Rehumanize International – 6th Annual Conference
The 6th annual conference of our member group, Rehumanize International, happened October 18-20, 2019, in New Orleans. Consistent Life Network was a co-sponsor, and several of us attended. Sessions offered from CLN officers included: “Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress, Moral Injury, & the CLE” (Rachel MacNair) and “Apocalypse Never: Why We Must Reject Nuclear Weapons” (John Whitehead). Some of us also participated in panels, mentioned below.
We asked participants to share stories and photos.
John Whitehead, CLN president
The 2019 Rehumanize conference was filled with powerful, memorable presentations, and two I attended particularly stick in my memory. Greta Zarro of World Beyond War spoke about the practical details of activism, especially peace activism, in the aptly titled presentation “Grassroots Organizing 101.” Greta provided advice and insights on how to mobilize people and to organize campaigns to influence decision-makers, which I found very clear and helpful.
An important organizing principle is to give activists clear, achievable goals for the short- and long-term. These goals need not always be changes to law and policy but can include benchmarks such as gathering a certain number of signatures for a petition or letters for a letter-writing campaign. Such comprehensible goals are necessary not least because they can give activists the sense of progress and accomplishment necessary to staying motivated. Another important principle mentioned was to identify the crucial influences on decision-makers—funders of their political campaigns, for example, or even religious figures who command respect—and to try to bring them on board the cause. These and other recommendations were helpful, but the presentation’s impact went beyond specific advice. Simply meeting someone dedicated to the peace cause and to pursuing practical strategies for peace was very inspiring.
The other presentation was by the writer Jennifer Reeser, who spoke on “Confronting Violence against Indigenous Peoples.” In discussing the innumerable injustices, past and present, against the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Jennifer focused on literature’s role in the accompanying process of dehumanizing Native Americans. She recounted how various writers, including respected and beloved ones such as William Cullen Bryant and L. Frank Baum, disparaged Native Americans and their language and culture (Baum used especially savage, bloodthirsty rhetoric). Such literary dehumanization accompanied and may have abetted the expulsion and murder of Native Americans going on at the same time.
In contrast to this dehumanization, Jennifer pointed to the positive influence of literature that has portrayed Native Americans respectfully. James Fenimore Cooper was notable in the 19th century for his unusually sympathetic portrayals, including of Native American language—for which Cooper received fierce criticism. More important, Jennifer’s own poetry honors her Cherokee heritage and its language especially. One striking poem she shared was written in English but used sounds only found in Cherokee. The presentation’s focus on how art with de-humanizing themes can be countered by better art seemed a perfect example of the conference’s central focus of re-humanization.
Rachel MacNair, CLN vice-president
I heard chanting coming from another room, and found out later it was pro-abortion protesters who were interrupting Louisiana Democrat Rep. Katrina Jackson’s presentation. People thought it was funny, because Jackson was at the time making the most innocuous of points – how necessary it is that women have access to Medicaid. We had far more radically pro-life things to say that they could have interrupted. But then, the sign-holding protesters probably weren’t paying much attention to content. The chants were the normal run-of-the-mill my-body-my-choice chants.
But then mother Lauren came into the hall laughing hard, because she had been in the room. She said she had just been sitting when baby Finn had started fussing a bit. As is common in such situations, she stood up to sway him to get him to calm down – and as soon as she stood up, that’s when the protesters all stood up, lined the wall, and started chanting. So Lauren thinks maybe she triggered them to start — her standing up was taken as a signal by them that they were supposed to. How ironic.
Security removed the hecklers, and they went outside and protested on the lawn. Some of us went out and engaged them; see Richard’s story next.
Richard Stith, CLN board member
I was having a calm and mutually respectful conversation with various pro-abortion women protesters, outside on the lawn. One woman, however, did not join in our dialogue. Instead, she kept trying to shut us down with the comment that “this is not a fruitful conversation.” Finally a male came over and made the same point with seemingly greater authority. Then they all left with him.
Brian Carroll, American Solidarity Party:
This was my first Rehumanize Conference, and was well worth driving from California. I especially enjoyed two talks on restorative justice by Shareef Cousin, but the high point for me was the presentation by Louisiana Rep. Katrina Jackson.
Sarah Terzo, CLN board member
Panel: Countering Ableism in Medicine
Left to right: Beth Fox, Sarah Terzo, Sophie Trist, John “Frank” Stephens, Jamie Duplechine
Thad Crouch, producer, Choose Life Abort War Podcast for Peace
My biggest Rehumanize Conference 2019 takeaway is that the Dehumanizing System of Domination, Destruction, and Death employs 2-3 common tactics in all or most issues which contradict our values for life, dignity, justice, and peace:
1) Motivations of profit or convenience.
2) Dehumanizing names and messaging.
3) Nice-sounding bull crap justifications.
2) “Products of conception/Clump of tissue”
3) Women’s liberation
1) Political/economic gain
Facts unravel bull crap! We’ve seen the system get very aggressive with whistle-blowers and truth-tellers like Abby Johnson, Daniel Ellsberg, and Chelsea Manning when it comes to abortion and militarism.
Facts don’t always overcome biased minds. However, might we make headway with issues on which we disagree if together we first unravel the three tactics on 2-3 issues we share in common?
Top: Thad talks with Greta Zarro of World Beyond War
Bottom: Thad speaking on the panel – Leaving Violent Institutions
Left to right: Aimee Murphy at podium; Jerry Givens, former Virginia executioner; Toni Turner, former abortion clinic worker; Thad Crouch, Veterans for Peace
Julia Smucker, CLN board member
For more or out posts about participating in events, see: