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Dreaming of Peace on Memorial Day

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Many blessings on my military friends and their families — I’m sorry our nation keeps sending you into harm’s way. As this thoughtful video from Veterans for Peace suggests, I am also remembering and honoring civilian casualties of war and their loved ones this Memorial Day:

I pray for peace on this day of all days, and I hope that world leaders will take President Obama’s words at Hiroshima to heart:

“We’re not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story, one that describes a common humanity, one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.”  

 

** A footnote to my politically conservative Christian friends posting articles that criticize the president’s speech as “cowardly” or “an apology”: Setting aside whether or not one thinks an apology would have been appropriate, he did not make one, FYI. And I wonder which part of his actual remarks you think Jesus would disagree with?

Related:

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Bloggers for Peace

 

A Quiet Response to Global Militarization

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You won’t see a press release on this. Sheila won’t be on the evening news or even tucked between commercials on late night cable. What’s the big deal? All she’s doing at age seventy-something is walking from Connecticut to Georgia in the cause of peace.

“That’s amazing,” I say, “I’d love to hear more. And I’m a writer — do you think I might interview you, or do a profile?”

“Well, maybe,” she says, looking at the floor and toying with her long grey braids. “I don’t know. I’m not really doing anything like that, you know, to . . .” She fades off, as if even talking about public attention is too much.

She just wants to have conversations about peace and thinks she will meet a lot of people to talk to along her route. She’ll be walking on secondary roads and staying in small towns where she can find people to put her up.

“I’ve done some long distance walking in the past,” she says, “but not like this. I know this is a lot.”

Yes, Sheila, one thousand miles is a lot.

Destination?

Sheila’s destination is Fort Benning, Georgia. If all goes well, she’ll be there by late November to partipate in the annual vigil and non-violent protest at the gates of the School of the Americas.

Remember them? Probably not – like Sheila, they prefer to keep a low profile, and they’ve changed their name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation so you’ll be sure to forget them. Whatever they call themselves, they are the U.S. military outfit that uses your tax dollars to train Latin American soldiers in “counterinsurgency” techniques, and their graduates are responsible for the death, rape, torture, and “disappearance” of thousands of Latin American citizens.

Sheila thinks they should disappear.

(For more information, visit SOA Watch here.)

fort benning

Motivation?

The thing that intrigues me about Sheila isn’t so much her 1,000-mile walk, it’s her humility. After decades of experience with non-profits and advocacy groups, I’m used to folks who would trample their own elderly mothers to get to a microphone. As my boss at the Sierra Club used to say before a press event, “Well, time to set our hair on fire and see if anybody notices.”

It seems that all anybody wants these days is attention. Attention for their product, their start-up, their blog, their meme, their new profile picture, or their latest fad diet. Everybody wants to go viral. Or they connect themselves to a political candidate (I’m going with a winner!) or a celebrity (my man!) or an interest group (I’m making a difference!) and get their ego strokes vicariously through these affinities.

But not Sheila. It’s quite possible that nobody will even notice Sheila’s walk. She’s mostly going alone, though one or two folks might join her now and then. So really, if she’s not trying to get press attention, why walk? Why not fly to the protest in Georgia like the other 20,000 attendees? What’s the story?

Sheila is a Quaker, that’s the story, and Quakers are like that. From their silent worship, they sense divine leadings and they act on them, simply and without fanfare. Sheila thinks she is meant to walk, and so she’s walking. Simplicity and peacemaking are community values for them. 

The Quaker Spirit

I started going to Quaker meetings last year when I was at my place here in New England, and I liked them so much that I sometimes go to a mid-week meeting back home in Maryland, too. Their mostly silent worship fits well with my contemplative bent and Christian meditation practices.

The Quaker call to social justice is deeply ingrained in their traditions. I think they are more biblically based than most of the Bible-thumping congregations, even though Quakers aren’t necessarily Christians. You can truly see the fruits of their spiritual practices in the way they live their lives. I’ve never met another community like this “Society of Friends.”

I’ve drafted a couple of blog posts about Quakerism in the past year, but didn’t publish them — none of them said what I wanted to say. Which isn’t surprising, because how do you use words to write about people who worship in silence?

Maybe Sheila’s quiet story will give you a glimpse into what I wish I could say.

Genocide Transformed

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Perhaps you read my recent blog post in remembrance of the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide — a guest post by my American friend Lori Martin, who works with orphans and widows in that country.

transformed Lori

As the official week of remembrance draws to a close, Lori has some further thoughts to share from her home in Rwanda. Here are her reflections on how to stop the unthinkable from ever happening again:

◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊

“On April 7, 1994, in the place I am now sitting, people began to chop other people to death with their gardening tools. I am trying to imagine that horror.

I am in Rwanda, at home in a suburb of Kigali. We have a lovely, peaceful garden of carefully manicured lawn, shrubs, and flowers. Hundreds of birds are making their happy noises. Thick, cool mist covers the hills.  We have electricity, running hot and cold water, flushing indoor toilets, television, cell phones, and internet. Sam and Eldad, our Rwandese house staff, live in a house of their own out back, and do everything from house repairs, taking out the trash, food shopping, and tending the garden.

Their job is also to guard us.

There is a six-foot brick wall topped with broken glass surrounding all of the houses. Iron gates are locked at all times. Every day, all the time, young, deadly serious men in army fatigues with machine guns, or in police uniforms with side arms, or in volunteer security uniforms with heavy batons, patrol every road within sight of each other, watching everyone carefully.

Lori's "picket fence" in Rwanda

Lori’s “picket fence” in Rwanda

Twenty years ago, Rwandans witnessed what atrocities people can, and do, commit. Since then they have tried to do everything they can think of to keep people from committing atrocities again. Perhaps this — the tightly controlled police state that Rwanda has become, where unity and peace are dictated — is the best way to ensure that violence never surfaces.

But here is what I think, as the fog lifts from the hills across the valley, but the commemorative, strictly enforced silence remains. No matter what we do, no matter how we try to guard against or deny the possibility, people can, and will, do horrible things.

What do we do to feel safe? Rwanda uses laws and guns and social approbation. I’d venture to say that people in the U.S., me included, use democracy and wealth. But nothing we do is a guarantee of safety. If that is true, then what is there but to be afraid and fatalistic?”

Lori’s Hope for Transformation

“There can be a change of paradigm. What about, instead of seeking safety from other people, we seek transformation in all people? Where guns and constitutions fail to keep people from doing bad things, transformation in people’s hearts just might.

Transforming from hatred to forgiveness, cruelty to compassion, judgment to grace, and fear to love.

I know my own heart – Jesus has transformed me in these ways. So it follows – the more people who allow Jesus to transform them, the fewer people there would be who might do bad things to each other. I’m not talking about anything WE do – attending a church or having certain views on political issues. I mean what GOD does – what the radical, turn-the-whole-world-on-its-head coming of God’s kingdom will do.

Transforming  hearts

Transforming hearts

Until God’s kingdom comes, people will commit atrocities. When it comes, we will have peace, safety, and full well-being forever. This makes me want to pray and work for God to transform people’s hearts. I want to pray and work for God’s kingdom to come HERE. And everywhere.

I think that no other means of guarding against genocide is worth the effort.”

 

Related Posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/the-plane-crash-that-killed-a-million-people/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/twenty-years-ago-he-hacked-his-neighbors-to-death/

This post is part Bloggers for Peace, an effort to raise the visibility of peace efforts around the world. Check it out:

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Bloggers for Peace

 

“Twenty Years Ago, He Hacked His Neighbors To Death”

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April 7, 2014:

Twenty years ago today, a man got his hedge trimmers out of his shed, went next door where three children were playing, and hacked them to death: Twenty years ago today, the Genocide in Rwanda began — more than 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days by their neighbors, friends, and family.

So writes Lori Martin, a remarkable friend with whom I traveled to Africa in 2007. Lori fell for the orphans she met in Rwanda, dared to imagine that she could help, and uprooted her whole life to pursue her dream. She now lives a nomadic lifestyle, traveling back and forth between Rwanda and the U.S. and spending several months in Rwanda at a stretch.

Lori and Friends

Lori and Friends

A year ago, I marked the anniversary of the Genocide with a post about Lori and African Road, the organization she helped found in 2010. This year, I thought I’d ask Lori to share some of her own thoughts on the anniversary.

First, let me just remind you of that number again: 800,000. In 100 days. That is more than the number of Americans who died in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and our “war on terror” . . . COMBINED. Remember: Kwibuka.

In Her Own Words

Here’s what Lori has to say from Rwanda on this twentieth anniversary:

“Today begins a week of Remembrance called Kwibuka (remember) in Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda. It is a sober time to mourn the dead and honor the traumatized people who survived. Businesses and schools are closed. Parties and celebrations are put off.  People march in the streets and resolve never to allow such a thing to happen again.

I met a friend today (call him Evan) to plan a visit to villages where people are living in poverty, marginalized and discriminated against. He has been championing them for years, fighting for their rights and seeking to meet their needs largely on his own. He is hoping my organization might fund some of his projects to help the people.

I’m sorry to say that Evan was not hearing from me what he wanted to hear. I can’t make promises. Our board needs to discuss. Funds would need to be raised. Of course, that’s all I can say at the moment, but the fact is people continue to suffer while other people have the power to do something about it.

He continues to sound positive – ‘Of course, I understand the process! I know it has to be considered carefully!’ But I see hurt in his eyes. I see anger. He feels righteous anger at the ongoing injustice for these people, and a sense of powerlessness to do anything about it. I can sympathize – I would be hurt and frustrated, too. Injustice makes me angry.

And it just now made sense to me – a way I could get angry enough to hurt someone.

There are many factors that contributed to the Genocide in Rwanda. But I am guessing that people felt some sense of injustice and powerlessness. I look at Evan, trying every day to get help from people who are able, and not getting it. This is unjust, and people are suffering because of this imbalance.

How can we ensure Genocide never occurs again? I have no idea. But I think I understand how Evan feels.

Children from the Orphans’ Cooperative lead Lori to their meeting room.

Children from the Orphans’ Cooperative lead Lori to their meeting room.

You Can Make a Triple Difference!

If you would like to find out more about African Road and the work they do to provide housing for orphans, micro-enterprise business assistance for mothers, and education for young people, please visit the post I wrote about them last year. And here’s excellent news: a generous donor has pledged a matching grant, so if you contribute now, they will double it, — your gift will be tripled! Thanks for considering it. You can donate here. You can also visit and “like” African Road’s  Facebook page.

If you are a blogger, you might want to join Bloggers for Peace, a group of idealistic bloggers who pledge to write about peace at least once a month. If we send enough hope for peace into the cosmos, surely it will return to the earth. See the link below to get started.

 

Related Posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/the-plane-crash-that-killed-a-million-people/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Bloggers for Peace — I urge you to join us!

Can We Please Just Talk about Cute Animals??

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Guess what the most popular topic on my blog is this quarter? Death.

Yup, death. That’s fun, isn’t it?

In an effort to figure out why you readers are so morbid, I reviewed the quarter and found that it all comes down to a matter of simple math. Not that I can actually *do* simple math, mind you, but I’m sure that math is to blame for your recent fixation on death.

You see, the great majority of my posts lately have been related to the D word, so every time you click, you are registering your fascination with death. I’m not giving you much choice. Some of the posts are kinda funny, IMHO, but they’re still deadly.

I’ve done everything from an educational piece on Suicide Prevention Day (not funny) to a story about a traumatic moment with my chronically ill brother to a poem about music and my dear — yes, departed — mother.

I wrote a piece about my cousin, who’s buried in our garden under the apple tree, and one about Trayvon Martin, and two poems about the recent death of a friend with Lou Gehrig’s disease. All in the past few months.

I’m a Blogger for Peace, so I write about war once a month — which entails the D word every time, no matter how clean we pretend our distant, drone-directing American hands are. We’re causing death and plenty of it.

So I’m thinking it’s time for me to write something hysterically funny. Something light-hearted and frivolous; something you will laugh out loud at and then immediately forget.

What we need is a good belly laugh!

What we need is a good belly laugh!

I know! I could tell about frolicking squirrels!

This might not work though, because I was reading a blog last night about squirrels running up and down a tree, and my expectation was that they were about to run into the street and get flattened. Seriously. That just seems to be where my head goes right now. (The squirrels did not get killed, didn’t even get frightened. Just ran up and down a tree. Period.)

Always good for a laugh, unless they get run over

Always good for a laugh, unless they get run over

Wait! How about I write about the cute deer eating apples out back and drinking from the bird bath?

These green apples are a tad tart -- have you got any red?

These green apples are a tad tart — have you got any red?

But then I would have to tell you about how I very nearly accosted a man in a red pick-up today because he drove past my house a couple of times. I was certain that he was armed to the teeth and scoping out his fall hunting grounds. No doubt he had seen my resident deer and was out to shed blood. I almost flew out of the house like a maniac, intent on gesturing aggressively at the bright orange No Hunting signs that dot my property.

Then I remembered that he was merely driving by on a public lane.

I guess sometimes you just are where you are . . . Oh God – my cat has chased a little mouse up the curtain. No death, please!

I gotta run.

Nobody up here, honest!

Nobody up here, honest!

A Bit of Fluff in Obama’s Ear

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“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”  Wise words from Winnie-the-Pooh.

Thank God the bit of fluff that’s been lodged in President Obama’s ear when it comes to Syria seems to have been dislodged, at least for the time being.

Original Winnie the Pooh stuffed toys. Clockwi...

A cabinet meeting of Winnie-the-Pooh’s top advisors . . . might they bring some wisdom to the conundrum in Syria? (Photo:Wikipedia)

Miracles Happen

It was with a great sense of anxiety that my book group crowded onto the sofa to watch Obama’s speech on Tuesday night. Earlier, when we had been discussing an O’Henry short story, the chips and cheese had been rapidly disappearing from the bowls on the coffee table, but once Obama reached the podium, the snacking stopped and the silence fell.

Several of us had prayed and fasted through lunch the day before, along with hundreds from our church, on behalf of a peaceful solution in Syria. And it did feel like a miracle when half-way through his speech, Obama began to back away from the cliff.

My friend Shobha looked incredulous, her brown eyes wide and teary. “An answer to our prayers,” she said.

Trying to Trust

I never did trust George W. and all his war justifications. With all due respect (due being the operative word here), I think he was an idiot who was just the puppet of a bunch of neo-con war-mongers.

But I want to at least try to trust Obama; I voted for the guy. I like him personally, although I’ve been disappointed by him in many ways. I almost wanted him to persuade me of the wisdom of bombing Syria because I was so certain he was going to do it, and I didn’t want to lose all faith in his wisdom.

But I have not been persuaded; not in the least.

“Think it Over, Think it Under” (Pooh)

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, wrote on her Facebook page September 8th:

“But isn’t this one reality–that the most fastidiously trained and learned people in the government, military, humanitarian and diplomatic fields, can’t figure out the right move — reason enough to hold off bomb strikes for the time being?”

Even my very conservative neighbor Pat, with whom I rarely agree about anything except the weather, agrees on Syria. Don’t bomb. Not now. What is the hurry? Her grandson is in the Army, somewhere in the Middle East, but he can’t tell her where.

I have only one friend who supports the bombing, and he’s one of those one-issue kind of guys. Israel is his issue, and peace is not his strategy. He might feel differently when his little boy reaches military age.

Otherwise, ambivalence is the strongest support for Obama’s position that I’ve heard.

Gratitude

I plan to do some volunteering this weekend. I want to serve out of the abundance of gratitude I am feeling.

I like to think it was the people who postponed this folly. That now and then, regular folks can still make a difference. Was it the yelling of Americans who are weary of their kids being killed? Was it the yelling of citizens in our allied nations (whatever *that* means these days — someone we’re not bombing?) tired of being dragged into conflict by the U.S.? Whatever it was, it shifted Obama’s ear-fluff.

I’m sure it was a complicated bit of fluff, probably comprised of ego, politics, patriotism, compassion, anger, fear — desperation might be a better word. I’ll bet he felt trapped by his own line in the sand.

I used to have a boss who said that when he could see no solution to an office politics problem, he would “just throw a grenade and let everyone run around for a while to see what happens.” I never agreed with this approach, and I never saw it turn out well. Stupid office politics; even stupider international politics. Apologies to my male readers, but I think it had something to do with testosterone.

“I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit.
“No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”

And so, my fellow citizens, God bless America.

God bless Syria.

And God help us all.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A related post that conveys my thoughts in a much more intelligent way:  http://woodgatesview.com/2013/09/11/on-the-anniversary-of-911-a-victory-for-clear-headed-thinking/

This is my monthly contribution to Bloggers for Peace. Bloggers, why not sign up?

▶ You Hold the Key to Love and Fear

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“You hold the key to love and fear. All in your trembling hand.”

Do those words sound familiar? Do they unleash a rush of images and emotions? Probably so, if you are of a certain age. They surely do for me. Actually, the song “Get Together” by The Youngbloods makes me cry. It brings on a sense of longing that I’ve written about before.

Back in the sixties and seventies when I was growing up, there were these beings called hippies. They dressed in bright colors and denim and had big hair that smelled like patchouli oil, a scent that still intoxicates me and makes me feel instantly alive and in love.

Back in the day with George & Arlo

Back in the day; in love with George & Arlo

Mostly, though, hippies made beautiful music. They sang about love and peace and togetherness; and here’s the thing – they BELIEVED in it. They were imperfect people like you and I, and most of them were “just kids,” at least that’s what politicians and corporations supporting the Vietnam War called them to belittle their demands for peace.

Songs of Peace

Songs of Peace w/ Dennis & Mike

But  those kids believed. They thought if they just took over enough college admin buildings and held enough sit-ins and boycotts and rallies and marches on Washington that they could end that war. And they did. They dragged their aunts and uncles and mothers and fathers and eventually the politicians towards peace.

We Believed

We Believed

That’s why The Youngbloods song makes me sad. Because I still want to believe in the power of love and peace that they sang about; I still want to believe that if the people lead, eventually the leaders will follow.

Look at Us

But look at us now. Look. Look at the bombs, look at the destruction, look at the trillions America spends on spreading fear and death – I can’t even keep track of the number of wars we’re engaged in.

Lately I’m hearing dire warnings from the Pentagon that if their budget is cut, they “won’t be able to go as many places or do as many things.” Read: “We won’t be able to kill as many people.”

Look at the assault weapons spraying our schools with bullets and the arsenals being built up in private homes and the hate speech on the TV and the radio.

We are going the wrong direction. The Youngblood’s message didn’t take. Or it hasn’t yet.

Keep Hope Alive

I’m a Christian. I believe that Divine Love runs through every human being. If we allow it, this mighty river of love will wash away our pride and fear and ego so that we can become little rivulets of Divine Love in the world.

Rivulets run together and become rushing rivers that become oceans. This gives me hope.

That’s why I’m a Blogger for Peace — to join other rivulets of peace. This month, we’re issuing a challenge to raise the visibility of peace in the blogosphere.  If you blog, please join us by clicking here. You just need to blog about peace once a month – inner peace, family peace, world peace – just speak for peace. If you’re not a blogger, would you please consider stopping by the Be 4 Peace blog and “following” it? It doesn’t sound like much, but it didn’t sound like much when the hippies held their first sit-in either.

C’mon People — Unlock Peace

You hold the key to love and fear

All in your trembling hand

Just one key unlocks them both

It’s there at your command

So c’mon people now, smile on your brother – everybody get together, try to love one another right now.

This month Bloggers for Peace suggested we write about music and peace. That’s what prompted this post, and it’s why I’m asking you to listen to this beautiful anthem and then say a prayer that you might use your key to unlock love, not fear. Please listen:

 

Related Posts:

Here’s a nice post for peace from a fellow blogger for peace: http://bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/letter-to-divine-creator-monthly-peace-challenge/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/the-bombs-bursting-in-air-330000-lives-four-trillion-bucks/

http://everydaygurus.com/2012/12/20/we-can-make-a-difference-right-here-right-now/

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