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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/

The Bombs Bursting in Air: 330,000 Lives, Four Trillion Bucks

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I just heard that a local Veterans for Peace group is being banned from the Fourth of July parade in Santa Barbara. Although they have marched in the past, this year they had the audacity to propose an actual float, one with crosses and flowers honoring the dead.

The official reason for their banishment – I’m not kidding here – is that they might pass out flyers which would cause litter.

Veterans. For peace.

Peace Sign

Peace is Patriotic

I wanted to blog about it, but I find I have no words. No comment. I can’t even think of what to call it. An outrage? A crime? An abomination?

I think I will simply quote a few true patriots this Fourth of July, as part of my commitment to being a Blogger for Peace.

Thomas Jefferson

A founding father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and third president of the U.S.:

“If there be one principle more deeply written than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.”

James Madison

A founding father and fourth president of the U.S.:

Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.

(Political Observations, April 20, 1795)

 John Quincy Adams

Secretary of State and sixth president of the U.S.:

…what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this:

She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.

She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart . . .Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.  But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force….

She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

[America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is Freedom, Independence, Peace.

{Speech to Congress, July 4, 1821}

Helen Keller

{People} are taught that brave men die for their country’s honor. What a price to pay for an abstraction–the lives of millions of young men; other millions crippled and blinded for life; existence made hideous for still more millions of human beings; the achievement and inheritance of generations swept away in a moment–and nobody better off for all the misery!

Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.

{A speech at Carnegie Hall before World War I}

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered…

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with  orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

{Riverside Church, April 4, 1967}

Your Taxpayer Dollars at War

There have been more than 330,000 direct war deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan since 2001. More than 200,000 of those people were civilians.

This does not include indirect deaths attributed to the wars — almost always more than direct deaths.

The amount our country has invested to cause these deaths is over four trillion dollars (spent and obligated).

Fifty-three percent of your taxes go towards war, in this way:

FY2009 federal piechart

Courtesy War Resisters League

 

If you’ve been around awhile, you might remember Ronald Reagan’s hawkish Secretary of State, Alexander Haig. He offered a sound strategy for Americans who prefer peace to militarism.

“Let them march all they want,” Haig said, “as long as they pay their taxes.”

Thanks for the tip, Al.

Perhaps you will celebrate the Fourth with me by taking a look at this information about boycotting the War Tax. Something our founding fathers might well have condoned . . . like refusing to pay an unjust tax on tea.

Then go drink a cold beer and blow something up.

 

Related articles:

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

http://cherispeak.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/allegiance-is-peace/

http://costsofwar.org/

Are You Too Busy to be Happy?

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Do you ever take the time to ask yourself what you really want; what you are really here for?

I’m talking about REAL time? Even in the spiritual communities to which I belong, people often don’t.

Which is weird, right? I mean if we truly believe we are part of a larger spiritual reality that can offer us peace and happiness and empower us to make the world healthier, why don’t we enthusiastically embrace every practice that might help us enter into that reality?

To my mind, the primary practice that helps us discover and align ourselves with our true nature and purpose is taking the time to be open and present to a reality beyond what our tiny minds can grasp.

George Bernard Shaw wrote that the true joy of life lies in being devoted to a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one,

… being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. 

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, that’s strong language. I’m not calling anyone a selfish little clod of anything; I’m just saying, think about it.

Are you too busy to do “nothing,” which rather than being nothing, might actually mean everything to your happiness?

Life by the Pond

Yesterday I went on a silent retreat. I sat by a pond and watched a family of geese — the father, every feather aquiver with protective instincts, stood tall and alert by the mother who had nestled down and lifted her wing, welcoming her tottering yellow gosling into warm, downy safety.

Down the hill, a coyote led an intruder away from its den, trotting slowly and then looking back over its shoulder to be sure the ruse was working; and it did, as the binocular-bearing human hustled after the animal and away from the pups.

The sun caught the cerulean gleam of a bluebird perched atop its box, repeatedly announcing the family territory.

All of nature was doing exactly what it was meant to be doing. Instinctively.

Grasses by the Pond

Grasses Being Grasses

I Want You to be Happy

But we humans are different. We have the gift/curse of self-reflection — of ego — which can drown out our true selves and keep us on the go, trying to satisfy hungers we don’t even know are there. To get in touch with these hungers and decide if they are in our best interest, we need to slow down and listen.

How about planning an intentional fast from busyness as the relaxed summer season approaches?

Are you laughing now because what does she know, the summer isn’t any slower, it’s even busier?

Whose choice is that?

You are not a victim. You are in charge of your life. Cancel some stuff. Why not make a little time to ask yourself, or better yet, a power beyond yourself: what are you meant to do here in this one, short life? Are you on the right path?

Anyway, I don’t want to preach. I just want you to be happy. I know, odds are you are a stranger to me outside of the blogosphere — but happy people put happiness back into the world, and so I hope for happiness and centeredness and every kind of health for you.

Resisting the Demon of Busyness

I’m sharing this reading from Janet Ruffing that might give you food for summer thoughts.

Go ahead – give yourself a break, literally.

Centered

Centered

“Resisting the demon of busyness requires choices we would prefer not to make, and if we should succeed in making them, I can guarantee they will go unrewarded in both the secular and religious cultures in which we participate.

If we’re honest, we admit to ourselves that there’s something about all this busyness that we love. We like it this way, despite our half-hearted protests to the contrary. If we’re as busy as we pretend to be, then we’re too busy to allow ourselves to be affected by the pain and suffering of our world. We’re too busy to be addressed personally by the social, political or ecological disasters occurring in our relationships.

We are too busy to listen to our own feelings or those of others. Our busyness insulates from care and from compassion. Our busyness deadens our feelings and numbs our responses. The expectation that we must be busy all the time feels as if it is an external expectation, with the result that we don’t recognize that it is also self-generated in collusion with the culture.

I become flighty with so many things to attend to, moving from one thing to another, sometimes intuitively, sometimes impulsively and unreflectively. By this time, I am divided in my consciousness. It requires a different kind of discipline not to allow my attention to get caught in these ways.

This divided, distracted consciousness is a large part of the demon of busyness. This state of consciousness is literally illusion. It is something our collective consciousness keeps going because we agree to it. By keeping it going, getting captured by it, I fail to ask myself what I really want. I collude in frustrating my deepest desires by indulging the demon of busyness, so that I never have to ask what I really want to do or really need to do. Were I to do so, I might make a different set of choices in response to it.

What we need to resist is the sense of time-urgency and all the internal diffusion of consciousness which simultaneously thinks of the future, basks in self-importance and maintains an illusion of control. All of those internal ‘thoughts’ actually divert us from all dimensions of the present reality. They are literally useless and exhausting, yet somehow we love them…”

— From Resisting the Demon of Busyness by Janet Ruffing

Related Posts:

I am a member of Bloggers for Peace and this is my monthly post on the topic of Peace. I thought you might enjoy this thought that I borrowed from a post by fellow blogger for peace Elizabeth Obih-Frank:

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” Black Elk

Also see:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/how-not-to-screw-up-your-holidays/

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

The Plane Crash that Killed a Million People

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We still don’t know who shot down the plane, but we do know that the death toll was between 500,000 and one million people. We aren’t talking about a disaster movie; unfortunately, this is a true story.

The people weren’t on the plane, obviously, they were on the ground. And — also obviously — that many people on the ground couldn’t have been crushed by one plane.

No, these people were crushed by fear and hatred of “the other.”

Lest We Forget Rwanda

It was nineteen years ago today that Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane fell from the skies, the target of either a Tutsi military organization (the president was a Hutu) or Hutu extremists who wanted to prompt a mass “revenge” killing of Tutsi people.

My guess is it was the latter, because within hours of the plane crash, the slaughter began, led by Hutu extremists in the army and the police force. For several years, the president had been whipping up anti-Tutsi sentiment, hoping to build his power base among his Hutu people. Hundreds of Tutsis had already been massacred by the time the civil war officially began nineteen years ago tomorrow.

English: President Juvénal Habyarimana of RWAN...

President Juvenal Habyarimana

Whichever side shot down the plane, Hutu extremists took advantage of the assassination, and the all-out slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus was on. The resulting ethnic genocide was the worst since World War II.

The day after the plane crash, April 7, 1994, ten Belgian peacekeepers were murdered, which led to the withdrawal of U.N. forces from Rwanda and the ultimate death of 75% of the Tutsi people living in Rwanda, many hacked to death by their neighbors after radio stations urged the Hutu majority to kill all the Tutsis.

President Bill Clinton called his failure to do anything to stop the genocide “the biggest regret” of his presidency.

If you have never seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, please watch it. For the world’s sake.

Let’s not forget.

Compassion Fatigue

We hear about compassion fatigue – it’s often talked about in reference to professional caregivers or to those who are caring for loved ones. But it’s true on a global scale as well. Too true. Our human psyches weren’t meant to be subjected to atrocities, day after day, year after year. We tune it out. We numb ourselves.

Your memory banks are probably full of the echoes of TV and radio reports about various genocides, your brains pulsating with color pictures of slaughters “somewhere else.”

But there is no “somewhere else,” folks. Sometimes the slaughters are carried out with assault weapons in our neighborhood schools. Sometimes they come in the shape of airplanes plowing into skyscrapers. And sometimes they come at the hands of a broken military veteran who witnessed human carnage and was himself massacred by the psychological aftermath.

We can’t afford to let compassion fatigue win out. We must – we must – remember these atrocities and the victims, living and dead and damaged. We can’t stop the cycle if we ignore it.

But what can we do, just a bunch of Americans on our couches, hunched over our computers? Read on….

Hope amidst the Hate

I am a member of Bloggers for Peace, a group of idealistic bloggers who pledge to write about peace at least once a month. Thinking that if we send enough hope for peace into the cosmos, surely it will return to the earth.

Last month, I told you about a friend of mine who works with mothers in the Niger Delta promoting peace.

With this post, I want to tell you about several other amazing friends of mine. A few years back, a couple of us went to Africa together. We met a man from Rwanda, Steven, who had been a Christian missionary knocking on doors and handing out leaflets. When he realized that many of the doors he knocked on were answered by orphans who had no adults in the house, he decided he could probably do something more useful than hand them a Bible tract. So he took a few kids into his home. Then a few more, then…

Youth

Some of Steven’s Crew

Pastor Steven

Pastor Steven

Well, you won’t believe what one person can do. And the thing is, he’s not just one person anymore. A few of my friends on that African trip went to meet Steven’s orphans in Rwanda, while I went to the slums of Nairobi to work alongside widows with HIV.

My friends Lori and Kelly were so taken with Steven and his growing family of refugees that they started a new organization called African Road to help support the kids. They are working to provide housing for orphans, micro-enterprise business assistance for mothers, and education for young people.

Please visit their website to hear this remarkable story of hope. This is what can happen when we see ourselves in “the other” – when instead of looking for differences between us, we look for the heart of God in each person.

Kudos to Lori and Kelly! And thank you, readers, for sticking with me till the end of yet-another-genocide story. Perhaps you will consider making a donation to African Road here in honor of this regrettable anniversary.

May the anniversary of the start of the Rwandan civil war remind us that it does not have to be this way.

Please join me in praying for peace. Every day.

Peace to you.

Related Articles:

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

Bloggers for Peace — I urge you to join us!

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