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Syria Sadness

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SYRIA SADNESS

I would like to write, but we are bombing Syria. So it’s probably best that I leave it alone for now. My heart hurts too much, and I had dreadful nightmares last night.

If only I had gotten off Twitter thirty minutes earlier, I wouldn’t have known about President Tweet’s latest misadventure and I could have gone to bed and read my silly fantasy novel until I drifted into oblivious, dreamless sleep.

In my pre-dawn rush to get to work this morning, I wouldn’t have had time to listen to the news. I would have spent my day in blissful ignorance. Instead, I woke up twenty minutes early to catch the latest news. Maybe we had bombed North Korea, too? Oh no, we are just having a crisis with Russia. 

So today I watched my second graders with a certain amount of sadness. What is going to happen to them and their bright eyes and fresh skin and boundless energy?

What in the hell are we doing?

I will write when I can.

He May Have the Nuclear Codes, But He Can’t Have My Brain

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HE MAY HAVE THE NUCLEAR CODES, BUT HE CAN’T HAVE MY BRAIN 

Last night I finally did something I’ve been needing to do for weeks: I turned off my computer. I looked the angry orange tweeter who lives in the big white house right in his puffy eyes and I said, “No. You may not come in to my head anymore.”

As the child of an alcoholic, I learned to be hypervigilant. The only way to feel safe when there is a wild man in the house is to always know where he is, what he’s doing, and what kind of mood he’s in. You become ultra-aware: Are his eyes read? Does his breath smell like Clorets mints? Even from upstairs, you can hear the freezer door open and the ice clink in the glass.

It’s about survival. You need to know when it’s safe to ask for lunch money or a school permission slip, and when to lock your bedroom door, crank up the Grateful Dead, and hunker down.

Survival

So of course when an impulsive wild man moved into the Oval Office last week, I automatically took it upon myself to keep an eye on him. And this time it’s quite literally about survival. Right? Planetary survival. If I’m not keeping an eye on him, who will stop him from dropping a nuclear weapon on North Korea? Or Germany, if Angela Merkel says something uncomplimentary.

It feels almost suicidal to detach and ignore him for any length of time. I wonder how Mike Pence feels? He must know how batty his boss is by now. Can he sleep?

At least a half dozen Facebook friends have posted pleas for help with detachment this week. How do I tune him out? How will I stay sane? How do I cope with the grief and fear? How will I not burn out, trying to protect Muslims and Native Americans and gay people and African American kids and the whole frickin’ planet??

I always offer helpful advice about going for walks, and laughing with friends, and meditating. And turning off the computer. But I don’t take the advice myself.

Until last night.

Just Say No

I had gone out with dear friends the night before and although we talked about the nation’s perils and our resulting emotional states, we also laughed and listened to open mic offerings and drank wine.

I confessed to staying up later and later each night, 2 a.m., then 3, then 4, monitoring @RealDonaldTrump and retweeting and posting on Facebook and looking for pictures that capture the moment.

mt-rushmore

lady-liberty-weeping

resist-banner

I can’t focus during the day, I get nothing done. Can’t write. My friends expressed concern, hugged me, sympathized.

Somehow getting away from Crazyland for an evening broke the spell. It was good to hear myself say out loud, “I stayed up until 4 a.m. tweeting to Donald Trump.” Talk about crazy! It gave me the strength to push that “off” button on my computer last night.

I pulled up the drawbridge to my psyche, slapped a big ol’ “Keep Out” sign on it, and read my novel. And today I am saying no again. No Twitter, no Facebook, no trump™.

Pray Without Ceasing

Maybe trump™ will start a nuclear war while I’m reading my novel. I saw before I exited Twitter last night that he had signed something called the Military Preparedness Order. This after signing the Muslim ban.

muslim-ban

But there is nothing I can do about it. All I can do is take care of myself so that I have the energy to take action when I can make a difference. To march, to write, to call Senators. To care for those who are hurting and afraid.

And to pray without ceasing for the Syrian children who may die because of what our nation has done.

Omran

Omran

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

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

 

In What Do We Trust?

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On this day in 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law making the statement “In God We Trust” the nation’s official motto. A few years before, he’d added “under God” to the pledge of allegiance.

President Eisenhower, courtesy Eisenhower Presidential Library

President Eisenhower, courtesy Eisenhower Presidential Library

Over the ensuing decades as the U.S. has become more secular, Eisenhower’s religious language has been the subject of an ongoing debate.  America’s founding fathers were fairly clear about the separation of church and state — on the other hand, they talked about God all the time, and “In God We Trust” has been on our coinage since the Civil War; Eisenhower simply added it to the paper currency.

I don’t have a strong opinion on the language. As a mature adult, I no longer have to have an opinion on everything, and that’s a relief. I’ll let others argue about it. Besides, what would our motto be if we re-wrote it today?

“We Trust Nothing and Nobody?”

“We’re Better Than Everyone Else?”

“Bombs R Us?”

“We Can’t Agree on a Damn Thing?”

“Shop Till Ya Drop?”

“We Want More Stuff, Screw The Planet?”

Transcending Our iPhones

So I’m not weighing in on President Eisenhower’s action on July 30, 1956. I do, however, have a strong opinion on his apparent motivations. In a Flag Day Speech in 1954, he explained that by putting “under God” in the pledge, “. . . we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

I have to agree with Ike that our nation could do with some transcendence, now more than ever. I wish that my fellow citizens had a transcendent belief in something beyond themselves, their cemented opinions, their rights, their money, their electronics, their sacred iThings.

I believe that if we spent significant time in prayer and meditation, opening our personal and collective hearts to the universal source of goodness and love, then we might learn to listen to — and even care about — our neighbors and maybe even non-Americans, and our country would not be so screwed up. Probably wouldn’t hurt to get outside and contemplate the beauty and power and order of nature, either. People are just so angry and vitriolic these days, and I think that’s a spiritual illness.

But that kind of transcendence doesn’t seem to be what Ike is getting at. No, he’s looking to “constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons” to be a “powerful resource” for our nation. Sigh. Those bombs bursting in air and that bald eagle’s sharp beak and talons.

Spirituality is Not a Weapon

Here’s the thing: spirituality is not a weapon. The Bible tells us that the fruit of true spirituality is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, all that good stuff.

Connecting with the Spirit is not about winning, it’s not about fighting. I know a lot of Christians who talk about “victory” and “battles” and “putting on armor,” but that’s a mindset and language taken from a warlike culture thousands of years ago. Of course, Christians aren’t the only religious folks who have this mindset. We’ve all had our fill of “holy wars” and beheadings.

But Christians like Eisenhower — people “under God” — ought to be able to get beyond this dualistic, divisive worldview. Jesus transcended all that self-absorption and came with a different message: Spirituality is about surrendering, relinquishing our warlike competitive egos, and relying on the strength of Love (for God is Love) to be peacemakers in the world. Jesus surrendered his very life without a fight, showing us what God is like. How very un-American of him.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” says Jesus. “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you,” says Jesus. “Send in the drones,” says one nation under God.

flowers and Dayspring 026

A Place of Peace

Dwight Eisenhower was raised Mennonite, a peace-loving sect that he rejected when he joined the military. (He later became a Presbyterian.) It’s possible that his warlike spirituality mellowed later in life: the chapel on the grounds of the presidential library where he and his wife Mamie are buried is called an interfaith “Place of Meditation.”

Maybe America will mellow later in its life, too. Just imagine if our peacemaking budget were even the teensiest fraction of our defense budget. That’s the kind of “force” I want us to be in the world.

Maybe someday our motto will be “In Peace We Trust.” Maybe I’m delusional. But — maybe I’m not. In God I trust.

flowers and Dayspring 051

I’m a blogger for peace. Check us out:

https://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/about/

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

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/

A Woman’s Peace

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“Ultimately we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. The more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.”

A Haunting Challenge

These words come from Etty Hillesum, who died in a Nazi concentration camp when she was 29 years old. She had “an old soul,” as they say — wisdom beyond her years. We will never know what peace she might have brought to the world had she not been murdered. Yet she offered a haunting challenge as she pondered the annihilation of her people:

“I wish I could live for a long time so that one day I may know how to explain it, and if I am not granted that wish, well, then somebody else will perhaps do it, carry on from where my life has been cut short…”

Photo: Etty Hillesum


Etty Hillesum

Wow – “then somebody else will perhaps do it.” W ell, I can’t explain the Holocaust for Etty, but I can try to do my “one moral duty” by reclaiming peace within my soul and hoping some of it will transfer to the world. I do believe this is our moral duty. I’ve heard it said that “hurt people will hurt people,” and I’ve certainly found that to be true. We must each take responsibility for healing our own hurting hearts.

Wounds we received in childhood may still be causing emotional reactions today, and unless we become aware of that and seek healing and peace, we’ll just be dumping our crap all over everyone else.

For the rest of our lives.

Women in Peace

I am a member of Bloggers for Peace, and as such, I have committed to post every month on the topic of peace. March being Women’s History Month, I thought I would take a brief look at women’s roles in the movement for world peace. As it turns out, it isn’t possible to do that briefly. I’d have to write a tome.

Instead of the tome (I can hear you all now, “tome, tome, tome!”), I’m sharing Etty’s story with you.

Etty’s efforts to nurture peace in her heart resulted in a profound attitude of love, hope, and gratitude, which it’s hard to imagine could survive in a concentration camp.

“Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on earth, my eyes raised towards heaven, tears run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude.”

“I know that a new and kinder day will come. I would so much like to live on, if only to express all the love I carry within me. And there is only one way of preparing the new age, by living it even now in our hearts.”

I hope you’ll read more about Etty at Gratefulness.org

Nurturing Change

How are we doing at realizing Etty Hillesum’s dream that “a new and kinder day” was coming?

According to the Eisenhower Research Project, between 152,280 – 192,550 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of the fighting since 9/11. More than seven million people have become refugees. The numbers speak for themselves.

Sometimes it’s hard to hope. War seems to be an inevitable part of the human experience, and peace is certainly not inevitable in this world. It’s something we must pray for, wait for, work for. We must intentionally nurture it from within, growing what the Bible calls the “fruits of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Women know a little about waiting and praying and growing things inside themselves.

I am a firm believer in the power of inner peace to transform the world. It has to start with the individual. Perhaps I’m naive, but what’s the point of living if we can’t be at peace with ourselves and make a positive difference in the world?

For me, inner peace also includes action. For instance, if I ate meat, I know my heart would not be at peace. I would see that as waging war on animals. (I’m not judging you, I’m talking about my own heart.)

I volunteer for projects that help heal our planet, I participate in peace marches, and I help feed homeless people. That’s activism, yes, it adds to the goodness in the world. But the action itself is also good for the peace of my soul.

I like how poet and human rights activist Staceyann Chin puts it: “Every day I get better at knowing that it is not a choice to be an activist; rather, it is the only way to hold on to the better parts of my human self. It is the only way I can live and laugh without guilt.”

You can check out the stories of nine women who made peace activism a way of life and won the Nobel Peace Prize as a result, including Baroness Bertha von Suttner, without whom there might not even be a Nobel Peace Prize.

A Reason to Hope

One last story of hope for peace. My friend Nate Haken is active with Partners for Peace, a  network of individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting peace in the Niger Delta. Part of what they do is identify and celebrate local peace-building initiatives, like the one called “Mothers for Peace” in Rivers State.This group of wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters takes direct action to intervene when conflicts break out in their communities. Carrying palm fronds, they march right into the conflict, waving their branches and singing songs of peace. Below is a short video about these women.

As they wave their palm fronds in the face of war, these women continue to spread Etty’s brave and peaceful spirit in the world.

Related Links:

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

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/about/

Melting Barriers on February 17th

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What do a 78-year-old retiree, a union organizer, and a bunch of evangelical Christian students have in common? We are all marching on Washington to support Obama’s pledge to take action on climate!

Green God-People, Meet the Funny Atheists

I seem to have gotten myself into an awkward position. Three dear friends, all avowed atheists who don’t know each other, have said they’ll join me in D.C. for the climate rally on February 17th.  I thought my retired activist neighbor, my liberal, rant-prone lawyer friend, and a professional union organizer would get along pretty well, all being somewhat cynical and funny as all get-out.

Then I started hearing from my friends in the Christian community, including a boat-load of young evangelicals who care passionately about protecting the planet. They are coming from all over the country to meet downtown for the rally and want me to join them.

You bet!

I think it’s supremely important that our politicians understand that not all Christians will be co-opted by the right-wing’s corporately funded anti-environmental campaigns. There are many – myself included – who take seriously their responsibility to be stewards of creation.

There are also several interfaith groups marching, and they want to meet up with the Christians. This is exciting news, because oftentimes the various religious groups prefer to remain separate, even when they agree on an issue.

It’s sounding like a movement!

Of course there are bus loads of environmentalists heading to D.C., too, but I can hang out with them any old time. This is a day for crossing boundaries.

Coming Together

So far, I’ve only ‘fessed up to one of my atheist buddies that we’ll be joining the God-people. To be fair, I didn’t know it when I invited them. She’s cool with it and is going to bring lots of green union stickers for the assembled. We’ll see how my other non-faith friends react – perhaps they are finding out about it as they read this blog post.

The broad representation at this rally shows that when it comes to protecting our home planet, we can all find common cause. We might agree about little else, but we will come together in a spirit of peace and cooperation on February 17th to say that :

It is past time to move forward on climate!

Peace Depends on Climate Action – NOW

I am a member of the Bloggers for Peace group, and I believe that nothing – NOTHING – is going to be a bigger threat to world peace than climate change. In the decades to come, wars over fresh water, food, and arable land will increase as the climate becomes more unstable. We will witness famines and floods of refugees the likes of which we can’t even imagine. I choose not to dwell on these likelihoods – there are children I love who will pay the price, and it makes me too sad.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to put my head in the mud left behind by Katrina and Sandy and pretend it isn’t happening. That is nothing short of insane. I’m going to wave my sign and scream my head off and act as if this could be the end of the human race, becausewell, please come to D.C. for the rally.

Header

If you have questions about transportation, housing, etc, check the FAQ page here: action.sierraclub.org/site/PageServer?pagename=forwardonclimate_faq. Any specific questions not answered there, feel free to email forwardonclimate@gmail.com and somebody will get back to you ASAP.

A few related posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/extremism-in-defense-of-the-planet/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/every-day-disasters/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/hope-or-hostility-in-a-multi-faith-world/

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