Thursday, January 28, 2010

SOA4 Prisoners of Conscience

This is the current jail where Fr. Louie is being held.  He could be transferred at any time.  I will post an updated address as it's made available.

Louis Vitale #15875
Crisp County Jail
197 Hwy. 300 S
Cordele, Georgia 31015

If your letter is returned you can also send it to

Louis Vitale
C/O The Nuclear Resister
PO Box 43383
Tucson, AZ 85733

I'm not certain if Nancy Gwin and Ken Hayes are at this same facility, but I plan on sending their cards here anyway.  If they're returned I'll update.

Micheal Walli, the fourth of the SOA4, conscientiously did not return for trial.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Decade Late

Most of my life I've had the feeling that I was born a decade late.  As a child of 1966, born to parents unconcerned with the larger world picture, the turmoil, the successes, the frustrations and the anger of the times were largely lost to me.   Our parents were the disillusioned, and many passed this sense of hopelessness and helplessness on to us.  The Generation X, post Vietnam babes like me, were fed on the fears of atomic obliteration, just as we began reaching out via a new super highway of 1s and 0s.  Most of us came home to empty houses at the end of the day, the first latch-key generation of the dual income household.  We learned what we knew of our world and how to navigate the complex spectrum of human emotion watching the Mod Squad, Star Trek and Giligan's Island.  We are also the best educated of the first 13 generations in America, but we make less money as the economic pie has been plundered by the elite.  The first presidential election I remember clearly was that of Ronald Reagan.  I found him plastic, laughable and way too ancient to be running my country.  Yes, I was exhibiting the sarcasm and cynicsm often attributed to GenXers.  But like many of my generation, there was a fascination with the 60's.  We listened to Jimmi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, and I wore out more than one cassette tape of Janis Joplin.  We all knew who John Lennon was and it was in his music that I could best feel the energy, passion and dreams of that earlier generation and movement.  Last night I watched the movie The U.S. vs. John Lennon with a dear friend who did experience that time first hand.  It made me feel much closer to that experience and see my own generation in a new light.  Maybe I wasn't born too late after all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Training the Terrorists - An American Specialty

Of the two men pictured above, which would you prefer to have walking free in the world?  One was trained in Fort Benning Georgia at the School of the Americas (now Whinsec) and was later responsible for massacres, rape, torture and acts of genocide against the indigenous peoples of Guatemala.  The other was sentenced yesterday to 6 months for trying awaken your conscience to close this school of assassins.  I know my preference.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Growing the Garden

Remember that children,
marriages, and flower gardens
reflect the kind of care they get.

~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I love gardening.  Starting seeds in early Spring in the house, with good soil and regular water and as much sun as the Portland sky will permit.  When the seedling grows strong enough, I begin to prepare the world outside for its debut.  I soften the soil for it, add some rich compost, and then, at last, plant the tender roots into the Great Mother Earth.  Then comes the watching, weeding, feeding and care that will bring the plant full circle.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mysogyny and Superstition

Hinoeuma, the fire horse, of the Chinese zodiac is a powerful and beautiful image.  Every 60 years there is born a new herd of fire horse children.  The last two herds were born in 1906 and 1966 (my herd).  In most of the world this is meaningless except to make small talk at parties.  But in Japan it's taken much more seriously, so much so that the birth rate for 1966 dropped by 26%. Even in countries where attempts to reduce birth rates are successful, they're not this successful.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Join Ta'anit Tzedek - Jewish Fast For Gaza

Today I observe a monthly fast, alongside over a thousand others, both Jewish and non-Jewish people of conscience.  We desire an end to the blockade of Gaza.  It's been over a year since the siege and since then, so little humanitarian aid and/or re-building supplies have reached these people.  Peace talks must happen between all parties involved, including Hamas.  Today, I will remain aware of the suffering of both Jew and Palestinian.  I will pray that these brothers and sisters will come to embrace a nonviolent approach to solving this, ensuring the safety and human rights are respected for all.

Other info on the monthly fast:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


When we attempt to learn a new behavior, something we have never tried or seen others model, we can feel a bit disoriented or off-balance.  This state is termed "cognitive dissonance".  Although it feels uncomfortable, it provides an opportunity to learn a new response, to put in place a new neural pathway in your brain.  For example, if you have always put your right leg into your pants first you have created a neural highway by repetition so that the moment you grab your pants the next action is already starting, almost without your volition.  It's habit.  But you can try an experiment.  You can try putting in the left leg first.  As you do this new behavior you begin to construct a new pathway and with repetition that pathway grows in bandwidth, becoming the faster more automatic response.  Our brains are amazingly plastic in this way, and that gives us hope for change not in simple tasks but in the more serious task of dealing with crisis, anger, and stress.  Do we respond violently, or learn new nonviolent responses to old impulses?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unconditional Loving Kindness

From the Metta Sutta
May all beings be happy.
May they be joyous and live in safety.
All living beings, whether weak or strong, in high or middle or low realms of existence, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far, born or to be born, may all beings be happy.
Let no one deceive another, nor despise any being in any state; Let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another.
Even as a mother at the risk of her life watches over and protects her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things, suffusing love over the entire world, above, below and all around without limit; so let one cultivate an infinite good will toward the whole world. 

In the Pali cannon of Buddha's teachings we find the Metta Sutta.  Metta is translated as loving kindness.  It is differentiated from compassion in that it describes a benevolence toward all beings that is fee from selfish attachment whereas compassion is an active sympathy where one is willing to accept the suffering for another.  The practice of metta meditation is a powerful tool in overcoming anger.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr. King - A True Radical

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

The word "radical" means root.  Dr. King was not satisfied with a struggle just to bring legislation about to change the status of African Americans, but his dream went much deeper, to the root of the problem, our hearts.  He hoped to transform hate to love.  In his memory, let's dedicate ourselves to this radical vision, first eliminating the violence within our own hearts, and then working to eradicate it in our world. 

Be radical - be nonviolent.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

be fearless, be love, be free

I am faith, faith I am.
I am hope, hope I am.
I am love, love I am.
I am fearless, free I am.

I cannot recall where I found these words, but they resonated well for me and are posted on a note on my desktop as a daily reminder. 

Being fearless means I take risks by putting myself up front, telling my stories, showing my white underbelly and having hope and faith in the compassion of others.  It also sometimes means listening, even when the stories are painful to hear, watching when the scene breaks my heart and absorbing the suffering so that it may be transformed.

What does being fearless mean to you?

Friday, January 15, 2010


I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world. (YI, 15-9-1920, p6)

There is a heat
white hot and burning
that surges
too hot to hold
it leaves me
eager to burn
to scorch
begins with a pinprick
at the base of my spine
vigilance is needed
to save
to change
turn it from white
to rosy hues
from hate
to love

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Good Friends

A reformer cannot afford to have close intimacy with him whom he seeks to reform. True friendship is an identity of souls rarely to be found in this world. Only between like natures can friendship be altogether worthy and enduring. Friends react on one another. Hence in friendship there is very little scope for reform. I am of opinion that all exclusive intimacies are to be avoided; for man takes in vice far more readily than virtue. And he who would be friends with God must remain alone, or make the whole world his friend. I may be wrong, but my effort to cultivate an intimate friendship proved a failure. (Gandhi, AMG, 31-32)

The great Duke Ellington had just such a friend in Billy Strayhorn.  Neither man required reform and both nursed near the breast of Jazz's muse.  Watching them at the piano together composing it becomes clear that they each felt moved by the same phrase or melody.  They could complete each others sentences.  Ellington described him, "my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine".  Duke was a figure larger than life, a womanizer and a showman.  Billy was an openly gay man in a time when homophobia ruled the minds of the masses.  The music shared transcended their differences and together they changed the nature of jazz.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hug Yourself

First mend yourself,
then mend others.

~ Jewish Proverb

Each flight begins with a safety demonstration. We are instructed to place the oxygen mask first over our own face before attending to anyone else. This message is important in dealing with any life crisis. It's wise advice. If we cannot breathe, we are less likely to help others catch their breath.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


A familiar friend sits at my table
drinking in tears like morning's first coffee
long dark braids holding the knotted memories of life
black eyes hold me
then let me go

In memory of my cousin
I'm sorry life brought so much sadness
May you rest in peace
reunited, at last, to the arms of you mother

Monday, January 11, 2010

An Ojibway Prayer

Look at our brokenness.
We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.
We know that we are the ones
Who are divided,
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk the Sacred Way.
Sacred One,
Teach us love, compassion, and honor
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.
As an adolescent I spent many hours in the solitude of the forest, loathing my species.  We were in the cold war days.  Reagan was ratcheting up the anti-communist speak and planning to arm even the space around the earth to protect America.  There were days that I prayed these insane world leaders would just do it, end human life on the earth so that this Great Mother could begin to heal herself from our diseased way and with any luck no new self-destructive and planet-destructive species would evolve to replace us.  We narrowly escaped Armageddon as the Soviet Union crumbled (and not from the US influence, but from a nonviolent movement within).  I decided that if we weren't all to perish just yet I should start working for the health of the planet and her "good children", the animals.  I followed and supported the work of Greenpeace and PETA, beginning to hone my public speaking skills with their messages.  But as I matured I began to realize that we are not separate from the system.  If we hope to heal the earth we must first heal the human family.  Thus began my journey into human rights.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Time for Beauty

Blessed are they
who see beautiful things in humble places
where other people
see nothing.

~ Camille Pissarro

When we choose to live a life engaged  in the work of social justice and peace we expose ourselves daily to the deepest, darkest sorrows of humanity.  We also spend hours planning, organizing and building community, only to find that our heartfelt effort has fallen short of our expectations.  Burnout is often the result.  In the latter case we must constantly remind ourselves that our only duty is to do what we feel called to do and not hold tightly to expectations.  If our effort reaches only one other person, it was a worthwhile effort.  We can never truly know how our actions will affect change.  But if we choose to do nothing, we know without doubt that nothing is exactly what will happen.  But how, in the first case, can we take in with our senses so much suffering without ourselves sinking into despair by the sheer magnitude of the pain?  We must take time for beauty.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Peace is a Mother

At our recent Adventure in Nonviolence we read the following poem in unison:

Peace Is A Woman And A Mother
By Ada Ahroni

How do you know peace is a woman?
I know, for I met her yesterday
on my winding way to the Wold's fare.
She had such a sorrowful face
just like a golden flower faded
before her prime.
I asked her why she was so sad?
She told me her baby was killed in Auschwitz,
her daughter in Hiroshima, and her sons in Vietnam,
Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Rwanda,
Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya...

All the rest of her children, she said,
are on the nuclear black list of the dead,
all the rest, unless the whole world understands -
that peace is a woman.
A thousand candles then lit
in her starry eyes, and I saw cherubim
bearing a moonlit message:
Peace is indeed a pregnant woman -
Peace is a mother

As we read, the memories of birthing my own daughter filled my heart and threatened to bring tears to my eyes.  At age 37 I was quite surprised to find myself with child, a very pleasant but unexpected surprise.  I located midwives to help me through the prenatal, delivery and postpartum experience.  I was determined to have a natural home birth, using the water tub for pain management.  Some have called me a stubborn woman, while those more generous have labeled me tenacious.  This quality has served me well in many circumstances and I've only questioned it once, childbirth was the moment.  After 14 hours of laboring my baby girl emerged from the water, but there was a problem, she wasn't breathing.  For the briefest moment I held her, calling to her by her name, "Alexa Rose, please breathe, please breathe for Mommy".  I could hear the panic rising in my shaky voice.  Still connected by the umbilical cord the midwives and their assistant hurried us to the bed and the midwives went to work on little Alexa.  With each tick of the second hand a new fuse lit in my heart, threatening to demolish all that I was if that beautiful light had gone out.  But at last a cry emerged and they brought her to my arms and we, mother and child, mixed our tears together as I choked out a song to her, for the first time face to face.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Cost of Peace

"There is no peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war–at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake."  Daniel Berrigan  (from a longer blog found at,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Shepherd in Wolf's Clothing

In our culture we often delineate between two types of people, the sheep, or herds of poor ignorant masses that follow the pop culture or buy into whatever the latest fashion is, i.e. the followers.  And then there are the leaders and promoters, those who manipulate these masses with media, misleading stories and propaganda that convince the masses that they can have all the riches if only they buy into the storyline provided.  No, these are not necessarily the wolves in sheep's clothing, they are mostly sheep too, having themselves bought into a picture of reality so deeply that they have become a part of it.  The wolves are the ones that see through this picture of reality, they discern the truth and then use it for ill or good.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Working Together

We don't have to
agree with each other
in order to explore

~ Margaret Wheatley

The strength of team work is in the diversity of experience and ideas in the team.  Working as I do in the semiconductor industry I've seen this dynamic play out over and over again.  Admittedly, getting the team through the beginning stages is the hardest part.  It takes time for the group to solidify and learn each others work styles.  Much of this is cultural.  And certainly if it wasn't for the artificial necessity of work, these teams would not make the effort.

But I'd think that peace is worth that effort.  There are so many different groups working on peace related issues that rarely cross pollinate.  I spent years working on GLBT issues, never meeting others working on  Human Rights issues globally.  Yet I see now that it was a loss to our work, as the global work has crossed many of the difficult bridges we were struggling over.  But what about something even more diverse.  What about the sacredness of human life?  We all agree that murder is wrong.  But then what about state sanctioned murder, war and capital punishment?  What about abortion?  How can anyone say that life is more precious before birth than after?  I see so many possibilities for humans to work together on the sanctity of life issue.  But for so many people it seems that life is only special when it is still in the womb, unable to defend itself, and American.  In the name of Freedom and spreading Democracy we have annihilated so many innocent children and pregnant women by dropping bombs indiscriminately on civilian areas.  Are darker colored humans less than a single American embryo?  I should hope not.

I'm reading Nicolas Kristof's, Half the Sky, that shows the brutal violence against women worldwide.  We're talking about young girls being sold into sexual slavery, or girls allowed to starve while their brothers eat and get medical care.  In China and India Ultrasound techs are not allowed to reveal the gender of the child because females will be aborted.  Instead we find that the female child in these countries has a very high likelihood of dying by age 5, a very slow and miserable death at that.  The level of misogyny in our world is overwhelming and heartbreaking.  I wonder if throwing stones or yelling hateful words at young, poor pregnant women attempting to get into an abortion clinic isn't exactly that, America's misogyny.  Women have the unequal burden when bringing a child into this world.  It is her life that will be most drastically altered.  It seems to me, that if we all banded together to work on improving life for women in the world, that would reduce abortion.  And one way to improve the lives of women in this world is to end wars and help provide support in education and health care both to women abroad and at home.

I hope that we can all begin to find common ground to work from.  The richness of experience we all bring to these issues can help us foster into existence a truly sustainable solution.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What do you Need?

We all share the same human needs
for security, autonomy, empathy, love
to celebrate and laugh
for dignity, meaning and integrity
beauty, peace and inspiration
community, acceptance, trust and respect
shelter, rest, food and water
and touch

What do you need?
Listen and you will know
Are you feeling curious?  Search for meaning
Are you feeling confused?  Search for connection
Are you feeling downhearted?  Search for peace
Feeling overwhelmed?  Seek out rest
Feeling lonely?  Seek out love

For every feeling that swirls in your breast or aches in your brain
there is a need, a longing, and desire
What do you need?

Monday, January 4, 2010


I hold this
to be the highest task
for a bond between
two people:
that each protects
the solitude of the other.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

It is a fine balance between connecting with the other and maintaining our own individuality.   I'm just beginning to see that strong autonomous and independent drive in my five year old daughter begin to assert itself.  She goes to her own room and proceeds to the doll house, entering a world of her own making as she does.   I'll hear all sorts of conversations float from that imaginary realm of Alexa's world and I let them float right past me, respecting her space for exploration.  I don't apply analysis or creative criticisms, I simply let her ride her own stream of consciousness for as long as she can.  

As an adult it's hard to find this space to let the imagination run wild and free.  The pressures of work and family often rob us of that freedom unless we intentional block some time for ourselves.  It's not unusual for a partner to feel left out or worse rejected when we take time to head off to the study to read, write or just simply think.  But this is a need we all have.  Many have learned to deny themselves this, especially the super Mom's of today.  We work, exercise, cook for our family, get everyone up and going in the morning, and it leaves so little time for our own play time.  There's a desire when we return to our homes at night to have quality family time.  We succomb to feelings of mother's guilt for wanting our own space, a room of our own as Virginia Woolf noted so many decades ago.  Maybe after the dinner is finished, and the conversation dwindles, everyone could do with some pretend time.  As a single parent I know that when my daughter heads off to the bedroom or while she plays with her toys in the bath, this is my time to let my imagination run free too.  Whether I grab a book, my laptop or just sit and think, I know that what I'm doing makes me whole. 

At night, when I curl up with my little girl in bed for story time, I can revel in her improv story lines about the Birthday Buddha, knowing that by allowing her the freedom to explore alone means she'll have the coolest story lines ever.  Her imagination astounds and delights me.  And when she kisses me goodnight and says "you're the goodest mom ever", it warms my heart and encourages me toward another day (we'll get to grammar another day).

As we anticipate cohabitation in March, this lesson will stay with me.  I will be ever vigilant that all members of our new home enjoy a room of their own, a special space guarded by deep respect and love, for great creative work requires no less.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Truth is not Shakespeare

The truth
needs so little rehearsal.

~ Barbara Kingsolver

Truth may need little rehearsal, yet it does need silence and reflection. Discerning the truth in any matter, but particularly in matters of politics or religion, places us squarely against others whose truth is informed by other influences. When I look at the differences between the progressive and the conservative minds it is clear that what is "truth" becomes much less obvious. The conservative truth is one based on scarcity and fear where competition and the survival of the fittest becomes the metric of success. It is supported by the Luthern concept that God rewards the "good" people with material wealth (i.e. security) in this earthly existence, while He punishes the "bad" with poverty (i.e. insecurity). This "truth" also relies heavily on the acceptance of the medieval concept of the Great Chain of Being that places the King nearest God, then men, then animals, on down to insects and inanimate Earth at the bottom. It is in this paradigm of truth that capitalism was born, leading to the consumerist and wasteful existence we now all share as Americans. It is this paradigm that has allowed genocide and exploitation of indigenous peoples the world over through colonization and occupation. This truth is very rigid as were the childhoods of those most often following its dictum. There is a strong connection between the harsh, strict father who relies on the authority of the harsh, strict heavenly Father for his power over his family. This is a paradigm dependent on violence.

Progressive truth is not necessarily one of nonviolence or cooperation, but it should be. The human race is in a struggle against itself and this living ecology that supports us. While our attention is on Christmas, terrorism, war, Tiger Wood's love life or the latest Hollywood gossip, the truth is slipping away. We will soon run out of scapegoats for the failures of our social structure. The capitalist economic model is failing, we've destroyed so much of our planet it is beginning to change in ways that will make life very difficult for many millions of us and yet we continue to cling desperately to that strong father figure in our government, hoping that it will use Biblical force on those who threaten our way of life (security). I'm not calling for the eradication of religion or the end of government. But I ask believers to look more closely at their teachings. Is there no room in your religion for other people of other colors, genders, ages and yes, even other religions? Is there no room for love in your religion? How about cooperation? Or respect for this amazing planet we ride effortlessly upon?

It's time to stop. Sit in silence with your own thoughts. Let your heart wrap around the suffering caused by our own greed. Stop rehearsing and just let the truth shine.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Doors, New Ways

I have become
my own version of an optimist.
If I can't make it through
one door, I'll go
another door -
or I'll make a door.

~ Rabindranath Tagore

There will always be bumps in the road of life. Often the obstacles are more important to our progress than the times of smooth sailing. Each personal crisis or conflict in our lives allows us the opportunity to stretch, to respond in a kinder way than we did before. It offers another chance to practice self care, anger control, and compassion. Think of the delicate looking crocus that is the first sign of Spring here in the NW. It must first struggle against the hard shell of the seed, and then it pushes through often frozen earth, just to find the slant sunlight of late winter. It blooms so early that it risks freezing, and yet it pushes forward. It may appear delicate to our eyes, but there is a fierce will to survive and make it's way toward light that we would do well to emulate.

After the struggle
Life returns

Friday, January 1, 2010


A new decade unfurls it's wet wings
prismatic possibilities in a fractal space
the universe compressed in each human mind
but where will thought lead
rest now young one
let wings dry
heart warm
then glide

Welcome 2010

I wish all a year without suffering, one filled with great joys and most of all peace.

As the year begins I engage in the annual pastime of setting resolutions by reflecting on the last year with critical 20/20 vision that highlights my successes and my weaknesses. As a parent I have continued to build the bonds of trust and love with my daughter always engaging her opinions and ideas in household decisions. I revel in her confidence, overall happiness and curiosity. Balancing my individual needs with hers has often been a challenge but it is a dance of priorities that we are learning new steps daily as she finds ways to engage on her own more and more.

My work with peace and nonviolence continues to deepen and engage more of my spare and rare free time. This coming year I am taking steps to increase my daily experience of living ahimsa by going car free and spending many more miles on leg-powered wheels. I will work closely with a mentor this year to practice and learn more as I strive to be a better "ocular demonstration" of nonviolence. I continue to un-complicate and un-clutter my life meaning many trips to Goodwill. This year will see a continuation of my meditation practice and an exploration of bridging my spiritual and physical realms, bringing the simplicity of the physical into my mind while letting the peaceful equipoise experienced in my deepest meditation to radiate in my wakeful engaged moments.

My livelihood remains in the tiny technical world of electron microscopy. Although I continue to work as a corporate library administrator, I hope to see a segue from the semiconductor world in the world of information management, peace and nonviolence information in particular. As long as I'm shackled to debt this transition will need to be metered and cautious. But when the universe opens the opportunity to me, I will do my best to be ready for the leap.

In love, I will remain open to each moment and each heart that I encounter on the journey. I have taken a more discerning approach to my personal relationships. In the Dhammapada Buddha says it is better to travel alone that to travel with a fool. I interpret that to mean that the one we choose to journey with must be on a similar path and if fortunate, the same trajectory toward a common goal. So often I've fallen to the fanciful whims of my romantic heart and am happy to have learned the limitless nature of my love; not to be boxed in by gender, age, race or status. But as my journey becomes focused on a goal I realize that an intimate partner must share the vision, drive and passion for peace and nonviolence that I have. They must live ahimsa, nurturing themselves both physically and spiritually so that they can give fierce love to the hurting world without depleting their own reserves or becoming self destructive. In this year I've accepted that my life may be one of solitude, yet filled with the love of community. I believe this explains my fascination with monastic communities, but my community must be engaged in social action toward a just and safe world and not just focused on personal spiritual perfection. I am just beginning to get to know the peace community here in Portland, and am finding the warmth, love and support I need to nurture my own growth. This year I will open myself to, and engage myself more, with this beloved community.

Of course, I will also work toward a better diet and more exercise with everyone else.
And I WILL blog more and wax poetic on life's daily joys and challenges.
May we all be healthier and happier. I look forward to sharing this new year with all of you. May we link hearts, arms, and blogs in our work for peace.