corrupt officials were prosecuted by the legal system. It had been a herculean effort, worthy of a thousand medals of honor, but the reports kept rolling in, bad and getting worse. Drought in the farmlands. Corporate businesses declaring bankruptcy and vanishing to avoid penalties on a decade of unregulated abuse. Global banking sanctions. Threats from other superpowers. A military on the verge of mutiny. Crumbling infrastructure. Debt balloons collapsing with a pffftzzing whine. Turmoil and chaos.





And now, the rising rumble of fear was triggering a backlash. The law-and-order crowd was calling for stability, traditions, and the good old days. Behind them, the good old boys lurked in the shadows, trying to regain power. There were no easy answers to the problems anymore. It had been so simple to oppose the tyranny of the old regime – everyone despised the hidden dictatorship – but it was so much harder to get people to agree on the solutions and next steps.





Charlie flexed his aching fingers. He’d been writing all afternoon. Dusk had fallen, unnoticed, by the time Zadie unexpectedly slapped his laptop shut. He glanced up, bleary-eyed from staring at the glaring screen.





“Time’s up,” she declared. “It’s a holiday, remember?”





“Humph,” he snorted.





“Don’t start that,” she warned, shaking her black curls. “Suspend your cynicism. Enjoy the fireworks, for once.”





Charlie groaned, but rose to his feet. They had a deal: he could scribble away the afternoon, reflecting on revolutionary themes for his next essay, but then he had to watch the fireworks over the lake with her. Charlie had agreed to come only after she threatened to throw his laptop in the water and run off with one of his cousins who knew how to have a good time.





“We’re national heroes, Charlie, m’boy,” she teased him. “Come grin-and-bear the Fourth of July. At least we didn’t have to go to any parades in DC.”





After his series of blistering rebukes to politicians about the lack of progress on social reforms, their public appearance schedule had cleared out considerably.





“Keep criticizing Congress and we can finally retire,” Zadie joked.





But it was no laughing matter. Revolutionary truth-tellers rose and fell on waves of change, propelled or repelled by the opportunists of the hour. The same people who applauded them for tackling the hidden corporate dictatorship detested them when Charlie turned his mighty pen toward their shortcomings. Charlie never forgot that Thomas Paine, for all his Common Sense, died obscure and alienated from his peers, disillusioned by counterrevolutions in France and the constitutional conservatism in the United States.





As it was, both he and Zadie had been politely disinvited from the Fourth of July ceremonies in Washington, DC. It was an honor they neither sought nor mourned. Instead, they came north to spend time with family – or at least, Zadie had. Charlie cloistered himself in the back bedroom of his grandfather’s camp by the lake and tried to ignore the patriotic fervor of the weekend. It nauseated him. Though he loved his country fiercely, he couldn’t stomach its shows of patriotism.





A starburst of a crackler erupted as they settled down on the bottom of the boat. Zadie curled tight to his side, the chill of the metal muffled by the towels, scratchy wool picnic blanket, and his churning furnace of body heat.





“Did you ever wonder,” she asked, “if we wrote the Constitution today, would we do it the same way? I mean, that was two hundred and fifty years ago. People rode horses to send messages. Most people couldn’t read – heck, most people weren’t even considered people – enslaved Africans were counted as three-fifths human. Indigenous Peoples were considered ‘savages’ that needed to be conquered or controlled by white people. White women were considered the property of their husbands and fathers. The poor, including indentured servants, couldn’t vote or run for office.”





“Most of our political history is the story of how we rewrote our Constitution to include more of us,” Charlie answered.





“Yeah, but if all of us could have participated in the crafting . . . if we designed a new system, right now, what would we, the People, create?” Zadie rolled onto her side and leaned on her elbow, cheek propped in hand, eyes aglow with thought. “Would we stick with a representative republic? Would we include more direct democracy? Would we add anything to the systems of checks and balances? What about consequences – like docked pay or getting fired – for officials who refuse to enact the demonstrated will of the people?”





Charlie could almost see the ideas exploding in her mind as she spoke, fireworks of possibility lighting up the darkness for brief, vanishing flashes. He’d spent plenty of sleepless nights mulling on these same concepts. They always fizzled out by morning. Crumpled paper littered his writing area like fireworks casings on the Fifth of July shores.





“People don’t even know what democracy is,” he reminded Zadie. “They’ve been taught that the unparalleled brilliance of the Founding Fathers gave us the best system in the world, and there’s no need to change it.”





“American Exceptionalism is such a deadly brainwashing technique,” Zadie grumbled, flopping back down on the blanket and setting the boat rocking. “It makes us unwilling to improve.”





“If we rowed back to the beach and asked anybody – except your dad, he doesn’t count – if we should rewrite the Constitution, they’d throw a hotdog at you and dunk you in the lake.”





That was the irony of the Fourth of July: there was nothing revolutionary about it. The nation celebrated patriotic loyalty to an unjust system rather than the revolutionary willingness to upend the world in search of greater equality and justice. On the day that honored the courage of those who defied global superpowers, their descendants followed rote patterns of tradition without deviation, year after year.





Charlie might not have minded if it happened on September 17th, Constitution Day. Then, at least, the obvious self-worshipping rhetoric wouldn’t be hypocritical. But a day commemorating revolution ought to be, well . . . more rebellious. People should spend the day asking the very questions Zadie had just raised, thinking critically about the political system, and working to correct outstanding injustices so that the “truths held to be self-evident” could be reflected in the politics and practices of the nation. They should spend the day advancing the quest for life and liberty. They make sure the pursuit of happiness could be actualized by every citizen, not just by some.





And then, he admitted with a chuckle, after a long day of making meaningful strides toward liberty and justice for all, then we might set off a few fireworks and slice up the apple pie.





“This holiday is the same as all our others – militarized, commercialized, corporatized beyond recognition or meaning,” he grumbled. His bitter comment hung on the summer air, hollowed by the metal boat and softened by the lapping waves. “If we want a deeper kind of democracy, it’ll take another revolution to get it.”





He could feel the curl of Zadie’s smile even in the dark.





“Good thing,” she replied, “we know a revolutionary or two.”





A trio of fireworks lit up the sky, red, white, and blue, one right after the other. Charlie watched the colors illuminate Zadie’s face in shades of warning, hope, and possibility. The red faded last, an uncanny glow of rockets’ glare, a reminder that tradition did not die easily and that patriotism sometimes fought against change.





____________________________





This is an excerpt from Winds of Change, the third novel in the Dandelion Trilogy.
Find it through our Community Publishing Campaign here>>

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Published on December 11, 2020 12:48

From the Desk of Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun
Sit around and have a cup of tea with me. Some authors are introverts, I'm a cheerful conversationalist who emerges from intensive writing bouts ready to swap the news, share the gossip, and analyze p ...more
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