Robert Koehler is a nationally recognized award-winning journalist, fiction writer and poet whose essays and columns have appeared in ...

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Robert Koehler

Robert Koehler


Peace behind barbed wire

February 26, 2015

As media ownership converges and technology "unites" us, the concept of national identity grows ever easier to exploit -- and, therefore, I fear, increasingly, and dangerously, simplistic.

  • Alive and bleeding

    February 19, 2015

    Good and evil leap from the headlines: "Egyptian planes pound ISIS in Libya in revenge for mass beheadings of Christians."

  • The sociology of dead children

    February 12, 2015

    Experts have put urban violence under the microscope. You might call it the sociology of dead kids.

  • War and perpetual adolescence

    February 5, 2015

    The urgency I feel isn't any longer to stop a particular war but to interrupt endless war: to interrupt the narrowly focused geopolitical conversation, conveyed to us over and over by media stenographers, in which lethal intervention -- wherever -- is always the first and only choice. The uncertainty is never a matter of "if." It's only a matter of "when."

  • Healing the criminal justice system

    January 29, 2015

    "It'd be really hard to have a higher recidivism rate than we have in Cook County."

  • War in two directions

    January 22, 2015

    "Sometimes they have drug and alcohol problems and when they feel that the VA is ignoring them, not answering the phone, failing to return calls for assistance or there are long wait times, they get more and more disgruntled. The VA is ripe for a mass killing but no one is listening to us."

  • Partners in terror

    January 15, 2015

    "Je suis Charlie. Tout est pardonne."

  • Turning our backs on a violent world won't change anything

    January 8, 2015

    Oh, the moral force of a snub.

  • Restorative justice and the rebirth of Chicago

    January 1, 2015

    The vision is a city interlaced with restorative justice hubs -- community centers that bring hope and promise to troubled kids in a town where too many of them are dying. "It is not OK that my friends and I have already planned our funerals," then-high school senior Keann Mays-Lenoir told a crowd of 300 people a year ago, at a rafter-shaking meeting where the idea was introduced.

  • Refusing to wage war

    December 25, 2014

    And so we grieve over another national tragedy.

  • Abolishing the CIA

    December 18, 2014

    The shock resonating from the Senate Intelligence Committee's CIA torture report isn't due so much to the revelations themselves, grotesque as the details are, but to the fact that they're now officially public. National spokespersons (except for Dick Cheney) can no longer deny, quite so glibly, that the United States is what it claims its enemies to be.

  • The militarized divide

    December 11, 2014

    This shattered nation.

  • Beyond M.A.D.: Reviving nuclear war

    December 4, 2014

    "Some of the key technocrats and scientists of the Cold War say the nation has become overly confident about its nuclear deterrence. The nuclear enterprise, they say, 'is rusting its way to disarmament.'"

  • Racism: It's the law

    November 27, 2014

    Smoke and fire, sirens blaring, horns honking, a sudden hail of bullets. This is what passes for the American dialogue on race and justice.

  • Ferguson and the 'us vs. them' illusion

    November 20, 2014

    As the grand jury's decision on whether or not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson loomed, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told a TV reporter "he's preparing for peace and war."

  • A gospel of wealth

    November 13, 2014

    "I'm pregnant," she said.

  • Peace as a human right

    November 6, 2014

    "Individuals and peoples have a right to peace."

  • Democracy's most cherished act

    October 30, 2014

    Democracy! A word, a way of life, our highest ideal: Everyone is equal; no one is marginal.

  • One My Lai a month

    October 23, 2014

    "When somebody asks, 'Why do you do it to a g--k, why do you do this to people?' your answer is, 'So what, they're just g--ks, they're not people. It doesn't make any difference what you do to them; they're not human.'

  • Our souls turned into weapons

    October 16, 2014

    "During basic training, we are weaponized: our souls turned into weapons."

  • Sweden and the wakening of eco-integrity

    October 9, 2014

    Startling news: Sweden now recycles 99 percent of its waste.

  • The cancer of violent extremism

    October 2, 2014

    "As we look to the future, one issue risks a cycle of conflict that could derail so much progress. And that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world."

  • Headline

    September 25, 2014

    How's your old man?

  • U.S. militarism won't eradicate 'traces of evil'

    September 18, 2014

    Barack Obama's central dilemma last week, when he tried to sell a new war to the American public on the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, was to speak convincingly about the wisdom and effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy over the last decade-plus while at the same time, alas, dropping the bad news that it didn't work.

  • Fast-draw morality

    September 11, 2014

    "So you want to disarm cops LOL yeah that's an intelligent thing to do the gang bangers would love that surely they will unilaterally disarm too."

  • A future that values everyone

    September 4, 2014

    "I think if we had a gun we would have been shot immediately."

  • The courage to disarm

    August 28, 2014

    The Ferguson tragedy, like all those that preceded it and all that will follow -- involving the trivial and panicky use of lethal force, by the police or anyone else -- stirs up questions the social status quo doesn't dare face.

  • Deep justice in Ferguson

    August 21, 2014

    Black 'hood, white cops. Get on the sidewalk!

  • Iraq and endless war

    August 14, 2014

    Our kills are clean and secular; theirs are messy and religious.

  • Hatred in the nuclear era

    August 7, 2014

    Before nuclear weapons, after nuclear weapons . . .

  • Water: Commodity or human right?

    July 31, 2014

    I'm thirsty. Indeed, I'm overwhelmed by thirst, thinking about those who lack access to clean water. I'm thirsty for a different world.

  • Never again to us: Israel's battle cry?

    July 24, 2014

    "Israel regrets every injury to civilians. I call on the residents of Gaza: Don't stay there. Hamas wants you to die, we want you to be safe."

  • The oxymoron of peace

    July 17, 2014

    "At the same time, values and ideas which were considered universal, such as cooperation, mutual aid, international social justice and peace as an encompassing paradigm are also becoming irrelevant."

  • Democracy: No longer for sale?

    July 10, 2014

    Ah, 1961. The year -- certain aspects of it, anyway -- are almost impossible to remember. "Whites only" bathrooms, for instance.

  • Going deep: Race and the third rail

    July 3, 2014

    Let's take a stroll along the third rail of American culture, shall we?

  • Watching the world destroy itself

    June 26, 2014

    The video opens with a few bars of adrenalin-pumping music. We see a topsy-turvy camera angle, sky, trees, darkness, then a staccato pop, pop, pop that blends rhythmically with the music, but of course it's gunfire, lots of gunfire, followed by a few urgent words in Arabic, then English. "Down here! Down here!"

  • Soul murder

    June 12, 2014

    All men are created equal. All chattel are insured.

  • Criminal wrongdoing and the CIA

    June 5, 2014

    Too often "the law" is nothing more than prejudice embedded in jargon.

  • Army of one

    May 29, 2014

    The world withheld love and he went to war. He was an army of one -- another army of one, laying out his plans in secret torment, plotting his "day of retribution."

  • The social immune system

    May 22, 2014

    Europe has a special worry about a broken, uncaring economy.

  • Money and morality, the parallel between energy and slavery

    May 15, 2014

    Step on the gas, step on a man . . .

  • The war to end all wars

    May 8, 2014

    "Peace, as we have seen, is not an order natural to mankind: it is artificial, intricate and highly volatile. All kinds of preconditions are necessary." -- Michael Howard, "The Invention of Peace"

  • Ten years on, ghost of Abu Ghraib still haunts us

    May 1, 2014

    Ten years ago, photos of the crucifixion -- and worse -- were released to the American public. The media still call it "the Abu Ghraib scandal," as though, oops, the awkward repercussions for Team Bush were the torture photos' primary horror.

  • Calling all pagans

    April 10, 2014

    Somewhere between these two quotes lies the future:

  • The high stakes of high-stakes testing

    April 3, 2014

    A mind is a terrible thing to test, especially a child's mind -- if, in so doing, you reduce it to a number and proceed to worship that number, ignoring the extraordinary complexity and near-infinite potential of what you have just tested.