Monday, December 29, 2008

The Winchester Ghosts

I used to travel to San Jose on a regular basis. On a couple of occasions I took some leisure time to sight see, stopping by the Winchester Mystery House. This house was the home of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. After his death and that of her daughter, Sarah moved West and began construction on this grand ol' Victorian home. Construction continued non-stop until her death 38 years later. What's peculiar about this house is that there are stair cases that go nowhere, doors on high floors that open to the outside (and no stairs to the ground), there are false cupboard doors, the number of stairs are mind numbing and that's just a few of the oddities. Why did Sarah continue to build in such a strange and seemingly haphazard way? She believed herself to be haunted by the thousands who had perished by the guns created and manufactured by the Winchester family. She was convinced that this was why her husband had died young and her daughter. She felt that the crazy array of rooms, stairs and doorways would keep the spirits occupied so they would leave her in peace.

Sarah has been on my mind today as I also feel haunted by the innocent souls liberated early from this life by bombs stamped with "Made in the USA". I think continually of the fields littered with the remains of our cluster bombs, water contaminated from our depleted uranium, not to mention the children born with dibilating deformities and cancers from the toxic waste we've left them. My Christmas season ended as US made bombs killed nearly 300 already demoralized citizens of Gaza. This added to the Iraqi and Afghani death tolls. Yes, America the beautiful is responsible, just as the Winchesters were, for countless deaths and endless suffering. Unfortunately there could be no house big enough or convoluted enough to satisfy all the wandering souls killed by US weapons of mass destruction. From our Atomic bombs in Japan to our bunker busters, my mind swoons at the astounding numbers of innocent victims. Over 90% of casualties of conflict today are civilians, not combatants, but even a combatant is a human being, just one that is willing to risk their own life for what they believe in.

My wish is that America, if we trully desire to be a nation under God, quit providing the means for sending so many His way. Let's stop being the arms dealer to the world. Let's instead build schools, hospitals, and utility centers. Let's drop food and medical supplies from our F16s. We have the potential to do so much good in the world - if only we could wake up from this horrible nightmare of empire. Maybe we are all haunted by the spirits and that's why we're afraid to wake up, stop shopping, watching football or whatever you do to stay disengaged from the world and start working for change. It's civilians that are dying, and guess what, you're one too. If we don't stand up for them now, who will stand up for us when our time comes. Tomorrow there are emergency protests all across America - be there. Let your voice be heard.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Beach Side Philosophy

I enjoyed an early morning stroll by the beach, enjoying the roar of the surf and the sounds of gulls begging the beachfront hotel guests for a bit of their breakfast. The coast of Oregon is not the warm and gentle experience of the Florida beaches but rather a brutal reminder of the cataclysmic beginnings of this land. Remnants of the previous ice age and volcanic activity litter the surf in the form of gigantic moss and barnacle covered rock formations. The waves crash against these formations sending spray and foam reaching high into the sky before raining back down into the chaotic eddy's dancing below. The trees perched perilously along the rugged features of this coast bend genuflect to the great mountain range behind them. There is an ageless battle between earth and sea that resonates deeply within my own soul. This place is about survival but also about death.

On return to my lodging, my eyes landed upon a dark lump in the distance, gulls and a couple smaller birds digging hungrily at it. As I neared I discovered the lump was a fallen comrade of the hordes, a dead pelican. Jagged red flesh exposed beneath matted gray feathers showed the place where the seabirds aided in the decomposition of their flying friend. He had lost his last battle against the sea, the very medium that had given him life and sustenance had taken it from him. Now he would be reclaimed to he bosom, his flesh continuing to soar great heights, reincarnated into the muscle and sinew of other birds.

At first it seemed tragic, one bird devouring another. Yet it is the primordial way, recycling and balancing death with life. Tragedy is the human condition. As we pick the flesh from the bones of our own kind we destroy ourselves. The Israeli's kill their neighbors and rob them of their homes, refugee camps border too many war torn areas, men rape and mutilate women and children mercilessly for no cause they could put words to, internally displaced people roam the countrysides the world over. Iraq, once a proud nation, has been reduced to rubble due to the vanity of another, better armed and more brutal nation. All of our tears, our suffering will one day be washed away, set adrift in the seas or buried deeply beneath new earth. This pain that we gift each other with is empty and meaningless, for we are all doomed to the same fate. Would it not make more sense to comfort one another in our inevitable decay and death rather than to exacerbate our agony? Let's open our eyes and restore balance to our existence. This is the truth of nonviolence. This is my truth as I know it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The longest night

Alexa and I are snowed in this solstice. I drove over snowy hills to collect her from her Dad's earlier this evening. It reminded me of the last freak storm in Dec03/Jan04 as I tried to get to a store to get a pregnancy test to confirm my suspicions. Well I did and I was. Now here I sit with an amazingly beautiful and smart four year old girl sleeping next to me. I remember those first thoughts as my mind spun out various future scenarios around the growing life inside me. And yet none of them came even close to this exquisite moment. I tried to convince myself that I wasn't pregnant - I was 37 and more lesbian then straight - so how could that happen, oh yes, I know the answer. It was my last chance and I took it. I wonder where we will be when the next freak snow storm hits. Where ever it is I'm sure that moment will be even more exquisite than I can frame on the canvass of my imagination sitting here now.

There is a bleakness that comes with snow. Much of life's color is suddenly lost. The temperatures drop and a desire to hibernate overtakes the body. Yet there is a beauty in this ghostlike world that pulls me toward the door. I've been donning the snowshoes and taking brisk walks trying to capture my thoughts in photographs. At one point I put the camera into black and white mode just to intensify the harsh softness of this colorless world. We live in stark contrasts - at least until they melt back into one.

I recall another winter as a teenager in Ky. I had missed my monthly calling and fretted that I might be pregnant. My Mother had gotten pregnant as a teen. She painfully reminded me of the life she dreamed, lost in that ill fated moment in the back seat of some Kentucky boys car. My very existence brought suffering for her. At that moment I could imagine no fate worse than pregnancy. In fact, I embraced death as my only true option and friend. I could not simply eradicate my error with an abortion. If I must destroy my own flesh I would do it completely, joining my unborn in the next world. The snow fell and the world became my silent witness as I walked into the woods, contemplating ways of ending this misery. Laden with heavy thought I sat on a fallen tree and stared blindly into the white, tears cold against my cheeks. Movement caught my eye and I looked up to see that I was being watched. A hundred yards away a gray and white she-wolf watched my misery. Her coat full and warm against the cold. As her eyes set upon my own I felt my shame begin to crumble in defeat, wrestled down by an atavistic desire to live. A primitive will was shared, a strength and a love. My eyes drifted to the ground and when I looked up again for my companion she was gone. I walked to where I had seen this winter spirit, and discovered that no paw prints littered the snow. I wiped away tears as I found my way back home with sorrow transformed.

I was not pregnant after all. It turned out that the birth control pills I was taking were the wrong strength for me. And whether or not the magnificent wolf was of this world or just an image from my mind, it matters not for she still comes into focus in my moments of weakness, reminding me of my own inner strength. It would be 20 years before I would experience motherhood. From 17 to 37 and now, sitting in the dark, listening to my daughter's soft and rhythmic breathing at age 42. The stark contrasts of my own life, only nostalgia for a snowy night before the warming sun sets free all the colors, painting from the palette of each unfolding moment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thursday Night Adventure at Whitefeather


When: December 18th, following vegetarian meal which starts at 5:00pm

Where: Whitefeather House - 3315 North Russet Street - one mile west
of I-5 and one block north of North Lombard, behind Sterling Savings Bank, on bus line 75

Artwork by: Hillbilly Artist A Peace of Art a Day http://hillbillyartist.blogspot.com

Monday, December 8, 2008

Impermanence

A Prince about to be coronated as king, the future Buddha, determined to see what was beyond the gates of his estate He employed a chariot to show him around against the will of his father. On his journey he observed an old man, a very ill man and a corpse. Then he saw an ascetic whose face relayed contentment. As Siddartha contemplated the meaning of what he'd seen he came to realize that we all suffer or at least find life less than perfect, the first of the Noble Truths. The second Truth is that the cause is attachment. The good news can be found in the third and fourth, that we can end our suffering by following the Eightfold path.

The first Noble Truth says that "Life is dukka". Often this is translated as suffering, but closer fit would be unsatisfying or imperfect. Few of us will deny that there is dukka. This dissatisfaction comes from the impermanence of EVERYTHING in this existence. Impermanence is not the flaw, it is the reality. Our attempts to make permanent that which cannot be permanent brings us suffering and unhappiness. It is our thinking that is flawed or at least deluded with regard to reality. All of us will experience illness, aging and ultimately death. We all hope that we won't suffer any illness more threatening than the common cold, nor that we will have to endure too much pain as we age and we always imagine sitting back when we've done all we can in this life and quietly releasing into death. This life is rare so to attach to this scenario can only lead to more dukka. Attachment is two-fold as I think of it. There is clinging or grasping after pleasurable things and thoughts while avoiding those that are not. The middle way is to avoid both and just reside in the moment as it is.

There is a Buddhist practice of meditating on death. The premise being that since death is inevitable a few rehearsals might be in order to help us get it right. It's also a reminder not to identify too strongly with the body. Often in my meditations I visualize myself a sitting corpse or sometimes a skeleton. I remind myself that this body and mind are only dirt and will eventually decay and fail me. Rather than a morbid focus I find this practice very liberating. It relaxes me. It reminds me to relish the itch on my nose, for it will pass with or without my scratching it. The painful veins in my legs may one day provide pathways for grubs as they aid in my decomposition. The pinched nerve in my neck, the nerve damage down my left side that causes an endless itching sensation - all these will fade away, becoming mulch for a new harvest of life. And then I look at my body in a new light. It is chemistry and electricity. It is the most complex measuring tool for my analytical experiments in space and time. Who the observer of these experiments is I'm not entirely sure. But then that is why I'm still just practicing and not yet a Buddha.

Thought does not come out of a vacuum and so it is true of this contemplation of the impermanence of life. There were two occasions recently that brought my mind to focus on this topic. First was my friend Seda's post on Dysphoria (http://silknvoice.blogspot.com/2008/12/dysphoria.html) and all the comments that it generated. No one, especially in our consumerist society, will be completely happy with their body image. But for the transgendered this experience is amplified. It reminded me of how my body image has changed throughout my life. Remembering times when I was thin, ribs prominently defined beneath my skin, and yet I continued to diet and exercise to match some unobtainable picture in my mind. My best friend in high school suffered anorexia to the point that her reproductive system was compromised and she ultimately ended up in the hospital being fed intravenously to save her life. I'm relieved to say I'm way beyond that now. With my shaved head and chemical free face, I feel quite at ease with my body and all it's imperfections, flaws, scars, and now wrinkles. The signs of aging are asserting themselves each morning as I look in the mirror or try to make out the number on my cell phone display when someone calls. I could use modern technology, surgery, makeup and such to try to fit the ideal look for the aging adult (or worse, hold on to some youthful ideal I never achieved in the first place), but I think I already learned that lesson as a young woman. I'm proud of the wrinkles, because they're primarily from smiling. I'm proud of the stretch marks because they remind me of the warmth of pregnancy and that amazing and most intense experience called birth. Each scar holds a memory of a frightened young girl who tried something just a little beyond her capability, but she didn't let it stop her from trying it again later. And some scars were self inflicted, which remind me of how far I've travelled both in this external world as well as inside this host. My time with the body is so brief, so now I take good care of her in the hopes that she will allow me some more experiments in this space and time constrained world. I have great compassion for my body and my mind - they've been through a lot and managed to do way better than just survive.

Life is too short. There are no one way tickets. The second event that started this internal and now external dialog happened Friday night. I was participating in a teleconference for Nonviolent Peaceforce, when I noticed an email from the Unitarian Universalist Peace Action Committee. I assumed it would be about our upcoming meeting. It was, but it also added that a dear friend of so many of us was in recovery from surgery. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and surgery proceeded almost immediately. As soon as she is strong enough chemotherapy will begin in an attempt to kill off the 10% of the tumor that was inoperable. Four years ago her life partner died of this same cancer. My friend has given so much of herself to so many both here in the Portland community and abroad in places like Cuba, Budapest, etc. Now she is surrounded by a large network of friends who are giving their love, time and care, and hoping it will float her through this terrible experience. It's one thing to contemplate our own frailty and imminent death, but when it is a loved one the lesson can be so much harder. We must accept our helplessness while at the same time watching for every opportunity to give care and compassion. We have to maintain our strength and energy so that we can share it when theirs wanes. This is what we do. Humans are made to care for one another. Compassion is our natural state if only we'll let it be. Never deny an opportunity to help another and you will experience the contentment Buddha saw in the face of the ascetic. And when the day arrives when your own body begins to fail, you'll find yourself carried by the love and compassion of others, bringing you full circle.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cheap Socks - something to kill for?

I have a friend that participates, with her sisters, each year in the insane "black Friday" shopping fever. I asked her if there were really any deals good enough to get up at dark-thirty in the morning and go stand outside a mega-store filled with cheap Chinese made crap on a day when we should be sleeping in, revelling in our previous days feelings of gratefulness for healthy families, loving homes and full bellies. She told me she did it for the socks. Apparently Wal-Mart puts out a bin filled with socks that are dirt cheap, for which normally civilized women will do battle. They're not the nice warm home-spun woolies needed for the damp world of Portland that we share - no these are just cheap, white athletic socks that her kids will end up wearing for the coming year. So when I heard that a temp employee of Wal-Mart in Long Island NY was trampled to death by the early morning shoppers, while he attempted to open the doors and let them in, I had to wonder when America had decided that cheap socks were more valuable than human life.

As someone who shuns these stores anyway for their terrible impact on local businesses, I struggle to understand why stuff, cheap or not, can have so much power over the American mind. Are we simply controlled by the advertising community? Maybe since I've quit watching TV I'm less susceptible to this disease. I can't even listen to the radio, as soon as a song finishes and a blaring ad begins I have to turn it off. But even I have my reckless spending days where I feel a desire to buy, buy, buy. One of those days will come before Christmas and I'll visit Fred Meyers and find some fun learning toys for my daughter. Or.... maybe this year I'll skip Freddy's, since it's no longer a local NW company, and instead I'll visit the more expensive woman owned toy shop down the street from my home. I don't spend much money at Christmas anyway but what I do spend should support the woman that has made this store her life's journey rather than adding to the coffers of some large corporation in some far off distant land. I'll keep Christmas local this year.

If you find yourself filling a cart in one of those mega-crap-stores this Christmas, please ask yourself who you're really helping in this season of giving. The number of wrapped gifts under the tree is not a sign of success or happiness. Are your children better off because they have the latest Wii games or Dora pogo stick? Jesus, Mohammad, and Gandhi all taught that less is more, that people are what matter, not things. This Christmas light a candle for Jdimytai Damour, the 34 year old Wal-Mart employee and recognize how far America has strayed from the real meaning of this season. As a new year rolls around we might all want to consider this resolution - I will not become an animal with the insatiable appetite for cheap socks, and I refuse to harm my fellow humans in the pursuit of a bargain, keeping in mind that the human suffering caused by our spending habits is not always as obvious as a trampled person on the floor. And turn off the TV and radio - it really helps.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nonviolence Works - A New Study Confirms What We Already Knew

I don't usually post other people's work, but this study is important to those who study nonviolence.

http://www.progressive.org/mag/wxap103008.html

Nonviolence Is The Right Choice—It Works

By Amitabh Pal, October 30, 2008

Nonviolent resistance is not only the morally superior choice. It is also twice as effective as the violent variety.

That's the startling and reassuring discovery by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, who analyzed an astonishing 323 resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006.

"Our findings show that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns," the authors note in the journal International Security. (The study is available as a PDF file at http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org)

The result is not that surprising, once you listen to the researchers' reasoning.

"First, a campaign's commitment to nonviolent methods enhances its domestic and international legitimacy and encourages more broad-based participation in the resistance, which translates into increased pressure being brought to bear on the target," they state. "Second, whereas governments easily justify violent counterattacks against armed insurgents, regime violence against nonviolent movements is more likely to backfire against the regime."

In an interesting aside that has relevance for our times, the authors also write that, "Our study does not explicitly compare terrorism to nonviolent resistance, but our argument sheds light on why terrorism has been so unsuccessful."

To their credit, the authors don't gloss over nonviolent campaigns that haven't been successes. They give a clear-eyed assessment of the failure so far of the nonviolent movement in Burma, one of the three detailed case studies in the piece, along with East Timor and the Philippines.

In some sense, the authors have subjected to statistical analysis the notions of Gene Sharp, an influential Boston-based proponent of nonviolent change, someone they cite frequently in the footnotes. In his work, Sharp stresses the practical utility of nonviolence, de-emphasizing the moral aspects of it. He even asserts that for Gandhi, nonviolence was more of a pragmatic tool than a matter of principle, painting a picture that's at variance with much of Gandhian scholarship. In an interview with me in 2006, Sharp declared that he derives his precepts from Gandhi himself.

Gandhi's use of nonviolence "was pure pragmatism," Sharp told me. "At the end of his life, he defends himself. He was accused of holding on to nonviolent means because of his religious belief. He says no. He says, I presented this as a political means of action, and that's what I'm saying today. And it's a misrepresentation to say that I presented this as a purely religious approach. He was very upset about that."

One of the authors of the study, Maria Stephan, is at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. The group's founders wrote a related book a few years ago, "A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict." Erica Chenoweth is at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

This study is manna for those of us who believe in nonviolent resistance as a method of social change. We don't have to justify it on moral grounds any more. The reason is even simpler now: Nonviolence is much more successful.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Washing the Flag


Last Saturday I participated in a ritual based on poetry by Mark Prime (AKA Poetryman in the blog world) - don't burn the flag, wash it - and we did. We placed the American flag in a basin of soapy water and as we felt compelled we stepped forward and washed the flag while stating our hopes for this symbol.

I was surprised at the depth of emotion that this simple task evoked in me. As I approached the basin I felt all the years of frustration, embarrassment, anger, shame, and pride. I was working in The Netherlands when we invaded Iraq. One weekend I took the train to Amsterdam for some R&R. While there I was spit at by a group of men of Middle Eastern descent. I quickly learned to keep my American mouth closed - as soon as the accent was heard, eyes would turn my way with suspicion, and even hatred. Before I returned home Bush had already declared victory. It was a ludicrous show of American ignorance. The next morning I saw an elderly American lady sporting her flag shirt and I shook my head in disgust.

I remember when I first realized that this flag was deeply soiled with blood, pain and the repression of budding democracies. I read several sources on the history of our South American brothers and sisters. Over and over again, as the people attempted to organize to control their labor and resources our government would step in with violence, not to help them build their democracy, but to squash it so that large fruit or coffee companies could be assured a huge profit margins. Armed with the knowledge of our history, I never once believed we went to Iraq to give democracy - besides democracy never arrives on a bomb or with torture. Torture, disappearances, mass graves, etc., were not supposed to be attributed to America - but apparently we learned well the lessons of Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, etc. I wonder how much longer it would have been before American citizens began to vanish into the bowels of places like Gitmo, or under the supervision of hired torturers like the Blackwater gang. After watching and hearing testimony from the RNC I felt deep fear about the direction America was going. I was the closest I've ever been to filing papers with Canada or France for a permanent visa.

I've always loved this country. No place else has attempted the amazing social experiment started by our forefathers. In writing the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson assured that the people of this great republic can only be ruled by giving our consent, and if the government becomes destructive in it's power, it is our duty to dismantle it and begin again. November 4th revived my faith in Jefferson's wisdom.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

As my hands touched this symbol my voice trembled. I felt tears well up in my eyes. "My hope is that this symbol will no longer cause fear to those who see it but will stand for hope, justice and mercy".

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Speaking Peace - An Adventure in Nonviolence

If any of you are in the Portland Oregon area, I'll be giving a workshop tomorrow night, the 30th, in the SE corner of the city. This should be fun. I've just started doing monthly adventures in nonviolence and the interest level is increasing as they continue. I don't have one for November, but on December 18th I'll be looking at Jesus as a nonviolent actor - should be fun.





Thursday October 30th we’ll explore a new language, a language that takes back that power, the language of Nonviolence.

This workshop is based on the work and experience of Marshall Rosenberg and Portland’s own “seriously pissed off granny” Bonnie Tinker.

This workshop is FREE - but donations are greatly appreciated


When: October 30th 7-9pm
Where: Spirit Feathers
7704 SE 13th Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97202

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Golden Rule Rules

I have made a vow to myself to deepen my understanding of Islam so as to gain more respect for its followers and also to help me better understand its extremists much in the same way as I've been doing with Christianity for the past four months. To begin this journey I started with the animated movie, Mohammad, The Last Prophet. My daughter and I watched it together several times. Today I began reading the book Mohammad by Karen Armstrong. I was reminded again of the fact that much of this religion came from what was seen as the evil of the open market system (there I go using the word evil again - it's getting to be a habit). The Bedhouin's were nomadic tribes out of necessity and as such depended on community - the tribe was the first priority. As Mecca became a market place, indidual needs took over and community values were forgotten. Profit and materialism became more important than people. Those who suffered most were orphans (like Mohammad) and widows and others that were unable to participate in the highly competitive marketplace. The power was becoming concentate in only a few families while poverty increased its numbers. Beginning to sound familiar?

I became more curious about the author and found this TED talk on religion (if you're not familiar with TED please visit ted.org - you'll be glad you did). I'm quickly becoming a fan of Karen. The wisdom shared in this short talk needs to be shared across the globe. Although I've never been in a convent, like her I became very anti-religion, seeing it as the source of so much suffering and destruction to human life. But my own journey into nonviolence has helped me unravel a fallacy in my understanding of religion that she mentions in this talk, a confusion between belief and religion. In the world of NV the Golden Rule Rules! Religion is about going beyond our evolution - to refuse to be controlled by the selfish gene or the fight/flight mechanisms built into us. Once we take our ego out of the equation and place ourselves in service to all others - something changes and the pre-wired responses seem to lose their control over us. The positive side effects of this change of focus include joy in one's work no matter how mundane, joy in caring for our families, joy in participating in civil disobediance to affect positive change for others even at the risk of our own freedom and safety. I used to wonder why Gandhi always seemed so joyful, even when being hauled off to live in Her Majesty's prison system or cleaning latrines, but now I'm beginning to understand. May we all be so lucky as to quit living for ouselves and begin living for one another.

The End of America

This short film is Naomi Wolf speaking on the 10 step program used by dictators throughout history to close a previously open and democratic society. It's long and even has commercials - sorry - but I felt the content was worth the time.


Friday, October 24, 2008

My ballot is in the mail!!

Last night, after work, I sat down with my ballot, my laptop and some awesome reggae music in the background for inspiration (and I just love reggae music), and I filled in the ovals, the first one for Obama of course. Then I visited Basic Rights Oregon for guidance on the rest of the candidates and measures. I sealed it in the secrecy envelope, signed the outer one, attached postage and sent it on its way. I've done what I can do. I've sported my Obama/Biden bumper sticker, watched the yard signs sway in the breeze and now all I can do is sit back and see how my fellow citizens weigh in. Being a Gen Xer this is the hard part.

Will our country remain in the gutter of hate that I see espoused at the McCain/Palin rallies or will we finally move forward after 8 years of being stuck in reverse? One of the most disturbing issues is the constant referral to Obama as a Muslim and a terrorist. First off, I know some amazing and loving Muslims. In fact my daughter's last teacher was a Muslim from Iran and I trust her implicitly. She has shown so much respect and love to both me and my daughter. My daughter is no longer in that school since we moved, but Mrs. Sue still calls us to wish us well. None of the white Chirstian teachers do that. She's such a great testimony to her profession and her religion. Would I vote for a Muslim - you bet I would if they stand for justice and freedom.

Where terrorism is concerned, McCain should know better, since he is the one that dropped bombs on innocent villages in Vietnam from a safe distance. Let's be realistic, if a plane dropped bombs on your neighbors and then plummeted into a nearby lake - would you save the pilot? Not only did a man swim out and rescue him, he protected him from his own friends and neighbors whose children and lives had just been destroyed by this white demon from above. If there's a terrorist running for President of the US, that terrorist is J. McCain.

Don't get me wrong, I don't see our troops as terrorists. Most of them really believe the propaganda that they've been fed. They are as much the victims of the great evil of empire as are the Iraqi's, the Afghani's, the Venezuelan's, the Nicaraguan's, the Gueatemalan's, etc, etc... you get the picture. The US military is evil, but not the men that make it up. It's up to each and every soldier to ask themselves the hard questions - are they going to just follow any order like Eichman did for the Nazi's, no matter how immorral - or are they going to stand up for their own soul and sanity. Nonviolence isn't easy, it's not for cowards. But if you're someone who is willing to face death for your ideals by serving in the military, you're no coward, and you are strong enough to stand up for truth. If J. McCain had been a man of integrity he would have refused to kill innocents, he would have become a conscientious objector.

May this be the last election filled with bigotry, ignorance and hatred.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eyes and Heart Wide Open

Last Saturday IVAW, PDX Peace and many many more groups dedicated to ending the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, hosted Winter Soldier Northwest (Portland). I went in early to help with set up with the AFSCs real cost of war display "Eyes Wide Open". We placed boots belonging to many dead Oregon soldiers in the social hall of the downtown Unitarian church. As I placed the boots in alphabetical order on the floor my eyes wandered over the names, ages, pictures and sometimes even a personal letter that accompanied the boots. At one point I had to excuse myself from the work to regain my focus and composure. It's hard to fathom the complexity of emotion. Most of these young people joined the military for the benefits, seeing it as an option to move them forward in life, not realizing the full impact that killing another human being would have on their souls. I even wondered if these weren't the lucky ones in comparison to the tortured men whose testimony I was about to witness upstairs. I thought of the years of nightmares, failed marriages, drug dependency and bouts of violence that plagued my Uncle after returning from his Marine duty in Vietnam. He went AWOL - and I'm proud of him for it. He and his first wife hid on a house boat in the Gulf of Mexico. But our government tapped the phones of family members and ultimately caught him. He has survived his experiences and is now a loving husband, father and grandfather of a multi-cultural family. It's hard to know what the owners of these boots might have done if war and violence had not played into their lives.

It didn't end with the empty boots of GIs, but went on to include shoes of dead Iraqi civilians - children included. A young girl of "almost 10" helped me put the Iraqi shoes out around signs on the sidewalks. I saw shoes that would fit my four year old daughter. If it were my child... I can't help but insert myself into the heartache that a mother feels and then I have to multiply it for all those lost in these mindless battles between men. When I read stories from Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Mindanao, Sri Lanka and on and on, I don't shut it out, but I grieve with them, a witness to their hell. When I watch my daughter play, laugh, smile I feel such joy and I wish that for all parents. No one should have to live in a battlefield - and it's up to the citizens of this world to stand up and protect each other. I guess that's why I continue to educate people on nonviolence and the work of unarmed civilian peackeeping. It's only one small piece of what will make this world a better place for us all.

When I listened to the testimony of our vets, I realized how important the storytelling is. It reminded me of my own journey through ptsd. I was sexually abused and it took years to get over the nightmares, the manic depression, self-loathing and all that great stuff that accompanies trauma. But what helped me more than any one thing was being able to tell my story. The first time nearly killed me, but now I can talk about it easily. It no longer controls me but has rather become my tool for helping others. Our vets need to tell their stories - over and over again, until they also become tools for healing and helping us all to change our views on violence and war. I think every town in America should welcome their vets home by giving them a venue to speak in. For some it may need to be an anonymous space out in the cyber world - for others a loud speaker will only begin to do justice to the inner voice.

Humans have an enormous capacity for compassion and love. We do not tolerate discomfort easily and most of us try to shut out these painful stories, but to shut them out is to make them stronger. Some people worry that they will be overwhelmed with the sadness - it is overwhelming if you think you can fix it. We can't fix it as individuals, but each of us can bear witness and cry with each other. We can also share our joys. Let's open our eyes and hearts and help each other heal from all this pain.

Don't Let them Steal Your Vote

I lived in Florida in 2000 - and I'm still not laughing. There were actually immigration officials and police officers at certain polling areas simply to intimidate Hispanic and black voters from coming to the polls. So many have suffered and died for women and black Americans to get the right to vote - we would dishonor them to allow our votes to be stolen from us now. Learn what's happening and educate others.

Block the Vote

Will the GOP's campaign to deter new voters and discard Democratic ballots determine the next president?

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. & GREG PALASTPosted Oct 30, 2008 11:10 AM

There's a reason Iglesias couldn't find any evidence of fraud: Individual voters almost never try to cast illegal ballots. The Bush administration's main point person on "ballot protection" has been Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department attorney who has advised states on how to use HAVA to erect more barriers to voting. Appointed to the Federal Election Commission by Bush, von Spakovsky has suggested that voter rolls may be stuffed with 5 million illegal aliens. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that voter fraud is extremely rare. According to a recent analysis by Lorraine Minnite, an expert on voting crime at Barnard College, federal courts found only 24 voters guilty of fraud from 2002 to 2005, out of hundreds of millions of votes cast. "The claim of widespread voter fraud," Minnite says, "is itself a fraud."

Allegations of voter fraud are only the latest rationale the GOP has used to disenfranchise voters — especially blacks, Hispanics and others who traditionally support Democrats. "The Republicans have a long history of erecting barriers to discourage Americans from voting," says Donna Brazile, chair of the Voting Rights Institute for the Democratic National Committee. "Now they're trying to spook Americans with the ghost of voter fraud. It's very effective — but it's ironic that the only way they maintain power is by using fear to deprive Americans of their constitutional right to vote." The recently enacted barriers thrown up to deter voters include:


1. Obstructing Voter-Registration Drives

Since 2004, the Bush administration and more than a dozen states have taken steps to impede voter registration. Among the worst offenders is Florida, where the Republican-dominated legislature created hefty fines — up to $5,000 per violation — for groups that fail to meet deadlines for turning in voter-application forms. Facing potentially huge penalties for trivial administrative errors, the League of Women Voters abandoned its voter-registration drives in Florida. A court order eventually forced the legislature to reduce the maximum penalty to $1,000. But even so, said former League president Dianne Wheatley-Giliotti, the reduced fines "create an unfair tax on democracy." The state has also failed to uphold a federal law requiring that low-income voters be offered an opportunity to register when they apply for food stamps or other public assistance. As a result, the annual number of such registrations has plummeted from more than 120,000 in the Clinton years to barely 10,000 today.


2. Demanding "Perfect Matches"

Under the Help America Vote Act, some states now reject first-time registrants whose data does not correspond to information in other government databases. Spurred by HAVA, almost every state must now attempt to make some kind of match — and four states, including the swing states of Iowa and Florida, require what is known as a "perfect match." Under this rigid framework, new registrants can lose the right to vote if the information on their voter-registration forms — Social Security number, street address and precisely spelled name, right down to a hyphen — fails to exactly match data listed in other government records.

There are many legitimate reasons, of course, why a voter's information might vary. Indeed, a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that as many as 20 percent of discrepancies between voter records and driver's licenses in New York City are simply typing mistakes made by government clerks when they transcribe data. But under the new rules, those mistakes are costing citizens the right to vote. In California, a Republican secretary of state blocked 43 percent of all new voters in Los Angeles from registering in early 2006 — many because of the state's failure to produce a tight match. In Florida, GOP officials created "match" rules that rejected more than 15,000 new registrants in 2006 and 2007 — nearly three-fourths of them Hispanic and black voters. Given the big registration drives this year, the number could be five times higher by November.


3. Purging Legitimate Voters From the Rolls

The Help America Vote Act doesn't just disenfranchise new registrants; it also targets veteran voters. In the past, bipartisan county election boards maintained voter records. But HAVA requires that records be centralized, computerized and maintained by secretaries of state — partisan officials — who are empowered to purge the rolls of any voter they deem ineligible. Ironically, the new rules imitate the centralized system in Florida — the same corrupt operation that inspired passage of HAVA in the first place. Prior to the 2000 election, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and her predecessor, both Republicans, tried to purge 57,000 voters, most of them African-Americans, because their names resembled those of persons convicted of a crime. The state eventually acknowledged that the purges were improper — two years after the election.

Rather than end Florida-style purges, however, HAVA has nationalized them. Maez, the elections supervisor in New Mexico, says he was the victim of faulty list management by a private contractor hired by the state. Hector Balderas, the state auditor, was also purged from the voter list. The nation's youngest elected Hispanic official, Balderas hails from Mora County, one of the poorest in the state, which had the highest rate of voters forced to cast provisional ballots. "As a strategic consideration," he notes, "there are those that benefit from chaos" at the ballot box.

All told, states reported scrubbing at least 10 million voters from their rolls on questionable grounds between 2004 and 2006. Colorado holds the record: Donetta Davidson, the Republican secretary of state, and her GOP successor oversaw the elimination of nearly one of every six of their state's voters. Bush has since appointed Davidson to the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency created by HAVA, which provides guidance to the states on "list maintenance" methods.


4. Requiring Unnecessary Voter ID's

Even if voters run the gauntlet of the new registration laws, they can still be blocked at the polling station. In an incident last May, an election official in Indiana denied ballots to 10 nuns seeking to vote in the Democratic primary because their driver's licenses or passports had expired. Even though Indiana has never recorded a single case of voter-ID fraud, it is one of two dozen states that have enacted stringent new voter-ID statutes.

On its face, the requirement to show a government-issued ID doesn't seem unreasonable. "I want to cash a check to pay for my groceries, I've got to show a little bit of ID," Karl Rove told the Republican National Lawyers Association in 2006. But many Americans lack easy access to official identification. According to a recent study for the Election Law Journal, young people, senior citizens and minorities — groups that traditionally vote Democratic — often have no driver's licenses or state ID cards. According to the study, one in 10 likely white voters do not possess the necessary identification. For African-Americans, the number lacking such ID is twice as high.


5. Rejecting "Spoiled" Ballots

Even intrepid voters who manage to cast a ballot may still find their vote discounted. In 2004, election officials discarded at least 1 million votes nationwide after classifying them as "spoiled" because blank spaces, stray marks or tears made them indecipherable to voting machines. The losses hit hardest among minorities in low-income precincts, who are often forced to vote on antiquated machines. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in its investigation of the 2000 returns from Florida, found that African-Americans were nearly 10 times more likely than whites to have their ballots rejected, a ratio that holds nationwide.

Proponents of HAVA claimed the law would correct the spoilage problem by promoting computerized balloting. Yet touch-screen systems have proved highly unreliable — especially in minority and low-income precincts. A statistical analysis of New Mexico ballots by a voting-rights group called VotersUnite found that Hispanics who voted by computer in 2004 were nearly five times more likely to have their votes unrecorded than those who used paper ballots. In a close election, such small discrepancies can make a big difference: In 2004, the number of spoiled ballots in New Mexico — 19,000 — was three times George Bush's margin of victory.


6. Challenging "Provisional" Ballots

In 2004, an estimated 3 million voters who showed up at the polls were refused regular ballots because their registration was challenged on a technicality. Instead, these voters were handed "provisional" ballots, a fail-safe measure mandated by HAVA to enable officials to review disputed votes. But for many officials, resolving disputes means tossing ballots in the trash. In 2004, a third of all provisional ballots — as many as 1 million votes — were simply thrown away at the discretion of election officials.

Many voters are given provisional ballots under an insidious tactic known as "vote caging," which uses targeted mailings to disenfranchise black voters whose addresses have changed. In 2004, despite a federal consent order forbidding Republicans from engaging in the practice, the GOP sent out tens of thousands of letters to "confirm" the addresses of voters in minority precincts. If a letter was returned for any reason — because the voter was away at school or serving in the military — the GOP challenged the voter for giving a false address. One caging operation was exposed when an RNC official mistakenly sent the list to a parody site called GeorgeWBush.org — instead of to the official campaign site GeorgeWBush.com.

In the century following the Civil War, millions of black Americans in the Deep South lost their constitutional right to vote, thanks to literacy tests, poll taxes and other Jim Crow restrictions imposed by white officials. Add up all the modern-day barriers to voting erected since the 2004 election — the new registrations thrown out, the existing registrations scrubbed, the spoiled ballots, the provisional ballots that were never counted — and what you have is millions of voters, more than enough to swing the presidential election, quietly being detached from the electorate by subterfuge.

"Jim Crow was laid to rest, but his cousins were not," says Donna Brazile. "We got rid of poll taxes and literacy tests but now have a second generation of schemes to deny our citizens their franchise." Come November, the most crucial demographic may prove to be Americans who have been denied the right to vote. If Democrats are to win the 2008 election, they must not simply beat John McCain at the polls — they must beat him by a margin that exceeds the level of GOP vote tampering.

Contributing editor Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of the nation's leading voting-rights advocates. His article "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" [RS 1002] sparked widespread scrutiny of vote tampering. Greg Palast, who broke the story on Florida's illegal voter purges in the 2000 election, is the author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." For more information, visit No Voter Left Behind and Steal Back Your Vote.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My American Prayer - enjoy!!

This music video really captured me when I watched it - even brought a tear or two as I realized that for the first time since I reached voting age I feel a great sense of pride in casting my vote. I don't know where Barack came from, but I thank God that he's here just when we needed him most.

To learn more about the video visit, http://www.myamericanprayer.com/video.html

Monday, October 20, 2008

Failed Conservative Values versus Gandhi's Heart Unity

Here's a brief video by my NV guru, Professor Michael Nagler, author of "In Search of a Nonviolent Future" and founder of the Metta Center (http://mettacenter.org). He shares his thoughts on the difference between progressive values and regressive values.





This video is part of a documentary project on Progressive Values - visit the following website to learn more.


http://progressivespirit.com/

Women Lead the Way on Nonviolence in Iraq - La' Onf

This is from September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. It's very encouraging news.

Additionally, Micheal Nagler has given an interview regarding some NV strategies and suggestions that might be useful in this difficult and complicated scenario for NV. Urgent Invitation for Arabic speakers to support Nonviolent Activists In Iraq! If you happen to be bilingual in English/Arabic maybe you can help traslate this short video, thanks.
_______________________________
Before the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, women played manyimportant roles in Iraqi society. Despite the horrors of Saddam'srule, women's rights were guaranteed by a secular constitution. Largenumbers of women were well educated and worked outside the home, in business, medicine, education, and important government positions.Today, lack of security and growing repression have forced many womento stay at home. Violence against women has increased dramatically.
One theme of La'Onf's third annual Week of Nonviolence has been toaffirm the importance of freedom for women both within the nonviolencemovement, and in Iraqi society at large. La'Onf has consciouslystructured itself to be like the society its members hope Iraq willbecome. La'Onf is multi-religious, multi-ethnic, with space forsecular members as well. The organization's fundamental commitment toimproving the status of and opportunities for women is part of La'Onf's own leadership structure.
At the local level at least 30 percent of La'Onf's elected provincialgoverning boards must be women. Members of La'Onf's NationalCoordinating Committee serve for two years and are responsible forLa'Onf's strategic planning. The body requires that at least one ofthe two representatives from each region be a woman and at least 30percent of its Executive Directory Board be women.
During the 2008 Week of Nonviolence, La'Onf has called upon thepolitical parties and candidates to present their programs to theIraqi citizens, including information about their "position on basic principles of human rights, especially the issues ofnon-discrimination against women and respect for freedom ofexpression."
Several activities during the Week of Nonviolence have focused on theparticipation of women and women's issues. On Wednesday (October 15),La'Onf member organizations in Najaf spent the day at the college ofEducation for Girls, facilitating discussions about nonviolence aswell as key issues in the upcoming elections. Over 250 studentsparticipated. In Babylon on Tuesday (October 14), the Organization ofGirls in Iraq ran the festival for children and youth. And in Dhuhokon Monday (October 13), La'Onf's representative body visited theheadquarters of the Kurdistan Women's Union to denounce violenceagainst women. Today they will be visiting shelters and clinics forwomen and children that face domestic and social violence. And last Sunday (October 12), the La'Onf group in Al-Anbar conducted a workshopfor women focused on increasing their participation in the upcomingelections. The workshop participants are now seeking to increase theproportion of women elected onto provincial councils. They assert that women's representation is important because of their role in buildingthe society and raising their children.
In Baghdad, Najaf, and Diwaniyah, the La'Onf coordinators are womenwho have all been active in the nonviolence organization from itsearliest days. Zainab was very impressed that a significant number ofwomen attended La'Onf's meeting in Sadr City, Baghdad; several of them expressed concern that they would not be able to vote because of thesecurity risk, especially for women. Salama has organized many pubicevents to promote discussion of the elections in Diwaniyah, where sheis the coordinator. She is also co-chair of La'Onf nationally.Thawwar, who is a high school teacher in Najaf, asks searchingquestions about the connections between how a society raises itschildren and the kinds of violence that exist in that society. She haschallenged the use of corporal punishment in the classroom.

Some Political Pondering

This came though the bog world as an anonymous comment over the weekend. I thought it hit the issue racism plays in this election square on.

Obama/Biden vs McCain/Palin, what if things were switched around?.....think about it.
Would the country's collective point of view be different?

Ponder the following:
What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including
a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?
What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?
What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe
disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while
he was still married?
What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain
killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five?
(The Keating Five were five United States Se nators accused of corruption
in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings
and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)
What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?
What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included
disc ipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?
What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many
occasions, a serious anger management problem?
What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?
What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?
You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality,
do you really believe the election numbers would b e as close as they are?
This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes
positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in
another when there is a color difference.
Educational Background:
Barack Obama:
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in
International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude
Joseph Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)
vs.
John McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899
Sarah Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism
Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest offices in
the land as well as our standing in the world. You make the call.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A song called War

Seda had this video on her blog and I must pass it along to all my blogs. It is powerful and so important as we move closer to this historic election.

The voice, the words and souls of thousands resonate in this song called war.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Soulforce is set to Ride - An Equality Ride

Soulforce has done a lot to move the LGBT issues out to remote areas where they are the hotbeds of controversy. They remain true to the strategy of "relentless nonviolent resistance". This Ride for Equality into the Deep South show open dialogue where little has happened in the past. My heart will be riding with them.

Soulforce Releases Route for 2008 Equality Ride
LGBT Young Adults to Visit Faith-Based Colleges in the SouthOctober 2-November 13, 2008
******************************************SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 9, 2008For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media DirectorCell: 512-659-1771paige@soulforce.org
******************************************
(Austin, TX) Today Soulforce Q announced the route for Equality Ride 2008, a youth-organized bus tour to faith-based colleges. This fall, 17 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight young adults will bring a message of inclusion and safety to 15 schools throughout the South.
"As young people and students ourselves, we understand that it's very difficult to learn in an environment where you don't feel safe," said 22-year-old Jarrett Lucas, Co-director of the Equality Ride. "And students who face harassment or expulsion can't always speak up for themselves. That's where we come in. We can speak up for a community where everyone can learn without fear."
More than 200 U.S. colleges and universities have explicit policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. Some schools without explicit policies nevertheless foster climates where harassment of LGBT students is prevalent. A 2003 survey of 14 American universities found that more than a third of all LGBT undergraduates had experienced harassment in the past year.
Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited 50 schools, hosting public forums, participating in panel discussions, and taking part in worship services and Bible studies. The goal is to inspire further conversation and to empower students, faculty, and administrators to make their school welcoming to all students.
The organizers of the Equality Ride use a collaborative approach, writing to college administrators months in advance and inviting them to work together to design programming that examines diverse points of view -- including points of view that affirm gay and transgender students.
The colleges' responses shape the itinerary. The Equality Ride strives to visit a mix of schools that are open to collaboration and schools that are not yet willing to make a place at the table for affirming viewpoints. The 2008 Equality Ride is focused on the South, with stops from Virginia to Oklahoma and from Florida to Kentucky.
Several other things are new on this year's Ride. The bus will visit more seminaries this year, including a planned stop at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The Equality Ride will visit historically black colleges for the first time this year, with stops planned at Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Simmons College. And this year the Equality Riders will reach out to students and community members by organizing opportunities to come together in community service.
"We know that young people want to be part of the solution that heals divided communities, churches, and schools," said 26-year-old Katie Higgins, Co-director of the Equality Ride. "We're reaching out to these schools, because we can't heal those rifts until everyone has a place at the table."
2008 Equality Ride Route
Oct. 2-3 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
Oct. 6 Columbia International University Columbia, SC
Oct. 9 Morehouse College Atlanta, GA
Oct. 10 Spelman College Atlanta, GA
Oct. 13-14 Palm Beach Atlantic University West Palm Beach, FL
Oct. 17 Heritage Christian University Florence, AL
Oct. 20 Mississippi College Clinton, MS
Oct. 23 Louisiana College Pineville, LA
Oct. 24 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX
Oct. 27 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, TX
Oct. 29 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX
Nov. 5 Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, AR
Nov. 7 Central Baptist College Conway, AR
Nov. 10-11 Union University Jackson, TN
Nov. 13 Simmons College of Kentucky Louisville, KY
Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.org.

Men Made it...but can not control it

The owners of the land came onto the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came...Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves...If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, The Bank-or the Company- needs-wants-insists-must have-as thought the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time...The owner men sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. You've scrabbled at it long enough, God knows.

The squatting tenant men nodded and wondered and drew figures in the dust, and yes, they knew, God knows. If the dust only wouldn't fly. If the top would only stay on the soil, it might not be so bad.

Well it's too late. And the owner men explained the workings and the thinkings of the monster that was stronger then they were...You see, a bank or a company...those creatures don't breathe air, don't eat side-meat. They breathe profits; they eat the interest money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat. It is a sad thing, but it is so. It is just so...The bank - the monster has to have profits all the time. It can't stay one size...taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can't stay one size...

We have to do it. We don't like to do it. But the monster's sick. Something's happened to the monster...

Sure, cried the men, but it's our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it's no good, it's still ours...

We're sorry. It's not us. It's the monster. The bank isn't like a man.

Yes, but the bank is only made of men.

No, you're wrong there-quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it.

John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath

This passage seemed rather appropriate considering the failure of banks - or did they just stop growing at the rate which was expected by the powerful elite running them. And how many Americans will become more poor as a result? When will people realize the in order for us to support so many extremely greedy men, thousands of others must be kept in extreme poverty. You can't have one without the other, and to get rid of one you must eliminate the other. How many jets, multi-million dollar homes, servants, limos, etc, does a single man need?

I pity the rich. I'd rather be poor than rich. It seems that if you get some, you only want more. They have these enormous bulging stomachs with little tiny throats unable to satiate their appetites (the hungry ghost). If they would only try just once to be in service to the rest of us, they would come to understand where real joy is cultivated.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Butterfly Effect

I admit that I have often dismissed the work of the environmental activists - not because I don't believe it's important - just that it wasn't as important to me. I started my activism with Greenpeace then moved to PETA ready to release captive animals at every opportunity. I loved animals deeply and their pain brought much misery to my heart. But when that love finally awakened toward my own species my activism shifted with it. I came to the conclusion that if humans could learn to live together peacefully, it would indicate that they had also learned to live with themselves peacefully and this would naturally extend to the animals and the planet. So now I wander around preaching the gospel of nonviolence and stepping up for nonviolent direct action when called upon. So when I read the blurb about the panel discussion on Saturday night, including Julia Butterfly Hill, I considered returning early to the hotel for respite from the tiring day of workshops. But since I had planned to meet with a friend after that panel discussion, I opted to stay and search for her.

As I listened to the panel discuss nonviolence and fierce passion in the environmental movement I found myself caught off gaurd by the grace and wisdom of Julia. She spoke with fierce passion, but that passion came from a conviction rooted as deeply in her soul as Luna, the tree she sat in for 700+ days, is to the Mother Earth. Julia also provided the closing words for the conference on Sunday. Her intelligence and her presence in the moment make her a powerful speaker. She never lost sight of the audience and I witnessed the changes in her as her consciousness danced with ours, bringing our energy closer to her own. Her reflections from the time spent in Luna touched me deeply. She commented on how we clear-cut each other with our speech and action - and that as she looked around from her perch she realized that the clear cutting of the forest was a physical representation of this reality. I would take that analogy even further and say that the clear cutting we witness in our world is a reflection of the clear cutting that goes on within each and every one of us as we chastise ourselves for not being what we think we should be. If the chain saw is buzzing within our own thoughts, how can it not cut our loved ones much less those we do not love. And there is no doubt that this can only extend further to Earth and our non-human companions on this big blue boat home.

I now count myself a fan of Butterfly. Her blog will be added to the roll. May we all quiet the chain saws and let the trees grow within the forest of our hearts.

Rev. C. T. Vivian - An American Satyagrahi

The evening of September 12th I listened to one of America's own warriors for truth, the Rev. C. T. Vivian. Prior to his speaking he showed a clip from the civil rights movement - a moment that we are fortunate to have preserved in video - where he stood at a courthouse in Alabama, with 40 or so African Americans behind him, ready to register to vote but were blocked by the sheriff and his comrades. Rev. Vivian spoke truth to this opponent, his voice never betraying anger, only passionate insistence on equality. The sheriff, unable to dissuade the group, beat the Reverand, a man walking in Christ's truth, to the ground. At no time did Rev. Vivian strike back or even block the blows. As I watched the images dance before me, the violence and oppression, Gahndi's words kept playing in my mind, "When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always."

Growing up in America and moving about as I have I've noticed that nearly every city, if not every, has a street named after Martin King. But as I learn more about these other brave warriors using the force of truth, I realize that we need to start making a lot more street signs. Rev. Vivian has only a few paragraphs to his entry in Wikipedia, but if you read them you learn that he had several successful nonviolent campaigns before he joined with MLK for the larger satyagraha. How did these Christian ministers learn to wield man's most powerful weapon so effectively? For that we must give our gratitude to James M. Lawson Jr, who trained at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of King. By this time Lawson had already spent time in prison as a conscientious objector (I so love a Christian that lives by the model of Christ). After his release he went as a Methodist missionary to India where he studied Gandhi's principles for satyagraha. It was through Lawson that the seeds of nonviolent non-cooperation firmly took hold in the South and gave the civil rights movement its strategy - nonviolent direct ACTION. Rev. Vivian emphasized to the crowd that it's in action that change happens.

The Rev. Vivian still has that great passion, vision and love. What is alive in him, can live in us all if we can shed fear. I've read so many first hand accounts of the events at the Republican National Convention (RNC) and realize that we need deperately to enliven that spirit in all Americans before it's too late. We need to own our own media and make sure our stories are broadcast over a loud speaker to the world. America is no longer the land of the free, it is a police state. Our voices are no longer allowed to be heard. We can not even go in numbers larger than three to our senators office in Portland Oregon - supposedly a progressive city. We have much work to do and I know that patience in many sectors of the peace movement is wearing dangerously thin. Many people are still not convinced that nonviolence is the only true path to lasting peace. There are many tactics available to the satyagahis, but only one strategy, and that is the same one used by Gandhi and MLK - Nonviolent Direct ACTION.

Thank you Rev. Vivian for reminding me of the not too distant path so that I remain true to my path and the radical use of force, the force of truth that is.

Nonviolence as a Way of Life

September 11th has come and gone but this year was different as many people began to recognize that this is not just the anniversary of a tragic event in the US but rather the 102nd birthday of Gandhi's notion of Nonviolence. Since the events of 2001, this year I found myself not pondering the horrors of that day seven years ago, watching the politicians spin the memorial jingoism, but with a choice of two conferences on Nonviolence (NV), one in Portland and the other in Eugene. In Portland the Peace and Justice Studies Association kicked off its conference with a rally titled, Take Back 9/11 for Nonviolence, which made me immensely happy. But a few months earlier I had already committed to attend the other conference in Eugene, Nonviolence as a Way of Life. I missed the rally (but look forward to seeing pictures of it soon) and instead embarked on four days of soul enriching, energy producing connections with other Oregonians searching for ways to integrate NV into their lives, their thoughts, their actions and their communication.

I had read and/or listened to a few of Marshall Rosenberg's books, but this was my first time in his presence. I had heard that he had almost a cult following, but after seeing him in action I can understand why. He walks his talk. He can hold to the spirit of NV even when a large audience voices is disparate needs. Marshall has been doing this work, and international mediation, for over 30 years now. He has managed to make NVC playful by introducing the "jackal" and the "giraffe". The jackal language is blaming, argumentative, always searching for the upper hand. The giraffe on the other hand is listening for the unmet needs that this language is hiding. He had offered us a precious gift, a way to connect to "what's alive" in one another. But even more, it's a reprogramming model for the human mind. For 8000 years we've lived in a domination paradigm that requires that we shalac over our hearts, our vunerabilities, with impenetrable armor which is reflected in every aspect of our lives, and is paticularly evident in the way we relate to one another. If NVC can take root this will help to nibble away at the current paradigm. Language is such a powerful tool and Marshall has provided us a way to strip off the many layers of armor and allow our divine light, the light that shines through and connects all of us, to pierce the darkness in this world. If you haven't heard of NVC, please get his book and give it a try. Just start with the dialogue inside your head - is it a tyrant or a friend. Once we can speak kindly to ouselves and treat ourselves with respect, that will naturally begin to extend to those we love and eventually even to those we don't.

The other two invited speakers were Rev. Vivian (from the civil rights movement) and Julia "Butterfly" Hill. Both were inspiring and deserve an entry all their own. In addition to the brilliant speakers there were at least 15 choices for each of the four sessions each day, relating to every part of our lives. I will speak to a couple of these in subsequent posts, including a terrific teaching on the Bhagavad Gita and Cosmic Ecology, Restorative Justice, and an interfaith dialogue on nonviolence that I found paticularly insightful. As I close this entry, it is my hope that 9/11/2009 will find even more people pondering ways to celebrate the anniversary of nonviolence and turning a deaf ear to those who wish to maintain their domination and power by instilling fear and hatred, a dark shalac, over our bright and beautiful hearts.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blessing the Bomb - Father George Zabelka

I'm felt compelled to post Father Zabelka's speech as a follow-up to my previous post. I hope that his words can reach out to the hearts of the Chirstian community, and call them back to Christ.

Blessing the Bombs
by George Zabelka
Father George Zabelka, a Catholic chaplain with the U.S. Air Force, served as a priest for the airmen who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, and gave them his blessing. Over the next twenty years, he gradually came to believe that he had been terribly wrong, that he had denied the very foundations of his faith by lending moral and religious support to the bombing. Zabelka, who died in 1992, gave this speech on the 40th anniversary of the bombings.

The destruction of civilians in war was always forbidden by the Church, and if a soldier came to me and asked if he could put a bullet through a child’s head, I would have told him, absolutely not. That would be mortally sinful. But in 1945 Tinian Island was the largest airfield in the world. Three planes a minute could take off from it around the clock. Many of these planes went to Japan with the express purpose of killing not one child or one civilian but of slaughtering hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of children and civilians – and I said nothing. As a Catholic chaplain I watched as the Boxcar, piloted by a good Irish Catholic pilot, dropped the bomb on Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, the center of Catholicism in Japan.

I never preached a single sermon against killing civilians to the men who were doing it. I was brainwashed! It never entered my mind to protest publicly the consequences of these massive air raids. I was told it was necessary – told openly by the military and told implicitly by my Church’s leadership. (To the best of my knowledge no American cardinals or bishops were opposing these mass air raids. Silence in such matters is a stamp of approval.) I worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Civil Rights struggle in Flint, Michigan. His example and his words of nonviolent action, choosing love instead of hate, truth instead of lies, and nonviolence instead of violence stirred me deeply. This brought me face to face with pacifism – active nonviolent resistance to evil. I recall his words after he was jailed in Montgomery, and this blew my mind. He said, “Blood may flow in the streets of Montgomery before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood that flows, and not that of the white man. We must not harm a single hair on the head of our white brothers.” I struggled. I argued. But yes, there it was in the Sermon on the Mount, very clear: “Love your enemies. Return good for evil.” I went through a crisis of faith. Either accept what Christ said, as unpassable and silly as it may seem, or deny him completely.

For the last 1700 years the Church has not only been making war respectable: it has been inducing people to believe it is an honorable profession, an honorable Christian profession. This is not true. We have been brainwashed. This is a lie. War is now, always has been, and always will be bad, bad news. I was there. I saw real war. Those who have seen real war will bear me out. I assure you, it is not of Christ. It is not Christ’s way. There is no way to conduct real war in conformity with the teachings of Jesus. There is no way to train people for real war in conformity with the teachings of Jesus. The morality of the balance of terrorism is a morality that Christ never taught. The ethics of mass butchery cannot be found in the teachings of Jesus. In Just War ethics, Jesus Christ, who is supposed to be all in the Christian life, is irrelevant. He might as well never have existed. In Just War ethics, no appeal is made to him or his teaching, because no appeal can be made to him or his teaching, for neither he nor his teaching gives standards for Christians to follow in order to determine what level of slaughter is acceptable.

So the world is watching today. Ethical hairsplitting over the morality of various types of instruments and structures of mass slaughter is not what the world needs from the Church, although it is what the world has come to expect from the followers of Christ. What the world needs is a grouping of Christians that will stand up and pay up with Jesus Christ. What the world needs is Christians who, in language that the simplest soul could understand, will proclaim: the follower of Christ cannot participate in mass slaughter. He or she must love as Christ loved, live as Christ lived, and, if necessary, die as Christ died, loving ones enemies.

For the 300 years immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, the Church universally saw Christ and his teaching as nonviolent. Remember that the Church taught this ethic in the face of at least three serious attempts by the state to liquidate her. It was subject to horrendous and ongoing torture and death. If ever there was an occasion for justified retaliation and defensive slaughter, whether in form of a just war or a just revolution, this was it. The economic and political elite of the Roman state and their military had turned the citizens of the state against Christians and were embarked on a murderous public policy of exterminating the Christian community. Yet the Church, in the face of the heinous crimes committed against her members, insisted without reservation that when Christ disarmed Peter he disarmed all Christians.

Christians continued to believe that Christ was, to use the words of an ancient liturgy, their fortress, their refuge, and their strength, and that if Christ was all they needed for security and defense, then Christ was all they should have. Indeed, this was a new security ethic. Christians understood that if they would only follow Christ and his teaching, they couldn’t fail. When opportunities were given for Christians to appease the state by joining the fighting Roman army, these opportunities were rejected, because the early Church saw a complete and an obvious incompatibility between loving as Christ loved and killing. It was Christ, not Mars, who gave security and peace.

Today the world is on the brink of ruin because the Church refuses to be the Church, because we Christians have been deceiving ourselves and the non-Christian world about the truth of Christ. There is no way to follow Christ, to love as Christ loved, and simultaneously to kill other people. It is a lie to say that the spirit that moves the trigger of a flamethrower is the Holy Spirit. It is a lie to say that learning to kill is learning to be Christ-like. It is a lie to say that learning
to drive a bayonet into the heart of another is motivated from having put on the mind of Christ. Militarized Christianity is a lie. It is radically out of conformity with the teaching, life, and spirit of Jesus.

Now, brothers and sisters, on the anniversary of this terrible atrocity carried out by Christians, I must be the first to say that I made a terrible mistake. I was had by the father of lies. I participated in the big ecumenical lie of the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches. I wore the uniform. I was part of the system. When I said Mass over there I put on those beautiful vestments over my uniform. (When Father Dave Becker left the Trident submarine base in 1982 and resigned as Catholic chaplain there, he said, “Every time I went to Mass in my uniform and put the vestments on over my uniform, I couldn’t help but think of the words of Christ applying to me: Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”)

As an Air Force chaplain I painted a machine gun in the loving hands of the nonviolent Jesus, and then handed this perverse picture to the world as truth. I sang “Praise the Lord” and passed the ammunition. As Catholic chaplain for the 509th Composite Group, I was the final channel that communicated this fraudulent image of Christ to the crews of the Enola Gay and the Boxcar.

All I can say today is that I was wrong. Christ would not be the instrument to unleash such horror on his people. Therefore no follower of Christ can legitimately unleash the horror of war on God’s people. Excuses and self-justifying explanations are without merit. All I can say is: I was wrong! But, if this is all I can say, this I must do, feeble as it is. For to do otherwise would be to bypass the first and absolutely essential step in the process of repentance and reconciliation: admission of error, admission of guilt. There is no way to conduct real war in conformity with the teachings of Jesus. I was there, and I was wrong.

Yes, war is Hell, and Christ did not come to justify the creation of Hell on earth by his disciples. The justification of war may be compatible with some religions and philosophies, but it is not compatible with the nonviolent teaching of Jesus. I was wrong. And to those of whatever nationality or religion who have been hurt because I fell under the influence of the father of lies, I say with my whole heart and soul I am sorry. I beg forgiveness. I asked forgiveness from the Hibakushas (the Japanese survivors of the atomic bombings) in Japan last year, in a pilgrimage that I made with a group from Tokyo to Hiroshima. I fell on my face there at the peace shrine after offering flowers, and I prayed for forgiveness – for myself, for my country, for my Church. Both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This year in Toronto, I again asked forgiveness from the Hibakushas present. I asked forgiveness, and they asked
forgiveness for Pearl Harbor and some of the horrible deeds of the Japanese military, and there were some, and I knew of them. We embraced. We cried. Tears flowed. That is the first step of reconciliation – admission of guilt and forgiveness. Pray to God that others will find this way to peace.

All religions have taught brotherhood. All people want peace. It is only the governments and war departments that promote war and slaughter. So today again I call upon people to make their voices heard. We can no longer just leave this to our leaders, both political and religious. They will move when we make them move. They represent us. Let us tell them that they must think and act for the safety and security of all the people in our world, not just for the safety and security of one country. All countries are interdependent. We all need one another. It is no longer possible for individual countries to think only of themselves. We can all live together as brothers and sisters or we are doomed to die together as fools in a world holocaust.

Each one of us becomes responsible for the crime of war by cooperating in its preparation and in its execution. This includes the military. This includes the making of weapons. And it includes paying for the weapons. There’s no question about that. We’ve got to realize we all become responsible. Silence, doing nothing, can be one of the greatest sins.

The bombing of Nagasaki means even more to me than the bombing of Hiroshima. By August 9, 1945, we knew what that bomb would do, but we still dropped it. We knew that agonies and sufferings would ensue, and we also knew – at least our leaders knew – that it was not necessary. The Japanese were already defeated. They were already suing for peace. But we insisted on unconditional surrender, and this is even against the Just War theory. Once the enemy is defeated, once the enemy is not able to hurt you, you must make peace.

Militarized Christianity is a lie. It is radically out of conformity with the teaching, life, and spirit of Jesus. As a Catholic chaplain I watched as the Boxcar, piloted by a good Irish Catholic pilot, dropped the bomb on Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, the center of Catholicism in Japan. I knew that St. Francis Xavier, centuries before, had brought the Catholic faith to Japan. I knew that schools, churches, and religious orders were annihilated. And yet I said nothing. Thank God that I’m able to stand here today and speak out against war, all war. The prophets of the Old Testament spoke out against all false gods of gold, silver, and metal. Today we are worshipping the gods of metal, the bomb. We are putting our trust in physical power, militarism, and nationalism. The bomb, not God, is our security and our strength. The prophets of the Old Testament said simply: Do not put your trust in chariots and weapons, but put your trust in God. Their message was simple, and so is mine.

We must all become prophets. I really mean that. We must all do something for peace. We must stop this insanity of worshipping the gods of metal. We must take a stand against evil and idolatry. This is our destiny at the most critical time of human history. But it’s also the greatest opportunity ever offered to any group of people in the history of our world – to save our world from complete annihilation.


This article was originally published by Bruderhof.com. It is an excerpt of a speech Fr. Zabelka gave at a Pax Christi conference in August 1985.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Meaningful Sacrifice - Christ's Gift to Humanity

I'm over half way through Gandhi's autobiography, "The Story of my Experiments with Truth", which is available in pdf on the web at http://www.forget-me.net/en/Gandhi/autobiography.pdf



What has struck me over and over again is his continuing effort to gain control of mind and body through bramacharya vows (celibacy), changes in diet, and changes in lifestyle. Gandhi was Hindu, but only after doing an extensive evaluation of other world religions including Christianity and Islam. He discusses his exploration of Christianity thoroughly in this book and his insights have spurred me to reach out to the Christian blog world in search of Christians that live by the example and teachings of Christ. I am glad to report that Christ's teachings do still live in our world, and people are acting in accordance with them, but sadly you won't find examples on the Fox Network. To see some great examples visit my blogroll.



Before I continue, let me describe what I mean by living in Christ's example. In Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount provides humankind with instruction for living in the manner that lead to the kingdom of heaven (much like the eightfold path Buddha provided for reaching nirvana). The concepts are simple, do not resist evil with evil, anger must be controlled, killing is wrong, give up all care for the self (material/pleasure seeking) and use that energy in the service of God by caring for others. Do not judge other humans. If you would feed your children, give also the same loving attention to all humankind. Take no oath except to God. And the most famous line of turning the other cheek. With regard to turning the cheek scholars have noted that during the time of Jesus a slave or subordinate would be struck with the back of the hand. It is suggested that when we were instructed to turn the other cheek it meant to meet the blows with dignity, forcing the oppressor to strike you as an equal. Regardless of some slight variations in interpretation it is clear that this sermon was instruction for living nonviolently in service to God. And yet, of all the thousands of sects of Christianity, only a handful remain true to these ideas. The others seem to have either deemed these steps too idealistic for our complex modern world, or they have reverted back to the Old Testament in an attempt to live as if Christ was never born or worse they focus only on the large metaphor that is the book of Revelation, believing that they will ascend without having lifted a finger to help others. They also fail to recognize that he gave the ultimate nonviolent sacrifice, his life. He could have rallied his followers, he could have run, he could have taken up arms and died fighting, but instead he went to his torture and death with peace and dignity so that others may live. He was modeling what he expected from us, not giving his life so that we could live in the reckless pursuit of pleasure and money.



To "love our enemies as ourselves" is a high standard. How many of us even considered for a moment taking the place of Saddam in the noose? How is it that we can even go so far as to judge who deserves to live and who to die, when clearly this ultimate judgment does not behoove us in the eyes of the Divine. Our entire legal system is based on retribution and revenge, clearly against these teachings. The death penalty is even worse in that we hand off our responsibility to the state and allow it to kill in our name, for our protection or to rid ourselves of those very souls we should be caring for. American's have their children recite an oath to their country (hand over heart in reverence to a flag) each day in school and those that volunteer for the military must take an oath to kill on command, ignoring any moral or ethical sense. Jesus directs us to stand opposed to all these things and to use our body and our blood, which he shared with us by his death, for the care of those in need - without judging why they have need.



It's easy to be overwhelmed by these instructions for right living and just throw our hands up in desperation, pick up a bottle of wine, light another cigarette, go to a game, watch Hollywood's latest thriller, or bury ourselves in material things that ease our dis-eased ego. It wasn't easy for the first Christians living in the Roman Empire, refusing to participate in state sanctioned murder, but they did it. They often died for these principles, practicing meaningful suffering. Is the challenge that different today for those of us living in the new Roman Empire of America. The Quakers, Mennonites and Amish seem to be able to resist the temptation to participate in endless hunger for money and war. Thanks to Constantine and the concept of "Just War", Christians have been able to put their minds at rest and take up the submachine gun, drop the cluster bombs, use depleted uranium, causing unimaginable pain and suffering to millions on this planet while at the same time using God's name in vain on currency, in the pledge of allegiance and in the war cries leading into invasion and occupation for cheap oil and cheap labor.



As far as Gandhi's other vows I'd like to add a comment. Gandhi, like Mother Teresa, Jesus, Buddha and countless other saints and sages of all traditions, the constant striving for perfection in God was the ultimate driving force in life. In order to be the perfect servant we must control our thought, bringing it into union with our words and our action. Every act and word begins in the mind. If your thoughts are focussed on good food and drink, so will your actions. If you are overwhelmed with sexual desire, your actions will follow. If you're consumed with anger and jealousy, violence in word and action are likely to follow. I think this striving is good for all of us. To renounce some of the material world, as we are willing and able, will take us down the path to perfection in baby steps. Gandhi shares his baby steps in his autobiography. I'm sharing some of mine on this blog. I'd love to hear from others so that we might support each other in community as we strive toward union with God, in whatever terms we are able to understand that.